The One Thing I Never Mind Cleaning Up

If you have children you have no choice: Your house will get messy. I have four of them. It’s difficult to keep order when there are four tornadoes living in your small home and each one decides to unload a different tub of toys.

But there is one mess I never mind picking up.

One that, instead of frustration, brings joy.

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Clara at one and a half

Books. I have thousands of them.

We have books in every room of our dwelling: in the kids’ room, in my bedroom, in the living room, basement, kitchen, and in a drawer in the bathroom.

Some of these paper and glue treasures are borrowed from the library. Some have been rescued from the discard/free bin in front of Lowry’s Books & More. Others were acquired at a library book sale, a friend’s book signing, inherited from our parents, purchased by impulse or because of college requirement.

My wife and I didn’t have a conversation about it but somehow books ended up on the bottom of our bookshelves, easily accessible to crawling babies and toddlers. Its almost as if the shelves are begging to be cleared off with one sweep of the arm. This occurs daily and is almost always followed by one of their smiles of immense satisfaction like you and I would have after a hard day of spring cleaning.

But my kids don’t just make messes with books.

Before they could even read I’ve found each one of my children in a room by themselves, by their own volition, flipping through a book. A pile lay all around and they sift through their favorites, looking at the pictures and occasionally making up the words using incoherent babble.

Here’s a few of the books my children have settled on recently.

Emily, my youngest and a proud eighteen months old, goes for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon. It’s on my night stand. I admire the dense plotting at the end of this unfinished novel and she points to random words and emits screeches. Cute screeches.

Bobby, my third child a robust three and a half, carries armfuls, yes, armfuls of Spider-Man and Star Wars books around the house. His favorite is anything with black Spider-Man. He clarifies it is when he has the symbiote suit on not Venom. There’s a difference.

Clara, my second, a joyful five and a half, is currently learning how to read. I marvel at her willingness to trudge through books fit for second graders. She is eager to learn and is already reading astonishingly well. She loves the Finding Dory book a #2 reader she recently picked up from the library.

June, my oldest at seven and a half and most advanced reader, loves Elephant and Piggy Books, Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel, and the Princess in Black series. I marvel at her confidence and vocabulary. Life goes so fast.

Some say books belong on shelves. A home is neat and tidy that way.

I am happy that our books rarely are.

How does your family incorporate books into daily life?

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What Do Your Kids See When You Write?

Last week I went down stairs to put a book on my writing desk, when I got there I found something unfortunate, marker dots and streaks on the desk I built not a few months before. It would not come off. Then, I turned to my old desk on the other side of the room and noticed similar marks.

At first I was upset. I’d have to paint my new desk again and figure out how to get the ink out of the wood of my old desk. But first I had to find the culprit.

Photo Credit: MargaretDonald via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: MargaretDonald via Compfight cc

It didn’t take long for me to do so. My daughter June, who is five, had the same marker stains on her hands. I asked her about it and she admitted to it reluctantly. I told her she would have to help me paint my desk. Then I saw the papers she held. She asked me to help her staple her book together. The annoyance of having to paint my desk evaporated. Instead, I was thrilled.

While I was at work, she was also working. She was creating a story in the same space that I do. The marker stains were the signature of her effort.

When I realized this I could not have been more joyful to paint my desk again. My beloved daughter was doing her best to follow in the steps of her father. She wanted to write books where her daddy wrote books. She wanted to create too.

I am at awe when I see my kids emulate my wife and I. It simultaneously thrills and terrifies me.

What do your kids or family think of your writing dreams?