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 to Story, Chapter 33: Revenge of the Story

I started writing this blog with no agenda except for fun for parents and their kids. From morning times to family road trips, I wanted to give families an idea of how to enjoy life together, but now it’s about to get ‘real’. What happens when your kids start to annoy you beyond anyone’s endurance? When, “Mom-mom-mom-mom-mom” becomes an alarm clock-like water torture?

The other night, my wife and I attempted to have a conversation at the dinner table. As the first words escaped my wife’s lips, one of our adorable children thought it a perfect time to voice a request. Maybe it was because it was the first time we had seen each other that day and really hadn’t gotten a chance to talk, maybe it was the way my child said, “Mom” every half second, maybe it was my blood pressure, maybe- I think you get the point, I had to make it stop before any facial tic set in. It was then that I had an idea: Give them a taste through story of what they are doing before mommy and daddy have to get sent to the looney-bin.

Meet Robbie the Robot! I made up this character with an annoying robot voice that would say the same thing over and over:

“I am Robbie Robot and I clap like this. I am Robbie Robot and I still clap like this.”

He’d say that till his batteries ran out. Then a guy would come and replace them which started Robbie up again. Now you may be asking yourself, “How is this any better?” Well if you heard my kids’ reaction, you’d get it. After a few rounds with Robbie, I introduced a guy who couldn’t take it anymore. I had him remove the batteries and hide them far away. My kids cheered, till a lightning storm came which struck Robbie and started him up again.

They got the point and let my wife and I talk. Yes, I could’ve just yelled at them, and I also know the Bible says ‘Vengeance is the Lord’s’, Romans 12:19, but sometimes giving them a taste of their own medicine is just what the doctor ordered. Besides, having a conversation after a victory like that is much easier than attempting one right after you’ve lost your cool.

Most parents know kids need to learn what appropriate behavior is and that the majority of those lessons aren’t intuitive. May this chapter reveal a more peaceful approach to engage our precious little children as they develop a greater understanding of how annoying they can be. Yelling for the most part only teaches fear, and it has its place in emergencies, but story has a way to help kids understand the ‘why’.

Next time your kids knowingly or unknowingly drive you to the brink, consider story, let it guide you to safer shores. For whenever parents are in trouble, and where ever children push too far, Robbie the Robot is ready to rescue! He will always still clap like this…

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 to Story, Ch. 18: It’s Your Story, Tell It How You Like

If you are ready for what I’ve called “Master Level Storytelling”, then this post may be helpful to you.  If you are wanting to create a story of your own for your kids, if you need inspiration for a starting point, or maybe even the cliffhanger/twist that can keep them guessing, use situations that have happened in your life as the skeleton.  The recent posts about my kids’ birth and of my wife running in from the backyard are examples of this.  Feel free to ham it up however you want.  “It’s your story, tell it how you like,” was a phrase we used when I was a kid.  We’d say it a bit sarcastically to people who were butchering the truth, but for you, I mean it.

My own life has had quite the turn-around even in the last year that provides endless opportunities for story.  At every negative point, there were people who stood with us and blessed us.  We moved to an amazing house, and are daily filled with thankfulness.  We see God’s faithfulness and it inspires a tale or two, and if your story is like mine, the truth is entertaining enough.  Keep the blessings you’ve experienced alive by retelling them to your kids.  These are stories that carry with them your legacy.

So here you go, think of your day.  You can begin your story with waking up, but instead of it being about you, it can be about a giant waking up in your house.  The fun can begin when he tries on your clothes only to find they don’t fit.  He hits his head on every door frame, etc.  He tries to eat potato chips but crushes the bag.  At this point, my daughter is the one who will usually try to help the giant and plays the host giving the tour or instructions on how to do things carefully.  As the story continues my sons will want some kind of action and not just homemaker tips, so I’d try to let their desires shape the story.  I have no clue why the giant is in the house in the first place and left that part blank, but if my boys want action, then so be it.  The giant came to defend the area from a dragon, but as he waited for it to show up, he fell asleep.  There, and let the story tell itself.

Now all my kids usually want to be in the story at some point, especially the action parts, and this is key:  You can actually encourage your kids and challenge them through your story.  If there is something you know your kid is facing at school that he/she needs encouragement on, bring it into the story.  Maybe you’ve had similar experiences with a bully.  Bring that bully in.  If it didn’t end well for you, then you might want to change the story a bit.  Feel free to make your kids the hero, have them surpass whatever it is you did to the best of all endings.  I have seen my own kids rise above on different occasions where I fell flat when I was their age.  I’ve seen them have courage right after a story I’ve told them when they had none before.  I’ve seen behaviors changed, moods lifted, even abilities developed after telling my kids a good story.  It’s a lot of fun to see that happen, at those times I really feel like I’m giving them something more.

