Tag Archives: music

Leap Frog Lyrics…or Musical Torture

When it’s quiet around here, it’s never really silent.  My son’s favorite television shows are replete with songs, and since I’ve heard them all approximately 7,497 times, I’ve got them memorized and burned into my brain.

Naturally, being the model mom that I am, I am well aware that screens are bad.  Children under two years of age should not have any screen time at all.  I totally agree with that recommendation–in theory. I hate what technology is doing to our ability to interact with each other.  I hate looking around everywhere I go and seeing people’s faces buried in their smartphones and tablets, ignoring one another.  I hate that it seems more of my conversations are centered around things I read on social media or see on a TV and movies than on actual, real-life experiences.

All this being said, I am human and I do own a TV, I-Pad, and laptop, and yes, my 22-month-old son knows how to use all of them.  He can do things with them that leave my husband and I befuddled, wondering how on earth to change the settings back to what they were.  Let’s just admit that it can be really hard to keep kids from screens.  It doesn’t help that we adults are so attached to our devices.  Heck, I’m typing this very sentence as my toddler watches George the monkey teach his friend Bill how to dance .  Might as well multi-task a little, right?

Now that I’m on maternity leave, I get to be a stay-at-home mom for several months, which is awesome.  I love having so much time off to bond with my new baby as well as my older child.   However, it’s really hard to leave the television off ALL day.  Especially when it’s the end of March and snowing.  Of course I would prefer my toddler to spend all his time playing interactively, reading books, learning new skills.  But he does watch TV.  He sometimes gets a couple of hours straight, in fact.  My justification for that is that I have a newborn to care for as well, so I obviously can’t devote every single minute to my older son.  Plus, many of the more “educational” activities, he simply can’t do on his own.  So there are times when I let Curious George and Mickey Mouse entertain my kid.  Judge if you want.  I do my best.

Every parent knows that what really sucks about kids’ shows is that kids will watch the same thing over and over and over.  They don’t mind seeing the same episode of Wild Kratts 12 days in a row.  And it sounds like every little girl has watched Frozen eleven jillion times (“Let It Go” is one of the reasons I’m so thankful to have boys!).  And parents, you know that the worst part about watching the same kids’ show repeatedly is the songs. Even ones that are not that bad are still horrible when you hear them playing in your dreams and in your waking hours too.  It didn’t take long for LeapFrog’s Numberland and Phonics Farm songs to become permanently lodged in my mind.  I could recite and sing every line from those shows, because I’ve heard them so. Many. Times.  “Letter sound hoedown…” “Ten is the biggest number from one to ten…” “You can count things faster if you go by twos…”  Riveting lyrics, I tell ya.

At least if it’s an educational show, I don’t feel so guilty about parking my kid in front of a screen for awhile.  He’s become so much better at the numbers and alphabet in the past few weeks.  I just wish I could get some other music to take hold in my mind.  It’s like my brain has only sufficient room for inane children’s music and has pushed out every other band and soundtrack I’ve ever heard.  My husband let the Mickey short videos keep playing even after our son had fallen asleep yesterday, and I thought I was going to lose it.  Somehow he was able to tune it out.  Not so for me. I thought teaching the same class three times was bad enough–repeating the same instructions, the same activities, the same songs ad nauseum.  Nope, this is way worse–I get to watch the same shows ten, twenty, fifty-plus times.

“Everything is so glorious, everything is so wondrous..when you’re curious, like curious George.” These lines just keep repeating.  I even woke up this morning with a song Curious George’s friend Marco sings with his family band in my head :”Hurray for George!”  Why am I writing about this?  To try and somehow cement these songs even more firmly in my brain?  Why, oh why?

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Seeking the applause

I’m a pretty shy person.  When I tell students that, they always look a little shocked and say, “But you’re a teacher!”  I know, as a teacher I have to stand up in front of groups of people every single day and speak and lead.  This is why I was so hesitant to go into teaching in the first place.  Fortunately, I eventually discovered that once you know your students, teaching is not the same as public speaking.  It’s building relationships with students through the material, so once I get beyond those initial days of new classes each fall, the fear and shyness usually subside.

Being an introvert, I don’t particularly enjoy the spotlight.  I don’t want people looking at me for any prolonged amount of time.  I don’t like talking on a loudspeaker, for instance, or dancing in a silly video of all the teachers that the whole school will see.  I read some verses once at my church one Sunday, and the entire week prior to that day, I felt so anxious about it, worrying over what I would wear and whether my voice would sound weird. (I know, right?  As if anyone there would care.)

However, I’m starting to realize that there are certain situations in which I actually want to be recognized.  When it comes to an area where I feel skilled or qualified, I crave some attention.  While I don’t necessarily handle praise very well at times, I still desire that recognition.  I grew up doing all kinds of music–piano, flute, and singing–and I sometimes miss the praise I would receive after a successful performance.

