Thursday, February 28, 2013

Life Lessons Month of March: Blog 1- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

It’s a very important time for our family to reflect today… February 18 was your brother’s birthday and he died 11 days later on March 1.  We have always chosen to celebrate his life.  I know by now that you know the story well- he was born a year before you (in 2009) and lived for a short time in the NICU, as he had a spontaneous genetic mutation that was discovered in week 17 of gestation.  The fact that he lived at all was miraculous but being his Mom, I wanted more… I wanted him to live as I fell in love with him the moment I laid eyes on him (actually even before that, when I first felt him kick in church at 20 weeks).  I knew that if Kyle were to leave the hospital, he would be special but that’s all Kyle ever was to us was special- we loved him for all of his extra needs.

Over the years, I have been given pieces of literature- some fiction, some non-fiction, some insensitive, some beautiful, and some that have been helpful in the grief process.  But just recently, our cousin Michelle told me about this poem and it resonated so much with me.  In fact, since she’s shown it to me in December, I have been rereading it several times (and perhaps it has to do with my new job working with children who have developmental delays).  For both reasons, I find it significant, relevant, and emotional (because afterall, there are so many places to answer, “I know, I understand”):

Welcome to Holland by
Emily Perl Kingsley.
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.
As I researched the above poem more, I came across a blog… from a parent of a child with special needs who felt like the entry into Holland in the initial poem was glossed over.  So she added a preface (which probably was necessary, especially with cases like Kyle when the time in Holland is cut far too soon):  

Amsterdam International by Dana Neider (

Parents of “normal” kids who are friends with parents of kids with special needs often say things like “Wow! How do you do it? I wouldn’t be able to handle everything---you guys are amazing!” (Well, thank you very much.) But there’s no special manual, no magical positive attitude serum, no guide to embodying strength and serenity . . . people just do what they have to do. You rise to the occasion, and embrace your sense of humor (or grow a new one). You come to love your life, and it’s hard to imagine it a different way (although when you try, it may sting a little). But things weren’t always like this . . . at first, you ricocheted around the stages of grief, and it was hard to see the sun through the clouds. And forget the damn tulips or windmills. In the beginning you’re stuck in Amsterdam International Airport. And no one ever talks about how much it sucks.

You briskly walk off of the plane into the airport thinking “There-must-be-a-way-to-fix-this-please-please-don’t-make-me-have-to-stay-here-THIS-ISN’T-WHAT-I-WANTED-please-just-take-it-back”. The airport is covered with signs in Dutch that don’t help, and several well-meaning airport professionals try to calm you into realizing that you are here (oh, and since they’re shutting down the airport today, you can never leave. Never never. This is your new reality.). Their tone and smiles are reassuring, and for a moment you feel a little bit more calm . . . but the pit in your stomach doesn’t leave and a new wave of panic isn’t far off.

(Although you don’t know it yet, this will become a pattern. You will often come to a place of almost acceptance, only to quickly re-become devastated or infuriated about this goddamned unfair deviation to Holland. At first this will happen several times a day, but it will taper to several times a week, and then only occasionally.)

A flash of realization---your family and friends are waiting. Some in Italy, some back home . . . all wanting to hear about your arrival in Rome. Now what is there to say? And how do you say it? You settle on leaving an outgoing voicemail that says “We’ve arrived, the flight was fine, more news to come” because really, what else can you say? You’re not even sure what to tell yourself about Holland, let alone your loved ones.

(Although you don’t know it yet, this will become a pattern. How can you talk to people about Holland? If they sweetly offer reassurances, it’s hard to find comfort in them . . . they’ve never been to Holland, after all.

And their attempts at sympathy? While genuine, you don’t need their pity . . . their pity says “Wow, things must really suck for you” . . . and when you’re just trying to hold yourself together, that doesn’t help. When you hear someone else say that things are bad, it’s hard to maintain your denial, to keep up your everything-is-just-fine-thank-you-very-much outer shell. Pity hits too close to home, and you can’t admit to yourself how terrible it feels to be stuck in Holland, because then you will undoubtedly collapse into a pile of raw, wailing agony. So you have to deflect and hold yourself together . . . deflect and hold yourself together.)

