Archives for March 2014

Why Music Matters

PicMonkey Collage

I’m not a musician. Not even close. I can’t hold a tune, and for anyone who has witnessed me dancing at a wedding…I’m sorry, so very sorry. I wish I had rhythm, pitch…all that good stuff! So the best that I can do is live vicariously through my kids.

What I am is an educator, so I do recognize and value a well rounded curriculum, and know from training and experience how cross curriculum skills build on one another. We’re big on STEM education for our brood (science, technology, engineering, math), and a fantastic way to pump up the building blocks to excelling in these areas and improving certain brain functions like abstract reasoning skills, verbal memory and math abilities is through music education.

Spatial-Temporal Awareness

Music education has been linked to an increase in spatial-temporal awareness, aka abstract reasoning skills. These skills give us the ability to mentally manipulate images. (Think puzzles, design, engineering.) In a study involving 78 preschool children, 34 children received private piano lessons, 20 had private computer lessons, and 24 children were subjects for other areas in the testing. Kids given piano lessons showed a large improvement on the spatial-temporal test. What can you take from this? Music education can train a little one for abstract thinking, a skill necessary in math and science.

Verbal Memory

Can being a musician “change” a brain? It seems so. A study using MRI’s compared the brains of musicians to non-musicians. Sixty college students with similar educational backgrounds were given identical visual and verbal tests. Thirty of these students of them had least six years of music training before age 12, and the other half had zero training.

The findings? The musicians had enlarged “left” brains when compared to the non-musicians, and scored higher on the verbal test than the non-musicians by an average of 16%, with no significant difference found between the groups when given the visual test. What’s key to understand here is that the left side of the brain are attributed with verbal memory, and the right side of the brain is for for visual memory. This study’s findings suggest that music education can train a brain and impact verbal memory.

The Math – Music Connection

Is there a math and music connection? You bet, and there are plenty of studies to back them up. One such study involved two groups of second graders; one group of children had piano lessons as well as training in a math program, and another group received English training and piano lessons. Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California, Irvine, demonstrated that after four months of this training, the second-grade students in the math + music group scored 15-41 percent higher than the students in the group that received English + music training on tests that involved ratios and fractions.

If you’re interested in music education for your child, Sue On, our girls’ violin instructor and an incredibly talented musician and educator, has some fantastic advice:

How can parents encourage music education at home?

“Parents are already encouraging music education everyday without realizing it. Ask any adult or child how they learned the alphabet and they will start singing it for you. Teaching the basics is just listening to music to help develop their ear so that when they do pick up an instrument, they are already familiar with what it’s suppose to sound like.”

How old should a child be when starting formal music lessons?

“Between the ages of 0-5, most experiences are still first time experiences. With that in mind, everything is fascinating in their eyes and learning something new at every music lesson is no different. At such a young age, a lot of repetition is needed to comprehend the motions required to play an instrument but most of the activities can be disguised as games.”

How do I choose an instrument for my child?

“For children 6 and under violin or piano are great options just to get the ears training. Even if this isn’t your child’s first choice, either will most likely be a good transitional instrument due to the fine listening that is required. For an older child, 7 and up, there are more options because the lung capacity for air is larger for those interested in singing or wind instruments.”



My last day with a one year old


Today it struck me that tomorrow is my last day with a one year old, because this shop is closed, and because Hudson turns two on Friday. WHAT!? My baaaby. *Sniff* I admit that despite my resolve to rejoice in every day my babies grow, this is making me a little sad. Sigh. My blue-eyed angel can do no wrong…except for draw all over the walls in four rooms with black crayon. Twice.

I’ve been chasing the mini-man around this week, taking pictures of him getting into his usual Hudson Tommy business, (coloring with his sister, trying to break into my studio), taking shots from his viewpoint and realizing just how annoying it must be to not be able to reach the bananas. I’m looking over the photos now, feeling grateful for my (nearly) two years with this little guy, and also reminded just how beautiful the small moments in every day are, and at the same time remembering that there are no small moments. They’re all a gift.

PicMonkey Collage


Each of my little ones have added joy (and craziness) to my life (don’t be fooled!) Each day since they have arrived, I’ve found a reason to smile a lot wider, and a lot longer. When Hudson smashes his Thomas the Train cake into his face this weekend and follows it up with his infectious belly laugh, it will be one of those days.





 As part of the Mommy Blogger Collective I’m delighted to be a part of, I’ll be writing a post in response to a single word each month. March’s assignment is to respond to the word “defined.” Here’s what I came up with:

These were my grandma’s hands, Isabella Rosalie Graziano’s hands. That was the name her Italian parents gave her, the name on her Baptism record from 1915. Everyone else called her Lisa Bella, Elizabeth, or Mrs. Marsh, but mostly Betty. To me, she was Grandma.

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Grandma was embarrassed by her hands, because in her 90’s they were riddled with arthritis, and “knotted up,” as she put it, as she rubbed them together, squeezing one, then the other. Still, they made meals when they could, often caressed the face of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and waved to everyone, coupled with her effervescent smile. They were beautiful hands, despite what she thought.

Each curve and twist in her fingers spoke of a lifetime of love: turning pages whispering bedtime stories and pages in her choir books, sewing countless buttons back onto our coats and our over-loved toys back together, volunteering at the local hospital, hanging Christmas ornaments, bathing babies, grand-babies and great-babies, cracking a baseball far into the outfield as a child (she was so good at baseball), picking blackberries, spearmint and parsley in her garden for us, “I grew this for you, special.” These were the hands who made you believe you could do anything by just tilting your chin up to meet her eyes. These were the hands circling us all together the night my father, her son, died, and led a family in a chorus of “Hail Mary’s” during the darkest hour it had ever seen.

They were strong hands. Strong, but tender. These were the hands that defined her. In turn, they defined me.

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Grandma taught me how to appreciate a summer breeze, a patch of shade, crisp fall mornings, how to make killer meatballs, fantastic bread pudding, how to properly apply “rouge” and why attitude is everything. She taught me not just to squeeze lemons to make lemonade when life hands them to you, but to pulverize them with unfailing optimism, unwavering faith, patience, forgiveness, and why to encourage peace all around you. I’m still working on the last five. Understatement.

The day I brought my infant son home, cradled him on my shoulder, exhausted, covered head to toe in poison ivy (don’t ask how I manged to get that), my then three and one year old daughters were going ballistic with sibling envy. I felt like I couldn’t move back one moment or forward into the next. It was at that moment that thought of my grandma, or maybe she thought of me, and suddenly felt a window of serenity in the insanity. It was also at that moment that my oldest daughter asked out of nowhere, “Where is Nana?” Nana to her, Grandma to me, had been gone for 6 months by then. I’m convinced that on that day, in my moment of mental turmoil, Grandma came to check up on me and remind me of one of her favorite sayings: “Men tena ti forte,” which in her parents’ Italian dialect means, “keep yourself strong.”

PicMonkey Collage me and grandma

When I get past impatient after a day that I think my limits can’t be pushed farther, and then those limits are ran right over and erased like a line in the desert sand, I think about her, and it’s all good. She’s part of me, and I’m part of her. What a better way to be defined?

“Defined” is the March writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Gillian of Comes in Colours. A few words from Gillian — Hey, I’m Gillian and I blog at Comes in Colours! I am passionate about motherhood and passionate about photography. I am married to my middle school sweetheart and we are now raising our two boys, Roman and Asher, in northern Colorado. My life is real and far from perfect but my blog is a place where I celebrate motherhood through pictures and words. Connect with Gillian on Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin and pop by her blog to say hello.

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///