Welcome to my Kindermusik space...

A place to refresh your love of music, your wonder in children, and your peace in parenting well.

Thursday, March 31

Growing into men

Setting the stage:

We have a chore chart in our house.  Maybe you do, too.  It goes something like this...each of my kids has one big responsibility for the week and a smaller one that happens a few times (eg.  finishing supper prep, taking out the trash).  I have a list, too. Not surprisingly, my stuff happens without reminders.  For the most part...regardless of the chart, the kids need reminders to keep up with their end.


I've made supper and it seems like I've used every mixing bowl we own.  The counter is a mess but I run the full dishwasher just before supper on the fast mode because at 6:30 an out-of-town friend and her daughter are coming over for a visit. Just as my kids and I are finishing clearing the table and I've opened a very-hot-just-finished dishwasher, the doorbell rings.

They're here...not ready!

I've known this friend for 20+ years and she's seen me and my house at my less than best, shall we say.  But still...you know.  You want things kind of presentable.  So as I'm saying "Excuse the mess" and opening the door, we get busy chatting and sit down in the living room.   An hour or so later, she asks my "barrista" daughter to make her a latte and as we move to the kitchen  I am utterly amazed...without being asked...my two boys...men, rather...have cleaned up the entire kitchen.  Unloaded the dishwasher, loaded it back up, done the sink dishes that can't go in the dishwasher, cleaned up all the food from supper, and wiped off the counters.  I was in a delighted state of "can-this-really-be true?!"

So here's my encouragement from this side of mothering:  while your kids are enjoying the "helping is fun" stage get them helping with household chores.  The day will come when it's less than fun for them, and they do it because "they live in your home, too, and it's part of being in a family, and mom says so". But one glorious day, one perfect day, they will surprise you with doing it out of love.

Sunday, March 27

Getting an "A" in Motherhood

On every mother's to do list...

Make the meals.  Wash the clothes.  Explain the homework.  Clean the bathrooms.  Do the ironing.  Drive the carpool.  Wipe the spatter off the mirrors.  Take to classes.  Do the shopping.  Referee the squabbles.   Wipe the noses.   Kiss the "owies".  Mend the clothes.  Soothe the hurts.  Listen to the stories and complaints.  Read the books.  Get the drink of water.  Tuck in bed.

So many aspects to a mother's life.  And that doesn't even take into account meeting with friends, exercise, dates with your husband, or a career.

It was a lot of years ago I read a chapter in a book called Everyday Miracles that I've never forgotten...called "The Good Mother".  In the end, when all is said and done, what we want most is to get an "A" in mothering.  You know what I mean.  We want our children to be gracious, loving, creative, and helpful.

The journey to "A", though, is fraught with ups and downs.  There are moments when our children surprise us with a spontaneous "I love you, Mom".  Or there is great conversation around the dinner table.

Most days we feel like we've done "good enough" because we gotten errands checked off the proverbial list.  But there are days when we feel like we've really blown it.  Said things we shouldn't have.  Made wrong assessments of sibling interactions.  Been short with our temper.  Or not monitored homework in a timely manner, and the kids are behind.

The fact of the matter is - and this is important - no one is keeping score.  No one is counting the kisses and hugs.  Sometimes I wish they would.  You know the times when you've made extra effort to make family favourites for supper and people don't acknowledge it.  Or when all the laundry is washed and folded and put away...and then the family assumes that the "laundry fairies" have done it again.  Most days, Mom's work is taken for granted.  It's all a necessary part of the love it takes to be a mother...but it's nice to get credit once in a while.

But then there are the times when our "dark side" takes over and I'm grateful for the non-scorekeeping.  Like the times we are short with our children for their childishness, or make judgements without all the facts.  I will never forget the time when my oldest was about four and taking forever to eat his supper.  I had long since finished and finally said some scolding words to him and stood up to clear the table.  When I came back a minute later...he was asleep by his plate.  Head on the table and just out.  That was one day I'll never forget, but my son has never mentioned again.  You see...kids don't keep score.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Families are growing relationships that make us more like each other everyday.  We rub off on each other, for better or worse.  Take each other for granted.  Are there for each other.  And no two families are the same.  Great times together.  And times best forgotten.

