Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sammy in the Sky

"My sunshine doesn't come from the skies, it comes from the love in my dog's eyes."

This is Connick (named after Harry Connick, Jr.).  He was part of our family for 15 years.  He passed away in October 2007 when Emmy was 20 months old.  She doesn't remember him, but I do because he filled my heart with joy every single day.  It is this joy as well as the happy memories that my husband and I share with Emmy that allows her to talk about Connick like she remembers him.  She loves to tell others how Connick liked to chase tennis balls, how he let her climb into his doggy bed and snuggle with his blanket, how he stood by her from the day she was born and watched over her with a protective eye.

The loss of a pet is an extremely difficult experience and only those that have had this experience can truly understand the emotional pain.  I am thankful that Emmy was so young when Connick left us because she was spared this pain.  However, I know that loss is inevitable and I know that a dog will join our family again soon.  When it's time to say goodbye, I will be very thankful that we came across the book Sammy in the Sky and that we shared this book with Emmy many, many times.

Sammy in the Sky is beautifully written by Barbara Walsh with exquisite watercolor paintings by Jamie Wyeth. The story was inspired by Walsh's family's first dog, Sam - a loyal and loving hound dog.

We were very fortunate to meet Barbara Walsh at our local bookstore in the summer of 2011. We had her autograph our copy of the book. She wrote,
"To Emerson, With dog licks 
from Connick." 
and signed her name. Emmy was delighted and so was I!

Walsh wrote Sammy in the Sky in a way that allows the reader to imagine herself as the main character since the character remains unnamed.  The little girl can be any child who has ever lost a dog. The story takes us through all the joy and love that Sammy brings to the family, to the announcement that he is sick, on to his death, and to a celebration of his life.

"Then we blew bubbles into the wind.  They floated higher and higher toward 
a cloud that looked like a dog running in the sky.  I could see its paws, 
floppy ears, and tail.  It's Sammy!" I yelled.  "He's chasing the bubbles!  
Sammy's with us!"  

Jamie Wyeth's paintings are the perfect match to Walsh's story.  Absolutely extraordinary!   Wyeth's love for dogs is evident in his thoughtful illustrations and his understanding of the beauty of the Maine landscape, where the story takes place, is captured dreamily in the pale colors of the paintings.  The illustrations evoke every emotion (love, joy, grief) of the unconditional love between a dog and his human.  Emmy and I fell in love with Sammy on the very first page. Just take a look at his eyes!

"My dad said Sammy was the best hound 
dog in the whole world.  All I knew was 
that I loved Sammy and Sammy loved me."

Emmy's favorite part of the story is when the little girl finds the cloud shaped like Sammy in the sky. To this very day, Emmy will look up into the sky and squeal with delight when she finds a special cloud shaped like Connick.  Sammy in the Sky shows us that our love and our memories is what keeps our loved one with us forever tucked inside our hearts.  This message is an important one to pass along to a child and a great reminder to adults.  Anyone, young or old, would treasure this book, and its message, forever.  

Most recently, Emmy and I came across a fantastic book of poems that celebrates the uniqueness of the human/canine relationship.  Dog Songs, by well known poet Mary Oliver, contains 35 simple poems and prose that capture the wholehearted devotion of dogs and is enhanced by the simple pen and ink drawings found throughout the book.  One of our favorite poems is Little Dog's Rhapsody in the Night.

Little Dog's Rhapsody in the Night
He puts his cheek against mine
And makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I'm awake, or awake enough
He turns upside down, his four paws in the air
And his eyes dark and fervent
"Tell me you love me," he says
"Tell me again."
Could there be a sweeter arrangement?
Over and over he gets to ask.
I get to tell

Please listen to Mary Oliver read Little Dog's Rhapsody in the Night:

Emmy would love to have a dog as her buddy again and my husband and I would love to have a dog as a part of our family again. Unfortunately, we live in an apartment building where the policy is "No Dogs Allowed" which always makes me think of the Charlie Brown episode when Snoopy gets kicked out of the library and a very deep voice says, "No Dogs Allowed!"  How can they kick a dog who LOVES to read out of the library?  CRAZY!

We did want Emmy to experience the joy, as well as the responsibility, of a pet so we decided recently to add two guinea pigs to our family - Fluffy and Lightning.  They are the sweetest little things!  We love to hear them squeak and whistle whenever we come home.  Emmy is such a wonderful caretaker of her little "piggies."  Her favorite thing that her guinea pigs do is hop about in their cage.  When she found out that this is called "popcorning" she loved it even more.

Emmy and I hope that you have the opportunity in your life to experience the love of a dog (or a guinea pig).  The affection and wholehearted devotion of a pet, who loves us unconditionally, is amazing. While in the process of caring for a pet, he teaches us such an important lesson...TO LOVE.  By letting us see ourselves through his eyes, we allow ourselves to believe what he sees, to believe that we are worthy of love - that we ARE love.

