mama scout lab e-course

Friday, March 29, 2013

{family lab} imagination & play

"Play will be to the 20th century what work was to the industrial age, our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value."

-Pat Kane 
The Play Ethic

There are a few things I will not interrupt my children from. One is sleep and the other is fully engaged, imaginary play. You have seen your children in this state - highly, concentrated focus on a miniature (or large) world, where minifigs, plastic animals, or little acorn people talk, sometimes battle and create a new world. The child is not only creating a world, but also processing all the wonderful, confusing, scary and intriguing bits from their life. Play is both learning and a form of therapy for children.

There is evidence that the creation of childhood paracosms (highly detailed, imaginary worlds) are signs of high intelligence and creativity. We can flip that around and make sure that we offer our children lots of opportunities in paracosmic play to encourage and strengthen their minds and creative muscles.

How can we do this?

0ffer lots of props (mini figurines, scrap fabric, pieces of nature, recyclables)

offer lots of time (we love movies and some TV shows, but generally do not encourage going to the TV when we are bored - that is a perfect time to create)

offer supplies to draw maps, guides, dictionaries, currency, flags, family trees, etc. of their world.

talk to them about the world they are creating, refer to their world through out the day ("I wonder how the people of Boobalot (my kids' paracosm) are doing in this storm?"),

respect their creation as a living and real thing. 

stay out of the way - although support and interest is important, be sure to not take over (ahem, Amy) or you will kill it.

consider creating your own paracosm, through writing, art, making a doll house, model making... invite your children in.

Write for 10 minutes about the imaginary play you liked as a kid.

Did you act out plays, or play with dolls.

Did you orchestrate major battles with army men?

Did you construct elaborate scenes with blocks and cars or did you miss out on this sort of play all together.

Think back to how and where you lost yourself to another world.

Puppets are a great way to ease into paracosmic play and explore new characters and themes.

So, tonight, after dinner, let's all have a puppet show. 

This is easier than you think; it can be as elaborate or simple as you like.

I have made a little project sheet for you here

And if you would like a some inspiration, I made a Pinterest board with simple puppets
for you to peruse. It is here.


Want to work with me in reconnecting to your creative spirit?

My lab just for mamas is registering NOW.

We start in just a few days and would love to have YOU!

Click here to learn more.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

we have a winner.....

The winner of the double ecourse giveaway 

Ellie from The 30ish Mom

And just for YOU! If you did not win, you can use the 

discount code:
MAMASCOUT and receive 15% off!
That makes the course only $50!

Both A Book About Me and Feather Your Nest start in a few days, pick one and join the fun!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

{mama prompt} :: neighborhood

an occasional series of quick journal and creative prompts just for mamas

describe your childhood neighborhood. draw a map with all the secret and magic places. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Some links for you (or I am too tired to pull together a better post)

Good Monday morning! I hope your weekend was great. I have no Monday Mission to share today, because quite frankly I am just trying to stay afloat! We have been so busy around here. A rental fiasco, birthday planning, Easter planning, room rearranging, guest posting, chicken escapes, late night owl fights and homeschooling! Whew!

I thought I would share some links with you instead.

Do not forget to enter my fabulous giveaway this week!

I had an article published in this cool gardening magazine.

Loving these weekly creative prompts.

So angered by this.

Bought my daughter this graphic novel for her birthday.

Bought myself this.

Charmed by this dream catcher garland.

Was blown away by this documentary about educator Albert Cullum.

Saw Leonard Cohen this week and loved it. Check him out if he comes near you. 79 and still going strong!

Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen on Grooveshark

What have you been recently inspired by?

Friday, March 22, 2013

{family lab} picturing the past

We have been thinking about our own childhood experiences for the last two labs (if this has been hard, I promise we will lighten up soon) This sort of reflection can be invigorating or draining, I know.

I think it is inevitable as we become parents we rethink our own experiences growing up. I know in my case, I always thought I had a pretty good childhood. I felt loved, safe, and appreciated. But still, little things bubbled up as I began to parent. This is an inevitable part of every parenting journey. I began realizing why I behave in certain ways or have little tolerance for particular behaviors. I have gone through periods of anger and resentment. Luckily, finally, I ended feeling accepting of my past and resolved to move on.

