Welcome to April! For many of us, winter is over. For those in the southern hemisphere, winter is coming. Way up north, the polar bears are ready to come out of their snowy caves to go fishing and hunting and swimming again. Way down south, the penguins are preparing to hunker down for the hard cold. In the middle, at the Equator … not much change will be noticed, except that the weather in other places makes a difference in the weather in … well, other places. There are changes in the air currents, and changes in the ocean currents. Through the year, all this makes our weather. It rains – or it doesn’t rain. It snows – or it doesn’t snow. It’s hot – or it’s cold. You might not have even a little breeze – or you might have a tornado or hurricane.
Mostly, April is a fairly calm month for most people. It’s not too hot. Not too cold. An old saying goes, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb?” There is a little truth to that. March can be a blustery month, full of wind and surprise storms. While that can happen anywhere on Earth, at any time of the year … nature often seems happy to take a rest, especially in winter.
Another old saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” No, not boats with Pilgrims. (Nicker made that mistake last year, if you remember.) LIFE is coming back to life. Leaves are coming back to the trees. Flowers are getting ready to bloom. Birds are making nests to lay their eggs. The ground that was frozen in winter is thawing out. (At least it is in parts of the north.)
It’s a time to celebrate. To plant. To make music!
Do you play music? Danny does. He is learning all about the guitar. He even comes up with his own songs! Maybe you prefer the piano or some other instrument. (Nicker loves the kazoo!) April is Guitar Month. If you can’t play one, at least you can listen. Most think of guitars are parts of rock-n-roll or other bands. Let us invite you to something a little different. His name is Jullian Bream.
Making their own kind of music are frogs, so April is Frogs Month. How many you get depends on where you live, and how the weather has been. You might get a lot, or might get none. Frogs are amphibians (am-FIB-ee-ens). That means they live both in the water and on land. Eggs are laid. Those hatch to become wiggly things called tadpoles. Tadpoles have tails that let them swim around easily. A tadpole doesn’t look much like a frog, at least not at first. In time, the tail goes away. Most frogs can still swim because they have webbed feet, somewhat like a duck. Some frogs are also able to climb trees. Those are called – guess what – tree frogs.
Frogs make many different sounds. Some make strange sounds and sound almost like birds. Others do the ”ribbit” sound. Some even clank like rocks being pounded together, or even bark like a dog. Or roar like a lion.
Since winter is ending, it’s time to think about spring and planting and gardens and trees and … well, all sorts of things. April is Lawn and Garden Month. It’s also Keep America Beautiful Month, but that shouldn’t be just for one country but for everyone. April 22nd is Earth Day, and April 24th is Arbor Day. It probably isn’t a good idea to pick up someone else’s trash, or to plant a tree without an adult, but at least you can NOT throw down litter. Yeah, yeah, it’s easier to just drop a wrapper on the ground. Let someone else pick it up?
Well, that’s some stuff for the MONTH of April. How about for the DAYS of April? Well, here they come. Don’t forget to print out at least one calendar page for yourself, and a few others to give to others. Maybe you can even pin one up at your school’s bulletin board? (Ask first.) Share the fun.
APRIL 1 – APRIL FOOL’S DAY | ST. STUPID DAY
The exact history isn’t known. Many think it comes from a Roman holiday called Hilaria. It was mentioned by Chaucer in the year 1392. The basic idea is to play jokes or pranks, but never anything harmful. In many places, jokes can’t be played after noon, or the prankster becomes the fool. More recently, the people of San Francisco decided to make fun or making fun. They invented St. Stupid Day. It’s a day for a parade, and costumes, and being silly.
APRIL 2 – PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY
Sometimes called PB and J, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is very popular. A survey taken a few years ago said that the average American will have eaten 1500 of these before graduating high school. The jelly is most often grape or strawberry but can be anything. Some people even use mayonnaise instead of jelly (then it’s a PB and M). Others like peanut butter, with butter, and banana (then it’s a PB, B & B). How about a sandwich with peanut butter, butter, banana and bacon (PB, B, B, and B).
APRIL 3 – GOOD FRIDAY
Good Friday, also called Holy Friday, Easter Friday, or Black Friday, is said to be the day Jesus was crucified. It’s called “good” because many believe that Jesus was risen on Easter Sunday. A part of the season is Lent, which is a time of giving things up, even fasting. Especially in Europe, hot cross buns became popular. Lent is over. It’s time to feast again. In some parts, spiced rolls with raisins are made with crosses on top of white frosting. These are “hot cross buns.”
