Friday, March 30, 2012

Ellie and The Magic Teapot Off to the Zoo: March Blog 5- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie Bean,

You are having a very busy and wonderful week!  You had your very large birthday party with fifteen of your closest friends at a gym.

And now, we are in Florida visiting Gigi and Joanne.  It’s been a fun few days and you love your Florida family so much (and you have been the best medicine for Gigi).
 (First time in your own airplane seat now that you're 2!)

And now here is our yearlong bedtime story/stories (with many chapters to write!) for you. 

We have specific weekly guidelines.  I will write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week (your Mimi’s part is in italics and mine is in regular font).  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything else is fair game.  However, we are giving ourselves a time limit (because we know otherwise we will fall in love with this creative writing project and get nothing else done)- 45 minutes for me and 90 minutes for your Mimi (so whether that means 3 sentences or 3 pages, that’s what the other person has to work with).  And we each have an additional 30 minutes every week to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations.   

And thus begins our journey. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Zoo- Part 5

When Lion dropped to the ground, he realized he was in a large clearing in the middle of Mannie Monkey’s Lair.  Lion looked around and was very shocked to see all the decorations for a party.  There was a happy birthday sign, colored balloons (and many were filled with water for a balloon fight), streamers, and confetti.  There was a cake on a table next to the ice cream sundae bar.  Lion saw that there were no napkins, plates, spoons, or forks so he deducted this must be a party for an animal. 

He was just about to radio Ellie on his walkie-talkie but as soon as he hit the button to talk, a whole bunch of animals all jumped out of the their hiding places.

Ellie could hear a loud, “SURPRISE!” through her walkie-talkie and she tried to respond back to Lion, “Are you ok?  Where are you?” she cried into it.

A large bear then stepped forward towards Lion, “You’re not Zoe Zebra,” he roared, “We just wasted the surprise on you.  Is it your birthday too?”

“You must be Benny,” Lion said matter-of-factly offering his orange paw to shake, “We have been looking for you.  Ellie and I have a few questions to ask you.  And no, it’s not my birthday but I could pretend it is,” he said eyeing up that delicious cake (and noticing it had extra thick cream cheese icing with his keen sense of smell).  But then he noticed the many pairs of animal eyes that were “eyeing” him up.  He gulped and picked up his walkie-talkie for a second try, “Ellie,” he whispered, “I need you!”

Just then, Lion could hear Ellie racing toward the clearing.  He was the only one who knew it was Ellie because she was singing Ring Around the Rosie as she skipped in!  All of sudden, the animals went back to their hiding places.  As soon as Ellie came to meet Lion, the animals again shouted, “SURPRISE!”

“Not again, I am getting verrrrrry tired,” said Tom-Tom Turtle obviously disappointed by Ellie’s appearance.

Ellie glanced around, “Hmmmm… this is all very interesting,” she noted as she saw a lone present in the corner.  She looked at the animals more closely and could see everyone she interviewed or wanted to interview.  There was Tom-Tom Turtle starting to fall asleep in his shell, Benny the Bear was talking to Penny Penguin near the ice cream, Edna Elephant was whispering to Gerry the Giraffe near the water balloons and Toucan Tillie was practicing the Happy Birthday song with Mannie Monkey. 

It was then that Ellie realized one animal was missing, the only one she had made a promise to.  She looked at Lion noticing he came to the same conclusion.  Just as she was about to set up her detective kit, Zoe Zebra came prancing through the clearing.

“Well, now what have we here?” asked the very stripeless zebra.

“Quick, hide!” squawked Toucan Tillie.  All the animals hid (some under tables, some behind the trees on the edge of the clearing, and some just turned their backs thinking that if they hid their eyes no one could see them). 

And on Toucan Tillie’s count of three, they all jumped out and yelled, “SURPRISE!” followed by a very crazy rendition of the Happy Birthday song (there were many squawks, ooh-eeees, roars, and flapping through out). 

“Is this for me?” Zoe Zebra asked as she turned bright red from all the attention.  Ellie felt bad for her because Zoe Zebra’s redness would have been hidden had she had her coat.

“I’m confused.  Toucan Tillie told me she thought she saw my coat here.  I would never have come without making sure I looked fit to see you all,” Zoe seemed to then get very upset.  “I would have liked to have had some notice!” she huffed, “And now look at me, I don’t look at all ready for a party without my coat!  I think I will just go.”

All the animals seemed perplexed as Zoe Zebra stuck her snout in the air, turned around and strutted out.

“Wait, you can’t go!  We didn’t cut the cake yet,” Penny the Penguin flapped after her.  He was waiting so patiently for cake and ice cream!

Through all the commotion, Ellie knew she had a job to do, “What’s in that present over there,” Ellie asked Gerry Giraffe as she tapped her pencil on her notepad.

Giraffe quickly looked away at Mannie Monkey.  Mannie started to jump up and down nervously.

“Lion, bring Zoe back here, I think we are about to solve our puzzle,” Ellie said keeping her eye on the animals and the present.  She was so close to solving this mystery that she wasn’t about to let anyone or anything out of her sight now!  

“Oh and Lion, can I have my shoe back?  I don’t think we need the walkie-talkies anymore now that we are back together,” she called to him as she realized how dirty her socks had become...

Toucan Tillie flew in and perched herself on Ellie’s left shoulder.  “Why don’t you just let her go home?  She is never nice and she thinks she is prettier, smarter and more appealing to all the Zoo’s visitors than the rest of us.  I for one am tired of trying to please her.  I don’t know why I even bothered gathering all those pretty ribbons from the children’s bonnets…I guess I just thought that Zoe would finally get to see and maybe be impressed with my very colorful and creative side.  Silly me… I don’t ever want to be in charge of the decorating committee again!  ” She squawked.

“Yup… I agree… that goes for me too... I think.  Ahhhhhhhh… what is it that I am agreeing to?” Tom-Tom turtle questioned in his usual confused state.

“Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!  Now hold on a minute,” trumpeted Edna Elephant, “I worked hard for this party!  Trying to stretch those tiny balloons to fit over my large trunk just so that I could fill them up with water was not an easy feat!  Just look at what I have to work with…. Instead of nimble fingers, I’ve got KANKLES to work with… HUGE  kankles at that!  And do you think Zoe appreciates my hard work?  I don’t think so.  How dare she leave her own party!  Someone had better get her back here because I want ice cream and I want it now!”

“Well how do you think we feel Edna?” stammered Penny Penguin, “The penguin house was given the job of catering, and since we are basically the “freezer” of the zoo, it only made sense for us to supply the ice cream.  So we’ve been “borrowing” as much ice cream from the ice cream stands that we could sneak out with, hold onto and waddle away with.  And let me just say that we “borrowed” lots and lots of gallons!   If the zookeeper ever finds out, we penguins are going to end up as jailbirds!  That Zoe better get off her high horse and return to her party now!”

“I agree!”  Crooned Gerry Giraffe.  “I’ve stretched my neck out for her so many times and I don’t think she even cares.  Talk about ungrateful!”

“Yeah?  Well how would all of you liked to have had my job?  I was in charge of birthday cards!  And do you know that half of our zoo friends refused to make Zoe a card?  They said she is not nice most of the time and doesn’t care about anyone but herself.   I was feeling so guilty about that that I started making and signing cards by pretend animals.  If Zoe ever finds out, I will feel really bad,” grumbled a stressed Benny Bear, “And you all know that I am a stress eater.  By the way, I am so sorry about the birthday cake over there on the table.  I know, I know there is only half of one.  I was going to fib and tell everyone that I used a very “beary” mini-baking pan.  But the truth is, with all this stress around me, I couldn’t help myself and before I knew it, I had eaten half of the chocolate cake I made, (of which I must say was very delicious)!”

Now it was all starting to make sense to Ellie and Lion.  Each clue they found had something to do with a zoo animal’s participation in a party for Zoe.  Not entirely sure of whom was behind it all, they both turned to Manny Monkey.

“Oooo, Oooo, Eeeee, Eeeee…. I will see no evil, I will hear no evil and I will speak no evil about my Zoe,” said a sincere Manny, “I just wanted to give her a birthday party to make her happy.  I wanted all of our zoo family to see Zoe for who she really is.  Yes, she can be selfish, self centered, whiny, and snobby, but she can also be very kind, caring and a good friend too!  Yes I said GOOD FRIEND, so all of you stop looking at me like I am crazy.  I never told any of you but when I was in the wild, a few jungle animals that I thought were my friends, tried to get me in trouble by throwing a few monkey wrenches my way.  It was Zoe who helped free me of them and avoid a life with no parole behind the Monkey bars!   Oooooooo, ooooooooo… This party did not start off the way I wanted it too,” Manny began to cry.

Ellie patted Manny’s head and in a soothing voice asked him a question, “Manny, Lion and I are still a bit confused.  We understand why you are giving Zoe a birthday party but we still don’t know who stole Zoe’s striped coat.  Do you have any idea who it might have been?” she asked.

Manny Monkey lowered his head and whispered, “Yes, I know who it was.  It was me.”

Now Ellie and Lion were shocked, as they never suspected Manny. 

“Why?” Asked Lion, “If she is your friend, why would you take something from her without her permission?

“Because she wasn’t suppose to ever find out.  You see, the one thing Zoe always wanted for Christmas but Santa never brought her was a matching striped hat.  I figured Zoe might be on Santa’s naughty list because of the way she treats others and may never get her dream hat, so I was going to get one for her.  But I don’t know anything about zebra hats, and black stripes verses white stripes.  Heck, I really don’t know anything about fashion at all.  So after checking on the party arrangements last night with Tillie and Benny, I stopped by Agatha Aardvark’s mound and coaxed her to escort me over to Zoe’s after Zoe went to bed of course. With Agatha’s fashion sense and her long needle-nose snout, I knew she could stitch up the perfect hat for Zoe in no time.  What I didn’t know was that Zoe rearranged her furniture earlier in the day.  So when we snuck into her home to retrieve her coat, I bumped into her mirror and it fell to the ground and shattered.  Agatha panicked and made a quick B-line out of there so I followed her.  We went back to Agatha Aardvark’s mound and she worked through the night designing and sewing together the most beautiful zebra hat I have ever laid eyes on.  I was planning on returning her coat early this morning but as I tiptoed up to the door I heard voices and crying inside.  When I peeked in the window I saw both of you and got scared.  That’s when I ran, only I ran into Toucan Tillie.  So I told her to keep an eye on you while I figured out how to get Zoe’s striped coat back inside her home,” and with that confession Manny began to cry all over again, “I’ve embarrassed Zoe and now the party is ruined.  How will I ever fix this?” sniffled Manny.

Ellie winked at Lion and Lion smiled at Ellie.  They both knew exactly what needed to be done to make the party right.   A talk with Zoe to see her ways was first on the list…..

Until next week Ellie Spaghett!
Mom and Mimi

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ellie and The Magic Teapot Off to the Zoo: March Blog 4- Letters from Mom & Mimi

March 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Ellie,

So your birthday was yesterday but we are celebrating with a big party tomorrow.  I cannot believe that you are two my dear baby girl.  You are so filled with energy, spirit, stubbornness, sweetness, intelligence, and beauty.  I love the little person you have become.  You have a hunger for books, 

you live for playing outside, 

and you have such a quirky sense of humor.  
And yes, your hair is just as crazy as ever so you got a very short haircut this week...
You make people work to get you to smile (and it’s a gorgeous smile at that) but once you do, it’s so genuine.  You are painfully shy but once you are comfortable, you are a complete chatterbox.  You like to make people laugh and you are a leader (a bossy one at that).  Ellie, you have so much to give the world and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for you.  Happy birthday Ellie Bean, Angel, Spaghetti.   You are so very loved!

And now here is our yearlong bedtime story/stories (with many chapters to write!) for you. 

