Poetry Friday: Visiting with Penny Parker Klostermann!

Before I say anything, I have to apologize to someone…

“I lost your comment, and I’m sorry!”

I was scanning through my blog’s “comments” filter and deleted a bunch of spam-type stuff…and just as I hit ‘DELETE’ I realized one of them was a real comment…Aaargh!

So whoever you are…please leave another one! It was a comment on my Tuesday post, when I listed some of the many things my kids and I have learned over the past few years of their existence. The comment made reference to raising 2-year-olds, and that’s all I saw before it vanished…again, I apologize!

Poetry_Friday logoFor today’s post, I’m very excited to share two poems as part of writer Penny Parker Klostermann’s blog series, “A Great Nephew & A Great Aunt.”

Granted, I am neither a great nephew nor a great aunt (nor am I even average), but Penny has been featuring a number of folks over the past several months who are related or connected in some way.

The premise is, one person – usually a child – provides a picture while the other person provides a poem to go along with it. When Penny asked if my kids and I would be interested in participating, I jumped at the opportunity! Both my 6-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter are little artists, and were quick to provide me with some creative material.

I hope you’ll take a look at Penny’s blog and see what my kids and I came up with! And if you’d like, Penny has all the past participants available for viewing, as well.

And if you STILL can’t get enough poetry, Catherine is hosting today’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Reading to the Core, featuring an interview with Irene Latham and a couple of selections from Irene’s new book of children’s poetry, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica (Millbrook Press).

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Parenting: an educational experience like none other

As a writer for children, I am fortunate to be blessed with a non-stop whirlwind of inspiration every day thanks to my two youngest kids.

My two older girls are 23 and 20 and off doing their own thing these days, so taking care of my 6-year-old son and his 2-year-old sister allows me to not only revisit some of the joy, pain, and utter ridiculousness that I enjoyed with the older ones, but to be able to view their development – and mine! – with a fresh perspective.

It’s like watching the video of your wedding and discovering all sorts of things you never realized happened, because you were in the eye of the storm the whole time, and everything was swirling about you. Only when you get a chance to relive it are you able to truly appreciate the event.

That being said, I thought I’d share a few nuggets of wisdom my kids and I have learned over the past few years. Some of these have already spawned poems or picture book ideas; others most likely will, at some point!
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What the kids have learned:

  • If you walk backward without watching where you are going long enough, tragedy is inevitable.
  • A penis is not an appropriate body part when singing the Hokey-Pokey.
  • The punishment for lying is always worse than the punishment for whatever it was you lied about.
  • The cat is not a bean bag, and does not appreciate being part of any game that involves tossing.
  • In addition to creating pretty pictures, magic markers can also be used to paint your nails. And your lips. And pretty much any exposed surface.
  • One must never like the same meal two days in a row. If I loved pizza yesterday, I must despise it today. If we have mac ‘n cheese tonight, I must throw it on the floor tomorrow.

What I have learned:

  • A little girl wearing a Queen Elsa dress with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shell on her back is a beautiful thing.
  • Unconsciousness can do wonders.  No matter how loud, rude, impolite, destructive, unruly, or otherwise improper your little hellion was during the day, as soon as he falls asleep…your sweet, angelic Gift from God returns.
  • I may not like loud, banshee-like screaming, but when it’s happy banshee-like screaming…it’s music to my ears.
  • Reading 8 books before bedtime is not as exhausting as reading the same book 8 times in a row. Or is the other way around? Dang, I can’t remember.
  • When your 2-year-old daughter runs through the house shouting, “I laugh in the face of danger!” followed by a psychotic laugh…be prepared for anything.
  • Two-year-olds have only two speeds: asleep and lightning.
  • When feeding a toddler who dumps half her food on the floor, the family dog is an invaluable resource.

Ah, parenting. I have to admit, being a stay-at-home dad has its advantages when it comes to writing! These two are a never-ending source of stress frustration insomnia joy and happiness!

And as I’ve told many folks, I probably wouldn’t be writing for kids right now if it wasn’t for these two young ones. I get to watch them grow, be inspired by them, and then write about it.

What a career!

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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

In a season of expectations, find peace in reality

My expectations have been too high.

For what?

A lot of things, actually…but I’m trying to change that.

This time of year is filled with expectations: the arrival of Jesus, the arrival of winter, the hope of a new year, and myriad other things.

