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Let’s define “busy” for the readership

Hello folks. This is Mr. Ringmaster, and I *may* have gained access to the blog without the *actual* knowledge of the Ringmaster herself. I apologize in advance, but I’ll bet I won’t get in too much trouble.

The Ringmaster has had this vaguely suggestive backstory about being busy. Those who frequent this blog know that she is a busy stay-at-home-Mother of four, and that’s anticipated to be enough to figure out what “busy” means.

It’s not.

First of all, a bit of a step back in time; the Ringmaster has made mention of working on speech with Circus Boy #3, but she hasn’t really explained what this means. Circus Boy #3, she figured some time ago, was a bit behind in his speech development. She proceeded to contact anyone and everyone who could possibly help. Fast forward nine months or so, and she has three appointments with various specialists during each week. So, the normal busy-enough-already life of a stay-at-home-Mother of four is interrupted on three separate days by an hours’ worth of varying therapy sessions each. Let’s not forget that she works with him extensively on the lessons they learn during these sessions.

I’m not done.

She also teaches violin lessons out of the house. She now has three per week and has turned away the last few inquiries. So, add to the above confusion the preparation and teaching of three separate students in three different stages of learning the instrument.

Did you think that was all?

She teaches at a local home school co-op once per week. It works out to be roughly four hours from driveway to driveway. Remember, this is a stay-at-home-Mother we’re talking about, and she tows Circus kids #3 & #4 with her. So, to recap, thus far, we have three private lessons per week, three specialists for Circus Boy #3, and four hours at a home school co-op (we’re up to something like ten hours of work per week for this “stay-at-home-Mother”, for those keeping score at home).

Did you just say ‘Thus far’? You mean there is more?

You betcha. She’s not lazy, ya know.

She just took on a freelancing gig, where she spends something like 10-15 hours per week developing worksheets (and yelling at our new computer) for a school in her ‘free time’. Oh, and once they resume for the new year, she also is one of two parents on a committee for the school where Circus Boys #1 & #2 go during the day. This isn’t your average PTA meeting; they are trying to plan the development of the school for the next decade or so. That’s another two hours per week. That’s a minimum of 22 working hours per week for this “stay-at-home-Mother”, who has no Nanny, no daycare, and no help until Mr. Ringmaster (that’s me!) brings Circus boys #1 & #2 home from school in the afternoon, and “help” is being generous.

She’s also expected to carry out potty training for Circus Boy #3, plan meals and groceries for the house, clean, cook, and all of the other normal things that go on in a household during the day.

So hopefully this gives you a little perspective into the daily grind over here at the Circus. The next time the Ringmaster cheerfully writes “Things were busy today”, you’ll know that she really means it.

Now tell her not to yell at me for breaking in to her Blog!

-Mr. Ringmaster

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Circus Confessions: What Mommy did…

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I may have hidden some of the chocolate the children got at their Christmas parties.  It may now be gone.  I also may have had more coffee.

Shhh….

It is also possible that I gave my one  year-old a vanilla cream cookie before lunch, as a result of her loudly expressing her displeasure that I was not able to make a sandwich and cut up oranges at the speed of light, and all with one arm (because she wanted to be in the other).  Additionally, it is also possible that the vanilla cream cookie is all she actually ate, as who wants peanut butter and jelly after you have eaten a vanilla cream cookie.  I may have had diced up peanut butter and jelly for my own lunch.

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Random Observation

I have four kids (that is not the random observation).  I have a lot of this little kid parenting figured out, at least to the point where not much surprises me anymore.  But a few things still elude me.  Like, how can they sit in a booster chair, with a tray and a bib with a fold for catching spills, eat macaroni and cheese, get nothing on their clothes, and yet end up sitting on a quarter pound of the stuff?  Seriously, you pick them up thinking “Wow, easy clean-up today.  Great job, buddy!”  Then you look down at the seat….quarter pound of macaroni.  Check the rear…nothing?  How?  You are sitting on macaroni and cheese, but there’s nothing squashed on your rear end, and no sign you dropped anything.  Are you neatly depositing the stuff at your sides?  I don’t get it.  But every single one of them has done it.  How do cheerios end up UNDER the booster chair pad and seat?  I need a butter knife just to get at them, and even then they are usually stuck forever in an unreachable abyss. 

This ends my random observation.

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Circus Favorites: Chugga-Chugga Choo-choo

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Happy Monday morning!

It’s bitter cold outside.  The little kids are engrossed in Sesame Street, the coffee is hot, so its time to share a book I’ve been meaning to since Christmas!

You all may remember my post about our summer family circle time (colorfully illustrated with photos taken by a 5 year-old).  I told you all about My Truck Is Stuck!
It has remained a daily (sometimes times 10) favorite of circus boy #3.  The rhythm and repetition have been fantastic for his developing speech.  (In fact his speech therapist has used it with him several times, because he loves to try to repeat the recurring phrases, “Help! Please help!  Does anyone know how to make my stuck truck go?)

Well, Santa brought a new favorite. Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo Its also written by Kevin Lewis, and has many of the same helpful qualities for language development rolled into a fun little story with fantastic illustrations.

