Sunday, March 9, 2014

If I'd Known...

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights: 

Getting ready to board a plane withOUT my toddler. If only people had told me how easy travelling and scheduling was before we had our son?! When I think about how I squandered my time, how I complained about how busy I was...

I guess my parent pals didn't mention how easy I had it, because they thought it might be self righteous, presumptuous? Dudes, I wish you'd said something!

But here I am--more efficient at office work than I've ever been, and using every spare moment away from my kid to get caught up, get exercise, get a little rest.

If I'd known, would I have worked more? Or enjoyed the space, time? Well, this is how it's gone. And meanwhile my parent friends with two and three kids don't sit around telling me how easy I have it with JUST ONE KID.

We are all so kind to each other (usually). And we are all doing our best (usually). This blog post is rushed and NOT my best; but it's present. And I guess that's what doing your deal with or without kids is all about!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fake It Til You Make (the Snow Melt)

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights: 

Playing concerts around Thailand and putting finishing touches on Spring tour dates has not helped to diminish my innate aversion to cold weather. I don't like to feel tense and cold. And I despise getting out and about with gear and kid in tow, navigating icy streets and dirty snow drifts.

But in my last blog post I noted that my kid is starting to grumble about winter along with me. And this feels like a crummy thing to pass on. So I have made big efforts to let my son make up his own mind about winter (and have some fun in the meantime!). No surprise, it's been more fun for me to rally than grouse. I am still pining for warmth and ease, maybe a few years in Thailand. But these recent activities have helped to chase some of the blues away:


  • We've been listening to Liam Neeson read the Polar Express.
  • We had a sledding date. (The big hit was the three friends running at the bottom of the hill.)
  • We made snow angels and snowmen.
  • And we regularly check the status of our swimming pond (still hasn't melted)





Friday, February 14, 2014

One Woman's Aversion is another Kid's Dream

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights: 

We're home in Boston after 3 weeks in Thailand. It snowed our first day back. The jet lag and the extreme temperature shift put me in a foul mood--and sparked a serious conversation about relocation.

(It's not just the weather in the Northeast... it's how the harsh climate here sets up a real indoor life for all of us here. And it makes it hard to get around, stroll to meet friends...)

Anyway, our son was enthusiastic about the snow. Thanks to his dad, there was a spirited celebration of bundling up and building a snow cave.

It snowed again a few days later. And then it snowed again. It has been exasperating for me. Too bad I was only thinking of myself. A few days later, little Nigel said,

"I do not like the snow!"

What? I thought he was totally rocking with the winter?! I asked him why he'd changed his tune.

"Because I've been listening to you, Mommy. And now I do not like the snow."

Well, there you go. Probably not too late to turn this aversion around. But it's a swift reminder of how we affect each other. Of course, I don't need to beat myself up about this (I don't have the energy to!). But I'll do my best to stay neutral on some of my personal preferences, to let my kid develop his own.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Poetry Corner

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights: 

After a tour of Mid Atlantic venues Matt and I had a few light weeks with smaller home-based gigs. This break from travel coincided with tragic events close to home. Bad news is never welcome; but I am grateful that we have been home during this stretch.

To get us back into the swing of performing, we had our special Back to School concert at Club Passim on Tuesday. We were tongue-in-cheek "school teachers," exploring a different "subject" with each ballad. For our extra curricular Poetry Corner, the "class" was asked to write haikus. Our talented and hilarious audience came up with very beautiful and very silly poems. A sampling:

On Matt & Shannon:
Matt, Shannon Heaton
Illuminate Passim's stage
Music to my ears

[I LOVE the obviously intentional folk ballad punctuation of this one]:
Too Ra Loo Ra Loo
May this be consider'd as
An Irish Haiku

On our trip to Thailand:
In Thailand it seems
They don't learn about Haiku
A bit surprising

[after teaching everybody how to pronounce Pad Thai... said Pot, like soup POT, not Pad like lily pad..]
Dead rat in the road
Welcome to Chinatown, man
Is that rat Pad Thai?

Going to Thailand
I can't find my damn passport
F*ck F*ck F*ck F*ck F*ck 

Todd said that Thailand
Is filled with endless pleasures
Pass the rat Pad Thai!

On SEASONS:
Fall, you have left me
The red, yellow, gold orange
of my heart bursts free

Summer has begone
Heatons always like to play
When will winter come?

On our song GREEN GROW the LAURELS:
He gave me violets
I raise them up to my face
And smell the blue sky

Laurel and violet
At least no poison ivy
(Don't date gardeners)

Red is the thinking
Green are my thoughts about you
Blue be the dreaming

Green grows the laurel
So I will write you haiku
With red, green, and blue...

CLEVERNESS:
[A Limerick Haiku]:
Hard to write with flair
Pencils there were aplenty
Though a point was rare

Matt asks of Patrick
More flute in the monitor
Not accordion

[Matt plays with a surf rock trio called Matt Heaton & The Electric Heaters]:
Electric Heaters
Are a great way to stay warm
Oh, wait. It's a band?

