Archive for April, 2011

So says the Little Person.

At almost 5 am. After crying for hours. Really since 2:30. All those minutes ticked by very slowly. It reminded me of the bad old days when she regularly had meltdowns in the middle of the night. ( I am grateful that these are increasingly rare.) It has been an emotional week and  I know that she’s working through a lot. So as the time went by, I tried to stay compassionate and put my sleepy energy into being gently present and holding and breathing. Easy but wearying. I was so relieved when she did calm down and tearfully whispered, “Tell me a story.”

I wasn’t even sure I had the energy to tell a story. I just wanted to get a little sleep. I took a breath and began, “Once upon a time…”

LP burst into tears, “No, no. Tell me a story and make it a GOOD story.”

It is a funny thing to think about what “good” means at almost 5 am.  The first things that come to mind are about creating a rich, detailed world with compelling characters and an interesting story arc.  No way can my overtired brain do that. No. No. No. No.  That’s what starts repeating in my head.

Deep breath. Because even in that moment of “no,” I know that isn’t what LP is asking for.   She’s asking for a story that is familiar and comforting. She’s asking for a story she can relax into. While in the moment, I don’t know what the exact elements of that story are, I trust she and I can figure that out together.

In the end, I told her a simple story about two bunnies, Violet and Simon (characters from a favorite book), and their dog Lucy. She chimed in occasionally to keep the story on the track she wanted which was a very ordinary day story.  The story helped her settle down and transition from her upset state back into sleep.  Nothing exciting about it. No adventures. No big upsets or triumphs. It was a bare bones kind of story that described an ordinary day.

So having been rescued from having to achieve my version of “good,” the story was done and then we got a tiny bit of sleep.

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One of the lovely things I’m witnessing in LP at 4 years old is her growing awareness of her imagination and sense of empowerment that comes with that.  Not only is her imagination a source of fun and play, it is also a force for comfort and to manage difficult moments.

Two examples:

  1. She and her wonderful babysitter M had plans to take two of her stuffed panda buddies — Beckett and Monium — with them on a morning adventure up to Cal’s campus.  M tells me that they didn’t realize the pandas weren’t with them until they were a good hour into their walk.  LP started to have a meltdown.  M tried a few different strategies that she rejected and really ramped up the screaming.  After a few minutes, she stopped screaming and tearfully said, “I have imaginary Beckett here and imaginary Monium here” while tucking one under each arm.  And that was that. (more…)

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“Is a cough- sneeze a snoff or a cougeeze? If there’s not a word for something, why not invent one?”

~from “I Just Snoffed… O Frabjous Day” on Imagination Soup

And here is more playful food for thought:

“Brilliant Failure” by Clark Boyd on PRI’s The World

“Elements for Creating Play Scenes and Invitations to Play by Christie Burnett on Childhood 101

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When I was a girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old, I wanted a dog.

I wanted a dog more than anything. I desperately wanted a dog.  And there was no way we were getting a dog.  My mom was afraid of dogs.  More accurately, my mom was AFRAID of dogs.  Sometimes she would cross the street if a dog was barking in a house we were walking past. (Do you remember that, siblings?  Or did I make that up?)

So I imagined some dogs.  Actually, I imagined 100 dogs.  I chose breeds and names and spent hours taking care of them, playing with them and would go to sleep at night saying goodnight to them one at a time. I’m sure that back then I could have told you about each dog in great detail.

I also remember that when we moved the summer I was 9, I decided I was too old to still have those imaginary dogs. So I left them behind.  I felt sad and grown up at the same time.

Fortunately for me these many years later,  I made a list of the dogs!  Recently I was going through a box of photo albums, journals and other flotsam and jetsam from my life and found the first page:

(It is quite a mystery to me why it says “Toothpick” in pen near the top.)

What a find!  I shared it with LP and she has been wildly interested in it.  She loves to have me read the list and through the power of her imagination, has brought the imaginary dogs into our home.  (She too is a girl who loves dogs and we are certainly not getting a dog anytime soon.)  It is sweet to get reacquainted with Chinkie, Splotch, Dandy, Butterscotch and the rest and experience imaginary dogs through her eyes. Even better, in addition to playing with the imaginary dogs from the list, she is adding her own.

Over the weekend, as she sat swinging away in the park, LP asked me “When you were a little girl, did you have six imaginary comets?” When I said no and asked her if she had six imaginary comets, she smiled a huge smile and started to tell me all about them (they live in the large cracked pot in the backyard for starters).

The things we can do with our imaginations…just beautiful!  I hope she doesn’t feel the need to grow up and leave imaginary dogs and comets behind too soon.

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Registration is open for my next series of Playtime for Parents classes. Thanks to the Recreation Department from the City of Albany for the opportunity to teach there!

Here are the details:

Playtime for Parents

Enhance your enjoyment of playing with your kids by (re)discovering and deepening your own sense of play.

