Today (January 30, 2015) our family is celebrating a big birthday. Though it’s not the double digit kind, it’s enough of a number to give me a little pit in my stomach as I think about just how big my little girl has gotten. We are officially starting to count birthdays on two hands! At 6-years-old, she is as vibrant, imaginative, and as humorous as ever. She is the reason I started writing about kids’ music and a huge part of what drives me to continue on. She has taught me to look at life from so many different angles, and really listen to its music.
It’s always fun to gather up some great songs, and tuck them neatly into a playlist. Today I’m sharing a bunch of songs (new and previously released) that we’ve been jammin’ to. It’s been fun to revisit some “classics.”
As always, I recommend listening to the playlist in the following order and then mixing things up with a little “shuffle.” If you like what you hear, click on the links below the playlist and consider supporting these wonderful, independent artists.
The Grammy’s will be here before we know it! In anticipation of this event, here is a playlist featuring the 2015 Grammy Nominees for Best Children’s Album thanks to Sugar Mountain PR. Get to know the nominees through the Artist’s links below.
NOTE: There will be a special benefit concert featuring these nominees on February 7, 2015 at 10:30am in Hollywood, CA. Check out this link for more information and tickets.Proceeds from the event will go to Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides under-served public school children with free music classes and new instruments.
Imagine you were sitting in a dimly lit cafe at a small round table with a single frosted votive flickering. The stage is but a shadow awaiting its wake up call.
Suddenly, a spotlight’s wide owl eye shines in the center of the curtain, the music strikes up, and out comes the brightest smile you’ve ever seen. Your heart is warmed and you feel your own smile widen as the lovely lady in front of you begins to sing.
Meet Lucy Kalantari, a New York-based singer-songwriter who has a dazzling voice reminiscent of notables like Bessie Smith, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.
Kalantari’s debut children’s EP, Pockets full of Joy, captures the spirit of the Roaring Twenties with 6 ukulele ditties that express the elation and humor found in parenting. Each song reflects an observation or emotion, both from the point of view of a parent and of a child, though the songs could easily stand on their own and be enjoyed with a loved one of any age.
Pockets Full of Joy opens with the title track, which expresses the enchantment you feel when you are around that special someone who melts (or swells) your heart with a smile or warm embrace.
“The Only Thing” enlivens the ecstatic effects of true love with heartfelt lyrics:
Celebrating life with you Grateful for the things you do Falling in your loving arms Greeted by your graceful charm I can’t imagine this life without your magic And I’m the one you chose to woo
In “Wait and See” Kalantari balances out her feelings of adoration with a more contemplative song that daydreams into the future, pondering what the little person in her life will grow up to be. I find myself often wondering the same thing while also wanting to stop time and stay with my daughter, for as long as possible, suspended in our special moments together.
Once you become a parent, you are given a fresh sense of the world. So much of what you see is viewed through new lenses. Suddenly the canvas in front of you changes, a new painting appears, vivid and complex. The unexplainable love that one feels is not easily communicated, but Kalantari so beautifully channels what this new identity, new role, feels like. This expression is what I enjoy so much about the album.
Pockets Full of Joy is a wonderful keepsake for new parents, one that can be passed to child(ren) later on, and also be a treasure for you as you revisit those special moments every step of the way.
Check out Lucy Kalantari’s official site where you can download the album, sample songs and sing along with the lyrics. Or, visit her Joy Store where you can purchase a physical signed copy of the album.
Ben Rudnick and Friends revive a classic from their album Blast Off with a fresh new video featuring the beloved Sam the Frog and his new alien friend named Tripp. The two go on an excellent adventure that Pre-Kers and school-aged kids will enjoy as they imagine blowing balloons and eating snacks on the moon with their own extraterrestrial buddy.
What you will love about it: Outer Space is cool. Rockstar Aliens are cool, and Sam the Frog is cool. Grown-ups fond of The Grateful Dead will appreciate the musical similarities.
What you should know: “I Got a New Friend” was inspired by Ben Rudnick’s daughter and her experiences in the early years of preschool. Rudnick explains, “Before my daughter got into preschool she was shy and wouldn’t gravitate to other kids in the playground. After a week in this really great preschool, everyone was a potential friend. I also took off on that a little bit with what I think is as subtle as can be commentary on anyone can be a friend. Black, white, green, blue, aliens… we can all be friends regardless of color and all the rest. I grew up in NYC and had all kinds of friends. I genuinely WANT everyone to be friends. Why not!?!”
Behind the Scenes: The video for “I Got a New Friend” was created by Max Litvinov (aka kClogg), a Russian animation artist and illustrator who is actually based in Russia.” Thanks to the Internet, Rudnick and kClogg met through a serendipitous encounter which turned out to be a great success as kClogg’s work very much reflects the concept Rudnick was going for in this video.
Want to learn more? “I Got a New Friend” originally appeared on the 2004 release Blast Off and this video serves as a digital “grand reopening” in honor of the the fact that the single is now up on iTunes. The same “single” can be found in a bundle on CD Baby with two additional songs, including the studio version of “I Got A New Friend,” a version of “Rocket Ship Man,” and a live version of “I Got a New Friend” from Rudnick and Friends’ Live in Lexington disc. More information about both of those CDs is on the storefront page of the band’s official site.
