Archive for March, 2010

Traveling Heavy

is not necessarily a bad thing.

I’m getting LP and myself ready to hit the road to visit family on the East Coast and getting in my usual pre-flight anxiety twist-up. Part of me gets focused on “oh I’m bringing too much stuff” and then worried that I’m not bringing the right stuff. And so on and so on and so on.

I was thinking that I had traveled light pre-LP but that isn’t true. I don’t like to fly so I always brought as many distractions (books, crossword puzzles, knitting, writing, music) as possible.

Then I realized how to let go of the anxiety…traveling with all this stuff is for comfort. As much as LP needs her best buds, Lambda & BunBun, to come along, I need to know that I’m prepared for…well, for almost anything.

It reminded me of being a new improvisor and wanting to have a set list for a show. I wanted to know what games we would play (or at least might play) and to have reviewed the rules and so on. Then I got restless with so much “knowing” and wanting more challenge. So I started doing shows without set lists…and then I started doing longform improv. This longform creating of up to 2 hour shows on the spot still feels delicious and exciting. In Un-Scripted we usually have a frame we’ve agreed upon (a genre, like Shakespeare or Romantic Comedy) and we rehearse to come to agreement about what that genre means but then….in the show it is so open and free to discover all the things can happen. I went from needing the illusion of being prepared to anything to feeling prepared to improvise.

It reminded me of being a new parent and anxiously reading and seeking advice (or accepting advice thrust upon us!). And then (finally) came a point of balance of finding the place that brought together useful information (like what is developmentally appropriate) with being in the moment of being a parent and figuring out what works for our family. I went from needing to find the “right” way to needing to find our way.

So I’m traveling heavy today….although a little lighter than in the past. The first time I took a plane trip with LP I brought 20+diapers, today I only have 8.

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I have a Mary Poppins-ish approach to parenting things. The bottom line is that there are non-negotiable things that a little person has to deal with AND I like to make it playful whenever possible. So in the spirit of a “spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down” we are now having grand opera tooth brushing every night.

We’ve been through a few phases of toothbrushing. Animal faces worked for awhile recently (lion roar to get the back teeth, zebra smile for the front). Then we had a few weeks of struggle (you know, the two parent tooth brushing, where one of us is holding squirming child) until opera entered the routine.

So now after an opportunity to mess around with the toothbrush on her own for a bit, LP and I do a brief warm up (mi, mi, mi,mi, miiiiii) and then big, grand voice soaring “AaaaaaaaaHs” together while I simultaneously get a good brushing of the chompers done.

It is fun and evolving. A couple of nights ago, she initiated going up the scale with each “aaaah” and the following night we stumbled into some fun harmonies.

I’ll enjoy it while it lasts….and who knows what “sugar” will come next.

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Many of my blog posts return to the idea of saying yes, finding ways to say yes, and seeking “yes” experiences.

It is a core principle of improvisation…as improv guru Keith Johnstone says (and I paraphrase here): “Saying ‘no’ keeps you safe, saying ‘yes’ leads to adventure.” Another way of putting it is that “no” keeps us in the realm of the familiar and prevents (or at least attempts to prevent) change, while “yes” invites change into the picture.

There are lots of valid reasons for big people to say no. There are safety reasons, ethical reasons, and personal value reasons. There are emotional reasons…and a subset of those is the all important group of saving one’s own sanity reasons.

And there are lots of little people reasons to say “no.” Because they are tired or hungry or frustrated or desiring to do it themselves or wanting to express something that is too big for the words they know….or because they are 2 or 3 (or older!) and learning the power and control of “no” it is part of that stage of development.

So as much as our little folk need to learn to use “no,” we can also make sure to give them opportunities to say “yes” — even when they are firmly grounded in the practice of “no.”

Some foundations for “yes” success include…

  • saying “yes” (literally). I try to remember to actually say “yes” and not always just nod or do something without acknowledging the “yes.”
  • saying “yes” with actions. When LP invites me for the 8th time to come play tinkertoys and I agree, I try to get into the game and really play…even if it is only for 5 minutes.
  • making sure physical needs (food, water, potty, diaper change, etc) are taken care of (really hard to say “yes” when you are physically uncomfortable)
  • using all the observations you have about what makes your little person (or people) tick. I realized that LP is quite willing to eat veggies while I’m chopping them and cooking and not as willing when they show up on her plate. So by I give her lots of opportunities for her to say “yes” to my desire for her to eat vegetables by saying “yes” to the eating moment that works for her.
  • clear requests….while it doesn’t always work, sometimes just letting LP know what I need in a straightforward way leads to a “yes.”
  • AND multiple opportunities. I know LP sometimes says “no” to something she really wants. I give her a little space and make the offer again. And sometimes again after that.

As you might imagine…a post like this can only be written in the midst of a lot of “no, no, no.”

This post is part of the Moms’ 30 minute blog challenge over at SteadyMom.

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There are many different ways to incorporate the sense of touch into storytelling and story-acting.

I focused on touch as a starting point when I was working with seniors with dementia. I always had a bag of scarves to serve as props and often brought in other objects (often natural objects that were out of reach for folks living in a facility like seashells or pine cones). Of course all of these objects activate other senses too, but it was important to me to have things they could touch as well as see.

One moment will always stand out to me. A woman that enjoyed our talk sessions but really was not into our acting sessions got swept up into a group-created story about three sisters getting ready to go to a dance. When she agreed to be one of the sisters, I asked her “what color dress will you wear?” She replied, “Blue” and her eyes lit up with delight when I pulled a light blue scarf from my bag . “Yes, that’s the color!” she said. She and I draped it over her and throughout the rest of the session, I saw her stroke the scarf while she participated with gusto. I believe it was that moment where her senses got united with her imagination that freed her to enjoy stepping into the group’s story.

