Friday, May 25, 2012

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

Dear Sweet Pea,

You have been making spring time so much fun!  We spend hours outside…

and when we finally come inside, you are completely drained!

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

So as for our weekly guidelines… we need to be honest.  We have stuck to most of the rules except the time limit.  We are having so much writing these fictional pieces that your Mimi and I have gone way past our 45 and 90 minute allotments!  So from now on, we will write until we want to stop- no time clock (although I don’t think we ever honored it anyway!).  So here are the revised rules: 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.  We also need 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 before we continue our story, I wanted to share a picture of you and Lion (it warms my heart that you love Kyle's stuffed animal so much.  I feel like you have such a connection with your brother even though you never met him).  Just like in the story your Mimi and I are writing to you, you really do go on adventures with Lion as he comes most places with us!

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Park Part 7

“March Red Team, ah never mind, make that RUN!” bossed Skeeter.

“Where are we running to?” asked a confused Slyguy.

They heard another crack of a bat in the near distance and Slugger knew exactly where they were headed as he struggled to keep up with Skeeter’s sprinting pace.

“The gold and black baseball cap!” Shortstop exclaimed as he too caught on.

Speedy nodded that he understood too but couldn’t form any words as he was panting for air as they raced toward the baseball diamond.  Sweat dripped off of him and he couldn’t help but wish that he were on the Pink Team having more fun.

Slugger looked over knowingly and gave him an encouraging wink. 

Fortunately the baseball diamond wasn’t far (The Hill was right behind center field).  But within minutes of approaching the backstop, the ants came to a screeching halt as they took in all of the spectators upon their arrival.  There were people everywhere- parents in the stands cheering, players in the dugout waiting their turn, and then all the players in the field standing at attention. 

Speedy whispered, “You know I hate crowds of people Skeeter.”

“Don’t be a wimp Speedy, you won’t get trampled on if you watch where you are going.  And you don’t have to whisper.  Humans can’t hear you!” Skeeter scoffed.

Slyguy patted Speedy on the back, “Don’t worry Buddy, we’ll be out of here quick!”  And he gave him another wink.

Skeeter saw him and wondered what he was thinking, “You have an idea?”  His eyes trailed toward Slyguy’s gaze and they rested on the pitcher.  All of the ants already noticed on their run in that the players in the field were wearing gold and black caps.

“I think we should climb up to the pitcher’s head, tip off his hat as he pitches the ball to a strong hitter, and as the ball (with the hat attached) sails to the batter, he will hit the ball (and the hat) in the direction of The Hill which is behind centerfield,” Slyguy announced proudly.

“Hmmmm… not such a bad plan,” Skeeter said getting more excited as he thought about the possibilities.

“But how are we going to know who can hit that far?” Slugger asked.

“Well, I bet size has something to do with it,” Slyguy said as he set his sight on the batter warming up.

“Look who’s next,” pointed Shortstop seeing the huge teenager swinging his bat around in slow motion. 

“I think we have our man gentlemen!  But we need to get moving!  I think it will take three of us to maneuver the hat off the pitcher’s head.  Slyguy and Shortstop, you come with me.  Speedy and Slugger, you head off into centerfield and follow that ball and cap as it gets hit.  We’ll meet you where it lands,” Skeeter said as he took off toward the pitcher without allowing for questions. 

The other ants shrugged and did as they were told.  As Slyguy tried to dodge all the infielders on his way out to the center of the diamond, he muttered under his breath, “You’re so bossy Skeeter!”  At least that took his mind off of his fear of a lot of humans and being stepped on!

Just as Skeeter, Slyguy, and Shortstop got to the pitcher’s mound, they heard the umpire yell, “Strike two!”

“Hurry!  He only needs one more strike and our big batter will be up,” Skeeter yelled. 

They all scurried onto the pitcher’s metal cleats, up his gold socks, onto his striped baseball pants, up his black jersey, and then they stopped to make some decisions.  They chose to climb up the pitcher’s hair instead of up his face so he wouldn’t feel ticklish pricks and possibly wipe them off.  As they clung desperately to clumps of sweaty slippery hair, they heard the umpire yell, “Strike three, you’re outta here!  Next batter up!”

“Uh-oh!  Hurry,” Skeeter cried out.  They scrambled up and grabbed the edge of the cap.  They could see the giant batter coming to the plate and taking a practice swing.  The pitcher winded up but the ants weren’t in place yet.  Luckily, the batter let that one sail by him to see what kind of pitches the pitcher could throw.  “Strike one!” the umpire called out.

“Ok boys, now on the count of three, plant your legs against the pitcher’s head for leverage and push the hat forward.  Make sure it’s with enough force that it will flip over the pitcher’s head!” Skeeter shouted.

They could feel the pitcher winding up for his second pitch and Skeeter screamed, “ONE, TWO, THREE!”

The baseball cap fell forward, bounced off the bridge of the pitcher’s nose and landed onto the newly released ball that the pitcher had let go of.  The ball and the newly attached cap arched perfectly toward the batter who swung and made contact.  The ants heard the crack of the bat and the whistle of air as the ball (and hat) flew over their heads.  Skeeter didn’t give the ants time to bask in their success; instead he rushed them down and took off toward centerfield.

“I know we are going to beat the Pink Team on this one!” he sung out happily as he approached Speedy and Slugger who were now with the baseball cap.  They were all really proud of their accomplishment.  Not only was the hit a homerun, the ball (along with the cap) sailed out past centerfield right at the base of the Hill.

Skeeter just instructed his team to lift the hat up to make the climb up The Hill, the Pink Team whizzed by him with a container of…, “What the?  What is that?  That can’t be right!  That’s cheating!” yelled Skeeter dropping his part of the baseball cap. 

“Skeeter, forget about them!  Let’s just get this to the top of The Hill,” said a struggling Slugger who was now lifting twice as much since Skeeter let go.

Fortunately for the Red Team, Skeeter’s rage made him stronger and he lifted the hat easily and led his group to the top of The Hill where he confronted the Pink Team.  “You should all be disqualified!” he yelled at them. …..

“Disqualified? “ Shouted Alfy, “Skeeter, our container has Honey it!  Nowhere in the rules does it say that it has to be the drippy gooey sticky kind.  Just because we made it back to The Hill first doesn’t give you the right to accuse us of not playing fair!” Alfy continued.

“That’s right Skeeter.  Each team still has four more items to scavenge.  It looks like it’s going to be a closer race than you expected, so don’t be a poor sport!”  Ajax anxiously added, “We found this container fair and square…. well, actually plastic and round would be a better description, but still…!”

