Bedtime Stories: Glorious for all of 2 minutes . . .and then the fighting starts.

learning-422692__180I remember being pregnant with my first son. I was sure of a lot of things. I was sure that I would never let him sleep in my bed, bribe him to be on his best behaviour or lose my cool during a temper tantrum.

I was also steadfast in my belief that I would read to my children every night. I had visions of us curled on the bed, propped up with pillows and covered in a fluffy duvet. The boys would lull off to sleep with visions of Peter, Tinkerbell and Captain Hook as I would sneak out of the room and head downstairs, settle into my favourite chair with a cup of hot chocolate and my novel of the moment.

And since then I have eaten more than my fair share of humble pie while buying another package of Sponge Bob Band-Aids just to escape the drugstore with a few less tears.

I was pregnant with my second son when my first son turned 6 months old. I battled through first trimester exhaustion all while getting up at least once a night to feed. The bedtime ritual was simple: try to stay awake long enough to put the baby down in his crib.

My second son was a screamer. He cried all day long but really turned it on between 7 and 9 in the evening. Every night he would bawl; his face mottled and his voice hoarse. We tried everything that every book, website and expert recommended. Eventually we resorted to laying him in his crib and blasting Andrea Bocelli from a disc player. These were desperate times. As baby #2 grew hysterical, baby #1 was cranky, tired, and pulling at my leg. The bedtime ritual wasn’t so simple: bath, change, bottle and bed all with one hand, and wailing in my ear.

Eventually the crying stopped, I developed a bad case of amnesia and got pregnant for a third time, with my third son.

Baby #1 was now three years old (and still waking up in the night), Baby #2 was 2 years old (and had mercifully reserved his crying periods to other times of the day) and I would start counting down to bedtime around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, compulsively checking the time. By 7:30 the bedtime ritual began: I would push them into bed with a kiss on the cheek, only to collapse onto the couch with a sigh. I had made it through another day.

I know the benefits of reading to children. And I do. But not at bedtime. None of us do well at the end of the day. When I try to read a bedtime story everything is glorious for all of about 2 minutes and then it starts: jockeying for position closest to me, complaints over the story choice, whining over whose turn it is to choose the book, someone’s breathing on someone, someone’s touching someone, someone’s foot is fidgeting. Nerves are shot, tensions are high and the tears start.

Instead we read on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for swimming lessons to start or the doctor to call our name. I keep the novel, currently Stuart Little, in my over-sized purse (also something I was never going to do as mom) to pull out at those ordinary times transforming them into those special, unplanned moments that really make up motherhood.

It’s Playjama Time!

Miranda Rand is the creative genius behind and owner of Playjamas.  A self-described risk-taker who dabbled in education and finance before practicing as a nurse longed to flex her creative muscle after making the decision to step away from the world of public health and stay at home full-time with her sons.  Not knowing all that she didn’t know about textiles, manufacturing and the garment trade, Miranda relied on what she did know: what kids like.

In starting Playjamas, Miranda took her own advice: if you feel like you can do it, and you want to do it, do it!

Beth-Anne:  Playjamas is such a novel concept.  How did you come up with it?

Miranda Rand:  I’ve always loved comfy Pj’s, and my three boys inherited that gene from me.  They love to be in their pajamas.  They also really love to play dress-up from a big trunk we’ve got full of random stuff.  There seems to be so much creativity and fun to be had with a simple costume. Putting together two things my kids loved seemed like a pretty obvious idea once it occurred to me.

BA:  Who is the creative mind behind the styles that appeal to both girls and boys, but I have to say it’s so refreshing to find “characters” for boys that are not mainstream branded but still strongly appeal to boys?

MR:  My husband and I decided on the designs, did up some mock-ups, then called in a pro for the final versions.  We deliberately wanted to make sure Playjamas’ designs give a clear idea of what the costumes are, while still allowing kids lots of leeway for imagination and creativity. Playjamas is looking forward to having more designs in the future, and we’ve got some fun ideas lined up.

BA:  The organic cotton thing gets me every time!  Why is this so important for consumers to be aware of?

MR: Organic cotton is the way to go, when you can find it.  It’s a decision that people should make, but I don’t see it as hugely political or anything like that.  It just seems like one of those small “right” things that people can do.  The way organic cotton is produced is much more environmentally responsible.  Then there’s the question of what’s going next to your children’s skin.  Some kid’s pajamas are polyester or chemically treated fabrics, and that’s what you child is wearing for hours and hours each day! It’s probably important for more people to think about the fact that the main cotton industry is a significant polluter.  Organic cotton, on the other hand, is farmed and processed responsibly, without the use of harsh chemicals etc. Not only is organic cotton more responsible, it tends to feels superior to conventional cotton.

BA:  Designing a pajama line sounds like something only celebrity moms do.  Why and just as importantly, how did you make this leap?  Do you have an extensive design and textile background?

