Path2Story- Ch. 46, “It’ll Be Curtains For You!”

In my house, the guys outnumber the girls. When my daughter was very young, she didn’t mind being the only girl – besides mom – in the family. As she got older, however, it has become the cause of all her woes. When it was just the kids and I, because mom had the job, it became too much for her and I realized something had to be done. Plus, by now with COVID, everyone is up for a krazy idea.

When we moved into our house, there were these obnoxious curtains. I say obnoxious because, at our previous house, we used mere blankets to cover our windows to prevent our neighbors from seeing inside. The ‘curtains’, nay, draperies at our new place had layers. The first layer was a lacy white lingerie type and the second was like a fine gown. As soon as we saw them, my wife and I took on posh English accents and acted like royalty. They covered the windows on the south side of the house. This was important because the amount of sunlight they let in provided the background for what I’m about to say.

As anyone with kids will tell you, their belongings take on a fierce tribal-type of ownership. The brothers better not touch their sister’s stuff and vice versa, or there would be ‘hell’ to pay. House responsibilities came with the new territory and one new job was to open and close the curtains. So, I gave my daughter the responsibility of opening and closing the fancy draperies and the boys got the more manly purposed one layered curtains.

For my daughter, those draperies became her new sisters: Pip, Barbara, Tammy, and Ethel. Each one had their own personality based on how much sun they let in and on what they shone that light upon. The ease in which the draperies opened and the size of the window also played their parts.

At the time, my youngest took upon himself the right to claim the gender based on whoever closed the curtains. This, again – like the birthday penny – took what I meant to be for fun and made it grounds for war. After a while though, things calmed down as the draperies’ personalities took form.

Pip was the smallest window, and opened with a quick pull on the rope. She was facing the sun during the mornings till evenings. She took on a happy, energetic, and cheerful personality and always said “Good morning!” with extra joy. Barbara, a bigger window than that of cute little Pip, let in the most gorgeous bright light. She was the prettiest maid of the bunch. Every time my daughter opened her, you could hear a harp play as the curls of her golden hair danced in the sunlight. Her name was usually sung and would be finished with a slight toss of hair over her shoulder. Tammy was a military soldier. She opened up and shone sunlight upon our dinner table, which gave her the business side of life. “Hup-hup-hup!” was her call with a salute, as my daughter would race to open her for our meals. Last of which leaves Ethel. Now, she was the only window that faced east, and you might think that would make her a bright morning personality like Pip’s, but our neighbor’s house blocked the morning sun. Also, for some reason, the original builders placed awnings over Ethel which gave her heavy eyes. All of that, plus the fact that she was the longest and most arduous curtain to open and close made her the melancholy/Eor one of the bunch. Accordingly, the light she let in was so slight it was almost pointless to open her up at all. I would say her name in a low voice and slowly shake my head breathing out a long misunderstood sigh.

If the girls were closed in the morning, I would ask my daughter to please wake them up. If they were open at night, I’d ask her to put the late night partiers to sleep. In the end, this seemed to somewhat placate my daughter until we eventually bought our family a cute little female kitten.

I share all of this for fun and for families who may need to add more numbers to their flock to even the score. For many, this can be done with dolls, etc. If you are like me and you even want chores to be fun, it’ll be curtains for you!

Path 2 Story ch.44, “Guess Which One!”

If you have already read to your kids every book you own, twice; if you can’t stand to listen to them whine of boredom or watch them systematically turn on each other like a pack of hyenas, (Besides, the last chapter, “In the Dirt and Trees” only works during sunny days), then perhaps you are ready to pull out the big guns! One such canon of colossal conflagration was a game we made up today called “Guess Which One!”

In this totally free interactive and intense game of competitive imaginations, you ask a question. For example, I planted two flowers but fertilized only one. Guess which one will grow faster. My kids would then make their guesses. I held out my fists with my thumbs tucked inside. Day 1- they both started to grow and a knuckle sprouted. Day 2- both thumbs could be seen just out of the dirt/fist. Then Day 3- the one I had picked in my mind would win and I’d stick the winning thumb up high. Feel free to antagonize a little with cheers for the victorious flower and sobs for the stubby little loser flower.

We were sitting in a circle and it was the next person’s turn to make up a choice between their thumbs. There were only a few rules we had to establish: No matter what story you made up for your hands, you couldn’t add to the story after the time of choice began. Another for the guessers was you have to stick with your first choice, no 2nd guesses! And the last one was more for the person creating the story- choose whichever hand you want to win first before you begin telling your story. A couple of times I got caught up in my own story and forgot to choose. It’s a bad idea to choose afterward. It’s even worse to tell your kids you did.

