Saturday, October 28, 2006

I Wrote to Oprah

But she didn't write back. (Yet, that is.)

Okay, so this one time I was clicking around (you go there too--you know you do), and I saw some question about working moms and I got on some toot to respond, and I wrote this response:

I think the roughest challenge facing Moms is deciding how much to work—not whether to stay home or whether to work but how much of our lives to give to the things that are not our family. I’m not talking about the need for cash here. I’m talking about our life work—whatever it is that we were put here to do.

As I see it, our culture seems to offer two choices (and they’re both capitalized everywhere you look): Working Mother or Stay-at-Home Mom. We have babies and then we’re supposed to check the box: which will it be?

Why is no one talking about the mother who works a little, stays home a little, drives a little--well, probably drives a lot--reads a little to her kids, reads a little for herself, hangs with her husband a little, with her friends a little, gives away her time a little . . . .

We seem to have bought the paradigm the working world offers: employee or non-employee. I want to be more than the employee of my life.

I feel strongly about this because it’s been incredibly difficult for me. It’s taken me a handful of years to see that it’s okay not to pick which mom camp I’m in. I need to make some money. I need to be with my boys. I need to do the creative work that I do. I need to do the volunteer work that I do. I need to be awake in my relationship with my husband. And I’m working hard right now to sculpt a life that is packed with pieces of all of these things. I’m not crossing things off my list; I’m portioning them.

Are we telling each other as women that this is a legit means of tackling life—or are we just standing in two camps, busy misunderstanding those women on the other side of the line?

About me: I teach at the local university; I write music and sing for kids; I spend time with my husband, with my friends, with my kids; I volunteer; I thrift shop. I don’t do any of these things full time.

Friday, October 27, 2006

(Updated) Why I don't read to my children

Okay, I lied: I do read to my children. I have found it really excruciating for a few years, though. I noticed that I made up excuses to pawn off bedtime reading to my husband. Then I read Mem Fox’s Reading Magic and I realized that I didn’t read aloud much to my boys because the books on their shelves BUGGED ME.

They had stacks of books with kind of ugly machine-generated pictures and even uglier, machine-generated prose. So one day I snuck into their room and culled out the books that made me feel crabby when I looked at them. It was an amazing shift.

I love to read a book that’s worth reading. Here’s my (growing) list of books that make you want to read them—books with beautiful pictures that make you want to know what’s happening next; books with lyric prose (not sing-songy rhyme—the real stuff, the stuff poetry is made of); books with stories that end in a real way and don’t try to sneak up on a kid and try to talk them into believing something that doesn’t quite fly. Real books.

Henny Penny by Jane Wattenberg [This book is so full of words that want to go together that it's like having all kinds of good food in your mouth when you read it.]

The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown & Felicia Bond [This author of Good Night Moon is so good at rhyme that doesn't turn into lymric. A really beautiful, soothing book.]

Arnie the Doughnut by Laurie Keller [Laurie Keller is a kid book writing genuis.]

The Leaf Men by William Joyce [A terrific fairy story with nifty watercolor and ink illustrations.]

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammel [This is one of those books you want to be in when you read it.]

Heckedy Peg by Audrey & Don Wood [The duo of Woods always make books with terrific pictures. The story here a little scary ("Heckedy Peg had one leg . . ."), but ultimately about a mom who is clever enough to outsmart a crabby witch lady and bring her big brood of kids home.

I say hold out for books that are beautiful. But that’s just my 42 cents.

**Hey--and here's a nifty list (that I will add links to later) from my friend Sunshine:

Books the Frawley Family Recommends You Check Out!

Owen - Kevin Henkes
Ira Sleeps Over - Bernard Waber
Jamberry - Bruce Degen
Slugs - Victoria Chess
Max the Minnow - William Bonaface
Curious George books - Margaret & H.A. Rey
Frog and Toad books - Arnold Lobel
Chickens Aren't the Only Ones - Ruth Heller (All books by her!)
I Like Me - Nancy Carlson
Pierre / Chicken Soup with Rice - Maurice Sendak
Clifford books - Norman Bridwell
Little Critter books - Mercer Mayer
The Monster at the End of This Book - Jon Stone (Sesame Street book)
The Berenstain Bears books - Stan and Jan Berenstain
Fortunately - Remy Charlip
Everyone Poops - Taro Gomi
Widget - Lyn Rossiter McFarland
Art Dog - Thacher Hurd
It Could Always Be Worse - Margot Zemach
Peabody - Rosemary Wells
Tikki Tikki Tembo - Arlene Mosel
Bob the Snowman - Sylvia Loretan
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day - Judith Viorst
Sippyjon Jones - Judy Schachner
Olivia books - Ian Falconer
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear - Don and Audrey Wood (All books by them!)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle (All books by him!)
Knuffle Bunny - Mo Williems
The Paper Bag Princess - Robert Munsch (All books by him!)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Montezuma's Diary

Uh. I feel like I should say something here about the whole "WHO'S ALLOWED TO HAVE A BLOG" life-question. Turns out, it's "ANYBODY." I find blogging a thoroughly satisfying hobby--just below thrift shopping and above leaving weird answering machine greetings on my cell phone. It's that feeling that some of us love that there's a microphone turned on somewhere that we can walk up to at any time.

I told my friend Johnna (whose name has not been changed because she's not innocent in this case) that she should have a blog. She claims not to be interesting enough. I find that untrue and still think she should have one.

My future plans for posting: "I think my cleaning lady broke up with me."; "My son named his teddy bear Thelma"; "Places I like to click when I should be balancing my check book" (oh wait--look to the right--I did that one as a sidebar! (There! Diaaaaaaagonally! . . .Very sneaky, Sis.)

