Category Archives: Blog

The VLOOOOOOOOOOOG

People, I haven’t been great about posting on this blog. But that is because I have been spending my time posting on my VLOG! So if you haven’t subscribed already. DO IT! You will get the straight to your inbox right when I hit publish.

And guys, the vlog takes alot of work. It takes me about 5 hours from start to finish. Filming the bits I want, figuring out the topic, editing, adding the graphics. Every.single. week.

And then of course there is the emotional work. Every single time i hit publish on this thing my stomach is in knots. For alot of reasons. First of all, it’s private stuff. My doubts, my family life, my insecurities, my questions. Writing a personal song feels waaaaaay easier than this because I get to edit it, put a melody to it, sculpt it. I usually only get a day to spend on the vlog. And then it goes out with a click.

Second, it makes me put myself out there in a way I am not used to doing. I’m not in my performer self, singing and playing music. I am filming me as I am in my daily life. I don’t usually wear make up but I feel like I should when I watch the vlog, my hair is often a mess, my voice sounds mousy, and in general I watch it back saying – who is that??

I am enjoying the challenge of it. “Living out loud” has been interesting. Keeping to my once a week goal is as satisfying as it is challenging. And it has been a growing experience to have a place to reflect every week on whatever questions arise.

So -all this to say. Here are the last few I’ve done:

Why Do We Make Art?

New Year Resolutions
Sexuality in Our Kids

Please check them out and if you have a minute, let me know what you think and if there is a topic you’d like me to cover.

Thank you!
Vered

Vacation!! With kids and without

The end of this summer has been – complicated. While the country was revealing it’s ugliest faces I was away in my semi-homeland Israel. These days there are too many similarities between the two states.

I came for a long vacation with the kids. My husband was with us for the first half and I stayed on for another two weeks. The first two weeks were a wonderful. A whirlwind of catching up with friends and family, going to the beach, going out a night, spending time with the grandparents.

The best parts were when my husband and I got to get away and spend a night without the kids. After a year of not having the grandparents on both sides near us, we usually take advantage during the summer and leave the kids for one night with each unit.

My husband and I desperately needed to reconnect. I talk all about it in episode 8 of my vlog:

Episode 8 – Vaca and Sex

But then he left and I was left with the three kids, no routine, no camp, and a way too early wake up for me. So I wasn’t the most patient mama during that time.

It made me think alot about what vacation really is and what we can expect it to be when we have the kids with us. I talk about that in my last vlog:

Episode 9 – Vaca and kids

I’m not complaining. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to come here and be with family and friends and relax from work. But like everything else with kids its a mixed bag. I love experiencing the beach through their eyes. I love seeing them with the grandparents and seeing how loving the grandparents are to them, I love playing with them without thinking about work. But I also cherish my own time. And without it I can be slightly less pleasant.

Well, It’s over now. Back to school and to work. And life goes on.

New vlog post about vacation and sex

Hi people, my vlog is moving along. In fact I have been neglecting my blog in favor of my vlog. So if you haven’t yet done so, SUBSCRIBE to my vlog. I post helpful tips from my workshops – how to write a song with your baby, how to be present with your baby, overcoming insecurities when singing. This last one is about connecting with our partners. I take you into my personal life in this one, which made me shake as I pressed the publish button. But I am on vacation so I didn’t have my professional life to hide behind.
I also talk about sex, and how hard it can be to come by with little kids running around the house.
I hope you like it and I hope you subscribe. And if you feel like it, please comment and let me know what other topics you would like me to cover.

Episode 8 – Vaca and Sex

I started a Vlog!!!!

For those of you who are wondering what a vlog is, it is a blog on video. Until now I have been keeping this blog, although not as regularly as I would have liked, where I have been writing impressions from my work with parents and babies and have been bringing in articles or things I find interesting. Now I am taking it to a new level. And I have to say, it both terrifies and excites me.

We live in a time where we are used to seeing public figures revealed through video, not just text. We have become accustomed to seeing not only the polished and edited version of someone but the more raw, day to day version as well. A static frame can present a moment that we have chosen and curated. A moving frame or video discloses alot more. Words can’t be chosen as obsessively. Awkward movements are broadcast in all their glory.

As someone who is a mix of introvert and extrovert, leaning more toward introvert, this is a daunting endeavor. But one that intrigues me nonetheless.To make matters worse, I will be doing alot of talking into the camera which is going to feel silly. But I will be imagining you all as I do so. (And if you subscribe that will help me alot in knowing that you are actually listening – plug!)

Not to say that I will be taking you with me everywhere I go in my day as many vloggers do. But I will be taking you with me to groups with parents and babies, to recordings, and other experiences I think you would be interested in hearing about.

The concept is intimidating and I imagine that for a while I will be pretty awkward in these. Also, I am quite conflicted about how much of my personal life I will show you – kids, husband etc. For now I will try to keep the lens only on my professional life.

So here it is – my first VLOG!!