If the plant story doesn’t do ‘it’ for your kids, some other ideas were: Two stubborn warriors from opposite directions came to a bridge at the same time and fought over who would cross first. Have your hands fight to reveal the winner. We also did one of a lumberjack who had run out of firewood. There were two trees in the forest that he chose to cut down. Which one would he choose first? I put my elbows on the table and held my hands up. I made the sound effect of a creaky falling tree and shouted, “Timber!!!” The hand that fell was the winner. Another option could be a story of two oil tycoons that were drilling for a new well. Who would strike oil first? I made the drilling sound and slowly lowered my hands pointing them down. After the guesses were tallied, the winning hand would strike oil and my hand shot up and waved oil all around. The only limit is the story you create.

Now, for the tallied points and winning the game: Make up a goal like- first to 5 points or 10 wins. We didn’t have a limit which kept the game going indefinitely. My sons took up on the cue from my hand warriors and grabbed lego ones and had them fight. If you guessed the winner the point was yours. My daughter grabbed two of her books and asked questions about them. If you chose correctly you got the point. It got intense as I changed things like the bridge keeper in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. I said whichever hand the last player chooses would automatically lose and take all the points with them. The first two whispered their choices to me which happened to be the same hand, and then the third- with maybe a little glance from me toward the one they chose, made his choice. Zeros all around! A little later after we got back up in points, I wanted some chocolate so I turned my points in for a bar. Again, no limits!

We all are facing this viratic-time with varying degrees of difficulty. Maybe playing a game with sanitized hands will help your family survive with a smile. If not, and this cannon’s a dud, then at least make up a song and give your hyenas some background music.

Path2Story Ch. 43, “In the Dirt and Trees”

There is nothing quite like boredom. It reveals more to us than what we may know about ourselves and our dependencies. It provides us with an opportunity, a choice to either be limited by what we can’t control or find our independence by what we can. When boredom is the result of a global pandemic that keeps everyone home for weeks at a time, addressing it almost becomes a matter of sanity.

I’ll cut right to the point with none of TikTok’s ‘part 2’ nonsense. If you and your kids are bored, give this a try: Go outside, pick a spot on the ground and look at it. Go ahead and put your face close to the ground and look. You’ll be amazed at what you will find there.

When I was a kid, I often found myself playing in the dirt or climbing up a tree for fun. It was there that I remember seeing very unusual things, things you won’t find in a video game, or a movie/tv show. In the dirt, with my face low to the ground, I remember I saw a blade of grass that was partially torn. The torn piece was just hanging there by a thread from the blade and it was waving at me. There was no breeze and I held my breath in case I was accidentally setting it in motion, and still, it waved. I loved that.

In a tree, if I was quiet enough after the disturbance I made from climbing it, I’d see any number of things! One time, I remember waiting in the branches and I heard a loud noise nearby and slightly above me. As I watched, I saw a large raccoon make its way down a neighboring tree. I remember it looked at me almost embarrassed that I saw its undignified and rather noisy descent. I loved that. Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of movies and played dozens of games, but I don’t remember any of them as clearly as I do those times in the dirt and trees.

There may be nothing like boredom, but may the opportunity it brings reveal our resolve to enjoy the wonder all around us. We aren’t as dependent as we may think. Live the story.

Path to Story, Chapter 36: It’s Time for Scary Time

If you have kids who scream in fright over ants and flies, if they would rather stay inside because a bug is on the door, or if an insect has somehow found its way into your car and your kids are ready to abandon ship, then it might be time for a taste of some good ole fashioned scary. As I’ve heard before from many Dads that tell their kids, “I’ll give you something to ‘cry’ about.” Wait, wait, wait, this is supposed to be fun!

My kids were the ‘run from a gnat’ type. I’m not sure if this was my fault because I used to tease them when they were little by making mosquito sounds. Or maybe it was that time they were attacked by a swarm of hornets… yeah, probably that. Anyway, their panicked screams over a minuscule pest revealed to me that their ‘flight’ over ‘fight’ tendencies needed to be rearranged and to do that I chose to use Scary Time.

