Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Back in June

     Back in June This little thing happened.
     Our eldest graduated High School!
     While this may not be the most important milestone in her life yet to come, it was one of the most important milestones in her family's life. The oldest of the children, now an adult. I mean, technically speaking.
     While we won't be empty nesters for quite a long time yet, this graduation has given us a new perspective on how time passes. Our previous perspective has been through the tired, blurry lens of having newborns and toddlers in the house always for 15 years. While there are many things I will miss about my babies being babies, those years that my eyes always felt desert dry, and my bones were always aching with need to rest, those memories will not be missed.
     Now, with the youngest at four, completely toilet trained, getting herself in and out of the car, putting on her own shoes. It feels like we've moved into the summer season in our lives. I don't know, maybe that's too poetic. We have a grown up child, a couple of middle schoolers, a handful of elementary agers, and one that is still called the baby, even though she is determined to be more grown up than anyone else in the house.
     This morning she told me that someone left a crap in the toilet and didn't flush it. Really, she said 'crap'. I said "poop", she said, "No, it was a bunch of crap." I have no idea where she gets language like that. No idea at all.
     Well, these next 15 years are going to be a blast. I can just tell.

Here are a few fuzzy, crazy photos of that graduation taken mostly by a mom whose eyesight was fuzzy, not with lack of sleep, but with the tears of awe that we kept her alive all this time.  Graduation Story

Monday, September 29, 2014

Heads Up!

     I asked our 4 yo why she was upset. I expected something along the lines of "He isn't being nice!" or "They won't let me play.", or even "They're mean!".
     What I heard instead was "I gave him wise council, but he won't make a good choice and he's annoying me and that's very rude!"  Whoa! Who taught this one how to talk?
     It's sometimes a little bit funny,  but always fascinating, to hear the phrases our family uses coming from the littles. We have quite a few of them. They're reminders. Easy, quick ways to sum up a larger idea. The four year old doesn't have a firm grasp on the idea of wise council, though. She thinks it means that her direct order is the same thing as good advice. She hasn't heard the chat about reminding someone of rules regarding safety especially, but also about any number of things. Being a good friend, being a good neighbor, etc. The chat includes information about how to remind someone. It should be done gently, with patience and love. When we give wise council, we have hope that the listener will make a choice that will keep them from injury, destruction of property, or mangling a relationship. We hope to help someone avoid a scenario that includes unpleasant consequences.
     The 4 yo has heard the phrase 'wise council' often enough along with a reminder of whatever the rules are, that she tried to use it to her advantage. She knows which words seem to please my ears. She has an idea that the phrases she's borrowed from the older the kiddos will soften me to her plight.
     After some investigation, I find that someone has something she wants and won't give it to her. She demanded that the object be given to her, but the order wasn't well received. Instead, the holder of the object made it clear that he wasn't ready to give it up, and that he didn't appreciate her demand. Eventually he ignored her, and began chanting some nonsense words as part of his play. Essentially, she truly was annoyed, and she did find it rude, but she wasn't giving good advice. She was tattling. Understanding already that her choice of phrasing would likely win her favor in the argument. Except, it didn't.
     The concept of wise counsel was explained, along with the concept of telling bad news in order to ensure that someone 'gets in trouble'.
     Even with our intention to teach the children how to be good friends and neighbors, to give grace and to be humble in receiving it, we've reduced some of these ideas to slogans. When a parent is faced with repeating certain ideas uncountable times each and every day, it makes sense to explain the concept, then attach a memory helper. It does work. It works when the child can actually connect the helper phrase to the concept. The older children have heard the concepts behind the phrases explained numerous times. The younger children hear bits and pieces by default. They hear shortened versions. Then they misuse the phrases.
     I do it, too. With grown ups, and with Jesus. I fling the phrases out there, knowing that they sound right, but just not feeling it. Saying the right thing, because it's easier than saying that I struggle, or don't want to get into the whole deep, time consuming truth behind the phrase. I don't have time, I'm feeling annoyed, I'm not getting my way.
     Oh, four year old, thank you for the heads up.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Having It All Together. Or Not.

