Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kids on the Loose

My sister wrote this story a while back about what it was like walking to and from school in Globe, Arizona when she was a little kid.  I really liked it.  Everything she says in this story rings true for me.  Even though there are nine years between me and my sister, we both had a lot of the same experiences.

Kids on the Loose

When I was a kid growing up in Globe, we always walked to school.  From kindergarten on you walked.  Unless you were one of the "wealthy" kids . . . then you were driven in a car.  The rest of us walked though.  My friend and I always managed to be late for school because on the way there was always a myriad of distractions to keep you from your mission, which was just to get yourself to school by 9:00 a.m.

When I started kindergarten at Noftsger Hill School there was a bridge on Devereaux street that went across a canyon near Nob Hill Grocery Store.  The bridge is no longer there, and I'm sure it's better that it's just a regular road now.  I remember my friend and me attempting to walk across the outside of that bridge just by hanging onto the railing.  It was thrilling to say the least, and undoubtedly one of the stupidest things we'd probably ever do in our lives.  We'd get about 10 feet out and look down into the abyss of the canyon, and then make our way back to the sidewalk thrilled at our bravery.  A block away from that, near Bailey and Sutherland, was a footbridge that is still there today.  A few years ago I took my son out onto it and I marveled at the fact that there was not real covering on the sides to keep you from falling to certain death.  As a child my friend and I also went across this bridge, both on the part you were supposed to walk across on and, of course, along the outside . . . daring nuts that we were.

The "Witch's House" on the corner of Tonto and High was another distraction.  I suppose that we called it the witch's house because it was old, black and somewhat ramshackle.  The woman who lived there was also old, wore black, and only spoke Spanish.  Lots of kids said she was "casting spells" when she spoke to us, but in hindsight she was probably just saying, "Hello", and "How are you doing today?"  There was always a ton of rocks on top of her porch roof, from the brave kids who threw them at the house.  The extent of my bravery only went so far as to say, "Hello", and then to quickly run away.  Her house is no longer there . . . I don't know what happened to it.
Occasionally on the way home from school we'd stop to "smell the flowers" and end up swiping a few roses or anything flower-like from someone's front yard.  If we did this on the way to school our teachers would be the lucky recipients of a mangled, half-dead flower.  One time (well, at least only one time that I recall) we decided to do a mulberry stop on our way home.  This entailed climbing up a wall that was bordered by mulberry trees along High Street and Mesquite.  We tried to eat as many mulberries as we could grab without falling off the wall.  When we'd had our fill, I headed home, and my grandmother went up like a rocket when she saw me.  "I TOLD you to come STRAIGHT home from school!" she hollered at me.  I proceeded to swear up and down, left and right that I had done just that.  I had NOT stopped anywhere along the way home . . . then she whopped my bottom.  I ran into the bathroom to cry and it was then that I noticed my whole face was covered in purple stains from all the mulberries I'd eaten.  Grandma wasn't quite as gullible as I thought.

When I got older I switched schools and started going to East Globe.  There was a stairwell that went from East Street up to Sycamore Street.  This stairwell contained about a million stairs and was enough to keep you occupied for half an hour or more both on the way to school and on the way home.  Sometimes my friend and I would try to run up it, but that only lasted about 20 stairs and then we'd have to sit down and take a break.  While we were sitting there trying to catch our breath we would sometimes find a piece of cardboard someone had thrown there, and we could then ride that cardboard down the 20 steps we'd just run up.  Unfortunately, this didn't last very long because the stairs were concrete and the cardboard would get shredded pretty quickly.  Whoever hadn't been able to ride the cardboard down was mad.  So then we'd spend about 5 minutes or so looking in the bushes for another piece, and when that didn't pan out we'd just sit back down again.  It was at this point that one of us would realize we'd left our school books somewhere else and we'd have to go find them.  By the time it was all said and done we still had about 90,000 steps to go up just to get to the next street . . . and we were now officially late for school.

Globe was a great place to be a little kid when I was young.  The world was undoubtedly safer and it seemed like people didn't worry about things so much . . . at least I didn't.  As for my parents, and my grandmother, it was probably better that they didn't know all the stuff we did.  Especially considering all the things that there were to do just walking to and from school.

The only difference between my sister's experiences and mine?  The mulberries were pomegranates.  Otherwise, it was a lot of the same adventures.  Although, I'm pretty sure she was a lot more daring than I was.  I think that kids all around the world have similar experiences walking to and from school.  I know that when I walk my son home from school, we always have to make stops to look at bugs or spiders.  I feel sorry for those kids who always got a ride and never got to have those mini-adventures that my sister wrote about.

