Archive for the ‘saying yes’ Category

Doing art projects out in the world (library, special events, etc) is a challenge for my LP.

She is all about the process and exploration of materials and usually those art experiences are about product. LP wants to feel the paint, glue and glitter on her skin and explore it completely with her hands.  Her art experiences at her wonderful preschool are all about process as our 99% of the ones we do at home (every so often I push for product for a present), so she has many opportunities to go for it on the process front.  When she participates in an art project in public, I want to balance honoring her natural impulse to EXPLORE materials with what is appropriate to the setting.

I believe that it is important for kids to consciously experience adjusting to the rules of a situation AND find their spontaneity within those rules.  It is challenging for a person of any age to find their place in a group and public events are opportunities for our little people to work on those skills.  I want LP to learn to find her own balance of joining in a collective experience while being true to herself.

These public art projects are a great chance for LP to get that experience of creating within more boundaries than usual. Often there is 1) limited time, 2) limited materials and 3) a “sample” that the kids are supposed to emulate. Those are three tough limits for my girl.

While I can’t do anything about 1 & 2, I am always supportive of LP doing the project she wants to do within those constraints.  If she wants to do the sample, that’s fine too but that day has not yet come and for me the point of the project is to have a collective experience, not make a garden collage or challah cover that looks like the sample.

The biggest difficulty is with materials since my tactile girl wants to rub glue all over her arms and spread glitter with her nose and paint all over herself.  The where and when of these events determine the boundaries I set with her. (I watch the art project set up with my questions in mind…Do I have a change of clothes? Is there a sink reasonably close? How soon do we need to catch the bus home? How much of the materials are there? And of course, the occasional parent insecurity about what other people think…)  Within those boundaries, I let her go for it.

But oh the heartbreak of projects with gluesticks.  Her desire is to use her fingers on those gluesticks and dig out all the glue and sculpt with it.  And that is not an option when multiple kids are supposed to be sharing a gluestick.

Like a recent morning at the library.

After storytime, the librarian directed the kids over to two covered tables to make garden collages.  Gluesticks, tissue paper, colored paper, crayons and markers were laid out and the librarian showed “the sample.”  LP wanted to do the project (I was hoping to head out to the farmer’s market right away) so we stayed.

As the minutes went by, her energy became more and more withdrawn, so unlike herself, as she sat and tried to wait patiently for her turn with the gluestick. I could tell that this was not satisfying…like just one bite of a chocolate chip cookie. After about 10 minutes, I asked if she was done and she was quite ready to leave this project behind.

I mulled it over during quiet time.  Despite my observation of her not enjoying the project, she did enjoy the overall storytime experience and wants to go back every week.  She was very successful on the impulse control/sharing front.  I wanted to acknowledge that AND give her  for a balancing, playful experience. After working so hard on restraint, I wanted to give her a chance to fully explore.

After quiet time, I asked her if she wanted to do a glue project which got a cheerful “YES!” in response.  So I gave her paper, two gluesticks (a bounty in our house!) and a bottle of glue and let her go for it.

LP enjoyed glue to her heart’s content for about half an hour.  I sat with her at the table and worked on my own crafty project and just enjoyed her pleasure.

It is a helpful frame for me…when LP has worked to rise to the occasion that calls for restraint, to give her an opportunity to be fully expressive and exuberant — whether that means a chance to run free after a long bus ride or sculpt glue (& herself) until she’s done with it.

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Full credit to Teacher Tom for this… See his blog posts here and here for inspiration and ideas for how to give little people the opportunity to work with hot glue guns. Things went pretty much as he described, she was so intent on her project that when she did touch the too hot glue, she reacted only briefly and got back to work.  My main supervision ended up being around making sure it was put down safely and adding more glue sticks.