We have specific weekly guidelines.  I will write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week (your Mimi’s part is in italics and mine is in regular font).  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything else is fair game.  However, we are giving ourselves a time limit (because we know otherwise we will fall in love with this creative writing project and get nothing else done)- 45 minutes for me and 90 minutes for your Mimi (so whether that means 3 sentences or 3 pages, that’s what the other person has to work with).  And we each have an additional 30 minutes every week to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations.   

And thus begins our journey. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Zoo- Part 4

Ellie and Lion found a box of ice cream cones right next to a container of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla swirl ice cream near the tire tracks outside the Penguin Exhibit.  Ellie looked around for an ice cream scoop but couldn't find one.  She sat down next to the container with the cone in her hand.  She shrugged and dug her hand into the sticky mess to fill her cone before licking her fingers.  Lion watched her curiously and then did the same thing. 

When they finished their very fulfilling snack, they stood up wiping their lips with their sleeves.  Ellie brushed the leaves off of her trench coat and straightened her detective hat.  "Ready!" she said with her finger in the air.

She headed back inside the hole in the fence quietly and saw all the penguins were taking their afternoon nap.  Ellie tiptoed around the snoring animals as Lion stood watch at the gate.  She reached her detective desk, quickly folded it up and just as she clicked it together before jamming it into her pocket, one of the penguins opened its eyes.  Ellie ran so fast out of there, she could hear his loud squawks alerting the rest of the penguins.

"You barely got it," said Lion as he watched the penguins flapping their wings angrily.

"Let's go Lion, we don't have much time.  We need to get over to Edna Elephant's Domain," said Ellie.  But as they walked closer to Edna Elephant's Domain, they noticed the cart that had carried some of the ice cream and left the tracks at the Penguin Exhibit before parking it in front of Edna Elephant's hay was gone.

"Someone must have known we were coming," Lion said looking up at the sky half expecting to see or hear Toucan Tillie, "And with our ice cream break, they had time to clean up!"

"It's ok Lion, I think we have all we need," Ellie responded as she stared at the back of a very large pachyderm.

Ellie set up her detective desk in Edna Elephant's domain by the entrance this time.  She didn't want to be without her tool kit again or have another scene like there was at the penguin exhibit.  Taking her notepad and pencil with her, she walked around to the front of Edna Elephant and tapped her on the shoulder.  She was startled as her trunk was in a bucket of water.  When she jumped, her trunk knocked over the bucket and Ellie and Lion got sprayed.

"Oh no," she cried looking at the bucket, "I have a job to do!"

Confused, Ellie looked around and saw colored balloons by Edna's gigantic feet.  "What kind of job?" Ellie asked as she tapped her pencil on the notepad.

"Toucan Tillie told me to fill up as many balloons as I can," she said pointing her trunk to his right side where there were about fifteen filled water balloons.

"Why does Toucan Tillie need water balloons?" Ellie asked Edna.

"I didn't ask," she responded, "no one ever needs anything from me because I am too big and awkward.  Usually I just knock things over with my long trunk.  So when someone needed my help, I was excited!"

"What are you going to do with the balloons when you finish filling them?" Lion jumped in.

"There is a small cart with very small wheels that comes and takes the ice cream from the Penguin Exhibit and then comes to collect my finished balloons," she said, "but I don't know where it goes after."

"Who was driving the cart?" Ellie asked.

"Well, he had a hat and sunglasses on to disguise his face but I could tell it was Gerry the Giraffe.  With his long spotted neck craning out the window (otherwise he would have broken through the roof), I knew it was him.  He even disguised his voice when he asked me which balloons he could take.  I pretended not to recognize him though.  I didn't want anyone to ask me to stop helping because I ruined a secret.  Now, can I get back to filling the balloons?  I don't want to fall behind," Edna Elephant said as she walked over to the hose and used her trunk to turn the water on before she dragged it over to refill the bucket.

Ellie looked around for the cart tracks and noticed that they were now covered with tree leaves after a light wind breezed through the domain.  She went back to her detective kit and got her duster make-up brush. 

"What's that for?" Lion asked Ellie curiously.

"I need to brush away the clutter to see the fresh tracks.  I have a hunch that Gerry the Giraffe didn't drive back to the Giraffe Hut," she answered as she carefully dusted away the debris with the white bristles.  The duster proved to be most helpful as Ellie could clearly see the cart tracks going right towards Manny Monkey’s Lair!

Before Ellie could say anything, Lion was folding up the detective desk and clicked it into the small 2x2 package that fit neatly into Ellie's pocket, "I have been wanting to try that all day," he said excitedly.

And then his eyes got as big as saucers when Ellie revealed, “If you think that is cool Lion, someday I will have to show you my compactable bicycle with a sidecar!  But right now we have a missing striped zebra coat to find, so let’s go!”  And she skipped off towards the Monkey Exhibit.

But Lion stood there frozen, scratching his head, shaking his mane and finally giving his tail a gentle petting before calling out to Ellie.  He was trying to sum up the courage in telling Ellie his biggest secret ever, or rather his most cowardly secret ever.  And that secret was… monkeys scared him!  “Ellie!  Stop!  Come Back!  I have something I need to tell you!” he yelled.

Ellie stopped, turned around and ran back to where Lion was standing when she heard his frantic cry, “Lion, you look like petrified wood standing there so still.  What’s going on?”  She questioned.

“Oh El, I’ve never told anyone my fear before, and I am a little embarrassed to have to do so now, but those ape swinging mammals scare me!  You see, one very warm summer day when I was just a wee cub, my mom laid me under a very dirty shade tree just outside our den for an afternoon nap.  While I slept a troop of monkeys swung by and seeing me sleeping on the dirty ground so soundly, they whisked me off to their Lair for a Monkey Spa Treatment.  I awoke to a Mama Monkey combing the knots out of my furry tail with yanking force, a Sister and Brother Monkey pinching me while picking flies out of my mane and a very fat Grandma Monkey sitting on top of me so I wouldn’t move!  Needless to say I’ve had nightmares ever since, especially when I’m in the doctors office glancing through the National Geographic Magazines!  Ellie, they’re crazy and they frighten me!”  Lion admitted with trepidation.