APRIL 4 – WALK AROUND THINGS
This is a trick Gordie the Tortie hasn’t learned yet. Gordie tends to walk in straight lines. He walks through things, not around them. On this day, as you go from place to place, think about that tortoise. Then, if something is in your way, walk around it.
APRIL 5 – EASTER
For many, Easter is the most important holiday of the year. It is said to be the day Jesus Christ rose from the grave. Even if you’re not Christian, Easter is often celebrated for the change in seasons. Winter is over. Spring is already here. This is how we get the symbols of rabbits and eggs – the Easter Bunny. Both are about the world coming back to life. Maybe you color Easter eggs? It is thought that the first were dyed red as a sign of the blood of Jesus.
APRIL 7 – CARAMEL POPCORN
Popcorn has been around for thousands of years. It’s a special kind of corn. The hull (the outer part) is hard and fairly waterproof. When heated, the moisture inside gets hot. That makes it expand. The kernels POP POP POP POP POP. For caramel corn, regular popcorn is coated with caramel. It’s not a difficult recipe but requires time – and it involves heat so an adult needs to be there. Some people stir in things like peanuts.
APRIL 8 – DRAW A BIRD
The birds are coming back. They are making nests and laying eggs. They are fun to watch. They are also fun to draw and then color. Maybe you want to draw a real bird? In that case, watch in your yard or somewhere else. You can also find many books about birds in the library. Do you live where there are robins? Danny lives where he can watch roadrunners. People in Australia and Africa might know about very large birds, like the ostriches or the emu. Way down south, in Antarctica, there are birds called penguins. When Nicker goes for a swim, he might see sea gulls.
APRIL 9 – NAME YOURSELF
Did you know that a lot of people don’t like their name? Even if you do like your name, on this day you can name yourself something else … FOR TODAY ONLY! Maybe your name is Vicki but you’ve always wanted to be called Rainbow. Or maybe your name is Rainbow and you always wanted to be called Vicki. You can even choose today to have your name be Nicker. Just don’t paint yourself green (although you can probably wear a green shirt and pretend to be Nicker all day).
APRIL 11 – BARBERSHOP QUARTET
Do you like to sing? Some people are REALLY good at it. There are high voices and low voices. When they come together they harmonize. A barbershop quartet (that means four, like four quarters in a dollar) has four voices. They harmonize, like playing four different notes to make a chord.
APRIL 14 – LOOK UP TO THE SKY | REACH AS HIGH AS YOU CAN
This day brings two really fun holidays. One is to look up to the sky, and the other is to reach up to the sky. (Try as hard as you can – I bet you can’t reach the moon, and probably not even your own ceiling – but it’s fun to try.) Coming soon, on April 28, is Astronomy Day. You can do it all over again. Look up. Reach up. THINK UP! An old saying is “Reach for the stars!” Today might be a good day to try – and you can do it again in a couple of weeks.
APRIL 15 – RUBBER ERASER
You probably have a pencil around somewhere. The pencil lead inside isn’t lead at all. It’s usually graphite kinda held together with a sort of glue. The rubber eraser on the other end … naw, that isn’t rubber. It got that name because it rubs things, like lead … which isn’t lead. Here is how it’s done.
APRIL 17 – BAT APPRECIATION
Bats are the only mammals that can actually fly. The so-called “flying squirrel” spreads out flaps of skin and coasts. Bats have actual wings that they can flap. They FLY! There are many kinds of bats. Some are very small. Some are quite large. Yes, there ARE vampire bats, but that’s just a name because part of their food is blood. Most bats eat fruits and seeds. There are many stories about bats. Almost all of them are wrong. Wouldn’t you rather know the truth about bats?
APRIL 19 – GARLIC
One legend is that garlic will keep away vampires – and just two days ago was Bat Appreciation Day, which includes vampire bats. Well, now we have Garlic Day. The largest is in Gilroy, California – but that’s in July. A lot of those people are just now planting garlic. (Maybe you can, too.) Garlic is used for many, many things. At the Gilroy festival, and others like it, you might even get garlic flavored ice cream. YUMMY! It’s also used in soups, stews, roasts, on pizza, and on and on and on. Many restaurants serve garlic bread. With some adult help, you can make your own garlic twists! These garlic knots look a little like pretzels. They aren’t hard to make. (Danny suggests that you use real garlic, though, not just garlic powder or garlic salt.)
