FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Last week, my husband surprised me for our anniversary by signing us up for a cooking demonstration. As the chef prepared and cooked the dinner that we, and four or five other couples, would eat, he explained his techniques.

Once we got to the second course - breaded oysters over baby spinach with red beet vinaigrette - I turned to my husband and said, "I don't know if I've ever seen a fresh beet." After a brief hesitation, we both laughed.

A "fresh beat," you see, is what you call a member of the Fresh Beat Band, the main characters of one of those kiddie shows our son loves. And right in the middle of what was to be our romantic night, we couldn't get the theme song of that show out of our heads.

Since becoming a parent, I've found that my musical selections have dwindled significantly. The loud Jay-Z has been replaced with (almost) equally loud versions of the "ABC song" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." When I got a new cell phone last week, one of my first orders of business was to download Pandora, an Internet radio station. My first "channel" was "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," followed soon after by "The Itsy, Bitsy Spider."

The other day, I Googled the lyrics to "Five Days Old," a song that I sadly now call my "jam," so that I could be sure to get all the words right when belting it out in my outside voice while zooming down I-20.

It wouldn't be so bad if my singing was relegated to private jam sessions in the car, but episodes like the aforementioned dinner, are beginning to happen all too often. In grocery stores, I get weird looks from fellow shoppers as I try to keep my toddler calm by crooning "Head, shoulders, knees and toes." Though, every now and then, I do meet eyes with a fellow parent, who usually gives me a knowing and sympathetic look. And the nurse at the pediatrician's office barely batted an eye when I pulled out my cell phone and sang children's songs as my son had his blood drawn.

I think my most bizarre moment was when I gathered the entire office together to present a PAO staffer with the lyrics to the theme song of "Ni hao, Kai Lan," a show that I am convinced has life lessons for both children and adults.

Recently, I started singing a song about the "grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge" while editing stories for the paper. And in a rare show of unsolicited parenting advice, my co-worker suggested that I expand my musical selections.

And I think, at some point, I'll take her advice. But for now, these songs are like a special language between my son and I; a musical language that sets me apart as a parent. So for now, I think, I'll stick with Laurie Berkner and Elmo; Jay-Z can wait.