The Joys of Being a Parent AND a Writer


Writing while parenting small children is hard.

Honestly? Simpler tasks that require no creativity, like showering, are hard.

Sometimes I catch myself focusing on the negatives of the journey- the sleepless nights, my disaster area of a living room, another diaper going through the wash, the day’s plans out the window because someone’s sick again.

The joy gets buried in the details.

Not today.

Today, I’d like to share some of the joys I’ve found in the balancing act of being a writing parent.

1. Treasuring Time

“I’m so busy!” I thought, back when I was single and childless.

Oh, if only I’d known the truth….

Granted, during those days when I ran on actual sleep vs. coffee, I bounced endlessly between teaching, music, volunteering and everything else.  My schedule was full to overflowing.

This is the difference between then and now: I had control over my level of busyness.

When I didn’t get something done, (barring emergencies) it was because I chose to make something else a priority.

Once there was a baby on the scene, that semblance of control evaporated.

Oh, she was cute, a joy and a blessing that we treasured.

I just wasn’t mentally prepared for the fact that newborns eat every two hours.


And between feedings are the diapers… and the housework…and maybe we should try to sleep…

I won’t go through the whole ‘learning to parent without going insane’ journey, but a journey it was, and it taught me a valuable lesson.

I learned to use my time.

Time with my baby was precious, and I wouldn’t give up those hours for anything.

However, when a spare minute materialized- she’s asleep! And I’m not holding her!- I learned to seize it and make it count. (Of course, then we went and had two more babies…worth it. 🙂 )

Those spare minutes gave me the title for my blog. I rekindled my passion for the written word during those stolen moments- moments that might have slipped by me if caring for my children hadn’t reminded me just how important and valuable they are.

2. Ideas, Ideas, Ideas!

On dull, gray, uncreative days, all I have to do is listen to my children play.

Elaborate plots and adventures full of twists and turns fill our living room, and I’m reminded of the excitement of story.

I’ve written before about the stories the kids and I create each year for Father’s Day. While I am the one who keeps some semblance of a plot,  they’re the ones that keep the storytelling fun.

They keep me generating ideas and telling stories in another way too. I’ve found that one of the easiest means to stop sibling spats starts with the words, “Once upon a time…”


Scan_20171031 (2)
Part of the story my eldest and I made up to help her learn her Kindergarten sight words.

3. Reduced Risk of Over-Exposure to the Computer

There are all sorts of health risks associated with spending too much time on the computer.

Go ahead and take a moment to look them up on your favorite search engine if you don’t believe me.  I’ll wait.


Ok, now that you’ve done my research FOR me (clever, huh?) I can tell you that being a writer who’s also a mom, my risk of all of those maladies is seriously reduced.

After all, the littles only let me stay online so long, and I’m a firm believer in the need for children to get outside and to make a mess somewhere that’s not in my house.

I’m forced to leave the screen behind, to play or move or find a new park for us to explore and get some exercise.

Parenting ALSO gives me the added bonus that I have a three year old chaperone to ‘force’ me to try out the swings and slides at the playground.

Breaking away from the screen for adventures rests, refreshes, and sometimes provides needed inspiration!

4. The Built-In Fan Club

My kids haven’t read any of the novel I’m querying, or any stories that I’ve written except for the Creative Writing pieces my class ‘published’ in 7th grade. (My grammar, at least, has improved a bit since then.)

Still, my eldest doesn’t miss much, and she was very aware of when I entered my novel in a contest in the fall of 2016. She watched me checking my e-mails, and occasionally, out of the blue, she’d tell me, “I hope you win!”

When I didn’t, and she found out, she was upset, even angry, for my sake.

It was a great teaching moment

We talked about how yes, I lost, but it was ok. I’d gotten feedback, and would make my story better. Someone else had just done a better job and won. (Modelling gracious loosing for my little girl was good for me too- it kept me from the temptation to wallow!)

She’s seen me keep at it, and, unknowingly, gave me some of the best encouragement the other day.

“Mommy, I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.”

“Really?” I quelled the temptation to tell her that, at 7, she’s not really running behind on this decision. “What are you going to be?”

“A teacher, AND an author.”

“Wow. Those sound like great choices.”


Yes, writing while parenting small children is hard some days, but then, most good things are.

There are many other joys, but I’ve rambled enough! Do you have any to add? 

Many thanks for visiting!





