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Archive for December, 2009

Tell Me a Story: Perspective

LP is in love with a Wild Thing.

We went to the Sendak exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and interacting with the two “live” Wild Things was the highlight. Actually the only light because once LP met them the rest of our time in the museum was spent “Wild Thing hunting” so we could find them again. (The actors in those costumes were really great especially since they couldn’t really see and had to have a museum staff member directing them where to aim their lovely masked faces and furry waves and high fives.)

So LP got to choose a stuffed Wild Thing at the gift shop; it was truly difficult choice as she told me “I love them all.” And so Violin Case (yes, that’s the Wild Thing’s name and no, I have no idea why but it kinda works) has become a part of the family.

I love the name Violin Case because it so exemplifies the freedom of LP’s stage of life. She likes the sound of those words so why not a name? I enjoy so much of that part of LP’s play these days…one of Violin Case’s buddies at our house is the space heater (named Feather). And really, why not a space heater (as long as certain safety rules are followed). Big huzzah for the imaginative freedom to be friends with people and live animals and plants and stuffed animals and all kinds of inanimate objects.

And now for the storytelling connection….the night after Violin Case joined our family was truly epic in the lack of sleep. Epic. Even for us, the house of insomnia and bad sleep. And it was just LP and me because ImprovDad was out of town. There was singing, there was cuddling, there was rocking, there was soft music and back rubs….and a story.

I told LP the story of Violin Case’s day from Violin Case’s perspective (rather a la Coduroy). Even despite the miserable early morning hour it was a fun way to tell a story. It was especially fun to explore what Violin Case’s thought about LP and our home and the new friends she met like Feather.

So that’s my new storytelling start…taking the freedom to choose a different perspective.

This post is part of SteadyMom’s 30 Minute Blog Challenge.

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As 2009 hurtles to a close, I thought I’d share a few of our favorite things on the books and music front. One of the many wonderful things about being an improvisor is that everything is grist for the improv mill…just like common advice for writers is to read a lot, same is true for improvisors. The more diversity we are exposed to, the more choices our imaginations have as possibilities when we start making things up.

So here’s some music and books we enjoyed (and occasionally both combined):

Top Songs of 09
LP gets very attached to songs. We started the year with the incessant refrain of “My Favorite Things”…thank goodness I love Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music because that song was truly on nonstop. Here’s some other songs that took several spins on our cd player and ipods:

“Choo Choo Boogaloo” by Buckwheat Zydeco (on the album of the same name)
“Riding on the Buggy” by Phil (on the album Turkey in the Straw)
“Shoveling” by Tom Chapin (on the album Family Tree)
“Roller in the Coaster” by Justin Roberts (on Putamayo’s Folk Playground)

A few artists got major play with more than one song in the rotation…pretty much anything by The Carpenters, Asheba (wonderful, local artist, one of my favorite children’s performers and I’ve seen many in a past life in arts-in-education) and currently The Allman Brothers.

Also books that are songs like Raffi’s Baby Baluga and Natalie Bernard Westcott’s Skip to My Lou were happily read/sang all year long. (I enjoy Westcott’s illustrations so I pick up anything at the library that she’s written or illustrated.)

Favorite Kids Books
LP and I are major library hounds…and we got through lots and lots of books. These are the ones that stand out and came home with us multiple times (mostly picture books although some are also available in board book form):

I’ve always loved Bruce Degan’s Jamberry and this year we discovered Daddy is a Doodlebug — an instant hit in our house.

Olivier Dunrea’s gosling books especially Gossie and Gossie & Gertie

Farm Fresh Cats by Scott Santoro… a quirky book about the day that something extraordinary happens on Farmer Ray’s farm.

Bear Snores On
by Karma Wilson

The Mouse and the Buddha
by Kathryn Price

Count by Denise Fleming

Time for Bed
by Mem Fox

Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long

Poppleton
books by Cynthia Rylant and Mark Teague (early reader book)

Night House, Bright House
by Monica Wellington

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

The Alphabet from A to Y with bonus letter Z by Steve Martin & Roz Chast

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Tabak

And pretty much anything by Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton or Ezra Jack Keats.

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Leave Them Laughing

No games or improv musings this week (although I have a bunch brewing on the back burner)… just using this small platform of this blog to help my friend and fellow improvisor Carla raise awareness about ALS. Truth is I wish I knew Carla better but have been fortunate that she has been sharing her experiences in her straight-forward, funny, sexy and sometimes raunchy style. I know that we none of us know how we will face death but I know that my perspective on the roads available to travel down is much expanded because of Carla.

I’m going to quote Carla for the next bit…she says it better in a recent email than I could:

I’m writing you after a short stay in the hospital where I discovered something distressing about ALS. I know you’re probably thinking “What isn’t distressing about ALS?” and you’d be right. I discovered how unknown ALS is even to health professionals. Of all the paramedics, firemen, nurses, and nurses’ aides I met last week, NONE OF THEM had heard of ALS.

This is a problem.

It made me think about my son’s frequent lament that the reason ALS awareness is so important is not because it’s the worst disease and not because people are inherently more worthy of awareness when they have ALS, but because AIDS and cancer have 100% awareness and ALS didn’t even hit 10% in a frickin’ hospital.

Therefore, I have made it a goal in the months I have left on this planet to get 10,000 people that don’t know about ALS to learn about it.