And they did.  Fair and square that is.   When the Pink Team first started out, they were pretty sure the chicken bone would be their next easiest item to find.  So they had marched over to the pavilion but were quickly dismayed, as all the picnic tables were void of picnickers.  Even with antennas at full alert, not one of the three ants could pick up the scent of chicken anywhere within the parameters of the park.

Abner heaved a heavy sigh, “Now what are we going to do?  We’ve been doing great up till now!”

Lion looked at Ellie for an answer.  “El, any suggestions?”

“As a matter of fact yyyyyyyye…no,” she shrugged.

“Oh great,” Abner pouted, “This was the first time that Alfy, Ajax and I had the lead in a game against Skeeter and his boys.  And now we are going to lose, all because we can’t find a chicken bone!”

“Wait!”  Alfy interrupted,  “Why are we focusing on just the chicken bone?  Did everyone forget that we still have four other items to find besides that one?  Let’s worry about the chicken bone later.  Right now we have to change tactics!  Who’s got an idea?” he encouraged.

“Oh Alfy, you are brilliant!  How silly of us all to get fixated on this one item,” Ellie chimed in., “OK… let’s refocus and scout the area for other possibilities.” 

So they climbed to the highest point (which was the splintered picnic table) and each team member cupped their own hand and placed it over their own brow, searching the park grounds for other options.

“Look!  Over there!”  Ajax yelled as he pointed to the parks entrance.  A Mommy who was slinging an overflowing diaper bag on one arm, talking on a pink cell phone with the other hand and pushing a baby stroller with her hips while guiding it with her elbows was walking down the path straight towards them.

“It looks like the baby in the stroller is sound asleep… let’s wait to see if the Mommy is planning on coming to the pavilion to take a break.  It would be a lot easier on us if she does, then we don’t have to chase her all around the park to see if she has anything on our list to scavenge!” Lion stated excitedly.

And sure enough, the Mommy rolled the baby stroller right into the pavilion.  She eased it in between two picnics tables, plunked all her belongings down on one of the wooden tabletops, then sat down on the weathered bench as she continued to chat away on her cell phone oblivious to the five tiny members that were quietly descending upon her ‘stuff.’

As they rummaged in and about the stroller, Alfy came upon an interesting item that sat squarely in the middle of the food tray.  So he climbed up its side and peered over its edge, “Hey everybody, check this out!  A pool!  And it has oodles of floating rafts!  I’m hot…. Anybody care to take a dip with me?”  Ellie glanced over to see what Alfy was talking about, but before she could stop him he gracefully bounced off its ledge creating the perfect swan dive.  SPLASH, GURGLE, GURGLE, GURGLE…

Lion, Abner and Ajax came running when they heard all the ruckus and stood next to Ellie.  They all tried not to giggle but they couldn’t help themselves.   Alfy didn’t dive into a swimming pool of floating rafts but rather a tiny plastic bowl of soggy cereal in a quarter cup of milk!  And his chubby little body was snuggly centered in one of the many floating cheerios.  “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!  Help me! Help me!  I’m stuck!  Don’t let me drown!  Please! Uuuuuuuuuu… yum… yum, yum, yummy!  Oooooooooooo, everybody… this is scrumptious.  Come on!  Why don’t you all ump in and join me!” Alfy said between heavenly crunches and chews.

Just as Abner and Ajax were ready to take a dive, Lion and Ellie held them back.  “There’s no time for that.  We’ve got to stay focused on The Scavenger Hunt Game or we’re going to lose,” the two said in unison.

Then Ellie took control of the situation, “Alfy, kick your feet and paddle as fast as you can to this side. Abner, Ajax and Lion, on the count of three let’s jump up and down together with the hopes of creating the bowl to tilt and ridding it of its liquid so that Alfy can wiggle out of the cheerio and crawl out of the plastic container.  Ready…. One, two, three!”  Within moments, Alfy was standing next to the group.  Ellie’s plan worked.  “Now that the container is a lot lighter, everyone grab a side.  We need to heave it over the side of the baby stroller and hope that it stays upright with the few cheerios that are left in it.  Since the baby is still sleeping, when he wakes I don’t think he’ll notice nor care that the container holding his cereal is missing since most of its contents is all over the strollers tray.  He’ll have way more fun playing in that mess.  Trust me, I know!”  And with one heave together they threw the plastic container overboard not dropping any of its contents!

Abner was confused, “I don’t get it Ellie.  What good is a container of cheerios to us?  That’s not on the list.”

“Ahhhhhhhhh…. But what if those cheerios are ‘HONEY’nut cheerios?” purred Lion.

“You two are geniuses!” Praised a no longer shy Abner.

“No, actually Alfy is the genius for finding the cereal,” credited Ellie, “If he didn’t dive into it and need to be rescued, I would never have known that the cheerios were made of honeynut!  I smelled its sweet honey scent as soon as Alfy kicked up the bowl’s contents!”

“Well, it’s awfully nice to pat each other on the back but if we don’t stop talking and get this container out of here quick, we’re going to get caught.  Look, the Mommy is putting her cell phone down!”  Ajax commented nervously.

“El, by chance do you have another gadget hidden in that tutu of yours that will help us get out of here quickly?” prayed Lion.

Ellie flashed him a big bright white smile!  “As a matter of fact Lion I do!”  Right below the waistband of her pink tutu was a very small pocket.  She slid her right hand inside and quickly pulled out a tiny flat metallic oval shaped rock.  With three slaps to the heel of her foot, the miniature object expanded lengthwise while four spinning wheels popped out of its bottom. 

“Cool!  A skateboard!” Lion roared with laughter.

“No time to ogle Lion.  Everybody, lift and put the container on the board’s middle section.  Then hop on and do as I do.”  Ellie directed while she took her place at the back of the skateboard.  With one foot planted firmly on the board Ellie used her other foot to push off of the ground propelling the skateboard into motion, “See… push, glide, push, glide.  Give it a try Pink Team, I know you can do it!” 

Lion, Alfy, Abner and Ajax got the hang of it right away.  With everyone in sync, they sped off towards The Hill faster than lightening.  They also whizzed by the Red Team, beating them by only inches, to drop off their latest scavenged item; a container of honey… Honeynut Cheerios that is…

We love you Ellie!  More next week!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, May 18, 2012

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

Dear Ellie Bean,

Your Dad and I finally got to give you your birthday present... tickets to the Fresh Beat Band!  They came to Denver this past Saturday and we went as a family.  You loved every bit of the excitement.  You sang and danced along to the songs and you didn't want it to end.  Just from your smile, your Dad and I knew this was a great gift!

