Archive for the ‘misc.’ Category

It was too quiet yesterday morning.

I knew it was the kind of quiet that I should probably check on, but LP and I had already had a long weekend of solo parenting and oh, the quiet.   So I sat on the couch with the Sunday paper. I drank tea. I enjoyed the quiet.

I could hear LP going back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room table. I could hear her moving the step-stool around, the rattle of dishes and the occasional unidentifiable sound.

Then the call, “Will you change the grind to large?”

Ah. That sound was the salt grinder.

The table was covered with water and spices. LP had four or five bowls going with various combinations of water, spices and leftover toast scraps from breakfast.  What was she doing?

“Making a cake for Harness! It’s her 92nd birthday!”

I had no idea she was 92…you have to admit, she looks great:

Well, can’t deny a 92-year-old stuffed dog a birthday cake.

I admit I was not in the mood for the mess AND I’ve really been working to actively encourage LP’s independence and taking initiative.

So I re-iterated some boundaries for LP (especially how she is supposed to ask before using spices.  I think I’ll be rearranging the spice rack to put ones she can use with abandon on the lower shelf and ones that I reserve for cooking up higher.) I changed the grind on the salt and pepper to the largest setting and got out a pan to cook the cake.

After cooking for 30 minutes at 350, Harness’ cake came out of the oven and it was time for the crucial step of swirling whipped cream in it (LP’s idea, naturally).

The half hour of cooking, gave us time to work on cleaning up together. I’ve realized that I do far too much of the cleaning up and so things are changing around here on that front too!

LP sampled the finished cake and pronounced it “delicious!”

And Harness seemed happy too.

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Birthday Traditions

In our home, by this year’s 5th birthday, we’ve managed to solidify (by which I mean do at least 2 times!) a few traditions, including…

…waking up to a birthday muffin and getting to eat it in bed.

…a treasure hunt for birthday presents. I really love this tradition because it spaces out the presents and she stops to play or read or explore each gift.

Treasure Hunt Clues

Found one!

A camera from Grandpa! LP loves it!

…cake or sweet treat of your heart’s desire for dessert (this year was sour cream chocolate cake with strawberry-cream cheese frosting and red sprinkles on top)

AND this year, I finally got around to making a felt birthday banner to hang up for all of our birthday celebrations…not exactly what I pictured, but certainly good-enough for my improvised crafting sensibility.

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Puppy Party 2

Another year, another puppy party… we celebrated LP’s 5th birthday yesterday!  Tomorrow is the actual day and we’ll have family celebrations and also her long awaited trip to the toy store to buy a gumball. (About 2 years ago, I randomly answered that she could have a gumball from the machine there when she was 5 and she has remembered that and reminded me of it often!). This year the party was expanded from just dog friends to include a couple of kid friends too which is a lovely sign of social growth.

We set up a dog house door to her room:

(These days LP’s dog name is “Skits” a la Martha Speaks books/tv show)

and puppy crowns for kid friends (the dog friends were “bring your own ears”):

The 20 “bones” were ready to be hidden for “find the bone” game in our yard:

The dog books were ready for story time:

With dog music playing on the ipod, we were ready.  4 kids, 3 dogs and 7 big people partied it up puppy style.  A gift of a hula hoop gave the kids some new dog games to play (none of the dogs were into it).  It was a lovely mix of free play with LP’s toys and organized “puppy” activities of finding the felt bones hidden around the yards, a low key version of  “puppy says” (a la Simon says), singing the one dog song I learned on the ukelele (“I Wanna Be a Dog”) and (my favorite) acting out a made-up story about a teeny, green dog named Chicken Chicken Chicken who went exploring underground to find a treasure of delicious bones.

And of course, ice cream with dog bone sugar cookies:

At the end of the day, LP was one tired, happy pup….and so was her mama.

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It took one day for Postpartum Depression to hit me.

It took 10 deeply miserable, lonely, scary months for me to ask for the professional help I needed.

It took almost another three years to feel like myself again. To feel like I could be an alive and present partner, mom, daughter, sister and friend. To feel like I am a person and not just a facade trying to make it through each day.

I hid. I was embarrassed. I was scared. I was lonely. I didn’t talk about it with people who I know love me.  I downplayed it when I did talk about it. I put all my acting skills to poor use in hiding myself. I know why; in addition to the fear and shame, most days, getting through the day took all the energy I had.

I have loved my daughter deeply through all of this.  She is my heart’s delight.  During those 10 long undiagnosed months, while I didn’t take much care of myself, I put everything I had into caring for her.  I only asked for help when I realized I could not take care of her anymore if I didn’t start taking care of myself.

