Castles of the Swamp

We just got back yesterday from a three day camping trip. We stayed in Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring. It was beautiful and a delightful exchange for the busy pace we have kept around here lately. We had such a great time just hanging out together. I couldn't resist sharing a few pictures with you. This particular spot just seemed to provoke my sense of whimsy. I could almost see fairies and gnomes peeking out from behind those cypress knees and ferns! You can view the rest of the photos on my flickr account.

The Plate

Wow! What a whirlwind I've been in. We had a great Christmas. The girls and I got together with my mom a few days before to make Christmas goodies. It has been our tradition for many years now and is something we all look forward to. Both my family and my husband's family live in the area, so Christmas

day is always full of adventure, food, and gifts. My most treasured gift this year was the antique plate my husband bought me. I collect antiques and one of my plates had broken beyond repair earlier this year. I guess part of the reason this gift is my favorite is because I know the amount of time and effort it took him to find just the right one to replace it. I'm curious. What was your favorite gift this Christmas?
For those of you who like to listen to music while on the radio, here's an interesting site I found on Molly's blog site. You can tailor the music you want to listen to. I hope you all had a great time with your family this Christmas. I'll be posting about what I've been up to soon!

Merry Christmas!

My family is getting ready for the Chrsitmas season. Go here to see what we've been up to! Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

I was sent an email today about an incredible opportunity for children here in Hillsborough County. United Way and the Imagination Library Hillsborough County Partnership launched an early literacy initiative to put books in the hands of young children, helping prepare them for kindergarten. Hillsborough County’s kindergarten class of 2011 – infants born on or after September 1, 2006 are eligible to participate in the program. All you have to do is register your child and they will receive one free hardback book per month till age five! Parents can call 813-272-5017 to register their child.

Put your best foot forward!

It has become a frequent joke in class about who I rank higher than. To date, I have moved up the ladder past Mary Poppins, Minnie Mouse, and even Santa. It's funny to me to be compared to fictional characters by my students, but it is also an honor to be in such good company on the list! :-)
I will never forget when my oldest daughter was about 2 years old. It was the first time that I really could see that I had achieved "hero" status in her eyes. I wished I could have bottled that moment and drank it up over and over again. Ironically, it was all because of some silly finger play I had just done with her. Yet, so often that is how it is. The simple or silly things in life, that may go unnoticed by everyone else, have somehow transformed you in the eyes of that one person.
Children will grow, and, as they do, their heroes will change. I may not always rank as high on their list, but I know one thing for sure. I have left my mark and helped to shape a life, and so will you! So put your best foot forward. You never know who might be watching or where you are on their list.


I was in Wal-Mart the other day and observed an encounter between a mother and an older gentleman in one of the aisles. She had a toddler with her, and he had commented on how cute her daughter was. As she thanked him, she began coaxing her child to "tell him what a cow says!" "What does a cat say?" I chuckled at this all to familiar scene. I guess I found it amusing because I have done it with my own children a million times. But why? Why do we feel compelled to make our children "perform" for people?
A toddler will develop a natural sense of pride in his accomplishments. This sense of pride is an important part of emotional development and helps him develop a healthy self-esteem as he gains independence. I loved watching my children grow and learn things, and I loved sharing that with other people. Children really do say and do the funniest things. However, I do think we have to be careful that our celebration of their accomplishments is not perceived as pressure for perfection. This will only lead to unhealthy self-esteem and feelings of perfectionism.
That's one of the things I love about my Kindermusik classroom. There's no pressure to perform the task a certain way. Children are free to explore at their own pace and celebrate the rich diversity in ability and creativity.

Hang in there!

Hi! I'm Diane. Aimee invited me to post to her wonderful blog, so here I am.

Today, I would like to post about perseverance in parenting, particularly when it involves introducing a child to something new.

No, this post will not be about broccoli. It's actually about Kindermusik classes.

I've been taking my eldest daughter, Bethany, to Kindermusik classes since she was five months old. She's now just turned four. So I've been through a lot of semesters, and every new semester I meet all kinds of wonderful new moms, moms who want to give their babies the best of everything. They envision taking a music class and cuddling with their child, humming to their child--all bliss and Mozart. But they get to the class with their baby and all of a sudden there is screaming and squirming. The child won't lay still for infant massage. They won't cuddle for rocking. They could care less about the books during quiet time. All they want to do is play under Mrs. Aimee's table, or try to break into Mrs. Aimee's amazing closet. And slowly, ever so slowly, I see some of those moms start to look disappointed and sad.

At those moments I just want to say: hang in there! Persevere. And so many do. They come back, week after week, and lo and behold what they find: their children acclimate. Even as young as a few months old, these infants start to get in touch with they rhythm of the class. They get less fussy, less weepy, less difficult. The older ones get into the swing of the class in more overt ways. They find their favorite books. They squirm less during massage. They will allow some rocking.

