Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chaotic, or Eclectic?


     Today, we turned on the heater for the first time this season. I'm always challenging the family to push through October before turning the dial on the thermostat. This year, October was warm! It was chilly yesterday, but we wore shoes and sweaters. Today, the wind is brutal. It is blowing through every tiny crack and crevice. I am grateful today that I can have heat blowing, on demand, in all the rooms in our house. I am also grateful for the warm blanket that is over my legs while I sit on a comfy sofa with my laptop to write this post.

   Yesterday, I played Christmas music while Mr.TheZoo made breakfast. Healthy whole-wheat banana pancakes, recipe courtesy of 100 Days of Real Food . She says to freeze the leftovers, but there aren't any of those here.
     The Christmas music was fun! The Zooligans thought I was being a nut until they heard the Charlie Brown Christmas song. Then they did the dance and appreciated that this was helping motivate me to tackle a
 decluttering project rather than remind them of their academic duties.

     A neighbor and friend came over in the afternoon for a cup of tea and conversation. I was able to finish a hat that I had been crocheting for one of the Zooligans, and my neighbor showed me a new crochet motif that she discovered in a fantastic pattern book from the library. I wish I could remember the title so that I could share it with you, but she promised to share the book with me again. I've been looking at making a snowflake blanket (someday), and her motif looks like a snowflake at the half-way mark. I'm excited!
     I also managed to get a couple of more dishcloths done for my friend at Kelli Gau Studio . I promised them several (gulp) weeks ago. I was agonizing over the fact that they keep coming out rectangle shaped instead of square. I've made literally dozens of this same dish cloth. I was certain they were all square. My oldest reminded me that mine have been washed and dried several times and are shrunken. I conceded, and am now ok with rectangle dishcloths. Sort of. But, Kelli is getting rectangle dishcloths stitched with love and much prayer.

   In the evening, when it was much too late for littles to be up, they helped dad walk the dog. Then, one of the older boys said a phrase "Kee-ko kee-ko blasky!". It was from when he was about five years old. He's now 13.  We used to have a Curious George movie with a couple of other short stories on it. One of them had a ridiculous (my favorite) song. Zooligan 2 couldn't understand the words, and thought up that phrase. We all began using the phrase, now it's a family favorite. While we were all up too late, anyway, we looked around online for the song. It's part of a stop motion animation called 'Mouse Soup - Long Ago and Far Away'. The actual phrase is 'don't be so bombastic'. Sounds like a great kid's song, right?
     Go ahead and click on the link. It'll take you to you-tube, and you'll spend 25 minutes that you can never get back. The last song in the story is the one we enjoy so much. The level of ridiculous in that song is what makes it delightful. To me, that is.

     My yesterday. Was it chaotic, or eclectic? Or maybe it was 'just' life.







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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Challenges




Do you need a call to challenge? I like to think that I do. I need to challenge myself to begin or end a habit. I need to challenge myself to kindness, or maybe to look or feel a particular way. 
Recently, I have noticed that I really don't need to formally challenge myself. Challenges area already present and at the forefront of my life.  I am challenged to raise seven people to be kind, mindful citizens. That one is a loud, persistent, no way to ignore it except completely on purpose. This challenge has built in constant reminders!  I am challenged to get up and walk around, you know, doing stuff all day. I can choose to ignore it, but that other, loud challenge is there needing clean clothes, food, and education, among other things.
I have the challenge of teaching a mix of great kids, some of whom are on the autism spectrum, and some who aren't. 

This challenge isn't boring. There is nothing boring about it at all. 
Tedious, sometimes. Overwhelming, often. Boring, never.


If life begins at the end of my comfort zone, then I've been at this life thing since the beginning of mine. There has never been a comfort zone. I don't know what a comfort zone feels like. 
Okay, maybe that isn't entirely true. I really, really like being at home with Netflix running, the smell of some yummy treat baking, and a project happening. Inside my house. With just my family, and no socializing. I am comfortable there. People can run around without shoes, or autistic kids can indulge in stimming, or neuro typical kids can just indulge themselves in being weird without judgement. I can allow my little autistic boy to show his affection for me with a head slam into my arm, or light 'punches' to my backside, because, while he will occassionally seek out a hug, mostly he doesn't want arms to close in around him. This is my comfortable place. But life happens there. It's challenging and hard. Things aren't usually comfortable. There aren't Hollywood Style happy endings. There's always another beginning, another challenge, another hard thing to face. But I choose to believe that it's a good life.
There's love there. That's what motivates me to rise to the challenge. That's what makes it good.





