Jamie Lee Curtis, JUST ONE MORE SLEEP: All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait . . . and Wait . . . and Wait

Jamie Lee Curtis, JUST ONE MORE SLEEP: All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait . . . and Wait . . . and Wait

Zibby interviews award-winning actress, New York Times bestselling author, and repeat MDHTTRB guest Jamie Lee Curtis about JUST ONE MORE SLEEP, an endearing picture book with bold and humorous artwork that explains why waiting can be wonderful—and can give you a reason to cheer all year round. Jamie talks about the significance of celebrations in the lives of children (and her own) and then reveals where this story came from (it involves the pandemic, her 5-year-old neighbor Betty, and a lot of Christmas anticipation). The two also joke about a potential podcast spin-off (“Grandmas Who Have Time to Read Books”– ha!) and discuss Jamie’s previous roster of amazing self-help books for children.


Jamie Lee Curtis: Morning.

Zibby Owens: Good morning. Thanks for coming back on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” Delighted to talk to you again.

Jamie: I am one of you. Although, my children are now grown, so in fact, I’m cheating a bit. Maybe we’ll do a sister podcast called “Grandmas Who Have –” Although, I don’t have grandchildren, but “Grandmas Who Have Time to Read Books.”

Zibby: Amazing. I think that’s actually who’s listening to this podcast. You could do it.

Jamie: Maybe taking a walk with their walking sticks.

Zibby: I’m happy. If you want to do a spinoff, let’s do it. I’m totally happy about that.

Jamie: Okay. Good morning or good afternoon or day or evening.

Zibby: Yes, whatever it even is.

Jamie: In whatever year it is. Hello.

Zibby: Hello. It’s so ironic to be doing this conversation with you today because my son’s birthday is tomorrow. He’s turning nine. It’s like a national holiday around here. We have been counting down for months and months and months. Literally, he’s like, “I just have to go to bed one more time.”

Jamie: There it is.

Zibby: I’m like, that is literally what I’m talking about this morning. There you go. One More Sleep. Amazing.

Jamie: By the way, I like the national holiday. We forget how big holidays and celebrations are for children. The quotidian daily grind, which moms totally can understand, children also have the daily grind, even though we look at them like they don’t have any responsibilities for the daily grind. The truth is being alive and being held responsible for the things that are part of your life each day is a grind. School is a grind, everybody. I know we drop them off, and we’re like, yes! The truth is it’s a grind. It’s a grind for them. They have to really focus. It’s a very complicated world. Celebrations, those moments, be it your birthday, which is, of course, the universal celebration — everybody has a birthday. All of the different celebrations, if it’s a national holiday or if it’s a religious holiday, there’s still something that kids really, really, really look forward to. The tension of time is something we as adults deal with all the time, just being a human mom and trying to manage, time management. For children, particularly young, young children, time is amorphous. It’s not concrete. They haven’t learned clocks yet. That’s why “one more sleep” is such a perfect — or “three more sleeps.” It’s a really beautiful way of compartmentalizing, containing time in a very manageable way for children.

Zibby: Yes, it’s so true. It’s funny, it’s like how dogs have no sense of time. You know how you can go out and then you come back, and for them, you could’ve been gone for two days or it could’ve been twenty minutes? They’re just as excited to see you.

Jamie: Yes. I worked with a dog trainer once who said, don’t make a big deal about coming home. If you’re away on a trip for two weeks or three weeks — in my case, I go away for months sometimes. When you come back home, I was told — although, I don’t think I ever did it. I was told, walk in the door as if you just walked out to get the mail. Greet them the way you would greet them the way you would if you just got the mail. No.

Zibby: No. It’s hard. I know. One time, I went down to the basement to get our big suitcases that we needed for a trip and came back up. Our dog thought we had been gone. She was so excited. I’m like, literally, it’s been one minute. I went to the basement of this building. Anyway, the same thing, concepts of time for dogs or for small children or even not-so-small children, to have it be punctuated by something so different where you get a day — birthdays aren’t necessarily — I know the book is not just birthdays. It’s all these things to celebrate and the wonderful ways where an average day becomes a party. So fun. That’s so great that we do that. We don’t have to have holidays. This must be so exciting for — we take it for granted.

