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It was a parenting bliss moment.

LP & I were looking at a long 2 hours before dinner at the end of a long, rainy day. I proposed a few projects that she was not into and then she said, “could I use the glue gun?”

I set up the table with the usual supplies (cardboard base to glue things too and a selection of stuff — pompoms, feathers, tongue depressors, small sticks, googly eyes) and plugged in the hot glue gun with the usual safety reminders.

Then I said “I’ll get my book and come back to keep you company.”

And she said, “No thanks, I’ll be independent.”

Music to my ears!

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Creating Traditions

My good friend, Wendy, and her family have a tradition of doing something different to mark every night of Chanukah. From family craft projects to volunteering to having  a party to baking banana bread and distributing it to the homeless to learning something new as a family (like rock climbing), I love the idea of making every night (or day) special AND creating traditions that aren’t about presents or about trying to make Chanukah into Christmas.

Every year, I ask Wendy for the list of what they do, but this and that happens and I haven’t acted on it until this year.  I know that we’ll develop what we do as time goes by  and LP grows.  I love the sense of anticipation that happens around traditions…I’m already looking forward to next year’s lantern walk.

In thinking about what traditions I want to create for our family, I’ve focused on the theme of light…both literal (candles), cosmic (star watching) and metaphoric through our actions (giving to others).

This year we are:

*having a family Chanukah party on the first night with latkes, playing music and a few presents

*craft & cooking projects on the second night (soft dreidl decorated with fabric markers and a dreidl cake of LP’s own recipe)

*lantern walk around the neighborhood on the third night (we made the lanterns by gluing tissue paper on glass jars and putting tea lights in them, specific instructions here at SteadyMom)

*Shabbat, dreidl playing, singing  and a few presents on the fourth night

*star watching picnic on the fifth night

*Making gifts for others on the sixth night (not sure what we’ll be making yet)

*put on a show together on the seventh night (and hopefully visiting a nursing home during the day)

*more music making and a few more presents on the eighth night

It is important to me that LP be able to enjoy Chanukah, have traditions to share with friends and also be able to share her friends’ Christmas traditions without envy. My parents gave me that gift growing up. I always loved Chanukah and how we celebrated AND it was comfortable and fun sharing in my friends’ Christmas traditions. We are living that sharing tradition this year as we had our annual Chanukah open house (pre-Chanukah this year because of the timing) and will attend a Christmas party on Christmas day.

Happy Holidays everyone!  May you spend these days sharing light with those you love!

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One of LP’s regular companion’s  is Doggy Chicken Burrito (and yes, you do need to say the whole name).

Doggy Chicken Burrito is interested in bugs that sting, especially bees.

Doggy Chicken Burrito knows that he needs protection to investigate bees and not get hurt.

Doggy Chicken Burrito wearing protective gear looks like this:


Big people almost universally comment about Doggy Chicken Burrito by saying, “What happened to your doggie?” or “What’s wrong with his eyes?”  or “Oh now! Your doggie has an owie!”  or “Why can’t your doggie see?” LP  usually attempts to explain, although her explanation is a little hard to follow if you don’t already know who Doggy Chicken Burrito is and about his interests in bees.

Last night, LP asked me, “Why does everyone think there’s something wrong with Doggy Chicken Burrito? Why don’t they know he can see through the protection?”

A hard question to answer.

Sure, one answer is that when you use your wonderful imagination, not everyone can see what something means unless you draw them into your world.  But another answer is we live in  a culture of fear that leads people to unconsciously make negative assumptions and while it is frustrating to explain and explain, you are doing a good thing — challenging those assumptions — when you do.

Would I make that same mistake if I didn’t know Doggy Chicken Burrito’s back story?  Very likely.  As much as I try to embrace free range parenting (see Free Range Kids for an abundance more on that topic), I am as saturated in the culture of fear as anyone.

While it is certainly easy to tell myself to stop overthinking this, I do believe it is meaningful that EVERY time someone has engaged LP about Doggy Chicken Burrito’s eye covering, it has been with the assumption that something is wrong. I wish even one person engaged her with curiosity and without assumption — “Tell me about your doggie’s eyes” would be one way to do it.

And such a good reminder to me about asking kids open-ended questions, especially when it comes to the place where our adult reality and their wonderful imaginations meet.  What we “see” may not be what is real.

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Take one preschooler home sick for the day add a hot glue gun, craft sticks and a bunch of craft odds and ends and you have…


LP, who was feeling pretty sick, mostly wanted to art direct the crafting.  With a little coaxing she did play around with the hot glue gun and the materials for a bit but what grabbed her interest telling me what to do.  It was one of those good sick day activities that is fun, can eat up a lot of time and take everyone’s mind off feeling lousy.

After the crafting, it was time for puppet shows.  The new puppets became villagers and LP’s Mr. Snuffleupagus puppet took on the part of dragon with a cold (yes, he sneezes out fire leading to all kinds of trouble).  We haven’t done many puppet shows so it took me a bit to get into manipulating all the characters, telling the story, doing different voices and incorporating LP into the action.  It was lovely (and easy) to bring LP into the show, from having her hand the puppets imaginary objects they need and helping make the soup for the sick dragon.

A few days later, she wanted to make more puppets and this time she was all about doing it herself.

