Monthly Archive: October 2014

I love Halloween—I love the candy, the decorations (especially the witches), the trick-or-treaters and most of all– the costumes! When our kids were growing up, I made them all sorts of costumes—a devil, a warlock, a pirate, a Ninja Turtle, a gorilla, a Dracula and many others. I know many of you do as well because I’ve seen some of your creations!

Costumes005  Costumes008

Costumes007 One year, each member of our family went as some sort of clown. I sewed all the costumes and purchased the accessories. The boys chose what kind of clown they wanted to be: a jester clown, a hobo clown, an Auguste clown (he has a BIG smile) and a tramp clown.  The only challenging part of making the jester clown—I had to hand-sew 48 bells onto each costume! We actually used those costumes for several Halloween seasons.


 Costumes006Making Halloween costumes is actually fun because if you make a mistake or the seams are not just perfect—who cares? No one is looking at them “up close and personal” so they do not have to be perfect!

Today, there are so many inexpensive Halloween costumes so most people find it easier to purchase them. However, if you are a seamstress–your kids will love and remember the costumes you make.


Halloween 6 My daughter-in-law Moe knit an amazing costume for my darling grandson, Lowell. They were going to a Harry Potter Party so she knit him a “Hedwig the Owl” costume and for my son Trevor, she knit him a Harry Potter scarf, complete with black-rimmed glasses. These costumes made a big hit at the party and on facebook!



My other talented daughter-in-law Jenna makes costumes for my three sweet grandchildren every year. They have gone as characters from Mary Poppins, Walt Disney characters, a Viking warrior, Max from “Where the Wild Things Are,” etc. She lets each child choose what character they want to be each year so Audrey, Claire and Noah usually have their ideas for costumes solidified by August of each year–it is that important and fun for them!

Halloween 2  Halloween 3 Halloween 5  Halloween 4

And this year, Jeanna made these costumes: Audrey went as a Wicked Princess, Claire went as a Peacock and Noah went as a Ninja Turtle. Jenna made every part of these costumes–she ordered the peacock feathers, (this was amazing!), and she even made the turtle shell for Noah’s costume!

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Audrey as the Wicked Princess

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Noah as a Ninja Turtle

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Claire as a Peacock!

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Claire with her feathers down

So, if you think you still have enough time—grab some colorful fabric, a pattern or two and a sewing machine and you are off and running. Enjoy this very fun and very popular holiday and create more fun family memories!

 Boo to you!

Sharlene 2014

I love the fall holidays—Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think that holiday-fun should always include reading-a-loud-fun that turns into exciting and memorable traditions. So today I’m going to talk about one of our family’s very favorite Halloween books: The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg (think Jumanji, The Polar Express, etc.) He is a master storyteller and his illustrations are mesmerizing.

Halloween 1

 This is not your typical Halloween book with colorful black, orange, purple and green pictures of pumpkins and fanciful witches, goblins and such—no sir!—this book is created with sepia tone illustrations that makes you feel that there really are such things as witches, flying brooms and magic on Halloween. My kids absolutely loved this book and I consider it a “must” read-a-loud book—one to be enjoyed for many Halloweens to come and one that can be passed down to grandchildren—although I’m not ready to give up my copy quite yet…

 Here is what one reviewer said about this enchanting, yet haunting tale: The Widow’s Broom:

 “Witches’ brooms don’t last forever. They grow old, and even the best of them, one day, lose the power of flight…. On very rare occasions, however, a broom can lose its power without warning, and fall, with its passenger, to the earth below … which is just what happened one cold autumn night many years ago.” So begins The Widow’s Broom, the gentle, strangely captivating book by Chris Van Allsburg.

 The story gets under way when the lonely widow Minna Shaw finds a wounded, sky-fallen witch in her vegetable garden. The witch disappears before dawn, but leaves her old, presumably defunct broom behind. Minna begins to use it around the house and finds that “it was no better or worse than brooms she’d used before.” However, one morning, Minna sees the broom sweeping by itself! Opportunistically, she trains it to chop wood and fetch water.