LP was excited for her chance to use the hot glue gun.  Here she is waiting to begin with a selection of materials to glue (randomly grabbed from our art boxes):

And she was off:

She was focused and seemed blissfully happy putting lots and lots of glue on the box as her main exploration although she did take time to experiment with spreading it out:

and weaving a spider web with the dried glue strands:

Here’s the “cake with anchovy frosting” final product:

One thing that is great for me about a project like this is that it challenges me to control myself and give her space to discover the possibilities.  I had visions of building sculptures…LP wanted to build glue piles and dots and squiggles.  The important thing in this moment was to say “yes” with my behavior to support her creative exploration and to allow her to use her spontaneity to explore rather than be directive and product oriented.

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One of LP’s current favorite books is  How Many Baby Pandas? by Sandra Markle. It is a great combination of cute pictures and panda facts.  LP is particularly entranced by the idea of the pandas that are raised at the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Center or in zoos drinking milk substitute from bottles or lapping it up out of bowls.

So when I asked for her ideas for what to have as a side dish for dinner, “milk substitute like a panda!” was her gleeful suggestion.

It was easy to say “yes” to that.  So I asked her how she wanted to make it.

Of course, LP had a recipe in mind.

LP’s Recipe for Panda Milk Substitute

The ingredients:  water, milk and applesauce

The directions: add water and milk to the applesauce and whisk together.

Eat while discussing pandas.

This post is a part of “We Play” over at Childhood 101. Click on over for a bevy of play ideas for little people.

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Yesterday the Little Person and I were looking at photos and videos on my computer.  She was particularly interested in the videos and we had a great discussion about the difference between pictures which are still and videos that movie.

I asked her if she wanted to make a movie and she said, “Yes!”

When I asked her what she wanted her movie to be about, she had many ideas. One was to make a video of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian (the pandas from the National Zoo in DC) eating honey off of a crate.  We had seen photos of that at the zoo in a part of the exhibit about how the keepers engage the pandas.

Here was a choice point.  The jump-ahead, say yes me was ready to go and cast some of her stuff pandas in the roles of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian and grab the camera to start filming them with a crate in the backyard.  Yet, I had a moment of pause. Was that the story that LP wanted to tell?  And if yes, was it important for the story to be preserved and not to worry about which medium we used to tell it?  We could make a picture book of the pandas playing either with our own drawings or photos…or LP might come up with a different way to tell the story. So first I needed to find out, what was it that was capturing her imagination — the story or the medium? And of course, the pace of the storytelling needs to be LP’s and not mine.

When given the choice of making a movie with “pretend” Mei Xiang and Tian Tian or writing and drawing the story, LP chose writing and drawing without hesitation.  AND she was ready to get down to business telling a different story. She narrated and drew (and art directed me doing part of the drawing) while I wrote.

Here’s a picture of the final story on LP’s easel.

It is about a grandfather clock named Goldie (along with her love of pandas, LP has a thing for clocks. Goldie is what she named a grandfather clock that was at a party we went to in December.)

The text reads:

Once there was a clock. It was my grandfather clock. There were jewel blossoms in his garden. More clocks were scattered around him. He tickled their tummies.  Goldie splattered paint all over the hills. Goldie scrubbed away the paint and a big splatter here.

(The “here” is followed by an arrow which points to where she was scrubbing with a scrub brush while I wrote those final words.)

Sometimes creating a story with a little person is about jumping onto the production of it and other times it is about taking the time to let them get to the story they want to tell.  I’m glad I had the vision of making a movie together (which we’ve never done with much intention) and I’ll tuck it away as an offer of how to tell a story on another day.  This day’s story was a tribute from LP to a clock she loved meeting.

LP and the grandfather clock, Goldie


This post is a part of this weeks “We Play” over at Childhood 101. Click on over for a bevy of play ideas for little people.

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The Pig-Shaped Dog

We landed home a week ago after 3 weeks on the East Coast immersed in family visiting (with a dash of friend visiting thrown in too).

I have finally finished unpacking, catching up on laundry, emails and other misc. stuff, almost finished sending out holiday cards and have caught the obligatory holiday season cold. So now I’m preparing myself to do the other kind of unpacking ~ reflecting on the trip and trying to capture the things I want to remember from my time on the road with my girl. It will probably take a few posts to do that. My emotional experience of the trip was much like my experience the first year of LP’s life — individual moments went on forever but the trip as a whole seemed to fly by.

