Creativity, Music, Songwriters

American Music: The Sherman Brothers or Some Thoughts on Creative Collaboration

For decades two brothers dominated the scene of movie songs, hired on as the Disney Studio songwriters and later went on to write music for other films.  Robert and Richard Sherman wrote pretty much everything from 1961 to 2000, and now their music is found in Broadway remakes of the movies.

I say everything, because so much of the movie music that I loved from my childhood comes from them.  Here are a few of my favorites (this is not an all inclusive list, just a few from each movie – there are many more for each one);

  • Summer Magic (1963) Femininity, On the Front Porch, Ugly Bug Ball
  • Mary Poppins (1964) Spoonful of Sugar, Stay Awake, Chim-Chim-Cheree, Sister Suffragette, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Stay Awake, Let’s go Fly a Kite
  • Winnie the Pooh (1966 and 1968) Winnie the Pooh, Little Black Rain Cloud, The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, Hefalumps and Woozels, The Rain Rain Rain Came Down, Down, Down
  • The Jungle Book (1967) Colonel Hathi’s March The Elephant Song, I Wanna Be Like You The Monkey Song, That’s What Friends Are For The Vulture Song
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) Hushabye Mountain, Me Ol’ Bamboo, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) The Age of Not Believing, Eglantine, Portobello Road, The Beautiful Briny, Substitutiary Locomotion
  • The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella (1976) Why Can’t I Be Two People?, Once I Was Loved, What A Comforting Thing To Know, Protocoligorically Correct, A Bride Finding Ball, Suddenly It Happens, Secret Kingdom, He Danced With Me/She Danced With Me, Position and Positioning, Tell Him Anything But Not That I Love Him, I Can’t Forget The Melody

I love the way that their lyrics are full of wonderful word play.  For example look at the following song;

What a Comforting Thing to Know

(from The Slipper and the Rose, which was my favorite movie as a girl.)

Good kings, bad kings
Sane kings or mad kings
Benevolent or nefarious
Here is where they bury us
Oh ho ho
What a comforting thing to know
There’s a pre-arranged spot in the family plot where my royal bones will go
Yes, I’ll be slipped into the beautiful family crypt
Oh ho ho
What a comforting thing to know

The lyrics are so clever and the music is catchy, easy to remember.   Here is a site in which you can find all the lyrics to the songs from that musical.

This is one of the songs (again from the movie) Protocoligorically Correct, I think it is such a kick to see these older men dancing in their tights :).

So many, many happy memories are tied to these songs!

Bob & Dick Sherman and Walt Disney

Recently (2009), their sons made a documentary, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story about their lives and their partnership.  Here is a site from the creators that highlights the film.

The filmmakers bring up an interesting point in the movie, that the brothers worked together but due to a family rift, they led separate lives and their families had virtually no contact with each other.  So, men that made music for happy families for over fifty years had a dysfunctional family.  Jeff and Gregg Sherman (the film-making cousins)  do a very good job of not pinning blame on either brother.  The film also showed how amazing it is that their very different personalities intersected in a way that created a tremendous amount of work.  They were able to set aside their difficulties and collaborate together.

Which brings me to some thoughts I’ve been having lately about collaboration.  Steven R. Covey talks a lot about the synergy of ideas that can come when people work together.  I agree that there are times when “two heads are definitely better than one,” but there are also times when collaboration can run away and change your idea so far from the original vision that it hardly seems recognizable.

I think that in those moments, it’s so important to have good communication.  But, when one of the group is overbearing in their ideas, it can become pretty difficult.

There is a difference though between collaborating on an idea as equal partners and getting feedback and collaboration on a project on which you are the “master” – you can take or leave the ideas depending on which ones will work for your overall vision.

What are your thoughts?  When has teamwork been a positive experience?  When has it “backfired?”

Creative Play, Creativity, Holidays

And an Orange Peel on a Christmas Tree (sung to the tune of 12 days of Christmas)

Last week we went to dinner at the *Moseman’s house, (*name changed to protect the innocent, and not so innocent :)).  After a great dinner, we were sitting around eating “cutie” oranges (the kind that are so easy to peel).  The kids (five of them ages 6-18) were peeling their oranges in really elaborate designs.  Later, I saw that the peel was on the Christmas tree, and I laughed about it, until I noticed that there were a lot of peels on the Christmas tree.

