Sound Bites for July

I don’t know about you, but this summer feels like it’s flying by. It’s been jam packed with swimming, camps, travels, popsicles, and binge-watching Orange Is the New Black.

And the field of family music is just as full this July! So, since I have a lot to introduce you to, let’s just dive right in.

July Sound Bites

The Jolly Pops is a great little band founded by three musicians/fathers: Ryan Ecklund, Billy Hartong, and Angus Clark. Their newest CD, I Didn’t Do It clearly shows that these are fathers who know what kids like. If your kids favor musicians like The Imagination Movers or Suzi Shelton, they’ll love The Jolly Pops.

The Jolly PopsTheir sound is a wonderful mix of rock and pop with solid vocals, driving guitars and kickin’ drum beats. It’s a sound that adults can identify with, but contain lyrics that showcase the band’s ability to “get” kids.

For instance, fun songs like “Popsicles” and “Chicken Nuggets” will appeal to young ears and appetites. “Alligator Dance” is a bright new-wave song that brings back memories of me dancing to “Safety Dance” in my teens. “I’m Mad” and “Feelings” teaches kids it’s okay to feel a range of emotions. And “Mama’s Not a Monkey Bar” falls in to the camp of things you never thought you’d say as a parent.

With appearances by the lovely Suzi Shelton and others, The Jolly Pops might just be that missing piece to your family’s music collection.

You can find The Jolly Pops I Didn’t Do It on their site and CD Baby.

Roses for PanjoSomewhere Beautiful by Roses For Panjo is one of those albums that I listen to and can’t get enough of.
From the first few notes, I fell in love with Tanya Leah’s crystal clear and spellbinding voice. Created for her father after he suffered a stroke to help soothe him, Somewhere Beautiful is a mellow album that you’ll want to put on repeat.

While not designed as children’s album, it is great as a family album, and something you could put on while reading books or getting ready for bed. Tanya Leah’s sound is a similar flavor to Shawn Colvin or Norah Jones, and shines on her latest album.

Standout songs on the album include the uplifting title track “Somewhere Beautiful”, the upbeat “Signs of Spring” and her dreamy rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

Roses for Panjo’s Somewhere Beautiful is available on their site and iTunes.

Australian_Playground_Cover_WEBPutumayo Kids has a knack for transporting me to another world, and they’re back with their latest collection to sweep me away to the land down under with Putumayo Kids Presents Australian Playground. With songs by Australian singer-songrwriters and Aboriginal groups, and mentions of kangaroos, vegemite and kookaburras, I can’t help but feel a bit Aussie. Don’t worry, though, this isn’t The Wiggles.

I am amazed by the variety on the album, and the tunes are vastly different but feel like a coherent group. There’s a bit of pop and folk (Bob Brown’s “Give Me a Home Among the Gumtrees,” Joe Hall and The Treehouse Band’s “Loose Change,” Don Spencer’s “Kangaroo,” and the beguiling voice of Rosie Burgess on “Random Acts”), to  island music similar to Carribbean music (The Neo and Garrangali’s “Let’s Go” and Garrangali’s “Mirri”), to what we classify as more “world music” (Kamerung’s “Seisia” and Seaman Dan’s “Mango Rain”).

And what Australian album would be complete without a rendition of “Waltzing Matilda”? Lazy Harry provides a lovely version of the best-known Australian tune.

A percentage of proceeds benefit the Australian Children’s Music Foundation which provides music programs to the disadvantaged. Liner notes provide insight about each musician and song, making the album a complete educational experience. And as a bonus, it also includes a kid-friendly Australian recipe for damper bread.

Putumayo Kids Presents Australian Playground is available from Putumayo Kids’ site,  iTunes, and Amazon.

RYH_CoverSeattle band The Not-Its‘ distinct sound sets them apart from many other children’s musicians. Being veteran punk rockers, there is some seriously rockin’ music back behind those kid-friendly lyrics, sung with gratifyingly edgy voices. And now, they’re back with their fifth album (and the follow up to KidQuake!) Raise Your Hand.

Parents, brace yourselves. You may find yourself listening to this when your kids aren’t around.

The Not-Its understand what kids go through. Their struggles (“Funniest Cat Video,” “When I Fell (The Scab Song),” and “Waiting List”) and preferences (“Flannel Jammies”) get some attention through lively harmonies. Summer-appropriate songs of insects (“Mosquito Eater”, and “Bee’s Knees”, a save-the-bees/save-the-planet anthem) and outdoor activities (“We’re Gonna Hike”) demonstrate The Not-Its humor and fun.

