What are your children doing this summer?

As a child, with the exception of weekend trips, summer vacation was not always fun for me. Reading alone was difficult and I did receive help when in school but I envied those that enjoyed sitting down on a rainy afternoon with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. I also missed my best friend who went to summer day camp. It wasn’t fair and to this day, I am not sure why I couldn’t go with her. Sadly, I would wait on the sidewalk for the bus to drop her off. Some days were long….very long for me, my dolls and my swing set.

When my own children were growing up, many summers I worked, but I always tried to make every vacation or field trip a true learning opportunity. We always visited museums and trips would focus on their interests. For example, my son loved trains so there was always visits, to unique train shops, museums, and of course, rides on the Chicago Metra. My daughter loved photography and she spent a few days with a photographer to learn more about the working world of that profession; exposing her to possible career choices in the future.

Dr. Pam Roggeman is a proven academic leader familiar with and passionate about technology in progressive education and has extensive experience designing curriculum; preparing teachers in a university setting. She currently serves as the Academic Dean for the College of Education at University of Phoenix. Below, she provides wonderful suggestions for a summer filled with fun, learning, self-improvement skills and essential family time.

Create a “matching agreement.” For every hour spent in front of a screen entertaining themselves, have your child match that time in with a learning activity. Most book stores or a quick online search will have workbooks for math, reading and writing to practice skills. Have your kids do work like this to “earn and accumulate” time they can bank for screen time.

Set “learning self-improvement goals” such as a number of books read, minutes of math tutorials a day, or pages written and then agree on a fun reward for goals attained. Make it more meaningful to your kids by allowing them to decide what they’d like to learn and study. Make it even more meaningful by creating rewards for attaining the goals. These rewards don’t have to cost you anything – maybe they can earn sleepovers with friends, breakfast in bed or “owning” the TV remote for a night.

Summer reading can be essential for students to maintain and continue building their reading skills. This summer, help your children find books that will make the child think on a much larger level. Together, explore your child’s interests and find books that feed those interests.

Encourage your children to keep a journal to regularly document their activities throughout the summer. This is key because kids will start to see their accomplishments on paper. This can be a conversation starter at the dinner table, “what did you do today that will make it into your journal?” When they go back to school and the teacher asks, “What did you do all summer?” they will have the best answer in class!

Look for educational camps and structured social activitiesthat parents can in participate with their children. Make every vacation an opportunity to have the whole family grow and learn together. Maybe visit a different museum in a town nearby that would make a great day trip, or when you take that drive to the local national or state park, take the time to read the information about its origin and why it was established. Be the parent who researches and does the leg work to find the fun, educational activities at your local community center and invite your child’s best friend to attend.

Use the summer to do the kind of learning you don’t have time to do during the school year.

Thoughts on Father’s Day

When I looked up the definition of father, I was amazed at how many categorized fathers we have today. From the weekend/holiday father, surprised father, stepfather, second father to just mothers partner or husband; all of which define “the Dad”.  And, believe it or not, there is the DI Dad who is the social/legal father of children produced via donor insemination.

Father is also considered a founder of a body of knowledge or institution like George Washington; the Father of Our Country. And now I can understand why fathers are seen as authority figures and are suppose to possess experience and knowledge in life to pass onto others. That is what being a father is about; the active father who speaks of wisdom and guidance.

My father passed away when I was twelve and Fathers Day was not a Hallmark occasion that was at the top of my list. My mother never re-married and someone said that a father is a girl’s first love.

With time, I realized my father, John, was gone and could not be replaced though I would always be grateful for the strong memories of his love for me. Some didn’t have any example in their lives. And as the years passed, I figured out that I could have as many fathers as I wanted; a trusted male friend who nurtures and helps you live a more fulfilling life.

They can be a neighbor that offers support when you struggle, comfort when you are down and their snow blower when there is a foot of snow in your driveway. They can be a manager who reminds you that you are truly worth it regardless of your awkward stumbles at work. They can be a co-worker that offers you a smile, something to laugh at, thumbs up and a cup of coffee when you are having a bad day.

They can be a brother who offers unconditional love and commitment regardless of how you frustrate him. They can be any relative who is protective, concerned and sees your success rather than incompetence. They can be your best friend’s father who spent hours tutoring you in math and building your self-esteem in a subject you never thought possible.

