Michelle L. King's Blog
July 23, 2012
"Get up off the floor and let's go!"
"Stop wandering around and get in the car!"
I doubt I am the only one who has ever made statements like these. It seems that once you become a parent you are destined to be late for everything. Kids are oblivious to the concept of time and punctuality. And we should give them credit for it. They have a unique appreciation for the small and simple things in life that us adults have forgotten about.
On our recent family vacation we stopped in Las Vegas to watch an acrobat show. My husband and I don't particularly love casinos, or Las Vegas in general. We just wanted to hurry and see the show, grab a bite to eat and be on our way. As we rushed past stone-faced slot machine addicts my five year old son kept getting behind. We kept barking out orders for him to hurry up.
But then I stopped to watch why he was getting behind. He was walking along the path of the red and gold spirals that swirled around the carpets of the Circus Circus Casino. I hadn't even noticed them. Realizing that this was a vacation and that I had no real schedule to keep, I urged my husband to just let him go. We arrived at the show just as it was getting out, but it didn't matter. The shows are only 15 minutes apart, so we walked along the swirls for a few more minutes before enjoying the show. It was no big deal, and I'm sure my son had a much more positive experience.
But that was a vacation. As soon as we got home I found myself barking orders again.
"Hurry up, we're going to be late for piano!"
We adults are always in such a hurry. But once again I learned from a child that I needed to slow down on occasion. It takes my 18 month old son forever to walk anywhere because he stops to look at everything. One of his very favorite things is to stop and smell the flowers. I know, it's very cliché, but he does it anyway. And me, in my hurry to accomplish something in life, always seem to be pulling him away from the flowers, the bugs, the cracks in the sidewalks, the displays in the grocery store--everything. One day in particular I was rushing to get him into the car so my older children would not be late for their piano lessons. Of course he stopped at the flower pots as usual, but I swept him away just as he bent down to sniff. He started crying and calling out "flower" in his little toddler accent. It really would only have taken a few seconds to let him smell the flower, but I didn't let him.
I vowed that from then on I would try to plan my life better and leave early enough so that not only do my children have time to stop and smell the flowers and walk along the spiraled carpets of life, but so that I have time to do it with them. I can't say that I have kept that vow perfectly. But I can say that when I do keep it my children and I are all happier for it.
June 22, 2012
I took my children to Disneyland recently and was continually wowed by the complete experience provided by Disney. Every single view a visitor might possibly see was considered, from the grand entrance, to the restaurant menus, to the most obscure restrooms in the park. Everything was styled and themed to perfection. Even waiting in line was part of the experience. In fact, one reviewer of the Indiana Jones ride actually recommends waiting in the standby line versus using a FASTPASS just so you don’t miss the full effect. You just don’t get that at other amusement parks—or anywhere for that matter.
Unfortunately my children were too young for India Jones so we had our long line experience at “Pixie Hollow”. We stood looking for fairies in the pond and watching water rockets shoot out the top of the fountain next door for what seemed like ages. Was it worth it? Oh yeah. Because Tinkerbell was not just a cute blonde girl with a fake set of wings. She was a talented actress who was able to have a genuine and meaningful conversation with my daughter while mimicking the chattery and caring personality of Tinkerbell, bringing my daughter’s imagination to life.
In Tomorrowland my son was able to live one of his 5-year-old lifelong dreams--to train as a Jedi Knight and face Darth Vadar in combat. I was impressed by the efficiency of the actors as they quickly moved the young Padawan learners through the “training academy” while still giving each participant a meaningful experience. The best part was watching my son mentally reenact the light-saber fight sequence throughout the rest of the trip. It really made an impression on him (he even informed me that he is going to be the Disneyland Darth Vadar when he grows up).
Disney takes care to consider the smallest details that most people would not think about. There is never trash in the walkways. You can use the restroom in a giant tissue box, or a castle door labeled “Kings” or “Queens”, depending on which land you are in. And I really need to hire the folks who clean the restrooms. Have you ever seen them in action? They move faster than I can blink and the place is sparkling when they are finished. Disney considers those with food allergies (The Tomorrowland Terrace makes a mean gluten-free hamburger). Even the train that takes you from one side of the park to the other is more than just a mode of transportation—it is a trip back in time, through the jungle, and much more.
