Andrew recently started doing volunteer work for a local non-profit organization known as In Our Own Quiet Way. They focus on water issues in Kenya, or at least are trying to focus on water issues in Kenya. Every year the founders of the organization hold a Princess Festival to earn money to fund some of their projects. This year the girls and I left Andrew at home working on fliers for Quiet Way while we went and enjoyed the Princess Festival.
We got a free ticket or we wouldn't have gone. Tickets are $30 a pop (as in per child) and who has that kind of money to spend? Not us. To give a fair and honest critique, I'm not sure we would spend $30 to attend the festival, even if we had the money to spend. Don't get me wrong; the girls loved (nearly) every minute of it. I just didn't think it was worth $30 per child. $10 or even $15—maybe. $30—no. I realize it was for a good cause, but still.
Rachel, who was the princess of the day, got an autograph book to carry around. Miriam, who was the tag-along, non-ticket-holding toddler, did not. For the most part this was fine, except on the rare occasion that Miriam cared. There were various princesses stationed throughout the park (at Thanksgiving Point) and we just walked around and chatted with them and got their autographs. The girls were in Princess Heaven.
The first "princess" we went to find was Alice in Wonderland. She's not really a princess at all but, in her defense, she was accompanied by the Queen of Hearts (who very well was once a princess), as well as the Mad Hatter and the Rabbit. They were in the hedge maze. We were lost in there for approximately 20 minutes. It took us about five minutes to find Alice and then fifteen minutes to find our way back out.
Rachel just about had a panic attack.
"We're never going to find any more princesses and we're going to have to sleep here! I don't want to sleep in a maze! What are we going to eat?"
By the end of the day, Alice and her compadres were, unsurprisingly, re-stationed at the entrance to the maze instead of hidden deep inside the maze.
Once outside of the maze, Rachel wanted to find Sleeping Beauty, which we did. But the line for her was so long that instead we went to visit Princess Winifred, aka the Princess and the Pea.
We did a lot of waiting for Sleeping Beauty, even after visiting Winifred.
Rachel was thrilled to meet her because Sleeping Beauty is her absolute favourite. At least for now.
Occasionally, there'd be a show put on of one fairy tale or another, with Quiet Way's own little twist to it. Those were nice to watch because then sometimes we'd get to sit in the shade and rest. The first show we saw was narrated by Scheherazade, who was accompanied by Aladin. Everybody kept calling her Jasmine, to which she'd reply, "I'm not Jasmine, I'm Scheherazade!"
"Who's that?" people would ask.
"I tell the stories of 1001 Nights to King Shahryār!"
"Well, where's Jasmine?"
"She's not here."
Disney has done some wacky things to fairy tales. They've become the archetypal storytellers of fairy tales, which is rather unfortunate since they so often get the details wrong. Now, I don't begrudge them their creative license but I do think it's a shame that their version of the story becomes the default version.
Before we left the house I filled up two water bottles to tote around with us. Then I promptly forgot them on the counter and so when we were parched and I reached into the diaper bag I found...nothing with which to quench our thirst. My two girls were becoming very rosy-cheeked from the heat and all I could come up with was an empty, slightly squished water bottle that I found in the stroller bag.
Luckily we happened to stumble upon the Quiet Way water station where, if you listened for a while about water usage and tried lifting a jerrycan you could get a drink of clean water and drop a coin into the wishing well. They also let me fill up our water bottle because they are just that nice.
We put a dollar in the donation box, had our drinks of water, and deposited our coins, being sure to wish for clean water all over the world, before going off to find more princesses.
Andrew was actually asked to man the water station from 8-4 on the day we went to the festival, but he declined because he had also been asked to design the fliers for the presentation the ambassador from Kenya would be giving that same evening at 5:00. I'm not sure when they thought he was going to design the fliers if he was at the festival all day...
Anyway, Rachel liked meeting Princess Ilissa, one of the princesses that was created especially for the Princess Festival, because she had a pink dress and pig tails and Rachel had a pink dress and pig tails.
After watching the play about Ilissa's decision to send her extra toys and dresses to children who needed new things because their homes had been destroyed in a flood, we decided to take Miriam potty.