They can be the salesman or contractor that is really looking out for your safety and best interests. They can be your postman who always makes sure your mail is delivered on time and doesn’t rush off without saying hello. They can be teachers and role models to all children of any age and family.

Most of all, they can be the one above…you may not be able to see, but truly loves you.

 

Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play

As a recess first grade monitor, children’s first choice is outside on the playground or playing soccer though some that may be shy will sit on a bench with me until someone offers them a swing or slide. Indoor recess when the weather is poor is always in the classrooms playing in groups without technology. Those choices usually includes building Lego,Jenga mountains or cooking with silly putty in small groups.

They love traditional play times and will work hard not to lose any recess minutes. All the children have an I pad and our given breaks to play educational digital games. Both types of play are generally exciting to the boys and girls. But is one better than the other?

The Genius of Play  is a national movement to raise awareness of play’s vital role in child development, spearheaded by the Toy Association. Deeply rooted in research and facts, The Genius of Play is a leading resource on the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of play that serve children throughout their lives.

They released a new panel report that included child development and digital media experts convened by The Genius of Play during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January of this year.

“Kids learn and develop crucial skills through all types of play – structured and unstructured, as well as traditional and digital play,” said Ken Seiter, The Toy Association’s executive vice president of marketing communications and the panel’s moderator. “It’s important that parents understand that screen-based or online playdoes not have to be an all or nothing experience. Our panel of experts was extremely knowledgeable and shared best practices for appropriately fostering kids’ development through digital play.”

The panel, which included Sara DeWitt, vice president of PBS Kids Digital, Dr. Jodi Sherman LeVos, director of child development & learning at Mattel, and emotional dynamics expert Dr. Erik Fisher, explored the evolving nature of play in today’s world and sought to provide parents with guidance on how to incorporate all types ofplay into a child’s daily routine. The experts’ consensus: when it comes to digital play, experiences that have a clear learning intent combined with parental engagement are paramount.

INSIGHTS FROM THE PANEL:

Play exists in a variety of arenas and forms. Opportunities for play are everywhere: at home, in school, in stores, at amusement parks, etc. Kids get the most benefit when traditional and digital play exist simultaneously, in a balanced environment.

The best kind of digital play is high-quality content that’s designed with clear learning objectives. These objectives should include: improving cognitive thinking; building language skills; encouraging social skills; and/or promoting creativity.

Technology gives kids a variety of perspectives on the world. Technology supports traditional play by reinforcing key values and adding another dimension to the play experience. For instance, apps and game play can bring unique worlds to life and allow children to explore these worlds in a new way.

Technology can also help drive the benefits of play by emphasizing personalized and adaptive learning. The best kind of high-tech play involves quality engagement in short bursts that engages kids while extending their knowledge in other areas. For instance, if a system can detect a child struggling with a particular concept, offering tutorials or prompts is an area where technology can really help kids learn.

Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play and ask questions. Implementing this type of interaction at an early age builds on communication skills between parent and child, develops trust, and prepares children for more serious talks about internet safety as they grow.

“Why Play is the Secret Sauce for Raising the Next Generation of Digital Innovators, A Special Report by The Genius of Play”​ can be downloaded at TheGeniusOfPlay.org.

Without the Weekly Reader

Decades of children, all ages, couldn’t wait until Fridays when the weekly newspaper was passed out in school.  Ninety years ago, the first edition of the Weekly Reader was distributed on September 21, 1928 and was an immediate success. The first edition catered to older children and a second edition to younger ones; introduced in 1929. By 1931, there were four editions complementing a variety of grades with a circulation of over a million. After a series of several owners in the last fifteen years, Scholastic no longer publishes the reader as we knew it since 2012.

A few years ago, I shared my surprise and sadness over the news of discontinuing the Weekly Reader with my cousin a few years ago who was almost as old the Readers life. We shared our fascinating stories of invention and themes of the week which included anything from safety to volunteering for others even though my experiences were younger than his.

He asked if we had to pay for the Weekly Reader and in 1934 it was approximately 20 cents a semester. In the early 1960’s, my mother always wrote a check every year for the Weekly Reader for me to read about mice going to the moon, a memorial to John F Kennedy and finally men taking that  one historical step for mankind on the moon with the Apollo landing in 1969.  Great progress and history was made as I traveled through the years with my Weekly Reader.

