Archive for the ‘Links for Cool, Interesting Websites’ Category

Today’s glorious weather is balm to this blogger’s spirit.  A good Kindermusik colleague, Christa Sigman, shared this with me, and I wanted to pass it along.  Enjoy!

Thanks, Christa!

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A new website I found that has rapidly become a favorite is Kids Off the Couch. Dedicated to connecting parents with their children via a good movie and cultural tie-ins, this weekly email will provide you with a *wealth* of information guaranteed to pique not only your interests but also your child’s.

This week’s email was directly related to Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, and the bicentennial of his birthday.

Taken from their *free* newsletter:

If Your Kids Read Only One Book about Lincoln:

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary is an exciting new biography for kids that combines photos, letters and text. Common Sense Media says “this is the way biographies for children ought to be done”.

If You Only Read One Book About Lincoln: Okay, we couldn’t narrow it down to one — here are several excellent choices. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals is a lively portrait of the President’s election and his historic, inclusive Cabinet choices; our current President is said to be influenced by this biography, and Steven Spielberg has optioned the film rights.

Garry Wills’ Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America is a Pulitzer Prize winning deconstruction of Lincoln’s most famous speech, and Gore Vidal’s Lincoln: A Novel gets below the skin of the iconic figure. In Sunday’s New York Times, William Safire reviewed several new books about the 16th President — from a concise 79 page book to a momentous 2,000 page study. Click here to learn which one is right for you.

If Your Teens Only Have Ten Minutes: Have them check out this great NPR podcast, a brief tribute to Lincoln with music and anecdotes.

If You Want to Build Lincoln’s Log Cabin with your Tots: Lincoln Logs were designed by John Lloyd Wright and let kids re-create Lincoln’s early days with their own hands.

If You Only Watch One Movie About Lincoln: Young Mr. Lincoln is a wonderful John Ford film starring Henry Fonda in an unforgettable performance. Made in 1939, this black and white film is geared for adults, so not a natural fit for kids (unless yours are either devoted to classic film, or Abe himself). (1939, UR, 100 minutes)

If You Like to Learn Online: The Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was assassinated, is a surprisingly cool place to visit (next time you are in DC). Check out their Learn The Story website, a great one-stop resource for all things Lincoln.

If You Only Read One Speech or Poem: Read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (in his own handwriting) and Walt Whitman’s poem in response to the news of Lincoln’s assassination.

Diane and Sarah
Founders, Kids Off The Couch



Do yourself a favor – sign up for the free newsletter, and get set to enjoy weekends with your kids!

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While you may or may not agree with Barack Obama’s politics, there is no denying that today is the dawn of a new day in the history of the United States of America.  As a child of the 50’s and 60’s, I grew up here in Atlanta, seeing racial discrimination as an accepted, though not acceptable, way of life.   If it had not been for my father who worked daily alongside men of all colors in the streets of Atlanta for the Atlanta Gas Light Company, I think I would not be the person I am today.

In listening to this song, given as a free download from Oprah.com through today until 5PM EST, and viewing the video available on her website, I find myself hopeful – hopeful that we, as Americans, can put the polarizing election behind us and come together as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”   Enjoy!

America’s Song

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Okay, moms and dads, try your hand at this old-fashioned turkey shoot, and see how well you’ll score.  🙂



H/T to InDecatur for providing the fun link!

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I haven’t had an opportunity recently to just surf through the varied offerings on Youtube.com.   A lot of what you view is just not really worth the time you spend there, but once in a while you find a real gem.  This is one of those.

Meet Corey Vidal, a 21-year-old video artist and official “YouTube partner” from Canada, which basically means that Youtube.com actually pays him to make videos.  He’s also a dancer, choreographer, and singer – a real Renaissance man of many talents.  This video, however, required something different from him than any he had made before. 

The first time I viewed this video, I was struck by the breadth and depth of creativity involved to produce this final product.  I mistakenly thought that Corey had taped himself singing each part, then somehow looped them all together.

The thought of one individual singing the range of all four parts was staggering, much less putting them together and overlaying them into one video of four individual parts playing simultaneously.  I didn’t know that that was exactly what I was supposed to think. 

Then I got to checking further into the video itself through information provided by Corey Vidal on the Youtube site which led me to my favorite researching website – Google.com.  What I found, amazingly enough, is that what he actually did was even more difficult than I originally thought. 