I have worried about the impact of my PPD on my girl.  I have clung to the belief I have in play as a way to bond with, nurture and mother her.  I believe that my ability to play, even when my heart and soul was not playful, has helped us through these early years. I wish things had been different. I feel sad about all that I missed out on as a mom and we missed out on as a family because of my PPD.

In my road to recovery, there has been one constant source of support, helpful information and inspiration — Katherine Stone and Postpartum Progress. Katherine is an amazing advocate for women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. She writes openly and honestly about her own experiences and has built a powerhouse of support for women and their families. Postpartum Progress gives accessible information, real stories of suffering and coping, connections to resources and a community that understands and supports each other.

Today is an opportunity for me to give something back. In addition to telling my story here, I’ve made a donation to Postpartum Progress to help in the support of developing a compelling national awareness campaign for postpartum depression, as well as new and improved patient education materials (the kind new moms won’t throw away!), and new uses of technology to reach suffering moms no matter where they are.  Postpartum Progress reached me when I needed more help than I was finding on my own.

If you or someone you love has or is currently suffering from PPD, please check out Postpartum Progress. If you are in a position to make a donation, you can learn more about Strong Start Day and make a donation here.

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We’re home. Home at last!

The Little Person and I spent much of the last bunch of weeks visiting family and friends.  I figured that we switched houses at least 8 times in the last two weeks and I was feeling so proud that I hadn’t left anything behind when I realized that LP’s beloved red towel (think Linus blanket) didn’t make it home. The little girl is quite sad about it but thanks to quick mailing action from my uncle, it may even arrive tomorrow.

In addition to all the wonderful and fun moments while we were away, there were some bouts of never-ending whining, a few spectacular meltdowns and plenty of parenting challenges (this child is the queen of the lollygag).  I was laughing with my friend today what the alternative photos of our vacation would look like. (It would need to have sound to capture that perfectly pitched whine.)

And now we’re home. We made it through all the ups and the downs, the travel by plane and car and ferry and train, the too late dinners and nights with too little sleep and the excitement of big, friendly dogs to play with and amazing horses to groom and ride. We played together as a family and in combinations of two; LP played with cousins and friends and Grandma and Auntie K and Aunt B.  She played with every nicknack she could get her hands on at Grandma’s house and fashioned clothes for model horses and forks and spoons out of ripped up napkins and paper.

Memories aplenty were made and I do wonder which ones might stick with LP as she grows.

So a record in pictures of some of the places she played (and animals she played with too):

There were large stumps in yards:

Deep, dark forests:

Rocky beaches on Orcas Island:

Wading in cold water:

Mud to explore:

Horse friends to groom (and ride):

Playing with a new dog friend who was willing to wear a wig:

Running after ducks in the yard:

Climbing a tree:

…and falling out of the tree and climbing it again.

On Friday morning, as I packed our things up to head for home, LP asked me “where are we going next?”  Our girl has the travel bug…although our next trips are going to in the realm of imagination!

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Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a mixed bag for me…in the years after my Mom died and before LP was born, I thought I had every emotional response possible from despised “hallmark holiday” to day of loving memories.  In LP’s first year, I was so immersed in PPD that I felt like I could hardly breathe, all I wanted for Mother’s Day was to be left alone and not be a mother for awhile.

Today is one of the good days and I can enjoy my family and my memories. LP (with some help from ImprovDad) made me a book as a gift titled “The Mama Held the Flower Panda” with this picture on the cover:

It pretty much doesn’t get better than that.

So today I celebrate all the gifts of being my mother’s daughter while I miss her active presence in our lives.  I’m thinking of the other wonderful mothers in my life — my Nana (pictured with my Mom at the top), Great-Aunt Thelma and Erna — all who live on in my memories and actions.  Also to all my current mothering compatriots and inspirations especially Shirl, Trinella & Diane for being my three 2nd moms after my mom died. My teenage years would have been so much harder without you.  And my daily life as a mom is better because of sharing the journey with my fellow moms in my sister Lynne, my sister-in-law Helen, my life-long friends Trina & Wendy and my mom-in-law, Marjorie.  And  our lives are made sweeter and better all the time by the love & support that we get from LP’s special aunties — Tara, Mandy  & Sandy. AND although it might seem strange, life as a mom is better for all the sharing with my mama friends on Facebook.  Happy Mom’s Day to all of you!

If you or a mom you love is suffering from PPD or related post-partum disorders, Postpartum Progress is having an amazing Mother’s Day Rally for Mental Health.  This blog has been a source of comfort and healing for me…not just today but every day I needed to know I was not alone.

Thanks for sharing the journey of playful parenting with me here on improv-a-mama…I wish you joyful days with your little people.

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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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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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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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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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