Memorizing Poetry

We tend to do poetry in passionate bursts and then leave it for a while. Without fail though, our children get their very first poem to memorize when they are around 4 years old:

Happy Thought

By Robert Louis Stevenson

The world is so full of a number of things,

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

It is always this one.

It’s simple and easy and beautiful and I love it. It brings me joy to see older siblings say, “Hey, I remember that poem!”

The younger kids often get their poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.verses.jpg

Such charming illustrations.


So sweet. So wholesome.

Sometime around 4th grade my kids get Paul Revere’s Ride by Longfellow as an assignment. They are always quite daunted but one stanza at a time they knock it out, and gain a real sense of pride in the process.

Those are our mainstays. The rest of the time I let them choose what they’d like to memorize. The older kids usually study the poem as well. Why this word and not another?

One child chose the Anima Christi to memorize which is a beautiful and very old prayer. She chose the translation by John Henry Newman which has a better cadence than some of the other translations:


SOUL of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ’s side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesu, listen to me;
In thy wounds I fain would hide,
Ne’er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me, should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end. Amen.

We’ve used the classic The Harp and Laurel Wreath to choose our poems many times.

One of the wonderful things about having so many children is that by the time everyone has memorized their poems, they also know everyone else’s because they’ve heard it so many times! We have even played games, naturally, going around in a circle saying one word/line at a time.

What are your favorite poems to memorize?

Not just Tic Tac Toe

Everyone over the age of 7 gets bored playing regular tic tac toe. But take a look at this!

Mega-Ultra Tic Tac Toe, Supreme Tic Tac Toe, Meta Tic Tac Toe.

Have you ever played it? I got it from Math with Bad Drawings years ago and surprisingly there are still people who have never heard of it. (Don’t say it’s because it’s not fun. It’s fun.) His description is awesome so go there and check it out. I’ll do a quick overview.


The goal is to win the large tic tac toe board by winning the small boards.

If you win a small board, that square gets a giant O or X on it. Like this:


The catch is that you don’t get to play any board you want.

Let’s say X plays in the top left board to start and choose the bottom right square. Whatever square X picks is where (on the larger board) O must play:

O must play on the bottom right BOARD because X chose the bottom right SQUARE

And so on. So if O now chooses the center square, X must place somewhere on the center board. Get it?

Try it. It’s mind-bending.

Simple Catan Strategies

IMG_4468Figure out where everyone else is going to play

You have to be fast about this one. If you take forever to place your stuff, everyone is going to get annoyed at you. Do think about it though, everyone needs the 5 things. So three people are ahead of you and one behind; you know what the three will be looking for when they place and you can guess where the person behind you is likely to place so you can try to avoid getting blocked in, which is like the kiss of death.

Remember Brick and Wood in the beginning and Iron and Wheat later on. When I have to choose between them, I choose Iron, every time.

Block off a valuable hex

This one’s kinda mean. Let’s say there is only one good Iron (good number and center board) and someone has already placed on it. If you go opposite them, no one else can use this iron. It will make you both a target for the Robber but he’s manageable.

Watch for scarce resources

Look at the numbers, if you can tell at the beginning that Wheat is going to be hard to get, try to get on the most decent space for it or monopolize another resource so you can trade, either with your mates or the bank.

Look for “get a road” numbers

I will skip over an 8 Wood or a 6 Brick for two 4s of Brick and Wood each. It is so handy to get a road whenever a number is rolled. Same for Development cards. This is especially helpful in our games because of our house rule for 7s.

Keep your eye on the prize.

This may not be an issue for you but I tend to get caught up in whatever my idea is of what I’m going to do (e.g. save for a settlement or build a city) and not be flexible enough to change directions when the resources are calling for it.

For example, say I’m saving up for a city but the iron just isn’t getting rolled and now I’m close to losing half my hand if a seven comes up. Buy a Development card, Joy! Yes, it sets me back on my city but it could get me half way there in victory points or give me a knight with which to steal some Iron for a city and build my army at the same time.

