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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!