In fact, our church has been using the concept of “Great Expectations” as a theme for Advent this year. Because of that, I’ve been making an effort to adjust my own expectations…in many ways.

from Charles Dicken's "Great Expectations"

The problem with expectations

It’s fine to look forward to certain things and get excited about what’s in store for the future – whether it’s preparing for parties, unwrapping gifts, or simply getting to work on time. But the problem is, very often, our expectations are far different from reality.

Religiously speaking, as our pastor explained, the Israelites of Jesus’ day were expecting a king in the manner of King David: a warrior, fighter, take-charge kind of guy who would march right in and restore their kingdom. So when they began thinking Jesus may be the one, they got their hopes up based on their expectations of what their king would be like.

However, when Jesus instead preached peace and love, refused to take any role in the government, and allowed Himself to be persecuted and tortured, they were so aghast they rose up against Him. He did not live up to their expectations.

Likewise, in our personal and secular lives, our expectations often get in the way of us enjoying life when reality sets in. A few examples…

Long lines at the mall…who’d have known??

People always complain about waiting in lines at stores this time of year. Everyone is shopping and everyone is in a hurry – so when everyone gets in line to check out, everyone gets annoyed.

Not me. In this particular case, I understand expectation vs. reality.

I assume that I’m going to be in line for at least half an hour. No, I probably won’t be in line for that long, but that’s what I tell myself to expect. Then, when I end up only being in line for 20 minutes, I feel like I’m 10 minutes ahead of the game!

And you know what? My day is not ruined and I leave the store with a smile.

Assuming, of course, my 2-year-old daughter isn’t screaming.

Speaking of high expectations…

Expecting my daughter to not scream about something is unrealistic. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post about my expectations being too high lately? This is what I was talking about.

You see, she stopped taking regular naps a few weeks ago, which is killing me – I have no more time to work, other than the evening. This means I cannot market my voiceover business, write children’s books and poetry, or even update a blog until after the kids are in bed.

That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time; 2-3 hours is about all I have, if I want to spend any quality time with my wife. Consequently, my paychecks have plummeted while my anxiety has skyrocketed. And my expectations have been so far off from reality it’s driving my nuts!

I keep hoping my daughter will take a nap, but of course she doesn’t. I keep expecting her to not draw on the floor with Sharpies while I’m cleaning the cat pan, but she does. I keep expecting her to not play in the cat pan while I’m wiping off Sharpie from the floor, but she does that, too.

I keep anticipating that today is the day she won’t fight and flail and scream because I want her to wear long pants instead of a summer skirt.

But it never is.

Today was different!

No, she didn’t change. What changed were my expectations.

I woke up this morning assuming I’d get absolutely nothing done.

Call me defeatest, but I was simply trying to be realistic! Anyone with kids knows how hard it is to clean a house with a 2-year-old around: as soon as you fold the clothes, the kid is climbing into the kitchen sink; as soon as you pull her out of the sink and wipe the counter, she’s throwing the folded laundry on the floor.

And somewhere in the midst of it all, she’s finding another Sharpie that we thought we had hid and is drawing on a wall.

Or her face.

Speaking of Christmas and my daughter…hard to believe she was just 4 months old on her first Christmas!

So today, I tried something different. I planned to accomplish nothing – and it worked! I didn’t expect to get the dishes put away and reload the dishwasher, but I did. I didn’t expect to be able to get some yard work done, but I did! I didn’t expect to be able to get any voice work done, but —

Oh, wait. I still wasn’t able to do that.

Dang.

But by setting my expectations lower, I found I didn’t get upset or frustrated like I have been, and my daughter and I are both the better for that.

Revising expectations: not always lower…just different

I’m not saying you should always lower your expectations. I’m just suggesting that altering them to be more realistic is probably not a bad idea.

Should you expect a holiday bonus this year? Should you expect one as big or as little as last year? Should you expect to get a great parking spot at the mall two days before Christmas? Should you expect every driver on the road to always use their turn signals and never cut people off?

Should I expect to sell two more picture books next year??

Well…probably not. It’s not going to keep me from trying, certainly; setting a goal of selling two picture book manuscripts is absolutely worthwhile. But I’m not expecting that to happen. I sold one this past year, so the expectation of selling two the following year may be a bit too ambitious.