I wish more businesses would put a little Disney magic into their efforts. If you own or manage a business, look at every process your customer must go through and make it part of the experience.
March 2, 2012
I often like to take my favorite stories and think of how the plot could have unfolded differently. In honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday I have adapted his version of Sneetches. I requested permission from Dr. Seuss Enterprises to use a portion of the original in this publication but unfortunately they denied my request. As a result, in order to hear the beginning of this story you will need to find your own copy of Sneetches and read the introduction.
For those who do not have a copy of the story, the introduction tells of some Sneetches who have stars on their bellies and think they are better than those who do not. They will not invite the plain belly Sneetches to their frankfurter roasts or allow them to play ball with them. The plain belly Sneetches spend much time moping about their predicament until the mysterious Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes along and offers them a solution.
My version of the story picks up right after this stanza. All quoted material is in italics:
"My friends," he announced in a voice clear and keen,
"My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
And I've heard of your troubles. I've heard you're unhappy.
But I can fix that. I'm the Fix-it-Up Chappie.
I've come here to help you. I have what you need.
And my prices are low. And I work at great speed.
And my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed!"
You can show those Star-Bellies what's what.
I can teach you to out- strut their strut.
I'll show you how to have your own frankfurter roasts,
And when people come visit they will like yours the most.
So gather utensils and napkins and plates.
Bring wood for the fire, some sticks and a date.
Bring stacks of frankfurters and cook them quite well.
When Star-Bellies smell them, why they'll start to yell.
It will make them quite mad. I know, I can tell.
So McBean charged a large fee to set up the party.
He set it up well and chuckled, the smartie.
And the plain-belly Sneetches stopped moping and doping.
They gathered their goods and were really quite hoping
The Star-Belly Sneetches would soon come to see
That the Plain-Belly Sneetches were the Sneetches to be.
That night a large bonfire was roaring and blazing
And the Plain-Belly frankfurters were tasting amazing.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches were dancing and singing
And the food and the fun they kept bringing and bringing
"We don't need those Star-Belly Sneetches!
The Plain-Belly ones are the best on the beaches!"
And the Fix-it-up Chappie who we know is quite keen
Kept his eye on the Star-Bellies watching the scene.
They grumbled and glared and were frightfully mad.
To be wearing a star was now frightfully bad.
They tried to sneak into the frankfurter roast
But the Plain-Belly Sneetches were not welcoming hosts
As soon as they saw the stars upon thars
They turned out the Sneetches and sent them out far.
"Good grief!" groaned the Stars in an angry outburst.
"We're still the best Sneetches and they are the worst!"
Then McBean, the old sly one, broke into the crowd.
He took off his hat and he stood and he bowed.
Then he looked and he said with a very sly wink,
"Never fear, things are not quite as bad as you think.
I'll make you again, the best Sneetches on beaches
And all it will cost you is ten dollars eaches!
We'll throw a party like they've never seen!
We'll have a Palooza with pristine cuisine!
Just leave me with a small bit of your cash
And I'll fix you up a Flashy Splash Bash!
A Splash Bash with marshmallows and swimming and beaches.
The plain bellies will see that you're the best Sneetches.
For you are the Sneetches with bellies with stars
And the Plain-Belly Sneetches have none upon thars.
So Sylvester McMonkey McBean went to work
And he stashed up his cash and smiled with a smirk.
And then very soon the Sneetches with stars
Were toasting and roasting and playing guitars.
They were splashing and bashing, getting wetter and wetter.
And the Star-Bellies' frankfurters were bigger and better,
And soon the Plain-Bellies were watching the scene.
This was a thing that they had not foreseen.
They sat overlooking the Star-Belly Bash
Just trying to think of a way they could crash.
Then of course McBean offered his service anew
And he made a Splash Bash for the Plain-Bellies too.
