Life in CA Mommy Discoveries My Mommyology Recommends

My Mommyology Discovers: Storymakery

During a trip to the mall last fall, I saw an area boarded up with this logo on it:

The logo that started it all.
Photo credit:  Storymakery

As its name implies, Storymakery is a children’s creative writing and publishing shop, located in Spectrum Mall in Irvine.  They have actual creative writers in the store to help kids make a character, develop a plot, write out the story and publish it right then and there.  The work with the kids of varying ages too, and have various packages depending on the level of involvement the child can handle.

It’s amazing!  The creative writer in me was awakened and secretly thrilled.

I knew my girls would love it, and so when Storymakery opened its doors I signed them up for a Snowman workshop last winter.

Their store is very pretty too.  It’s spacious, and it looks very conducive for creativity and imagination.  I love places that are well thought-through.

At the workshop, the girls were immediately treated to some holiday snacks and hot chocolate.  After, they were first led to the Character Studio.  They were allowed to create their main character for their upcoming story.  In this case, they had to work with a snowman.

Creativity starts here!
Creativity starts here!

They did everything from the name to the color, and the writers were guiding them to help them describe what they were like and where they lived — all important parts of a good set-up!

Then they led to another station called “Writing”.  The girls had to come up with an antagonist, and a way to map out the story by answering questions the writers had prepared.  If your child is old enough, they can type their own answers, but in the interest of time (particularly with Jamie), the writers do it for them.

Love the icons on ceiling and wall.
Love the icons on ceiling and wall.

In the middle of the shop are these writing trees, which hold nuggets and thought starters, that kids can pick out and use to build their own story.  Pretty neat!

Trees for thought?
Trees for thought?

After that, the girls go into Publishing where they make the scenery and create a few more photos to complete their story, and they lay-out.

Sam waiting for her published work.
Sam waiting for her published work.

Then the writers take it to the back where it actually gets printed.  In a few minutes, they have their very own published written work in their hands.

The workshop also included a poster of their main character (as you would in a movie or a new book release).

Young Authors!
Proud of our young authors! (and they’re proud of themselves!)

In the shop they offered differently paraphernalia where the main character could be printed out and given as gifts.

My girls were so proud of themselves.  I can’t tell you how many times they read and re-read their stories, and showed it to other people, and they were over the moon when people called them Authors.  They felt like such distinguished folk, it was absolutely adorable.

The Storymakery experience is something one can take home too, if you sign up for their annual membership.  The family gets access to all the characters they created online, and can actually make more.  Kids can go in and make characters and stories themselves, and simply walk into the store to get it printed.

I dare say, it’s also helped Sam with her homework.  When they were asked to write a story with a beginning, middle and end for school, Sam knew how to lay it out, with the lesson in the end.  Jamie’s story-telling skills have also started to take shape with its own beginning middle and end.  So it is quite the tool for imagination, creativity and cognitive development all in one!

One of Sam and Jamie’s friends had their birthday party there too and the people in the store took care of everyone.  It was a great place for the grown ups to kick back and relax, get a haircut or a cup of coffee. 😉  Plus, the kids learned about collaborating on a story, and each one got to take home a book they all wrote together.  It’s amazing how they were able to fit everyone’s ideas in there so seamlessly.

And if that weren’t enough, the owner of Storymakery is a Girl Scout parent and troop leader, and  she also does activities and creative writing for troops to help them fulfill their badges.  Our troop has looked into working with them on a Journey, and I don’t know who is more excited to go back, the girls… or me! 😉

If you want to check out Storymakery, they’re on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram): @Storymakery.  Or visit their website!



Mommy Anecdotes My Mommyology's Manila Chapter

Costumes-Smoshtumes and Let’s Pretend Week

Oh October.  It really puts my creativity (or lack thereof) to the test.  Who ever thought Halloween could take so much out of you?

I remember growing up it was just one costume per year.  And my mom would usually have me make mine myself, with whatever materials and clothes I had at home.  I remember one year I was a dalmatian because I had a white shirt and a pair of white pants and I had to cut out black spots from paper and stick it on.  My headband, we dressed with black droopy paper ears.  I don’t remember much after that one.

With my kids though, it seems as if we have more than one round of costume per Halloween season.  For Sam’s first year she just had one.  After that, it sort of compounded.  I think Summer Camp added to the growing props and make-shift costumes, so Jamie was born into a home full of dress-up fun.