When I pressed the issue, I was told that the girls of the family decorated the tree in orange peels this year.  I love it!  I love that the kids are allowed to do their wacky ideas in that house.  The thing that’s really amazing about this family is that the father and grandfather build airplanes.  Not model airplanes, but real two passenger airplanes in the barn in their backyard.

Yeah, as in “See ya later Ma, I’m  just going to go out and build an airplane with Dad, be back for dinner!”

We had the dinner with the Mosman Grandparents and the grand matriarch, let’s call her Maggie, asked me to look at a book that her daughter had written and illustrated.  The design of the children’s book took my breath away, and even more shocking was the fact that this daughter had written it when she was a teenager.

The house was full of inventions, design, and creativity.  I asked Maggie how she taught her children to be so creative, and she said that it was because she and her husband were creative.  But I need to add that these people were not just the “idea” type of  people, but the “doing” people as well.  The couple possessed the twin virtues of vision and work ethic – and the kids followed suit.

I told Maggie a little about my oldest daughter (who calls herself an artist).  Maggie told me that in order to encourage her, I should go to the store, buy some mats, and frame her work.

A couple of days later, my daughter drew a picture for me and wrapped it up as a present.  I took Maggie’s advice, and bought a frame.  When I showed the frame to “J”, she looked like her five-year-old heart would burst with joy and gave me a gigantic hug.

When I asked the Orange Peel father (Maggie’s son) about writing this post and how often the girls decorate for holidays, he said that they are fanatic about it, “doing up the home” with wonderful wacky children mayhem for every holiday.  I asked if he was OK with it, and he said, “you think I could stop them?”

I guess orange peels on the tree serve a grand purpose after all, your kids just  might end up being  the next Wright Brothers!

Book Reviews

Book Review: Christina Katerina and the Box

Here’s a blast from the past! Patricia Lee Gauch’s 1971 classic Christina Katerina and the Box. It is actually older than I (barely :)).  I enjoyed the story as a girl, it’s one that I have really clear memories about.  Now my daughters love the book.

It’s the story of a girl who gets her mother’s refrigerator box and creates a castle out of it.  It breaks, thanks to her friend Fats Watson and her mother drags the box to the corner for the garbage.  Christina drags it back and creates something new, Fats breaks it, Mom drags it, and Christina creates again.  This cycle continues to a delightful resolution.

It’s such a lovely book about imaginative play.  As a girl I dreamed of having a big box, and since reading it to my girl, she keeps begging me for one too.

So, what would you do with a big box?


The author, Patricia Lee Gauch has written and worked on over 40 children’s books.  From an article published by California Kids! in 2005,  I was impressed by the following;

[Gauch] strives to create books that have a sense of shape. According to Gauch, creating a book is a musical experience. “There’s a rhythm and a rightness of things.” For example, she says, “There’s a shape to a Bach prelude with its rise and fall and the feeling that now is the time for the rise and fall.” The same concept applies to good stories.

Gauch definitely wrote a classic, with a rhythm and shape that I find lacking in a lot of recent children’s books.

What books do you remember from childhood, and why?  Do they have that sort of  rhythm and shape to them?  Am I crazy to say that it is missing lately in some children’s books?  (Discuss…let me give you a topic… to quote SNL’s Coffee Talk.)



“Work is the foundation of success and creation.”

Elder Richard B. Wirthlin, Ensign, Feb.2008, p.32.

How do we teach this to our children?

I think that it’s a vital piece of knowledge.

I’ve noticed lately that my daughter loves art, and she’s pretty great at it.  At least, she’s figuring out things that I never would have thought of at her age (patterns, shapes, designs) and she LOVES to draw, paint, color, create.

We do an incentive reward system with our children to help teach good behavior (helpfulness, good attitude, work, listening, etc.) .  They try to fill up a jar with gems (those little crystal rock things)  and they can choose a prize.  I give my oldest, gems for doing art.