You sneak sideways glances at your travel companion, who also was ready for Italy. You have no idea how (s)he’s handling this massive change in plans, and can’t bring yourself to ask. You think “Please, please don’t leave me here. Stay with me. We can find the right things to say to each other, I think. Maybe we can have a good life here.” But the terror of a mutual breakdown, of admitting that you’re deep in a pit of raw misery, of saying it out loud and thereby making it reality, is too strong. So you say nothing.

(Although you don’t know it yet, this may become a pattern. It will get easier with practice, but it will always be difficult to talk with your partner about your residency in Holland. Your emotions won’t often line up---you’ll be accepting things and trying to build a home just as he starts clamoring for appointments with more diplomats who may be able to “fix” it all. And then you’ll switch, you moving into anger and him into acceptance. You will be afraid of sharing your depression, because it might be contagious---how can you share all of the things you hate about Holland without worrying that you’re just showing your partner all of the reasons that he should sink into depression, too?)

And what you keep thinking but can’t bring yourself to say aloud is that you would give anything to go back in time a few months. You wish you never bought the tickets. It seems that no traveler is ever supposed to say “I wish I never even got on the plane. I just want to be back at home.” But it’s true, and it makes you feel terrible about yourself, which is just fantastic . . . a giant dose of guilt is just what a terrified lonely lost tourist needs.

Although you don’t know it yet, this is the part that will fade. After you’re ready, and get out of the airport, you will get to know Holland and you won’t regret the fact that you have traveled. Oh, you will long for Italy from time to time, and want to rage against the unfairness from time to time, but you will get past the little voice that once said “Take this back from me. I don’t want this trip at all.”

Each traveler has to find their own way out of the airport. Some people navigate through the corridors in a pretty direct path (the corridors can lead right in a row: Denial to Anger to Bargaining to Depression to Acceptance). More commonly, you shuffle and wind around . . . leaving the Depression hallway to find yourself somehow back in Anger again. You may be here for months.

But you will leave the airport. You will.

And as you learn more about Holland, and see how much it has to offer, you will grow to love it.

And it will change who you are, for the better.

No matter how many times I read either poem, I keep coming away with the same conclusion… Despite being so thankful for even having 11 days in Holland, I just wish I had more time to spend there.
I love you Ellie, just as I loved your brother.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Creative Month of February: Blog 4- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

Your Mimi and I are proud to say that not only did we finish a second year of writing weekly letters for you, but also we maintained our creative writing voice as our topic for the last twelve months (and had a great time doing it).  March will begin a new year with a new theme as your third birthday is on the horizon.  We love you so much Ellie and we are so happy that you inspire us to continue our passion of writing! 

And now here is our final story (with our last chapter) for you. 

So as for our weekly guidelines: I write a piece one week in regular font, and then your Mimi will write a piece in italics the next week.  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot and the setting (an aquarium).  Anything else is fair game and will make our adventure a new tale.  We also need to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime story for you and future generations.  And so we will continue our fourth piece of fiction. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Aquarium- Part 8

Just as Ellie started reciting the magical words to help them return home, Lion quickly stopped her.  “Ellie, STOP!  You can’t say them yet; we are still in our diving gear.  I don’t think your mom would be too happy to see us soaking wet and dripping water throughout your house upon our return!”

“Ooooooo my!  I wasn’t thinking!  Good thing you were Lion!  OK, changes of plans.  We will swim to the surface and over towards the ladder.  Once we get our feet on dry ground again and change back into our street clothes, then I will say the magical words.  Follow me…” she breathed out as she glided through the water.

Ellie and Lion waved goodbye to all the fish until they slowly disappeared from their sight.  When they arrived at the ladder, it was Lion who went over the glass tank first.  He knew he would need a bit of a push to hurdle the wall and he was grateful to Ellie for helping him succeed.  Ellie then slid over the wall herself keeping a safe distance from Lion so that her fins didn’t whack him in the head.

When Lion reached the floor, he glanced around and observed that everything was the same.  It still looked like a crime scene.  He wondered how long it would take the Aquarium staff to solve the treasure theft when in reality a theft didn’t occur at all, as the treasure was never really stolen.  He giggled to himself and hoped that he and Ellie made it easy for them to spot.  Seeing the privacy wall with their clothes draped over it, Lion moseyed on over and slid behind the panel.  As he rid himself of all dive equipment and his swim trunks, Lion inhaled deeply then exhaled giving one gynormous shake that started with the main on his head and ended at the smooth padding on the soles of his feet.  Realizing that he was standing in a huge puddle Lion wasted no more time and emerged from the privacy wall.  Smiling at Ellie he now looked more like a slightly damp fluffy fur ball rather than the soggy matted bear he was moments before!  “Your turn,” he stated.

