Summer Bird Stories

Family-Friendly Short Stories, Cartoons, and Illustrations

How to Make Basic Paper Dolls

When I was younger, I spent a lot of time making paper dolls. It was a fun way to use my imagination and make something to give away that made people happy. All I needed was blank paper, a window, sunlight, and something to draw with.

First, you need to draw something to dress up. It can be anything. It can be something you draw or that someone else drew. It just needs a torso and limbs. The limbs may be optional. I think you could make it work without them. Actually, a snake paper doll sounds fun. It would need bends in the torso to keep the clothes from sliding off. Maybe next time.

Next, hold it up to a window, put a paper over it, and trace the outline and add the facial features so you know where they are. This is important if you are adding masks or helmets or hats.

Now, as long as you have the outline, you can color and cut out the doll and still make more clothes. Or recreate the doll. Things can happen to ruin paper, and if you’ve gifted the paper doll to someone small, things are likely to happen. It’s nice to be able to say that you can fix it if they get upset.

Using the outline, or the doll, you can make just about any outfit you can imagine. Hold it up to a window, put a paper over it, and start drawing. The outline needs to hug the sides of the torso in a few places so that you can draw tabs there to hold the clothes onto the doll. It works best if there’s at least one tab on either side of the torso. The more tabs, the better.

Shoes and hats can be connected to the outfit or not. With hats, it’s difficult to add more than one tab. So, you can draw the hat with a slit just the size of the head at the brim, leaving room around it so the paper doesn’t tear. Then the hat just slides onto the head of the doll.

Experiment and have fun. If something doesn’t work quite right, try it a different way. Figuring it all out is part of the fun.

If you want to print out the pictures in this post and make the killer whale paper doll with all its clothes, click on each image and then print them.

Please let me know if you make some paper dolls! I’d love to see pictures.

Charlie’s Room: Short and Tall

Charlie looked up from his spaghetti and asked, “How tall will I be when I grow up?”

Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Isaac lost the staring contest. He smiled at Charlie. “It’s hard to say. You’ll probably be somewhere around the height of your mom and I. Why do you ask?”

“I was wondering if I got too tall for this house, if I could go and live at that store with the really tall doors. I think I’d like that. How do I get to be tall?”

Marianne shrugged. “I don’t think you get to pick how tall you are. Just eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep. That’s pretty much all you can do.”

“Unless you end up in some sort of magical dimension and eat the wrong sort of thing,” Isaac added.

“Like Alice in Wonderland?” Charlie grinned. “I like that. It would be nice to be able to be short and tall whenever you want. And her clothes grew with her! That would be good. I’m not sure if there are clothes for really, really tall people in the stores. If I was really small, we could buy a doll house for me to live in.”

“Well, there aren’t any magical dimensions, so you need to eat your vegetables and go to bed on time.” Marianne pointed to his plate and Charlie started eating his peas.

“And the dollhouse?” Charlie asked, his mouth half full of chewed peas.

“Wait to finish eating what’s in your mouth before you talk.”

Charlie closed his mouth, and Isaac nodded approvingly. “If you were small enough to live in a dollhouse, we’d get you one.”

Charlie finished chewing. “I think I need a little brother or sister.”

“Why?” Marianne frowned.

“Then I wouldn’t be the littlest one in the house. I’d be really big, but I wouldn’t be the biggest one, either. I’d be big and small at the same time. So?”

“So, what?” Isaac asked.

“When can I have a little brother or sister?”

Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Isaac lost the staring contest again. He really needed to practice, or he was going to be stuck answering all the difficult questions. He didn’t mind really, except that Marianne usually gave better answers.

“That probably won’t happen,” Isaac said. “But we’ll let you know if that changes. I think you’re overlooking one obvious solution to your problem.”

Charlie frowned at first, but his frown fell as he began to think. “What solution? Can we get a dog?”

“I’m still allergic to dogs, sadly,” Isaac said.

Charlie thought a little longer. “I still don’t know.”

“If what you really want is to be short and tall, the solution isn’t to find some one younger than you. If you had a little brother or sister, they would grow too. They might even end up taller than you. Also, you are already shorter than us, but as you get older, that will change. We won’t be a lot taller than you any more. However, there are things that you are always going to be taller than or shorter than.”

“Like what?”

“Think of the plants and animals that are taller and shorter than you.”

“Like dinosaurs?”

Isaac nodded. “Yup. Always taller.”

“But who is always shorter?”

“Goldfish, petunias, flower fairies, leprechauns, ants…” Isaac started counting things off on his fingers.

“I still kind of want a little brother or sister. And a big brother or sister. And a dog.” Charlie pushed the peas around on his plate.

Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Marianne smiled and let Isaac win the staring contest. She put a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “Do you remember the story of the three bears? Each of the bears had something different, but it was just right for them. Do you think Mama bear who liked soft chairs would have been comfortable in Papa bear’s chair?”

“No.”

“Do you think that Papa Bear liked his porridge the same way as Mama bear?”

“I guess not. I don’t know.”

Marianne patted Charlie’s shoulder and let go. “Just right is different for different people and different families. I think our family is just right for us. I’m glad we have each other.”

Charlie nodded slowly. “Okay. But can we get a bird? Or a goldfish? Dad isn’t allergic to those.”

Marianne looked at Isaac and he shrugged. “We’ll see,” she said.

The next week, they bought a goldfish. It was much shorter than Charlie. “Now I just need to find a dinosaur,” he said.

Family Recipe: Brock’s Soup

When I was younger, my uncle Shirl made this soup when my family was visiting. I asked for the recipe and called it Uncle Shirl’s Soup. I continued to make Uncle Shirl’s Soup after I got married and had kids, up until my kids started watching Pokemon. After that, the recipe was the same, but the kids renamed the soup. It is now Brock’s Soup, named after the delicious looking soup the character Brock makes for his friends.

When Everything Went Buggy

No one really noticed at first. Things were just a little more glitchy than normal. People blamed solar storms and hackers and new software and new hardware and their least favorite politicians. However, they were wrong.

Insects are uniquely adaptable. They can withstand heat and cold. They can eat things that nothing else can. If you add in the world of viruses and bacteria, the scope of possible food sources and environments seems virtually limitless.

And truly there were no virtual limits. The moment the bugs figured out how to eat electronic data, there was a vast technological banquet spread out for them, defenseless. And so they began to feast.

As these things go, there were only a few bugs at first. But with such a wealth of their preferred food available, the bugs began to multiply. Of course, as the bugs multiplied, so did the problems.

Websites vanished. Banking information vanished. Speeding tickets and online meetings and ebooks and unpublished manuscripts were gone too. People lost life’s work, and they lost their day’s work. Airlines couldn’t fly. Grocery stores couldn’t make new orders. Children couldn’t watch their favorite television shows.

In a few weeks, the world was cut off, communication and travel made difficult and nearly impossible. War and elections and daily life paused, unable to continue as before.

In small rooms all over the world, people tried to understand and fix what went wrong. Some people tried to communicate with the bugs. Some people tried to fence them in with firewalls. Others tried to kill them with viruses and malware and pages of terrible dad jokes.

None of those things worked.

And yet, all was not lost. Fortunately for the world, in the hour of their greatest need, a hero appeared. A programmer managed to create a virtual spider to catch the bugs and eat them.

As information began to stay put, the world began the terrible task of typing in decades worth of information that had been lost. It took an entire year before work began to slow down. They were all so intent on their task, that they didn’t notice the jiggling. At least, not at first.

Virtual spiders crawling through electronic data looking for bugs would sometimes push things out of place. Programmers kept having to patch up code that suddenly went bad. The spiders, feeding on the bugs, began to multiply. And the problem only grew worse.

Fortunately, they now had a model to follow. They created virtual birds to eat the spiders. And cats to chase away the birds. And dogs to chase away the cats. And goats to chase away the dogs.

By this time, the code was a complete mess. Programmers were mopping up essential services around the clock. Everyone felt like they were back to the beginning of the crisis.

There was some talk of creating virtual people to patrol online, but that idea was quickly taken off the table. No one wanted to be the cause of some sort of virtual technological rebellion down the line.

The world needed another hero. Fortunately, heroes tend to appear just when they’re needed, unlike wizards, who only appear when they mean to and not a moment before. This is why heroes are more helpful than wizards.

A programmer invented elastic code that snapped back in place when it was bumped out of the way. It snapped quickly enough to leave very little detectable change to the effects of the code. This made everything run a little slower or have to be loaded up more than once, but it worked. The virtual world was saved.

Of course, it was still full of virtual goats and dogs and cats and birds and spiders bumping into things. This made lights flicker and videos jump and stock markets flail. People got used to it all and eventually forgot all about the virtual petting zoo.

In time, people began to tell stories about the ghosts that haunted electronic data, attempting to communicate with the living. Fortunetellers and mediums and meteorologists tried to read the signs and predict the future. Sometimes they were right.

Meanwhile, the bugs began to adapt. Solar energy started looking mighty tasty, and there was a large source just radiating paths to its surface. Soon enough, things were going to be buggy again. Luckily, yet predictably, the world was preparing a hero.

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