What a wonderful world!

I want to finish up my postings on the Love Languages of Children. I briefly touched on the final love language, acts of service, in my original post. Therefore, I will only offer a few extra points here. "In serving your children, the main motive-doing what's best- means you are trying to fill their love tanks." The cool thing about this language is that, as we are showing our children love, they are learning how to serve others through our example. This is becoming a lost art in our "ME" oriented society. "Thus acts of service has an intermediate step. We serve our children, but as they are ready, we teach them how to serve themselves and then others." Even though children will gain the most from their primary love language, they actually gain from experiencing all of the love languages. In light of that, it's important to show them a good example of appropriate physical affection, loving words, quality time, thoughtful gift giving, and kind acts of service. They will learn by our example. What a wonderful world that could be!

Pg. 84 & 85 "The Five Love Languages of Children" by Gary Chapman amd Ross Campbell

***Gustafer Yellowgold***

So much has already been said by so many reviewers about this wonderful, wonderful project, there's really nothing left to say about the re-release. Wait, lemme say this: if there is ANY possibility of seeing Morgan Taylor's live multimedia presentation of the Gustafer Yellowgold story, you MUST go. I've seen grown men crying with joy at the end of "New Blue Star" when all the children in the audience are blissfully singing "Neeeeeeeww Bluuuuuuue Staaaaar!!!" Absolutely heavenly.

And with the new release you get two additional songs: "A Cooler World", which could be Taylor thinking ahead to the possibility of an animated series, because this little ditty succinctly encapsulates everything Gustaferish within a perfect pop tune; and "Rocket Shoes", a typically wistful Taylor tune that fits right in with the feel of the older songs. Both have been available for a while on the Gustafer website, but it's nice to have them incorporated into the total storyline and CD/DVD package.
Here's what I had to say about the original DVD-only release:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

As you sit reading this review, I feel sorry for you, I truly do. For you see, friends, the minutes you waste eyeballing these pitifully mundane comments are minutes you could be digging this mindblowingly awesome DVD. This stuff is so far ahead of typical kids' entertainment, everyone else might as well give up. OK, allow me to back up and let you in on what all this proselytizing is about.

Illustrator/songwriter Morgan Taylor, originally from Dayton, Ohio, currently a Lower East Side resident, is the creator of Gustafer Yellowgold, a character from the Sun who befriends otherwise friendless beings like a flightless pterodactyl, a crying green bee, a dragon who makes his home in a fireplace, and an eel. Gustafer Yellowgold's Wide Wild World is the soundtrack of their intertwining lives, filled with stories of friendship, loneliness, loss, death, and love. But these subjects are dealt with in such a subdued manner that you don't so much read the lyrics or hear the music, you feel them, you understand the emotions channeled through the songs, you empathize with the characters.

The eight songs on the DVD are iconographically illustrated with Morgan's simple and colorful drawings, enclosed within a square wooden frame, and lyrics to each stanza appear on the frame as each song flows by. The DVD also includes wordless versions of all the songs so you and your little ones can sing along with "I'm From the Sun", "Your Eel", "New Blue Star", and the rest of the joyous tunes and aching melodies.

After having opened for bands such as the Polyphonic Spree and Wilco, Morgan is currently performing the Gustafer Yellowgold music locally, playing live as the images from the DVD are projected onto a screen. If you live near NYC, go see the show. If you live anywhere else in the world, come see the show. If you are of this universe, buy the DVD and share it with everyone you know.

The very hungry caterpillar

About two weeks ago, I had a local company, Fluttering Flowers, put in a butterfly garden at my classroom. It turned out just beautifully and is filled with a wonderful variety of colorful flowers. I thought it would be great fun for the children to enjoy some butterflies and caterpillars as they come to class each week. On Monday, I found this chubby fellow munching away on milk weed. A few plants over was a brother or sister, who was also making himself quite at home. Judging from their size, I would guess they will be getting ready for a chrysalis soon!


Hopefully, you have been following along with our conversation about the Love Languages of Children. I wanted to move on today to language #4, gifts. No before you max out your credit card, let me define gift. By gift, I am referring to a meaningful expression of love that is freely given. "When a parent offers a gift if the child will clean his room, this is not a true gift but a payment for services rendered. At times parents who have every intention of offering a true gift may be sending confused messages if they ignore the child's deep emotional need for love." It's not about what you give or how much it cost. It's about the thought behind it. Be creative. For example, I have a daughter that is very interested in birds. If I stumble on a pretty feather when out for a walk, I pick it up and bring it home for her. Some of these items are her most treasured things, and they cost me nothing but my time and thoughtfulness. What are some of your most treasured gifts?

pg. 73 "The Five Love Languages of Children" by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell

***Peter Himmelman***

Quick tip for making a "good" kids album ... play who you are. That is, don't try to become what you think the public perceives a "children's musician" should sound like, just perform your music as you normally would. Play it, and they will come. So ... here's a guy whose style incorporates a little bit o' Costello, a little Springsteen, some Winwood, kinda Jersey Shore summertime bar bandish, a sprinkling of Memphis R&B, with harmonies and chord changes McCartney wouldn't say no to: c'mon, people, let's fly a kite! Specifically, Peter Himmelman's My Green Kite, the fourth kids' album from this L.A.-based musician and arranger.