After researching the Weekly Reader, I found one for sale from 1935; a perfect gift for his 84th birthday that he would be celebrating along with the reader.  In January of 1935, it was time to celebrate the birthday of Ben Franklin and his ideas on thrift while articles today in 2012 focus on the similar including protecting the environment and recycling.

However, the main story of 1935 was Old and New Ways to Travel which compared the old steam engine to a new train engine that pulls cars that are streamlined and cuts through the wind. America by rail today is still available with luxury suites and trains that can exceed 300 miles per hour.  Another form of travel mentioned was the celebration of the Wright plane built in 1903 being able to stay in the air 59 seconds. And, of course, new planes had taken part in the event and some of them went three miles in a minute. What a change there has been in airplanes in 31 years.”      “What a change there has been in airplanes in 109 years,” those same individuals would say about the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the new airplane of the 21st Century. Who would have thought you could view a presentation on your computer introducing this dream in the sky.

Wig Wags, the dog, shares experiences in a designated column and children still respond enthusiastically to the little canine friends who can really talk. While another column talks about safety and the game stop and go. A boy plays a policeman with a stop-go- sign and whistle which he blows while turning the sign to stop. A girl is riding her bicycle and must stop when the police boy blows his whistle. She gets a ticket if she does not follow the rules and after three, must forfeit something she likes.

Ultimately, the lessons of the Weekly Reader have never lost their relevance, a treasured memory added to the scrapbook once again. However, Scholastic does publish a weekly nonfiction print and digital magazine for elementary classrooms. They use the most-taught science, social studies, and safety topics to create a multimedia curriculum

For us, the Weekly Reader exemplified more than a just a recap of current events but a cherished time for so many every Friday afternoon during rain, sleet, snow and sun when the Reader was placed in our hands to begin our weekend.

Courtesy of Ebay who offers many vintage copies of the Weekly reader.

Bargain town/South Chicago/Toys R Us

We would go to Steel City Bank in South Chicago and then Gassman’s clothing store for my mother to try on numerous outfits that took forever. However, if I waited patiently outside of the dressing room, our next stop would be Bargain Town. A slinky was only 68 cents! And walkie talkies were under 10 dollars, a lot cheaper than cell phones today.

It was Bargain Town where I remember the aisle crowded with my favorite colorforms; the Jetsons, Dress designers, Barbie, Crazy shapes and the Addams Family. If not in the mood, I would take my time picking out a paint by number. Generally, it was an autumn landscape with oil paints. The paint by number assumed a usual routine at home.

It was set up on a card table in the family den in front of the TV.  It was right before dinner that my Mother and Dad would have their 5:30 cocktail and I would be watching Garfield Goose along with spilling my creativity in front of me. I was allowed to have a small glass of 50 /50 soda.  Oil paint landscapes that would take me alot of time were always my first choice. They still are today. I have a winter and summer print I hang over my fireplace during the appropriate seasons.

After Bargain Town, we would head to the new Jewel in South Chicago before we went home, now CVS pharmacy.

According to That’s It, back in 1948, Charles Lazarus – the founder of Toys”R”Us, opened his very first store in Washington, D.C. called Children’s Bargain Town. It wasn’t until he opened his second store almost 10 years later that he adopted the name we’ve all come to know and love. And that is how the legacy of Toys”R”Us began. Bargain Town also offered nursery items, cribs and baby furniture as well as bicycles. Bicycles cost about 30 dollars. And crown pools that you could set up in the backyard were under 100 dollars.

In the 1990’s, my children could walk to the nearest Toys R Us and for my son, anything Power Rangers would work. My daughter loved board games and art sets; her eyes wide as she studied the massive collection.

The company has been in the toy business for 70 years and operates around 800 stores in the United States and around 800 outside the US, although these numbers are steadily decreasing with time. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. on 18 September 2017, and has also filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

Charles Lazarus, 94, no longer held a stake in the chain and founded the company 70 years ago, just passed away last week. His passing was one week after the company announced it will be forced to shut down its U.S. operations. Many believed that he was the king of toys.

Check out A Tribute to Children’s Bargain Town USA Toy Store in Chicago on Facebook

Now, back to my painting. I even have an easel now!

State street that great street

Once again, back in my day, we parked in the Grant Park Underground if with Mom or someone that knew how to drive. If not, it was the Illinois Central, IC, that friends and I would hop on the from the South side. I think we were about 12 when we were able to travel into the city for a day of shopping and lunch at Wimpys. During Christmas, it was the Walnut Room at Fields and we had to dress in our best dresses, shoes and sometimes white gloves and hats.