“Thanks Lion!  I didn’t think you were ever going to finish getting dressed!” a blue-lipped Ellie sputtered because of the chilled air. 

She handed Lion the teacups and teapot (which was still filled with sea water) before dashing behind the privacy wall; first giving Lion a quick wink to let him know that she was not upset.  Once she disappeared it was a good thing that he couldn’t see her because when Ellie realized that she was standing in Lion’s puddle of cold water, she rolled her eyes and breathed out a sharp ‘argghhhh’.  So she quickly discarded her gear and swimming suit only to see that the puddle Lion had made was now much bigger because of her own added water.  Not liking her feet wet, Ellie slipped back into the swim fins as she finished dressing.  After smoothing down her clothes she then tousled her hair by using her fingers like a comb.  Satisfied with her appearance Ellie finally stepped out from the privacy wall.  Seeing that Lion was sitting on the floor with the teapot in his left hand and both teacups placed in front of him Ellie spoke quickly.  “All right Lion, since technically we are not suppose to be here, and before we get caught you better start pouring our tea while I recite the magical words.”

“Rightie-oh then Matie,” responded Lion with a giggle.  And he was just about to add something but Ellie cut him off. 

In a spellbinding voice Ellie whispered, “Baooohhhaoooahaljaljljljafooj.”  And just like each time before; music, glitter, and rainbows swirled all around lifting them up, up, up and then deposited the duo with a loud kerplunk smack dab in the middle of Ellie’s bedroom.

Ellie’s mom came running from down the hall.  “ELLIE, are you OK????”  As she entered Ellie’s room she came to a screeching halt.  Eyeing her daughter from head to toe she added, “What have you been up to my little stinker-pot?”  And then she saw Lion partially hidden behind her.  “Ellllllllllllliiiiieeeeeeee?????” she started.  “It looks to me like you and your furry stuffed animal have gotten into a bit of mischief while I was laying down,” she stated.

Ellie just looked at her with what she hoped was her ‘innocent eye’ pose.  It didn’t work.

“First of all, were you in the bathtub with Lion? “ she questioned.  “It looks like you got dressed without getting dried!  And secondly, where on earth did you find those flippers?  Have you been in the garage rummaging around in the summer bins that hold the pool accessories?” she continued questioning.

Ellie looked down at her feet and then at Lion whose eyes were very wide.  She picked him up and brought him up to her neck making it look as though she was hugging him.  “Oooooops,” she whispered almost silently. 

And he responded with that same silent whisper, “I tried telling you Ellie but you cut me off too quickly.  Once you said the magical words and the music started, I knew we couldn’t turn around for you to take off those water flippers.  I was just hoping that when we got back to your house, your feet would go undetected.  ‘Ooooooops’ is right.  We got caught!”

Thinking that Lion was correct, Ellie began to confess, “Aw Mom, it’s about the Aquarium…” But before she could say another word her mom stopped her.

“Oh Ellie my little spaghetti girl, and a wet one at that” she added with that familiar quizzical look she always gave Ellie when she wasn’t quite sure what her daughter was up to.  “I know you had your heart set on going to the Aquarium today.   I know because we have talked about it all week long.   And I know that you were disappointed this morning when I told you we couldn’t go because I wasn’t feeling well.  But what I didn’t tell you was the News Station reported this morning that the Aquarium actually closed down because of an ‘incident’ that had to be looked into…  and I thought it was too long of a story with too many unanswered questions to repeat to you… so I didn’t think it would matter if we had to reschedule our trip in a few days.  By then I figured the Aquarium would be open and operating normally again.  Surprisingly though the News Station just reported moments ago that the so-called ‘incident’, a possible theft never happened and the Aquarium is open to the public again!  So what do you think Bean?  You’ve been such a good girl while I was laying down and I’m feeling much better now… how about we head to that Pirates Treasure Chest Exhibit in about an hour or so?  I know you are excited to see it along with all of your favorite fish!  Deal?”  Ellie’s mom beamed.