And there are some goodies for the parents too. “Motorcycle Mom” paints a picture of a biker mom who tears up the PTA. And “Hey 80’s’ had me nodding my head at every reference. (If you’re a child of the 80’s, it would be fun to go through this song and explain every line.)

“Love is Love” may be one of my favorites on the album, and speaks to the idea that while the definition of family is changing, the foundation of love is the same.

Other great tunes include the title track “Raise Your Hand,” “Haircut,” and “Nose In a Book.”

And check out the video for “Haircut”!

 

The Not-Its’ Raise Your Hand is available July 15th on their site.

Remember “Baby Beluga”? Or what about “Down by the Bay”? And I think I played “Bananaphone” for my son as a toddler more than I thought humanly possible.

If you know what I’m talking about, then you surely know Raffi.

It’s been twelve years since he’s released an album of children’s songs, but he’s back with Love Bug, an album that was certainly worth the wait.

Raffi_LoveBug_LGRaffi still has the ability to capture your attention, creating catchy tunes and heartwarming lyrics. The 16 tracks on Love Bug feel like a treasure chest, filled with all sorts of gems sure to appeal to every taste. It’s a journey through love, the magic of childhood, and the majesty of nature, accompanied by Raffi’s melodic strengths and alluring voice.

“Seeing the Heart” glistens on the album, and is my new favorite love song, reminding me of the purity of a child’s heart. “Magic Wand” feels like a wish list from every parent of a new baby for what they hope the world would be for them. Raffi infuses this hope for a better world and a healthy planet, filled with love, in songs like “Blue White Planet” and “Turn this World Around.”

But he hasn’t lost his aptitude for creating catchy and entertaining tunes such as “Mama Loves It” and “Doggone Woods.” “Cool Down Reggae” is a slow-paced tune that makes me want to swing on a hammock with my kids and chillax. If they’d let me, that is. And the instrumental tracks like “Wind Chimes” and “Pete’s Banjo” adds just the right amount of sprinkles to this delicious treat of an album

Raffi’s Love Bug will be available July 15th on his site, iTunes, and Amazon.

I Heart America: Giveaway!

Can you smell it? It’s the aroma of summer. Sunscreen, bug spray, chlorine, and grilled food. So much of that for me is tied to the 4th of July, which is just 5 days away! I have big plans to celebrate with family. We’ll watch a parade, my kids will try not to get 2nd degree burns from sparklers, and I’ll gain 3-5 pounds. It’s gonna be epic.

And I want you to have an epic weekend too!  I’ve teamed up with a few blogger friends for a giveaway. Because wouldn’t it be better to celebrate America’s Birthday with $100 extra bucks in your pocket?

Before we get to the details, let me introduce my friends!
From bottom left -> up: GinaJeanaeAllieRachelJen and Julia. Seriously, I heart these amazing, funny and talented ladies. Please, please, please, check them out!

Now for the details, comment below with one thing you love about America. Optional entries are liking and following us through various social media channels. Giveaway ends Friday at 5:00 P.M. EST and winner will be announced shortly after. The funds will be transferred immediately via Paypal once the winner has been notified. Voila! A weekend of fun, $100 richer!

Ready, Set, GO!

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The 7 Stages Of Pants Shopping

I hate shopping for jeans. No, wait, let me restate that. I detest shopping for jeans. Or pants. Really, any kind of garment that has to fit around my lower body.

I have a small waist and more than ample booty and thighs.  Slap a short stature on top of that, and pant shopping is a recipe for disaster.  It’s downright impossible for me to find a pair of jeans that don’t make me want to wretch when I look in a mirror, which is why I have, like, four pairs of pants. Total.

It’s not often that I head out to shop for jeans, and come back with a huge body issue complex and a large vat of full-fat ice cream to drown my sorrows in.

I recently blew out the knees in my favorite, oldest pair of jeans. It was an extremely upsetting experience, and I tried to rationalize that I could still wear them, despite a hole the size of Alaska in the knees. Because they FIT, for goodness sake. If looking like a hobo would get me out of pants shopping for another month, so be it.

So, when they finally disintegrated into shards, I dragged my butt to the mall.

And then, I had a revelation.

I have the exact same experience every single time I go hunting for jeans. It always follows the same pattern, with almost always the same results.

I call it, The 7 Stages Of Pants Shopping. And it goes a little something like this:

7 Stages of Pants Shopping

Stage 1: Optimism

Because, look! It’s a line of jeans that boast a Flattering Look for EVERY SIZE!

