Storytelling Day: The True Story of B-I-N-G-O (yes, Bingo was his name-o)

BINGOPhoto by Weaselmcfee

Has your family adjusted to the shorter days and longer evenings of this season? Dark and chilly evenings serve as perfect backdrops for family storytelling time.  Today, Robin inspires all of us with the true story of B-I-N-G-O:

There was a farmer who had a dog
And Bingo was his name-o.
Yes, Bingo was his name-o.

The farm where everybody in town went to pick strawberries and asparagus in the spring and pumpkins and apples in the fall also had activities that were open all year long. There were hay piles to climb and tractor rides to enjoy and corn mazes once the grains grew tall enough. But everybody’s favorite part of the farm was none of those things: it was the petting zoo.

One day the farmer posted a large sign on the old tractor: New Puppy At The Petting Zoo! Contest! Name Our Puppy!

Immediately, groups of kids began gathering around the fence by the new puppy and his mama. For days, kids came to see the puppy and think about his ideal name.  Weeks passed. The puppy grew and the name contest deadline approached. The puppy grew stronger and bigger and didn’t always stay right near his mama anymore. He began to approach the fence, listening to all the kids and their ideas. It was almost as if he could understand them.  Of course, dogs don’t talk. He couldn’t really understand, could he?

The day came that the farmer stood in the front of the dog yard to collect the kids’ contest entries for the new puppy’s name. A group of boys stood on the right side of the fence and a group of girls stood on the left side of the fence and they all shouted names at the farmer. Several names stood out, and as kids sometimes do, they began narrowing down their own favorites. The boys had one idea and the girls had another idea. The farmer listened to the two groups of kids yell at each other. So did the puppy.

Then the arguing got even worse. The boys couldn’t decide how to spell their name and the girls kept changing their minds about which name they liked best. The farmer stood in the middle of the dog yard, frustrated and unsure of what to do next. He had wanted the contest to be fun for the kids who loved his farm. He wanted the arguing and yelling to stop.

So did the little dog. He ran back and forth on his tiny legs between the two groups, growing more and more distressed.

The girls were yelling names and the boys were yelling letters as they worked out spellings and the little dog ran back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The farmer tried several times to get the kids’ attention. He couldn’t, and he stood there, angry and unsure of what to do.

The little dog took charge. With every shout from a child, he yapped. The girls began to yell a name and he yapped. The boys yelled a letter and he yapped. He yapped with each sound they spoke until they realized they couldn’t hear themselves, they could only hear the little dog. And finally, the kids grew quiet.

The dog looked at them.

The kids looked at the dog.

And then one boy tried again. “How about B- ?” The dog yapped. Nobody heard what he said.

The girls tried to use the quiet to push one of their choices forward. “We think it should be P- .” The little dog yapped loudly.  He didn’t let the kids speak again until they began speaking to each other.

“He won’t let us talk! Farmer, the doggie won’t let us talk! He’s too loud!”

The farmer looked at the puppy and half-smiling, he shrugged. “Maybe he wants you to work together.”

After a little bit of grumbling and arguing, the boys and the girls moved together into one group to talk. As long as they were working agreeably, the puppy stayed quiet. But as soon as any arguing began, the puppy yapped so loudly that the kids could only hear him and not themselves. Certainly the puppy didn’t like their arguing, but it almost seemed as if he wanted to speak himself, like he wanted to help them.

As the kids worked out their choice of name, the dog yapped encouragingly. As they made their decisions, each letter moving forward, each argument erased, the little dog yapped in support. The kids finally realized they had all agreed on a name and a spelling, and that according to the rhythmic ‘yap! yap! yap-yap-yap!’ of the puppy, he liked it, too.

They realized how he had helped them, and what he had taught them.

“The dog and the other animals – they can’t even talk! We should use our ability to talk to work together, not to argue.”

The puppy didn’t move. He waited.

“Letters have strength. They form and fly and make our words, tell our stories.”

The puppy stared at them encouragingly.

“Words have even more strength. They can go anywhere, say anything.”

A very relieved farmer opened the gate to the yard. The small dog ran to the line of children and nuzzled each of their legs.

One of the taller boys asked out loud: “So do we all agree? His name will be Bingo?” Quietly, happily, the kids nodded and murmured yes.

“So let’s try it out. Spell it with me! B! I! N! G! O!” The kids chanted and cheered and the little dog ran circles around them, drawing them tightly into a cluster.  They fell quiet, looking at each other and at the little dog with the big ideas.

Without words, the kids and the puppy locked eyes. They understood each other. They knew they had learned what the puppy wanted them to realize; they knew that he was happy with them and with their choice.

The kids grew excited again. They cheered and high-fived and hugged. “So it’s Bingo! Your name will be Bingo!”

Bingo yapped approvingly.

Robin blogs about satisfying the curiosities of her inquisitive family at Not-Ever-Still Life with Girls.

