What Does Mom Really Want For Mother’s Day?

Moms can be really hard to shop for. What we want this week isn’t necessarily what we’ll want next week. And neither are what we wanted the week before. So to help you out, here’s a foolproof guide for what moms want on Mother’s Day.

1. She wants breakfast in bed, but she also wants to join in the fun she can hear coming from the kitchen.

2. She wants red roses and fancy chocolate, but she also wants handpicked dandelions and cards with wet handprints.

3. She wants a luxurious bath with candles and relaxing music, but she also wants epic pirate battles that get water all over the floor.

4. She wants to watch that sappy, adult movie without interruptions, but she also wants to watch that Disney movie you’ve all seen five million times and quote it all the way through.

5. She wants a quiet dinner at that distinctly NOT kid friendly restaurant, but she also wants a family barbecue in the backyard.

6. She wants a shopping spree with her girlfriends, but she’ll wind up buying more for her kids than for herself.

7. She wants to relax while Daddy handles bedtime, but she also wants to read that story that her kids say she does perfect voices for.

8. She wants to read that book collecting dust on her nightstand, but she also wants Mommy and Daddy movie night.

9. She wants Daddy to take care of the baby in the middle of the night, but she also doesn’t want to miss out on the cuddles which just aren’t the same at naptime.

10. She wants a whole day to herself, but she also wants a whole day to spend with her family.

Okay, so it’s not all that foolproof. We’ll always be hard to shop for, but the truth is, if you put your heart into it, we’ll love it no matter what it is.

What did you get your mom for Mother’s Day? Did she love it? Feel free to share in the comments.

Meet J.M. Sullivan

For my first author interview, I’d like to introduce debut author J.M. Sullivan.

J.M. Sullivan is a Science Teacher by day, and an author by night. Although known to dabble in adulting, J.M. is a big kid at heart who still believes in true love, magic, and most of all, the power of coffee. If you would like to connect for a healthy dose of sparkle and positivity, you can find her on Twitter or Instagram @_JM_Sullivan.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

Hi everyone! My name is J.M. Sullivan and I am an author, teacher, and mommy. I’ve got a few projects going on right now, but what I’m MOST excited about is my author’s debut with my book ALICE: THE WANDERLAND CHRONICLES, releasing this May 16!

Alice is a YA Dark Fantasy retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland with an undead twist, and it follows the story of sixteen-year-old Alice Carroll as she leaves the safety of the Sector to find an antidote to save her sister from becoming one of the momerath. Along the way, she enlists the help of the charming but flighty Chess, his friend Bug, and even the Red Queen. If you’re a fan of fairy tales, Wonderland, or zombies, it might be the book for you!

You As A Reader:

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

I’ve loved books my whole life. I couldn’t even tell you when I first fell in love because they’ve always been such a big part of who I am. So I guess, even though I can’t remember it, I’d have to say when my mom used to read them to me as a baby. She set a great foundation!

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. It’s the first book that I chose in a bookstore and I absolutely loved it. I must have read it at least a dozen times growing up and even now if I’m not sure what I want to read, I’ll pick it up and revisit Ella of Frell. Such a wonderful story!

That’s one of my favorites, too!

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

I’m going to have to say Ella Enchanted again. Not only was it the first book I picked, it was also my first retelling! It introduced me to a whole new world of stories and began my love for the genre, which has gotten me where I am today!

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

Right now I’m reading two different books: Angelfall by Susan Ee (Kindle) and Plague by Michael Grant (paperback), and I have to say, I’m enjoying both of them. My current FAVORITE? Well, that’s a little harder, but I’d have to go Age of X series by Richelle Mead. Her worldbuilding and storyline is FANTASTIC, I’m just sad I’m stuck waiting for the next installment!

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I would love to meet Richelle Mead. She is so versatile and I love all of her work. I would love to have a chance to talk with her about her process and inspiration, because she is definitely one of mine!

You As A Writer: 

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never really knew it was something that could be a reality for me until I finished my draft for ALICE. I’ve written several short stories and started a couple of other novels, but they never really panned out (although I still have them shelved for later). It wasn’t until I actually got that first manuscript drafted that I knew this was something I really could do. I’m so incredibly grateful.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?  If so, what was it about?

