Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks, thanks, and more thanks on this "Save the turkeys" Day.

Gratitude is really at the heart of how we attempt to live every day in our house. Some days we're better at it than others. Today I'm thankful. I'm thankful for a God and a universe that embraces dreams and sends angels to whisper lyrics of encouragement into my sometimes clueless and sometimes stubborn heart.

I'm thankful for you and all those who support us in our mission to bring smiles and fun music to families. And I'm so very grateful that my fans have made it possible for my family to do what we do -- to leave the starch-collared cubicles of corporate America and follow my dreams.

I'm grateful for my beautiful and supportive bride/agent/partner/manager Jeni and her sometimes wacky vision of life, and for our very groovy girls who I can't seem to hug and hold enough.

I'm thankful for my brother Dan who has supported my dream from day one and has selflessly given countless hours of tedious number-crunching, form-filling, phone calls, and trips to the post office for little or no pay. He's waiting for a sizable treasure chest off the ship that's about to come in.

I'm in constant gratitude for my family and close friends who buy CDs and share them with others. And for our close family of children's musicians right here in Kansas City -- Funky Mama; Dino; Doo Dad Mike and Matt and Ken and Joe; Bongo Barry; Dean; and Mark. I'm thankful for our mentors out there like Keith and Ezra from Trout, John McCutcheon, and Cathy Fink.

I thank God for painted toe nails from my daughter Lyda, reading princess stories first thing in the morning, bananas, fresh-baked cookies, a new president, steamed veggies, soy cheese that actually melts and tastes good, store clerks who make eye-contact, our Jetta which runs on vegetable oil (our car is vegetarian, too!), The Gaf (where I get my grease), the curry dishes at The Thai Place, people who understand why someone wouldn't want to eat meat and are OK with it, Tim who gave one of his kidneys to his good friend John a few months ago (reminding us all what it really means to be a friend), Father Matt and his passion for the truth of Christ's message of love even when it's uncomfortable, diapers to change, leaves to rake, clothes to wash, dishes to dry, and beds to make.

I'm overjoyed with health and wealth and love and joy and laughter and a song in my heart.

For what and/or whom are you thankful?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thank you, Topeka and Ichabods!

Every time I think of Topeka, Kansas, the first thing that should come to mind is that it's the birth place of my beautiful bride. Sorry Jeni, but that's not the first thing. And it's not Brown vs. The Board of Education. And it's not the state capitol connection. The first thing that comes to my mind is that scene from Almost Famous where the band Stillwater has just finished a show in Topeka and a "band aide" invites the boys back to a house party where the lead singer Russell Hammond commences to get trippy, then stands on the roof poised to belly-flop into the swimming pool.

For better or for worse that's what I get.

Yesterday on the campus of Washburn University (home of the mighty Ichabods!) the kids of Topeka rocked out. We had two high-energy sold out Christmas shows thanks to the good work of the volunteers at Topeka Performing Arts for Children. More than 400 at each show (shhh--don't tell the fire marshal). And not one person invited the Hiccups and me back to their house for a pool party. OK, maybe it was a bit chilly for that. But we did get some slammin' vittles.

A big hearty MUCHOS GRACIAS to Tracy and Paul Wagner for fixing a scrumptious spread -- a veritable smorgasbord -- for lunch. We chowed so heavily between shows that I was a bit sluggish by the start of the second. Looking forward to more great meals in Topeka. Thanks, too, to our handy stage hands Brenda and Andy for taking care of us.

And we just found out that the Topeka library has booked three (3) shows for next summer. We had close to 1,000 people in two shows this past summer and they had to turn people away. Can't wait to see you all then.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Mickey! Our Disney greatest hits...

Mickey turned 80 this week! In honor of our favorite Mouse and for everything plush, plastic, and princess he has become, four-year-old Lyda offers you her overall advice and favorite picks from Disney World.

If squeals are an indicator of happiness and approval, then our squeal-meter was off-the-charts ecstatic. The past few weeks I’ve heard almost daily, “I miss Disney World.” And, “How old do you have to be to work there?”

Lyda’s Picks...

Overall approval phrase: “Let’s ride that again.”

Overall criticism: “That was waaaayyyy too short.”

Favorite Ride: Carousel of Progress. (OK, not what most four-year-olds would go for, but Lyda’s not typical – she’s an old soul.) This doesn’t really even classify as a “ride.” It’s more of a "grandma" attraction. Not many pre-schoolers (or forty-something dads) would have the patience for it. Once through was interesting (and enough) for me. Lyda went twice.