My first vlog entry

Feel free to leave a comment on the vlog letting me know what you think. It is in its very first days like a baby so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

My takeaways from the Zero to Three conference 2016

In 2015 I attended the Zero to Three conference for the first time. I was inspired to be in the company of 3000 other practitioners who devote their career to benefitting the care of babies. You can read about my biggest takeaway from that conference here. I walked away from the conference saying to myself – I want to present there next year.

During the summer I was excited to find out that my presentation proposal with my colleague Mia Pixley was one of those chosen out of hundreds. Presenting was a thrill. With two huge screens projecting my powerpoint, I talked about my work and how I view the meeting point between music therapy and attachment theory. I led the large group in a drum circle and we wrote a song together. I showed them videos of you all from my groups (thank you!) to illustrate important points. Mia talked about her research on infant-directed singing. It went really well.

Screen shot 2017-01-06 at 1.02.46 PM

But even more exciting was hearing some of the other lectures.

There is a huge body of research showing how important it is to focus on the first three years of a child’s life. Improper emotional care, (not just physical,) has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. It is becoming more and more clear that resources should be poured into improving care for our babies. Which is why for the first time ever, early childhood was included in a mental health reform bill that was passed in congress. That is really exciting news.

There was a lot of talk about biofeedback and neurofeedback as a way to improve behavior based on self learning. One direction that made me wonder why we haven’t been doing this all along and why we aren’t all doing this more is a computer game that helps teach kids how to regulate their own brainwaves. Sensors are connected to ear lobes to measure brain activity and spaceships (or other images) react to those brainwaves. The idea is to help the patient restore equilibrium in the brain. For instance, kids can learn how to increase the amount of orange space ships, those responding to brain waves associated with executive functioning, and reduce others responding to brainwaves that are leading to dysregulation.  The hope is that with more research and development it will help reduce the need for meds.

Sarah Watamura did a fascinating talk on the long term affects of toxic stress and how these can be buffered. Baby rats who were groomed and licked after reuniting with their mothers were less likely to maintain a high level of stress. Meaning, us parents can help our kids buffer stress so that it does not become chronic and debilitating. Her main point was that we need to save our stress for the big things. During life threatening events, our bodies use a stress mechanism that rallies in order to protect our functions and keep us safe. Wasting precious resources on worrying about the future or other daily stressors takes away from needed functions. She has found that babies who underwent trauma or whose mothers did when they were in the womb maintain a constant higher level of stress which reduces daily functioning. For kids this means that they may be maintaining a level of high alert, which calls on necessary functions and resources, which affects their ability to focus on schoolwork and learning.

In her program she works with parents on “serve and return”, which basically means helping the parent become more aware of how they are reacting to their baby, mirroring, being attuned, etc. A lot of the stuff we do in my workshops.

My biggest takeaway this year had to do with activism. In general, my activist self, which has been quite dormant for much of my adult life, has been waking up as a result of our political situation. So these talks hit a nerve. The first was Paul Schmitz who inspired each of us to be a leader by illustrating that even those who we see as great historical leaders, like Rosa Parks or Martin Luthor King, were led to their actions by the work and leadership of many people around them who didn’t end up being the face of the movement. His point was that we are all leaders and are all needed to make a change, it is not up to the few who will be the face of change in the history books.

The second was Bryan Stevenson who is a public interest lawyer and has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and condemned. He was a profoundly charismatic speaker. Here is his Ted Talk if you want to get a gist. His work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination is inspiring. He believes a few things are needed in order for us to help those who need it most:

  1. Hope. This one is loaded for alot of us these days. But we need to maintain our hope if we are to change our world for the better.
  2. Proximity. We need to get close to those who need our help. Go to their neighborhoods, find them where they are.
  3. Be willing to be uncomfortable. That’s the hardest one. But we know he is right of course.

I walked away from the conference even more ignited to bring my skills to parents who need it, who can’t pay for it, who don’t have access to services like this. Last year I tried to volunteer at some hospitals in high risk areas because I figured that if I could help young moms find music with their babies in their first days together they would feel that much happier and more confident when they went home. I was rejected from the hospitals because of the intricate beurocracy of large institutions. But I feel reinvigorated to continue my search for where I can donate my time.

If you made it this far in this post, you may be the person to ask. Do you know of any organizations or locations who would benefit from my workshops? I am prepared to donate time and am also looking for a grant situation so that I can do this on a long term basis. Thanks team.

 

 

 

 

Happiness in a Minute

My groups have been more intense lately. In the last few, weeks as a result of world events, I have entered rooms where parents are already teared up, feeling overwhelmed, seeking community and connection with others.

Normally in my groups the discussions revolve around challenging and joyful moments parents have had with their babies. We sing about them and talk about them and find release together. But lately I’ve felt the need to shift the conversation toward gratefulness.

Researchers in psychology provide studies showing that if we say or write down something we are grateful for every day we will feel happier. Similarly if we recount a wonderful moment daily we will feel a long term improvement in mood as well.

The parents I work with are often already feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Hormones are raging and causing unpredictable mood swings and the extreme shift in day to day tasks and overall sense of identity can be profound.

