Pre-School Poetry

I found a great book this past spring.  Its a collection of short poems on subjects relating to outdoor play.  Its called, A Stick is an Excellent Thing, by Marilyn Singer.  A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play
All the poemImages have some element of rhyme and rhythm.  There are a few with an element of concrete poetry, where the placement of the words help to illustrate the poem, which my boys seemed to find interesting.  I think its pretty great collection for young children as an introduction to poetry. 

I started with my boys, asking them to explain what a story was.  “A book” was the first answer.  Heh.  “What does a story have?” “A beginning, like a once upon a time,” said Circus Boy #1.  (Woo hoo, the answer I was looking for!  Quick mental party!)  We decided that a story had a beginning, it had characters, it had a problem, a fix to the problem, and an ending.  After reading some of the poems in A Stick is an Excellent Thing, we learned a poem was different.  It was shorter, for one.  It didn’t have to tell a story, but could tell about something.  It could describe something.  (I realize this is quite simplistic, but we are talking about a 2 year-old, a 3 year-old and a 5 year-old, with an infant present, here.)

So we described a few objects around the room.  A toy cup was hard, blue, used for tea, and plastic.  A cheerio is round, small, has a hole, and is crunchy (as long as the baby doesn’t get to them first, then they are soggy! Ha!).  A pear is “kind of like a triangle,” green, sweet, and smooth.  Glitter is red, twinkles, you sprinkle it, has round and flat flakes, you shake it, just a dash.  These are all words they came up with.

Then we sat down and organized our glitter “describing words” into a poem.  I helped some with this, and it helped that we came up with describing words that pretty much rhymed.  As I was writing out our “final copy” Circus Boy #1 told me I should not write the words straight, I should “sprinkle the words.”  I was so happy to hear him say that, evidence I hadn’t just been talking to myself!! Yay!! (Another, slightly longer mental party!)

ImageSo here we are, making some glitter pictures to go along with our poem: 



ImageIt was all pretty fun.  Except for when Circus Boy #3 grabbed finished pictures with wet glue, found a crayon somewhere and tried to color on the wet glue and glitter,or got a hold of the glitter bottle when he didn’t have help.  I love messes.  Not really.  I didn’t take any picture of that.  I was too busy getting glue out of his hair, and the baby’s hair, and glitter out of the carpet.  Glitter sticks to everything. Maybe I’ll write a poem about that.


Just Peachey

Yesterday was one of those mornings when everything took about 10 times longer than it should.

You know, you’re just about ready to get out the door for church when one child starts whining that his shoes hurt, you’re pretty sure he’s just being difficult, but you oblige with a different pair.  Those don’t work either.  Meanwhile another child refuses to wear his socks.  The diaper bag falls over, spilling its contents.

Fine!  Back to the original shoes, no more whining.  Get the socks on!  At which time you smell someone’s diaper.  You change the diaper, get everyone in the car.  You’re about 20 minutes late for church.

Then on the way out of church, you experience miscommunication with your spouse as to the location and collection  of items (diaper bag, baby’s shoes, bible and notebooks) and perhaps a child.  Several back tracking trips, and one cell phone call later, you’re back in the car, with all children and about 90% of the belongings you started with.  Close enough.

You get home, feed the children, begin to get them down for naps.  You’re tired.  You’re a little hungry and a bit grumpy.  A nap would be so nice.  So naturally you decide, why not can some peaches!?!

Why do you choose this?  I don’t know, we’ll go with temporary insanity.


In all seriousness, we bought the peaches yesterday at the farmer’s market, and we really had to can them today.  So, we did!

I’m often asked why I would ta001ke on such tasks as canning.  They take time, lots of time.  You could just buy canned peaches in the store.  Is it really that much cheaper?  Healthier?

Yes!  And its easier to decide to do, because Mr. Ringmaster is willing to help!  He took over the cutting/peeling halfway through, and did most of the clean-up.  So, it really wasn’t too bad at all.  Its rather nice to do projects like that together.  Even if they are punctured with “DADDY! DADDY!” or “Mommy, I want…..” or “Can somebody WIPE ME!!??” every 30 seconds.