While there isn’t quite as much repetition as in My Truck is Stuck, Chugga-Chugga has a wonderful, rolling rhythm and easy flowing rhyme.  The traditional train sounds “chugga-chugga choo-choo” and “Whooooo whoooo!” repeat throughout the story, while staying in the story’s captivating rhythm.  Its short and sweet, but the thing I really love is the depth of the story that occurs in the illustrations.  If you’re going to use a book to get a child talking, you’ve got to ask questions (in fact, if you want any child to engage with any piece of literature, you should ask questions!), and these illustrations offer so many things to talk about.  The train in the story is carrying all kinds of animals and toys as it winds through brightly colored, toy constructed towns and scenery.  There are so many objects to find and name in these pictures.  Its been another great one to get our slow talker making some attempts at new words (and oh have we heard some new words lately!  YAY!!). 

Hope you get a chance to take a look at this one and enjoy!

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Circus Life: Outside the recipe box

“Wow, will you get me the recipe for that?”

How I dread that question!  Not because I’m a really mean person and my mother never taught me to share, but because I rarely have a recipe!  Really!  And truth be told, frugal, healthy, cooking and baking is all about getting outside the recipe box anyway.  You have to know how ingredients function and taste in a finished product (does it provide lift? moisture? make it more or less dense?).  You also have to know possible substitutions that provide the same or similar taste or functions, whether that’s to make the finished product more healthy, or more economical, or simply because that’s what you have one hand. (And if you’re like me, you can’t run into the store for “just one thing.”  So you can use what you have, keep yourself out of that store, and your budget stays happy!)

I think one of the easiest ways to start getting out of the recipe box is, ironically, with a great base recipe.  With a little creativity, you can begin to alter your base recipe turning a fantastic banana bread recipe, into an apple cinnamon bread, or even a cinnamon coffee cake with a crumb topping (Yum!  This morning’s breakfast…).  You’ll start to see what the core players are (what are the sweeteners, what makes it rise (does it need to rise?) what adds the protein, where is the acid to interact with the leavening agent, what’s the bready foundation (you know, the flour, the oats, whatever….no, I don’t know the technical term.  Enlighten me if you do.)  A little experimenting, and before you know it, you’ll be whipping up pumpkin muffins (because you bought that entire case of canned pumpkin when it was on sale in October and all but 3 cans are still sitting in our pantry) without a “recipe” in no time.

To get you started, here’s a base for a simple quick bread.  Make this super easy for yourself by dumping all the ingredients into your bread machine and setting it on the dough setting (because that is the setting that starts stirring immediately).  Once its mixed (you may need to help it out with a rubber spatula if you’re worried about over mixing), pull out the paddle, close the machine and set it on “bake only” for about 45-55min.  (Note: My bread machine won’t let me turn it back on once the timer turns off because it senses the unit is too hot.  Out smart the machine by setting on a later time (maybe 60 min) and then setting another timer to remind yourself to check it at 45 minutes, that way you can easily keep it in for a few more minutes).

Quick bread:

2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons oil

2 eggs

something fruity/moist- a cup’s worth or so

 

Oh my word!  3/4 cup of sugar!  How can you feed your children that for breakfast?!  I thought you were a super healthy food, oats and berries, organic, kale at every meal, crunchy granola kinda mommy?

Yes, I know.  Ah, how stereo-types turn around and bite us in the rear…  But since we’re being all honest here, how much sugar is in that breakfast cereal that was on the table this morning?  And lets not forget, this is a BASE recipe.  Don’t like the sugar?  Leave it out!  You’re the cook, its up to you!

Personally, I’ve never added that much sugar, and its plenty sweet for us.  If I’m using apple sauce in the recipe, I’m probably going to use very little, if any sugar (and I’d probably omit the oil , too!).  And I’m probably not going to use 2 cups of all purpose flour, either.  I’m probably going to use about 3/4 of all purpose, a half cup of rolled oats and about 1/4 whole wheat flour.  (Yes, I know this does not add up to 2 cups, but I also know that the oats and the whole wheat tend to make my finished products too dense and dry, so I use a little less of them.)  I might use some yogurt for some extra moisture if it looks dry, or some milk if I don’t have yogurt.  I’m probably going to add in about 1/4 cup of flax, because, well, flax just tastes good.  Plus, it has a whole bunch of healthy omega 3 fats (you know the ones they tell you to eat fish to get) and fiber. Yes, I said fiber.  ::Hangs head::  I am getting old.

I might use two of the bananas that are getting mushy on the counter, or I might use those frozen blueberries from last summer.  Whatever I use, you can bet I’m not going out to the store to get something special for it (again, I’m frugal.  Its also 10pm and I’m in my pajamas.)

Yes, its 10pm and I’m tired.  The only thing I’m even taking the time to measure are the flour type ingredients.  I’m only using the 1 cup scoop and estimating about where the ingredients should fall in the scoop.  A quick flick of the wrist with the open baking powder container, should be close enough. (Oh how my middle school Home Ec. teacher would cringe!)  Because at the end of the day, does it really matter if I get a teaspoon of baking powder or a teaspoon and  quarter?  I need to get it done, so I can get to the 20 something other things I have to do, so I can get a few hours of sleep before the clowns and monkeys wake up.

To quote one of my husband’s favorite movies:

“Look, Robin, you don’t have to do this.  I mean, this ain’t exaclty the Mississippi.  I’m on one side, I’m on the other side.  I’m on the east bank, I’m on the west bank. It’s not that critical.” -Dave Chappelle as Ahchoo in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, 1993.

And its not.  Critical, I mean.  Its always edible, and its more healthy than those cocoa balls and marshmallow horse shoes for sure. And worse comes to worst, you throw some sprinkles on top.  The kids will eat it up just fine…

Happy ingredient experimenting!

(Oh, and pureed kale actually does go well in an apple bread….just sayin’.)