It's a humbling thing to be a parent.  We invest in our children emotionally like no other relationship we will ever have.  We want to be important in their lives.  We want to be the best we can be for them.  But mostly we feel challenged by the gravity and yet somehow drained by the dailiness.  It's a monumental task that we've signed up for.  We strive and fuss, and wake up each day with a fresh opportunity to do it all over again.  Praying, some days,  that we will do better than yesterday...yet trying to enjoy the beauty of bonding moments along the way.

I don't think we moms want to do "good enough" parenting.  We want the "A".  So we press on - in search of it.  Thankful (and hopeful)  that when all is said and done, our children feel the love of our daily investments and forgive our misguided ways.

Tuesday, March 22

Waiting for Spring

Here in Edmonton, we have endured a very long and cold winter.  In the big scheme of world-wide events it seems like such an insignificant situation, and yet when we are honest - we are sooo longing for Spring.  As I write this, it is two days past the official start of Spring, and it is snowing and cold and gray skies still abound.

I don't really mind the cold so much - but I do miss the blue skies.  On second thought...I take that back.  The cold is tiresome, too.

So what to do when the weather won't co-operate with our present longings?  

I look for the things I still love regardless of the weather.  

Topping that list is meeting with friends.   I can still meet for coffee with friends - going out for lunch or connecting at a class.

I can still cook for my family - making meals you can cook in the oven and not worry about heating up the house too much.

I can still prepare for the Easter musical at my church - all the rehearsals and extra preparation is actually easier when there is no distraction of outdoor weather.

Teaching piano lessons and motivating students to practise is SO much easier when the weather is still uninviting.

Kindermusik can be loved in the class, in the home, travelling in the car.  You don't need to be outside for those feel good moments.  You may think that sounds cliche coming from a Kindermusik teacher, but  it's totally true of how I feel.

School studies for my kids are easier.  Getting my taxes done is easier.  Spring cleaning is easier

Sure.  I'd like to be outside with my hands in the dirt - getting the planters and garden ready for flowers.  And I can hardly wait to ditch socks and put on sandals.  But I can still go barefoot in the house and paint my toenails, even if it's only for me.  And don't they sell tulips in the stores?  Who needs to wait for them to come up out of the ground? 

So celebrate the arrival of Spring!  It's here.  Oh, I can hear you saying that it isn't.  But it is what we make it to be.  The best part of Spring for me is the way it smells outside and the flowers coming up.  So I may have to run my own investigation of available "Spring" home aromas, but flowers - they are easy.  Next stop...the florist.  After all, a happy mother brings a feeling of lightness and Spring to the whole home.

Sunday, March 13

More than just routine

When I think of the word "routine", lots of things come to mind.
Morning routine...you know...shower, hair, get dressed...that sort of thing.
Used to be that I had to include the kids in the morning routine, but mine are all big now and manage their own morning routine.

I have a routine after I finish teaching each day to get set up for the next day.  Just in case something comes up to delay me in getting to the studio, at least I'll be ready to go once I get there.

Then there is my supper routine.  On weeknights I have to be organized and get supper ready to go early in the day because I am teaching music lessons until 6 or 6:30.

Routines help me feel like things are under control.  I know what to expect and it makes me feel relaxed about the coming day.

Have you ever noticed how many routines we have in Kindermusik?  More often than not, children eagerly come into the classroom asking about the balls in the bin.  For many it's a highlight they start talking about on the way to class.  In our oldest Kindermusik class there is the routine of picking a "special helper" each week.  In Imagine That classes we always sing our "Hello" song using the stuffy friends they have come to love in Our Time classes.

Just last week, one of the children in Imagine That asked if we were going to find things on the big "Cities" poster in class.  It is an activity we have done every week since the start of the semester, and hadn't done yet that particular day.  Not only are routine activities fun, they help us to feel connected from day to day, know what is expected, and for very young children - know what time is.

When we start singing our "Hello" song in any of the classes, it is the sign that we are officially starting and children start gathering up and feeling ready.  When we get our stamp on our hands at the end of "Our Time" and "Imagine That", or our sticker in "Kindermusik for the Young Child" it means we are wrapping up.  And it helps children to make the transitions more easily.