Even if your life is rather boring and it’s the same thing day after day, then use that as the plot.  Change it up, bring the giant to your workplace and let him do your job.  Make him a little slower and droll out his voice a bit, use your lowest bass voice to emphasize his size.  That is a standby character that I often use in my stories for my kids.  It’s something that makes them laugh almost every time.

Let your life be the canvas for your stories.  Your kids can learn something about you while having a front-row seat to the lessons life has taught you.  At this point, you equip them while you entertain them.  Remember, it’s your story, tell it how you like.

Path to Story Ch. 17: Morning Time

Each day offers its own challenges and blessings and how we wake up to meet them can determine our ability to overcome and/or receive them.  Furthermore, we equip our children for better or for worse with how we approach each one.  For me and mine I have chosen to wake up with Story.  Before the day even begins we set the tone and as long as I am able, the tone I want to set is “awesomeness”.

For our morning time, I would wake them with whatever adventure came to mind.  Sometimes I would grab one of their favorite stuffed animals and talk with it about the dreams it had or what it was excited about that day.  Sometimes I would tell a story they already knew but I’d tell it wrong and they’d wake up fast to correct me.  Just a touch of antagonism goes a long way.  Not too much or they’ll wake up grumpy which defeats the purpose.

One story that works every time to not only wake my kids but gets them up excited is the story of their birth.  My kids are triplets, and their birth was exciting enough, but when I tell it, I try to include exaggerations whenever possible.  If our daughter, our firstborn, came out screaming, then I’d add that her scream shattered even the doctor’s glasses let alone all the windows in the cars driving by.  Since our first son, our second child, did flips during all the ultra-sounds my wife had to have, then I’d tell how he came out doing flips and had the nurses chasing him.  And since our second son, our number three, took a minute longer to get out than his siblings, I tell it that now that he had so much room, he didn’t want to get out and was dodging the doctor.  This story never fails to get them laughing.

Again, as I’ve said in earlier posts, let your kids’ reactions be a guide for what your story needs.  I know what works for mine because they’ll tell me.  They’ve interrupted me before telling me to tell it differently, so I say to erase what I’ve just said and I pick a spot and retell it.

Each day can be like an ocean and the challenges and blessings roll in like the waves.  By waking your kids up with Story you can equip them with a surfboard, and you all can ride those waves in to morning.  I really hope you enjoy your life, but if you don’t, tell a story that you do.

A Path to Story Ch. 16: Unlock the Epicness

By now hopefully, you’ve found some encouragement to see things as opportunities for story.  From car trips to surviving life and death struggles, this new way grabs ahold of every day revealing the adventure within them.  It can open the door to greater family memories than the ones we get from movies and video games which are ultimately the imaginations of strangers.

Now some days it takes a lot of imagination to see the adventure in them.  Others, the story can come running in through your backdoor.  Here’s a tale of a quest to save a damsel in distress.  The damsel was my wife, and the quest was to find whatever it was that scared her so bad she ran back inside:

Hunt the Beast

One morning, my wife was frightened by a beast of legend that was hiding amongst the long grass in our backyard.  She didn’t get a good look at it, but it flashed through the grass at an alarming rate headed right for her!  She let out a surprised yell and ran for it.

Mom’s description:

  • not furry
  • not scaley
  • small, about two inches wide or so
  • light brown

What we thought it could be:

    • a deadly bunny (a common sight in Michigan)
    • a vicious baby groundhog (a full grown one had just moved in under our shed)
    • a fierce kitten (lots of strays in our neighborhood)
    • a rabid puppy (our neighbors have Chihuahuas)

Just after lunch, we talked about it.  There was no way we would let this beast, whatever foul creature it may be, scare Mom out of her own backyard.  So we suited up and went a-hunting chanting “Hunt the beast!”

My daughter grabbed our family pike (a broom). One of my sons got a sword and shield (made of wood).  He hit his shield with his sword as soon as I started the chant. My other one got a dagger and shield (made of wood but broken).

We went right to the crime scene and investigated.  Right away, one of my boys attacked the entrance to the groundhog’s home.  The other attacked a spotted mushroom (bouncy ball).  My daughter stayed close to her Mom to shield her from any further attacks.

We found no sight of a beast but my wife did find a stick that could fit the description.  If she had kicked it just right, the stick could have looked like something coming right for her.  But we kept searching just in case.

My daughter spoke to some Purple-Princess-flowers to see if they knew. They told her just a little deeper in. Our warrior dog bravely went first.  After a quick search, we came up with nothing and the flowers said it must have moved on.  My son heard from his defeated mushroom ball that it ran toward the shed, meanwhile, my other son searched the pines.  He found an evil basketball hoop monster and soundly defeated it by knocking it to the ground.

Pesky mosquitos were relentless, but we continued on.  I went in for a closer look toward the deepest grass.  Just before I was going to yield and send my kids inside, I saw amidst the green a familiar deep purple cluster. Blackberries!  I called the 3 to me and with Mom’s help, we feasted like kings and queens.