MR:  I have absolutely no experience in textiles, and there is definitely no celebrity in me.  Starting Playjamas was a bit daunting, but the more I dug into things the more I learned that I could make it happen.  I spoke to manufactures all over the world, and narrowed it down to companies who provided environmentally responsible manufacturing, and could meet the production specifications required for these designs (as it turns out, not an everyday, run of the mill type process).  I had designs for the actual pajamas, then tracked down a graphic designer from Toronto to generate digital forms for manufacturing.  Then it was back and forth with samples, a few hiccups along the way (actually more like heart stopping panic attacks).  I suspect there are big challenges to anyone creating a new product.  Of course financing such an endeavour can be a challenge, but we think Playjamas have so much potential.

BA:  Okay, now for the million dollar question: how do you balance Playjamas with working and being a mom to 4 small boys?

MR:  I love being a mom at home with my kids (I should clarify — my husband and I have 3 boys:  almost, 2, almost 4 and almost 6, and I’m expecting my forth boy in October.  Very excited).  I really wanted to figure out a way to make it work so I could stay at home with the kids, but also add to the household income.  The balancing act can get tricky.  With no nanny, I find I do as much as I can for the business after the kids have gone to sleep (wearing their Playjamas, of course).  But all moms have to juggle, that’s a universal truth.  I frequently remind myself of all the women in the world who work in much harder conditions.  I have always had the mind set that hard work will make good things happen, and at the very least it makes you feel like you’re living.  I like feeling tired at the end of a day.  It means a lot got done.

My son has a pair of red ninja playjamas and he has been wearing them for 48 hours.  I surely hope that this isn’t a sign that he is entering into Jam Phase 2.0. – Beth-Anne

To order contact http://www.playjamas.ca.  For all of you early holiday shoppers, these jams would be the perfect present for any kiddo on your list.

Our Story of St. George and the Dragon

Daniel and Sebastian,

I used to take you for walks in our old neighbourhood. On Bond St. near Gould is St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church.

image credit: wikipedia

On the front is a mosaic depicting St. George slaying the dragon. When you were perhaps 2 and 4, you asked about the story of St. George. So I adapted it and told it to you many, many times at night while you were going to sleep. Here it is:

Once upon a time, there was a village. And the village didn’t have a well in it, so every day the villagers had to walk to the well outside the village to fill their pots and buckets with water for cooking and cleaning.

One day, a dragon decided to move into a cave beside the well. Of course, the villagers were terrified. They had to sneak to the well to get their water when the dragon was asleep so that the dragon wouldn’t eat them.

After a few days, a man riding a white horse carrying a long spear came into the village. His name was George. Seeing the spear, the villagers wondered if George could get rid of the dragon for them.

“Please, sir, can you help us get rid of the dragon that’s moved in beside our well? We’re afraid to get water because we’re worried the dragon is going to eat us!”

“Of course I’ll help you!” said George. “Can someone show me where the well and dragon are?

Only one person was brave enough to take George to the well. When they got there, there was no sign of the dragon. The person went back to the village, and George sat down beside his horse to await the dragon’s return.

After a short while, who should return, but the dragon!

George said to the dragon, “Dragon, you are terrifying the villagers. They have nowhere else to get water. Would you please move somewhere else?”

The dragon laughed and said, “I like it here. And you are going to be my lunch!”

George replied, “Now dragon, if you try to eat me I will poke you with my spear!”

The dragon wasn’t worried about a man with a spear. It walked toward George, and George took his spear and poked the dragon. Poke!

This made the dragon very mad. “Ouch! That hurt! What did you do that for?”

“I told you that if you tried to eat me, I would poke you. And I did! Now please move someplace else.”

Of course the dragon was quite angry now. “I will not move away. And I will eat you!”

George replied, “Remember, dragon, if you try to eat me I’ll poke you with my spear!”

The dragon rushed at George, but George was very quick with his spear and he poked the dragon twice. Poke-poke! This made the dragon furious!

“Ouch, ouch!! That hurt!” The dragon started to rush back at George. “Little person, I am not going to eat you now. No, I will jump on you and crush you!”

And George replied, “Please, dragon, go somewhere else and leave the villagers alone. And if you do try to crush me I’ll have to poke you with my spear again!”

Of course the dragon tried to crush George, but he was too quick. He took his spear and poked the dragon again and again. Poke-poke-poke-poke, poke-poke-poke-poke, poke!

“Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!!!” cried the dragon. And it ran far away and was never seen or heard from again.

George went back to the village and told the villagers that the dragon had fled and that the well was safe again. They thanked him with a feast. The next day, George got on his white horse, took his spear, and continued on his journey.

The end.

Of course, you both wanted more “St. George stories”, so I made up “St. George and the Bugbear”, “St. George and the Griffin”, “St. George and the Elephant” and “St. George and the Crocodile”. I should write those down,too. Perhaps one day you will share them with your own children!

Peter Leventis is the father of Daniel, 8 and Sebastian, 6 and husband of Marcelle.   She’s eternally grateful to him for missing a good chunk of game seven of the Stanley Cup Final to finish this post, and is very aware that she owes him one.

No real dragons were harmed in the writing of this post.