Saturday, December 8, 2012

TheZoo is Growing Up!

Probably, the title of this post will apply to many more posts. This is the first in a long line of posts where I see TheZoo in a new way.
It's exciting, strange, exciting, odd, troubling, good, and did I say exciting?

Last week, at school, I found myself watching a mom and her young family. Her family dynamic looked very much like mine about two years ago. She has a teen and a younger school age child. She also had a small one around the age of 4 with her, two younger ones in a stroller and she was wearing one in a sling. From my headcount, that's one short of TheZoo, but the point is the great big group of tiny Littles and the very, very small number of  Bigs and Biggers.

She was constantly moving, keeping baby fed, dry and content. Keeping the next two within acceptable boundaries, jumping up to get them down from a table, or to keep their chair from toppling over.  At lunch time, it was all she could do to get the food out and into their mouths, shoving leftovers back in the bag, and chasing them back into the area designated for young children to play.

Other moms were engaging her in conversation that was ever interrupted...but not one of those moms ever got up to help her with any of those actions. I was remembering back when my family looked like that. So, I swept up the floor and wiped down the table after them when lunch was over. It is difficult to do those things with four small children hanging on you, especially in a public place. I remember being chastised by a couple of other moms for not cleaning up well after my family after lunch at school or while they were playing in the gated off area meant for small children. But they didn't offer to help me, either.

Now, our youngest is still just 2 1/2 yo. But. It's so different not having another one younger still. There's a freedom of movement, and moments of clear thought. Those moments are fleeting, but welcome.

I watched this family for a few minutes longer, willing myself to picture my family at that stage. I was waiting for those emotions of fondness for that time of life to surface. I waited. And waited.

It just wasn't happening for me. I have no doubt it will happen, sometime. But it's too soon. I still tremble at the end of each day due to sheer exhaustion keeping up with the littles here at TheZoo. I must have some idea of what it means to be war weary.

She's 2 1/2. We are that much closer to being done with diapers. We are down to three safety seats in the vehicle. Two years ago, we had FIVE safety seats! It's a good thing the other children have narrow backsides and could fit between them all.

Please believe that I am finding joy in today's life. I also managed to find joy in yesterday's life. But yesterday's life was hard. Today's is, too, but in a different way. Masses of entirely dependent small people with lack of biggers to help is draining and painful.  Today's life is still hard work, I wouldn't trade that. In fact, I welcome the hard work. It builds character and teachable moments. However, it IS still hard.

Knowing that TheZoo has moved on to a new, different season in life is refreshing. I am always looking to what ever might be next. I have a difficulty accepting what is now, building it and making the most of it before moving on. Give me changes, I thrive in that. I am learning, though. It has taken 16 years of having little babies always on my hip to get me to notice that life lesson. Now that I've finally noticed it, I hope to cultivate and grow in it. Not that I won't continue to look forward and plan, and even long for, future things. I will still do that, but I'll do it from the joy and contentment of my life now.


Monday, October 1, 2012


We got the virus. That first of the school year cold. The whole, entire family. All nine of us.
It's a chorus of coughing, hacking, sneezing, and nose blowing.
Not exactly the Von Trapp family singers.

Children are coughing all night long. Really. All night.
Not one child. Or two. Last night, there were at least five children that were coughing. One of them has a fantastic gag reflex. He ended up sleeping on a blanket thrown over his mattress.
Three different times. He wanted to get into bed with me.
Um, no. I had my own coughing fit.
I desperately hope that we are over the nasty part by tomorrow. We are at school all. day. long.
Just, ugh.

Hoping and praying for a healthier, more positive post later this week!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Longest Day

Between everything that was on our schedule yesterday, I was out of the house with 7 kiddos for 13 hours.
You read that correctly. 13. Hours.
We have not had an opportunity for grocery shopping in the past  few days and were out of whatever we might need for breakfast.
Give me a break here, we're only into the second week of an entirely new schedule. One we've never had before, and with lots of highly dependent aged children.
We began by getting ready for school in a record low time frame. Offering kids breakfast out is a big motivator, but not cost effective, so I'll find an alternative motivator (fine, bribe).
So we found breakfast at Burger King. One of their breakfast sandwiches is 2 for $1. But their cinnabons are more, and I made the unwise decision that we each needed one. They were definitely yummy!
We packed our lunch and snacks for the day at school. This took up roughly half of the back of the van. It's an 8 passenger club wagon. Do you know how much can be piled in the back of that beast?
Lately, two strollers, a jacket for everyone, 5 full back packs, a diaper bag, Mom's bag of magical organization, Whatever we might need to run errands (dropping off clothes that are still useable, returning something to someone, riding around with things that are supposed to go someplace and never, ever, ever remembering to drop them off even though we see them every single day. Come on, you know you've done it.) AND, lunch and snacks for eight people, plus a gallon pitcher and eight cups.
A few moms have commented on and complimented my dedication to recycling and how 'Martha Stewart' like I am with my canning jar cups. We just used the Crop-adile to punch a hole in the lid and stick a straw through. It wasn't my idea. I saw it on Pintrest. Since I'm too cheap to buy SEVEN plastic or metal cups with lids and straws, this is what we use.        This isn't my photo, I found it on Pintrest without no credit sited. (If you see this photo, and it belongs to you, first of all, thanks for reading my blog!!!! But most importantly, if you would like credit for the photo, or would like for me to take it down, please message me, and I will.)