APRIL 20 – LOOK ALIKE
“Don’t I know you from somewhere? You look just like ….” Or maybe someone has told you, “You look so much like your Uncle Fred (or your Aunt Sally).” That’s part of how this holiday started. A bigger part of it now is wanting to look like … oh, like your best friend? Or even a pet? You don’t have to actually LOOK alike … but you can dress alike. Walk alike.
APRIL 22 – JELLY BEAN
Sometimes they are called jelly-bellies because they are round. Sometimes they are called jelly-babies because they are small. They are sugar, and starch, and sugar, and flavoring, and sugar, and starch, and sugar, and wax. They can be any color, and any taste. You can even find jelly beans that are meant to taste horrible.
APRIL 22 – EARTH DAY
This is Keep America Beautiful Month. Today is Earth Day, worldwide. The idea is to make people aware that we can do things to make this a better planet. Don’t litter. Recycle. Use less. Plant a tree, or just plant a plant. (Arbor Day is just two days from now, so plant another tree then.) Learn something about nature. Learn something about planet Earth!
APRIL 24 –ARBOR DAY
“Arbor” means “tree.” The first Arbor Day came about when the conqueror Napoleon was causing much damage in Europe. In 1805, a priest of Villanueva de la Sierra got the people together. He believed that trees were important to all of us. The people were tired of being bullied by Napoleon. They couldn’t fight his armies very well … but they could plant a tree. So, they did. In 1872, the tradition took hold in America. Starting in Nebraska, a million trees were planted. By 1883, with the help of people like Birdsey Northrop of Connecticut (and many others), the idea was spreading all around the world. The actual day for it depends on where you live. For example, in America it is April 24, but in Brazil it is September 12, and in Egypt it is January 15. If you want to plant a tree, be sure to learn something about trees first – AND ASK if it’s okay. Not all trees grow in all places, and many trees can get very large. Why plant a tree that will just die? Why plant an oak tree that will get 100 feet tall in a 4-foot yard? (Obviously, don’t dig a hole without permission.)
APRIL 26 – PRETZEL
Some think that pretzels are small, hard and salty. Okay, sure, some pretzels are, and they might be straight or twisted or like nuggets. Other pretzels are more like bread, or rolls. They’re not difficult to make, but an adult should be there. Danny likes his soft pretzels with garlic and butter, and sometimes with mustard. As you might guess, Nicker wants his with peanut butter.
APRIL 27 – TELL A STORY
Once upon a time, or maybe twice, there was an old lady, or a young man, or maybe a princess who lived in a cottage, perhaps it was a tree house. A magic frog – it may have been a unicorn – came hopping down the path, or was driving a bus on the freeway. All of a sudden a fairy godfather popped out of a giant orange and said, “I’ll grant you one and a half wishes, but only if you eat your spinach and then tell me a story. My favorite is the one where Cinderella goes to a birthday party in Indian mocassins and eats a pumpkin with a guy named Peter, so they go home on a flying carpet with three bears and live happily ever after.”
APRIL 28 – ASTRONONY
April 14 was Look Up into the Sky Day. Now it’s Astronomy Day. There is a LOT up there to look at, and learn about. During the day, the biggest thing you see is the sun. (NEVER LOOK AT IT DIRECTLY!!!) That doesn’t mean the rest has gone away. It’s still all there. The sun is so bright that it is hidden. At night, usually the biggest thing up there is the moon. On a clear night, there are thousands of dots of light. Actually there are millions. No, there are billions. No, make that trillions and trillions and trillions, more than you could ever count. Some of those lights are other planets. Most are stars, like our sun, and more than a few are whole galaxies, each with trillions of stars. And here you are, standing on this little planet that seems so big … looking up at all of that.
APRIL 30 – HONESTY
“Honesty is the best policy.” No one knows for sure where this came from. Some like to tell Aesop’s Fable of the woodcutter who dropped his ax into a river and was rewarded for telling the truth to the god Mercury. Others point to George Washington. In his farewell address (before he stopped being president) he said, “…honesty is always the best policy.” (Washington is also known for telling the truth about chopping down a cherry tree.) Lying is almost always a bad thing. Liars usually get caught, sooner or later. In any case, April began with a day for pranks – and for fools. Now it ends with a day for honest people.