Storytelling Day: The True Story of Rock A Bye Baby

birdsinnest Photo by Lin Pernille  Photography

We will be back on track with What We’re Reading Wednesday next week, but for today I wanted to share this charming story from the Simple Kids storyteller – Robin.  I’ve read her telling of Rock A Bye Baby several times now, and I still get a little choked up at the end.  As always, thank you, Robin, for inspiring us to weave our own tales for the little ones in our lives:

Rock a bye baby on the treetop
When the wind blows the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all!

This one of of the first nursery rhymes I adapted for my girls. I remember these lyrics upsetting me as a child, and when my own child learned the words and felt bothered by them, I crafted a positive vision for her from the ominous phrases. Now both girls enjoy the song’s calming tune without feeling disturbed by its imagery. As the winter swirls around us where we live and the winds start blowing, this song always comes back to mind, bringing with it (in our version) uplifting images of the promise of spring.

The little girl asked her mama, “Mama, how do birds learn to fly?”

And the mama answered the little girl, “Well, they learn to fly just like you learned to walk. They start slowly and stumble. They go short ways and return. One day, they realize they can go great distances. For you, that was walking. For birds, that’s called flying.”

“But how?” asked the girl. “Kids don’t have to be in the air to walk. What if the birds fall down?”

The mama smiled, hugged her girl close, and began humming a comforting tune. “Do you know the song we sing at bedtime? It’s a song about learning to fly.”

The mama pulled her daughter on to her lap to explain how baby birds learn to fly, and this is what she told her:

When a mommy bird and daddy bird build their nest, they build it high in the top of a tree. They build it high so that their eggs will be safe, and so that their baby birds will be born right into the sky. The sky, you know, is a bird’s real home. A nest is just his bed but the sky is where he soars.

When baby birds are little, they don’t leave their nest. Their mommy and daddy come and go, bringing them food and tastes of the bigger world. They watch their parents soar. They wait. They grow, and they watch, and they wait.

When the babies are strong enough to leave the nest, their bodies know what to do. They know how to fly just like you know how to walk. Your body knew inside you what to do — you just needed to take those first steps. We watched you hold onto tables, lean forwards, teeter. We were there to catch you and we sat right there to help you let go, to try on your own. We sat on the floor; we held out our hands.

Mama birds can’t sit on the floor; they can’t hold out their hands. So they talk to the winds and they work with the trees. The winds blow harder, lifting the baby birds just slightly out of their nests, just enough so they can feel the air move around them. The trees shake, so the baby birds can feel their balance and the strength of their wings. And one day, when the mommy bird and daddy bird know that the babies are ready, they whisper to their tree. They say in hushed chirps and cheeps: “Now! It’s time!”

And all the trees holding nests with baby birds feel the signal chirping at them from the sky. They speak to each other, sending tremors from root to root to root, far underground where you and I will never feel it, in the secret language of nature: of dirt and water and life. They know when baby birds must learn to fly.

All at once, on the very same minute of the very same morning of the most sunshiny day of spring, the mommy and daddy birds give their chirping signal and the trees talk through their barks and all at once:

DROP!

Every tree that is honored with a bird nest in its crown does the same secret tree dance. The branches twist and shout and giggle and shake and down drop the bird nests, tipping those babies out. The babies find themselves in the air, with nothing beneath them, feeling for the first time what it’s like to be hugged by the sky. And then the shaking stops, and two branches lower, the trees catch those nests, and those nests catch those baby birds.

But the baby birds will never again be quite the same, because now they’ve taken their very first flights. And they like what they’ve felt, so every day they fly further and further until the day when they soar just like their mommies and daddies.

“Have you seen the trees dancing, Mama?” asked the girl as she looked up with wonder.

“I think I might have,” said the mama with a twinkle in her eye. “It happens so fast but if you hear all the mommy and daddy birds chirping at the same time on a sunshiny spring day, look up and watch the tree tops. You might see the baby birds take their first flights.”