The pictures used in this post are by the artist Laurie Manzano.  Laurie owns and runs the Blue Mule Art Gallery in Globe and is well loved by my family and many others in the Globe-Miami area.  All of the pictures are used with her permission.  For more information on Laurie, to view more of her pictures, or for copyright permission, visit her website.  And, if you're ever in Globe, make sure to stop by The Blue Mule Art Gallery to stand in awe of Laurie and her amazing work.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Video Friday - Dinosaur in My Backyard by Hullabaloo

I found this video last week and it has quickly become a favorite with my sons.  The video itself is very simple, but extremely fun.  There's nothing quite like a wind-up dinosaur doing silly things to make little kids laugh.  The song itself is really fun too and good for a laugh; even the grown-ups will enjoy it.

Happy Friday everyone!  Have a dino-rific day!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Video Friday - The Teens by Recess Monkey

My family has really been into Recess Monkey lately.  In particular, their new album Field Trip.  By far I think this is our most favorite album of theirs.  I liked this song immediately because it reminds me of when my son was first learning to count.  Something about the teens is always difficult for kids.  One number in there always gets missed.  I think it was 16 for him.  Anyway, I think even though this video is very simple and only includes one of the monkeys, it's still really fun.  I especially like that they included the number 12.  I wish I new why they did that.  Twelve-teen?  I don't know, maybe just because it's silly.

Enjoy and have a great Friday everyone!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So I was poking around the other day and saw that The Speks are totally awesome and are offering a free download of their song Saint Patrick's Day to anyone and everyone.  How could I not share this?  Next step is for them to make a video for it I think.  It's a fun little ditty.  Visit The Speks website for a short description of the song and also the complete lyrics so that you can sing along AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE!

<a href="">Saint Patrick's Day by The Speks</a>

I know that this next bit sounds more Scottish, than Irish, but since there is no designated Scottish holiday in America, I decided to include it.  Besides, they're under the header of "Celtic Music", so it all fits.  Anyway, this is the Wicked Tinkers doing Wallop the Cat.  If you've never been to a Wicked Tinkers show, this is another song meant to be AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE!  And you can all sing along because you only need to know the words, "Wallop the Cat!"  The video is a little fuzzy, but still fun.  By the way, if you've never been to a Wicked Tinkers show, wot's yer problem?

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!  Erin go bragh!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Video Friday - The Kid with the Replaceable Head by Richard Hell and the Voidoids

This is a fairly recent video from Pancake Mountain that has become my six-year-old's new favorite video.  I like it a lot too.  The video is new, but the song is an old one by Richard Hell and the Voidoids.  It's got a really fun punk sound and it also has a 70's cartoon vibe to it.  My favorite part is when the little boy dances, it's just such a little boy kind of dance.  It's also got kind of a monster type feel to it, which is what seems to appeal to my son.  I love that old punk songs like this are being reformatted into videos for kids.  My son proclaims this one "Awesome!" every time he sees it.

Have a kick-@$$ Friday everyone!!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Harmonica Pocket - Live at the Library!

I was checking out The Harmonica Pocket's website recently and saw that they would be coming to our local library with their new show Get Loose With Seuss.  Timberland Regional library is using this new show to kick-off their annual reading program and to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday.

I've heard of The Harmonica Pocket before, but I didn't have any experience with their music, and I really had no idea what to expect.  The group is fronted by Keeth Monta Apgar who plays "acoustic wah wah guitar" and is joined by a rotating selection of other musicians.  Nala Walla joined him this time; she provides vocal harmony and her famous hula hoop.

The group is described as "indie-pop" and "jazz-pop", but not "corn-pop", at least not yet.  Honestly these labels don't really mean anything to me.  I dislike putting labels on music because I  think that most people don't tend to think in terms of labels when they think about the kind of music that they like.  "Kids Music" is enough of a label for me because kids music can be just about anything.

The two marched out stomping and playing their hinkle-horns (that would be a kazoo attached to two tubes leading to a couple of brightly colored horns) and greeted the crowd enthusiastically.  However, there was no sound!  Wow, let me tell you that totally threw all the kids off!  They were so intrigued, baffled, confused . . . what in the world was up with these people!?  It was soon determined that it was necessary for the kids to turn on their ears before the show could start and after a quick lesson on how to turn on your ears, everything continued at a much louder pace.

They began by singing a birthday song to Dr. Suess and other songs were created using parts of Dr. Seuss stories.  The kids were really excited about it because all of them were familiar with Dr. Seuss books and their subsequent songs like One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  There was also a great little sketch about how Dr. Seuss came up with his ideas, including the idea for Horton Hatches an Egg.  The kids expressed shear delight when Nala broke out her hula hoop and she received quite a bit of applause for all her tricks.  Nala also danced with a pair of large orange and red scarves that was really beautiful and fun to watch.  At one point she pulled one of the scarves over several kids in the audience until she reached the end of the semi-circle of kids.  She then draped the scarf over herself and three very lucky little kids and they sat for a moment in their own private tent.  It was so child-like and carefree.