So here are a few ideas to get started:

1) Choose an object (or objects) to bring into playing with your little person and see how it evolves into a story. With a seashell, you can talk about its colors and textures, listen for the ocean and tell/act a story of the shell’ s journey in the ocean. Or imagine what it is like to live inside a shell and act that out.

2) Choose a tactile way to expand a written story that your little person enjoys. An example is having a set of keys to use while reading “Goodnight Gorilla.” Scarves or playsilks are always wonderful to become the sea or the sky or other elements of a story.

3) Start with the tactile experience of the here and now. If you and your little person are barefoot in the grass, explore that feeling and let it grow into whatever comes next…maybe being a piece of grass growing. Or telling a story about the toes in the grass that met an ant. Or the toes in the grass that met other toes and took them to meet the brick path by the grass.

That’s just the beginning….what ideas do you use with your little ones?

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Here and now, I am on a plateau. Somehow so many areas of my life (including finding “a ha!” moments and ideas to blog about) feel stalled right now. My ability to initiate, to create, to make things happen…that ability seems to be set on low (or off). I feel less competent in almost every arena of life. Ugh.

I am not patient with being on a plateau. I am not gracious about being on a plateau. I have all kinds of “good” self-talk about how being on a plateau is also part of learning and growing. It can be a place of integration or a place of regeneration. I am trying, trying, trying to see it as an opportunity to regenerate, to restore energy to heart and mind and spirit.

I attempt to reflect on other plateau times and I know these things to be true. That the plateau is part of learning. I am seeking ways to breathe deeply and take in the view because I know that when things get moving again, that big things may happen.

Improv frames my perspective in this as in many things. I remember after about 2 years of improvising (and I mean IMPROVISING…once I caught the improv bug, that’s what I did 4 or 5 nights a week…classes, shows, impromptu get togethers, etc), I just stopped improving. I wasn’t able to translate my knowledge of characters and story into action in scenes and games. I floundered. I despaired. It went on for a looooonnnnng time. Friends became performers and excelled. I remained in classes and regressed. And got upset and sad and didn’t think it would ever change.

And it did. Slowly without realizing it, it changed. All that head knowledge turned into active knowledge. And I was invited to perform. And teach. And so many doors opened up that I am ever grateful for not giving up. I didn’t know what life would look like off the plateau, just that I wanted off the plateau.

Many years later, my perspective is a bit different. I would like to get off the plateau but my hope is I can use this time to prepare for the unknown ahead. I want to feel ready to start saying YES to ideas and opportunities (without obsessing about where are those ideas and opportunities???).

This post is part of the Moms’ 30 Minute Blog Challenge over at SteadyMom.

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There was a Little Person who had a cardboard box.

Her mama had a yearning to make something from this box. The box moved around their home for many weeks, sometimes being played with and sometimes just being a box.

Then there was a day full of rain and colds in the head. Little Person and her mama were looking for things to do.

So they made a little house:

The little house had a little door and windows all around. Little Person put a layer of lovies in and had her mama put her in through the roof. Then requested story after story read to her through the window.

A few days later the sun came out…so Little Person and her mama (mostly her mama who really likes that kind of thing) painted the little house:

This post is part of se7en’s Fabulous Friday Fun!

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LP has always been a focused individual. And she has always had plans…I think it a main drive in her early mastery of words was “get these big people in on what the plan is.”

And turning 3 has turned up the passion for her plans. She wakes up in the morning with ideas for the moment and the day and goes to sleep at night talking about her next plans with her loveys.

She often bursts from her room after “quiet time” (in quotes because it is rarely quiet) with a list of what comes next. This morning she arrived by our bed with an armful of pandas who NEEDED a walk and then to be wrapped in a blanket while LP ate yogurt with frozen raspberries.

ImprovDad and I are both pretty delighted by her plans. We want to raise a strong girl who can articulate and follow her passions.

Of course, true to her stage of development, interruptions in her plan are met with protest. So I’m attempting to be creative so I still say “yes!” to the plan and her enthusiasm and also can 1) disengage myself when I need a break or have something else I’m doing or 2) there’s something else I need her to do (like submit to a diaper change or get her shoes on).

Today as I was trying to wrangle these thoughts into a post, I had the “a-ha!” that some of my delight in LP’s plans come from the commitment that she brings to them…it is full commitment of body and spirit.

One of the principles of improv is just that — COMMITMENT. When we’re creating, it is so easy to get scared or unsure or even just plain confused (I’ve had that moment on stage plenty of times..what just happened?). Commitment is the answer. I’ve experienced it and witnessed it so many times with improvisors on and offstage. When we commit and really commit with our whole body and spirit, our confidence grows and we start to delight again in the act of creation and the experiences we’re having. An example I use in teaching is often in rhyming games which is “a word rhymes with itself — cat rhymes with cat perfectly. A word rhymes with a similar sounding real word — cat rhymes with bat and also with a made up word — cat rhymes with giblat. AND cat rhymes with dog if you say it with enough commitment.”

In reflecting on this, I see that I’ve been in a low-commitment zone. My mind feels a bit fuzzy and I have a slew of unfinished business. None of those projects has hit the crisis mode…and all seem to be in meandering mode. Even my novel is sputtering.

I think I need to see if I can approach even one of these lingering projects with some of LP’s energy. If I were to write my novel the way LP tells a story…well, that’s an interesting idea… I imagine that I’d be enjoy

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