The music was louder, the food was much better,
The bonfire was bigger, the splashing was wetter.
And when the Star-Bellies had seen the cuisine
They got real upset and they turned to McBean.
Then, of course from THEN on, as you probably guess,
Things really got into a horrible mess.
Cause from then on Mr. McBean had employment
Making parties bigger and better and much more flamboyant.
Bigger marshmallows! Bigger and better!
Bigger Splash Bashes! Wetter and wetter!
Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
The Fix-it-Up Chappie packed up and he went.
And he laughed as he drove in his car up the beach,
"They never will learn, no, you can't teach a Sneetch!"
But McBean was quite wrong, this isn't the end.
The Sneetches ran out of their money to spend,
Then something happened to start a new trend.
For now that the Sneetches had run out of cash,
They had nothing to pay for their Flashy Splash Bash.
And as one of the Star-Bellies reached in a sack
Looking for marshmallows to roast for a snack
He pulled out his hand and found nothing inside!
"The marshmallows are gone!" the Star-Belly cried!
The Star-Belly Sneetches gasped in dismay
And Mr. McBean was now far away!
And the situation down by the Plain-Bellies was dire!
The Plain-Bellies were out of wood for the fire!
They sat around wondering what they could do.
And the Star-Belly Sneetches sat wondering too.
Then the Plain-Bellies gazed with increasing desire
At the Star-Bellies' blazing amazing campfire.
And the Star-Bellies noticed the Plain-Bellies' Roast
Had plenty of gigantic marshmallows to toast.
And now at this time I am happy to say
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day.
The Plain-Bellies got all their marshmallows and sticks
And brought them to share with the Star-Belly chicks.
And the Star-Bellies made room with the fire a-blazing.
And THIS Flashy Splash Bash was the most amazing!
For they all decided that Sneetches are Sneetches
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars
And whether they had one, or not, upon thars.
January 30, 2012
Once upon a time there was a very poor woodcutter who lived with his two children, Hansel and Gretel, and their stepmother in a tiny cottage enclosed deep within the forest. They were all very happy and got along very well-- until famine struck the land.
As food became scarce the woodcutter began to worry,
"What is to become of us? How can we feed our children when we have nothing for ourselves?"
"Man, do you know what?" answered the woman. "Early tomorrow morning we will take the two children out into the thickest part of the woods, make a fire for them, and give each of them a little piece of bread, then leave them by themselves and go off to our work. They will not find their way back home, and we will be rid of them."
"No, woman," said the man. "I will not do that. How could I bring myself to abandon my own children alone in the woods? Wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces."
"Oh, you fool," she said, "then all four of us will starve. All you can do is to plane the boards for our coffins."
But the woodcutter would not give in to his wife. On the contrary, he was quiet shocked at her selfishness and began to regret his choice to marry her.
However, his wife was a very cunning woman. The next morning she woke up very early, long before the woodcutter was due to arise. She got Hansel and Gretel out of bed and told them they were going deep into the forest to find food for their father.
At last they reached a clearing where the stepmother built a small fire and told the children to wait there while she went to look for food. The children were exhausted and soon fell asleep. When they awoke it was dark outside and their stepmother was nowhere to be found.
Gretel began to cry.
"Don't worry, sister, we will find our way back home.”
Hansel tried to remember the way but after awhile he and Gretel knew that they were lost.
They both sat down discouraged, their hearts longing for their father's warm embrace and their stomachs rumbling from lack of food. After a few moments they noticed a pleasant aroma in the air.
"What is that smell?" Hansel asked.
"It smells like gingerbread!" Gretel declared.
They both jumped up and followed the smell until they saw a small cottage in the distance. As they got closer they could see that the cottage was made entirely out of gingerbread, and was decorated with candy and sweets!
Hansel and Gretel ran over and began eating the soft, succulent bread, licking delicious mint sticks, and taking mouthfuls of magnanimous marshmallows. Just as Gretel was about to pull a gumdrop off the house she heard a voice that startled her.
I do see not well but I can hear.
There are nibblers standing here!