She asked “why?” one day and I told her that if she kept practicing and working on that talent, right now, in her youth (while she has oodles of time to practice), when she grew up she would have a skill that she would be able to use to bring beauty to the world and maybe even profit by it.

I don’t know if she really understood what I meant.  I’m not trying to force her.  I’m trying to help nourish a talent that I see blooming in her, and who knows how that talent will bless lives in the future.

I’ll keep you posted.

What do you do?

Book Reviews

Creative Solutions: A Balloon for Isabel

We just found a book at the library that we love.

A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Laura Rankin, 2010, Greenwillow Books.

It’s the story of a little porcupine named Isabel and her friend, Walter who want balloons for graduation, but they are told that they can’t have them because of their quills.  So, Isabel comes up with a myriad of solutions until they can find the perfect one.  It is clever and fun and the pictures are delightful. My daughters and I giggle every time we read it.

I especially love it because of the emphasis on finding different ways to fix a problem.  Creative problem solving is an important aspect of development and can be easily cultivated by allowing our children to come up with the answers.

An example of this happened at our house a few days ago.  We were working on a craft for a doll house.  It was a miniature beach towel and sun umbrella.  My two year old kept singing “Party on the beach”  – a song that she had made up.

While we were working on the umbrella, I didn’t have the lollipop stick that the directions called for.  I asked my five year old what she thought we should do.  Apparently, she’s been through my craft boxes more than I have lately, because she pulled out some wooden manicure sticks that I didn’t know we had.  They worked like a charm!

Two things to remember – have them find solutions to things that can have unusual answers (that you’re willing to follow through on), and if you are unable to use their ideas, still praise them for thinking of a solution.

What are some ways that you teach your children to be creative problem solvers?

Book Reviews, Sewing

Book Review : Fanny, by Holly Hobbie

I fell in love with this book, about a little girl (Fanny) who wants a “Connie” Doll – (they’re all the rage) but her Mom says, “absolutely no!”  Which prompts Fannie to make her own doll.  Then her Mom gets her a sewing machine for her birthday and she makes a bunch of clothes for her doll,  Annabelle.  The heroine is inventive and ingenious, despite the fact that her friends don’t understand why she doesn’t have dolls like theirs or why she got a weird sewing machine present.

I love that it teaches creativity and a mother’s belief in her daughter.

When I was young, for whatever reason, my mother believed in me.  She would ask me to be creative and have me do all sorts of things for the family: from decorations for the holidays, to writing plays, to costumes.  She encouraged me and helped me to believe that what I did was special and unique.  The work was always flawed, but her belief in me was genuine.

Perhaps that’s why this book resonated so much with me.  To tell you the truth, the story-line that I gave you was only a small part of

the book, but it was the part that I empathized with.

I think that it is so important as a parent to find out what our children are interested in, or have a natural talent for and do what we can to help them naturally succeed at it.  Not by pushing them or coercing them, but allowing them to have opportunities to develop their gifts and talents and giving them support and encouragement along the way.

Interestingly enough, Holly Hobbie, the author also wrote the Toot and Puddle series, and did the Holly Hobbie series  that was so popular when I was a child.

Cooking, Creative Play


Last weekend, we had the pleasure of dining at Alexander’s.  You haven’t heard of it yet?  It’s this great new place – it’ll be all the rage!

A dear friend of mine is fabulous at inspiring and allowing her children to be creative.  Her son Alexander made up a menu one day, (he’s interested in being a chef) and she took it a step further and let him have a “restaurant” for family and friends.

The Menu

The menu was hard to read, but it’s separated into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Anytime snacks.  It also includes serving times, the items available and the prices.

I loved the idea so much, that I called to make a reservation, and Alexander himself called to confirm our plans. 🙂

The special of the evening

When we showed up, he and his siblings greeted us, showed us to our table and served up a wonderful meal.  We were also treated to beautiful music and her oldest son even played on their piano (well, it was a player piano, but he sure fooled me with his acting skills).

Being shown to our table - note the menu in his hand.

