Friday, April 27, 2012

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

Dear Sunshine,

This whole month you have been singing.  You know so many songs by heart!  My favorite is when you sing, “You are My Sunshine” with me at bedtime.  That one is so special because it’s one that I sang to Kyle too.  I never thought that there would be a day when I would hear a voice mirroring mine.  It’s truly heaven and it made me think of your brother too!  But I also love when you sing Old McDonald on our drive to daycare... you make my day so much brighter with your lively voice and vibrant personality!

You have also had a few other notable moments recently:
Rock-climbing at the park!

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 so we will continue our second story. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Park Part 3

“Red Team!” shouted Skeeter, “Huddle together.  We need a plan for our next item and this plan better get us back to The Hill faster than the Pink Team.”

“He’s so bossy,” whispered Shortstop to Slyguy who nodded in agreement.  Skeeter shot them a look.

“Attention!” Skeeter shouted their way and the ants stood as tall as they could.

“Yes sir!” they responded in unison.

The Pink Team had already left The Hill.  Skeeter’s group watched them go north of The Hill until they disappeared in the tall green grass blades.  The Red Team couldn’t hear what they were after next and the direction they were going offered no clues.  If Skeeter could guess, he would bet they were searching for a blue button.  They were so predictable following the list in order.  Skeeter thought by continuing to jump around the list and finding the hardest items first, his team might have the advantage.

“I think it’s time we find a container of honey,” Skeeter sharply suggested.

The other four ants looked at each other.  “Has anyone seen any picnickers with jars of honey?” asked Speedy.

Everyone shook his head no. 

“Silly Ants, we don’t need people for honey,” Slyguy said as he pointed up in the air.  The others followed his gaze to see a buzzing bumblebee flying overhead.

“Slyguy, you did it again!” said Skeeter excitedly, “You always think outside the box!”

Slyguy blushed.  His black shield exterior turned a shade of lavender.  He knew the slingshot was a good idea to get the watermelon but if it weren’t for the bee flying around just moments ago, he never would have thought about this.

“We didn’t discuss how much honey we need, the list just says a container.  Anyone have anything to hold a few drops?” Skeeter asked.  He hoped the Pink Team would think of a container sized for humans and make it more difficult for them.  The ants emptied their pockets on the ground.  Shortstop had shards of crayons and a drawing he made before the scavenger hunt. 

“Wow,” Speedy said to him obviously very impressed by the image of the Ant Farm lying in front of him.

“Okay, back on task.  Focus!” barked Skeeter stepping on the drawing.

Everyone looked down at Skeeter’s foot crunching the paper and before Speedy could cry out, Slugger noticed what the others didn’t.

“Your socks Skeeter!  We could use one for the honey,” he said. 

“Is a sock really a container?  I don’t want to lose over something dumb like a definition,” Skeeter grimaced.

“A container is just an object used for transport or storage,” Slugger said showing off his academic skills, “I think a sock fits perfectly in that definition!”

“Good thinking Slugger,” he said his mood shifting as he peeled off one of his red socks, “Now let’s find out where that bee’s home is.”

The bee now had its nose in a nearby blooming purple flower.  The ants scampered over. 

“Hello up there,” yelled up Slyguy.

The bee jumped in surprise and fell out on the ground in front of the ants.

“We’re sorry, we didn’t mean to scare you!” said Speedy to the ant who was rubbing her obviously sore backside.

“We need some honey,” Skeeter said getting straight to the point.

The bee crinkled its face before Shortstop realized how rude they were being, “I’m sorry for my friend Skeeter here.  He’s just very bossy and likes to win.  We are in the middle of a scavenger hunt and we need a few drops of honey.  I’m Shortstop and these are my friends Slyguy, Slugger, and Speedy.”  He extended one of his antennae for her to shake.

“I’m Y.J., and sure I would love to help.  My friends and I like games too and winning is always more fun than losing,” she said.

“What does Y.J. stand for?” asked a curious Slyguy.

“Yellow Jacket,” she said eyes wide with her stinger in the air trying to look tough, “but don’t worry I only sting humans and big animals, not ants.”

Skeeter stood behind the group stomping his barefoot loudly on the ground impatiently.

Y.J. shot him an annoyed glance but she liked everyone else so she continued to help, “I’ll fly slow so you can follow.  Our hive is just in that tree over there,” she said pointing ahead a few feet.

They ran as fast as they could knowing they were still racing and also trying to keep up with Y.J. who didn’t know the meaning of slow flying.

When they reached the hive, Y.J., flew down to explain, “We keep the honey in the upper part of the comb.  Wait here with your container, er um, sock open and I will make sure a few drops get down to you.”

Y.J. flew up to the nest and started talking to a few of her friends.  Skeeter quickly became agitated, “Great.  I knew we couldn’t trust a bee.  She forgot about us already.”

But as soon as he said his last word, he realized that the bees Y.J. was talking to were pushing against the hive gently making the honey dribble down.  And sure enough, five big droplets were about to fall.  Skeeter held his sock open and four plunked right in.  The fifth one landed right on his head.  The amber honey was a gooey sticky mess.  Y.J. winked at Shortstop as Skeeter turned beat red with anger.  Skeeter didn’t waste any time as he tried to wipe the goo from his eye but his hand momentarily got stuck to his head.  The group stifled a giggle as he pulled it free.  He managed to hold himself together as he tied the sock at the top and started running back toward The Hill with honey droplets dribbling off the back of him as he ran. 

“Thank you for your help,” Shortstop called up to Y.J., “Maybe we can see you again soon.”