Now both girls still love playing dress-up, and they play it on a regular basis.  In fact that’s probably why we’ve accumulated so many little trinkets here and there apart from the Halloween costumes that Sam has worn in the past.  Thank goodness I have two girls, as those costumes get more wear out of them than I’d initially thought they would!

Jamie’s school is fairly creative.  They find all sorts of occasions for the kids to be animals or fairies and give them some role to play.  I think that’s why Jamie is great at pretend play at such a young age.

The week before Halloween, the teachers send the parents a memo for Let’s Pretend week, where they coat their curriculum around different themes from Monday – Thursday.  On Friday for their culmination they let the kids wear whatever it is they want and they have a true trick-or-treat session in the nearby area.

Last year when I saw the list I panicked.  Jamie’s teacher saw the look on my face and assured me that they weren’t expecting us to buy anything new, but to just be creative.

Man.  I had images of my black paper spots falling off with my creativity years ago (or lack thereof).

I think the most that I actually had to make was Jamie’s blue hair as Thing 2.

She didn't like her Thing 2 crazy hair very much... ooops.
She didn’t like her Thing 2 crazy hair very much… ooops.

We survived last year’s themes, and I’d forgotten about the panicked feeling until I saw the memo again this year.  To be fair, the school gives the parents ample time to digest Let’s Pretend Week and prepare for it.  As my friend Trina says, there are some parents who will just slap on a princess costume and be done with it (And what do the kids know right?  You just tell them a story to justify the same costume everyday and it’ll still work).  Now while I can’t bring myself to buy five different costumes that will be worn only once (it’s not like Jamie can hand-me-down to Sam…), I also cannot do that to my child (this is just me – no judgements please!).  Hence, the challenge to think of something new to wear everyday.  And besides, Jamie gets excited.  She sees her pictures and we talk about what she’ll wear, I think she’d know if I was putting her in the same costume but giving her a different story.

For this year’s let’s pretend week, Jamie had a theme.  Three out of her five costumes were insect-based.

She was a bumblebee for Animal Day.

I'm bringin' home a baby bumblebee...
I’m bringin’ home a baby bumblebee…

And then the Eency Weensy Spider for Storybook day.

Same suit, different child.
Same suit, different child.

Are you noticing a trend?

For Peter Pan Day, Jamie wanted to go as a fairy.  I had purple butterfly wings and I figured I could put her in a tutu dress with glitter.  But then again when she watched Jake and the Neverland Pirates she said she wanted to be a pirate.  And thankfully, Ate was a pirate two years ago too! 😉

Yo-ho Let's go!
Yo-ho Let’s go!

Jamie said she was “Mistah Smeeee!”, and she was happy to be so, on a pirate ship.  So even if the costume wasn’t exactly like Mr. Smee, I figured this one I could let slide because her imagination was bigger than that.

Last year and this year, there was a Superhero theme.  No other Superwomen come to mind than Wonderwoman, Batgirl and Elastigirl… none of whom Jamie could relate to because she didn’t know them.  The one superhero she did know was Spiderman (thanks to my brother’s collection maybe).  Maybe Spiderman was the easiest to remember because of her interest in animals and insects.

And thankfully, The Fatherland and Missus Big bought a spidey costume for their son.  He refused to wear it because he wanted to be a rainbow instead (and MY GOD.  That rainbow costume is a true labor of love and an absolute WINNER in my eyes!), and so Jamie was happy to borrow it.

With the graceful hands and Bunny.  Always, with Bunny.
With the graceful hands and Bunny. Always, with Bunny.  Who said Superheros couldn’t have bunnies?

Complete with the mask too!  I have to say, I was surprised at her willingness to wear even the mask.  I suppose that’s Jamie for you though — she really is full of surprises.

So as you can see, if it’s not a hand-me-down, it’s a borrow-me-please type of costume.  And why not?  The kids have fun and the costume’s value improves with every person’s wear.

That was most of Let’s Pretend week for us, and again I made it through alive.  Jamie in fact wanted to stay in her costumes the whole day.  I just had to convince they were dirty so that they could get washed.  The last day is a “wear any costume” kind of day.  Since we’d exhausted most of the artillery of costumes already, it was just about that time to think of something new for Jamie.  How we got to her costume of choice this year deserves another blog post in itself. 😉

What are your kids’ costumes this Halloween season?