One way that Carla is doing that raising awareness is through the calendar she has shepherded into being. Carla rallied a group of folks with ALS and put together the Aways Looking Sexy 2010 calendar. You can read about it here and buy it here.

You can also learn more about Carla and her journey on her blog and from the musical comedy documentary about her, “Leave Them Laughing”. Yes, that’s right, she’s the subject of a musical comedy documentary about her living and dying…that’s Carla.

This post is part of the Moms’ 30-Minute-Blog Challenge over at SteadyMom. It took the whole 30 minutes…but not more!

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My Aunt J is visiting us for a week which is fabulous in so many ways. Many of those I had expectations for (like childcare — woohoo!!! — so I was able to say “yes” to some freelance work this week) but the best thing I’ve seen is the way she notices what LP is interested in and says “yes” to it through her actions.

Like many of her cohort, LP is a nature collector. Happiness is being outside, making bouquets and collecting bits of nature – olives, flowers, grass, dandelions. And fall leaves have been her delight.

And a wonderful thing Aunt J is doing for LP, is that every morning as she walks to our place from her b&b, she picked up something special for LP…a large handful of yellow gingko leaves or a twisty branch with light green leaves or some bright red maple leaves. Such a wonderful start to their connection every morning.

Ah, yes…it is lovely to have one’s little person seen by another.

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The Not-So-Fearless Mama

I got stuck at the top of the slide today.

That kind of thing hasn’t happened to me in a looooooong time. But boy howdy, do I ever have a history of getting stuck in high places. Slides, adventure ropes courses, ladders, trees — you name it, I’ve gotten myself to a height where my paralyzing fear kicks in.

This is the first time it has happened with LP.

It is a cold, overcast day, so after a lovely time at the library with my visiting Aunt J, we stopped at a deserted playground. The one with the old fashioned metal equipment including teeter-totters and my nemesis, the slide. A tall, metal, twisty slide.

That LP, of course, wanted to go down.

And I foolishly said “if you can climb up there on your own, I will go down with you.”

And she did (with me climbing right after her, getting more anxious as we got farther off the ground). The girl who has never shown any interest in climbing ladders went all the way up.

And then the panic set in.

To top it off, the top part of the slide was one, big cold puddle from the rain. A cold puddle that I ended up sitting in as I struggled to not completely freeze up in panic.

I could not go down the slide. And I could not see being able to climb down the ladder with her. Stuck, stuck, stuck. Stuck and sitting in a cold puddle with a getting-fidgety LP. Aunt J was trying to help from the ground but wasn’t able to come up and help.

My mind was racing and I really wanted to be able to go down the slide, to show LP about overcoming fear, about being afraid and doing it anyway. Those are life lessons I believe in and want to share actively. One of the many things I’ve loved about learning to improvise, is that I am less fearful as a person. I’ve learned how to embrace risk-taking of all kinds. Risk-taking on stage has led to risk-taking in life. Over my years of improvising, I’ve actively worked on many of my fears, including heights (really, I used to get panicky just standing on a chair and joke that it was a good thing I wasn’t taller because I’d be scared).

So sitting there, miserable, cold and afraid with my daughter, I tried to muster some improv juju to help me get down.

Nothing.

In the midst of it I started to realize that I would never ask LP to take on something she was so scared of in such a big chunk. I would help her break it down. And for me to succeed at taking her down this slide, I needed to do it in smaller chunks, like going down without her first (which was not really an option in the moment, but still a helpful realization).

So I took a deep breath and focused on the streets outside the playground and after a few attempts, caught the attention of two nurses walking out of the hospital across the way. I called out that I was stuck and couldn’t get down with my daughter and one of them was up the ladder to us so fast, it was amazing. She climbed down with LP and then helped talk me down the ladder as I thanked her again and again.

LP, Aunt J and I walked home fast as possible because it was cold in my very wet pants. I was feeling badly about LP seeing me fail at this (and not keep true to my word).

Yet another improv lesson is “fail gloriously” and it is so true that failure is often where the learning is at….so LP will get to see me fail and try again AND try again with the support I need to succeed.

For the interim, I’m sending her to that park with ImprovDad over the weekend for a fear-free slide experience.


Today’s post is a part of the Moms’ 30-minute blog challenge over at SteadyMom. Click on over to see what other moms are blogging about and wish Jamie a happy blogoversary!

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Improv for Tired Parents

Narration is one of my favorite things to turn to when I am feeling weary and LP wants more and more and more from me. A day like today.

I simply narrate what she is doing and spice it up with a bit of color/description. Sometimes choosing a genre helps keep it fun too. When I’m narrating, I start with what is actually happening and then embellish a bit. Sometimes LP accepts offers from my narration and other times they are just for my own entertainment. (My own sitting or lying down entertainment!)

For example:

Nature Documentary
“LP sits on the floor lying in wait. She picks up Norma Chimp to help her track down the missing blanket. With Norma in one hand, she is ready.”

Sports Announcer
“And next on the couch for the world’s biggest pillow pile is LP with the green pillow! She stacks it carefully…and oh! The pile is falling. LP is under the pile and look, there….she is up again!”

Newscaster
“In today’s top headlines, LP is going for the world record of hanging on her mama’s leg.”

Today’s post is part of the Moms’ 30 Minute Blog Challenge over at SteadyMom. Thanks Jamie for the continued inspiration to get up a post up on Tuesdays!

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