The album kicks off with what would be a great concert opener: handclaps leading into a roaring intro, followed by three opportunities for group singalong: you can yell the song's title "Feet!", join in the call and response "I love my feet!", and enthusiastically sing "School's out!", and that's all in the first song!! Then comes the title track's awesome chorus; and later the question, would "Another Bite of Hay" really make me a happier person?
Other songs let us know that Mom's a great cook and Dad isn't as nerdy or boring as his accounting job would make him seem. Three must-hears are "A Dozen Roses", a folky rhyme set to rowdy rock and roll; the NuWave psychedelia of "Have You Ever Really Looked At an Egg?"; and Himmelman's deft and sarcastic beat poet rap "Nothin' to Say", whose horny funk backing music could have been sampled by A Tribe Called Quest.
This is one busy dude who, thankfully, takes the time to turn in another high-quality kids' collection. He could be running on autopilot by now, having released 10 adult albums, six CDs of unreleased tracks, and a compilation of his work with his original band, Sussman Lawrence. But somehow Himmelman gets better with each release, which is good news for kiddierock lovers everywhere. One of the secrets of his success is that Himmelman is Himmelman - he plays who he is, and the superlative results shine through.

The rest of the story

Well, plan B worked. Within a couple of hours, the little red rooster was singing the blues and happily returned to his pen. In the words of Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story!

John Denver must have been mistaken!

In his song, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy", John Denver wrote, "Well, life on a farm is kind of laid back. Ain't much an old country boy like me can't hack." I would agree with him on most occasions, but today is not one of them. We have a red rooster on our farm named Swiper. He's not the friendliest of sorts. But, my youngest daughter raised him from a chick, so I suppose that makes him family. Anyway, he got out of our pen this morning and ran into the back 20 acres of our property. The "back 20" is heavily wooded, and my husband and I spent the next 1.5 hours trekking around looking for him. We spotted him twice, but he would always run and hide in the thick underbrush. We've decided to move to plan B. We are hoping that hearing our other chickens will draw him back into the yard. Chickens do not ordinarily like to be alone, especially since he's always been with our other chickens. Maybe then we will be able to catch him. Stay tuned....

What's cookin'?

I am so excited about our Jazz Kitchen camp that will be offered this summer in conjunction with Young Chef's Academy. The camp will last for 1.5 hours and will include music, stories, and cooking for children, ages 3-6 years old. The recipes and music are sure to delight all of your child's senses! You can find out more information on my website. I hope to see you there!

Making memories with you

Sorry I haven't written in a while. Things have really been busy here the last week. Let's get back to our discussion on "love languages". Language #3 is quality time. All children need quality time with their parents, but for a child whose love language is quality time, it is even more important. As a working parent, I understand the struggle to balance family and work. So many working and even non-working parents get caught up in a guilt trip over time spent with their children. Is it enough time? Am I meeting their needs? Well rather than get all in a dither, here are a few observations I have learned from the love languages book and my own experiences.

  • There is no magic number with how much time you should spend with your children. Use your knowledge of your child to assess how much time you think they need, and do your best to meet that goal.

  • Make sure the time you spend with your child is on their developmental level and in an area of interest to them.

  • Try to spend time with each of your children individually.

  • Make good eye contact and give your child your full attention when playing. This not only shows them that they are important to you, but teaches them how to treat others as well.

  • Sometimes children go through phases of needing more time than usual from a parent. This isn't a reflection of a job poorly done, so don't feel guilty. Accept that it is just a phase and adapt your time as necesarry.

  • If you're busy with a task and your child is needing your attention, stop and give them 15 minutes of uninterrupted time. This shows them that they are important to you, and you will be able to then complete the task with a guilt free mind afterwards.

Stevie on the Street

Two things I love with all my heart: Stevie Wonder and early Sesame Street. They kept it real, dammit!!! Dig the kid goin' nuts on the fire escape...

Words of love

On to love language #2-words of affirmation. There are several ways to communicate love verbally to your child. The most common is words of praise or affection, but there are other ways to speak love. Words of encouragement are a great way to instill courage in your child. "To a young child almost every experience is new. Learning to walk, to talk, or to ride a bicycle requires constant courage. By our words, we either encourage or discourage the child's efforts." What about loving words of guidance? It's so easy to approach our words of guidance from a negative standpoint. Don't touch that! Don't throw your food! We will have to deal with negative aspects of life when raising a child, such as talking about drugs, but even these topics can be approached in a loving manner. "Parents who offer words of loving guidance will be looking closely at the interests and abilities of their children and giving positve verbal reinforcement of those interests. From academic pursuits to to simple rules of etiquette to the complex art of personal relationships, parents need to be expressing emotional love in the postive verbal guidance they give their children."

pg. 48, 52 "The Five Love Languages of Children" by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell

***The Sursiks***

This has to be the most brilliant, goosebump-inducing project of the year in the field of kids' music: remember when Syd Barrett was so wacked out that his pals from Pink Floyd and Soft Machine had to build songs around the doodles he managed to get recorded to tape? Same idea here, 'cept the vocalist/songwriter is a three-year-old girl, Lydia Grace, around whose lyrics and melodies the members of the Sursiks construct their music.

Marvel at a child's view of the world in "When Monsters Come", dig the ELO intro to the new wave punk "Aunt Kate", check out the beautifully spooky "Winter Wind is Blowing", and be tickled by "L-Y-D-I-A"'s self-affirming chant about coloring with purple crayons. Progressive music for Toddlers by Toddlers!

Now, the Sursiks released another CD that uses the same concept, except the rantings and ravings left on an answering machine by various friends are given the build-a-song treatment. Equally brilliant, incredibly amusing, but very adult. The grownups can listen to this one after the kiddies have gone to bed.

At the very least, Lydia Grace is an interesting CD. At the most, though, Lydia Grace is inspiring, inventive, and refreshingly original. Very late-70's Frank Zappa-ish, in the sweetest way possible. Power to the Preschoolers!