Thank you for being our teacher Connick!  We keep you tucked inside our hearts every day.  

"What we have once enjoyed
we can never lose;
All that we love deeply,
becomes a part of us."

~ Helen Keller ~ 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monster Needs a Costume

Autumn is here!  The trees are exploding with color, there is a chill in the air and apples and pumpkins are everywhere.  This is our favorite time of the year.  Halloween is just around the corner, so the question "What will you be for Halloween?" is on Emmy's mind.  Each year we go back and look at all of her Halloween photos.  We giggle and reminisce about days gone by.  After Halloween this year, we plan on putting the photos into a book with a little description under each written by Emmy and adding to it each Halloween.  We will be sure to share that with you when we are finished.  For now here are photos of Emmy in her costumes from the past eight years.
First Halloween
Second Halloween
Third Halloween
Silly Clown

Fourth Halloween
Dancing Princess
Fifth Halloween
Fairy Princess
Sixth Halloween
Snow Fairy Princess

I love looking back at her sweet face and seeing the changes that have occurred with each passing year. This year was the first one to move out of the princess/fairy world and enter into a spookier world - Dark Ninja!  She has already told me to be prepared for next year because she is planning on being a vampire.

We have no trouble at our house deciding on what to be for Halloween and have never changed our minds, but I have heard of children that come up with at least ten different costume ideas and have trouble choosing just one.  Well if this sounds like your child, we have the most perfect book recommendation for you - Monster Needs a Costume by Paul Czajak illustrated by Wendy Grieb
Emmy and I recently attended the Book Launch for this wonderful book at our local bookstore - Jabberwocky Bookshop.  We had a great time making a monster mask, talking with the author, listening to the story being read aloud and enjoying some yummy cake.
Czajak uses rhythm and rhyme to tell the story of a Monster who can't make up his mind on what he wants to be for Halloween.  I LOVE the way the boy takes care of Monster in the story as a parent would take care of him.  Emmy LOVES all of Monster's ideas and can relate to wanting to wear the costume every single day.  Grieb's humorous illustrations add plenty of playfulness to Czajak's story.

I am always inspired when I meet a children's book author especially when he is celebrating his very first picture book.  Emmy and I love to hear how an author gets his idea for a book and Paul's story was interesting indeed as his idea came straight from his daughter.  Listening to his daughter play in the back seat of the car, he heard her say to her doll, "My monster needs a haircut."  From those five words began a series of books about Monster.

Take a peek at this very endearing book.  We hope it finds a place in your hearts as it has in ours...

Emmy and I are very excited for book two in the Monster & Me series, Monster Needs His Sleep, coming out in April 2014.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, written by Julia Rawlinson and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke, is a favorite Autumn book in our house.  In the story a tiny fox named Fletcher is extremely concerned about the leaves changing colors and falling off of his favorite tree.  So concerned, in fact, that he tries desperately to keep the leaves on the tree even though his mother keeps telling him "Don't worry.  It's only Autumn."  In order to keep the leaves on his favorite tree, Fletcher tries catching them, tying them to the tree and even holding on tight to the very last leaf, but nature wins and the last leaf dries up and pops off of the tree.  Fletcher mournfully carries this leaf home and takes it to bed with him.  The next morning the tree has a surprise waiting for him...it has been covered with sparkling ice.  Fletcher is amazed and relieved!  Emmy and I love the ending of this story as Fletcher begins to understand that seasons come and go and with each comes such beauty.

When Emmy was three and a half, she experienced her first New England Autumn.  She loved watching the tree outside of her bedroom window change from bright green to a vibrant red.  Emmy liked to say that the tree was all dressed up and ready to go to the Ball. When she asked me how the leaves changed color, I could have told her the science behind the transformation, but instead told her that the fairies came during the night and painted the leaves all of these beautiful colors.  Her response was why didn't the fairies use pink paint!  Just like Fletcher, Emmy became sad when the leaves started to fall off of the tree.  She, too, thought of ideas to keep the leaves on the tree including tape and glue.

This year's Autumn performance was once again absolutely gorgeous.  Everything burst with its last beauty as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.  Now most of the leaves have fallen off of the trees and we have begun to see a very different landscape.  There are many things we have noticed in our urban neighborhood since the leaves have fallen such as, the bright blue dome of the Greek Orthodox Church two streets away and the calm, emptiness of the Merrimack River as the boats have been brought onto land.

Emmy and I welcome each season with such enthusiasm.  Most of the people around us are already complaining about the cold and the snow that will fall very soon.  There are no complaints from us. We are eager to wear our puffy coats and warm boots, drink hot cocoa under cozy blankets and see the snowflakes settle on the bare branches of the trees.

We hope all of you are enjoying Autumn where ever you may live.

"Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance." 
--Yoko Ono

For a few more Autumn books check out our post about Apple Farmer Annie written in September 2009, our Favorite Autumn Books written in October 2009,   and our post about author Zoe Hall written in October 2010.