So why not use a simple tool that science has given us?

That and music of course. So many of my group members have said that they are grateful for music during difficult times.

Me too.

For the NON-CHEF (/working+distracted+couldn’t be bothered/parent)

I am not a chef. I admire and envy those people who feel so utterly comfortable in the kitchen. Usually it is because they have been watching their mother (father?) cooking in the kitchen since they were kids. There was no scene like that in my house. My parents both worked a lot and I was a typical 80s key kid. Once we moved to Israel when I was 11 I remember making my own chocolate spread sandwiches for school and throwing together dinners that were usually omelet, toast, cream cheese.
My mother did have two or three meals that she made. As did her mother, as do I. For years I have been trying to expand on those and maybe this year will be the year. But for now I thought I would post a sample week’s menu as we start the school season. The thing is, if it were just my husband and I we would probably eat odds and ends from the fridge every night. But we have to feed these children balanced, healthy meals goddamit.

Spaghetti. Yum.
Spaghetti. Yum.

This menu is for my fellow NON-CHEFS. Those of you who regularly use things like salad spinners, graters, mincers, and food processors need not read on. Unless you want to feel good about your cooking abilities and chuckle about mine.

My hope is that you will post your weekly menus in the comments too. I need more suggestions and I imagine others do too. Meals that are quick and easy with very few ingredients are the ones I go for. Also, I don’t do meals that need any earlier prep time. That is reserved solely for dinner parties in which I want to impress friends.

You might read these and think – my kid would never eat that. Well sometimes mine don’t either. But I insist on saying to them – this is what is for dinner. if you don’t like it then don’t eat. I do allow for a banana or apple at any meal even if it is not on the table.

7 Meals that Can be Done FAST

1. Meat Sauce Spaghetti

  • In a skillet fry the meat (I use organic farm raised shredded beef. no need to add oil)
  • Drain fat
  • In a pot fry onions, add red peppers,
  • Add tomato sauce from a can (I use the ones that are only tomato sauce without added seasoning) and maybe a small can of tomato paste to add thickness, and meat.
  • Boil spaghetti

2. Taco/Burritos

  • Soft tacos (my kids like whole wheat tortillas. they aren’t really tacos at all but are bien enough)
  • Refried beans – sometimes not even heated
  • Rice – depends how much time you have. White for fast, I like brown, farro if I am feeling daring enough to trick the kids into thinking it’s rice
  • Avocado slices
  • Maybe cheese maybe salsa
  • Sauteed onions and peppers if I am feeling fancy

After making two meals I usually need a rest.

"Tacos" rolled in a soft tortilla and roasted veggies.
“Tacos” rolled in a soft tortilla and roasted veggies.

3. Frozen Pizza

  • We like Amy’s gluten free with spinach. It is very crunchy and tasty and although the kids are not gluten free I am.

4. Fish or chicken cutlets

This is really the most time intensive. It might be easier and faster to bake the fish or chicken but my kids like this.

  • Two plates – one with beaten eggs, one with almond meal (or other bread crumb). Put fish first in egg, then in crumbs (till covered).
  • Fry in skillet till golden. I use coconut oil because it comes out yummy.

(You can tell I am not a chef by how I am writing all these out. But I DO know they like to say the word “golden” a whole lot.)

  • Roast veggies – this is an easy staple for many meals. I often cut up whatever veggies we have (sweet potato, kale, brocolli, cauliflower, beets, onions, zuchini), put them in a baking pan, mush them around with olive and salt and throw the in the oven. Sometimes the kids nibble on it sometimes they don’t touch it. I love it.

5. Sushi Order-In (I realize this should not go on a recipe list but I want to put it out there that I allow myself a night of ordering in. Sometimes it is even cheaper than the other option.)

We all agree that this is the best meal of all - ordering in
We all agree that this is the best meal of all – ordering in

6. Stir Fry Chicken

  • Cut chicken breast into small pieces.
  • Cut carrots and celery and whatever else into small pieces
  • Fry onions, then chicken for a while. Throw in veggies.
  • Make rice

Kids usually eat the chicken pieces without the veggies. I eat the veggies.

7. Weekend meals usually consist of lots of smoothies and sandwiches, and french toast for dinner

Please post your easy meals! Help out a fellow non-chef.

Helping Them Connect the Dots

My 4 year old did something terrible and unthinkable. He choked his 1.5 year old sister, enough to make her cough. He has pushed her before, grabbed from her, or given her a too-hard hug. But this felt alot different.

I was terrified, mortified, and so angry. After making sure she was ok I sent him to his room. I needed to collect myself as much as I felt he did. My thoughts raced – how could he do this? what made him do it? my mind fast-forwarded: am I raising a murderer? a psychopath? I felt fear and shame. Have I failed as a mother? Sometimes all it takes is one moment like this for me to doubt all of the intentional parenting I pour my energy into.

So I took a breath and went into his room. I impressed upon him the gravity of what he had done. By my initial reaction he already knew it was serious. He was shaken and scared because he did not truly mean to put her in danger. In fact I don’t even think he meant to hurt her a lot. I think he wanted to throw her off her course. Not that his behavior was excusable. But he did not understand the full affect that strangling can have.

