umbrella   Something Out Of Nothing   umbrella
by Letty Zook

Today was allowance day. But Tad and Tracie heard Dad say, "Not many customers this week! My paycheck will be next to nothing."

"Next to nothing!" said Tad to Tracie. "That means nothing left for our allowances."

"We need to go on a budget," said Tracie.

"How do you budget nothing?" asked Tad.

Tracie ran to the waste basket. She dug around and pulled out four used envelopes. She ran to the desk, opened the drawers, and plucked out a pencil.

Tracie spread out the envelopes and wrote a word on each one: Clothes, House, Charity, and Food. "That's how we'll divide our budget," she said.

"How do you divide nothing?" asked Tad.

"The first envelope is for clothes," said Tracie. "What do you need?" Tad grinned and stuck his finger through a hole in his tee shirt.

"Get that patch you earned in youth club," said Tracie. "And change your shirt." Tad jumped up and ran to his bedroom.

While he was gone, Tracie searched through her sewing basket. She chose a needle and a spool with the right color thread.

When Tad came back, Tracie spread out the shirt. She covered the hole with the patch and cut off some thread. "Don't stand around," she said to Tad. "Work on the next budget envelope."

"What does it say?" asked Tad.

"It says House," answered Tracie. "The floor of our playhouse needs new boards."

"But how can we fix it with nothing?" asked Tad.

"They're building a house down the street," said Tracie. "Why don't you go and watch and get ideas."

Tad ran outside and down the street to the building lot. Workers crawled over the wood frame of the house. One worker hammered a nail and cried, "Aah, I bent the thing." He tore out the nail and threw it on the ground.

Tad ran to the nail and picked it up. It was only a little bent. A pliers would straighten it fine. He searched the ground and found more bent nails.

"Hey kid!" shouted the man who had thrown down the nail. He held some dollar bills. "If you buy me a soda and corn chips you can keep the change."

"Sure!" said Tad. He stuffed the money in his jeans and rushed to the minute mart.

When Tad returned with the snack, he handed the man his change. "Please sir," he said. "Could I have some boards instead?"

The man scratched his head. He pointed to some wood piled nearby. "You can have those scraps," he said. "They just get thrown out."

"It's perfect!" said Tad. He hurried home, got his wagon, and returned to load it with wood.

"Good work," said Tracie when she saw all the wood. "Here's your designer tee shirt."

"Thanks!" said Tad. "The patch looks great!" He put on the shirt right away.

Next, Tad found a pliers. He straightened all the bent nails he brought home. Tracie helped him haul the wood to their playhouse. They picked out the pieces that fit and hammered them to the floor. Then they stood up to admire their work.

Tracie reached into her pocket and pulled out the envelopes. "That takes care of Clothes and House," she said. "The next budget envelope says Charity."

Tracie folded hers arms, closed her eyes, and thought hard. "We could help Mrs. Grove," she said. "She has a new baby and works nights."

"How do we help her with nothing?" asked Tad.

"We could shop for her and weed her garden," answered Tracie.

The children raced over the lawn to the house next door. Mrs. Grove answered their knock, holding her baby. When they made their offer, she sighed, hugged her baby and smiled. "Thank God for good neighbors!" she said. "I'll give you a list."

Tad and Tracie took her list and some money and ran to the store. They found all the items on the list. Milk, bread, cereal, cheese, lettuce, eggs, and some jars of mashed food for the baby. Mrs. Grove was so happy when she saw all the groceries.

"Now we need your weed digger and trowel," said Tad and Tracie. They dashed to her garden and dug out all the thistles they found. "But leave some clover for the rabbits," said Mrs. Grove, with a laugh.

When they were done, Mrs. Grove offered them money. "Oh no!" said Tracie. "You're in our budget already."

"Then take some strawberries from the garden," said Mrs. Grove. She held out a basket filled with the fruit.

"Mmmm," said Tad and Tracie as they walked back to their home. The berries were juicy and sweet. "What's next on the budget?" asked Tad.

Tracie pulled out the envelopes. She waved the last one and said, "Food!"

Tad laughed. He plopped another strawberry into his mouth.

When they arrived home, Dad was just pulling into the driveway. "Hi kids!" he said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some coins. "I didn't forget your allowance. I'm afraid, though, it's nothing much."

"Nothing's okay Dad," said Tad.

"That's right!" said Tracie. "We've made nothing into something all day!"

Copyright (c) 1998 by Letitia L. Zook
This work may be copied and distributed freely, but only in its entirety, including this copyright notice, and without any changes.

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umbrella   The Sorrow of the Dogwood   umbrella

Many years ago, a dogwood tree grew on a hill outside Jerusalem. In those days, the dogwood tree was as tall and mighty as an oak, and this tree was the tallest of all the dogwoods, and extremely proud of its strength.

"Something wonderful is going to happen to me," it said to anyone who would listen. "I'll probably become the mast that holds the big sail on a grand ship, or the main timber supporting a great house."

Unfortunately, the huge old dogwood was cut down to become the cross to which Jesus was nailed. The tree was horrified. All its dreams of glory were smashed, and it groaned in agony as two boards from its trunk were nailed together.

Jesus took pity on the tree, even as he carried it to Calvary. "You will never be put to such use again," he told it. "From this day on, your shape will change, even as will the world. You will become slender and sway easily with the breeze. And instead of acorns you will bear white flowers in the shape of a cross, with dark red bloodstains at the side of each petal to show the world how you have suffered. Last of all, the center of your flowers will be marked as though with a crown of thorns, to remind people forevermore that you and I spent our last moments together.

And so it was. And so it is.

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umbrella   Sweet Porridge   umbrella

There was a poor but good little girl who lived alone with her mother, and they no longer had anything to eat. So the child went into the forest, and there an aged woman met her who was aware of her sorrow, and presented her with a little pot, which when she said, cook, little pot, cook, would cook good, sweet porridge, and when she said, stop, little pot, it ceased to cook.

The girl took the pot home to her mother, and now they were freed from their poverty and hunger, and ate sweet porridge as often as they chose.

Once on a time when the girl had gone out, her mother said, cook, little pot, cook. And it did cook and she ate till she was satisfied, and then she wanted the pot to stop cooking, but did not know the word. So it went on cooking and the porridge rose over the edge, and still it cooked on until the kitchen and whole house were full, and then the next house, and then the whole street, just as if it wanted to satisfy the hunger of the whole world, and there was the greatest distress, but no one knew how to stop it.

At last when only one single house remained, the child came home and just said, stop, little pot, and it stopped and gave up cooking, and whosoever wished to return to the town had to eat his way back.

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umbrella The Three Little Pigs umbrella

Once upon a time . . . there were three little pigs, who left their mummy and daddy to see the world. All summer long, they roamed through the woods and over the plains, playing games and having fun. None were happier than the three little pigs, and they easily made friends with everyone. Wherever they went, they were given a warm welcome, but as summer drew to a close, they realized that folk were drifting back to their usual jobs, and preparing for winter.

Autumn came and it began to rain. The three little pigs started to feel they needed a real home. Sadly they knew that the fun was over now and they must set to work like the others, or they'd be left in the cold and rain, with no roof over their heads. They talked about what to do, but each decided for himself. The laziest little pig said he'd build a straw hut.

"It will only take a day,' he said. The others disagreed.

"It's too fragile," they said disapprovingly, but he refused to listen. Not quite so lazy, the second little pig went in search of planks of seasoned wood.

"Clunk! Clunk! Clunk!" It took him two days to nail them together. But the third little pig did not like the wooden house.

"That's not the way to build a house!" he said. "It takes time, patience and hard work to build a house that is strong enough to stand up to wind, rain, and snow, and most of all, protect us from the wolf!"

The days went by, and the wisest little pig's house took shape, brick by brick. From time to time, his brothers visited him, saying with a chuckle:

"Why are you working so hard? Why don't you come and play?" But the stubborn bricklayer pig just said "no".

"I shall finish my house first. It must be solid and sturdy. And then I'll come and play!" he said. "I shall not be foolish like you! For he who laughs last, laughs longest!"

It was the wisest little pig that found the tracks of a big wolf in the neighborhood.

The little pigs rushed home in alarm. Along came the wolf, scowling fiercely at the laziest pig's straw hut.

"Come out!" ordered the wolf, his mouth watering. I want to speak to you!"

"I'd rather stay where I am!" replied the little pig in a tiny voice.

"I'll make you come out!" growled the wolf angrily, and puffing out his chest, he took a very deep breath. Then he blew with all his might, right onto the house. And all the straw the silly pig had heaped against some thin poles, fell down in the great blast. Excited by his own cleverness, the wolf did not notice that the little pig had slithered out from underneath the heap of straw, and was dashing towards his brother's wooden house. When he realized that the little pig was escaping, the wolf grew wild with rage.

"Come back!" he roared, trying to catch the pig as he ran into the wooden house. The other little pig greeted his brother, shaking like a leaf.

"I hope this house won't fall down! Let's lean against the door so he can't break in!"

Outside, the wolf could hear the little pigs' words. Starving as he was, at the idea of a two-course meal, he rained blows on the door.

"Open up! Open up! I only want to speak to you!"

Inside, the two brothers wept in fear and did their best to hold the door fast against the blows. Then the furious wolf braced himself a new effort: he drew in a really enormous breath, and went ... WHOOOOO! The wooden house collapsed like a pack of cards.

Luckily, the wisest little pig had been watching the scene from the window of his own brick house, and he rapidly opened the door to his fleeing brothers. And not a moment too soon, for the wolf was already hammering furiously on the door. This time, the wolf had grave doubts. This house had a much more solid air than the others. He blew once, he blew again and then for a third time. But all was in vain. For the house did not budge an inch. The three little pigs watched him and their fear began to fade. Quite exhausted by his efforts, the wolf decided to try one of his tricks. He scrambled up a nearby ladder, on to the roof to have a look at the chimney. However, the wisest little pig had seen this ploy, and he quickly said:

"Quick! Light the fire!" With his long legs thrust down the chimney, the wolf was not sure if he should slide down the black hole. It wouldn't be easy to get in, but the sound of the little pigs' voices below only made him feel hungrier.

"I'm dying of hunger! I'm going to try and get down." And he let himself drop. But landing was rather hot, too hot! The wolf landed in the fire, stunned by his fall.

The flames licked his hairy coat and his tail became a flaring torch.

"Never again! Never again will I go down a chimney" he squealed, as he tried to put out the flames in his tail. Then he ran away as fast as he could.

The three happy little pigs, dancing round and round the yard, began to sing:

"Tra-la-la! Tra-la-la! The wicked black wolf will never come back...!"

From that terrible day on, the wisest little pig's brothers set to work with a will. In less than no time, up went the two new brick houses. The wolf did return once to roam in the neighborhood, but when he caught sight of three chimneys, he remembered the terrible pain of a burnt tail, and he left for good.

Now safe and happy, the wisest little pig called to his brothers:

"No more work! Come on, let's go and play!"

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umbrella   Thumbelina   umbrella
by Hans Christian Andersen

Once upon a time there was a woman whose only wish was to have a tiny little child. She had no idea where to get one, so she went to an old witch and asked her: "Please, old witch, tell me where I can get a tiny little child."

"That is not so hard," said the witch. "Plant this seed in the ground and see what happens."

The woman paid the witch twelve gold coins and went home to plant the seed. No sooner was it in the ground than it started to sprout. A big beautiful flower grew up. It became a tulip that was ready to bloom.

"What a lovely flower," said the woman as she kissed the red and yellow petals that were closed so tightly. With a snap they opened and became a real tulip. In the center of the flower sat a tiny little girl. She was so beautiful and so delicate, and exactly one inch long.

"I will call her Thumbelina," thought the woman.

