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Tuesday
Jul032012

5 Children's Music Albums That You Should Blast on the Stereo

Nothing says summer like tunes blasting from a rolled down car window or from speakers on the beach. Here's a post I wrote sharing some of my favorite children's music and encouraging everyone to take another look at what was long considered the lamest of musical genres. My favorites haven't really changed, except I would absolutely add Dan Zanes now...as you can probably tell from his constant presence in my video montages! 

Several years ago, before Griffin was a twinkle in my eye, I stumbled across an interview with Stefan Shepherd on NPR. Shepherd writes Zooglobble, a blog dedicated to reviewing and sharing the newest children's music. When asked by the host why kids couldn't just listen to The Beatles or Rihanna or whatever their parents were listening to, Shepherd explained he thought it was important that his daughter listen to music that explored subjects and issues she understood. He didn't want her only listening to songs about romantic love (the primary subject of most pop music) or other adult subjects any more than he wanted her only reading Jane Austen or Michael Chabon.

I remember being so struck by what he said that I noted his favorite artists in my super-secret-when-I-have-a-baby file and vowed to make children's music a part of my children's life.

Of course, when I say I listen to children's music with Griffin, I get a lot of eye rolling and sighs from my fellow parents. Somehow children's music has the reputation for being the worst (and least hip) part of being a parent. (Personally, I blame Raffi.) Why don't we all just put on our mom jeans, pile in the minivan, and sing "I Love You, You Love Me" all the way to Chuck E. Cheese?

The irony is the actual music has gotten hipper as its reputation has taken a dive. Several prominent bands from the 1990s, such as They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies, have reinvented themselves (and children's music itself) with some of the most inventive and infectious tunes out there. Plus, there are some seriously dedicated artists recording fresh, original songs, instead of torturing us all with one more version of "The Wheels on the Bus." If I'm being honest, this music is so good some of these CDs continue to play long after I've dropped Griffin off at day care.

But don't just take my word for it. I've picked my top five favorite artists for you to listen to and decide for yourself. Hopefully, you'll give children's music another chance. After all, do any of us really want to catch our 6-year-old bopping along to "All the Single Ladies"?

1. Justin Roberts. My absolute favorite. Roberts' songs are funny, insightful, and fresh. I dare you to listen to "Stay-At-Home Dad" without giggling or "Giant-Size Butterflies" without crying. I love all his songs but "Pop Fly" is my favorite. It does what Roberts does best - captures the joy and charm of being a kid in a way both parents and kids can enjoy.


2. Elizabeth Mitchell. I love Mitchell because she is everything children's music isn't supposed to be. Calm. Soothing. Beautiful. Smithsonian Folkways is offering a free download from her newest album.


3. They Might Be Giants. Just think of TMBG as The Beatles of children's music. If there is a group responsible for the reinvention of this genre, it's them. All of their albums are great, but Here Comes Science is amazing. Let's put it this way. If I win a trivia contest by explaining the difference between speed and velocity, it will not be thanks to my public school education. It will be thanks to They Might Be Giants. Their free weekly podcast is an excellent way to get introduced to their music.


4. Barenaked Ladies. If I had a million dollars, I would buy you all the Barenaked Ladies album Snacktime. (Ha! Like what I did there!?!) I don't know what they do better - clever lyrics or lovely melodies - luckily I don't have to chose. Plus, Gordon Lightfoot makes an appearance. How can you argue with that OR a free download?



5. Renee & Jeremy. Similar in sound to Elizabeth Mitchell, this duo's sweet songs are easy on the ears. A lot of their songs also teach important lessons about sharing and why you can't do everything you want right now. Added bonus: They are also giving away two free downloads on their website!


~ Sarah Stewart Holland

Monday
Jul022012

I Don't Love You, Mommy

“I don’t love Mommy.” I never thought I’d hear those words for another ten years, when a teenager’s right of passage demands that he feels this way at least once in his life. But coming from my two year old—I’m not gonna lie—it stung. This surprised me. His words. And my reaction. 

