‘Friendship’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

Baby Frederico sat quietly on the back row nearest the exit. It was his first official day at camp and he was worried. Every other camper in the room seemed to have a thousand friends, and he had not even one.

Camp was not something he had wanted to do, but Mama had insisted on it. “Just try it,” she said. “If you go this one time and don’t enjoy it, you don’t ever have to go again.”

And now, here he was. Alone. Friendless. Homesick. Hungry. Sleepy. Grumpy. “Hey,” he said to himself. “I sound like I’m becoming all those dwarfs in Snow White!”

Before he could stop himself, he laughed…out loud. He was immediately embarrassed and his face turned from green to red in a moment. It was just then that he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“What’s funny?” said an iguana who was just a little taller and darker in color and sitting in the chair to Baby Frederico’s left.

“Oh nothing. Nothing at all. I was just thinking.” Baby Frederico couldn’t believe he had actually laughed out loud. He was embarrassed all over again.

“Anytime someone can think something so funny that it makes him laugh out loud, especially at camp, that’s a good thing. My name’s Rob.”

With that, Baby Frederico suddenly, without a bit of warning and simply because he accidentally laughed out loud, had a friend. Just one friend, that’s all it took. Just one.

Camp might not be so bad after all.

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We’re Right Behind You Dad

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When I was a boy, we moved from the city to a farm near my grandparents.  Our little trailer house was nestled right between three things that often kept me awake and worried after dark at night.  They were a dilapidated hundred-year old two-story house to the west, an even older (and only a bit smaller) barn to the east, and an ancient cement cellar with a heavy metal door to the north.

By day, these three places were a boy’s adventurous dreamscapes and were replete with hidden closets under creaking staircases and musty smells and scratch marks from who knows what kinds of animals.  There were boxes of old newspapers and various pieces of archaic furniture in the old house’s nearly collapsed attic and large leather harnesses and ropes and pulleys hung from wooden slats of the dark stalls that lined each side of the old barn.  The dimly lit cellar was a great place to think of spooky stories to tell my younger sister and an even better (and brave) place to hide in a game of hide-and-seek.

By night, these three places were another thing altogether.  They represented every scary movie that I had ever heard of (and I only knew of a few at this point in my young life) and seemed to surely be the birthplaces of every monster and ghost and eerie sound that the world of a young boy’s mind could muster.

By day, they were my Mt. Everest.  By night, they were my Legend of Boggy Creek.

Today we visit the old house, the spot where the barn once stood, and the musty cellar with my children and I tell them of the feelings I had when I was their age.  I keenly remember the experiences, the sights and sounds of it all, as the memories come flooding back to me – the fun and the fear and the courage and the weakness and the dark and the light, the dreams and the nightmares.

While we were searching through the ruins of these familiar places, I noticed that when we would enter a particularly dark or cobweb-infested area my youngest daughter would say, “We’re right behind you dad.”  And then…they would only take a step after I took a step.  They would only move ahead after I moved ahead.  They would only laugh after I laughed.

And it all makes me think – I was only taking a step because I knew they needed to take a step.  I was only moving ahead because I knew they needed to move ahead. I was only laughing because I knew they needed to laugh.

Then as a boy, I remember how it felt to try to navigate my courage and my fear, my dreams and my nightmares, all at the same time…for myself.

Now as a father, I know how it feels to navigate my courage and my fear, my dreams and my nightmares all at the same time…for them.

 

5 Great Kids Reads for Halloween

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Thirteen years ago I was assigned to a student teaching position in Kindergarten at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Putnam City, a suburb of Oklahoma City.  It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget, but one of the moments that stands out to me was the day my assigned classroom’s wonderful veteran teacher told me what she wanted me to use as my theme to teach when my professor came to evaluate me as I taught that roomful of 20 young children in late October.  She said one word – ‘monsters.’

She had always used that as her theme for this particular week and so that was the theme she wanted me to use, as well.  I was crushed.  As a boy, I was scared to death of monsters and spent many creepy nights sleeping outside my parent’s bedroom in my Battlestar Galactica sleeping bag.

