Archive for July, 2010

Story Links

I’m always interested in expanding and deepening my understanding of stories and storytelling and the web can be a treasure trove of ideas.

Here are some story inspiration links:

Pirates in Pajamas (I linked to the homepage so you can see how their story begins…there’s lots of great ideas on the site and their blog for storybuilding)

“How We Tell Stories” at Teacher Tom’s Blog (So much to read an enjoy on Teacher Tom’s blog! Reading about daily life and action at his preschool often inspires me to look at what I can do with LP in a new light.)

“Storytelling Tips for Oral Language Development” at Literacy Connections (Straightforward and specific.  A little something for the left side of your brain.)

“If I had the Courage…” at the Improvisational Storyteller (This is my friend Kat’s bog.  Contemplating her questions inspired me in my own storytelling AND I love the idea to starting stories using the magic “if.” I can see using it to explore emotions with LP by starting stories “If I felt sad…” or “If I felt mad…”)

Do you have a favorite story structure or link to share? I’d love it if you would share!

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

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Performing improvisors know the almost impossible to resist pull of going onstage when a scene is going well.

I’ve stood on the sidelines knowing that I am not needed — the actors are solidly playing the characters they have created, the story is flowing, the audience is laughing or crying — and yet, I want to be onstage. I want to be a part of that. Who wouldn’t? When it feels good just to be close to that action, it is easy to imagine that it would be incredible to be in the middle of it. That thought is never at the forefront of my consciousness; my imagination gives me all kinds of ideas that would justify getting out there, but underneath it all, I know that I just want to be out there for the good stuff.  From inside a scene that is rocking and rolling along, I’ve felt the “oh no” as other improvisors pile on in to try and be a part of it.

It is the flipside of hanging out in the wings when things are going badly and you don’t know what to do. When the stage is cold and the improvisors on it are floundering, just getting yourself on the stage to make some kind of offer is the best thing. When you do that, even if it doesn’t help the scene, at the very least, your fellow players know they are not alone. There is the difference — when the stage is cold, we need to be reminded that we are not alone and return to the most basic principles of taking care of our partners and triggering their imaginations.  When the stage is hot, we need to know that sometimes the best offer is the one held back in respect of what is already happening.  The choice to not to do something can be just as playful and wonderful a choice as doing something.

I have gotten (and given) the post-show note, “You weren’t needed in that scene. Stay offstage.” It is common. It is so human. When there’s fun, we want in.  Yet going on stage when you are not needed often throws a scene off-kilter.  The magic of the moment can be deflated by the over-eager newcomer.

And so it is in playing with our little people too. There is a delicate balance to be found between offering opportunities to play together, joining play, letting the little people take the lead, taking the lead, and staying out of it.

Which brings me to yesterday morning’s cat pancakes.

LP & I had a number of days in a row where all our mornings felt rushed. So yesterday we were taking it slow and I suggested making pancakes for breakfast. The response was an enthusiastic “YES!”

In the middle of helping pour and mix, she climbed down from the stepstool to harvest some cats to add. (She has long been into the book Farm Fresh Cats by Scott Santoro.  In this book, Farmer Ray’s cabbage crop mysteriously turns into a cat crop. Very quirky and fun.) She went back and forth a number of times, harvesting her imaginary cats from the other room and running in to add them to the pancake batter. Throughout this, I bantered with her –calling her “Farmer Ray” and talking about cat harvest — while cooking and cleaning up a bit.

Once the pancakes (with blueberries) were cooking, LP was back on the stool counting cat eyes (blueberries). Her face was alight with delight, her energy was big and bold; it was just fun to be next to her.  And I noticed myself start to think about making pancakes in the shape of cats. Surely that would be even more fun, right?

Fortunately there was no space to start a new pancake at the moment of that idea so I got to sit with it a minute. And realized that, LP was completely engrossed in the experience she had created.  My offer of cat-shaped pancakes (which of course won’t really look much more like real cats than my un-cat-shaped pancakes), would be the equivalent of going onstage when I am not needed. My offer of shaping the pancakes intentionally like cats might have  deflated her imagining of them.

LP’s imagination was off and running, her play was full and robust.  She was showing me the level of interaction that added to her pleasure;  my role was mostly audience with a little verbal interaction.  If she had been minimally engaged in playing this out, joining her in harvesting the cats or making my sorta-cat-shaped pancakes would be invitations for more engagement as I tested out things to spark her imagination.

Throughout breakfast, I stayed focus on being appreciative  audience for LP’s Farmer Ray;  It was easy to do, especially since Farmer Ray enjoyed her cat pancakes with gusto.

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Playful Links

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”


I’m always on the look out for writing about play that inspires me and (or) makes me think. Here are some of my current favorites on the web:

“A Part of Their World: Adult Roles in Child’s Play”  at Not Just Cute

“Let Kids Just Play” at Raising Happiness

“just add places to pause, places to hide, places to rest” at Let the Children Play

“Power Struggles Dissolve with Laughter” at Hand in Hand Parenting

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The sunflowers we planted in our butterfly garden are giving us a lovely surprise.  The package says to expect 3-4 foot plants and ours are growing beyond expectations.

I’m getting a lot of delight watching our sunflowers grow…especially since they are growing beyond the boundaries of our expectations and I like that as a metaphor. We, like the sunflower seeds, have all this potential for growth inside if we can find, make and/or create the conditions for it to happen.  Sometimes in the daily, weekly repetitive grind of parenting, I forget to see all the ways that I have grown.

