Making Partner

May 31, 2012

Not Paul (I wish!) but me! Some of you have noticed that I’ve been putting a lot more blogging energy into Cherry Blossoms lately instead of this beloved old blog. I am in no way putting this aside, but for reasons that aren’t mine to tell I’ve been working more over there.

The good news is that Kiley asked me to be a partner, so now I have more power and more responsibilities. I have continued to blog weekly about our Los Angeles-based field trips, promoted my friend’s businesses, and have a new children’s cd to giveaway every week for the next month or more. It’s a fun start. Now if only I could get a camera to review … mine’s about on it’s last leg which isn’t bad considering it’s older than Blue.



May 25, 2012

I don’t want to shop at a store that sells half of the foods I like, I want to shop at a store in which I only recognize half of the foods. Fortunately for me, today I went to the Korean market. All is right in the world.

Mornings at the Fitness Center

May 23, 2012
Mornings at the Fitness Center by Proud Mum
Mornings at the Fitness Center, a photo by Proud Mum on Flickr.

We are making good use of all the equipment available to us. When our neighbour friend doesn’t join us in the morning Blue is still perfectly content while I exercise. We have a good routine going and I have only missed one day of exercise since Red started school. What schedule will the summer bring? Time will tell, but I don’t expect my mornings to look like this.

Back on the Hunt

May 22, 2012

I feel so much better after yesterday’s freak out. Thanks to Dylan Thomas and Pete Seeger I was able to paint a flaming eulogy to my urban homesteading dreams. I am new to the suburbs and I have a lot of stereotypes to break but I think I am up to the task. I’m ready to continue looking for just the right little box made of ticky-tacky. (Thanks due also in part to Paul’s announcement that he’s coming around to the idea of transit.)

Do Not Go Quietly

May 21, 2012

If we could afford a condo in the nice area downtown, I think that would be my first choice. If Paul could telecommute my second choice would be a ranch outside of town. Since neither of those are viable options the suburbs are our only choice and this house hunt has really hammered it home to me that I am destined for suburban life. I had a freakout this weekend on the subject.

I will not go quietly into that suburban light. I will rage, rage against the dying of the night.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s urban sprawl. It makes my heart hurt and my mind scream when I fly over a megalopolis that consumes the land. As we drive around with our realtor I say, “Oh I like this, it’s across from a wheat field!” and she reminds me that in ten years it’ll be more construction. It’s wrong. If I buy a house in the outer suburbs I am contributing to the problem and going against all my ethics on the subject, and I have many.

I will not go quietly into that suburban light. I will rage, rage against the dying of the night.

If there’s one thing I hate even more than urban sprawl, it’s mindless consumerism. I do not see shopping as either a hobby or a leisure activity. I don’t see proximity to a mall to be a selling point. I don’t want to be surrounded by the same generic cookie-cutter chains that I can find in any other city in north America. I don’t want my children to grow up being fed a soul-sucking diet of entitlement. I don’t want to live in a competition of who can appear the most wealthy.

I will not go quietly into that suburban light. I will rage, rage against the dying of the night.

I don’t want to buy my house because of what the next owner will want, I’m not shopping for her I’m shopping for me. Besides, I can’t predict the future. Chances are good that wherever we buy won’t be so desirable in thirty years anyway, as the New-Seekers will have moved even further out of the city and whatever is nice now will be sad and forgotten, relegated to the lower tiers of society from whom the middle class is constantly fleeing. If I buy in the suburbs am I one of them? Am I contributing to the problem? Am I a New-Seeker or am I taking advantage of recent developments in efficiency? I can hardly consider myself to be progressive in thought if I shun the evolution of ideas.

I will not go quietly into that suburban light. I will rage, rage against the dying of the night.

I will, however, still do the best I can to find a neighbourhood where my children can thrive, my husband won’t spend too much time and money on the commute, and I won’t feel suffocated in sameness. If the yard is big enough I can grow some of our food. I can teach piano in the study. If we’re close to the freeway we’re not too far from the museums. The suburbs will not break my spirit, nor will they force me to conform. I can still choose to spend my money on experiences rather than things and I am not afraid of being different. My children can find friends like the ones we left behind: supportive, creative, and being raised by model examples of sanity in our modern world.