Now here I was faced with having to create a five-day curriculum for little girls and boys about the one thing that surely sent them fleeing on most nights – monsters!  To make a long story short, it went wonderfully well (this was one great teacher and I trusted her) and I had the time of my life.  We used the puppets of Where the Wild Things Are and learned Monster tunes for Kids that my daughters and I made up at night and I taught to the children the next morning in circle time.  We completed math lessons with monsters and wrote stories and talked about scary monsters and funny monsters and fears and worries and everything in between.  The whole room was a monster wonderland!  I also collected quite a variety of great children’s books with monster themes during that semester of my life.  Here are a few of our favorite short read-alouds to celebrate some reading time with your little ones during this especially monstrous week of the year:

1.  Ten Creepy Monsters by Carey Armstrong-Ellis (Harry N. Abrams, 2012) – Julie Roach and School Library Journal reviewed the book for Preschool to Grade 2 and wrote, “When ten creepy monsters meet beneath a pine tree, they get into all sorts of trouble that helps readers count backward from ten to one…After the second to last monster-a vampire-rushes off in the sunrise, readers are left with one monster hurrying home. An abandoned mask, strewn candy, and a sleeping boy tell the rest of the story. Fun for Halloween or for counting anytime.”

2.  Monster Mischief by Pamela Jane (2001, Scholastic) – This is a wonderfully inventive book of creative monsters visiting a monster home to trick or treat for Halloween.  This quote from the book sums up the fun, “On Halloween, for trick or treat, five monsters mixed a stew to eat of which they never ate a bite, because their stew ran off that night.  A few, I know, are glad of that – spider, lizard, frog and bat!”

3.  Haunted Halloween:  A Choose Your Own Adventure Book #37 by Susan Sanders (1986, Bantam-Skylark) –  If you grew up in the 1980′s in America, this was the hottest series on the bookshelf.  It is still around and still exciting and interesting and interactive.  If you don’t remember how it works, the reader reads a few pages and then at a key point in the story there are two questions at the bottom of the page.  You must choose your own adventure at this point, sometimes for good and sometimes for not!  These are so much fun and your kids need to be reading them – there are many choices so I was happy that we had this one for Halloween week here at Father Knows Books!  In this book, “it is halloween night and you’ve been invited to a costume party at an old, spooky mansion.”

4.  Monster Pops Counting 123:  How Many Monsters Can You See by Gill Davies (2002, Parragon Publishing) – “Discover a pop-up surprise on each page as you enjoy a monstrously good counting rhyme.”  This book is super for preschool and Kindergartners, as well…and who doesn’t love a pop-up book!

5.  The Teeny Tiny Ghost by Kay Winters (1997, Scholastic) – a wonderful children’s picture book with a great read-aloud style and wonderful illustrations by Lynn Munsinger.  It is the story of a “timid teeny tiny ghost.  He lived in a teeny tiny house with two teeny tiny black cats.”  He is scared of scary stories and hides when he hears himself say “boo!”  When his friends come for a surprise costume party, things indeed take a turn for the better.

‘What if…’ 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 bookstores, but he did not like to try new things. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico could feel his stomach begin to hurt and his cheeks turn a crimson red. He looked in the mirror one last time before he left for school. It was going to be a long day.

When he had awoken that morning everything was perfect, not a worry in the world…and then his brain began to think until it finally reminded him that this was the day that all of his friends were excited about – it was the day to try out for the big school play.

He had decided not to go to the audition, that it would be too scary and what if the teachers who were directing it didn’t pick him and what if the other kids laughed at him and what if he got a part and forgot his lines and what if he tripped and fell off the stage and and and….

He kept thinking…and then he had another thought. What if he did decide to go to the audition, that it would be fun and what if the teachers who were directing did pick him for a part, any part, and what if he remembered all of his lines and he never tripped and fell off the stage and and and…

He thought about football, his favorite sport, and what his Papá had told him when he had almost decided not to try out for the team (the same team he was now the captain of).

“Mi hijo,” said his papa in a very serious voice, “It is your choice to try or not. Just promise me that if you decide not to do it, it will not be because you are afraid. There are often good reasons for not doing something, but being afraid to try is not one of them.”

Baby Frederico had thought a lot about what his Papá said that day – don’t be afraid to do something good and never use fear to make a good decision.

It was settled. He would go and audition and see what happened. What if he could sing and dance and laugh and meet some new friends? What if he couldn’t? And what if he just tried?