My eyes are dark but I can smell,
And on these children I'll cast my spell!
Hansel and Gretel screamed and started to run, but the witch was too quick for them. Soon the children were locked inside a large cage, staring out at a very ugly, bent old woman with a shriveled face and protruding nose.
I may not be young, nice, or fair,
But I am clever so beware!
Do not try to run from me
Or I will cast my spell on thee!
The witch cackled as the children cowered in fear. Things had gone from bad to worse and it seemed there was no way out.
But nothing bad happened right away. In fact, the very next morning the witch brought them a large and savory breakfast that left them feeling warm inside. The witch even let Gretel out of the cage with only a warning that she must help with the chores, and if she ever tried to escape she would be turned into a toad.
After many days of being well fed Gretel overheard the ugly witch muttering to herself as she prepared a hearty meal for the children.
Fiddle-Dee-Hie and Fiddle-Dee-Dee,
To keep my powers close to me
I soon must eat those tasty youth.
This is common witch’s truth.
Gretel whispered the news to Hansel and after his evening meal he saved aside a bone from the turkey.
Soon the witch asked Hansel to put his finger outside the cage so that she could feel it. Knowing the witch could not see well, he slipped the bone between the wires of the cage for her to feel.
A child so thin and tough as stone!
I'll feed him more till he has grown
As fat as yonder herd of swine
And then upon him I will dine!
Days passed with the same routine. As Gretel helped the witch with the chores she began to tell the witch of her and Hansel's life with their father. The witch never said a word but Gretel could tell she was listening.
After many days of this, Gretel told of the deep sadness she felt at being abandoned by her stepmother. She noticed the smallest tear form in the silent witch's eye, and as the tear fell down her cheek a few of her wrinkles seemed to fade away.
As spring began to be summer the days grew fatter, but Hansel did not. And as the last of the winter mountain snows melted in the warmth of summer, the witch’s wrinkles melted away with each story Gretel told of her family.
One day the woman, who no longer appeared old and decrepit, walked over to the cage an unlocked it, allowing Hansel to come out.
My dear child, you may go free.
A witch I can no longer be.
My heart is touched and humbly
I offer an apology.
For over the weeks the witch had grown to love Hansel and Gretel, and because she had not eaten any children she had begun to lose both her powers and her ugliness. She told the children they were free to go whenever they wished, but they would always be welcome at her little cottage.
Hansel and Gretel did not leave, because although the former witch's poor vision had improved, there was still much work to be done around the cottage. They learned that the witch had many treasures hidden inside her cottage and they helped her to keep them safe. They grew to love their new caretaker as much as she had learned to love them, but they missed their father terribly and continued to tell her stories of their life with him.
One day Hansel and Gretel were out gathering wood. As they gathered they discussed how they could better hide the witches jewels. Little did they know that their former stepmother was in a nearby thicket, listening to every word. For as soon as their father found out what she had done to his children he sent her away from his cottage forever. She had been wandering the forest waiting for her fortunes to change, and it appeared that now she was in luck.
That night the stepmother waited until all the candles in the cottage went out , then quietly she slunk through the house gathering up jewels and riches. But the former witch's hearing was just a clear as ever and woke up to find the greedy stepmother standing near the oven admiring a golden crown.
The witch recognized the stepmother immediately from Gretel's description and cried out,"What are you doing here?"
The stepmother was so startled she stumbled backwards into the oven and the jewels flew out of her hands. She tried to steady herself on the door but as she grabbed the handle she closed the door on herself. The door clanged shut and the oven flame flared up, having been prepared the night before for the next day's meal. The witch tried to pry the door back open, but by the time she was able to do so it was too late.
Hansel and Gretel were awakened by the witch’s cries and rushed downstairs to see what had happened. Hansel, Gretel and the witch cried tears of pity for the stepmother. Hansel and Gretel realized that their father must be all alone now and decided to search for their former home.
The former witch agreed to help the children find their father. She gathered up her jewels and riches, and packed provisions for them all. She used the last of her magic to help them find their way back to their cottage in the woods.
