One Poem and Paintbrush at a Time

“One more poem, one more poem,” cheers Charlotte from her seat at the kitchen table. It’s the everyday breakfast rush-chaos-frenzy, but we’re all at the table. For a moment at least. I grab the book of poems and pick one to read.

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.
-Shel Silverstein

I’ve always been one who has liked the idea of poetry. I appreciate a poet’s beauty and insight. I long to see the world as a poet and to use my words poetically. Yet, too often, I’ve read poems and found myself wondering if I missed something. I can read a poem and not have any idea what I just read upon completing the final line. Yet, something tells me to keep reading. So I’ll read the poem again. Sometimes over and over again. Sometimes the wave of words washing over me is enough, a hint of the poet’s magic.

As someone who enjoys words, I want my children to be immersed in words. So each morning we read poems. I began with just one poem at breakfast knowing that I didn’t want to overcommit. I thought that one poem at one meal would be a good start. And start we did - with Shel Silverstein.

Amidst the stealing of food and the requests for more milk and cheerios, I hear Charlotte yell: “Tree house, tree house!” I almost have it memorized by now.

A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house.

A street house, a neat house,
Be sure and wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all -
Let’s go live in a tree house.

Day after day, one poem turned into many. And not only at breakfast time anymore. I keep the poetry books on the table and the kids will sit down at every meal and yell “poems.” We’re immersing ourselves in words and the kids are learning what it sounds like to hear poetry recited to them. They’re learning of the beauty found in creating.


The small hand-built table in our kitchen is covered with newspapers, cups of paint-filled water, brushes, and beautiful creations. Charlotte carefully dips her brush in one color and places it on the blank page. She puts one small dot of blue in the center. Next she dips the brush in pink and glides it across the paper forming a swirly line, almost comet like. Next I see her place her brush in every color and brush back and forth along the page. The colors mix together as she weaves the brush every which way.

I call myself a writer and a creative. I love to string words together. I love to tell stories, preach sermons, craft essays, journal, and write letters. The written word has been where I offer my gifts of creativity. If I want to exercise my creativity, I write. If I feel blocked or unsure where to go with my words, I’ll sometimes take a walk or bake something or play with the kids. But I always come back to the page. One word at a time.

I’m sitting next to Charlotte at the kitchen table with a piece of paper in front of me. I’m (almost) always up for getting the painting supplies out for Charlotte. Yet, in the past I usually do my own thing while she paints. I’ll watch her and cheer her on. I’ll comment on her colors and her brush strokes as I go about emptying the dishwasher or prepping dinner. But this time, I sit down with her and grab a brush. I follow her lead. I dip my brush in one color and make a dot. I watch how the brush seamlessly flows between colors and her paper. I make my own creations. Charlotte beams beside me as we paint together.

“You’re so creative, Charlotte,” I tell her.

She responds, “Mama, too!”


With a poem in the morning and a paintbrush in the afternoon, my children have tangible evidence of the joy found in the creative life. They see, hear, and touch the creative works of others and create with their own hands. They are beginning to learn that the work of creating is good and holy.

I’m also learning more about being creative myself. I’m seeing the gift of paint and brushes and how from small strokes come large masterpieces. I’m hearing how words can dance and move off the page into a room. Perhaps most importantly, I’m seeing my greatest creations, Charlotte and Isaac, learn the power of their own words and brushstrokes.