Shopping on State Street during the 1950s/60’s  included some of the best such as Chandlers for shoes, the Woolworths seemed bigger for some reason than those in other neighborhoods as well as Walgreens. However, probably our favorites was just experiencing the massive Marshall Fields Store ( 8 stories ) and Carson Pirie Scott which was 12 stories.

Marshall Fields was one of the three largest retailers in the country. Before Marshall Field’s death in 1906, his company became the biggest wholesale and retail dry goods enterprise in the world and also one of the first buildings with escalators.

I think that those were the first that I rode too, one that followed a brief curve to another going up and down. But I really loved the elevator; wanting to be an elevator lady some day in their cute matching outfits and great shoes with nylons.

We would span the floors as we rode the escalator. We were fascinated by  the fourth floor toys with toy drums that encircled the hanging lights. I collected dolls so was in awe every time we would visit as we walked down the aisle where dolls topped glass cases as well as an incredible variety of porcelain dolls and dolls from around the world. Depending on who we were with, how much money and the time of year, we would also have lunch in the blue Narcissus room.

You can still visit the magnificent Tiffany Ceiling on the first floor when you go to what is now known as Macy’s, bought from Fields in 2006.  But visiting as a child and young girl, the granite pillars, the Walnut Room, ceiling, clocks and Christmas decorations was so special.  Today, jeans and sweatpants our just fine.

Carson Pirie Scott is 164 years old and still open today though the State and Madison store was closed in 2006. My aunt worked at the store in Evergreen Park and we shopped more at that store than any other.

State Street begins at North Avenue, the south end of Lincoln Park, runs south through the heart of Downtown Chicago, and ends at the southern city limits, intersecting 127th Street along the bank of the Little Calumet River. It resumes north of 137th Street in Riverdale. I never realized being a resident of Dolton, Il for awhile.  From there, it runs intermittently through Chicago’s south suburbs until terminating at New Monee Road in Crete, Illinois.

 

 

The Sucker Tree

My grandfather’s whitewashed farmhouse was located in small town, central Illinois framed by an ever-changing horizon and guarded by cornstalks.  Each had grown tall with gangling arms, restive and ready to capture their trespassers, twisting their leafy fingers round and round, threatening to arrest me. I was only six years old then.

I quickly made my way inside the chipped picket fence, protected from the grasp of the tawny soldiers.

The screen door creaked and cracked like the bones of an elder, opening and shutting again as Granddad reached for me with outstretched arms of endearment.

Behind the thick panes of his spectacles, his narrow eyes glistened with delight.  His face flushed with excitement, the color of the early autumn foliage that vividly shaded his home that day.

“I have another surprise for you, little one,” he spoke in a whisper.

Of course, I was expecting this and returned his words with a huge grin.  Once again, Granddad had not let me down for my visits were always greeted with something truly wonderful, a phenomena for the entire world to see but, unfortunately, allowed for Granddad and my eyes only!

He slowly took a seat in his polished, Hitchcock rocker and I piled into his lap, anxious to listen.

“Out back, only a few feet away from the house, my child, something very special is happening,” he said.

“What is it, Granddad?”  I responded, eyes wide with childhood curiosity.

He paused for a moment to gather his thought, clearing his aged vocal cords as well.

“A tree is just starting to bloom!”

……….Granddad had topped himself with amazing stories this time!  I wondered if his mind had taken a wrong turn somewhere, the grownups called it senility, I think.  Anyway, I was always considered bright for my years and knew better to believe that trees did not prosper during this particular season!  Leaves transformed from green to brown, then withered and fell to the ground to be either raked away or covered with blankets of snow at the onset of winter weather.  It didn’t take experience in years to attain that knowledge so what was this man fabricating now?

I was extremely disappointed, to say the least.

“Granddad, trees don’t bloom in autumn!”  I said in defiance.

“This one does,” he answered confidently.

Granddad had never lied to me in the past.  Did he really know something that the rest of Illinois and I had not encountered.  It was certainly possible.  In fact anything was possible.

“What kind of tree is it?”  I asked, attempting to pacify Granddad, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“A sucker tree!”  he proudly announced.  “When all the other trees and shrubs shed their leafy dress, this tiny tree begins to thrive with lollipops of rainbow colors.  One by one, they pop out like magic with stems and all, dangling from the branches.  When each sucker is ripe and just the right size, they can be picked and eaten.”

