Parenting a Singer


Photo Courtesy of Ibiza

Photo Courtesy of Ibiza

I recently wrote a post about parenting a designer, and in the interest of harmony, love and equality this will be a 3-part series. Yes, I’ll admit that I religiously counted the Teddy Grahams to make sure that each daughter had exactly the same number.

Parenting a singer is a joy, and will move you in ways that you never expected.

It may show up early.  You may suspect you have a singer on your hands when other toddlers are struggling to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at play group and your budding diva regularly entertains you with a repertoire of show tunes. She may not have perfect pitch at age 3, but then again – maybe she does. Some kids seem to be born with the gift of song. With encouragement and support, you and your singer can develop and enjoy this gift for a lifetime.

All the world’s a stage.  Your little singer may or may not be a performer. Most likely, though, they can’t help humming or bursting into song. It just happens. Don’t be surprised when they belt out favorite movie theme songs at the library or just perform regularly at the dinner table. Bath time is another favorite time for singing and you’ll always know when your singer is in the shower (from anywhere in the house). There must be some primal connection between water and vocal chords. Be an appreciative audience and store up these memories. Someday you’ll miss their daily performances.

A song for all occasions.  As your singer grows, they may discover that any situation can be turned into a song. They may not remember later on, but singing to your baby will get things started. Cookies in the oven and timer going crazy becomes “I’m gonna beep beep beep ‘til you take me out.” A hot summer day with nothing to do but melt inspires a song called “Lemonade.” Then there’s “Fish Boy,” a catchy number about some guy hanging out in front of a seafood restaurant. A song can lighten any situation. Just laugh and sing along.

Prepare to be moved.  My family will tell you that I cry at movies and am a wreck at concerts. My advice? Bring your camera, carry Kleenex and invest in waterproof mascara. Your kindergartener’s premiere at the school talent show may astonish you, and high school choir solos may leave you in tears. Music touches us in an emotional way, and when it’s your kid… good luck keeping emotions in check.

Prepare to be annoyed.  I can guarantee you, with absolute certainty, that sometimes your singer will get on your nerves. On purpose. When she discovers that the song you dislike most in the universe is that beloved theme song from “Barney & Friends” or the 1982 Rocky III anthem, “Eye of the Tiger,” you will hear it 10 times a day for an entire week. Then she’ll get creative and make up new lyrics – and invite her sister to sing along. Music is a beautiful gift from the gods. It can also be used to torment.

Feed the fire.  It may seem obvious, but singers and musicians of all types like music. Encourage curiosity by surrounding your child with music of all styles and genres. Irish whistles, Japanese Taiko drumming, majestic choral concerts, bluegrass, classical jazz and chill out – it’s all good. Attend concerts and performances regularly and try something new.

Your singer may be challenging and changeable at times, but great musicians express emotions and move us in a way that no one else can. Singing is also a gift given freely that will add joy to your life.

Ride the waves, encourage daily practice and most of all, enjoy.


Parenting a Designer

Project Requirements

Project Requirements


After having a few good laughs and nodding in agreement at the uncanny insight on a blog post called “Dating a designer: 10 things you need to know”, I was inspired.  I haven’t dated a designer (or at least not recently), but I’ve known a few and I’ve raised an aspiring industrial designer to adulthood.  It has been a unique experience – one that I’m sure that other parents can identify with.  So I’ve decided to share a few insights of my own.

You’ll know it when you see it. You’ll know your kid is destined to be an architect or designer when other toddlers are cramming everything into their mouths and your child is building complex structures with wooden blocks.  You’ll know it when they prefer to arrange their food into pleasing patterns to actually eating it.  It will be obvious when you see their first grade drawing of a detailed scene drawn in perfect perspective – and then you see their classmates’ sketches of stick mommies and three-legged cows.  Design thinking may show up early. Recognize it and nurture it.

Trust their judgment.  When your designer child laments that they’re the only one in the family with style, accept reality.  It’s probably true.  Instead of feeling offended, accept constructive criticism and rely on their expert judgment.  My young designer once told me that I needed a signature color.  “I suppose you have one.”  “Of course,” she answered.  “I’ll bet you even know the Pantone code.”  “376. Pea Green.”  She was right.  I needed definition.  I wasn’t able to pin my essence down to a single code, but if you look in my closet you’ll see a range that spans from light aqua to cerulean blue.  I’m not a designer, but my color scheme and confidence have improved.