What stands out as an overall impression is it was amazing to have this concentrated time with my daughter. Away from home and our routine, I was able to watch her with fresh eyes and just enjoy the creative, spontaneous being she is…it is a pleasure to be able to say “yes!” to her growing abilities and independence and to experience her growing ability to say “yes!’ in return.

I was reminded of that ability on our plane trip home. This was one of the more challenging things for me because I was so ready to be home and those last few hours flying cross-country dragged out.  LP (my experienced traveler) was restless too as she began asking for “another present” and “another present”before we even took off. (The carry-on backpack is full of toys and books that only appear on the plane. There are usually one or two new goodies but mostly it is thing she’s experienced before re-wrapped in tissue paper.)  When the wikki sticks emerged (one of her favorites), I though I could have a break and read my book while she played but she wanted me to make her a dog with them.

I tried to shape the darn things into something resembling a dog but it just wasn’t happening.  It looked like a pig with a long tail and no matter how I twisted or shaped the sticks, that’s what it looked like.  The longer I worked on it, the less dog-like it became.  Finally I gave up and handed it to her while apologizing “it looks a bit more like a pig than a dog.”

Yet LP was happy with it and as I settled in to read a few pages while she played, I overheard her narration of her imagination, “…so the pig-shaped dog went to meet the monkey…”

Say yes to the pig-shaped dog.

Ah, yes.

The point is not for it to look like a dog. The point is that she asked me to make her something that she could use in her imaginative play. She could take it from there…and she did for longer than I would have thought possible.  I got caught up in judging my artistic effort (so easy to do) and lost sight of the interaction and intention.  The most realistic shaped wikki stick dog would have served the same purpose as my pig-shaped one.  Perhaps different in terms of what might emerge in LP’s imagination but not better or worse.

Yes. Lesson learned and relearned. Hurray for the pig-shaped dog!

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Bog Baby Soup

and Panda Soup and Horse Soup too.

I’m still struggling back onto my feet after a bout of the flu so playtime challenges abound.  LP is clearly ready for her fun improvamama to come back and replace her ready-to-lie-down-a-mama.  ImprovDad has a heavy teaching schedule which includes most evenings and it seems like the hours between quiet time and bedtime are going incredibly slooooowly.

Which makes it all the more fun when we find that wonderful, spontaneous moment that LP can explore.

It all started with a pepper experiment which I thought LP would be fascinated by; however her interest was in adding the pepper to the water and she asked for more spices.  Fortunately for LP, we have way too many containers of long expired spices so as her sous chef, I guided her to those choices (ones I could say “yes!” to) and we were off! Some containers had shakers that she could use and others I poured some into her hands so she also had the tactile experience of the different textures. Cardamon, basil, thyme, dillweed, curry, paprika, pepper soup, anyone?

She called her first batch “Bog Baby Soup” complete with tea leaf bog babies floating around. (“The Bog Baby” by Jeanne Willis is a current favorite around here)  She asked for bowls and ladled out enough for all the bog babies and then was ready to start on the next batch.

She poured fresh water into the bowl and set to work making “Horse Soup” — with additions of spice rub, soy sauce and the outside paper from garlic, in addition to repeats of many of the other spices.  My favorite moment was when she looked up from stirring and said, “Here come the horses!”  She spooned up bowls for her favorite horses and then, of course the pandas needed to be fed.

She was so engrossed in making Panda Soup that she didn’t even want to help knead the pizza dough and make the pizza (except to ask for some dough to put in the soup).

Like many fun activities at our house, it involved more mess than originally planned for…next time we’ll be cooking for the bog babies, horses and pandas outside AND I’ll set her up with more autonomy over the spices and condiments that are available.

I’m participating in the WeePlay link up over at Childhood 101…lots of fun play ideas to check out there so click on over!

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Playful Eating

I realized  that in true grown-up fashion, I was making saying “yes”  too complicated.