Part of the reason they adjust is because such things are repeated each week. Part of the reason is that mom and dad start trying to work with these things at home. And another part is that mom and dad (and grandma and grandpa) have learned the way their child likes to be massaged and rocked. Maybe baby doesn't like to be massaged laying on her back; she prefers to sit in lap. Maybe baby doesn't like to be rocked in the lap; she prefers to be rocked with mom standing up. And slowly, with the power of parenting perseverance (say that 10 times quickly) things get smoother and more fun. More idyllic.

Note: As they get older and more used to class, though, they only get more interested in that table and in trying to break into the closet (or get past Mrs. Aimee's lovely ocean-scene covered doors to the world beyond).

I'm writing about this today because while my first daughter, Bethany, was a dream child (i.e. the one I was given to trick me into having the second one) my second daughter, Christa, is a free spirit. While Bethany always has, and still will, lay perfectly limp during "infant massage" (even though she is four) Christa has always squirmed. While Bethany will still allow me to rock her to music, Christa has always tried to escape my lap. Christa has, up until today, been more likely to let someone else rock or massage her than me--and Christa has been going to Kindermusik classes (at the start with her sister) since she was an infant in a carrier, six weeks old. Now she is almost eighteen months old (perseverance, anyone?) and today, for the first time, she let me massage her the whole time--albeit laying with her head upside down hanging down from my lap. She also cuddled in my lap for rocking. And she didn't even try to pry Mrs. Aimee's outlet protectors out--not even once! She has become a model Kindermusik citizen, after eighteen months of classes!

Most children are not Christa. They do not take this long. Most get in the groove in just a few weeks. So just remember--if at first you don't succeed, keep trying with whatever it is (even vegetables). Eventually, you and your child will find your way.

From a parent's perspective

Please help me in welcoming Diane to this blog. You may remember her from the "I Believe In Music" essay winners that I talked about a few months back. She is a parent of two Kindermusik children enrolled at my studio and will be posting her thoughts and memorable moments from time to time.
Can't wait!

Ashley Bryan

Wow ... you come to work every day hoping to be inspired by the words or art of an author or illustrator, and then, POW! a genius like Ashley Bryan shows up and completely blows you out of the water!

Mr. Bryan was the keynote speaker at our annual Anne Carroll Moore Lecture here at the Donnell Central Children's Room. His latest work, Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals, is included as one of the NYPL's "100 Titles for Reading and Sharing" for 2007, a list that is celebrated by having one of the honorees speak to librarians, publishers, authors, illustrators, and fans.

Now, you can't even call his presentation a "speech", it was poetry as performance art, man. He brought to life and gave voices to poems that he had illustrated in the past, poems by Nikki Giovanni, Eloise Greenfield, Langston Hughes, and himself. He made the characters jump off the page, be it a landlord demanding money from a tenant, or a very, very slow snail.

A beautiful dude, and amazingly spry for a man in his mid-80s! If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, stop at nothing! Otherwise, check out any of his webcasts on the Library of Congress website. The Ella Jenkins of poetry, no?

Jingle Jangle Christmas!

Jingle Jangle Christmas Celebration
Enjoy one hour of Kindermusik fun with Christmas music and activities.
Date: Monday - December 17th
Times: 9:00, 10:10, or 11:15 AM
Cost: $10 per child
Come celebrate this wonderful season with your child.
Spaces will fill quickly, so be sure to register today!

Thankful thoughts

It has been our tradition for many years now to decorate our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday, but I love decorating our tree.

My husband and I have collected one ornament for each year of our marriage. Often the ornament itself represents something significant that happened that year, and it's fun to think back and remember. I have also received quite a few ornaments from my students over the years. I love pulling each one out and remembering the children they came from. There's the green elf from the Matthew, my musical angels from Parker, and my Raggedy Ann and Andy ornaments from Ellie. Many of these families I haven't seen in years, but I still remember them. Each ornament brings back cherished memories of lives I have been privileged to touch and who have touched my heart forever. I truly have so much to be thankful for!

It's a fincharooapillar!

I had a blast making new animals at Switcharoo Zoo. You can choose from different animal body parts and make the funniest looking creations. It will even give interesting facts about the animals you choose. I wanted to post a picture of one of my creations here, but I couldn't save it to a file. You'll just have to use your imagination to see my fincharooapillar!

Thanks to my daughter, Rachel, for the head's up!

Now accepting smiling faces!

Registration has begun for our January semester. I hope you and your child will make plans to join us! You can view our class schedule and further information here.
I'll look forward to seeing your smiling faces soon!