Their father saw them coming afar off and leaped for joy. They ran into each other's arms and had a joyous greeting. Hansel and Gretel told their father of all that had happened. By this time the witch had grown as lovely and sweet as her gingerbread house, and as the children finished their story their father noticed the now very beautiful young woman standing in the background.
He realized that this must be the former witch whose ugliness had melted away as she learned to love his children. He invited her in for dinner, and soon the two fell in love and were married. Even though hard times and famine still hit from time to time (despite the witch's jewels), the two always made sure the children were loved and cared for.
September 20, 2011
There once was a very kind king and queen who gave birth to a prince. The prince grew and grew, and when he was old enough to marry he went in search of a true princess. He traveled afar and searched the world over, but a real princess he could not find. The lonely prince returned home.
Then one stormy day a young maiden, claiming to be a princess, knocked on the castle door. Her hair was wet and stringy and her gown was soiled with mud. The prince could not make out whether she was a real princess, but the queen had a plan.
The queen placed a single pea on the bedstead. Then she placed twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds and piled them on top of the pea. The princess slept aloft the soft tower that night. In the morning the princess complained,
"Oh, I slept dreadfully last night! I am all black and blue! That bed was not nearly soft enough!"
The queen gleefully declared that this, indeed, was a true princess. The prince and the newfound princess were engaged to be married.
The new princess stayed in the palace and the most faithful servant girl was assigned as her personal attendant.
"This chair is so crooked and uncomfortable!" exclaimed the princess, "Servant girl, fetch me a new one!"
"This meat is entirely too dry!" complained the princess. "Servant girl, take this to the cook at once and demand that he bring me a new dish!"
"Servant girl, this dress has something in it that is scratching my sensitive skin. Take it away at once and have a new one made!"
Uncomplaining, the servant girl did the bidding of the princess, and always kept a cheerful manner.
"Dear Prince, would you like a new chair as well?" she would ask.
"No, thank you. I am perfectly comfortable in this chair," he would reply.
"Dear Queen, would you like a new dish of food as well?" she would inquire.
"No, thank you. My meat is perfectly moist," the queen would reply.
In the meantime, the wedding drew nearer and the prince and princess continued their courtship. They would walk through the gardens together, eat meals together, and sit by the fireplace and read together.
"Prince, you are walking too close. Your robe is bothering my fine skin."
"Prince, must you chew your food so loudly? I can hear it across the room."
"Prince, you are reading much too gruffly, the sound of your voice is irritating my delicate ears."
One day the prince and his bride-to-be were taking a walk down by the pond. The prince could see the servant girl afar off dipping her toes in the water.
"Oh look dearest, the water looks so fine. Shall we go dip our toes in the pond?" the prince asked.
"Heavens no!" laughed the princess. "I could never let such filthy water touch my tender toes!"
They continued walking but the prince continued to look longingly at the water instead of at the pathway in front of him. Suddenly he stumbled upon a rock, and as he stumbled he accidentally bumped the delicate princess who fell into the pond.
The princess was horrified!
"Oh! Oh! You clumsy fool! My poor skin! And my dress!" she exclaimed. "Servant girl, get over here and help me this minute!"
The servant girl, who had been enjoying a day off, obediently rushed over to the wet princess and helped her out of the water. She washed and dried the feet of the princess using the skirt of her own dress. She then escorted the princess to her royal chambers leaving the prince behind.
The prince returned to his own chambers, wondering if a true princess was what he really wanted, or what the kingdom really needed. Then the image of the servant girl entered his mind. He thought of how she always so patiently and kindly attended to the spoiled princess, even on her day off. The more he thought of her the more he realized that the kingdom--and himself--needed someone like her. The more he thought, the more the truth of this burned within him.
Just then there was a knock on his chamber door. It was the servant girl.
"Dear Prince, I hate to put you in a sad state, but I have been ordered to inform you that the princess will be leaving. She says she does not wish to marry someone so thoughtless as you. I do not wish to make you uncomfortable--I do not think you are thoughtless--but that is the message I was commanded to send."
