Saturday, April 29, 2017

Elsa's Story: Chapter 5 (Disney Frozen Birthday Party Elsa by Mattel)

(This post will be a continuation of the previous post. I will be picking up where I left off, so you may want to read Chapter 4 to avoid confusion.)

The next time that Merida wanted Christian and Sven to join her and Nora for a game, Christian immediately said yes. However, when he and Sven came back from their 'playdate' Christian was frowning. "Christian, what's wrong?" I asked. Christian looked up at me and said, "Elsa, I don't think I like playing with Merida."

"Can you tell me why?" I asked. There was no judgment in my voice. I didn't want Christian to think that he had said something wrong. I only wanted to understand why he felt the way he did. Christian struggled a little as he tried to put his feelings into words. "When me and Sven play, just us, nobody wins or loses," Christian said. "We just have fun. But when me and Sven played with Merida and Nora, Merida always had to win." Christian's face took on a sour look and he added, "And she said Elsie's dress was stupid." Sven snorted, as if to emphasize Christian's words.

I could easily understand why that last comment had upset Christian. Elsie had been one of his closest friends. Saying Elsie's dress was stupid was, in Christian's mind, like insulting not just the dress but also Elsie herself. And Christian has always been very loyal to anyone he cares about. That anyone includes both other dolls and a certain plastic baby reindeer.

It also sounded to me that Merida was very competitive, and I knew that Christian was not. From what he had told me about Elsie and Annie, and based on what I knew about the dolls here that Christian sometimes spent time with, I was willing to bet that Christian had never met anyone as focused on winning as Merida was. Poor Christian probably had no idea how to deal with someone like Merida. I certainly wouldn't have known what to do if I'd been in his place, which made things rather awkward when Christian asked me, "Elsa, what do I do if Merida wants me and Sven to play with her again?"

I reached down and touched Christian's shoulder as I tried to organize my thoughts. "Maybe you should talk to her," I said. "Maybe she doesn't know that games can be just as fun if nobody wins." Then, in a sudden flash of inspiration, I said, "Why don't you try teaching Merida some games where there is no winner. Maybe when she sees how much fun you can all have just playing together, she won't worry so much about winning."

Christian took my advice, and he did manage to talk Merida into trying some new games. Merida is still rather competitive, and she still seems to prefer games where there's a clear winner. But little by little she's learning to consider, not just what will make her happy, but what will make the other dolls playing with her happy. When Christian, Sven and I first met Merida, she decided who she was going to play with and what they were going to play without asking her potential playmates how they felt about it. I think Nora was just too shy to stand up to Merida, and Christian was worried at first about hurting Merida's feelings. But eventually Christian's patience ran out and he ended up telling Merida that she wasn't being fair.

Merida was a little hurt by Christian's words, which made Christian feel guilty. But in the long run Christian sharing how he really felt seemed to do some good. Now Merida will actually ask another doll to play with her, giving them the opportunity to say no if they want to. She will also suggest what games to play, letting the other players ok her choice instead of choosing for them.

I said in a previous post that having Merida in the house brought some challenges. But Merida wasn't the last challenge we faced that year. Around the time that Christian was finally starting to work things out with Merida and Nora, a new challenge dropped into our laps. Let's just say that my family has grown, and that there were some growing pains along the way. But that's a story for another day.

Love From Elsa

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Elsa's Story: Chapter 4 (Disney Frozen Birthday Party Elsa by Mattel)

I promised in my last post that I'd tell you more about little Merida. Christian and I first heard about Merida from Treesa. After what happened when Christian and Nora first met, I think Treesa didn't want to take any chances. I was reading to Christian and Sven from a book of French-Canadian fairy tales that Treesa had left out when Treesa came to see us. "Sorry to interrupt Elsa, but I need to talk to Christian," Treesa said.

I looked up from the page I was reading and glanced over at Christian, wondering what this was all about. Had Christian done something that Treesa thought was naughty? I really couldn't imagine Christian misbehaving. But I knew it must be something important if Treesa was getting involved.

Christian looked as confused as I felt. But he must've realized, like I had, that whatever Treesa had to say was important, because he got up from where he was sitting and walked over to Treesa without complaining. I noticed then that Treesa didn't look angry or annoyed, like I would've expected if she'd been there to correct Christian's behavior. Instead she seemed nervous, which confused me even more. Why would talking to Christian make her nervous? Treesa's sixth-scale child dolls might find Christian a little intimidating because of his larger size, but I could see no reason why a grown human like Treesa would be anxious around Christian. Treesa took a deep breath and said, "Christian, do you remember how, when I bought you and Sven, I also bought a little doll dress?"