Why I teach music

I am privileged to work with many children, including some who have been abused and now live in the custody of the state. I am only one music teacher, and, at times, I have questioned my ability to work with these children. I want to create something meaningful and lasting in their lives, but they have been stripped down to bare survival instincts. How do you reach past such a barricade and remind them that it is ok to just be a child, to laugh, to trust, to believe that life is full of wonderful possibilities?

These were some of the questions that haunted me on a return trip home from the foster facility recently. I had met a new child in class. She and her sister were the same age as my own two daughters. She sat sadly in a corner and wouldn’t even look at me. I tried every technique I knew to make a connection with her, but I couldn’t see that I even made a dent. As I was leaving, I overheard one of the other children remark, “She says she misses her mom! Doesn’t she think I miss mine too?” I cried for them all the way home. Did I believe in music anymore? What was I accomplishing there, anyway?

I did a lot of soul searching that week and here’s what I found. I do believe profoundly in the power of music. It is a universal language that invokes emotions and passions understood without words. It unites all of us in joys and sorrows. It brings us comfort when we are all alone and washes away our sadness. It stirs up hopes hidden deep within us, even hopes and dreams that we may have forgotten. Through music, we can express our innermost feelings, and the resultant melody moves those around us to share in those feelings. Sometimes a surprisingly beautiful harmony can be created in the process of dissonance, even the dissonance of an abused child.

I have come to realize that I can't change the world. However, through the power of music, I can change it one child at a time. Oh and by the way, that little girl was the first one through the door the next week, with a great big smile and an even bigger hug for me. I believe in music! Do you?

It seemed like a good idea

Did you ever have one of those ideas that seemed so great at the time? Well, doing the remodeling of our house ourselves was one of them. Two smashed thumbs, a lot of dust, and some paint stained clothes later.... here I am trying to get back on track with life as it should be. This past month has been a whirlwind of people, places and things. I promise to get back on track with posting next week. I did finally find the time to upload a few pictures from the Halloween Horribles Parade and the Kindermusik Convention. You can view them here.

Book of the Month

I really like reading Denise Fleming books to my younger classes. Barnyard Banter and In the Small, Small Pond are two of my favorites. She writes with a simple, but fun, story line and uses bright, kid-friendly pictures. There is usually a recurring animal that is fun to find on each page. For In The Small, Small Pond, it is a frog. We had some fun finding him this week in our Our Time classes.

***Down at the Sea Hotel***

A must-have for dreamers and those who rock them to sleep! The latest from Canadian publishing house The Secret Mountain is one of the best lullabye/naptime CDs you'll ever hear, and for several reasons: The performances, songwriting, and production on Down at the Sea Hotel are worthy of any grownup shortcuts were taken here just because it's a kids' CD.

A gaggle of stellar singers and musicians from Minnesota's roots rock label Red House Records convened to record quiet songs written by the likes of Nanci Griffith, Tom Waits, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Neil Young, Billy Joel, Goffin & King, Bruce Cockburn, Jesse Winchester, Don Henley, and Steve Earle. The whole project gets its warm, rich, deep sound from producer Paul Campagne, who makes sure each voice and instrument get their own space.

There are two ways to enjoy this collection of tunes for beddiebye-time: As a picture book/CD package, illustrated by Mireille Levert's amusingly fantastical paintings, and featuring Greg Brown's "Down at the Sea Hotel"; or as a digipac CD. Throw this one in the stereo on a drowsy afternoon, or read the picture book with your little one as the title song plays in the background. High quality on all fronts!

Last year I was priveleged to attend a Flag Folding Ceremony at my daughter's school. It was a very moving experience, and as Veteran's Day approaches, I thought you might enjoy reading the ceremony for yourself.

The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our country was originally founded. The portion of the flag denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing the states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted when draped as a pall on a casket of a veteran who has served our country in uniform.
In the Armed Forces of the United States, at the ceremony of retreat the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation's honored dead. The next morning it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.
(Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to unravel and fold the flag into a quarter fold--resume reading when Honor Guard is standing ready.)
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold is a symbol of our belief in the eternal life.
The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks who gave a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain a peace throughout the world.
The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for His divine guidance.
The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, "Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong."
The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered in to the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on mother's day.
The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
The tenth fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, "In God we Trust."
(Wait for the Honor Guard or Flag Detail to inspect the flag--after the inspection, resume reading.)
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.

Halloween finger play

My daughter's preschool class learned this one last year, and I thought it was cute.

Five Little Pumpkins

Five little pumpkins (Hold up all 5 fingers)

Sitting on a gate

The first one said,

“Oh, my, it’s getting late!” (Point to wrist like checking the time)

The second one said,

“There are witches in the air!” (Point up and across, like pointing to the witches flying)

The third one said,

“But we don’t care!” (Shake head like saying “no”)

The fourth one said,

“Let’s run and run and run!” (Move arms like you’re running)

The fifth one said,

“I’m ready for some fun!” (A big smile)

OOOOOOOH, went the wind

And OUT went the light (Clap on “out”)

And the five little pumpkins (Hold up five fingers again)

Rolled out of sight. (Roll hands, one over the other)

Happy Eat a Pretzel Day!

