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Archive for the ‘spontaneity’ Category

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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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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Beansploration!

What can a little person and her mama do with pinto beans?

So many, many things…over many, many days.

I do want to start with the caveat that I rarely have us do art or exploration with food that won’t get eaten since a friend raised my consciousness about the message that sends about wasting food when so many children go hungry.  We had an old container of pinto beans in the back of the art supplies which LP asked for which is what kicked off the beansploration.

Day One

  • Pick them up with her toes and put them in a bowl (this is what started everything off…LP requested both beans and bowl)
  • Pick them up with her mouth and drop them in various bowls and containers
  • Play catch with handfuls of beans
  • Put handfuls of beans in an empty strawberry basket and shake them through
  • Create designs on the floor (mostly me but she watched and then requested letters so…)
  • Create letters on the floor
  • Make a nest for a baby pumpkin
  • Play “find the bean” for all those beans that had rolled far and wide during the above activities. (yes, this one was my idea but LP did play along)

Day Two

This time I poured out the remaining beans on her little table and set up a number of containers (small empty jars and vases mostly). When she came racing out of her room after quiet time, she went right to it playing with them, calling them “penguin nuts.”

  • Fill all available jars
  • Ask for a bowl and carry beans around in your mouth until it is time to spit them out in the bowl (LP is very interested in spitting and I figured this gave her a limited way to experiment with that)
  • Ask for toothpicks to try and spear the beans. (Beans were too hard for our toothpicks so we set aside a bowl of beans in water to see how long it would take to soften them up).
  • Set up a bean “potluck” for assorted stuffed friends.
  • As LP’s attention was waning I wanted to see if we could extend the play by adding new elements. First in was some old toothpick umbrellas I found in a drawer. She loved them and experimented with standing them in the vases & jars both alone and with beans.
  • Next into the mix was playdough and we made a cactus lollipop (green playdough ball on a stick with lots of pinto beans sticking out of it).

We took a break for dinner and then LP returned to bean-playing (mostly setting up another potluck for her buds) until bedtime.

Day Three

A lot of revisiting filling up jars….my favorite new addition to the bean play involved her donkey HeeHaw (I’ve been told this toy is meant to be a horse. It was a hand-me-over and I’ve always though it looked more like a donkey so that’s what it is in our house).  HeeHaw got a bean shower and then the pile of beans became her babies and she nursed them for a long, long time.

After all the bean hunting to clean-up, I was ready to retire the beans for awhile.  So off to the compost for the beans that had been in her mouth (or in particularly dusty places) and back to the container for the rest.

Day Four

One week later, I’m sick and LP is full of energy. I dumped the remaining beans in a bowl and was so happy that she went to town for a looooooong time.  I probably missed more than a few iterations of her bean play from my position on the couch but I did see her:

  • spread them out on the floor and go swimming
  • gather up handfulls to fill the bottom of a laundry basket and then climb in and ask for a blanket cover to be in her stall

The bean pile is dwindling but I think there’s at least another day’s play in it.  It has been fun to watch all of her spontaneous creations and also it has been wonderful independent play!

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Just continuing to enjoy the bursting spontaneity that is 3 and 1/2…the enjoyment is good balance for the challenges of raising a strong-willed little person.

LP had an early affinity for giving things names. She used to spend hours making bouquets of grass or leaves and would give each one a name. AND then she would seemingly remember the names.  This has evolved twofold…into both a delightful practice of naming stuffed animals and objects that come into her life and in creating new words.

On the object front, she has a collection of strawberry baskets with yarn tied to them that have become her puppies. (This all started as a craft project that I thought would be fun that LP wanted no part of because why would you create yarn webs inside a puppy?)  They are Sadie, Puppinaise, Puppinaise’s Cousin and As You Drift Away.  She also is into nicknames as her beloved wild thing named, Violin Case, is now also known as “The Mad Baby.” (Lots of work in our home on using words for emotions…glad to know it is making an impression.)

And one of my favorite things to do when we come across a new object is to ask her what it is called.  I need to start keeping pen and paper at hand both for posterity and because she gets quite put out when I don’t remember them (I always was slow at learning other languages).

A new twist is the addition of made-up verbs…the most recent is “sninging.” Sninging is when you start to sneeze and end up singing. (Once you know about, it starts to happen all the time.)  We had quite a good time sninging at dinner the other night and ImprovDad is a champion sninger.

At the library I was happy to stumble on a book that is delighting LP in this area of creating new words. We were already fans of Jack Prelutsky and I think  Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is some of his best work.  17 short poems about what you get when you cross an animal (like an elephant) with an object (like an umbrella). The illustrations by Carin Berger are wonderfully wild and some of the combos are brilliant. My favorite is the Clocktopus while LP is most fond of the Pop-up Toadsters.

LP has internalized the idea of making a new creation out of two known things. Last night, while enjoying a red popsicle, she proclaimed she was eating a “lobsicle”  – half lobster, half popsicle.

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Sometimes I wish I could be inside LP’s mind watching her imagination unfold.  I imagine it is very cinematic…. I get those lovely glimpses of the world in there through what she says and what she does but I know there is so much more.

At dinner a few evenings back,  I was telling ImprovDad about some B&Bs I had been checking out. (we have my wonderful Aunt J coming for an overnight with LP next week – woohoo!) One was called the Dancing Coyote and LP loved that name. She wanted to know how coyotes dance, so we invented one. It is a little bit Bollywoodish with howling. It was hard to finish dinner through the laughter.

Post dinner she was pestering us to go outside and see the dancing coyote. I was in “get things done” mode and had her bath running already so I wasn’t game but she rallied ImprovDad.

The report back is that LP led him down the street, around the corner and to some bushes that had a small space between them where the neighbors store their recycling bins.  “That’s where the dancing coyote lives,” she said and then collected some leaves and sticks to leave for the coyote to eat.

I love seeing how her imagination expands.  I think a few months ago she might have had the idea of a place being where the dancing coyote lives if she was looking at it but now she can picture it in her head first and then go explore it. Now her spontaneity and creativity are developing in new territory…how good it is to discover it.

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One of my favorite parts of improvisation is making up songs.  And parenting offers many opportunities to make up songs with your small people.

Now many, many folks are naturally drawn to make up songs to babies and then get a wee bit self-conscious as their kids get older.  Part 1 of this series of posts will focus on some warm-ups that can get you into (or back into) a singing groove.

1) Sing what you would say

Or to use the fancy opera word — use recitative.  Yup, sung speech. Doesn’t get more simple than that. (And if you like that…you can get dramatic and move into playing with your voice to create an aria. Imagine singing out “It’s time for dinner! Time for dinner! Time for dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner….diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeer!”)

2) Take a favorite song and alter a few words:

Twinkle, twinkle, little book

How I long to take a look

I wish I could read you now

I’d even read you to a cow

Twinkle, twinkle, little book

How I long to take a look

(I sing this as I look longingly at my library books…and read LP another round of hers)

When you feel comfortable with that, keep the whole tune but make up all new words.

OR use the tune and replace it with all animal noises.

3) Use karaoke music tracks and sing your own words to them (this is particularly great with music you don’t know)

4) Make up one sentence and see how many different ways you can sing it…as a country western song, a blues song, punk rock, and so on and so on and so on.

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

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