I wanted to show them that ‘fear’ was a trick of the mind based more on imagination than fact. So I became, for my kids, a maître d’ and used a ‘Vincent Price’ voice to guide them around a grand hall. I imagined myself escorting them around the building commenting on the draperies, the rugs, the books, etc. all with a creepy “anything-could-jump-out-at-you-at-any-moment’ voice. Then we got to the kitchen…

“Would you like to munch on a head……. of lettuce? Or perhaps you’d prefer to eat a baby……. carrot? If not, I’m sure I can cut out a kidney or two……. beans.” At this point, it didn’t take much to send them running for a pillow/blanket/stuffed animal to clutch for safety. What’s the point? Well, as the fear would build, I would stop and switch to a “Gomer Pyle” voice and then I’d go to my normal voice and ask them which was scarier and why. Slowly but surely I was able to shine a light on their shadowy fears and reveal that there was nothing there. Now they hunt down any bugs they find in the house with fervor. Sure, it’s been a while since the ‘Vincent voiced maître d’ days’, but I’d like to think I helped.

It’s all about having fun with your family and calming their fears over bugs/whatever helps to keep everyone sane-ish. Give a gentle bit of scary a try. You might enjoy yourself. For as Vincent Price famously said,

“It’s as much fun to scare as to be scared.”


Path to Story, Chapter 35: Blanket of Mystery

“Guys, guess what I have… It’s the Blanket of Mystery!!! What’s behind it? I don’t know, it’s a mystery.”

If you’ve exhausted all of your books and even the Gospel Preacher- from chapter 2, has retired; if you’re poor as dirt, along with most of the world, and you want to protect your children from the hopelessness of poverty; if you know there’s more to life than what you know and want to tap in and awaken excitement, curiosity, and wonder in your kids, then give mystery a try.

If you want, all you need is a blanket or a cloth/shirt/something, but even if you don’t, you can use your hand. The point is, like a magician, to block your kids’ view. You can build up the excitement with your voice being in awe like the first snowfall of Winter and announce it like Show-and-Tell at school. How you intro this time can make it a great experience even if you have nothing behind whatever you’re using to hide it. The point is the mystery.

I did this when my kids were little and it worked to pass the time any time. At a Doctor’s office, waiting in line for something, or gathering your kid’s attention for whatever, using mystery can help time fly. If you have nothing behind it, like I sometimes did because I preferred the challenge, then make up clues. Be like, “What?! Where did it go?” Then get them to look around. Kids want to help. If they find some random treasure like a button or even carpet lint, add it into your story, “I’ve seen this before…”

Using the Blanket of Mystery is a great way to bring excitement and fun to family time. What is behind it for your family? I don’t know, it’s a mystery!

Path to Story, Chapter 34: A Place to Start

It’s been about 9 months since I last wrote on this. So this baby is due. I didn’t plan it this way, and since most babies rarely are, let alone triplets, it seemed appropriate to chronicle the weakest part of my storytelling- beginnings.

As I’ve already said, ‘Once upon a time’, works almost all of the time to begin whatever you want. Over the years the beginning I most commonly use is a lazy version of it: ‘Once there was a _____’, then fill in the blank. I have found I am more of a short-order-cook type of storyteller. I work best before meals, during trips, and explaining things from Spiritfire to homework. Oh, and survival-type situations. But just as babies need to grow, so does my storytelling.

When I can, I look to the Bible, and of course, its beginning is the actual beginning. It may not really work to do that if you want to eat a warm meal, or when attempting to answer a quick question, etc., but it led me to a direct and easy way to find an intro: the 5 Ws. Answering or even asking who, what, when, where, and why, can give a variety of beginnings to the tales we tell.

An example of a ‘who’ beginning would be to focus on a character, like one of the prophets or like Paul the Apostle’s letters. ‘What’ could be about an important scene like a war that may shape what you want to tell. ‘When’ could be a timeline focus like the book of Genesis or Esther. ‘Where’ would focus on the location/setting. And asking ‘why’ could be for a mystery. You might not want to answer these questions right away and let them breathe for a while first like for a mystery unless you want to give misleading information. I will try to get into this later along with a chapter about something I’ve botched repeatedly- telling scary stories to my kids.

In the end, I hope your beginnings are better than mine and can get your kids’ attention faster than a jumping grasshopper. I know I need to keep mine active like with a jolt similar to accidentally touching an electric fence. This can be accomplished with different vocal dynamics.

So whether you are shouting or whispering out your newborn story, may your intros invite all who hear upon a grand adventure. And like with babies, this life can be dreadful boring without one.