Pinned Image                                                            After school, which, by the way, we were at from 9 am until 4 pm., We had a make up voice lesson for our oldest. This isn't really a problem. The timing is quite convenient, as we live a fair distance from the location, but it is close to the school building. The make up lesson was at 4. Some how, her class was let out a bit early, so we made her appointment on time. (So many 'asides' in this post, I know. But you should know this. If you live in the Snohomish County area, and you have kids from 6-12 grade interested in music at all or visual arts, check out One A-Chord Academy)
So, I let the six kids waiting play on the grass at the music lesson and relax a bit. That was nice.
Now we need to do something for dinner. Remember my description of the back of the van? No way was I going to bring dinner fixings, too. Besides, I don't have that many containers at home to bring more food in!
After much collaboration, the children thought that Dairy Queen sounded like a great idea. None of us has ever eaten from their brazier before. We just went there for ice cream treats. Usually after soccer. Since no one in our home has played soccer for a few years, we've sort of ignored the Dairy Queen. Also, they heard that if I would spring for the kid's meal, they would get a free ice cream treat. So we did. I'm not sure how free the ice cream treat is when you get an 8 oz soda, a hot dog, and a banana for $4. If I were to feed my family that meal at home, it would cost me approximately .30 cents per person. I don't know, maybe a Dilly Bar really does cost $3.70.
At any rate, our next destination was a county wide 4H meeting. Don't roll your eyes!
This was a meeting to introduce 4H to people that don't know much about it, and various clubs around the county set up to show us what their club does, and to recruit new members.
My goal was to find a photography club for the oldest. We found some great clubs!
It was like a petting zoo there! we went the circuit three times so the kids could pet the Llama, alpacas, miniature horse, cat, dogs, bunnies, chickens, pigeons, goat, cavie, and a two week old calf. I'm still not sure exactly what a cavie is, or how it's pronounced. That's one of our research and journaling assignments for next week.
We did find a photography club, and we found the Mud Slingers and an antique tractor club.  My older boy, the 11 yo, spent nearly the entire hour and half that we were there chatting it up with the fellas at those booths. They talked about engines and motorcycles and quads. He was in his element. I think we found his niche! The 7 yo is desperate to join these clubs, too.
I want to clear out our little shed in the back yard and turn it back into a chicken coop. That's what it was for the owners before us. It would be great to have a kid in the 4H poultry club. And eggs!
We finally made it home, and children were telling me about hungry.
Seriously. Half the day involved eating. No More Food!!!!
No one argued about bedtime, though. Not a one.
This was for sure the longest day of the year for us!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

To Grow or Not to Grow

Baby girl has finally grown a bit!
Well, obviously she has grown some over the two years of her life. She just does it rather slowly.
We have seven children. The first three are tall, fast growing kiddos. Our 16 yo girl has been taller than me for two years, and has recently grown another 1/2 inch. We have three slow growers, and one that seems to match up to the Dr.'s charts right on schedule.
One of the boys grows so slowly, that even his hair and toenails grow slow. No kidding. I gave all of the boys buzz cuts last summer, then we let them grown them out. Three of the boys needed another good haircut at holiday time, and again in the spring. The 7 yo, however, didn't get another haircut until just before school began THIS year. His hair was just beginning to hang in his eyes.
So, the two year old girl is, per our pediatrician, petite. She wore her 12 month size clothes until she was 18 months. The only reason we switched to the 18 months size was because it was summer, and those were the clothes we had stored for her. She finally fit into them in the the fall, and was wearing the 18 month size summer clothes again after she turned 2.
Now it's fall again. This child's 18 month sized clothing is showing some wear. A few of the shirts are just too short on her arms, the dresses still all work, but her sweater tights are worn through on the heels.
So, I pulled out the box of size 2t/24 mos clothes. She is successfully wearing  pair of jeans and a top from this box. Really, she should be wearing a pair of bulky sneakers, or a pair of boots with the jeans to keep from walking on the back hems.
Still, at 28 mos, we were already transitioning other kids out of 2's and into 3's.
Oh, and did you know that OshKosh has a size 1t?
They do. I found them for another daughter that needed them for a short time when she potty trained at 2 yrs, and didn't have the diaper bulk to fill up a size 2t pants.
We may be making another trip to OshKosh. I am so looking forward to their giant 75% off sale this fall!
Hoping your kids' closet transition goes smoothly this year. And if you have any boys' size 4 and 5 jeans in good condition, I have some boys' size 3 and some girls' size 18 mos to trade...