The prince then got down on his knee before the servant girl and said,
"My dear, you have brought me the best news I have heard in many months. With all due respect, that girl was no princess, but you have shown yourself to be of infinite worth. You are the true princess and I ask you, will you be my bride?"
The servant girl was shocked and overjoyed. She accepted the invitation graciously.
A few months later the royal wedding took place and the servant girl was the most beautiful bride the kingdom ever knew. She served the kingdom as graciously as she had served the spoiled princess.
And speaking of the spoiled princess. No one in the kingdom ever saw her again, but it is rumored that she married a very spoiled prince, much like herself, and it serves her right.
August 31, 2011
Photo used with permission of Kim Brook.
Once upon a time there was a pleasant pond in Florida where beautiful Mottled Ducks swam in the warm waters all year round. It was nesting season and Mother Duck had recently laid seven perfectly formed eggs.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven….eight!
Mother Duck had just returned from fishing to what she thought were seven eggs. Perhaps she miscounted. Oh well, they were all beautiful eggs.
For weeks mother duck sat on her eggs, rotated them, and sat some more. Finally, a crack appeared in one egg, then another, then another. Soon there were seven beautiful ducklings quacking in the nest.
One egg remained, unhatched.
"Looks like you have a dud," said Mrs. Mallard, "You'd best leave it and take your other little ones out to swim. They are fine looking little ducklings, after all."
But Mother Duck would not abandon the last egg. A few days later the little duckling emerged from the egg.
"Come little Sero," urged Mother Duck, "come join your brothers and sisters in the water."
The latecomer followed his mother into the water and joined his siblings. They were such beautiful swimmers, diving and racing as young ducks do. But Sero was not a good swimmer and the others began to make fun of him.
"Are you sure that creature is one of yours?" asked Mrs. Mallard.
"Nevermind her," Mother Duck said to Sero, but she couldn't help but notice his claws were rather long for a Mottled duck.
Time went by and the little ducks began to grow. Their soft down was replaced by long, sleek feathers mottled with brown and white. Their wings were lined with iridescent blue that glistened in the sunshine. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven white porcelain heads adorned with smooth yellow bills lined the banks of the pond.
Instead of growing lovelier and lovelier as time passed, Sero grew uglier and uglier. Unlike the a small, slender bodies of his siblings, he grew to be large and gangly. His brown and yellow down was replaced with dull muddy-brown feathers. Instead of a shiny yellow bill, his face sported a pale pinkish bill with black splotches and was blighted with puffy, red bumps.
The other ducklings couldn't help but notice Sero's increasing ugliness and began to make fun of him. The uglier he got, the worse they teased him.
"Ew! What have you been eating, Sero?" they cried with clear and clean-sounding quacks, "Your bill is disgusting."
Sero only hissed softly in response and hid his head in shame.
"Be nice!" scolded Mother Duck. However, she couldn't help but notice that Sero roosted in the low branches of a nearby tree every night instead of on the ground like the other ducks.
One morning Mrs. Mallard wandered over to where Mother Duck was resting beneath Sero's tree. She whispered,
"That duckling of yours is a disgrace to this pond. He doesn't swim, he roosts in a tree, and that bill of his is just monstrous! You ought to leave him to the raccoons!"
Although it was just a whisper, Sero overheard the conversation. He looked at his beautiful brothers and sisters, and then at his own, ugly reflection in the smooth surface of the pond. Mrs. Mallard was right. He was monstrous. Sadly, he took off into the air and flew far away.
For several months Sero wandered from place to place. Everywhere he went he was mocked for his ugliness. He wondered where he could go to escape the constant shame placed upon him.
He flew down to a park where a young family was having a picnic.
"Look at that ugly duck!" squealed the little girl.
"Let's take it home," said her father.
"Yes, perhaps this duck can provide us eggs for breakfast," said her mother.
The family chased the poor ugly duck around the picnic table until at last the father captured him.
Sero was treated well for the first few days, despite the frequent comments about his ugliness. But it soon became clear that Sero was a drake and would not be laying any eggs.
