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Lady Lullaby Blog

Lullabies for babies, grown-ups and everyone in between!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Share the Resounding Joy

After the horror of last week’s event, an event that resonated with every parent and grandparent in the country, I can only add to all that has been said my sincere condolences. And that there must be action taken to change things on all level--from political to a deeper healing of the stresses that led to this tragedy.

The help that I can offer is to encourage you to lessen the stress in your lives and the lives of your children through music. There is proof that this is an effective tool for integrating the brain and balancing the emotions.

This past week I had the chance to go to a benefit concert for the David Lynch Foundation, which supports the implementation of Transcendental Meditation in schools, to help reduce stress. Another name for reducing stress is the creation of joy, and that was the experience of everyone who was at this event.

The concert was presented by some of the greatest jazz musicians of our time---a time that spans the generations, from Herbie Hancock (age 72) and Wayne Shorter (79 years old) to the young bass-player-vocalist sensation Esperanza Spalding, and the young singer Corrine Ray Bailey. This group was communicating seamlessly in the timeless language of music.

The joy in all their faces was contagious, and all the 1000 people in the audience were infected with this joyfulness.  We all walked out caught up in the joy of the music, feeling uplifted and happy. Music is that powerful.

I talked with Herbie Hancock after the concert, and he said he’d been playing music since he was seven. It was in his blood, he said, and the proof of his life-long devotion to his craft was obvious in the joy he felt and shared.

My point? Share the music, spread the joy. Giving your child the ability to play an instrument and sing is like giving them a life-long gift of creating joy for themselves and others. Due to budget cuts to the arts, our schools do not offer enough music instruction, and our happiness factor (as well as our culture in the future) will suffer for it. So it’s up to us, individual families, to make sure that our children experience music in their lives.

Wynton Marsalis introduced the evening, which was held at his home venue of Lincoln Center Jazz. He has been a tireless advocate for bringing music to children and a teacher and spokesman for music education. He knows that music has the power to teach kids lessons that go far beyond simple music skills---self confidence, increased academic abilities, social skills---and yes, to give joy to the world.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Gift that makes your family healthy (maybe wealthy) and Wise

Tis the season for buying stuff.

Even if we swear that we’re not going to give in to commercialism, or don’t have the funds to buy gifts, it’s still in our awareness at this time of year---how could it not be, with catalogs crowding the mailbox and ads crowding our brains?

There is one gift, though, that is worth giving and it fits all budgets: Give the gift of music. Music comes in all sizes and shapes and is appropriate for all ages.

For new babies, or those on the way, give lullabies.Lullabies soothe the savage beast and the crying baby.Premature babies are routinely treated with music, as it has been found to help normalize physical functioning. Studies show that even before birth, babies respond to music, as hearing is the first sense to be developed. This is where the healthy part come in!
Suggestion: “Midnight Lullaby”

For toddlers, a weekly music class can literally improve the rest of their lives. Research shows that learning simple musical skills develops the pathways in the brain so that all future learning becomes easier.

This applies to adults too—learning to play a musical instrument is good for our brains at any age, and (this is where the wealthy part comes in) can increase concentration and focus in anything we do. For inspiration, see this article about someone who learned to play cello later in life:

And take your children to a variety of the many freeconcerts---for children and for adults-- that are offered in your community at this time of year. If they get bored or start to complain loudly, you can leave, but they’ll hear some music and get the message that this is a good and important part of life.

And that is a true gift. That’s where the wisdom part comes in.

Enjoy the holiday season, and if you find that you’re getting get stressed out from doing too much--stop for just a minute, take a deep breath, and put on some soothing music. I promise it will help.

Sweet Dreams,

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Thanks for A Real Hero

Thanksgiving is a time for counting blessings and for stopping for a minute (before or after the pumpkin pie) to notice the good things in our lives.  I’m looking forward to being with my family and can’t wait for pumpkin-sticky hugs from my grandchildren---that’s always something to be grateful for, only slightly dependent on whether my clothes can be washed or need dry cleaning.

This year I’ll stop to notice and give thanks for how healthy all the children are, because this week I had the chance to witness a Real Life Hero and hear the inspiring story of her work with mothers and children who now have a chance of a healthy life.