Warning alarms began going off inside my head even before Christian's expression changed. Christian had already told me about that dress, and about the doll it had belonged to. Christian frowned at Treesa and said, "It's ELSIE'S dress."

"I know Christian," Treesa said. She looked even more worried than she had a moment ago. Then she said, "Christian, I bought a little girl doll at the thrift store yesterday. Her name's Merida, and she's the same size as you and Nora. She didn't come with any clothes except her boots, so she needed something to wear, and I didn't have anything else that would fit her. So I gave her Elsie's dress, just for now, until I can find her something else to wear. There's a seller on Etsy who makes clothes for the Petite Princess dolls, so I should be able to buy Merida something as soon as she finds something she likes. I just wanted you to know in case I'm not there when you meet Merida."

By the time Treesa got to the end of her speech she was racing through the words, as if she was trying to finish what she had to say before Christian could interrupt her. While I'd known Christian long enough to realize that he'd been upset by what Treesa had said, I wasn't sure if Treesa could recognize the signs the way I had. Christian didn't throw a temper tantrum. He's too well mannered for that. And he didn't cry, even though he looked as if he might've wanted to. He just stood there silently for a moment, as if he was trying to come to terms with what Treesa had told him. "Ok," Christian said in a small voice. Treesa seemed somewhat relieved and said, "If you want, I can introduce you and Elsa to Merida later."

"No thank you," Christian said a little too quickly. Afterwards he must've worried that he'd been rude, because he added, "Not right now. Elsa was reading a story."

"Ok Christian," Treesa said. "Whenever you're ready, just let me know." Treesa left then. I had closed the book while Treesa was speaking, and when she left I walked over to where Christian was standing. "Christian?" I said, resting my hand on his shoulder. Christian looked up at me, and the expression on his face broke my heart. I immediately gave him a hug. "Elsa, do you think I'll EVER see Elsie and Annie again?" Christian asked. At first I didn't know how to answer. I knew how much Christian missed his old friends, and I worried that it would break his heart if I told him that the odds were he'd never see them again. But I also knew that I couldn't make him any false promises. If I raised his hopes too much, it would only hurt worse when he realized the things he was hoping for weren't going to happen. "I don't know, Christian," I said finally.

Christian hugged me back even tighter, as if he was afraid I might disappear too. Sven came over and nosed Christian's side. Christian looked over at Sven, then up at me. "Elsa," Christian said, "could you finish reading the story? I want to hear what happens to Prince Philidor and Princess Irena."

"Of course," I said. I sat down and opened the book to where we'd left off. Christian sat close beside me, with Sven close beside him. I'm sure we would've made an interesting picture to any doll passing by who didn't already know us: me leaning over a book with an out of scale little boy doll and a plastic baby reindeer by my side. But we were a family, and I hoped we would stay that way for a very long time.

When Christian, Sven and I did meet Merida it wasn't Treesa who introduced us. It was Merida herself. She came careening into our lives one afternoon in early summer of last year. Christian, Sven and I had planned to do some cloud watching, and we were headed towards Treesa's bedroom window when an unfamiliar voice called, "Look out!"

I turned my head to see what was going on just as a small plastic ball sailed past me and bounced off one of Sven's antlers. Sven wasn't hurt, but all three of us were startled. Then a little girl doll I didn't know raced up to us. The first thing I noticed about her was her thick, curly red hair. The second thing I noticed was that she was holding a Barbie sized tennis racket.

"Sorry," the little girl doll said. "Nora missed the ball. She was supposed to hit it back." The little girl doll looked me over, then said, "I'm Merida. What's your name?"

"My name is Elsa," I said. "This is Christian, and this is Sven." I gestured towards each of them as I introduced them. Merida looked them over too, then she asked Christian, "Do you play sports?"

At first I don't think Christian knew how to react. Merida's arrival and her question were so unexpected. "I play ball with Sven sometimes," Christian blurted out in surprise.

"Great, now we can play in teams!" Merida said. Just then Nora caught up with Merida. However, when Nora saw me and my family she hung back. At the time Nora was still a little uncomfortable around Christian and Sven. It was when Nora came into view that I first noticed that the dress Merida wore was identical to Nora's.