Ellie almost giggled at Lions very real and very silly scary memory, but knew how embarrassed he would be if she actually did, and that he most likely would never forgive her either.  So she needed to think quickly of a cure all.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh… she had one, “Lion, I’ve got it!  I know how you can overcome your fear!  And we’ll do it together!  Let’s get down to some serious monkey business!  Ok?”

“Ok.” Lion mumbled.

“Here’s what we’ll do Lion.  We will walk down the path side by side, me on the right with my left arm around your waist and you on the left with your right arm around my waist and our free hands scratching our armpits.  That will give the appearance that we are ONE very large “Monkey!”  Next we will walk the actual Monkey Walk.  I’ll start by swinging my left foot in front of your right foot followed by you swinging your right foot in front of my left foot.  Then we will sing the Monkey Song.  It goes like this….Hey, hey don’t mess with me: Hey, hey we are one big monkey: Oooo, oooo I’m not afraid of you: Eeee, eeee I’ll be your friend if you let me!”  Ellie sang.

“Do you really think this will work? Questioned a hopeful Lion.

“Absolutely!” stated a confident Ellie, “Now let’s go because there is still a lot of work to do!

And off they went arm in arm singing their silly song and having more fun than a barrel of monkeys!  And by the time they reached Manny Monkey’s Lair, Lion no longer feared them.  He was just about to grab one of the low hanging vines, when Ellie stopped him.  She bent down and unbuckled one of her shoes, took it off of her foot and before handing it to Lion, she twisted off its heal.  Lion was amazed.  He was also clueless, as he didn’t know what he was supposed to do with a broken shoe.  Ellie rolled her eyes with a bit of impatience and informed him that he was now holding a walkie-talkie.  She then unbuckled her other one, took it from her foot and twisted off its heal too.  Lastly, she synchronized both the left and right shoe to the same frequency.  With a quick lesson on how to use it, Ellie warned Lion that Manny’s jungle could be thick with vines, and very dark.  If they got separated, one of them was to contact the other using the walkie-talkies immediately. 

“10 : 4, Roger that… oops, I mean Ellie that.  Over and out!”  Lion screamed into the shoe, which screeched in Ellie’s ear, as Lion was only a foot away from her.

“Lion, stop goofing around!  Now grab that vine, take a few steps back and then swing your body forward with all your might!”  She commanded.

And so he did, the vine taking him deep into Manny Monkey’s jungle.

Ellie was quick on his heels, but not being very good with directions, she lost him almost immediately.  Lion, feeling like Tarzan was having a blast swinging from vine to vine when all of a sudden there were no more vines.  Lion dropped to the ground.  And when he stood up, he realized that he needed to contact Ellie quickly for he found another very important clue.  Actually he was pretty sure that he found the final clue…..

Where shall the next clue take us?  You will find out soon enough.
Till next week Ellie Bean!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ellie and The Magic Teapot Off to the Zoo: March Blog 3- Letters from Mom & Mimi

My Dear Darling Baby Girl,

Happy St Patrick’s Day!  Being Irish and Catholic, we definitely like to celebrate tomorrow by wearing the color green and shamrocks (it is said that Saint Patrick used the three-leaved plant to explain the trinity).

And now here is our yearlong bedtime story/stories (with many chapters to write!) for you. 

We have specific weekly guidelines.  I will write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week (your Mimi’s part is in italics and mine is in regular font).  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything else is fair game.  However, we are giving ourselves a time limit (because we know otherwise we will fall in love with this creative writing project and get nothing else done)- 45 minutes for me and 90 minutes for your Mimi (so whether that means 3 sentences or 3 pages, that’s what the other person has to work with).  And we each have an additional 30 minutes every week to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations.   

And thus begins our journey. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Zoo- Part 3

“Wait,” cried Ellie, “Before we head to Benny the Bear’s Den, I need to go back to Zoe’s Zebra’s hut and grab my detective gear.  It sounds like we may find more clues.”

As they ran into the hut, Ellie and Lion zipped by Zoe Zebra with a quick wave.  They reached the back where the red ribbon, purple smudged glass, and the hairbrush with sprinkles through the bristles were still out.  Ellie thought she better take the clues with her so she stuffed them into her detective desk drawer before she folded up the desk into the small package that originally fit into her pocket.  Lion thought that was the coolest thing he had ever seen but he didn’t have much time to be impressed- they had a mystery to solve!  They raced back out past a very confused and still very stripeless Zoe Zebra.

Benny the Bear’s Den was down a few exhibits from Zoe’s.  And by the time they reached the Den, it was empty.  Ellie was discouraged, “I don’t understand.  We just heard all that commotion only a few minutes ago.  Who was here?  And whoever they were, did they leave because they knew we were coming?  And where is Benny the Bear?”  Just as she said her last word, a feather from Toucan Tillie landed on the top of Ellie’s right foot.  They then heard Toucan Tillie fly off from where she was evidently perched at the top of a rock up ahead.  “I think we are being spied on and someone doesn’t want us to know where Zoe the Zebra’s stripes went,” she whispered to herself as she picked up the feather.

Just then, Lion started jumping up and down, “Look!  I think I found another clue!”

Ellie turned to see what he was looking at and found some bits of colored shavings and pieces of scraps of rainbow colored paper.  Ellie immediately took out her detective kit from her pocket and set up the life-sized desk next to the clues.  She dug into one of the top drawers and found what she was looking for.

“What’s that?” asked a curious Lion. 

“Tweezers and a Petri dish!  I don’t want to ruin these delicate pieces until I find out what they are,” Ellie said as she started to pick up the colored bits and put a few into the Petri dish.  Then she went back over to her desk and pulled out a piece of white paper.  With the tweezers, she pulled out a colored red bit and dragged it across the paper revealing a waxy purple line.  She did the same with the blue and green bits with saw the same results.   “Aha!  Just as I expected… Crayons!”