Gift shopping can be a challenge.  Unlike the blogger who is dating a designer, I wouldn’t say gift shopping is next to impossible.  Or at least not until they get older, tastes are more refined and they’re lusting after a minimalist watch with no numbers.  Let’s just say that you need to be willing to consider unusual presents.  You may even have to visit places like Lowe’s for items such as a Dremel MultiPro kit or drop by Office Max to pick up a 12 pack of Pilot Precise V5 pens.  Their friends will shake their heads and say, “You got a tool kit for your birthday?  That sucks.”  They’ll never understand.

Designers are the new rock stars.  At least to designers.  At her age, I knew the latest hits and was damaging my hearing at stadium concerts.  She works at a fabric store and gets excited when the new collections arrive from her favorite textile artists.  We’re not so different.  Really.

From my experience, parenting a designer is like raising orchids.  It’s not always easy, and they only bloom under the right conditions.  In fact, just read this excerpt about growing orchids and tell me if it doesn’t sound familiar…

For your best crack at success, start by choosing one of the less fussy varieties that is adapted to the type of growing conditions you can provide.  Buy the most mature plant you can afford (young plants are much more difficult to please)…”

Yes, young designers can be fussy and difficult to please, but they are imaginative thinkers that will help you to see the world in a whole new way.  With the right conditions, plentiful resources, patience and understanding, your young designer will bloom and grow.

So stock up on paper, pens, tools, hardware and art supplies.  Expose your designer to new experiences and inspiration and see what develops.  Most of all – accept, encourage and enjoy.

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife

If you have the opportunity to see the BBC series, “Call the Midwife,” I highly recommend it.  No fear – this is no graphic or gratuitous reality show.  Instead, it’s an engaging drama based on the memoirs of nurse midwife Jennifer Worth, and set in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of East London in the 1950’s.  The series follows the stories of young midwives fresh out of nursing school living with the Sisters of the Nonnatus House convent and serving the families in this working-class community.  “Call the Midwife” shows us a rough area of post-war London through the eyes of Jenny, who has never dealt with poverty or hardship.  As difficult as it may be, she and the other young midwives put judgment aside and learn to serve the women and their families with skill, compassion and the help of the experienced nuns.

The writing is superb, the casting perfect, and the stories draw me right in.  All of the main characters are wonderfully brought to life, but my favorite has to be the blunt Sister Evangelina, played by Pam Ferris.  I’ve only watched 3 episodes so far, but find myself laughing and tearing up regularly at the touching portrayal of birth, death and everything in between.

Jenny and the Sisters

Holy Cow! I forgot to get a social life!


A friend moved to a new city recently, and we discussed the importance of getting a social life – in the real life, physical world sense.  And it suddenly occurred to me that I think I’ve lost mine and I’m not exactly sure how to get it back again.

Like many, I work remotely with interaction consisting of e-mails, phone and conference calls.  I do have nice short chats on Facebook or blogs, but these are fleeting and limited.  My extended family is a diaspora scattered across the country, and my children presently live on three continents.  Work takes up most of my waking hours and the time that’s left is spent with family.  As the nest slowly empties I think it might be worthwhile to rediscover the art and pleasure of friendship.

As I often do with life’s great puzzles, I turned to Google for help and searched for “how to get a social life.”

One article gave a rundown beginning with “1.  Find some potential friends” and suggested that I start with work or school.  Strike one.

Another started with the real basics:  “Stand up straight, smile an authentic smile, avoid looking cold and unapproachable, and take care of your hygiene.”  Now we’re getting somewhere!  I can do this!  But I have a feeling that if I do all of the above at my local mall, shoppers will nervously avoid me like the kiosk vendors selling styling products. was more helpful, and right up my alley.  I appreciate a practical approach.  “1.  Work out in a gym.  2.  Participate in a class.  3.  Join a new church.  4.  Be social with co-workers.  5.  Go to the library.”  Actually, I question #5.  Libraries tend to be very quiet and solitary places, and the last time someone approached me in the stacks….  Oh, that’s another story and we won’t get into the details on this post.

