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Adventures of the Twin Princesses

We read to the girls quite a bit, I guess. We recently graduated up to some simple chapter books, like The Boxcar Children, and they’re enjoying those. A couple months ago we were at the library, and on a whim I decided to grab a couple of those Choose Your Own Adventure books that I remember liking when I was a kid (although I was probably 10-12 at the time). Some of the vocabulary is still over their heads, so I’m sure they don’t really get all of what’s happening, but they absolutely love making the decisions at the end of every page! I think it really fires up their imaginations to see their own choices influencing the storyline.

So naturally, I thought it would be fun to begin writing a serial Choose Your Own Adventure story just for them, with new installments appearing every night based on whatever choices they had made the night before. We haven’t been able to do it every night, but it’s been fun for all of us, and quite gratifying to see how excited they are to hear the next chapter every night. If you’re interested, you can read along the story so far, but obviously I’m not writing up every possible branch — just the ones they actually choose. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more!

Adventures of the Twin Princesses: 1-7

 

Zak & Wheezie (subtitle: What was I thinking!)

When fall rolled around I started thinking about Halloween costumes for the girls.

Carolyn & Elizabeth

At the Pumpkin Patch

Hmmm… what to do? More and more we’re seeing them engage in imaginative/pretend play. One of the things they pretend is that they are Zak & Wheezie. Who are Zak & Wheezie? Well, they are conjoined twin dragons from the TV show Dragon Tales. Since Elizabeth is a lefty and Carolyn is a righty, they would walk around holding hands saying, “I’m Zak” and “I’m Wheezie.” Sometimes they would hold hands and pretend to be Zak & Wheezie while eating lunch. (I thought we had a picture of that, but I can’t find it. You’ll just have to take my word for it. It’s really cute.)

Zak & Wheezie

Zak & Wheezie

Can you see where this is going? That’s right, I thought it would be cute to get them dragon costumes so they could be Zak & Wheezie. So I looked. And looked. But I just couldn’t find anything that seemed right. “No problem,” I thought, “I can make dragon costumes for them.” I learned to sew as a kid and have made some items of at least medium difficulty. I found a pattern I liked and determined that I had sufficient skills to complete it without to much difficulty. And that part was indeed true… Somehow what I had failed to fully take into account is that it’s just harder to make a dragon costume for your kids because, well – you have kids! I don’t have a sewing room at home so it would mean putting up and putting away the sewing machine each time I used it. Plus, every time I take out the sewing machine, the girls want to sit on my lap and help. And I want them to learn and like sewing, so I let them. For small mending projects that works okay. But I thought it would be too overwhelming to let them help with this project.

So in the end, I set up my sewing machine at work in our big classroom. I was able to leave the sewing machine set up for several weeks and I had tons of table space so that part worked great. But I was working in small time segments during lunch breaks. I’m pretty sure that in the end that significantly increased the time involved. Every time I sat down to work, I had to reacquaint myself with where I was and what I was doing. (I didn’t think to take any pictures of the creating process. Oh well.) The project was further complicated because my sewing machine was challenged by the thick fleece I was using – particularly along the back spikes where it was sewing through six layers of fabric. It was skipping stitches and snapping the thread ALL THE TIME. I had to resew the same seam over and over and over to get it actually sewn. Turns out part of the problem is that I need to use a ball needle to sew fleece. I had never heard of a ball needle before and only discovered that when I finally got desperate enough to pull out the owners manual for my sewing machine. That made a significant improvement, but it was still more challenging than I expected.

Carolyn & Elizabeth

Wheezie & Zak

But finally, just in time for Halloween (like finished that afternoon!), they were ready. And they were a big hit with the girls! They even won the “Best Girl Costume” prize at the church’s Fall Festival. They were pretty pleased about that and talked about it all the way home and mentioned it many times in the following days. Their cousin won the “Best Boy Costume” which further added to the excitement.

Carolyn & Elizabeth

They spent most of the night unconjoined.

The costumes are very cute, and they continue to wear them so I have no regrets. But I do wonder sometimes, “What was I thinking!”

Carolyn

Wheezie likes the built in pillow the tale provides.