They closed the show with a song about Horton Hears a Who and a large balloon was bounced around the audience as we all pretended that it contained a tiny world of Whos.  Nala ended up catching the balloon and letting all the air out in Keeth's face, to which Keeth replied, "That balloon has bad breath!"  The audience all had a laugh and gave a large round of applause.

We bought The Harmonica Pocket's new album, Lady Bug One, to get a sense of what some of their other music is like.  I for one enjoyed the show so much that I'd really love to see some of their other shows.  I've listened to the CD several times now and I can tell you that it is like nothing else that you will hear in the kids music world.  Visit their website where you can download mp3s of some of their songs for free (or leave a contribution in the tip jar).  Also check out what they say about the Free Music Project.  It's a delightful breath of fresh air in the music industry.  I love the fact that some people in the kids music industry are embracing this idea.

The Harmonica Pocket has more shows coming up so be sure to go check them out!  They'll even be doing a taped radio show on Evergreen's radio station KAOS, Sunday, March 14, 3-5 pm PST.  So even if you can't get to one of their shows, you can still listen to them.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Caspar Babypants - Live at the Capitol!

I figured that since I actually saw Caspar Babypants live with my kids, he deserved a little more space to talk about.  Also, since my husband is a fan of The Presidents of the United States of America and has been playing songs by them for our son since he was a wee one, a more in depth post was needed.

So what does the Presidents of the United States of America and Caspar Babypants have in common?  Well, as all the numerous articles and interviews like to point out, Chris Ballew is Caspar Babypants.  Yeah, really, that's exactly how he is introduced every single time.  Chris Ballew, lead singer of the Presidents of the United States (the group behind Lump) is in fact, Caspar Babypants.  Kind of weird isn't it?  Even the title of his website says, caspar babypants is chris ballew.  Like he's trying to say, "No, really, it is me!"  Okay, we get it.  That's quite an alter ego if you ask me and there's no way he's going to keep this a secret anymore.  And what's with all the references to Lump?  Was that the only song that they sang?  What about Peaches?  Okay, yes I did see Peaches mentioned too.

But, I digress.  We're here to talk about Caspar Babypants and the show his band put on in the rotunda at the Capitol sponsored by Mom's Rising.  I get a weekly email update from Seattle magazine Parent Map, that lets me know all the happenings going on in Seattle and the South Sound region.  So, lo and behold one day I read that Caspar Babypants will be putting on a free show at the Capitol Rotunda, and I say, "I am so there".  I tell me husband about it and he feels that it's necessary to take the afternoon off too.

I was curious just how they were going to set up a band to play in the rotunda since the area directly under the dome is four sets of stairs leading up to, and down to, a square which contains the roped off seal of Washington state.  I imagined a series of toddlers tumbling head-over-heals down the marble stairs chased by frantic mommies.  Instead the band was set-up in a hallway off-center from the dome and nobody tumbled.  However, the venue was still odd since the group sat directly in front of a rather gigantic, shiny-nosed bust of George Washington (I believe his nose has been rubbed more than once for luck).  The hallway was large, but was packed with kids, parents, and various legislators who stopped by to see what all the fuss was about.  Needless to say it was a hot and smelly affair, but nobody seemed to mind.

I read about Caspar Babypants when he debuted his album Here I Am.  My family was immediately intrigued knowing what Chris Ballew's background was. (Did you know that caspar babypants is chris ballew!?)  Anyway, we immediately went online and tried to find some of the songs to listen to.  However, because we had preconceived notions of what his music for PUSA sounded like, we were caught off guard, and ultimately, disappointed.  I think what we all hoped to hear was something like dune buggy.

Still, when I saw that he would be in town I knew it was a good musical opportunity for my family (I don't deny that I was also happy that the show was free).  I don't claim to have enjoyed the cramped, hot, sweaty, stinky, smelly quarters, but, the MUSIC, the music was FUN!  Honestly, I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed myself.  And though neither of my children is a card carrying member of the "Fisher-Price, My First Mosh-Pit" group (I stole that from Captain Bogg), they also had fun!

I know everyone knows this, but seeing someone perform music in person is such a distinctly different experience than listening to music on a CD, or even watching a video on YouTube.  Especially in such an intimate setting (it doesn't get more intimate than singing and sweating in a hallway with a ton of little people and the smell of a very ripe diaper).  The group started out with the song Baby Bear and I was instantly hooked.  Even my very squirmy baby boy took a moment to listen intently.  I apologize that I don't remember the whole play list.  While I tried to remain focused on the music, I still had to watch a 6-year-old and previously mentioned squirmy, wormy almost-two-year-old.  So, here's what else my husband and I also seem to remember hearing:  Little Broken Truck (a real crowd pleaser), Mary Had a Little Lamb, I'm a Nut (also enjoyed by the crowd), Run Baby Run (lots of out-of-control toddlers), and Under a Rock.  Sorry it's such a sketchy list.  Songs were included from his new album More Please!