Understanding how my childhood shaped me has helped me be such a better parent. I have been able to stop certain family habits and catch myself before I engage in other negative behaviors.

Of course, there are still things I have a hard time controlling and I am always working on those  (chiefly a lack of patience and angry outbursts).

I believe we are all works in progress and sometimes our machinery gets gunked up and needs a recalibration.

Even though we can not do full therapy sessions in this lab, I am offering a few ways of accessing the past which have the potential to heal or become celebrations. Whichever you need. 

Today, pull out a photograph from your childhood, we are going to write about it for 10 minutes.

If you really get into a flow, keep going, no doubt something you might have forgotten will come up. If you are stuck, try describing the physical surroundings and your memories about how things felt, smelt, tasted etc.

If you can, think about ways your childhood was different that your child's. Both good and bad. Write and dig and keep writing.

When you are done, think about keep the two together in your journal or photo album.

Share your photo and experience with the group in the comments if you can.

Have a family story time and work on developing stories from your childhood to share with your kids.

Some of my kids' favorite stories (near myths at this point) are tales from my husband's and my childhood. I am surprised at how much they want to hear them retold.

These stories connect our children to us, but also to themselves - as essentially, they are their stories too.

This is not formal. Just lay in bed and start remembering with, "When I was a kid..." It is good if both parents are there to compare childhoods.

Please share in the comments. Do you do this already? What is a favorite story that your children love?

I love photography, especially vernacular photography (photos taken by every day people of ordinary life).  

Here are some links exploring the photography of the everyday.

The inspirational way family photos were recovered and saved after 2011 Tsunami in Japan. Here.

A stunning collection of Polaroids. Hugh Crawford took one photo a day for the 18 years before he died at age 41.

Young Me, Now Me
My brother and I riffed off this to make a present for our mom for Christmas. She loved it. Check it out here.)

Awkward Family Photos
This is classic, but it makes me laugh every time.

My Parents Were Awesome

Big Happy Fun House
A great collection of vernacular photographs.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

{BIG GIVEAWAY} Feather Your Nest + A Book About Me

Today I am so excited to offer a HUGE giveaway.

I am offering:

a spot in e-course Feather Your Nest
a spot in Mama Scout's (that's me) A Book About Me

Both of these courses start April 1st and they are the perfect companions to each other. Together they deal with the inner and outer worlds we create. The physical and ethereal combined. 

I will be participating in both and am really excited. If you are like me, you might have spent some time after the holidays decluttering and making space.

So, now what do you do with that space? What sort of dreams and views do you want to manifest this spring?

Hopefully these two experiences can help you shift towards a beautiful season.

Scroll down to find out how to enter.

MORE from the Feather Your Nest mavens:

Our greatest hope is that together, we can honor our femininity and the important work that goes into creating a loving, supportive, and beautiful place to call home.
Over our 2 weeks together you’ll receive prompts for writing, creative projects, yummy recipes, printables that you can use over and over again and a guided journey for unearthing what your soul wants to feel when it is at home._
A little of what you can expect:
  • Inspiring exercises to draw out your dreams & desires
  • Step-by-step tutorials for beautiful, creative projects
  • A gorgeous Feng Shui & Home Chakra map for your nest
  • Tools and resources for carving out spaces of retreat & rejuvenation
  • Ideas for energizing and bringing life into your rooms
  • Recipes for natural, lovely-smelling cleansers
  • A sacred space online to share inspiration, photos, projects, and more
Get ready to engage all of your senses – touch, sight, smell, taste and even sound!  Let us help you gently coax the unique beauty in your home out into the open, no matter its shape or size, so that you and your loved ones feel at ease as they move through each space.

We understand that with e-courses you might feel that there is an expectation to keep up. In Feathering the Nest, we ENCOURAGE you to go at your own pace and soak everything in…there is no right or wrong way to nest.
We believe that loving your home is like loving your body – it’s a practice that forges a deep & meaningful connection to your soul. And it just gets better & better over time.