Oh gosh no. But I’m sure it was terrible. In fact the earliest thing I can remember writing is a ‘song’ that was totally awful, which is kind of funny because my daughter has recently started singing and making up her own little songs and I just love it. Although hers are actually pretty good. Much better than mine were, I’m sure!

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey?  The best part?

Finding confidence in myself was probably the hardest hurdle to overcome. Once I stopped letting my doubt get in the way and actually pushed to complete my manuscript, it’s been amazing where my journey has gone. Which, I would say is the best part. Seeing all the doors that have been opened and all the opportunities I now have from doing what I love is absolutely incredible.

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

Have faith in your work! No one is going to be a bigger advocate for your work than you are. Even when it’s hard, push through. Someone out there needs your words, don’t let doubt keep them away.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

I’m currently working on a new retelling project, a SciFi version of Peter Pan. It’s been drafted and is with beta readers now, I’m hoping to be able to wrap everything so it can be published in 2018. Of course, I’ve also got the sequel to Alice keeping me busy, and if I can pull everything together hopefully that will be finished soon too!

I can’t wait to read them both!

Fun Stuff About You:

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

When I’m not writing, you’re most likely to find me spending time with my family! I’m so busy most of the time that when I’m not doing one of the bajillion things I have to do every day I really just enjoy sitting back and spending time at home. I love singing and dancing with my kids, attempting to bake, and watching movies with my husband. I also like to run or do yoga if I can ever find the time to sneak away (even though I’m terrible at both!)

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

Being a mom! I love my kids and my family but I’m pretty much convinced I’m doing it wrong approximately 99% of the time. Gaining ‘expert status’ in mommyhood would lower that number to at least 90% 😉

I’m pretty sure every mom thinks they’re getting it wrong, so you’re in good company.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world.  Where would you go?

Oh man. Definitely somewhere with a beach and beautiful water. Probably the Maldives. I mean, HAVE YOU SEEN THE PICTURES? That is definitely the kind of vacation I could get behind!

Final Thoughts:

15. How can people connect with you?

Find me on Social Media! I’m most active on Twitter and Instagram @_JM_Sullivan, but I also have a blog (jmsullivanauthor.wordpress.com) where I talk reading, writing, and mommyhood. I even have a side series I’ve started called Days After I Died that I’ve posted there as well. Whichever method you prefer, come say hi! I’d love to connect!

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Well, if you have a Twitter, make sure you check out #AuthorConfession! It’s a monthly game where writers answer questions about their work, their process, or just themselves. It’s a ton of fun and we’d love to have you! Or, if you’d rather, you can find Author Confession on YouTube! Either way you’ll get to connect with great writers and learn all about their work! I hope to see you there!

Thanks for taking the time to share! I look forward to reading Alice and seeing where your writing journey takes you.

If you’d like to purchase J.M. Sullivan’s book, Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles, you can pre-order it here:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Apologies

My goal upon beginning this blog was to post once a week. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, that hasn’t been happening. And for that I sincerely apologize.

You see, the only unique thing I could think to post when I started this adventure were short stories. After all, there are plenty of blogs about SAHMs and their lives, and most of them are pulling it off a lot better than me. But that leaves the dilemma of not getting paid for those stories. So, if I wanted to save some stories for submission, what would I fill in the extra weeks with? Most writers go the writing craft and book reviews route, which I totally get. It makes sense, write what you know and all.

I hate giving advice though, since I don’t have anything figured out any better than anyone else. So if I go the writing craft route, I won’t be doing it all that often. As for book reviews, I’ve never actually written one. I’ve read plenty and most of them seem to either gush fangirl style, spoil it way too much, or rip into it like bubble wrap. So if I start doing book reviews, I probably won’t do them very often either, to be sure I do it right.

All that still leaves a lot of space to get creative, though. So I thought I’d put it to you dear reader. What would you like to see more of on this blog? What do you want to know about me? What don’t you want to see here?

For now, I will be spending the month of April participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and using its magic to crank out a bunch of short stories and post ideas I’ve been neglecting lately. Unfortunately, that means I probably won’t be posting here much until May. However, when I return, I will hopefully have so much new writing to share, you won’t be able to keep up. And while I’m busy writing, you can share your thoughts in the comments. I want to make everyone’s time here worthwhile, so if you have suggestions, please let me know.