Note:If you purchase from CD Baby you get 2 Bonus Songs: the live versions of “Rocket Ship Man” and “I Got a New Friend” from the Live in Lexington CD.
Boston-area residents can also check out Rudnick’s Family Works Initiative which provides opportunities for families to support specific charitable organizations in the Boston area.
Happy New Year! Are you guys back into the swing of things yet? For our family, getting back into a regular routine – getting up early, getting lunch and snack made and to school on time – has taken some extra strength and mind power from reserves that feel depleted. I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of rushing and catching up with very little downtime. Plus, getting into a cold car for the morning commute makes everyone just a little more tense and uncomfortable. Thankfully, there is a solution!
Shortly before the holidays, Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live (ch. 78) started airing Kira Willey’s “Backseat Yoga Breaks” every morning on The Absolutely Mindy Show (7-10 am ET). These short breaks air sporadically throughout the show and offer everyone a chance to relax and get focused. Thankfully, our commute is long enough for us to enjoy these little breaks (which are also somehow nicely timed with the heat kicking in).
Today I am so excited to deliverthree NEW yoga breaks to you! These breaks are so easy and are presented in a fun way with language that kids will be able to relate to and even find playful. I especially love the idea of setting an intention and thinking positively about how we would like our day to go. Kira’s helpful prompts encourage thoughtful conversations, providing a nice pathway to connect with your kids. The car is usually so quiet in the morning as we listen to the radio and work on trying to wake up our faces. Listening to Kira’s gentle voice guide us through setting an intention has helped break the silence. It’s also given my daughter an opportunity to share what’s on her mind, and even seek advice on how to handle certain situations with friends at school. I love it!
Feel free to enjoy these little breaks whenever you need them throughout your day. I use them on my own as well since I am on the computer all day and tend to hold tension in my shoulders and neck.
1- BUNNY BREATH (helps focus/energizes)
Sit up tall, and bring your hands in front of you like bunny paws. Wiggle your bunny nose as you take quick little breaths in, (sniff, sniff, sniff!) and then let it all the way out. Once more, take some bunny breaths in (sniff, sniff, sniff!) and then let it all the way out. Do this a few more times if you like it! Bunny breaths give us energy, and can help us focus. Have a great day!
2 – HOW TO BE A CLOUD (calming/improves self-awareness)
Sit up tall, close your eyes, and imagine you’re outside on a warm day. Now imagine you’re a cloud in the sky. What kind of a cloud are you? Are you a fluffy white cloud, or a dark gray cloud? If you’re a storm cloud, you can let your angry raindrops just fall away. Maybe you’re a sparkly cloud, full of snowflakes. You can be any kind you want. Take a long breath in, let it all the way out, and open your eyes.
3 – SET AN INTENTION (positive thinking)
Close your eyes, think about how you’d like your day to go, and finish this sentence in your mind… “Today, I’m going to be… ” Maybe you finish it with “helpful,” or “friendly!”…There are lots of things we have to do that we don’t have a choice about, but we do have a choice about how we act. So you decide how to finish the sentence, and if you want to, tell your grownup about it. And have a great day!
More about Kira
Kira Willey is a nationally recognized musician and yoga teacher based in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. She is also the creator of Fireflies Musical Yoga for Kids. Kira is passionate about helping children learn relaxation techniques that also help strengthen their minds in a way that leads to better focus and concentration. Kira’s latest release, How To Be A Cloud, contains a full set of 13 songs followed by 9 tracks featuring yoga instruction, and is packaged with a booklet illustrating yoga poses. Kirais also the host of a new yoga-for-kids series of interstitial programs airing on selected PBS TV affiliates which you can check out here. In September 2014, she led sessions with hundreds of teachers at the National Kids Yoga Conference in Washington DC.
These backseat yoga breaks have become like apps for the body and mind. If you find yourself feeling anxious or in need of a brief reprieve, Kira’s got a yoga break for that. Need to reduce the tension in your shoulders, or perhaps, like me, you need a little assistance waking up your face? Kira’s got a yoga break for that, too! They truly are useful for all ages (see additional yoga breaks at the bottom of this post)!
Gentle Neck Stretch Sit up nice and tall, and close your eyes. Gently shake your head like you’re saying no, and then nod your head like you’re saying yes. Slowly and gently let your head fall to the right. Now, bring it down and forward toward your chest, and roll it to the left side. Lean your head back just a little, as if you’re looking up toward the sky, but keep your eyes closed. Now, let’s roll the other way: gently lean your head to the left, roll it down to the front, and lean your head to the right side. Come back to center, take a long breath in, let it all the way out, and open your eyes.
Sit up tall, and pull your belly in. Squeeze your shoulders up toward your ears, take a big breath in, and let it out as you slowly drop your shoulders back down. Once more, squeeze your shoulders up toward your ears, take a breath in. Let it out as you slowly drop your shoulders back down. Do this a few more times if it feels good.
Full body squeeze
Let’s wake up our bodies by squeezing all of our muscles. Start with scrunching up your toes, then squeeze all the muscles in your legs, make your belly really strong, and squeeze the muscles in your arms. Make your hands into fists, scrunch up your face and squeeze your eyes shut. Take a breath in, and as you let it out, slowly let all those muscles go, and relax your whole body.
Wake Up Your Face <— YES, PLEASE! Kira is awesome!