Lion scratched his fuzzy orange mane as Ellie went over to the scraps of paper.  At the bottom of one of the pieces, she squinted.  She could make out a few fuzzy letters so she grabbed her magnifying glass to inspect more closely.  She could now clearly see GUIN.  “Hmmm…,” Ellie thought aloud, “That’s not a word.  What could it mean?”

Lion jumped in, “I know, I know- PENGUIN!  It got cut off,” he said as he held up the matching piece of scrap paper that had the letters PEN written.  “But why would Benny the Bear be writing about a penguin?” Lion asked Ellie.

“I think that’s a questions for Penny the Penguin,” she answered as she pointed to the water tank across the walkway.

“Let’s go!” Lion said as he started across the path.

“Wait for me!” Ellie shouted as she folded up her detective desk and stuffed it into her pocket.  She straightened her hat and stuffed the new clues into her trench coat pocket, “We have a mystery to solve!” 

And just as they walked into Penny the Penguin’s arctic home, they heard the flapping sounds of a bird above them.  Ellie was now sure they were being followed.

“Don’t worry about Tucan Tillie, Lion.  We’ll deal with her later.  Right now we need to find Penny Penguin,” Ellie whispered.   And with that thought she grabbed Lion’s arm, walked to the far corner where the glass tank connected with a mesh fence.  Together they scaled the fence and landed on a narrow patch of solid ground inside Penny’s arctic home.

“Ouch!  That hurt” cried Lion.  “Why didn’t we just come in the easy way?” he mumbled to Ellie while pointing to the zoo keepers door that stood not five feet from them. 

“Never mind that Lion.  We’re detectives and we have to do things the detective way!  Now get up and brush off that little bit of snow on you.  Here’s my plan.  I’ll search around the icebergs to the left of this little exhibit and you search around the icebergs to the right.  Make sure you peak inside the ice caves too as they would make great hiding spots!” Ellie suggested.

“Clever thinking!”  Lion answered as he got up; turned and waddled towards a narrow puddle where the closest iceberg butted up against the dry land he was standing on.  Hopping over the puddle onto its icy ledge, Lion peered inside the cave’s dark opening all the while flapping his hands close to his waist hoping to lure out Penny Penguin if this was where she was hiding.

“Do you have a cramp in your body lion?  Are you feeling dizzy?  What’s wrong with you?” questioned Ellie has she watched Lion change into something totally not lion like!

“NO, El!  I thought if I walked like a penguin and flapped my arms like a penguin, then maybe I would start thinking like a penguin.  And you know what El??? El!!!!!!”

“What?” Ellie questioned back.

“A clue!  I think I found another clue!  Come here and come quick before it disappears!”  Lion squealed with excitement.

Ellie ran over to examine Lion’s findings, and sure enough it looked like a clue to her also.  They both were crouched over what looked to be a stepped on, empty, brown cardboard container that had apparently held at one time a colorful gooey mixture.   She knew she had to act quickly before the water from the icy puddle diluted their findings completely.  Ellie would need some of her detective tools, so she opened her trench coat and reached her hand into her back pocket pulling out the detective desk package.  As she opened the flap, out it popped settling itself right in front of them again.  Every time Ellie did that Lion would forget for a moment what they were actually doing because he was more fascinated with the monstrous object inside the teeny tiny detective package!  And every time, Ellie also had to remind Lion not to focus on the expandable desk while she nudged him back to reality.  She then quickly opened the drawer that held a miniature microscope set.  Pulling it out Ellie set it on top of the table giving Lion the eyedropper to gently suck up some of the goo and transfer it to the plastic slide.   Quite pleased with himself and his success at completing such a difficult task, Lion handed it back over for Ellie to put under the microscope.   Looking at the contents through the lens’ eyepiece, Ellie was not surprised by what she saw.  She knew Lion would want to see too, so she stepped aside letting him view the magnified contents.

“Ellie…. is that chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla swirl ice cream that we are looking at?” questioned Lion. 

“I believe so,” stated Ellie.

“Well maybe then this isn’t a clue at all but rather a visitor’s snack,” Lion tried to justify.

“I don’t think so Lion,” Ellie said, “Look on the ground next to the container.”

“Nothing else is there El, other than some kind of tire tracks.  Probably a baby stroller… the kind with four wheels,” Lion answered blankly.

“My point exactly! Well, not the baby stroller part.  Remember we are on the inside of the Penguin Exhibit where visitor’s are not allowed to be.”  Ellie concluded. 

Grabbing Lion’s hand she pulled him to follow her as she followed the tire tracks.  “Look over there Lion,” Ellie said pointing to a rather large opening in the fence that was partially hidden by one of the icebergs, “The tire tracks are not coming from the zookeeper’s door at all but rather from that hole in the fence!”  Walking up to the hidden opening, Ellie exclaimed excitedly,” And look, here are a lot more containers filled to the brim with ice cream!”

Lion’s mind was racing with questions.  So he rattled them off to Ellie, “Where do you think these containers are going El?  And who do you think is taking them?  More important, why did they stop so abruptly?  And what does all this have to do with Zoe’s striped coat?  It’s almost like someone is afraid of being caught!  Do you agree Ellie?”

As Lion asked his last question Penny Penguin and all her penguin friends came out of hiding and quickly waddled towards the pair of detectives squawking at a high piercing level while flapping their wings in a very scolding manner.  It was just enough to scare Ellie and Lion into running for the other side of the fence.  Once outside Ellie winked at Lion and said, “Now I know my hunch was right.  Do you see what I see?”  And as Lion’s eyes followed Ellie’s gaze, he could see not only the tire tracks but also little drops of melted ice cream that lead down the path towards Edna Elephant's domain.  And right in front of Edna’s tasty hay filled trough sat an empty traveling cart with four tiny tires.

“Let’s go Lion!  I think we are on the right track in finding Zoe Zebra’s striped coat!” Ellie said with confidence.