Path to Story, Chapter 28: Mix It Up

If you are running out of ideas for your stories, and you need to be reminded of all the possibilities storytelling provides, or if you want to challenge yourself to see if you can handle multiple characters and their voices, try mixing it up.

Today I mixed up a lot of characters my kids love in a story during lunch. Sometimes it isn’t really that important for the story to make any sense, leave that for the pro’s. My aim was just plain fun.

Hulk, Yoda, C-3PO, R2D2, and Shifu were the cast. It got really silly between Hulk and Yoda, because Hulk kept referring to Yoda as Baby Hulk, and kept laughing every time Yoda tried to say, “A baby Hulk I am not!” Hulk would respond, “But you green! Baby Hulk talk funny!”

At first, I tried to work with the Star Wars universe, and had the Emperor show up and scare everyone with lightning, but “Hulk smash!” sent him flying. Then, because of such a crazy cast, I couldn’t get the idea of a carnival out of my head, so… C-3PO and R2 picked up on strange radio transmissions and found out about an evil clown syndicate attempting to take over the world with a golden cotton candy machine that had mind controlling powers. How does it control minds? An ingredient in the candy, “bad sugar”, stimulates the brain to be hypnotized by a certain frequency employed by the leader through a loudspeaker. Are there gigantic holes in this story? Absolutely. For fun stories, sometimes it’s good to not take yourself so seriously.

It was ridiculously hilarious even to me to picture them all together. Shifu and Yoda made a team as they infiltrated the carnival to get more intel on the evil clown syndicate. Shifu got picked up by a little girl because she thought he was a cute prize from the carnival. Upon seeing Yoda however, the little girl screamed dropped Shifu and ran. Meanwhile, C-3PO kept trying to advise Hulk, much like he tried with Chewie once. I actually didn’t get much farther than that because lunch was done. We had too much fun with Hulk and Yoda interacting to pay mind to much else. Boba Fett and Batman showed up for a brief cameo and we were done. So I incorporated chapters, one for lunch and one for dinner.

During dinner, I only had to say something about Hulk and Yoda and my kids cheered, got right to their seats, and were quiet. The power of story is unparalleled.

Speaking of power, I want to eventually talk about endings, but I’ll save that for a future post. I already tried that a little in this one but had to edit it. I try to limit these to one main idea at a time so as to make it easier to follow.

Mixing up a story keeps everything fresh, like Star Wars & Cinderella in Chapter 9. It also breaks down any limits to imagination, much like the movie, “Toy Story” that used the narrative of many different toys to tell a new one. So go ahead and mix it up. Set your kids’ imagination free!

Path to Story, Chapter 27: God’s Toy Maker

Perhaps you are frustrated with the skyrocketing prices of all the new toys and video games out there, or maybe you are tired of trying to find that perfect gift for your kids that they will forget about the very next day, or you’ve become overwhelmed as you try to find anything that won’t turn your kid’s brain into mush, if any of this is the case let me point you to God’s toy maker. It’s a tree, and it’s totally free.

It started with a thought: “There’s got to be something more and better for our kids than staring at a screen.” So one day I challenged my kids to go in the backyard and make a toy out of whatever they could find. I wanted them to go outside and use their imaginations to create something. I tell my kids as often as I can, “Be a creator, not a copier.” So they did. The benefits of doing this are more than I know. Along with storytelling, making their own toy enables kids to get a taste of the power of their own imaginations. A power that seems to get stunted behind flashing lights and sound effects.

There is an oak and a maple tree growing in our backyard, but the one that gave my kids everything including the glue was the pine tree. I didn’t give any plans, just a mission. My kids took an hour or so digging around and collecting stuff in the dirt. They came back with warriors and a princess made from pine branches. They had acorn faces with helmets and were clothed with cloaks made from the leaves. I was impressed and gave them a marker to draw their faces with.

There is no reason to get caught up in the mad dash for the “new”. Parents want to give their kids good gifts, Matthew 7:11. The best of gifts is enabling and equipping them to know the power they have in their own minds. This life is harder than any addiction can distract us from. If our kids wake up to what they can do for themselves they will depend less on gimmicks and will have a more stable ability to navigate the blackouts of life.

So go ahead, have your kids go outside. Quote Bill Murray’s dad from the movie, “Scrooged” and tell your kids, “Get a job and buy yourself a choo-choo!”, or rather, “Go outside and make yourself a choo-choo!” You’ll be saving them from the mentality that they can only have fun if they get whatever the new thing is.

