When I Realized My Kids Are Good Kids

Seated at the fancy Grand Hotel, in Mackinac Island, MI, I started to sweat. A slight panic attack lurked in the back of my mind as I glanced down at the fine china on the table, the massive assortment of silverware stacked around the place setting, and our two young kids eyeballing them with wonder and mischief.

We were on vacation and, on a whim, decided to bike over to the swankiest resort on the island and fork out a small fortune to stuff our bellies full with the lunch buffet.

It was a gorgeous hotel, full of history and old-school luxury, and expensive decor.

And my kids can’t tell the difference between a $1 plate from the Target bargain bin, and the $100 plate they were about to carry back from the buffet line.

Throw in the fact that my kids’ squabbling had reached an all-time fever pitch, lunch in this fancy hotel seemed rife for disaster.

I ate my meal in a state of heightened alertness, whispering quick reminders to my kids not to use the butter knife as a drum stick, and to “please use your napkin to wipe off that glob of fruit on your chin instead of your forearm.”  I prayed they wouldn’t spill that outlandishly heavy crystal goblet of lemonade all over their laps under the eyes of all the older folks surrounding us that were probably ridiculously rich and ridiculously annoyed by young children.

And, even though I spent the meal worrying about how my kids would do, we ate our shrimp cocktail, high-end mac and cheese, and piled-too-high plates of the teeniest pastries without much drama.  Sure, there were some small mishaps.  And the tablecloth didn’t fare well. But we didn’t get kicked out, either.

At the end of our meal, as we pushed our chairs back to leave, the woman next to us leaned over and said, “Excuse me.”

I thought she was going to let us know the back of my daughter’s dress was crammed into her underpants. Or that we’d left a flip-flop under the table.

Instead, I heard her say, “I just wanted to tell you, your kids were so amazingly well-behaved! And I have nine grand-kids, so I know what I’m talking about. They’re not all like that.”

I blushed with embarrassment. My kids gave her a quick “thank you” as they rushed out of the dining room to pounce on the plush, circular sofa in the lobby, and I expressed my gratitude for her lovely comment.

Then I immediately felt ashamed.

Ashamed that I’d thought less of my children. Ashamed that I didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt. Ashamed that I thought they would behave like wild animals, when in reality, that’s not how they are.

My kids are good kids. And I need to remember that.

Good Kids

Being in public magnifies the lens in which I view my kids, especially in places that seem, and pardon the Southern in me coming out here, high falutin’ . Every noise they utter sounds like it’s coming through a bullhorn.  Every wiggle seems like I’m sitting with a herd (A herd? A litter? A barrel?) of monkeys.  Every fork drop sounds like parental failure.

But when I really step back (and I do have to step several yards back) to see my kids for who they are, they are good, well-behaved children.

They remember to use their Excuse Me’s, Please’s, Thank You’s and May I’s. They have the ability to remain at their seats and not run around like lunatics anymore.  And they listen to me and my husband (for the most part) when we ask them to do something. They are considerate and kind and adorably charming.

And they are children.

I shouldn’t expect them to behave like adults, because they are not adults. They are 8 and 5 and behave as such.

Yes, they are curious. Yes, they can be loud. Yes, they are not quite the masters of the fork and spoon and napkin as I would like.  But they are not the pack of wild animals my mind makes them out to be.

It’s so easy for me to feel as if my kids behavior is a reflection of not only me as a parent, but as a person. And my kids are NOT me. They’re not even an extension of myself. I need to let them be, and trust that I’ve given them the tools they need to get by in public. And I have, because they’re doing it, and doing it beautifully.

It just took a total stranger to make me see it.

When it comes down to it, that lunch at the Grand Hotel was more my issue than theirs. My sense of paranoia was more about how I thought we would be perceived, than it was because of any history of rotten behavior on my children’s part.

In the future, I’ll stress out less when we’re out as a family. I’ll remember that my kids are good kids. Even with fruit smeared on their faces.

 

Sound Bites for August

Well, it’s the middle of August. AUGUST, people! For many of us, that means that summer is winding down, school-clothes shopping is underway, and carpools are being organized.

But fear not, those commutes don’t have to be boring that first day of school! Some fantastic new music for families is being released to make the transition a bit easier to swallow.

Sound Bites for August

Two bands are releasing albums on August 19th that will blow your mind.

Appetite Cover 1600First, it’s The Pop Ups with their latest, Appetite for Construction. I was fortunate enough to debut the World Premiere of “Puppet Playground” here earlier this week, which I adore. And let me tell you, the rest of the album does not disappoint.