Friday, September 21, 2012

The Last Day

It's the last day of the first week of school.
We are going to celebrate this weekend.
The big kids get to rent movies and make snacks and relax.
Their teachers have given very little homework, and I have given minimal instruction on home classes this week, so that could have a short time to rest and recuperate. The first two weeks of school are exhausting!
New schedules, new teachers, new subjects, new kids.
It's a lot to take in.
So far, everyone's attitudes have been above par, with very few slip ups. I can not express how impressed I am by this. Even with the two littlest ones missing out on naps.
I'm guessing their melt down will come soon. That will be fun.
We've been wearing shorts and shirt sleeves to school this week. Summer has held out to the very end for us. It's been great!
One of the boys (11 yo) gets to take Intro to CSI, and Scratch Programming. He is excited about these classes. He ran from class with a wide smile plastered to his face and couldn't wait to have me read the syllabus and tell me step by step what they did and the project that he wanted to start at home for Scratch Programming.  This boy doesn't get excited about school. He is happy to get his core work done so he can work on these two classes. Hooray!!!!
We have kids taking Hip Hop dance, gymnastics, rock climbing, art exploration, cupcake decorating, Lego robotics, and piano. These classes are besides their core curriculum.
Who wouldn't WANT to get out of bed and go to school with choices like that?


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Here's the Crew!

 This is our Kindergartner! He's growing up fast.
 2nd grade
 5th grade
 3rd grade
 Highschool Junior

She isn't in school, we just thought her outfit was fun and bright. 3 yo isn't in here because his face was filthy. I guess if I never take photos of him because of a dirty face, we may miss his 3rd year entirely!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

First Day

Today is the official first day of school here at TheZoo.
I've mentioned before that we employ an alternative learning experience.
We get to start a little later, but we usually go a bit longer, too.
Generally, most families begin their schooling earlier in the month with whatever instruction they do at home. We didn't this year. I opted to wait until the first day of classes. Everyone was happy about that except the kindergartner.
I've already found a glitch in my plan for the week, even though the kids are still in bed, and I sit here with my coffee and quiet time.
I did dishes from a late baking session already, and have packed up lunch for kids and myself.
The glitch is, I was so careful about making sure we have good breakfasts made ahead, and everyone is prepared with school supplies and shoes and outfits picked out, batteries in the camera, alarm clocks set, but no snacks.
Really, I have one banana, a bunch of frozen bell peppers (which I will eat, but my children will go hungry instead!), and some wilty ice burg lettuce leftovers.
I don't know how I overlooked that.
I even made certain that we would have an easy, kid fun lunch today. Hot Pockets. Not something I generally purchase, but it's easy for me and it's a treat for the kids. And the cookies that Kid #1 made last night.
I can see that tonight I'll be making muffins and banana bread and chopping carrots.
I'll definitely be visiting at 100 Days of Real Food for ideas and inspiration for lunches and snacks this year.
Seven kids and one mom at school all day long. Someone's going to be asking for a snack.
It's probably going to be me!
Kids are so quiet when they are chewing.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

To Sleep or Not To Sleep

We invited one of the children to sleep in our bed one night.
We've done that from time to time, it generally turns out all right. Now.
Waaaaay back when we had one and two kiddos, we used to let them sleep with us quite often.
But then we had three. And four. It seemed like the more kiddos we had, the less restful each one was. This resulted in our bed not being shared so much.

The most recent decision to allow the child in our bed happened in a cruelly deceptive way. She was being cute. Totally, completely, irresistibly cute.  She was throwing her arms around our necks for big squeezy hugs. She was kissing our cheeks. She was asking us to read her a book, and then interacting rather sweetly.
She made darling faces with smiles and a crinkled up nose. She giggled. She rubbed my cheek with her hand. She told Daddy "I love you". She was calm, quiet, and sweet.
Then, when I laid down and was waiting for Mr. TheZoo to be ready for bed, and to be ready to cart the child to her own bed, she snuggled down next to me. She covered herself up and announced "I sleep Mommy."
She lay still and quiet. She closed her eyes and snuggled close.
The little liar!
So Mr. TheZoo said, "Awww, how sweet! She can stay here tonight. We don't do this often, and we're
at the end of the little kids. We'll miss these opportunities when they're gone."

He'd forgotten! But I was fooled, too. I didn't insist. I let it go.
We fell asleep, the cozy little trio, all warm and snuggly.

And then.

