mama scout lab e-course

Friday, September 28, 2012

3 ways to know if you are on the right track :: reflections on my first e-lab

I do not really know where to start.

This month has been an amazing personal journey for me. I have long harbored this idea of an e-lab for mamas to celebrate the mundane and embrace the wild creativity that comes with being a parent. The 30+ women who joined me were kind, open and so smart. They gave me so much hope for the future. There are some amazing kids on their way to change the world - just wait!

I wanted to share a few reflections from the month, in hopes that they might be useful to you and your project too.

Mainly, I think I have finally answered a question that I have asked myself many times over the years:

How do I know I am on the right track with something (a project/ideology/idea)?

I have decided the following:

1. If you quickly and easily enter flow while working on your project, that is the one! Don't stop - you found it! When you are in flow, time slows as you become completely absorbed in your work. You feel refreshed and energized when you are done. It is an optimal state to aim for when working/playing.

You know you are doing the right thing if it gives you energy. While working on this lab, I would often work until 2 or 3 in the morning, relishing a quiet house and time to think and write. Amazingly enough, I still woke up refreshed and excited to do more. The more I did, the more energy I got!

2. Ideas beget ideas. Constantly being stuck for ideas or inspiration (beyond a short term funk) is a sign that you might not be on the right track.

The more ideas I have, the more ideas I have. 

Does that make sense? 

It reminds me of the morning glory vine on my back porch. It struggled for a while, but as soon as it started blooming, it exploded. And each blossom turned to 5 seeds that fell into the soil below and then even more morning glories grew. 

It is exponential!

3. You stop caring what anyone else thinks. As soon as the fear of embarrassment has left the room with its friend perfectionism, you can focus on your work and not your perceived idea of how anyone else is judging you.

Being true to your vision, bolsters your confidence and makes the people who do not support you melt away to the sea of their own discontent. They become so inconsequential.

And lastly, the empowerment of purpose comes not from a successful project, but from simply embarking on the journey. 

Walking fully into your passion is where all your power is. It does not matter what happens after that, as long as you put yourself out there fully, you will reap the benefits and confidence. You will be changed.

exploration lab :: paint with water

So simple, but it bears sharing. 

While painting with water the profound from the simple popped up again.

We made designs that became maps of imagined worlds.

We traced the shadows of fallen limbs.

And we painted hearts. 

When I asked my son, where the hearts went (as they dried), he answered, "to the clouds, so that the rain is filled with love."

Today, maybe we should all paint hearts or peace signs or kind words with water to fill the clouds with happiness.

Monday, September 24, 2012

make story maps (and a book review)

Inspired by the recently published book, Show Me a Story, by Emily Neuberger, my kids and I sat down one morning to work on a story map. What started as a creative kick starter, turned into a four hour project that kept us highly engaged until lunch. 

We love making maps, so this was not something too new. What was different was the scale (the entire floor of our learning lab) and the inclusion of many, many plastic creatures (and cotton balls, blocks, fabric trees and more). 

We became consumed by the creation of our paracosm and all the details that had to be negotiated so that each participant had their needs represented in the map. 

After the map was basically complete, the characters came to life. We had the primary inhabitants of the island, their protectors (a group of wild cats that could be called in times of danger by means of a special whistle), the reptilian antagonists and a band of misfit animals that just did not fit in anywhere. 

Once the map and characters were settled on, the imaginative play and stories developed. A baby washed on shore and had to be saved, special gems were being protected from giant worms that crawled underground and sprung up at inopportune times, and many visits to the wise one (Yoda) who lived in the volcano were made. 

Story and plot developed on top of each other almost like a kaleidoscope (that is what happens when you have three energetic authors). 

Neuberger's book shares 40 ideas, crafts, and games aimed at helping kids invent and play with story telling. Her entire philosophy spoke to my sensibility with her support of open-ended creative play and an emphasis on ample space with simple items to spark imagination.

She offers projects like story disks, dice, grab bags, blocks and stones that get creative juices flowing to start inventing new worlds and adventures. 

After a story (or three) is created, she provides projects that let kids "play" with what they wrote. From puppet theaters and stage set pieces to maps and story jars - her ideas are impressive and inspirational. As I read through, I marked many pages of projects I wanted to do with my kids and other home school kids in my circle. 

One of the best things about Show Me a Story is the wide age range the activities accommodate. Most of the projects have an appeal from preschoolers to middle schoolers with slight variations and adjustments. I have already marked several writing games to play with the young writers' workshop I host. 