In Feathering the Nest, you will make your home a place to unwind and connect, gather for cozy dinners, and nourish yourself in everyday moments.

Together, we can make your space a reflection of the beauty and grace that is YOU.

Feathering the Nest Registration
And just for YOU! If you do now win, you can use the discount code:
MAMASCOUT and receive 15% off!
That makes the course only $50!

you can read more about A Book About Me by clicking on the picture below

To win your space in BOTH awesome courses - just leave a comment telling us what you want to step into this spring

And for good measure - connect with us here:

Leah's Skill It newsletter
 Skill It on Facebook

Stephanie's Wellness by Design blog
Wellness by Design on Facebook

Amy's Mama Scout newsletter
 Mama Scout on Facebook

That's it! I will randomly pick a winner on March 28th.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

{mama prompt} :: first and last

an occasional series of quick journal and creative prompts just for mamas

take a photo of yourself first thing in the morning and last thing at night. print them out and tape them in your journal next to each other with the date.

Monday, March 18, 2013

lab notes :: what you see

sitting, watching the chickens
orange blossoms are blooming and a buzz around my head
the air is cool and moist
i can hear all the cars who are moving towards work
mourning dove wings flap loudly against the wind

Today, how about spending 5 minutes to sit outside and record what you see and hear?
 Nothing fancy or profound, just the ordinary (which will become profound if you let it.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

{sneak peak} looks what is coming on summer solstice

Keep an eye on this space for more information soon :)

I have something really special up my sleeve for YOU.

Friday, March 15, 2013

{family lab} get outside

Growing up in Florida, I remember my bike slipping in the sugar sand of the orange groves that surrounded my under-construction neighborhood. Sand spurs were a constant menace. And about once a month, a big palmetto bug would sneak its way into our house and lots of screaming and shoe throwing would ensue until it was killed and flushed. (You can not just throw the carcass away, because it will climb out of the garbage can, even if they are completely smashed, and make a terrifying death march around your house looking for you, trust me). 

The environment seemed so hot and harsh. Maybe this was because I listened to my non native neighbors who assured me that you could not garden in Florida, or because as I became a teenage, the environment was a major source of complaint among my friends. The sunshine and humidity, bleh!

It took until I became an adult to really appreciate the amazing environment I live in. The skies here are obscene. Have you heard about the Florida Highwaymen painters? They painted psychedelically colored paintings of the Florida landscape that they sold from their car trunks. When you see their images, you think that there is no way the sky could look like that - fiery orange and magenta and purple? What were they thinking? And then you look up at the sky and yep, they captured it just right. 

When my children were younger I read about Charlotte Mason's (a 19th century British educator) idea that children should be outside at least 6 hours a day, even in bad weather. While we are not usually able to log a full six hours a day, we do try to spend as much time as possible outside. Eating, reading and drawing, along with hiking and biking are our favorite things to do outdoors.

The kids are happier, healthier, stronger and calmer because of it. Open space seems to diffuse nervous and aggressive energy. I am sure most of you enjoy being outside - but every once in a while I meet a kid who is not allowed to play outside. Or their play is heavily monitored and the outdoors and its inhabitants becomes something to be feared. In fact, I just participated in an adult creativity group where grown women were freaking out about standing outside barefoot. What?

This week we are thinking about our connection to nature. Simple but profound things happen when you and your children can live and be outside for a significant part of the day.

What do you remember about being outside when you were a kid?

Was it a fun, adventurous time? A not so good time?

What was the grass like? How did the air smell?

Share what you wrote and remembered in the comments

Lay in the yard and look deeply, relax, clear your mind of everything except for what is directly in front of you. 

I have been doing this a few times a week for the past month and it has been amazing. I do not think I will ever be able to meditate by emptying my mind and keeping it clear - so this method, where I intensely look at something is working wonderfully. I have noticed this amazing lady bug colony and actually communed with lizards! They see me and interact. I can hear the monarch caterpillars chomping my milkweed. 