Prior to becoming a mom, I wouldn’t have called myself an emotional person. And I certainly didn’t take things too personally, especially when the words tumble out of an unknowing toddler’s mouth. Then I got pregnant (damn, hormones), and that all changed.

Toddlers will be toddlers.

Now, even though I’m certain my son is testing limits, learning to control his emotions, and perhaps distancing himself from me as he increasingly gains independence, his words are like sticks and stones. They hurt my feelings. 

“Go away, Mommy!”

“No hug, Mommy!”

“Have a great day at school. I can’t wait to see you later today.” His response? Silence.

My heart fell to my stomach x 4.

No matter how developmentally appropriate this behavior is (if it’s not, please don’t burst my bubble), it sucks because there’s that pang of worry and self-doubt that my child may actually feel this way about me. It sucks because now I know how terrible I must have made my mother feel when I slung the words “I hate you” around so freely, even if it was in the context of an adolescent meltdown. Shame on me. I’m so sorry. It sucks because I realize what this means. The sweet baby train has left the station. He’s become a boy. 

This transition—er, rejection—is harder than I thought.

Aside from knowing this is an aspect of being a toddler and not overreacting to it, how do you respond to your children’s hurtful comments when they’re directed at you? 

~ The Other Sarah

Friday
Jun292012

Sarah's Favorite Things

I know it's a million degrees outside and a hot drink seems crazy. HOWEVER, this combines my actual favorite drink with my imaginary favorite drink. Amazing.

A lovely tribute.

My friend Veronica lays down some serious truths while putting the SMACK. DOWN.

Y'all, I struggle with this so bad. 

I was a huge Gone With The Wind fan as a child. I laughed my butt off at these

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

Friday
Jun292012

The Everyday

 

Thursday
Jun282012

Why Women Still Can't Have It All

 

Here we go again. Another day. Another controversial headline on parenting riling everybody up.

Well, almost.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece for The Atlantic is no puff piece aimed at selling magazines (although I’m sure it has). It is a six-page essay from the former Policy Director of the State Department on the impossibility of pursuing a demanding career and parenthood at the same time. I found it emotional but authoritative. I found it insightful and forward-thinking. More than that, I connected with it on a deeply personal level.

Remember I also left behind a career in D.C. - heck, I even wrote something with a similar title. Of course, let’s not fool ourselves. I am no Anne-Marie Slaughter. I am not a tenured professor at Princeton. I teach part-time at a community college. I was not a higher up at the State Department. I was merely a legislative correspondent - about as low as you go on Capitol Hill. 

However, I found myself nodding passionately while reading her piece and I left D.C. because I agree with her wholeheartedly. As a young female staffer, I saw the writing on the wall. Most of my bosses were men. One female boss was childless and the one who did have children eventually left to find a more flexible schedule. My friends in law firms fared little better working long hours and weekends. 

I couldn’t do it. I had read The Feminine Mistake. I knew the economic and professional risk I was taking by stepping out of the workforce and leaving D.C. behind but I didn’t see any another option. 

Of course, as she points out, this is only an issue for a select group of women. Most careers don’t require the type of 24/7 devotion of which Slaughter speaks. More importantly, for a huge number of women who work one (or more) hourly wage jobs it doesn’t really matter either way. Opting out is not even a choice. They work long and hard to feed their children. Period.

So, if what she is saying doesn’t apply to everyone, why does it matter at all? Because while I don’t believe in trickle down economics, I do believe in trickle down policy. If the people in power don’t include women and mothers, then the priorities and issues important to us will never be a part of the discussion. Of course, how do we get to the table if we’re forced to give up what we hold dear in order to pull up a chair? 

Hopefully, we start having these discussions elsewhere in our everyday lives. We have them loudly. We have them often. We keep having them until things start to change. I think Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece starts us down that road and I’m thankful...controversial headline aside. 

We’d love to start a discussion with all of you. What do you think? Is it possible to have it all?

~ Sarah Stewart Holland