With that, I bid you adieu.

Until May … the force be with you … the odds be ever in your favor … and all that good stuff.

Is Your Character An Acquaintance Or A Friend?

There are a lot of resources out there for helping develop characters, whether for a novel, short story, RPG (role playing game), or something else entirely. One of the most common resources is the character sheet. For those unfamiliar with this concept, the character sheet is a form filled with questions for you to answer about your character (e.g. age, eye color, height, hobbies, occupation, goals).

However, there are so many templates out there, it’s tough to know which one, if any, you should use. Some have a lot of specific questions, others are more vague, leaving a lot of room for creativity. Many writers don’t use character sheets at all.

As much as I would love to point you to one perfect character sheet, the fact is, there is no such thing. What works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another. I’ve used several different templates and sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t. Some worked for one character, but not for others.

I eventually came up with my own template that I find works well for me. I’ll go on to explain how I developed it and you’re welcome to try it out, but I won’t guarantee it will work for you just because it works for me. You may even find the whole concept of character sheets to be pointless for you. If that’s the case, you’re welcome to ignore the rest of this post.

Developing The Template

After all those disappointing trials with other character sheets, I decided to take a step back and figure out exactly what I wanted this tool to accomplish, what purpose I wanted it to serve. Obviously I needed to know physical specifics in order to paint a picture in the reader’s mind, but I needed to know in depth specifics even more. I needed to know what makes them tick. Not just the unique things they do, but why they do them. The longer I thought it through, the more I came to realize that I needed to really get to know the character. And not just as a character, but as a person.

With that conclusion in mind, I began thinking about how I get to know real people, how I go about turning a new acquaintance into a close friend. The most important observation I made is that I get to know people by asking them about their life. I listen to stories from their childhood, I ask them about their dreams and passions and how they came to want those things. I don’t just ask about their hobbies, I join them and learn how they do things differently than others. I discuss their opinions about life and the world around them and how their personal experience affects those opinions.

In short, getting to know someone in real life is a lot more complex than asking them random questions, so if I wanted my characters to feel real, I needed a method just as complex. Three dimensional, so to speak.

Creating The Template

I started with the first steps I take in meeting someone new and translated that into the first section of my original character sheet template. The beginning questions are basic and don’t require long, thought out answers because they are, for the most part, self-explanatory. They’re the sort of things you would learn about someone just by looking at them. (An exception is if you’re writing SFF in which the world itself affects your character’s physical attributes, in which case you’d need more complex answers. But that’s more about world building than character development, so I won’t get into that here.)

The next section of my template requires more thought out answers regarding the character’s desires and personality. I often don’t end up filling these out until after I’ve written the last section (sometimes after I’ve started writing the story), as these are things one generally learns about a real person through experience and observation.

And speaking of the last section, that is the most important and in depth part of the template. Aside from the first two questions about their goals, I mostly write short synopses of various childhood moments that serve to make the character who they are at the start of my story. This is typically called back story which is often not included in most character sheets I’ve found.

Whoever we are at any stage of life is who we’ve come to be partly because of our experiences, so to create a character without considering that aspect is simply shortsighted. Our characters don’t come into being fully formed at the start of our stories and they don’t develop their opinions and passions out of nowhere either. Many things happened to bring them to that point and writing those memories down, or at least considering them, is much like having a deep, heart-to-heart conversation with a friend that inevitably deepens the relationship.

Here is an example of my template:

Section 1

Age:

Physical description: (I start with hair and height and work my way down, like giving a new acquaintance a once over. If they’re clothing tells you more about their personality, mention that, too.)

Habits/Mannerisms: (Do they fiddle with pencils, chew their nails, twist their hair, etc.?)

Occupation (if applicable):

Section 2

Personality: (What makes them different from everyone else? If you asked a group of people to describe them with one word, what would those words be?)

Hobbies:

Fears:

Section 3

Short term goals: (What do they want right now, at the start of the story? It doesn’t have to be just one thing.)

Long term goals: (What do they want for their life in general? This doesn’t have to be just one thing, either.)

