Mouth of Babes

I’ve decided to let my kids write my August blog post for me.  Here are some of the best Seifert kid quotes we’ve collected over the years. Enjoy:

“A kiss means ‘I love you?’  Whoa!  I didn’t even know that!”  Strange but true.

“Daddy rhymes with money!”  Imperfect rhyme though it is.

“My bum honked like a car!  My bum is tricky!”  Lay off the horn, will yah?

“This choking hazard is delicious!”  Most of them are.

“I would kick him in the face!  I can.  I have legs.  And I have feet.”  Three year old dispute resolution.

“Mom, can I have another hot dog wrapped in a mattress?”  Known in some corners as a pig in a blanket.

“What’s the point of having a house if we can’t even play in it?”  Indeed.

“You’re probably the best mom I’ve ever had.”  Probably.

“I know why Daddy wears a wedding ring.  It’s so people don’t look at him and say, ‘Oooo, who is that handsome man?’”  Yes, I’m spoken for.

“Don’t say that!  You’ll make everyone embarrassed.”  Because when your older sibling tells you your underwear is showing, everyone else’s embarrassment is foremost on your mind.

“See that little pickle right there?  That’s where I’m headin’ for.”  This is what’s known as purposeful hamburger consumption.

“I’m looking for an eraser!  Erasers are not ubiquitous around here!”  No.  No, they’re definitely not.

“I accidentally ate it on purpose.”  Another diet plan bites the dust.

“Kids just wanna do what they wanna do.  Mama, you’ve just gotta learn more about that.”  We must have Ph.D.’s in that by now.

“OK!  Then you will just have to deal with screaming!”  Is this what you call emotional blackmail?

“My hurt is footing.”  That’s boo tad.

“They licked the bladder clean?”  Nursery rhymes gone horribly wrong.

“I am so proud of myself for losing a tooth!”  There’s a participation trophy for that.

“This was a little out-flated, so I inflated it.”  Inflate-gate.  Take that, Tom Brady!

“Can I have another drink of milk?  My tongue is still spicing.”  Milk.  It does a spicing good.

“So, have you ever been to Hades before?”  Casual mealtime conversation during our family’s first trip to the restaurant known as Hardees.

“I was thinking about how handsome men look, and I was thinking about Chris. … I was thinking about Chris. … You made a good choice. I need pictures of all the men in the world without beards and mustaches …”  Sing it, girl!  But you’re still not going on a date until you’re forty.

“Did you know that bees can fly up your nose holes?”  Happens to the best of us.


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six young children.  He enjoys stories by Ray Bradbury, starry night skies, and cherry limeade.  Follow Chris on Twitter @seif_train or on Facebook @christopherdseifert.

Moonshot

The rocket surged upward with a blast of fire soon punctuated by the thunder of applause.  The night itself was near-perfect, marred only by the knowledge I was watching a mirage, a smoke and mirrors light show projected onto the Washington Monument, and not the real thing.  That’s where I was on Saturday, July 20, 2019 – fifty years to the day since human beings first did the once unthinkable by planting boots on lunar soil.  Sadly, I wasn’t around when it really happened.  I didn’t get to live in a nation galvanized to such a righteous cause by the soaring oratory of its president.

Washington Monument (7-20-19)

A lot can change in fifty years.  Nowadays, I generally tune out politicians.  More than a few of them strike me as narcissists or blowhards or bullies or cowards, and sometimes all of the foregoing at once.  (I was always put off by how my college poli sci classes were populated with people who liked to hear themselves talk and were dead set on law school.)  Then along comes a politician who forces me to sit up and listen.  We’re going back to the moon in five years?  Poppycock.  More smoke and mirrors, right?  As I said, I don’t trust most politicians any farther than I can throw them, but this time I can’t help but hope.

Let me tell you somewhere else I was on Saturday.  I spent the late morning/early afternoon at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, and as I stood there at the intersection of the Wright brothers and the sophisticated death machines of World War II, I suddenly realized how quickly progress can happen after a single, singular breakthrough.  The once unthinkable becomes reality and then so much more.  The giant leap from Orville and Wilbur to Neil and Buzz isn’t, I suppose, as far as one might think.

So, this is where I go off the rails, but please stick with me here:  I believe in my heart of hearts that mankind was meant to conquer the stars.  We’ll get back to the moon.  We’ll push on to Mars.  And that’s just the beginning.  I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly don’t own a crystal ball.  I’m just armed with confidence in the power of man’s ingenuity and faith in the human spirit.  Yes, I’m a hopeless optimist, but trust me on this one.  We’ll get there.

