Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Lunch Money's 'Spicy Kid'

Reviewed mostly by Bil 
with Patty

Lunch Money's 'Spicy Kid' Album

Bil and I received Lunch Money's newest album just a few days ago, and I am already in love with it.  Lunch Money is, by far, our favorite kids' band.  From the day that Bil heard a clip of "A Cookie as Big as My Head" on NPR 2 years ago, we knew we had found what we'd been searching for musically--a kids' band we actually enjoyed.

Their latest album, Spicy Kid, showcases Lunch Money's traditional wit ("S.P.E.L.L") and inventiveness ("What Will You Ever See?") but what is updated is drummer/engineer Jay Barry's lusher instrumentation and mixing ("Gingerbread Man" and "Time Out" sound stunning) and singer Molly Ledford's expanding storytelling personas.  

Molly regularly draws musical inspiration from her two vivacious kids, and her lyrics in previous albums have mainly focused on seeing the world through a carefree, precocious child's eyes.  The songs now point more directly to Molly's experiences as a parent, reading like excerpts from love letters to her kids (for example: "You were a Basket of Flowers,"  "Awake," "A Walk in the Rain"). The emotional details paint a universal mural, capturing the yin and yang of our own feelings about our children.  As I listened to the lyrics, almost every song evoked such a strong memory with my kids that I felt like Molly had to be singing about my family.
She is able to capture my feelings  in a way that leaves me alternately smiling broadly and wiping tears from my cheeks, depending on the song.

Some of the standouts include the following:

In the title track 'Spicy Kid' we get to relive the instant we saw our kid as a complete person, a person independent of our parenting and our genes.  
"Watching you trying to cheat at games, in the most creative ways... I'd stop you, but I'm still amazed."

"Time Out" is ironically,  over too quickly, it could have lasted several more minutes and I wouldn't have been begging at the stair step to be let out early.  My favorite part of this song is that it somehow takes a typically unpleasant aspect of parenting (putting kids in timeout) and puts a positive spin on it.  

"A Walk in the Rain"is probably Bil's favorite song. He says:  I can't tell if it reminds me more of some timeless bit of pop from the 4AD catalog, or Brian Burton's more recent production work with Norah Jones.  To me, it's just beautiful in every sense that a song can be, and sits really well with other stuff in my rotation.  

"S.P.E.L.L."  is a detailed, hilarious indictment of one of my own foibles-- the other day Charlotte asked me why I felt the need to spell "ice cream" in front of her instead of  just saying the word.  I pretended it was so Tommy would finish his dinner without freaking out about dessert, and that I would appreciate it if she didn't repeat the word either.  Truth is, I honestly forgot that I can't fool Charlotte anymore, that little squirrel understands every word.  A brilliant slice of parental vaudeville.

"Translator" is very touching, with a
 killer opening line.  "You ask 'Where is the bathroom?' and they hand you a balloon..."  It took me back to when Danny, at age 3, wasn't talking; he had only a handful of words and wasn't able to make simple requests, like asking for a drink of water (Patty and I celebrated on the day he finally told us he was thirsty!).  

What's great about the song is that it doesn't get mired in feelings of frustration, but rather validates and assures the misunderstood child, that even though "No one understands you, [...] I DO."  The song's parent-figure isn't wearied by the labor, "I'll explain it to them later..." knowing that while "one day you will have great conversations" that "right now I'm the lucky one who listens everyday."  I think any parent can relate to this song.  All children go through a phase where very few people understand them.  For us, though, this song had a deeper meaning.  Having a child who struggled to learn language, and who still now at 9 years old, is often misunderstood, this song is a tender reminder of how lucky we are to be Danny's translators.  And its message is hopeful, because I agree with Lunch Money:  Someday maybe Danny WILL give a speech that wows the entire nation!

Now I'm the one who feels understood. 

When I listen to "Basket of Flowers" I flash back to the days I spent in the hospital after having each of my kids.  I treasure the memory of the hours I spent quietly cuddling my babies with no other concern in the world, the time when I could focus solely on them and nothing else.  

Parents:  Lunch Money is a higher form of kids' music, which makes perfect sense, because kids are a higher form of people.  

Get this cd.  :D

You can listen to Spicy Kid streamed in its entirety here.  

You're welcome.