The four ants followed after Skeeter and they reached the top of The Hill just seconds after him.  Skeeter was irate.  The Pink Team had already been here…

“How did they get THAT here?!” said a very awed Speedy.

“And how did they do it so quickly?” asked an equally shocked Slugger.

Skeeter was so mad and so surprised that for the first time, he had no words…..

“Lion and Ellie, slow down!”  Yelled an out of breath Ajax.  “You’re marching too fast and it is making me nervous when I don’t know where we’re going! 

“Yea guys.  And did anyone realize that we are walking away from the park, not towards it?  We’ll never find any scavenger items going this way!”   Abner reaffirmed with just a hint of hesitation.

“Ok, ok everybody.  Settle down.  Ellie and I made the decision together,” Lion huffed,   “I knew we had to leave The Hill fast because Skeeter looked like a very angry walking Porcueant.”

“Do you mean ‘porcupine’?” Corrected Abner.

“Kind of,” Lion answered, “But when you downsize a porcupine to an ant’s size, I think the visual on it would be more like a prickly ant… hence a Porcueant”

The image of a prickly Skeeter made the three ants barrel over with laughter.   Trying to regain control, Ellie put two fingers into her mouth and with one hard blow gave out the sharpest whistle bringing the little soldiers back to attention, “Guys… it was me who gave Lion the nod to head north.  I thought the next item we should retrieve could be the black and gold baseball cap.”

“But then shouldn’t we be marching south, towards the center of the park where the baseball fields are located?”  Asked a confused and timid Abner.

“One would think Abner.  But I am pretty sure taking a hat from one of the baseball players would be an almost impossible feat.  So I got to thinking…. My daddy has a bunch of baseball caps up in his and my mom’s bedroom closet.  And I think a couple of his caps have those colors on them because they represent his favorite team!”  Ellie rattled on excitedly, “So I thought if there aren’t any boundaries as to where the scavenger items come from then we should just borrow one from my dad.  I don’t think he will mind as long as we return it… and if at all possible, we should return it before he realizes that it is missing!”

“But Ellie, you live a couple of blocks away from the park.  It will take us days to march there and even longer to return having to carry such an odd shaped item on our backs!”  Whined Ajax,  “Are you trying to make us lose the game?  Because this idea of yours….”

But before Ajax could continue his whining, Ellie rummaged through the many ruffles of her pink tutu until she found what she was looking for.  The hidden pocket.  Once she located it, she reached in and pulled out a miniature metallic box.  Holding it firmly with her right hand, she slapped it three times on her left palm and quickly set it down on the dirt path in front of them.  On the first click the metallic box popped open revealing a lime green tricycle and on the second click an attached matching sidecar neatly unfolded!  But the third click is what excited Lion.  Because on that click a bright pink horn slid onto the handlebar just waiting for someone to honk it!

“Way cool El!”  Roared Lion, “You’ve got to tell me where you get this stuff!”

“Alright, but later.  Right now I need you all to hop into the sidecar so I can peddle to my house quickly,” rushed Ellie.

And they did.  Abner jumped in first stubbing his toe, followed by a nervous Ajax who landed on Abner.  And then came Alfy who tried to jump in but being a bit overweight ended up tumbling in slowly squashing his two friends. 

“Ouch Alfy!  Move over!” Abner cried.

“Not this way, Alfy! I can’t breathe!” grunted Ajax.

“Easy guys,” calmed Lion, “If you all sit up you will notice that there is a seat for each of you and one for me too!”

So Abner, Ajax and Alfie readjusted themselves making room for Lion in the sidecar.  Ellie peddled as fast as she could, beeping her horn along the way to make sure nothing unexpected jumped in front of them.  As they neared her house, she noticed the front door was closed, so peddling faster she tore around the corner to the back of the house hoping that the sliding glass door was not fully shut.  And they were in luck… the door was cracked open about ½ inch.  So the five of them quietly slipped inside.

Ellie whispered to the group, “Don’t worry about the cat.  He’s usually sleeping and even when he’s not, he’s too lazy to care.  So he should leave us alone.  But the one we need to be careful of is my mom.  She hates bugs… especially ANTS!  So stay close to me.  This is how we’ll get to my dads and my moms closet.  We’ll walk along the wall to keep from sight until we reach the living room.  Then we’ll make a mad dash across the hardwood floor to the stairs.  Make sure to stay on the inside wall while crawling up them and quietly walk down the hallway to the master bedroom.  It is really dark in there so we need to stay to the right to reach the closet.  The baseball caps are on the floor so we will just need to figure out which one to take.  Hmmmmmm.  That might be a problem though in the pitch dark!”  Finished Ellie.

“Ah, come on Ellie.  You mean to tell us that with all your nifty gadgets you don’t have anything with a light on it?” asked Lion in disbelief.

Ellie was about to respond ‘No’ when Alfy surprised them all by saying that he kept a miniature flashlight on him at all times.  Slightly embarrassed, he admitted to being afraid of the dark and it was the only way he could work in the tunnels of the Ant Farm.  Ellie was relieved.  Now that they had a plan it was time to put it in motion.  So off they marched making it to the closet with no problem.  Once inside Alfy pulled out his trusty flashlight and turned it on.  They sorted through six hats before finding the black and gold one.  Now they need a plan to get the hat out of the house unnoticed.

Ajax was the first one to raise his hand. 

“Go ahead Ajax.  What’s your idea?” coaxed Ellie.