As Granddad continued to go on and on, I was mesmerized by his delightful description.  This was too good…..just too good to be true!  However, once again, Granddad had me right where he wanted me.

“Are the suckers ripe now?”  I asked, nearly jumping out of his lap.

“Well, let’s find out,” he suggested as we climbed out of the rocker and quickly headed to the backyard.

He gestured for me to go first and my impatience caused me to slide down the back steps, my bottom sore and surely splintered right through my pants!

I didn’t care because, only a few inches from me, a miracle really was occurring right before my startling eyes.

A young tree, only a foot or two taller than myself, caught my undivided attention.  Its’ trunk looked like any other and it was naked of leaves but, lo and behold, lollipops, approximately four inches round, hung delicately on their stems from each branch.  There were five or six already in bloom and pink, blue, yellow, and green colors swirled in their centers.  Each childhood delicacy gently swayed to the tunes of the afternoon breeze.

“Can I pick one?”  I uttered in a small voice.

This was a sight that would be locked in my memory for all time.

“Why, of course,” he smiled.  “Two, if you like”

My mouth watered as I let my tongue whirl around on the colors, blending the pinks into the blues, creating my own masterpiece and savoring its’ flavor while the sucker shrunk in size, eventually disappearing into my belly.

I hugged Granddad tightly, thanking him for letting me share this fascinating September event.

The following year in early autumn, Granddad had passed to another land and my heart ached for his return that could never be.  I would miss him for many years to come.

After his funeral, I removed myself from the crowd and took a seat on those familiar back steps to gaze on nature’s evolution.  Each tree had changed color and their leaves began to drop to their demise, almost like what had happened to my Granddad.

I then focused on the sucker tree.  Its’ barren branches seemed to stretch wearily toward the sky as if asking God to return my Granddad.  Not one lollipop adorned its’ arms.  The tree was lost without him for only Granddad knew the secret ingredients that could provide the tree with eternal like.  The sucker tree had become a fabric of memory along with my brilliant Granddad sitting beside it.

Fun with Dick and Jane: Still addicted to reading

I did not like Dick,Jane, Sally, Spot and whoever else was in the series. I had a difficult time reading in the beginning. I didn’t enjoy Think and Do work books  or a  kindergarten book called Work that is Play.  School work was not playtime for me until about 4th and 5th grade where I started to read…just a little….and write my first composition about a steer named Thunder who won a prize from a county fair.

It wasn’t until junior high where my writing and reading really took off with doing well in my sixth grade class on an essay for Keeping Chicago Clean that was turned in for a contest, a poem published in the Chicago Tribune about two wonderful boys I babysat for named Mark and Michael and I began to enjoy reading:

Laura ingalls Wilder: The Little House on the Prairie Series really began to intrigue me and at night before falling asleep I would day dream of the cottage that I wanted to live with a family like the Ingalls . Based on the real-life adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, there were nine books that were cherished by readers of all generations.  On the Banks of Plum Creek is the Newbery Honor-winning fourth book in the Little House series, this edition features the classic black-and-white artwork from Garth Williams and probably my favorite in the series.

The adventures of Laura Ingalls and her family continue as they leave their little house on the prairie and travel in their covered wagon to Minnesota. They settle into a house made of sod on the banks of beautiful Plum Creek. Soon Pa builds them a sturdier house, with real glass windows and a hinged door. Laura and Mary go to school, help with the chores around the house, and fish in the creek. Pa’s fiddle lulls them all to sleep at the end of the day. But then disaster strikes—on top of a terrible blizzard, a grasshopper infestation devours their wheat crop. Now the family must work harder than ever to overcome these challenges.

Trixie Belden: The title character in a series of “girl detective” mysteries written between 1948 and 1986. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell Tatham, who also wrote the Ginny Gordon series, then continued by various in-house writers from Western Publishing under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny. Today the rights to the series are owned by Random House. The series was out of print for a number of years, but Random House began releasing a new edition of the books in mid-2003. As of mid-2006, volumes 1 – 15 have been reissued.