 When the neighbors find out about this “wicked, wicked thing” (posing as an innocent, hardworking broom), they accost the widow and demand that the broom be burned. Are they successful in separating the lonely widow and her diligently sweeping friend? This is a wonderfully suspenseful book to read aloud and young listeners will earnestly hope for the broom’s survival.”


One last thing—don’t forget the spooky music to play while you are reading your stash of Halloween books to your kids (plus pop some popcorn for even more fun). Here are some favorite Halloween music CDs:

 Halloween Music Collection CD by Midnight Syndicate


Halloween Hits

Halloween CD

The 13th Hour by Midnight Syndicate

Halloween CD 1


Sharlene 2014

Do you have a child with learning disabilities? Autism? Sensory Integration issues? Auditory Processing? Attention Deficit Disorder? Etc.?

In chapter eight of my book, Good Music Brighter Children I talk about how music can be a powerful catalyst for kids who suffer from a variety of learning disabilities.


As mentioned in other blogs, all learning disabilities begin with auditory processing. This means that the child can hear fine, but have difficulty processing what he/she hears. In order to help learning disabilities, you need to find something that strengthens the auditory cortex, and that something is music.

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Today I want to introduce you to an educational therapist who uses acoustically modified music as one therapy to help learning-disabled children. Her name: Alene Villaneda. Her company: Integrated Learning Strategies.

Alene 1Alene Villaneda, an educational therapist from Kaysville, Utah, uses amazing sound therapy programs called Integrated Listening Systems (iLs) and Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) for her students. Since 1994 her company, Integrated Learning Strategies, has worked with children who have a variety of learning disabilities including: ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, sensory processing disorders, speech and language issues, and autism. Specifically speaking, she helps children who suffer from issues relating to auditory processing (both receptive and expressive language), vestibular  issues (the foundational system for visual and auditory), gross and fine motor problems, and memory and concentration, as well as anyone who wants to have better listening skills. Villaneda uses a combination of different programs and has found that the iLs and ABT programs address the needs of many of her students.

The iLs and ABT programs use filtered classical music; particularly the music of Mozart while the children are concurrently doing specific movements and engaging in visual stimulation. This network of sensory systems being simultaneously stimulated—auditory, visual, vestibular, motor, and even emotional control produces amazing results.

Below are some of the results her clients have experienced after using the iLs and ABT programs.

Alene 3A nine-year-old girl came to Villaneda with severe comprehension and auditory processing problems, as well as attention issues. She also wore very thick glasses. Normally, it would have taken thirty months to fully address these problems, but by combining the iLs program with movement, the young girl experienced a remarkable turnaround in just eighteen months. She no longer has to repeatedly ask her teacher for clarification of what is said in class (auditory issues), she understands what she reads (auditory and comprehension), her attention span has drastically improved (vestibular/auditory), and even her vision has improved to where her glasses have needed adjustments.

Alene 5Villaneda began working with an autistic boy when he was seven years old. Although he suffered from expressive language issues, he did understand what people said to him. At the time, he was in a special classroom at school and had difficulty with stemming—a term used to describe constant wiggling and shaking. Villaneda started him on the iLs program, and within six short months he was talking and reading. Today, he is now in a mainstream classroom. Although he is receiving additional intervention, his parents described his change as “an awakening.”

Alene 4When five-year-old Monica came to Villaneda, she could not sit still and could not bounce a ball or catch or throw a beanbag. She was unable to focus on an object, could not coordinate her eyes, and never noticed anything around her. Monica appeared normal, but would have severe temper tantrums and extreme bouts of anger. Additionally, she did not show any affection toward her parents or siblings. Within a few short months of being on the iLs program, Monica was transformed: she became grounded, she could throw and catch a beanbag, she became very observant of everything around her, she asked questions, and, best of all, she became a very affectionate child.