“Well, I noticed on our way up to the closet that the vaulted ceiling fan in the living room was on high…. so once we leave the bedroom with the hat and get to the hallway where the slatted railing is, we could slide the hat through the railing and the wind that the fan creates should take it right to the back door,” calculated Ajax.

“Yeah!  And instead of the five of us taking the long way back downstairs, we could take a shortcut by riding inside the cap while it floats down to the first floor!”  Exclaimed Abner.

“That’s a fantastic idea!  Let’s do it!”  Roared Lion. 

So the group circled the baseball cap, each taking hold of the black and gold fabric and walked it out into the hallway on their tippy toes.  Once they reached the slatted railing, all five team members turned the cap over and jumped inside before the ceiling fans wind carried them and the cap down to the screen door.  As it settled on the floor, Ellie and Lion jumped out first.  Abner and Ajax jumped out next.  Alfy was having a tough time jumping out and opted to roll out instead when Ellie’s mom entered the room.  She noticed the cap on the floor and bent down to pick it up. As she reached for it with her hand, she noticed Alfy and screamed,  “Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!....... AN ANT!”  Jumping up and down and all over the room, Ellie’s mom continued to scream and ran for the garage.

Ellie screamed too!  But her scream was directed at Alfy, “Alfy, hurry up and get out of the cap…. now!  When my mom heads to the garage that means she is going to get the bug spray and a broom!  Hurry!  We’ve got to get out of here!”

Abner and Ajax were afraid that Alfy would be too slow so they ran to their friend’s defense.  They reached over the caps side and grabbed Alfy by both arms.  Then they pulled and pulled until his chubby body rolled out.  Just as Alfy stood up, Ellie’s mom re-entered the house.  And sure enough she had a broom in one hand and a can of bug spray in the other ready to blind and flatten the ants!  So the Pink Team worked as a ‘team’ and quickly squeezed the hat through the crack in the door flinging it onto the green tricycle’s left handlebar.  (Thankfully it didn’t land on the right handlebar where the horn was.  Lion would have been very disappointed!)  Ellie ran to her bike and straddled its seat.  This time with precision movement, Ajax, Abner and Alfy jumped into the sidecar with no problems.  Lion followed the trio and once everyone was seated he gave Ellie the nod to start peddling.  She honked the pretty pink horn two times and quickly sped off making it back to The Hill in record time.

“Look!”  Exclaimed Alfy pointing to the Red Team’s only item.  “They haven’t made it back yet!  We’re still ahead!”

So Lion called them together for a quick group huddle.  As he knelt in the middle, he pulled out the Scavenger List.  Scanning it over, he zeroed in on one particular item.  Then sharing that item with the rest of the Pink Team, they all smiled and were in agreement to going after it next.  For each of them remembered exactly where they saw it…..

We love you El!  Until next week,
Mom & Mimi

Friday, April 20, 2012

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

My angelic and crazy daughter!  I love this picture (above) from our Florida trip two weeks ago but I also love this silly one (below) while playing the other night.  They both show such different sides of you...

Dear Ellie Spaghetti,

I have to say that your vocabulary is increasing daily and you make me laugh so much (aside from the times that you stun me with your intelligence).  You speak in the third person (“Where’s Ellie’s shoes?”).  And you ask the best questions (“Big moon Mama!  Where’s the other one?” referring to the full moon in the sky while looking for the crescent shaped one).  I simply love the sound of your voice.

And so does your Mimi... here is a picture of you skyping with her recently (yes, you still get so excited seeing your Mimi and Poppy over the computer everyday, I suppose it's the next best thing to seeing them in person):

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 so we will continue our second story. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Park Part 2

Ellie, Lion, Abner, Alfy, and Ajax were left standing wistfully on their own after the Red Team went off so quickly to start the scavenger hunt.  If the Pink Team didn’t think fast, they would surely lose.

Ellie looked at Lion encouragingly, “Well Lion, you are our leader so what should we do first?  Let’s come up with a plan.”

Lion cleared his throat trying to remember all the rules that Skeeter had given, “The first item we need is a red and white checkered tablecloth.  So let’s brainstorm where we have our best chance at finding one of those.”

Abner raised his hand timidly and whispered something to the group but no one could hear him. 

“He’s just very shy,” Ajax explained while he fidgeted with his hands, “When Abner doesn’t know someone, he is very cautious.  But once he trusts you, he’s the loudest one around!”

Ellie went over to Ajax who was staring at his feet.  “I would love to be your friend Abner,” she said as she pet his back softly.  Abner’s eyes lit up at her gentleness.  And it didn’t take long for Abner to start chatting with her like they knew each other forever.

“Okay, so now that you know us a bit better, can you share your idea,” Ellie persuaded him.

Abner still whispered (Lion made him nervous) but at least everyone could now hear him, “I saw a family over in the field not too long ago having a picnic.  They had a basket, a full meal with dessert.  I went over to sneak some crumbs of their chocolate cake when they were playing Frisbee off in the distance.”

“But did they have a red and white checkered tablecloth?” asked Ajax coming closer to hear him better.  But as he did, he tripped over a small mound of dirt.  He didn’t seem to care as he brushed his face clean and listened.

“They sure did!  It’s what they used as their blanket to sit on!  Maybe we can borrow their tablecloth while they are playing Frisbee?” Abner suggested.

Ellie gazed at Lion waiting for him to respond, “All right!  Let’s follow Abner to that picnic spot,” Lion prompted.

Abner pointed to a far off spot in the field behind him.  When Abner turned around to show the group where he was pointing, Alfy and Ajax had already started toward him and all three crashed into each other and fell down on the ground.  Ellie ran over to make sure they were ok but found them all laughing.