“But wait Ellie!  First, how are you going to retrieve your cool detective desk from the Penguin Exhibit?  I’m positive we are going to need it again,” Lion fretted.

With a sigh of relief Ellie exhaled, “Not to worry.  I am sure the zookeeper will put it in the lost and found box near the ticket counter.  Right now it’s really hot, and I could go for an ice cream cone.  How about you Lion?  Do you want some ice-cream too?  Once we are finished with our ice cream break we will go and retrieve my desk before heading over to Edna Elephant’s domain.”

“Sounds refreshing Ellie,” Lion said while licking his lips.  But his thoughts were really on what clue they would find next and how Ellie’s cool detective table would help them….

Where shall the next clue take us?  You will find out soon enough.
Till next week Ellie Bean!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ellie and The Magic Teapot Off to the Zoo: March Blog 2- Letters from Mom & Mimi

My Dear Darling Baby Girl,

We need to wish your Mimi a very happy birthday today!  We got to celebrate early with her because your Mimi and Great-Gram Bubbles (who you call Gama) came to visit for six days (sadly they had to leave on Wednesday)… the week was packed with a tea party (4-generations with an animal hat theme), homemade dinners (you and Mimi made the butterfly birthday cake for our party), shopping (where Mimi bought you a stroller for your baby as an early birthday gift from her and Poppy), and girl time (with trips to the pool, park, children’s museum, and relaxing at home)!

And now here is our yearlong bedtime story/stories (with many chapters to write!) for you. 

We have specific weekly guidelines.  I will write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week (your Mimi’s part is in italics and mine is in regular font).  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything else is fair game.  However, we are giving ourselves a time limit (because we know otherwise we will fall in love with this creative writing project and get nothing else done)- 45 minutes for me and 90 minutes for your Mimi (so whether that means 3 sentences or 3 pages, that’s what the other person has to work with).  And we each have an additional 30 minutes every week to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations.   

And thus begins our journey. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Zoo- Part 2

“Hmmmm, now that is very curious,” Ellie said with her finger on her chin, “Good thing I brought along my detective kit.”  Ellie’s Mimi had given it to her as a birthday present a few weeks before.  She hadn’t had an opportunity to use it yet. 

“Where is it?” asked a surprised Lion looking around for a large suitcase.  He couldn’t remember Ellie taking any luggage with her on this adventure.

She pulled a small box out of her pocket and unfolded it several times.  It popped up into a table with a drawer. 

Lion’s jaw dropped, “How cool!”

Ellie pulled out the drawer to reveal a notepad, pencil, a magnifying glass, a detective hat, and a trench coat.  Ellie dressed to play the part and cleared her throat, “Now, I need silence as I observe the crime scene!  Come on Lion, you are my assistant and I need your careful eyes to help me look for clues.”

They tiptoed around Zebra’s area.  In the corner, they saw the brush and the mirror where Zoe told them she last saw her missing coat.  But the mirror was smashed into many tiny pieces.  “Now this is curious,” Ellie observed as she looked at it more closely with her magnifying glass.  She saw a shard with purple paint splattered on it. 

Next, Ellie peered down at the brush, again with her trusted magnifying glass, and saw cupcake sprinkles in between the bristles.  She jotted this information down in her notepad when she looked up and saw Lion jumping up and down excitedly.

“I found a clue!” he exclaimed pointing to the empty hook.  Draped over the hook was a red ribbon.  Ellie ran her fingers over it and noted a smudged brown print on it.  She looked at it more closely through the magnifying glass but couldn’t tell what kind of animal it belonged to.  She sniffed it and her nose didn’t fail her, “Aha- chocolate!” 

“Hmmmm, now this is a mystery,” said Lion as he and Ellie walked back over to Zoe.

“Zoe, you’re going to have to pull yourself together as I ask you some very important questions,” Ellie said matter-of-factly as she flipped to a new page in the notebook.

Zoe sniffled one final time before collecting herself as Ellie asked the first question,
“Was the mirror broken when you last saw it?”

Zoe started crying again, “My mirror is broken too?  Why would someone be so mean?”

Ellie tried to calm Zoe by petting her stripeless back.  That only seemed to remind Zoe that her coat was missing and she started sobbing.

“How about the sprinkles and ribbon?” Ellie asked Zoe ignoring her tears.  That question seemed to distract Zoe from crying and she became very perplexed.

“What sprinkles and ribbon?” she asked.

“Were you eating any chocolate last night?” Ellie questioned her.

“No, but I sure could use some now,” Zoe said as her eyes filled with tears.

Ellie rushed on because she knew time was of the essence, “Do you know anyone who would take your beautiful coat?”

Zoe thought for a moment before answering, “Well, Mr. Tom-Tom Turtle next door is very old and forgetful.  Sometimes he wanders in here and can’t remember why.  Maybe he took my coat by accident?”

“Zoe, now you wait here while we pay Mr. Tom-Tom Turtle a visit,” Ellie said hugging her, “I promise that we will find your coat.  No job is too hard for Lion and I to solve,” she said with her pointer finger in the air.

And with her pointer finger, Ellie changed its direction pointing straight ahead to Mr. Tom-Tom Turtles house and shouted out, “Follow me Lion… Onward… march, march, march!”

And off they marched.  When they arrived at his front door, Ellie knocked three times.  It seemed to take Mr. Tom-Tom Turtle forever to answer, so much so that Ellie and Lion began to wonder if he was hiding something inside.  But that was not the case, he just moved very, very slowly.  When he finally opened the door, Ellie and Lion were welcomed by a very old and very wrinkled turtle wearing huge thick coke-bottle type glasses framed in a wide strip of black plastic.  His glasses were definitely too big for his face, and actually they were too big for his head as he had to keep sliding them up before they fell down and off completely.  Ellie got right down to business.  She asked him if he saw anyone or anything unusual over at Zoe’s house last evening.  But while looking at Tom-Tom, and his glasses being an obvious and constant distraction, Ellie already knew that his answer would be a “No.”  He couldn’t possibly have any helpful information.  But she knew a good detective would ask the questions anyway.  And to her surprise he had some interesting answers.