Next I asked – what made you do that?
As a therapist I know that is not a great question to ask. Usually, if someone can articulate why they did something terrible they probably wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But in my state it was all I could bring myself to ask.

“You!” he said. “What do you mean me?” I said, “I did not tell you to do that!” I was still so angry that I couldn’t hear what he was trying to tell me. He changed the subject a few times while I kept asking my non-therapeutic question “but please tell me – why did you do that?” And finally he said “you got dressed!”

I stopped and took a moment to follow the sequence of events as he had experienced them and it dawned on me. Once I had connected the dots for myself I did it for him (slowly and with emphasis):

“You were angry when I told you we were going out tonight. You and I played ball but then you got upset because I stopped the game and went to get dressed. I came back to play and you got even more upset when I had to change my outfit. You were angry at me for leaving you tonight and for leaving the game. And then you hurt your sister who is smaller and can’t hurt you back. But maybe you really wanted to hurt me. You were feeling so angry at me.”

When I finished he took a big breath. I always know I’ve reached them when they sigh big.

Last year I attended a conference at Zero to Three, where practitioners from all over the country who work in early childhood come to learn about the latest research and methods. I was particularly struck by the presentations of Dr. Alicia Lieberman and Dr. Chandra Ghosh Ippen, both of whom research the affect of psychotherapy on children who have undergone trauma. My biggest takeaway from it was the idea of helping children create a narrative of their experience. Ghosh Ippen calls it creating a “conjoint trauma narrative” and Lieberman calls it “giving expression to the traumatic experience.” It is the idea that even young babies need to eventually reconstruct the experience in order to understand it. This along with very loving, consistent, and attuned therapy can help a child overcome post traumatic symptoms.

Thankfully my children have not experienced severe trauma. However, when I returned from the conference and tried a similar technique on my kids for small injuries I found that it had a pretty magical effect. Especially when I paired it with the idea I learned from Dr. Serena Wieder, who talked about understanding and helping children through emotional dysregulation. For instance, when my baby was in the bath and hit her head on the spout she immediately started crying and splashing the water, holding her hands out to come out. She was dysregulated and her body reacted by putting her in a heightened state of “I want out!”

I don’t always catch the moment before something like this happens, and often my attention is only called when the crying starts. But this time I had caught the lead-up. I pointed to the spout and said to my one year old “you hit your head on the spout and got an ‘owey’ (I demonstrated by hitting my head. “and it hurts and you want to come out.” She absorbed the narrative and even recreated it in her own words with pantomime, hitting her head and pointing to the spout. She sighed, and kept playing happily in the bath.

I started helping my kids “connect the dots” in other situations when they got emotionally dysregulated. I recounted what had happened prior, marking events or triggers that I thought had led up to it. Sometimes it was in the span of 3 minutes, sometimes a few hours. This is basically what psychotherapy aims to do as well, often with a much larger span of time (childhood, adolescence, etc.)

Back to my son and the strangling. The most appalling part of the story is him as the perpetrator, not the victim. However it was his feeling of powerlessness and frustration that led him to act on his anger. They were not traumatic events per se but events that slowly led him to emotional dysregulation.

I am not saying that my son’s actions were forgivable because I can understand where his anger came from. But my hope is that if I can help him connect the dots when he gets upset and escalates enough times, he will eventually be able to do it on his own in real time and will be able to control his aggressive impulses.

I ended the conversation with giving him an alternate route: “next time you can say ‘mama! I am feeling angry that you are leaving and are not playing with me. I feel like I want to do something mean to someone. Please help me!”

If nothing else, our conversation was therapeutic for us both. Mama needed to connect the dots too, so that I wouldn’t dump all of my parenting mistakes into one moment and in my mind have them lead to a future psychopath who wreaks havoc.

On a side note, this year I will be presenting my own methods at the Zero to Three conference.I can only hope that at least one practitioner/parent will walk away with a new tool, or a deeper understanding of how to help make our lives with our kids more loving and peaceful.

How I Survived an 11 Hour Flight On My Own With 3 Kids and Other Musings

Not sure how I got myself into it. A day flight, with three kids, on my own, including a 1.5 year old lap-baby. Is this what hell looks like?

Let’s back up. I spent a great month in Israel. Grandparents galore! And we did it right this time – the boys went to camp and the baby went to daycare. So they got their Israeliness (Alona says oy oy oy alot now) and I got a break during the morning. It was hot. But surprisingly, New York feels even hotter than Israel was. We did spend alot of time at the pool and the beach.

This time around I was struck by how alive Israeli’s are. Maybe it has something to do with living under the threat of war as a normal state of being. Here, we are just getting used to the idea that terror attacks can infiltrate the western world. Israelis were born into that reality.