Merida noticed that I was looking at something behind her and turned around. When she saw Nora, Merida said, "Nora, guess what. I met another doll our size and he has a pet cow that plays ball! Now all four of us can play together!"

I'd never seen Christian look so angry before. He gave Merida a stormy look and said, "Sven's NOT a COW, he's a REINDEER. And he's not a PET, he's my FRIEND."

Merida seemed stunned by Christian's reaction. "Sorry," Merida said, sounding genuinely apologetic. "Don't be mad. I never saw a reindeer before. I thought reindeers lived at the North Pole with Santa Claus."

Christian's expression was still a little sour, but he seemed to be thinking over what Merida had said. "Ok," Christian said, only slightly grudgingly. He seemed to have decided that he should at least give Merida a chance.

Merida smiled. "Great," she said. "Now we can play. Come on Nora," Merida called. "We need a racket for Christian." Merida was gone a moment later, leaving Nora to hurry after her.

For a moment Christian didn't move. He looked as if he was going over the last few minutes in his head, trying to figure out what had just happened. Then Christian looked over at me. "Elsa," he said, "do you think Merida would be sad if I didn't play with her?"

It was obvious from Christian's voice that he wanted to do the right thing, but that he wasn't sure what was 'the right thing' in this situation. To be honest, I wasn't sure what the right thing to do was either. I knew it was important that Christian give Merida a chance. On the other hand, I could understand why Christian might not want to play with Merida right this second. For one thing, Christian had promised to go cloud watching with me today, and Christian hated going back on his promises. For another thing, Merida hadn't actually asked Christian if he would like to play with her and Nora. She'd just assumed that Christian would go along with whatever she wanted.

Before I could say anything, Merida and Nora came back with an extra Barbie tennis racket. "Here," Merida said, holding the racket out to Christian. Christian looked at the racket hesitantly. Then he looked at Merida. "Would it be ok if me and Sven played with you and Nora later?" Christian asked. He quickly added, "I promised Elsa we'd go cloud watching."

"Oh...ok," Merida said. Christian must've heard the disappointment in Merida's voice, because his expression changed. It was obvious to me that Merida's reaction had made Christian feel guilty, so in an effort to raise everyone's spirits I asked Merida, "Would you and Nora like to go cloud watching with us?"

Nora still looked cautious, but there was something in her expression that made me think she might be interested. However, Merida didn't look at all enthusiastic. "I don't like cloud watching," she said. "You have to sit still the whole time. That's no fun." Merida turned then, and started walking away. "Come on Nora," she said. Nora didn't follow right away. Instead she took one last glance at me and my family before she turned and hurried after Merida. I wondered what Nora was thinking in that moment. Was she considering accepting my invitation, and if so what had changed her mind? Was she still too uncomfortable around Christian and Sven to stay? Or did she not want Merida to feel abandoned.

Merida never looked back to see if Nora was following her. It seemed to me that Merida just assumed that Nora would come, the same way she'd assumed that Christian would be willing to play with her and Nora, regardless of whether or not he already had plans for the afternoon. As Christian and I sat on the windowsill, picking out shapes in the clouds, I noticed that Christian seemed distracted and I wondered if he still felt guilty for not playing with Merida and Nora. Christian did, after all, know what it was like to have difficulty finding playmates. I can still remember the look in his eyes, not long after we first met, when he told me that Treesa's sixth-scale child dolls didn't often play with him and Sven.

(I'm going to have to stop here for the time being. There's more to the story, but Treesa gets nervous if the posts are too long. I'll post the rest just as soon as I can.
Love From Elsa)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Doll Diversity, Fantasy Hair Colors, And Finding A Reroot That Won't Break My Budget?

Hello again friends and visitors. This is Treesa. As anyone who frequents this blog can tell you, I've been drawn to dolls with 'fantasy hair colors' ever since I bought Dandelion used at a flea market. Lucky for me, Mattel seems to be making a lot more of these dolls lately. The newer Fashionistas series has featured a number of dolls with 'fantasy hair colors', and Mattel's various 'fairy' lines have also shown a lot more variety in terms of hair color. Granted most of these 'fairy' dolls have non-removable, molded clothing pieces, but I've found ways to work around that in some cases.