My point is: be flexible and remember it’s about the points, not a vision of a lovely village with a road curving around the sea!


The Inevitableness of Life


That is Death. This past week two of my good friends lost their fathers. Also just last week, I stumbled upon a blog of young woman who lost both her parents in her 20s. I, myself, lost both of my parents in my 30s.

My dad died just last year so it still feels rather new. You would think since I’ve been through it, I would know how to comfort my friends but really all I know is that there is no comforting them. I was grateful to my friends who showed up to the funeral. Thankful for the food they provided for those that were visiting. I didn’t want to talk. I really didn’t want to be around everyone but then I didn’t want to be alone either. Dealing with death is different for everyone and from the reactions of those around me, mine was different still. I didn’t want to cry in front of anyone (except my husband) and I didn’t want to hug because hugging made me cry.

When my mom died seven years ago (could it be that long ago?), my reaction was…frantic, almost. Lots of cleaning. Trying to take care of everything. My husband was wonderful and really did take care of everything but there wasn’t really time to just grieve. Everyone had to go back to work and I was pregnant and had a houseful of small children who still needed to eat. We made it through and, looking back, I think not being able to wallow did me a lot of good, actually.

My pain comes in waves. At first, the swells crash with hardly any time for breath but eventually they get further and further apart. It is still hard when they do hit but I don’t almost drown anymore.

This is for all of you who have lost someone.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine on them.

May they rest in Peace.


Five of my Favorite Children’s Books

This was really hard because I literally have an entire shelf dedicated to “What Must Be Read to a Child Before She Turns 7.”

I will start with my absolute favorite Children’s Book (there will be none of this saving the best for last business), Ootah’s Lucky Day by Peggy Parish:


Oh, this book. A sweet Eskimo boy awakes in his igloo freezing and hungry because there is no meat for the cooking pots and no oil for the fires. The hunters refused to take him with them saying he was too young and so, brave Ootah decides to go hunting for his people himself.

This book is a wonderful portrayal of kindness and bravery and self-sacrifice. I still sometimes choke up at the end.

You might recognize the name Peggy Parish, as she’s also the author of the well-known Amelia Bedelia series but I think Ootah is her best work. I wasn’t sure you could still find this book since it’s a Weekly Reader from 1970 (that’s almost 50 years ago!) but I checked Amazon and found it (affiliate link). I should order another copy since ours is quite well-loved. I checked eBay too but most of them wanted 3 times as much.


Speaking of well-loved books, I can’t even show you the cover of this one because it’s been torn off. Make Way for Ducklings  by Robert McCloskey is an adorable story about a family of ducks who make their home in Boston. The illustrations are just delicious.

This kind policeman with a Boston accent is the best.

Make Way for Ducklings is a great story all on its own but you can add a history and geography lesson in there as well since the ducks fly over many famous parts of Boston, like Bunker Hill or Louisburg Square, trying to find just the right spot:


These photos are from my tall, used-to-be green covered hardback book which is, obviously, my favorite one to read from but I did find that we have the scholastic paperback version as well. (Why, yes, I am a book hoarder. Thank you for asking.) So, here’s that cover:



Now I am second-guessing myself as to my very favorite Children’s Book:

Why are so many of my favorite kid’s books set in Alaska?

Balto is the TRUE story of a sled dog who led the way through a snowstorm to bring medicine to sick children and stop an epidemic of diptheria. Did you know there’s a statue of Balto in Central Park in New York?

This story has everything children love: dogs, heroism, kids, and a happy ending. What is not to like?


Ok, seriously, I was wrong, THIS is my absolute favorite Children’s Book. For sure.

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.

I can’t show you the cover of this one either. Notice the crinkles? This is a well-loved book.

When I read this book aloud, I always give the peddler a slightly clipped accent. I imagine it to be Eastern European but it probably comes out more Italian? I am terrible at accents. But this book begs me to read it that way and I can’t stop. One of my kids once “corrected” the lady at story time for reading it wrong. Oops.