The audio track of this salute to John Williams is, in reality, from a comedic acapella group called Moosebutter, also from Canada.  According to their website, their music is “Music for Your Inner Lizard” – yes, extremely tongue-in-cheek.  🙂


With Moosebutter’s blessing and a collaborative effort with Corey Vidal, the four-minute+ video was first choreographed into four individual parts, and Vidal then had to learn each one perfectly in order to create the illusion of being the sole singer.  The video took more than a month to make and received 10,000 hits in the first 48 hours after posting onto Youtube. 

I will say that it’s a pretty convincing video.  If it had not been for Vidal’s own clear attribution to Moosebutter and additional links to other sites, including  11Alive News here in Atlanta, I would have been taken in.   Even after learning the truth, I am amazed at what he has done.  Tonight as I finish this post, the counter on this video is over 1,000,000 hits, more than 175,000 since I first viewed it just this morning, and it’s only been uploaded for twelve days. 

For a look at Corey’s other videos, check out his Youtube channel.  

Interested in what those lyrics to “Star Wars – an Acapella Tribute to John Williams” were?  (Yes, you did hear what you thought you did.  Those are pretty realistic “Wookie” calls.)  Visit Moosebutter here and then be sure to check out some of their other recordings – Harry Potter, for one.

You can also buy the track from them for $0.99 if you really like it.  (Got a Star Wars fan in your home?  Think Christmas gift.  They’ll love it!)


H/T goes to Tabby Worthington

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I was fortunate three years ago to attend the Kindermusik national convention held in Nashville, Tennessee.  I went, not really knowing many people, but content to sit and learn and absorb as much as possible of the Kindermusik experience.  What I didn’t realize was that it would be something totally new and different there that would shift my musical “paradigm” in ways I never could have anticipated.

I first met Lynn Frank and Karen Gibson, both Kindermusik educators, through our online KM Loop, made up of licensed Kindermusik educators.  When a question was posed on the loop about beginning piano methods, they both brought up Simply Music – a piano method that I had never heard of.  Having taught piano now for over 35 years, I’ve pretty much heard of most of them.  This was something new.

Developed by Australian-born Neil Moore and based in Sacramento, California, it was something that they raved about – as teachers, as musicians, as pianists.  They both mentioned how it freed not only their students from the written page, but also themselves.  Intrigued, I began to look into it and attended their information workshop in Nashville.

I was so impressed with not only what I saw, but also heard there, that I began checking into Simply Music more closely via the internet, spending hours pouring over the website, viewing their videos, and following links to licensed Simply Music instructors.  I also emailed these instructors, asking further questions about their decision to teach this method.  After a week of investigation, emails and conversations, I took the plunge and signed up for training.  I’ve never regretted it.

Simply Music is a revolutionary, Australian-developed piano and keyboard method that presents a breakthrough in music education.  Students of all ages are playing great-sounding blues, contemporary, classical and accompaniment pieces – immediately – from their very first lessons.  And they’re enjoying themselves tremendously in the process!

Simply Music sets a new standard in music education, and explores learning piano, playing piano, and teaching piano from a completely different perspective.  It presents the possibility of a new era in music education, learning, and self-expression. 

It is not the Suzuki method.  It is not rote memorization.  It is not a reading-based, traditional approach.  It is simply – music – taught in such a way that even teachers, long trained in traditional piano methods, find themselves transformed not only in how they teach piano, but also in playing and composing piano pieces for themselves. 

For your enjoyment, I present one of my beginning piano students, Alex, who is eight years old.  He has been studying piano with me since mid-March of 2008, just five (5) months ago, using Simply Music.  He has not had any previous formal piano or music study of any kind.  The piece he is playing is called “Alma Mater Blues” and is the final piece of the Level I Foundation book of Simply Music.  Enjoy! 🙂

There will be a *FREE* Information Session about Simply Music on Tuesday, August 26th, at Zion Baptist Church in Covington, Georgia, beginning at 7PM.  Interested in learning more about Simply Music and playing the piano?  Come join us!  Questions?  Email us at info at masterworks studio dot com or call 404-395-5247.