Elizabeth

Watching Dragon Tales.

We also decorated pumpkins for the first time this year.  The girls each choose a pumpkin and a face to decorate with and they were able to do it all by themselves.  Not sure who appreciated that part more – me or them.

Carolyn & Elizabeth

Yes, she’s picked a pirate.

Remembering Rebecca

I met Rebecca in January 1981.  I was nine years old, in fourth grade.  My family had relocated again.  This time we had moved to California over the Christmas break.  New town.  New state.  New school.  No friends.  My new teacher, Mrs. Jarvis, assigned Rebecca to show me around.  It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.  I was a shy bookworm.  Rebecca was more adventurous and quirky.  We didn’t travel in the popular circles. But that didn’t bother me.  I didn’t need a lot of friends – just one good one.

Ready for the regional junior high honor choir performance.

Ready for the regional junior high honor choir performance.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I can see so many of the ways we challenged each other.  She helped drag me out of my shell.  I helped curb a little of her crazy wildness.  I went to high school dances because of her (she pretty nearly dragged me to my first one).  She joined Girl Scouts because of me.  We were in choir and band together and our families suffered through private, two instrument band concerts and ridiculous skits we performed for them. We had countless slumber parties – at her house and mine.  We laughed together.  We cried together.  We complained about our pesky younger siblings to each other.

She was "Ma in her kerchief" when we performed a skit of The Night Before Christmas for the nursing home.

She was “Ma in her kerchief” when we performed a skit of The Night Before Christmas for the nursing home.

After high school, I went away to college.  As time passed, we were in contact less and less frequently.  I eventually lost track of her.  In some ways, she was out of my life.  In other ways, she was still right beside me.  I still thought about her, and her friendship had helped me become who I was.

Cleaning the Girl Scout house after a pizza making fundraiser.

Cleaning the Girl Scout house after a pizza making fundraiser.

We reconnected years later through Facebook.  It was immediately obvious that she was still the quirkier of the two of us.  It was not long after that she encountered serious health problems.  I was only able to be with her remotely as she faced the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of cancer.  I watched and marveled at her undaunted spirit and optimism.  Cancer eventually claimed her physical body, but it couldn’t take her life.

There was a certain pizzazz about Rebecca.  We each have our own set of challenges to face in life, but the hand she was dealt may seem harder than most.  However, she was brave enough to face them with friends who had her back.  It makes me smile to know that she had touched and impacted so many people – others who were there to laugh and cry with her too; others she was able to challenge.

Now she’s gone from this earth – at least physically.  But she lives on in the hearts and minds of her many, many friends.  Friends who will smile with fond remembrance when they hear the phrase “yippee skippy” or see Betty Boop or unicorns farting rainbows.

The annual Hawaiian Luau was my favorite.

The annual Hawaiian Luau was my favorite.

So long, my friend.  Once again we’ve been separated.  But like before, I will continue to remember you.

 

 

 

 

Love & Marriage

As of today we’ve been married 18 wonderful years, and we feel just as blessed and thankful now as we did then (if not more so). Here are a couple of our favorite pictures from the wedding…  But first, for those interested, you can also read the story of how Janet and I first met.

The Happy Couple

A Happy Day

Scarry Stuff

This post has been percolating in the back of my mind for years, and I’m just now finally getting around to writing it. Why has it taken so long? Give me a break — I have twins! But seriously, ever since we first started reading stories to the girls, I knew that eventually I’d get around to writing this. Some of you may already be aware of the children’s book author Richard Scarry (and yes, it’s pronounced just like scary). Most of his books seem to be set in the world of Busytown, and they are populated with cute little talking animal characters. So far, that all sounds like great children’s book material, right?

So, what’s with all the cannibalism?!

You heard me right — blatant references to cannibalism abound throughout Scarry’s children’s books! Well, I think we only own three Richard Scarry books, but each of them contains examples of what I’m talking about, so I assume they’re all the same in this regard. Exhibit A is from Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. This one was actually my book, which my parents gave to me when I was a kid — and I remember thinking this page was rather odd even way back then.