I love bands like this, ones that just ooze fun and genius creativity. They’re thinking about the complete kid – not just their ears, but their minds. Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein, the force behind The Pop Ups, are some of the most innovative, original musicians making music for families today.  With a unique blend of quirky instrumentation, clever and often syncopated rhythms, and variety of tempos combined with inventive content, The Pop Ups have carved out a very special place for themselves in the family music genre.

This is an album that I got excited about from the first few notes of the first song. It’s not often that I’m wiggling so enthusiastically while previewing an album that my husband asks what I’m listening to, but he did with this album.

The Pop Ups have crafted an album in which they say that every song “provides an active participation point for whole-family engagement, celebrating imaginative play, building, dance, puppet making and more.”  Appetite for Construction encourages pushing the limits of your creativity, expanding your imaginative horizons. “Pictures Making Pictures” “Craft Night” and “Puppet Playground” invite listeners to channel their inner Martha Stewarts and get cracking on their own creations.

There’s no doubt The Pop Ups love what they do, and it shows, especially on catchy songs such as “All These Shapes,” (with it’s rockin’ backbeat) or the dreamy, funky “Go To Sleep.”  The album is masterfully produced, often providing listeners with an electro-pop flood of music, and once the album is over, I want more.

Other personal favorites include “Costume Party” (which sounds straight out of the 80’s, with its horns on the mellow bridge and smooth vocals), “Your Own Imagination” (which gives kids alternatives to pulling out your electronic device as a means to pass time) and “Glitter Everywhere” (ending with the essential Dust Buster.  Seriously, these guys break out an actual Dust Buster).

The Pop Ups Appetite for Construction will be available August 19th on iTunes and Amazon.

 

PosterAnother album being released on August 19th is Sea Blue Sea, the third album by The Whizpops. Hailing from Montana, The Whizpops is comprised of two elementary school teachers (Kevin Cashman and Casey Schaefer), a biologist (Keaton Wilson) and other artists.

They’re taking sea life by storm with this album.  Their next stop? Taking the family music circuit by storm as well.

Sea Blue Sea is an aural aquatic lesson. The latest album by The Whizpops would make a great science class accompaniment, using groovy, hip melodies and fantastic production to discuss all types of sea creatures.

I am enamored by artists like The Whizpops, who can incorporate high-level concepts in to music and allow someone to learn without even knowing it. The lyrics in Sea Blue Sea are sophisticated, but still accessible to young ears, often allowing for further discussion about words like “cephalopod.”

With rapping similar to something like The Imagination Movers, and Margi Cates soulful vocals, The Whizpops create music that just makes you feel good, like “Manta Ray,” or like you’re at a party, with songs like “Dolphin Disco.”

From the rockabilly “Sea Turtle” to the driving waltz of “Whale Shark;” from the bold accordion and Piratey swag of “Anglerfish” to the calypso style of “Blue Whale;” from the soft rock of “Starfish” to the reggae beat of “Octopus,” the fun lyrics and rhymes created by The Whizpops would be a funky marine musical adventure for just about any age group.

Sea Blue Sea by The Whizpops be available August 19th on iTunes and Amazon.

 

Ella Jenkins More Multicultural WEBThe “First Lady of Children’s Music,” Ella Jenkins, recently turned 90 years old. 90, ladies and gentleman. If you’re not standing up and clapping for her, do it, right now.

To celebrate her birthday, Ella released a new album with Smithsonian Folkways, More Multicultural Children’s Songs, her 40th title, that features 20 tunes from previous albums.

In this new release, Ella relies on the simplicity of her vocals and minimal ukulele accompaniment with a classic call-and-response style and repeatable stanzas to transport any listener to far-away places.

Listening to Ella Jenkins makes me feel like I’m in the warmest preschool classroom on the planet filled with a vibrant energy ripe for learning.

Spanish, Hebrew, Greek, Russian, Japanese and Chinese languages make appearances in this album through a mixture of spoken text and singing.  This album is a great way to introduce your children to different cultures that span the globe from Australia (with “In Australia” and “Australian Zoo”), to Europe (in “A German Counting Rhyme” and “Tee-kan-yas”), to Asia (“In the People’s Republic of China”).

Ella teaches young listeners little nuggets of different languages, like how to say “How are you?” in Mandarin (in “A Train Ride to the Great Wall”) or “Good Morning” in Russian (in “Rushing Around in Russia”) or how to count to 10 in Japanese (in “Count from One to Ten”).

“I’m Going to Cairo” capitalizes on the fun aspect of having a city of the same spelling in vastly different countries, like Cairo, Egypt, and Cairo Illinois.  “Differences” is a spoken word track that discusses the subtle differences between American English and British English. “Canadian Friendship” is lovely, lilting song with beautiful harmonies, strumming guitars and ukulele.