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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Duped by Pinterest

     I was duped by Pinterest. Again.
     Pinterest is a great place to go for ideas and inspiration. I like having a place to 'pin' photos and links to things I'd like to do or research later. Once in a while, I feel ambitious. I believe in my heart of hearts that I can make a project just like the one in the one in the photo.
     Yesterday, I realized that I have been wanting to make bread for our family for quite a while. I have made bread in the past, but it was white bread. Delicious, but not in keeping with the 'food life style' that we are leaning toward these days. I knew I had pinned some amazing bread recipes, so I searched. I found it. The amazing '5 Minute No Knead Bread'. This bread incorporates both whole wheat and white wheat for a  version of a rustic bread that still has a nice texture and pleasant flavor.
     To be fair to both Pinterest and the publisher of the recipe, I didn't read it all the way through before beginning. I scrolled through the content, admired the photos, and made sure that I had fresh yeast to work with. I began the process thinking that there must be some rising time involved, but wasn't too worried about it. Then I saw that while I wouldn't be punching down and technically kneading the dough, I would be forming it into a ball shape and tucking bits underneath after an initial rising time of about 40 minutes, then letting it sit and rise again for an additional 40 minutes. 20 minutes to bake. About 8 minutes to actually make the dough. Also, I'm a messy cook, so factor in the time to clean up the flour that I managed to duster over the entire kitchen. Somehow it took me about three hours to make this bread.
     I don't remember my little white loaves taking this long. Then again, I wasn't trying to make them at midnight. Why midnight? Because I was out of flour. Mr.TheZoo picked some up for me on the way home from celebrating his brother's birthday in a city about 2 hours away. I'm not complaining about the celebration or the 2 hours. I just want you to know why I waited until 11 pm to begin this process. Also, I refused to purchase bread at the grocery store. We haven't had it much for the past two months and are getting used to preparing meals without it.  I decided I wanted a dense crusty bread to put in the lunch bag for today, so naturally a bread billing it's self as a 5 minute wonder caught my eye.
     The house smelled spectacular! Not that anyone else appreciated it. Maybe the dreamed about sleeping in a bakery. This morning, while slicing the bread to pack, I tasted a bit of it. It is fantastic bread.


     Do you want to try this recipe? Find it here.  Next time, though, I plan to make a similar version of this bread, but with a much longer, sleep through it rise time. Even if I begin it at 11 p.m., I don't have to see it all the way through until morning! This one is called Amazing No Knead Bread.  It looks just the same. While both recipes are undoubtedly fabulous, my judgement is clouded by sleep deprivation. 
     




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Monday, October 27, 2014

The Sleepers

     Over the last two weeks, TheZoo has been sharing a yucky cold. The kind that builds up over a few days, then flattens you out for two days, then tapers off, leaving that three week long hacking cough. Ew, yuck, blick, no good, very bad, awful, terrible, horrible.
     I thought we dodged the annual beginning of the school year illness. Generally, it's the second week of school when everyone begins to show signs of The Ick. It begins with the youngest, and works it's way up. Last year, the younger two were old enough to sort-of quarantine. They each had a spot on the couch, a pillow and a blanket. They had folding tables set up for their water and juice and crackers. Their books and a few toys were set out, and movies of their choosing were stacked up next to the television. Biggers were instructed NOT to give hug and kisses. No snuggling, and do not share cups. Amazingly, we didn't all share in that round of colds. Hooray!
     This school year, we didn't get the cold right away, and I let down my guard. Ugh. Bad move. We got the cold. Many kids at school already had it and were over it. Four week in, we came down with it. It wasn't even one of the youngest kids that first showed symptoms. It was a bigger. *sigh* I wasn't sure when this bigger began showing signs, so I didn't know for how long they had been spreading their germs all over the house. I frantically disinfected doorknobs and light switches to no avail. Every three days, another Zooligan succumbed.
     Sleepless nights, sitting up with coughing littles ensued. We blow through a bottle of cough syrup so fast, your head would spin! We mostly used home made honey mixes to soothe irritated throats, but none of them are the 8 hr relief variety. We begin to believe that perhaps this cough will persist indefinitely. We've had it forever already, and it's going to last the rest of forever. It's hard to remember when there wasn't any coughing. Being well is a distant memory.
     Then, one night, the only coughing keeping me awake was my own. One of the biggers found that sitting upright allowed him some relief, so he spent the night on the couch. I finally fell into a deep sleep at around 3 A.M. When I awoke, I found this:

     It seems that my sleep was deep enough that I missed the littlest one waking up. Usually, she will come into the parents bedroom for assistance, or climb over us with some magical kind of stealth and join us in our slumber. Today, she went out to the living room and joined her 'bwuva' on the couch. I watched them for a bit before deciding to snap a photo. By then they were beginning to wake. I guess the flash on the phone camera is brighter than I thought!
     Here's to the tail end of this rotten cold. Here's to (hopefully) just a week left of this awful cough. Here's to sweet moments where siblings take care of one another.