Weekend Links: November 20th


Photo by billaday

It is less than one week until readers in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving, so your weekend reading links will reflect this theme.

I know many of you are creating all kinds of wonderful holiday crafts, recipes, and traditions at this time of the year.  If you have a spare minute, won’t you send me a note about what your family is up to this holiday season?  I would love to feature your ideas in our weekly Showcase!

Simply Practical

Crunchy Domestic Goddess: Reducing Holiday Stress for Your Kids
Simple Mom: How to Host a Memorable Holiday Cookie Swap (column from Aimee of Under the High Chair)
Imagination Soup: Free online learning games for kids

Simply Delicious

Family Fun: Sunrise Pre-K Fruit Turkey
Mixing Bowl Kids: Ham Sandwiches on Sweet Potato Biscuits
Make and Takes: Homemade Roasted Pumpkin Puree
A Field Journal: Apple Cider

Inspired Projects

Alpha Mom: Thanksgiving Crafts for the Kids’ Table
Two looks at a thankful tree – Playful Learning: This Year’s Grateful Tree and A Soft Place to Land: A Thankful Tree
Mother Nature Network: Thanksgiving crafts for teens and tweens
Pink and Green Mama: Bubble Wrap Printmaking: Thanksgiving Corn
Cluck and Tweet: Addicted to Freezer Paper

What We’re Reading: Catherine Gilbert Murdoch’s Dairy Queen (and more!)

Three beautiful books await your discovery today, thanks to our SK Book Review Team!


from Amy (Girlfriends Get Real, Unforgettable Childhood)

deepintheswampA couple of weeks ago my daughter had a book fair at her preschool. She found a few books that grabbed her attention. As we were browsing I saw the book Deep in the Swamp by Donna M. Bateman. At first glance, I thought that it would be a good addition to our home library. On the cover was an alligator. My daughter has been intrigued by alligators since our trip to Hilton Head Island. We saw them sitting in the backyards of people as we were on a bike ride through town and they have become a favorite in our house.

I did not read through the book at the school so I was pleasantly surprised by the rhyming story that also focused on counting. As you explore Okefenokee Swamp in the story you see a variety of animals in their swamp habitat. The beautiful illustrations show an animal with their babies surrounded by swamp plants like water lilies and cattails.

My daughters favorite page turned out to be the Marsh Rabbits. Here is an excerpt from this page:

Deep in the swamp, in a thicket on the shore,
Lived a mother marsh rabbit and her little bunnies Four.
“Snooze!” said the mother. “We snooze,” said the Four.
So they snoozed all day long in their thicket on the shore.

A wonderful addition to the book comes at the end. There is a glossary with each animal and water loving plant with facts. My three year old even wants me to read this section. Living in the Midwest on the prairie it is fun for all of us to learn more about the animals in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Early Elementary

from MJ (turnitupmom)

Fly Away HomeAs we approach Thanksgiving, I thought it fitting to share a story that prompts me to count my blessings every time I read it. Fly Away Home, by Eve Bunting, is the story of a homeless boy and his father who live in an airport, ducking in and out of different terminals to avoid being sent out on the streets. Ronald Himler’s blurred watercolor illustrations nicely compliment this father and son’s life of anonymity.

I love that this story is told from the boy’s perspective. We learn that a typical day includes wearing blue, sleeping sitting up, washing in the restroom, and eating in the cafeteria. No matter what he’s doing, the goal is always to blend in and go unnoticed. And naturally, the boy experiences a range of emotions, including fear, sadness, and anger.

While this may seem like a heavy plot line, it is also a story of hope. One day a wounded bird is caught in the main terminal and the little boy encourages it to fly free: “Don’t stop trying . . .Don’t! You can get out!” Bunting revisits the bird motif on the final page: “And when the bird left, when it flew free, I know it was singing.”

This story is a must-read for every child. It increases awareness about the plight of the homeless and dispels the commonly held belief that if you’re working, you can pay rent. We are all worthy of a place to call home. May you have a healthy, safe, and warm Thanksgiving!

Upper Elementary

from Diana (Holes in my Shiny Veneer)

dairyqueenMy pick for this month is a bit older than some of my previous recommendations:  Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock was named an ALA 2006 Best Book for Young Adults.  Perhaps I’m recommending it because it’s another seasonal pick because Dairy Queen is, at first glance, about high school football.  You’ll know that this isn’t your typical book about high school football, though, as soon as you realize that the protagonist, D.J. Schwenk is a girl.

D.J. is a farm girl in small town Wisconsin.  In this first novel from Murdock, we find D.J.  in the summer before her junior year working to save the family farm.  Her older football-star brothers are away on college scholarships and her younger brother is on a championship Little League team, so the farm chores have been laid on her shoulders after her father’s hip injury.  D.J. has sacrificed a lot for her family, but given that her family has more than the usual amount of trouble communicating, she doesn’t exactly feel appreciated.