Exploring the Naval Undersea Museum

A trip into Washington State’s Olympic peninsula offers opportunities for adventure. From temperate rainforests to snowy mountain peaks to ocean beaches, and from herds of elk to the occasional trespassing mountain goat, the nature-lover doesn’t lack for options.

Of course, most of these options aren’t particularly accessible to those who visit during Washington’s long, gray, chilly, rainy season. (The natives call the rain ‘liquid sunshine.’ I don’t buy it.)

It’s especially tricky for those of us with small children, SO, the Clare brood went looking for somewhere indoors to explore.

The kids kept looking for the rest of the sub over to the left. It took some repeating to convince them that we weren’t actually GOING underwater.

The Naval Undersea Museum is located just past the signs for Keyport, Washington.

It met our criteria for an adventure: indoors, kid-friendly, and free. (The last is essential. Nothing’s worse than an outing that has to last long enough to be ‘worth it.’ Inevitably, someone will melt down, vomit, and/or soak their clothes with something.)

On top of these basic requirements, the exhibits were fascinating.

The museum begins in the parking lot.


The Trieste II

The Trieste II may look good-sized, but do you see the bit of the sphere showing between the two ‘legs’ to the left? That sphere housed the entire crew of two.

Talk about close quarters- I hope they got along well!

Trieste II was the U.S. Navy’s first deep-submergence vehicle. Its deepest dive was 20,236 feet in 1977 in the Cayman Trough south of Cuba.

The deep submergence rescue vehicle (DSRV) Mystic was our next stop.

After all hands were lost in the 1963 sinking of the USS Thresher, the Navy took a long, hard look at their underwater rescue operations, and found them wanting.

Thresher and its counterpart Avalon were built to take on this complicated task. While they ran many successful test trials, mercifully, they never had to be used.

Naturally, once we made our way inside I had to check out the World War 2 exhibit.


The display memorialized all of the U.S. submarines that contributed to Allied victory, highlighting in red the 52 that didn’t make it home.

It also included a display of some of the sub-tech of the 40’s…


…and “battle flags” from the era.


Sorry that it’s a bit blurred. The kids didn’t find this section quite as interesting as I did. Moving on…

Wasn’t he in ‘Forbidden Planet’ ?

We all enjoyed learning about the Navy’s training of marine mammals. I found it particularly fascinating to see how dolphins have been trained to find and mark old, unexploded mines so that they can be disposed of safely. (I was also pleased to see how carefully the handlers provided for the safety of the animals.)

Of course, the kids love exhibits that they are allowed to touch. The museum’s rebuilt control room of the USS Greenling was their favorite part. (And yes, of course, I checked out the periscopes and all of the knobs and buttons too!)

Again, I was really the only one interested in the American Civil War era ‘frame torpedo’…

“C’mon guys…hold on so I can get the shot…ack!”


…but they could have spent all day with the interactive displays on water pressure and buoyancy.

There were other exhibits, but the littles were about done.

Our last stop was a sobering one.



They were quiet for a moment, looking at the artifacts from the sunken sub. Enough of their little friends have dads serving under the waves that the Thresher display, simple as it was, made an impression.


The little ones have found me, so in closing I’ll ask then what they liked best about our museum visit.

Child 1: “I liked the periscopes, and the little screens and the things where you can push buttons and the spinny things, and the periscoes.”

Child 2: “They’re called periscopes.”

Child 1: “No, periscoes…”

Child 2: “PeriSCOPES!”

The conversation is still going on, so I’ll sign off for today.

For those of you still in the inhospitable grip of winter cold or rain, I hope you find your own interesting indoor adventures!

Thanks, as always, for visiting.

For more information:



Gimme Some Agape, Baby!

candy hearts

Why yes, my Valentine’s Day post is about love!

After all, ’tis the season for love- at least according to all of the florists and chocolatiers.

‘Love’ seems to become very tangible on February 14th. It comes cloaked in gifts and meals, in little cards or wide-eyed stuffed animals.

During the rest of the year ‘love’ becomes more vague- harder to pin down. The word is amorphous enough to apply to the man I’m spending my life with, and also to my favorite purple sneakers.

I do love my native tongue, but I find it interesting how much more clearly ‘love’ is described in other languages.

No, I can’t claim to be multi-lingual. I wish I could. I made it through my two years of Latin and Spanish, but unfortunately I’ve lost so much that I might be able to carry on a conversation with a very quiet three-year-old, provided she wanted to talk about ‘queso’ and practice counting. However, I’m a pastor’s kid, and a smattering of Biblical Greek stuck, in particular some of the various words detailing (you guessed it!) types of love.