Would that it were in my day.  And who knows?  Maybe it will be.  A lot can change in fifty years.


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My Dad Won’t Beat Up Your Dad

My dad can beat up your dad.  Well, actually, I suppose that depends on how big your dad is.  Come to think of it, I can’t really imagine my dad beating up anybody.  He probably could.  Maybe.  He just wouldn’t want to.  He’s not that kind of dad.  But he’s pretty awesome all the same.

Dad doesn’t get a lot of attention for his awesomeness.  In fact, he’s sort of the Tim Duncan of dads – stoically, methodically, and quietly filling up the stat sheet to the tune of twenty points, fifteen rebounds, and two blocked shots a game while hardly anyone notices.  That’s right.  My dad is an unsung all-star.  (By the way, this sports analogy gone wrong is completely lost on my dad because he doesn’t care for sports.)

So, here are some things my dad brings to the table that may or may not show up on the stat sheet:

  • Dad can be surprisingly chipper in the morning. This is an excellent quality to have – just not one that impressed me very much when I was a teenager.
  • Dad knows how to laugh. Some of you who are familiar with him might be surprised by this, but I’m telling you one of the best Seifert family Christmas traditions is watching my dad watch the movie “Home Alone.”  He laughs so hard at the slapstick scenes he cries.  It’s fantastic.
  • Dad likes music. He doesn’t really sing or play an instrument.  He just appreciates music.  More and more I see the wisdom in that.  Music is worth appreciating.
  • Dad always, always, always does his duty. If my dad is tasked with something, you don’t have to wonder if it’ll get done.  You can count on it.
  • Dad is honest to a fault. A favorite family story is one my mother tells about the time Dad reprimanded her for accidentally bringing home a paperclip that wasn’t hers.  Classic Dad.
  • Dad went to work every day to a job he – I’m going to put words in his mouth here –didn’t like all that much. He did this so my siblings and I could have a roof over our heads and food in our mouths and so my mother could stay home with us.  This is a big deal.  Kids usually don’t get it.  I didn’t back then, but then one day you’re the provider, and you find out there’s nothing better than working hard so your own kids can be comfortable and have stuff.  That’s what my dad did for me.
  • Dad loves the stars, and I guarantee you my dad’s telescope is bigger than your dad’s telescope. I didn’t inherit Dad’s math/science brain, but I do think I inherited his sense of wonder.  The sky is big and bright and beautiful.
  • Even more than the stars, Dad loves Mom. As kids, we never had to question that.
  • Dad joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young man despite opposition and the significant personal sacrifice it required. Then he took a break from school to earn money to put himself on a two-year, full-time church proselyting mission.  After serving an honorable mission, he came home and married my mother in The Holy Temple for time and all eternity.  Even a non-believer would be hard-pressed not to admire the courage of his convictions.  And if you are a believer, then you know that what my dad did was everything.  I have no doubt the Seifert line will sing praises to his name forever.
  • Speaking of The Holy Temple, that’s where you’ll find my dad – along with my mother – every Saturday night, selflessly serving and seeking communion with our Heavenly Father.  Dad’s been doing that for years.  I don’t think there’s any place he’d rather be.

In the end, regardless of whether he can beat up yours, my dad’s a pretty great guy.  He’s just not going to tell you about it.  That’s why I just did.

Dad


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Just Like Magic

I hate Cheyenne, Wyoming.  With a passion.  I hate every last corner of that city I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet – which is to say I hate Cheyenne’s Greyhound bus station at two o’clock in the morning.  Believe you me it’s a dirty, dreary place complete with unsavory characters and unspeakable bathrooms.  Cheyenne and I became acquainted during my college years.  In those days, the Greyhound from Omaha to Provo was my ticket to school, and the trip always seemed to include a middle-of-the-night layover in Cheyenne.

I think you need to understand my hatred of Cheyenne to fully appreciate what I’m going to say next.  There was actually one occasion when I didn’t mind the place so much – because I barely even knew I was there.   That was the trip during which I fell in love with the wizarding world of Harry Potter.  It happened in the fall of 2002.  I’d read The Sorcerer’s Stone a few months earlier and sort of shrugged it off.  I wanted The Lord of the Rings, and The Lord of the Rings it was not, but for some reason I still climbed aboard that Greyhound with a copy of The Chamber of Secrets in tow, and then a funny thing happened.  I couldn’t put it down.