     Fridays we don't go to Parent Partnership Program classes. There aren't any sports practices, club meetings or other extra-curricular activities. We spend Fridays on research projects, math practice, instrument practice and chores.
     With our commitment to make healthier food choices comes the task of preparing our food at home. Our goal is to eat real food, avoiding refined sugar and chemically processed sugar substitutes whenever possible. This means we spend a lot of time prepping and cooking. I decided today would be a good day to make toaster pastries, chocolate almond butter cups, chocolate truffles, pumpkin bread mini-loaves and refried beans as well as the meals that we would eat today.
     What I got done was vegetable stock, refried beans, chocolate truffles, and our meals for the day. The rest of the day was spent handling repeated and escalating conflict between two of my kiddos.  It was exhausting! Two of the smaller ones approached me approximately every 20 minutes asking if the pop-tarts were done yet. All.Day.Long. I chopped, cooked, and washed everything. Chop, cook, wash, repeat. All.Day.Long.
     I was so excited when these were finished:

Chocolate truffles with toasted coconut. 
What a treat, right?

     Oops, I bought prunes instead of dates. I don't even know how I did it. The package clearly states "Prunes. Dried Plums" So, these lovelies taste like chocolate Dr. Pepper. This does not, in any way, satisfy my chocolate craving. At all. This is terribly sad.
     Also, there is no stash in the house. I mean, sure, there is still some refined sugar, but that we are saving for the holidays. I'm just not ready to try to replace our traditional, family favorite treats with dates and pecans and honey. Maybe next year. Maybe. Just, chocolate, folks. gah!

Happy Friday! Was your week a success, even in some small way? 



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Do Hard Things

     Zooligans do hard things!

     This is what we say in regard to just about anything lately.  There are a lot of hard things that we need to do recently. A couple of middle school aged kiddos adjusting to a more challenging academic load, littles who are just big enough to learn chores that require a little more time and effort, a grown up zooligan trying to navigate the new choices in front of her, ZooMama and Mr.TheZoo endeavoring to help these kids make wise choices, anddealing with the immediate effects of almost completely but not quite eliminating sugar, artificial food coloring, and pre-packaged snacks from our home.
     Sugar withdrawal is a real thing, and it affects some people more than others. It's been crazy grumpy around here. We're going on week three, and are seeing some some attitude improvement. I'm talking about myself, here.
     The kiddos around here have all shown they are capable of persistence and hard work. Sometimes it's in debating their requests. Often it's in helping out with some job or another. All of the kiddos have been keen on helping Mr.TheZoo with vehicle maintenance and repairs.

                                             4 yo Zooligan using the floor jack to help Mr.TheZoo with fixing brakes
                                                                 on a  truck.

                                                     Yes, she was actually able to remove this lug nut. Of course, it was
                                                        loosened just a bit, but she finished the job.

                                                     The rain didn't bother her, because she had her Daddy helper
                                                      helper holding the umbrella for her.

                                                  Zooligans do hard things from the very beginning.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014