One article had a simple suggestion that actually seemed like a pretty good place to start.  “Believe you’re worthy.”

So it sounds fairly simple to me.  Adjust the attitude, believe you’re worthy, get out and do something interesting and just start interacting with others.

What are your best tips for getting a social life?

(*and no, that’s not me and my besties in the photo above.)

No Plain Jane – She’s the Mother of Texas

Jane Long Morton Cemetery

Maybe it was the rainy weather, or it might have been the recent events in the news, but I was in a somber mood.  You’d think that a walk in a cemetery on a dreary day would just add to the sense of gloom, but I found inspiration in this resting place of many early Texas pioneers.

Next to the monument for Mirabeau Lamar, second President of the Republic of Texas, I found a gravestone inscribed, “Mrs. Jane H. Long, The Mother of Texas.”  It’s not often that you find tributes to women, or mothers in particular, so I wanted to learn more.

I returned home and did some research about this remarkable woman who was orphaned at 14, married at 16, a mother at 18 and widowed by the time she was 23.  When her husband James left on an expedition and her neighbors fled because of diminishing supplies, Long braved bitter cold and near-starvation while pregnant and accompanied by only her maid and her daughter at Bolivar Point.  She also kept tribal neighbors away by hoisting her petticoat as a makeshift flag and firing a cannon on occasion to make it seem that the fort was still fully occupied and well-defended.  Before her death in 1880, Jane went on to become a successful business woman and plantation manager and a central figure in this new frontier that became its own republic.  As I read about the pioneering woman who would earn the title “Mother of Texas” through her courage, tenacity and independent spirit, I wondered what she would think about the issues that face us today.

So I decided to ask.

Interviewer:  Mrs. Long, how do you feel about the Internet?

Jane:  To be honest, Facebook or Skype would have been handy when I was pregnant and literally holding down the fort on my own.  And GPS would have helped – but I’m not sure I would trust Apple maps.

I:  I hear you’ve had quite a few famous “leading men.”  Pray tell.

J:  It’s true – Ben Milam, Sam Houston, and Mirabeau Lamar have all tried to court me without success.  Sometimes I feel like Diane Keaton.

I:  Are you concerned about the fiscal cliff?

J:  I came all the way to Texas from Maryland – I’m sure one more cliff won’t be the end of the world.  As for the fiscal part – no one, including the government, should spend more than they bring in.

I:  Speaking of the end of the world – did you stock up?

J:  I wish I had.  James went off on one of his expeditions and my neighbors all left when the supplies ran out.  I was left pregnant and alone, save my young maid and small daughter, and we were desperate for food.  We were even hacking frozen fish and ducks out of the bay.  Talk about inconvenient.  Now I say, “be prepared.”

I:  Do you feel that women can be as successful as men in the business world?

J:  After I was widowed, I owned and operated two inns, bought and sold land, managed a staff and more than 2000 acres, raised cattle and sheep and grown cotton.  So what was the question again?

I:  Ok, point taken.  What management philosophy do you follow?

J:  It’s simple.  If you don’t work, you don’t eat.

I:  What do you think about the women’s healthcare issue in Texas?

J:  I think all women should have access to good healthcare.  I gave birth to one daughter in an ice-covered tent in the dead of winter and lost two children when they were small.  No one should have to go through what I have endured.  We’ve got to take care of each other.

I:  How do you feel about the “buy local” movement?

J:  I wholeheartedly agree – in fact, I take it a step further.  I refuse to buy anything that the Yankees up north have for sale and will only wear clothes made from cotton grown on my plantation.  And it’s organic cotton as well.

I:  About the recent election – would you have voted for President Obama?

J:  As I am a dyed-in-the-wool Confederate, I believe you know the answer to that question.

I:  How do you feel about pirating?

J:  I dined with that smuggler Jean Lafitte in Galveston and my husband tried to gain his cooperation, but I don’t trust the man.

Jane Long

While Jane and I wouldn’t see eye to eye about the Confederacy and slavery, I do admire her determination and think she earned the right to be called the Mother of Texas even if she wasn’t really the first Anglo woman to give birth in the state.  And as I look around and see all of us floundering through difficult times, I think the world could use a few more Janes.  And I wonder what she would think of us.