Robin Lim is this year’s CNN Hero Of The Year. I had known about Robin, but when I heard her telling the stories of her mission to reduce maternal and child mortality rates in Bali and Indonesia I knew I was in the presence of a hero, if not a saint.

Ibu (Mother) Robin began providing free health services for pregnant women in 1994, after her sister tragically died in childbirth. She studied to be a midwife, and when she moved to Bali, started caring for pregnant women out of her home in a small village. The women could not afford decent food, let alone health care, and the mortality rates were shockingly high. It was common practice for babies to be taken away from the mother if they could not pay for their hospital bill for the birth.

 In 2005 The Bumi Sehat Foundation became officially incorporated as a health clinic, and now offers general health services and gentle birthing services to over 17,000 people  a year who come from all over Indonesia, and other countries, to have their babies in a loving and supportive environment. 

The motto of Bumi Sehat Foundation International is “Gentle Birth Heals Mother Earth.”  These gentle birthing practices put mothers and families at the center of the birthing process and help to give the children a healthy start in life.

Of course there is still need for support to keep the project going and growing. The Bumi Sehat wish list includes medication for mothers and children, nursing supplies, supplements, and basic equipment like receiving blankets and infant clothes. If you would like more information, visit

Thank you for your important work, Robin, and may we all be thankful for the good things that we notice in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving and Sweet Dreams,


Monday, November 5, 2012

Caution: Do Not Use Lullabies For Political Campaigns

Music serves different purposes for the different parts of our lives. It’s the background score for all of us from the cradle to the grave and every moment in between. Music serves to soothe us, to heal us emotionally, to inspire us religiously, and this week it serves —hopefully--- to motivate us to action.

You won’t hear lullabies being used for campaign songs. Why is that? The people who plan these things don’t want to soothe and calm us right now, they don’t want us to fall asleep---they want us to get up and vote and make phone calls and go door to door, to get out there and cheer for the guy with the best message and the best song.

“Music connects on so many levels,” says James Elliott, chairman of the songwriting program at Belmont University in Nashville. “There’s patriotism, there’s maybe an element of nostalgia, pride, and just a love for country and a love for fellow man.” Music can stimulate all of that, and politicians on both sides are well aware of it.

“Since the nation's founders rocked out to “God Save George Washington,” music has been an integral part of our political system,” writes Mike Burr for Prefix Online Magazine.  “Songs have drawn attention to problems in society, served as rallying points for the citizenry and opened discussions on topics that were otherwise unapproachable.”

In the past years, after “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” caught the attention of the nation in 1840, songs have become an important part of the campaign process. Most songs weren’t written specifically for the campaign---candidates just pick something they think expresses their message. Mike  Burr picks “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie as the most important patriotic song in our nation’s history. George H. Bush used that one in 1988. George W. Bush’s song pick didn’t work out so well: Tom Petty threatened to sue him if he didn’t stop using his song “I Won’t Back Down.”

Texas billionaire Ross Perot used the Patsy Cline hit “Crazy” for his campaign. Other political songs range from ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” to Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” and of course, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” Campaign songs come from all genres, all political orientations, and all age groups.

The one thing they have in common is that they are definitely not lullabies. We’ll get back to that next time---after the election is over.

Sweet dreams,

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monsters and Other Friends

Lullabies are usually sweet and lovely things, aimed at soothing and calming a baby in the hopes that everyone involved gets a good night sleep. For slightly older children bedtime also should be soothing and calming, but the fact is that toddlers have more ways to express themselves and that can complicate bedtime. Babies cry. Toddlers whine. Babies drift off. Toddlers negotiate. Babies cuddle. Toddlers go down with a fight—after all, there’s that monster under the bed.

Last week I shared one poet’s interpretation of what babies think. Here’s another artist whose songs about slightly older children express the thought process of that stage of life. Julie Maccarin is a psychologist and family counselor in Asheville, North Carolina who channels toddler’s thoughts and turns them into very funny songs.

“There’s a scary monster under my bed
His hair is blue and his eyes are red
He has two bumps in the middle of his head
And he’s keeping me awake at night!”

