I love you, musical beds, and don’t go

Here are some great library books that I came across recently that smartly talk about parents and kids being “naughty,” the changing of the beds nighttime routine, and separation anxiety. My 3 year old daughter wants to read them over and over and clearly sees how the stories reflect her everyday life (both good and bad!).

1. I Love You, Little Monkey |  By Alan Durant

Sweet story about Big Monkey who is trying to get work done (dinner, bed making), but Little Monkey keeps making trouble. Little Monkey just wants to play and ends up crying when Big Monkey gets mad. Big Monkey and Little Monkey end up apologizing to each other about being naughty and share some hugs and love. Colorful and whimsical drawings by Katharine McEwen.

2. Musical Beds |  By Mara Bergman

Sound familiar? Do you sleep in your own bed or has your child taken over the “big bed?” This book is unique in that the Dad is putting the three kids to bed but of course, all sorts of nighttime fears and worries arise among the children and the changing of the beds ensues. There are a few potentially scary things in the book about shadows, witches, and ghost sounds, so you may want to modify the words a little when telling it to your child. Sometimes these kinds of books end up creating fears that were never there in our little ones. But my daughter actually found the musical beds component of the story kind of funny and is starting to sleep in her bed more. She keeps saying, “Kids aren’t supposed to sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s bed!” Oh the best part of the book from a Mommy point of view, is that at the end, the Mommy comes home and goes to sleep. And she sleeps through the night! Hooray.

3. Mama, Don’t Go!  |  By Rosemary Wells

Have a clingy child who cries when you leave? Rosemary Wells’s book hits home, featuring a little cat named Yoko who doesn’t want her Mom to leave her classroom. The separations between the Mom and Yoko are gradual and a little painful, until one of Yoko’s classmates mentions to Yoko, “Oh, mothers always come back… They just come back and back, and after a while you have to ask them to stay home.” He also says, “I think you should give your mother a day off… Everyone needs a day off.” This beautifully illustrated story softly tells preschoolers how much fun school can be, how Moms need some time to themselves, and how yes, Moms always come back.

Some useful area library resources. Remember, almost all of these library’s local branches host family friendly and free events throughout the year.

St. Louis Public Library

St. Louis County Library

Municipal Library Consortium

June 19-20 Weekend Events

It’s oh so hot and humid in St. Louis right now. Here are some cool events for the weekend of June 19-20.

Bill Viola’s Visitation video installation opens at the St. Louis Art Museum on Sunday, June 20. The work was inspired by devotional art of the Middle Ages and explores universal themes of life and death, faith and sorrow, heaven and earth. Bill Viola’s pieces are often mesmerizing, a little disturbing, and meditative. Take the time to ponder this one. (Hm… and don’t bring your 10 and under child to the Viola installation. Probably a bit on the nightmare feeding side of things.)

Vatican Splendors at the Missouri History Museum. This exhibition features rare paintings, mosaics, frescoes, maps, artifacts, and other historical documents from the Vatican–many never seen outside of Rome. When I was at the Vatican Museum a few years ago, I was swept along by the swarms of people trying to get to the Sistine Chapel that I never did get to see most of the museum’s artifacts up close. Here’s a wonderful opportunity to experience a bit of history.

KIDDIE FRIENDLY: The Magic House opens their new exhibit space, Children’s Village Hospital, this Sunday, June 20. My daughter is infatuated with giving all of her stuffed animals shots and then putting painter’s tape (band-aids) on them that we’re sure to visit this exhibit soon. Let your little doctor explore a pretend hospital nursery and get decked out in scrubs and lab coats. No insurance required.

A Little Lunch Music (FREE)

Opera Theatre of St. Louis presents free Monday concerts that feature some of the young artists in the company’s current productions. Since it’s free, no worries about leaving early if your preschooler gets squirmy.

June 14, 2010 at 12:30 pm
June 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

A Little Night Music Smiles Big

Here are my thoughts about Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s A Little Night Music, June 11 at 8 pm performance. A few more shows remain!  Watch the preview video.

The title of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music comes across at first as being so casual, so uneventful, so well, “little.” Yet beneath a seemingly lush, at times movie soundtrackesque, rumbles something much deeper, a darker story that unveils how meaningful what we think nothing of, can really be.

Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s production of A Little Night Music is pure magic driven largely by Isaac Mizrahi’s playful and dreamlike set (fit for any Vogue photo shoot), the luscious sounds from members of the St. Louis Symphony (an extra bravo to the clarinets and the bassoons, and of course to Stephen Lord for keeping the complex music together), the lighting by Michael Chybowski, and the team who developed the movement of the artists on stage—the clarity and honesty of the blocking and choreography made a great deal of sense.

Among the cast, I loved every moment that Christopher Dylan Herbert (Henrik Egerman) opened his mouth. He had wonderful nuance in color, breath, and line. At the end of his song “Later,” Mr. Herbert sang “Doesn’t anything begin?” with a poignancy that carried throughout the rest of the performance.