And one other milestone this past week… you learned how to play one of my favorite car games- I Spy!  I’m so glad you are such a social girl; I love your company (especially on our car rides!).

And it was Mother's Day this past Sunday (you got to skype with Mimi, you made me a beautiful hand-painted card with help from you Daddy, and your Mimi honored both you and Kyle with our new matching butterfly pj's).  Ellie, you make everyday so special for us!

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 6

Ellie was relieved that they were deep in the green blades of grass when they heard Skeeter's enraged and frustrated scream.  The ants on Ellie's team forewarned her of Skeeter's competitiveness before they began the game but frankly, she came to understand he was a bit of a sore loser too.  She shook her head and decided to focus on something more positive, like their next scavenger hunt item instead. 

 "Alright everyone, what should we get next?" Lion, the unofficial leader, asked his group.

The shy and very timid Abner, who was getting much more comfortable with the group, volunteered in a voice just above a whisper, "I think we would have luck if we find the band-aid with the cartoon character on it."

"That one seems kind of hard, doesn't it?" Alfy asked him with a perplexed and discouraged look that made his forehead scrunch up into wrinkles. 

Abner pointed ahead and Ajax looked in that direction and saw what he meant.  He started jumping up in excitement but ended up on his back after tripping over some of his legs.

Alfy reached down and gave Ajax a hand to turn him back over, "Good thing for your hard exterior Ajax, that was a tough fall!  But I still don't know what you mean.  I just see a girl picking wildflowers in the field."

Abner shook his head, "Look at her legs and arms!"

Ajax squinted his eyes to get a closer look, "Ohhhhh!" he shouted enthusiastically seeing the many bandages covering the girl’s limbs.  But then he shifted his mood, giving in to the worry he felt for the poor girl.  She must be just as clumsy as me, he thought to himself. 

Ellie recognized the girl from seeing her on the swings a few times in the past and she remembered her name to be Mary.  She also remembered Mary wearing just as many band-aids every time she saw her.  Curiosity got the best of Ellie and she asked Mary one day how she got hurt.  Mary laughed and said they were jewelry to her.  She thought the princess band-aids were pretty and liked to wear them as accessories.  She even pulled one off to show Ellie that there weren't any marks underneath.  Ellie shared her encounter with Mary to her team.  Ajax seemed relieved that Mary wasn't as bumbling as him. 

In an unspoken agreement, the Pink Team all ran off toward Mary who was now skipping toward a bunch of dandelions on their path.  As they got closer, they could hear singing 'You are My Sunshine.'  The melody was slightly off key but in a very pleasant way.  The ants felt she had a good heart and wouldn't step on them on purpose.  But the girl was so immersed in her song and task that she didn't see them.

"Mary NO!!!!  Look out Alfy!" screamed Ajax horrified as he saw the little girl lift her foot above his head as she began to tap to the offbeat of her song.  Abner ran quickly to his aid (as Alfy was stunned into a frozen position of fear) and pulled him out of her way.

"Thanks Friends," Alfy, who was now sweating out of nervousness, said to both Ajax and Abner, "If it weren't for you, I would have been squished!"  He wiped his brow and continued, "We're too small for her to hear us.  What should we do?"

They all turned to Ellie knowing that she had some sort of trick hiding in her pocket.  And she didn't let them down.  She reached into her skirt, pulled out her metallic box, hit it three times on her thigh, and it transformed into... a gigantic bright red megaphone!  Lion and the ants squealed in delight.

Ellie put it up to her lips and in a booming voice now, shouted up to the girl, "Hello Mary!  Your song is very pretty!"

The little girl, startled, shifted and looked around but she couldn't see anything.

"Down here!" Ellie yelled out into the megaphone making her voice boom into the air.

Mary looked down, jumped in surprise, and then smiled.  She scooped the Pink Team up into one of her hands and brought them close to her face.

"Ellie?" she asked amused and interested, "Is that you?  And is that your stuffed animal Lion?"

Ellie quickly explained to Mary what they were doing.  She didn't want to be rude but she didn't want to lose any of their precious time either. 

"So you see Mary, we need a band-aid with a cartoon character on it... we would very much like to borrow one of your beautiful accessories," she finished to Mary.

Mary giggled, "Of course I will help you and you don't have to borrow one of my band-aids.  I will give it to you.  My Mom has boxes of these at home.  She knows how much I love them.  But Ellie, you never introduced me to your ant friends."

Ellie blushed at her oversight.  She hadn't meant to make the ants feel left out; she merely wanted to get back to The Hill.  "Mary, this is handsome Alfy, shy Abner, and crazy Ajax."

"It's very nice to meet you all," she said lifting her pinky finger on her unoccupied hand to give them high fives, "Ajax, you seem to have a few cuts and bruises on your back."

Ajax reddened in his embarrassment, "I fell on my back on the way over.  I'm not very coordinated.  In fact, I'm just plain clumsy," he looked down at his feet glumly.

"Well, I think you need some of my cool band-aids to heal those up.  I bet you make your group have lots of fun because you don't take yourself too seriously." 

The Pink Team nodded in agreement as Mary set them back on the ground gently. 

"Ajax, you do have the most contagious laugh!" Abner belted out giving him a hug as Mary removed two of her band-aids on her left arm.  The first, she gave to Ellie who wore it as a cape since it was bigger than her (Lion picked up the bottom so it wouldn't drag on the ground).  And the other, Mary tore into small pieces and put the strips across Ajax's back. 

"Look how cool you look!" Abner said to Ajax admiring him.  Ajax beamed and felt so proud to be a part of such a supportive group.

"Well Mary, we have to get going.  I'll catch up with you at the park soon.  Thank you for all your help!" Ellie called up to her in her megaphone.

Mary blew them a kiss farewell, which acted like wind when she blew.  That blown kiss gave them a quick jolt that the Pink Team appreciated as it got them to their goal, The Hill, faster.  As they were halfway up the incline, they all slowed down in anticipation and dread thinking about what Skeeter's reaction would be like.

They didn't have to wait long because the Red Team came bolting up The Hill.  They were running…. No, make that rolling so fast that they barreled right into the Pink Team (who had no time to react in their haste), knocking them over like bowling pins.     
The Red Team's latest find along with all the members of the Red Time rolled all the way down The Hill in the mix-up.  That meant the Pink Team still had the lead.  Lion held his breath and his ears waiting for Skeeter to yell.  But Ellie, who was so glad that she wore the band-aid as a cape to keep it protected from being swept down in the confusion, didn't wait.  Instead, she stood up and bounded up the rest of the way to the top of the hill to deposit her team's most recent treasure…

Right after the chicken bone find and Skeeter’s angry outburst in the realization that the Pink Team was ahead once again, the Red Team didn’t waste any time in leaving The Hill for their next item to scavenge.  Stopping for just a moment, Skeeter turned to the group with his hands on his slightly bulging tummy, “Alright guys, we have just feasted on a delectable chicken bone.  Now that our bellies are full, I want everyone’s complete focus to be on winning and nothing else!  Got it?”  He commanded.  They all nodded.