Oh, and by the way…now that I no longer expect to be able to decorate for the holidays due to the massive construction work at our house, I’m much more at ease. I am, however, still coming to terms with my office/studio being crammed full and covered in plastic:

house 1 house 2 house 3

YOUR “Great Expectations”

Is there some area in your life where you find that reality is not in line with your expectations? Do you know of any ways that you or other readers can alter our expectations about things, so we feel less disappointment and be more at peace with our lives and the world?

Myself, I’m still a relatively new player to the publishing game and have two poems coming out in two separate anthologies in 2016, so I’ll be happy if I sell at least a couple more poems.

I also expect to gain at least one new voiceover client within the first half of the year – far less than I should, but considering my parenting situation, I really cannot expect much more!

I also expect that the new Star Wars movie is going to rock our planet with awesomeness far beyond all expectations!

That’s not too much to expect, is it?

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

What have I been up to, you ask? Let me explain…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So if you’re wondering why I haven’t posted anything new on Tuesdays for the past couple weeks…let me show you!

CYBILS - gr novels photo
Nominees for the CYBILS Awards’ two “Graphic Novel” categories (click to enlarge)

These are just SOME of the 102 graphic novels nominated for the Elementary-Middle Grade Graphic Novel and Young Adult Graphic Novel categories in the 2015 CYBILS Awards.

That’s a lot of reading, right there.

This is the first year I’ve been a first-round panelist; the past two years, I’ve been a second-round judge in the Poetry category and have only had to sort through 7 books. A proverbial walk in the park, compared to this! But I’m enjoying it.

One thing that has surprised me is how the definition of “graphic novel” has changed over the years. Graphic novels used to be, for all intents and purposes, highly-produced comic books in traditional book form.

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgThese days, any book that utilizes illustrations to tell a significant portion of the story can qualify. Whether or not that definition holds true for each of these books is a question only those of us judging them can answer – and I’m slowly working my way through the pile, taking note of what I like and what doesn’t work.

The variety of styles, narratives, formatting, and age ranges is amazing, though, and it’s going to be difficult paring this massive list down to just a handful of titles to pass along to this year’s second round judges!

Oh yes, I write, too

I would have liked to have judged the Poetry category again this year, but at least two of the books nominated contain poems that I wrote – so I bowed out and moved to the graphic novel category. However, I’m still just as busy writing as I always have been…

Having wrapped up a revision of a poetry collection I’ve been working on for a couple years AND having completed another collection I started compiling this summer, I also just put the finishing touches on a new picture book manuscript.

You know what that means: time to write another!

That’s what I’m doing now, in addition to finding some appropriate publishers to send the completed manuscripts to. There are only so many hours in a day, as they say, and with our 2-year-old rarely taking naps anymore, the days’ hours are even more precious!

(Also, two new poems have been accepted for publication in two upcoming and as-yet-unannounced anthologies…I hope to be able to share more news on that early next year!)

She Blinded Me with Sais

I’ve also been a bit slower than normal, thanks to that 2-year-old daughter I made reference to earlier. Last week, as I was reaching over her car seat to find a necklace she lost, she suddenly grabbed her older brother’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy and jammed it as hard as she could into my left eyeball.

As you can see, the injury severely affected my eyesight as well as other facial features.

When I stopped screaming, I found enough composure to call the local Urgent Care facility to see if they could fit me in. It didn’t appear that my eyesight had been damaged, but infection was certainly a possibility and the pain would fluctuate between a 1 and a 5, so I needed something to get it to stop tearing.

When I told the nurse what happened, he asked, “Was it Raphael’s fork?”

sai
The offending item, a sai (pron. “say”) which my daughter wielded expertly. A little TOO expertly.

Good Lord, this man instinctively knew my plight! “Umm…yes, as a matter of fact, it was,” I replied. “You get these a lot?”

His smile came over the phone clearly. “More than you can imagine,” he said.

I now know why Popeye squinted his eye that way – Sweet Pee probably smacked him in the face with a can of spinach and the poor old sailor man never fully recovered.

Recovery in time for food prep

So now that I can see without pain and without the weird, scrunched-up eye thing I was doing for a few days, I can focus (pun intended) on Thanksgiving! There’s a turkey to brine, desserts to make, and bread dough to rise. My wife and I are also trying out a vegan butternut squash lasagna for the first time, so I’m looking forward to that, as well.

