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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday Morning

     It's a good thing we had that perfect morning last week. That one day when we were prepared the night before. A healthy, filling, yummy breakfast was ready before the kids got up, lunch was packed, backpacks were prepared, everyone was able to find a matching pair of shoes, no socks were yet missing. I enjoyed a (somewhat) leisurely cup of coffee before motivating everyone out of bed.
     The moment was fleeting, but memorable. I will remember that moment as my benchmark. My measure of perfection. Even if the perfection lasted only 15 minutes. Even if that is the only perfection that I will experience in the flesh.
     Tuesday morning, this week, is as far from that benchmark of perfection as we could get. I did have breakfast ready today, but a few kiddos didn't like it. Those ones have been begging for lunch since we arrived at the school building.  The socks were still easy to find, the shoes weren't. It was hard to get zooligans out of bed, and two kiddos couldn't find their backpacks, let alone what should have been in them.
     While we did get everything together and out the door, one thing still bugs me a bit. The WiFi at school isn't spectacular, and I wasn't able to share the adorable video of Mission Impossible Squirrel that the preschooler and I have been watching repeatedly. It's great, I promise! Look it up on YouTube. Watch, laugh, repeat.
     Happy Tuesday!


Monday, September 22, 2014

From the Tiny House Files: The Laundry Is Multiplying!

     It happens every three to six months. I will have a marathon laundry party, then find that when it is all clean at the same time, it doesn't fit!
     Generally, it's the younger children's clothing that seems to multiply in the laundry basket. Somehow, as I am sorting through a closet, I come up with 25 complete outfits, plus extra shirts. Always with the extra shirts! There are often, I don't know, three or four shirts to each pair of pants or shorts.
     How does this happen? I go through the clothing twice a year making sure that there are 10 outfits per each child, with two extra long sleeve and two extra short sleeve shirts. That's it. We live rather casually, dressing even semi-formally for only a few occasions, so just one dress-up outfit suffices. Really, who needs more than seven changes of clothes each week? We keep ten because things happen. Paint, clay, bleaching, grease (which I have finally learned how to take out. You can find a link to the incredibly smart blog post about that at ) , excessive dirt that must be changed out of for an evening activity, etc.
     If each person in our household wore all ten outfits each week, we'd be washing 90 sets of clothes! That's besides bedding, towels, and cleaning rags. Now, imagine that all of the expected laundry needs to be done, plus another fifty or so articles of clothing that have been dumped on the ground while a child is searching for something specific, left and trampled on, then eventually stuffed into a hamper.  We don't have room in the house for that many clothes! When there are FOUR tall hampers overflowing with dirty laundry, plus five smaller baskets overflowing with clean laundry, the washer and dryer are both running, and there are still clean clothes in the closets, that's a problem.
     It baffles me sometimes because I spend days going through our outsized clothing bins in storage, making sure that every stitch of laundry is done in order to accurately move the clothes from one season and size to the next. Our house looks like the backrooms of a second hand shop! It feels so good to have an abundance to choose from. Knowing that through other people's generosity either directly to us, or donations to thrift shops where I can purchase great quality items in fantastic shape, is a blessing! Rarely are we desperate to clothe our younger children.
     So, I do it all again. Sort through, count up the outfits, put the excess away for the next sibling up. Recently, however, I have found an activity just as exciting and full of blessing as receiving hand me down clothing for my children. Giving some away! The younger two are growing, as they should, and there aren't any behind them. The girl's clothing is often in excellent shape as her sisters are 7 and 14 years older than she is. I don't hold clothes for seven years. Baby girl's clothing usually comes from people that have one girl, or from a consigment or thrift store. She usually gets brand new tights and shoes.  It's lovely to be able to put aside those excellent condition clothes and bless someone else.
     We are at the point right now where summer weather isn't quite finished, we're still having eighty degree afternoons, but fall weather is imminent. There are shorts and summer tees fighting for space with the sweaters and hoodies. I'm looking forward to another round of closet cleaning. Already.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Braised Chicken. No, Really.


     A while back, my mom sent me this:  

It's an enormous dutch oven. I had made Chicken Cacciatore by using a skillet, then a casserole pan, but the amount of food that I was cooking for nine people plus leftovers ended up spilling out and burning all over the bottom of the oven. Yuck! I went online looking for something that would work better, and found this Lodge, enamled castl iron beauty. And look! It's blue! 
I've been learning a little about braising meat. I had some chicken on hand, so we made this: 

It's a hit! Every.Single.Zooligan. Asked me to make it again. So simple, all real food (Wait, I guess cooking wine isn't real food), and delicious! They even ate the celery!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

First Day! Finally!

     All the chips were in place this morning. Whole wheat banana pancakes with coconut butter for breakfast. All of the laundry clean and put away. Backpacks filled with binders, pencils and erasers. Matching shoes set by the front door. Clean floors (my personal favorite, but only because it doesn't happen often enough that I take it for granted. Hush.)
     I was feeling so good about today! Then, I sent a Zooligan out to care for the chickens before taking off of the morning. She was doing a great job, then the water bucket fell. In her haste to pick it up, one of the chickens snuck out behind her. There we were in the back yard chasing this chicken around. For all you backyard chicken keepers, who know that you can usually pick up a sweet hen and put her where she belongs, we were given our three year old girls from folks that didn't hold and cuddle their birds. These ladies don't like to be touched!  We finally lured her in with some cherry tomatoes!
     For probably the only time ever this school year, the kids were so excited to get going that we left about half an hour earlier than we needed to. We made it to the library/resource center.

 Here you have  7th, 2nd, 4th, and 6th graders so happily allowing me to snap their portrait.

 Brand new Kindergartner! He has been thrilled all summer, but is less sure about it today.

