‘A Chair for My Mother’ – Tuesday’s Look at THIS Book!

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room.

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Today’s great book: A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams (1982, HarperCollins)

About the Author: http://www.kidsreads.com/authors/vera-b-williams

Teacher Resource:  http://www.teachingbooks.net/tb.cgi?tid=1264&a=1

Time to Read: 32-pages, a touching family story; we read it before bed

Summary:  from the publisher…”The jar of coins is full. The day has come to buy the chair – the big, fat, comforable, wonderful chair they have been saving for. The chair that will replace the one that was burned up – along with everything else – in the terrible fire.  A book of love and tenderness filled with the affirmation of life.”

Best Quote from the Book:  “When we can’t get a single other coin into the jar, we are going to take out all the money and go and buy a chair.”

Our View:  Written and illustrated by Vera B. Williams and named a Caldecott Honor Book by the American Library Association, A Chair for My Mother has been a longtime favorite of mine and I read it every semester to my college students who are aspiring to become teachers of young children and their families.  The story places itself firmly in the lives of a little girl and her mother and grandmother, deep in the heart of the city, among a close knit group of family and friends that surround them.  Taking care of each other, hard work, saving, financial issues, fire and the loss of a home – each topic weaves itself through the plot and brings to life the courage and dedication of a family to keep going and do great things…together.  

63-year old Mother Reads to 42-year old Son!

My mom read to me while we were in the car today! Yes, you read that right. My mom read to me.

I was taking her to a new Chinese food restaurant near the office where we work together and she had just purchased a new children’s book as a gift for a new baby.

As we made the short drive to the restaurant, my mom was so excited about this book that she said, “I have got to read this story to you!”

And so…my 63-year old mother, in a familiar cadence that took me right back into my childhood, read a book to her 42-year old son.

I can’t say that either one of us remember what the last book was that she read to me before the fleeting days of my childhood disappeared before our eyes, but we will always be able to recall the book that she read to me earlier today.

It all reminds me to look into the mirror tonight and remember: read to your kids….read to your kids…read to your kids.

You never know when you’ll get to read to them again. You just never know.

P.S. If you need another reason to read to your kids tonight, take a look at this fascinating article from Forbes that was posted just this week:

“Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books”

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Celebrate Me Home

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There are a million things to do and be when you are a parent.  The list is so long and varied and overwhelming and joyful and exhausting that to write about all of them in one post would be, well, long and varied and overwhelming and joyful and exhausting.  However, there is one particular thing that my wife has taken a special interest in over the years since we first met and that one thing is CELEBRATING.

She has always enjoyed celebrating just about anything, anytime, which became especially useful when we started welcoming children into our lives.  I remember when our first daughter began Kindergarten and, even though we always drove her to school, my wife constructed an amazing schoolbus-shaped cake complete with passengers and the name of the school scrawled in icing across its side.  I’ll never forget that night around the table as we celebrated Emily’s first day of school.  Looking back on it nearly 15 years later, I realize now that it was also a way that my wife was teaching us to celebrate our life together as a family.

We have celebrated so many times since then, especially these smaller moments, that our younger daughters now happily reap the rewards of my wife’s experience in this area.

Just last night we celebrated our youngest’s 9th birthday with her school friends here at the house.  It was what she and my wife dubbed an “Almost-Sleepover Party” in which six of her girlfriends from school came to the house for just a couple of hours and played games and illustrated their own pillowcases and painted their nails and even had me read them a Baby Frederico bedtime story.  The event allowed us to get to know everyone a little better and meet parents and see the friendships among our kids bloom and grow.

Because we only had two hours, my wife had the girls enjoying themselves and smiling and laughing within seconds of entering the house.  Near the end of the evening, a little girl even asked us, “Can this party last longer please?”

A few days from now, we will be celebrating again with our middle daughter as she turns 14 and has invited a handful of her girlfriends from school over for a 1950′s-style sock hop.  She is a Motown music fanatic and loves old records and Chubby Checker dances and Jackie Wilson lyrics.  Her grandfather Mike customized a 50′s sock hop music CD for each attendee.  There will be hula-hoops and soda pop cupcakes, rootbeer floats, and retro-candy like Mike and Ike’s, Sixlets, Pop-Rocks, Jujubees, Cherry Bombs, and Chiclets.  My wife even secured a half dozen poodle skirts and may beat them all in the bubble-gum blowing contest!  The party will culminate in a 1950′s dance moves contest straight out of an Elvis Presley movie – from The Hand Jive and The Twist to The Mashed Potato and The Swim.

These celebrations are among my wife’s favorite ways of helping the girls tell their stories to their friends and to themselves, of hearing what their loves and hobbies and interests are in that particular year, and then creating with them and for them a celebration as personalized as their very names.