She made this puppet:

and then it was time for another puppet show.

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In our house, we have the (fairly standard) rule of  “no potty talk at the table.”

LP loves to push the boundaries on this one.  With a glint in her eye, she’ll ask me questions for which the answer is pee or poop (for example, “Why do we walk dogs?” and “What did the dogs do on the living room floor when no one let the dogs out?”).

The other night after I reminded her of the rule, she looked at me crossly and said, “Then no monkeys!” Just moments before, ImprovDad and I had been imitating monkeys although I can’t recall why.

Much as I hate to give up monkeying at the table, it seems fair and, more importantly fun, to incorporate LP’s rules into the picture. So I said, “Okay now we have two rules at the table. No potty talk and no monkeys.” Then I asked ImprovDad if he wanted to set a rule and he said very seriously, “No talking about toasters.”

LP & I have had rule setting discussions in the past but they have always been a serious kind of talk. I had not thought of playful rule setting before.  It lightened up my job of enforcing the rules and we had a playful time skating near the edge of each of our rules and reminding each other about them.  I’m going to remember to do this (the I set a rule and you set a rule)  on purpose in the future as a playful way to get buy in from LP about rules.

What rules have your little people come up with?

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I’ll post my performing dates when I have them…but with or without me, I highly recommend it!

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Improv-a-Mama is teaching in March!

I’m very excited to be offering two classes — Playtime for Parents and Improv 101 — through the City of Emeryville.

Here are the details:

Playtime for Parents

Activity #1632

Enhance your enjoyment of playing with your kids by discovering what makes you feel playful. Come and have fun improvising with other parents, while learning practical hands-on ideas you can use with your family. No previous improv experience necessary and shy people are welcome!

Sundays in March (3/6, 3/13, 3/20, 3/27)


$100 for the session or $30 per individual class

Improv 101

Activity #1644

Enjoy exploring the world of improvisation in a low pressure, playful environment. Increase your confidence, improve your public speaking skills, and enjoy the experience along the way. We’ll cover the improv basics of spontaneity, saying “yes” and getting comfortable creating scenes and stories together. Shy people welcome.

Sundays in March (3/6, 3/13, 3/20, 3/27)


$120 for the session or $40 for individual classes

Ready to register?  You can do it online here.

Questions? Send me an email at susan (at) un-scripted.com

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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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Playtime for Parents!

I’ve been working on promoting my upcoming class. Marketing is not my strong suit (talk about bringing out my shy side) AND it has been great (and frustrating) to work on refining my pitch and getting more clear on how to tell folks what the class is about. Below is my current iteration…if you live in the CA Bay Area, come and play!


Feel busy and under pressure?

Do you get stuck for ideas when playing with your kids?

Bored with the repetition? Pressed for time?

Open up your imagination with Playtime for Parents!

Enhance your enjoyment of playing with your kids by discovering what makes you feel playful. Come and spend two afternoons with other parents exploring play through improvisation.  No previous experience necessary and shy people are welcome!

  • Learn tips and strategies for adjusting activities for different ages.
  • Practical hands-on ideas that you can use with your family.

Playing together builds strong families and gives children the chance to try new things and work through difficult feelings.  Parents need that chance too!

Dates: Sundays October 3rd & 10th

Time: 1-4pm

Location: Emeryville Senior Center

Cost: $80

Register at http://www.emeryville.org/activenet

Susan Snyder has been playing professionally for almost 15 years.  She is a drama therapist, an improvisor with the Un-Scripted Theater Company and a mom. This class grew out of her experience and a noticed need for parents to carve out some playtime for themselves, with positive benefits for everyone.  Susan writes about improvisation and parenting at http://www.improvamama.com.

This post is part of the Moms’ 30 Minute Blog Challenge over at Steady Mom!

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The sunflowers we planted in our butterfly garden are giving us a lovely surprise.  The package says to expect 3-4 foot plants and ours are growing beyond expectations.

I’m getting a lot of delight watching our sunflowers grow…especially since they are growing beyond the boundaries of our expectations and I like that as a metaphor. We, like the sunflower seeds, have all this potential for growth inside if we can find, make and/or create the conditions for it to happen.  Sometimes in the daily, weekly repetitive grind of parenting, I forget to see all the ways that I have grown.

Something I love about being an improvisor is that there is always room for growth.  There is always room to deepen storytelling, play more nuanced characters, develop new skills at an accent, learn a new genre – the list goes on and on.  I find that to be true as a parent too; there is so much room to develop patience, learn new approaches to supporting independence and skill-building, new ways to play together….yes, that list goes on and on as well. There is a challenge in both cases, to appreciate and enjoy the stage you are at, while working on the next new thing.  AND like those sunflowers growing taller than expected, I have experienced in both arenas, growth I did not predict or expect.

Those sunflower seeds have the inner code to grow and so do we.  Whatever our metaphoric water and sun and good soil is, it is good when we find it and can grow more than anyone, even ourselves expected.

LP has caught the “sunflower bug” too. When it is time to wash hands in the bathroom, she crouches on the stepstool until I act out watering and shining the sun on her and she grows tall enough to reach the sink. (Actually I quite look forward to her growing another inch or two so she can reach the faucet on her own….that or I need to find a taller stepstool for her.)

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

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