“I hope I see it, Mama!” said the girl. “I love the spring.”

And the mama, thinking of sunshiny warm days and babies who grow up, smiled, kissed the girl on the top of her head, and answered simply, “Me, too.”

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

Eight Simple Steps to a Meaningful Hanukkah

Hanukkah or Hanukah or Chanukah – however you spell it, it’s a perfect holiday for reflecting on parenting without fuss. This Jewish eight-day holiday, observed this year beginning at sundown on December 11, is ritually considered to be a minor festival.

Hanukkah’s proximity to Christmas on the calendar has inflated its significance and its reputation for eight days of gifts but at heart, this is a small holiday with a big idea: that thousands of years ago a group of Jews had only enough oil to light the Temple’s Eternal Light for one day, and God made a miracle happen. The oil lasted for exactly eight days – just long enough for a fleet of messengers to travel the distance to retrieve more oil. We light candles for eight nights to commemorate the miracle of the oil, and in that spirit I offer you eight activities for an enjoyable family Hanukkah. [Read more...]

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.
B-I-N-G-O
?-I-N-G-O
?-?-N-G-O
?-?-?-G-O
?-?-?-?-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.

Storytelling Day: The True Story of Diddle Diddle Dumpling

diddlediddlepicture
Photo by mare.bowe

Our resident storyteller Robin returns today to continue the saga of Little John Diddle.  I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but today is cloudy, misty, and cool.  It’s a perfect day to curl up with a mug of hot cocoa and let the storytelling commence!  I hope you’ll be as inspired as I am by Robin’s engaging re-telling of timeless stories . . .

Diddle Diddle Dumpling
My son, John
Went to bed with his stockings on
One shoe off and the other shoe on
Diddle Diddle Dumpling
My son, John

Little John Diddle loved his family and their farm, but he didn’t love being the littlest one around. He especially adored his big sisters, and especially didn’t adore being constantly told by them that he was too little to help with milking the cows or feeding the chickens. Little John Diddle spent a lot of time thinking about one thing: he wanted to be bigger.

John tried to grow faster. When he tagged along behind his sister Cara as she milked the cows, he turned a milk pail upside-down and practiced jumping onto it. John hoped he could make his legs stronger so they would grow and Cara enjoyed his company, but the cows didn’t like the clanging noises. He wasn’t good for milk, Cara finally told him. “Why don’t you go play?” she asked him. Everybody was always telling him to go play. Everybody just thought of him as a little kid.

When his sister Sara was gathering eggs from the hen house, John begged her to let him get the hardest eggs. Nobody liked to collect the eggs from the very back of the coops. Anyone who didn’t reach in quickly and retrieve the egg on the first try was sure to get pecked by the hens who did not appreciate having their homes disturbed. Sara didn’t like getting pecked anymore than anybody else, and John was sure that he could make his arms longer, if only he just practiced stretching them enough.  “Please let me?” he begged. Sara couldn’t resist John’s charm and sweet little boy smile for long. “Okay, Diddle Diddle. Be careful- and fast.”

John opened the first coop and stretched as far as he could. An egg! John was pretty sure he felt his arm growing. He opened the second coop and stretched. Another egg- and- OUCH!! “She bit me, Sara!” He pulled his arm back to show his sister the scratch and realized that he had crushed the egg. He knew his sister wouldn’t be happy. “Oh, John,” said Sara. “Let’s clean you up.” She brought him to the spigot. “Thank you for wanting to help, Diddle Diddle, but I think you’re still too little. Why don’t you go play?”

Feeling sad, John walked up the hill to the house. He ran into the kitchen and found his mother. He asked her a question. “Mommy, can I have two vitamins at bedtime tonight?” His mommy turned to face him. “Sweetie, you know you get one vitamin a day. Why would you want two?”

Little John was feeling very frustrated. “But Mommy!” he whined. “What can I do to grow faster? I want to be bigger! I don’t want to be too little anymore.” His mother pulled him toward her in a big hug, and then stepped back. She looked carefully at him. “Oh dumpling,” she said. “You look just the right size to me.”