A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts

The Changes in Playtime Dynamics

We had a few good days of nice weather last week, with the temperatures being in the upper 70s in the late afternoons.  It actually felt like a cool summer, instead of a warm winter!  Needless to say, I got Sam and Jamie out into the playgrounds to expend some pent-up energy, and I was a little surprised at how much the dynamics of our “play” have changed in the last couple of months.  It’s a little strange for me to say that I’m sure – seeing as how I am with them every single day.  I suppose I’ve gradually seen the changes develop on a daily and weekly basis; I guess it just really sunk in as to how big they are both getting (You can also attribute the lapse in attention span to age and what I call mommy mush brain!).  Both girls have just grown and developed tremendously over the last couple of months that I am really still in shock as to how time has literally flown by.

Jamie for instance will be a year old in three weeks’ time!  She is standing and cruising and reading (more on this in a later post!) and is well on her way to becoming a full-fledged toddler.  But didn’t I just give birth to her yesterday? (I still feel the pregnancy belly after all…).  In the past when we’d go to playgrounds, I would simply wear her in her sling and we’d just follow her sister around.  Sometimes even, she’d be in the stroller and protest about getting left behind as I chased after her Ate.  This last week however she seemed to be telling me she’s had enough of the passive observer role, and wanted out and up on the equipment.  She was grunting, babbling and pointing to everything she wanted to try – swings, slides, steps and mulch included.  She was also very observant of the animals, whether they were dogs (and I quote:  “Dag! Dag! Da-hg! wowowowowowow….”) or squirrels and birds, she was alert to their presence and made sure we knew they were there.

And then there is Sam.  Oh!  Such a vivid imagination.  The stories and tales have gotten more elaborate and specific, but all in all still fun.  I’m amazed at how she can mix up and remember so many things from the various sources and stimuli she’s exposed to.  She’s integrated things that she’s seen on TV with adventures from trips we’ve taken, or from her Kindermusik classes and other extra-curricular activities.  There are even bits and pieces which I can only imagine come directly from the adventures she and her friends make up.  Somehow they all come together and make sense in that tiny super active brain of hers, and it’s fun to listen to and be a part of.  You never know what you’re going to get.

Lately she has repeatedly enjoyed being a pirate on a pirate ship.  Every Sunday morning while I am getting my much-needed “sleep in” time, she and her dad turn the playroom into an imaginary pirate ship that sails to different places all over the world.  Normally when we’re on a playground, she is just happy to play with the other kids and go up and down slides and swings, or will take it a step further and pretend we’re ordering at a restaurant.  This time though, she walked (err, ran) onto the equipment and claimed the bridge as her pirate ship.  Of course, Jamie and I had to get on it too so that we wouldn’t be left behind.  Mind you, we weren’t just ordinary pirates – we were in SQUIRREL costumes (?!).  So we’d pretend to head over to Elie’s house, the zoo, to Manila, and get off and change costumes (I think I became a zebra, and she was an iguana.  I forget Jamie’s costume…) and pick up groceries, or bread, or perform some sort of activity.  That afternoon we had chanced upon Sesame Street for Big Bird’s birthday party.  Goodness!  My head was spinning trying to keep up with the chatter and where I thought she’d gotten all those different ideas.  None were from the same source.

My Mommyology Playground Pirate Ship
Who would have guessed, that all of this would have a pirate ship, a trip to the moon, a bus stop and a circus?!

Afterwards, Sam decided to park the pirate ship and ride the swing to the moon (Now this game, I know she plays a lot with Elie, and they are always on their way to the moon).  I decided to encourage this thought process further and asked her a series of questions.  It led to this scenario — that we’d go to the moon, and ride the clouds that are shaped like a horse and a duck and say hi to the airplanes and the helicopters.  Or we would be airplanes ourselves and fly past them all.  She even stuck out her arms (At the Little Gym when they balance, they’re taught to stick their arms straight out and it’s called “airplane arms”) and tiptoed around flying.  Whee!

