Ari expelled maniacal laughter after I shut the door behind Isabelle.
“I got a video of you,” he said.
Why was that funny? Well, it wasn’t because it took Isabelle forever to walk down our driveway with her backpack and science project. No, no. It’s because Ari caught my hurry-up-so-the-driver-doesn’t-leave message along with an extra long shot of my tush after I shut the door behind Isabelle. Yes, he’s a six-year-old boy, alright!
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Ari grabbed my phone without me realizing it AGAIN this evening while I was reading to him. I knew he was pretending to listen to the book as if he were his stuffed dog, Rhodes. What I didn’t realize is that Ari was videotaping me reading to him.
If this keeps up, I’ll have to remove the camera icon from my iPhone’s lock screen!
But, yet, they were RIGHT THERE… in that last spot!
How did I figure this out? (Well, it wasn’t from googling because I was envisioning grizzly bears… or even black bears!) On the endpapers, there are constellations with the words of what they are beneath each constellation. There was one that looked like a caterpillar that said woolly bears beneath it.
“Wait a second! It says woolly bears beneath that constellation. Do you mind if I look this up on my phone?” I asked Ari since my iPhone isn’t out at bedtime.
After we finished reading Mighty, Mighty Construction Site, I shut the light, and we meditated using the Headspace app. While guided meditation used to help Ari fall asleep, he’s gotten sillier during the wind-down exercises each night. Sometimes I notice his eyes are open while other nights I notice he isn’t laying on his back like the instructor suggests. Lately, Ari has been having one of his stuffies, Oreo (who really didn’t need to come to live with us — just sayin’.), sigh during the meditation. This evening, all three of those things happened.
Once the meditation finished, I said, “I’m going to ask you a question and I want you an honest answer. My feelings will not be hurt, no matter what you say. Okay? Will you be honest?”
“Yes,” Ari said peering back at me in the dim darkness.
“I’ve noticed you seem less focused during the guided meditations. Would you like to keep doing them or would you rather have extra snuggle time with Mommy?”
“Extra snuggle time,” he answered immediately.
“Really?” I asked since that wasn’t what I expected to hear.
“Really,” he replied. After a beat, Ari shoved one of his stuffies up to my face. “Guess who!” he said.
It was pretty dark. I couldn’t see whose nose was rubbing mine.
“Well, the nose is soft so it’s an animal from Team Soft Guy.” (Ari recently divided his animals into Team Hard Guy and Team Soft Guy to describe their noses.)
“Guess who it is!” Ari said stroking the animal’s fur against my face.
“Percy?” I asked.
This continued about three more times until I said, “How about I try two out on you and then we say good night.”
“We’re not doing this ten more times. It’s past your bedtime,” I replied.
“My bedtime is 9 p.m.”
“No, your bedtime is 8:30 p.m. and it’s 8:38 p.m. Three more and that’s it.”
“How about five more?”
“Three more. Final offer,” I said.
Ari quickly learned that it was hard to determine who was nuzzling his nose with his eyes closed! (Perhaps if he didn’t have 15 stuffies in his bed this would be easier, but that wasn’t the case.) He figured out one of the three… and then it was time for sleep.
Starting tomorrow night, we will take a break from Headspace after storytime. However, I have a feeling some version of this game will show up once we turn off the overhead light.
“I want baby eight mindful breathing,” Ari told me after we finished reading a second picture book.
“What?” I asked Ari.
“Baby eight. Mindful breathing,” Ari replied with more emphasis.
“What’s baby eight?” I asked.
“B. B. 8! The mindful breathing with BB-8.” Ari replied.
“Oh!” I understood.
But I really didn’t understand. I may have realized Ari was asking me to do a one-minute, Star-Wars-themed breathing exercise, but I don’t even know who BB-8 is. I never watched “Star Wars” as a kid. A college friend was aghast by this and showed me “Star Wars” one Saturday night freshman year. I fell asleep on it.
We did the one-minute breathing exercise with BB-8 (whoever/whatever it is). Then we did a kids’ guided meditation. Finally, I said good night.
Just as I settled into bed around 9:15, a visitor came into my bedroom.
“I can’t sleep,” Ari declared.
“I see that,” I replied.
“Don’t you want this blanket over your legs?” he asked noticing I had an ice pack on my ankle, but wasn’t covered up.
“I am cold. Is that why you came in here?” I replied.
“Okay, I’ll take the blanket,” I said.
Ari tossed the blanket over my legs and then made himself at home in my bed.
Around 9:30 p.m., I realized it had been about an hour since we meditated in Ari’s room and about 50 minutes since I said “good-night” to him. And look who was still beside me:
Ever since Isabelle became interested in reading MG novels before bedtime, I’ve been the parent who reads them to her at bedtime. We’ve read everything from Operation Frog Effect to Maggie Muggie to the Pacy Lin books to The Dollshop Downstairs.We finished The Higher Power of Lucky over the weekend. Now we’re reading The Hundred Dresses. Lots of great titles, right?
I’m worried all of that reading doesn’t make up for the fact that Ari isn’t getting my attention at bedtime unless Marc is working late (and I need to tuck both kids into bed). Quite frankly, I didn’t really think twice about the fact that Marc has been tucking Ari into bed until last night.