Backstory: (Here’s where their childhood stories and experiences are explored.)

(Do you like this concept, but prefer more specific questions? Here‘s a similar approach with more of an interview style. Developed by the one and only K. M. Weiland @kmweiland)

Final Thoughts

When I’m creating a new character, a relationship is what I’m really after. I don’t just want to write a unique character that I can describe in perfect detail. I want to get to know them, watch them grow up, know their frustration when they fail their first test, feel the pain of their first broken heart. When I know my characters as close friends, then their unique voices will be that much easier to hear. They will become much more real to the reader.

Since I’ve started creating my characters with this template, I’ve also noticed that I never fill it out from top to bottom. And I never fill it out completely before starting my story. Just as you might learn that a friend is colorblind long after meeting them, there are plenty of things you might learn about your character as you write the story. And as you learn about their childhood, some things in the first two sections might need to be changed to fit the new context.

Meeting new people is a complicated and often non-linear process that is never quite the same every time. So it is with developing characters. This template may work for you, or it may make the whole process more frustrating. It isn’t perfect and that’s okay. After all, the only real rule in writing is to figure out what works for you and keep at it.

Did this template work for you? Do you use something different? Do you have suggestions to make this one better? Let me know in the comments.

Siren of the Void

The door to Sam ’n Joe’s bar slid away as the gruff captain approached and he stumped through. A quiet ding informed him that he’d passed the age scan. Ed grunted. That stupid ding just reminded him how old he’d gotten. And thinking about his age reminded him of how much he’d lost since leaving Earth. The people he’d lost. Well, one person. One impossible, one-of-a-kind woman.

He thunked into his usual seat at the end of the bar and rapped a knuckle against the grungy stainless steel. A holographic screen flickered on and he punched in his order, swiping his wrist over the scanner to pay. Most customers just told the smart bar what they wanted, but he never opened his bushy mouth if he didn’t have to. A minute later, a slot opened in the counter and his usual beer popped out.

“I swears over my memaw’s grave. She came floatin’ right up to the port window. I could hear her sweet singin’ all the way through the walls.”

Ed’s ears twitched. Without drawing any undue attention, he creaked his head around to peek at the unknown speaker. The young greenhorn waved his arms around in the small booth, nearly toppling his buddies’ drinks. They both grabbed the bottles and rolled their eyes at each other.

“At first I thought I was dreamin’ so I smacked myself to see if I’d wake up, but I didn’t so she must’a been real. She looked like a ghost woman only the most beautifulest woman I ever did see.”

His buddies turned to each other, then burst out laughing. Ed turned back to his beer with a twist to his lips. They didn’t know what they were laughing at. For that matter, neither did the greenhorn. Most beautiful woman, indeed. If the kid had seen her on the other side of the barrier, he’d have dropped dead of shock. Ed nearly did the first time he’d seen one of them in their incredible, natural form.

Her name was Savensa and she was the reason he’d stayed out in space longer than any other miner. Not long after getting fired at the bar back on Earth, he’d heard of an asteroid mining company seeking entry level workers. After all the jobs he’d lost, space had started to look like his last chance to do something fun. The novelty had worn off almost as soon as he’d gotten out there.

Then she’d found him.

He’d been out on an unauthorized spacewalk, watching the stars, trying to manufacture some semblance of adventure. She appeared out of nowhere and he nearly shit himself. She was glowing and hazy and a lot of her wasn’t even visible. Most of her was sort of bluish, but he could see traces of other bright colors, too. Like the greenhorn had said, she looked like a beautiful ghost. When their eyes met, his blood flowed south and his brain pretty much shut down. She cocked her head curiously and he got lightheaded, like that one time he’d drunk an entire bottle of rum in one night.

Then she disappeared. He blinked and looked around stupidly, as if there was a corner somewhere she could have ducked behind. He nearly emptied his oxygen tank waiting for her to appear again, but she never did.

After that, Ed made sure to get as many spacewalks as he could. Weeks went by, but the need to see her again never faded. If anything, it grew stronger and stronger the longer he waited. She appeared a few more times after that, but it was always too brief. All his free time he spent fantasizing about her, hearing her voice, touching her skin, tasting her lips. She was driving him mad.

