Archive for January, 2011

A Novel Update

In November, I was racing my writing word count for NaNoWriMo against our decomposing pumpkins.  I didn’t win (write 50,000 words) but I did scratch, claw, hunt and peck my way to 20,136 words which is more than I expected in my 3rd week of having the flu. Those 20,136 words are the beginning of the second novel that takes place in the same world as the first.  I made some important discoveries about that world that will help inform the first as well…if I can get myself buckled down to do some serious writing.

But alas, the pumpkins continue to lead the way.

I’m at an interesting place with my novel…I find myself working on the ending while there is still a big, gaping hole of “what happens HERE?” in the middle.  I realized that I was fighting working on the ending because…well just because that’s what was happening in my brain.  Even though I went into this whole novel writing experience without a plan (or a plot), somehow I ended up making up some rules for myself about how writing is supposed to progress at this point.

The pumpkins decompose the way they do because of nature. Laws of nature and all that.  Writing a novel however has no laws and I don’t help myself by making up rules that don’t help me write.  Really I’ve spent a lot of the last two weeks or so not writing all the ideas, images and scenes floating around in my head because they aren’t from the part of the story I thought I should have ideas, images and scenes about.

Bring on an improv moment!

It is time to throw my hands in the air and shout “I failed!” (a classic improv release for my non-improvising readers) and “again!” (another shout-out that improvisors use to embrace failure as a learning experience).  And then to give myself the time and gift of letting those ideas, images and scenes take shape on the page so I can play with them, flesh them out, edit them down, rearrange them or whatever else my imagination gives me to do with them.


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Today LP & I were working on a paint project with a purpose.  The goal was to create wrapping paper for the three baby gifts that are ready to be mailed.

I even tried to preplan how to handle the clean up blues.  First timing…after quiet time and before dinner when the dinner plan was leftovers.  Second, paint protection in the form of a layer of newspaper on the kitchen floor and then a long piece of white paper taped down the center. (Of course our kitchen is all white but I figured if I kept on top of the glips and glops and overflow, the end clean up would be simple.)

LP started off drawing with a marker while I finished setting up.

I found her creation pretty fantastic, especially as she narrated as she drew. It was so interesting to watch the interplay of the spontaneity of her drawing and of her words. Sometimes she drew something and then talked about it and other times, it was the reverse.

The creature is a Mymerona. It has quite detailed anatomy when it comes to pee and poop AND on its other end had separate mouths for each kind of food it likes…so an apple mouth, a date mouth, a banana mouth and so on. (I love how little people translate their current interests into activities!) This was the first time I’ve seen LP embrace drawing with so much energy and purpose and I thought she might stick with drawing and not ask for paint. I sat on the floor with her while she drew and talked.

And then she did indeed ask for paint…

I had suggested that it might be fun to have handprints and footprints on the wrapping paper so she started off by getting her “tools” nice and full of paint.

And then she settled into enjoying exploring paint and paper. She dumped and poured and swirled and skated (a little bit but was upset when she fell down…paint is pretty slippery).

She did a little bit of Jackson Pollock-type splattering but I had to put the kebosh on that because the paint was flying out of control.  I have to remember that for an outdoor project when the weather warms up. Or when I’m ready to cover every surface in preparation. (Read about a very cool Pollock inspired father-daughter paint project here.)

She painted my arms and hands and we did some handprints together and then she returned to her own explorations.

And then there were handstands…

And then there was cleaning up. Lots and lots of cleaning up.

In the end, about half of the paper is usable wrapping paper which is plenty.  Hopefully it will dry overnight and tomorrow morning we can wrap things up together and go to the post office to mail them.

This post is part of We Play over at Childhood 101. Click on over for lots of great play ideas!

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…with salt dough

– making sure to bring ImprovaMama into the action-

and then with lots and lots of paint…

all to make ImprovDad a Happy New Year snake


We decided to make New Year’s Eve our present-centric holiday including homemade gifts. Somehow even though I knew LP wanted to make ImprovDad a snake for 2 weeks beforehand, I just couldn’t get it together to do the project until the day came.