I highly recommend this book for any home schooler, crafty parent or teacher. In fact, this would be a fabulous gift for your child's teacher, scout leader or Sunday school teacher. 

I received a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

DailyBuzz Moms 9X9 :: Finding Fall

This post is a project I did with DailyBuzz Moms 9X9. I am so honored to be involved in the Fall into Autumn challenge!

I become wistful when the autumn season arrives and the rest of the country seems to be busy picking apples, wearing sweaters and taking hayrides. Fall in Florida is a very subtle season; sometimes it seems as if we go straight from summer to winter in the blink of an eye.

This year we started a tradition that I think we will carry with us into each season.

We took a "Finding Fall" observational walk. 

With a simple twig journal, a camera, some squares of contact paper, tape, pencil and very good eyes, we tried to track down and record clues that fall was approaching.

To make a twig journal, simply fold a small stack of paper in half, punch a few holes in the spine and run a rubber band down the inside. Poke the little rubber band ends out of the holes and loop them around a found twig, pencil or chopstick. 

We observed:

-a very few leaves that had changed colors

-acorns and other nuts dropping (to feed the small mammals)

-beauty berry plants with ripened fruit (to feed all the migrating birds)

-new birds at our neighborhood lake! it will be fun to see all the winter guests that arrive through out the rest of the year

We also observed that the wet, cool weather is great mushroom weather. We traced some mushrooms and brought some back home to make spore prints.

And it is starting to get dark earlier, so we are sometimes still outdoors at night and can see the bats emerge from chimneys and trees and we suspect that we might catch a glimpse of an owl swopping through the old live oaks in our neighborhood.

I was amazed at all we noticed about this brief and nuanced season we often rush through. When we stopped and really looked and thought and wondered, we were able to read a previously unseen page in our natural landscape.

This would be so great to do at the beginning of each season, and in any location.

(we loved looking for squirrel teeth marks on the fallen nuts)

What season might be overlooked in your corner of the world?

Mama Scout e-Lab :: now registering!

This is the last week to register!


What is this course about?

This e-course is a month long, daily lab 
for igniting and sustaining creative 
family living. 

I am calling it a lab because there is no specific formula to a happy, high-functioning family. 

As Thomas Edison said, "There are no rules here, we are trying to accomplish something." That "something" will manifest it self differently in each family. 

We are going to write, experiment with creative missions and reflect deeply on our family culture. The group will offer unwavering support and help problem solve any difficulties that lab partners might have.

Who is this for:
If you are struggling with family living and would like to find joy and creativity in the everyday - this lab will help you reignite the passion filled home you know you deserve.

If you are happy, but stuck in a sort of monotony and feel the need to molt  - this lab will push you to a new level.

If you are simply looking for new ways to jazz up your creative life with your kids - this lab will kick you into high gear. Hi-ya! 

If you homeschool or unschool and want to transform your daily environment to spark curiosity in yourself and children - this course will offer you so many ways to break out of your rut.

If your kids are in school all day and you want to offer them opportunities to think outside the standardized testing environment  that many schools have fallen prey to - this lab will offer your family a safe and encouraging sanctuary. 

How does it work and what do I get?

This is a packed class. You will get:

1. Daily emails with:

your DAILY writing prompt (these are short and FUN), quick and interesting daily creative family challenges and activities and lots of links and resources of inspiration.

The creative family challenges that I offer are specific enough that you will feel like you are really getting some useful tools for your parenting tackle box. But, they are also simple and open ended enough that you can improvise and change things as you need for your family. 

These are not prescriptive crafts - but explorations. 

You can print or file these labs to use all year round. They are yours!

2. A private Facebook page, just for lab participants. This group will continue after the lab is complete.

3. Daily access to me via email and Facebook. I am devoted to each participant and their journey for the month.

4. A handful of healthy and easy recipes. We love to cook around here and although food is a way to showcase creativity, sometimes you need a quick, healthy dinner to allow for more play time. I have some great ones to share!

5. Printables with resources that you can tuck into your journal or purse. For example: my top 50 films for watching with kids, and a list of my very favorite chapter books to read out loud with kids.

6. Family project sheets, detailing a bigger project your family might want to tackle when you have a few days. These are fun!

7. At the end, each participant will receive a merit badge. Yes, a real, special edition, mama merit badge! I designed a special badge just for special classes like this. I can not wait to mail it to you!