[And one of my faves]:
One two three four five
One two three four five seven
Five four three two one

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Simplest September Birthday Party EVER

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights: 

It has been a big week for our family. Our friends suffered a terrible loss; and our emotions have been occupied in grieving for and trying to offer support for them. They have many big weeks ahead.

In addition to our own sadness, it has been a powerful journey as parents to introduce a nearly 3-year old to death. I am no stranger to loss; and I believe in being honest and direct about big and little stuff with my son. But I do envy my friend whose 6-year old began learning about the cycle of life when her Kindergarten hamster died. Score...

Needless to say, we weren't in the mood for a big birthday bash for our son. But life goes on; and our swiftly-growing toddler needed something uplifting. We all did.

So, I used an idea that Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest included in their book Minimalist Parenting (my thanks to the Boston Mama who came up with this one): we met a pile of family friends at 11am at our favorite shady playground. We brought fruit salad and mini cupcakes. Our friend Emily brought bottled water. Brian brought paper plates. And we ordered pizzas.

The kids roared around (with toddlers carefully watching 6-year old mentors slide down fire poles!). The littlest one rocked some major tummy time on a picnic blanket. We had a few sad moments. There was epic mouths-of-babes hilarity. We sang happy birthday. And we all went home around 1pm.

It was a good day to be together. It was fun and easy for everyone. It was a lovely birthday tribute for our son... and to his dear little friend who seemed to be all around us that day.

Favorite moments of the day (according to our toddler):
  • "the slide, when everyone got on it."
  • "the bird that came to visit the backhoe, with a very cheerful song." (???)
  • "and also the cupcakes."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

SO Happy He Made it!

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights: 

OK, "Happy You Made It" is officially one of the best kid cds in our collection... and not just because my husband Matt Heaton made it!

As musicians, we have a keen appreciation for good kindie offerings, like Laura Veirs' Tumble Bee, the Pop Ups' Radio Jungle, and Gustafer Yellowgold's imaginative releases.

You know, music you can actually enjoy listening that is actually made for kids.

Because Matt is a great musician who makes his living playing concerts in listening halls (of non kid music), it was natural for him to assemble a collection of well-constructed music for children--with a mix of originals and classics, and with his own style (surf meets trad).

But Matt was also unafraid to be thoroughly silly and make stuff that would get kids moving around. He's a little goofier than some of the prettier/hipper kindie music. And it puts it on a par with Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem's fantastic kid CD "Ranky Tanky" and Alastair Moock's "These Are My Friends," two more expertly made, but still not-too-cool-for-school kid music CD that really gets our kid (nearly 3) and all his friends singing and dancing along. Yessss!

The other nice touch of "Happy You Made It": Matt sends along a poster for coloring--a black and white version of the incredible cover, designed by Dirk Tiede.

Great album. Great addition to a sometimes stellar genre. I am truly happy Matt made it.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Music for Better Grades

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights:

OK, this is a cheap blog post title. We're hard-wired to want our kids to achieve academic success for better opportunities, maybe more happiness. And there is solid research about how kids who play music boast higher verbal and math skills than kids who don't.

This graphic at OnlinePsychologyDegree.net explains that kids who play an instrument for just 8 months show a 46% increase in memorization ability. Also, music can enhance language skills, soothe a baby to sleep, or calm or stimulate a toddler.

But at the end of the day, music is just a beautiful activity for kids and parents to share. Take one look at photos from last weekend's Folk College in Huntingdon, PA... or check out the photo below of my friend Sadie and her dad jamming... and you'll see kids of ALL ages singing, playing, and dancing--because it's FUN.

Want your kid to know and enjoy music? Want to help boost your child's "potential." Then make music together! Whether your unique voice is sweet, powerful, raspy, Kermit-like.. or your drumming, strumming, or tooting is melodious or wild, when your child hears, sees and feels the vibrations of you making music, s/he'll likely want to join you.

Pregnant?
Sure, listen to Mozart on your belly, if you like. Studies show that your fetus can hear stuff in there. But most of all, when you sing when pregnant, you get yourself in the music habit. Sing songs you love--and it will be thrilling to sing those same songs once your baby is born. Learn lullabies. And/or make your very own baby lullaby playlist--stuff that you love, that relaxes you.

Have a newborn nursing 24/7? 
Continue to sing to your darling and listen to music! (When my newborn first heard me singing songs he already knew--songs I'd performed many times while he was still an "inside" baby--it was obvious that he already knew them). Here's a lovely post by Narissa Nields about this. And why not gently tap rhythms on your baby's shoulder while singing or listening to recorded music! Also, babies love dark concerts. Get out there and hear music you love in family friendly venues. (You can sit near the door, so if your baby's cries get loud you have an easy exit.)