Stage 2. Denial

Yes, I realize that I’m closer to the size of pants I wore while pregnant, but I decide to look for pants in the size I was when I got married anyway.

Stage 3. Frustration

I mean, c’mon. How is it that these “stretch” pants don’t even have enough give to get over my saddlebags? Who came up with “skinny” jeans in the first place, dammit!

Stage 4. Anger

See, now? Now I’m just full out pissed, because almost every single pair of pants I’ve tried on at this point fit in the legs and butt, but have a gap around my waist big enough to hold a small family of rabbits. And who is this tall? I could wear stilts and still not fit in to these!

Or, equally maddening but more humiliating, I’ve shimmied in to the jeans, but now fear I cannot get out of them.  Don’t worry, I’m about to get all Bruce Banner up in this dressing room and bust out of them any second.

Stage 5. Sadness

As I place that 20th pair of jeans back in its hanger, I am mourning not only the dozens of cute pants that I’m not walking away with, but also the loss of my firm backside.

Stage 6. Ambivalence

After I calm down from my tantrum, I can walk out of the dressing room, arms filled with rejects of cool-looking, hip pants that could potentially bring my wardrobe up to date, and declare “I didn’t want these stupid jeans anyway.”

Stage 7. Acceptance

It’s just destined to be, I guess. I’ll just have to keep wearing the same ratty cargo capri pants circa 2003 until they rot.

And this, my friends, is why I refuse to go pants shopping unless it’s absolutely necessary. I’m currently looking for a support group. Preferably one that allows me to wear sweatpants to meetings.

Why I Let My 8 Year Old Have an Email Account

My son had been pestering me for weeks.

“How old do I have to be to get email?” “When can I get an email account?” “Can I get an email account now?” “How about now? Am I old enough now?”

Every time he would ask for an email account, I would ask the same questions.

“Why do you want an email account?” “Who is so important to an 8 year-old to email?”

Why I Let My 8 Year Old Have Email

His logic wasn’t rational.  Like wanting to be able to email me to let me know where he was.  While in our house.  Or “texting” us from the bathroom while we’re in a store so that we know he’s okay.

Because knowing someone’s taking a dump is high on my priority list of information needs.

My son had recently been bequeathed my husband’s ancient iPod touch, which was nothing more than a glorified Minecraft machine. It has no 3G or 4G network, and the only access to anything cool is by the WiFi network in our home. In order for him to email us, he’d have to be in our house with us.  Which doesn’t make email the most efficient method of communication when he can’t find his baseball mitt.

After many, many, many requests, and some decent proposals and reasons why, my son’s questioning broke me down and I agreed to let him have an email account.  The persuasive arguments that won me over were the ones that appealed to my soft side. He wanted to be able to keep in touch with his cousin, his aunts and uncles, and his grandparents.

Having our family spread out all over the country, how can I say no to that?

I didn’t embark on this lightly.  My husband and I set down some very strict guidelines. I had to have access to his password.  I was going to monitor all of the emails coming in and going out from his email address. He wouldn’t be allowed to click on any link he received without asking. And he wasn’t allowed to email anyone that wasn’t in our family without asking permission.

Once the rules were put in place and agreed upon, we registered his email address and got it set up on his iPod and my retired laptop.

And then the emailing began.

At first, he just emailed me and my husband. They were simple one word emails, like “hi!” and “awesome!” and grew to short sentences like “i love you!”

But once he really got the hang of things, his emails became an extension of himself.

I began to see his humor.  To see his wickedly fast wit, getting all the jokes we’d reply with and volleying equally funny ones back to us. To see his knowledge of when it’s most effective to use ALL CAPS.

And then he started taking photos of all of us and sending them to our inbox.

Quick little snapshots that I thought he was taking for the fun of hearing the shutter. But he quickly became adept at tweaking those head shots in whatever app he could find on his phone.

The day he sent me this photo from his iPod was the day that I fully embraced him having an email address:

8 year old email

That’s me. Smiling at him. And my son adding his own artistic flair to what would otherwise be a pretty boring photo. He could have typed “Gina” or “Mommy” or “Loser.” But he chose “She…” And I love it.

Pictures like this give me added insight in to what’s going on in that small but mighty brain my son has. It sheds a little light on how he sees me. And that is always more warm and pleasant than how I see myself.

Months later, the novelty has worn off a little, and the volume of emails being sent and received has trickled off a bit, but my son still enjoys telling folks he has his own email account.

