Jellyfish Attack

When I was a kid, probably 7 or 8, my family spent a day at a Southern California beach, building sand castles, playing in the surf, and eating slightly sandy hot dogs.

I remember that day because I was viciously attacked by a jellyfish!

Okay, so it was a mild sting. Very mild, in fact. But I was at that age where everything is amplified tenfold because it’s new and strange. In my mind, the ocean was suddenly filled with millions of horrible little jellyfish reaching out with their long, poisonous tentacles.

If only I had known that jellyfish are beautiful creatures. They’re even kind of cute and cuddly. Most of all, they are quite useful. Continue reading

A Child’s Guide to Vegetables


My kids have always loved their veggies. But only under certain conditions. Long ago, when they were younger, I developed this simple Child’s Guide to Vegetables to help me avoid mealtime rebellion.

1. Carrots must be raw, not cooked.

2. Broccoli must be cooked, not raw.

3. Celery must be 2 inches or longer, never chopped into small pieces.

4. Corn must be on the cob, never loose on the plate.

5. Tomatoes are evil, but ketchup is heavenly.

6. Beans are gross, while refried beans are delicious.

7. Green beans are tolerable by themselves, but disgusting when mixed with macaroni and cheese.

8. Peas are fun to eat, but if one gets smashed, the party’s over.

9. Mixing different vegetables together is forbidden, as it’s simply too much work sorting them out to eat individually.

10. Brussels sprouts. Are you insane?

None of these rules made much sense to me at the time, except for the one about brussels sprouts (yuck), but at least the kids ate their veggies in one form or another.

These days, as my son and daughter have grown into maturing teens, only a few of the rules still ring true.

I’ll just stay quiet on which ones.

Why Must I Be SAD

Like most people, I have my emotional ups and downs.

I’ve just been very lucky, or blessed with good genetics, to have my mood swings rarely reach extremes.

All throughout my life, my lows have been mild and short-lived, while my highs have been generally free of giddy euphoria.

So imagine my surprise last October when this strange feeling of gloom settled over me and wouldn’t go away.

Like a cough I just couldn’t shake, I had a blue funk in my brain.

This had never happened to me before, so I didn’t recognize it as anything other than a symptom of poor sleep habits.

At one point, I thought it might be the longest case of jet lag ever.

It wasn’t until January that I considered my specific symptoms:

1. An overall tiredness and lack of energy
2. Difficulty waking up in the morning
3. Craving carbohydrates, especially pasta and bread
4. Difficulty completing tasks
5. Avoiding social situations
6. Trouble focusing

I remembered this fancy doo-hicky thing called the Internet and typed in some of my pronounced symptoms.

And there it was!

I discovered that I had a disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Pretty common this time of year, and so appropriately named.

Thankfully, my SAD wasn’t too SAD. I was just slightly SAD. But, still, an unusual thing for me to be feeling any of it. I’ve lived through 23 Idaho winters, and I don’t believe this one has been any grayer or colder than any of those others.

They say that sunlight works wonders for SAD sufferers, so the first sunny day we had in January, I made sure to be out there walking in it.

The combination of sun and exercise definitely lifted my spirits. And it made me think that the reason this winter was different for me was because I had embarked on an aggressive program of walking last spring, spending far more time outside in the sun than I ever have before.

Apparently, my body became addicted to long outdoor walks.

I think I’ve learned a lesson here. It’s not good to hibernate through the winter. It used to be fun to focus solely on indoor activities during these cold and snowy months, but now I realize how important it is to find some way to get out of the house and soak up the sun (if you can see it through the clouds).

And not just for me, but also for my kids. If they see me doing it, they’re more likely to join in. SAD for kids is especially dangerous, as it can negatively affect their self-esteem and lead to poor grades, isolation, and major depression.

So, pay attention to yourself. If you’re feeling out of sorts, do something about it. Don’t say, “Oh, it’ll pass when spring comes.” You’ll end up better prepared to observe your children and act accordingly when you suspect they might be suffering from this seasonal disorder.

Heidi Swedberg’s Play!

I was a fan of Heidi Swedberg long before she sent me her CD to review.

She reeled me in back in the 90’s with her effortless performance in the role of Susan Ross, the sophisticated and ever-patient girlfriend of George Costanza, on the TV show Seinfeld. Since her infamous departure from that show (death by envelope glue!), Swedberg became one of those actors I would always enjoy spotting in various TV and movie roles, from ER to Bones to Galaxy Quest.

So, I was happy to hear that she had recently turned her talents to teaching music to kids.

And that she wanted me to review her debut CD, Play!