At some point, the trip to the moon got a little tiring and when I sat down on the bench in the playground, Sam got the idea that I was at the bus stop, waiting for the red bus to take us to the airport.  So she sat beside Jamie and myself and waited for our buses (we each had to pick a color) to come and get us.  I think we were even headed to Boracay and the Circus at different points in time.  She even went as far as turning the tunnel on the playground structure into the bus, and she would peep thru the holes in the tunnel as if they were the windows, asking for tickets and payments to get on the bus.  I have to tell you, of all the times that we had been on that playground, I’d never thought to do that.  When she got off the bus, she said she was in a dress and held up her hand in a fist to show me that she had a “basket of goodies” and that she was going to skip home, or maybe, if it doesn’t get dark too soon (I say this phrase to her a lot), then we’d go to Target and shop for some things.

It takes a lot of energy to keep up with it I tell you.  I realized how much my imagination is limited to the concrete things that I see are in front of me, if I do have any imagination at all!  It’s funny how Sam can mix up her actual toys too and have them talk to each other, too.  Elmo for instance, will visit her Princess Disney castle because he needs to sleep on the royal bed. Strawberry Shortcake and her friends will meet Lalaloopsy’s figurines for some forward rolling (because she can bend them forward to stand on their heads) and picnic fun.  And sometimes she just carries the two or three pieces of figurines and has them bouncing up and down the table with absolutely nothing else.

I used to think that a lot of props were necessary for such imaginative play and story-telling; but now I realize that all kids Sam’s age really need is their active brain.  She is happy to be anywhere and play anywhere; because in her own little world, she is exactly where she wants to be.


A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts Mommy Anecdotes

Play-Doh Storytelling

Play-Doh is part of our daily routine.  Sam loves it; but more than that, I encourage it because of all the benefits Play-Doh brings to the table, so to speak (Cleaning it up is a different story.  I will refer you to my OC-Mom’s post for that one!). Here is an excerpt from one of our recent sessions.  Bizarre?  Imaginative?  You be the judge.

My Mommyology Play-Doh
The Art of Play-Doh

Sam: Want to make a horse mom.  And a rabbit! (I comply and cut out a horse and rabbit shape.  She takes them and makes them face each other). Hello rabbit! (to horse). Hello horse neiiiigh! (and chants Giddy-yup Horsie, a rhyme she learned in school).  Let’s go to the playground! C’mon!  (She gets out of the chair and walks to the door.  Then she looks back at me.)  Come back mom (Meaning I should call them back).

Me:  Come back horse, come back rabbit. (Sam hops back with her two pets in hand, and squishes them together.  I am surprised.) Oh no sweetie, what happened?

Sam: Oh no!  What happened mom? (She rolls the dough in her hands) They turned into a pretzel! (then instantly grabs her pretzel cutter and presses down on the mashed horse and rabbit.  She then pretends to eat it.)

Me: (Thought bubble:  okayyyy….)What a yummy pretzel!  Mmmm, crunch crunch!

Sam: The elephant will eat the pretzel mom! (She hands me the elephant cutter.  Thought bubble:  The elephant is about to eat his fellow animals-turned-pretzel. But I make him anyway.)

Me: Who’s the elephant’s friend Sam?  He doesn’t have a friend yet.  (She pauses and looks around for another cutter, then hands it to me.  It’s a star).

Sam: It’s a star mommy!  Hi star, so happy to see you! (She waves as a star is shaped.  Thought bubble:  An elephant and a star are friends.  What a nice storybook that would make.)

Me: Hi Star!  Where do they live Sam?

Sam: In the playground!  Let’s go! (She gets up once again and heads for the door and I think to myself that this is a repeat of the horse and the rabbit turning into a pretzel.  But she comes back and sits down again after a minute or so). Hi Mommy. (She greets me again and so now I think, the elephant and the star didn’t go to the playground).

Me: Oh hello Sam!  Hello elephant!  Hello star!  Where did you come from?

Sam: The zoo!

Me: Oh wow.  What did you see at the zoo?

Sam: (Sam takes a long pause as if she’s trying to understand the question). A Kookabura!  (She breaks into song and dance with her elephant and star, with the Kookabura song).

Now mind you, we have not talked about the Kookabura or its song in a while.  That was something she learned in Kindermusik last June.

While this little story may not make sense to anyone and makes for a good laugh, doesn’t it make you wonder what goes on in those little brains of theirs, and how amazing it must be to be able to create something cohesive, yet quite unusual.

The moral of the story: If only the world were made of Play-doh...