     Sometimes our schedule feels hectic. I begin to feel over committed, the children are constantly grouchy and we always feel tired. So, we back off a bit. We drop an activity here and there. The last time we did that, we dropped nearly everything that was directly related to school or church for almost two years.
     Our family was desperate for that time. We were having babies in the midst of our frantic lifestyle, I had two (minor) surgeries and battled cellulitis in a leg. There was no time off for anyone! Mr.TheZoo was working as much overtime as possible due to our property taxes rose, the gas prices were up again, the price of food was creeping up, and the electricity rates had made a significant jump. Children were growing and needing shoes and coats, etc. It was a crazy time. My family lives a couple of thousand miles toward the East, and Mr.TheZoo's family, though in the same 200 mile radius as us, are spread out and busy. For recovery time after surgery, my sweet MIL helped out for a few days. We don't have a spare bedroom, though, so she slept on the couch, and helped to look after the (five at the time) babies and kept up with the cooking, dishes, and laundry. She needed to go home after a few days too look after her kitties and take care of her own health, though, so I was on my own!
     We decided, just after our 6th zooligan was born, to take the 'frantic' out of the equation. After spending years doing the pregnancy waddle while chasing children across soccer fields, and dragging all of the children with me to grocery shop and anything I needed to do, we chose to slow it down.
     The decision to rest was made in prayer. We hadn't said anything to the children about it, when our oldest daughter approached us after a rather unhappy soccer season to request that we allow her to quit. After playing with the same team for 7 seasons, she was placed with a new team when her coach decided to pursue his daughter's select soccer career. The new team had been together for just as many seasons, and were a somewhat exclusive bunch. There were three new girls to the team that season. None of them were ever accepted into the fold. It was a sad situation. Mr.TheZoo and granted her request, and saw how it would begin to clear up our schedule. That meant two fewer practice days, and one fewer Saturday game.
     About the same time, I was researching symptoms and behaviors for our oldest boy, finding that he is certainly on the Autism Spectrum, with the likeliest diagnosis being Asperger's.  He had already been diagnosed as ADD with high anxiety when he was six. As he aged, and began to be able to communicate, or not, it was clear that something else was challenging his perception of, well, everything.
     Our break up with the rat race, meant that we had time to learn to understand our son, getting to know him and have some idea, at least, of how to help him succeed at being a friend, learn some academics, and how to show people in general some respect. It meant that we were able to have babies at home and play Candy Land (ugh) and listen to Veggie Tales all day (I actually enjoyed this, and we all still do. Who doesn't like a family chorus of I Love My Lips?)
     I was able to focus on the zooligans academic status, where they needed more instruction, where they should move ahead, what they enjoyed the most, and what the didn't enjoy much at all.
     This reflection on leaving behind the frantic days comes because I am feeling, this morning, like we are on the edge of frantic once again. The differences are that our youngest is 4 1/2 years old. Everyone can wipe their own behind and buckle their own car seats. They can all sit quietly for a while. The difference now is that instead of one older child, we have a college age zooligan and three older zooligans. Two of those older ones are middle school age. The activities are picking up, and we find ourselves running taxi service rather often. A blessing, though often seeming disguised, is that Mr.TheZoo's schedule is more predictable. Though he is scheduled for 12 hr work days, he generally works four days and had three off. This means that he is available to fix things at home, help with academics, and is able to sometimes take that one kiddo that doesn't have a class or activity, but is longing for some time doing something special. Even if that special time is running the garbage cans to the transfer station with Dad. It's always an adventure around here!
     Though our schedule has ramped up again, the children are older and take more responsibility. The zooligans that have the most extracurricular activity have earned the privilege of being transported to meetings and events by keeping up with their responsibilities, with the understanding that if they seem overwhelmed, we'll lay out their schedule and decide what activity needs to be dropped.
     Here's hoping we continue to make responsible choices with our time. Even more, praying that we help our children to make responsible choices with theirs.

What do you do to keep your schedule and family activities from overwhelming  your days?


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 wegotreal.com ) , 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!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Those Days When Nothing Gets Done

     You have those days where you do a bunch of stuff, but at the end of the day, there is no measurable accomplishment? I have those days fairly often. There isn't a 'quantifiable deliverable' for all of the effort, time, and energy put into an 18 hour waking period.
     Maybe I started a few different projects, or put in a little time on projects that were started the day before. Maybe I fed kids and cleaned up after, but I was interrupted several times to help with conflict resolution or to bandage owies.  Perhaps I was involved in a few emergency clean ups in a bathroom or the laundry area.  Maybe I wrote a blog post and communicated with a few people via social networking. Possibly I made a few lists, and didn't get through even half of what I put down. At the end of that kind of day, have I failed? I'm not talking about the being laid back and binging on Netflix kind of day. That is either avoidance, or physical rest!
     What I'm getting at are those days when you set out to strike those items off of your list and tell your Franklin-Covey day planner that you completed your A goals and some of your B goals, and dutifully moved your left-over B and C goals to the next day, but it doesn't happen that way. Something else happens, and any accomplishment is clouded, if it even exists. Can we be okay with that?
     I'm leaving you with a link to another Blog, because the visual he used is pretty spectacular. Jon Acuff talks about this subject, too. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ironing on Those Patches

          You all should probably just know that when it comes to ironing patches onto vests for AWANA club, Mr. TheZoo does it.
          It's all true. I set it all up, get ready to go, and somehow the finished result is a patch that has slipped sideways, is a full 1/2 inch off from it's original position, or is some how nearly upside down. I don't even know.  Fact is, Dad is better at ironing than I am. He' also better at peanut butter cookies, No-Bakes, and Home made hash browns. I'm good with giving him space to excel at these!