Routines at home are really important, too.  It helps in making a family feel stable, getting things accomplished, and creating an environment of belonging.  Children like knowing that mom is going to have a snack for them after school, or a story after their night time bath.   And, I think, children - no matter what the age - like knowing that their routines are long lasting.

Just the other day I brought home a new "special plate".  When my kids were little we had a red "You are special today" plate that we used all the time.  If it was your birthday...special plate day for you.  If you got a good report card...special plate day.  Helped your brother in a thoughtful way...special plate day.   And then one day, the special plate somehow got broken.   In the end it's just stuff...disappointing, but just stuff and not worth any tears.  But my heart was a little sad because it held so many family memories and it was our celebratory routine to get it out.

Fast forward a couple of years and I happened upon a new cream coloured special plate.  It wasn't the same, but my thoughts went to all the times we could use it again.  I brought it home on my husband's birthday and set it out for him at the dinner table.  And you know, the family was quietly happy to have a new one.

Now I don't tuck it away any more.  It sits out on our kitchen counter, ready to be used at a moment's notice.  It is our family routine...and makes us feel...at home.

Monday, March 7

Layers of learning

I was talking to a Kindermusik mom the other day and the conversation turned towards friends not understanding the benefit of classes.  Undeniably, they are fun, but to the untrained eye, many of the activities in class may not be fully understood for their relevance to overall learning.

In Kindermusik we take a layered learning approach to teaching.  Perhaps if I take last week's Imagine That class and break it down, it will better explained.  

We have a theme of "Cities" this semester and have been using our city to increase our power of observation as we look at our city poster each week to see what is going on in the city that day.   As we walk down our "city streets" in class we gain skills in expressive movement and moving to a steady beat as we adjust our strides to the sounds of the drum.  Even our ability to use signing to "stop" on cue, has the layered learning effect of watching for visual and audible cues to control our bodies, useful not only in music, but in regular life.

We also use signing in Kindermusik as a means of extending our pretend play.  Last week, for example, in Imagine That class we used the sign for "camera" to help us go on a city walk and "take pictures", and to use that to sing a new song and segue into our story telling mode.  We used the process in our family sharing time at the end of class so that parents and children could share in the fun together.  

Every activity in Kindermusik is done intentionally to build family connectedness, understand how literacy improves our lives, increase our musicality through our use of instruments or singing voices, or share in the love of community with others who also love to make music.   There are gross motor and fine motor development opportunities as we dance, wiggle, shake, ring, share, and use various props.  Even the home activity is useful in reinforcing concepts we touch on in class, allowing parents and children to experience together, making powerful learning moments happen.  

Ever wonder why your children love coming to Kindermusik so much?  It may be in part because we work so hard to make it effortless learning for your child.  Learning through play feels like no work at all.

Tuesday, March 1

Get your groove on

It was another opportunity to appreciate the music talents of my own family.  Friday night was the "Big Band Ball"- the annual fundraiser sponsored by the W.P. Wagner music department.  The various bands practise several jazz and top forty tunes to play for the paying patrons following a fabulous buffet dinner.

So for 3 1/2 hours we watched the high school kids play.  Every once in a while some of the adults would get up and join the youth on the dance floor...but they really owned the night.

As someone who loves music and encourages families to dance everyday, I always feel such a sense of joy as the kids get up and dance.  They don't care what they look like and it's so fun to watch them try the moves to

The Chicken Dance
The Macarena

and the various other free dances that go on.  They dance as couples, they dance as a line, they dance in clusters.  They dance...and it is great!

Some of my friends called out to me as I was coming back from watching my son up close, "Hey Heather - they're playing your song".   And I called back, "you don't think I'm going to do it, do you?"  And I was up doing the "YMCA" as they were giggling and, I think, secretly wishing they were brave enough to join me.

Then Sunday at church we had the Watoto Children's choir from Uganda - and can those people dance!  What a great morning that was with the drums, the children, the dancing, the singing...

We were made to dance - but sadly most of us lose our willingness to be openly joyous and celebratory as we enter adulthood, and our reserved culture or fear of not doing it right take over.  But dancing is born in us all.  You know it's true - you've seen it in your own child's bobbing knees as you put on the tunes at home.  So...today...find your favourite song...look it up on itunes or youtube if you don't already have it...draw the curtains if you need to...and get your groove on.  Your spirit will be glad you did :)