Pulling the red ribbon out of her deep pocket, Ellie cleared her throat while asking her next question.  “Mr. Tom-Tom Turtle, even though you didn’t see anything unusual, do you have any idea wear this red ribbon could have come from?”

“Hmmmmmm, may I have a closer look?” Tom-Tom questioned while inching his face as close to the red ribbon as possible.  “Why yes, I have seen ribbon like this recently, but not in red.  Nooooooooooo, I think I saw it in yellow… or maybe it was blue… hmmmm.  Let me think about it.  I remember last week, or was it the week before???? Oh no matter… it was just that Toucan Tillie stopped by and she seemed to be in a tizzy of sorts.  In her excitement she kept squawking about a surprise or something that she had to work on quickly.  She was helping a friend with something but she was so secretive about it and whom she was working with.  Anyway, she was flying around in circles and trying to hide from the children in the zoo.  Apparently while mommies were walking their daughters around the park, Toucan Tillie would sneak up, then swoop down and steal the fancy ribbons out of their pretty sunhats.  She thought she could hide out inside my house asking me to be the lookout turtle until the coast was clear for her to leave unnoticed!  I told her that I would not participate in such behavior and that she needed to return those items immediately!  So she flew off in a huff.”

After a long silence and no additional conversation Ellie was not sure what to do or say next.  So shrugged her shoulders while looking at Lion.  Lion shrugged back and then stepped forward peering in to Mr. Tom-Tom Turtles face.  He motioned Ellie to come over.  She too peered into his face.  They both could see Tom-Tom’s eyes, magnified through the glasses, were closed.  Apparently he fell asleep.

“Now what do we do?” Ellie questioned.   “We can’t have hit a dead end already!” she pouted.

Lion was deep in thought.  Pacing back and forth, and looking down at the ground as well as up in the air while thinking; a thought of finding another possible clue struck him.

“El, I’ve got it!”  He roared excitedly.  And before she could question him, he quickly climbed up the tree.  He carefully slid across one branch changing his footing to follow another all the while examining the leaves that protruded outward.  Gazing west, Lion found his answer.   Quickly scrambling back down the tree, Lion pounced over to a perplexed Ellie.  “Ellie, when Tom-Tom said Tillie flew off I had a feeling that maybe she was traveling to the secret friend’s house.  That is why I climbed the tree.  I figured the bent branches and broken leaves would tell us which direction she flew in. 

“And?” Ellie questioned breathlessly with pencil and notepad in hand ready to write.  “Did you figure out which way?”

“Looks like she was flying towards Benny Bear’s Den,” Lion said with a frown, “And from that height I could also see that some kind of commotion is going on over there as we speak.”

Ellie finished jotting down their findings and slid the pencil and notepad back into her right pocket.  She then reached into her left pocket and pulled out a flashlight.  Pushing the on and off switch back and forth to make sure it worked perfectly, which it did, she replaced it back in its pocket.   She then swung her arm in a full motion beckoning Lion to follow her.  “A good detective’s eyes are everywhere Lion.  So be on the lookout!” she cried out.  And with that, her little apprentice Lion saluted her and they both marched off towards Benny Bear's Den in search of another clue….
Where shall the next clue take us?  You will find out soon enough.
Till next week Ellie Bean!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ellie and The Magic Teapot Off to the Zoo: March Blog 1- Letters from Mom & Mimi

My Dear Darling Baby Girl,

Happy Birthday Month (to you, me, and your Mimi!).  And what an amazing celebration it will be.  Your Mimi and Great-Gram Bubbles flew in yesterday and we have a noon tea party to get to (wait until you see our theme this time but I’ll fill you in on that in next week’s blog).

Your Mimi and I are so proud that we finished a year’s worth of letters to you Dear Ellie.  And so your new gift from us (and our new goal) is a yearlong bedtime story/stories (with many chapters to write!). 

We have specific weekly guidelines.  I will write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week (your Mimi’s part is in italics and mine is in regular font).  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything else is fair game.  However, we are giving ourselves a time limit (because we know otherwise we will fall in love with this creative writing project and get nothing else done)- 45 minutes for me and 90 minutes for your Mimi (so whether that means 3 sentences or 3 pages, that’s what the other person has to work with).  And we each have an additional 30 minutes every week to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations.    

And thus begins our journey. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Zoo- Part 1

(Ellie and her beloved Lion who actually first belonged to Kyle)

Ellie stood staring out the window.  She leaned on her elbows with her face cupped in her hands and glumly gazed out at the pouring rain.  It was coming down almost sideways since the wind was so strong.  She could hear tree branches hitting the side of her house with a rhythmic beat.  No one was outside in this storm as the street below was bare.  As she stood there, she noticed the window started fogging up and she traced a monkey face with her fingertip in the middle pane. 

She sighed and tried not to be sad.  Her Mom was going to take her to the zoo today and they were supposed to have a picnic lunch in between seeing the primates and the pachyderms.  Her Mom promised to go tomorrow when it would be sunny to make up for the cancellation.  She knew her Mom felt bad.  She could smell the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies that had just come out of the oven.  Her Mom knew they were Ellie’s favorite. 

Ellie saw a bright flash of lightening out of the corner of the window followed by a loud rumble of thunder.  The lights flickered before going out.  Ellie was more startled than scared.  Her house had enough windows to let the gray morning light in.  But so much for watching a movie, she thought.  As she turned to go downstairs to eat a cookie and check on her Mom, Ellie tripped over her pink teapot and fell to her knees.  She was about to throw it out of anger when she realized that a tea party might be fun. 

Near the window to get some light, Ellie set up her red plastic table with two settings- one for her and one for her stuffed lion, whom she affectionately called Lion.  He was a gentle animal and Ellie had stuck many colorful heart stickers on him to show him how much she loved him.  His fluffy hair always tickled her chin when she slept at night.  His crazy hair that stuck up in all directions reminded Ellie of her own crazy hair.  She smiled at the thought then she ran to the bathroom and filled up her teapot with water and set it down on the table before running downstairs to grab two of those fresh baked cookies. 