“But I want to be bigger,” he wailed. “I am going to figure out how to grow faster!”

His mommy didn’t answer him right away. Finally, she said, “I remember how it feels to want to be bigger, and I would never want to stop you from trying to do something you really want. But please remember, dumpling, that I love you just the way you are. Please don’t grow too fast.”

“Okay, Mommy,” he said, and walked out, thinking about her words. John headed down to the quiet spot at the bottom of the hill where the creek gurgled and he practiced his music. John sat down on one of the flat rocks so he could think. How could he grow enough so that nobody would baby him anymore, but not so much that his mommy would be sad at him for growing too fast?

John was still thinking when his sister Dara came wandering down the hill. “Diddle Diddle, what are you doing down here? Mommy said you seemed sad. I finished my chores. Do you want to play hide-and-seek?”

John knew that if Dara was worried about him she wasn’t going to leave him by himself to stay sad. He agreed to play. If he could find a really good hiding spot, he’d have more thinking time to figure out how to grow (but not too fast). “Okay, Dara, let’s play,” he said. He thought he’d try to climb up in the hay loft. Nobody would look for him up there.

“Yay!” said Dara. “I’m counting to 100. Are you ready? One…two…three…” John set off up the hill toward the barn. It was a very big jump for him to reach the bottom lip of the open loft door above his head, but since he’d been stretching his arms and legs all morning he thought he might just reach. It took three tries. John grasped the ledge and was able to pull himself up and into the loft. He’d done it!

The loft was warm and quiet. John sat down on a pile of hay to think. He had a great idea. He’d only stretch one part of his body at a time. That way, he couldn’t grow too fast, and his mommy wouldn’t be upset. He took off his right sneaker, and began practicing jumping using only his left leg. The next day, he figured, he’d switch sides. He jumped and jumped and waited for Dara to find him. Satisfied that his left leg was a little longer from all that good exercise, John lay back on the hay and watched the dust float through a sunbeam. This really was a good hiding place, he thought.

John woke up to the sound of yelling. It was dark in the loft and he could hear all of his family calling for him. “Diddle Diddle? Where are you?” “Dumpling?” As he sat up, his father shone a flashlight into the loft and was surprised to find him there. “John! What are you doing? And where’s your sneaker?”

John smiled. He realized that Dara never found him because she never thought he was big enough to climb into the hay loft by himself. As he explained to his relieved family what he had been doing up there, they hugged him and kissed him and promised never to think of him as too little ever again.

Dear reader: my own girls have a habit of taking just one shoe off, and as such this is a favorite nursery rhyme of theirs. Tell me- what rhymes enthrall your little ones but leave you narratively unsatisfied? What tales shall we twirl next?

Storytelling Day: The True Story of Hey, Diddle Diddle

overthemoonphoto by James Jordan

It’s Storytelling Day again here at Simple Kids.  Today, we welcome back Robin who has crafted a new, engaging, and thoroughly enjoyable story to share with your family and to inspire your own storytelling muse.

Hey, diddle diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.

The little dog laughed
To see such sport
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

Pssst: have you ever seen a cow jump? No? Me, neither. Here’s what really happened.

Bill and Jill Diddle had a little farm where they raised cows and chickens on soft, rolling hills: the cows grazed on the north side of the creek that ran through the farm, and the chickens clucked on the south side. They also had a cat and a dog and four kids. The three girls, Sara, Cara and Dara, were always just called “the Daughters Diddle” because they were so close in age and looked so much alike. The Daughters Diddle loved caring for all the animals. There was also one boy. He was much younger than his sisters, who thought he was too small to help with the animals and always sent him off to go play. Almost nobody called him by his real name. His mommy called him “my little dumpling.” Everyone else called him “the little Diddle” or simply, “Diddle Diddle.” Only his daddy, who had always wanted a son, ever used his proper name.

