Umbrella Straw

Click the image to view or print the craft.


I have always been a fan of umbrellas.  Gene Kelly singing in the rain, Mary Poppins flying, and the umbrella-weapon belonging to the Penguin from Batman were all awesome to me!  My husband must have been inspired by those things, too.  When he was about 4 or 5, he grabbed an umbrella, climbed up onto the roof of his house, opened the umbrella, and jumped.  He still remembers floating for a split second before the umbrella turned inside out and gravity took over.  Luckily, he was alright.

My little sister, Meg, the baby of the family, eleven years younger than me, called her umbrella a “rainbrella.”  We thought it was adorable and never corrected her.  But when she returned home from kindergarten one rainy day, soaking wet and furious, we realized we should have.  Apparently, the mean girls didn’t think “rainbrella” was adorable.  They told Meg she was a “Baby Talker.”   She was so embarrassed, she didn’t want to use her “rainbrella” anymore.

As an adult raising kids in Florida, my umbrella was not just protection from spontaneous monsoon-like downpours, it was a useful shady shelter, too.   I kept one in my car for those just-in-case situations.  But, and this is weird because I have fair skin and freckles, I never thought to buy a beach umbrella until I met Stephanie.

Stephanie is one of those amazingly organized moms who always has the right stuff for any situation.  The first time my son and I went to the beach with Stephanie and her son, felt like the first time I’d ever been.  When we arrived at the beach, Stephanie opened the back hatch of her van and removed a small cart with wheels as I slung my worn out beach bag over my shoulder.  The four of us walked to a nice spot near the shore.  Stephanie began to unpack her cart like it was a clown car at the circus.  She first took a shovel from the cart, dug a hole, and placed an umbrella in it.  She then unfolded a large beach blanket, an adult-sized folding chair, and a child-sized folding chair.  After that, she pulled out a cooler, sand toys, sun screen, and beach towels.  Within minutes, she had assembled a portable living room at the beach.  I was thoroughly impressed!  Jack and I sat next to her and her son on our sand-covered beach towels with our soggy sandwiches, warm juice pouches, and no sunscreen.  (I forgot to bring it, but Stephanie let us borrow some of hers.)

When I write stories for Welcome to Reading, I am often drawing from my real life experiences.  A lot of the characters are based on people I know.  The Beach story, “3 By the Sea” is sort of about that day at the beach.   When I showed the story to Stephanie she said, somewhat alarmed, “Wait, am I that bossy penguin?”  I answered, “It’s kind of a composite character.  The penguin having all the right stuff for the beach is you and, maybe slightly, Mary Poppins.  The bossy part of the penguin is, most likely, the Batman villain with the same name.”


This umbrella craft won’t protect you from the elements, but it will keep your drink shaded on a hot day.  Bring it to the beach to impress your friend who has all the right stuff!  Click UMBRELLA STRAW to get the template and instructions for this craftivity.


Click the image to view or print the template and instructions for the craft.


My goal in fourth grade was to become a veterinarian.  I don’t know why.  I wasn’t even allowed to have a real pet.  I did have a goldfish named Cecil, for awhile, but I was too lazy to clean the fishbowl.  When my mom noticed how disgusting the water looked and how bad it smelled, she demanded I clean it ASAP.  Since I was the head veterinarian in my bedroom, I asked my assistant to take care of that chore.  My younger sister, Heather, was a kind and helpful kid, so she agreed to do my job for me.   I left the house.

When I returned home, I noticed the water in the fishbowl was super clean, but Cecil was MIA.  When I finally saw Cecil, I let out a blood curdling scream.  He was laying on the rug, DOA.  My dad dashed into my room.  I blamed Heather for the gruesome scene.  Dad grabbed Cecil by the tail, ran to the nearest toilet, and flushed him down.  I was furious!  “Heather needs to be punished and I need a new fish!”  My dad lectured, “You told Heather to do your chore for you.  You didn’t tell her not to fill the bowl to the top.  The fish is dead because you were lazy.  No new fish!”

I got over Cecil’s death pretty quickly.  Mostly because my neighbor, Cecil, an actual human I admired and named a fish after, showed me a bird’s nest that had fallen out of a tree and onto his lawn.  The nest had four eggs in it.  Cecil told me we should keep an eye on the eggs to make sure no harm came to them.  He put a temporary fence around the nest.  He also told me not to touch the eggs because the birds’ parents would reject them if they smelled like humans.  (I have since learned that isn’t true.)

Every day after school I ran to Cecil’s backyard to look at the nest.  Finally, one of the eggs had a small crack and within a fairly short time a sticky gooey baby bird wiggled its way out of the egg.  By the next day, all four of the baby birds were peeping in the nest.

While Cecil was at work, I decided to put my imagined veterinary skills to use.  I dug up worms and tried to get the babies to eat, but they wouldn’t.  I filled a plastic lid with water and set it in the nest, but the babies wouldn’t drink.   They just kept peeping louder and louder.  “Quiet down guys, or some harmful predator will find you,” I whispered as I placed more and more “useful” items in their nest…lettuce, leaves, bugs, sticks, a small toy troll.  They weren’t interested in anything I had to offer.

Because the birds were in Cecil’s yard, I hadn’t been able to observe them 24/7.  If I had, I would have known that the babies’ parents were nearby, feeding them and watching over them.  And they were getting very concerned about the fourth grade predator who was constantly tossing debris into their family home.

That evening after dinner, I returned to the nest with some cooked carrots. (They seemed worm-like, but more delicious.) I was getting ready to place them in the nest when I heard a loud squawking sound.  I looked up in the sky and witnessed a giant cloud of feathers speeding toward me, hundreds of angry beady eyes and sharp beaks. Suddenly, I was the Tippi Hedren in a real life Alfred Hitchcock film.  I threw the cooked carrots in the air and ran into Cecil’s house, terrified.  He and his wife were hosting a fancy dinner party.  I can’t imagine what their guests thought of the small lunatic with carrot-stained hands, red-faced, and screaming, “The birds are trying to kill me!”   Cecil thought it was hilarious!  Which is exactly why I named my first pet, Cecil.

Click NESTS to get the template and instructions for this project. Your students can create a little bird out of a plastic egg to place in the nest.