More importantly, he loves being able keep in touch with family on his own.  Grandparents are sending him short emails about things they think are interesting. His cousin sends book recommendations that she thinks he should read, like their own private book club. My son gets to establish his own relationship with family independent of his parents, and he loves how that makes him feel.

I know there will come a day where we will have to more closely worry about what he’s using his email address for. But for the time being, I’m just going to enjoy getting pinged by my son, telling me that he thinks I’m awesome.

“Simply Fantastic: An Introduction to Classical Music”

We listen to a whole heck of a lot of music in our house, and much of it is either family music, Disney soundtracks, or music that falls in any of the pop/rock/hip hop categories.

So, to shake things up, we often make a switch to classical music on Sunday mornings. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a warm cup of coffee, reading the paper, and begging my daughter to please, for the love of all things, eat her vitamins.

And every time we go classical, I have the thought, “we need to listen to this more often.” Instead of wanting to bounce around the living room like rabbits on speed, my kids tend to gravitate towards coloring, reading, or puzzles while classical music is playing. The genre shifts the energy in our house to one that is a bit more calm. A bit more cerebrally stimulating. A bit more enchanted.

Now I have one more reason to crank up the classical music in our home.

Simply Fantastic

Author Ana Gerhard, concert pianist and music educator, has written a new book with an accompanying CD, Simply Fantastic: An Introduction to Classical Music that is sure to fill your home with magic. It’s not just a book with a CD, it’s an experience.

Cover Simply FantasticThis gorgeously illustrated book (centered on the fantastical world of fairies, witches, gnomes, elves, wizards and the like) covers the Big Hitters of classical music such as Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, among others.

Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, La Scala Chorus and Orchestra, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the 20 excerpts found in Simply Fantastic span over 300 years of music history.

For each piece of music, Gerhard has provided brief descriptions that detail what magical creature the piece is about (fairies and their traits, for instance), and summaries of the plots of the ballet, opera or orchestral piece the work comes from. Often, she also includes bits of trivia regarding the composer and the impetus for the piece’s creation.

It’s a great primer for young ones to the world of classical music, and for adults, as well! I felt so knowledgeable after reading this with my children and found new appreciation of classical favorites. The vocabulary Gerhard uses is basic enough to help young readers and listeners comprehend the complexities of the composition, but not so simple that it won’t appeal to older audience.

To add to the magic of the music’s topics and Gerhard’s writing, Claudia Legnazzi created lush, vibrant illustrations that add a rich layer to the entire experience.

TheFairyQueen_560x299

And, do I even need to mention how amazing this collection of music is? The CD includes pieces of music that are widely familiar and identifiable, some less recognizable, as well as many compositions that most of us can hum to, but may not know it’s origin. Songs like “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg), for instance. Look! It’s not just a commercial soundtrack!

As a dancer, I was pleased to see excerpts from ballets famous and not-so-famous, such as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, “Dance of Terror” from Manuel de Falla’s Love, the Magician and “The Infernal Dance of Ali Kashchei’s Subjects” from Stravnisky’s The Firebird.

Many of the songs are short in length, perfect for a young listeners attention span.  The book’s selection of music covers a wide musical range, from the sweet and tender (“Dance of the Blessed Spirits” by Christoph Willibald Gluck) to the melodic and joyful (“The Fairy-Queen” by Henry Purcell), to the mischievously perky or dissonant (“Witches Dance” by Niccolo Paganini or “Pucks’ Dance” by Claude Debussy), to the intensely dramatic (“The Hut on Fowl’s Legs” by Modest Mussorgsky or “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner.) All of the selections display just how powerful a piece of music can be.

Author, Ana Gerhard

Author, Ana Gerhard

Gerhard saved the best for last, with an amazing listening guide at the end.  It’s perfect for folks like me that love listening to music, but aren’t sure how to discuss what they hear in musical terms. The guide sheds a warm and knowledgeable light on what you’re hearing. I would recommend listening first, reading the guide, then listening again for a deeper experience.

Simply Fantastic: An Introduction to Classical Music is a book and CD that should be a staple in any home to young children. It’s available in the United States on June 17th.

But you don’t have to wait until then! I’m so excited about this book and CD that I’m giving one to a lucky reader! If you’d like the chance to win this extraordinary book and CD, it’s as easy as entering the Rafflecopter widget below by 11:59pm on Friday, June 13.  Open to anyone 18 and over in the contiguous United States.

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Good luck!