Thursday, November 27, 2008
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
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
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?”
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
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
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.
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
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.
Monday, November 3, 2008
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
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
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