She's been in underwear lately (since we got back from Nauvoo) and has been doing a wonderful job of staying dry. She was still dry when we took her potty. And then she ran out of the washroom and started playing in the Noah's Ark fountain that happens to be right outside the bathroom. Everything got wet, including her underwear, which made me wonder why I was so bent on getting her to the potty on time. She ended up with wet undies, anyway.
After splashing around for a while, we went to see the story of the Magic Flute. We got to the stage a few minutes early and were able to grab a seat in the shade, where we read the book about Princess Mila and ate some of our lunch.
When the play started I could hardly keep Miriam from joining in on the action. Luckily she never strayed quite onto the stage but there were some close calls.
Next we met Rapunzel, who is Miriam's absolute favourite. Rachel likes Rapunzel a lot, too, but Miriam adores Rapunzel. She calls Ramen Noodles (what I grew up calling Oriental Noodles) "Punzel hair."
Despite the look on her face, Miriam was thrilled to "meet" Rapunzel and spent the rest of the day talking about it. She just happened to be a little shy; considering this is the only picture I got of her with a princess where she isn't screaming her head off, I'd say Rapunzel kind of charmed her.
There were some service project stations set up—Rachel made a butterfly clip and both Miriam and Rachel made bookmarks. It was hard for them to understand that they had to leave their projects behind so that they could be given to other children, but I think it was good of Quiet Way to have projects set up that even the littlest princesses could help with.
Rachel and Miriam had a fun time playing with the peep-through boards.
There were stools behind them so the kids could move them to different holes by themselves. Miriam kept running back to this same board.
While we were trying to find the Frog Princess, Wilhelmina, I believe they called her, we found another peep-through board. A young mother with her daughter and mother asked if I'd take a picture of them in the peep-through board and then offered to take a picture of me with my girls.
It's the only picture of me from the whole day, and Andrew says it looks funny because the holes were clearly made for children and my head is much too big. Rachel looked much cuter playing the part of the Frog Princess.
And soon after we met the real Frog Princess, with her frog, and his golden ball.
Then we watched a play of Snow White and then took a break from being prim and proper by playing in the sandbox. You might have noticed that Miriam got changed out of her princess dress a while ago. That's because she has a knack for finding dirt and rocks and messy stuff. She was already soaked and then she started rolling down the hill while we were watching the Magic Flute so I just changed her into her spare outfit and let her run wild. Little princesses can't be expected to be prim and proper all the time.
We phoned Daddy and asked him to pick us up because we were hot and tired, but then we found Cinderella, so we had to watch her play and get her autograph. I knew that would take about twenty minutes so I quickly called Andrew back and told him not to leave right away.
That was a mistake because traffic was so bad that he took forever to come pick us up. We wandered off to find a few of the princesses we hadn't seen yet. Belle was one of the most important celebrities whose autograph we were lacking. We had tried to visit her multiple times—she was in the same maze as Alice, only across the sidewalk, so a different maze...but the same maze...that doesn't even make sense—but each time we tried to visit her, Rachel would chicken out the minute she was in view, for Belle was accompanied by...THE BEAST!
When Belle finally clued in that the girls were too terrified to approach her, she asked the Beast to take a walk.
"How many times have you had to do that today?" I asked him as he stalked away.
"Oh, like thirty," he said.
"Beast is very fit," Belle sighed mawkishly.
Miriam tried to meet her, but that didn't go over so well.
Rachel was overjoyed to meet her, though. Belle gave each of the girls a rose to hold while they visited and then they got to "replant" it in the bush. They thought that was neat.
Andrew still hadn't called when we were through with Belle, so we went back to the Noah's Ark fountain and hung out with Wendy, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Pearl (a mermaid, who all the children called "Ariel").
Miriam did so much swimming that Captain Hook nearly mistook her for a crocodile.
The children who had been listening to Wendy tell a story started chanting "Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock!"
And who said, "Where? Where?"
And the children pointed to Miriam.
"That's not a crocodile!" Hook scoffed, "That's a just a princess. A very wet one!"