The origin of the Pretzel can be traced back to around 610 A.D. A monk who lived in one of the monasteries of Southern France or Northern Italy wanted to use the dough left over after baking bread. He decided to make strips and formed them to represent children's arms folded in prayer. He called each one a "Pretiola" - the Latin word for little reward.

Live from Chicago

Well, I am on day two of Kindermusik Convention in Chicago, and I'm having a blast. I intended to upload some sights and sounds from convention for you, but unfortunately, I brought the wrong cord to connect my computer and camera for download. I'll have to do that when I get back. Yesterday, we kicked off with a presentation by Dr. Levitin, author of the book, "This Is Your Brain On Music". Afterward, we were treated to a soulful and uplifting concert by Sweet Honey in the Rock. I have already learned so much and can't wait to get back and implement some of the wonderful ideas I have gained.

Born to play!

Well, I'm finally back online. Seeing how far behind I am in work makes me wonder how did we ever survive before computers? Ha!

If you've been following along, we were talking about different domains of development for children. I believe we were up to social development. Social interaction is going to play a big role in all areas of development for your child. Play time should involve a wide range of relationships. While babies enjoy watching other babies, they also love to observe and imitate adult behavior. Try making faces with your baby or play imitation games.

Babies and young toddlers often play next to each other without really playing together. This is called parallel play. This will later lead to greater peer interaction and cooperative play, sometime after the second birthday. I find it ironic that this stage is also the most difficult when it comes to sharing or taking turns. But all of that playing and interacting pays off in learning. The typical three year old has typically mastered turn taking, following directions, and obeying simple rules.


Hi everyone! I didn't mean to fall of the face of the earth with my postings. I am having computer problems. I had to borrow a computer to post this message. :-( But, I have a new computer on the way along with a new internet source. I'll hopefully be back on track sometime next week.

Ellen & Matt live at Donnell !!!

West Coast kiddierockers Ellen & Matt graced the stage at Donnell on Saturday, August 11. Highlights included LOTS of dancing, a cover of the Beach Boys' "Darlin'", and a new song called "Capybara", an anthem about the largest rodent still in existence that will make you hoist your lighters when you hear it in concert.

Lots of fun was had by all, plus Ellen Kennedy pretty much had a family reunion at the show, as bunches of relatives and friends from Brooklyn and the surrounding area showed up for the gig.

A great show and a great vibe. Can't wait for their next concert!!

You're in good hands.

We've been working on The Eency Weency Spider in my Family Time classes. No matter where you are from or what your age, most people know this very familiar nursery rhyme. It's impact, however, goes far beyond just being fun. Finger play activities like this one enhance fine motor skills that will later help your child use a fork, brush their teeth, hold a crayon, or cut with scissors. Other activities that help to enhance fine motor skills include:
  • stacking blocks (start with soft items, such as a sponge, if your child has trouble with traditional blocks.)
  • playing with play dough, sand, and finger paints
  • puzzles or shape sorters
  • stringing beads or other items (start with large openings)

Watch me go!

Aaaah, those precious first steps. How anxiously we await them. Children will typically take 2-3 unassisted steps around their first birthday. Walking soon becomes running, and by age two, you may even be seeing your child's first attempts at standing on one foot or tiptoeing. This is also the age where your child will begin to jump with both feet off the ground. It has always amazed me that the little helpless bundles we bring home from the hospital become a running, jumping, tiptoeing bundle of energy in such a short time!

So much to say - so little time

From birth, your child is capable of communication. Listen to a newborn cry, and there's no doubt she is trying to communicate a need. However, very soon that cry turns to other sounds, and around 5 months old, she is probably beginning to babble. At her first birthday she will likely have at least one word in her repertoire of sounds. Then, over the next year, she will add at least fifty more words to that repertoire and should be able to make simple, three-word sentences. The year between the second and third birthday shows the greatest growth in expressive language. She will begin to ask and answer questions and will gain an expressive vocabulary of 300-1000 words. I love this age in particular. It's so fun to hear what's going on inside those expressive little heads!

Watch me grow!

We've been talking a lot in class about the different developmental milestones our children will reach. It's amazing how quickly they grow from newborns, who can not even sit up on their own, to walking, talking toddlers! Over the next few posts, I am going to be sharing some of those milestones and the typical age ranges that they are reached. Let's start with cognitive development.

  • A 6-9 month old can play "peek-a-boo" and will look for a family member when named.