I woke up being pummeled in my stomach by two tiny, stone like objects. It was awful. I opened my eyes ready to swing at whatever it was.
Of course, it was the little bundle of freakin' cute laying her darling head over her daddy's belly and repeatedly kicking mine!
I did what any sane Mom would do in the middle of the night. I moved her legs, brought her head to the pillow and scooted a couple of inches over.
That lasted about half an hour.
Every half hour that night, I had to remove kicking feet from my person.
I was soon on the edge of my bed, fighting my two year old for a piece of my blanket.

I spent the entire next day groggy, grouchy and generally not feeling well. I'm blaming all of this on that cute kid.
All of it!
She's never going to sleep in our bed again!
Unless, of course, she brings me a book and kisses my cheek...


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Does the Church Remember?

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

We remember.
We've heeded the warning, and have changed, at least a little.
What about the rest of America.
We have seen fists shaken and promises to rebuild. We've seen a stand to reclaim what we lost and press on to further self destruction.
The crying out to God appears to have been a temporary loss of sanity for most citizens.
A warning to change.
Church, are we changing?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

School Has Started?

The kids in our neighborhood are headed off to their third day of school. Their first day pics have all been posted on facebook. Their new shoes area already scuffed, and they've already done homework.
How has it been for the kids at TheZoo? Well, it's about 8 am...and their still in bed.
We don't start for two more weeks.
We use the county start date as our 'start getting ready' date. Of course, I've been getting ready for weeks now, but there are other things we do. We get the laundry caught up, we make freezer meals, we stock up on lunch and snack foods, we inventory socks and underwear and shoes, we put away the shorts and bring out the sweaters, we wash coats and shake out the heavy blankets.
And we try for 'one last hurrah'. Sometimes we have three or four 'one last hurrah's.
Usually we have a late family movie night, a game night, we have a fire in the back yard and make s'mores, and if we can, we do go out right smack in the middle of the day, and do something that will no longer be a crowded, noisy experience, like the park, or a museum.
We'll have a schedule to stick to soon enough.
Yes, I like to be organized. Things run more smoothly that way. But you know what? I get tired of a schedule. I need breaks, and I'm guessing the kids do, too. At least, they cheer and jump and get loud and smiley when we offer them a break. That means they like them, right?
So, we begin today to tie up all of those loose ends.  Hrm. I wonder who's going to get to pull that one nasy bowl out of the back of the fridge? Gosh! It looks like it's break time!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Values, Success, and Friendship

Just Do It. Bible study, I mean. With other people.
When people allow God to, He transforms lives.
We choose whether we want transformation. We choose whether to live a transformed life. We choose whether to endure further transformation.
Endure? Transformation is uncomfortable. It doesn't mean that suddenly your mind is clear and you understand everything, always making the right choices.
It means that we are intentional in our choices, beyond our own comfort. It means that there's a shift in value. Sometimes in what we value, sometimes in how we value.
When we have the support of others with similar goals, we are more anchored. We aren't floating around on our own grasping at whatever we thing might tow us in to the safe places, or the prosperous places. In fact, prosperity begins to look different. Success becomes redefined.
And we have people to share the changes with. People to cheer us on. People to call out our crap.
And people for whom we are willing to do the same.
Bible study. Anchoring friendships with truth. Do it.


Saturday, September 1, 2012


It's September today!  I am terribly excited about that. I have no idea why.
Well, I sort of have an idea, but I have been contradicting myself all morning as to why I am most excited.
I am thrilled about Christmas decor. I know, it's a first world thing.
Christmas decor comes out right after the fall decor is put up. So, fall decor puts us that much closer to the day after Thanksgiving. See?
Fall brings the first days of a new school year. binders full of clean, crisp paper. Brand new, fresh smelling pencils, sharp crayons. Binders that haven't been doodles all over, and who's rings still clip together all the way. Hooded sweatshirts, and jackets. Layers and sweaters.
Fall is when we begin to see the haze of fog over the rancher's fields where the animals graze.
It is when the trees turn blazing riots of color, and the house smells like apple pie.
Fall is cozy.

BUT! I am excited because we still have a little over two weeks before school begins. The weather is still bright sunshine and warm days. There is still time to get things ready to flow smoothly (hey, it's *my* fantasy) for the start of another school year.
There is still time for one more backyard campfire with s'mores and songs.

Happy September!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Sleep Over!

The Zoo had a family sleep over last night. A friend's husband is away this week, so I took five of our kiddos over to visit, and we stayed aaaaaallllll night.
Eight children had a movie night. They all slept in the same bedroom. They all ate dinner together.
And now. Now they are watching cartoons together.
We sweetened the deal by giving them donuts for breakfast. Smart moms, huh? Eight stinkin' little monsters woke up today hollering about their donuts.
Well, that's what we planned for breakfast for them. Don't get all judgmental. We had bananas, too.
We used the donuts as bribery the night before to get the children to stay in bed and be quiet.
Three of them seem to be ethically upright and refused the bribe.
They were subject to a kind, gentle and loving discipline, and missed out on the donut in the morning.
Now they are whining for a donut.
good grief.
If we do this again, they are getting gruel for breakfast.
no, really.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's Not Fair!