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This will definitely not be a post like you’re anticipating.  While I wholeheartedly agree with the premise of a clean, safe environment now and for the future, I never had the opportunity to support it with my five children when they were infants as today’s young parents do.  Meet the gDiaper – the breathable diaper you can flush or even compost!

The gDiaper - the breathable diaper you can flush

While I have to confess to a very healthy skepticism to a lot of advertisment PR about a company’s “green”-ness (I am a child of the ’60’s, after all!), in reading and viewing information on the gDiapers.com website, I was amazed and thrilled at what I found. 

This company has successfully found a way for your baby to have a disposable, flushable,  environmentally-friendly diaper that is actually comfortable, absorbent, and easy to use. 

From their website:

gDiapers consist of a washable, cotton outer pant and a plastic free flushable refill.  They are made of breathable material just like sports clothing.  So, babies stay dry and happy and are far less likely to get diaper rash.

Can’t flush?  It’s ok to toss flushable refills because they’re plastic-free.  Or garden compost the wet ones.  They’ll break down in 50-150 days.

Using the gDiaper from start to flush!

I checked further in their website and found that gDiapers are available here locally at Sevananda Natural Foods in the Little Five Points area as well as Whole Foods Markets.  Prices surprisingly are very comparable to brand-name disposable diapers.  Now, if only I had a baby to diaper! 😀

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To all my Chinese friends, students, and their families

Chinese New Year 2008 - the Year of the Rat

May your year be filled with all good things!


xin nein kuai le!

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Wondertime is, undoubtedly, one of my favorite parenting magazines.  I look forward to each issue, knowing that it will have something useful for just about any and every parent.  The newest issue has a very interesting article about learning to “read” your newborn and his or her attempts to communicate with you.  I wish I had had this article when I had my firstborn!  It only confirms what I’ve long suspected.  The problem wasn’t with my baby – it was *ME*!

From Wondertime:

Swaddled newborn baby

“Translating Newborn”

Written By Sonia Shah 
You know your baby’s trying to tell you something, but what is it?

“See the slight pucker on her brow and her clenching hands?” baby researcher J. Kevin Nugent asks about 1-day-old Tess. “She’s saying, ‘Wait a minute. I’m still getting organized. Soon I’ll be relaxed enough to really look at you.’ “

It took about a week after I brought home my first baby for me to transmogrify from an unflappable globe-trotting journalist into a hormone-addled zombie weeping on the shoulders of strangers. Extreme sleep deprivation and hormone spikes were part of this alchemy, but the most potent ingredient, for me, was what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, that uncomfortable state of tension that results when two conflicting realities collide. This creature I’d made from my own flesh and nurtured for months inside my body — the very definition of an intimate familiar — had been revealed to me as a stranger.

He cried. He squirmed. He shuddered. His tiny face crumpled, stretched, and contorted, and sometimes his eyes opened so wide that I could see the top crescent of his sclera, the “white” of the eyeball. He pedaled his flaky, wrinkled feet, then stared off moodily into the middle distance. I could decipher none of these strange expressions and gestures. For those first few weeks, life with my beloved child felt as discombobulating as a Fellini film in the afternoon.

To read the rest of this article, please visit Wondertime here.

For further information about understanding your child’s “babyspeak”, check out the Babyspeak Decoder.

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Recently, my friend, Molly, posted on her blog about cute Halloween costumes that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, you can easily make them yourself, and they aren’t made of smelly vinyl possibly contaminated with dangerous lead levels.  I couldn’t resist sharing some of them here with you. 

Happy Clown

Happy Clown


* Attach two plastic pot scrubbers and a colored ball to the top of a cotton cap.

* Thread plastic pot scrubbers loosely with elastic as the clown’s collar

* Hot-glue or stitch three plastic pot scrubbers to the front of a one-piece jumper.

* Cinch pot scrubbers with twist ties and stitch or glue to shoes.




* Cut green sponges into triangles and stitch or glue them down the center of a pilot’s cap.

* Attach more triangles down the back of a matching bodysuit.

Bumblebee and Flower

DIY Baby Bumblebee 


* Make yourself a flower-petal collar from a plastic shower-curtain liner.

* For antennae, attach chenille stems topped with pom-poms to a cotton cap.

* Use bubble wrap as wings.

* Wrap a yellow towel around a baby carrier and fasten it with stripes of black electrical tape.

For additional information and costume ideas, visit Parent.com here.

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