The shell of a walnut became Thumbelina's cradle, the blue petals of violets her mattress, and a rose petal her cover. Here she slept at night; in the daytime she played on the table by the window. The woman had put a bowl of water there with flowers all around it. In the water floated a tulip petal on which Thumbelina could float from one side of the bowl to the other.

Thumbelina would float and sing more beautifully than anyone has ever sung before.

One night as she lay sleeping in her little bed a frog came through the window. She was big and wet and ugly. She jumped down onto the table where Thumbelina lay sleeping under the rose petal.

"She will make a lovely wife for my son," said the frog. She grabbed the walnut shell in which Thumbelina slept, leaped out through the window and into the garden.

On the banks of the stream, where it was muddiest, lived the frog with her son. He was just as ugly as his mother. "Croak...Croak...Croak!" was all he said when he saw the beautiful little girl in the walnut shell.

"Don't talk so loud! You'll wake her!" scolded the mother frog, "She could run away and we would not be able to catch her, for she is as light as the feather of a swan. I will put her on a water-lily leaf. It will seem like an island to her. Then we will get your hole in the mud ready for your marriage."

Out in the stream grew many water lilies. All their leaves seemed to float on the water. The biggest of them was far out from shore. Upon that lily the old frog put Thumbelina's little bed.

When the poor girl awoke in the morning and saw where she was she began to cry bitterly. There was no way of getting to shore at all.

The old frog was very busy down in the mud hole, decorating the walls with reeds and flowers that grew on shore. She meant to make a very pretty wedding. After she finished, she and her ugly son swam out to the water-lily to fetch Thumbelina's bed. It was to go in the bridal chamber. The old frog curtsied, and that is not easy while swimming; then she said, "Meet my son who will be your new husband. You will both live very happily in the mud hole."

"Croak!...Croak!" was all the son said. Then they took the walnut shell bed and swam away with it. Poor Thumbelina sat on the water-leaf and wept, for she did not want to live with these ugly frogs. The little fishes swimming by in the water heard what the old frog had said. They poked their heads out of the water to look at the tiny girl. When they saw her beauty it made them sad to think of her with the frogs in the mud. They decided they would do something and gathered around the stem that went from Thumbelina's leaf to the bottom of the stream. They nibbled and nibbled and soon the leaf was free. It drifted down the stream, carrying Thumbelina far away from the ugly frogs.

As Thumbelina sailed down the stream, little birds sang, "Oh what a pretty girl." Farther and farther floated the leaf down the stream, taking its little passenger to strange new lands.

A white butterfly flew around in a circle and landed on the leaf. It had taken a fancy to little Thumbelina. The girl laughed, for she was happy to have escaped from the frogs. She tied one end of the silk ribbon she wore around her waist to the butterfly. The other end she tied to her water-lily. The butterfly flew and pulled Thumbelina quickly down the stream.

A big May bug flew by. It spied Thumbelina, swooped down and picked her off the leaf and flew up into a tree with her. The leaf and butterfly went on down the stream without Thumbelina.

Thumbelina was terrified of what would happen next. The May bug put Thumbelina in the tree and gave her honey from the flowers. He told her she was the prettiest thing he had ever seen, even though she didn't look like a May bug at all. Soon all the other May bugs of the tree came calling on their little visitor. Two young May bugs wiggled their antennae and said, "Look at her. She has only two legs! How disgusting!"

All the other lady May bugs agreed. The May bug who had found Thumbelina still thought she was lovely, but as the others kept saying how ugly she was, he soon believed it too. Now he didn't want her anymore, and put her down on a daisy at the foot of the tree and told her she was free to go wherever she wanted for all he cared. Poor Thumbelina cried. The thought it was terrible to be so ugly that not even a May bug would want her around.

All summer long Thumbelina lived alone in the forest. She made a hammock out of grass and hung it under a leaf so it would not rain on her when she slept. She ate honey from the flowers and drank the dew from the leaves each morning.

Autumn passed. Then came winter. It was long and cold. All the birds flew away, the flowers died and the trees lost their leaves. Thumbelina was terribly cold. Her clothes were in tatters and she became thin and delicate.