Favorite Character Autograph: Stepsisters and Stepmother from Cinderella!! (Lyda practiced how she was going to confront the characters about how mean they are to Cinderella. The actors were a hoot! Great interaction.)

Favorite non-rides: Story time with Alice (one of the best characters on the property! Book through AAA travel). Story time with Belle in the Fairytale Garden (interactive and engaging). The "Dreams Come True Parade" is way cool -- all the characters in one place.

Other Favorites:

Character Meals: Splurge for at least one of these. The thrill is worth it.

Character Autographs: Buck up for an autograph book – a souvenir for life.

The live performances at Hollywood Studios: (Ariel & Beauty in the Beast) Short and amazing production quality. Great for kids who dig live theater and cool costumes and good music.

Thumbs way up: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, Haunted Mansion, Mad Tea Party (brief ride, long line), Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Toy Story Ride (Hollywood Studios), Beauty and the Beast Show (Hollywood Studios), Ariel’s show (Hollywood Studios); Figment ride (Epcot), Buzz Lightyear’s Spin (except Lyda’s gun didn’t work one of the two times we rode it),

Shoulder Shrug: Tomorrowland Transit Authority, It’s a Small World, Astro Orbiter, Pirates of the Caribbean (she’s a girl).

Thumbs down: Finding Nemo ride (Epcot) (I agree with Lyda. Hands down the lamest ride in the whole place. Cool graphics, but that’s about it. Fortunately there was no line, and it still took us about four minutes to walk through the labyrinthine waiting area), Dumbo ride (actually was OK with the ride, but said, “That was waaaaayyy too short.” According to Disney’s website, it lasts only a minute and a half. Not much when you wait in line for a half hour!)

Please post your favorites and not so favorites!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Livin' on Tulsa Time

Tulsa rocks! We just returned home from two fantastic shows at Connor's Cove Children's Theater at the Hardesty Regional Library -- it's part of Tulsa Public. An amazingly beautiful theater. Truly one of the coolest venues I've played in a long time. I hope you Tulsa folks know how fortunate you are. We'll be back there in February. See you then!
Also, we had another interesting experience in using Priceline (subject for a future post). We arrived at the Double Tree where we had secured a $59 room, only to find that they had us in a "smoking king." Unacceptable for us asthmatic singer types. So, it helps to have a cute 18-month-old in your arms when you're talking to the manager about how to fit us in when the hotel is sold out.

My thanks to the Doubletree staff for accommodating us, even when they didn't have to. The very understanding manager put is in a "party suite" on the executive level that was humongous -- big enough to have a serious game of hide-and-seek. It had a fold-out couch, a beautiful 12-foot long wood dining table, bar, sitting area, but no bed. So, they brought in a queen "aero bed" that was comfy, and they gave us coupons for free breakfast in the restaurant. Not bad.

Let me know if anybody else uses Priceline regularly. And do the desk clerks treat you differently than if you were a full-paying guest?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The wonderful world of Disney!

As I put Lyda to bed last night she said. “Daddy, Disney World is the best. But you know what would make it way more cooler? If Ariel could be at the beach and you could see her in the water and we could meet Flounder and Sebastian.”

That does sound cool. So, with that, here are some thoughts about last month's trip to Disney World…

My idea of a vacation is a hike in the mountains or lounging on the beach. The litmus test of inspiring awe is a sunrise over the Grand Canyon or snorkeling with sea turtles. But I must say that, although I rolled my eyes a bit at the thought of a trip to the Magic Kingdom, it was truly awe-inspiring and breathtaking. If only you considered the creative genius of Walt Disney, or his marketing genius, or the coordination and organization it takes just to open the gates every morning, or the sheer volume of fireworks, or the fact that you’re never more than 30 steps from a trash can, or the impeccable craftsmanship in the design – any one of those things is enough to warrant respect. But the real awe and magic is in the eyes of each of those children – young and old – who skip through the turnstiles and marvel at the wonder that is Disney.

To hear Lyda squeal when she saw her favorite characters live in person made it all worthwhile. Even 17-month-old Willa would break into her own version of song whenever she saw a princess, and she fell in love with Pooh.


Get a meal plan. Even if you think you’re paying too much, it’s nothing compared to what you’d actually pay without a plan, and it saves major hassles. And I think the food was fabulous. Jeni and I are vegetarian, and there were plenty of healthy options.