My eight-year old granddaughter has severe hearing and vision issues and she recently began the iLs program that I purchased from Ms. Villaneda. I will keep you abreast of how it is working for her!

Audrey with her piano teacher

For more tools and resources, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. For great information and services, check out Integrated Learning Strategies at


Sharlene 2014










Halloween and scary music go hand-in-hand. You probably own a couple of Halloween CDs complete with all the scary music you need, but did you know that scary music is found in the classical repertoire? Believe it or not, it actually does have some fairly ominous music.  And just in case you would like to try playing some scary classical music for the holiday, here are a few suggestions that you can download from the Internet onto an MP3 player and play at Halloween:

 Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns (cartoon & music see:

“March to the Scaffold” in Symphonie Fantastique, Op, 14 by Hector Berlioz (

“The Hut of Baba Yaga” from Pictures at an Exhibition with Ravel by Modest Mussorgsky (

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (

Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G Minor by Johannes Brahms (for the ballet & music:

Also Sprach Zarathustra by R. Strauss (

 Second, if you are planning a themed Halloween party, (i.e. “Harry Potter”) stir up this fun musical game that will help your guests understand just how important the role of music plays in the movies. Plus—it is scary fun! Click on the links below for some frightening sounds and visuals:



 Musical Game: Scary Music in the Movies

 Directions: Play a specific segment from each of these five movies—first without any music and then with music. Music plays a HUGE impact on how downright scary the movie is. I’ve actually done this various times and I usually start with the movie “Jaws.”


Scary Movie #1: Jaws

For the music see:

Two single notes never did as much work as it did when queueing up the intro of the ocean’s scariest predator. The Jaws theme, written and conducted by Hollywood legend John Williams, is one of the most recognizable, horrifying clips of music ever composed.  Do you remember the scene in the beginning where the girl is swimming alone at night in the ocean? All of a sudden you hear those single ominous notes letting you know that something horrible is about to happen. From that point on, whenever you hear that music, you tense up. The audience knows that something bad is about to happen while the movie characters remain oblivious—which heightens the intensity of this thriller!

Scary Movie #2: Psycho

For the music see:

The height of the film’s intensity only features a few notes of music, but the piercing, screeching violin strings echoing throughout Psycho’s shower scene held more power than most movie music would for decades to come. Warning: don’t take a shower on Halloween—opt for a bath; in the light of day; and with a weapon nearby… Music by Bernard Herrmann

Scary Movie #3: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

For the movie clip and music see:

Remember when Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Malfoy serve detention in the forbidden forest with Hagrid as their escort? Harry and Malfoy find a horrible creature (Lord Voldemort) who has just killed a unicorn and is drinking it’s blood. Malfoy runs away, leaving Harry behind to face Voldemort—notice the music in those scenes—scary and foreboding!

Scary Movie #4: Signs

For the music see:


This movie is about a family living on a farm that discovers mysterious crop circles in their fields. They suggest something more frightening to come! To be honest, I have only seen trailers of this movie—but I’ve been told the movie is rather scary and so is the music—you be the judge. Music by James Newton Howard

Scary Movie #5: Halloween

For the music clip see:


Haven’t seen this movie—never will! However, I understand that John Carpenter’s terrifyingly minimal composition for the original Halloween is more than enough to strike fear into anyone’s heart after hearing just a few tinkering notes. The synth-enhanced tune, played in 5/4 time, was famously performed by the director—and turned Halloween from an eerie, oddly brutal horror flick to something so much more nightmare-inducing.

 I’ve been told that there are movies which contain MUCH scarier music such as: “Saw,” “The Shining,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Donnie Darko,” “The Dark Knight,” “Prometheus,” “Friday the 13th,” etc.  I’ll leave it to you to check out those movies. Hopefully, this list is a beginning of scary music and movies to play in the dark at Halloween!


Sharlene 2014


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