Lion, who was still snuggled up by Ellie’s ear, giggled in a low whisper, “Whew El… another close call!”

Ellie returned that familiar whispered giggle.  “Yep Lion.  It sure was a close call.  But what a fun adventure, don’t you think?  We make great detectives!”  And she squeezed Lion a little bit tighter for she loved him so.  “Till the next one my very best friend!  But right now we have an Aquarium visit to get ready for!”….
I love you Ellie!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Creative Month of February: Blog 3- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

These few days in February are particularly filled with such love in our house- Valentine’s Day yesterday and then Kyle’s birthday is on Monday.  Your Mimi and I will honor Kyle with a letter on March 1- the anniversary of his death, when we choose to celebrate and honor his life. 

As for this past week, you have been such a happy girl as Gigi and Pop came to visit.  You are enjoying being the center of attention, as they adore spending time with you!

And now here is our final story (with many chapters to write!) for you. 

So as for our weekly guidelines: I write a piece one week in regular font, and then your Mimi will write a piece in italics the next week.  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot and the setting (an aquarium).  Anything else is fair game and will make our adventure a new tale.  We also need to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime story for you and future generations.  And so we will continue our fourth piece of fiction. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Aquarium- Part 7

Ellie and Lion zoomed away from the ship toward the crime scene again.  At that moment, she could see what looked like a tornado of sand whirling up ahead.  Luckily for Ellie and Lion, they had their goggles on so they wouldn’t get sand in their eyes.

“Hey!  What’s going on here?”  Ellie interrupted loudly.  The funnel cloud was dying down and Ellie could see that an octopus was at its center.  He was swirling.  As he slowed, the cyclone did too.  Ellie could see 6 stingrays underneath the octopus mimicking the octopus’ moves.

“Can we help you?  Are you lost?” asked an out of breath octopus.  “We’re very busy but if you need directions, I will do my best to point you on the right track,” he said pointing his eight arms in all different directions. 

“Don’t you know that this is a crime scene?” Ellie said as her eyes narrowed taking in the setting.  She nodded toward the yellow tape that they were obviously ignoring.

“Crime scene?  No dear, this is our rehearsal place.  That yellow tape ropes off our arena.  Now if you don’t mind, we have a lot of work to get ready for the competition.  It is only a day away,” Octopus lifted one of his arms to direct the stingrays to begin again as he counted backwards from three.

“Rehearsal for what?  Looks to me like a cover up!  I think you know something about the pirate’s chest and the missing gold and jewels,” Lion alleged in an accusing manner interrupting the octopus.

“My name is Octavious the Octopus.  I don’t suppose you have heard of me from where you are from,” he said as he pointed up above, “but down here I am an ocean renowned synchronized swim coach.  I have led eight teams to the Ocean Olympics and seven of those teams have medaled.  This team here has shown more promise than other groups I’ve coached.  Not only could they take home a gold, they could get a perfect score too.  Do you have any idea of how difficult that is?  But in order to do so, they need to practice.  So if you don’t mind, we have work to do.  And to answer your very forward question, we didn’t take the pirate chest, as we have no need for it.  In fact, we earn our own gold in competitions,” and with that he turned his back on Ellie and spoke softly to the stingrays.  Ellie strained her neck to hear his words but only caught him saying, “Don’t let them distract you.  Keep focused.”

Ellie blushed.  Was she a distraction?  She was only trying to be helpful and solve the mystery of the stolen treasure chest. 

“Come on Lion, I feel rather foolish.  I think we owe these fish our apologies.  We went around accusing people of stealing when they didn’t do anything wrong.  That’s not very nice of us,” Ellie wavered.

“Gosh Ellie, I didn’t think of it like that.  I guess we haven’t been very friendly,” Lion said sheepishly.

Ellie and Lion were about to interrupt Octavious the Octopus one more time to apologize but he had already begun to lead the stingrays into their swirling pattern again.  This time the team rose up in unison and descended quickly toward the sand.  Impressively, the synchronized group got within an inch of the ocean bottom without actually touching it all doing the exact same move at the exact same time.  Even though Ellie was almost blinded by the sand storm they kicked up when they spun, Ellie caught a glimpse of gold shimmering on the ocean tanks floor.  Lion nudged her clearly seeing the same thing.