Path 2 Story, Chapter 26: Chapters

If you’ve finally created a character that you and your kids want to keep, or if you have built a world you all want to revisit, or maybe your brain’s too tired to think up everything again, then implementing chapters can be a good and useful option.

When you think about it, chapters are everywhere: books (obviously), or this website, even the episodes of a tv show can be considered as chapters. The characters remain but the story changes. When I think of sitcoms like the Simpsons (“sitcom” itself carries the meaning of- a situation comedy) each episode brings various situations to its characters. It can get pretty funny when Homer gets in a situation that requires a bit of finesse or complicated reasoning to navigate, “D’oh”. That’s when his daughter, Lisa, steps in to save the day.

Grab a stuffed animal and think of a repetitious plotline for your situations, like fear. If your kids scare easily, make it scare even easier. Put it in various situations where it gets frightened, the more ridiculous the better. If you’re careful, you may see your kids rise up to the challenge and calm the stuffed animal down, which may be insightful when the shoe is on the other foot and you need to calm them down when they are scared.

A quick note about using fear: fear can be tricky even while being a useful plotline, you don’t want to terrify your kids and make things worse. For example, if your kids are afraid of spiders, make the stuffed animal afraid of something your kids love, like butterflies. Now two things can happen at this point, one: your kids will help the stuffed animal love butterflies like they do, or two: now your kids are afraid of butterflies. You are the parent, if you don’t know what your kids can handle, go down a step on the developmental ladder of plots as briefly described in chapter 25: baby, toddler, child, etc. If that’s not enough, go two steps down. Remember this is supposed to be fun.

A benefit of implementing chapters to your storytelling is familiarity. Your kids will know what to expect and what their roles are, whether it be to calm and overcome or figure out and solve. In that familiarity, you equip your kids with the tools they need to gain discernment, and when that happens you bring an element of sanity to your home.

You’re welcome.

Path 2 Story Ch. 25: Laughter Comes With It

Ok, by now hopefully you’ve gotten the chance to try storytelling with your kids.  People always talk about how they missed their kids’ childhood by being too busy, but with storytelling, you get to have an incredible window inside their minds at their different stages.  If you want a quick peek at the stages, look at the different cartoons that are offered and the stories involved:  baby, toddler, child, pre-teen etc.  Pay attention to the depth of plot and the various elements of life they explore.  It’s even more helpful to pay attention to your own kids and what they are interested in for your stories’ plots.

My kids are really into frogs and toads right now.  Whenever they talk about it, and it’s almost daily, I invariably get it mixed up.  If I said “Frog”, they’d always correct me and say, “No, toad!” and vice versa.  Honestly, I didn’t do it on purpose, but I started to suspect that they were.  It became perfect material for a story.

During breakfast and lunch, my kids usually ask me to tell them a story.  I’ve been getting into telling chapters which works pretty well for the meals.  I’m going to try to get into that in greater detail for a future post.

For this one, I told about a frog and toad that always got called the other’s name by the different animals in the swamp and woods.  And for doing this kind of storytelling, (picking a plot from their interests) it helps to know at least what your kids know.  Or you can make your ignorance part of it too, but be prepared to get corrected.  

The story went a little like this: The Princess (for my daughter) upon hearing of the confusion, invited everyone to a party where she would have Frog and Toad as her guests of honor.  But as she invited them to speak, they came out in the wrong order!  It got crazy as Frog and Toad started wrestling around to correct it, their name tags got switched, and everyone was even more confused.  I just thought of whatever I could to make it worse and completed it with the Prince, who tried to help but ended up unintentionally combining their names and called them, “Froad” and “Tog”.  By this time, my kids were all laughing which gets me laughing and the story became kind of muddled.  I think we left it with the mess and everyone started using the new even-more-confusing names.

I told this story a couple days ago, and now when my kids talk about frogs and toads, they bring it up.  It’s funny when laughter is a part of a memory because when the memory is remembered the laughter comes with it.  Or sometimes the distance of time makes it funnier, like for my wife and I and the Grand Canyon- not funny at the time, but funny now that we’re in air-conditioning.

Take some time to make memories with your family everyone will want to remember. This isn’t supposed to add on to the ever-growing list of parental responsibilities. It’s all about having fun and laughing with your kids. If following me isn’t leading you there, figure out what will and give it a try. Once you find something that works, start your own blog and tell me about it. Be brave!