Jamie: We do take it for granted. I got a very early review in October for a book being published in January from Publishers Weekly, who called it a raucous celebration of celebration. I just thought, well, there, we’re done. I called the publishers. I was like, “Guys, we are done. That’s it. If we can put that across banners across the world, a raucous celebration of celebration, we’re done because it’s exactly what it is.” It’s not just the day. It’s the whole way that day becomes a celebration. I don’t know if you know how this was born, this book.

Zibby: Tell me. Tell me how it was born.

Jamie: It was during COVID. My neighbor Betty, lives right next door, who is now seven, but she was five — this was December of 2020. At this point, now the pandemic had been nine months. We had all gotten very used to masking and social distancing and staying very far away. I was out getting the mail. Betty and her mom were taking a walk. It was Christmas Eve. From ten feet away, I saw her and went, “Hey Betty, aren’t you excited Santa’s on his way?” She looked at me. She got very stern. She put her finger up. She said, “No, Jamie. One more sleep, then Santa.” In that second, I realized, oh, right, the concept that Santa is in the air, the concept of Christmas Eve and that Santa’s on his way, useless for a small child. What she wanted was the concrete fact. The fact was, I had to sleep one more time. Then I get to see what Santa brought. The book was born in that moment, in that second, the way all of my books have been born. It was the moment of conception. The book presented itself almost immediately to me, as the books do. I actually took a picture with Betty. For one second, we pulled our masks down. I have a mirror that’s for traffic, for when you’re pulling out of a driveway. I’m going to send it to the publishers because that picture was the moment that the book was born. I think we stood next to each other for one second outside.

Zibby: I won’t tell.

Jamie: Well, no, the picture will tell. That was this moment of conception.

Zibby: Wow, that’s amazing. I love that you pick so many holidays and celebrations, particularly, Passover and Hanukkah. You have a beautiful seder table. It’s amazing, especially given everything going on in the world right now, to have that be so joyous and the whole book to be about joy when things feel so dire.

Jamie: Obviously, there are many religious holidays that are celebrations all over the world, all over the different religions that people follow. I tried to incorporate as many as I could. The family is obviously a mixed-race family. There are adopted family members. We celebrate Chinese New Year. We celebrate Kwanzaa.

Zibby: Yep, I saw that.

Jamie: We celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Hanukkah. I obviously would’ve liked to have been able to celebrate Ramadan and the Hindu religion celebrations and so many others, but of course, I couldn’t figure out a way to do all of that. Tonight is the — whenever this is, when we are recording this together, it is the first night of Hanukkah. There’s a beautiful, beautiful page — the illustrations by Laura Cornell, my partner so many years, so colorful and joyful. The Hanukkah page is, “Just one more sleep until times joyful and bright. Hanukkah candles for eight nights to light. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. We think of our family as we celebrate.” That’s what religious holidays are, is a way to connect your present life and all its beautiful aspects and challenges, as every family has them — there’s not been a family through history that hasn’t gone through good times and bad. We mark holidays and celebrations as a touchstone, as a watermark of another year. We’ve lost people in those years. We hold those people in our minds. We bring new people into our family circle. There are births and weddings. The other beautiful part of holidays for children is, it is a family time. You’re not alone, usually, on a holiday. The holiday is filled with other people. This book is chockablock filled with people and, again, a beautiful, beautiful mélange of human beings coming together to experience life and the joy of celebration.

Zibby: And really, the joy of connection. It’s at the heart of everything. It’s what makes so many things meaningful. Yet it’s easy in our crazy busy day-to-day lives, even with the kids and all their busy things and school and activities and whatever — when you stop and you get together and take a minute to have that special group family dinner or whatever, it’s almost not even about the holiday. It’s just about, okay, these are the times that matter. Why is it so hard? Why do we have to set only a couple days a year for this?

Jamie: Yes. My experience as a mother was, I was always looking ahead because the nature of children is you’re always looking ahead. They are growing, so nothing fits. You’re buying the next size up. You’re in one school. You’re thinking about, okay, now what’s the next school that we have to think about? Celebrations ground you in the present, as you said. My experience as a mom was, because I’m a very type-A person, was just the constancy of the next indicated thing that needed to be done so I could be ahead of it. You’re in kindergarten. You’re thinking about college. What celebration does is it stops all of that noise. It stops all of the to-do lists. It stops the future thought and even stops the past thought and does bring you into the present, which is such a beautiful use of the word present. It is a present to be present, to be in presence of other people. To bear witness to a celebration together is really at the center of the book. This is a book for young children. It’s meant primarily to be read by adults to children who are just beginning to understand celebrations. This is your day coming up. We celebrate you. It’s Grandma’s birthday coming up. It’s Mother’s Day. It’s Father’s Day. It’s whatever. It’s America’s birthday. It’s the Fourth of July. It’s a holiday, Easter.