As Skeeter was just about ready to turn and march on again, Slyguy stopped him and exclaimed excitedly, “Well Skeeter, it looks like you… I mean ‘we’ are in luck!” as he pointed upwards.  The Red Team followed the direction of his finger.  About 10 feet in front of them stood a black wrought iron park bench, and an old woman eating what looked to be like a peanut butter sandwich sitting on its metal seat.

Shortstop didn’t understand, “Luck?  What kind of luck is that old woman going to bring us?  We don’t need to scavenge a peanut butter sandwich… that’s not on the list.”

“Ahhhhhhh… but the blue button on her sweater is!”  Slyguy beamed.

“Great observation Slyguy!” Skeeter complimented.  But with further study of the button he then added, “Ummmmmmmm… since the old woman is wearing it, does anyone have a plan as to how we can take it?”

The group looked at the button, then at the sweater, then at the old woman and then back at the button and in unison answered, “Hmmmmmmmmmmm.”

“Not a good enough answer guys.  We need a plan and we need one now!” Skeeter barked.

“Well…” fumbled Slugger, “What if we crawl up her pant leg, then on to her sweater and see if we can loosen the thread that holds it?  If we accomplish that feat, a couple of us can run back down her pant leg and be ready to catch the button when the rest of our group drops it?  Once we are all back on solid ground together, we can march the button back to The Hill which is not too far away?”

Liking the idea, Skeeter shouted out, “Brilliant plan!  Let’s do it!”   And off they marched.

Once they reached the old woman’s shoe, Speedy latched on to its bottom and hoisted himself up first.  Stepping to the side, Shortstop, Slugger, Slyguy and Skeeter followed suit.  Staying in a straight line the Red Team slowly crept up the outside of the old woman’s pant leg.  When they got to her waist, one by one they transferred their footing to the soft fuzzy blue sweater.  Just shy of reaching the first button, Speedy stopped suddenly forcing the rest of the group to pile on to one another.  They all held their breath as the old woman finished a bite and cast her eyes downward while returning the peanut butter sandwich to her lap.  Too late.  She immediately noticed the mound of black ants near the bottom of her sweater before they could disburse.  With a loud scream, she dropped her sandwich as she jumped up from the bench and with one quick motion she ripped off her sweater without unbuttoning it!

“Everyone… grab hold of the button and hang on!” yelled Speedy.  And they did.  Luckily for them, a smidgeon of the peanut butter had settled onto the button helping the helpless ants take a firm hold.  For the old woman had not only ripped her sweater off, but frantically started to swing it in circles around her head trying to rid her clothing of the creepy crawly ants!  As she swung it around and around, the last button, which was only attached by a single thread after all, unraveled and flew off with the five screaming ants clinging to it for dear life.  As it sailed through the air, Skeeter took the moment to assess the situation.  

“Guys, can you believe this?” he hollered out trying to keep his voice an octave higher than the winds that carried them, “What has started out to be a scavenger nightmare has worked in our favor!”

“Are you crazy Skeeter?” screamed Shortstop.  “How so?” he added while thinking Skeeter lost his mind.

“No I’m not crazy!  Look at the direction we are traveling! Lucky for us, the button’s flight is following a direct path back to The Hill!  We are finally going to beat the Pink Team in retrieving an item and getting it there first!  Yipeeeeeeeeeeee!” he squealed.

But what Skeeter didn’t take into consideration was that the sailing button showed no sign of losing momentum and dropping to the ground anytime soon.

“Skeeter, this button trip is like being on a constant merry-go-round and if it doesn’t stop soon I think I am going to be sick!” whined Slugger.  “Do something!”
But Skeeter was at a loss.

However Slyguy had an idea.  “Everybody throw your body weight to the right side of the button and let your feet dangle over the edge.  I think the tipped angle should slow down the speed of the button and bring it quickly to earth where our feet will be ready and in position to run it the rest of the way,” Slyguy smugly added.

It seemed to make perfect sense to the rest of the Red Team.  On Slyguy’s count of three, they all leaned to the right and let their feet dangle freely.  Sure enough the button took on a perpendicular position and dropped to the ground quickly.  However it landed on a sloping mound of dirt, which started the button on a new course…a perpetual roll.  Not realizing how sticky the peanut butter actually was, the five ants could not free themselves from the gooey substance fast enough.  As the button rolled, so did each ant.  Around, squash, squash, squash, squash, and squash…. Around, squash, squash, squash, squash, and squash…. Around, squash, squash, squash, squash, and squash.  As The Hill approached, the group hoped beyond hope that the button would come to a screeching halt and fall over where they would be free at last.  But that dream quickly disappeared as The Hill came and The Hill went (and they smashed right through the Pink Team in the process).

“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” was all that Skeeter could muster as he eyed Ellie, Lion and the rest of the Pink Team making a mad dash to deposit their latest scavenged item to their pile.  Slyguy, Slugger, Speedy and Shortstop followed his gaze each secretly wishing they were on Ellie and Lion’s Pink Team.  Unable to take their eyes off of them, neither Skeeter nor the rest of the Red Team saw the large stone that lay up ahead on the blue buttons path.   CRASH!  The button slammed into it and quickly fell over lying perfectly still on the sandy path along with five very disoriented ants.

Of course it was Skeeter who wouldn’t adhere to defeat, “Get up boys and get up quickly!  There’s no time to waste.  The Pink Team is only steps ahead of us… so everybody grab the edge of the button and let’s deposit it on The Hill… NOW!  MOVE IT!”

Startled by the harshness of Skeeter’s voice, the Red Team wasted no time licking off the last of the peanut butter from the tips of their fingers and carried the button back to where the rest of their scavenged items lay.  Coming face to face with Ellie, Lion, Alfy, Abner and Ajax, Skeeter icily whispered to them, “You haven’t won yet, and you aren’t going to either.  Just remember that!”  Not one to give up (and with narrowed eyes), Skeeter nodded to his team to fall in line behind him.  Then in the not so far off distance, he heard the crack of a bat and knew exactly what item his Red Team would scavenge next…

Until next week!  We love you Ellie!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, May 11, 2012

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

Hi Ellie Belle!

