Category Archives: Zookeeping 101

It’s a jungle out there! But a well-maintained zoo offers protection from the jungle, adventures, learning opportunities, beauty, and well-fed, healthy critters, a many happy visitors eager to return.

HAPPY 7TH BIRTHDAY, SETH!!

seths-7th-birthday
Born February 10, 2010
8:25 am
7lb. 13 oz.
20 in. long
Happy birthday to Seth who turns seven today. Mama is having a hard time with this one, folks. The youngest of 12 kids. I was pregnant or nursing for over two decades and this lil guy isn’t a baby anymore. He was born the same year we opened our business (because we are a “special” kind of crazy) and started his life in a commercial kitchen. (Okay, he wasn’t born there but he’s spent a heck of a lot of time there…and loves it!) He is small for his age but his vocabulary is huge, although he still says “OsmOs” for “almost” and “Mousegeeowski” for Mike Wazowski. Some folks are critical of our having a large family; some are simply taken aback but all I have to say is the world is a better place because I was willing to go through labor one more time. God has huge plans for this little guy. He is an absolute delight and ready to take on the world!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SETH!! LOVE YOU BUNCHES!
What’s not shared is lost,
Michelle
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Breakfast & Lunch Menus! Make one time, use over and over and over again…..

The question was put forward on YouTube, “What do you do about breakfast and lunch?” This is what we do. And the weeks we don’t use this system, I kick myself. It works and it’s one, nay, about 14 things a week I don’t have to think about each week.

As promised, PDFs of the Breakfast Lunch Menus rotations. These are not editable. If you want editable (is that a word?) Word Docs so you, too, can copy and paste my/your grocery lists with minimal effort, let me know. I shall add them. Your wish is my command….

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grocery-list-1

Breakfast & Lunch Week 1 – Printable

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Breakfast & Lunch Week 2 – Printable

 

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Breakfast & