Saturday, December 8, 2012

Parenting Tip - No Spoonfeeding Allowed

When I teach piano lessons, the mother is always there listening and writing down what and how the child is to practice at home.   I teach young children so the mother is an integral part of the teaching and learning process.  She IS the teacher in the home setting.

But sometimes I'll notice that a student is having a hard time learning a new piece.  I sense that the child is waiting for me to tell him every note he is to play and is not internalizing the sequence on his own.  When I question how the practice session goes at home, I soon discover that the mother is telling the child every single note to play and so the child just sits, waiting to be spoon-fed and takes no responsibility to learn the notes himself.  When I help the mother realize what is happening, she changes her technique at home and the child quickly learns to play the song.

When a child internalizes the learning, whether it be piano or math,  the knowledge becomes his own and he can apply it and gradually learn more.

Do we spoon feed our children in every day life?  Are we constantly nagging them to get their homework done, do their chores, clean up their room, or quit fighting with their siblings?  How can we get them to "own" their responsibilities and internalize the learning so they can do what they are suppose to do?

Our words are our best help, I think.  Instead of constantly saying, "have you finished your homework yet?" perhaps we could talk with them beforehand about how much homework they have, how long they think it will take them to do it, and when and where is the best time for them to work on it.  Help them verbalize the steps needed to accomplish getting their work done, then provide them with the time and environment they need to do it and let them do it.  Check in on them periodically but let them tell you what their progress is and what they still need to do . 

Easy to say, but harder to do, I know, and not an overnight success rate! This takes consistent practicing on both you and your child's part.

Cleaning a bedroom can be an overwhelming project.  But I'm just learning the value of categorizing things, myself, and think it's a super way to break down a big project into small steps.  Help your child categorize what is in her room that needs to be done--like clothes picked up, toys put in bins, and bed made.  Let your child decide on the order of how she will get things done, and maybe even how long she thinks it will take her. Then let her do it, encouraging her or even helping her (depending on the age).

Giving your children the gift to learn things, internalize that learning and become responsible for their actions is a great thing for you to do, moms.  Also a HARD thing because it takes time and practice and sometimes doesn't work out too well.  But using natural consequences ("sorry--no board game tonight, your homework took too long") and lots of positive coaching ("wow, look at you sitting there doing your  math problems"), your children will soon be on their way.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Parenting Tip - Asking WHY?

Children go through stages.  One of the painful ones is the stage of asking "WHY?"  For months your child constantly asks, "why?" on every event, activity and issue you come across.  And it seems like their need to know never gets satisfied, because as soon as you answer the first "why", it is always followed by another "why".

But I think as parents, maybe WE should be asking ourselves, WHY?  Why am I doing what I'm doing, because it sure doesn't seem to be making a difference to my family.  Here are some things you might be struggling with and if you know the "why", it might give you encouragement to keep going.

Why am I a stay at home mother when we need more money and I can work while the kids are in school?
Why am I the one who has to set the mood for our family?
Why am I constantly having to teach my children to do their chores?
Why am I driving my kids to 5 different activities a week and getting stressed out?
Why do I have to fix dinner every day?

Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a sense of security and the knowledge that they are loved unconditionally.  When we think about these two gifts, we can see that a lot of the reasons why we do things is to give these gifts to our children.

Why do I stay home?  So I am there for my children when they are sick.  So I can catch teaching moments throughout the day to instill a truth into their hearts.  So I can give them a sense of security.  So I have time to prepare healthy meals and teaching moments.

Why am I the one who has to set the mood for our family?  Yeah, that seems totally unfair!  But it's a fact and hard things make you stronger.  You are the cornerstone of your family and have been entrusted with a great responsibility.

Why am I constantly having to teach my children to do their chores?  Because I am a teacher.  I teach children to be self sufficient and to be responsible so they can be mature adults.  It will take me a LONG time, but it is important for me to stick to it.

Why am I driving my kids to so many activities and stressing out?  Ummm, this is a hard one.  You might answer: so my children will have lots of opportunities to learn and grow.  But are they?  Or are you and they becoming stressed out?  Are you teaching, instead, that they are entitled to do everything that everyone else can do and teaching the lie, that "we can do it all".  The answer to this "why" may cause you to reconsider and change some things in your family.

Why do I have to fix dinner everyday?  So I can provide healthy food and teach my children to respect and care for their bodies.

Okay enough preaching and rambling.  I encourage you to look at WHAT you are doing and discover the WHY you are doing it.  It will help you to stick with it, or change it or tweak it or understand it.

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Parenting Tip- Families Work Together for the Good of the Family

I heard a great idea I wanted to pass on.  It helps your children understand the election process and the duties of President, Vice President and so forth.  Even though the elections are over (thank goodness--no more junk mail and phone calls) this is still an important concept to teach that is timeless.

This family had an election among the children for who was to be the president and vice president in the family.  The president and vice were able to make propositions, such as extending the bedtime or allowing cookies at dinner, but they could also be impeached--by the parents.

