Saturday, January 31, 2009

Changing the World One Blog at a Time

If any of you are fans of my other blog The Bowl, you know how I feel about people helping people. The whole world would be a better place if people would look outside of themselves at least once a day and perform som act of random kindness.

Well, there is one team in particular that has accepted this mission is such a huge way that I think you all need to thank them. Over at MomDot, Trisha of MomDot, Kim of Accidental Mommies, and Jane of Mom Generations have teamed up to create Bloggers Give.

Bloggers Give is a way for bloggers to give back to society through their passion for blogging. Review bloggers and companies and bloggers who simply have boutiques or connections are collecting and donating goods to be used for various nonprofit and charitable organizations. Right now all donations are going to benefit Courageous Kids, a camp for children with disabilities to give them a chance to just be children without worries or cares about their challenges.

Any of you who knew me before children know that camp life is a HUGE part of my past. I dedicated seven summers to camp life and working with children of all colors, creeds, beliefs and backgrounds. There is nothing like giving a child unconditional love and fun for a week. Nothing.

This is an incredible opportunity to help a little corner of our world. If you are a blogger, a company, an individual. If you have a heart and a desire to help, check out Bloggers Give and do your part for some very deserving children.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mom Tip Mini on Listening

If you listen carefully you can hear some of the funniest things never put on stage.

From the Rhino: Did you see that Mom? I just fell off my legs.

I almost went in search of the missing parts until I realized that he meant to say "I just fell on my knees."

From the Orangutan: But I can't brush my teeth because then my orange juice will go to waste because you know Mom that I can't drink my orange juice after I brush my teeth because it will taste all funny and then you'll have to throw it out and Daddy hates it when we have to throw our juice out because we haven't finished it.

And I promise you not only did she never take a breath but that is verbatim what came out of her mouth. I can no longer say that she doesn't listen.

From the Marmoset: Ah neena noonle for Maxie licka me. Which means (because not everyone speaks Marmoset) "I need a noodle so I can put it in my mouth with a little piece hanging out so Max can eat it like a treat."

And yes, that does happen at my house. Not only do I serve naked noodles for dinner from time to time but the dog does get table scraps. And yes, the children have been known to put treats just between their lips and let the dog take them from their mouths. What can I say? He lives a great life. I have often told him that in my next life I'm coming back as him.

From the Lion: (and I have held this as long as I can) I am hyperactivating the fridgidity.

That was in response to my question of why there was a sealed glass jar of $6 apple juice in my freezer just waiting to explode.

And finally From the Zookeeper: If you are not naked in the next 2 seconds I am going to whoop that fanny all the way to Wisconsin!

A - I can't believe I even had to ask twice for someone to get naked! And B - The response I got was not a naked child. It was "where's Wisconsin?!"

Did I mention that in my next life I'm coming back as a dog?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Has anyone seen the Marmoset?

I had her a minute ago!
For more Wordless Wednesday visit MomDot - and don't forget to vote in the Dotties!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Lion's Take on Redecorating

Dear Lion, I warned you I was going to do this! Deal!

We have lived in our house for three years. Ask me how many rooms we have "decorated." How about half of three. No, I don't mean a room and a half. I mean we have half decorated three rooms. We painted the Orangutan exhibit - but no curtains or pictures on the walls. We painted the Rhino exhibit (when he was in a solo exhibit) and put up a valance and border. But when Marmoset came she evicted him to the Orangutan exhibit and I painted her exhibit. Again no pictures, but we do have a valance up. And then you have the Lion Den. It got painted but the one picture that was up before the painting still hasn't gone back up.

We're not so good at this decorating thing.

Well, the washing machine died yesterday so we are off to the great orange heaven (aka Home Depot) this weekend to get a new washer. Aha! The perfect chance! So I zipped the Lion an e-mail that went like this.

"Hey. I was thinking. Can we get some KILZ and paint for the bathroom while we are at Depot this weekend? We have the gift cards from Bed Bath and Beyond and Steinmart so maybe we could redo our bathroom for the cost of paint. I've been watching the mildew and the peeling ceiling for a while now so we need to do something.