It can make a person close down emotionally, deaden inside in order not to feel constantly overwhelmed. And for some people in Israel it does. But I also sensed the opposite. I felt a carpe diem quality that propels them to live strong, hard, fun, and edgy. The parties are intense. The protests are everywhere. And what struck me most of all, was the flirty nature of Israelis. Flirting happens at the deli, at a restaurant, at the playground. “You mean you don’t flirt with the dads at the playground?” My friend asked. I was appalled. Hell no! I completely close off that part of me when I am in ‘mom mode’. Flirt with another woman’s husband? Lord have mercy! “But,” she said “It is part of being alive. We are sexual beings. It is possible to be playful without acting on it.” I have to mull that one over.
I have been feeling hopeless and helpless about the state of America and the world and this attitude was a refreshing way to cope with it all.

Back to the flight. Here are the things I feel were crucial to getting through hell on wings. None of these are going to surprise you but it is good to have a list.

1. Duh. Screens. I had the kindle, the ipad, another ipad, the laptop, and the screens on the chairs to save my ass. The boys watched for 11 hours straight. Every program or movie I ever said no to. Time limits null and void. I even downloaded some Elmo for Alona who has not had any official screen time yet. She LOVES the videos of Elmos singing with celebs. (25 minutes down. 10.35 to go.)

2. Snacks. You can’t bring enough. Puffs, crackers, lollipops (for the ears), fruit, sandwiches (if they don’t like the plane meal), water bottles, nuts, bars, all of it.

3. Sticker books. Each of the boys had one (mindcraft for the older and this one which I love for the younger.) Alona had a book of Sesame Street stickers which gave me a good half hour. Yes, I was counting my time in half hour segments. I could happily watch my movie while absent mindedly helping her extract stickers.

4. Painters tape. This is a simple trick I pass on to anyone who is having trouble with wiggly-baby diaper changes. It is endless fun. Tear off a piece, it gets stuck on their fingers, on their body, keep tearing and sticking. Long pieces, short pieces.

5. Markers and notebook. We colored alot. Baby on a swing, baby waving hello, baby with an elephant. She especially enjoyed opening markers, using them for a second, closing them back and putting them in the box. I enjoyed it a little less when I had to bend over in our close quarters constantly searching for the lost cap.

6. A rolling suitcase as a carry on. To put all those screens and snacks in. This is in addition to the smaller backpack of absolutely essentials that go under the chair.

7. Now we are heading into emotional stuff. Resignation. That there will be segments of rest but basically it will be non-stop work. We walked up and down the aisles ALOT. We made friends with every baby and every grown up who didn’t give us a dirty look. And it was important that I was resigned to doing it. I expected it.

8. This is also obvious, but don’t forget the carrier. That is where they will finally fall asleep when there is 45 minutes to go. Right before the stewardess comes and says babies can’t be in a carrier for landing. Noooooo!!

9. Mental preparation for the older kids. I prepared them for the fact that I will not be going with them to the bathroom every time, that there might be a line so they should go BEFORE they can no longer hold it, and that they will probably have to climb over me. They whined but they went to those tiny closets without me.

All in all the day flight was refreshing in a way. I am used to night flights in which I do similar stuff but am also exhausted and dying to sleep. This time at least I was up for the fight.

Any tricks you use for flights? let me know. I have many more in my future.

photo (15)

The Third Baby

The third baby feels like a gift that the world offered to me and I selfishly took.

Did I just write that? A gift? How about when she is crying at 3am or is having her 5th tantrum of the day? And Selfish? What about all the selfless giving that it entails?

A gift, because I am ok with it all and am even enjoying it. I was ok with the nursing pain, the teenage hormones, the sleepless nights, the lonely bubble, and now the incessant diaper changing, the frustration, the shrieking, the demands. all of it feels inconsequential compared to what I am getting.

My father says that watching me with my daughter is like watching a girl with a baby doll. All he sees is play and playfulness. Most of the time I am laughing or smiling with her as she rolls around in my arms.

I swear I was not this sappy with the first two. Actually, I was so in shock the first time that I changed careers completely and started to write songs about my experience. I couldn’t come to terms with my identity shift. In my eyes I went from independent rock star woman to baby slave. My time wasn’t my own and my day to day felt like an endless string of waiting on his majesty. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy him immensely. I did and he ended up inspiring an album of love songs. But I mourned my old self daily.

And then came the second. And with him the frenzy of trying to save the first from the terrible trauma of losing my full and attentive love. At the time it felt like a tragic Shakespeare play in which my first was being brutally abandoned by the two people in the world he thought he could forever count on for love. In my dramatization I over compensated and practically ignored my beautiful little baby who watched my every move with big eyes. Slowly he learned to take care of himself in a way my first never did and now surprises me again and again with his independence and ingenuity.

And then the third. A lot has to do with just getting used to something. I got used to having babies and all that comes with it. I also got used to the emotional roller coaster, the effect the kids have on each other, the affect a new baby has on my marriage. But also my identity has long ago shifted to include ‘mother’ as an integral part of it. And, I don’t worry about the first two as much because they have each other to push off of and don’t always need me.

I am available to just enjoy her. Smell her, sing with her, lay with her, laugh with her, crawl with her, eat with her, sleep with her, walk with her, and watch her blossom.