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Some Monkey Business is a charming story about exactly that.

This is a great story to re-enact with the kids. Stomping is really quite fun.


All of the previous books have been one session reads. I would be surprised if you could get through this book in one go. I have read this one out loud but it wears me out, so now we listen to this one on tape. It’s much better with a proper British accent anyway.

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

That illustration. *swoon*

This book is really for a child closer to 7 (and up!). Originally published in 1872 the language can be a little antique and younger kids might have trouble keeping up with the story. It is worth it to push through so give it a chance because it is a marvelous story.

Wikipedia begins their description with:

Anne Thaxter Eaton writes in A Critical History of Children’s Literature that The Princess and the Goblin and its sequel “quietly suggest in every incident ideas of courage and honor.”[1]

I want to put heart emojis all through this review. I hate children’s books that get all moralizing and beat you over the head with their “lesson.” I want a good story for me and my kids and this is it. A princess, a courageous boy, goblins, and adventure. I don’t want to tell you anymore; you have to listen to it.

Get this book on tape but also get the book so that your 12 year old can pull it off the shelf one day, peruse it, and fall in love.

By the way, this is the cover of The Princess and the Goblin that I have:


I do not love that cover. Can we agree that the title page is the better of the two? I mean, come on. GOBLINS. It’s like they’re not even the same book.

It’s a weird rock

We found this bizarre rock in the creek. It unfortunately looks like poop on top of worms? Worm castings? Some sort of nest? Lava drippings?

We have no idea but it is definitely a conversation starter.

See what I mean?

By the way, if you are looking for a way to keep kids (and adults) busy for a while after you’ve exhausted all explanations for weird rocks, give them one of these:


Sit back and watch as they teach themselves to whistle with it and you will have hours of entertainment. My girl that just couldn’t find a fossil was the first one to manage a good (and loud!) whistle through this. She was so proud.

Now I just need to pick up some nets for them to chase butterflies and our summer will be perfect. I know, I know, it’s still spring…let me dream. (Although these lovely sunny days can just keep coming. Back off, cold.)


Going on a Picnic and to the Moon


On the way out to the farm, we played “I’m going to the Moon” which is an entirely different creature from “I’m Going on a Picnic.”

One person makes up a “rule” for going to the moon but keeps it a secret. These rules can be easy or hard, ranging from “things that are round” to “only things that have double letters” (e.g. cheddar, moose, cartoon). Rule-maker begins by saying, “I’m going to the Moon and I’m going to bring…” then adding something that fits the rule. The next person begins the same way and brings anything they want, e.g. air; a hotel; Jupiter. The rule-maker answers them: “You can go,” if it fits his/her rule, and “You can’t go,” if it doesn’t. This goes around until someone is able to figure out the rule.

We really enjoy the versatility of this game. Little kids get so happy figuring out that the rule is only green things and grown-ups have fun trying to parse the clues for the more difficult rules.

We also played a game called, “I’m Going on a Picnic,” (you’ve probably heard of it) which is where one person starts with “I’m Going on a Picnic and I’m going to bring…” and adds something that begins with an A, the next person begins again saying first the phrase and the previous A-thing and now adding a B-thing. It goes on so forth and you’re out if you forget the sequence; you win if you make it to Z.

These, combined with Contact, are definitely our top three car games.

We have also played car bingo which is entertaining for the kids (affiliate links).

And really the only other thing you need on a trip is for kids to be able to doodle, draw, and write. But how do you keep the crayons and pencils (and markers for you awesome people with kids that won’t draw on the seats) from getting everywhere? Enter one of the cleverest inventions ever made:

It’s a table! It’s a clipboard! It’s a carry case! You know how I love all-in-one contained things.

Now you are fully equipped to get out there and adventure!


Seek and Ye Shall Find

tractorWhile hanging out at a farm, we had the kids do a scavenger hunt to earn their dessert.