Ancient Greek had numerous specific words that all translate to ‘love’ in English. A couple of them are easy to recognize.

For instance, “eros” is the root for ‘erotic.’ Need I say more?

Philadelphia gets its name from the Greek word “philos”, and its nickname is based on the meaning: the City of Brotherly Love. (Just don’t look up the crime rates…or so I’ve heard.)

The third is trickier: “agape.” (Ah-gah-pay, rather than the ‘opened mouth’ pronunciation. I once saw a dentist office called “Agape Dental.” I wonder which pronunciation they were going for?)

Agape love is the love of self-sacrifice. It is love that gives, regardless of whether the object of the love is deserving. It’s love in action. (Going back to my first encounter with the word, it’s used consistently in the New Testament to describe the relationship between God and humankind.)

While the other types of love can be invaluable in stories, including some ‘agape’ can deepen and strengthen the relationships between characters. When they show unselfish love- love that gives rather than takes- it’s so outside the realm of the typical that, when written well, it’s unforgettable.

After all, to take a few examples from varied genres, Sam didn’t have to accompany Frodo into Mordor. Mr. Darcy didn’t stand to gain by secretly aiding the family of a girl who’d as good as spit in his face. Atticus Finch wasn’t forced to risk his reputation and family’s safety to defend an innocent man.

They chose to do it anyway, and those stories hold a place of honor as some of my favorites.

In real life, I think of the nights when my husband, weary from another overtime shift, rejoins the family to be pulled in three different directions by our children. I can tell that he’s longing for quiet, but he puts it aside. He talks to them, plays with them, listens to their exploits. I think of the nights when he sees the crazy in my eyes, and he sends me away for alone time in his place.

That’s love that doesn’t fit into a chocolate box.


Do you have any stories of love in action, in self-sacrifice, that you’d like to recommend? I always love new books to read!

Thanks for visiting!

BONUS: Fellas, if you’re celebrating today but can’t figure out what she really wants, Tim Hawkins has the answer. 🙂








Roll the Dice and Hope for the Best


cards and dice
Photo courtesy of “Alan” at


Does anyone else feel a twinge of guilt when they read an article detailing someone else’s carefully crafted ‘writing routine?’

I feel that I must confess: I don’t currently have a set daily time to write.

I don’t have any more written on my second novel-in-progress than I had last week.

I don’t even have the notes lined up for the article on the WW2 ‘elephant company’ that I’ve been meaning to write for…how many months has it been now? (Though I DO have another overdue fee on the book…sigh.)

What I do have is the responsibility of raising three very small humans.

And let me tell you, while I wouldn’t trade that job for a dozen published novels, it has been a wild ride of late.

It feels a bit like one of the board games our family likes to play, except the ‘bank’ would have vouchers for free time rather than fake money, and the cards would look something like the following. (Note: I tried to make them look more like cards- then the youngest tried to use me for a jungle-gym and I gave up.)

You Shall Not Pass

The children have taken every toy they own and covered the floor. Give up one hour free time to supervise clean up. 


“Cat’s In the Cradle”

As you prepare to write, your child asks you to play with them. You are unable to resist. Give up one hour free time.



Roll the dice. 

A 1 or 2 means that your child only vomited on himself. Give up 1 hour of free time. You may still have time to write while he naps.

A 3 or 4 means that it is projectile. Give up 3 hours of free time and get on that laundry.

A 5 or 6 means that it is a bug. Give up 24 hours of free time and hope you don’t catch it.



Your child awakes in the night, frightened. Roll the dice.

The number rolled indicates how many times they wake you up. If it is 3 or more, give up 24 hours of free time, as you will be too tired to be creative.


Doctor’s Visit

Give up 2 hours free time. 

Roll once for each additional child. A 1 or 2 means that they picked up an additional illness from the waiting room. Give up 2 more hours for each additional doctor’s visit.


School Event

Give up two hours free time to participate.

You may give up an additional hour to provide the baked goods that the teacher requested. 



Roll the dice

A 1,2 or 3 means the babysitter can make it! Gain 3 hours free time.

A 4,5 or 6 means she cancels. Too bad.



Your aroma is showing that you haven’t had much time for personal grooming. You may choose to give up 1 hour free time to shower, OR gain one extra hour free time and just ignore it.

