Thankful Dads Sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’

To honor the heart surgeons, doctors, and nurses, that saved their babies who were born with congenital heart defects (CHDs), Life of Dad’s Tom Riles (the first dad with his daughter in the video) and friends present dads singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” This is genuine, unfiltered inspiration.

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David Code’s New Book on Socializing to Reduce Stress

Saying that modern parents are stressed out is nothing new. What is new is the emphasis that David Arthur Code has in his book, Kids Pick Up On Everything. Code, who is a marriage and family coach as well as an ordained Episcopal minister, has lived in several countries around the world, which is how he came to see that socializing was a key element in the effort to reduce stress in parents. In writing his book, Code studied neuroscience in addition to collecting his own observations.

Here are three of his top points from the book as articulated by Code:

“1) Parental stress is a major factor in the increase of child disorders today.  His research shows that kids soak up the stress in a household until their developing nervous systems hit ‘overload.’

2) Being stressed out is The New Normal for parents, and the main cause of our increased stress is NOT our jobs, or technology—it’s social isolation. Humans are social animals, with a primal need to bond.  That’s why our increasing isolation has left us more anxious and irritable, eroding our relationships as we escape into our screens.  Research shows we are far more isolated than only two decades ago.

3) Parents need to get a life! ‘If I could wave my magic wand and reduce the stress of today’s parents, I would give them a glass of wine, a friend, and a ‘piazza’–an Italian village square to go socialize in every evening.’ Sure, exercise buffers our stress, but socializing is #1.”

Another important idea Code discusses in his book comes from the fact that, while he observed families in South America, he learned that “it’s a myth that ‘the more attention you give your kids, the better they’ll turn out.’ Rather, the more time you socialize with other parents while your kids play together, the better they’ll turn out.”

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Family Man Recommends: Children’s Music Reviews for January 2013

The new year is already rich with musical goodness, as these children’s music reviews attest. On the debut children’s album from Julianna Bright, Cat Doorman SongbookBright’s voice has the fluid ease of Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul and Mary) and a gorgeous sense of imagery as evidenced by songs such as “All the Birds” (“…all the trees are blowing in the breeze only to lean closer to you”) and “Turn Around” (…”Let the meter move us, turn us, take us up and ever make us new”). Bright sings with the whimsy shown in the illustrations she made for her album on “Peaceful,” channels Tori Amos for the piano blues tune “Madame Claire,” and sings over a ukelele on “Let’s Get Dressed Up.” This is quite a beautiful first effort from the Portland-based artist.

Boosted by his energetic and giggle-inducing tunes on the 2006 release Marvelous Day, Steve “SteveSongs” Roslonek earned a role as “Mr. Steve,” a co-host for PBS Kids. His latest effort, Orangutan Van, is an even better collection of songs for preschool to elementary-school-aged kids. It all starts with the interplay Steve has with his alter-ego puppet, “Silly,” on the alphabet song “‘A” is for Silly.'” The groove-fueled “All in This Together” reflects the inspiration Roslonek draws from Martin Luther King, Jr.” And “Soaring With Reading” motivates young ones to delve into the imaginative landscape of books. With a theatrical flair, sharp musical arrangements, and lots of humor, the recording shines.

Speaking of shining, the sparkle from Ella Jenkins is as bright as ever as she continues to deliver meaningful music to kids. Now 88 years old, her wisdom about what makes children move and learn is parallel with her passion on a Smithsonian collection of 15 classic Jenkins songs. Get Moving features “Hello,” “Who Fed the Chickens,” and “Play Your Instruments.” Accompanying the CD package is a fascinating explanation of the movement and education theories behind Jenkins’ work.

A couple of other nifty listening choices are the mini-album from Papa Crow, What Was That Sound?. This blows most EP’s away with its theme of, well, farting. It’s funny and more pleasantly musically fragrant than your average flower-themed album. And, last but not least is the maiden voyage of Brooklyn-based Tim and the Space Cadets. Anthems for Adventure’s highlights include the two-part tune, “The Anthem” and the Sirius/XM Kids hit “Superhero.”

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Taking Action Before More Children Suffer

By Gregory Keer 

In the wake after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, so many of us parents struggled to make sense of our emotions and, perhaps most important, what to do to prevent this from happening to more children. Some of us talked about more security for our schools to block deranged gunmen from ever getting in. I think that may be necessary to at least provide a sense of security for our children, who should know that adults are physically protecting them.

Many parents talked about gun control and urging our government to pass strict laws making it much harder for guns to be sold. This may not have as immediate an effect on the security of kids, but it is the right idea and one that has taken far too long to bring to the forefront of our national debates. As the President of the Children’s Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman wrote yesterday, “Why in the world do we regulate teddy bears and toy guns and not real guns that have snuffed out tens of thousands of child lives?” I believe in the Constitutional right to bear arms; I also believe that right needs to be clearly defined to provide the kind of safety that the right itself was intended to provide. Better gun laws can’t solve the situation entirely, but making them tougher — particularly where they employ improved background checks — slows down the accessibility.

Lastly, part of our debate needs to be about health care. We must have a greater emphasis on mental health and a better system to respond to caring for those who are adrift in our society. I know this is incredibly complicated, but perhaps if we normalize mental health care that allows people to affordably and regularly check in with a mental health professional like we do a physical health professional, we could have a chance at preventing “madmen” from getting to the point of such devastating actions.

I encourage your comments and hope that we will all act. We must also hug our children and talk to them about their feelings in the midst of the media storm this event has stirred up. Many of the suggestions in a previously posted item about talking to kids about disasters apply to this kind of situation, so feel free to look at that as well.