Something I love about being an improvisor is that there is always room for growth.  There is always room to deepen storytelling, play more nuanced characters, develop new skills at an accent, learn a new genre – the list goes on and on.  I find that to be true as a parent too; there is so much room to develop patience, learn new approaches to supporting independence and skill-building, new ways to play together….yes, that list goes on and on as well. There is a challenge in both cases, to appreciate and enjoy the stage you are at, while working on the next new thing.  AND like those sunflowers growing taller than expected, I have experienced in both arenas, growth I did not predict or expect.

Those sunflower seeds have the inner code to grow and so do we.  Whatever our metaphoric water and sun and good soil is, it is good when we find it and can grow more than anyone, even ourselves expected.

LP has caught the “sunflower bug” too. When it is time to wash hands in the bathroom, she crouches on the stepstool until I act out watering and shining the sun on her and she grows tall enough to reach the sink. (Actually I quite look forward to her growing another inch or two so she can reach the faucet on her own….that or I need to find a taller stepstool for her.)

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

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I keep trying to write this post and failing.  My words tangle and snarl up. My thoughts that seem so clear at 3 am arrive on the screen without a sense of cohesion.  So I’m trying a 30-Minute attempt it and accept that it may take more than one post for me to dig out the meaning AND connect it to the practice of improv.

We all have habits of mind. There are many ways these are useful; we develop these habits for good reasons.  But life changes, we change and sometimes old habits of mind aren’t useful anymore.  Many spiritual practices and therapy modalities have techniques for noticing and letting go (or changing) habits of mind.

These days I find I am particularly challenged by  my own habits of mind that are not useful anymore. And it is hard to let them go.

After LP’s birth, I suffered from postpartum depression. One of the places I experience the lingering effects is in my habits of mind.  I used to be a much more hopeful, optimistic person and I miss that way of being. I have the distinct experience of having my generally positive view of the world enhanced over the years by the practice of  improv. And then I have the distinct experience of my generally positive view of the world being absorbed by all of the dark, sad and lonely feelings of ppd.

One reason that I say that the practice of improvisation builds optimism is that creating together opens us up to alternate stories.   When we create together in the moment, we have a give and take of ideas and actions. The story that I start to tell in my head, leaping forward into the future, is not the story that gets told because my partner has different ideas.  Together we find a story path which is different than the story we would tell either of us alone. The world and specifically any given moment becomes filled with possibilities.

When I get drawn back down in my negative habits of mind, I am not in the present. I am spinning in the sadness of the past. I am wrapped up in grief for the things that didn’t happen and the experiences I missed out on because I was depressed. My world becomes quite narrow and I lose sight of those possible other stories.

An example:

LP has been getting more easily frustrated recently and cries out, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard.”  This shakes me.  I believe this is all part of her normal development; she’s three and struggling to be more independent while simultaneously longing for dependence. Yet I have fears about how my ppd has affected her and those particular words are triggering for me. All those months when that is what I felt day after day — “I can’t do this. It’s too hard.” Every day for 10 months before I found a treatment that helped me and even then it took almost 2 years to feel like myself again.

To help me not go spinning off into my own sadness when this occurs, I made a plan.  When she says it, I am prepared to sit by her side and say “I know you can do this” and “Why don’t you give it another try?” and “You feel like it’s hard. It’s good to try hard things.” and “I’m going to stay right here with you while you try again” or “I’ll be in the other room when you’ve done it” (depends on the circumstance). I need these prepared responses because otherwise I get caught up in over-thinking (and over-feeling) the moment, ascribing meaning to it that it may or may not have…I cannot know for sure.  And we need to get through the day.

That’s my time cut-off too….so more to come in part two.

This post is part of the Moms 30 Minute Blog Challenge; a really wonderful idea (that keeps me writing at least once a week!) from Jamie over at SteadyMom.

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Photo Banner

This craft project has been in the works for a long time.  I was inspired by Future Craft Collective’s Prayer, Wish, Hope Flags. I even sewed up a bunch of muslin flags a few months ago. Where those flags have gone, I do not know.  So starting over, I decided to use the basic idea of the flags to create a photo banner that could brighten up LP’s room (with her favorite color as the base). At first I was going to make iron on photo transfers but then I remembered I had leftover photo sleeves which also have the added bonus of letting us swap the photos.

I sewed the flags while LP played with pins and thread.  Then discovered that while my old scrapbook photoholders were a good idea, they didn’t actually stick to the fabric.  So I sewed them to the flags. Voila!

LP chose the photos and I printed them out on our ink jet printer.

Here’s a close up of one flag (LP with her beloved chickens):

And here’s the whole thing:

I’m looking forward to seeing how the photo rotation goes. I think it will be a fun way to prepare for visiting family and friends and remembering special occasions.

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LP has taken up grunting a sound that is close to “yeah” instead of saying “yes.”

It bugs me.

So I started paying attention to what I actually say when I mean “yes.”

I say a lot of things — ok, sure, uh huh, yeah, in a minute and soon. I nod. I do what she asks without saying anything at all.

Yes is a beautiful word. It is a pleasure to hear. Truly, I find it a pleasure to say. And I had let it slip out of my vocabulary.

So that is my improv practice for the week.

To say “yes.” Literally.

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

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This idea is borrowed from our friends down the block. Last week when LP & I went over to play, her friend E showed us his outdoor kitchen. I thought it was a brilliant idea AND we have a lot of old building supplies hanging around (cinder blocks, slate slabs, bricks).  Since we rent and the owner wants to hold on to this stuff, this is a great way to use it and not just keep moving it out of the way.

LP & I planted a “kitchen garden” of parsley, basil & poppies in the cinder blocks.  We’ll see what happens…for the meantime, it has added a new fun element to the yard.

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

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