  • At 18 months, they can identify 1-3 body parts and correctly point to four animal pictures when named.

  • A two year old should be able to follow two-part directions and enjoys matching shapes, colors, and identical pictures.

  • By age three, your child should understand most common action words and can complete a 3-4 piece puzzle.

Please remember that these are typical age ranges, and every child develops differently. If you have concerns about your child's developmental milestones, you should discuss them with your pediatrician or other health professional.

Little readers

I was doing some research on reading and the young child. I thought it was interesting that the single most important factor in encouraging future reading was a language rich environment. That means not just reading to your child, but involving them in other language activities, such as singing, reciting nursery rhymes, and listening to music. Hmmm... Sounds like a Kindermusik class to me. :-)

According to the Zero to Three website, "there are a number of studies that show that when children hear a good deal of 'live' language, when they are spoken to often and encouraged to communicate, they are more proficient with language than children who have more limited language exposure. For example, Janellan Huttenlocher, University of Chicago, found that at 20 months of age children of "chatty" moms averaged 131 more words than kids of 'non-chatty' moms and by age two the gap had increased to a difference of 295 words. Only live language, not television, produced these vocabulary-boosting effects (Begley, 1997)."

***Dean Jones***

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. This is music that you hear in your head when you're sitting on your front porch, miles from your nearest neighbor, watching the sky change colors as the sun goes down. Besides having THE absolute best album title of the year, Dean Jones' Napper's Delight is very appropriately named, as this is not a bedtime CD, but a CD to listen to before an afternoon nap, when you and your kids can contemplate the drowsy music and thought-provoking imagery of the words.

Those familiar with Dog on Fleas' work will recognize lead Flea Dean Jones' playful, cosmic lyrics, tenderly sung by Jones and guest vocalists Elizabeth Mitchell; fellow Flea Debbie Lan; and Amy Poux, founder of Working Playground, Inc., and High Meadow Arts, Inc. In fact, Jones showcases a mindboggling array of Hudson Valley talent, including the aforementioned voices, the pedal steel of Fooch Fischetti, and fellow Flea David Levine's fiddlin'.

The slightest touches of electronica mixed with the sounds of mbiras (thumb pianos) and balafons (marimba-like instruments), especially on "Tiny Fishes", make the music on Napper's Delight both now and timeless. And listen to how Dean quietly and slyly works Steely Dan into the lyrics of "Sally Ann". "Wheelin' and Dealin'", cowritten with NYC's Emily Curtis, would be a lo-fi electrotrance hit on any college radio station, and the Elizabeth Mitchell-sung "Grow Little Flower" would fit in just nicely on Neil Young's Harvest Moon.

Other highlights include the 5/4 - 3/4 verse/chorus of the Vince Guaraldi-influenced "Needs", the mournful trombones of the call-and-response antebellum-sounding waltz "Filly and Dilly", and the uniquely Dean Jones lyrics of "Hush Little Baby". Dig these tasty lines from "Hermit Crab": Minnows swim in minnow school / Stand askance of tidal pool / Swim on swishy beaucoup fishies / Pesky little Pisces settle down nicely". Cool.

What's going on here is more than pretty little folk songs: The album as a whole is all about observing, understanding, and caring for your world, including the people around you. It's not enough to live in it, you have to be a part of it.

This is music, man. If anyone in the universe wants to jump in and get their feet wet, well, c'mon. Everyone's invited, Dean Jones ain't keepin' nobody out.

Hi Ho Peanut!

My oldest daughter recently celebrated her birthday. Our tradition is for the birthday person to pick a special treat for the family to do together. Her choice this year was horse back riding. There aren't a lot of places that offer trail riding in the area, so I was unsure of what we might be getting in to. I've ridden some poorly mannered horses at rental facilities in the past, and certainly didn't want that experience for her on her birthday.
We chose to go to R&R Ranch in Lithia. It is across the street from a wildlife preserve with horse trails. They gave the girls a mini-lesson in the arena, then we went on a guided trail ride. There is also a petting area there with rabbits, ferrets, and chickens to enjoy. I could not have asked for a better experience! If you would like to schedule a ride or want information about riding lessons, their number is (813) 653-3819. Thanks for a great time Debbie!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it.

If you missed the article about my program in The Brandon News last week, you can see it here.