Happy Wednesday!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Deep Reflection

      Recently, I discovered that comparing myself to others, and trying to do something the way others say to do it, isn't always in the best interest of myself or my family.
     After a time of deep reflection on my methods, I've discovered that the way I've been doing something really does work best. I have tried other methods. They aren't wrong. I'm sure they work for the people that recommend them, but they don't work for me.
    I'm telling you, after so many years of doing laundry for nine people, my favorite method works best for us. One or two days of marathon washing, folding and putting away, then three or four days off.
     We're a fairly busy family. While we don't run at breakneck speed trying to have all of the people involved in all of the things, there are a few kiddos that have clubs and sports and youth group. We have days that are entirely full from 7 am until 9 pm. It happens. Guess what? No laundry gets done on those days. None. Not one load.
     So, you 'one load a day-ers', enjoy your constant laundry doing. I will join you a couple of days a week. Picking the dirty laundry off of the floor every day, though, is something I'll probably be doing for several years yet.

What's your favorite method of keeping up with the laundry? Is 'keeping up' a joke for you like it has been for me?

One More Week

     We still have a week before school begins here. Officially, I mean. Some of the older Zooligans have work they've been doing over the summer, but the full compliment of core classes, electives, and extra curriculars begins again next Wednesday.
     4H, AWANA, Soccer, practicing instruments, projects, reports, dance practice. While the oldest is doing the college thing, she's still living here with us with a schedule all her own. She'll be coming in while we're going out!
     This is the week that I create loose menus, shop for and prepare freezer meals, do one last run through of the kiddo's closets to make sure that no one can tell me they have only one pair of pants that fit, or have no idea where any of their socks are because they haven't used them all summer. We'll get those handy student planners started, get the backpacks dusted off and put fresh paper in the binders.
     One of the zooligans favorite week before rituals is our "Last Hurrah" party. We might have pizza or barbecue burgers, make a variety of forbidden snacks, and watch a movie right in the middle of the day! If it's a hot, sunny day, we may forgo the movie and take a last trip out to the river. Possibly there will be board games, and then we'll sit around the fire pit and talk about favorite summer memories and what we're most looking forward to in the new school year. We'll let all of the kiddos, even the littles, stay up way too late and sleep in one last time.
     This is how we usher out the unstructured days of summer and ring in the scheduled days of school.  When kiddos are little, time stretches on for them. 12 weeks of summer feels like half a lifetime! Summer is wonderful and glorious for the first six weeks, then it's biding time until the next thing begins. "When is school going to begin?",  is the big question for a month prior. It has felt like years to them since they last saw their friends in tumbling or art classes. This last weeks stretches on like an eternity for for the littles. A party to countdown to partway through the week is a fun, casual, exciting way to break up those thousand "How many days left?" questions.
     The maple leaves are already falling, and it's just a bit too chilly in the mornings when we leave our windows open because the evening was too warm. Autumn is ringing the doorbell, but we aren't eager to answer just yet. We need on last hurrah.

Do you have a way to mark the end of summer? How do you do it?

Friday, September 5, 2014

When Your Dream Changes

     It happens, even if we don't like to admit it. Our dreams sometimes change. Those of us that are dreamers are used to ideas and hopes moving in and out of our lives, but I"m talking about the main things. The 'What I Want To Be When I Grow Up' things.
     Here's the short version of my dream. I wanted to earn an MBA, do corporate executive work, get married, live in the city, have two children, and walk to the local fresh market for coffee every morning.
     If you know me, or have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that isn't what happened. In fact, once I earned my AA then moved half way across the country, I never made it back to school. I did work in the corporate offices for an insurance company for a time, but no where near an executive level.  I have far more than two children, and I don't live in walking distance to any fresh market.
     The closest I have come to going back to school is in choosing to home educate my kiddos. My dream has morphed into wanting to write. It has grown to include learning how to have a backyard farm, including medicinal herbs. I recently found a certification program for the herbals part, and there are many on-line resources for hashing out the writing process. Chickens and zucchini were never part of my original dream, but earnest, hard work and centering on family were. What was at the core of dream then is at the core of my dream now, It just looks different on the outside.
     I found a blog called A Beautiful Mess. This blogger wrote a post specifically about changing dreams. I'd like to share the link here,  because she laid it out so well, and I would just be plagiarizing if I wrote it out.