Not long after that trip, I devoured a copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban.  Later I was staying up to the wee hours of the morning with my hair on fire to finish The Goblet of Fire.  I was in full-fledged Potter-mania when The Order of the Phoenix came out.  You better believe I was at the bookstore at zero dark thirty to pick up my pre-ordered copy before I went off to savor every last page.  I was there again at midnight for The Half-Blood Prince.  I was married by then, so I read it with Sara, who once famously said of the experience that she mourned far more for a beloved character there than she ever did for Michael Jackson (whose passing several years later was marked by nauseatingly ubiquitous media coverage).  With The Deathly Hallows, Sara and I sequestered ourselves in our apartment and read as quickly as we could in a furious attempt to outpace the spoilers.  We read so much so fast that I described the feeling afterwards as a Harry Potter hangover, but it was so fun and so worth it.

Then it was over.  I’ve never quite had a reading experience like that one.  There was – dare I say it? – magic in the anticipation and the journey.  Great fiction makes you forget the drudgery of everyday life.  That is, I suppose, what all fiction writers are aiming for.  Harry Potter did that for me like nothing ever had, and there’s a certain sadness knowing no matter how many times I reread those books I can never quite go home again.  Not like that.

But I’ve found a sort of solace of late.  Now I’m reading Harry Potter to my kids.  We’ve finished the first three books, and we’re currently partway through Goblet of Fire.  I’m watching the light in my children’s eyes as their imaginations run wild.  I’m hearing them chatter about favorite scenes and characters.  They’re speculating about what happens next.  They don’t want me to stop reading, I don’t want it to end, and I do believe Cheyenne has never been farther behind me.


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Novel Writing Made Easy

You’ve got a book inside you.  I’m sure of it.  Most everyone does.  The only real question is how badly do you want to pull it out and put it on the page?  I’m no expert, but I’ve birthed a few books now, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.  Here are some words of wisdom as you contemplate making the journey:

  • Write what you know.  I guess.  That and/or write what you’re excited about.  I sometimes write outer space adventures.  I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn I’ve never actually been to outer space.  But you better believe I’m mining my own life experience for snippets of dialogue and satisfying story beats all the same.  Things have to ring true.  Even in outer space.
  • Begin with an end in mind.  I learned a long time ago that a great ending can elevate a story like nothing else.  With the right ending, a bad story becomes a good one and a good story becomes something you can’t stop thinking about.  I’m sure it’s a bit different for everyone, but for me, I need to see the moment that makes it all worth it before I can even start.
  • Find some inspiration music.  The Piano Guys perform the score and NeedToBreathe plays the soundtrack to the imaginary movie versions of every one of my books.  That’s just the way it is.  I don’t know how to explain this one other than to say creativity begets creativity.
  • Set regular time aside to write, and then do it.  I used to write during my lunch hours at work.  Nowadays, my noon hours tend to be booked, so I try to take a vacation day once a month and camp out at the library until I’ve hammered out a chapter or two.  The point is writing takes time (not to mention a whole lot of concentration and energy), so make sure you give yourself the time you need.
  • Keep writing even when the writing is garbage.  I can be a perfectionist.  That means it’s hard for me to turn off the self-censor, but if I do, the output is usually better than anticipated.  And when it’s not, edit is the kindest of four-letter words.
  • If you can make it over the continental divide, you can make it.  Reaching the halfway point is critical.  I pace myself as I start the climb up that mountain, but there comes a point when I’m standing at the summit, say 40,000 words, and I realize everything else is downhill.  That’s when I know I have a real live novel on my hands.
  • Write what makes you happy.  Seriously.  The truth is I’m my own biggest fan.  (My mother is a close second.)  Agents, editors, publishers, and critics be danged.  I’m writing a book I want to read.  Deal with it.

Are you still with me?  Good.  Now I have a confession to make.  I lied.  Novel writing isn’t easy.  I can never make it so.  Novel writing is painful.  It’s plain hard work.  There’s no way around that.  I’m just saying I’m a pretty regular guy who has done it, so you can do it.  If you want to.  Of that I have no doubt.


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True Awards

“Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor;

In these are the true awards of manly sport.”