It was a day of many messes. Actually about one mess too many for me to stay positive at the end.  Good to remember to start to find closure on projects before I am burned out on the cleaning up. This is one of my challenges for the New Year — finding better balance between the projects and the clean up. I love to let LP make messes to her heart’s content but the positive message I want to give her about exploring and creating sometimes gets undermined by my cranky-pantsness about the resulting clean up. I’ve been working on creating better outdoor space for explorations but in this rainy season, I need to problem solve the indoor play too. AND I want to give her more opportunities to help with the clean up and that means not being at the end of my rope when clean up time happens.

There were lots of spontaneous additions (to both the salt dough play and the paint play) after the goal-oriented part of crafting had been met (actually making a snake). During the paint session, LP transformed the paint jar into a snake home complete with many “snake snacks” (balls of painted newspaper).

On New Year’s Eve, the snake was still wet so ImprovDad just got a look.  This morning however, LP presented the present to ImprovDad with sweet seriousness…a pleasure to witness.

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One of my biggest joys is being an aunt.

It has been  one of my favorite roles in life. From the first time I held my oldest niece, H, I was hooked.  When H and her brother L were small, I was lucky enough to be in a time of life when I could see them often even though I lived on the opposite coast.  I said “YES!” to every opportunity to see them.  I had such fun in those years and even though I sometimes thought I should be using my vacation time to see the world, the payoff of delight of being in their worlds brought me there time and again.

(An added bonus was some great on-the-job training for parenthood. Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for that good deal!)

One of the things I miss now that I’m a mom is the freedom of being an aunt who has just come to play and have adventures. I miss my time with the older two and have been sad about not knowing the younger three kids in the family as well as I would like.

It is becoming easier as LP gets a bit older;  she is more ready to go off with other family members and as I continue to heal from PPD,  I am able to let her go. Even as it gets a little easier, I miss those days of having open time to just focus on one kid whether it was to take an adventure of imagination or ride the train into Boston for a museum or aquarium exploration.

So a hope of mine for the recent East-Coast-family-visit-extravaganza trip was to have time to enjoy my five nieces and nephews who now range in age from 15 to 6. While there were many adjustments and moments of figuring out how to relate and getting an open mind to see each child as their individual, creative self, it wasn’t hard and it delighted my soul to have time to be niece & nephew focused for awhile.

So to my nieces and nephews…I loved sharing the time with you and enjoying all the ways you are creative and spontaneous. From sharing poetry, writing and playing music, enjoying the “band” of cousins performance, dancing, doing handstands, listening to drumming and piano and guitar, tree climbing, art making, peeling bark off logs, making forts and panda caves, playing with pirate ships and kitchens and trucks and so much more —  it was such a great reminder of all the different way kids can be creative and spontaneous and then add intention and craft to the things that capture their imaginations.

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What Else?

This might be one of the most simple story games ever.  I overheard ImprovDad and LP make it up as they were hanging out before bedtime last week. I think it all started when LP asked for a story. It went something like this…

ImprovDad: One you know or made up?

LP: Made up.

ImprovDad: There was once some paint. What color was it?

LP: Green.

ImprovDad: The green paint spilled and got on the floor.

LP: What else?

ImprovDad: and the ceiling.

LP: What else?

ImprovDad: and the cat.

LP: What else?

ImprovDad: The cat tried to lick it off and said “yuck!”

LP: What else?

They went on like this for a long time. First exploring the cat’s feelings about the green paint experience and then moving on to the next thing and exploring that, all with LP asking “what else?”  Then ImprovDad turned the question back on her.

ImprovDad: Now its your turn…what else?

LP: Why?

ImprovDad: I made up a lot of things and so now it is your turn. What else?

LP: There was paint on the car!

And they were off again.

I love how simple this is. So often I am tempted to make the process of storytelling and co-creation complicated and the truth is simple is not only easier, it is also very satisfying. It turns out that “what else?” is a lovely question to expand a story moment…either to provide more color or move on to the next plot point. That question communicated to ImprovDad, that LP wanted more and led to a playful (and long) story interaction.

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