Ella Jenkins’ More Multicultural Children’s Songs is available through the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website, iTunes, and Amazon.

 

As-Crow-Flies-Rainbow-Border-300x299Dan Crow  is a musician and educator who weaves in linguistic themes of alliteration, rhyming, synonyms, action words and phonics to create the lively album, As the Crow Flies.

An Emmy award winner for his video “Just For Fun,” and songwriter for the Disney Channel, Dan Crow has his finger firmly on the pulse of what makes a younger listener tick, and makes music that would liven up any preschool class.

Crow tackles issues young kids are all too familiar with, such as bullying in “Bully Girl and Bully Boy,” and the multitude of stuff kids can acquire in “Too Much Stuff.”

His sense of humor shines in songs like the surfy “Stevie’s Got a Maui Owie,” and “Tooth Fairy Take Me Home,” sung from the point of view of a loose tooth.

“The Frog Song” uses the literary device of accumulation – in this case, animals upon animals – to talk about feelings.  And “Gravy and Potatoes” is a modern take on “Apples and Bananas” with a funky electronic vibe.

Dan Crow’s As The Crow Flies is available on his website and iTunes.

 

BP_Cover_FinalBanana Park is the brainchild of a father who wrote songs for his kids and posted them on YouTube. An album of those songs followed, titled Let’s Go Play.

This album has a little Jimmy Buffet feel, with short, upbeat tunes that possess an island easiness to them.Better suited for the preschool gang, Banana Park makes music with concepts honed in on younger interests, like food (“Fruity Snack” and “Crackers and Melted Cheese”), animals (“Animals”, “Butterfly”, “Monkey Do Monkey Say”) and games (“Making a Castle”).

“Let’s Go Play” and “Riding Our Bikes” are the more mature and sophisticated tracks on album, with swinging guitars and catchy baselines. “I Love You” reminds me of those unsolicited warm pronouncements of love from my kids, as a small child explains the simple things his parents do that make him feel loved. And the sweet tracks “Snowflakes Falling” and “Bedtime” are lullabies you can add to your repertoire.

Let’s Go Play by Banana Park is available on iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon.

 

Now, it’s YOUR turn. What are you planning on listening to on your way to school this fall?

 

 

 

WORLD PREMIERE: “Puppet Playground” by The Pop Ups

You guys, I’m getting to do something I’ve never done before. I’m so excited I’m about to pee my pants! I’m getting to present the WORLD PREMIERE of a song. Right here on this blog! I feel all Martha Quinn and everything.

Not only do I get to World Premiere a song, but it’s from one of my favorite family music bands, The Pop Ups.

Pop Ups World Premiere

This group creates some of the freshest sounds in family music, and they’re back at it with a new album, Appetite for Construction, due out August 19th.  (I’ll be featuring them on my August round-up later this week, so be sure to come back and check it out.)

Making its World Premiere exclusively here, from The Pop Ups’ latest album, is the track “Puppet Playground.”

The Pop Ups (comprised of Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein) may sing about ideas that appeal to kids, but in “Puppet Playground, the infectious tempo and electro-pop sounds reminiscent of Oasis make this band appealing to just about anyone.

The song is a veritable How-To list of inventive instructions to create your own puppets. And what would be better than puppets? A place for them to frolic, of course!

With a bit of imagination, anything can be used to create a puppet and a playground.  What can you make with a cardboard box? An index card? A popsicle stick? An old sock? The possibilities are endless, much like The Pop Ups’ creativity.

And look at this: These guys create their own puppets for the live shows! Who better to get some tips from? Here are some photos of Jason with a couple of the bug puppets they’ve created for their live show – and even these photos are making their World Premiere!:

photo 3

Photo courtesy The Pop Ups / Beth Blenz-Clucas

photo 1

Photo courtesy The Pop Ups / Beth Blenz-Clucas

Okay, it’s clear I dig these guys, so let’s cut to the chase.

Without further adieu….I present the WORLD PREMIERE of “Puppet Playground” by The Pop Ups!

To share this song on Facebook, Twitter or your blog,simply click the ‘share’ icon at the top right of the player!

 

Be sure to check out their newly spiffy website at  www.thepopups.com and follow them on Twitter: @thepopups

 

Guest Post: How To Stay Mindful and Raise A Mindful Kid

Mindfulness. It’s something I aspire to, and yet I find myself feeling un-present almost constantly these days. Perhaps it’s the summer and the loss of a regular schedule, but I feel a bit untethered. I find it hard to carve out time to make it to a yoga class. I’ve abandoned my meditation practice in exchange for sleeping in. And my kids are even more squirmy than I remember them being during the school year.