Kids like songs like this because, Dr. Maccarin says, “it describes a common childhood fear in a playful and non-threatening way. This helps reduce their anxiety and gives them a sense of mastery over their fears.”

She also has a song about imaginary friends, a topic I understand well. My daughter’s “friends” Herman and Inchka stuck around our house for a very long time---they didn't eat much and cleaned up after themselves, so it was fine with me.

“Many children have an imaginary friend,” says Dr. Maccarin, “though whom they can vicariously express their wishes, fears, needs, frustrations, and other feelings.” The song below is about an imaginary friend who is “smart and wonderful, but also sometimes naughty, not unlike a real little girl or boy!” Take a a look at Dr. Maccarin's website at to learn more or order her CD. 

So as you tuck your baby or toddler into bed tonight, check under the bed and know that, whatever you and your child find, all is well.

Sweet Dreams,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

To What Miserable Wretches Have I Been Born?

We all talk about what babies need and like, as if we know what they’re thinking and feeling. How in the world do we know what they’re thinking?

There are different ways of gaining knowledge about parenting. We get advice from friends and relatives who've done it. We read books by experts who have talked to lots of others who've done it and condensed that information for us. And maybe the most important way of knowing what our baby wants-- intuition, and  trial and error.

When it comes to lullabies all these things come into play: we learned songs  when we were little that seem natural to sing to our babies, and we sing the standards like “Twinkle Twinkle.” We buy music by “experts”---singers of children’s music and, in my case, music that’s also for parents who are trying to put their babies to sleep.

And intuition comes in when we instinctively pick up a crying baby and start  crooning some comforting sounds. The trial and error comes in if she settles down right away, or if we change out technique to bouncing or pacing or swearing—depending on the time of night and our fatigue level.

But the fact is that we don’t really know what babies are thinking.

However, there is one woman who claims to know, and she is happy to enlighten us. Comedienne Suzanne Weber has written a very funny book of poetry from the baby’s point of view. Her babies let us know, in no uncertain terms, what they’re thinking about a variety of important subjects.

Here is one such discussion about the practice of swaddling, which the current experts feel makes a baby feel secure and safe. When my children were babies we did not swaddle. It seemed cruel and constricting -and having grown up in the sixties we did not believe in constricting anything at any time. Now it’s back in fashion, and this grandmother has struggled to learn the artful technique of wrapping and twirling and generally taking a baby prisoner. I have to say I felt vindicated when I read this poem:

Where Are My Hands??!!??
I had hands.
I know I did.
I was born with them.
They were there this morning.
What have you done with them?!!??
For that matter, where are my arms?
Last thing I remember,
you lay me on a blanket
and just kept
and twisting
and tucking
and tightening
and then
I had no hands.
Or arms.
Come to think of it, can’t really see my legs or feet either.
And what exactly do you expect me to do in this position?
It’s not really conducive to anything except lying here.
What if I just fall asleep like this?
You’d like that, wouldn't you?
Have this little limbless body fall asleep
so you wouldn't have to think
about my needs and attending to them.
You might as well have gotten yourself a houseplant.
Or a throw pillow.
Or a pet rock.
Whatever. Fine.
I’ll sleep.
But only because
trying to do anything else

And despite their impatience with our general incompetence, they still love us and know that we love them. Swaddled or not, I wish you both a good night and sweet dreams.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rapping the Poetry of Love

I like the phrase “The Lullaby Instinct” to describe the way parents in every culture, and in every era, instinctively hum and coo and sing to their babies. If we take that a little farther and add words, but not necessarily a melody, what do we have?

That’s right---rap and hip-hop. And you thought these were new genres?

The basics of hip-hop are rhymes and rhythm. Really clever rhymes  when it’s good, and really strong rhythm. These are the same ingredients that make up nursery rhymes, although the subject matter is usually different. But those elements are what babies, kids, teenagers, and adults--in other words, the human species--respond to instinctively.

This isn't just my observation. The University of Cambridge’s professor Morag Styles is a professor of children’s poetry. “Children’s responses to poetry are innate, instinctive, natural—maybe it starts in the womb, with the mother’s heartbeat? Children are hard-wired to musical language . . .