For the past couple of months, Ari has been coming into my bedroom between 9:30 – 10:00 p.m. a few nights a week. At first, Ari said a noise woke him. After a few nights, I realized I didn’t hear any night noises. Then we thought he wasn’t relaxed, so I suggested he and Marc do some of Headspace’s Sleep programs with Ari. While Ari’s visits lessened, they didn’t disappear.
Lately, though, Ari has been giving me a ballpark figure of when he’ll come into my room to see me at night. Ari knows he’ll find me reading in bed so he just plods in, lays beside me, stays for a few minutes, and then retreats to his bedroom when I tell Ari it’s time to go back to bed.
Last night, I asked Ari — as I do many nights — if anything was bothering him. He said, “no.”
I asked Ari if there was anything on his mind or heart he wanted to discuss with me. He said, “no.”
I asked Ari if he was lonely in his room by himself. He said, “no.”
“So, buddy, why do you keep coming in here at night?”
“Because I want to snuggle with you,” he replied matter-of-factly.
“I could snuggle with you before you go to bed,” I replied.
“But you’re putting Isabelle to sleep. So that’s why I just come in here after bedtime. Then I can snuggle with you.”
Oh my heart. All he wants is… me. My undivided attention at bedtime. That’s it.
That’s when I realized we are getting the bedtime thing wrong. As soon as we finish The Hundred Dresses, it’s going to be time for Marc and I to alternate who puts the kids to bed at night so Ari gets more Mommy snuggle time in. Besides, it won’t hurt for Marc and Isabelle to read some novels together!
I was minding my own business — sitting fully-clothed on a shower chair alternating my injured foot between buckets of hot and cold water — when I heard my husband tell Isabelle, “You need to pick out your pajamas now or your brother is going to be playing guitar in your bedroom.”
Before I could question the absurdity of that statement, Ari appeared in striped pajamas. He made his way into my bathroom with an upside-down guitar singing the new “Blues Clues” theme song.
Then he started singing “Oh, Chanukah!”
And then he left while carrying his guitar to the next destination carefully saying “I’m not going to hit into the walls with my guitar.”
I had to laugh. After what was a day filled with a meeting, appointments, and some not-so-good news, I needed the comic relief.
I walked out of my bathroom in a bathrobe. Good thing, because I had an audience: Isabelle and Ari.
“Hello!” I said, surprised to see them. “I’m going to go and pick out my pajamas.”
Ari looked at Isabelle, walked over I keep my pajamas, and grabbed a pair of pink-striped pajamas. He walked back to where Isabelle was standing, dropped the pajamas beside her feet, and turned around. Then he said, “You wear these!”
I looked at the pajamas on the floor and the pajamas Isabelle was wearing. They matched. (We have one set of matching jammies. Cheesy, I know… but we like them!) “You want us to wear matching pajamas tonight?”
“Yes!” Ari replied.
“I can live with that,” I said. “Can you live with that?”
In honor of Ari picking our matching jammies, we took a selfie for him right before we read bedtime stories tonight.
Tonight, in lieu of one of her bedtime books, I will share the following letter with Isabelle. It contains two hopes and a dream I have for her for the upcoming school year. While these aren’t all I hope and dream for, they’re the things that are most important to me when I think about what I want her to get out of Kindergarten. It’s my hope (No pun intended!) that these words stay with her as she closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep tonight.
You know you’ve found a great picture book to read to your kiddo when you hear her say “again!” as soon as you finish. That’s what happened with Mama’s Day with Little Gray, which I received a review copy of two weeks ago. It’s what I think of as a quiet book that tells the story of one day in the life of an elephant, Little Gray, and his mama. They talk about what life might be like when Little Gray grows up and his Mama grows down. (Isn’t that a marvelous way to think of growing older and having one’s body change?)
I have a heightened awareness about everyday moments since the Slice of Life Story Challenge is happening now. As a result, Mama and Little Gray remind me a bit of me and Isabelle since they spend a lot of time together and love each other very much. As a result of reading Mama’s Day with Little Gray with Isabelle, I’ve begun to talk to her about what life will be like when she gets older (and taller than me). She claims she will still love spending time with me. I hope that’s true. I can’t rely on her responses since she is, after all, three. I can just hope for the best and seize the day since my little curly girl probably won’t want to snuggle in bed for bedtime stories in another five to seven yeas. 😦
Mama’s Day with Little Gray is Aimee Reid‘s first picture book. I knew I wanted to interview her since she’s also an educator and a mom who believes in finding the beauty and joy in everyday moments. Therefore, I thought it’d be neat to mesh a slice of life story post with an author interview this month. My interview with Aimee Reid follows. Also a snippet of tonight’s read aloud of Mama’s Day with Little Gray with Isabelle comes towards the end of this post. Finally, leave a comment on this post if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Reid’s book.
SAS: What inspired you to write Mama’s Day with Little Gray? How do elephants help you convey your message in a way humans couldn’t?
AR: Mama’s Day with Little Gray began with my daughter’s words one bedtime. She liked to ask about our plans for the next day. That way she knew what to look forward to.