And my friend Amy says I need to write more pretend interviews! This is a very good idea which I give her full credit for. She is smart and has a big fat PhD. We teach together in one of my lives here.

That's all I have today. Except, of course, for the tiny little detail that the CD got two life-changing reviews. And I spent most of the afternoon hyperventilating with joy. I told my best friend Ann that I plan to be insufferable all day. It will probably be true, too.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Will Turned Six!

Big news over here at the BTP Records Office (and tv room): The big kid has turned six. (The crowd should cheer here.) We pulled out all the stops with a pirate-batman-scooby-doo birthday party (theme, shmeme) and had a hoot of a time. See below for the incriminating picture of sweet Pete as PIRATE PETE (sadly, he refused to read the piratey script I'd written for him. Also, he discovered, somehow, that wearing boots without socks is very pirate-like. Obviously, he's right.)

Because of said piratey appearance, please notice the super happy birthday guy look on the six year old's face:

Shopping for piratey paper plates that everyone will forget to use: $3.22
Cleaning the house instead of lying on the couch: 3 hours 22 minutes of standing up
Seeing your son have a good time at his party: priceless.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Small Rockers Rock On

According to a very reliable source, these children are, in fact, rocking out to Macaroni Boy Eats at Chez Shooby Doo. Derek and Stella and their cousins were born to rock--no, really, they were. Mom and Dad are the happy, Morro-Bay-loving owners of Central Coast Music (our favorite music store.) We like their style and know that someday they will have a band. No, really, they will have a band.

Do you have a pic of your kiddos singing along, rocking along, yelling along to Macaroni Boy? (Even a picture of them with the CD cover on their head counts as fun to look at and worthy of their ginger-blog-fame. **See below for the important distinction between "fame" and "ginger-blog-fame.")

Monday, October 16, 2006

You Don't Have to Be Able to Use the Potty to Love Macaroni Boy Eats at Chez Shooby Doo

According to reliable sources, toilet training is not a pre-req to macaroni love. Exhibit A: Josiah.

If you want your kid to be famous on my blog, send me a pic here. (And when I say "famous," I mean of course, "ginger-blog-famous," which is its own kind of famous.)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Macaroni Boy Hits the Radio

It's a true story: check it out! Macaroni Boy Eats at Chez Shooby Doo is currently on the playlist of a kids' radio show in Massachusetts. Bill Childs and his totally cute radio daughter (okay, it's actually his real daughter too--she's the one who drew the nifty picture of her dad's sound board . . .) host a two-hour kid show on Saturday mornings in Northampton, Mass. Here's the proof: "Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child." We're excited over here at the Buster T. Pumpkinhead Records office (and tv room). We'll post future good news.

Hey: even better, here's the archived podcast (now you don't have to wake up at 5 am pacific time . . .last weekend): um, right here.

Just when it couldn't get better, we hit TWO WEEKS on the SPARE THE ROCK, SPOIL THE CHILD playlist. Check out this weekend's show. (Bill Childs puts together a really fun combo of music for the fam.)

P.S. This isn't actually, the VERY first time we've been on the radio. The local public radio station interviewed Ginger this summer and played a couple of songs. Click here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why am I here?

The thing is, I'm a born blogger. And I've had this tiny little website just busting with its too-big font, and I have, well, more to say. Plus, I just met (well, read) all these nice people from Massachusettes, and they all blog. So I want to. I'm pulling all my bloggish content over from my site.

Finding Good Kids Music

Looking for music ideas for your kids? I’ve been of the I’m-sorry-I-just-can’t-hear-little-kids-sing-in-a-chorus school for some time now. Some kids singing: very cute. A whole passle with a bad synthesizer in the background: please no.

I’m not talking here about how to choose music that ensures your kid will be good at math. I’m talking about surviving the car ride of your current life with your children in the background saying, "I want my favorite song again.” (Which, at our house, is—for some reason—Natalie Merchant singing “Hey Jack Kerouac.” I don't know either.)

I’m talking about finding music that will create spontaneous family sing-alongs. This can be any music, but some music seems better suited than other music. (Who wants to sing Christina Aguilera with their kidlets? "I'm a genie in a bottle baby" . . . um. never mind.)

Here’s a list of music that’s made for sing-alongs and dance-alongs at our house:


Dan Zanes (the grand Pooh-Bah of the family music movement)

Or take a look at the kids/family music page. Lots of good independent artists here--and they all have sound clips so you can listen around.

WHATEVER MUSIC YOU LIKE (unless it’s KISS—or mini-KISS for that matter.) At our house, that’s big band, old country and (lately) Cuban:

Louis Armstrong My son: “Is this the cookie monster?”

Omara Portuondo Great for dancing in the living room.

All the Putamayo mixes are great: we love the Cuba. You can’t listen to this music and remain grumpy. It sweeps it all away.


Sometimes to pull the energy down (and I mean by that: get them to stop hitting each other over and over again), we declare the mood shift with soothing music like these mixes:
Latin Lullaby and Brazillian Lullaby. A mix of artists—all beautiful.

We like opera music too. The Three Tenors are a good place to start for this kind of music.

Any kind of classical music that settles you will also settle them. I’m a big fan of those cheap mixes you can buy anywhere. It doesn’t have to say “Mozart for Babies” to be right for babies . . . but sometimes those are the ones you get for gifts, so go ahead and listen to them. They still count as real classical music (even if there’s a picture of a baby with a wand on the front.)

Final Note: remember, I’m not at all qualified to make recommendations of any kind: I’m not a doctor. I have a Maaaaaaaaaaaaster’s Degree . . . in English.