Just an idea. I'll do the work."

That was a pretty generous offer I thought - especially considering all the little nooks and crannies and cutting in that need to be done.

The Lion's response? (And I'm pulling this right from the e-mail!)


My response? You can call it penicillin, love but it's still mold.

Let's hope I don't end up with this on the bathroom wall.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Mom Tip Monday - Menu Planning 101

It's Monday again! And as promised this week we are working on Menu Planning. In preparation for this post I put up a quick one liner over in the MomDot forum. "What challenges do you face when you are menu planning?" Holy Smokes! The response from my fellow mom blogs was overwhelming so we will be spending more than just one week on this. Remember, if you have a question or you want to hear my take on your challenge, zip it over to me at The Zookeeper's Inbox (ineedthezoo(at)yahoo(dot)com). But more on that later.

This week we're vlogging - aren't you thrilled? It's on the old camera so you may need to spike your volume. And please pardon Orangutan's run by interruption. She's got great timing like that!

So are you ready for The Pantry Challenge? Do some digging and send me your challenge at ineedthezoo(at)yahoo(dot)com. And for those who didn't take notes while the web addresses were zipping by, here they are one more time.

I hope this helps you stretch that budget a little and gives you some new ideas for dinner tonight. Next week, Budget Stretchers. How I fed my family for a week for $15! You don't believe me do you? See you next week!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Top Reads if You're New to The Zoo

I started scrolling back through my posts for a while yesterday and I realized that there are some really fun posts buried way back there in July and August of last year that some of you who are new to the Zoo will never read unless you really have NO life whatsoever. So I thought I would give you the Cliff Notes Zoo Style so you can see just what this whole Zoo thing is all about. These are a few of my favorites from days gone by (what am I 80?!)

This one is L.M. Lion's favorite - The day's when Mom hates her name.

I think this my be my sister's (the Z.I.T) favorite. When Clothing becomes optional.

And introducing Z.I.T.'s. Please don't pop them!

The study in a mother's language skills!

And finally the Mom Tip that started it all. Super Mom!

For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, thanks for hanging out! For those who are visiting for the first time - Ya'll come back now! Ya heah!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mom Tip #57

Take a lesson from yourself.

Oh yeah! Let's get ugly about this Mom Tip thing shall we? For review here are a few things that I have said to my children in the last 48 hours.

*Please come into the same room as me if you want to talk.

How many times have I tried to talk to them or to my husband and I'm in a completely different part of the house doing about 17 noise creating tasks? Of course they aren't going to hear me or even try to listen for that matter.

*A fit will get you absolutely nowhere.
*You can scream all you want but all that does is turn my ears off.

I'm blushing and cowering in shame right now as I approach the second statement on our list. I throw fits all the time. To them. To LM Lion. I rant and I yell and I expect it to serve some purpose. That of course links up nicely with number three. I'm pretty sure as soon as I start to raise my voice my children's ears disengage. Just like mine do when LM Lion and I get heated.

*Your brother is three feet away - why are you yelling?

I do this all the time! Now in my defense it's usually beacause I don't realize that someone has snuck up behind me or because my ears are stopped up from yet another sinus infection. But just the same. I had a serious reality check the other day when the Rhino looked at me and said, "Geez Mom! I'm right here! And I CAN hear you!" Can't imagine where he heard that before.

*The longer you sit there the longer it is going to take to get anything done.

Now, the sitting part isn't my problem. It's the walking in circles that gets me. I can walk from one room to the next for hours and never get a blessed thing done. How many times this very morning have I walked into the bathroom to get a tissue? And I still haven't taken the 3 minutes it takes to clean the toilet and sink.

*You don't work with the TV on so I'm turning it off.

I can sit and stare at this mammoth basket of laundry that needs to be folded but sitting here staring at it isn't going to fold it. And the TV. I can work with the TV on but this blasted computer and I have to come to an agreement. Stop calling my name! Stop suckering me in with, "but someone famous may have just commented on your brilliant take on housekeeping!"

*A spoonful of vegetables hasn't killed you in the last 5 years. I doubt it will start now.