Zibby: I thought that was interesting that you didn’t call it the Fourth of July. You called it America’s Day.

Jamie: America’s Day. It had to do with rhyming, to be honest. I barely got out of high school. The fact that I write books that rhyme demands some version of a vocabulary. My first two books that I wrote way back in the day when I never thought I would write a book in my life — then my four-year-old said something funny. I wrote it down. Then I wrote a whole list of things. The last thing in the world I thought I would do is write a book. I never in a million years would write a book. My then four-year-old kind of marched into my office. I remember everything about the day. I remember where I was sitting, what she was wearing. She marched into my office from down the hall where she was alone in her room — at four, in a baby-safe room, you can leave them alone in their room for half an hour playing with blocks or playing house or whatever she was playing. You don’t have to be just sitting there with them at all times because you’ve baby-safed the space. Anyway, she marched in my room with her hands on her hips. She declared to me, “When I was little, I wore a diaper, but now I use the potty.” She was very definitive and declarative that, I am like this. She was talking about her past the way I talked about haircuts and bell bottoms. I would look back on my life and go, oh, those Chemin de Fer bell bottoms. She was looking back on her life, even though she was four.

I wrote down on a piece of paper, When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth. It made me laugh out loud. Then I wrote a list of things that she couldn’t do and now could do. At the end, I wrote three things. I wrote, “When I was little, I didn’t know what a family was. When I was little, I didn’t know what dreams were. When I was little, I didn’t know who I was, but now I do.” The minute I wrote “now I do,” I started sobbing because it made me realize in that second that that four-year-old really was her own person with her own sense of accomplishment and challenge and tastes and interests. Although those grow and develop more, by four, I think you know. Kids are pretty cooked. They really do kind of let you know who they are. That idea of self-identification made me so sad that she was already four. Four is high school. Four is college. The entirety of that. The entirety of high school, my daughter’s been alive? What are you talking about? It was so shocking to me that the compartmentalization of four years — I didn’t realize it was a book until I was crying. Then I went, oh, this is a book for children. I sent it to Harper & Row at the time. It wasn’t even HarperCollins. I went to them because they had published a book that Laura Cornell had done, her first book, with an author named Leah Komaiko called Annie Bananie. My daughter’s name is Annie. We had that book from the day she was born. I loved her illustrations. I sent it to a publisher who had published her drawings. They put us together. We’ve made fifteen books together now.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. I have to say, and I’m not just saying this, I think this is my favorite of all of the books. I really do. I love all of them, but there’s something so pure and simple and joyous. You can’t help but feel a part of it on some universe level. We’re all kind of in it together. I am excited too. I’m a mom and a grown-up. I still get excited for things that are one more sleep away. Don’t you? What’s one more sleep away that you’re excited about?

Jamie: For me, I love my job. Actors don’t get to do their main job very often. You talk about it a lot. We just had an actors’ strike where everything was pushed off for months and months and months. There’s been a lot of waiting. I’ve been an actor since I was nineteen. I am sixty-five. I have waited for opportunities that I now, through the miracle of the universe, that I didn’t get, and now I get to. Now all of a sudden, I have opportunities to do the work I love to do in a field that I’ve been working in for a very long time. I get excited about that where I can’t sleep the night before, all of the first-day-of-school jitters. I’m joyful every day. I’m one of those people — duh. You can just tell. It’s seven thirty in the morning for me. I am on fire. I am just owning the day. I am that person. I wake up fully formed and ready to go at four thirty in the morning. Unless I had a cold or something, I have never woken up and been like, . I am this energized at four thirty.

Zibby: Without coffee?

Jamie: Yeah. I like a good cup of coffee, but I don’t need it.

Zibby: You don’t need it. Wow, that’s amazing.

