The other night I got an email from my husband (who was sitting next to me on the couch, mind you). He was being sneaky all night, and when I’d ask him what he was up to, he’d respond, “Oh, wouldn’t you like to know.” And he was right; I really wanted to know. A few minutes later I heard my inbox “ding” with an email from him—he wrote a blog post for me in the form of a letter for Julia. I hope you’ll like it, and maybe you’ll even find some inspiration for your next mixed tape!
Long, long, before your time, music was a different entity. Computers could barely beep, and there was no way to actually use them to play music. People would sit at their stereos and record songs as they played on the radio, then we’d copy them onto something called a mix-tape.
Successfully putting a two-year-old toddler to bed on any given night is what I like to call, an “impossible feat.” Your mama made up this routine—while pregnant, alone (I was deployed and Bella was not very helpful), and on her last nerve. Instead of locking you in your room to fend for yourself (my idea…sorry), your mama doubled down and made an actual bedtime routine instead. She would read you stories, sing a few songs, wrap it up with your own personal “night-night Julia” song, and then you’d be set for bed.
Once Papa came home, though, bedtime fell back to me and I had to start singing songs to you. Here’s an awkward admission: I don’t know kid songs. Further admission: kid songs are kinda silly. Tertiary admission: in place of kid songs, I sing you my songs that may or may not have sex/drugs/rock & or roll references.
In any case, for posterity’s sake, here’s your very first mix tape! If you’re under 18, try not to listen to the words. And if you repeat them, its okay, we’ll just blame Bella for teaching you.
A mix tape for my toddler
(A note from Jessica: I’m trying something new, and I’m crossing my fingers that it works—if you want to listen to any of the songs listed below, scroll to the little music box at the bottom!)
Police Dog Blues by Hugh Laurie
Funny thing about two-year olds: they like to associate things with other things. After a few months of singing to you, you started adding a few stipulations to songs: I could only sing, “mama songs,” “papa songs,” or “puppy bella songs.” This American standard has a dog in it, which made it Bella’s most-est favorite-est song ever-est.
The Worst Day Since Yesterday by Flogging Molly
Song about your worst day? Yeah, so I learned that your mama was pregnant with you about 2 weeks before I left for 7 months. So a slightly dour song was needed, because all I wanted was to be home to see you grow in Mama’s belly. My best day ever? Every day that I see you.
Mama’s note: I remember your Papa singing this song to you in the wee hours of the morning while he tried to get you to sleep. Part of me wanted to get up and tell him to sing something more age/baby appropriate, but I decided to sleep instead.
Can’t Help Falling in Love by Ingrid Michaelson
This is a beautiful rendition of a classic Elvis song. This has also been dubbed, “Mama’s song,” and I’m totally okay with that. Side note: you can never, ever, ever, go wrong with singing the King.
I learned this entire album in college living with your uncle Nate. We memorized beach songs during a freezing winter, in the middle of Arizona. Weird? Yeah, but that’s college. These are the three I sing to you the most. Fun fact: I used to sing constellations to your mama while we were dating. Second fun fact: we make banana pancakes almost every Sunday for breakfast, and you’re a very big helper!
I am a Man of Constant Sorrow on the O, Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack
This is a great song, but it has way too many words. I usually cut it by at least 40%, and mix up the verses to end it faster.
You Are my Sunshine on the O, Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack
There’s a good version of a classic song. You sing along with it, and request it often, but that third verse still gives me trouble.
I Won’t Back Down by Johnny Cash
Originally a Tom Petty song, but I like this version. Plus, I figured it would be good to sing you a song about teaching you to stand up for your lil’ self.
Signs by Tesla
Don’t let the man keep you down. ‘Nuff said.
Basket Case by Green Day
Yeah, okay. So there are a lot of bad words in this song. A. Lot. You can blame Grandpa Herb for letting me and my sister get this album when we were 12. It’s probably one of my favorite albums, and I know all of the words to this song, which is a plus come bedtime song time. You actually request “Green Day” often, which makes me happy. The only problem is that you’re not allowed to actually say any of the words out loud. Ever.
Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show
Your mama isn’t a huge fan of folk songs, so she doesn’t care for this version, but the actual song is a favorite around here.
Have you ever seen the rain? by Creedance Clearwater Revival
I think this is probably your papa’s favorite song. I know all the words, I like CCR, and I LOVE rain.
Hooked on a Feeling on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack
We don’t usually sing this song at bedtime, but it’s a worthy last mention. I taught you how to jump every time Blue Sweede sang, “Ooga chaka, ooga chaka.” Such a fun song!
Julia, I really hope that you’ll love these songs as you get older. I remember listening to Elvis Presley and CCR with my parents on our various road trips around New Mexico, and imagining you and I rocking out to some Flogging Molly or Green Day when you get older makes me happy.
Love you and rock on!
Love, your papa.
Do you sing any non-traditional songs to your kids?
(Personally, I’m all about singing Christmas songs year-round!)