Claire Writes! – ‘Baby Frederico and the New Teacher’

One day Baby Frederico’s Papa Frita decided to become a first grade teacher. Baby Frederico was very excited for this. Mostly because he was a first grader himself and he couldn’t wait to have his very own Papa as his teacher!

One night, Papa Frita was showing Mama Mia pictures of his brand new classroom. He said, “I am so excited! It’s like my own special world!” Baby Frederico smiled to himself. He couldn’t wait to be a part of this new special world!

The next day, one of Mama Mia’s friends, Mrs.B the Bee, who also used to be a first grade teacher, buzzed on over and told the family they could come shop for school things in her attic. Baby Frederico couldn’t wait! He was going to get to help pick out everything that would be in his classroom!

Shortly after, Mama, Papa, and Baby all went over to Mrs.B’s hive. As they made the long trek up the stairs to the attic, Baby Frederico’s anticipation grew. He was just so excited! When Mrs.B opened the attic door, Baby Frederico could not believe his eyes. There was every sort of game, book, and Velcro that you could ever imagine! And yes, I did say Velcro! There was even a whole tub of Velcro just sitting there waiting for them! There was EVERYTHING!

After the family cleared out the attic and thanked Mrs.B, they all went home and opened up the boxes.

As Baby Frederico dug through a box, he told his Papa, ” Papa, I am so happy you get to be my teacher this year! It’s gonna be the bestest year ever!”

Mama Mia and Papa Frita exchanged a confused glance.

“What do you mean Baby? Don’t you remember?” Said Mama Mia.

Baby Frederico also made a confused look, “Remember what?”

Papa Frita sighed, “Baby Frederico, you’ve already been a first grader.”

Baby Frederico laughed, “Yes! I know THAT! I AM a first grader!”

Papa Frita sighed again, “No, Baby. You WERE a first grader. Now you’re a second grader. I’m sorry. That’s just how it works!”

All of a sudden, Baby Frederico felt tears well up in his little iguana eyes.

“But Papa, ” he cried, “I thought I was going to spend every day with you!”

Papa Frita gave him a big papa iguana hug and said, “Oh my silly little iguana, I will get to spend every day with you! I might be a first grade teacher, but I’ll be a first grade teacher at your school!”

Baby Frederico sat up with surprise. He didn’t even think about that!

He smiled, “Ya’ know what Papa? I love that you’re a teacher, but I REALLY love that you’re my Papa.”

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“Dad, listen to this!”

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Last night I was searching for a particular book that I wanted to share with my college students in class today.  I had been through every room and looked among every bookshelf and was now upstairs in the secret book room, searching through the piles of our children’s books that we have accumulated over the past 20 years together.  Of course, I got lost in the experience…to be around that many good books and illustrations is like getting caught in a really wonderful rainstorm.  The books were falling everywhere and I was happily caught in their flood.

And then, our youngest daughter (age 9) appeared in the little doorway and said, “Dad, listen to this!”  She was holding a newly discovered book from her school library.  A good friend had read this particular book only a few weeks before and they were talking about it that day, so she checked it out and brought it home to read.  She was about 20 pages in when she came across a couple of pages that she wanted to read to me.

It was a wonderful passage that was very poetic and very solemn, and she read it as though she were auditioning for a Shakespeare play.  Her eyes were alive with these words.  Her voice was alive with these words.  Her physical appearance was alive with these words.  Something about them reverberated somewhere within her young heart.

I’m glad she read to me.  What I heard, I needed to hear.  But what I saw, I will never forget.

Bigfoot Lives!

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This past Valentine’s Day the girls surprised me with this wonderful story (my version even has illustrations) that they wrote about a character that we have laughed about and told stories and watched documentaries on for years.  I wanted to share it with you, as well.  Happy Wednesday!

BigFoot has big feet…to roam at Mitch Park and play hide and seek with the people.

BigFoot has big hands…to make big pancakes for his BigFoot daughters on Saturday mornings.

BigFoot has big ears…to listen to music while he’s taking a shower in the rain or a bath in the pond.

BigFoot has big eyes…to watch lots of movies during the summer at the Drive-In theater (he gets in for free!)

BigFoot has a big mouth…to smile at the children who come upon him in the woods (so they won’t be frightened!).

BigFoot has big hair…his beard trimmer ran out of batteries years ago!  

BigFoot has a big nose…to smell the yummy dinner his BigFoot honey makes for him each night after a long day of playing hide and seek with people. 

BigFoot has a big tummy… to hold lots of flavored water and coconut popsicles (and the occasional M&M.) 

But most of all, BigFoot has a very, very, very, very BIG HEART… to hold all the love given to him all year-round! 

The End!

I Love a Rainy Walk

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My sweetheart and I got caught in a downpour while we were in San Antonio.  We had been attending separate conference meetings all day when we just happened to bump into each other in one of the noisy and crowded hallways of the hotel where the event was being held.  We looked at each and said, “Let’s get out of here and see the city.”

As we walked outside to catch a taxi, deep dark clouds were just beginning to gather near us to the west of the hotel.  Our goal was to walk the city’s famous (and obviously outdoor) Riverwalk and we considered the possibility that we might see some rain but, as we had packed no raincoats or umbrellas, it mattered little…and so we went.

We had no idea where to tell the taxi driver to drop us off, so we let him decide for us.  He suggested a big hotel that included a back door with outside stairs that dropped down into a cavernous walkway that would allow us to meander among a number of great restaurants and shops.  Large, heavy drops of rain were just beginning to hit the sidewalk as we paid the fare and ran inside the hotel lobby.