There are  many ways you could use this idea to suit your own family's needs.  Perhaps the parents could be the president and vice president, with children being senators and legislators.  Laws and propositions could be proposed, voted on, passed or even vetoed.

Another family who use to have a "working mom", that is a mom who worked outside the home, used the union and boss idea to teach their children leadership skills and work ethics.

At this time of year, perhaps you could have your family become Santa's workshop and the children could be the elves.  They would make gifts for siblings and parents and ensure that fun and good things to eat were ever prevalent. 

One family had elves keep track of whether their children were naughty or nice with the elf leaving  a piece of candy or a piece of coal each night in the children's shoes.  A recent book entitled, The Elf on the Shelf has a similar idea of an elf "spying" on children.  This may or may not appeal to you. It might depend on your children and if you feel they need extra encouragement to be good or not. 

I prefer having children focus on what THEY can do to help and encourage their siblings.  Maybe they can be elves who leave notes when they see their siblings helping each other out or being obedient to parents.

All the ideas above relate to the fact that families work together for the good of the family.  Keep that idea in mind as you go throughout the holidays.  As a family, you can help neighbors, grandparents, those in need, those who are less fortunate,  and even your own family members. 

That's what families do!

Thanks for reading,



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Parenting Tip - Teach Forgiveness

I've had a paradigm shift in my thinking about the topic of FORGIVENESS in family life.  It all stems from this article by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. 

I always thought of forgiveness as what you do when someone has wronged you or hurt you or done something bad to you.  Which it is, of course, but it's more. As a teenager, I would hold a grudge and give  my parents the "silent treatment" if they wouldn't let me go somewhere or do something I wanted to do.  My siblings  would get over being mad quickly, but I mistakenly thought that I had to be mad for a long time to show how unhappy I was about their decision.  I thought if I wasn't mad, then my parents  would think I didn't really mind their decision after all. So I would carry anger around for a long time.

But forgiveness is not being mad when you have the right to be.  It's not being hurt when someone has hurt you.  It's not seeking revenge when you have been wronged.

How does this apply to family life?  It can be applied and used multiple times a day!

Little sister takes big brother's toy.  Big brother has a right to be mad--he has been wronged and usually retaliates by hitting or crying.  But if big brother forgives his little sister, he shows love and understanding instead of revenge and justification.  He becomes a peacemaker.

 Big brother plays in the mud creating rivers and dams until little brother pours too much water over everything, ruining all the hard work. Big brother can hit and yell, or stop and try to understand what happened and forgive little brother.

Teenage daughter wants to go to a movie with her friends.  Her parents don't approve of the movie, even though her friends' parents--who are loving and cautious parents--do approve.  Teenage daughter can argue and fight or sulk and criticize.  But if teenage daughter forgives her parents for what she thinks as being "mean to her", she can look at their point of view, can realize they love her enough to protect her, and can let them know she disagrees with their decision, but respects them as her parents to willingly comply.  Her parents so appreciate teenage daughter's attitude, that they offer to let her friends come over for pizza and movies another week end.

Take a good look at your family and see the many areas you can teach and practice forgiveness. For example, your husband forgetting to run an important errand, your son not taking out the garbage, or a car suddenly cutting in front of you.  What about when you run out of peanut butter and your preschooler throws a fit, or your daughter's shirt is in the dirty clothes and she refuses to wear anything else.  Do children need to learn to forgive their parents?

When we practice forgiveness, we feel happier and peaceful.  We can forgive others, and still teach them.  We can forgive others, and then feel peaceful enough TO teach them.  Little sister is patiently taught to not take toys, discussion with teenage daughter is calm and respectful, husband and son are still loved even though natural consequences follow their forgetfulness.  You ask your child to forgive you for not having time to buy more peanut butter or do the laundry.

Putting a name to our feelings and actions is important.  Help your children learn when to forgive and label it as forgiveness.  Teach them the blessings that come from forgiveness such as peace and harmony and understanding for others.

It's important to teach about forgiveness BEFORE it is needed.  The preschooler crying for peanut butter might understand better if he's been taught about what to do in these situations previously.

And remember, it will take a long time to learn this principle--for ourselves, and our family. Especially that preschooler!

Thanks for reading,




Thursday, September 27, 2012

Parenting Tip - Be a Positive Ostinato

Last year I wrote a post about musical ostinati (Oct 22, 2011).  An ostinato is a repeated pattern.  Ostinati is the plural. An ostinato adds life and interest and rhythm to a piece of music.

At school my students play ostinati a lot on percussion or barred instruments to accompany folk songs and chants.  But they never remember what an ostinato is. Last year I finally figured out a way to teach them what an ostinato is by having them sing a silly song about it.  And it worked.  They all remember the definition, now, and sing it anytime I say the word ostinato.

It occurred to me that as parents we use ostinati a lot. We repeat ourselves over and over throughout the day:
"Hang up your clothes, hang up your clothes, hang up your clothes."
"Do your homework, Do your homework, Do your homework."
"Stop fighting,  Stop fighting, Stop fighting."

