Category: Music, Audio, Movies (page 2 of 2)

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 7: Legacy

Long before we had children, I stayed up late, dragged my husband and guitar into seedy downtown venues, and serenaded strangers over their pints of beer. The story of what music meant to me then, as a mildly professional musician, and what it means to me now, as a mother and a Christian, is one of my favorite ones to tell, and I had the privilege of telling it in the newest issue of Deeply Rooted magazine.

Thea Rosenburg | Little Book, Big Story

Photo: Gabriel Boone Photography (2007)

Writing that article inspired me to organize and upload what recordings I have and make them available for free download through Bandcamp. Consider it a multi-media experience: you can read the article in Deeply Rooted, listen to my studio EP from 2007, and listen to the live recording of a show played in 2013. It is a pleasure to share both the songs and the story behind them with you.

But, of course, that’s not all you’ll find in the new issue of Deeply Rooted. You’ll also find an article by William Farley, author of Gospel-Powered Parenting (we had the good fortune to hear him speak recently and it was richly rewarding), as well as “Trusting God With Your Child’s Education,” by Lindsay Cournia, and a beautiful essay on David’s legacy through Psalm 51 by Yasmin Sarai Robinson. Also, some recipes worth making now.

Like its predecessors, this issue is filled with the sort of riches you can spend all at once (that is, read piecemeal while waiting to pick up kids and so on) or savor and draw on slowly (i.e. read on a sunny porch while the kids sleep). You can order a copy here.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 7: Legacy | Little Book, Big Story

(But wait—this isn’t a children’s book! Why am I writing about Deeply Rooted?)


Deeply Rooted Magazine
Issue 7: Legacy (Fall 2015)

The Family Journal | Songs for Saplings

When we learned that we were expecting our first child, we Made the Announcement, scheduled appointments, wrung hands, and rejoiced. We contemplated, with an ecstatic sort of sobriety, the fact that our lives would never be the same again.

And then I bought a notebook.

Why We Keep a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

Thus began the first in a three-volume set of notebooks chronicling the first months—or years—of each of our daughters’ lives. They bore witness to first teeth, first words, and first steps, but more than that, they contain a steadily evolving picture of what our family was then when each of the girls was small. In them, I dropped stories of missed naps and meltdowns, overheard conversations between siblings, favorite bedtime stories. But I also dropped my own perspective into them—that couldn’t be helped—and so essays like this one, or this one, sprouted from my musings upon life then as a mother of one daughter, two daughters, three.

I became the family historian.

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

Sarah’s notebook is the only one still active and a part of me feels bad about that (poor middle child!). Her babyhood is a slim notch on the timeline of that book, but of the three children she will have, I think, the richest, most complete picture of our family life captured in time lapse over the course of four years. But her notebook is almost full. What then?

We don’t know yet if that will be the last volume in that set, or if there will be other children for whom to keep other books (update: I’ve started a new one!). But I had begun to wonder about a place to keep a family history, one that is open to everybody and that will contain a little of everyone’s story—a braided work, with room to include the small moments of the next few decades.

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

And then!

The day after I posted my review of Songs for Saplings, Dana Dirksen emailed me. That is how that sentence sounded in my head, but when I said it aloud to my husband, I think it came out of my mouth like this: “DANA DIRKSEN EMAILED ME.” And in case that wasn’t clear, I clarified: “She sent me an email! In my inbox. There is an email from Dana Dirksen.”

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

I’m not used to having the authors and musicians I review notice my reviews, let alone contact me and thank me for them. But Dana noticed. And her email was really very nice. There was more in that email that shall be revealed in the fullness of time, but for this story, the important part was that she sent me a package to thank me for loving her music so much that I wanted to share it with all of you.

In that package was, among other things, the Songs for Saplings Family Journal: beautiful, hand-bound, smelling of leather and travel and memories in the making.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

And now is when I pause and inform you of my unofficial policy on solicited reviews: I don’t write them. People can send me free stuff if they want to, but I can’t guarantee them a review. Because this blog is about you and me and our shared love of books, I like to think that we’ve built up a certain amount of trust over the years: you come to me for book recommendations and I give you a library of carefully curated recommendations of books that I love—not books I wanted to love because they were free and I felt beholden to authors or publishers. Perhaps that policy will change one day, I don’t know. But that’s what it is right now.