“STOP!” Lion and Ellie cried out together.

“What now?” Octavious cried in annoyance as he squirted a thick cloud of ink.  He shook his head in frustration.  “I do this when I get defensive,” he explained to the dark mess that now surrounded them.

“We saw something reflecting in the sand as you practiced,” Ellie explained and continued, “We’re not accusing you.  In fact, we wanted to say sorry for the way we reacted before.  And we were just wondering if you could move your practice area over to that clear patch while we investigate here a little further,” she motioned to a clearing between coral beds.

Octavious the Octopus heaved a sigh and directed the stingray to their new rehearsal site by pointing his arms in the direction of the gap.  “Let me know when you are finished,” he said as he propelled away behind his team.

Ellie winked at Lion as she reached into her pocket and pulled out two shovels and two soft bristled brushes.

“What are these for El?” Lion asked perplexed as Ellie handed a shovel and brush to Lion.

“Dig Lion!” she instructed.  “I don’t think the treasure was ever stolen,” Ellie explained.

Lion followed Ellie’s lead and started digging.  When his shovel hit something hard, they used their brushes to clear off the remaining sand.  Within minutes, they uncovered the pirate’s chest still filled with all of the gold and jewels.

Lion and Ellie gasped in unison at their find, “It was an illusion Ellie- just like Perseus the Pufferfish taught us.  The treasure was here the whole time.  But how did it get under the sand?”

“That’s easy Lion, the synchronized swim team swirled up so much sand during their practices, they buried it without meaning to or even noticing,” Ellie clarified.

“Well, I guess that’s it then.  We can go home,” Lion said.

“Not quite Lion.  I think we owe all of the fish an apology and we need to tell them that we found the treasure,” Ellie pointed out.  “And I know just how to do it!  Come on.  Follow me!”

Three hours later, Ellie and Lion were on stage in front of the giant seashells, which became the seats for the underwater animals to sit comfortably.  In the audience, they spotted Rita, Perseus, Pete, Octavious, and the stingray synchronized swim team.

“Ahem,” Ellie called into the microphone, “May I have your attention?  Before I introduce the very talented comedian and clown, Collywobbles, I have a few words.”  Ellie glanced at Lion who held her hand.  She continued, “Lion and I want to say that we are so very sorry that we assumed that some of you took the treasure chest.  We wanted to be detectives and took it too far.  We hope that you can forgive us and that we can all be friends.” All of the fish cheered and nodded.  As the crowd silenced, Ellie went on, “We also want to wish the synchronized swim team the very best of luck tomorrow at your big competition.  We saw how talented you are and we know you will do great.”  More cheers erupted from the audience.  Lion took over to say, “And now, here is Collywobbles!”

Lion and Ellie stepped backstage as Collywobbles took the spotlight.  They could hear him begin his skit, “Why do pirates always carry a bar of soap?... So if they get shipwrecked, they can wash themselves ashore!”  The crowd exploded in laughter.

“Well Lion, I think our job here is done,” Ellie said as she reached into her pocket and pulled out her teapot and two teacups.  “It’s time to go home.  Are you ready for me to say the magical words?”

“Yep,” Lion anxiously answered.   And slowly Ellie began….
Until next week Ellie Bean!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Creative Month of February: Blog 2- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

It’s only fitting that you call Poppy your girlfriend as you guys hang out so much (he watches you sometimes when I have to go to work).  Poppy doesn’t always follow conventional parenting methods though… for instance, last week when we were on our way out the door to get you to preschool, you looked at me with a sly grin, your fist in a ball, and a twinkle in your eye and said, “You want some of this?!”  I was so shocked, I responded, “huh?” as you hit my leg (gently I may add).  I asked where in the world you learned that and of course you replied, “My Poppy taught me!”  Even after a car ride long conversation of when and where we can do things like that, I thought for sure I would be getting a call from your teacher that day but low and behold, you learn fast.  A few days later when Poppy asked you jokingly if you “wanted a piece of this” in Panera, you answered, “You can’t do that here.”  I’m so glad that you have some wisdom of appropriate behavior and I’m so glad that you and your Poppy can share so many special and funny moments together! 
And now here is our final story (with many chapters to write!) for you. 

