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Mixing it up, musically speaking

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Celebrating with music

A few springs ago, on a whim, I made a mixed CD of music I thought was good summer music. I popped it in the car the afternoon of the last day of school when I took the kids for an ice cream. We rolled down the windows and sang (loudly and badly) along to Roger Daltrey's declaration, "I'm free!"
Celebrating with musicThat CD became our summer theme music, often played on the way to the beach and baseball, and always with the windows rolled down and singing along, loudly and badly.

I've made several mixed CDs since then, for summer, for birthdays and birthday parties, for certain sporting victories (especially one that occurred October 27, 2004), for Valentine's Day for my husband. It's been fun, and it's been made even more fun by involving the kids in the making of the summer CD.

We've started compiling lists of songs we think would be good. Everywhere we go, as we listen to the radio, this year's summer CD is in the back of our minds. We make mental notes when we watch movies. Sometimes a song will just pop into our heads.

Not your mother's mixed tape

Whatever did I do before iTunes? I made the occasional mixed cassette tape growing up. Didn't we all? Or at least those of us who remember mixed cassette tapes (I may be dating myself here). It was a time consuming process, and of course I had to own all the full-length tapes that were my sources. Now, with iTunes, I can purchase and download just the songs we want if we don't already have it. It's the service I was wishing during all those mixed tape mixing sessions.

As we compile our ideas for the summer CD, we have some basic requirements for the songs:

  • They have to be upbeat, at least in tempo.
  • If at all possible, they should have a summery theme , such as sun, sailing, driving, something like that.
  • They have to pass the sing-along and in-seat grooving tests, with the car windows rolled down. As much as this embarrasses Alfs when I participate in the test ("Mo-oom!").
  • I tend to add in one or two old, or "classic" tunes to the more contemporary music the kids choose. This is why songs like "Free Ride" by the Edgar Winter Group and "Come Sail Away" by Styx get a place on the CD (now I am really dating myself). I consider this part of their general music eduation.

The ritual first listen

After weeks of song collecting, I usually put together and burn the CD the weekend before the last week of school. While not necessary for me to complete this part by myself, it adds to the fun of popping that CD in the car stereo on the last day of school and hearing what made the final cut and in what order.

I'm sure our little ritual is quite a sight. Some friends in town have noted it and I often I end up making copies of the CDs for them to spread the fun. Be aware of copyright laws when you do this, though. There are limits to the number of CDs you can burn of a single playlist, and you cannot sell them.

After the season is over, we don't put away the summer CDs completely. They stay in the car and sometimes, mid-winter, when we need to dream about the summer days, we'll listen. Invariably we start thinking about the next summer's CD and start making our mental list. Rolling down the windows and singing along (loudly and badly) is never too far away.

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