—Hartley Burr Alexander


My kids will never be great athletes.  How could they be?  They’re my kids.  But last Saturday, as my three oldest chattered about the just-concluded first week of spring soccer season, I was reminded of how very much I love sports.

I suppose the genesis of that love is still somewhat of a mystery.  I was an uncoordinated, unathletic child who grew up in a home with sports agnostic parents.  Still, one fall Saturday my younger brother and I flipped on the TV and discovered the wonders of college football on ABC.  My poor parents must have been so ashamed.

Later, my brother and I took to throwing an orange ball through a 10-foot-tall hoop.  We eventually saved our paper route money until we had enough to buy a basketball pole for the driveway.  Then we made our sports-hating father put it up for us.  Dad was such a good sport.  (Pun most definitely intended.)  He didn’t even cuss once while he was doing it.  (For the record, I’ve never heard my dad cuss at all.  The one time my brother made him almost slip remains a cherished childhood memory, but I digress.)

Do sports inhabit too prominent a place in our world?  Perhaps.  Have athletics, in some corners, become a veritable golden calf?  I live in football-crazed Nebraska, so I know it all too well, and yet I love the games all the same.  Why?  Because sports are conflict.  And conflict is story.

There are heroes and villains, triumphs and heartbreak.  There are twists and turns aplenty.  Sports are a journey with a destination unknown and uncertain.  That’s why we play.  That’s why we tune in again and again.

Sports bring us together.  I’m a Nebraska kid who has discovered I can talk to any other Nebraska kid of a certain age and reminisce with ease about the memorable games of my youth.  I probably didn’t know that colleague or co-worker or neighbor 25 years ago, but they were there too – feeling the exact same emotions I was feeling at the exact same moment I was feeling them.

Sports can bring out the best in us too.  A couple years ago, while I was coaching my son’s third grade soccer team, the opposing coach stopped our game in the closing minutes, gathered his team around, and instructed them to let the boy on our team with Down syndrome score a goal.  If you had seen the look of sheer joy on that young man’s face when he kicked the ball into the net, you would never, ever doubt the value of manly sport.

So, I’m not giving up my sports mania anytime soon.  In fact, I’m passing it on to my kids.   At least I’m trying.  There are no athletic scholarships in their futures, but I’m watching them have fun, get exercise, make friends, develop discipline, and discover loyalties.  They’re learning how to lose – and win – with grace.  I think they’ll be better people for it.


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Why I Write

“I have written because it fulfilled me. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”  —Stephen King


When I was a starry-eyed teenager, I set a goal for myself:  Publish a novel or bust.  And do it before age seventy.

In hindsight, I realize I wasn’t going out on much of a limb back then.  At fifteen, age seventy might as well have been 170.  I was giving myself the equivalent of eternity to attain my heart’s desire.

But, oh, how time and space have a way of shifting your perspective.  Now, here I am, age forty, unpublished, and staring down the barrel of it maybe never happening for me.  And you know what?  I don’t really care.

OK, so maybe I do care.  Just a little.  I’d still love to publish with one of those Big Five houses.  That would be a thrill, no doubt.  But what I realize now, what I couldn’t see then, was that more than anything my publishing goal was about validation.  You accomplish this, I must have thought, and then you’ve really, finally made it as a writer.

Well, I’m here to tell you I no longer need validation to justify my journey.  I’ve written.  I’ve labored, perspired, and bled over the page.  I’ve braved rejection, and I’m still chugging along.  I’m already valid, legit, justified.  I’m a writer in every sense of the word, and I’m going to keep on writing, come what may, age seventy and beyond.

I write because sometimes I make myself laugh.

I write because sometimes I make myself cry.

I write because writing is mostly hard work.

I write because those shooting star nirvana moments of inspiration are real.

I write because the characters hatched of my own imagination are dear to me like children.

I write because I want my real-life flesh and blood to know who I am.

I write because I hope to better understand myself.

I write because I’m going where I’ve never gone before.

I write because I can make something out of nothing.

I write because I’m a control freak who wants everything just so.

I write because I finish what I start.

I write because words are beautiful.

I write because words are powerful.

I write because every once in a while nouns and verbs and such come together in a sequence just plain greater than the sum of their parts.

I write because I need to pay homage to the stories that came before me.

I write because it’s the only way to find out what happens next.

I write because feeling close to the Creator of the universe can be as simple as hovering over a keyboard.

I write because I have something to say.

I write.


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