See Lunch Money on Facebook

For more posts about music, check out the Spin Cycle at Second Blooming.

Second Blooming

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

LEGO Heavy Weapons Review

LEGO Heavy Weapons on Amazon

LEGO Heavy Weapons: Build Working Replicas of Four of the World's Most Impressive Guns by Jack Streat is sure to please the most avid adult and/or teen LEGO fan.  The book gives detailed and precise instructions on how to build replicas of the following weapons:  Desert Eagle, AKS-74U, Jungle Carbine, and SPAS 12.  The best part of these replicas (well, besides being built with LEGO blocks) is that the guns actually fire LEGO ammunition!  Cool, huh?

Streat includes very precise information about the measurements of each model gun, what sort of magazine it includes, as well as the magazine capacity.  For example, the AKS-74U can shoot thirteen 1x4 bricks.  He also includes historical information about each gun, like the fact that Mikhail Kalashnikov was the original designer of the AKS-74U, and it was first used in 1947.  Each section also includes subsections outlining the Design History and How it Works, which I found to be the most fascinating parts of the books.  Any weapon or history buff is sure to be pleased with the level of research that has gone into the writing of this book.

The instructions are very easy to follow and are slightly bigger than your average set of LEGO instructions, which is a plus.  And unlike standard LEGO instructions, Streat includes some written hints and instructions along with the pictures to clarify certain points.  He has also broken the instructions down into weapon parts and labeled them with titles such as "Pistol Grip Underside," "Frame Wall Right," "Barrell Assembly," etc. thereby preventing confusion.

Danny has been bugging me to construct one of these models with him.  Hopefully, someday soon, we'll have the time to devote to building one of these replicas, though, I don't think I'll keep it loaded!  This book is definitely for those with a lot of LEGO building experience.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Autistic? How Silly is That! Review and Giveaway

When I received "Autistic? How Silly is That!" the cover alone was enough to draw me in; the water color painting is so vibrant and whimsical, it delights the eye.  

But this is not just a book with fantastic artwork.  There's a valuable message lurking in its pages, a lesson that encourages others to see past a person's labels.  The book's subtitle: "I don't need any labels at all" sums it up well.  

On each page, you see a little boy who asks such questions as, "I have brown hair.  I wonder if makes me brown-hair-tistic?"  The boy lists the many possible ways he might be classified--as someone who is left-handed, bad at history, but good at math, someone who loves junk food and has big feet.  Each time, he wonders if he should be labeled based on those personality characteristics.  

The boy then explains that he has autism and how that affects his life, ending with the conclusion that if it's silly to be labeled as "junk-food-tistic" or "big-foot-orthodont-istic," then it's equally unnecessary to be labeled as "autistic."

The pictures in the book are beautiful and fun--full of color and whimsy.  And the message is equally uplifting, teaching kids that labels do not define a person.  What I found most interesting about the book is that you never see the little boy's face until the end of the book when he proclaims, "Whew! Ridiculous! I don't need any labels at all!  I'm just a typical person, with my own likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, who approaches the world a little differently...but many times, better." 

I'm sure most kids wouldn't see the symbolism in this, but I liked how it illustrated that labels can take away from a person's identity.  It's not until we see past stereotypes and labels and prejudices that we actually really see a person for who he or she is.

This is a great book for kids with autism and their siblings, but I also think it would be a perfect addition to any school library.  The valuable lesson in this book is important for all kids to understand.  I plan on asking Danny's Sunday School teacher to read it to his class so to give his peers a better understanding of who he is. 

This book is available at Future Horizons and if you use the code PH, you can receive free shipping (no matter how much you spend) AND 15% off!  This code can be used for anything in the Future Horizons store, including conferences, so check out all the great resources they offer.



I have an extra copy of "Autistic? How Silly is That!"  which I would like to give to a reader.

Leave a comment on this post before Friday, June 15th at midnight for your chance to read a copy of the book.  Just make sure in your comment that you leave your email address, so I have a way to get a hold of you!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Standardized Tests suck

I hate evaluations.  Just hate them.

Tuesday, Danny endured 2 hours of testing with the school psychologist while the rest of us got to play in a playground on the most beautiful day of the summer.  He was technically due for this testing in the Fall, but I pressed the school to do it sooner so we'd be better prepared for next school year.  The psychologist decided doing it during summer break might be best and I agreed.