First, they had to find a fossil to get a brownie.  fossils.JPG

They asked for another challenge: this time purple flowers.


One more hunt, this time for four-leaf clovers, which sadly produced only one.

So, they raced across a felled log, explored the creek and played with the calves and the kitties.



A wonderful day.

What kind of scavenger hunts have you done?

Summer Ready

Some are not.  (heh)


Summer is almost here (she wished, she begged, she pleaded). Which means it’s time to start thinking about what your kids want to learn this summer. How to whistle? Juggle? Do a chin-up? Walk on stilts?

I love this time of open-ended discovery but having a loose goal sometimes gives just enough structure to encourage progress. We usually sit down at the beginning of summer and make a list of all the things we’d like to do and learn. We never get through it all but it is a great inspiration list for those days when everything seems to have already been done.

Being outside as much as possible is usually required, ahem, encouraged, but there comes a time during the summer down here where it’s too dang hot to stay outside and tv all day, every day is just not an option.

For those times, *surprise* I invite them to play games.

Cards. Most of my youngers are old enough now to play card games with each other beyond “Go Fish” and that’s really special for me. I will do a post all about card games soon.

These yard dice would be fun on the living room floor. They even come with a dry-erase score card for Farkle and “Yardzee.”

Play silks can be employed for creative play far past elementary ages. They’re so versatile and fun. It’s a cape, an ocean, a dinner, a door:


While we’re talking about open-ended play:

  • A box of toothpicks and a bag of mini-marshmallows can keep kids busy creating for quite a while. (And when they’re done the sun should be down enough that they can go outside and run off all the marshmallows they ate!)
  • Shaving cream on cookie trays on the table. This stuff is not just for pre-schoolers; the bigger kids enjoy it too.
  • Paint brushes and a cup of water to “paint” on the porch.
  • Scissors, magazines, glue


  • How many times can you run up and down the stairs in two minutes?
  • Who can hold a plank position the longest?
  • Who can stand on their head against the wall?
  • Exhaustive category lists: ice cream, colors, etc. until someone gives up or runs out.
  • Make an obstacle course everyone needs to get through.

I am so ready for summer and now you are too!










If you’re like me, the word Cribbage conjures up memories pictures of old people chain-smoking at the kitchen table. But I would like to divest you of the image of Cribbage as a dusty, old, old-person game. It’s fun. It makes you work on your math skills. There’s luck. There’s skill. What’s not to like?


I have this ginormous Cribbage board that was my Mom’s and I love it so much it hangs in my living room. There are holes on the top for the six pegs. Game decor is not for everyone, I’m told, so don’t be afraid, most Cribbage boards are much smaller.

I have one like this too. The pegs fit into a little sliding pocket in the back and it folds in half:

Vintage and Travel-size! I like that this one holds the cards with it. I love anything that comes all together in a box. The board is on top of the lid:

You can even get one with your (northern) state on it:


This is Wisconsin

I couldn’t find a cribbage board that had my southern state on it. Not many people from here play Cribbage or any card games at all except maybe Spades. My parents were both Northerners (Massachusetts and Connecticut) and they never lost their love for cards and games. Any time family would visit, there was a card game going on on the table from breakfast until well past dinner. It was like they had to catch up on all the games they’d missed with each other over the years.

I have a theory that people down south don’t play cards because it just doesn’t get cold enough for long enough to force everyone to be inside all the time.

Here are the rules to Cribbage. Although, when the starter is a Jack, they call it “his heels,” but I learned it, “his nobs,” and we always say it very snooty. YMMV.

Please, please, learn to play cribbage. It’s been played for centuries–it’s a classic, wonderful game. The rules may seem a lot but it doesn’t take long to learn. Especialy, once you learn the typical sums for standard hands, it’s much faster play.

My uncle was so impressive to me as a kid when he would just look at my hand and already know how much I had! He was so patient while I counted it out so painstakingly. Another reason to learn cribbage! Impress your minions with your quick adding skills.