Beatrix “Trixie” Belden is a young teen living just outside the fictional town of Sleepyside-on-Hudson, in the Hudson Valley area of New York. She lives at Crabapple Farm, which had been in her family for either three or six generations (this varies between books), with her parents and three brothers, Brian, Mart, and Bobby. The first book establishes her friendship with lonely, sheltered rich girl, Honey Wheeler, whose family has just moved into the Manor House next door and soon the girls are embroiled in their first case.

I loved Trixie and the book was not always easy to find. Many of my friends liked the Bobsey Twins or Nancy Drew and though I read those years later, it was Trixie that got me excited about reading and girl time adventures.

Anne of Green Gables: A 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (published as L. M. Montgomery). Written for all ages, it has been considered a children’s novel since the mid-twentieth century. It recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town. Since its publication, Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into at least 36 languages

I vaguely remember reading Anne as a school assignment and again fell in love with the detail and description. I struggled, but was willing to do my best with learning the delicate vocabulary.

From them on through the decades, not just years, I have never been without a book. I have given up smoking, adjusted to new people, new jobs, new things but can’t imagine life without a book. I will never forget someone telling me years ago that you are never bored if you love to read.

And reading opened the door for constant writing of new form and ideas; another love I try to do daily.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot

 

Beat Bugs: Winter break fun

As I watched with a group of children, we could not take our eyes of the television screen as we entered the world of imaginary bugs building colorful homes in an over grown backyard. I wanted to check out the grass in our own backyard…just at that moment.. but was afraid I would hurt them.

The Beat Bugs explored, invented and sometimes found themselves in trouble, one who actually got stuck in a bottle that was filling with water, but someone was there to help. Crick, Jay, Buzz, Kumi, and Walter are the main Beat Bugs who are always learning lessons and there are visiting bugs and creatures that help teach those valuable life lessons. Postman Bee works as a postal worker and there is Doris the Spider who actually teaches the bugs to see beauty in everything including her webbing.

After watching several shows one boy said that because of Doris the Spider, he wasn’t going to be afraid of spiders anymore. Great New Years resolution!

Beat Bugs is an Emmy Award winning animated preschool series that airs on Netflix about a bunch of cute bugs who go on fun adventures. Many of the adventures are inspired by familiar Beatles songs which brought a smile to my face including Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, a dragonfly who appears as the song is played. She is known for her wings resembling diamonds and her kaleidoscopic eyes; a guest bug in the series. Kids are now hearing Beatles songs on this show and are going around singing wherever they go.

Target just launched a huge consumer product line for parents and teachers interested in buying the Beat Bugs.

Beat Bugs Hijinx Alive:

These Beat Bugs character figurines come to life (there’s also a huge plush version) when they hear the show being played on TV (or DVD or the app). They actually start singing at the right time when they hear the characters start to sing from the season 1 episodes. The figures light up and move their mouths when they sing and can also sing along with other Beat Bugs Hijinx alive toys!

Ages 3+, MSRP $24.00 for the 6″figures, Walter Plush version is $29.99 Here’s a link: Hijinx Alive and Hijinx Singing Walter Plush.

Here’s a link of all the toys available– Beat Bugs Complete Consumer Product Line

Check out Beatbugs.com for updated information, things to color and other activities. For parents and teachers, you can help your little one build a terrarium and bring their own garden inside. You can download a free fun activity book filled with coloring pages and practice pages for writing.

Shoe box of memories

Andrea gazed out the window as the first snow fell, blanketing the ground with its grace.  It was Christmas Eve and any other year she would be jumping for joy at this wondrous sight.  Andrea and her Dad would try to build a snowman or sprinkle reindeer food with dashes of glitter scattered about so that Santa’s sleigh could find the food easily.

Those moments were only memories now.  Her father had passed away the day after Christmas one year ago.  As she cried herself to sleep many times in the past year, she tried to hold on to his embrace and the image of his gentle face.  Her loneliness had continued to grow rather than subside.

Especially now.

Andrea wanted to stop the arrival of Christmas Day unless it could bring her father back to life!  No other gift could be greater than his self-assuring presence and constant love for her.

Her mother tried to create the excitement of past holidays by continuing family traditions.  Beautifully wrapped packages sat under a balsam tree decorated with favorite ornaments and twinkling lights.  Homemade dressing was being prepared for a feast of all feasts.

Yet, none of these holiday trimmings seemed to fill the gap and make Andrea whole once more.