Then one day the children were playing a game of "chase the ugly duck". Sero ran around and around and flew into the open door of the house where his large body knocked over a glass of milk. The children's mother then joined in the chase.
"Get that ugly duck out of my house!" she screamed, and with a broom she shooed Sero out the door.
As soon as he could catch some wind, Sero lifted himself up into the air. He flew fast and far without thinking about where he was going. By dusk he found himself back at the pleasant pond where he had grown up.
In the light of a full moon Sero spied his mother and siblings just settling down to bed. He did not want to face ridicule by his family again, but he was too tired to fly any further so he settled down in a tree a stone's throw away from the pond. He was just dozing of when he heard a raspy whisper near the tree.
"Shh! Don't wake them up or our dinner will be spoiled!"
Sero opened his eyes and saw two raccoons peeking out of the bushes, plotting to attack the sleeping ducks. Those ducks may have treated him badly, but they were his family. He had to do something! The large duck crept toward the raccoons, ready to attack. The full moon behind him made him appear even larger and uglier than usual. Suddenly he flew at the raccoons making as much noise as possible. They were so startled by the large, ugly duck that they ran off into the night.
The ruckus awakened the sleeping ducks just in time to see the raccoon tails disappear into the bushes. They rushed to thank their rescuer and were quite surprised to find that it was their long-lost brother, Sero.
Sero's brothers and sisters felt very ashamed for the way they had treated him. They begged his forgiveness and asked him never to leave again. Even old Mrs. Mallard came and bowed her head in thanks. That night the Mottled Ducks and young Sero all learned that everyone has an important role to play, no matter what their feathers look like.
Now every night the pleasant pond has one, two, three, four, five, six, seven young ducks sleeping on the banks.
Of course! Sero still sleeps in the tree!
August 14, 2011
Once upon a time there was a poor, widowed tailor. There was nothing of value in his home except for his daughter. She was more beautiful and kind and pure than any woman in the kingdom.
One day it was announced that the king over the land was going to choose a bride. He summoned the tailor to prepare him a costume fit for a royal wedding. As the tailor was taking measurements for the king he noticed the finery all around him and began to be envious.
"Perhaps the king would marry my daughter, and then I could live like this too," he thought.
He began to tell the king about his beautiful and kind daughter. The king, however, was not interested in the daughter of a poor tailor. In desperation the tailor then fibbed,
"Not only is my daughter the most beautiful in the kingdom, she has a talent which no other young lady has. She can spin ordinary straw into gold."
Now the king was more than interested. He demanded that the tailor bring his daughter to the palace or be put to death immediately.
The next morning, the tailor's daughter arrived at the palace wearing her finest apparel. Without so much as an introduction the impatient king took her to a room filled with straw.
"You must spin all of this straw into gold by dawn or else you will die."
The poor girl did not know what to do. She walked over to the spinning wheel and tried and tried to spin the straw, but it just could not be done! As she began to weep a little man appeared from behind a bale of straw.
"Why are you crying, madam?" he inquired.
"Because I must spin this straw into gold by morning or the king will have me killed, and I don't know how to do it!" she cried.
"What compensation can you give me if I do it for you?" he asked.
She offered him the necklace she was wearing. He accepted and immediately began to spin the straw into gleaming, golden threads.
He spun deep into the night, and as he worked the tailor's daughter told him all about this mess her father had woven for her. They talked and talked until the work was done. Then the little man bowed deeply and bid the maiden farewell.
The tailor's daughter heard the footsteps of the king and the sound of the door being unlocked. The king looked at the gold-filled room, astonished. This was a talented and beautiful maiden! His greed wrapped around him like thread on a bobbin. He ordered his servants to fill a larger room with straw and ushered the tailor's daughter inside. As he locked the door behind her he shouted,
"You must spin this straw into gold by dawn or you will die!"
She had expected to be released, but now she was locked up and her life was threatened once more. She sat the spinning wheel and tried to mimic what the little man had done the night before but it was no use. Just as she was ready to give up in despair the little man appeared in the room.
"Oh please!" begged the maiden, "if you spin this straw for me again I will give you this ring."