You have always been a very strong-willed girl but I'm hearing you voice it more these days.  "Do it myself" and "not yet" are daily words you say.  I so hope that you keep your resolute ways (of course in a very mannerly way) and become a leader.  Your determined and persistent demeanor amazes me.  You are going places my sweet but very firm daughter!  Here are a couple instances of you "doing it yourself!"

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 5

 The Red Team left The Hill and the Pink Team behind.  Skeeter was stomping and steam was practically coming out of his antennae as he thought about the Pink Team winning. 

"Uhhhh Skeeter?" Slugger gently probed him out of thought, "What do you think we should find next?"

Skeeter stopped in his tracks and his belly growled loudly with hunger pangs, "I think we should find the fried chicken bone!" 

The five ants looked at each other.  "Well, does anyone know where we can find one?" Slyguy asked the group.

"Yesterday, I passed by a birthday party for a five year old girl underneath the pavilion.  Before they had their strawberry cupcakes, I saw a big carton of fried chicken on the picnic benches that they were eating for lunch," started Shortstop, "Maybe they left some behind?"

"Way to be observant Shortstop!  Yes!  Now, let's go!" Skeeter called as he was already running ahead toward the pavilion.

The other ants struggled to keep his fast pace.  Luckily, the pavilion wasn't far and when they reached it, they split up trying to find any signs of a discarded chicken bone.  There were six picnic tables set up in two rows of three.  Each table had two balloons tethered to the end.  Skeeter climbed up to the top of a purple balloon on the first table to get a better view of the area.  The other ants moved around every inch of the tabletops and below on the ground.  Their antennae were on high alert but they all met back in the middle empty handed. 

Skeeter was starting to panic at the thought of losing again.  Speedy noticed Skeeter's escalating emotion so he tried to calm him down, "Now, let's be rational.  A family wouldn't take home a container filled with fried chicken bones.  That's trash to most humans.  The bones have to be here somewhere!"

All of their eyes focused on the round black trash bin that stood in the middle of the picnic benches.  They all sprinted toward it and began climbing.  When they reached the top, they peered down.  There, underneath the pink cupcake wrappers was a full bucket of chicken bones. 

"Yahoo!" Slyguy exclaimed excitedly at the sight.

Skeeter glared at him, "And how do you expect us to get that?  You need to think Slyguy!"

Slyguy sniffled trying to hide his hurt feelings.  Slugger came to the rescue, "Slyguy's right, Skeeter.  We should get excited.  We just need to lift one chicken bone out and float it over to The Hill."  He winked as he turned his gaze toward the very purple balloon that Skeeter was perched on moments ago.  

Skeeter became the bossy leader once more, "Alright, Slyguy and Slugger, you stay here on the rim and be ready to steady the balloon down into the trashcan.  Shortstop, you climb in and get ready to tie the balloon string to the chicken bone.  Speedy, you come with me and help me to untie and fly the balloon over.  Let's go!"

Skeeter and Speedy crawled out of the trashcan and scrambled up the picnic table leg.  Before Skeeter untied the knotted balloon string, he told Speedy to climb to the top of the balloon.  He knew it needed some weight otherwise it would fly high in the sky. 

"We have lift-off!" Skeeter yelled warning the ants in the trashcan to be ready.

As the balloon was released it lurched forward and Speedy slipped off the front side.  Luckily his ant feet were padded and equipped to climb sideways.  But Skeeter realized quickly, there wasn't enough weight.  If Skeeter didn't help him soon, Speedy would be taken off into the sky.  Skeeter acted quickly and jumped onto the balloon string that was almost out of his reach.  He quickly inched his way up the string and helped Speedy back up to the top.  With the two of them there now, the balloon dropped down enough under their weight.  They glided it toward the trashcan where Slyguy and Slugger grabbed the string.  Once everyone was balanced, Slyguy and Slugger jumped into the trashcan with the balloon and landed in a cupcake wrapper that was lined with pink icing. 

"Are you guys ok?" Slyguy called up to Speedy as he licked his pink-caked arms clean of the sweetness.

"Yup, don't worry about us.  We just want to win.  Hurry up and tie the bone to the string Shortstop!  As soon as he does, Slyguy and Slugger let go and let us fly toward The Hill!"  And then realizing he needed someone to catch them once they reached The Hill, he added, "Slyguy, Slugger, and Shortstop, run as fast as you can to keep up with us so you can untie the bone and get us down when we get to The Hill!"

They all did as they were told only although probably not as fast as Skeeter wanted them to move.

Before long, Skeeter and Speedy were soaring toward The Hill. The other three ants ran underneath them as fast as they could to stay with the balloon but it became more difficult as they climbed the incline.  "Hurry!" Skeeter yelled to them.

Just as the balloon was almost over the hill, the three ants jumped onto the chicken bone and stopped it from moving any further.

"On the count of three, untie the bone and we'll jump off," Skeeter bellowed down, "One, two, three!"

Skeeter and Speedy landed on the fried chicken bone and both started eating the leftover fried skin hungrily in their excitement.  It wasn't long before Skeeter looked up with his greasy chin and saw that the Pink Team had already left their latest item.

"Ahhhhh!" he screamed angrily hoping that the Pink Team could hear him wherever they were...

“Ellie, I think Skeeter is getting pretty frustrated.  I also think he is regretting that you and Lion are on our team.  You know, if it weren’t for both of you showing up when you did, we wouldn’t be winning this game.  In fact, Abner, Ajax and myself would probably still be looking for the first item and tripping over everything to find it!  So thanks!  But I’m still a little worried about Skeeter because he’s never lost a competition.  In fact, he’s never played against a team that he couldn’t beat,” Alfy said a bit nervously.

“Alfy, stop worrying.  You must put those thoughts out of your mind right now because we are still a good ways off from winning the Scavenger Hunt so let’s just concentrate on what item we should look for next.  Does anyone have any ideas?”  Ellie questioned.

Ajax answered nervously, “Well if you ask me, I think we’ve found all the easy items so from here on out, it’s only going to get harder.”

“Come on Ajax.  Don’t turn into a pessimist now…  Think!” responded Abner with a bit more courage than he normally had.

Taken aback, Ajax sat staring at Abner impressed that he was finally stepping out of his shy comfort zone when something caught his eye right above Abner’s left shoulder,  “Guys, look!  Dolly Dove must be on her way home.  I bet she can provide us with our next scavenger item… the white feather… although hers look kind of dirty!”  Ajax’s tune changed from doubt to excitement to hesitation.

Lion, following Ajax’s gaze and also seeing Dolly Dove took charge of his team and roared out, “Alright then.  Let’s go check it out.  Who can lead the way to Dolly’s nest?”