At one point I had to skip out to the car, just before the concert was almost over, so I missed the song in which Caspar (who is Chris Ballew) paraded through the crowd playing a melodica.  My husband took pictures though and when I saw them, I asked him, "was that a real musical instrument?"  Yes, yes it is.  In fact there are numerous pictures of him on the internet playing this thing that looks more like a Fisher-Price toy from the 70's than a real musical instrument.  You see why you have to really go see someone play live in order to get the full experience?  Okay, I'll stop harping on that now.

So, to sum up, my family has a new appreciation for Caspar Babypants.  I'm happy to say that the numerous videos on the internet meant that we could see and hear the music from a new perspective too.  Included here are some of our favorites.  Also, if you want to hear more music, visit the Caspar Babypants website, which has a player at the bottom of the page so that you can listen to songs in full.

First up is itsy bitsy spider.  Everyone likes this video because the added lyrics bring a whole new level to the song.  But, more importantly is just how awesome the video is in all it's simplicity.  Everyone knows the hand-movements associated with this simple song, but to make your hands look like real characters is just so cool.  I can't do the video justice with my words, you just have to watch it.

Next up is poor dust bunnies, a fan video that really compliments the music.  You know you're cool when talented people want to make videos of your songs.

Finally, is Mama's favorite.  I tend to be a very sensitive person who will cry even at commercials so this video hits me right where it counts.  I'm always a blubbering mess after watching this one.

For more really cool Caspar Babypants videos visit the caspar babypants tv YouTube channel.  Or, visit my new Mrs. Mama's Monsters YouTube channel for Caspar Babypants and other fun kids music videos.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Video Friday - We're Going to Be Friends by The White Stripes

I've been playing this White Stripes song for my kids for a long time.  It's so simple and sweet that it naturally lends itself to being a kids song.  This is a fan video that my son really likes because it's got a robot in it.  You know little boys and robots.

Here are the White Stripes with We're Going to Be Friends.  Have a really great Friday everyone!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rodrigo y Gabriela

When I was a little kid I spent a lot of time at my grandparents house.  I distinctly remember that when grandpa was home, he was usually down in the basement drinking beer and listening to the radio.  I don't know what station it was, but it was pretty much all Mariachi, all the time.  I can remember the sound of the guitars, the violins, the trumpets, and an occasional accordion (which for some reason always seemed oddly out of place to me).  Grandpa loved this music, but it never really appealed to me.  I wonder what Grandpa would have thought of this.  There is no comparison between Rodrigo y Gabriela and Mariachi except that they both come from Mexico.  

I was watching the Today Show last Friday morning (actually it was on in the background as I was working on the computer).   I heard the sound of music, and it caught my attention.  Within seconds I had turned to the t.v. and was looking for the remote to crank up the sound, because this is what I heard.

Okay, okay, forget about how totally idiotic Hoda and KLG are.  Focus people!  Also, you can quit with the wise cracks about me watching their show.  The point is that they are fantastic, no?  If you are not totally blown away by this, well then . . . I don't know what to say because I immediately became enthralled with Rodrigo y Gabriela (from here forth to be known as RyG, but I refuse to call them RodGab like their web address.  They're not Bennifer after all.)  My family can attest to this because I talked to, and emailed, all of them about RyG that very day.

I then spent a large portion of the day reading articles, listening to interviews, searching websites, and watching many videos about and by RyG.  I suppose some might consider the day wasted, but I felt that it was a thrill to discover them.  Here is another video of them that I really like.

As soon as my six-year-old came home from Kindergarten I showed him the video and he proclaimed them, "Pretty Good", which in six-year-old parlance means that they were pretty near to "Awesome".  In fact, I'd say "Pretty Good" is one step down from "Awesome".  If there had been some cartoon characters, or explosions, or monsters of any kind in the video (KLG doesn't count) I'm sure it would have garnered an "Awesome".  I'm excited to have some new music to listen to in the car.

Check out the website for Rodrigo y Gabriela.  There's lots of really cool videos on there and also lots on YouTube.  They've even posted videos on how to play the guitar!  (I'm pretty sure you at least need to know how to hold the thing before you can play like them.)  So, go check them out and I dare you not to be totally impressed by the pair.

I leave you with a final video, which when you watch it seems a bit bizarre, but if you try not to be too concerned for the guitars you might find yourself liking it.  I'm sure that there's a hidden message here, but that kind of stuff goes way over my head.  I'll stick to just appreciating the musicians.