Thumbelina was bound to freeze to death. It started to snow and the snowflakes were big and heavy upon her. She tried to wrap herself up in a dried old leaf, but it gave her no warmth. She shivered in the cold.

Not far from the forest was a big field where the dry stubbles of grain poked up from the frozen ground. It was a stubble forest to Thumbelina and she wandered into them and soon came to a hole in the ground. It was the home of a field mouse. Deep down the mouse lived in warmth and comfort, with a full larder and a nice kitchen. Like a beggar, Thumbelina stood by the hole and asked for a grain of barley to eat. She had not eaten for days.

"Poor little wretch," said the field mouse, for she had a very kind heart. "Come on down into my warm house and dine with me."

The field mouse thought Thumbelina a fine little girl. "You can stay for the whole winter," she said. "But you must keep the house tidy and tell me a story every day, for I like a good story." Thumbelina did what the kind old mouse asked, and lived very happily.

"Soon we shall have a visitor," said the mouse. "Once a week my neighbor comes. He lives even better than I do. He has a drawing room and wears the most exquisite black fur coat. If only he would marry you, then you would be well taken care of. He won't be able to see you, for he is blind, so you will have to tell him the very best of your stories."

But Thumbelina did not want to marry the mouse's neighbor, for he was a mole. The next day he came visiting dressed in his fine black coat. The field mouse had said that he was both rich and wise. His house was twenty times the size of the mouse's; and learned he was, too. He did not like the sun or the flowers. "Abominable!" he would say because he could not see them. Thumbelina sang for him and he did fall in love with her because of her voice. The blind mole never showed his feeling though because he was clear-headed and never made a spectacle of himself.

The mole had recently dug a tunnel from his house to the field mouse's and he invited Thumbelina and the mouse to use it as often as they liked. He said not to be afraid of the dead bird in the tunnel. It had died a few days before and still had all its feathers.

The mole took a piece of hot glowing coal to light the way in the tunnel. When they came to the dead bird, the mole made a hole up through the earth to let the sunlight in. Now Thumbelina could see that the bird was a dead swallow with its wings pressed close to its body. Its head was tucked under one wing. The poor bird had frozen to death. Thumbelina was very sad. She had loved all the birds that had sung for her in the forest.

The mole kicked the bird with one of his short legs and said, "It has ceased its chirping. What a misfortune. Thank God I am not a bird."

"Yes, that's what all sensible people think," said the field mouse. "What does chirping lead to? Starvation and cold. I suppose birds think it all romantic."

Thumbelina said nothing, but when the mouse and mole turned their backs, she leaned down and kissed the closed eye of the swallow. "How much joy you might have given me," she thought.

The mole closed up the hole through which the sunlight came and took the ladies home. That night Thumbelina could not sleep. She rose and wove a blanket out of hay. She carried it down the dark tunnel and covered the little bird with it. She tucked small bits of cotton under the swallow to protect it from the cold earth.

"Good-by, beautiful bird," she said. "Good-by and thank you for the songs you sang when it was summer and the trees were green."

She put her head on the bird's breast. Then she jumped up! Something was ticking inside. It sounded like a little watch. Thumbelina tucked the blanket closer around the bird.

The next night Thumbelina sneaked down into the tunnel again and found the bird had opened its eyes just enough to see her in the dark.

"Thank you, sweet little child," said the sick swallow softly. "I feel so much better. I am not cold now. Soon I shall be strong again and fly in the sunshine."

"Oh no," she said. "It is cold and snowing outside. You will freeze. Stay here in your warm bed. I will nurse you."

She brought the swallow water on a leaf. The he told Thumbelina his story. He told her of how he had torn his wing on a rosebush and could not fly fast enough to keep up with the other swallows. He had been left behind and had fainted from the cold. That was all he could tell her for he had no memory of how he came to be in the mole's passageway.

The swallow stayed there all winter. Thumbelina took good care of him and grew very fond of him. She breathed not a word to the mole or the field mouse. She knew they did not like the poor swallow.