And a spoonful of veggies has never killed anyone. And neither has a glass of water. Or a nice fresh apple. Or a break from whatever that business is that keeps me from eating on a regular basis.

Kinda hurts, yes?

I'm just saying. Maybe I should pretend I'm my own mother for a day. But then what would she do?

Creative or Lazy? Again!

If you follow along with my Wordless Wednesday's then you saw my lazy moment a few weeks ago when instead of going to get extra storage I just converted the Christmas garland into Valentine's garland.

Well, my lazy ways haven't really changed apparently. Watch my menu evolution for this week so far.

Monday - Pot Roast simmered all day in beef boullion. Served with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. (Reserved boullion)

Tuesday - French onion soup (the reserved boullion + 2 Spanish onions) simmered all day and served with homemade sourdough bread rolls.

Tonight - Pulled beef barbeque sandwiches (made from left over roast) served on (leftover) sourdough rolls. Oven roasted potatoes for a side.

Did you see that? I managed to make one meal on Monday and convert it into 3 meals. And I'm thinking that there is a very good chance we'll be Fridge Diving tomorrow night which will mean potato pancakes (leftover!) and French onion soup (leftover)! Is it possible that I just fed my family for four days on a $10 pot roast, 79 cent pack of onion soup mix and a $2 bottle of barbeque sauce?

So again I ask you...Creative? Or just Lazy?

Wordless Wednesday - Georgia Snowman

My sister called me early yesterday and told me that she was home for a snow day - in North Carolina! Crazy but ok. Then I went to pick the Orangutan up from OAT and suddenly there were snow flurries whirling around my car. Crazy but ok. It never amounted to anything but it made me curious. About this time last year we had a few inches of snow. So I went back to my pics to see when they were taken and sure enough, we built this (8 inch tall) guy on January 19th last year!

Yes. That IS an acorn cap for a hat. I told you he was a little guy!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Getting a Head Start on Ruining my Children's Education!

I started thinking about it while we were at Home Depot today. Everytime I want my children to remember something I make a rhyme or rythm out of it. Here are just a few things my poor children were subjected to today.

*Nothing in your nose that isn't wearing clothes.

*Saddle up, buckle up, rah, rah, rah!

*Skirt off, sleeves on, socks plus shoes.

*Put it in the potty or Mom will think you're naughty!

*Seat in the seat or you're not gonna eat!

*Chin to the sky - no bubbles in your eyes.

Do you see what I am doing to my children? If educators can make it rythm and rhyme, my children are never going to remember it! I can see right now that the rest of my parenting life is going to be spent pouring over their schoolbooks rhyming their spelling words, state capitals, and history notes.

I wonder if I can get advance copies of the kindergarten curriculum. I have a lot of work to do before August!

Mom Tip Monday: Housework 101

Now I know you all want me to tell you that Housekeeping 101 starts with "Hire a maid!" And then reality sets in and you realize that with everything else going on with the economy, a maid is probably a lottery winners pipe dream. That means we have to come to grips and try to streamline it. Here's your favorite (I am your favorite right?) Zookeeper's Housekeeping 101.

#1. The Bathroom.
How many times a day are you REALLY in there? And I'm not talking about the occasional pit stop. Probably twice that are of any consequence, right? So here's the tip. Stash a roll of paper towels and some Windex under your cabinet and keep your toilet bowl cleaner of choice in the linen closet. When you are done with your shower, shoot the toilet with the cleaner. Finish your morning routine at the sink. While you are brushing teeth, clear the counter top putting everything where it belongs. Spray it down with the Windex and give it a wipe. Give the toilet brush a quick trip around the bowl and voila! You're done! Is is perfect? No. But imagine how much less you have to do on Saturday when you do a "deep clean." In the evening just clear the counters.

#2. The Bedroom (s).
Just make the bed. I mean it! Just the bed. It makes your room look clean and tidy even if it's not perfect. Now I have a bad habit. When I make the bed it is natural to toss the shoes in the closet and make sure the laundry is in the hamper. But really! How much does that add to my routine? Nothing!

