We all have our own traditions. Some of them have been passed down from our families, and some of us create our own traditions to be passed down or not. I celebrate the Winter Solstice. I’ve written many times about my decision to stop celebrating Christmas and of the creation of my holiday tradition. I won’t repeat it here, but you can listen to the spoken word memoir piece about it here. I wouldn’t play the memoir for your kids as there are a couple of possible spoilers, but you can certainly share the song below that goes along with the memoir.
Tomorrow is December 1st, so tomorrow night I’ll light one candle, adding one each night until we reach December 22nd. I love this tradition, but I have to admit that I’m a sucker for Christmas music. Yes, I have the station saved on my car radio and when alone, I crank it up. Any holiday that includes music is good with me, but not everyone wants to hear Christmas music. Fortunately, there are plenty of winter songs you can share with your kids. “Frosty the Snowman,” Jingle Bells” and Winter Wonderland are just a few. The important thing is, remember to sing! Singing is a wonderful way to reduce the stress of the season, and we all feel it to some degree. I know that I’ve noticed the traffic getting crazier as so many people are rushing around getting their shopping done. I’m sometimes stressed because I’m feeling bombarded by the commercialization of Christmas. Kids often feel left out, if their families don’t celebrate that holiday because it’s become such a huge part of our culture. All of those stresses can be alleviated, at least to some degree, by singing together.
So … I am also a sucker for Christmas lights. I know it’s wasteful, especially those outrageous displays, but they’re fun, and they’re a welcome break from all the gloom of the darkening days. I used to play the “Christmas Light Game” with my kids. It was a fun competition to see who could point out the most light displays. It kept them occupied and interested on long car rides. They could do it endlessly because the landscape constantly changed adding new sights. When they got older, we turned it into a cooperative game because the competition was getting stressful. It was still fun, and once in a while, they would revert back to the competitive game.
When I chose to give up Christmas, I could have been a Scrooge about it invading my life but decided instead to remember that I can be flexible and embrace the parts of it that I like. There are always going to be things I’m not fond of, but I don’t have to put a lot of energy into hating them. I can tweak them a bit, create something to take their place or just ignore them, but music and fun will always be a part of whatever I do and for me, that includes Christmas Carols and lights. I hope you'll share your traditions with me. I'd love to hear about them.
What can I say? I love playing in the snow, though I didn't get outside long enough to play today. I'll take a walk later, maybe down the steep hill to get my mail. I miss having children around to play with. It's just not as much fun making snow sculptures by myself. However, I try to remind myself how important it is to go outside when it's cold out. Children, in particular, need lots of time outdoors. Most of them don't get the same amount of outdoor play as I did when I was a kid. Most of them don't get as much play time at all. Their lives are so scheduled, and some of them are micro-managed. I sometimes feel a little guilty when I offer my classes because I know they add to that scheduled time. However, I hope that most parents are aware of not over-scheduling, and some scheduling and a reasonable amount of extra-curricular activities are good for their development.
This post is going to be a short one with a couple of cold weather ideas. Building snow creatures is always fun. You can use your creativity to build not just snowmen, but try building cats, teddy bears, even dragons. Make igloos and snow forts. My youngest son still remembers the snow fort built for him with a slide on the outside. I remember a time when the snow was covered with so much ice, we could cut it into blocks. We built all kinds of buildings and sculptures using those blocks and slices of ice encrusted snow. It was like building with building blocks. We could leave spaces for windows all around.
Food coloring is always nice to add a touch of color to your creations. Speaking of food coloring, why not fill a couple of balloons with colored water and freeze them to leave outdoors as decorations? Have you ever blown soap bubbles outside in below freezing weather? These are all really fun and offer the opportunity for art and science. No matter who we are, it's important to remember to play. Otherwise we turn old, and I have a feeling we may be getting a lot of opportunity to play in the snow this winter.
I make most of my living teaching parents and their children to sing and dance together. I often have the adults complain that they can’t sing. My answer is always the same, “If you can talk, you can sing, and your children don’t care what you sound like.” I’m not just saying that. They really don’t care. It’s about the bonding experience rather than the quality of your voice.
I grew up in a musical family. My dad always sang and taught me songs at a very young age. My mom, on the other hand, probably never sang a note in key in her whole life. However, I loved to hear my mom sing. She made up her own words to familiar melodies and made it really fun. Dad was more serious about it and, unfortunately, ridiculed her constantly. As a result, she never sang when he was around. I remember feeling saddened by that. It was much more fun when we all sang together as a family, but he made it too hard for her to participate. Thank goodness he didn't stop her altogether, though.
It is so important to model the joy and importance of sharing music together. Children need that experience. The only way to do that is by jumping right in and doing it. That means that everyone gets to join in, regardless of their abilities. However, if you want to improve that ability and learn to sing closer to "in key," there is something that will help. You can practice “audiation.” Audiation is the ability to hear the music in your head when it’s not actually playing. When we get those ear-worms that just won’t leave, we are audiating.
So how do we practice this? It's simple. Try to hear songs in your head - audiate. If this is difficult, sing a simple song all the way through. Then, leave out some of the lines in the song, following along in your head. If this is a real struggle for you, it may take a little while, but keep at it. Just like anything else, this will get easier with practice. Try to look at it as a game. You can do it when you're alone in the car or when you're singing in the shower. And, you can just leave out a word here and there, eventually building up to omitting whole lines. Most importantly, don't give up. Your children will thank you for it. Good luck!
Please support your local musicians! We can't survive without you.