AND, the grand finale…


Roll the dice.

A 1 or 2 means that you can’t get a sitter. Try to watch a movie after the kids are in bed. Fall asleep on the couch. No gain or loss of ‘free time.’

A 3 or 4 means you manage a date night. You are so relaxed and happy from time with your spouse that you are extra productive. Gain one hour ‘free time.’

A 5 or 6 means that you manage a night away. A month later, SURPRISE! Your family is growing. Give up all free time for the next 2 years. 

What cards would you add?

As for me, I’m going to go give my kids a hug and I’m going to enjoy the blessings of these crazy years while they last…

…and maybe, just maybe they’ll sleep tonight, and I can WRITE!



I miss

the iron bones of Superior’s rocks

firm beneath my feet

holding me above the icy spray


The smell of tilled earth

below a sky stretching forever

fading to pastel dusk, the evening star

whispering possibilities


Far away

from fluorescents


weary bodies

resting  uneasily

to the perpetual shrill of beeping monitors

Phantom Otter

A flash of movement, a lithe, furry body rolling over in the shadows of the stream bank, a glimpse of a webbed foot- I stared, unbelieving. Then, I reacted like any dignified adult would.DSCN2494


Yes, yes, I know. It was exactly the wrong reaction when spying a wild animal at close quarters. (There may have also been some jumping up and down.)

My only excuse is surprise. We’d come to watch the salmon making their mass migration upstream. The huge fish were impressive enough- I wasn’t expecting bonus wildlife.

The reasons didn’t matter. The one glimpse was all I got.

My attempt at a salmon photo. Completely otter-free. Sigh.

My ‘otter incident’ sums up my writing experience lately. Ideas surface, tantalizing ideas, good ideas.

I just can’t quite catch them.

Part of it has been timing. My site’s title is fast becoming a misnomer. ‘Naptime’ has nearly vanished from our house, and with it my one regular span of ‘alone time.’

Scores of ideas, sometimes even fully-developed articles and stories, swim through my mind while I’m driving the kids back and forth or fighting the never-ending battle to keep my kitchen counters visible.

By the time I sit down to write, they’ve swum right away again.

I’ve tried starting a little journal- when ideas come I can jot them down quickly. I have a respectable list of history and writing topics already.

The problem is, the ideas don’t seem quite as ‘shiny’ after they’ve sat a while.

Again, it’s like my otter encounter. Only a few hours later, I’m wondering if I actually saw him. After all, the salmon are close to the right size. They were rolling about through the waves, struggling to climb the fish ladder. Yes, the creature looked furry, but then some of the fish are looking a little rough around the edges by this point in their quest for a little fishy-style lovin’ before becoming food or fertilizer.

Maybe my amazing viewing…wasn’t. *

I find myself staring at the list in my little journal. Maybe my writing ideas aren’t either.

It’s easy to doubt. After all, my novel queries have only resulted in polite rejections- maybe I wasn’t as ready as I though I was. Family illness and friends’ struggles weigh heavily on top of my other obligations, and it’s hard to find words under that weight.


Salmon do not have webbed feet. Otters do.

Some of my ideas aren’t going to go anywhere. Giving up means none of them will.

Life is heavy just now, but this is a season. Seasons change.

Writers, keep plugging away. Something wonderful might be swimming just below the surface, waiting for you to write it into being!


What about you? Have you found any methods that help you keep creativity moving through the busy or difficult seasons?

Thanks, as always, for visiting!


*Amazing? Yeah, spotting new wildlife definitely fits into my definition of ‘amazing experience.’ I suppose it comes from the hours…and hours…and hours I spent in the car with my family driving around the old logging roads of northern Minnesota searching for moose or bear. (After a few hours, even the common white-tail deer were reasonably exciting!) We like our wildlife sightings 🙂

Sweet Stories

I had the best intentions.

I enjoy writing. I love my children.

How hard could it be to keep a journal of their milestones? How could I possibly fail to record the cute things they said, and the humorous little anecdotes of their early years?

The pile of blank journals available for use when I started writing stories again speaks for itself.

I’m terrible at keeping regular records. Even our photo albums fell off after the first child. (Yes, we are the cliché family. Millions of pictures printed off of the firstborn, and a few of the second. Wait, there’s a third?)

While I don’t have the detailed records I dreamed of, or even the basic ones that I thought realistic, my children’s little stories surface in unexpected places.

This week it was through birthday cake.