There's a phrase that is uttered in our house about every 10 minutes. It's the children's favorite phrase. They see determined to teach it to the younger children, and the sooner the better!
"It's not fair!" can be heard at nearly any time of the day. It is sometimes attached to a happening of significance, but most often, it's tagged onto just about anything.
Someone got one bite more of ice cream than someone else? "It's not fair!"
Somebody got to stay up later than someone else? "It's not fair!"
Somebody got to ride on an errand with Mom or Dad and someone had to stay home? "It's not fair!"

It has been my experience as a leader of children, that the thought process that takes place before blurting "It's not fair!" is short and unreasonable.
Someone realizes, in a flash, that they missed out on something. Often it is something they wouldn't have cared about much had they been calm and processed the situation, but they shout the about the mistreatment anyhow.

One of situations that happens most often at TheZoo is the cry of injustice when a younger sibling is receiving what is thought to be preferential treatment. The two yo gets a snack, but the older children don't. The older group of kids has been instructed on the metabolism differences in the body of a baby as opposed to that of an older child.  The older group of kids knows the schedule for food consumption.  They are aware that there is breakfast at 7, snack at 10, lunch at 12, snack at 3, dinner at 6. What lucky kids, they get to consume something FIVE times a day!
However, when the baby is growing and appears to need more calories than she did last week, and I accommodate, there is a bigger kid there just waiting to let me know that they are also still growing.
How unhappy they are when I offer them one slice of cheese and half a banana!

Sometimes the complaint is when children are divided up into who goes and who stays.
Mr. TheZoo can carry only two kiddos with him in his truck. The ZooMama can carry everyone else, and usually does. On occasion, I don't want to take children with me. Shocker, right?

Here's another shocker. Sometimes we tell our kids that sometimes life isn't fair.
If everyone had the same everything, then our experiences wouldn't be any different. We wouldn't have stories to tell. We wouldn't have art to express ourselves with. We wouldn't have the option of choosing anything.

The two biggest kiddos are moving past the "It's not fair!" stage. They are more understanding, and tend to think things through more thoroughly. The next three are in the throes of declaring what is fair and what isn't, and the next two are quickly learning that they are missing out on things.

I often feel as though I teach the same things to my children over and over. I do. I really do, but not they way I find myself stressing about it. There are seven children here, and my repetition is only for a time with each child, it's just that it IS with EACH child.

Sometimes things aren't fair. It can't be the same for everyone. Sometimes you earn more, sometimes you earn less, sometimes you have grace or a blessing, and sometimes you are happy for someone else's grace or blessing.

I hope I always remember this myself, as I teach my children.


Monday, August 27, 2012


Mondays. I don't hate them.
I know, wierd, right?
Mr. TheZoo is home on Mondays.
That often means a great big grand slam breakfast made at home, by Mr. TheZoo.
It means I get to sleep in, even after the children are getting out of bed, because there is another adult in the house that can do what needs to be done.
It means snuggle time with all the kiddos. Because there are two laps and four arms.
Please excuse the super short post this morning, I'm still snuggling.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Laundry/Time Continuum

I'm writing today's post last night. Well It's still tonight. Thursday night.
Mornings the early hours are usually reserved for drinking prayer, coffee and blogging. Well, okay, and Craigslist. Fine, and Facebook and Pintrest. THIS Friday morning, however, will be spent sorting, folding and putting away clean laundry.
Why THIS Friday morning? I'll tell you why. It's because I didn't do it before friday morning.
That is all.
I just didn't do it.
I did a full week's worth of laundry earlier this week. You know how many loads a full week's worth is? Roughly 15 loads. That's if I didn't wash any bedding. But there was still more. While those 15 loads were washing and drying, people were still wearing clothes. And using towels.
I thought it was warm enough this week to drip dry, but no one else in the house agreed. I guess the air conditioner had something to do with it.
I know better. I really, really do. BUT. Sometimes I want a break. You know? So I take the break. Then, I catch up.
Really, one day soon there will be enough 'biggers' in my house to handle the immediate need chores without me once in a while.
I'm not just willing that day to come too soon, but I know when it does arrive, I will exhale.
Right before I suck in another agonized breath in realization that my 'littles' are 'biggers' and that their time at home is that much shorter.
I'm so glad I have to spend the morning sorting and putting away laundry.


Friends. Do You Have Some?