A bigger problem I'm having is that a large percentage of these 'fantasy hair color' dolls are Caucasian. I'd really like to have more diversity in my 'fantasy hair color' doll collection, but it seems to be harder to find an African American or an Asian or a Hispanic doll with a 'fantasy hair color'. This is particularly true for the various 'fairy' lines, although Mattel does seem to be including more diverse skin tones and head molds in these lines lately.

Still, in this age of online shopping, I wondered how difficult it would be to find dolls of other ethnicities who'd been rerooted with 'fantasy hair colors', and how much money I would have to save up to buy one. Now I've never bought a custom doll before, except for a vintage Francie who'd been rerooted with pink hair.

But I found her at the thrift store so I don't think she really counts. The most I've ever paid for a Barbie doll was $40.00 plus tax, and that was for a new in box collector doll that I bought retail years ago. So $40.00 or less became my baseline price. I realized of course that it was probably unrealistic to expect to find a custom, rerooted doll for $40.00. But I needed a place to start, and I thought it wouldn't hurt to look. Besides, I could always go up from $40.00 later. This post will go over what I learned in my initial search.

My first stop was ebay. As a starting point I typed "Barbie doll reroot" into the search box and adjusted the settings on the sidebar to "US only". I live in the United States, and at this stage I didn't want to have to worry about international shipping or customs or anything like that. Then I sorted my search results using "Price + Shipping: lowest first". After scrolling past all the listings for doll hair and nude Barbie dolls waiting for their makeovers I finally came across something that looked interesting.

A seller named eblake seemed to have exactly what I was looking for, ethnically diverse dolls rerooted in various 'fantasy hair colors'. Not only that but the prices were unbelievable, starting out at just $13.50 plus shipping for a rerooted, DRESSED doll. However as I studied the listings more closely, I discovered what I think is the seller's secret to keeping costs down. Nearly every one of the seller's dolls included the word "Ponytail", or the abbreviation "PT", in the listings. As the seller clearly explains at the bottom of every listing, this term means that the dolls are, to use the seller's exact words, "rooted like the original Barbies and have hair all along the outside hair line and the scalp is bald". Now the dolls do look lovely. Some of them look downright gorgeous. But because of the way they were rerooted the hair can't be restyled. Now I'm not much of a hairstylist, but I'd still like to have the option.

After I finished scrolling through the dolls eblake had listed, the next likely hit came from a seller named kaylinasboutique2010. A lovely nude doll, with a pink shade of hair that was described in the listing as a "cranberry blend", was posted at $40.00 plus shipping. The seller had some other rerooted dolls for sale, but their price tags were higher at $65.00 plus shipping.

I still wanted to research my other options, so my second stop was etsy. Once again I typed "Barbie doll reroot" into the search box and set the filter for "shop location: United States". I was a little surprised by how few results I got. There were more listings for "packs" or "hanks" or "wefts" of doll hair than there were for completed dolls. RetroDollsUS did have a lovely reproduction Barbie that had been rerooted with a beautiful blend of blue and blue-green for $60.00. But that wasn't what I was looking for and I'm not the type to spend more than $25.00 on an impulse purchase. There's a reason I buy most of my dolls at the thrift store. Well, actually there's more than one reason, but cost is a big factor.

Thinking my search terms may have been too specific I tried typing in "Barbie reroot" (which gave me pretty much the same results), and "doll reroot" (which brought up a flood of Monster High and Blythe custom dolls). At any rate, I think I found out what I wanted to know, which was how much would a rerooted doll cost me. The answer is, more than I can justify spending without doing some budgeting in advance. I'm thinking if I can put a little money aside each month, I might save up enough to try my search again sometime. Or I might just wait and see what new dolls Mattel comes out with. Like I said before, Mattel seems to be branching out lately in terms of doll hair colors.

Signed, Treesa

Update: Look who I found at Walmart.

She's a Barbie Dreamtopia Sweetville Fairy doll. At least she was before I removed her wings and redressed her. Isn't her skin tone lovely? My camera doesn't do her justice. And that hair, it reminds me of cotton candy.

The trick to redressing these 'fairy' dolls is to keep in mind that their body shape is basically a belly button body, but the chest is usually a little larger thanks to the raised details on the dolls' molded bodices. So in general these dolls can wear pants and skirts designed for the belly button body, but when it comes to shirts it helps if they're either made of stretchy fabric or from the pre-belly button body time frame when Barbie's chest was slightly larger.