 It is so restorative and magical (I will try not to use that word in every post - but this really is the m word.)

Let us know if you do this. What did you see?

I wanted to share the sweetest little animated film. It speaks perfectly to the value of slowing down, looking closely and maybe even being a bit bored. 

Oh, and it is perfect to share with your children. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

{mama prompt} :: fan mail

 an occasional series of quick journal and creative prompts just for mamas

today, take a few minutes and write a fan letter to someone (famous or not) and let them know how great you think they are, and why. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

{life lab} the stories we attach to our stuff

We all talk about de-cluttering all the time, don't we? We buy books, sign up for classes, do challenges, try for 15 minutes to clear out clutter, and wonder how we got so much stuff in the first place.

In our family, we have 5 people who are interested in so many things. We like to go to garage sales, we get loads of gifts on birthdays and holidays, and we have no problem buying the tools we need for our latest area of interest. And, I am not sure, but I am pretty sure that homeschooling might exacerbate the situation.

In the last few years I have gotten rid of nearly half my books. This was not easy, I love to read and browse through my shelves. It is also wonderful knowing I have a "just the book" on a variety of topics that might arise. But, there is still too much.

Cull after cull, there is still too much. I want to go deeper.

So, I have begun to think about the stories we attach to our stuff. And re-evaluating those stories to see if they still hold true.

One of my biggest stories is that I need to have a house full of resources for my ever curious children. But, after a little digging I can see that this is not really a valid argument. We live near a library that has thousands of books on its shelves. We also have internet access at home and a variety of people who we can call to ask for help or guidance on many topics. And, I have come to see that in many ways having all these "resources" actually limits my kid's thinking. They are rarely excited when I pull a book from the shelf and hand it to them, because I have in effect removed them from the process of seeking their own knowledge. So, although we still have tons of books, I have released many, many back to the world and have opened more space for exploration and investigation. I am trying to get rid of half. That is a big goal because I am now cutting deep into my collection and hitting a lot of nerves.

Another huge story for me (and I hope someone can relate) is that I am going to read novels. I collect them from the library sale table for pocket change. Best sellers, ones I have seen recommended on other blogs, pretty covered gems with the all the possibility of sweet escape. But, I rarely read them. I read nonfiction, memoir and essays with ease and hunger. Fiction, not so much. It seems like something that I should be reading, but I can rarely get past a chapter or two before falling asleep. So, out with most of the fiction that I know I will not read. I still have a handful or classics and specially chosen ones I do want to read, but I have at least 100 that I do not need.

I am so curious about the stories you hold regarding your stuff. Do you keep tons of fabric for the day you might sew all your own clothes? What about tools for projects that you think you might want to do, someday? School research papers that you will reread in your old age? Or boxes and boxes of recyclables for craft making?

The thing I am realizing, is that all this stuff, we think holds possibilities for better versions of ourselves.  It is like a drawer of clothes two sizes to small. We think if we hold on to these things, we can get back to something we once were or something we have always aspired to be. But, we are also letting the weeds grow over a million other possible paths, interests and experiences. It is like we have a huge field full of long soft grass and beautiful wildflowers - and we keep walking the same path, over and over, packing hard the dirt of comfortable possibilities and completely ignoring the vast field of all that might be.

So, with this post, I encourage you - and me, to get off the path, explore further, look in new places and a great way to start this process is clear out the crap (even the good stuff).

Now, if I could just release my vintage camera and clock collection...

Please share a comment about your journey with stuff...


want to go deeper with more of your stories and do some deep personal excavation? 

"This lab will help you find yourself. the self you lost or has become submerged in the constant din of quotidian noise and bustle. She might be awkward or sad after all these years, but she is still there, waiting for you to call her forth. "

Friday, March 8, 2013

{family lab} a perfect day

When I was growing up,  I remember my family working a lot. Both of my parents worked full time and my grandmother lived with us for most of my childhood. Although the extra adult in the house was helpful and kept my brother and I out of daycare, it was also stressful at times as I wondered why I had so many adults telling me what to do (not easy for a head strong, autonomous kid). 