And don't think that children can't make their own beds because they are too young. Mine are 5, 4, and 2. Mo and Tuck make their beds and Munch is in charge of laundry round up. It can happen. And it only takes 5 minutes when everyone is cooperating.

#3. The Kitchen
I hate cleaning the kitchen. It never ends! There is always a meal going on or cooking for the next meal. It's the most cyclical room in the house and it drives me crazy! But here's a little trick I learned. Load the dishwasher all day, run it at night, and unload it during breakfast in the morning.

Here's another one that works for me. I run a sink of water before I even start cooking. Then as I cook I can wash and let dry. If it can go in the dishwasher guess what? The dishwasher is already being loaded with dirty dishes so I can just toss them in there. If all your prepware is done while you are cooking it's incredibly easy to throw those dinner dishes in the dishwasher, fire it up and you're done!

But that's just three that work in our house for Housekeeping 101! Do you have a handy housekeeping tip? E-mail me at ineedthezoo(at)yahoo(dot)com and maybe you'll see your tip here in an upcoming Mom Tips!

And while you're sending me mail, toss me your challenges. Next week we're looking at menu planning and simple dinners so look into those pantries and let's see what I can make with YOUR ingredient list.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Rhino's Take on Recycling

I am pretty sure that you have all done it or are about to do it within the next 3-6 months. The dreaded Toy Sort. That fateful and horrible day when you try to go through you child's toys and get rid of (insert collective gasp and scream of terror here) the old, broken, never played with toys that are really just collecting dust and taking up space.

I "tried" to do this earlier this week. "How did it go?" you ask? Well, thank you for asking. It was interesting. I don't know how things go where you are but around here used stuffed animals cannot be donated to anyone or any organization because there is no way to safely sanitize them before they are given to another child. I was lamenting this fact on the phone to my sister because these little critters I was facing have a lot of love left in them. I just couldn't see the sense in sending them to the great landfill.

My genius sister (she reads the blog - I kinda have to!) had a truly inspired idea. Since "Santa" brought the kids a playhouse/puppet stand for Christmas, why not cut the critters open, take out their stuffing, and convert them into new puppets? I told you she's a genius!! So I faced the sort with a little less dread knowing that I could "save" some of these critters from a methane death.

As I went through Mount FluffyStuff, Rhino supervised my every move. "Nooooo, Mom! Please don't throw it out!" for every...single...animal. Finally I explained my three piles.

"Tuck, these guys are staying. These guys are going. And these are the ones we are going to make into puppets. We'll cut them open and take their fluff out and make them into puppets for the theater."

"You're gonna take their guts out?!"


I reached for the next toy, got the obligatory "Noooo, Mom!" and returned fire.

"Tuck, I can kill it or I can trash it."

"Alright Mom. Kill it!"

I have a lot of gutting to do now that he's done killing things. But at least we learned a lesson in recycling.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Cold and Flu Season! Yay!

The Orangutan had to miss school today. She wasn't happy about it but 4 hours last night dedicated to coughing fits and serious shoestring snots (you wanted to know about that didn't you?) left this Zookeeper with no choice. She was staying home.

I went to the bathroom closet in the middle of the night looking for something to help relieve the cough and found bupkis. Remember the whole children's cold medicines scare last year about this time? Well, yours truly purged everything. So the cupboard was bare. Well what else can we do?

No Vicks to be found. No eucalyptus oil. No nothing! So for four hours I laid beside her in bed trying to keep her upright enough to sleep at least a little. And of course as long as I'm not sleeping I might as well "brain blog," right? No need to let four hours go to waste!

Now I've read that a lot of you are facing cold and flu season and I want to know. What have you been using? Did you say "Bump it!" and break out the old children's meds? Did you call your Great Aunt Gracie Lou (twice removed) and ask her for the family mustard poultice remedy? Just how exactly are you handling cold and flu this year in regards to your children?