He’d snuck out while the rest of the crew slept when she appeared that final time. He blinked a couple times, not quite trusting his own eyes. There was more of her this time, more definition. Her arms ended in fingers instead of wispy trails and her legs … well, that’s about when his brain shut down again.

Her head cocked and a ridiculous grin spread across his face. Then she spoke. It was like a jolt to his spine, so beautiful it struck him like lightning. He couldn’t understand any of it, but that didn’t stop him from reaching for her. His whole body ached to touch her, to hold her.

Her eyes widened as he neared. That tempting mouth started babbling a mile a minute and her hands fluttered around anxiously. All he could think was how adorable she looked, but he held back, not wanting to spook her. He waited as her rambling tapered off. She met his eyes, then seemed to take a deep breath and tentatively took his hand.

He felt a brief tugging before being sucked through her and into unconsciousness.

Later on he learned that he’d been pulled through the barrier to her alternate universe. When he came to, it was to smooth, bright colored trees which turned out to be huge strands of fur. Light fluff all over the ground that he eventually learned was dander. But what he’d truly never gotten used to was Savensa.

She’d appeared seconds after he’d first opened his eyes in that world. As if the world itself wasn’t amazing enough, seeing her in full form had nearly knocked him out. She’d begun rambling and fluttering again. And it looked so damn cute on her, he didn’t bother to check if he could breathe the air before ripping off his helmet and covering that pretty, golden mouth with his own. She froze, and he silently cursed himself for being too forward. Then like chocolate held too long in his hand, she melted against him, filling in all his cracks.

He swept his fingers into her glittering, silver hair, groaning when they tingled like cold hands under hot water. He pressed her to him, clutching a fistful of her petal soft dress. Finally holding her, finally kissing her; it felt like coming home. Which only made their abrupt separation some time later more painful.

He still had no answers for why he’d been ripped back through the barrier so soon after coming through. He hadn’t had nearly enough time with her. But he hadn’t given up so easily. He’d spent every minute since leaving her world looking for another way back in. Every spacewalk he lingered in the hope that she would appear. Every quadrant of the system in which they’d met he’d mapped and scoured.

And now, after all the years, he found himself listening to a bunch of knuckleheads scoffing at a fantasy he’d never stopped believing in.

He knocked back the last drips of his beer and tossed the empty bottle into the smart bar’s recycle chute. His sore muscles strained as he stood and turned to the greenhorn and his buddies.

“I hear you saw a siren of the void. Mind tellin’ me where?”

They all blinked up at him stupidly. After a quiet minute, the greenhorn stuttered out the coordinates. Ed nodded his thanks and stomped back out of the bar, suddenly tempted to throw out a fist pump. He was finally going home.

8 Tips On Caring For Your TBR List

To the less reading obsessed, a TBR (to-be-read) list is an inconsequential part of their life. To some it might even be a completely foreign concept. But to a bookworm, the TBR list is an entity unto itself. It grows like a St. Bernard puppy. It leaps in sudden, random directions like an adolescent cat. And it can swiftly become unmanageable like a spooked horse.

So, if your list has gotten out of hand and you’ve resolved to finally deal with it this year, or you’re just looking for some new ideas, here are 8 tips to help you in the care of your TBR list.

1. Set strict boundaries.


(https://onsizzle.com/i/me-at-the-bookstore-me-no-me-i-cant-have-4337055)

If you aren’t vigilant, your list will get out and bring home all kinds of friends until your house is bursting with so many books, you might lose track of your original list. This doesn’t mean your TBR can’t have friends. Just make sure it doesn’t bring home too many.

2. Exercise it regularly.


(http://thoughtfulspot.typepad.com/blog/2012/05/thoughtfuls-thursday-book-faire.html)

If you don’t actually read the books in your list, it will get so out of shape, there will be no hope of getting it back to a reasonable size. See #7 if this one is particularly difficult.

3. Feed it healthy choices.


(dailydot.relaymedia.com)

You know what they say. Everything in moderation. Don’t stop reading your favorite genres, but be sure to keep your list well rounded with some variety.