The little man gently tucked the ring inside his pocket and began to spin. The spinning wheel whirred as his skillful hands worked the glimmering threads. The tailor's daughter told him of her mother. She had died long ago and left her daughter the only things of value she owned: the beautiful necklace and ring. The man listened sympathetically as she shared her life story. Soon they heard the sound of footsteps as the little man finished his last thread.
"Sir, may I ask your name, so that I know who to be grateful to?" asked the girl as he turned to leave.
"That is a great secret, for he who knows my name gains great power over me."
He bowed deeply and whisked himself away.
As the greedy king once again refused to let the girl go and brought her to the largest room in the castle.
"If you spin all of this straw into gold by tomorrow morning I will make you my queen," the king said arrogantly, "but if you fail--you will die!"
With that he slammed the door and locked her inside.
She was very frightened now. She did not want to be killed, but she did not want to marry the selfish king either! And even if the little man came back, she had nothing left to give him! Again her eyes filled with tears.
And again the little man appeared.
"Miss, would you like me to help you?"
"Yes," she replied, "but I have nothing left to pay you for your service!"
"I have heard that if you succeed you are to marry the king, is it so?"
"Yes," sighed the girl.
"Then if you should become queen, promise to give me your first child so that I may raise a prince far away from the greedy king, and I will spin this straw for you."
The tailor's daughter was reluctant, but knew that if she had to marry the selfish king, at least her child would not have to be brought up around such wickedness. She agreed.
The little man spun quickly. To pass the time the tailor's daughter told him of the memories she had helping her father weave fabric and make fine clothing so that others could look well, but they never had enough money to look well themselves. They talked through the night and almost did not hear the sound of the door being unlocked.
She asked for his name again and again he refused. Then the little man stood up, kissed the maiden's hand, and disappeared.
The king opened the door, and at the sight of the glittering room he grinned wickedly.
"Tomorrow you shall be my bride," he declared, "for what king could be richer than one with a wife who can spin straw into gold!"
Without so much as a "thank you" he took her up to a tower room where he assigned some servant girls to prepare her for the wedding.
Her head was spinning like the wheel had spun in the hands of the little man. As her hair was being brushed she thought of how kind he had been to her. She remembered how well he listened and how he genuinely seemed to care about her. Then she thought of the gruff manner of the king. How she wished she could be freed from her palace prison and that the little man would come rescue her again.
In the meantime, the little man was outside his home, deep within the forest. He fingered the ring and necklace in his pocket and thought of the sweet manner and beauty of the tailor's daughter. It was a shame that she was to marry the greedy king. He continued to think of her as he walked through the forest and began to sing softly.
I fell in love with a maiden fair
And for her I fancied to spin.
But now she weds a royal heir
Instead of Rumplestiltskin.
Unbeknownst to the little man, a servant girl was standing nearby and overheard him. When she returned to the palace she told the tailor's daughter what she had heard.
"Rumplestiltskin!" the girl cried with hope.
Far across the kingdom, deep within the forest, Rumplestiltskin heard his name. As soon as the servant girls left the tailor's daughter to rest, he appeared in her room. He kissed her hand once again.
"You called for me, my lady?" he asked.
The maiden was overjoyed and asked him if he would help her one last time.
"I have nothing left to give you, but if you take me away from here I will make you beautiful clothing like I used to make with my father!"
Rumplestiltskin then got down on one knee and offered her the ring she had given him before.
"Madam, I can take payment from you no longer. I only ask that you take the hand of this humble, little man in marriage, and stay with me as my wife. If you answer no, I will take you far away to safety and bother you no more."
The girl was both happy and relieved and accepting his proposal, placed the ring up on her finger. Rumplestiltskin then carried the maiden down the tower on a rope woven with the golden threads he had spun the night before.
The two were soon happily married. Rumplestiltskin continued to spin straw into gold and the tailor's daughter used it to make exquisite clothing for her rescuer.
One year later the maiden fulfilled her last promise to Rumplestiltskin as she cradled a beautiful new baby in her arms.