LP was in horse mode at lunch the other day (which she has been for most of the day recently except  for breaks when she is an otter or a rooster) and wanted to eat grass for lunch.  So I made her pasta and used some food coloring in the butter to turn it greenish and then added some chopped spinach. She seemed pretty happy with it although I don’t think much was eaten (she likes her leafy greens fresh from the earth, anything even slightly cooked gets a pass from her).

A playful twist on food is often a hit…green eggs (a la green eggs and ham, although mine often come out more olive green) are popular with LP, as is any food that ties into her current imaginary world.  So while sometimes I get inspired to create an “urchin” out of a cracker with hummus and dried lentils for my otter, I realized that at this stage of the game she’s happy to use her imagination. She seemed completely delighted with me putting down a plate of turkey and cheese for lunch while calling it urchin.  Hmmm…no fancy food effort on my part with a happy result and food for discussion for our meal (always helpful, I struggle with mealtime chat on a daily basis).

So I’ll accept her offers of what she wants to eat as she stays in character for meals and I’ll make offers too that fit in with her play. Sometimes my “yes!” will be in the form of creating something to eat that represents that and sometimes it will be in form of imagining along with her….which is a little easier on the cook!

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

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LP’s favorite thing in our wee garden this year has been the carrots.

Unfortunately, most days she does not want to eat the carrots (and does not want anyone else to eat the carrots).  I’m really not sure why because this girl will eat anything that she can pick herself — tomatoes and peas, of course but also radishes, kale, and okra.  For whatever reason, she’s decided that the carrots are to play with and not to eat. There has been more than one meltdown when I wanted take a carrot or two to use for dinner. Our friend T who was visiting for a few days had coaxed her into eating a carrot and there was much added pleasure in the carrot experience.

Until she picked this one.

I was excited about it. Look at it!  It is totally cool! I was all ready to jump into exploring the way the five carrots had grown together. LP pretty much shrugged and was ready to move on to something else all together.

I was puzzled.  I watched her play with other things while T and I marveled at it and took a bunch of photos.  She did make her way over to us and then took the carrot off for her own exploration…and eventual snack.

I wonder what her thought process was. My best guess is that she had an expectation of what was going to come out of the ground and when that expectation was not correct, she needed a little time to regroup and let the expectation go. She needed time to be able to say “yes” to the unusual carrot.

When I think about the experience in that frame, I feel so empathetic because even at my best, I have trouble switching gears when I have strong expectations.  Even when I really, really, really want to say “yes” because the new, unexpected thing looks fun or delicious or intriguing, I need time to make an internal shift.

It was a great reminder for me to not push too hard or fast when I think something is “interesting.”  The wacky carrots were still wacky and wonderful 15 minutes later.

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

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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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We three are  adjusting back to life at home (complete with post-vacation/travel tantrums). It was a wonderful trip to visit Grandma and Auntie K and then travel together to Orcas Island to visit with family there too. Lots of delicious time to play and explore tidepools and meet animals (such a highlight for LP! Chickens and horses and alpacas! Crabs and limpets and barnacles!)

All that open play time, gave us lots of time for low-key improv. Something I love about vacation is the slower (and mostly un-plugged) pace which makes so much more room for “yes.”

One of the most special moments was at a rest stop of all places. After lunch, LP wanted to play so I started to teach her “Red light, Green light.”  She very quickly put her own spin on it AND enticed ImprovDad and Grandma into joining us.

This is one of those moments that I like to look at from an improv perspective.  It would be so easy to tell her that this game has “rules” and we have to follow them.  AND it is so much more joyful to follow her lead, to say “yes” and create a different version that springs from LP’s spontaneity. Something in the moment triggered her imagination and I certainly had more fun playing her version which has continued to evolve.  Currently “red light” means stop, “green light” means go, “orange light” means move in slow motion, “purple light” means hop like a bunny and “brown light” means run around flapping like a chicken. (Also there isn’t one caller in LP’s game…anyone can call out the color light and everyone moves.)

We followed up with ring-around-the-rosie…and I wish I had a photo of the four of us, holding hands, going around together in the sun.

Taking in that experience reminds me how delicious improvising with little people can be;  when a small thing captures their imagination, you get a lot of mileage (and delight) out of it!

LP explores Orcas Island.

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

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