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 album...no 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!