We determined the stick, I mean the fierce-and-deadly-pointed-monster, was the beast.  My wife gave it what-for and threw it on top of the kids’ stick fort and secured it to the roof. She made sure its terrifying days were over.

I know we all are tired.  We work too much to make too little and we have just enough energy to do it again tomorrow.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Being willing to see the different opportunities life gives us for adventure can unlock the epicness loaded in each one.

Be bold, be brave.  See the adventure.

A Path to Story, Ch. 14: Homework

Homework with my daughter can be such a trip. Yesterday she pretended, at least that was my impression, that she didn’t understand how to finish drawing a rectangle on a sheet of graph paper based on simple instructions which gave the number of rows and columns therein. She is quite clever and is usually done with her work before her brothers even begin. I say clever instead of smart because though she is smart and usually knows the answer, she decides to make a game of it instead of simply being done.  And just like if you give her a pencil and a piece of paper she will never get bored, she also rarely tires of being antagonistic.  I wonder who she gets that from…

Normally, the imminent convergence of her brothers finished homework to hers is enough to inspire her to move on, however, yesterday it wasn’t.  Both of my sons were already almost halfway through the next page while she was still “stuck” on the first problem.  My daughter wasn’t going to budge.  Her brothers were pleading for my help on their problems because they wanted to be finished so they could play video games.  I could relate with that.  We were at a stalemate.  I tried again to explain the directions to her and this time she purposely drew a line too long.  Instead of starting over for the 4th time, it hit me, change the story.  So I did.

Suddenly it wasn’t about drawing rectangles anymore, she was building a fence to protect kittens, one imaginary kitten for each square of the graph.  I may have let my exasperation drive my imagination because for speed’s sake I included other animals like sharks, wolves, and crocodiles.  The only way to save the kittens from becoming a meal was to finish the fence/rectangle.  Immediately my youngest son got into the story and started growling; my oldest boy was offended.  But my daughter did her work in record time after which we all celebrated that the kittens were safe.

Changing the story can be very useful, but for Dads, I would also advise caution.  My imagination can at times cause havoc and when I tell a story I have to be careful to rein it in.  There’s no point in getting homework done in record time only to have them waking up from nightmares at 2:00 in the morning.

A Path to Story, Ch. 13: Change the Story

By now I’m sure you’re getting the idea:  Telling stories is a great way to change how your family relates together.  Perhaps you grew up in a strict home, or even abusive.  Whatever kind of home it was, you are the parent now or may someday be, and you hold the power to change the story.

Now I’m not saying you need to be a creative genius, but being willing to see opportunities to turn life from the Dark side- which just like in Star Wars is easy and oppressively powerful, to Light- which is filled with fun and adventure, is more than liberating.  You give freedom, a chance to see things differently, to yourself and your kids.

It amazed me how when I would pick a place to spend time with God, it would change it.  Wherever I would do this:  in a corner of my room, at my locker at school, or up in a tree of my woods, it would become a doorway into Divine Intimacy.  It would change the story and whenever I would get near the place, I would feel the difference.  Likewise, when you decide to enter into a time of collaborative storytelling with your family, it changes the entire experience that you get to share together.  It is much like a Dad’s chair in the family room.  The chair that a Dad sits in while he watches sports and falls asleep, yep that one.  He has claimed it and made it a place different from all the other chairs.  Some Dads even have a hard time parting with their chair because of all the experiences they’ve shared together.  Storytelling can change the daily life of your family making each one almost as holy as that chair.

Some people need to change the story of their home life by having a tank of freezing water dumped on it.  Fighting spouses, overbearing attitudes, negative words gushing out like pollution in a Michigan river, these trample on opportunities like a drunk giant stamping on Spring Beauties.  But if you change the story, you will watch how those Spring Beauties can cover the forest floor with color and fill the air with a fresh sweet breeze.

My kids have been known to occasionally need to change their story, like a dirty diaper.  My wife often tells our daughter to throw the poopitude out the window, and for the most part, it works.  If my kids spend the day fighting each other over silly stuff, sometimes it’s an indicator that mine is the story that needs to change.  Parents are oftentimes the trendsetters for the story whether they know it or not.  We create the environment, the setting, and even sometimes the plot.  We become the scary villain or the hero depending on our attitude, and our kids will usually follow our lead.

Be introspective, allow your family to reveal what’s going on in your own home.  Look at everyone’s faces; look at your own.  Are they enjoying their lives, are you enjoying yours?  Know the story that is already being told and if you want it to change, think of where you want it to go and then tell it.  You do so through your actions as well as your words.  It can be as epic as you want it to be.  Remember, it’s not only your life but the lives of all who live with you.  Invite God to be the main character, let Him create the environment, the setting, the plot.  Start your own Family Spirit Fires and may you be blessed with the life-giving heat they provide.

Don’t be afraid.  Change can be difficult, it can also be refreshing.  If you’re still breathing, it’s not too late.  Be brave, be bold!  For your family’s sake and for your own, change the story!