But what if we were a positive ostinato?
"Thanks for obeying so quickly, Thanks for obeying so quickly, Thanks for obeying so quickly."
"You did a nice job on that, You did a nice job on that, You did a nice job on that."
 "I love you, I love you, I love you."

Saying the same thing over and over again--being an ostinato--is a good thing.  If you're positive.  So go ahead and repeat yourself.  Repeat yourself.  Repeat yourself.  You're adding to the music in your home with an upbeat positive rhythm.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Parenting Tip - Don't Overlook the Flecks of Gold

I like the message in this story.  It made me think about other flecks of gold we sometimes overlook.  Like our children.  Are we so busy living and looking to the future, that we don't notice the gold right in our own home.

Here are some other flecks of gold we might overlook:
Flecks of gold of happiness at the cute thing your 3 year old son just said.
Flecks of gold of gratitude for having enough food to eat and a home to live in.
Flecks of gold of patriotism for living in a democratic country.

The flecks of gold gradually added up to great wealth, one small fleck at a time.  What other things add up by small measures?
Teaching our children day after day to do their chores.
Teaching our children day after day to do their homework.
Helping our children day after day practice a musical instrument.
Eating healthy food day after day.
Exercising or walking a little bit more day after day.

Flecks of gold.
Small deeds.
Patience to wait for the wealth.
 Enjoying the day to day collecting.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Parenting Tip - September is International Literacy Month

September is International Literacy month!  What a great reminder about the importance of reading.


With school in full swing, children are studying and learning and reading.  But don't forget about reading as a family.  You can give your children fond memories and the gift of knowledge and success just by reading aloud.

This site has a list of 100 best books for children listed by age groups.

Jim Trelease, the advocate for reading aloud to children, has a great website with lots of information for parents.

This site offers a list of all the Newberry Award Books from 1922 to present.

Here is a list of all the Caldecott Winners 1938 to present.

The International Children's Digital Library is a digital library of outstanding children's books from around the world.

 May your children be able to say....."richer than I you can never be --I had a Mother who read to me.

Thanks for "reading"!



Sunday, September 9, 2012

Parenting Tip - When your Child is Bored

My son told me about my granddaughter's first week of kindergarten.  When asked how she liked it, she told her Dad it was boring.  But later in the evening, she and her brother were talking about school and talking about the rodeo clown who had come to the school assembly.  Then my grandson mentioned that Maya, his kindergarten sister, had been chosen to go up on the stage to help the clown.  My son asked Maya, "I thought you said school was boring?"  She replied, "Well, not that part."

Kids! They're funny sometimes.

Now I want you to understand that my grandchildren are PERFECT, but in other children, I see a rising trend where children seem to think they have to be entertained constantly.  If they're not watching TV, then they're playing a video or computer game or going to soccer practice or dance or gymnastics.

My sister, who taught school for 40 years, always told her students if they complained of being bored, "only uncreative, uninteresting people are bored."

So what do we, as parents do, if our children complain of being bored at school or at home?  Teach them it's their responsibility to do something about their boredom.  Teach them that they should not rely on someone else to entertain them, but that they now have an opportunity to find something to learn or to invent or to do.

It's been said that necessity is the mother of invention.  One summer our family went on a day trip to visit my husband's aunt and uncle at their cabin. In the afternoon all the adults took a nap except for me.  I was completely bored and didn't know how to fill the next few hours.  Suddenly I decided to get the camera and take pictures of my children and their cousin illustrating the ABC's in nature.  For the next 2 hours we were engrossed in finding things that started with the letters of the alphabet and then posing for a picture (like laying in the hammock for the letter H, etc).  It was so fun.

Later, I took all the alphabet photos and made an illustrated alphabet book.  Throughout the years, my children and I have enjoyed looking at the book.  And each time, I am reminded that it was a blessing I was bored, or the book would never have been made.

Don't feel guilty if your child is bored.  Give him strategies to help him cope if he is bored at school such as writing a poem about what he learning, creating math picture problems, writing a story, or simply drawing and coloring a picture.  Don't think you have to provide constant entertainment or activity at home.  Jot some ideas down on pieces of paper, put them in a jar and let your child choose one of the slips of paper.  Be prepared and collect art supplies or other creative open ended activities to have your child engage in.

Or you can always do what I would do.  Give your child a chore to do if he complained of being bored.  That would certainly get the wheels turning in the brain.

Or you could say to your child what my husband would sometimes say, "go sit on your thumb and let your feet hang over." 

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, September 2, 2012

Parenting Tip - Think Backwards

Arrgghhh, are you always running late to everything and seem to be saying, "HURRY UP!" way to often?   You've read the tips, the ideas, but nothing seems to work for you, right?  That just seems to be the way of life when you have kids.

But does it have to be that way?  NO--- anyway it doesn't have to always be that way.

The best method for me to get anywhere on time is to COUNT BACKWARDS.  What time do I want to arrive at my destination?  Let's say I need to be somewhere at 8:00 am.  Next I decide how long it will take to drive there--15 minutes.  When I had kids to get out the door with me, I always forgot about the next step--how long will it actually take to collect belongings, and get into the car Sometimes that's the killer step we forget, because it seems like it takes 5-10 minutes to get from the bedroom/bathroom/kitchen to get shoes on, to books, etc to out the door and into the car.  Oh rats, then it takes several minutes to get kids buckled in the car too.  Be sure and add that time in your estimation. 