I’ve never said that on this blog before, but there it is. I say it now because I want you to know that Dana sent me the journal as a thank you gift, understanding that I was not obligated to post about it on my blog. I am posting about it now because I do love it.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

The Family Journal features the full text of the catechism as adapted for the Songs for Saplings albums, along with related Scripture and—this, my friends, is the clincher—blank pages in which to make notes on the conversations you and your children have about the topics covered.

I’m still feeling my way around that part, getting the hang of what I want to record and how to go about recording it, but already I find that having a place sent aside for recording little steps in our spiritual growth as a family causes me to pause and take note of moments like these: the child too shy to pray aloud finally piped up at dinner. The child with a lie on her conscience came to me unprompted and sought forgiveness. The child who struggled with fearfulness at night announced that she is not alone, not really, because God is always with her. The baby made “Amen!” one of her first ten words.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

These moments are stones in the road our daughters travel toward faith, and I expect that recording them in our journal will not only keep us looking forward toward the day when each of us will stand before Christ and, I pray, hear the words, “Well done,” but will keep us looking back at the sins overcome, the prayers answered, the victories won by grace.

I continue to be the family historian. And this is our new chapter.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story


If you’re interested in purchasing the Family Journal, you have two options: you can buy it through the Songs for Saplings store at full price for (gulp!) $90 (that’s when I remind you that it is hand-bound, leather, beautiful, and smells like memories), or you can get one for free by becoming a monthly supporter of Songs for Saplings for whatever amount feels comfortable to you. If you’re not sure why you should be a supporter of Songs for Saplings, read on.

Why I Love the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast

I recently discovered Read-Aloud Revival (through Aslan’s Library, of course) and after listening to an episode or two was smitten. “I’ve found my people!” I told Mitch over dinner. He then pointed out that he was my people, as were the three little people around the table. Fair point.

So I found my other people, the bookish ones, the ones to whom phrases like “build your family culture around books” serve as rallying cries and who read poetry at lunch and read books about reading books. I found those people. And I love them.

What is Read-Aloud Revival? It’s a podcast about reading aloud to your kids. But wait—I can hear your skepticism brewing. How can someone devote a single hour-long episode to talking about reading aloud, let alone several episodes? What could there possibly be to talk about?

Read Aloud Revival: A podcast worth listening to! | Little Book, Big Story

Oh, my friend. There is so much to talk about. How do you choose books for your family? How do you discuss books with your kids? How do you read to toddlers or nuture your child’s imagination or read poetry to your kids? How do you introduce them to Shakespeare? How do you read aloud well, for that matter? Do you do voices or accents?

And what about the parents who don’t enjoy reading aloud but still want to nurture that part of their child that is fed by good books?

Read Aloud Revival: A podcast worth listening to! | Little Book, Big Story

If any of those questions hit that soft spot in your heart that brings you back to this blog more than once, then I think you’ll love Sarah MacKenzie’s podcast. Sarah MacKenzie is the charming host of Read-Aloud Revival, the one who has such engaging conversations with her guests that I find myself, at the end of each episode, wanting the conversation to go on for just a little bit longer.

Some podcasts are great for listening to while I cook dinner, when the kids are up and running amok, but not this one: this is the treat that I save for myself, the one that I listen to on the front porch during nap time, sketchbook open, paintbrush in hand. (My logic: if my hands are busy while I listen I’m less likely to impulsively purchase every other book mentioned on the program.)


Read-Aloud Revival (podcast)
Sarah MacKenzie

Caspar Babypants (and more!)

Two weeks ago, Caspar Babypants came to town, so we gathered our two eldest daughters up and went to see him play. His show was part of a family fair hosted in our town’s sports complex, an event that boasted bouncy houses! Rock walls! Face painting! And so many other fun things for rowdy, outgoing kids!

Our girls wanted none of it. We are apparently succeeding at turning our children into pint-sized versions of me, because the bouncy houses—those bastions of fun for kids of all ages—made them turn pale and cower behind us, while the mere presence of a crowd of children—their peers, their compatriots—made them tighten their grip on our hands and tremble. They have no more love for large crowds and loud gatherings than I do, which led us to conclude, quite naturally, that we all need to get out more.

But though they declined the rock wall, the bouncy houses, and the craft table, the girls did consent to go see Barbara Jean Hicks, author of one of my favorite children’s books, The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, whom they adored and whose book, A Sister More Like Me, was one of their favorite take-aways of the whole day. And they definitely came out of their shell when Caspar Babypants—who, contrary to the belief of one of our children, is not fictional character at all but a real person—kicked off his set with “My Flea Has Dogs.”

Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew) | Little Book, Big Story

That day at the sportsplex, plus my two previous music-centric posts, inspired me to put together another playlist for you, this one featuring some of our favorite children’s music. These are all artists that sound again and again (and again) in our home and in our car, fueling dance parties and sing-alongs in which we all five participate because—and this is the important part—we all enjoy their songs.

Children's Music That You'll Want to Listen to, Too | Little Book, Big Story

For sweet and lovely lullabies, there’s JJ Heller. For pure silliness, there’s Caspar Babypants. For a perfect mix of both silliness and sweetness—Charlie Hope. There’s Dana Dirksen of Songs for Saplings (but I mentioned her earlier), and the fun and bluesy tunes of Johnny Bregar. And there are a few other favorite songs on the list, just because I thought you’d like them.

(Having listened to Caspar Babypants, tell me: does his voice sound familiar? No? Okay, then, what if you imagined him singing “Peaches“? Yes. It’s Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America, doing what he was always meant to do.)

Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew) | Little Book, Big Story

Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven | The Pinkney Family

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That old adage isn’t really about books, I know. But at its simplest level, where it is about books, I don’t like it, because I do judge books by their cover. Every time I pick up an unknown book in the bookstore or click through to its listing on Amazon, I do it because the book’s cover caught my eye, because something about it piqued my interest enough that I wandered over to that shelf and picked up that book (and not the one next to it). From there, I can judge the book by its book reviews or blurb or even content, but if I don’t connect with the cover then I won’t make it as far as the table of contents.

The cover of Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven had that tractor-beam affect on me when I saw it at the library. I may have dropped another book rather abruptly in my compulsion to pick up this one, I don’t remember, but it seems likely. I have long admired Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations (and have already featured his book, Noah’s Arkhere on the blog), so that was part of the cover’s pull—once you’ve encountered his distinctive illustrations, it’s hard not to recognize them when they cross your path again—but I was also intrigued by the book’s byline:

Music from Our Lord's Holy Heaven, by Jerry Pinkney and family | Little Book, Big Story

“Gathered and Sung by Gloria Jean Pinkney * Art by Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, and Myles C. Pinkney * Prelude by Troy Pinkney-Ragsdale.” Clearly, there is more to this book than story and pictures, and the making of it was a family affair.

I brought the book home, we loved it, and I later purchased a copy of our own. Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven is a richly illustrated collection of African-American spirituals, presented alongside photographs of families worshiping together and verses that relate to each song.

The book comes with a CD of Gloria Jean Pinkney singing the songs, simply and in a rich alto, so the girls love listening to the songs in car while taking turns holding the book. We recognized many of the songs as hymns sung in our own church, but there were plenty of new songs to learn and the girls jumped into them with gusto, singing “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” with hearty enthusiasm, while marching around the kitchen (or walking down the block, or sitting on the couch . . . ).

Music from Our Lord's Holy Heaven, by Jerry Pinkney and family | Little Book, Big Story

Music from Our Lord's Holy Heaven, by Jerry Pinkney and family | Little Book, Big Story

For all that, though, what I like best about Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven is the fact that it gives a clear picture of how one family uses music and art to worship the Lord together. From their involvement in the making of the book to the closing essay by Gloria Jean Pinkney about her own history with music, how she grew up with it and shared it with her children, the book is a testament to the idea that worship is something a family does together—music is a way that we can come alongside each other and rejoice in the Lord through housework or hardship. It is a way that we can rejoice in the Lord on on a daily basis—not just on Sundays—and it is a way that we celebrate holidays like this one, raising our voices together to sing his praise.

Music from Our Lord's Holy Heaven, by Jerry Pinkney and family | Little Book, Big Story

Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven
Gloria Jean Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, Myles C. Pinkney, Troy Pinkney-Ragsdale (2005)


In honor of Good Friday (and because I can’t get enough of making little playlists for you), I put together a short playlist of some of our favorite Good Friday and Easter songs. The first three are songs that we sing together as a family and church body on Good Friday; the last is the one that I blast through the house every Easter morning. Enjoy!

Questions With Answers | Songs for Saplings

This is not a review of a book. It is, instead, a review of some music written about a book—the book—and it is music that I think you and the little ones in your immediate vicinity would enjoy, so I am including it here, for your sake, for mine, and for the sake of those little ones.