I was even happier to find the CD to be just as effortless as her acting. The disc is filled with classic kids’ songs, set to the amiable voices and playful ukulele strumming of Heidi and her band, The Sukey Jump Band.

Songs like “Froggie Went a Courtin’,” “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and “Muffin Man” are given a complete ukulele makeover, with quirky arrangements and foot-tapping beats. Not to mention plenty of glockenspiel, saw, and slide whistle. Heidi also tackles ballads like “Down in the Valley,” and “Dream a Little Dream” with a simple sweetness that will have your young ones smiling the whole way through.

But Heidi encourages kids to do more than just listen. Hence, the title of the disc.

Yes, you might just have to buy your kids a ukulele so they can play along. Chords and lyrics are even provided with the CD.

She also sells a very reasonably priced ukulele on her website.

Whether they just listen or learn to play, your children will love these songs. They’re perfect for the younger crowd, from toddlers up through the elementary school years.

Of course, you’re never too old to pick up a musical instrument. Why not join your kids and form a ukulele orchestra for your next family sing-along?

To help one of you out, I have a copy of Play! to give away. Just leave a comment on this post telling me you’re a ukulele kind of person.

I’ll pick a winner next week!

In the meantime, visit CDBaby to hear samples of Heidi’s songs.

CD Review: Leeny and Tamara

My kids and I have become rather tough critics of children’s music lately.

We hear more than most people, and after awhile much of it starts to sound the same.

So, we sit up and take notice when something different and fresh arrives in our mailbox.

That’s the case with Leeny and Tamara’s new CD, Sharing The Same Stars. Their music is charming and thoughtful, with hummable melodies, pristine studio production, and countless little touches that will make both you and your kids smile.

Leeny and Tamara first met in the early 90’s at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where they were both songwriting students. Nearly twenty years later, they finally got together to write and perform this amazing kids album.

Their lyrics are geared toward kids ten and under, with topics that both teach and entertain. One of our favorite songs is “Hold It,” a wistful tune about having to pee really bad. We’ve all been there.

Another standout is “I Used To Be Shy,” a thoughtful little tale of overcoming childhood shyness set to a bouncy pop melody. I can completely identify with lyrics like “It may be hard to believe that things can change, With every brave little step you take, Today will be easier than yesterday.”

Most of this album is a mix of piano pop and guitar rock, with a touch of new wave, country, and rockabilly spread throughout. Leeny and Tamara beautifully harmonize from beginning to end.

You can listen for yourself at their website, where they have streaming samples of all their songs.

Leeny and Tamara have produced a wonderful set of songs that will please you and your kids for many years. Sharing The Same Stars receives my family’s highest recommendation!

They were kind enough to send me a copy of this CD to give away to one of my readers. If you’d like to win Leeny and Tamara’s CD, leave a comment on this post. I’ll pick a winner next weekend!

iPhone Apps For Kids!

The good folks at Tickle Tap Apps would like to give you something nice.

Tickle Tap Apps makes educational iPhone games for preschoolers. They recently sent me a couple of their games to review.

Sound Shaker and Sort Slider are simple, but charming, games that are sure to delight babies and toddlers. These app developers got it right by emphasizing colors, sounds, and motion.

You’ll have to watch my video review below to find out more about these fun apps, and also about a very nice prize that they’d like to give to one of my readers.

See all the other apps at the Tickle Tap Apps website. You can also follow them on Twitter.

The prize giveaway is only available to residents of the USA and Canada.

Renee and Jeremy Say C’mon

Even though it’s the shortest month, February always seems to drag. Too far removed from Christmas, not close enough to spring break. It’s a good time for a little musical pick-me-up. Over the next few weeks, I’ll have some CD recommendations for you and your kids.

Today, we’ll start with the amazing acoustic harmonies of Renee and Jeremy.

Renee and Jeremy CDTheir new CD, C’mon, is aptly titled. The dozen songs have a kind of happy urgency about them, like when your kids are telling you, “C’mon daddy, let’s go play!” The energy is infectious.

It doesn’t hurt that Renee and Jeremy sing beautifully together. I was reminded at times of the recent Matthew Sweet/Susanna Hoffs cover songs collaboration. Only, Renee and Jeremy do it better. Their playfully mellow sound is easy on everyone’s ears, and their intertwining voices complement each other perfectly.

This is that rare children’s CD that is truly for all ages. Songs like “Share” and “Right Now” deliver a message of love and patience. You won’t find lyrics about teeth brushing or finger painting. I can definitely see this CD getting head-bobs of approval from both your toddler and your teen.

The Idaho Family highly recommends C’mon by Renee and Jeremy. Visit their website to listen, look, and play (and to find some free song downloads!). You can also find the CD at Amazon, iTunes, and the other usual places.