So it looks like I better leave 20 minutes early (15 min drive + 5 min packing up) to get somewhere at 8:00.  But then I forget about finding a parking place, or walking to where I'm going to.  I just figure if my car is pulling into the parking lot at 8:00 I'm on time. But everyone else is already inside and ready to begin.  Yikes, I better figure in another 5 minutes for that.

So if I have to be somewhere at 8:00, now I have to leave 25 minutes early (15 drive + 5 packing up + 5 parking)!  

Here's another way of THINKING BACKWARDS.  You picture yourself arriving someplace with your children, and you're calmly walking from the car to your destination.  You picture yourself calmly waiting at all the red lights you seemed to hit this morning.  You picture yourself changing the baby's unexpected diaper change with only a little bit of hurry and tension.  You picture yourself getting yourself and kids dressed and fixing hair in a somewhat unrushed manner.  You picture yourself the night before deciding what to fix for breakfast and what clothes to wear.  You also picture yourself mentally tallying up what needs to be done to be on time the next morning.

I like thinking backwards.  It helps me organize myself and helps me work toward goals.  It helps me be able to take time to "smell the roses".  It helps me feel calm.  It helps me simplify and enjoy life.

Here's a fun article written by a chronically late mom and how she finally changed her ways.

Here's an idea of where you can keep all the backpacks, etc that your children need as they head out the door to the car.

One last idea:  This time THINK FORWARD.  Think about your children and what you are teaching them.  Do you want grown up children who are smart, sincere, have integrity and self-assurance?  Do you want children that are aware of other people's needs and service oriented?  Then they have a mother who is organized, who has self control over her own self, and has taught her children well.

They have YOU!

Become that kind of mother and start teaching your children by teaching them how to be on time.  Be on time to events, on time with their homework, on time to their jobs.  A simple thing that will reap great rewards! 

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Music Tip - The Rhythm of Life

You've heard the phrase, "variety is the spice of life".  I think it should be changed to "rhythm is the spice of life" and I agree with Maya Angelou, an American Poet who said, "everything has rhythm, everything dances." 

Look at your children and their rhythm and dancing as they play, whine, read, eat and avoid their bedtime.  You probably haven't thought about them having rhythm and dancing during these times, but they do.  Think about a toddler who does the same repetitive activity like putting blocks in a container and dumping them out, over and over again.  Or the child who whines in a steady, nonstopable stream of complaining.

So I say, let's be proactive Moms.  Let's use this inherent rhythm our children have to our advantage.  Here are some examples of things you could do:

You're driving in the car with your children and they're tired and hungry.  Every intersection you come to has a red light.  You suddenly start chanting, "turn green, turn green, turn green" and immediately your children begin chanting with you.  When the light changes you all clap and say yeah!  Then as you approach an intersection with a green light showing you chant, "stay green, stay green, stay green."  Suddenly the atmosphere in your car is one of "funness" and your children are totally distracted from their hunger pains.

The bedtime fight is about to begin.  You start chanting and clapping, "bedtime, bedtime, pj-time, bedtime" as you help your child get into his pajamas.  Then you chant, "bedtime, bedtime, brush your teeth, bedtime", and again start brushing teeth.  Go through your whole bedtime routine, chanting, and doing the actions of getting ready for bed.  Then change your voice to whispering and slowly chant, "sleep time sleep time, close your eyes and sleep time."  Maybe you could continue whispering and stroking your child's face or body softly as you say, "I love you time, I love you time, kiss and hugs, I love you time."  

The house is cluttered with toys, you're fixing dinner, the baby is crying, the older kids are fighting instead of doing their homework and the noise is escalating. Suddenly you chant these words to the rhythm of "We Will Rock You": 

Who will,   who will,    help me? (clap, stomp, stomp, clap)
Who will,   who will,    help me? (clap, stomp, stomp, clap)

Then proceed to give directions in the same rhythm-ee way. 
Your children will probably look at you in disbelief, but the weirdness of  their mother acting like this will be so novel, they might just obey you.

So I say to all you Moms out there:
Try it,   try it,  try it! (clap, stomp, stomp, clap)
Try it,   try it,  try it! (clap, stomp, stomp, clap)

Thanks for reading,



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Music Tip - Multi-generational Music Class

For those of you who live in the Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler area, I will be starting my FREE music classes on Tues Aug 28. 

For the past 5 years I have been teaching a class for preschoolers and their moms at The Courtyard Towers.  This is a retirement apartment complex and the residents, whom we call the "grandmas and the grandpas" come to our class and join us in singing, playing instruments, dancing and having fun!
What a great way to mix youth with those a little older and see how each group benefits and bonds through the vehicle of music.