Since I have a difficult time seeing toys and gifts as anything other than future messes to clean, (not more Legos! Noooooooooo!) my husband tends to be the birthday shopper in the family.

My contribution is the cake.

I love to bake. Usually I focus on taste rather than appearance- fancy frosting and designs aren’t my specialty. For birthdays I make an exception. My children  come up with their design requests, and I do my best to fulfill them.

The cakes may not be professional or perfect, but I treasure these old pictures. Each design holds a story, a glimpse of who my children were.

My firstborn always expressed herself well, and had very specific wishes as a three year old. We had cats, so it had to be a cat cake. A pink kitty cake with blue frosting, and sprinkles.

I did my best.

The frosting didn’t cooperate, but I was the only one who minded.

She grew, and the commercial world intruded.

My husband or I had brought home a DVD of some of the 1980’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. Our little girl was an instant fan.

Still, just as in all of our games, she added her own twist- “I want a ninja turtle riding a tiger. In the snow. With gummy worms.”


This year she requested a ‘Shopkins’ cake. This marked the first year public opinion swayed her- she became interested in Shopkins because of friends at school.

It also marks the first (though likely not the last) time that my children have gotten excited about something that I don’t understand at all.

“It’s food…with faces?” I asked her.

“Yes! Aren’t they cute?”

Cute’s not the first word that comes to mind…I’m not sure I like the thought of my food looking at me…

For her, I gave it a try.

shopkin cake

My son’s requests have been entirely different.

He’s loved vehicles and machinery since infancy. At three, the cake had to have motorcycles with roads and trees.

motorcycle cake

Next year he wanted vehicles again- airplanes.

airplane cake

I expected spaceships this year, but he surprised me.

“I want a cake with water.”


He loves the water. I almost had to carry him back to the rocks of the shore on his first beach excursion- he just wanted to wade, no matter how wet his tennis shoes got. He has added a river or lake to every scene in his National Park coloring book, including the desert and cave pictures, because “it makes them look better.”

It took a little imagining, but he was happy with the results.

They’re supposed to be waves 🙂


My youngest is the animal lover. The others like animals, she adores them.

Hedgehogs are her favorite, especially her stuffed “Mr. Snuffles,” hence last year’s cake in her favorite color.


This year it had to be a “fishy cake,” and she’s already planning on a polar bear for next year…but who knows? They grow and change and even a small thing like a birthday cake design marks the passage of time.

fishy cake

I love the little stories that these cakes bring to mind- memories of happy days that are receding too quickly into the past.

No, I haven’t got complete, detailed life-journals to hand to my children someday. I’m thankful that the memories, stories and glimpses of who they were survive even my poor record-keeping.


Have you encountered any little things in your life lately, things that brought up half-forgotten memories or moments from the past? Do you have tricks to keeping your family’s important memories close?


Finding and Losing Time


“Put me in your hair,” says my baby, (who isn’t anymore, really.)

“What? Put you in my hair?”

“Put me in your hair, because I’m a flower!”

She proceeds to attempt to climb onto my head as I laugh and try to preserve my spine.

She’s spent the summer weaving dandelions into my hair and tucking them behind my ears.  From time to time she tries to keep up with the ‘big kids,’ but generally she’s content to wander along her own path, inhabiting a hidden world of imagination.

And she still wants me to come along.

The others run off together to play games of their own invention, only interrupted sporadically by sibling squabbles. I love to see them grow and bond, and to hear the elaborate stories they create together. I enjoy regaining time to follow my own pursuits.


The time I’ve gained is bittersweet. They’re moving beyond me.

This one, the last, stands at the foot of the rocking chair as I begin the article I planned for today, and smiles sweetly. “Mommy, will you play with me?” (She uses perfect grammar, but always in that irresistible baby lisp.)

I hesitate, then sigh. There’s so little time…

“Ok, honey.”

Her eyes light up as if we hadn’t played together in weeks. (It’s been about fifteen minutes.) “Oh, thank you!”

The dandelions are all going to seed, and the summer is waning, and next year my baby might not want to put flowers in her hair and mine.

The article can wait.








We thought we’d lost him

As I stood before the room

Of shining morning faces

Who didn’t understand

Why Teacher’s went pale.


Driving to the clinic

I pulled over

When the sobs came too hard.

Dear God, please. Not this.



Barely breathing

Until a flicker of light-

A tiny heart’s flutter-

Shone in the dark.


Our miracle.