I only had a peck (minus those used in peach cobbler) to do.  Start to finish it was about 2 hours.

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The Princess Goes Mobile

The little princess, now 8 months, completely has the crawling thing down.  She’s also got the bear walk (crawling on hands and feet).  She bolts across the house like shes been doing it forever, and being a bit smaller than her brothers were when they were first mobile, and I think a bit more mischievous (ouch!), she finds her way into all sorts of small spaces.  Today alone she got stuck under her play table, the small wooden kids’ table, the coffee table (which has a very low shelf, she had to be completely flat on her belly to do it) and under the end table.  I’m in that mode of one eye always locating baby.

Tough, with 3 other kids in the house, but I can handle it.

Ah, and then its time to prepare dinner.  Out comes the cutting board,chopping knives, measuring cups and spoons, and the big every-day pan.  There’s chopping and sauteing and whisking in the flour, all the while washing up as you go and trying to let the two year-old “help” and simultaneously work on language. And suddenly you stop.

Where’s the baby? 

You haven’t heard her in awhile.  How long?  You look up, she’s not playing on the carpet.  You walk into the living room, nope.  Pace quickens into the dining room. Under the table? No.  “Lord, help me, where is the baby!” your mind screams. 

You glance at the stairs, which triggers something in your memory.  Your brow furrows, you hear the lullaby music over the monitor.

Oh yes….

You put her down for a nap just before you started dinner.    Which would be why you weren’t constantly checking on her….


Mama needs some coffee



Cereal Woes: Breakfast at the Circus

Why, why do cereal manufacturers insist on printing images of their cereal on the box with various plump, tasty looking berries that are not in the box?  Do they think a 2 year-old understands the tiny asterisk and text that reads ” *serving suggestion”?  They don’t!  Do you know the tantrums this has caused?  Especially with a child who is not able communicate and probably thinks I’m holding out on those berries just to be a big meany.

Not even my three year-old gets it.  “Can I have the cereal with the strawberries?”  “There aren’t actually strawberries in the box.”  “Yes there are, then why are they on there?”  “Good question.”  “Let me see.”  Open box, shake it around, distribute cereal evenly across the floor.  Frown.  Broom, but no strawberries.

Not nice, cereal box people, not nice.


Circus Eats: “Oh, KALE, my favorite!”

Has your 5 year-old ever uttered those words? 

As the farmer dropped off our weekly CSA share yesterday, that’s exactly what my five year-old said.  And he meant it!  He ate quite the helping, no complaining.

I think one of the biggest reasons I hear people give when they knowingly are not eating “healthy” (and remember, there are drastically differing opinions about what “healthy” means) is that their children won’t eat it.  Here’s my secret, they will eat it if that’s what you give them.  Most especially if that is all they know.  Not only that, they will develop a distaste for some of those not so healthy items out there.  Example: My kids like lolly pops, what kid doesn’t?  When I buy them, I get the lollypops with natural coloring and flavors.  They’re not real sticky and they don’t have any funny aftertastes or turn your mouth funny colors.  Occasionally, the boys bring home candy from school when they have parties and such.  Some of this they will eat, much of it they will excitedly take a few bites (or licks) and proclaim it “really not very good,” and throw it away.  Not that this happens with all the junky food they are exposed to, but you get the idea. 

Here’s what arrived at our house yesterday:   Plum tomatoes, plums, kale, carrots, potatoes, half Imagedozen eggs, peppers, zucchini and a cucumber. 