Diddle Diddle always tried to help. He wanted to milk the cows but he accidentally knocked over the pail. He tried to collect the morning eggs from the hens but he dropped two eggs and they cracked. The Daughters Diddle told him what they always told him. “Oh, Diddle Diddle, you’re still too little for all this work. Why don’t you go play?”

They always told him to go play. He didn’t mind too much, though, because he had a secret: Diddle Diddle was going to be a famous musician when he grew up. Whenever his sisters told him to go play, he practiced his music. He always took his guitar with him. Sometimes he took a cow bell. Sometimes he’d take his favorite drum, too. It wasn’t a real drum. It was his mommy’s big wooden salad bowl, but when he propped it against a rock and used the serving spoons as drumsticks it made fantastic boom-boom-buh-boom noises.

Diddle Diddle would go where nobody would see or hear him: down in the valley of the creek bed between Cow Hill and Chicken Hill.  There, the farmhouse and the hen house and the dairy barn all seemed worlds away. There, he could play his music and sing as loudly as he wanted and dream about the day that nobody would tell him he was too little anymore. He drummed and strummed and clanged and sang and imagined himself on stage. His dog and cat always kept him company while he practiced; they were very loyal and they always meowed and woofed appreciatively.

Over time, a peculiar thing happened. Whenever Diddle Diddle came to the flat rock by the creek more animals began to gather to hear his music. The dog and the cat were always there, but a few chickens would cluck down to the bottom of their hill, too. One day, a cow came. The day after that, nine cows and 22 chickens came to hear Diddle Diddle’s music. And they began to dance! At first the chickens two-stepped on their hill and the cows linked tails and swayed on their hill, but the dog and the cat had been listening to Diddle Diddle’s music for weeks and they wanted to party. They ran across the summer-shallow creek waters, encouraging and nudging and gently yipping at tails and tail-feathers until slowly, shyly, all the animals began to dance together.

One afternoon Diddle Diddle realized that all of the farm animals were at the creek dancing to his music. He was playing and singing his heart out and the party was so fun that he didn’t realize he had played right past his dinnertime. All he knew is that he was having the best day. He knew he wasn’t too little to do anything. He knew he would grow up to be a great musician.

The sun was long set and the moon was high in the sky when his family found him. The Daughters Diddle came down from the south hill where they had been to close up the hen house for the night but couldn’t find any chickens. His daddy came down from the top of the north hill. He had gone out to the dairy barn to do the night milking and found that all the cows were missing. And his mommy came running from the farm house where she had been looking for him. It was Diddle Diddle’s bedtime and she was worried!

As all the Diddles met in the moonlight they saw the most spectacular thing. The chickens were clucking and jumping through the grass. The cows were splashing across the creek and swinging the sprightlier hens over the water with their tails. All the animals were dancing together and at the center of it all was the baby of their family, Little Diddle, playing and looking happier than they’d ever seen.

They stood quietly and marveled at his talents. “Look,” Cara murmured. “The way it’s reflecting in the water, doesn’t it look like that cow is jumping over the moon?” Her parents and sisters laughed, and sat down in the grass to enjoy the show. They had always thought of Little Diddle as just that – little, and that night they appreciated him in a brand new way. “Diddle Diddle!” Sara said with new respect in her voice. “That’s my dumpling!” thought Jill. And Bill, the proudest daddy there ever was, said again and again, “look at my son, my John.” There they sat until the last song ended, and together the whole family, including their most amazing little boy, all tucked the animals away for the night together and got ready for bed.

Tired from so much excitement, the Diddles fell asleep quickly. Especially John — he fell asleep dreaming of what Cara had repeated to him: of cows who loved his music, jumping over the moon.

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Dear reader: you’ve heard of him, right? “Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John? Went to bed with his stockings on?”  I’ll tell you more about him next month.
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simplekidsRobin1Robin blogs about satisfying the curiosities of her inquisitive family at Not-Ever-Still Life with Girls.