I told my Dad on Saturday night how I was feeling. He immediately knew what I was saying and suggested I look up Pete Seeger’s Little Boxes. Yep. My Dad totally gets me. And how did I not hear that song before?

Kids Music Matters

May 14, 2012

(Cross-posted from my post on Cherry Blossoms.)

My earliest music memories are two: I remember singing into a tape recorder “Away in a Manger” presumably to a grandparent somewhere, and I remember my “Baby Beluga” record.  I was very young, but not too young to sing about baby Jesus and what happens way down yonder where the dolphins play.  While I’ve got some mixed emotions about how much of my early music years revolved primarily around Raffi, I’ve come to realize that my mother was doing a good thing and my adolescent self is just going to have to step off.

That’s not to say, however, that I’ve got Raffi playing around the clock for my own kids.  In fact, I don’t think my children have heard a single measure of his repetoire.  I have, however, decided to buck the trend of many of my friends and not shun children’s music altogether.  A couple of decades ago we scorned the music we felt our parents had so rudely forced upon us, and many of us in the music circles proclaimed children’s music as a base thing, hardly worthy to be called music.  They now raise their children exclusively with the music they like, or nothing at all.

It’s important to expose your children to a wide variety of music and allow them the freedom to replay it in their minds and move them in unspoken ways.  It’s a great way to start them on the path of thinking for themselves and developping their own tastes and styles.  We, or the people we chose to influence us, have already made that decision but it would be nothing short of theft to rob our children the opportunity to do so for themselves.  They cannot choose, however, if not given the options.

Sure, it’s still possible to play a variety of genres for your children without ever listening to “children’s” music, and your children will still be able to discern for themselves what they like, and you can still pat yourself on the back for that little parenting milestone.  So long as there aren’t explicit lyrics in the music you’ve done nothing wrong for your child.  Nevertheless, where music written with children in mind comes in, you take the child’s listening experience to a whole new level.

The thing we forget as parents is that it isn’t about us.  It’s about the children.  Perhaps you don’t care to listen to two and a half minutes about the colours in the crayon box, but for your four year old, that’s her milieu.  She could listen to that song all day.  The reason kids need to listen to music written for kids is because the lyrics are relatable to them.  They’ll surprise you with it, too, because children really listen to the words in the songs.  Even if you don’t.  Especially if you don’t.

It’s quite possible for you to find music written for children in a genre that doesn’t make your ears bleed.  There is quite a renaissance going on right now of talented musicians using their skills for a younger audience.  In this modern age you can often hear samples of their music on their websites before you even have to plunk down some dollars.  If you live in a city that sponsors children’s music concerts you can get a good sampling of music there (in the LA area I recommend the kids club at the Americana or the Grove, it’s where I’ve found many of my new favourites.)  Also, pay attention to the reviews and giveaways on the Cherry Blossoms blog, we’ve had a couple of children’s cds up for grabs already (including Music with Sara’s “Mas Canciones en Espanol,” The Pop Ups “Radio Jungle,” and Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band “A Potluck,” the latter of which is an active giveaway for a couple more days!) and have several more coming out over the next few weeks.

Do play music for your children other than children’s music.  My boys have a healthy diet that includes Beethoven, the Beatles, Led Zepplin, and Arcade Fire in addition to their own playlist.  We know a pair of boys who happen to really love Mastadon.  Children are not too young to have opinions.  Make sure you also give them a chance, in addition to listening to music written for you, to listen to music written for them.  When you hear them incorporate lyrics to songs into their play, you know you’ve found a keeper for the playlist.  As for our household, we’ve got a children’s music playlist of 239 songs and counting.

Loose Ends

May 11, 2012

Mums don’t get sick days, so when everyone else was sick the week we were moving I held strong. I didn’t get sick during the move, I didn’t get sick while we were settling in. Now that we are settled and Paul’s parents have come and gone, now it hits me. It’s the same thing Paul had in California: mild cold symptoms with unbelievable fatigue. Blue is certainly unhappy that I have substituted myself for the television for three days. (I guess I am happy to know I am not so easily replaced.)

So to make the misery complete I finally called the school district to give up Blue’s spot at our beloved school in California. I’m still crying over that call. I didn’t expect to be so emotional a month after the move, but here I am.

There are a lot of good things about living here, but I will never get over my love for that school. Fortunately I have the capacity to love more than one school — just as soon as I find a new school worthy of my affections.