One night, our discussion inspired her to dream about being a grown-up. She said, “When I grow up and you grow down . . . .” Then she listed off a number of activities she would want to share with me. Her words were like a spark that flew straight to my imagination. This could be a story, I thought.
The choice of elephants for this book happened as a flash of intuition. I was attending a writers’ conference in L.A., and I had woken up with this version of the book writing itself in my head. I grabbed a pen and jotted down the draft. Then I took a break to go swimming. As I relaxed in the water, I remembered a time several years prior when I had seen an elephant family swimming together. Suddenly I knew: the characters for my book are elephants!
Since that time, I’ve researched elephants a great deal. I continue to be impressed with their intelligence and loyalty.
SAS: I love the language of growing up and growing down. How did you think all of that wonderful language?
AR: As I mentioned above, my daughter’s words during a bedtime conversation first gave me the idea of playing with this sort of role reversal in a picture book.
Another aspect of Mama’s Day with Little Gray also arose from that discussion. When my daughter imagined our ideal “growing up/growing down” day together, she spoke of sharing normal activities.
At the time, our routines were simple. We read, we met up with friends, we visited the library and had picnics on the living room floor. No matter how ordinary our plans, my daughter would wiggle her toes in delight as she anticipated the next day’s agenda. I was struck by the incredible preciousness of time with loved ones—that shared connection that makes the everyday extraordinary.
Thus, Little Gray’s picture of an ideal imaginary day mirrors the one he is already experiencing with his mama. It’s the shared joy of being together that transforms these moments. I wrote a little about appreciating the ordinary beauty of our lives here: http://www.aimeereidbooks.com/timetogether.
SAS: How do you balance your roles as mother, educator, and writer?
AR: Well, I resigned from my teaching position, so I am no longer in the classroom. That decision certainly changed the contour of my days.
I love the seamlessness of my life now. I ponder a plot line while I stir the soup. Often something one of my children says or does opens up a window of inspiration for me.
I think being a mother provides a deep wellspring for my writing. I’m right here to listen in on children’s conversations and witness their worries and celebrate their triumphs. Writing for children means knowing them, and being a mom certainly helps with that.
It’s tricky to speak of balance, isn’t it? I think each individual has to find the right mix. I don’t try to be a super-anything. That helps.
SAS: This is your debut picture book. Can you tell a bit about your journey from writing to publication?
AR: Sure! The conversation with my daughter happened about eight years ago. I then wrote a rhyming picture book that featured a human girl and her parent.
I attended my first retreat with the Canada East chapter of the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators and read my manuscript aloud. The retreat participants encouraged me to submit the piece. I did sent it out to a few agents as well as some editors I’d met at SCBWI conferences, but it wasn’t the right fit for any of those people.
Let’s fast forward a few years. In the meantime, I continued writing and formed a great writer’s critique group with fellow picture book writers. I also rewrote this piece, taking it out of verse and replacing the humans with elephants.
In January of 2012, I attended the winter conference of the Florida SCBWI chapter where I submitted four manuscripts for evaluation. An editorial assistant critiqued Mama’s Day with Little Gray and loved it. She encouraged me to submit it to her house.
After the conference was finished, I was swimming in the pool. (Did I mention that I’m Canadian? How could I resist taking a dip in an outdoor pool? Under palm trees? In January?) Along came Jill Corcoran, an agent who had been at the conference. As we chatted, she found out about the favorable reception of my manuscript and asked me to show it to her.
Jill handed me a towel, and I climbed out of the pool. We met in the hotel restaurant just before she left to catch her plane, and she offered to represent me. A few weeks later, we had an offer from Random House Children’s Books.
SAS: What are you working on as a writer?
AR: I love to read. Lately, I’m working on being a reader who thinks carefully about story. Whereas I used to skip sections of novels that were dragging, now I try to single out what has pulled me out of my immersion in the story world.
My children are my best first readers. One day, after listening to my draft of a humorous chapter book and rewarding me with some belly laughs, my daughter said, “Good work, Mom.” She turned to go and then poked her head back in the room. “Remember,” she added, “keep out the boring parts.” Writing engaging stories that leave out the boring parts is what I’m working on right now.
Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Stacey.
Images Courtesy of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
To enter for a chance to win a copy of Mama’s Day with Little Gray each reader may leave one comment about this post in the comments section of this post.
All comments left on or before Wednesday, April 2nd at 11:59 p.m. EDT will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator on April 3rd. I will announce the winner’s name at the bottom of this post on April 3rd. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address and have my contact at Random House send the book out to you. Please note: Your e-mail address will not be published online.
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Thanks to everyone who left a comment on this post.
Congratulations to Brittany Butler whose comment number was chosen at random. She’ll win a copy of Mama’s Day with Little Gray. Here’s what she wrote:
Growing up and growing down! No absolutely adore that concept! I also liked this interview a lot for many reasons. One being how she came to using elephants (a huge hit with my 2 yr old). Two, that she explained how the book transformed over time. I have a bunch of little stories like this that I
should maybe dust off and give a new spin too. Very inspiring! Great slice!