When spring came and the warm sun could be felt under the ground, the swallow said goodbye to Thumbelina, who opened the hole that the mole had made. The sun shone down. The swallow asked her if she would like to come along; she could sit on his back and he would fly her out over the great forest. But Thumbelina knew that the field mouse would be sad and lonely if she left.

"I cannot," she said sadly.

The bird thanked her once more. "Farewell...Fare thee well, lovely girl," he sang as he flew out into the sunshine.

Thumbelina's eyes filled with tears as she watched the swallow fly away. She knew that soon the grain would be tall and she would not be able to see the sunshine.

"This summer you must spend getting your trousseau ready," said the field mouse. For the mole had proposed to her in his velvet coat. "You must have good woolens and linen when you become Mrs. Mole."

Thumbelina spun night and day and the field mouse brought four spiders to help weave. Every evening the mole came for a visit, but all he said was "Goodness, how nice it will be when summer is over."

He didn't like the way the sun baked the earth; it was too hard to dig in. When fall came they would get married. Thumbelina thought the mole was dull and she did not love him. Every day, at sunrise and at sunset, she tiptoed to the entrance of the field mouse's house, so that when the wind blew and parted the grain, she could see the blue sky. She thought of how light and beautiful it was out there and she longed for her friend the swallow. "He is probably far away in the green forest," she thought.

Autumn came. "In four weeks we shall hold the wedding!" cried the field mouse.

Thumbelina wept and said she did not want to marry the boring old mole.

"Fiddlesticks!" squeaked the field mouse. "Don't be stubborn or I will bite you with my front teeth. The mole has a fine velvet coat and will make you a splendid husband."

The day of the wedding arrived and Thumbelina thought she would never again see the bright sun.

"Farewell, you beautiful sun!" Thumbelina lifted her hands toward the sky and stepped out upon the field. She touched a lonely red flower that grew in the hard ground.

A gentle breeze touched her shoulder and she heard a sound above her.


She looked up. It was the swallow. He chirped with joy at seeing Thumbelina.

"I am flying to the warm country for the winter," he called to her. "Won't you come with me? You can sit on my back and we will fly far away from the terrible mole and his dirty house. We will cross the great mountains and find the land where the sun shines brilliantly and the loveliest flowers grow. Fly with me, Thumbelina."

"Yes, I will come," cried Thumbelina, and climbed up on the bird's back. The swallow flew high into the sky, above forests and lakes and over high mountains that are always snow-covered. Thumbelina crawled under the swallow's warm feathers and stuck her head out to see the beauty below.

They came to the warm country. The sun shone brilliantly and the sky seemed higher. Along the fences grew lovely green and blue grapes. From the trees in the forest hung oranges and lemons. Along the roads, beautiful children ran, chasing many-colored butterflies. As the swallow flew further south, the landscape became more and more beautiful.

Near a forest, on the shores of a lake, stood the ruins of an ancient temple. Ivy wound around white pillars. On top of these were many swallows' nests and one of them belonged to Thumbelina's swallow.

"This is my house," he said. He then flew over to a lovely white flower and set Thumbelina down upon it. "This shall be your house."

As Thumbelina looked into the flower she saw something move. It was little more than a shimmer of light. To her astonishment, she saw that it was a little man. He was like glass that glowed. On his head was a golden crown. On his back were wings. He was no taller than Thumbelina. In every white flower all around lived such a tiny angel. This one was the king of them all.

"Oh, how handsome he is!" whispered Thumbelina to the swallow.

The little king took off his crown and put it on Thumbelina's head. "Would you like to be queen of the flowers?" he asked.

"Yes," said Thumbelina. From every flower all around came a tiny angel to pay respect to the new queen. They brought her gifts and the best one was a new pair of wings.

The swallow sang the best songs he knew.

"You shall not be called Thumbelina any more," said the tiny king. "You shall be called Maja."

"Farewell!" called the swallow as he flew back to the north, away from the warm country. He came to Denmark and made his nest above the window of a man who could tell fairy tales.

As the swallow sang, the man listened and wrote down the whole story.

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