There aren’t so many opportunities for me to sing for an audience anymore.  I sang many national anthems at the high school where I teach, kicking off their basketball games each winter.  Hearing my voice ring out powerfully through the gym gave me a sort of thrill.  I also used to sing solos at my old church, and even though my body trembled with fear each time, it was always one of those “glad-I-did-it-now-that-it’s over” situations.  I liked it when fellow congregants came up to me and told me they loved my song or that it moved them to worship.  I loved it when my then-boyfriend (now husband) said my voice gave him goosebumps and made him want to cry.  I loved feeling like I was truly good at something.

Being a grown-up with a more realistically attainable job than that of professional musician, I find myself missing the days when I could have my own tiny piece of the spotlight.  Yes, nerves were always a factor, but that anxiety was tempered by the confidence in my ability to sing, along with the pure joy it brought me.

Nowadays I feel a bit left out when I’m not asked to sing for events or groups.  I feel like I’ve lost that part of who I am, and the people who don’t know that I sing and play the piano have an incomplete picture of me.  It’s like they don’t really know me.  Even though my performing days are gone for now (other than singing silly songs for my son), I still think of myself as a singer.  Just the other day, the song “Someone to Watch Over Me” popped into my head, and nostalgia hit as I recalled how many times I used that piece for local theater auditions.

Music isn’t the only arena where I feel like I’ve lost a piece of myself over the years.  Maybe it’s partly because our society is set up to praise youth and their accomplishments.  Just take a look at the constant awards ceremonies that parents today are asked to attend for their kids.  You get a trophy for practically everything when you’re young.  (Kindergarten graduation?  Okay, I know the kids must look super-cute in their caps and gowns, but still.  Really?)

I always felt accomplished in running, in music, in writing, and let those things provide me with a false sense of who I was.  I was special because I was good at those things.  Yeah, I did work hard at times, but much of the time, I just enjoyed cultivating my natural abilities.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the pride and satisfaction of a job well done.  Yet, how dangerous it can be when we let our abilities and accomplishments cloud our perceptions of who we truly are.  Yeah, this is where I’m going to get “spiritual”.  I think that gradually,  I’m learning again to rest in who I am in Christ.  It’s an ongoing process, one that can be painfully eye-opening.  I remember a similar adjustment as a freshman in college, and again as I entered the workforce.  We all search desperately for a place to belong, a place to feel talented and valuable and significant.  Perhaps the saddest part of this is that so many are trapped in that never-ending cycle of strive, strive, strive to be the best, which apart from God, doesn’t lead to satisfaction at all.  It leads to disillusionment.  I do believe that only in Christ can we find our true identity.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.  Neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:38-39, NLT

“But now, this is what the Lord says–he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”–Isaiah 43:1, NIV

What an awesome reassurance!  Even if I built up an incredible list of accomplishments throughout my life, the euphoria wouldn’t last.  It wouldn’t be enough.  It wouldn’t bring lasting peace and joy.  What I need is to know whose I am.  I don’t deserve anyone’s applause, but I’ll take what Jesus is offering–perfect, unconditional love that will never fade or disappear.

some things are sacred

I hate to act like the stereotypical “old person”, constantly harping on the “good old days”, but I just have to say something.

When it comes to Christmas carols, songwriters, please leave the greats alone.

Yes, feel free to perform the classics in your own voice, with your personal style.  But please quit altering the lyrics of beloved Christmas songs. Don’t put the lyrics to “O, Come, All Ye Faithful” or “Joy to the World” with some terrible melody that you created just for the sake of so-called “originality”.  The fact that something is new does not automatically make it better (or even halfway decent).  There’s a reason so many of these songs have stood the test of time.

I’m a carol purist.  The words and the music to our yearly favorites deserve our respect.  They were intended to work together, in harmony, to convey messages about Jesus and about Christmas.  When people decide to divorce the music from the lyrics, the results are often not pretty at all.

We are creatures of habit.  We like things to remain the same as long as nothing is wrong with the original.  It’s a challenge to remake a movie or TV show or song and have it be as good as the first version.  Imagine taking on the remaking of “The Godfather” or “Gone With the Wind”.  Just listen to the myriad criticisms of the recent live broadcast of “The Sound of Music”.  Now, I’m not saying it’s okay to be so hard on poor Carrie Underwood, and I did not see this performance, so I cannot comment on its success or failure.   But some things are amazing just as they are and cannot be improved.

All I know is, I like a song as it is, which is usually the first version I’ve heard.

Changing a classically-known song detracts from the unity that song can create.  Isn’t it wonderful to be a part of a group singing along to a piece that everyone knows and loves?  We all carry our own personal memories of that song, but we can draw together in enjoyment of it.  Even secular songs hold their own sacredness.  Wouldn’t the scene in “Elf” when Jovie leads the crowd in “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” have been pretty weird if she had broken out into her own tune? (Plus, no one would have been able to sing along, which is what ends up saving Santa and Christmas!).

