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“Let go of what you think your child should be interested in and what you think they should be doing or learning.”

~ Kate Fairlie in “Let Go and Let Them Learn” on Childhood101

And other wonderful playful food for thought from around the web:

“Toddlers to tweens: relearning how to play”  by Stephanie Hanes, The Christian Science Monitor online

“Kids need adventure. Parents need to to teach them how” by Stuart on The Family Adventure Project

“Why Children’s Theater Matters” by Danielle Wood on education.com

“This is What Happens When You Give Thousands of Stickers to Thousands of Kids” on Colossal Art & Design

On the Road: Puppets

LP and I just came home from a whirlwind trip to Boston for a family event.  We had 5 fun and family-packed days.  One of the many delights for us was 2 nights in a hotel (oh the pool!) which meant more hangout time with cousins (and for me with my siblings).

The second night, my 7-year-old niece and LP were at loose ends, so we three girls went to our room to make some puppets.  Those of you who have read my blog for awhile know that I don’t leave home without blue painters tape and you can see how useful it was for this make-it-up craft.

We took turns drawing faces (mostly dogs, of course) and then carefully ripped them out and taped them onto construction paper tubes (another travel essential).  The tubes were various sizes and fit either over a few fingers or a whole hand depending on the size of the puppeteers hands.  LP also asked for a bone puppet for the dogs so I made that one for her.  It was fun to have time with my crafty niece and experience her creativity in action (I love that one of her dog puppets “Woof” has his name written on his forehead).

Much to LP’s disappointment, there wasn’t time to gather all the cousins together for a puppet show before bedtime.  However, the puppets packed up easily for the next leg of our journey and when we were finished playing, they were recycled.

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!

The past month has been one of improvised baking and concocting.  I’ll be writing a couple of posts about engaging and supporting a little person’s interest, so consider this one a teaser.

Below is the recipe for a “Show” ~ the first concoction that LP created about a month ago.  She made it while I was making dinner (homemade pizza) so most of the ingredients are what I was using (except for the goldfish!).

LP’s recipe (as dictated by the girl):

Start with a lot of goldfish.

Add just two whole mushrooms and a lot oil and a lot of wheat germ becasue the oil and the wheat germ taste good and they’ll make it taste good.

Add lots of garlic, cutted garlic.

The cheese makes the Show taste a little like popcorn.

Add pizza dough and pineapple.

Flour’s the last ingredient. It makes the show taste powdery.

Some shows get spinach in them.

Bake for very long. The long should be 20 minutes.

We eat the show when it comes out of the oven. It’s a cheer you up show!

(The recipe was dictated to me over dinner. As you can see, there are a few ingredients – pasta, celery, olives) that didn’t make it into the formal recipe.  And yes….she did eat some of it!)

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.

Bookstore Dog

Oh, I have about twenty posts to write about LP’s life as a dog.

But for now, I think her song captures some of the essence. Picture LP industriously using blue painters tape all over the dining room built-in cabinet and walls to create her bookstore as she sings:

Oh, I wanna be a bookstore dog.

Oh, I’m making a bookstore.

Now I’m letting everyone know,

This is a surprise.

I’m not adopted yet.

I’m not adopted yet.

I’m being adopted.

I’m being taken care of.

I’m gonna be a bookstore dog, a bookstore dog.

I let the world know, this is my house.

Yup. That’s pretty much the song a bookstore dog would sing.

I’ve been taking (an unexpected) blogging break AND also been bookmarking lots of wonderful links out there. So I thought it was time to share a few. The first one is a wonderful 5 minute video…check it out!

“How to make an interactive and experiential story-telling hour” on Kirjastokaista

Play, Who Will be the Next Steve Jobs?” by Darell Hammond on Huffington Post

“German doctors prescribe kids a trip to the theater” by Isabelle de Pommereau on The Christian Science Monitor Global News Blog

“Blast Off! Pretend Play Astronaut” by Melissa Taylor on Imagination Soup

“Quiet-time art game for children” by Jean Van’t Hul on The Artful Parent

“A fresh story is like fresh homemade bread from the oven. There is just nothing that feeds the mind and heart as well.”

~ Megan Rosker in “Mama, Tell Me a Story” on Let the Children Play

And here’s more playful food for thought:

“5 Reasons Why Kids Should Play in School” by Kerala Taylor on MomsRising.org
“Catalyzing Creativity:  7 Playful Activity Books for Grown-Ups”  by Maria Popova on Brain Pickings

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.

Puppets!

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…

PUPPETS!

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.