I would appreciate your help - the Rhino's horn just disappeared under some green shoestrings of his own.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

See those little sprigs of green? It's called hope! The crocuses are coming up! In spite of the brutally cold weather there is hope!
Having fun with Wordless Wednesday? You can see more at MomDot!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Mom Tip Monday

I know that my Mom Tips are usually all about some off the wall something that my children have taught me. I thought maybe I would shake it up a little and give you something you could really use. Some real live tips for Mom's (and Dad's too!) from a Mom who somehow manages to function in this whole world of parenthood.

Let's start with our morning. I know a lot of families face some serious challenges getting out the door in the morning with minimal crying, wailing and gnashing of teeth - and that's just Mom! So here are a few little tricks that we pull that help get us out the door.
#1. Do as much the night before as you can.
And you know it would help if you could just do this one thing every night. Pick out/layout clothes the night before as part of your bed time routine. Down to the shoes! That way there is no scramble looking for the missing lefty in the morning.

#2. Pack lunches and prep your coffee pot while you clean up dinner.
There are two reasons I do this. A) it's done the night before (see #1). And B) I only have to clean up once.

#3. Focus on the task at hand.
Too many times I try to start laundry, make beds, get everyone out of the house, clean up breakfast, empty the dishwasher....well, you get my point! If you can empty the dishwasher while everyone is having breakfast, yay for you! Go for it. But remember if it's a hectic morning there are things that can wait.

Start there. Try those little tips out this next week (and really focus on them!) and let me know how it works for you. Next week we'll try to tackle some Housekeeping 101. I'm a stay home mom but I'll try to share tips that work for both or offer suggestions on how to tweak the tips to fit a working parent's life too.

If you have a housekeeping challenge that you would like to hear a Zookeeper's take on just drop me a line at ineedthezoo(at)yahoo(dot)com. I'll give it my best shot!


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Boredom Buster from the Zoo!

I don't know about the rest of you but now that the holidays are over, a lack of activity only makes EVERYONE (mom included) very crabby. Ratatouille only helped for so long today so I went back in my memory bank (waaaaaay back) and pulled a little boredom buster from my childhood. Hope it helps you through at least one Saturday this winter!

FYI! If your birds aren't terribly greedy and don't destroy your pinecones, you can refill them a few times before you have to throw them away.

Need some more Boredom Busters? Check out my pal Sandy's blog Just for Fun! She has some really awesome arts, crafts and family activities.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mom Tip #56

Children make really GREAT teachers!

The Orangutan went back to OAT yesterday (Thank You Lord!!) so it was just me and the Rhino and Marmoset here at the Zoo. When Rhino came to me at 9:30 asking if we could go get O I knew he was bored and if left to his own devices would start to find the worst possible things to entertain himself. We were having company for dinner so that was THE LAST thing I wanted. So I started to scramble for some ideas.
We ran a few errands to kill the rest of the morning, came home for lunch, put the Marmoset down for a nap and then started a few little projects. When we moved into our house 3 years ago, we found an abandoned bird feeder in the garage. Tuck decided that maybe we should put it to use. So we filled it up with some different bird foods and put it out in the yard. My education on outdoor life was about to get a real boost.

When we went back into the house he quickly closed the door behind me and then ducked down between our chaise and the sliding glass door. "Mom! Shhh! And get down!! The birds won't come if they can see you!"

He stayed there for almost half an hour - no small feat for a 3 1/2 year old - and not a single bird came by. As we were packing up to go get O, he told me that while we were gone the squirrels would take care of things. "What?" "The squirrels, Mom. They'll make sure the birds have their glasses so they can see the food and they'll send letters to let the birds know it's here." You just can't respond to that!

I thought that was the end of the birdfeeder for the day but oh, how wrong could I be! We were sitting in the carpool line waiting our turn when a flock of sparrows launched from one of the trees along the driveway. I heard a gasp from the backseat and as I turned around to see what was wrong I got quite the announcement!

"Mom, did you see those birds? They are going straight to our house! It must be time for their lunch."

The things one can learn from their children!

They must have gotten the squirrels' invite.


Wordless Wednesday

You tell me. Is this the product of....
A creative decorator?
Or a lazy butt who didn't feel like going to Target to get extra storage for the last bit of garland?
I know it seems early for Valentine's Day but I just can't do snow decorations in GA.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mom NEEDS a Tip!