Bring snacks from home. Pack some extra granola bars, fruit, and juice boxes to save some cash and avoid over-dosing on junk food.

Avoid sugar and plan a nap. Talk about over-stimulation! I saw more parents screaming at their kids to calm down (how ironic) or to quit crying toward the end of each day. Well, duh…you just pumped the kid full of sugar all day, ran him from ride to ride, bribed him to smile for a jillion pictures, and now you expect him to hold back the tears? We went back to the hotel (The Contemporary) for a nap all but one of the five days (they both napped in the strollers that day.) It helped make everyone much more pleasant – especially me.

Plan a character meal. If your kids are at all into the Disney characters, check out one of the special meals. They’re pricey, but worth getting a private audience with and autograph from one of the princesses or Mickey or Donald or Pooh.

Include the grandparents (and get them to pay for everything!). Whatever you may give up in control over gift shop purchases and surgery snack intake is well worth having an extended family experience and extra help with child care. Jeni and I even got a date night at Epcot.

Highlight of the trip…

The princess lunch in the castle. I’m pretty cynical, but even crusty ones like me will be a bit mushy by the time it’s over. Lyda was nearly delirious with excitement. We met Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, Belle, and Aurora. And the food was excellent. Again, like everything at Disney, it cost a chunk of change, but it helped create a priceless childhood memory.

Tune in next time for a list of Lyda’s favorite and not-so-favorite Disney attractions!! You’ll get the scoop from one insightful four-year-old.

What Disney tips do you have? Please share them by clicking on "comments." Cheers!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I do!! Now, where are the turtles?

This past weekend Jeni and I celebrated six years of blissful wedded awesomeness! What more can I say about a woman who proudly and enthusiastically embraces the title “Mrs. Stinky Feet”? That’s the way it’s been since the first minute of our lawfully wedded life. Our pastor turned to the congregation at the end of our wedding ceremony and said, “I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Stinky Feet.”

Jeni has been my rock and my conduit to the earth. She’s got a mountain of faith even when she claims to not know much about it (personally I think the secret to faith and wisdom is in the “not knowing.”) And she seems to get an adrenaline rush of that simple wisdom in times of stress. She couldn’t be a more perfect partner, booking agent, life manager, and caring mom.

So, we celebrated this weekend. We had a quasi-date together out on the town. And we had an actual, relatively-normal family outing on Saturday that didn’t involve playing a show. We do so many cool things together as a family – we travel, attend festivals, go to zoos, go to parks, go to amusement parks, go to carnivals – and it always seems to be in conjunction with “work” – that is if you can call what I do “work.”

We were headed to the Kansas City Zoo the other day when we got pleasantly sidetracked at a fabulous kid-friendly attraction nearby. You folks from the Kansas City area take note of this! The Lakeside Nature Center ( in Swope Park, near the south entrance of the zoo, is so amazingly cool! If you haven’t been, please do your family a favor and check it out.

We love the zoo, but some days it’s nice to do something more mellow and less crowded. This is the place – and it's gorgeous.

First off, it’s free (donations recommended and enthusiastically accepted)! And every Saturday morning they have a story time hosted by “mother nature” and a related craft. This week it was a bat story and the construction of a way-cool “bat hat.”

There is a rabbit hutch where kids can pet the soft, cuddly “Gretel.” They’ve got a volunteer-maintained animal rehabilitation facility where injured animals are nursed back to health and released back into nature. You’ll find hawks, owls, two bald eagles, and loads of aquariums with snakes, frogs, tarantulas, and fish. Nothing beats the up-close view of a bald eagle, but one of the center's coolest creatures is the Alligator Snapping Turtle. I’ve never seen anything like it, although they’re the largest freshwater turtle in North America and among the largest in the world. This gnarly, spiny rock-looking guy is about the size of a man-hole cover and floats in a 600-gallon aquarium waiting to lure in fish for his lunch. At first we thought he was too huge to be real, but then his mouth slowly dropped open and his worm-like tongue inched out – that’s what he uses to lure his prey.

It’s simple entertainment, and the kids loved it – especially the hands-on table where you can inspect bones, feathers, turtle shells, horns, and freshly shed snake skin.

The center is surrounded by easy walking trails that feature limestone and shale out-croppings that look out over the railroad tracks and the Blue River valley. We brought a picnic lunch and spent a very easy and fuss-free two-and-a-half hours.