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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Another Journal

It started with a halfhearted promise to my wife. I wanted to do something significant for my newborn daughter so I promised to write in a journal every day for the first year of her life. Today I am writing in one for my fourth child.

Writing can be a funny thing. Like anything we want to change in our lives, a simple daily routine can seem monotonous, minuscule drops in a bucket.

One paragraph, one page.

Nothing of importance.

But what began with a single word is now a little pile of journals.

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I don’t have a lot of words packed in the bindings of these books but I hope they will be cherished. After all, they are about birth, the struggle for sleep, trying to slow down and savor the quiet moments, and the joy our brief lives can have.

I have written hundreds of thousands of words and will certainly write more still, but there will be nothing I am more proud of than these simple looking journals.

Parent Writer – On Writing with Kids

An Actual Parent-Writer
An Actual Parent-Writer

Being a parent is like being a Navy Seal. You get little sleep. You are called at any moment, day or night. Though exhausted and pushed to the limits of human endurance, you somehow make it through. Then comes the next day.

Having the dream of publication and the responsibility of raising children can be like spitting in the wind at times. Your days are filled with the greatest joys and most difficult challenges. I’ve tried to write at night and in the morning only to be thwarted by the cutest little girls and happiest little boy in the world.

Many times I’ve rose early, take a sip of my black coffee, smile and sat down at the computer then – “Daddy! I woke up!” calls my 2 year old Clara. Then her sister June gets up and the fun begins.

I love writing, but I gladly set it aside any time I can for my children.

How do I get anything done? I take one night a week to write to go and write for a few hours with my writers group, after the kids are down.  Also, I usually have some time before work or before I got to bed a few days each week. I believe it was Madeleine L’Engle who talked about writing in the cracks of life. As parents who write, we do what we can and keep going, building the habit now, rather than waiting for the time when we’re on a more consistent schedule.

Writing with kids is never easy. But parenting is my first love. Besides, I get to see the world through their eyes and am inspired to be a better person, and better parent. I want to try harder at things, to be a good example, to be disciplined and soft, loving, and kind. Living life is the best way to find inspiration for my work. There is no better way to live life than to share it with those we love.

Love your kids today writers.

Cheers,

Bob

I Put Writing Last

For the last month I’ve written a total of zero posts on my blog. Those who’ve written books about maintaining a blog say if I want tokeep an audience, you’ve got to keep blogging. Fairly simple idea. The last two months, however, I’ve had to shift my efforts to work and, when I had writing time, to my novel.

I work in sales. I equip accountants and other tax professionals with tax forms, folders, etc. The months of December and January are about 35-40% of my year and tend to get a little busy, brutally so. My appetite to come home and look at a computer screen was sapped by 10am. I like to write and connect with others who share the same dream and passion, but I just didn’t have it in me.

There are times when I feel guilty for taking a break. I shouldn’t be out at a movie I should be writing! I should be writing instead of shopping for jeans! Who needs pants?! These are the thoughts that haunt me when I’m not writing consistently. My passion becomes some horrible guilt ridden flash mob that could strike at any moment.

Thankfully, I learned two things from this break.

1. That I burn bright and fast instead of marching on at an even pace. For those who don’t know me that well, this is nothing new. If I have any goal this year it is to be more pace oriented so I don’t burn myself out all of the time. I’d make me a better husband, father, and person.

2. That I love writing more than I thought. When you get distance from something, it allows proper perspective. You are not as emotionally involved and can be honest. I was and found I craved writing more than I did before my self imposed break. I’m excited to focus on it again.

How about you? Have you put writing down for a bit? What made you go back to it? Are you still not writing? What would it take for you to pick it back up again?

Keep Writing.

Cheers,

Bob

Busy Writer? 10 Ways to Squeeze in Writing Time.

Before kids, I wrote every Saturday morning from 5:30am until 9am. It was beautiful. I had enough time to finish a chapter, or, well, enough time to finish anything really.

That time is gone but my kids are a blessing. I’d never trade one for the other. And my life is so much fuller now, allowing me to draw from these deeper experiences and use them as fuel to write better novels and short stories.

Below is a list of several ways to keep your writing going when you schedule gets busy. I’ve used them all and I hope you find this list helpful.

  1. During Lunch Break – You can write on your iphone or android phone. If a library is close by head there or simply bring a pad of paper and write by hand.
  2. While in the Waiting Room – If you have meetings with a client or have a dentist or doctor’s appointment be sure to bring something to write with.
  3. While Preparing Dinner – There are times when I might have to wait for the water to boil, the sauce to simmer, and the dishes are done. This means I need to be present but not actively preparing a meal. Have your notebook ready for these spare minutes.
  4. Right Before Bed – Instead of reading 20 pages of a book, write one or two  pages of your own.
  5. Early Early Morning – Like 4:30. Yes I know. Yikes. But you love this remember?
  6. During Nap Time – If you are a stay at home dad/mom, and still have this time, use it while you can.
  7. During Breakfast – Some people read the newspaper during breakfast or read a novel, you can work on yours.
  8. As the Kids Play – This sounds like terrible parenting, but our kids do need to learn to live without us hovering over them, right? So, if they are playing quietly, get a few sentences down during the peace before rushing to the housecleaning, work projects, etc..
  9. Be there 15-20 Minutes Early – Wherever there may be: grocery store, work, meeting, etc.. This is different than the waiting room tip as you have created this space and are not waiting on someone else. Imagine using them both together. Is that 40-50 minutes??
  10. In Between Commercials – If you wind down by watching television try to get a few paragraphs in the 17 minutes of commercials during that hour long show.

These are not fool proof or the only way to do it, but I hope you found them helpful or at least made you think of how you can use those lost minutes to work on your novel.

Do you have any other suggestions? Please post them in the comment section below.

Cheers,

Bob