Katie bought Elliott a box of mini-books last week that have become the staple of our bedtime reading routine. For such simple books, they present a unique challenge. The books are nothing more than illustrated songs. They include "BINGO", "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", "The Wheels on the Bus" and a few other hits found on a two year old's weekly Top 40.
Have you ever tried reading a song? Try it right now. Read to yourself the "Itsy Bitsy Spider." Exactly, you are now singing. When I took on the role of Elliott's bedtime program coordinator, the job description included bath, bottle and book. There was no mention of singing, but these simple little books have expanded my role.
I was singing Elliott the book "BINGO" the other night. I discovered it must be equally challenging to listen to a song (story) as it is to read one. When I sang the verses that begin to substitute a clap for the singing of the individual letters of BINGO, I took measures to de-emphasize the spirited nature those claps add to the song. It is bedtime after all, and reading a book is inserted in the routine as the last, hypnotic step before sleep. So, instead of banging my hands together, I simply read the word clap. I got away with this through the letter B. The reprieve, for what Elliott perceived to be a thorough butchering of one of his songs, was brief. When I got to the B and the I, I could feel Elliott squirming on my lap in the dark room. There was enough light crawling under the door to make visible his efforts to return the enthusiasm stolen from BINGO. I heard his two quick claps before I saw the sippy cup, half full of milk, dangling from his tilted head, clenched in teeth unwilling to part with their nightly nourishment for the sake of a dog song.
Katie thought she had negotiated an end to this crisis when one morning this week, Elliott lined up this set of six books on the kitchen floor. It was her hope for me that Elliott would walk away from this project like he does so many others, leaving behind an orderly stack or line or perfect square of some seemingly random objects, but clearly far from random in his own mind. We've seen similar arrangements of diapers, groceries, hats and gloves, shoes, and even cans of food from a cabinet once off limits until Elliott breached the security code.
One thing about Elliott, you never know where his train of thought begins and ends, but be assured there is always a beginning and always an end and he follows the process completely through, quite amused I believe at times that he is the only one who knows those two points. In the case of the books, this process was not to conclude on the kitchen floor, but rather on the toy box next to the rocking chair in Elliott's room where he returned the books and neatly stacked them, determined to have them home for the night's bedtime story.
The good thing about singing to Elliott is you can be confident he is paying attention. He has almost memorized every word of the Notre Dame fight song. I am proud of this, and I was impressed. Impressed, that is, until Katie told me Elliott sang her the words of the Notre Dame fight song to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". For kicks, and to encourage his creativity, we may just belt out his version when the Irish rush onto the field to start the 2009 season.
And then there is Ian. Ian becomes more like a lighthouse every day. His little head constantly patrols a room in search of the next target to be lit up with his brilliant smile. Most often it is Elliott, or lately, the television. When I dropped him off at grandma and grandpa's this morning, the further you moved his head away from the TV, the harder he strained to return his stare to the action and flickering lights of the current program. Grandpa insists Ian's attention is more readily grabbed by programming featuring ladies. I can't help but wonder; when he is watching television with grandpa, do his odds increase of catching a show featuring the ladies?
Grandma caught Ian giggling unprovoked this week. He has definitely picked up activity levels. He swats at the animals hanging from his car seat, and enjoys spending more time on his belly. I couldn't get him to lay down tonight, or even sit, he insisted on standing in my lap. His weight and added strength make him a handful these days.
We are so very blessed by them both. There is never a dull moment, but I'm not sure I'd remember what to do with one.