Birthday Story for a Five-Year-Old

Ninja Warrior
by Grandma Baadsgaard
Happy 5th Birthday. I sure love you Liam - my mighty warrior.

            In the towering cliffs next to the sea, lived Liam a mighty ninja warrior. Liam wasn’t always a warrior. Once he was a little boy who lived in a cottage with his family. One night many men dressed in black unexpectedly came to his house and set the roof on fire. His family ran out the front door. Liam ran out the back door and hid behind a rock wall while he watched the men tie his family’s hands behind their backs and take them away.
            Liam was alone. He slept on the beach until the dawn. He caught a fish in the ocean when he grew hungry. He searched over the remains of his home. He pulled out a half burned quilt his mother made him and a small blade his father had given him. He found his flute hidden under a stone in a box beneath the floor boards. That night he played a sad song under the stars. He did not know where his family had gone.
            After many days passed he saw a peasant gathering wood near his home. The man walked toward Liam. He looked at Liam’s home in ashes.
            “You are alone,” the peasant said.
            “The men in black burned my house and took my family away.”
            The peasant quietly turned and picked up a piece of charred wood then another until he formed a pile. Soon the rock foundation was all that remained.
            “We will find new wood,” the peasant said.
            Liam followed the peasant into the woods, chopped down trees and carried many logs to the foundation. Together they built a new cottage. Later, after they finished rebuilding Liam’s home, the peasant built a fire in the fireplace. Liam played a song on his flute with his mother’s quilt around his shoulders and his father’s blade in his pocket.
            “I miss my family,” Liam said.
            “Then we will find your family,” the peasant said.
            “I am afraid of the men in black,” Liam said.
            “Then we will use strategy and skill,” the peasant said.
            That night when the peasant thought Liam was sleeping, he walked from the cottage to the edge of the cliff in the moonlight. Liam secretly followed. Liam watched as the peasant crouched down then curled into a ball on the ground until he resembled a stone. Then Liam saw the peasant transform into an eagle that rose majestically and flew into the night sky. Liam returned to the cottage deep in thought.
          “I have found your family,” the peasant said at breakfast the next morning. They are slaves building a castle for the men in black. There are many, many men in black. We must plan your family’s escape with cunning and skill.”
            Lessons began. Each day the peasant gave Liam new lessons in the use of mental clarity, forecasting and transformation skills.
“When you feel fear, knell on the earth and gather courage deep inside. Then rise, spread your arms like the wings of a bird and let your fear go. You can rise above and fly.”

          Each night Liam rose from his safe place next to the fire and secretly followed the peasant into the cold dark then watched as he transformed into an eagle and flew toward the castle. When he was ready Liam openly followed his teacher to the each of the cliff. Then he too crouched down low until he resembled a stone. He gathered his courage deep inside. As he stood and spread his arms wide, his limbs became wings and together they flew toward the castle.
          When Liam saw his family sleeping in dung and rags, his heart ached. When they returned to the cottage Liam knew what he must do.
          “I am ready,” Liam said to his teacher the next morning.  
          That night they flew together to the castle, transformed then spoke to Liam’s father.
          “Father,” Liam said. “I am here to bring you home.”
            Liam’s father awoke and quietly roused Liam’s mother and brothers and sisters. Silently they followed Liam toward the gate. Liam and his teacher flung grappling hooks over the castle walls and assisted Liam’s family as they cleared the wall. When they were safely outside the castle, both Liam and his teacher curled into a ball on the ground until they looked like a stone.
          “Gather your courage,” Liam said.
          Then Liam’s father, mother, brothers and sisters quietly followed their lead. Just as the moon rose over the horizon, a flock of eagles soared high in the night sky and glided toward the cliffs near the shore and their home. When Liam woke the next morning, a fire crackled in the fireplace as his family slept soundly all around him. He walked from the warm cottage and found his teacher sitting at the crest of the cliff looking out toward the eastern horizon. Liam sat next to him facing the wind.
“We are only grounded by our fears,” his teacher said.
         Then Liam watched as his teacher slowly crouched into the shape of a stone. For a moment Liam longed for him to stay. Then he understood why he must go.
          “I am ready,” Liam said.
           Liam watched as his teacher spread his wings and soared high into the brilliant light of the new day.


John in Denmark

John on his first day in Denmark standing in front of Nyhavn a street in Copenhagen.
John at his first apartment in Denmark with his new bike.


Write Your Own Story - Happy Birthday Sandy!

by Granny B
Happy Eleventh Birthday Sandy. 
I love you. Keep writing your stories.