Seriously, we could all use to be more present and enjoy the moment we’re in. This moment. And now this one. And this one. And so on, and so on.

But considering I’m having a hard time ensuring that we’re all getting showers every day, getting my kids to sit with me and meditate on a daily basis seems impossible.

Which is why this guest post comes at a perfect time! Allow me to introduce you Mansi, a yogi who offers some easy tips for helping you stay present as a parent, and techniques for raising a mindful child (without them even knowing you’re doing it!).

Mindful Guest Post

Have you ever wondered about the difference between these two words – ‘respond’ and ‘react’?

I did.

And surprisingly, I did it when I was yelling at my young niece for spilling milk at a time when I was running late for my office. I looked at her terrified face which quickly filled with an innocent giggle as she tried to wipe the milk off the table using a napkin.

I realized, the difference between ‘respond’ and ‘react’ is not of ‘speech’ and ‘action’, but of the number of breaths. The difference is of mindfulness.

Since I just introduced you this confusing word, let me also tell you that mindfulness is nothing but a fancy word for ‘the act of paying attention to the present’. It is by far, the easiest way to reap the benefits of meditative practice.

Exhausting, frustrating, exhilarating, rewarding, satisfying – these are some of the words which people use to describe parenting. No matter how many books you read or classes you take, you’ll never find yourself fully prepared for the parenting challenge. You feel pulled and pushed in every direction.

So, taking time out to breathe, staying calm and being mindful, can be another overload. But like they say – it pays to be mindful.

Being A Mindful Parent

Mindful parenting is all about taking a pause and breathing. A pause to let you know what your kid is feeling and then to ‘respond’ to his needs rather than ‘reacting’ to his behavior. So, the technique for the parents is – Stop, Pause, and Play.

Robert Fulghum once said, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Science tells us that a kid develops and learns to comprehend emotions during his initial five years of life. The reasoning and judging center, on the other hand, develops between the age of  3-6 years. What we do as a parent then, and how we react can leave a lasting impression on the kid.

Also, teaching a kid mindfulness at that age will make him inherently grow into a cheerful, calm and creative adult. Now, we do know what a “battle” it is to make them sit still, let alone convince them to meditate.

Hence, today I’m giving you ways to introduce mindfulness to your kids without even letting them know. It’s like the two of you having fun together. You become mindful, the kid becomes mindful, and you both connect at a deeper level. Could there be anything better than this?

Raising A Mindful Kid

1. The most commonly used technique is mindful breathing, but it does not interests most kids. So, the first step is to choose an activity that resonates with your kid.

2. If your kid is a picky eater, teaching mindfulness through food and savoring flavors might not be a great idea.

So, for a kid who responds better when stimulated visually, make use of things like a glitter jar or a snow globe. Shake it up and watch them fall to the bottom.

3. Whistle blowing and listening to its echo is another good idea.

4. Older kids can easily learn breathing techniques but younger kids will need something to focus their breath on. This is what you can do – Take a stuffed toy and place it on their tummy as they lie down on the bed before going to sleep. Ask them to breathe in such a way that the teddy feels cradled up and down.

5. I once read about this flower-bubble method which I often use with my niece.

We keep a flower in one hand and a bubble blower in another. Then, we take a deep breath to smell the flower, make a smiley or funky face at each other while holding our breaths, and blow the air out into a bubble. This activity worked wonders for our bonding and we now talk about so many different things.

You must understand that you can’t give your children what you don’t have. So, begin with yourself. Don’t worry about dedicating a special space to this in your schedule. Next time, you feel like reacting, just Stop…Pause…Play…and respond.

mansiAuthor Bio:

Hi! I’m Mansi, a Yoga devotee at home and an Editor at Workout Trends Magazine. Dabbling with health and fitness news is my work while playing around with poses and poetry my passion. Reach out to me at @iam_mansi or add me to your Google circles and stay in touch.

 

 

Our Fairy Garden Obsession

It all started in Frankenmuth.

No, I’m not talking about the extra five pounds I packed on while snarfing down delicious salt-water taffy. I’m talking about my daughter’s fairy garden obsession.

Fairy Garden Obsession

In Frankenmuth, Michigan, right underneath the clock tower, there lies the most adorable fairy garden I’ve ever seen. My daughter laid eyes on it an immediately became enchanted.

And how could one not? Lined throughout the perfectly manicured flower bed is a village of fairy houses, miniature furniture, minuscule playgrounds and habits fit for the wee.