Have your dreams changed? Are you running with it?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Another Post About Autism

Even in a world where gentle interaction is lobbied for, and, in fact, is 'politically correct', where folks lobby to protect children and cry out when they are wronged, this still happens. Here. I'm sharing specifically because I have a child on the autism spectrum, and because when he has displayed 'behaviors' that are difficult to handle, he has been yelled at, chased down, and forced to admit guilt. I recently explained just the scenario in the following article in order to introduce him to some social tools in case of this situation.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014


     Today is the first day of attendance for the local elementary school.
This translates to two weeks of bliss at TheZoo. We begin school on Sept 17th.
     It is after ten, and there have been no little knocks on the door. No one that isn't referred to as a
Zooligan has required a mediator or a snack.
     My big debate today is whether to get started on all of the little projects that I wanted to work on over the summer but didn't, or to spend the day basking in the silence at the front door. Keeping in mind, of course, that this is the only silence that will be had. It's been raining buckets here. Outdoor play is likely limited to bike riding, but that's okay. I feel like I'm on vacation!  It may not be everyone's idea of bliss, but today, that's the word that applies here!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Horsey Tales

     I found riding lessons for our Horsey Girl!  A neighbor one street over boards her horse a couple of blocks away, and is willing to teach the 11 yo Zooligan some horse skills. She'll get to spend time building a relationship with a horse, and will be able to finally begin and finish a project to submit at fair time with her 4H club.
    She belongs to a horseless equine club. A few of the members do own horses, most of them don't. Sometimes, some of the members have lessons, and are able to lease their lesson horse to show at fair time, and sometimes throughout the year. We haven't had that opportunity, yet. We'll keep looking. For now, spending time with a horse, even when it includes barn chores, is rainbow-glitter happy making for miss 11 yo.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bedtime Conversations

     Listening to the zooligans talk amongst themselves at bedtime is a treat. It doesn't happen often, as we have staggered bedtimes for age groups. Last night, however, all of the kiddos over age seven were out at bedtimes for littles. The seven and five year old were chatting about everything!
     First, they were making up superhero scenarios. Most of those stories included things that mom might usually shush them for saying. "And then his head went up his but", "And then he farted so loud and stinky he had to change his underpants!", "And then he kicked him right in his butt!"
     I mean, really. Our first, second, third, and fourth children were instructed not to say those yucky words. Butt, Fart, Shut Up. I mean, c'mon! Let's be respectful! Then, there were three boys in a row. I'm pretty sure that Butt, Poop, and Fart are the first words that babies even think. They say "Mama" and "Dada" because that's who brings the food and gets them out of the crib. Those other distasteful words come later. I don't say those words, so where on earth did the kids hear them? Obviously children only repeat what they hear, right?  It has been my experience that someone you never met can whisper something around a corner in loud, crowded place, and two days later, my toddler will repeat it perfectly. In public. Like, at church.
     So, back to the bedtime conversation. After all the potty word stories, they are planning their next birthday parties. Chuck e. Cheese, Airplane trips to some exotic location such as Kansas where Mimi and Poppy live, Giant ice creams, Motorcycle rides.
     Pretty soon, I hear  5 yo "Close the door. Close it all the way."
                                   7 yo "Why?"
                                   5 yo "Cuz I don't wanna get in trouble."
                                   7 yo "For what?"
                                   5 yo "Cuz we only have two rules, Be still and Be quiet, and we aren't obeying right
                                             away, all the way or with a happy heart."
I couldn't be happier at hearing that conversation. He knows the requirements. He knows he wasn't meeting them. But, I'm not going to call him out on it tonight. Inconsistent? Yeah. But, hey, they are talking pretty quietly, they are staying in the beds, and they are aware that there may be consequences. Also, as they continue, their voices are becoming slow and sleepy, and their words are fewer and farther between.
     How many years do I have left to listen to sweet, funny bedtime conversations? It's hard to say, but I'd wager it isn't very many!