Things get complicated when she finds herself using her football knowledge to train Brian Nelson, the quarterback of the rival high school.  Things get even more complicated when D.J. finds herself becoming friends with Brian and realizes that she can’t talk at all to her best friend, Amber.  And yes, D.J. eventually decides to go out for the football team herself, meaning that her new friend, Brian, is now even more of a rival than before.

Murdock’s creation of the character of D.J. is truly unforgettable.  D.J. pushes herself to her limits over and over and teaches Brian what it means to do your best.  She comes to grips with her dreams and pursues them, willing to overcome the odds to reach them.  I can’t think of any character I’ve ever met with such a work ethic who still comes across as a flesh and blood teenager.  I’m looking forward to encountering D.J. again in the rest of Murdock’s trilogy in The Off Season and Front and Center.

(Please bear in mind that this is a young adult novel and deals with some more mature themes such as homosexuality and teenage drinking.)

The Power of Seeking Our Children’s Forgiveness

hug1 Photo by lepiaf.geo

One day when our oldest daughter was a baby – maybe nine or ten months old – I was having a particularly bad mothering day. I responded to her with grouchy irritability, using unkind words spoken in an unloving way.

Later that day, I confessed to my very wise Mommy mentor how terribly I felt about my response to Dacey.  She was just a baby, and I had been so harsh!  I couldn’t shake the guilt that plagued me. My friend gave me some advice that has had a profound impact on the way I practice parenting.  She said:

Tell her that you are sorry and ask her to forgive you. Of course, she won’t understand your words, but it will confirm the sincerity of the apology in your heart, and you’ll be released from that guilt so you can move forward with your day in a healthy state of mind.

Following that advice marked the beginning of a practice I passionately believe is powerful in parenting: seeking the forgiveness of our children when we have wronged them. As I continue in this practice, I’ve learned three important truths:

1) Parents aren’t perfect.

In the daily-ness of parenting, it’s easy to hone in on the ways we feel our children have wronged us.  A bowl of popcorn dumped out on a freshly vacuumed carpet or a meltdown in the checkout aisle of the market can cause us to focus our energies on the many ways our children aren’t perfect.

Yet I find that when I acknowledge my own shortcomings to my children, it reminds me of my imperfections which inspires a spirit of mercy and forgiveness when their imperfections on are on display. It also allows my children to grow up with a healthy perception of me.  Everyone makes mistakes – even Mama.

2) Forgiveness restores relationships.

All of us have parenting moments of which we are not proud.  We need only access hurtful moments from our own childhoods for a vivid reminder of the power of a parent’s words and actions.  But when we operate under the truth that we aren’t perfect and we will make mistakes, we are encouraged to act quickly to make amends with the child we have hurt – both confessing our wrong and seeking forgiveness.

In most every relationship, the act of asking for forgiveness for a wrong can go a long way towards healing a wounded spirit.

3) Modeling teaches volumes about the power of forgiveness

Both of my daughters (even my two year old) will very often ask for forgiveness when they have acted in a way that is hurtful, upsetting, or against the rules of our home.  I’ve never sat down and taught them how to do this, nor have I ever insisted that they do so.  What they have learned about asking for forgiveness, they have learned from their father and me.

We are very imperfect, and so they have had many opportunities to grant forgiveness to us when we have wronged them.

The older we get, the more difficult it can be to acknowledge when we have wronged someone, and our own stubborn pride threatens to preclude us from experiencing the very healthy process of restoring a strained relationship.  Humbling myself to ask for my children’s forgiveness often involves a very intentional act of choosing what I know is right over what I feel is right. Yet as I see the fruits of compassion and tenderness grow in my children, I am encouraged to continue practicing the act and art of forgiveness.

Have you found yourself asking one of your children to forgive you? What role does forgiveness play in the dynamics within your family?

November 13th: Weekend Links

peekaboo Photo by Josephers

What has your family created or come across lately that you would like to share with the rest of the Simple Kids community?  Email me and I’ll feature it in an upcoming Showcase!

As you may know, this season brings an abundance of amazing crafting and gifting ideas. The weekend reading links I’ve collected are just a sampling of the incredible ideas I’ve come across in recent weeks:

Simply Practical:

Complete Organizing Solutions: Plan Ahead for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving
Mom in the City: 10 Ways to Have a Green(er) Thanksgiving
the long thread: handmade GIFT GUIDE 2009
Crunchy Chicken: Buy Hand for the Holidays ideas and links
MotheringDotCommunity Forums: Mothering’s Frugal Gift Ideas Contest

Inspired Projects:

Doodles’ Place: Fall Suncatchers
Mama-Om: The Pace of Things (finger knitting)
Acorn Pies: How to Make Acorn People
Living Locurto: Easy DIY Wall Art for Kids (guest post from Emily of Remodeling This Life)
Playful Learning: Writing Center for a Friend

Do tell! What have you written or read this week that you would like to share with other SK readers?