Yikes! Has it been a week already since my last post? I was sick over the weekend, and I guess I have been playing catch up ever since.
I started reading a book last weekend, that is definitely my pick for "book of the month". It's called The New Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman. It explains the role that your birth order plays in shaping your personality, choice of jobs, and even who you marry. It has been fascinating.
Here's an excerpt:
Which of the following sets of personality traits fits you best? (Pick the list that has the most items that seem to describe you and your way of operating in life.)
A. perfectionist, reliable, conscientious, list maker, well organized, hard driving, natural leader, critical, serious, scholarly, logical, doesn't like surprises, loves computers
B. mediator, compromising, diplomatic, avoids conflict, independent, loyal to peers, many friends, a maverick, secretive, unspoiled
C. manipulative, charming, blames others, attention seeker, tenacious, people person, natural salesperson, precocious, engaging, affectionate, loves surprises
D. little adult by age seven; very thorough; deliberate; high achiever; self-motivated; fearful; cautious; voracious reader; black and white thinker; uses "very," "extremely," and "exactly," a lot; can't bear to fail; has very high expectations for self; more comfortable with people who are older or younger.
A, B, and C listed character traits typical of the oldest down to the youngest in the family. List D describes the typical characteristics of the only child. I am the baby of my family and exhibit many of the characteristics of a last-born child. However, I am the first born girl, and Dr. Leman describes how this has given me a few first born characteristics as well. How did you measure up on the list?

***Mr. David***

Aaaah, I see, so this is how it's gonna work: Musicians from beloved bands of our pasts will slowly take over the kindierock world, until children's music becomes the only current genre that anyone actually listens to or pays for... Ya see, Chris Molla, former member of Camper Van Beethoven, has already released a couple of CDs for kids (Roll Along: Fingerpaint, 1999; Jump Up: Fingerpaint, 2004), and now his CVB bandmate Greg Lisher is a contributing guitarist on Mr. David's latest masterpiece, Jump In the Jumpy House.

On this eagerly awaited follow up to 2006's The Great Adventures of Mr. David, David Alexandrou channels the Velvet Underground for the roaring title tune, appropriates the sound of Desire-era Dylan on "The Stars are Grains of Sugar", takes us back to the Kinks' late-60s pastoral rock with "She's a Good Dog", and turns in a pretty damn good tribute to Johnny Cash with "Them Devils". And when the first song on the album fades out with "John Paul George and Ringo" being chanted over and over again, you know you're in for a funky, funny, far out musical trip.

If you're going to pull a song off this album as a single, "Hey! It's Lunchtime!" would be it. Bubbly, infectious, and silly, it'll make a great live tune, as will "The Stars are Grains of Sugar", its speed up/shakin' ... slow down/floating sections guaranteeing audience participation. And "Miss Pila" may sound at first to be a simple, Ranchero-influenced ditty about food, but listen more closely; dig the chord changes and countermelody!

Jump in the Jumpy House was produced and mixed incredibly well (just check out the bass guitar throughout the CD!) by contributing multi-instrumentalist Rich Ajlouny, giving the songs a very rich, deep, analog sound. And if you wanted to get old school, you could divide the album into sides: Loud & Silly ("Crocodiles are Hungry" through "She's a Good Dog", and Quiet & Introspective ("Ragtime Honey" through "Cabin Blues"), with "Exit Zoo" acting as a "Crocodiles" reprise. Plus, Tawnya Lancaster and Alexandrou designed and illustrated a wonderful CD package, full of playful drawings and song lyrics.

Another awesome CD from a kids' performer who's not afraid to stretch out in the words and music departments, and one can only imagine what's in the future for this guy if his albums keep getting this much better every time out. John, Paul, George, and Ringo would be proud.

Sincerely yours,

I love the sincerity of children. They are sincerely honest, sincerely inquisitive, sincerely playful, and sincerely friendly. I was reminded of this fact yet again this week. I have a child in an Imagine That! class that requires the use of braces and a walker to walk. Most of the children had not seen either of these devices before and were quite curious. It was interesting to watch them and listen to their questions. As adults, we are often too embarrassed to ask questions, so we politely look in another direction to avoid the "white elephant" in the room. We miss so much that way. After their questions were answered, we proceeded on with class. Even though we are just beginning our second week of the semester, many of the children are already forming friendships. They enjoy holding hands in small groups for our circle dances and movement activities. As we began one of these activities, I noticed that one little boy had separated of to walk with this child. They couldn't hold hands, since she needed to hold on to the walker. Instead, he walked slowly behind or beside her walker during class. He held the walker with her so that they could be together. It's one of those moments that is a special privilege to observe; the birth of a true friendship, and I couldn't resist sharing it with you.

Girl power!

I just became a member on Mamasource. It's a great website for mothers to connect, encourage and learn from each other. It also has some great listings of local businesses with reviews from moms in that community. I've really enjoyed the resource and thought I would pass along the information.

Thanks Diane for telling me about this!

Thought for the day

It costs you nothing to dream, but accomplishing those dreams is another story!