Eventually, we found the back door and opened it – there was not another soul in sight to question and we had no real idea where we were going.   As the door was about to close, I noticed a sign which read, “This door to remain locked at all times.  You must use your hotel key for readmittance.”  We had no hotel key and, by this time, the rain was coming down in sheets.  We looked up into the sky and down into the winding staircase that led to the river below, and then I held that door and read the sign aloud one more time.

“Are you ready?” I said.  “There’s no going back.  We let that door close and it is down those stairs in the rain, okay?”

“Where do they lead?” she said.  “Is there a place to get out of the rain once we get down there?”

No idea.  Because it was a high and winding outdoor staircase, there was no way to tell what was at the bottom.  And, it was raining harder now and the wind was starting to blow the rain through the door and into the hotel.  We had to stay or go, but close the door either way.

And then, in one of those cinematic moments that I swear could not have been scripted more perfectly, she said, “Let’s walk in the rain.”

So we did.  And I’ll never forget it.

A Valentine List of Books

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“I love you so much I really can’t eat, but maybe you’re hungry so sweets to the sweet.” - David Carter

Here is a list of some of our favorite children’s books that we have enjoyed as we celebrate this great holiday. They’re in no particular order:

1. Valentine Friends by Ann Schweninger (1988, Scholastic) – a very creative story of best friends, Buttercup and Lucy, and all of the wonderful ways they celebrate this holiday; it even includes a how-to on creating construction hearts as well as some great knock-knock jokes!

2. Arthur’s Valentine Countdown by Marc Brown (1999, Random House) – one of the best lift-the-flap holiday books and it stars Arthur!

3. Love Bugs by David Carter (1995, Simon & Schuster) – one of the best holiday pop-up books ever!

4. A Kiss For Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik (1968, Weekly Reader Books) – with illustrations by Maurice Sendak!

5. Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat (1996, Morrow Junior Books) – the title of this book alone makes it a must-have!

6.  Cranberry Valentine by Wende and Harry Devlin (1986, Aladdin Books) – our friend Rhonda Flint gave us our first “Mr. Whiskers” book and this series is among our favorites to this day.  The illustrations are classic works of art and Mr. Whiskers is hilarious in his quest to discover who is his secret admirer!

7.  Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine by Barbara Park (1999, Random House) – this was among our first series of books with actual chapters and the Valentine story is among our top three favorites.  This is a kindergartner you must read all about!  Another great secret admirer story, mixed so well into the perspective of the kindergarten mind!

8.  Valentine Cats by Jean Marzollo (1996, Scholastic) – writer cats, artist cats, postal cats, and a few kittens thrown in for good measure!

9.  Emily’s Valentine Party by Claire Masurel (1999, Puffin Books) – our aunt Mary Elise bought this as our oldest’s first book with her name in the title.  Emily the rabbit is having a party for her friends and the reader joins in by lifting the flaps as she prepares for her favorite holiday.

10.  The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting (1983, Scholastic) – with illustrations by Jan Brett!  This is my personal favorite of the ten:  “Mr. Bear and Mrs. Bear always missed Valentine’s Day because they were hibernating.  But this year they share a wonderful surprise.”

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Happy Valentine’s Reading!!!

‘The Valentine Bears’ Tuesday’s Look at this Book!

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page.

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Today’s great book: The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting with illustrations by Jan Brett (1983, Scholastic)

The Author’s Website:  https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/eve-bunting

The Illustrator’s Website: http://www.janbrett.com/index.html

Time to Read: short and sweet; bedtime or anytime

Summary:  from the back cover – “Mr. and Mrs. Bear always missed Valentine’s Day because they were hibernating.  But this year they share a wonderful surprise.”

Best Quote from the Book:  Mr. Bear hugged her.  “You thought I could sleep through just about anything, didn’t you?” he boomed.  “Well, I fooled you.  Happy Valentine’s Day!”  He pulled a box from under his pillow.  “I’ve had these here all along.”

Our View:  Simply put, this one will steal your heart.  I bought this to read first to my wife and then to my daughters.  That it was written by one of the great children’s authors of this century, Eve Bunting, and illustrated by one of the great children’s artists of this century, Jan Brett, means this is a priceless treasure.  They outdid themselves and created a timeless classic that should be in every classroom and read among every family.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe - Honey I’m Home!  - created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

I’m Lovin’ It

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If there is one holiday beyond Christmas that we celebrate big at our house, it’s Valentine’s Day. And in a house full of girls, finding new ways to celebrate such an event for nearly twenty years can be quite an endeavor. Thankfully, we take turns. Let me explain.

When our oldest daughter was five or six, I decided to surprise the girls with a prom. We moved all of the furniture out of the living room and turned it into a dance floor with snacks and punch and music, even a disco ball! We danced and laughed and quickly fell in love with the idea of turning Valentine’s into a holiday that we would not soon forget.

Since that day, we have transformed the rooms of our home into all kinds of things – the kitchen has been a secret garden (with long vines and gigantic flowers made of construction paper), a winter wonderland (with bags of sugar for snow!), a Star Wars movie scene (with a camping tent turned into the Millenium Falcon), an Italian grotto with live saxophone music and steaks shaped into hearts, and our kitchen table once became the Love Boat; our walk-in closet served as a mysterious bear cave; and our living room has been everything from a drive-in movie theater (with the two couches turned into a convertible car replete with a window speaker and concession food), to a Beach Boys-themed party with an ironing board surfboard and shark fins and blue paper for water.

Valentine’s Day is a big deal. We love the fun and the surprise of it all, but the memories continue to become the treasure.

This is why we look forward to dedicating this week’s writing to the holiday on Friday. Stay tuned for some great books and thoughts about the day. And whatever you do, celebrate big!