Friends. Do y'all have them? I don't mean acquaintances. I'm not talking about the people that you only see at church on Sunday morning. Co-workers that you never associate with outside of work don't make the cut, either.
I am talking about people that know you. The ones that you share the nitty gritty, warts and all, real you with. The people that you know and love anyway. The people that you trust, and that trust you. The people that tell you when you are stupid, that love you through the stupid, and that give you a hand up into smart.
Do you have those people?
If not, are you searching for them? Are you working on BEING one of them?
I have a hard time sharing myself. Yeah, I write a blog, and I share some of myself here. It's kind of a safe place, because-well-I can't see you.
If you were sitting in my kitchen with a cup of coffee, I'd probably spend most of our conversation being funny, or looking into my coffee or down at the floor if I actually needed to confess something, or confront someone.
Oh, terrible, awful, horrible confrontation. I have a friend that has made it clear that if I need to tell her something, you know, important, I need to make it perfectly clear. No subtlety.  I need to come right out and say "Shut up, stupid!"
Do you have any idea how freeing that is for someone like me?
I used to believe that I have a dislike for confrontation because I am reserved and don't like to argue.
I now know that I hate confrontation because I am timid and I don't want people to dislike me.
It has been far more important to me that someone think well of me, then that I speak up when they are saying or doing something destructive.
To know that I can tell someone who loves me regardless to 'stop it!' or to 'shut up!', gently and in love, of course, and I will still be loved is nothing short of amazing.
I take criticism pretty well. I'm a teachable person. If I was wrong, and you tell me so, I'll probably feel stung, sure. Who likes being told they are wrong? I will, however, consider it in prayer and in context, and learn from it. Will I thank you for it? Maybe. I'd love to be able to say I absolutely will every time in every situation, but gosh, admitting that I was wrong is tough. Obviously another character trait I need to work on.

Friends. Get one!

I will be working through Girl Talk: Getting Past the Chit Chat by Jen Hatmaker. It's tough for me to get together on a weekly basis with women, because I educate my kids at home and I have lots of 'em in a little house. My proposal is to work through this study with women via email, or facebook chat, or both.
The link I provided is to the Amazon hard copy for the book. It is also available on Kindle, and Nook and through Barnes and Noble.
Please email me at This email is set up for this blog only.
Looking forward to getting to know you!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

He's FIVE Today!

Who's FIVE today?

This guy!
I might be most exited about fifth birthdays.
It seems to be the ones that kids get most excited about first.
They count down the days on the calendar, they plan and plan and plan what kind of cake they will have what they want for dinner.
They believe that something magical will happen when they turn five.
It sort of does. They are now old enough to go to school. And, usually, ZooMama is incredibly excited that another child has hit a milestone and is that much closer to being a 'big kid'.
But this time...there are only two more kiddos behind this one. Only two more fifth birthdays. This is my fifth baby to turn five.
Gah! No more on that sad little note!
 Here, let me tell you a little bit about this fantastic five year old.
His name is Andrew. I have given all of my children names that are easily shortened into nicknames. It's been a thing for me. It's important to me that a child be able to identify themselves with names that 'fit'. The nickname that is for home, the name that the people closest to them use. The name that is for the bank, the name is that is for interviews and documents.
Somehow, Andrew was never nicknamed. We tried out 'Drew'. That didn't stick. We tried out 'Andy'. That didn't work, either. Somehow, we look at that sweet boy, and unanimously, or family decided that he IS an 'Andrew'.  He's also 'Pumpkin' and 'Bubba'.
Andrew is already studious. You know those preschoolers that want desperately to be able to read, write, and add before school begins? Yep, he's one of those.
He also knows what to wear. No kidding. He has been picking out his own clothes for two years. The child dresses himself well. He still becomes attached to a strange article of clothing from time to time, like most kids, but he always matches!
This kid is gentle. He loves babies and animals and making friends. He always has a hug for mom.
He also stands up for people, sometimes fiercely! He is quick to defend someone if he believes there's an injustice.
Andrew takes care of his toys, hoards junk mail, loves to have boxes and containers of any kind for keeping anything in and I never have to tell him to put on socks with his sneakers.
I love that kid!
Now, to go prepare that special request birthday meal. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches. I know, rough one, right?