A tale of two sandwiches

Well, today was the start of school and the fall Kindermusik semester. I love the start of the semester; new friends, old friends, shiny new materials to hand out to happy little children. What a great time we had, but at the same time I was torn. This fall holds a lot of change for me. Some of you know that my youngest child began Kindergarten this year. She has been with me at Kindermusik since I began teaching almost 5 years ago. We have made some wonderful memories during that time. Throughout that time, I have always carried lunch for two to class. It's been a special time for us to share and bond, since we didn't have that one-on -one when she was a baby. As I zipped up the baggy with my lonely little sandwich last night, I was struck with the sad realization. No more lunch dates with my baby girl! No more two sandwiches in the box waiting for our happy afternoon chats. Don't get me wrong. I am very proud of her and excited for all the new memories she will make at school. It will just take some getting used to. So to all those mothers of new Kindergartners out there, I raise my chocolate this afternoon in salute to you. ;-D

Believe in Music

Congratulations to Diane, a mother of two of my Kindermusik students! She recently had the opportunity to record her "I believe in music" essay for Kindermusik International, as part of their "Believe in Music" convention in October. You can listen to her essay here. You can also hear other essays or submit your own. I look forward to hearing why you believe in music!

Book of the month

We loved this book at our house. It is a clever and imaginative story about the first night on the job for a new tooth fairy. It would be a great read for preschool age and up.

Gustafer Yellowgold live at Donnell !!!

Morgan Taylor brought the glorious story of Gustafer Yellowgold to the Donnell Central Children's Room this afternoon, with help from his wife, Rachel Loshak. Morgan thoroughly entertained the kids and their grownups with his multimedia presentation, and had 'em swayin' from the beginning of "I'm From the Sun" to the end of "New Blue Star". A highlight was seeing and hearing "The Mustard Slugs", a song from the upcoming second volume of Gustafer's adventures. This song, I swear, was somehow left off one of those Schoolhouse Rock albums and mystically channelled into Morgan's brain: It's the funniest song about math you'll ever see/hear.

I'm tellin' ya, go see Morgan live. These pictures just don't do him justice.

Pickin' in the Park

Well, I'm pleased to say that our vacation is going imminently better than the "umbrella over the fire" incident of last weekend! We made it to the mountains of North Carolina and have really enjoyed relaxing in our house by the river. Friday night, we went into Canton, a small town near our house. Local musicians gather at the county park there on Friday nights and play folk/blue grass music together during the summer months. There is a stage area and clogging teams perform to some of the live music. Under other pavilions around the park, groups of locals gather and have impromptu jam sessions of their own. One man even had an old-time bass made out of a washtub, tree limb, and string. It reminded me of the old barn dances that you used to read about. Everyone getting together to just "visit a spell" and enjoy some great music. If you ever find yourself in Canton, North Carolina on a Friday night, stop by and be sure to bring your dancing shoes!

Demo Days

During the week of August 20, I will be participating in Demo Days, a week during which more than 5,000 licensed Kindermusik educators will conduct free class demonstrations for families around the world. It will be a great opportunity for you to experience the magic of Kindermusik and to see for yourself why, according to a Harris Interactive Study in November 2005, 99% of parents would recommend the program to other parents. If you have already registered for the fall semester, I would love for you to take this opportunity to invite a friend. Their will be demonstration opportunities for all class ages. Spaces are limited so please contact me directly to register for the preview classes. My phone number is (813) 503-6976, or you can email me at I look forward to seeing you there!

Rain drops keep falling on my head!

So, there we were on vacation in Northern Alabama. We decided to tent camp in Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville. We had just gotten settled and started a fire to cook our evening meal. Things were looking mighty cloudy back over our shoulder, and the wind was picking up. We decided to cover the rest of the fire wood with a tarp in case it rained, and suddenly, the flood gates opened. We ran the girls into our tent, and spent the next 20 minutes standing in the pouring rain with an umbrella over the fire. It probably ranks in my top ten most ridiculous situations I have found myself in. We did manage to save the fire and ate a nice steak and potato dinner later that night.

I hear a sound, and it sounds just like this!

Being a music teacher, I am always drawn to interesting sounds, and I found a great one this week! It was one of my students shoes. They had squeakers in them. His mom said he loved the sound, and she loved always knowing where we was. I am wondering if they come in Kindermusik teacher size? :-)

Check it out!

Research proves that early integration of the arts into your child's daily routine improves his ability to think, reason, create, and express. Come treasure this time with your child while preparing them for success in school and life. You'll be glad you did.

The fall schedule is now up on our website.


Summer is always a really busy and massively fun season at the library. I don't have as much time to write reviews, but I do get to do stuff like host big ol' Harry Potter parties! I'm tellin' ya, my coworkers and our pages put in lots of extra hours to get ready for this day-before-Deathly Hallows release shindig, and our patrons had a great afternoon.

We had arts and crafts...

owls from the New Canaan Nature Center...

magician/author Bob Friedhoffer...

and, of course, "Pin the Tail on Dudley's Butt".