Everything about this picture just seems wrong…

Now, this might seem rather innocuous with a casual first glance, but notice how the piglet’s beady little eyes are staring longingly at the bacon! Perhaps he’s thinking, “Grandpa! They told me I’d never see you again, but you look more delicious than ever.” Very likely, there are also bits of other distant relatives mixed into the frankfurters and bologna… I suppose in the world of Busytown, where everyone is a talking animal of some sort, the best way to avoid being butchered is if you’re the one doing the butchering. (This must drive the PETA people crazy! Err, I mean crazier.)

But like I said, there’s more where that came from. Exhibit B is from Richard Scarry’s Busiest Fire Fighters Ever, in which the world’s most incompetent pigs are somehow tasked with keeping Busytown safe from fires. They also rescue someone’s keys from a drain and get a cat out of a tree, but the big finale of the story has Sparky, Smokey, Snozzle, and Squirty hosing down the Greenbug family BBQ. When they realize their mistake, they invite the Greenbug family back to the fire station for a different kind of “family BBQ”.

I’m pretty sure this is Smokey, which is probably a nickname based on the flavoring he prefers with his pork products

Exhibit C is Richard Scarry’s Animal Nursery Tales, and it’s a gold mine — if you’re into pigs indulging their dark desires to consume the flesh of other pigs. As you can see in the next image here, Scarry answers the age old question, “Why did that first little pig go to the market?” To buy a sausage from Mr. Butcher Pig, of course.

How many baby piglets were ground up into that sausage, I wonder?

If you’re only going to draw one picture of the little pig who went to market, why show us a Butcher Pig slicing up a giant sausage? Why not show us the produce section? Because Richard Scarry is obsessed with porcine cannibalism, that’s why.

Here’s yet another image from the same book:

Sausages, ham, pork chops…

In this story, four robbers are gorging themselves on a massive feast. But as if showing the thieves surrounded by gold and jewels and all the rest of their plunder wasn’t enough to establish their low morale character, Scarry really drives the point home by depicting yet another gluttonous pig chowing down on sausages, ham, and pork chops.

And lastly, I will leave you with a couple images that illustrate just how absurd Scarry’s pork fetish really is. In the story of The Three Wishes, a poor woodcutter pig is granted three wishes by a little fairy pig for some reason. He’s so excited, he goes home and tells his wife the good news. But of course, as with all fables involving wishes, things do not turn out so well.

“How I wish I could have a nice fat sausage…”

Now, I ask you — is it necessary to the plot for the pig to wish for a nice fat sausage? Couldn’t he have wished for an ear of corn, or perhaps a cucumber, or almost anything else? But with the total freedom of an author writing about magical wishes, where anything at all is possible, Scarry nevertheless chose to write about an axe-wielding pig who wants to eat sausage for dinner. Hmmm…

So he wastes his first wish on the sausage. What happens next? His wife berates him so mercilessly about the wasted wish that he ends up shouting without even thinking about it, “Oh, I wish that the sausage was stuck on the end of your nose!” Now, this strikes me as a rather bizarre thing to say, even in the heat of the moment, but even the absurdity of that wish pales in comparison to this illustration.

Seriously, what kind of caption could possibly summarize what’s going on here?

Just stare at it for a while and really soak it in. Ask yourself what Scarry is really trying to convey here… I think you’ll come to the same conclusion that I have — Richard Scarry just has some weird fetish about cannibalistic pigs. Or perhaps it’s even more disturbing than that; since the animals in his stories are so extensively anthropomorphized, the logical conclusion is that he’s really talking about human cannibalism! But of course that’s taboo, so the only way to really explore those dark and twisted fantasies and advance his agenda was by cleverly incorporating his pro-cannibal views into these otherwise charming children’s stories.

And if you’re curious how that story ends…  Naturally, after trying everything to get the stupid sausage unstuck from the wife’s nose, they finally resort to using their final wish to get rid of the sausage, and so they end the story no better off than when they started. (Well, almost everything; I might have expected the woodcutter to haul out his axe and just lop that sausage right off and then gobble it up.  This is, after all, a Richard Scarry story.)