“We may be clumsy but we know how to have a good time,” Ajax giggled.

Lion remembered how organized the Red Team was and so he roared, “March Pink Team, March!” and that seemed to get everyone in line and back on task.  Off they went into the endless grass blades. 

After marching quite a bit, Ajax became bored and started to question Abner, “Are you sure this is the way?”

“Ajax, you know me and my sense of smell… I can detect when chocolate is a mile away.  We are close,” he answered.

Alfy was thinking more about that dessert, “I hope that there are more crumbs for us to snack on.  Did you leave any for us Abner?  I’m hungry!”

Abner sniffed, “We are just about there.”

And within the next three steps, the group came up on the picnic site.  Just as Abner said, there was a Mommy and Daddy playing Frisbee with a little boy and girl off near the trees.  And right in front of them, without anyone watching, was a red and white tablecloth.

“Yahoo!”  Yelled Ajax, “We might actually win this scavenger hunt!”

“Not so fast,” Lion said bursting Ajax’s bubble, “Look at the heavy picnic basket on top.  How can we lift that since we are so small?”

“Lion, don’t you know me at all?!  I always come prepared.  Do you remember what my Mimi gave me for Christmas this year?” she asked him as she dug deep into her pants pocket and pulled out a square piece of wood.

“Well that doesn’t look like a very good present,” Alfy said to Ellie as he found a chocolate morsel on the ground and gobbled it up.

Before his eyes, Ellie shook the piece of wood and it transformed into a miniature backhoe!  Of course, she did it so quietly that the family never heard it.

The backhoe had two levers, which Ellie maneuvered to pick up the picnic basket and set it gently down on the grass.  Then, she picked up each corner of the blanket to fold it into a smaller, more manageable bundle. 

Lion still looked bewildered at the gigantic piece of fabric in front of him.

“Don’t worry Lion,” Abner said reading his face, “Ants can carry twenty times our weight!”  Abner was warming up to Lion.  He didn’t find him so scary anymore.

Abner crawled under the blanket into the center and started marching.  Slowly but surely, the tablecloth started to move.  The rest of the group sprinted underneath to help and with more effort, the tablecloth moved faster.

“Abner, can you remember exactly where we are so that we can return this tablecloth to that nice family?” Ellie reminded him.

“Of course!” he answered.

“I will help bring it back too,” Alfy said, “maybe I can find more chocolate cake crumbs!” 

And just as he said the last word, he tumbled over his feet and fell into Abner who crashed into Alfy.  Lion and Ellie were left standing underneath the tablecloth shaking their heads at the giggling ants. 

“Pull it together crazy ants!”  Lion instructed, “We have a chance to win.  Let’s march in step to get the blanket back up to The Hill.  It’s not far now.  Left!  Right!  Left!”  He pointed ahead as he directed their marching.  The ants could now see the top of The Hill.

“That looks really steep,” Alfy mumbled sweating, “I’m not that strong.”

“I think you are very strong Alfy,” Ellie soothed, “I have a song to sing that will keep your mind off of the work.”

Ellie started singing, “The ants go marching one by one hoorah hoorah!”

The three ants and Lion looked at each other and grinned.  It didn’t take long for them to join in.  By the time they finished the song, they were at the top of The Hill.  And they realized that the Red Team didn’t have any items there yet. 

“We’re winning!” shouted a more confident Alfy….

“Oh no you’re not!”  Came a frustrated yell from the thistle bush near The Hill.  As the Pink Team turned their heads in its direction, out crawled a very sore Skeeter.  Using his every arm and leg Skeeter tried his hardest to balance what was left of a very mushy, broken watermelon while pulling out thistle stickers from his behind!  “We scavenged a really hard to find item on the list… not like you softies who went for the easiest item,” he scowled, “Next round we’ll be swarming the area and marching circles around you!  You’ll see.”….

The first item retrieved by the red team didn’t go quite as planned.  When Skeeter blew the whistle it may have given the Red Team a head start on the Pink Team, but they didn’t really have a plan as to which item on the Scavenger Hunt they should find first.  It was Shortstop who ran ahead and then quickly turned making the rest of the team come to a screeching halt.

“OK guys, does anyone know what direction we are marching in?”  Silence.  “Does anyone know what we are looking for?”  More silence.  “Did everyone forget that we fine-tuned our antennas this morning to scope out possible scavenger prospects so that we would surely win the game?”  Scolded Shortstop.

“Oh yeah.  I almost forgot.  Sorry about that guys,” apologized Slugger.

“Yeah…. I almost forgot too.  Sorry about that,” Repeated Slyguy.

Skeeter spoke next, “All right guys, focus.  Who’s got the first plan?”

“I do,” stated Speedy, “Right before Abner came back to The Hill with those two new-comers, Ellie and Lion, I saw a couple of high school boys carting a watermelon over to the Pavilion near the entrance to the park.  I’m pretty sure they set it on the first picnic table.  I’m guessing by now they would have cut that huge ball of fruit open, slurped out its juicy insides and discarded the rinds in the Pavilion trashcan.  With a little luck, maybe one or two rinds have dropped on the ground and it will be really easy for the five of us to cart one away!  What do you think?  Want to go and check it out?”

“You did some great scouting earlier Speedy.  Good job!....  So what are we waiting for?  Let’s step up our pace boys!”  Commanded Skeeter.  And off they marched.

When the Red Team got to the Pavilion they were somewhat dismayed to see that the watermelon had not been touched.  All ten pounds of it was still sitting in its oval shell on the picnic table.