Just a glimpse of the fairy village in Frankenmuth

Just a glimpse of the fairy village in Frankenmuth

Ever since she gazed upon that fairy village, my daughter has wanted to create a fairy garden of her own. And since I’m a sucker for all things miniature, I joined in on her obsession.

My daughter found a spot perfect in our backyard for the fairies to live, tucked away under a bush by the corner of the house that is secluded enough to avoid being trampled on by deer, but still accessible for her to keep an eye out for mystical creatures.

I spent hours and hours on Pinterest and the Internet, scouring over pages of existing gardens to get some ideas for us to create our own fairy habitat.

Then, the task of actually acquiring all the fairy equipment began.

Sure, I could have bought a shit ton of crafting supplies and wielded our own cottage out of rocks, sticks, glue and fake moss, but let’s face it, I ain’t that crafty. I have yet to use a hot glue gun and not walk away with my fingers so blistered from burns that I can’t type for a week.

So, instead of hand crafting a house, we found a great little store near our home that sells all types of fairy cottages, along with every imaginable type of fairy furniture you could hope for.

And that’s when I discovered, to the detriment of my wallet and the ceiling of my crafting abilities, how addictive this hobby could be. It’s like Pringles. Once you start, you can’t stop.

First, we decided on an abode – a cute little farmhouse with windows. Windows that light up at night, for added effect, because we couldn’t resist the solar one. C’mon. It LIGHTS. UP.

Fairy cottage day

Our fairy cottage during the day

Fairy cottage night

Our fairy cottage at night

But then my daughter felt like we needed a welcome sign.

Then an outhouse.

Then a table.

And of course, chairs.

Then a bridge.

And a stream.

Then a tire swing.

Then a walkway.

Then a fence.

Then a more fancy fence.

While it would have been easy to blow my daughter’s college savings on a plethora of pixie paraphernalia, we decided on only a handful of items to get us started and bought the cheapest things in the store we could find.

The car had barely come to a halt in our garage from the garden center before my daughter was out and racing towards the backyard, ready to break ground. I have to say, I’m not sure who had more fun placing our fairy things in the garden, my daughter or me.

Fairy Garden Collage

When my son came home and my daughter dragged him to the backyard to look at our creation, I thought he would take one look at it, shrug, and, in his best 8 year-old boy way, mutter “Meh,” and walk away.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he came up with other ideas to make the fairy garden more inhabitable. The property needed a fire pit. And a flagpole. And a tire swing. And more walkways. And a driveway. And a tool shed.

So, we gathered some stones, some twine, a LEGO tire, and our imagination and literally went to town.  Fairy town.  Seeing my two kids spend hours scavenging for objects to enhance the fairy garden made the $30 bucks I shelled out at the garden center worth it.

The same day, a dead tree was pulled from our front yard, and mere minutes before the landscaping company hauled it away, the kids and I picked it clean like a Thanksgiving turkey, snapping a barrel full of dead twigs and branches to use for future projects.

Five days later, and the kids are still enchanted by our fairy garden. They’re proud of it and show it off to anyone who will give my children the time.  My daughter checks on it morning and night, making sure it’s still intact and thriving. And we brainstorm every day about what other projects we’d like to add to the garden. Next up? A mailbox.

Our fairy garden is still a work in progress, and the kids and I are having fun learning by trial and error.  If you’re interested in starting your own fairy garden, here are some things I found helpful.

First, the obvious. There are hoards of boards on Pinterest to follow. If you’d like to see my Pinterest board on Fairy Gardens, which I’m still adding to, you can find here: my Fairy Garden Pinterest Board Have a fairy board on Pinterest of your own? Go ahead and share the link with me in the comments and I’ll follow along!

And here are some gardens that got my creative juices flowing:

The Magic Onion

Flea Market Gardening

Creative Inspirations

The Fairy Garden

If you’re a MacGuyver or DIY’er and want to make your own fairy houses and accessories, here are a couple of pages to visit:

Use Twigs to Make Rustic Furniture for Fairy Gardens

Twig Chair Tutorial

Miniature Accessories

Household Items For Fairy Gardens

Make a Fairy Garden

But if you’re like me and you want to just straight up by your fairy stuff, I’d recommend either visiting your local garden center (the Mom and Pop stores are a better bet than the Big Box stores), Etsy sites, or heading online. Here are a few places to start:

Miniature Gardens

eFairies

Fly By Night Fairy Gardens 

Fairy Woodland

Do you have your own fairy garden you want to share? I’ve love to hear all about it! Also, you can enter your fairy garden in The Magic Onion’s Fairy Garden Contest until August 1st by clicking HERE.

 

2014Prizes