Fun was had by all!!!

I believe! Do you?

In October, I will be attending the Kindermusik Convention in Chicago, Illinois. This year's theme is "Believe in Music". As a celebration of that theme, they have given parents and educators the opportunity to share why they believe in music. Some of the essays will be selected for audio-recording and will be featured on the convention website, at the Kindermusik Convention, and in additional projects. This project, along with some work I have been doing at a local foster home, have given me a lot to think about. I do believe profoundly in the power of music. It is a universal language that invokes emotions and passions understood without words. It unites us in joys and sorrows. It can bring us comfort when we are all alone, wash away our sadness, and stir hope deep within us. It is an outlet for our innermost feelings, and we find that we are not alone as a beautiful harmony is created with those that share our feelings. I am only one music teacher. I have questioned my ability, at times, to create something meaningful and lasting in the lives of the children I am privileged to work with, especially the ones who are hurting the most at that foster home. I can't change the world, but I do believe I can change it one child at a time, through the power of music. I believe in music! Do you?

Submit your written essay on why you believe in music, between 300 and 500 words, to the e-mail address Send a photo of yourself with your essay. Please submit essays by Friday, July 27th.

you never know what they'll say

The other day I was teaching a group of children in my Jazz Kitchen class. We were discussing an instrument called a vibraphone. I asked the children if anyone knew the name of the green and yellow item in the picture. It is used to play the vibraphone. I was hoping for mallets or sticks as an answer. Instead I got, "a John Deere tractor?" Kid after my own heart!

bag of tricks

If there is one thing I have learned as a parent, it's how to adapt and think on my feet. What works for one child doesn't work as well for another, so we end up with a collection of "tricks of the trade" as we navigate this adventurous sea called parenthood. I thought it would be fun to share some of those tricks here, whether they be about parenting, housekeeping, or whatever keeps things running smoothly at your house. I'm going to post one of mine, and I'm hoping that you will each take the time to add one of your own as you read this.

  • I make a list of everything I want to cook for the week. Then when I go to the grocery store, I know exactly what I need. I then make enough extra that we can freeze it to have again on a busy day another week.

Floating on a Rainbow

We had a great time leisurely floating down the Rainbow River! This river is fed by Rainbow Springs, so the water was crystal clear and cold. We brought our own tubes, but you can rent them at the county park along with life jackets if you need them. Be prepared for a 4 hour float down the river. It gets very deep in many areas, so if your children are not great swimmers, I recommend a life jacket. We brought along a cooler on a raft and some sun screen to reapply part of the way down. The bottom is a mixture of grass and sand. The girls had a great time watching the fish swim around under their tubes. You can buy a shuttle pass at the county park to catch a ride back to your car. We saved money by buying only one pass. I rode back and got the car and was back to pick everyone up in around 10 minutes. If you do decide to go, I recommend you arrive no later than 10:00 AM at the park as it does get crowded on a hot summer day. Also, be sure to wear a hat and shirt as the sun really beats down on the water.

Mr. Golden Sun

My family is planning a tubing trip down the Rainbow River this weekend. As a Floridian, we all certainly enjoy our time with the sun and fun. However, I decided I should brush up on some sun safety facts. Here are a few tips I picked up.

  • Children should wear a minimum SPF of 30, which should be applied liberally and frequently. Adults should wear a minimum SPF of 15.

  • Wear a broad rimmed hat and long sleeve clothing whenever possible to block the harmful effects of the sun.

  • You should limit your exposure to the sun during the strongest parts of the day, typically between 10 AM - 4 PM.

  • Artificial UV rays found in tanning salons can be just as damaging as outdoor sun exposure.

If you would like to read more about sun safety, check out the National Safety Council's website.

Dancing about architecture

There's a famous quote about music journalism that goes, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture". It's origins are still hazy, the earliest written version gives Elvis Costello credit, while Martin Mull, Frank Zappa, and Steve Martin, among others, have been said to be the father of said pithy observation. At any rate, I love to read about music, about others' views on artists and styles, about one musician's critical look at another musician's body of work.

I was fortunate to have Dan Shorr come by and visit the Central Children's Room today with his family as they were passing through Midtown Manhattan. I mention this because, not only is Dan a super nice guy and a great songwriter/musician, he's been bitten by the writing bug lately. Check out the "News" section on his website, where he discusses Texas songwriters, musical authenticity, the lack of quality music on the radio, and writing kids' songs from a child's perspective.

It's great to see a kids' performer taking his craft seriously. You can be the goofiest guy on stage if you wanna, but children and their grownups really respect musicians who respect their audiences' musical sensibilities.

I didn't have my camera on me today, so here's a picture of Dan from Bill Childs' photo album of the Jalopy gig in Brooklyn.