Once I was able to pry Rachel away from Pearl the Mermaid, she joined Miriam in the pond, only she was much more careful not to get wet because she had her pretty princess dress on.
She might have been a little too careful about her dress; sometimes the water seems deeper than it really is.
Rachel started playing with a handful of other princesses, which I thought was great. But apparently I'm a freak of nature because when one of the other princesses moms suggested that they take a picture with Miss Provo and her runners up, Rachel jumped in, too. And instead of taking a picture with Rachel in it she asked me to pull Rachel out of the picture, away from the girls she had been playing with because, "We don't even know her and don't want some random kid in our photo. Haha."
So much for meeting new people and becoming friends, right? I mean, we could live up the street from each other and seriously never even know it because that seems to be how a lot of people around here think. "I've got my friends, what the heck do I need to talk to you for?"
And so it is that we've lived here a year and Rachel has only ever been invited into TWO houses in our neighbourhood. Not that I'm bitter. We've tried having lots of different friends over; few accept the invitation and the few that do rarely return the favour. She's been invited to play at someone's house ONCE this whole summer. And that person's mom isn't from here...so that might explain a little something.
I thought before moving here that Utah would, of necessity, be filled with a kind, friendly people, but in reality it seems to be filled with insular, reserved people. It leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.
Once their private photo shoot with Miss Provo was over, Rachel started playing with the other girls again. They climbed up onto the ark with Tinker Bell and some other fairies.
I heard one of their mothers remark, "This would be such a cute picture if that other girl wasn't in it!"
I happen to think that it is still a cute picture, never mind the four "other" girls in it with my precious child.
I lacked the courage to even approach that gaggle of mothers who were so obviously having a good time chatting to each other while I was stuck, alone, with my children. It's a shame, I think, that I didn't feel like I could just walk up to them and say, "Hi, my name's Nancy! Oh, look, we have kids who are kind of the same age and they're playing together. What's your name? Where are you from?"
I'm not a very brave person, but I will tell you that there was this one mom, from Spain, who lived on our street in Cairo. We often went on walks about the same time each day. And we'd talk to each other.
There were other mothers that I'd meet at the park. And we'd talk to each other while our children played.
Everywhere I went the protocol was to talk to new people.
Now, I'm not a very brave person. And I didn't become best friends with everyone I met in Cairo, but I did become good friends with a few of them. And talking to other patrons at the pool or the park or the store or the sidewalk made life feel so much more friendly.
My friend Ashley likes to say that to become friends you only need to have two things in common.
You'd think that would be easy to do at a Princess Festival.
"Hey! We both have little girls obsessed with princesses...and we're here! So, wanna hang out today?"
But it's not that easy to do here because no one is very interested in hanging out with anyone new.
At one time in the day, a little girl started rifling through my diaper bag. She found a package of crackers and took it out. Her mom freaked out.
"It's alright," I assured her, "She can have them."
"No, she can't," said the mom.
"Oh, sure she can. I have other snacks."
"She really can't take them from you."
"Is she allergic to peanut butter?" I asked; they were peanut butter-filled crackers.
"No. But she still can't have them."
We watched the same play together, but her family didn't sit by me. She treated me as if I had been a kidnapper trying to lure her child into a van or something. Her daughter kept trying to come and play with my girls and she kept pulling her back and telling her not to talk to strangers.
As if I would want to kidnap another toddler. Because, you know, my arms weren't full enough.
As if I would poison her child with snacks I had in my diaper bag for my own baby.
And, hello! She was already letting her child climb all over the laps of the random princesses throughout the park who, may I remind you, are also strangers!
This post wasn't really supposed to end this way. We had a wonderful time at the festival. Really. Living in Utah simply takes more of my patience than I'd like to admit.
Let's see...how to end on a lighter note?
I know—a good ol' Freudian slip.
So, I was telling Rachel about the Princess Festival, trying to get her excited about it but instead of saying Princess Festival I said, "Principal Fest."
"What's a Principal Fest?" she asked, mimicking the excited, hushed tone I had used to make the original announcement.
"Princess Festival!" I corrected myself, "Much more fun than a Principal Fest!"
And I imagine it was much more fun than a Principal Fest. I wonder what one of those would be like...