So as for our weekly guidelines: I write a piece one week in regular font, and then your Mimi will write a piece in italics the next week.  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot and the setting (an aquarium).  Anything else is fair game and will make our adventure a new tale.  We also need to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime story for you and future generations.  And so we will continue our fourth piece of fiction. 

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Aquarium- Part 6

Ellie and Lion swam upwards toward the bow of the ship.  Collywobbles had told them that before dawn someone had stripped the cardboard pirate prop of its clothing and accessories.  And whoever it was, was obviously still at the Helm because they were singing the wrong words and very much off key to some famous pirate song.  Not wanting to make whoever it was scared and swim off, Ellie and Lion hugged the starboard side of the ship as they inched their way forward.   As the tune got louder and the lyrics more piercing, the duo knew they were almost at the toes of the thief.

“Yo Ho.... ho, ho, ho,
A pirate I shall be.

Scary, not hairy
And mean so be wary
A pirate I shall be…
Shall be, shall be.”

Ellie whispered into her breathing apparatus for Lion to circle around to the Port side and wait for her signal (five floating bubbles) before moving in to grab the perpetrators fins, gills or whatever it had that was grabbable!

As soon as Ellie released the signal, Lion swam in, “I got him Ellie, I got him by the, the, the… wooden stick???”

“Huh?  Can you repeat that?” Ellie asked.

“Ahhhhhh, I guess.  I got him by his wooden stick!” Lion answered in a perplexed tone.

“I thought that is what you said.   What kind of a fish has a wooden stick for a body part?  Hold on, I will be right there,” and Ellie glided over to Lion’s side.  Carefully she gazed over the guilty fish from, sure enough, his wooden stick to the tippy-top point of his skull and bones black hat.  “Who are you and what are you doing wearing all this pirate garb?” she asked suspiciously.

“Do you like it?” he chirped.  “I scavenged it from the pirate prop.  Scavenged it, I did I did!  I had a hard time getting the black and white striped shirt over my head with my short pectoral fins you see, but I did it, yes I did! I inched and squeezed and then inched into it some more till this ole pirate’s shirt covered my gills.  Covered my gills I say.  And do you like the charcoal black eye patch I am sporting over my right eye?  Pretty cool, huh?  Cool, cool, cool!  Goes with my skull and bones pirate hat!  Makes me look pretty dapper.  Yep, dapper, dapper, dapper!” he bragged.

Lion, who was still holding on to the wooden stick, looked up at the fish and interrupted him, “Excuse me sir, may I ask you what this is?”

“Why yes you may.  If I am going to look like the real deal, a pirate I mean, then I had to take the stick and attach it to my pelvic fin to make it look like a wooden leg… wooden leg.  So what do you think of my costume?  Do I look like a scary pirate?  Do I?  Do I?  Do I?” he repeated.

Lion hesitated, “Well, kind of, I guess.”  But his real thought (the one he wouldn’t share because it probably would be hurtful,) was that this silly fish looked just that.  Silly.

“Whoa,” commented Ellie as she shot the fish an accusatory glance.  “First of all, you still haven’t told us who you are.”

“Oh.  My apologies.  Why I am Pete the Parrotfish.  But all my friends call me Re-Pete.  Pete or Re-Pete, Re-Pete or Pete… I know it shouldn’t bother me, but sometimes it does.  Why sometimes I find it hurtful.  Hurtful, hurtful, hurtful I say.  But enough of that.  Who are you… and you?”

“Well, I am Ellie and this here is my friend Lion,” she stated.

“Are you new to the Aquarium?”  Pete asked.  “I haven’t seen you around here before.  Nope, can’t say I have.  I definitely have not.”

“Nooooooo.  We are not new to the Aquarium.  Lion and I visit here all the time with my mom, but we are usually on the outside looking in… not the inside looking out!  It looks like today though the Aquarium needed some help in solving the crime where…”

Before Ellie could finish her sentence Pete blurted out, “Huuuuuh?  What crime?”

Ellie decided not to ‘beat around the bush’ or rather the ‘shipwreck’ and got right to the point.  ”The new exhibit’s missing treasure chest.  Did you steal the pirates treasure Re-Pete… I mean Pete?”

“Oh my, my, my NO!  Why would you think I did?” Pete squawked.

“Ahhhhhhhhhh…it is kind of obvious that something ‘fishy’ is going on here.  And maybe it’s because you ARE wearing the pirate’s clothes that you took without asking.  Am I correct?” accused Lion.