                                                          Look who's feeling fabulous!

                                      This is why 4th graders at TheZoo don't have their own phones...

                              ...and they all thought that ZooMama should have a First Day picture, too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ready or Not!

     Planning for things is important, right? I mean, when you travel, it's good to take a change of underpants and a toothbrush. When you grocery shop, it's prudent to make a list first and eat before you go. When you are ready to begin the school year, you organize the house, stock the pantry, clean up the front and back yards, have every stitch of laundry clean and put away, have kids' hair cuts all around, refresh the supply of markers and glue, make certain that everyone's shoes fit, that backpacks are filled with the needed items rather than an array of toys, have a way to pack lunch.
     Life pretty much happens regardless of our plans, though. A majority of the time,  there isn't much that stands in they way of our preparations. It's just a thing we do. We prep, we go. Once in a while, though, there are distractions and circumstances that suck the time and energy right out of those plans.
     So it is here at TheZoo. First day of classes at the Parent Partnership Program begins tomorrow. All the things still need to be done at home. More accurately, most of the things need to be done again and a few of the things still need to be done. There will be much work happening here today, and much excitement this evening as we prepare to so much ready to go that we'll just need to eat breakfast and dash! What? You think It's a pipe dream, too?
     See you tomorrow with those adorable first day pics!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Adjusting Priorities

     I know I've been talking about getting ready for school quite a bit lately. It's possibly the most time consuming, energy requiring, intense part of life at TheZoo.  And, I'm talking about it again, today.
     We have our curriculum and learning plans finished. Paper, pencils, erasers, binders, and planners are in place and ready to rock.  No one has a new first day of school outfit, and what's great about that, is that not one child seems to think that's a problem!
     A few of my favorite traditions are new school outfits, new Easter outfits, new Christmas outfits, and new christmas day pajamas.  Yeah, I like clothes. A lot! It brings me loads of pleasure to dress my kiddos up in flashy new duds. I remember feeling especially confident as a child walking into school with my stylish new outfit. The feeling of a new start in my pretty spring dress for Easter celebrations. I wasn't an outgoing kid. I was certainly reserved and didn't like attention. Those occasions, though, when I had a special new outfit, I felt shiney and able to say hello to people.
     I began that tradition with my kids, thinking that I'd be giving them that same gift of confidence with other people for at least a few days each year. Something happened though, with most of my children, that makes them different from me. They are confident. They don't need new clothes to make them feel confident, they just are. They like new clothes, sure, but they are comfortable in the clothes they have, that still fit them. The first couple of weeks of school are still warm enough to wear what they've been wearing since spring. There are still many of their clothes that are decent and in great shape. They will need new clothes at the beginning of winter when their bodies seem to want to grow.  There were three years in a row when I made sure that kids had long pants and long sleeves, hoodies, coats, new sneakers, and boots for rain and snow, all a few weeks before school began. As December closed in, I organized the christmas gifts, purchased what I needed and was ready to go. Then, as their long holiday break ended and we were ready to head back to school in January, those little zooligans were complaining about tight shoes and pants, and showing me how their sweaters and coats no longer reached their wrists. Gah! Coming up on the coldest months, and nothing fits!?!?
     I had to scurry and hurry to all of the sales at all of the places before the winter clearances were complete and packed away. It wasn't fun or satisfying. It was horrible. Awful. Terrible. No good. Very bad. The stress and anxiety with driving, spending time that should have been used firming up what we might need to add to or take out of our academic approach, not to mention the budget stretch and the whole going through each and every article of clothing for each and every kid! Ugh!
     Now that we've adjusted our clothing issue to the obvious switch between summer and winter, we've also adjusted the clothing size hustle to be expected during the holiday break.  Now I have built those activities into our somewhat loose schedule over those two weeks, and everyone expects it! There is still a little bit of stress, but it's met with joy. The Zooligans are used to getting 'new' clothes out of bins that we keep stored, and from second hand and consignment stores, and from clearance racks elsewhere. They find no shame in this. They are thrilled to have nice looking clothing that covers their bodies and keeps them in line with the weather. They don't require clothing to give them confidence. They like wearing some clothing items more than others just because they like them. That's all. What a concept!
     In adjusting the family's priorities for when we need to replace clothing, I've adjusted my priorities for why we need to replace the clothing. The truth is, I still find myself looking for the right blouse, or better fitting jeans, or the cutest boots when I begin to feel that I need a confidence boost. I have to remind myself that if one of my children approached me asking for clothing so they could feel better about themselves, I'd have to council them about their self image and whose measuring stick they're using to determine their worth. I have to do the same thing.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Fabulous Friday

     Right on the heels of yesterdays post about not accomplishing our goals in a day, but knowing that it all still matters, I have not accomplished today's goals, and I am stretching it all to a point of mattering.
     I intended to write a blogpost today, but I didn't know what to write about. Often, I have a few ideas, and will write them up ahead of time, then make sure I still feel the same way about them when I'm ready to click 'publish'. Sometimes I have a blog post that just flies from my fingertips in the morning. Today, not so much on either count.
     This morning, zooligans were happy to munch store bought cereal that Mr.TheZoo brought home as a treat last night. One of the cereals has actual chocolate bar pieces. Nice! the 4 yo zooligan only ate the chocolate pieces. Go figure. Somewhere around 11 I was heard down the hall telling bigger kiddos that they've slept half the day away. We don't start school for a few days yet, so they are soaking it up.  Then found myself sucked into the Pinterest machine. I promise I started out looking for a subject to blog about.
Instead, I was all over the inter webs looking at tutorials and reading articles about every fascinating thing ever.
     There you have it. A Fascinating Friday Blog Post. Happy Weekend!