Friday, August 17, 2012

When People Don't Like Your Kid Pt.2

It has become terribly important to me that I share a part two on the subject of my kid being unlikeable.
I told you about the heartache of most people not liking my kid. I shared about how painful it is for my boy as he begins to realize that parents don't want his influence on their children.
I need to also share with you that we do have the support of a few people that love my boy.
They work together with Mr. TheZoo and I to nurture this boy into a man. The kind that will be responsible for his own actions. The kind that will grow up with character that reflects kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control. The kind that pray for my boy. The kind that take a moment out to speak to him, letting him know that his thoughts, opinions, and words - his very voice-matter.
These people 'get' my family and my son. 
Let's be honest, here. It just isn't feasible, or even reasonable to explain the facets and dynamics of my son to everyone we meet. It would be perfectly ridiculous to expect everyone to take the kind of time it takes to get to know and care about my son on a personal level.
So, I don't. Further, I make it a point not to judge people that don't understand my son. I know, big of me, right?
I don't take it as a personal affront if people don't want their children playing my boy. I don't get offended if you would rather not hang around with me because you don't understand my son. If you don't know us very well and you assume that he is just undisciplined, I don't despise you.
I should say, though, that if I feel my boy is being attacked because of lack of understanding, I will very likely rise to the occasion and defend him. I'd like to say I would respond with a gentle, loving attitude. I'd like to believe that. 
We are blessed to belong to a church family. A body of Christ. In our local gathering, there are people that genuinely love God, and love others.
These are the people that love my son, too.
I hope you find yours. They are there.


Allergic to What?

2 yo has a rash. I know, kids get rashes all the time. I'm used to seeing them. 98% of the time, with our brood, the rashes are eczema related. I've come to recognize lots of rashes based on where they show up, how the spread, and what the bumps and colors look like.

BUT. A rash that starts as a ring around the neck and moves to the upper arms, avoiding the shoulders all together, is somewhat strange.
So, we went to the doctor's office. Well, our pediatrician is on vacation. The other pediatrician is pregnant and on half days, so we were redirected to walk in. We got to see one of my favorite doctors ever. I don't know how he'd feel about having his name in a blog, so I won't put it. We'll call him Dr. S.  Dr. S is great friends with a local pharmacist and he has a fantastic personality. He jokes about everything, including a possible zombie apocalypse. I selfishly hope, for my families health, that Dr. S is ageless and never ever retires.

While checking out the 2 yo, the 3 yo was up on the end of the exam table, watching everything.
When Dr. S was done, and walking over to the computer for notes, he put his stethoscope on three yo's head, then kept moving. 3 yo gave me a questioning look. So I said it. You know you would have, too. "He was checking for brain activity". I know. Mom of the year, right?!  Dr. S said "Didn't find anything." To which 3 yo replied, (I'm not even kidding here) just like the straight man in a comedy routine should, without laughter, hand on chin, leaning on table "That's funny."  omigoodness!!!! Dr. S and I had a nice big laugh!

Oh, the rash. You must be wondering. Dr. S. called it, in his professional opinion, a 'mystery rash'. Bring her back if it spreads, we don't want to do unnecessary blood work on the little ones.
We went back home, slathered her down in sunscreen and took her outside to play.
Guess what? The rash got worse.
Sunscreen allergy? I didn't realize there was such a thing. I didn't realize how many petrochemicals there are in sunscreen. I guess I never bothered to read the label.
Gosh. Now I'm on the hunt for hypoallergenic sunscreens for her.
Has anyone tried anything they just love? I need to know. They aren't inexpensive!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Best Laid Plans?

And so I have done it yet again. I have waited until the last moments to put together some major thing. Though I have enrolled the school aged children into the classes they will be taking at the Parent Partnership Program, I haven't written out the learning plan for their at home classes. Except for one.
Mr. TheZoo and I wrote out the learning plan for the entire year for a class HE will be teaching! We are calling it "Automotive Basics". Three of the children will participate in this class which will include everything from keeping your vehicle clean, to performing a tune up.
We live in a state that doesn't offer Driver's Education in school. What is up with that? Home School Driver's Ed courses are also unacceptable. The only way to have a 16 or 17 yo licensed driver is to pay for driving school, and present a certificate of satisfactory completion at the DMV.
We're just getting a jump start on the vehicle training. It seems that our teens won't be driving on their own until they are 18.
Did you hear that? It was our wallet and insurance company breathing a collective sigh of relief!

Now, I still need to write up the literature, American History, and one more elective course for the 11th grade year. I need to write up specifically what we will cover each month for the entire year, and how progress will be evaluated. I may not offer up a general overview, I must provide minute detail, and I may not deviate from it without exhaustive explanation.
Fortunately, American History is what it is and doesn't change. Oh, wait. Did you just LOL right along with me? We won't be using any current public school text books. Rather, we'll be researching speeches and writings by the founders of the USA.

As for literature, I'm still deciding which books to read. There are so many fantastic pieces that I'd love to have my children read. I'm caught between wanting my 11th grader to read so many books, or having her read fewer books and evaluate each one.
Ultimately, I am hoping for a book club type of experience between the two of us, with a written report on each book exploring specific topics.

Last, that Culminating Project. I have researched this all summer. Fortunately for me, a check list lady, our PPP put together requirements in a color coded checklist! Hooray! Now I can make my own checklists and outlines and make sure that I am guiding the 11th grader with actual direction!