“I can Lion!”  Stated Abner with greater confidence,  “Follow me!”   So they each stepped behind him as he marched in the direction of the great Weeping Willow Tree.

As they neared the tree and Dolly’s nest, all the team members heard a faint crying.  “Waaaa, waaaa, waaaaaaaaaaa.”  Somewhat perplexed, the group looked at each other.  Then Lion voiced his thought out loud, “Oh my.  I think the Willow Tree is sad for it sounds like it is weeping.  Can that really be?”

The rest of the group shrugged their shoulders and slowed their pace, tip-toeing to the tree’s base.  “Listen,” Lion whispered.  And they heard it again.  “Waaaa, waaaa, waaaaaaaaaa.”

It was Ellie who realized that it was not the tree weeping at all, but rather Dolly who was nesting high in the tree and crying softly.  So Ellie, using her sweetest voice called up to her, “Dolly Dove… why are you sad?  Come down from your perch and talk with us.  We are your friends.  Please let us try to cheer you up.”  And then they waited.

She appeared within moments.  “Why do you care about me and if I am sad or not?”  Dolly sniffled, “I do not understand.  It is not like you are my best friends or a family member for that matter.  So why do you care?”

It was Alfy who answered first, “Because you are someone important.  You are here for a reason.  Dolly… look at me.  As you can see I am a bit overweight.  And the other ants used to tease me about it.  For a long time it hurt my feelings and I would cry.  But then I met Abner and Ajax here,” he continued while pointing to his friends, “They never made fun of me.  To make a long story short, they listened to me, talked with me, played with me, and now we are the best of friends.  Ellie and Lion here are like that too.  Please tell us what is wrong so that we can help you.”

Seeing the sincerity in Alfy’s eyes and hearing the kindness in his voice, she broke down and told the Pink Team her woes, “No matter where I go, the Bluejay’s, the Goldfinches, the Cardinals, and all the other birds always pretend not to see me.  They treat me like a ‘Plain Jane.’  My feathers are so drab, the color is dull and I look like I’ve been swimming in an oil slick.  I am not pretty at all, and I don’t think anyone likes me because of the way I look,” she tearfully cried.

Alfy answered her with compassion, “Dolly, the other birds shouldn’t be judging your outer appearance… they should be looking much deeper, like… at your character.  Instead of flying away, make them see you for who you really are.  Before you know it, you will have lots of friends.”

And then Ellie was quick to add a bonus.  Loving that tutu skirt of hers, she rummaged around until she found another hidden pocket. Reaching inside, she pulled out a tiny green velvet box with a handle and latch.   Giving it three slaps on her knee, it grew to the size of a breadbox and popped open revealing equipment used by hairdressers.  The group including Dolly took a closer look inside the kit and saw a blow dryer, curling iron, brush and comb set.  Attached to its lid was a bottle of water, shampoo and conditioner.  Again Lions eyebrows peeked as Ellie and her hidden gadgets continued to enthrall him.

Ellie singled out Dolly and told her to think long and hard about what Alfy had to say because his words rang true.   She then told Dolly that she would give her a complete makeover, as it would certainly be a confidence booster.  So she had Dolly bend her head down while the trio of ants watered her feathers.  Lion squeezed on the shampoo and scrubbed brusquely creating a rich lather.  The ants rinsed off her feathers so that Lion could then add the conditioner.  Next Ellie combed through its tangled mess so the ants could rinse off her feathers once again.  Feeling squeaky clean, Dolly was anxious to see what Ellie would do next.  So Ellie pulled out the blow dryer and with a round brush, she styled Dolly’s hair to look like a movie star “doo.”  Only twice did Ellie hit a difficult ‘feather’ knot that resulted in one feather falling loose.

Stepping back and looking at Dolly from head to toe, Lion, Alfy, Abner and Ajax were in awe of Ellie’s talents.  Seeing their reaction, Dolly herself quickly grabbed the mirror.  What she saw made her coo with happiness, for Ellie made Dolly’s outer beauty look like that of a queen.  Grateful for their kindness and words of wisdom, Dolly asked the Pink Team how could she repay them.  An anxious Ajax replied, “Dolly, we are playing a scavenger hunt game with friends and we need to collect a white feather.  Would you mind if we took the feather that Ellie accidentally pulled out while blow-drying and creating your new look?”

“That is all you ask for?”  Dolly questioned with surprise, “I would be happy to help you out.  Of course…take my feather if it will help your team win the game.  I shall never forget this day and how five new friends came into my life.  Thank you.  But I must fly now as I have many birds to see.”

“That’s ok Dolly,” Ellie smiled, “Lion, Alfy, Abner, Ajax and I have got to run too.  We’ve got to make it back to The Hill before the Red Team.” 

And with a wave they all yelled out,  “Bye Dolly!  See you around!” and ran off.  Every time Alfy slowed down from being out of breath, Abner would grab his hand and pull him along.  Then Ajax would grab Abner’s hand, Lion would grab Ajax’s hand and Ellie would grab Lion’s hand as they marched forward.  As they approached The Hill she turned and winked, “I really do think we make a good team guys.”  Setting the feather down on their pile of items, they didn’t hesitate to retreat quickly.  And it was a good thing too.  As the Pink Team   disappeared into the tall grass, a familiar sound stopped them for a moment where they stood frozen in their tracks.  The Red Team must have returned to The Hill and saw the feather because what came next was Skeeter’s angry and blood curdling scream!

We love you Ellie… until next week!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ellie and the Magic Teapot Off to the Park: May Blog 1- Letters from Mom & Mimi

You love to make people laugh (especially with your sock puppets)!

Mimi and Poppy (along with Ryan and Sammy) still include us during family time even though we are so far away (you love every second... can't you tell by the giant smile on your face?!

Dear Silly Spaghetti,

Happy May Sweet Girl.  Isn’t spring the best time of the year?  Longer days, warmer weather, cool breezes, barbeques, baseball games, lilacs, and cherry blossoms and of course your favorite- more time at the park (where you show off your own outfit choices)!

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 4

Lion’s eyes gleamed as he looked at his group…

“The yellow Frisbee!” shouted Abner excitedly.

Ellie smiled at the realization.  They had all spotted her neighbor’s black Labrador retriever named Nittany.  She was playing with a yellow Frisbee on their way back from Ellie’s house to The Hill.  Ellie loved that dog.  Nittany was always so friendly, she greeted Ellie with a lick on her wrist when she got off the school bus everyday as she passed her neighbor’s yard before reaching her own.  But just then Ellie became a bit apprehensive as she wondered what Nittany would think of her now that she was tiny.  She hoped the dog wouldn’t confuse her with a chew toy, Ellie mused thinking about the rubber chicken that Nittany would gnaw on throughout the day.   