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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hustlin'


     Hustling. It's something that I tell the kids to do, like, all the time. Hustle up! "We're right on time! Let's do this!" to "Hustle up! We're running behind! Gah!"
     It seems the hustle here at TheZoo is about whether we are out the door, in the car, or on the road on time. It isn't often about what we are doing to meet a goal that isn't necessarily time related. Of course, now that some of the Zooligans are older, there is much hustle happening for school work, team and club activities, and dance and instrument practices. What about those goals?
     I have spurts of hustle toward my goals. I write for this blog three to five days a week. I might journal sometimes. Once in a while I spend a few weeks sketching out the bones of some new book idea. I spend time in the garden. I do a bit of research and learn a thing or two about some plant or another. But hustle? For my dreams? Nah. I hustle all of the time already, for all of the other things.
     I often feel all hustled out.
     Recently, I've been following Jon Acuff on Twitter and Facebook. This guy. He says funny things. This tends to capture my attention. I like humor for the sake of humor. I like humor to celebrate good things, and I like humor to diffuse bad things. Humor is a great way to get me to think about something. Solemn, somber, or judgmental lecture are not.
     Jon talks a lot about Hustle. He wrote a book about it. Get out there and work toward your goals, whatever they are. Don't let someone else tell you what your life goals should be, they're your goals. Go for it.
     Today, I'm hustling by using my time sitting at the school where my kids take classes with our Parent Partnership Program. I'm reading a book that would be dry and uninteresting to anyone that doesn't want to write for children.

                           

This is a pretty good book. It's one hustle closer to presenting my stories to you.
Do you have a goal? Are your working toward it? Get to it! Hustle!



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Monday, October 20, 2014

Snickers

     The candy bar kind, not the laughing kind.
Our oldest Zooligan made them. She was in the mood for Snickers bars, but we don't keep junk food in the house anymore. Much. So I told her, half jokingly, that maybe she could make some. She checked the internet and found a recipe!

Before I share the link, Here is our terrible food photo:

           


We didn't have enough chocolate to dip the bars in, so we spread some on the bottom and the top and cut them. When you follow the recipe, you will have nice looking candy bars. Also, we were ready to DEVOUR these candy bars. Also, we found out that this home made version is rich and delicious! Even our little sugar fiends were unable to eat an entire bar. They all saved the other half for the next day. We ended up cutting the rest into 'fun size'.

The link to the recipe is here at Sweet and Crunchy Blog.


     While these don't fit into our 'no refined sugar' rule, they do fit into the "you can eat junkfood as long as you make it yourself' rule. I'm hoping that TheZooligans learn that making things requires, sometimes, many ingredients, much planning, time and energy. That seeing goodies being devoured in two minutes and still having children ask for snacks withing ten minutes of said devouring is frustrating. I want them to realize that we can savor something, enjoying the flavors and appreciating the work that went into it. 
     We'll probably have to move and buy a milking cow, because I can see that they currently don't appreciate the cost of milk.





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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Friends



     Have I told you before that my dear, wonderful friends moved across the country? It's been months and months since she's been gone. We text and facebook chat and call on the phone too keep in touch. It's not enough, though. I miss her so much my heart aches. Her kids and TheZooligans were like siblings. They fought with each other and loved one another fiercely.
     So, I've been lonely. We were the kind of friends that could stop by the house and just start doing whatever needed done. Show up for a visit, and start washing a sink full of dishes. Coming to pick up or drop off a kid, run a load of laundry. Have a cup of coffee, and clean up a spill. It was community living. Maybe it was sisterhood.
     Now I'm in a community of busy people. I'm a busy person. Kids are getting older and involved in things with teams and friends and competitions. They are discovering what they are good at and things they'd like to try. They are learning that following a passion can be challenging and gratifying, or frustrating and unfulfilling. We don't have a lot of time to stop and have a cup of coffee. Who goes to someone's house and does their dishes? Not many people, I guess.
     Last night, when the family had done all the things they intended to do with the day, leaving some things for the next morning, we put on our comfy pajamas, brushed our teeth, and settled in for relaxing evening activities. I was browsing the internet for a specific cowl necked, side tied, hoodie sweatshirt that a zooligan would like for Christmas, when I received a text. It was a picture of a donut.
     What? I replied "Are you teasing me because my donut pans haven't arrived yet?" I am a Pinterest junkie, and have been seeing baked donut recipes that look so yummy, and do-able with our real food choices. I've been going on about them for days.
    Next text reads "open your door". I open the door and see nothing. Then I see three ladies standing in the street waving at me. I shut the door. I rummge for a sweater, because I am not decent. I find a lined winter coat. I wear it. The ladies came in with happy smiles and hugs. Mischievously happy smiles.
     Then they hand me these:

So exciting! They stayed and visited for a bit, not too long, because one of them had a crazy day of driving all over the Puget Sound area dropping people off and picking people up starting at 3 a.m. She was done! 
     I am blessed to tears. These ladies are my friends. Friendships don't all look the same. I already know that a preconceived idea of friendship is no good, but somewhere along the way, I forgot. When folks can be friends despite busy schedules and stresses, sharing kindness, joy, and patience (to name a few) you have friends. 
     This morning's bounty from last nights beautiful, thoughtful gift:

These are spiced cake donuts coated with spiced sugar. They smell amazing, and taste even better.


Have a friend, be a friend.




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