Anyone close to me knows that the decision to have a third was one of the toughest I have made. I was so nervous for so many reasons, one of them being that I felt it was a selfish act. Would my boys be ok? Would this harm the family in any way, which we were already so lucky to have? Would it be too much for us financially and emotionally and we wouldn’t be able to parent well?

And now I see that yes, it was selfish. It is a gift that I was able to take and am enjoying so very much.

Creativity

For the last few months I have been thinking a lot about creativity. Mostly because I’ve had a hard time connecting to my own. Not to say that it has ever been that easy for me. It’s always been a struggle on some level. But this last year has felt especially dry.
I know I am not alone in this. Most people who have ever had a creative endeavor, which is to say everyone, have had periods of resistance. Creativity needs space and time and that is something that I, along with all of my fellow parents of little ones, do not have. Diving into that necessary place of experiment and playfulness seems almost impossible when I need to be goal driven so much of the time to get through that ever lasting list; pick up a kid, make a meal, clean the house, run a bath.
In addition, artistic creativity entails going inward to a non-social place where I am alone with my feelings. That doesn’t happen often in this house. But more than that, for me making art involves facing a pretty dark place, an existential one, in which I connect to the extreme sadness but also joy of being human.
Kim Brooks’ article “A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Mom,” in New York Magazine, lays out the struggles of being an artist and parent so eloquently and tragically. She writes: “the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.” Yes. “People make art,” she says, “for exactly the opposite reason they make families.”

Keeping up with this blog is a perfect illustration of where my creativity has been in the last year. I have an idea for a blog almost daily. I start writing them in my head and get excited about sharing them with you all (all 4 of you?). But I don’t follow through. I get home and am tired, or need to make dinner, or answer emails, or most often – have already poo poo’ed the idea in my head.
Because the universal enemy to artistic creation, whether an artist or not, is self doubt. Will anyone care? How will this make me look to others? Is it too self indulgent? Is it worth my time or anyone else’s time? On that topic I recommend Brene’ Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability in which she talks about vulnerability being the birthplace of creativity. It is a touching and inspiring account of her own avoidance of vulnerability and the growth that followed her facing it.

So – I found myself with a hundred beginnings of songs that were never followed through, and twenty blog post beginnings that I never finished. Coming up with the ideas is not my problem. It is working through that vulnerability, allowing myself to retreat into a lonely place, giving myself time away from my list, and most of all making myself sweat through it.

I did some work – I meditated a bit (I recommend the app Headspace for anyone interested in meditating but feeling resistance). I attended a meeting with strangers to talk about what it means to be creative. I attended other social gatherings relating to art that I dragged myself to but ended up feeling very inspired by. And then I did the best thing of all – I asked a few of my colleague friends if they wanted to join me in a creative lab in which we MUST write and present a song a week.

When it comes down to it, it isn’t about producing the perfect song or blog post, it is about producing. My friends hold me accountable and I finish a song even if I think it is crap (which have been most of them so far.) But I feel good. I am reminded of why I do art and put myself out there this way – it feels like I unload a little weight every time a song is realized to its completion. Not only that, it gives me the strength to finally go ahead and write a blog post in its entirety.

How Serena and Venus inspired my songwriting

Watching the game between Serena and Venus the other night was emotional for me. I was on the edge of my seat. Would Venus be able to stand in the way of her younger sister achieving a Grand Slam this year? Would Serena be able to get out of her younger sister role and beat her older sister, who has recently come back from fighting an autoimmune disease? Will they be able to just be tennis players on that field and not sisters? They certainly tried. There was no eye contact whatsoever.

Ever since having a third kid the sibling rivalry in my house has intensified a thousand times. I wish I could tear myself into three and play with one, give a hug to another, and feed the other, all at the same time. And sometimes I manage to do that. But often one of them feels angry and neglected and immediately turns to his or her sibling to take it out on.

Venus on top
Venus on top

Being a sister myself, I know how it feels. I remember feeling upset when I thought my mother loved my brother more. I also remember the uncomfortable feeling when unfairness was tilted my way, and I got more than my brother did. Somehow it wasn’t totally enjoyable.

Today I feel very lucky to have a brother. Although we are very different people, we are nonetheless cut from the same cloth. We understand each other deeply, and his is one of the opinions I value most. And to this day I can also feel the remnants of sibling rivalry show up in grown up stuff – money, attention, success.

I have started so many songs about siblings from every which angle; the older siblings view of the new baby, the parent’s view of the change in dynamics, the little brother as he grows, etc. Most of these songs are not completed and I think it is because the topic remains so complicated for me. But as you guys know, ever since I had a baby I don’t write about requited and unrequited love anymore. Now what interests me is family dynamics. Music seems to capture all those complicated feelings so well.