“Now what?” Sighed Slugger, “We’ll need at least another thirty or forty ants to help us carry that monstrosity!”

“The only place we will find that many ants is back at the Ant Farm and we don’t have that kind of time to waste!”  Hollered Skeeter.

“Calm down boys,” said a cool Slyguy while he reached into his back pocket.  As the others turned to face him, he pulled out his brand new slingshot.  “I got this for my birthday last week and I’ve been practicing with it everyday.  My eye is good for aiming it in the right direction, but I’m still working on my distance.  However, Slugger here is a power hitter with the baseballs, maybe he can sling it the distance it would take to get from here to The Hill!”

“That’s a fantastic idea Slyguy!” Skeeter shouted excitedly, “It should shave off quite a few minutes of the time that it would take us to haul back that hefty fruit on our backs as well as save us some aching muscles too!  Here’s what we’ll do.  Slyguy… you make sure that the watermelon is pointed in the right direction while Slugger pulls back the slingshot’s rubber band as far as he can get it.  Speedy and Shortsop, you two push the watermelon into place, that would be the slingshots cup, so that Slugger can give it one last pull before letting go while you both get out of the way.  Slyguy, check the direction one last time to make sure it’s aimed at The Hill.  Then give Slugger the thumbs up sing to ‘let err fly’!  Oh, and give me a couple of minute’s head start to run back to The Hill so that I am in place when it drops.  Then I will pick up a broken off rind, set it in the Red Teams bucket and scratch our first retrieved item off the list.”

“Let’s do it!” they chanted in unison.

As Skeeter scampered off, the other ants went quickly to work.  Slugger grabbed the slingshots rubber band and pulled it back with all his might.  He yelled for Speedy and Shortstop to hurry and get the watermelon into the slingshots cup because he was starting to lose his grip and his feet were slipping forward.  The plan almost worked perfectly.  But Slyguy kept recalculating the direction and he ended up recalculating it one too many times.  Slugger couldn’t hold back the rubber band any longer and not meaning to, he let go.  Surprisingly Speedy did not get out of its way fast enough and the rubber band sandwiched him between the slingshot cup and the watermelon as it sailed through the air out of sight.
“Uh-oh,” Slyguy hesitated, “Bad news.  Looking at the direction the watermelon took off in, I am guessing that it might land to the left of The Hill about a foot or two away.  But I think there is good news too.  Since Speedy is now traveling with the watermelon, he will beat us back to help Skeeter carry the rind!”

“Well, that shouldn’t be too big a deal.  Right?  Is there anything we need to worry about that might get Skeeter mad?” questioned Shortstop.

“Nah.  I think that area is all dirt and flat ground,” Slyguy affirmed confidently.  “He’ll be pleased with the outcome of this plan and how easy it was to retrieve a rind!”

But that was not so.  For the watermelon did sail the distance only it did not land to the left of The Hill but rather two feet to the right of The Hill.  When Skeeter saw that it was off course he made a running dive to catch it, where both he and the watermelon landed in the thistle bush; Skeeter on bottom like a flattened pancake, the watermelon on Skeeter, broken like a cracked egg with its contents oozing out, and Speedy on top of what was left of the watermelon, dazed, just like he gets when he rides The Whip at the carnival.  Skeeter crawled out from underneath and tried to stand up.  But the juicy red mush covered him from head to toe causing him not to see very well.  He tried to pick up one of the broken rinds but lost his balance and landed bottom first in the thistle bush.  That’s when he heard Alfy claim a first item victory.  And that made Skeeter mad as a Hornet.  As soon as the rest of his Red Team returned and he could get Speedy to stop slurping up the melon juice, he knew exactly what item they would retrieve next….

We love you Ellie!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, April 13, 2012

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

Dear Ellie Spaghetti,

It has been such a beautiful spring so far.  We have been outside at the park every chance we can get!  You had a wonderful Easter (with a beautiful dress from your Gigi to wear to church) and you even went on your first Easter egg hunt (and you also found the awesome basket from Mimi and Poppy).

As far as our creative story that we have been writing you, your Mimi and I are so excited that we completed another installment of Ellie and the Magic Teapot.  The zoo adventure was so much fun to write.  But we have a new journey for Ellie and Lion to go on.

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 second story. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Park Part 1

Ellie sat at the kitchen table drumming her fingers one by one.  She was trying to patiently wait for her Mom to get off the phone.  She heaved a very long and loud sigh.  Her mother shot her an angry glance as she placed her hand over the receiver, “Ellie please.  I am on the phone with your Dad.  He has a work emergency and needs to go out of town and I need to get a few things together for him.  I’m sorry Angel but the park will have to wait.”

Ellie hopped off the stool and glumly walked upstairs to her bedroom.  She really wanted to go down the slide today.  The sun was shining and the spring temperature was just right.  She unpacked her backpack that she was going to take.  Her water bottle was at the top and had leaked on the ball underneath making it slippery to pull out.  Lion was at the bottom as he is always the first thing she remembers to pack, “No park today, Lion,” she said hugging him, “Mom’s too busy.”

As Ellie set him gently down, she could have sworn his eyes moved toward the left motioning toward her red and blue table and chairs set.