Have fun exploring play with other parents, while learning practical hands-on ideas you can use with your family.

The class will incorporate improvisation and storytelling techniques and explore how to use them with children of all ages. Each week will involve new games and activities.

Shy people are welcome!


Four sessions. Register for individual sessions or receive a discount when you register for all four.

June 15 Wed 7-9:30 pm 1x $27 $37
June 22 Wed 7-9:30 pm 1x $27 $37
June 29 Wed 7-9:30 pm 1x $27 $37
July 6 Wed 7-9:30 pm 1x $27 $37
June 15-July 6 Wed 7-9:30pm 4x $82 $92


Ready to register?

The online City of Albany Summer 2011 Activity Guide is here. (Playtime for Parents is on page 27)

City of Albany online registration is here.

You can also register by phone by calling (510) 524-9283.



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I have a confession.

I love blue painters tape.

This feeling started slowly…a roll of painter’s tape for an emergency diaper fix, to cover a few electrical outlets and quick hang up some family photos for baby LP to see.  It quickly grew… blue tape, LP and I, we can do anything together. Need a spoon? I can make you one.  Need in indoor swing for a stuffed animal? We can do that. Puppets to entertain on the plane? Check. Tape pictures on the floor or wall? No problem.

When LP and I went visiting family for 3 weeks in the fall, we went through a full roll of tape before the final weekend. It was the major source of entertainment on planes and trains and also got a major workout creating circle paddocks for her horses. ImprovDad was meeting up with us for a family celebration a few days before we returned home and my SOS to him when he asked if he could bring anything was “blue tape!”

The blue tape creations are getting more wild and wonderful as LP takes more and more control of them.  She’s just starting to get the hang of ripping off pieces on her own.

Recent blue tape creations at our home:

Bandages for Raz:

A costume for Violin Case:


Labels for the herb pots in the garden:

LP has been on a labeling kick with blue tape.  Below is the photo of Feather’s House (Feather being the space heater who lives in our old computer desk when she’s not in use), complete with its own name and a blue tape mailbox.

Got your roll of blue tape ready? Need some ideas to get you started? Check out:

“Spider Web” on Tuesdays with Daddie — this post also has the best description of painters tape ~ “Its like a roll of duct tape married a stack of post-its and they had a blue baby.” So true!

“Masking Tape Portraits” on Art Projects for Kids

“The magical, multifunctional properties of painter’s tape” on Parent Hacks

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We’re already in week three of performances and tomorrow night is my first show. (There are 13 improvisors in the cast with 5 or 6 performing each night.) I’m very excited to be back on stage and creating improvised theater.

Full details and ticket buying at www.un-scripted.com.

If you want to come see me play…I’m in the shows on Sat April 9th, Thurs April 14, Thurs April 21, Thurs April 28th and Sat April 30th.

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“Old-fashioned playtime has become an increasingly quaint activity – children play an estimated eight hours fewer a week than they did a decade ago.”

~Tralee Pearce in “Relearning the lost art of child’s play” on The Globe and Mail website

And more food for playful thoughts:

“Teaching the Skills of Democracy through Play” by Teacher Tom

“Listening to Your Child: How Play can Help” on Messy Kids

“You’re good hiders” by Morgan Leichter-Saxby

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Our DVD player gave up the ghost a few weeks ago…so this week, LP & I were able to start exploring its insides.

I was not a tinkering kind of kid so I’ve actually never taken anything like a DVD player apart before. I figured that there were couple of different joys to be found in the experience from seeing the mysterious insides to finding new uses for the pieces and parts.

So I spread out a sheet to protect the floor, grabbed a few screwdrivers and we went to work.

Most of the screws were quite small and hard for LP to even attempt on her own.  I did about half of them on my own and loosened the other half to where she could work them out with her fingers.

I think much of the deconstruction process was a bit more fun for me than for her.  She left me to finish up finding and taking out the 100 million screws while she bopped between playing with various things in the same room and coming back to explore the pieces and parts. It was interesting to watch how certain pieces certainly triggered her imagination.

And when a girl has found pieces like this, what else can she do but cook up some ukulele candy?

I think the insides have a lot of life in them as playthings and I’m very curious to see what LP transforms them into next time.  While I have ideas for art projects, I’m waiting to follow her lead and discover what ideas she cooks up next. (And hoping, of course, that she doesn’t put the ukulele candy in my ukulele!)

This post is part of “We Play” over at Childhood 101…always lots of fun and interesting ideas to explore there!

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“Learning to trust yourself and your own imagination is a learned skill.”

~ Megan Tietz of SortaCrunchy in the post “Sometimes You Improvise” on SteadyMom.


“The Central Importance of Play” on The Imagination Tree

“What is this thing?” — Helping your child to discover, explore and learn! on The Ultimate Block Party blog


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