Using well-known lyrics but throwing them into some random musical arrangement is like putting garlic on cinnamon rolls–the just don’t go together.  It’s quite jarring to have to try and pick up a new melody at a church service or other musical event, especially one with congregational participation.  It doesn’t encourage me to enter into worship or any kind of shared experience or emotion.  If you’re going to make me get out of my comfort zone, you might as well just write an entirely new song.  It seems lazy, not refreshing, to steal the words or the music from someone else.

I’m trying to imagine that final scene from “It’s A Wonderful Life” without “Auld Lang Syne”.  Or worse–with a bubble-gum pop version sung by Justin Bieber or One Direction.  How depressing!

My high-school madrigal group always concluded our show with “Silent Night”.  Don’t even try to convince me that any remake could be more beautiful…the holiness of those moments as we fanned out, voices echoing  around the auditorium, each holding a single candle, haunts my memory to this day.

Songwriters, musicians, I implore you:  keep working at your craft.  By all means, continue to pen new music.  But be original.  If you absolutely can’t come up with an entire song without pilfering pieces from music we’ve already come to know and love…I don’t know what to say.  I guess you’d better make it good.  (Or find yourself a skilled collaborator, like Hugh Grant did in Music and Lyrics.)

I have to concede that occasionally, a good songwriter’s reworking of a classic turns out beautifully.  Please, if you have examples in mind of awesome “remakes”, whether in music, movies, or otherwise, let me know. I know I’m probably much too set in my ways…

top ten reasons why I’m a nerd

My nerdiness cannot be denied.  Now, as an adult, it’s not really a bad category, but as a kid, there were a lot of red flags indicating my nerd status:

  1. I absolutely LOVED to read.  All the time, every spare minute was spent reading.  I particularly gravitated toward series like The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, and the Emily of New Moon trilogy.  The weeks when the school book fair was happening were like Christmas for me.  I couldn’t wait to pick out my new books and take them home and keep them in perfectly pristine condition no matter how many times I reread them.  My best friend and I would spend hours at the bookstores perusing our options and debating how best to use the money allotted for books from our parents.  Pages for All Ages was the best place to shop, as far as I was concerned.
  2. I wore glasses from first grade on through sixth or seventh (whenever I was finally able to get contacts).  My prescription has always been pretty strong, so my lenses were extra-thick and had to be supported by extra-sturdy frames.
  3. I did not wear jeans, ever, until I was probably in the eighth grade.  Nope, my fashion choice was stirrup pants, those lovely leggings with the elastic strap that went over your feet.  Pretty stylin’.
  4. Obedience to my parents was almost 100%.  I had a few slip-ups, of course, but I only remember being grounded once in my life–when I stayed out with a boy I liked for maybe an extra hour later than allowed.  To be fair, I hadn’t really thought my dad meant I had to come home by the prescribed time, because I had so rarely needed any curfew guidelines in the first place.
  5. I did not possess the right “look”.  I never felt like I quite fit in or kept up with the trends.  I did get a perm in the fifth grade, around the time it seemed pretty popular, but it was not a wise move on my part.  My ears weren’t pierced until way after every other girl in my class had them done.  I often borrowed oversized tees and sweatshirts from my older brothers.  I suppose I believed that was cool because my brothers were really cool, but I forgot the important fact that their clothes were not made for me, a girl who was three and five years younger than they were, respectively.
  6. I played the flute in the marching band.  Enough said?
  7. I never donned a cheerleading skirt.  I tried out for the squad one year, maybe twice.  Cross-country was much more my style.   Very little coordination required.  All you had to do was run and not fall down.
  8. I was drug- and alcohol-free throughout high school and even college.  Granted, there was a strong group of kids I went to school with who also abstained from drugs, but they were already cool to begin with and didn’t care what people thought, so they maintained their “cool” status even without joining in with the partying.
  9. I was an exemplary student.  Turning in homework on time and paying attention in class were not optional.  I admit I copped a little attitude once in awhile, especially if I thought I was right and the teacher was wrong, but overall, I did what was expected of me.
  10. I became a high school teacher.  I love grammar and language nuances.  I enjoy making up verb conjugation songs and have even been known to dance and sing on class videos.  I still believe wholeheartedly that reading is one of the best ways to spend your time.

Some of these things did present a few challenges while growing up, to be sure.  There were plenty of times when I felt left out or unwanted in a certain group.  However, I now recognize that a lot of the girls I aspired to be like struggled with very similar insecurities.  Almost no one makes it through the middle-school and high-school years completely unscathed.

I can’t really complain about my growing-up years.  I had great friends and we had a blast together.  I got to go to Disney World and London with my choir and band groups.  I never once regretted not being wild and partying with “those” kids.  My love for reading and learning made college a heck of a lot easier.  I owe a debt of gratitude to my sister-in-law for helping me find a sense of style, even though it took until my mid-20s to start getting there.

Every experience, whether good or bad, whether easy or challenging, helped get me where I needed to be.  I’m still pretty nerdy–after all,  I am a teacher.   I embrace those nerdy ways.