“Even when we tell young children stories, they demand exact re-telling's and repetitions with the same cadences, rhythms, pauses, and tones they heard the time before. This early sharing of musical language is often physical too: bumping toddlers up and down on our knees and often ending with kisses. Early poetry is about the expression of love.”

And don’t think that poetry for your baby needs to be either great literature or the latest hit. The basics of rhythm and rhyme and emotions are timeless. Try out these lines from Woody Guthrie—don’t worry about a tune, just say the words in rhythm--while rocking or bouncing, or changing a diaper:

Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle
Tickle, tickle, tickle, tickle,
Little sack of sugar, I could eat you up
Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle,
Pickle, pickle, pickle, pickle
Little sack of sugar I could eat you up.

Listen  to Little Sugar Little Saka Sugar by Woody Guthrie here:

So go ahead and jiggle and tickle and do it to a beat, and your baby will know that what you’re saying is: “I love you.”

Next week: poetry from the baby’s point of view!

Sweet Dreams,

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Other New Year: Three Ways to Celebrate Fall With Your Child

They say that the New Year starts on January first, but I don’t really believe it. I’ve always thought that the year starts in the fall.

Fall brings the excitement of new beginnings.  For kids---a new school year, new fall school shoes, a clean backpack. For grown-ups fall can bring a renewed appreciation of nature that is so glorious this time of year, and of course, there’s the guilty pleasure of five-pound fashion magazines that show us all the new things we should be wanting. And starting up my lullaby blog again---it feels like a new year with new things to share!

The miracle of the leaves turning colors is something to celebrate. Here are three ways to do that:

1. Take a walk with your child and sing a song about fall. Make one up as you go, or sing this one (words by Jean Warren) to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus.”

The Leaves on the trees are yellow and brown,
Yellow and brown, yellow and brown.
The leaves on the trees are yellow and brown,
All through the town.

The leaves on the trees are falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
The leaves on the trees are falling down,
All through the town.

2. Collect leaves together, finding different shapes and colors, and don’t forget the ones that are half green and half red. You can create a simple book of leaves the old-fashioned way by ironing them between two sheets of wax paper to preserve them, and putting them into a three-ring binder. Label each page with the name of the leaf (if you can figure it out!)

3. Play an autumn lullaby as you put your baby down to nap. This beautiful lullaby sung by Natalie Merchant will make you both drift off to sleep.


Here’s to the end of summer and lots of new beginnings!

Sweet Dreams,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Grown-Ups Deserve Lullabies Too—Come to the Party!

A new year, a new thought: my home page says that the lullabies on “Midnight Lullaby” are for babies, grown-ups, and everyone in between, so I decided to take that seriously and have a concert for the grown-up part of that description.

“Lady Lullaby’s Pajama Party for Grown-Ups” is happening tomorrow night, February 11, at CafĂ© Paradiso, in Fairfield, Iowa. I’ll be singing some songs from the CD, and lots of other great nighttime songs in all genres from all over the world. A sample is below: the swinging “Hit The Road To Dreamland,” from the 1942 movie “Star-Spangled Rhythm.”

Joining me are some wonderful musicians (this tiny town is full of them!): Rick Stanley playing Celtic harp, Tim Britton playing Irish flute and mandolin, Hannelore Clemenson on cello and trombone (!), guitar virtuoso Jonnie Cohen, and the world’s most blissful drummer, David Hurlin.

Attire: pajamas are encouraged, and the Honorable Mayor of Fairfield and First Lady will be on hand to judge the Most Creative Pajama Contest. The prize is the most adorable... well, never mind, I’ll save it for a surprise!

Grandpa D, the nationally acclaimed host of the solar-powered KRUU radio show “Sleeptime with Grandpa D” will be on hand to tell us a grown-up version of a bedtime story, and cookies will be served with a variety of bedtime drinks.

The fact is that we spend one third of our lives sleeping. All generations, in all cultures, have their own form of music that relaxes and calms. Research shows that music can calm the mind, and help prepare us for the deepest possible rest so we can feel better during the day. We can say this is a party with benefits!

If you’re in the area, please come join the fun.

Sweet Dreams, Jane

Listen to "Hit the Road to Dreamland":