Have a toddler?
Listen to recorded music. Hint: music by a specific artist, band, or symphony is educational, whereas music that is marketed to be "educational" may be putting marketing muscle before content. For example, "Happy You Made It" by Matt Heaton; or "Tumble Bee" by Laura Veirs; or "Peter and the Wolf" performed by the London Philharmonic will probably be a better listen than Baby Einstein Lullabies. Go see concerts. Teach your kid songs.  I have lots of Kid Music ideas at my Official Site, but any songs that you love are good. Incorporate real or toy musical instruments (toilet paper rolls make stupid and fun kazoos or "trumpets"). Read books about music, like Normal Rockwell's Willie Was Different. If you have books with repeating elements (Little Engine that Could, for example), you could make up a chorus every time you hear a repeated line. Start and STOP! music, and watch your kid wiggle as s/he waits for it to come back on.

Craving social musical outlets?
Go to Irish music sessions as a family. Different from concerts, sessions are casual, organic settings for people who share a musical tradition. Often multi-generational affairs, sessions (or song circles, hootenanies, bluegrass picks) are places where playing music together is natural and easygoing. Another great summer option is to head to a family music camp like Northern Roots in Dummerston, VT (July 12-14); or All Together Singing at the Kripalu Institute (July 19-21). And remember Folk College in Huntingdon, PA for next Memorial Day weekend!

Has the music bug bitten your kid?
Tell your child how nice it is to hear him! Tell her you notice she really seems to enjoy her music hobby! If your kid is taking lessons, make a sacred space (could be a corner, ideally private) for practicing, and ask when it would be best to practice. Help your kid keep that time available for practicing, as often as possible. Beyond that, don't worry if practicing happens or not. And DON'T tell your kid what he's doing wrong while practicing, or what she should have said/done/worn/played at her recital. Let kids do things their way and make "mistakes," and praise their efforts and courage.

Music is fun. Parenting is a hoot. Putting the two together gets an A+.

Friday, May 31, 2013

TRAVEL WITH KIDS: My Manifesto for What to Expect

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights: 

It's getting real, gang. I have posted Version 1 of How-to-Travel-with-Your-Kid in a guest blog for What to Expect. I always love hearing your thoughts, revisions, additions. Share 'em if you got 'em!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Aid Kit in Diaper Bag... Today

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights: 

My son had his first major boo boo this past weekend. He was horsing around with a stroller, took a bad tumble on a driveway, and ended up with a bad gash on his forehead, a split lip, and scrapes/scabs around his nose.

Fortunately, we were staying with a doctor who swooped in and calmly cleaned and pulled the cut together, assuring us he would not need stitches. In just moments, it all went from looking like a freshly birthed placenta on top of a tiny forehead to a kid with a simple bandage:

Lessons learned:
  • Head wounds bleed a LOT.
  • When you have a big cut, you want to pull the skin back together. Maria did this with medical tape.
  •  You can put antibacterial ointment on the inside of a bandaid before putting bandaid on wound (instead of trying to dab a cut directly with ointment).
  • One of my husband's mantras for keeping stress at bay works well for emergency response: "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."
Biggest take away: bandaids, ointment, medical tape, dye-free benadryl, and fever reducer are going in the diaper bag from now on.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Keeping Creative: Five Strategies for Musician Parents

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights:

My friend Norah just wrote, "I'd love to hear about more women who are having amazing artistic careers while raising children."

Me, too! I wish there were a manual...

If I had to write a very short rule book today, here's what I'd say:

Rule #1:
Work while your child is engaged (or sleeping). Just bang it out. Do creative work first, then cram in your dumb emails. Ger 'er done. It's all nice and well to "sleep while your child sleeps." But this advice doesn't hold when you have music to learn/write.

Rule #2:
Sing, compose, arrange, collaborate, do a show, or practice--even if you "don't feel like it." You always feel better when you make music. Or, if you don't, at least you made some music. Just 15 minutes gets the cobwebs out.

Rule #3:
Remember that most things that are deeply worthwhile aren't easy or convenient. Playing gigs while schlepping kids along (and/or making child care arrangements back at home) can be exhausting, challenging. But it is also wildly beautiful and hilarious to be able to share your music and travel with your family. Tough? Who cares!

Rule #4:
Healthful snacks and travel toys/activities (books, compact travel art supplies, small bag with cars/road) are great for backstage and in hotels. But animal crackers and an ipod loaded with kid videos can make the travel day less stressful for everybody. And so lightweight for your carry on.

Rule #5:
Even though I only "need" a sitter during my time onstage, I am learning to arrange for childcare to begin at soundcheck through 30 minutes after the show. This builds in downtime before the performance, and allows visiting with people/presenter after the show. I've gone onstage with my bra a bit disheveled (from a pre-show nursing) too many times. Not recommended.

Bonus Rule:
There are no rules. Do whatever works for you--and then let me know about it!