I know! I'm usually the one dolling them out but this time I need your help!

How do you stop your child from being a bully? I know! Mine are only five, three, and 20 months. How in the world am I facing bullying? I don't know but I know I want to stop it IMMEDIATELY!!

Here's the deal. The Rhino feels the need to rule the roost and he will do it anyway he can. He loves to just get in someone's (anyone will do!) face and just push every possible button until Mom is tweaked. He is especially effective at getting the Orangutan going. And even more effective if he is in the livestock trailer where she has no escape and I can't reach him.

I should probably define what he is doing too. He loves to use his "pinchies" (full hand pinch - much like a claw) to grab things and then when you aren't expecting it suddenly he pinches your arm. Or he'll suddenly just reach out and snargle your hair into a huge mess getting his fingers tangled in the process so that when you tell him to let go he has no choice but to pull. Oh, and my favorite. He plants his head in the middle of your chest or belly and he just "bulldogs" you away from wherever you are or whatever you are doing/playing with.

I have given the Orangutan permission to bully back if we are in the trailer and he starts this nonsense but I would rather break him of it all together. He heads to school in the fall and if I don't get rid of it by summer I'm in for a rough start to our school experience.

So tell me - how do you handle it when YOUR child is the bully?


Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Letter from the Zookeeper

**This is actually two letters to different people but they're short so I'll put them together.**

Dear Small Exhibits,

I love you! I love that we had a wonderful two weeks of holiday celebrations. You did a wonderful job helping to decorate the Christmas tree and I was incredibly proud of your behavior at the Christmas Eve party. I was even more impressed with your desire to share on the big day itself. A million thank you's for being so well behaved while your Auntie B and Uncle N were here too. There is a chance now that you may eventually, one day in the distant future acquire some cousins. After Auntie B's last visit I was a bit worried.

That being said? It's time for Orangutan to go back to school....YESTERDAY!! I'm glad you enjoyed your time together but if I have to break up one more inter exhibit kicking, screaming, whining, scratching, hair pulling, knock down, drag out, war to end all wars - I will shut this Zoo down until you are all over the age of 25. I will not hang around to feed you, clean up after you or do your laundry so unless you have a undiscovered dream of being skinny, hungry, dirty, smelly and altogether disgusting, I suggest you take extra care to make sure that O gets up on time for school on Tuesday.

All my love, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Your Zookeeper.

Dear Mrs. Claus,

I sincerely appreciate the attention you gave my list. You truly are your family's saint! The Ipod is being loaded as I write; the new bed set is incredibly beautiful as well as super snuggly; the new boots are incredibly stylish and the turtle neck is wonderfully versatile. The bonus pots and pans you threw in were perfect and the surprise gardening encyclopedia will be a great help in the spring when it's time to plant. You really are quite the miracle worker.

Now I know in all the hustle and bustle, you were bound to miss a few things so I thought I would let you know what was going on so you could address the problem with the problem departments before next year.

To your art department - NON washable markers and paints should be reserved for families in which ALL the children have stopped eating said art supplies. Or at least they should write the letter to the toddler Sunday School teacher explaining why her favorite student's beautiful dress was accompanied by teal teeth.

To your makeup department - all fingernail polish, makeup, lipstick and other facial acoutrements should also be reserved for familes with children in their teens. Or at least given to children who DO NOT think that the male dog would look good with purple toe nails - on the day I have cleaned the carpets.

To the Matchbox department - when giving a race track to a young boy please be sure to wrap up a box of patience for the father of said boy to be opened while they are trying to figure the blasted, too many parts, gotta have the precision timing of a NASCAR driver thing out.

Otherwise my dear, I would say you did a stellar job this year! Kudos and here's a glass of (heavily spiked) eggnog to you!

With my upmost respect,
The Zookeeper


Friday, January 2, 2009

What in the Grilled Cheese...?

Why? Why can I cook the perfect grilled cheese with three children clamoring around my ankles? But as soon as L.M. Lion gets in the door the pan starts sticking and the thing catches fire and turns into a charcoal briquette?
Somedays are meant for going back to bed.