It seemed like we were on autopilot. Go to school, come home, have a snack, go play in the neighborhood, come home eat dinner, go to bed.

Maybe that is the idyllic childhood many wish they had still - but for me it seemed like there was not enough family connection time. Just a lot of wandering around the neighborhood getting into trouble. And I knew from observing other families that I had it good. Other kids' parents were alcoholics, hiding credit card bills from their spouses, divorced and dating, and sometimes just scary and mean. No one was setting the bar too high.

My very favorite memories from growing up are the simple days when my whole family was together.

One particular memory I cherish is a simple, non-eventful evening when I was about 9 years old. This might have been a satori moment (do you know this term? it is a moment, a flash in time, where you feel the truth and perfectness of the moment).

It had rained and we opened all the windows and turned on our attic fan which pulled the cool air from outside into our house in big, glorious gusts of wind. I had just taken a shower and was wearing a satiny long night gown while laying the couch, enjoying the breeze and watching, get ready for this... Solid Gold, my favorite show of my early childhood. Everyone was home, we had just eaten dinner and the grownups were cleaning up and getting ready for the 8 o'clock moment where we all watch TV together. In that moment, I felt so at peace and connected to my parents.

Today there is a lot of talk about free range parenting, and while I whole heartily support helping kids become independent and adventurous, I also believe in a strong (not oppressive) parental presence. So, when I had my kids, I knew that I did not want them to feel abandoned or tether-less. I wanted a strong and extremely close family structure. I want my kids to have the same feeling I had on the couch that rainy summer evening. And I wanted them to have it more than I did.

Write about a favorite type of day when you were a kid. Not necessarily a big day, like a birthday or holiday, maybe just an ordinary day where you felt safe and happy.

Try to include specifics about smells, colors, flavors and anything that will bring the memory alive.

If you want, share what you wrote and noticed in the comments.

Grab a notebook, video/audio recorder or laptop and interview your kids about their favorite days.

Ask them each to explain in detail what would be a favorite day. 

(My kids love to be interviewed - it is a technique I use a lot. Maybe it is the intense focus they get from me, or the seriousness of how I record what they share with me, I don't know. But it is very powerful.)

Share anything interesting that happens in this process.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

{mama prompt} :: bury that garbage

an occasional series of quick journal and creative prompts just for mamas

write down 5 self defeating things you say to yourself. bury the paper in the garden so it can transform into something useful and beautiful.

a tune for you, guess what we are studying right now?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

{family lab} welcome letter

Friday our lab starts!

I wanted to send out a quick welcome post to get you ready for this adventure. It will take the better part of a year and can be really transformative if you fully engage. Woop! 

Each week you will receive a short essay,  a writing prompt, a creative challenge and a link or two for some outside resources. 

We are a diverse group. I have included a lot of ideas, possibly more than you can tackle or have the inclination to.  Please know that this is your journey and your experience. If there are ideas that do not speak to you, leave them out. Or better yet, change them to meet your family's needs. Please feel free to email me privately or ask the Facebook group for suggestions on how to make something work for you.

Also, there is a possibility that you might feel overwhelmed or miss a few labs. That is OK. The information is not cumulative. Each week's ideas stand on their own, so if you miss a day, you are not behind. I want everyone to be engaged and for us to push ourselves just past our comfort zone if we need to, but I understand that life sometimes gets out of control. You never have to "catch up" or do an older lab before you can do the current one. If you need to, you can save some ideas for later. The goal for our time together is not necessarily to complete every "assignment." We want to fill our toolboxes with new ideas, new perspectives and new friends for support. A good motto might be:

Do what you can as much as you can.

That being said, it would be great if we all committed ourselves to being all in for the month. If we can try a little harder, invest 30 minutes or an hour a day, make an effort to connect with and support the other participants, I think we will reap the biggest benefits. This goes for me too. I am facilitating but will be participating as well. Doing the prompts and the creative activities is something I am really
looking forward to.