Sondheim music is hard to sing. The chromatics, the words that get all jumbled up in your mouth, the hidden meanings, the required purity of phrasing, all while acting and moving around the stage requires an enormous amount of practice, talent, and the ability to “keep control while falling apart” as is sung in the song “Perpetual Anticipation.” In general, the cast walked the fine line of musical theatre and operetta well, although there were definitely some intonation issues here and there as well as some odd sound balance concerns.

Amy Irving as Desiree Armfeldt well captured the actress’s sad cynicism tinged with bits of hope for what has passed her by. Ms. Irving delivered good comedic timing although her “singing” voice earlier in the production lacked direction or confidence. It must have been very tough for her to share a stage with singers of such high caliber. But oddly, her performance of the famous “Send in the Clowns” struck a chord of success. It’s almost as if her uneven and somewhat raspy singing voice fit perfectly with the words of the song—those that conveyed lost chances, sad smiles, and what could have or should have been. The line “Me here at last on the ground/You in mid-air” was sung knowingly, a little tiredly, and a whole lot worldly by Ms. Irving.

A Little Night Music opens with the grandmother Madame Armfeldt telling her granddaughter Fredrika about how the night smiles three times—once for the young, once for the fools, and once for the old (who know too much). Opera Theatre of St. Louis so beautifully presented those smiles to an eager audience and all the important in-betweens, the seemingly inconsequential happenings of life that add up to a lot more.

When Madame Armfeldt asks her granddaughter Fredrika, “Will you tell me what it’s all for,” Fredrika innocently responds, “It’s all there is, isn’t it?” We smile.

Thomas Hampson can soothe your kid to sleep

One of my favorite recordings is of baritone Thomas Hampson singing songs by Ives, Griffes, and MacDowell. Surprisingly poignant and melodic, the Ives lieder are just filled with wonder and calm. I played this recording while my baby was in the NICU (she was a preemie) and the music regularly quieted a room full of crying. Not all of the pieces are quiet so peaceful, so I burned a CD with my favorites and play it when my now preschooler needs some down time. A nice alternative to the usual tot lullaby CDs out there. You might also check your local library for a copy–the album was recorded in 1991.

Charles Ives’s Feldeinsamkeit (In Summer Fields), song for voice & piano, S. 250 (K. 6B27) is pure bliss.

Summer Fun at the Missouri History Museum

The Missouri History Museum is offering free family activities June 11 through July 30. The kids series includes performances, storytelling, and arts/crafts related to the museum’s current exhibitions. The programs start at 10:30 am and 11:30 am on Tuesday and Fridays. The earlier one is perfect for preschoolers before (hopefully) nap time.

Be sure to catch performances by Babaloo on June 15 and Radio Disney on June 22.

The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In

The New York Times

June 10, 2010

“Much of the concern about cellphones and instant messaging and Twitter has been focused on how children who incessantly use the technology are affected by it. But parents’ use of such technology — and its effect on their offspring — is now becoming an equal source of concern to some child-development researchers.”

Read the full article

A Spoonful of Sugar

I’m not sure why, but our three year old recently became fascinated by Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Annie. We try not to let her watch more than an hour a day, but she sings the songs when the TV is off and dances all over the house. A nice alternative to PBS Kids and such. I forgot how charming and brilliant the dancing is in Mary Poppins and the songs sure are catchy. Your local library probably has a few DVD copies of these films (although scratched most likely!). Amazon.com has some reasonably priced DVDs.

Gosh. Remember Carol Burnett in the film version of Annie? What a makeup job.

The soundtracks are great for car rides as well. Consider downloading a few of your little one’s favorites from itunes.

Grant’s Farm

We made our first trip to Grant’s Farm with our three year old and had a great time. Although the park is “free,” note parking is $11 per car, goat bottle feeding is $1 per bottle, and the carousel is $2 per ride. Oh and food is kind of priced like airport concessions so be prepared to spend about $9 for a sandwich, fries, and drink. You’re not supposed to bring outside drink or food into the park either.

The required tram ride through the farm and to the main zoo/play area takes about 15-20 minutes. If you have squirmy kids who don’t like being on trains at other zoos or malls, I’m not sure that Grant’s Farm is a good option. Once you get on the tram, you can’t get off, and I’ve heard from other parents that their train phobic kids really hated the tram ride.

Feeding the baby goats is fun and different if you haven’t grown up on a farm! If you have little ones under the age of 5, I would recommend feeding the goats through the fence since the animals can get quite aggressive about feeding. I noticed that only bigger kids were in the pen with milk bottles and they were surrounded by 8 or 9 hungry goats.

The carousel ride is cute although short. Just be sure to remind your child of how many times you can ride it before it starts.

Grant’s Farm has some incredible turtles, camels, and birds. The elephants were pretty interesting as well.

The main cafeteria area had a huge line when we got there–around noon. Plan ahead if you know you’ll have hungry kids. I would recommend sending someone ahead to get in line and place your order. There is only one cash register but lots of food prep guys. We waited in line (with a hungry and whiny child) for about 20 minutes.

Surprisingly, the restrooms were pretty clean and no waiting.

On your way out, be sure to visit the Clydesdale horses. They are enormous.

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