Serena on top
Serena on top

So I am re-inspired by our countesses of tennis. They remind me of my own father who taught my brother and I how to play, getting so frustrated when we missed a ball. I gave up on the idea of beating my older brother in tennis long ago. Serena overcame that obstacle. Today’s song was inspired by Serena, Venus and my brother.
Serena and Venus in a heartfelt hug after the match is over
Serena and Venus in a heartfelt hug after the match is over

Back to School – For Me

Maybe it’s that back to school feeling in the air, maybe it has to do with my baby reaching her 9-month milestone, or maybe it is a reaction to last year, which was a year of production (CD, videos, a baby). Whatever the reason, I am feeling a strong need to fill up my cup with new knowledge and experience. We all go in waves of production, consumption, and assimilation, and its time for me to take in rather than put out.

Easier said than done.

As an independent business owner I don’t work for a system that has professional development expectations and opportunities built in. I don’t have a boss who gets disappointed when I don’t stay current in my field or when my performance is lackluster. I don’t have colleagues sitting at the next desk who trigger healthy competition. Which means I have to seek it on my own.

And of course there is the time issue. Have to run the bath, make dinner, make a bottle, pick up a kid, run a class, play a show. Read an article or book? Not lately. There is of course that after 8pm slot. (snore.)

A conference far away from my home might be in order
A conference far away from my home might be in order

The final obstacle is my administrative assistant/PR agent, meaning me. She is very motivated, but more in the alpha achievement realm than the humble knowledge seeking realm. She works to expand my business, return an email, send out a request, research new opportunities. When there is a free minute to write a song or read a book she always somehow wins.

But this is important. Getting re-excited about my work makes the parents I teach more excited too. My message comes across much more convincingly and parents walk away from my groups singing to their babies.

So I am putting it on paper as a way of committing. A conference, a few books, a few articles, conversations with people who will inspire me. It’s time for some professional development for this mom/entrepreneur. Are you feeling the same pull?

The screen we call Grandma

I know this looks familiar. Our kids have a pretty strong relationship with this screen that is both touching and heartbreaking.
Every day I ask myself why I live so far away from my parents. I know so many of us do. In my case my parents live in Israel, and a life there at the moment feels complicated and intense in a way that we are not prepared to endure. Our careers are going well here and the kids have a good life with endless events and activities.
But I don’t have to watch every single drama out there to know what truly matters most: Love. Family.
And yet the years seem to move on and my oldest son is already 6 years old. He sees his grandparents twice a year (luckily they come to visit us) but it is not enough. I fantasize about weekly get togethers, Friday night dinners, a babysitting night, a brunch.
I crave seeing the way my parents gaze at my kids on a regular basis. Their love for the grandkids seems so pure and wise, without any difficult emotions that sometimes can accompany the feeling of love. My own vision of my kids can sometimes be clouded by exhaustion, anger, disappointment, ego. Seeing my kids through my mothers eyes reminds me of the beauty of it all right when I forget.

I have lived far away from my parents for the past 20 years but it was only when I had kids that I suddenly missed them desperately. It was precisely at the moment in which I became a mom that I relaxed into the role of being my parents’ baby. Until then I fought it.

So for Mothers Day I am offering you a free download of my song ‘Grandparents’ HERE. This song does not come close to conveying everything I feel about this topic. But the last line hints at the crux of it all – “And me, well I sure could use that hug too.”

Mom (and dad), we miss you. Happy grandmothers day. You are a grand mother.photo 2

All I Want

Mother’s day is around the corner. What would I like for my present? Sleep wrapped up in a bow.
I knew going into this that sleep wouldn’t look pretty. Three kids, two grownups, 2 bedrooms. So this is how sleep looks in our home at the moment. All of us but one 6 month old in a room together. I am giving her a week. After that she better be sleeping like a baby. That sounds awful. She better be sleeping like a cat on a sunny window sill.
So I offer you a song to get through the day if you are going through anything like this with me. My thought is that if we all sing it together with feeling the babies of the world will get the message. Sing it like you mean it people!
Go HERE for the free download.
Happy mother’s day. We are 6 days away from being promised that nap, massage, pedicure. Let’s skip the brunch.

Hello My Baby is getting some love

So far “Hello My Baby” is being received fantastically. Thank goodness. I have to say, I was a little nervous about it. I felt like I was taking a huge risk. Sure it has some light tunes like Hello, Cooking, Changing, and Peekaboo, but it also has some heavy ones, like Something Other Than a Mom and Forgive. I didn’t know how you all would feel about it. I mean, what the hell is this album? A kids album? A parent album? Can there be such a thing as both, truly? Luckily, you guys seem to not only accept what I do but appreciate it fully. Many of you have told me that the album has been on repeat since you got it. Yes!! Not only that, the people who are vocal in the press seem to like it too. I wanted to share some nice press hits.
1. Hello My Baby received a National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) Gold Award. Woohoo!!
2. Cool Mom Picks says “”Vered’s gorgeously light and tuneful voice sings light-pop songs about some of the best parts of parenting a baby…I also appreciate that she doesn’t gloss over the harder parts of parenting, but its always done with sweetness and humor…” Read the full review HERE.
3. It was on Red Tricycle’s list of The Newest Kids Albums to Put on Repeat. Check out that great list HERE.
4. Swing Whistle Zing said “Vered is the quintessential voice of parents.” Read the full review HERE.
5. Jeff Bogle at Cooper and Kid said “Vered delivers sophistication and style to babies, and brings a much needed rawness and honesty to ‘parent’ music too.” Read that piece HERE.