Friday, September 21, 2012

writing lab :: found poetry

Hidden poetry is a classic writing lab that is engaging for many different ages. I recently tried this myself and with my young writers' group. 

With any page of text (from an old book, a magazine, newspaper) simply circle words that make a poem (or sentence or idea).

When you like what you have, cross out the remaining words.

You have found a secret or hidden poem. 

This would be fun to do as a party game or after dinner one night with your kids. Encourage them to write the funniest or most melodramatic phrase they can. 

Like what you see here? Join the party on the Mama Scout Facebook page. 

Want to really shake it up? Sign up for the Mama Scout e-lab for a month of intense fun and creative family living!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

exploration lab :: pendulum art

Pendulum painting has been on my list to do for such a long time. I am so glad that we finally did it - it was fun for everyone.

What you need:
empty plastic bottle with small spout
yarn or string
watered down tempera paint
butcher paper

Cut off the end of the bottle, poke four holes evenly around, and tie yarn on. Leave a good amount of yarn because you might want to hang the pendulum up somewhere high.

Where to hang? We are incredibly lucky to have a full sized geodesic dome that works great for projects like this, but a tree limb, ladder, or even chairs with a broom stick will work. 

Fill with paint and swing. 

This is where all the experimenting comes in. 

Thickness of paint, method of swing and height of bottle, all change the outcome. 

Plan to play, get messy and try different ideas. 

The Mama Scout e-Lab is registering right now! If you would like a month full of creative writing prompts, family challenges, inspirational essays and links to cool resources, click here to read more. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

poetry bombing the alley

In the Mama Scout e-lab I am facilitating this month (and next month too, if you want to register) we are working with ideas of parenting as performance art and doing little acts of public art. 

I live for this stuff. We have sent messages in bottles, left messages guerrilla style in public spaces,  and tried to be open to situations were we could spread kindness

Many nights I walk my old dog down the moonlit alley behind my house. 

There is a tree with such huge leaves, that when I am standing there waiting for my dog to pee, I always stare at them, transfixed.

They remind me of turning book pages when they blow in the breeze; they have such heft.

And they beg to have poetry written on them. 

On a piece of vellum, I wrote out the poem, All Things Pass by Lao-Tzu for all those who pass, and sewed it gently onto a branch. It was a windy day, and as soon as it was attached it began blowing around and fluttering like a leaf. A leaf poem that had married itself into the being of the tree.

This little, tiny act of art fueled me for the rest of the day. 

I am not sure what the affect on my son was other than he gets to grow up thinking it is normal to have a mom that sews beautiful words to her neighborhood.

Monday, September 17, 2012

monday mission :: take your kids to an antique shop

Monday Missions: a simple idea to add a little magic to your week.

Does the idea of taking your kids to an antique shop make you shutter? Think again. As long as your kids are not knocking stuff around like bulls, antique shops are some of the best places for kids to learn about history and consumer culture. They are like libraries for material culture. 

Kids learn about old toys, kitchen tools, cars, clothes, food packaging and more. They can connect better to the stories that their grandparents have told them about radios and old Barbies.

I think the main key to hanging in a shop with kids is to let them lead and give them plenty of time to look at whatever interests them. Follow them to the knives and old purses even if you are looking for postcards. See what catches their fancy.

Old spinning wheels and butter churners make stories like Little House on the Prairie come alive.  

Antique stores often have a lot of taxidermy animals, fur coats and bags made from whole animals, which leads to so complicated conversations. 

I am really curious if anyone else has kids who like going to the antique store?

Friday, September 14, 2012

miracle pit paste - diy deodorant

I have no idea where to begin. This homemade deodorant kicks ass.  

It eliminates odor all day, and even in to the next day if you lounge around and don't get going for awhile (although that never happens around here).

It takes about 1 minute to make and you probably have the supplies in your pantry already. I have heard you can use cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder, but I have not tried that. 

I have hiked in the humid Florida's woods, in August, for hours and emerged with no smell at all! My husband has worked on our house,  on scaffolding all day, and NO ODOR! 

And to be clear, if either one of us engaged in those activities with drugstore deodorant, it would have worn off and we would have stunk. 

But the part that makes me so happy about this discovery is that my kids will NEVER have to use the crazy, chemical stuff. They get to start off with this all natural potion.

Make it and let me know if you love it too! Also, make sure you do not glop it on, it really just takes a bit.


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