I hope you have an enjoyable week! If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope it’s wonderful for you…and if you don’t, perhaps you’ll find some time to reflect on all the positives in your life.

Personally, I’m thankful for my family, my health, my faith, my talents, and all the tremendous blessings I enjoy. Many of these blessings, like the books I’ve been able to be a part of, you are part of! For that, I thank you.

By the way, you only have about one week left to get your “Poetry…Cubed!” poems in – and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click HERE to get caught up-to-date!

As for me…I have some reading to do!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

A favour…

I have a quick favour to ask you. It won’t take long, unless you enjoy it.

Before we get to that, I need to explain why I haven’t been around much lately…

First, it’s been an another insanely busy week (I know, I’ve said that before, but I really mean it this time!) I recently wrapped up a marathon radio commercial production project for a good client of mine, American Cottage Rugs. I recorded the owner interview-style, sorted through the 45-55 minutes of her audio, and ended up producing 27 – yes, 27 – radio commercials. Whew!

Plus, I have been trying to finish up a picture book manuscript and get some new Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-Lgquery letters sent out to potential publishers – and I’ve got two other books AND a poetry collection I need to work on. I’m also in the process of tracking down at least five dozen young adult and middle-grade graphic novels (that’s right, I said five dozen!) as part of my responsibilities as a 1st-round panelist for the CYBILS Awards.

My wife and I are also attempting to get several rooms in our house moved and emptied in advance of a) winter and b) major construction work to repair ice dam damage we received last winter. The downstairs playroom will become our bedroom, our bedroom will become our 2-year-old’s room, and her room (the nursery) will become my long-awaited “real” studio. (My current studio is a side room near a common area upstairs – it’s ok, but not ideal)

Oh, and did I mention my wife and I have only been getting 2-3 hours of sleep each night for the past week? It seems our daughter is apparently suffering from something called “separation anxiety” – which means it takes us 2-3 hours to get her to fall asleep, and when she wakes up 3 or 4 times during the course of the night, it’s almost impossible to get her back to sleep. Oy.

Matt Tea 1Anyway, somehow in the midst of all this I managed to finally get my website updated – and this is where you come in! If you have the time and interest, I’d love for you to check it out and see what you think. The biggest change is the landing page, which allows the viewer the option of choosing my voiceover site or my children’s writer site.

If you’ve ever had the uncontrollable urge to learn more about me, your dreams have come true, right HERE! Thanks in advance, and I hope you’re enjoying these cool, colorful autumn days!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

The playground of LIFE: We’re doing it wrong

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the playground lately. Actually, I’ve been spending a lot of time at a LOT of playgrounds lately.

If my 5-year-old son is a ball of energy, then his 2-year-old sister is a quasar. Kids their age know no bounds when it comes to the amount of fun and exercise they can cram into one day.

So as a stay-at-home dad, I try to do as much as I can with them, going to parks and playgrounds at least twice a week, and sometimes more. Not only is it obviously good for them -but the long, sustained nap that follows (for my daughter, at least) means I’ll be able to get a solid 2-3 hours of work done in the afternoon!

Ever the observer, though, I have discovered that playgrounds, for all their enticing equipment and happy colours, are fooling our children. They may be fun to swing and slide and play and run, but they are not doing our children any favours when it comes to learning about the reality of life that awaits them when they get older. Consider the following…

  1. Slides. Go up the steps and coast all the way down. Sure, it’s fun – but isn’t climbing up a slippery incline while others are speeding downward, ready to take you out, a better analogy for adulthood?
    slide 2
  2. Swings. You go forward and back, forward and back, each time rising a little bit higher and higher! Yet no matter how hard you pump, no matter how high you get…inertia and gravity keep trying to slow you down.
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  3. Jungle Gym. Climb and hang and crawl through spaces while maneuvering through obstacles, perilous heights, and other climbers as you attempt to make it from point A to point B. Anyone who’s worked in Corporate America can see this analogy a mile away.
  4. Photo courtesy of Bluegrass Playgrounds, Inc.

    Merry-Go-Round. My two older daughters used to love this at one of the parks we frequented; grab hold of the bars, run fast to get the merry-go-round spinning, and then jump on and enjoy the ride! Which is all well and good until you try to get off – sorry, son, you’re stuck on this ride until it lets you get off.
    .