“Oh no, no, no!  I would never.  No never, never, never steal!  Why I was just borrowing all this stuff.  Borrowing I say.  Oh you couldn’t possible understand.  Nope, no understanding for you,” Pete sighed and then started to cry.

Lion felt like a brute, “Please don’t cry Pete.  I am sorry.  Ellie, help me out!” he pleaded.

“Pete… I apologize for my partner and me, but you do understand why we thought it was you who committed the crime,” she confessed as she eyed his attire from head to stick.

“Yes, yes, yes and I don’t blame you.   But you must let me explain.  You see, when my friends call me Re-Pete I think they are treating me like a guppy and aren’t taking me seriously.  So I got to thinking, thinking is what I got to.  When the Treasure Exhibit was placed in the tank with the fake pirate prop, well… the prop looked really cool and scary to me even though it was fake.  Fake, scary and cool.  So I got this cool, yep, cool idea in my head that maybe if I borrowed the 3-in-1 (fake, scary and cool) pirate prop that maybe, just maybe my friends would see me differently; maybe as a grownup,” he reasoned sadly.

Lion looked at Ellie with his Lion-cub eyes and begged her to do something.  She understood immediately and dug into her pocket to fish around for something that would help Pete out.  “Ahhhhh, I think I may have found something that might just do the trick!”

Pete looked at Lion blankly.  And Lion looked at Ellie with awe.  He knew that once she started rummaging around in those pockets of hers, something cool was going to appear.  And sure enough she pulled out a white box, which she placed on the ship’s deck.  She then tapped it twice with her left foot and the box extended outward about two feet while four legs popped out, one on each corner.  Lion smiled because there standing in front of the three of them was a little craft table with two drawers.  Ellie reached into the right drawer first and pulled out a bag of white cotton balls, a bottle of glue and some string.  While Pete and Lion looked on, Ellie formed a triangle while gluing one cotton ball in the first row, two in the second row, three in the third row and so on and so on and so on.  When she got to the tenth row Ellie weaved the twine through all ten cotton balls leaving extra string on each side.   She then reached into the left drawer and pulled out some paint.  Very carefully Ellie painted each cotton ball black.  Once she was satisfied with her work Ellie picked up her masterpiece and brought it over to Pete the Parrotfish.

“OK Pete, this is for you.  A pirate won’t be taken seriously not unless he has a scary black beard.  So turn around and let Lion tie this on you while I go and wash my hands,” she smiled.

Now it was Pete who was in awe.  “You and Lion would do that for me?  For me you and Lion would do that?” he asked incredulously.  Honored to wear her talented creation, he turned around.   Lion was all too happy to help tie the beard on to Pete as Ellie stepped back and watched.  Just then Lion remembered that he too could give Pete a surprise.  Fishing into his own pocket, which was hidden inside his bathing trunks, Lion pulled out something small.

“Pete, turn back around because I have something for you too,” Lion said proudly.   So Pete did.  Lion continued, “ I wasn’t sure if you knew that every REAL pirate has a gold tooth, so I want to give you this.”  And he handed over to Pete the small object he was holding in his hand.  It was a bright yellow square Chicklet.  “If you stick this on your tooth, you will look like the REAL DEAL, a real pirate I mean!  Just so you know though it’s gum, so don’t chew it or it will lose all of its yellow coloring and turn gummy!” he whispered.

“Thank you Ellie and Lion for your help and for believing in me too.  Is there any way that I could repay you Mateys?” Pete giggled.

“Wellllllll… actually there is.  Every time we think that we’ve found the guilty fish that took the treasure chest, we find out they are innocent.  Pete… do you have any idea who may have taken it?” Ellie questioned.

“As a matter of fact I do.  And a fact is a fact is a fact.  While I was squeezing into the pirate shirt earlier something whirled and twirled past me.  I didn’t actually get to see who or what it was because some of the sand that got kicked up from it landed in my eye.  I wish I could be of more help, but that is all I know and I know that is all,” Pete repeated.

“Hmmmmmmmm… that’s some interesting information, don’t you think Ellie?” Lion tried to reason.

“It sure is Lion.  It sure is.  Come on and follow me.  I think I know where to go next,” Ellie answered with a knowledgeable wink.
Until next week Ellie Bean!