This year, there are FOUR school age kiddos around here. That's more than half!
Here's to sniffing pink pearl erasers and losing 273 pencils!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Staying Cool!

How to beat the heat in the back yard. When Mom won't  buy a swimming pool.
 Eat popsicles!!!

 Stick your head in the sprinkler.

Make your own pool out of a sinkhole in the yard.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Time Out!

There was a day last week when things were all topsy turvy here with attitudes and sibling fights. It was nuts. So, we did something we don't generally do unless I am sick. We watched movies and ate 'snacky' food all day. Here's what it looked like:
It was a quiet hour and a half. Three times.
Thank goodness!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Painting Is Done!

We painted kid rooms this week.

There was a giant gash in the wall that was hiding behind some shelves. I forgot it was there. We painted around it and are continuing to 'forget' it is there.
 This is how we stored everything while we were painting, and the beds are moved to the center of the room.
 He was begging to help. Begging, I tell you.
This girl so so good at stuff. So thrilled to have a happy helping teen!

 This is the girl's room. Window sill, mop board in "Orangeen" and wall in "Quilting Bee." Those sheers are from Ben Franklin's a couple of years ago when they were clearance priced at the beginning of fall.
 This is the closet (obviously)where teen drew a frame around and we painted it in. We are currently looking for a curtain of some type to hang there.
 The grey doesn't show up very well in the boy's room. They have the grey shade called "Route 66" and stripes and trim in 'Orangeen'. The big stripe shows up between the bunk beds.
The narrow stripe is above the door frame. These are the shelves that are hiding the...never mind, I forgot.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Doing Hard Things

I hate exercise. With a passion. I put so much energy toward hating exercise, that I sometimes feel as though I don't even need to exercise. How have we come to a place that we have so much ease in our lives that we even NEED to make time in our day for exercise.
Thinking back to my late teens and early 20's, I wasn't a lightweight. Really, I was 5'9" and weighed in at 175 lbs. I rode a bicycle most places, walked to an from a lot, swam, and lifted weights with a friend at the local YMCA. My jobs were physically challenging. People would actually comment on my muscular thighs.
Then, I moved. I now live in a place that is cold and wet for most of the year, and small towns here aren't the same as they one I lived in before. I can not do all of my business in this little town. There is no way I would be able to walk to the grocery store and haul groceries home on a bike here. I live a few miles up a rural road from the closest grocery option.
When I first moved, I didn't miss walking and biking every place. I would still walk on my own time, but after a bit, I found that I was commuting to work, sitting at work, commuting home, sitting a a child's soccer practices, and sitting in front of the tv. The most physcial activity I had was participating in a bowling league. There's a lot of sitting there, too.
Then I began having babies.
When I was younger, I could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted too, because I burned it off. I didn't realize that was what was happening though, until I started packing on the pounds.  I gained 90 lbs with my first baby. Yes, really. Then I lost 60. That still left me with 30 extra lbs. Let me tell you, being tall allows a person to hide extra weight in clothes. Since my problem areas are my belly and upper thighs, I could hide those pretty well with jeans and sweaters. Perfect for the weather where I live!
More pregnancies helped me pack on more weight. Pretty soon, my legs and rear began to thicken, then my neck and chin. Oh my. Noticing that actually brought me to tears.
I have tried some weight loss programs before. Some pretty expensive ones. They were promising, a couple of them were really great programs, but out of my budget.
I joined gyms, but I would go for a month or two only to find out I was newly pregnant once again. *sigh* So I'd quit, promising myself I'd join again.
Then I found a woman that has 12 kiddos, homeschools, and looks great. She has an organized but casual lifestyle, and her family hasn't been wealthy. Like us here at TheZoo.  She also went from a size 22w to a size 6. I've seen her photos. So, I check out her system.
I've been using it for week. My teen daughter has been participating with me. This is great, because I need accountability. I have also been posting my progress on facebook, again because I need the accountability.
So, in a week I have lost 6 inches of body fat. I am gaining muscle. I know this to be true because, guess what? My arms get tired just from folding laundry. This isn't a joke about how much laundry we have. It's true. My arm strength has always been awful. I could press 300 lbs with my legs no problem, but it was torture to get anything more than 20 lbs on the weight machines with my arms. I am not kidding. 
My daughter has lost 8 1/2 inches. She is so excited!
We have come up with "The Can Plan". We put our spare change and dollar bills when we are able to in a coffee can so that, in six months, if we have lost any dress sized (I think we will!) We can go on a shopping spree. Maybe buy a piece of clothing that we wouldn't have worn at our previous body size. She doesn't have far to go, but I do. I'm guessing it will take 18 mos to 2 years to get back to where I was at age 20. That's okay.
My goal is two dress sized in six months. The whole mess of mass is too lofty a goal to not be broken down into pieces.
I'm looking forward to sharing a success story!