“Whoa!  Slow down there, Spaghetti,” her Mom said as Ellie slid into the kitchen on the heels of her socks.

“Do you want to have a tea party with Lion and I?” Ellie breathlessly asked her Mom as she picked up two of the biggest and softest cookies in the batch.  She noticed the chocolate was still warm and had melted on her fingers.  She licked them clean and then wiped them dry on her pants.

Ellie’s Mom handed her a napkin as she said, “Get started without me Ellie, I have to call your Mimi and discuss her summer visit. I was hoping she could come out for two months, what do you think?”

Ellie loved her Mimi so there was no question just a gigantic smile spread across her face.  “OK Mom, come up when you can and tell Mimi I love her!”  Then Ellie bounded back up the stairs and when she caught site of Lion and her tea set at the far side of her room, she smoothed her hair and glided over as if she had an important reservation.

Ellie took one look at Lion, poured the tea and said the magic words, “Baooohhhaoooahaljaljljljafooj….” And just like before music, glitter, and rainbows swirled them up hovering over the table.  Lion came alive and winked at Ellie.  And before Ellie and Lion were completely swept up on their adventure, they snatched the two cookies on the table and gobbled them up knowing they would need the energy for whatever lay ahead. 

“Woaaaaaaaa Ellie,” screamed Lion excitedly!  “Where do you think we are going?”

“I’m not sure yet Lion, but I have a feeling it might be near the zoo since that was my last thought before our little teapot swept us away!” giggled Ellie.  “Hold on Lion.  I hope you don’t get dizzy!” she continued to giggle. 

And just like that they both landed on a large patch of lush green grass with a few tall shade trees to accommodate picnickers.  Ellie brought her right hand up to her face and started to rub her chin.  “Wow, this looks very familiar Lion,” she commented a bit perplexed. 

“Of course it does,” Lion stated with a know-it-all tone, “You should know exactly where we are, if for nothing else, by that crazy peacock that is strutting towards us!  He’s always antagonizing you to chase him, of which you do and I think it is just a matter of time before he bites one of us!  And El, it better not be me!”

“Aaaahhhh, the Zoo!” she whispered with joy, and quickly thanked the teapot silently for taking her and her friend to the place she loved most!   And what a beautiful sunny day it was.  How could it be raining so violently by her house when here the sky was a clear royal blue?  Not wanting to question it too deeply, Ellie just shrugged her shoulders and ended that thought, “Lion don’t be a coward!  Mr. Peacock loves it when we run after him!  And Mom’s not here to hold us back, so you circle to his left, and I’ll circle to his right.  When he reaches the fence surrounding the lion’s den, you make the tackle!” She said in a barely audible voice.

“WHAT????  ARE YOU CRAZY El?????  That’s when Mr. Peacock will spread his peacock feathers and perform a Houdini disappearing act, and leave me dangling on the wrong side of the fence!  Those lion’s will DEVOUR me!” Lion screeched hysterically.

With that Ellie fell to the ground doubled over in a fit of laughter, and Mr. Peacock jaunted on merrily looking for another group of children to torment.

With tears in her smiling eyes, Ellie got up, brushed a few crushed leaves off her pants and grabbed Lion’s hand.  “Come on,” she said sweetly.  “Let’s go see the zoo!”  But just as she was ready to take a step, Ellie realized that they were already quite far from the Zoo’s entrance gate.  That meant they were already well past the pachyderm exhibit and nowhere near the primate exhibit.  Still not sure which path to take, she looked to her left and then to her right and then back to her left again, “Hmmmmmmmmmmmm Lion, I don’t know….. Why don’t you choose which exhibit we should see first?” she said a bit undecidedly. 

And before Lion could answer, they both heard a sniffle, sniffle, whimper, sniffle, sniffle, whimper coming from a very thick and densely green bush situated a few yards behind them just inside the fence of the zebra exhibit.  Ellie and Lion slowly walked over and quietly listened.  They heard it again.   Sniffle, sniffle, whimper, sniffle, sniffle, whimper. 

“Hellooooooo.   Hellooooooooo.  Is someone in there?” Ellie softly called out.

“Don’t be a coward!  Be an Animal and show yourself!” Lion bellowed out in a deep voice with great authority.

First the leaves of the bush ruffled a bit and then a timid narrow head with short pointy ears and two very sad eyes peered out of one corner.  In a soothing voice, Ellie talked to the animal and told her not to be afraid, that she and Lion were her friends.  She continued talking to her and encouraged her to come out from behind the bush.  When the animal finally did, both Ellie and Lion were shocked.  Right before their eyes stood a zebra…. a very stripeless zebra!

“Who are you and where are your stripes?” questioned Lion.

“My name is Zoe Zebra.” The animal sniffled again.   “And I don’t know what happened to my stripes.  Last night before I went to bed I sang my happy song….” 

“Happy song…. what is that?” asked Lion. 

“Oh, it is a song that I sing every night while I look at myself in the mirror.  It goes like this:  Zoe Zebra queen of the zoo, with your coat of stripes, no one here is as beautiful as You!  Then I brushed my teeth, washed behind my ears, and made sure my coat of stripes was brushed one hundred times to keep its shine before I took it off and hung it on the hook next to my mirror.  (I wouldn’t want it to wrinkle you know!)  Then I crawled into bed and slid underneath my covers.  When I woke up this morning, I walked over to my mirror to admire myself and was horrified to see that my beautiful striped coat was missing from the hook!   Who could have taken it?  Where could it have gone?” Zoe wailed.  “And what am I going to do now?  No one comes to the zoo to see a stripeless zebra!  I am supposed to be the most beautiful animal here!” she cried tearfully, “I am sooooooo embarrassed!”

Ellie and Lion looked at each other and than at Zoe.  It looked like some detective work needed to be done!.....

Until next week...
Mom & Mimi