“Oh Lion, you always make things all better!” she said excitedly knowing exactly what he meant.  She ran over to her toy box and started digging.  She came up with her beloved and magical teapot and one cup.   “Hmmmm… now I know the other one is around here somewhere…”

She pulled out one of her handbags and dumped its contents on the floor.  There was a hairbrush, her pretend lipstick, a plastic apple, three small ponies, and a toy car that were now sprawled all over her carpet.  Ellie quizzically peered back into the orange bag, turned it over again, and thumped the bottom.  Out rolled the matching teacup.  “I knew it!  Come on Lion,” she said scooping him up by the paw.  She set him down on one of the blue chairs at her table. 

She realized then that she was missing her spoons, milk jug, and sugar pot.  She furrowed her brow and pinched her lips while she thought where they could be.  She jumped up and looked under her princess bed.  “Aha!  There they are!” she exclaimed as she pulled them out.

“Now Lion, for this adventure I want to wear my new tutu,” she said to him with her back turned as she opened her dresser drawer.  She threw shirts and pants over her head and behind her before she found what she was looking for.  She shimmied her hot pink tulle skirt over her black knit pants.  Then she saw her sunglasses sitting on her dresser and added them impulsively to her outfit.  “Perfect,” she said briefly looking at her reflection on her closet door mirror.  Her yellow shirt had dirt smudges from playing in her Mom’s flowers this morning and her pigtails were coming loose.  She shrugged and smoothed down her hair before turning her attention back to Lion.  She ignored the mess she created in the process of searching for her tea party necessities despite having to stop over mounds of clothes and toys to get back over to her table. 

After organizing two place settings, Ellie surveyed her work, “We are missing just one thing now!”  She went over and grabbed her water bottle from underneath her backpack and brought it over to the teapot.   

“Oh Lion, I can hardly wait!  Where do you think we will go next?  And who do you think we will meet on our next adventure?” she asked as she unscrewed the bottle and poured the water into the teapot.  She was so eager that some splashed out onto the table.  Ellie rubbed it dry with her sleeve.

And just as a hostess should, she tipped the teapot over Lion’s cup first.  Then she filled hers.  With a huge grin, she whispered the magic words, “Baooohhhaoooahaljaljljljafooj.”  Glitter and music swirled around Ellie and Lion and they were swept up above the table.  And within seconds, they landed in a very unfamiliar place.  Ellie was so happy to see Lion come alive and then she looked around and couldn’t believe her eyes….

“WOW!  This tall grass is…well… really TALL, Lion.  Do you think we are in some exotic country?” questioned a wide-eyed Ellie.

“I-I-I-I-I… don’t know El, but i-i-i-f we are, then there are dinosaurs here!  Look!” Lion stuttered as he pointed to a footprint 20 times the size of himself.  “Yikes, El!”  Lion now screamed as he looked up and saw a monster walking their way.  “Run, Hide, Do something!”

When Ellie saw the monster, she immediately realized where they were.  “Calm down Lion.  That’s not exactly a monster, it’s actually an Ant,” she answered quite factually.

“Huh?”  Lion purred.

“I think we’ve been shrunk down Lion, way down!  See… a dinosaur didn’t make this gigantic footprint, but rather it is that of a sneaker.  And if you look up, you can see a sliding board, and a swing set! Oh My Lion… we are at the Park!”  Exclaimed an excited Ellie.

But it wasn’t quite the time to jump up and down with glee as a very chubby, slow moving Ant followed by another Ant who seemed rather shy and another Ant who fidgeted incessantly was walking towards them.  They stopped when they got to Ellie and Lion.  “Hey… who are you?” asked the first Ant.

“I’m Ellie and this is my best friend Lion.  We’re here for an adventure,” she stated with her arms proudly crossed over her chest.

“Well, I’m Alfy and this here is Abner and Ajax,” replied the first Ant.  Skeeter wants to get a good game of ‘Scavenger Hunt’ going but we are having a hard time finding ants to play.  Most of them haven’t finished up their work at the ant farm yet.”

“Who’s Skeeter?”  Ellie asked as she looked around not seeing another ant.

“Skeeter is kind of our friend, well, as long as he wins whatever it is that we are playing.  Skeeter says that we had better come back with two more players, and if we don’t we have to forfeit the game and he automatically wins... again.  Skeeter never plays fair so we’ve been looking everywhere for someone to play.  Do you know how to play ‘Scavenger Hunt’ Ellie and Lion?”

“Sort of.  And if you want us to play with you, we will.  We love making new friends and playing fun games!  Just tell us what we need to do,” answered Ellie.

“OK.  Then follow us back to The Hill where Skeeter is waiting.  He’s always in charge you know, and will pick the teams and tell us the rules,” replied a much-relieved Alfy for finding the additional players.  And with that, they weaved their way through the tall grass finding The Hill about fifteen minutes later.

“Hey Skeeter!  I found two more players, but they aren’t ants.  Does it matter?”  Asked Alfy.

Skeeter came down off his mound and with a keen eye looked Ellie and Lion up and down.  “Humph,” he snorted, “They look like two misfits so they can be on your team Alfy.  Slugger, Slyguy, Speedy and Shortstop can be on my team.  Fair is fair.  And I say this is fair!  Any objections?”  He bellowed.

Abner quickly put his head down and Ajax whispered to Ellie not to say anything.  “Skeeter makes sure that he always wins so we just go along with him.  Besides, Alfy, Abner and I aren’t really very athletic,… or quick,… and we never lie to win.  We’re just really glad that we get picked for the same team every time because we don’t make fun of each other like the other ants do, and we never cheat either.  You seem really nice Ellie, and we would really like to have you and your friend Lion on our team, but I have to be honest with you and tell you that we never win.  So if you want to object, we would understand,” Ajax said kindly.