4. Practice obedience and discipline.


(http://whisper.sh/whisper/0515a5982a32232425950179139939e4a3d8d1/You-cant-read-all-day-if-you-dont-start-in-the-morning)

Whip that list into shape with a plan. Lack of discipline leads to bad habits and bad habits leads to an unmanageable list.

5. Keep it well groomed.


(http://novelgoddess.blogspot.com/2011/11/its-monday-that-means-it-is-time-for.html?m=1)

Bath time is never easy, especially if your list is more cat than dog. But books left in the list too long tend to attract dirt and fleas that can eat away at the careful discipline you’ve just established with #4. Clean out the books you know you won’t actually read. Grooming is difficult, but it must be done.

6. Clean up its messes.


(https://undeadlabs.com/2015/12/studio/developer-bio-cale-schupman/)

Sometimes a book in our list will leave us with a steaming heap of disappointment. Don’t spread it around with a distasteful review. Let it be known that the book didn’t sit well with your list, but allow others to decide for themselves. Every list’s diet is different. This is something we all need to respect.

7. Give it regular check-ups.


(http://blog.whooosreading.org/15-most-accurate-school-librarian-memes/)

Nothing helps with #2,3 and 4 – well, all of them, really – like accountability. Find a reliable, experienced librarian, or at least fellow TBR parents, and meet with them regularly, whether in person or online. This will help to keep your plan on track and for sharing other tips on keeping your list happy and healthy.

8. Don’t forget your other pets (hobbies).


(https://imgflip.com/i/14a0rm)

This one can be hard for parents of particularly unruly TBR lists, but it is necessary. If you let your list take up too much of your life, all your other pets (hobbies) will begin to feel unloved. Don’t neglect them for the sake of your list.

Every TBR list is special and unique and should be treated with utmost love and care. Hopefully these tips will help bring your list back to its happy, healthy self, or if your list is already doing well, they will help to keep that momentum going. May this new year see many TBR lists being read and cared for better than before and may those TBR
lists bring their owners even greater happiness.

We’re Going To The Zoo

(If you’d like to listen to this story, you can find the audio narration at the podcast 600 Second Saga, narrated by Mariah Avix)

I yanked on the old Honda Odyssey’s sticky sliding door and nearly hit the pavement when my four year old launched himself out of the car.

“Grant!”

He skidded to a stop and I blinked in surprise. Apparently he’d actually heard my voice instead of the gibberish his kid filter usually turned it into. He turned around, staring at the asphalt rather than at me.

“Do you want to see the surprise, or not?”

He nodded.

“Then tell me what the one rule is.”

He looked up at me with eyes so droopy he looked like a Precious Moments figurine. My heart squeezed, but I stood my ground.

“Stay with Mommy.”

“That’s right. Now, do you think you can follow that rule?”

He nodded, transforming from a Precious Moments into a bobblehead.

“All right then. Let me get your sister out of the car and we’ll be ready to go see the surprise.”

“Yay!”

After ten frustrating minutes wrestling with the stroller, we were ready to go to the zoo. Grant danced with one hand on the stroller while Eloise bounced and squealed. While we inched our way through the line, I shook out my watch and swiped to the right app. We stepped up to the gate and I held out my wrist to the admittance scanner. The little box squawked its approval and the bars slid away, allowing us through. As I shoved the stroller into the park, a flashback of my pudgy six year old hand holding out a paper ticket to the gate attendant popped into my head. A smile tugged at my lips.
“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!”

The memory was instantly replaced by the huge crush of people Grant was trying to yank the us into.

“Okay, okay. Stop pulling on the stroller. Do you want to see some animals first or should we go straight to the surprise?”

“Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

I rolled my eyes. Asking this kid to wait was like giving him a death sentence.

“All right, all right. Let’s go.” I bent to retrieve the tiny stuffed unicorn Eloise had thrown over the side, then pointed the stroller toward the aviaries.

Our path took us past the mountain goats, arctic foxes, the zoo’s lone pegasus, and finally a bunch of exotic birds I never remembered the names of. Eloise bounced in her seat and clapped every time she spotted a new animal, but we didn’t stop at any of them. I did promise her we’d come back after the surprise, though.