The last idea I want to suggest is that we think in terms of collaboration. I recently read Twyla Tharp's book The Collaboration Habit and loved so many of her ideas about the benefits of working with
others. What she writes about dance and creative collaboration can certainly apply to the family organism.

Please look at this year as a collaboration with your significant other and children. The information I share is not meant to be experienced as a top down model. It is meant to inspire you and get
your mind loose and cranking out even more ideas (that I hope you will share). You might happily find your journal packed with maps of new worlds to explore with your kids. But don't forget to include your children in the process. Discuss with them what you are doing. Ask them if they would like to participate.  Write down their ideas for creative adventures. Tharp writes about collaboration as a habit that has to be practiced in order for it to develop.

Let's practice co-creating with our families this year.

Monday, March 4, 2013

monday mission :: host a pop up picnic

A pop up picnic is one of the simplest way to gather your people. A day or two before the magical evening, send invite to everyone you know who is local. No trying to figure out who would make a good mix  - invite them all. And ask them to invite all their people. 

Pick a public setting and ask everyone to bring something to share. 

That is it. 

Whomever shows up will be the exact people needed to make the party the best. 

Try it out once a month or so starting this week. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

our sundays travel with us + a recipe

Over the last few years, as we have traveled, one of the most memorable things we have done is not necessarily the sites we visited and explored, but what we brought with us. 

Our Sundays.

By bringing some of the elements that make up our typical Sunday, we are able to maintain a sense of familial rhythm that is cherished by us and particularly important for young children when far out of their element. 

When away from home there seems to be a little more of everything: fun food, TV, stimulation, shopping, and adventure. It is so useful to have a scheduled day of less.

An ideal Sunday for us includes a long leisurely morning with really good coffee, a substantial breakfast, a fat newspaper and sometimes some PBS cartoons (so the adults can read that fat newspaper).

In the early afternoon we need a long walk, either into town to see some art or in the country to connect with nature. 

And the evening meal is my favorite. A very simple yet completely satisfying roast chicken and vegetables, with a huge salad, and some wine fills our stomachs and hearts. (We use the chicken to make stock to use through out the week too).

When travelling, maybe especially when travelling, we seek to create the same atmosphere that allows for calm and reflection at home. Breaking bread as a family is one of the ways that we sustain and fortify ourselves when we are on the road.

When in Paris with our very young children, we loved our Sunday suppers of rotisserie chicken from a street vendor, complete with the little potatoes and olives that sat under the chicken roasting all day. Paired with a salad, baguette, and a pastry carefully chosen by the children, we were in heaven, and yet felt completely at home.

Last fall in NYC, we had one of the best Sundays yet. We spent the morning walking through Central Park, collecting leaves and acorns so different from the ones at home. We checked out a local street market and bought goodies for dinner. The afternoon was spent at the Natural History museum looking at the haunting dioramas of nature captured, imagined and preserved. Tired but happy, we wandered back to our rental apartment for our Sunday supper of roast chicken. Adventure and comfort all together. 

Whether at home or on the road, the simple Sunday supper that we have made our own, connects us to each other and the traditions we are building as a family. It is fun to watch each kid jockey for whatever is the favorite piece du jour (it was legs, now it is breasts and skin), negotiate who gets the wish bone and smell the familiar smell of crock pot stock each Monday morning, no matter where we are.

Roast Chicken

1 happy chicken (free range, organic if possible)
lemon, butter, salt, pepper, tarragon

Make sure to remove the organ meat from the cavity, give the chicken a quick rinse with water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Squirt the outside with a lemon and then put the rind into the cavity. Rub the chicken all over with a few tablespoons of softened butter (you can also use olive oil), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put a bunch of tarragon in the cavity (or under the skin). 

We usually cook ours in a 425 degree preheated oven for about an hour. It depends on the size of the bird. In the summer when it is scorching hot, we cook our chicken on a rotisserie outside. 

You can experiment with whatever you have knocking around your kitchen. Sometimes, I put lemon slices under the skin, or garlic cloves in the cavity. There are no rules and it is fun to develop a favorite "house" recipe for your family.


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