“No way!” Ellie whispered quietly and with a hint of boldness, “Lion and I love a good challenge!  Tell Skeeter the game is on!”

Ajax grabbed one of Abner’s hands to keep from fidgeting and drug him over to Skeeter, “State the rules Skeeter.  We’re ready to play!”

And with that Skeeter gave Speedy a nod.  Speedy quickly reached into his back pocket and pulled out a rolled up scroll.

 “Shortstop, come over here.  Pull down and hold the bottom of the rule chart in place while Speedy holds the top so that Skeeter can read it,” stated a cool Slyguy.

“Thanks Slyguy.  Good teamwork,” answered Skeeter, “Now listen up everyone.”

“Rules for Scavenger Hunt:

1.  Each team must find all 10 items below and they may not be taken from the same place.  The HONOR SYSTEM immediately goes into effect once the game starts.  All team members must stick together in finding each item.  No separating to find items quicker.

2.  The Reader of the Rules automatically becomes the captain of his team and gets to choose his favorite color for their name.  Since I am the Rule Reader, I choose Red since it is a hotshot color!

3.  The Reader of the Rules also gets to choose the captain of the opposing team and its color too.  Again, since I am the Rule Reader, I choose the new guy, Lion, to be the captain and I choose pink because it is a soft color like all of you!

4.   The items to find are: a red and white checkered table cloth, a blue button, a fried chicken bone, a yellow Frisbee, a white birds feather, a container of honey, a watermelon rind, a black and gold baseball cap, one of Gertie Garden’s shedded snakeskins, and a Band-Aid with a cartoon character on it.  

5.  Once the whistle blows, which by the way I get to blow, each team has exactly 1 hour to find all 10 items and bring them to The Hill.

6.  The winning team is decided by who gets back here first with all 10 items, which you all know is going to be my team, and we… I mean the winning team; will get a trophy and a sheet of really cool stickers!

Any questions?” glared an out of breath Skeeter, “Good.”  And without giving Lion’s team a chance to make a plan, Skeeter blew the whistle and waved 2 of his left arms over his head for his team to follow him.  “March Red Team, March!” he hollered as they disappeared into the tall grass and out of sight…..

We love you Ellie!  Next week, we will find out which team finds the first items!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, April 6, 2012

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

Dear Ellie Bean,

It’s almost Easter and we have been preparing by dying Easter eggs and visiting the Easter Bunny (and you refused to wear your beautiful dress)!

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 6

Ellie and Lion raced after Zoe.  It wasn’t long before they caught up to her as she was walking very slowly with her stripeless head down. 

“Go away,” Zoe said glumly hearing Ellie and Lion approach.  Ellie could see a tear run down Zoe’s cheek.

“But Zoe, all of your friends want to celebrate you and your special day.  They don’t care that you don’t have stripes.  They went to a lot of trouble trying to make today important because they love you,” Ellie said compassionately.

“I don’t know why they love me right now.  I’m not very pretty without my stripes,” Zoe said as she stopped walking and sat on the curb’s edge outside of the Monkey Lair.

“Zoe, real friends don’t care about what’s on the outside. They care about what’s inside your heart,” Lion said pointing to his chest.

Zoe heaved a heavy sigh unconvinced.

“Who is your best friend in the whole world?” Ellie asked Zoe.

“Well, Mannie of course,” Zoe replied without even having to pause.

“And why do you like Mannie?” Ellie asked.

“He’s so funny,” Zoe replied, “He tells the best jokes.  He brings me soup when I’m sick.  He likes ice cream as much as me.  And he’s nice to everyone.”

“Hmmmm…,” said Ellie thoughtfully, “So you don’t like him because of his long tail or his perfectly round ears?”

“That’s silly, why would I like him because of the way he… Oh my,” Zoe said realizing her mistake, “I always thought that people liked me because of my beautiful coat.”

“Zoe, how do you want the other animals to see you?” Lion asked, “I bet it goes deeper than your stripes.”

Zoe started to cry again, “I want them to see me as a friend.  But I have a feeling that the other animals don’t like me at all.  I haven’t been very nice to them.  I acted like I was better than they were because of my stripes.  How can I show them that I am sorry?”

“You can start by going back to your party and appreciating the time and effort the animals spent in putting your celebration together,” Lion suggested.

“But more than just today Zoe, you can take the time with the other animals who are lonely or who need help or need a friend to listen.  Just giving a few minutes out of your day to care for others instead of yourself would mean a lot.  And you know when you would have time to do that?”  Ellie gently asked, “After all the children leave the zoo and instead of brushing your coat a hundred times, you could make time for someone else.” 

Zoe bit her lip.  She was embarrassed again but this time not because of her missing coat but because of the way she had acted.

“Let’s go back to the party,” Lion coaxed.

“Do you think there even is still a party?” Zoe asked, “I acted pretty badly.  I bet they all went home.”

“Nah,” Ellie replied waving her hand in the air, “Friends forgive Zoe and if I know Mannie, he is waiting for his best friend to return.”

They got off the curb and walked back into the Monkey Lair.  As they were walking, Lion asked Zoe to share her favorite joke of Mannie’s.

“Why did the monkey cross the road?” Zoe asked with a smile across her face.

Ellie and Lion looked at each other and shrugged, “We don’t know.”

“Because it was the chicken’s day off!” Zoe answered and fell over from laughing so hard.

The other animals heard Zoe’s contagious laughter not too far in the distance and came to join the fun. 

Zoe realized all the animals were staring at her then.