As we approached the aviary, more people crowded the path until we had to stop. Grant danced with impatience as we inched closer, but thankfully didn’t pick up on any of the excited chatter around us.

After enduring the test of patience Grant had hoped to avoid, we reached the stairs leading to one of the aviary’s viewing platforms. We both groaned. The entrance was as packed as the walkway outside.

“Where’s the surprise, Mommy? Are we almost there?”

“Yes, we’re almost there. I promise, just a little longer.”

A tinny voice drifted toward us from the platform, repeating all the info everyone had been discussing while we’d waited. I rolled my eyes as Grant failed to hear the recording repeat the creature’s name several times. When we reached the top of the stairs, bypassing the maglev ramp for regular strollers, I was relieved to see the platform was not nearly as crowded as I’d expected. As we neared the windows, we began to see more trees and bits of cliff through the spaces between people. I grinned in anticipation of Grant’s reaction.

“Is the surprise in there? Is it? Is it?”

I chuckled.

“Yep. They’re in there somewhere.”

Grant pushed forward, stretching his arm, still gripping the stroller, as far as it would go. We weaved our way through until, finally, we were right in front of the window. I panned my gaze back and forth over the whole forested enclosure, trying to spot them while Grant tugged on my sleeve asking where they were. It took a couple passes, but I spotted them by a pond on our right.

“There, Grant!” I pointed and he squashed his nose against the glass.

“See them? By the pond.”

“Yeah,” he said, looking in the opposite direction.

“No. Grant, over there. Look where I’m pointing.”

He glanced back at my outstretched arm, then followed it to the pond.

“Oh.” He frowned. “What are they?”

My arm drooped. “What do you think they are?”

“Um, Iguanas? Lizards?”

“Close.”

“I don’t know, Mommy. You tell me.”

I sighed. “They’re dragons, Grant. Like in your favorite bedtime story, remember?”

He frowned again. I watched him for a moment, trying to figure out his response. I’d thought he’d be more excited. Then I looked back at the dragons. Perhaps if I could see them the way he did, I’d understand.

There were three of them, all about the size of a Labrador. They were all pale brown, almost tan, with dark brown stripes across their backs. I could see how their size and coloring might be underwhelming. Then one of them opened its wings and several people around us ooh’d and aah’d. While most of it was colored for camouflage, its wing membranes were a collage of varying shades of red. Then another dragon growled before spitting fire across the water at its third sibling. I glanced hopefully back down at Grant, but he’d backed away from the window and was staring at something on the other side of the aviary.

It was my turn to frown. They were dragons, for crying out loud! Didn’t every kid dream of flying one? I know I did when I was Grant’s age. And that was back when everyone still thought they were mythical.

“Let’s get a little closer.”

He nodded absently and I nudged the stroller toward the right side of the window. At least Eloise was enjoying herself. But she bounced and clapped every time the trees moved, so it was a bit of a hollow victory.

We squeezed right up to the glass and discovered that the fire-spitting dragon’s wings were covered in swirls of bright green. I nearly sighed at their beauty. Grant started playing with another kid his age, oblivious to the wonder of mythical beasts come to life. Then I did sigh.

“All right, Grant. What do you want to see now?”

He continued running around with his new buddy. My voice had turned into gibberish again.

“Grant! We’re leaving.”

That he heard. He squealed in alarm and rushed after me, throwing a quick goodbye over his shoulder. As we stepped back into the sunlight I asked Grant where he wanted to go next.

“Tigers, tigers, tigers!”

My brows lifted at his sudden resurgence of enthusiasm. I shrugged. It would be selfish to let my disappointment about the dragons affect the rest of the trip. I pulled up the map on my watch and, after swiping around for the right path, pushed the stroller in the right direction.

We took our time getting there, stopping to let Eloise shake her little hands at the other animals, as I’d promised. I knew we’d reached the tigers when Grant shouted.

“Tigers, tigers, tigers!”

I stood and watched him as he pressed his face to the gate bars. The tiger didn’t seem particularly amazing. Orange, black stripes, claws and teeth. Nothing I hadn’t seen a hundred times.

Yet somehow, to my little boy this simple animal elicited all the wonder the dragons failed to conjure with their best performance. Somehow, what appeared ordinary to me was, to him, extraordinary.