Dialing in the Lullaby

Those of you who have taken my workshops know that one of the first things we talk about is how to use music to establish your routine with your baby. What would that look like? For one, singing the same lullaby every time you put your baby to sleep.

By doing this you are helping your baby associate sleep with a song that he or she will come to know well. Parents in my classes say that when they do this consistently, eventually their baby rubs his/her eyes at just the sound of the song. Yesterday a mom said when her son (2 yrs) heard her singing the song he curled up in her arms and requested to go to bed. Sounds like a dream to me.

The lullaby not only acts as a trigger, prompting the baby to prepare for sleep, but also literally soothes the baby. The music acts like a massage that relaxes the body and the baby starts to flow with the rhythm. That is why lullabies from different cultures tend to have long notes, with simple and repetitive melodies. They lull us like a swing, creating long vibrations carried by the voice.

I know this on my own skin. It worked like a charm with both of my boys. We got to the point where we could use the lullaby to trigger sleep in tough situations like the car, the airplane or the inlaws house.

And yet, last night I found myself dialing in the lullaby. Literally. I was scrolling through Facebook while supposedly singing a tender lullaby to my baby. Was she going for it? Of course not.

You’d think that with my third I would be somewhat of an expert and would have this schedule and routine stuff figured out. But we are all so busy, and can’t always devote our full attention to our kids. In my case I had had a long day and was happy to have a minute away from my sons. I was secretly using the bedtime routine with Alona as my own time to check out from momhood.

The thing is that the lullaby has another purpose. It allows us to intensely connect with our babies before the (hopefully!) long separation. Music bypasses our intellect and has a way of coming from, or releasing out of, a much more emotional place. Our babies are like emotional antennas and feel when we are stressed, relaxed, or disengaged. The lullaby is so important because it is the time for both parent and baby to say – its ok, I will see you tomorrow, we will have another day together.

You might be thinking – I don’t need to soothe myself with that thought. All I want is a nice long night of sleep away from my baby. But that is not entirely true. How many of us go look at pictures of our baby on the computer or check in constantly on the monitor after our baby goes to sleep?

So back to last night. Once I realized I was doing this I felt ashamed. Not to mention guilty of exposing my baby to countless harmful rays from the cell phone.

So I put down the phone.

I went on singing but really focused on our song together. I reminded myself that she won’t always fit in my arms, that it is only 10 minutes, and most importantly, that it will be much more affective if I give it my full emotional attention. And I did. And it was. She was asleep within minutes.

Believe it or not I actually have a song about this on my new album. If you want to hear it please go to my
Kickstarter campaign
to support the making of it. I only have 4 days left! Thanks for your support.

The Kickstarter Campaign is Launched!

You guys probably know that making an album costs a ridiculous amount of money. Truly ridiculous. But it makes sense – I like to work with the best of the best and bring my songs to life in the most beautiful way I can imagine. On this album I am working with a Grammy winning producer named Dean Jones, the Babes, Jon Samson, Saul McWilliams, and other amazing musicians and technicians. And that can get costly.
The good news is that these days musicians don’t have to wait for a label to come along and show interest. I did plenty of that when I was making music for adults. Now, instead of waiting for luck to shine upon us we can go directly to the people who will actually be enjoying our creation and ask them to support the album in the making. Instead of buying the CD when it comes out, we ask that you buy it while it is still being made in anticipation of the release.
The other awesome thing about crowdfunding through a site like kickstarter is that it is a great way to get the word out to people who don’t know my music and my mission. I put alot of work into making a video that explains what I do in the best way I could.
So now it is up to you – If you can pledge financial support, that would be awesome. But regardless, what I am also asking is that you forward the link to this video to friends and family members who you think would enjoy the album I am making and my mission to make music that both parents and babies will enjoy and appreciate and will bring them together.
Thanks guys. I can’t wait to be stuffing all the CDs into envelopes and sending them off to you.
love v

Baby in Tune is Born!!

Ladies and gentleman I would like to introduce my new business name and my new website! I have been working on this for a while, plugging away late at night after the kids are asleep. I am so excited that it is ready to be unveiled. Here are some of the new develpments:
1. Videos! I put a bunch on this site and there will be more added periodically. There is a beautiful video for Good Morning My Love coming down the pipeline so stay tuned…
2. Michelle is on the workshop schedule and is teaching classes. You can read about her and schedule a class with her soon. She is wonderful!
3. My Facebook, Twitter and Youtube names will all be changing to Babyintune. I will let you know as that happens.
4. I have a blog!! I will be adding posts as regularly as possible, about music, psychology, my own process, and whatever I think you might be interested in hearing about.
5. I will very soon be launching a kickstarter for my new album!!!

My business is officially 3 years old. I am really amazed at how far it has come thanks to you all.
Love Vered