Song of Middle C

song-of-middle-ctalltabIf you have ever performed in a talent show, concert, or recital, you know how much stress it can be.  And if it’s scary for adults, imagine how terribly frightening it must be for a child.  They take piano lessons, practice their little hearts out, and then do what few adults will agree to do – perform.
talltabThat’s the subject of Alison McGhee’s picture book, Song of Middle C, illustrated by Scott Menchin, and published by Candlewick Press.  It is about a little girl preparing for her first piano recital.  The poor kid works her heart out committing the music to memory, and prepares in every way she can imagine, including bowing in front of the mirror and wearing her lucky underwear!
talltabThen when she gets up to play, she freezes – the whole piece erased from her mind.  She sweats, she worries, and she nearly panics.
talltabPerhaps the story would have come to a rough ending if the girl didn’t have such a fantastic piano teacher, who taught her to not be concerned about length of time, to recognize the value of middle C, and to use her imagination.  With these tools, the little girl finds that the music itself can carry her through – even if the music she plays isn’t the music she planned!

talltabOne of the unique things about this book is that it goes into the more enjoyable parts of music.  Rather than simply following the typical pattern of ‘learn your sheet music and then play it right,’ Alison McGhee illustrates the value and power of improvisation, and how music itself can be the guide in deciding how to play and what to play.  This is a great lesson to learn – and the earlier a person can learn it the better, because when your memory fails you on stage, your emotions are still in tact (though seared slightly!), and can guide you to still make beautiful music.  Music is a thing of the heart, and Song of Middle C demonstrates that well.
talltabSong of Middle C is a fun read, and a must have for parents with young children in piano lessons.  It will help them prepare for their own recital, and teach them the power of music itself when guided by the imagination.

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talltabEven Lunch Bucket, who is only three years old, loves the book, and insisted after our first reading of it that she needs her own pair of lucky pannies!

Learn more about Song of Middle C at http://candlewick.com/cat.asp?browse=Title&mode=book&isbn=0763630136&pix=n

Nahmehah! (AKA Mahnah Mahnah)

Tab flatRemember the old Muppet show with the two pink… well, whatever they were – some kind of muppets with permanent ooooh mouths, and the shaggy little guy with sunglasses that sang, “Mahna Mahna” while wandering around the stage?  Well, Lunch Bucket has the shaggy dude’s part down pat… at least the mahnah mahna part, though I think she leaves out the first “ma” leaving a nahmenah instead.

Tab flatAnyway, here’s Baba and Lunch Bucket in their premiere debut of Jim Hensen’s classic, “Mahna Mahna.”

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Mahnah Mahnah

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Making Moments: Why Parents Come in Pairs

Took the munchkins shopping today.  All I can say is…
Good. Gravy.

Things started out all right.  But soon Lunch Bucket and Tootles were fighting over a curtain set that we were purchasing, and when I took it from them, it was complete pandemonium.

I’m sure there was some in the store that suspected that I was kidnapping the kicking, screaming, and thrashing little three year old, as I took them both out to the car and left Jenni to do the shopping.  Especially when the said three year old would not get in the car, and which I finally has to shove in the door and slam it before she escaped.

Tootles was only slightly more cooperative.  At least he calmed down once he was in his carseat.  Trying to buckle in the struggling Lunch Bucket was very challenging, but soon the three of us were sitting in the car amidst frantic tantrum gasps.

Jenni finished up the shopping and came out in time to see a calm but very pink and wet-faced Lunch Bucket.

We didn’t take her into any more stores after that.  I did feel bad for her throughout the ordeal, but I felt at least as bad for me.  Thinking back on it now, I feel even more bad for my poor parents.

The Clockmaker

While Jenni was pregnant with Lunch Bucket, I decided to write a collection of childrens stories to read to our kids.  This was one of the stories I wrote.  It’s a little long – but it was intended as a childrens book.  I just thought it would be fun to share here:

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The Clockmaker

Once upon a time there was a clockmaker. He could make large clocks, small clocks, blue clocks, green clocks, and just about any kind of clock you could think of. Whenever someone wanted a clock, they would come to the clockmaker’s shop, knock on the door, and say,

“Clockmaker, clockmaker! Where could you be?

I need a clock that is made just for me!”

And the clockmaker would come to the door and respond,

“I am the clockmaker, for heaven’s sake!

What kind of clock would you like me to make?”

Then the person would describe a special clock, such as one that chirped like a bird, or crowed like a rooster. Some would ask him to make a clock that grew out of the ground from a seed. Others would ask him to make a clock that sang, or danced, or laughed, and the clockmaker could always fulfill the request.

One day a man came to the clockmaker’s shop, pounded on the door, and said, Continue reading The Clockmaker

The Chronic Distraction

I was deeply impressed with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf‘s talk this evening in the priesthood session of the Church’s general conference about not getting distracted by less important things.  It got me thinking about how easily I get distracted from quality family time.

Why is that so stinkin’ easy to do?!  Why is it so easy to push my kids away so I can check my Facebook?  I tell myself it will only be for five minutes, but it never works out that way – and it has nothing to do with Facebook itself.  It’s me.  And if the distraction is not Facebook, it’s the piano, or email, or the garden, or even the dishes.  Sure, those are all good things – things that I should take advantage of.  But must I use the most quality family hours to do them?

I suppose everyone struggles with stuff like that.  That’s why I think it’s SO good to get these reminders once in a while.  Usually the things the church leaders encourage us to do are simply things that our conscience has been trying to get us to do for a long time.  The reminder simply brings it back to our immediate attention – oh, yeah, my family really IS more important to me than the computer.  Oh, yeah, my relationship with my Heavenly Father really IS more important to me than preparing a time-consuming meal.

Then I tell Heavenly Father about my mistake, and how I’ll do better, and I expect Him to say something like, “Duh, dude!  Hulllloooo!”  But instead He just smiles and gives me a hug.  If there’s anything that will solidify a re-dedication, it’s that.

He always does know what works best.  Always.

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Click cartoon to see it big

Making Moments: Mickey’s Ogre

Today with Lunch Bucket’s help, I brought Mickey and some of the other stuffed animals to life.  I helped Mickey, and Lunch Bucket helped Bree (my stuffed animal horse).
Mickey and Bree built a castle for Mickey, but then a humungous ogre came and crushed it.
So to defend themselves against the ogre, they put up a fort – which he was able to climb over.
So they got together as a team and attacked him full-on.  They were able to knock him over, but the ogre was resilient, and got back up and tromped through their fort and castle rubble.
mickeys-ogre1 But then Raggedy Anne (with Jenni’s help) came and explained to the group that their ogre was actually a cute little nice boy.  So they befriended Tootles, the “ogre.”  And played hide-and-seek with him until bedtime.

Mama! Can I help you cook?!

help-you-cook

Lunch Bucket LOVES to help us cook.  Mostly she just climbs up on the chair and pretends to stir while eating whatever is in the mixing bowl.  She’ll also eat whatever is on the counter – especially if it’s powdery.  She’ll tank down on flour if we let her.

Tootles has no interest in helping.  He just wants to watch – which would be fine, if he didn’t INSIST on watching from above.  In other words, he has to be held in order to be happy while we’re cooking – preferably the one who is most busy at it.  He will take ocassional diversion however, if he can manage to get a drawer open.  Especially if there are knives, bags, or some other dangerous item inside.

I’ve tried stuffing the drawers with toys and stuffed animals, but he just pulls them out, plops them on the floor, and digs deeper until he can find a real treasure – such as the butcher knife.