“I want to tell you all how sorry I am.  I behaved very badly and not just today but for a long time.  I want to be a better friend to you all like you have been to me.  I hope you can accept my apology,” Zoe said very genuinely.

Without any words, the animals showed their forgiveness and love for Zoe by giving her a big group hug.

“Zoe, you have the best laugh of any animal in the park.  Do you think you could share that joke so we can hear it too?” Benny the Bear asked.

And Zoe did.  Toucan Tillie repeated that joke for weeks later and every time one of the animals heard it as she flew by, they would fall into a fit of laughter!

“Are you ready for your party Zoe?” Manny asked.

Zoe smiled, “I don’t deserve it but I sure would like to go back and celebrate with all of my friends.”

“Hey Zoe, I kind of like you without your stripes,” Penny Penguin said, as they walked into the clearing “You look so unique and different than all the other zebras.”

“And even better,” added Gerry the Giraffe as Zoe blushed from the compliment, “Your true feelings come through much easier without your exterior coat.”

“OK Gerry, then I have to tell you that my ‘true feelings’ are dying for a piece of chocolate cake and some ice cream since I don’t have my coat to hide behind today.  And my ‘true feelings’ are saying I should go for the biggest piece of all and three large scoops to go with it!  I’ll worry about the added pounds tomorrow!” Zoe said while licking her lips.

All the animals laughed while Manny pulled Zoe into the center of the decorated area.   And on a count of three, they all sang Happy Birthday to her.  Even Zoe joined in and sang to herself!  As the song ended, Zoe thought of a wish, took in a deep breath and blew out all the birthday candles.  She was just about to cut the cake when Benny Bear stepped aside revealing another corner of the table.  On it was a large square box decorated with lots of colorful, curly ribbons and a fancy bow.

“Go ahead Zoe, open it.  It’s for you,” Manny said a bit shyly.

Not needing any more encouragement, she ripped open her gift and was in awe of the beautiful hat inside.  Pulling it out slowly, a genuine tear of love slid down Zoe’s cheek.  For it not only matched her striped coat but the tiara attached to the top showed Zoe that this wonderful group of animal friends still thought very highly of her.  Manny then disappeared for a moment behind the coconut tree and re-emerged with Zoe’s striped coat.  Placing it on her back where it truly belonged he told her to hold off cutting the cake for there was a game to play first.  He then announced to all that they would be playing a tweaked version of ‘Pin the Tail on the Zebra’.  Each animal would still be blindfolded, but instead of being given a tail, they would have a chance to ‘Place the Tierra on Zoe’.  Zoe loved the attention and the silliness of the game, especially when it was Toucan Tillie’s turn. Tillie chose to fly and drop Zoe’s hat from above.  But since she was blindfolded, she ended up crashing into the coconut tree, which knocked the hat out of her mouth landing it on Zoe’s rump instead of her head!  Tillie not only lost the game but a dozen or so feathers too!  What a wonderful evening it was turning out to be.  Throughout the party Zoe kept formulating her thoughts on how to write the most sincere apology for her behavior along with the perfect thank you for the best birthday celebration ever and their forever friendships.

Lion whispered to Ellie, “I think this is the perfect time to slip away.  Do you have the teapot and cups?”

“Yup, I do Lion.  And you’re going to like this! “ She smiled as she reached into her back pocket one last time for the box.   As she unfolded it, out popped the table.

“That is just the coolest El!” roared Lion.

“I think I slid the tea set into one of the deep drawers for safe keeping,” she exclaimed while rummaging through it, “Ah, here it is!  And it’s still filled with warm tea!  Here Lion.  You pour!”

As Lion tipped the teapot and poured the tea into their cups, musical sounds erupted while glitter and rainbows swirled all around the two lifting them up, up, up and away.  Within moments they found themselves sitting in Ellie’s living room at her table and chairs set again. 

Ellie’s Mommy was removing a small plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and an empty ice cream bowl from Ellie’s placemat.  She started telling Ellie that the storm looked as though it was going to pass and that maybe they could go to the zoo in about an hour when she quizzically looked at Ellie’s hair and Lion’s fur, “Ellie spaghetti, where on earth did all those colorful and exotic feathers in your hair come from?  And how did they get tangled into Lion’s fur too?   If I didn’t know any better I would say they kind of look like… like feathers from a Toucan,” she mumbled out loud as she scratched the top of her head with that perplexed look that always made Ellie giggle.

And then Ellie quickly interrupted her Mommy and excitedly asked permission to take Lion to the zoo also and could they see the Zebra’s exhibit first?

“Of course Ellie-bean.  What’s a trip to the zoo if you can’t take along your favorite stuffed jungle animal?  And if zebras are what you want to see, then zebras it shall be!” she sang as she took Ellie’s hand and pulled her away from the table, “Now let’s go upstairs and comb that beautiful messy hair of yours and see what we can do with all of these strange feathers!”

Ellie grabbed Lion quickly and as they climbed the stairs she whispered into his ear, “You are my best friend Lion!  Thank you for attending my tea party and coming along on the Zoo adventure!  I had so much fun with you!  Just don’t tell Mommy that we were already there today.  She might change her mind and not take us for a second visit!”

“What’s that Ellie?” asked her Mommy.

“Oh nothing.” Answered Ellie.  “I was just going to ask Lion if we could have another tea party tomorrow.”   Then she turned Lion to face her and looked into his eyes where she was pretty sure he nodded his head yes while giving her a wink filled with love.

“Till next time Lion….”

We love you Ellie!  Next week, we will begin a new storyline with another Teapot adventure with Ellie and Lion!
Mom & Mimi