I love this place, living among people who love to celebrate life.  The world is so full of difficulties and gloominess and trouble that these brightly shining events really help us and replenish us along the journey together.  I’m thankful I married someone who knows how to celebrate and is willing to help us tell our stories in this way.

So in the immortal words of Loggins and Messina, “Celebrate me…home.”

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‘Glad & Hope-y’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. The backstory can be found here. Enjoy!

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Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and butterscotch pudding shakes; but he did not like to do things that he did not like to do. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico had already decided this was not going to be his favorite day. Why did his Mama Mia have to schedule all the worst things ever for the exact same day? First it would be an orthodontist appointment, then grocery shopping, a stop at the gas station and a run through the car wash (which kind of scared him, but don’t tell anyone), and finally home to do his chores and probably have to eat a plate full of peas and green beans for dinner (not his favorite vegetables by the way).

Mama could tell that Baby Frederico was not too happy about their plans for the day and wondered how to help.

“I have an idea,” she said. “Let’s make up a song about how much WE dislike all the things WE have to do today!”

This surprised Baby Frederico because he had always assumed that his Mama Mia loved making appointments for him to see the orthodontist, buying groceries and gasoline and car washes, doing chores, and eating mushy vegetables. Now he realized he might have been wrong!

He liked to sing and Mama loved to make up words to songs, so he agreed to her unusual plan.

“Great,” said Mama. “I’ll make up the words and you make up the tune!”

On that day, Baby Frederico learned how to truly sing his blues away. He and his musical Mama made up silly song after silly song.

But it was the end of every song that Baby Frederico loved best. It went like this: ‘Don’t be sad and mopey; just be glad and hope-y!’ Neither Mama nor Baby Frederico could say those words without smiling. And smiling changes everything.

So next time you feel down or mad or angry or sleepy or frustrated, shout it out at the top of your lungs: don’t be sad and mopey, just be glad and hope-y!

‘The Big Mess’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. The backstory can be found here. Enjoy!

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and old records; but he did not like to clean up his messes. Here is his story:

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The mess was everywhere.  It was in the kitchen, on the bathroom sink, all over the living room floor, down the hallway – everywhere – and Baby Frederico knew he would hear about it from his momma when she arrived home from the grocery store.

Tuesday mornings were the one day in which Baby Frederico had the morning all to himself and was responsible for himself.  He was in charge of making his own breakfast, brushing his own teeth, picking out whatever he wanted to wear for the day, and playing a video game, reading a book or setting up all of his race car tracks along the long hallway outside his bedroom.  There was only one rule:  clean up by the time momma showed up.  It was a rule that he didn’t always remember.  His momma, on the other hand, never forgot it.

“Baby Frederico, I’m home.”  Momma Mia was just walking in the backdoor with a load of groceries.

Baby Frederico froze.  He had not noticed the time and could never clean up all of his messes before his momma would see them.

“What now?”  he thought.

And then he had an idea.  He ran to the door to help with the groceries.  He smiled his very toothiest smile.  He told his momma how especially beautiful she looked.  He told her how grateful he was that she spent her time and money buying food for the family to eat.  He told her that she was the greatest mother who had ever lived in the whole wide world for all time.  He even offered to wash her car.

But Momma Mia knew something was up.

“My little pasta primavera, what is going….”  Momma’s voice quickly fell to a whisper.  She was now standing in the middle of a very messy kitchen.  There was not a clean spot anywhere for her to put the groceries.  She said nothing, nothing at all.  Baby Frederico did not like it when his Momma said nothing, especially when he expected her to say something.

Still holding the groceries, Momma walked on and stopped in the middle of a very messy living room.  She looked down the hallway, a very messy hallway.  She peeked in the bathroom, a very messy bathroom.  Baby Frederico was still carrying several bags of groceries, as well, and was becoming nervous.  Why had his momma not said anything yet?  Why had HE not said anything yet?

Then, Momma Mia did the most surprising thing.  She smiled as she walked into Baby Frederico’s own room and placed all of the groceries…on his bed.  She went to the car and carried in the rest of the sacks and put ALL of them on his bed, too, even the sack with toilet paper and ketchup in it!  And then, Momma Mia took her favorite book from the shelf in the hallway and went out onto the porch to read.

Baby Frederico got the message…and his momma had not said a single word.  He was not about to sleep with toilet paper and ketchup or anything else that didn’t belong in his bed.

He knew what he must do…the right thing.  He cleaned up each mess in each room – the kitchen was spotless, the bathroom was toothpasteless, the living room was clutterless, the hallway was racetrackless, and his bedroom – well, it was toiletpaperless.  Just the way he liked it.  And Momma Mia – she liked it, too.