Jamie: I am the switch. I am on/off. By four thirty at night, my dimmer is dimming. I’m a morning person. I wake up joyful, and the promise of a new day. I’m also sober. I’m in recovery. I love the promise of a new day. I am that person all the time. I agree with you. They are the markers. In my family, starting — I do my Christmas shopping in August. Why? Because from the beginning of November, it’s my birthday, Thanksgiving, my daughter’s birthday, my anniversary, Christmas, Hanukkah, and then my daughter-in-law’s birthday all within about two and a half weeks. The end of the year in my family is a big celebration time. I like to be prepared for that. I like to have it ready to go so that I can actually enjoy the holiday rather than the oppression of, there’s so much to do. I’m one of those people. Maybe some of your listeners are de-following you, or whatever you do, because they’re like, I don’t like her.

Zibby: That is not true.

Jamie: I don’t like her. I don’t want to know that she does that. They’re feeling it right now because right now — I don’t know when this airs, but you and I are talking on December 7th, the first day of Hannukah, the first night of Hannukah. The phrase “the clock is ticking,” this is what the book is about, time and the compartmentalization of time in small children’s minds by sleeping. For adults, we don’t do so much sleeping. The children are asleep. We’re the ones up going, how do you put together the new bike? After you’re exhausted, all you want to do is also join your child in sleep and dreaming of the next day, but you know that it’s your responsibility. Being a parent is hard. Joyful but hard, for sure.

Zibby: Yes. Those moments that are sometimes stressful in the present — when my kids were little, some of the holidays you wrote about in the book, I remember thinking, oh, my god, Thanksgiving used to be so stressful. I would race after them. Now that I’m older, I’m like, oh, but remember that Thanksgiving when my kid was running around naked? That was so funny.

Jamie: Let’s just talk about Thanksgiving for a second. It’s a roasted bird. I don’t know why people freak out. Do you roast a chicken? Yes, if you’re not vegetarian. If you eat meat, do you roast a chicken? Do you freak out when you’re going to roast a chicken for dinner? I’m always just amazed at people who are like, oh, my god, I can’t handle it. It’s a roasted bird. You just roast it for a longer time. You don’t have to do anything. The combo of the oven and the bird, it just sort of happens.

Zibby: Just put it in. It’s not like we’re sautéing anything.

Jamie: Thank you, or souffléing and soufflés which have to — you know, whatever.

Zibby: Roasting is the easiest of all the — roasting and baking. When you think about this book coming out, what is the big takeaway for readers, for kids? What do you want them to put the book down and say and do?

Jamie: I want them to recognize how lucky they are that they have family and friends and people and children and elderly people and life happening around them. We are communal people. We are not supposed to be alone. Life can be lonely for many people, particularly the elderly, who had this level of family. Then as what happens, people grow up and they all go off and manifest their own destinies. More than anything, it’s a celebration for a family. I’m not hyping here. It’s a book for young children to help them understand time and celebration and why we do it and how we do it and how it feels and how everybody has to wait. There is no fast pass to — nowadays with all of these theme parks where you can buy your way through time, that isn’t how life works. Life is hard. I’ve written fifteen books for children, which someone years ago referred to as self-help books for children because I recognize it’s hard to be five learning how to work my control panel. Self-control, when you’re five, it’s really hard. The whole idea that as a child, you’re running around and then all of a sudden, they tell you to sit down and sit still, just even that alone, it’s super challenging.

I’m not someone who is living in a fairy tale. I live in a real world. Children live in a real world, as we all know. There are hard things for children, and there are incredibly beautiful, innocent, joyful, childlike moments of exuberance and excitement and anticipation. That’s what this book is about. It’s a book to remind us all that we’re all very much alike and that we all have to wait for things. I hope it’s a book that helps young children understand that, which is what all of these books ultimately, weirdly, all these years later have become, help books. I wrote a book about feelings, Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day. It’s a book about feelings. It has a mood wheel on the back where you can, one day, feel really, really happy, and one day, you can be really, really angry. Wait, I’m the same person. Why? I hope these books, and this one in particular, is just a joyful way of navigating, in this case, the really joyful, fun celebrations of life.

Zibby: Amazing. If you have any spare time, if you want to do a reading at my bookstore, we have kids coming in all the time. It’s right in Santa Monica.

Jamie: Where is your store?

Zibby: It’s in Santa Monica on Montana Avenue.

Jamie: Do you live in Santa Monica?

Zibby: I live in New York, but I’m there all the time. I’m there a lot.

Jamie: Where on Montana?

Zibby: It’s on 11th and Montana. Go check it out.


JUST ONE MORE SLEEP: All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait . . . and Wait . . . and Wait by Jamie Lee Curtis

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