Classes are from 10:00 to 10:45 on Aug 28,  Sept 4,18,  Oct 2, 23, and Nov 6,20.
Please email me if you would like to come.  Space is limited. The Towers are located at 22 N. Robson in Mesa (across the street from the Mesa Youth Museum).

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Music Tip - Practice Ideas

I asked my piano moms for ideas they use to successfully get their children to practice during the summer.  Here's some of their responses:

My son says "knowing that I'll get (computer) game-time after I practice and that I won't get bothered about it the rest of the day and that I can play at friends' houses" is what motivates him.

My son seems to practice on his own without much encouragement, but that's probably because he loves it, and because we're in the routine of him doing it right after breakfast, and he knows that play time (or whatever he wants to do) comes AFTER piano practice is finished.

Currently we have a small box on the piano that holds our squeakies. They are small rubber figures. Each song they play well, they pick one and if they complain I get to pick one.  At the end of the lesson we have a squeakie war where we just play make believe war, but the toys don't leave the piano since they get lost if we do! Then after all my men have been killed/ no more than 5 mins. We put them back for the next day. Squeekies came in a 12 pack at Walmart and I will use my Micheals coupon to get them for a better deal. 

I do use TV in the summer since we don't watch it much during the school year, especially on school days.  If I really want to make it worth their while I promise to pop popcorn and we all watch an Andy Griffith together.  

The best thing for us is to pick a time each day and stick to that time.

The boys get 20 minutes of computer time each, every day, but they don't get it until after they do their piano practice. So I don't have to keep telling them to practice because they tell me "I'm going to practice now so I can do my computer time."

We do our piano, reading, learning games (and chores) all in the morning during the summer time. The reward is they can either watch a movie or have video game time in the early afternoon. This structure has worked fairly well for all age groups and we've used it over quite a few summers. :-)

1st- We TRY (the optimal word) to get our music done EARLY in the day. That way there's no drama during the normal late afternoon drama.

2nd-  I do the "Ms. Cathy cup game"  with a sweet tart under one.  This really works WONDERS, and helps me keep my cool.  (Although one time I got so frustrated I picked up the cup and ate it right in front of my child..that showed him....not). [side note: The Ms. Cathy game consists of hiding a sticker under one bell out of 5-6 bells sitting on the piano.  The student plays a tricky section and rings a bell.  If the sticker is not under that bell, the student keeps playing the section and ringing bells until he finally finds the correct bell.  The students LOVE this game]

Practice before breakfast!

Did you notice how most every one mentions practicing early in the day and making it a routine?  I think that is the key--consistency and putting it before play/tv/computer time.

Some kids are starting back to school in a couple of weeks and others of you around the country are still enjoying summer.  No matter what your schedule though, some of the above ideas will continue to work.  If they don't, analyze your new routines, find out the best time for piano practicing, and make it work.  You'll be so glad you did as you raise a brighter, more caring child.

                                                    Well, I didn't say they wouldn't still be silly!

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Parenting Tip - Intentionally Teaching your Children

My daughter-in-law, Katie, was on Studio 5 TV in Utah offering some parenting advice.

It was on a theme that is dear to my heart:  intentionally teaching values to your children.  You are your child's parent/teacher/mentor.  Your child is learning every day--learning from your actions, from what you do and say and also from what you don't do or say. 
You can facilitate this learning by naming it.  
"You are learning how to be responsible when I give you chores to do."  
"You are learning how to be accountable and dependable when you get consequences for choosing not to do your chores."
"You are learning how to be a good sport when we play games together and you don't always win."
"You are learning how to be brave and have courage when you go to swimming lessons even though you're afraid."

And to you parents, I say:
"You are learning how to be effective parents when you try and implement new ideas for your family!"

Way to go parents--YOU make a difference.  
You are important to your child!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Parenting Tip - Easy Travel Ideas

I don't know if you're still traveling in the car this summer, but I ran across a few ideas that I wish I would have know when my children were small.

This blog had some really great ideas like an easy-to-sew road trip pillow case that has a pocket to hold activity books, crayons, etc.  Another fun idea was a bucket on a pulley so you can easily pass items back and forth between the front and back seats.

How about quickly stitching up a travel pillow, one that keeps your child's head from tipping uncomfortably to the side?  All you need to do is cut out a rectangle from a piece of fabric.  Fold it in half, lengthwise with right sides together and sew up the long side opposite the fold.  Turn your fabric inside out so the right side is now visible.  Stuff your tube with stuffing and sew up both short ends.  You or your child can decorate the pillow by sewing felt eyes, a nose and a mouth on it, or you can make it look like a snake by adding eyes with a red tongue sticking out, sewed at one end.  What a fun project for an older child to make for herself or her siblings.  And don't forget, boys would love to make this project too.
Picture found here on this blog.

Here is another simple pillow you can make.  Minky fabric would be really soft and fun to make a pillow out of.  Hey, what a great birthday or Christmas present to make for grandchildren or nieces and nephews.