  5. See-Saw (Teeter-Totter). Another perfect adult-life analogy: The person you’re playing with goes up, up, up – the lower you go! Which means the only way you can go up…is when the other person is all the way down.

See what I mean? What are our playgrounds teaching our children???

Then again…I suppose it’s all in the way one looks at it. Slides teach our kids that if they are willing to climb all the way to the top, that there will be an enjoyable – if fleeting – reward for them.

Swings show them that the harder they work, the faster and higher they’ll go (even if they never really make it into orbit, as many probably wish). Jungle gyms teach them how to navigate life’s journey, merry-go-rounds encourage them to take those intimidating leaps off the spinning wheel and try something else – or even get the wheel to go faster.

And see-saws are all about teamwork. I’ll help you go up, then you’ll help me go up, and by working together we can accomplish our goal.  Even if that goal is to simply kill time goofing off for an afternoon.

So I guess it IS all a matter of mindset and attitude, isn’t it? Yes, I do see now that playgrounds are actively teaching our youngsters all sorts of wonderful life lessons! Perspective is, indeed, important.

Childlike perspective, at that.

And one of these days, I swear I’m going to launch myself into orbit.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

When it rains, it pours – and I’m drenched!

They say when it rains, it pours. And whoever “they” are…they know my life pretty well.

Freelancers often never know what their days are going to look like. Will I have several gigs, a few gigs, none?

Being a freelancer as well as a stay-at-home parent, this is doubly true. With the responsibilities of parenting compounded by the responsibilities of my work, I really never know how busy I’m going to be one day to the next. Some days are slower than others; it’s the way my world works. A few days ago, my world got very, very busy.

HS Fair logo - digital

I had no sooner started work on a new (and rather unusual) poetry-picture book when I found out brochures were ready for the upcoming 100th Hopkinton State Fair, taking place Labor Day weekend in Contoocook, New Hampshire. I’m not only the official announcer for the fair – I work all weekend, wandering the grounds with a microphone reminding people of what’s happening – but I also oversee all the radio broadcast purchases and production, and now that the events had been finalized, I needed to jump into high gear:

  • I have announcer notes I needed to update from the previous year (and with 4 days of agriculture events, live music, demonstrations, family entertainment, and grandstand shows, it took me over 4 hours just to do that)
  • I needed to write radio commercials – eight, to be exact – plus several short “live reads” for when the radio jocks talk about us on the air.
  • I needed to update all the telephone on-hold messages, which required that I write 3 pages of text before recording anything.
  • I needed to confirm with all the radio stations that they have everything they need to begin their promotions
  • I still need to voice and produce those eight radio commercials, and voice the audio for the TV commercial…that’s on tomorrow’s “to-do” list.

I mention all of this not because I want anyone to think I’m trying to show off what I do – but to understand that all of this was done in two days’ time! And now that that project is (almost) complete, I have a book manuscript co-authored by a client of mine I need to proofread! So far, I’ve gotten through Chapter 1. It’s a good book, but it takes longer to read it when one is scanning with an eye for grammar, syntax, and such.

What about that picture book?

I hate putting things on hold, but that’s what you have to do when you’re a stay-at-home parent with only a few hours of each day available to work. I’ve got the beginning of the picture book started, so reading it helps me get into the groove – but I probably won’t resume writing it until later this week, hopefully.

I still need to update my list of folks to whom I’ve submitted other manuscripts, and see if there’s someone out there who might be looking for a manuscript I have to offer.

Oh, and I have some short voiceover projects I need to attend to, as well. That’s the career that allowed me to stay home in the first place, so I really can’t neglect that!

First things first, though!

First, I have two kids who want to play with me, so that takes precedence. I don’t always have the luxury of playing with my 5-year-old son and nearly-2-year-old daughter (I do have dishes, laundry, and other chores to take care of!), but I try to make the time whenever I can.

My son isn’t into playing “games” like kicking a soccer ball or throwing a Frisbee per se – he’d much rather pretend we’re Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or wild lions or dogs or robots or whatnot – so playing with him is a much more physical activity than one might expect!

As for my daughter…well, she’s happy playing whatever her brother is playing.

And I can’t complain. A few years from now, he’ll probably grow tired of playing with me and spend all his time with friends, classmates, and girls. And of course, I can’t blame him. It’s way things go, right?

So as long as he and his sister want to play with me, I’ll do my best to keep up with them.

The laundry can wait.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!