While the rest of her family was busy watching a movie, Sandy sauntered through the house deep in thought with a notebook in her hand.
“Come watch Princess Pink’s Magic Kingdom with me,” her sister begged jumping up from the couch. “Please.”
“No thanks,” Sandy said, “I’d rather write my own stories.”
Sandy imagined she was Sherlock Holmes as she continued pacing about the house with a keen eye. She turned on her story brain by playing detective. Everywhere she went she studiously observed her surroundings and carefully listened. Her grandmother once told her that you can write a story in your mind while you are doing something else like washing the dishes or walking home from school.
“I want to be a writer like you when I grow up,” Sandy said to her grandmother when they were sitting next to each other one day.
“What a pleasant idea,” her grandma answered. “We writers should stick together; for we all like to gather words like clouds, let them rain and then make the sun come out again. It is the perfect line of work for those of us who want to live lives with happy endings.”
“There are stories circling around in my head all time,” Sandy said. “Sometimes I hear people talking to each other in there.”
“Me too,” Grandma answered. “I still don’t have all my stories out. Did you know that when you love to read and write you always have somewhere interesting to go even when you have to stay where you are?”
“What is the best way for me to practice writing?” Sandy asked.
 “Listen carefully, feel deeply, read widely and write every day,” her grandmother answered.
So Sandy listened carefully to the way her mother and father spoke to each other across the kitchen table and practiced writing their dialogue in her notebook. She read The Secret Garden and grew curious to learn about the life of the author Frances Hodgson Burnett. She wrote a few verses about their apple tree sending blossoms into the air like wee parachutes. Then she tucked those lines of verse inside her idea folder. Mysterious plots, good versus evil themes and noble characters were stacking up in the accordion file of her mind getting ready to be played. Sandy listened to narratives writing themselves inside her head everywhere she went. She didn’t have enough time to write them all down; she had to choose. Choosing was hard.
Sandy tried out her latest story on her younger brother when she tucked him in.
“Once . . .” she began, “There was a purple ballerina who couldn’t stop dancing.”
Her brother gave her a blank stare and grunted so Sandy changed up the plot a bit. “Once upon a time there was a dinosaur that ate little boys!”
With wide open eyes her brother stopped wiggling and waited for the rest of the story.
Sandy pulled out her notebook and wrote, “Good stories need a villain.” When her story went too long, her little brother fell asleep; so she added, “Little boys like short stories.”
Sandy also liked to try out her new stories with her older sister when they were falling asleep in their twin beds in the basement at night.
“Once upon a time there was a girl who liked to write stories,” Sandy began contemplating being the star of her new interesting plot.
She heard her sister yawn.
“Once there was a girl in junior high that discovered a hidden door behind the blackboard in her English class.”
Her sister sat up excited to hear the rest of the tale.
The next morning Sandy pulled out her notebook and wrote, “People like stories with a little mystery thrown in.”
Then Sandy headed upstairs for breakfast and walked straight into a wall because she had her nose in a book. She heard her brothers and sisters laughing at her in the kitchen.
“Stop laughing at me,” Sandy said.
Her siblings laughed even louder. Sandy stopped being embarrassed and laughed along with them.
“People like stories with characters that make them laugh,” Sandy wrote in her notebook after breakfast.
Later that night Sandy’s father tucked her into bed.
“Will you tell me a story?” Sandy asked.
“Once upon a time, there was a girl who had more tales and yarns in her head than pieces of sand on the sea shore. Every day she told a brand new story to anyone who would listen until she was very old. When she had grey hair and lots of wrinkles, she told stories to her grandchildren. She never ran out of stories. The end.”
            “Is that a story about Grandma or me someday?” Sandy asked.
“Yes,” her father answered.


Fairy Poem

by Grandma Baadsgaard
Happy 5th birthday Kate. 
I sure do love you.

There is a tree at Grandma’s house,
Boughs hanging to the ground,
Where fairies dance at twilight
If you listen, you’ll hear their sounds

When you’re very quiet and eavesdrop carefully
You’ll hear their tiny bluebells chime
And see their flaxen lantern’s light
Then hear their voices sing a rhyme . . .

“We are your wishes – your dreams at bay
We paint the summer flowers bright
We spread the glisten in the trees
We make mid-night stars alight.”

“On your knees beneath the hanging boughs
You’ll see our tiny wooden chairs
Made with moss and well-trimmed sticks
You’ll find jewels for your hair.”

“No one knows where fairies hide
When grown-ups are about
So if children want to see us
They can’t scream and shout.”

“They must sit quietly upon the stone
Close their eyes and hold so still
Then they’ll hear our wings purring
And they’ll know that we are real.”

If you’re very lucky we might be brave
And light upon on your hand
That is the time for you to wink and smile
For now you’re in fairyland.”