“Ellie!  Earth to Ellie!  Help us think of ideas to get the Frisbee away from the dog,” yelled Ajax trying to get Ellie’s attention.  But as he jumped in the air on his final call to her, he landed in a small dip in the ground and tumbled forward.

Abner giggled and supported his friend, “Way to go!  You almost did a perfect summersault!”

At that moment, the Pink Team saw the Red Team in the distance on top of The Hill carrying a bright red sock.  Abner hoped that they weren’t spotted, as Skeeter was a sore sport when he was losing.  Alfy was thinking the same thing as he licked his fingers clean after tasting the delicious watermelon that the Red Team had left on The Hill before the Pink Team deposited their second coveted item, the baseball hat.

“Alright, we are still ahead but the Red Team isn’t far behind.  They just dropped off their second item,” Lion said redirecting and focusing his team, “Ellie, you know Nittany well.  Even though you’re small, I know he’ll recognize your smell.  Let’s head over to the field where he is playing and see how it goes.” 

The Pink Team nodded in agreement and started marching to the green open space.  Ellie’s nervousness made her very quiet for the duration of the short trip.

As they approached the field, Ellie noticed that Nittany’s owner was reading quietly on a bench that surrounded the circular field.  Every time Nittany would bring over the Frisbee, she would throw it as far as she could to buy herself some alone time to continue her book.  This could work to their advantage, Ellie thought as long as Nittany knew who she was...

As the Pink Team got nearer to the bench where Nittany was rehydrating from a water dish her owner brought with her, Nittany turned in their direction and started sniffing.  Then, with a very confused look and cocked brow, she started barking.  The yellow Frisbee was at her owner’s feet. 

Ellie knew exactly what was happening.  She knew that Nittany could smell her and Nittany expected to see Ellie at her full height.  Ellie started laughing (because who would believe that Ellie was as tiny as an ant!) and as soon as she did, Nittany (with her super sonic hearing) walked over briskly with her nose in the ground sniffing.

“Aghhhh!” the ants yelled in unison as the dog’s face came through the grass blades.

Lion had an idea, “Grab hold of her whiskers!” he shouted. 

And as they did, the dog started going crazy.  Nittany wasn’t sure what was going on and started shaking her head fiercely back and forth.  Nittany’s owner thought that this was the sign to throw the yellow Frisbee.  As soon as she let the disc go, Nittany forgot about the Pink Team in her whiskers and took off at an astonishingly fast pace to retrieve the disc in the distance.

“Hold on!!!” screamed Abner grasping at the hair.  Lion was right below him and could feel his hands slipping as the black whisker was very smooth.  Ellie, on the other side of Nittany’s nose could see him struggling so she took one hand off to dig around in her skirt pocket.  As she held on tight with the other hand, Ellie pulled out the small metallic box.  She slapped it three times on her hip and it became a rope ladder before her eyes. 

“Hop on!” she instructed Lion as she threw it in his direction.

Lion did as he was told because he was just one millimeter away from falling to the ground and being run over by at least two of the four legs of the cruising Nittany. 

Ajax was above Ellie and could see her struggling to hold on with one hand and now holding the ladder with Lion attached to it in the other.  He jumped two whiskers over and with the help of Alfy, he used one of his hands to help hold onto Lion’s ladder to lighten the weight that Ellie was carrying.

Within seconds the dog came to a screeching halt making the Pink Team sway into each other but luckily all were still holding on.  It was at that moment that Nittany shook her head (after drinking all that water just minutes before at her owner’s feet).  Not only were the members of the Pink Team being shaken violently from side to side but drool and water droplets were drenching them from head to toe. 

“Yuck,” Alfy yelped wiping the goo from his eyes.

The Pink Team was not only feeling disgusting but pretty defeated, and Ellie knew she had to take charge to raise their spirits.

She jumped down.  “Nittany!” she shouted up at the dog.

Nittany angled her head to the right curiously looking at small Ellie.

“Will you help us with our scavenger game?” she asked bravely, “We need to borrow your Frisbee.”  She looked around and noticed an old beat-up tennis ball about a foot away.  Gesturing toward it, she asked, “Can we trade you toys for a few hours good friend?”

She knew Nittany could never pass up a ball.  “But Nittany, could you please help us to deliver the Frisbee to The Hill first?”

Nittany nodded her silky dark head and bent closer to pick Ellie up.  Ellie paused for a moment and Ellie realized that the dog was giving her team time to climb aboard her back for a safer transport.  When everyone was ready to go, Ellie patted the big dog gently giving her the okay to move forward.

Nittany gingerly picked up the yellow disc and this time instead of galloping, she took even strides to make for a less bumpy trip.  They reached The Hill quickly, and once again, the Pink Team realized the Red Team hadn’t delivered its third item. 

“We’re still winning!” observed a surprised and excited Abner.

Nittany was anxious to get back to that muddy green tennis ball, so after a quick thank you from the group, she sprinted toward her new target.  Her drool rained upon the group, once more as she jetted off.  But this time, they didn’t care.  They were ahead, until…

They heard Skeeter’s loud, bossy voice climbing the hill, “… and never mention this incident again!  I bet we beat the Pink Team this time!”

And before either team knew it, they were once again face-to-face.  And Skeeter’s face was as red as a tomato that is if you could see it underneath all the mud!

“How did you get here so fast?”  Skeeter angrily questioned the Pink Team.  “We finally retrieved an easy item and you still beat us to The Hill.  You guys had better not be cheating, because if you are, I’ll find out!”  He continued.  Then Skeeter eyed each member of the Pink Team suspiciously for a minute or two waiting for one of them to admit guilt, but that didn’t happen.  “Humph!” he huffed and turned his back to them. Now facing his own team, Skeeter called to them, “Let’s go Red Team!  We’ve got more items to find!”

Still a bit anxious, Slyguy, Slugger, Speedy and Shortstop followed their leader.  Retrieving one of Garden Gertie’s many snakeskin’s proved not to be so difficult after all, but knowing Gertie and how she would have loved to have had them for lunch, and not as her guests but rather her entrĂ©e, made each of them shudder.  The Red Team’s original plan was to go scavenge a blue button but they came upon Garden Gertie’s home first.  And of course, Skeeter who is always looking for a quick and easy way to win a game immediately changed their plan.

“Hey guys, look over here!  I think Garden Gertie has taken up new residence by the jagged rock.  I wonder if she got evicted from the last place she was living in,” said a bewildered Skeeter.