My friend Cydnee had the boys do almost everything, from menus to serving to tallying up the bill.  They even gave us coupons for our meal – which was a steal to begin with.


I am amazed at her ability to foster creativity.  She threw an Indiana Jones themed birthday party for her son and Alexander decorated the house with paper  snakes and made up a party game, complete with a golden paper head ala the first movie.

Another thing that I loved was the outdoor oven that Alexander made.  When I asked if he had cooked anything on it, she said that he had melted cheese and chocolate.  Move over Easy Bake Oven, there’s a new contender!

Homemade oven

So, here’s to Cydnee and family –  well done!  I am amazed at your talents to nurture your children’s natural abilities.  Thank you for a lovely evening.

Art, Creative Play

When to follow and when to fly free!

The other day, I was working with a teen group and they were putting together pages for a family history type of memory book.  The leader of the group had meticulously created some really lovely pages, and then provided the materials to make each page to exact precision.

One of the teenagers, 16 years, asked if she could make the pages however she wanted to instead of following the prescribed design.  Now, normally, I would say, “Sure, create!”  But in this case, when the leader had gone to so much trouble, I told the girl that she needed to follow the pattern.  It may not be creative but she could learn some new designs and techniques as well as showing appreciation to one who had gone to so much trouble.

However, there are times when we need to allow our kids the freedom of creativity, especially when they are younger (birth to early grade school ages)!  I read an opinion piece yesterday by Erin Stewart about this, and I quote  a section of it to illustrate my point.

“While attending my daughter’s weekly art class, I noticed the mom next to me getting increasingly frustrated. Her 18-month-old daughter was apparently not smearing the paint just right or placing the foam stickers where she wanted, because this mom kept uttering statements such as, “I’ve had it with this project,” and “No that’s not right. I am so over this.”

Watching this mom lose it over finger paints made me sad for her daughter, who was too scared to do her own art project. I’m no mother of the year, but in this instance I felt glad that my own daughter’s painting was just how it should be — a complete mess.

I hadn’t meddled in her finger painting skills or guided her foam sticker placement. Her painting looked like the work of a 3-year-old. It was messy, creative and unrecognizable as anything.”

The full peice can be found here.

Guess what – at early ages, children just won’t “do it right”.  They need to explore and practice.

For example, my two year old and I were walking home from taking my 5 year old to school.  She wanted to push the stroller for a while.  Now THAT takes time and patience –  waiting for a two year old to push a stroller… and stop to look at the flower… ants… tree… get the stroller straight, etc, etc.

The point is, that there are times when we need to practice, times when we need to explore, and times when we need to learn.  The trick is to have patience with ourselves and with others when they are in a different stage than we are.

Arts and Crafts, Book Reviews, Creative Play

Book Review – The Creative Family


The Creative Family

I just found a book in the library (see previous post) called – The Creative Family: how to encourage imagination and nurture family connections by Amanda Blake Soule.

It was full of some really good ideas.

I’m just going to jot down a couple of notes that I thought were helpful as part of this review.

  • She does a family drawing time – kind of like the “notebooks” project that I described.
  • Art Night – where you gather another family together, set up art centers and create.
  • Gather ideas in an accordion type file folder – bits of creative inspiration.  I’ve done this for years – when I see something I love in a magazine, I’ll rip it out.  It’s just a great idea to categorize them.  I think I’ll do a section on drawing.  (More on that in another post when I get it worked out.)
  • Search for old books in a thrift store, or old books that are falling apart for pictures and re-crafting ideas.  (I LOVE this idea!)
  • She puts the kids art work on an Inspiration Wire, my sister has done this for a while and I think it’s just a great way to do an “art show” when you don’t have a ton of room.
  • She talked about allowing your kids to use quality products and tools. I agree with that because, lets face it –  the dollar store crayons just don’t add color like crayola. 🙂

The book was full of inspirational quotes and really lovely pictures as well as some fun ideas that can help encourage creativity in children.

Amanda’s website Soule Mama is interesting as well.

One of my favorite quotes from the book was –

“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be another child like him.”

-Pablo Casals