Questions With Answers is a series of six albums by Dana Dirksen, who takes the Westminster Shorter Catechism and puts it to music. That means that while you run errands or cook dinner or take lengthy road trips, you and your children can memorize not only the catechism itself but various verses that relate to it (but will you ever be able to answer the catechism without singing? I don’t know. We certainly can’t).

Questions With Answers, by Dana Dirksen: music and theology for families | Little Book, Big Story

That is the good and wholesome answer to the question “Why should you listen to Questions with Answers?” But if you’d like an honest answer to why we have folded these into our family’s daily life and culture, here it is: they’re just really, really fun. You might be tempted to think—as I was—that six albums of any one musician could get old over time, but Dana Dirksen is a creative songwriter, and she pulls in just about every genre of music as she writes (just about: I haven’t heard hip hop in there yet, but then, we only have Volumes 1-4). And it doesn’t sound like she explores different genres because she’s trying to keep us listening: it just sounds like she’s having a great time. That joy produces the best music, I think.

These CDs have traveled with us halfway across the country and back. They have gone with us on the first day of kindergarten, down the Washington coast, over the Cascades, and across town. My daughter’s school used them as memorization tools last year; we have gifted them to missionary friends on the hunt for great preschool materials. We received them as a gift and love to give them to others.

That is the long answer to the question, “Why should you listen to Questions with Answers?” If you’re still on the fence, here is a short playlist of some of our favorite songs in the series:

 

And if you go to their website, Songs for Saplings, you can download all six albums for free! How compelling is that?


Questions With Answers, Volumes 1-6
Dana Dirksen, Songs for Saplings

What’s in the Bible? (Videos) | JellyTelly

Vischer

Way back in this blog’s beginning posts, I wrote a bit about What’s in the Bible? I told you that it was awesome and that you should watch it, but that was over a year ago and now it’s a cozy sort of season when movies and fleece blankets are in high demand, so I thought I’d give the series its very own post—even though it’s not a book, but a series of movies about the book.

What’s in the Bible? is a series of 26 episodes that works its way through the entire Bible, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Yes, it tells the creation story and shares a stellar retelling of the Book of Ruth, but the overall focus of the series is less on the celebrated stories of the Bible and more on the great, overarching story of the Bible. What is actually in the Bible? Why does it matter to us? What’s in the Bible? strives to answer those questions with creativity and sincerity (a great combination when dealing with anyone, little or big). The mind behind it all belongs to Phil Vischer, of JellyTelly (and formerly of VeggieTales). He briefly explains the vision of What’s in the Bible? here:

As you may remember from my post about his book, Sidney and Norman, I think very, very highly of Mr. Vischer. He appears on the show as a sort of anchor for an eclectic cast of puppets (which features, among other things, a Sunday school teacher, a news anchor, and a pirate), where he doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, but speaks to kids as though they can and should understand what the Bible says about tricky topics like sin, salvation, and theological doctrine. Take the show’s explanation of the Trinity, for example:

 

Our daughters love these videos. My husband and I love them, too, and through the show’s vivid illustrations we have both learned a lot about key aspects of the Bible. The episodes that touched on Paul’s back story or the silence between the Testaments switched lights on for both of us, and now our daughters tend to do things like, oh, list the books of the Bible in order just for fun. The show is full of catchy songs (a song about the Pentateuch—sung on a riverboat!) and great topical segments (A Pirate’s Guide to Church History!) that go far beyond the traditional fare of Christian children’s programming.

Take this song about the book of Judges (yes, Judges):

Oh, okay, and our favorite song about Leviticus (yes, Leviticus):

 Now, where you can you find this excellent series? If you live in our area, you can request copies of the DVDs at the public library, but by far the easiest way to watch them is to subscribe to JellyTelly. The monthly fee is cheap and grants you access to all 26 episodes of What’s in the Bible? as well as a variety of other shows and games that our family has yet to explore. (Do I sound like an infomerical? Don’t worry, this is not a sponsored post—none of my posts are—so it’s simply my enthusiasm for this show that you hear taking on a cheesy radio-announcer persona.)

JellyTelly’s mission is “be a tool to help raise the next generation of Christians so they know what they believe and know how to live it and to help launch the next generation of Christian storytellers.” I love that vision and see it succeeding marvelously through What’s in the Bible? 


What’s in the Bible? (DVD series)
Jelly Telly