By the way, what do you mothers do to keep your children's car seats from being so hot?  I feel so bad for babies and children who have to sit in their car seats in Arizona when it's so hot.  How about using ziplock bags with a little water or ice in them that you keep in the freezer and grab as you head to the car?  Keep the bags in the car seat while you're in the store.  Even if they're completely melted when you come back, they've kept the car seat a lot cooler than if you hadn't used them.

If you're still traveling this summer, have fun!
Thanks for reading,



Saturday, July 14, 2012

Music Tip - Dancing + Working = Smart Mom

Here is another water tip.  Have your children mop the floor for you.  One of my friends even made "mop footsies" for her kids.  They dance and run around and have fun while mopping.  That's what I call dovetailing.  That's what I call a Smart Mom!

For the footsies, she just took wash cloths and quickly sewed elastic around the edges. 

Turn on your favorite music and get dancing! I mean, mopping!  No, I mean dancing!

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Parenting Tip - Summer Time is Water Time!

Summer time is hot time, so break out the hoses, water balloons, wading pools and squirt guns. Encourage outside play.  Buy squirt guns, send an attack message to a nearby family and go have some fun.

Have your children paint rocks, fences or paper with water and paint brushes.  Combine different combinations for new fun, such as putting a slide next to a trampoline or go fishing in a wading pool.
How about letting your children wash dishes outside--that is their toy tea sets or let them wash their scooters, bikes, or even the car. Put food coloring in a large pan of water with different sizes of smaller containers and let your child pour the water from one container to another.  Add bubbles.

Please remember that it only takes a couple of seconds for a child to drown.  Watch your children around water; be sure to empty wading pools or buckets and containers of water.  Use sun screen.

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, July 1, 2012

Music Tip - Not Ring Around the Rosies, but Ring Around the Finger

I like to help my piano students stay focused when we are working on a problem they are having.  But sometimes merely telling them what to do doesn't sink it into their little minds.  That's when I like to use props that are fun and will help them stay focused.

Rings - I find fun rings and use them for many purposes.  I just found some cute ones at Pretty Party Place that have googly eyes on them. 

Use rings to:
*remind a finger to sharp or flat an upcoming note
*keep correct shape of fingers and thumb (curved or standing up)
*remind a finger that keeps forgetting to play when it should
*practice finger numbers (i.e. thumb=1, pointer=2)
*practice skipping fingers
*practice playing chords 

Bracelets - I looked for several weeks for those slap bracelets that used to be popular.  I just found them at JoAnn's in neon colors. 

Use bracelets to:
*remind wrist to stay up (as opposed to "don't let the wrist fall down"--always say the directions or reminders in a positive statement)
*remind the hand to bring out the melody or perhaps to play softer
*remind arm to relax
*practice a phrase or note pattern

Now how can I use these rings or bracelets to help ME with my problems?  Put rings on every finger so when I open the refrigerator to eat something I'll see them and stop?  Hmmm....I'll have to think on that one.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, June 25, 2012

Parenting Tip - A hearty laugh

I wrote a blog post last year about the value of laughter (see the side bar and click on laughter).  Recently I’ve been hearing more about different groups embracing and encouraging laughter. Did you know there was a Laughter Yoga class you can take?  They are offered in many different countries around the world.

Here are some quotes about laughter:

I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.  ~Woody Allen

Sometimes I laugh so hard the tears run down my leg.  ~Author Unknown
(Yeah, we loved to do this to my little brother!)

When people are laughing, they're generally not killing each other.  ~Alan Alda
(Hey, a new sibling rivalry technique!)

A hearty laugh gives one a dry cleaning, while a good cry is a wet wash.  ~Puzant Kevork Thomajan

With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.  ~Abraham Lincoln

It is bad to suppress laughter.  It goes back down to your hips.  ~Author Unknown
(So that's my problem!)

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.  ~Victor Borge 

Do you know Victor Borge?  He is the funniest musician I have ever watched.  Here’s one of his famous vignettes: 

 So start laughing and if you can't find anything to laugh about, watch some funny You Tube videos of babies laughing--that will get you laughing for sure!

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Parenting Tip - Eye dropper science experiments

Someone told me a fun idea where you squeeze an eye dropper full of vinegar onto a pan spread with baking soda.  Guess what happens?   You're right!  You get some great fizzing action.  And if you add food coloring to the vinegar, the fun really begins.

What a great summer boredom buster.  I bought some eye droppers at the grocery store (two to a package for 99 cents) to send to my grandchildren.  But when I asked the pharmacist where the eye droppers were located, she said she could give me a bunch of syringes for free.  What a deal!  Now I'm sending both eye droppers and syringes to my grandchildren with a copy of cool science experiments they can do with their droppers/syringes.

Here's some of the eye dropper science experiments I found online:
1. Do hot water molecules move faster than cold ones?
2. Mixing colors with eye droppers
3. Pictures of the vinegar/baking soda experiment
4. Pennies and water with eye droppers 
5.  Water drop fun
6.  Liquids in motion
7.  More color experiments
8.  Marshmallow/syringe experiment

Have fun experimenting this summer!
Thanks for reading,


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Parenting Tip - Summer Boredom Busters

Summer is in full swing, and you might be looking for a little change to liven things up around your home.  Since I love to collect ideas, here are some I’ve found that I thought looked interesting and wanted to share with you.