Fortunately, she had her shoebox.  It was neatly decorated with hearts of many colors and golden stars.  Beneath the cover, photographs, travel brochures, post cards including a trip to Niagara Falls, a broken wrist watch, a tie clip and other treasures symbolizing her father’s life filled the container as well as the barren spot in her heart.

Tonight, it was time, time for Andrea to feel safe, secure and loved.  So, she went to her dresser drawer and carefully pulled the box from it’s’ place, cradling it like a baby in her arms.  After many minutes, she spread the contents of the box on the floor to be touched, read and admired.

She felt close to him now.

But on the floor nestled in her collection was an advertising card that Andrea had not seen before.  It was a rectangle in blue and advertised the top automobile glass companies with their phone numbers and addresses on it. Maybe her Mom had found it somewhere and put it in her box for safekeeping.

The third company on the card was her father’s “Glass Sales and Service” and beside the name, his familiar phone number.  Andrea couldn’t even begin to count the number of times that she had dialed that number, anxious to share her accomplishments at school or simply to tell him “yes, it had been a good day.” On Saturdays, her Dad would take her to his shop and she would spin around in his office chair and he would always take her to lunch for a hamburger and chocolate shake.

After he passed away, her mother had sold the business and the new owners changed its name, requesting a new phone number.  Had that number which offered Andrea private words of concern with her father been disconnected forever?

Maybe it had been issued to another business or home for those to share similar conversations as Andrea had experienced.

Andrea was tired, tired of missing her father, tired of the queasiness in her stomach, tired of feeling so alone. With her shoebox, she decided to lie down just for a minute and climbed into her bed. She was asleep in an instant and the dream began.

A voice, deep within, had prompted Andrea to find out about her father’s old phone number.  Why, she didn’t know, but, still the whisper of the unknown urged her on.

Cautiously, she picked up the receiver and dialed the number…

There seemed to be a connection!  The number had not been discontinued after all!

After two rings, a voice responded.

“Good evening, Glass Sales and Service,” followed by a brief pause, “Hello, Andrea.”

The voice was distant and almost inaudible due to crackling on the line but there was no question whom the voice belonged to.

“Dad?” she stammered, her throat parched, her heart throbbing as she shut her eyes quickly, hoping to hear a response over the pounding in her chest.

“Yes, Sweetheart,” her father said calmly and deliberately.

Andrea could not believe what was happening or how and why.  All she knew is that her father was finally here.  Tears of joy began to flow freely down her face, “Dad, are you really alive?” she asked.  There was a pause that seemed endless.

“Andrea, I cannot come back to the life as you know it.  But…..”

“No! It wasn’t true!  Andrea had been dreaming, a long and dreadful dream this year.  He was really coming home soon and……..

“What you are hearing, Andrea is the voice of your heart, my spirit that will always be there.”     She was so confused and at a complete loss for words.  Though buried within her soul, Andrea knew he was right.  His funeral had been too vivid, too horribly real and that indistinguishable voice inside of her convinced her that death was final, final in the physical way.

He did not wait for her reaction because he knew it would be too difficult for her to understand.  So, he continued.

“Regardless of where I am today, death cannot tear us apart.  If you believe in the importance of your life and look inside your heart, you will always find me waiting.  Waiting to guide you through problems and loving you as you are and will be.  Don’t ever lose hope for what is hidden in your heart.  Just open it, Andrea, like you do with your shoebox of memories and you know what, if you listen carefully, you can hear the angels……………..”

Static drowned his words.

“Dad, I love you…….”  Her voice suddenly dropped dramatically, “Dad, are you there?”

Within seconds, she heard a click followed by a dial tone.  He was gone.

Instantly, Andrea dialed the number again.  It began to ring and suddenly she heard, “I am sorry, that number has been disconnected.”

She opened her eyes and her body was shaking with emotional exhaustion.  Shock trembled through her, but somehow, she felt a peace that she had not experienced for a long time. She did not have that feeling of nausea. She had heard stories about dreams being much more than someone’s imagination working overtime. Was that it or had she really received a message from her Dad that everything would be ok?

Peace had found a place in her heart that had been barren.  She truly believed her father’s words and she knew life could go on in her world as well as his.

She heard her Mom call so she made her way to the bathroom to wash her tear-stained face.  She glanced at her reflection in the mirror above the sink and smiled.  She not only saw her own features but the wonderful love of her father standing behind her.  And as her Mom called once again, she thought she heard other voices as well.

“If you listen carefully, you can hear the angels……..sing.