I appreciate everyone’s well wishes and asking about us. I’ve genuinely missed you all. I thought I’d take this post to just say hello, share my motherhood story briefly and touch on how having a son has tweaked my view of picture books.
Oliver Samuel Wassall was born on June 22nd at 7:33 am, 7 pounds, 6 ounces after 49 and a half hours of full on labor. (uhhhhh, yeah. Not a typo. But that’s another story!)
He was perfect. They laid him on my chest. He looked directly into my eyes, and that was it folks. It was just… IT. We both froze a moment, his baby cry and my uncontrollable momma cry of “oh, baby, baby, baby!” both went silent as we locked eyes.
My husband was the most amazing birth support person anyone ever had. The three of us made a damn good team.
We had a bumpy start with a scary but short readmission. Then with a clean bill of health, we moved into the world of newborn. It was overwhelming of course. I believe it’s meant to be. It’s mother nature forcing you to immerse yourself into parenthood. So it can take over. And when it does, when you stop fighting and let it, it’s beautiful.
Oliver was hyper alert from the start. Engaged, spirited, wanted to not just be a spectator, but to be involved in everything around him, and of course, determined to never sleep. Haha. Days (and nights!) have sometimes been long, but weeks and months have FLOWN by.
He’s now eight months old. It’s like a dream at times, realizing I have an eight-month-old SON! (As my nephew said when he was just past six months old, “he’s almost a year now, because we round UP!”)
He is a glorious handful. Happiest, silliest child, full of giggles, funny faces and a brave “attack life” attitude. I can already see how much passion he’s going to bring to his own life as he grows.
Music, Animals, Bath time, Dad walking in the house, That super cute kid in the mirror
Sleep, The car, When Mommy walks away
Yay! He really does. Banging them on the floor. Trying to rip the pages. Listening to Mom or Dad read them. Eating them. And occasionally, even sitting still for an entire page or two and looking at one.
Bedtime was (still is) a bit of a battle. My little anti-sleeper has SO much fun during the day that he just doesn’t want it to end (ever). As any mom knows, one of the tips for bedtime that everyone agrees on is having a routine. (And seriously, in “mom-world” there are VERY few things that everyone agrees on!)
We started young, 3-5 weeks old. But the smart little bugger quickly figured out it meant bedtime came next and would HOWL through the routine of bath, PJs, song, book, bed. Husband and I looking at each other, “WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? IT’S CLEARLY NOT HELPFUL!”
But we kept at it. And slowly certain parts of the routine began to soothe him (and now… although it doesn’t always mean he’ll sleep… I look forward to routine every day). His first favorite was book time. He would calm down for a few minutes while Dad read to him in funny voices, and Mom held him.
By six months he would excitedly reach for the books. Often he has his own to play with while Dad reads to him. We also read at naptimes, and other times throughout the day. Sometimes I even just point to a book and make up a story that goes along with it. It may seem no different from talking to him. But I’ve noticed that the intonation of my voice when I’m reading or telling him a story has its own unique sound.
Children’s books have taken on a whole new meaning. I have a secret for picture book writers:
There are times when the story doesn’t matter.
When reading to a baby (and LOTS of books are purchased for children under two) the story is pretty irrelevant.
Give me a funny character name my husband and I can laugh at. Give me repetition. Give a good peaceful rhythm and flow. Give me repetition. Give me something I can memorize easily. Give me repetition. Give me not TOO many words on a page, but also not too few. Give me repetition.
It is interesting to note which books we reach for the most. The ones we refer to as “Oliver’s” favorites. Silly stories you can’t help but read fast and giggle like Stand Back, Said the Elephant I’m Going to Sneeze (which breaks all the rules), The Watermelon Seed with its funny sounds, or of course, Corduroy for nostalgic reasons. They all fit a specific need.
I’m excited to see how his own personal favorites develop as he grows, and how it continues to deepen my understanding of the genre.
My next post (first Wednesday of every month for now) WILL be more writing based. However, to say it’ll be back to “normal,” back to what they were before, would be promising the impossible. They will not be the same, because I am not. Children’s books have a different meaning now. Stories have a different meaning. Life has a different meaning.
As writers we give everything to our work, draw from all that matters to us, all that makes us who we are. And why???
…because our manuscripts are worth it.
Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!
Look for Erika’s articles on the first Wednesday of every month. Glad you’re back with us, Erika!