Danny was far more cooperative than I could have ever hoped for.  I expected a lot of complaining and frustration.  After all, it's summer vacation.  Who wants to go to school to take tests during summer?

No one.  That's who.

Well, the results from all the testing came today, and I'm feeling really blue.  I can't quite explain it.  There were no surprises, really.  But it's never nice to see--in black and white--all the areas in which Danny is below average.

The kid is smart.  Wicked smart, but he cannot seem to express that intelligence in any way that is measurable by standardized tests.  Frankly, I loathe these tests.  I've never found them incredibly reliable, even when I was a teen--I happen to test pretty poorly myself, not unlike Danny.

So, I'm blue.  And tired.  So, so tired of all these people--people who really know nothing of my son--telling me all the ways he falls short.  All the things he struggles with.  All the areas in which he is delayed.

I'm so tired of the implication (whether intended or not) that I have missed something as his mother.  That I haven't given him all he needs.

And I'm so tired of all the recommendations.  The lists and lists of things we should do to help Danny.  Don't get me wrong.  I want to help him.  I really do. And we do so, so much, believe me.  But I can never quite manage it all.  How do I fit in all the homework and exercises that his teachers, speech therapist, occupational therapist and social worker all think are necessary?  When can we just play with him rather than figuring out the therapeutic benefit of a particular activity?

I am so very tired of a system that only measures my son's weaknesses, never his strengths.  This system is so screwed up it makes me want to weep with frustration.  And I'm terribly tired of reading the results of tests and wondering what this means for his future.  Will he be able to hold a job?  Live on his own?  Do these results somehow indicate what his future holds?

So, I'm in a funk and have no sense of humor today, even despite the delectable picture of Ryan supplied by Sunday.  I almost opted out of Special Needs Ryan Gosling this week, but decided not to.  So, here's my very un-funny poster.

Please check out the other bloggers who are participating this week.  Just click on Ryan below.  I can guarantee their posts will be much funnier and more upbeat than mine!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Summer vacation is so kicking my rear end

We are already two weeks into summer vacation, so it's no small accomplishment that I am actually writing a blog post right now.

You know how I said I had a whole system set up,  complete with picture schedule and lots of enriching, educational, learning experiences?  Yeah, well, that's been pretty much shot to crap already.  I think that's a record, even for me.  Honestly, I'm not at all surprised.  Who was I kidding, anyway, thinking I, one lone woman, could be a match for my three feral monkeys?

I mentioned that I was trying to get a handle on summer vacation and someone oh, so helpfully pointed out that summer has just begun.  How was I going to feel in a few weeks after many endless days of entertaining, feeding, refereeing, and wiping butts?  I almost screamed in her well-meaning face.

You see, my kids have thrown me for a loop.  I expected Danny to be struggling with the schedule change and disruption in routine.  Amazingly, he's been doing pretty well, actually.  I guess he is so relieved to be done with the seriously stressful school year that he's been in a terrific mood.

The other two kids, on the other hand, have been driving me batty.
Charlotte has made me twitchy, because my beautiful little girl who is radiant and whimsical?  Yeah, the girl never shuts up.  Ever.  I think I  forgot that while she was in kindergarten this year.  Even if Tommy is screaming and the phone is ringing and she's watching TV, Charlotte still insists on telling me a long-winded story about her teacher's rabbits.  Nothing will make her stop talking.

She even, on occasion, talks in her sleep.

And Tommy doesn't seem all that happy to have his siblings home.  He and Charlotte actually got in an extended fight the other morning.  It consisted entirely of them saying to each other, "You!  Stop talking!"  "No, YOU stop talking!"  "Be quiet, Charlotte!"  "Tommy, you're giving me a headache with all your talking!"  This lasted at least 45 minutes, despite many threats of bodily harm.

Yes, it's gotten to me.  And I don't think I'm less of a woman or mother to admit this.  I will get a handle on things, but it's an enormous adjustment to all of us.  So, to the acquaintance who implied I should get my crap together and get moving on a task that I left unfinished: I'm doing the best I can, okay?  And I'll get to that little task sometime around September.  

Until then, leave me alone or I'll sic Charlotte on you.