“Who cares?  If you ask me Skeeter, Gertie’s new living quarters are way too close to The Hill!  She will have a feast day with all of us!  Do I have to remind you that snakes enjoy tasty hors-dourves… their favorite being Ant hors-dourves??????  Do I also have to remind you of that time last year when she conned Slyguy and almost…. you know.”  Slugger couldn’t finish his sentence without shivering.  

Slyguy certainly remembered and looking back, he was now embarrassed from his carelessness.  Gertie was very clever, especially that day.  Watching from her doorway, she knew he had been at the ball diamond for a couple of hours waiting for his friends to come out and play baseball.  She also knew that the lunch hour had come and gone and he was probably getting very hungry.  Apparently she was too.  So she slithered out of her home, which was close to first base, and offered him a yummy chunk of granola.  Sure enough, Slyguy was famished for he hadn’t eaten anything since early that morning.  He also hadn’t eaten anything nearly as delicious as granola in months, so without thinking he graciously accepted her invite and walked towards her.  Quick to offer the use of her utensils, Gertie offered him her forked tongue. Slyguy went to reach for it but luckily Speedy had come out to play and saw what was happening.  Racing over to his friend, Speedy grabbed Slyguy by the arm and pulled him out of Gertie’s grasp just as she was about to gobble him up!  Eeeeeeeeek!  That thought still gives Slyguy nightmares!

Skeeter smiled as he spoke, “Guys, listen up.  If Gertie has just moved in, then she is probably still unpacking boxes.  She is a pretty vain snake so my guess would be that she has brought with her loads of boxes filled with all her fashionable snakeskin attire.  Sooooooooooo….. anybody have a plan as to how we can get in there and retrieve one of those outfits without getting caught?”

The other four ants looked at Skeeter in disbelief.   They thought he was crazy but also knew he was determined to win the game and wouldn’t budge until someone came up with an idea.  So Slugger raised his hand.

Skeeter nodded, “Go ahead Slugger.  What’s your idea?”

“Well… what if you tell her that you’ll show her around the neighborhood and that you know where she can get gorgeous headpiece accessories, particularly butterfly barrettes?  Then when she follows you, the rest of us will sneak into her house, find and retrieve a snakeskin, and get out quickly,” offered Slugger, “Once you’ve got Gertie distracted Skeeter, sneak away and we’ll all meet at the puddle to the west of The Hill.”

After a few moments of silence Skeeter yelled, “That’s a brilliant idea.  Let’s do it!”

 Slyguy, Speedy, Shortstop and Slugger slipped quietly behind Garden Gertie’s house where they would be hidden from view while Skeeter tiptoed as close as he dared to Gertie’s front door.  Since he couldn’t actually reach the door to knock, he opted in singing out her name instead, “La, la, la Gertie dear… you have a visitor, Skeeter… and I’m not one to fear.  La, la, la, I know beauty becomes you… let me show you some fashion that’s new.”

Skeeter’s song was music to Gertie’s ears, as she loved to be pretty.  So she opened her door and slithered outside to meet him.  “What are you talking about, Skeeter?”  She asked.

“Why, I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood and what better way to do so than by giving you a tour?  I’ve always admired your beauty from afar and wasn’t sure if you had heard about the latest fashion rage, Butterfly Barrettes!  Apparently everybody is wearing them,” Skeeter answered sweetly.

“What do you mean ‘everyone’?  I don’t have any!” Gertie answered with a bit of jealousy.  “Take me to where I can get one of those barrettes.  And take me now!” she demanded.

“OK, follow me,” Skeeter sang out while skipping merrily down the path.  He didn’t want to be gobbled up so he made sure to keep enough distance between him and Gertie until they reached their destination, Mary Monarch’s Butterfly Bush.  What Skeeter forgot though was that he was highly allergic to the sweet aromas of this lovely plant.   And it wasn’t long before he started to sneeze and feel itchy.

“Aaa-aaa-aaa Chooo!  Aa-aaa-aaa Choo!  Aaa-aaa-aaa Choo!” Sniffled Skeeter.  “Uh-oh,” he added a bit alarmed.

Ignoring him, Gertie slithered around the bush in awe of the many beautiful butterflies fluttering around, “Skeeter, I think I will just hang out here for awhile and wait for one of Mary Monarch’s girlfriends to settle on one of the lower branches.”

“Ok.  Aaa,aaa,aaa Choo!”  Was Skeeter’s only response. 

“But you need to leave because your sneezing is going to scare these fine creatures away,” she added annoyed,  “And I don’t mean to be rude, but are you developing a rash?  You’re looking quite… oh what’s the word…ummmmmm, Blotchy! That’s it… very red and blotchy!”

Panicked, Skeeter ran off screaming!  “Help! Help! Help!”

Right before the four friends heard Skeeter’s cry for help, Slyguy and Shortstop had successfully drug out one of Gertie’s shorter snakeskin outfits.  They were grateful that she kept her 80’s attire, as there were only two of them to carry it down the long corridors of her home.  Slugger suggested that he and Speedy would wait outside.  They would be in charge of rolling a boulder size stone over the doorway to permanently block her home’s only entrance.  She would surely have to move then and find a new place to live, hopefully far away from The Hill.  Successful at completing their mission, the group set off to met up with Skeeter.  They were almost to the puddle when they heard Skeeter screaming.  They feared that he was being chased by Gertie and were quite surprised when he jumped out from the tall grass and no one was following him. 

“Help, help!”  He yelled again jumping up and down.  “I can’t stop scratching and I’m going crazy from all the itching!  What should I do?” he cried between Aaa Choo’s.

Shortstop rolled his eyes.  “Skeeter, don’t tell us you took Gertie to Mary Monarch’s Butterfly Bush.   I bet you forgot that you are highly allergic to those bush’s aromas too.  OK, hurry up and dive into the puddle.  The muddy water will wash the sweet scent right off of you and you’ll be fine.” 

Skeeter didn’t have to be told twice.  He took three running steps and dove in.  Once his itching subsided, Skeeter resurfaced and walked out of the puddle with mud dripping from his eyelashes.  Slyguy, Speedy, Shortstop and Slugger each stifled a giggle.

Skeeter looked at each of them and with teeth gritted said, “Let’s just get Garden Gertie’s snakeskin to our team’s pile on The Hill and never mention this incident again! Got it?”

“Got it!”  They replied in unison.  As all five marched up to The Hill thinking they finally beat the Pink Team in retrieving an item, a hungry Skeeter was already thinking of the next item to scavenge…..

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