Here’s a website that has lots of child friendly science experiments like making dry ice bubbles, glowing water, and making a tornado in a bottle.  Check it out.

Want to do art with your children?  This site has really easy but impressive art projects.

This site has fun art projects you do with tape-blue painters tape and masking tape.

I love this yarn art idea: It's so simple, yet really colorful.  Thanks to the Szymczak's blog for this picture.

Need some new healthy snack ideas? I know I do!
Here’s a fun muffin tin snack idea: Thanks go to the for the picture.

Did you ever make stilts out of empty cans when you were a child?  My brothers did.  I love this idea.

I'm excited about my next week's post.  It's a collection of ideas using a simple __________ oops, I almost told you.  I want it to be a surprise.  Besides I'm sending all my grandchildren these ideas with the simple _________ .  I thought their mothers might need a summer boredom buster pretty soon.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Music Tip - Summer Practice Ideas

It's summer time and this can be a really great time to catch up on piano practicing or let the whole thing drop with a crash.  I encourage you to use summer as a time to have your child get in some great practice time.  But with vacations and company visiting and just life in general, it can be a real challenge.

How do you keep music a priority?  Make it one of the first things you do each day.  I know, I know, your kids do swimming lessons first thing in the morning.  But is there time to practice first, or do half the practicing before swimming?  How about right after swimming and an energizing snack?

The important thing is to find a consistent time and stick with it.  Right after lunch?  Before their favorite tv show? Dovetail it in with their chores?  Be creative, but be consistent-- if you really want your child to learn and be proficient at playing the piano, consistency is the key.  Otherwise, you might as accept the fact that you're paying for brain tutoring--which is great, but produces no musical skills. 

Be creative and think of some fun ways to plan in practicing this summer. 

**Use popsicle sticks that have the songs to practice or directions for playing them (like play song 4 X).  And of course half the fun of popsicle sticks is that you had to have eaten the popsicles first!

**Make a fun chart to keep track of practicing.
**Have a grab bag with fun cheap rewards that your child can choose from.
**Sit with your child and be a cheerleader--and you're only allowed to give positive comments.
**Keep tv off while the practicing is on.  Siblings read books and do art work.
**Have centers, with practicing being one of the centers.
**Schedule a family recital.
**Skype with grandma and show off new piece learned.
**Video tape child with your camera and show the "before" and "after" piece that is learned.
**Let your child earn privileges for computer time or ipad time or whatever time.
**Take a trip to the music store with your child and buy some easy fun popular piano music

As one of my mothers said to me after reading a handout I had given all my parents, "It sounds like it's up to ME if my child is going to practice and learn to play the piano." YEP.  It's always the mom's job.

Have a fun, productive, musical summer!

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Parenting Tip - The Stubborn Child

Here's part of an email I wrote to one of my daughters after she asked for advice.  Maybe it will help someone else as well.

How to make your kids a priority in your life and how to enjoy them and feel love for them.
*  Make a joy journal--no requirements, or rules to do it every week-- just jot down things randomly whenever you see something your children have done to make you smile or feel joyful.  Keep the journal in plain sight in your bedroom so you don't forget to write in it.

*  Pray to feel charity for your children.

*Read about the age group characteristics of your children so you're not frustrated at normal things they do and you can understand why they're acting the way they are.

* Do fun things with them that YOU like to do whether it's reading out loud, making videos, cooking, watching a movie and eating popcorn, singing, etc.

* Read about the 5 kinds of love and figure out what you and they and your husband need--  physical touch, words of appreciation, service, gifts, quality time

Dealing with a stubborn child
* Talk to her about how people communicate differently.  It's okay if it's hard to verbalize her feelings when she's mad, though it's something that needs to be worked on to become a strength later on in her life.  Communicate to her through letters--maybe she'll become a great writer with all her practice in writing letters back to you. 

* Communicate your love through notes to her left here and there.

* Give her a journal that she can write in and you won't read.

* When she's angry give her a direction that can help her express her feelings like, "Write down 2 things about why you're mad," or "Write down 2 things why you don't want to do this....".

*Have her color her feelings.  "Go draw a mean angry picture about how you feel right now".

*What is she interested in?  Notice her and what she does in her spare time.  Then encourage and join her in that activity sometimes.

*Use the rewind idea.  When she's talking disrespectfully, ask her to rewind and say it with a different tone or nicer words.  Ask your kids to help you with your tone of voice.  Many times I've caught myself saying okay words, but my tone of voice was degrading and rude. 

*Be off the wall and fun when a "mood" is threatening.  Talk with a southern accent, or an English prim and proper tone or a Chinese accent.  I do this at school when I'm frustrated with a class and it charms them like nothing else.  Or get in a karate pose and jump and kick all over the room, then when you have her attention, sweetly give directions or restate the problem, then walk away into  another room, letting your actions tell her you are assuming that she is following through on whatever the problem or direction was. (The karate stuff lets you get your frustrations and anger out, too!)

