Rocklin writer, father of three, keeps readers laughing
Writer Marc Schmatjen is never short on inspiration.
And how could he be? With three boys under the age of 10, a full-time job and a wife, Schmatjen has taken his sense of humor to the Web, where he publishes a weekly humor column with a growing reader base.
“Just a Smidge” earned its name based on Schmatjen’s last name, pronounced “smidgen.” The site started in 2008 as a political blog, but quickly turned into a humorous account of life in the Rocklin household, telling the stories of Schmatjen and his family: Sandra and sons Joe, A.J. and Jack.
“I was naturally writing family stuff, because I was right in the thick of all the funny diaper stories,” Schmatjen said, dodging Nerf darts with ease as his sons chased each other around the house.
Schmatjen, an engineer and salesman for a conveyor company, makes time each week for writing, in addition to all the other duties that come with having a home and family. His schedule, posted to the wall of his office, includes time for work, writing, exercise and time to spend with his wife and boys.
The boys provide an endless source of inspiration, including a column that went viral, “How to be a parent,” that Schmatjen wrote as a list of suggestions for people who were about to have a baby or who were thinking of having a baby.
“One of the most popular items was midnight Legos on the carpet,” he smiled. “If you get up to get a drink of water or whatever, you’ve got to walk through a minefield.”
And another post has been selected as the March “Humor Me” edition of “Sacramento Parent.” Schmatjen smiled as he asked son Jack, 8, what he does that’s so funny.
“I sleepwalk!” Jack replied. And what does he do when he sleepwalks?
It’s true, Schmatjen said – he’s the father of someone who sleep-pees.
“One time he was walking out of his room, sleepwalking, and guess what? He peed on my stairs,” Schmatjen said.
There are some limits to what goes in the blog, including the boys’ names. But funny and embarrassing stories forever archived in the digital annals of the World Wide Web? For the most part, they’re perfectly acceptable.
“My mother wrote Christmas letters that were very telling of the family, if you will,” Sandra said. “And whenever we said, ‘But mom, that’s so mean,’ she said, ‘It’s true, right?’ … If it’s the truth, air our laundry.”
“And that’s what good humor’s based in – the truth,” Schmatjen chimed in. “I have written some stuff that will definitely embarrass the children when they’re old enough to care, and I will find that endlessly humorous when they’re embarrassed about it at school.”
The inspiration is so abundant in the Schmatjen household that the writer self-published a collection of his columns, “The Tree of Death, and Other Hilarious Stories,” in November 2012. The stories range from adventures in couponing – in which Schmatjen ended up with eight bottles of body wash thanks to his wife’s interest in savings – to the eponymous story about the trees in the neighborhood that, while beautiful when they bloom, stink to high heaven for a week each year.
The author has also penned a children’s book, “My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh,” illustrated by M. Scott Arena, that Schmatjen read aloud to every kindergarten and first-grade class in Rocklin when it was released in 2010.
Somehow, in between the errands, the dinners, the sleepovers, the sports and the overall chaos of three young boys in the house, Schmatjen finds the time to write, something he attributes heavily to his supportive wife. He also manages to keep his sense of humor, which is why instead of reading as a diary of sorts, as many blogs tend to do, “Just a Smidge” is a regularly updated collection of funny stories, each separate from each other.
“I want each post to be a standalone humorous article that somebody could read in a newspaper or magazine and think was funny on its own, and not need the history of it,” Schmatjen said. “My stated goal is to make people laugh out loud at least once a week.”