So for dinner we had chicken and kale in the crockpot.  It goes like this:  Clean and chop kale (cut out stems in the leaf, that’s the bitter part).  Place in the bottom of a crock pot.  Unwrap thawed, whole chicken.  I buy from a local farm and sometimes I have to brush away a feather or two at this stage.  I just rinse it off and pull out the neck.  Plop the chicken on top of the kale.  This time I poured a can of organic mandarin oranges (in orange juice, not syrup) over the chicken.  Put the lid on and turn on the crock pot.  How much time, you ask?  That depends, how much time do you have?  Cook at least to 160, for me its 2-3 hours on high, maybe 5ish hours on low.  Cooked too early?  Put the crock pot on warm until you’re ready.  The orange juice will keep it moist and delicious.  (I’ve also done this with cranberry sauce instead of oranges, added chopped carrots or potatoes or apples…whatever I have.) 

Easy? yes, Quick? doesn’t require much time in the kitchen? Cheap? if you buy whole chickens on sale, you bet.  Periodically you’ll see organic whole chickens on sale as low as $1.99lb.  I buy the maximum I can and stock up my upright freezer. 

Use the leftovers for chicken and black bean enchiladas, or in chicken salad.  Stick the bones and neck in a pot, add water, bring to a low boil with lid for an hour or so…chicken broth!  Add to rice for more flavor, make your own cream sauces with a little flour and milk, or just make soup.  One chicken- 3 meals. 

Tonight we’ll have pasta with diced tomatoes and zucchini, sauteed in garlic (from last week’s CSA)  and whatever cheese happens to be in the fridge.  Yum!



Date Night at the Circus: This is how we roll…

Well, I guess there’s really no rolling involved.  It’s more like….staying.  In other words, Mr. Ringmaster and I don’t get out much.  For one, we run a pretty tight budget and there’s not a whole lot left, or really any left if we’re being honest, for dating dollars.   For another, its hard to find a baby sitter for four little children; someone who is crazy enough to accept the job, capable, and that we can afford.  (Plus, the little princess is quite set on nursing right now.)  We’re currently averaging one actual date a year, no exaggeration.  But, we have learned that if we don’t set aside some time for us, we bicker and argue and run pretty short tempered.

After a particularly, difficult day both at the circus and at Mr. Ringmaster’s daytime employment location, we decided to have a date night.  Even though its just an evening at home, we try to make it relaxing and semi-romanitc, at least different than a normal night at home (which typically means, chores, laundry, maybe cooking for the next day, and then going to bed, so that’s not too hard).  

After the boys went to bed, Mr. Ringmaster fired up the charcoal grill.  He seared and then grilled up two filets.  (We buy a half cow once a year, and save the filets for special occasions and date nights.)  The beef was accompanied by a nice homegrown tomato, cucumber and bean salad and a craft beer.  We had the beginnings of a perfect date night.  (I even got Mr. Ringmaster to agree to watch Steel Magnolias!) 

Yup, it was picture perfect…

There was just one little not so date night element (in addition to the location and environment fraught with the paraphernalia of children).  This particular element had big blue eyes, a sweet little face, and recently learned to crawl.  Image

Someone who wanted to stay up with Mommy. 

So she sat between us, examining each bite of beef she could not have, until her little eyelids began to droop halfway through the movie.  We didn’t really mind though, it was kind of nice to spend a little time with her anyway.  She did fall asleep before the cannoli course, and the last half of the movie, so we did have that anyway.


How do you all manage to fit in the occasional date night?  I’d love some more ideas!


Circus Music: No Pants!

Last night we had a little impromptu family violin time, and Circus Boy #2 brought his usual charm to the party.  He desperately wanted his turn with the violin, but alas, he had to wait because Circus Boy #1 was trying to get a good “Pepperoni Pizza” twinkle-twinkle out.  This was all right because he had just gotten out of the bath tub and was only wearing a towel. 

Daddy told him to go get dressed and come back.  But before he returned, Circus Boy #1 finished his little ditty and called “(Circus Boy #2) you need to come get the violin, its your turn!” 

Running little feet, little hop, Circus Boy #2 bounces into the room; bright eyed, big grin, arm extended to take the violin from his brother. 


“Oh, no, wait.  My brother, I need to get my pants!!”

In all his haste and excitement to get his turn with the violin, he’d forgotten his pajama bottoms. 

ImageI think we just taught him he doesn’t need pants to play the violin….