* Hug and kiss your stubborn child and say, "You just need some love and attention."  After smothering her with love and kisses, repeat what she needs to do, and walk away-- allowing her to choose to do it or suffer the natural consequences.

* Maybe your child can only get your attention through being stubborn.  Try giving lots of attention and positive reinforcement and see if the stubbornness subsides.

* Kneel down by your child and offer a prayer out loud. Simply say that you and she are having a frustrating time, but that you love your child so much and want to try and help her.  Ask God to help you understand your daughter.  Mention the things that you love about your daughter--her abilities and cuteness.  Close the prayer, hug your child, then rock her, smooth her hair and wait to see what happens.

Just remember, a stubborn child is hurting somehow.  Pray to find out what the reason is, then try to address the issue.

Good luck!

Thanks for reading,

Pictures from The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Music Tip - The Piano Guys

I have fallen in love with The Piano Guys.  Have you heard or seen them on you tube?  You HAVE to!  Regardless of what the group's name implies, it is actually a piano player and cello player and they do incredible arrangements of classical music, popular music, religious music, you name it music.

The scenery where they play is unbelievable and the many cellos you see being played is really fun. These are videos you'll want to inspire your children with.  The CDs you'll want to play over and over again.

Listen and enjoy!  Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Parenting Tip - It's your life. Take Charge

 A family I know recently faced a scary situation. They went to their son's T ball game, but then couldn't find him when the game started. They looked and looked, checked both cars, asked people to help, but could not find their young son anywhere. Finally they called the police. The dad went back to his car one last time and looking in, heard a small voice from under the back seat say, “Dad, I don't want to play T ball.”

Have your children ever told you they don't want to do something? Have you, yourself, ever not wanted to do something? I remember one summer when I was in college and had the most boring job in the world. One day during my lunch break I called my mom to complain and say I wish I could just quit. All I was doing was collating a teacher's papers and it was more of an extra job that could be done later during the year by others than something that was critical for me to do. She told me to go ahead and quit if I wanted to. I couldn't believe my ears—I could quit??!! But what about the other times when she wouldn't let me quit—like when I was tired of taking piano lessons or doing homework?

I gladly quit my job.

I learned a lesson that day. Each situation is different, requiring different decisions and solutions. You can't make blanket assumptions and judge others' decisions based on what you did in a similar situation. Sometimes you have to tow the line and learn dependability and integrity. Sometimes you have to streamline your life and find out what is really important in life—dropping out of things that cause more stress than they're worth.

So, did my friends let their son quit T ball?

I don't know. Maybe he needed to learn things from T ball that they felt were valuable. Maybe they decided he was only 6, and T ball was an extra thing that could be dropped to simplify their life.

But one thing I do know. It's okay to say no to stress and yes to simplifying your life. It's okay to say no to things that others think are essentials and yes to having more time to do what makes you happy.

It's your life. Take charge.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Parenting Tip - Parable of the Bike Ride

I rode my bike this morning and was so happy the weather had turned off cool again--a little reprieve from the coming hot weather.  My route today led me to a road that I usually avoid because it’s a gradual downhill ride, and really fun, but bicycling back up is murder, and I’ve learned once I go down this road, all roads back to my house are uphill.

I decided to take it anyway.  It was a fun bike ride and I enjoyed the breeze and the beautiful palo verde trees with their brilliant yellow flowers.  After awhile it was time to head home.  I rode along the canal path, hoping I could find a different route home that wouldn’t be so steep.  As the canal path curved I was soon heading straight into the wind.  Whoa, it was hard pedaling! I decided to just pedal slow and steady and soon the path  curved again and the wind was not blowing straight at me.  I saw the end of the canal path up ahead that led back to the street.  I noticed that I had cut off half of the steep uphill drive on the road and hoped I was up for the rest of the ride to the top. 
As I pedaled the uphill road I took it slow and steady and thought, “Wow, it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.  If I just pedal slow and push each leg down in turn, I’ll soon be at the top.”  I kept pedaling and soon reached the top and felt such pride that I had been strong enough to keep going.  I thought, “Boy, I bet my thighs and hips are going to be lean and mean now!”

The rest of my bike ride was enjoyable.  There would be stretches again where the wind would blow straight at me.  But by now I knew it wouldn’t last and I lifted my eyes to look at the gorgeous blue sky with the huge billowing white clouds.  What a sight!  And the wind was heaven sent, I realized, because it blew my hair out of my eyes so I could see clearly in front of me, plus it cooled me down.

As I rode back to my house, I couldn’t help but compare my bike ride to my life.  Especially the last 8 months since my husband has passed away.  The wind has blown a lot, and the path has been steep and hard.  But the blue sky and white clouds have always been there and I realize that my legs are stronger and the breeze is cool and heaven sent and I can see clearly where I’m going.  I can’t see the end of the road, but I’m enjoying the ride.

I hope your “bike ride” through life is teaching you things.  Be sure to look for the parables as you go through life raising your children—it makes life so much more worthwhile. 

Thanks for reading,



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