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Family Man Recommends: Best Children’s Music of 2012

Reviewed by Gregory Keer

Happy Top Ten Season, everyone! It’s time for the annual FMR list of the year’s best children’s music. I say this every time, but it’s always true that there are a ton of great musical works that don’t get mentioned here or on other lists. My hope is that the rundown encourages you to explore these recordings and find your way to others as well. The selections all had to have been released between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012. Note that links lead to either the FMR review or directly to the artist Web page if there is no applicable review. Some reviews are in the QuickPicks, so read through for the appropriate title. Read and get listening!

  1. The Pop Ups – Radio Jungle
  2. Randy Kaplan – Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie
  3. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – Make Believers
  4. Okee Dokee Brothers – Can You Canoe?
  5. Recess Monkey – In Tents
  6. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band – Potluck
  7. Elizabeth Mitchell – Little Seed
  8. Sugar Free Allstars – All on a Sunday Afternoon
  9. Dog on Fleas – Invisible Friends
  10. Lunch Money – Spicy Kid

Honorable Mentions: Aaron Nigel Smith – Welcome to the Village!, Bill Harley – High Dive, Renee & Jeremy – A Little Love, Ozomatli – Ozomatli Presents Ozokids, Mo Phillips – Monster Suit, Elizabeth MItchell Blue Clouds, Various ArtistsScience Fair, Caspar Babypants – Hot Dog!, Laura Veirs – Tumble Bee, Gustafer Yellowgold – A Year in the Day

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Family Man Recommends: Children’s Music Reviews for December 2012

Reviewed by Gregory Keer

I’m not always keen on holiday music, which makes me a kind of musical Scrooge, I guess. So, this year, I’m getting in the spirit because of some really good choices for the month’s children’s music reviews. One is Renee & Jeremy’s Sunny Christmas, a six-track EP from the fine and mellow duo whose A Little Love cover album brightened last Spring. The harmonizing pair once again put their warm, sometimes atmospheric spin on songs written by others, with a genuine affection for the tunes and the holidays. The title track, which was a seasonal hit last year, stands out amongst such chestnut as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland.”

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Judy Pancoast takes Christmas on the road with performances at the home of regular folks around the country for her House on Christmas Street tour. She’s performing songs from her new album, Christmas With Mrs. Claus. Original pieces (such as “Where is Santa Claus?”) mix with storytelling and traditionals.

A couple of special Chanukah songs to light the way come from Billy Jonas, “Let There Be Light”,  and Laurie Berkner, “Candle Chase.” The ever-joyful and productive Berkner also has a full-length album, A Laurie Berkner Christmas, which includes a host of wonderfully rendered holiday classics.

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Dads Croon Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas”

Following their cover of the Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World,” the gents at recorded this version of Mariah Carey’s holiday chestnut, “All I Want for Christmas.” Everyone from Marines to a pop in footsie PJs unabashedly warble along in this dad music video.

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Tom Riles Asks Kids – What Are You Thankful For?

Tom Riles, dad, comic, filmmaker, and founder of, asks kindergartners: what are you thankful for?. This Thanksgiving, try turning the video camera (or iPhone) on your kids and ask them they’re thoughts. Hopefully the words, “I am thankful for my amazing, selfless parents” will come up.

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Post Disaster Tips for

In the midst of these very difficult times for people on the East Coast, Tom Riles, the founder of, has written and promoted content to help support those enduring the disaster and the rest of us who need to understand what our fellow parents are going through. He also connected me with the editors at, who asked for post disaster tips that answer the kinds of questions children are asking after the superstorm.

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Talking to Your Children About Disasters

By Gregory Keer

If there’s a place in the world that is never affected by natural disasters, and the terror that these uncontrollable occurrences bring, tell me where and I’ll move there. In the meantime, my eyes and ears are taking in the reports of what the storms are doing to the East Coast and beyond. Like so many of us, I have family and friends who are without power, stranded in homes and airports, and just plain freaked out. Of particular concern is the children, who feel the least in charge at a time when nature is running amok and adults are not always at their most communicative.

Here are some thoughts on talking to your children about disasters to ease their minds, be they currently remote from harm’s way or just worried about what’s happening in the east.

1. Assure Them of Their Safety.

No parent can guarantee that they can keep their children safe from harm — but the children don’t need to know that. What they do need to know is that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe. Especially for young kid, this blanket statement will calm them, giving them a tangible answer to their chief question of whether anything will hurt them.

2. Stay Calm and Be Comforting.

Always remain calm as you explain things to them, so they do not sense any fear you might have. Couple your words with plenty of hugs and comforting touch so they sense the security blanket you really are.

3. Encourage Questions.

By all means, invite them to ask any questions they may have so they can work out their thoughts with you. If you can’t answer something, go and find an answer from an information resource, a friend, or doctor, if need be. You are your child’s protector and source of information, which is usually a lot better than the mass media, which often sensationalizes things. If you do let them watch a news report, do it in small doses and do it together so you can answer those inevitable questions.

4. Explain How Nature Works.

Nature is as beautiful as it is terrible. You don’t want your child to worry that the natural world is out to get them. So, while you can explain how hurricanes and earthquakes work, also tell them how most human beings survive and build themselves back up. In addition, discuss with them how nature creates land and life in dramatic fashion and sustains us in the quietest ways.

5. Help Them Help Others.

Children may feel powerless, not only in the face of nature, but because they are so far away from those affected. Choose a charity, be it Save the Children, the Red Cross, or Doctors Without Borders, or some other organization, and have them give some of their allowance to send to those in need in the affected areas. You might even use this opportunity to teach them about the parts of this country and beyond that are impacted.

By helping your children through their own fears of disaster, you will meet one of the great tests of parenthood. Bear in mind that if all you do is tell them that you will protect them with everything in your power, you will be doing very well by your children.

Posted in Blog, Helping Kids Understand Loss, Protecting Children, Talking About Disasters | 1 Comment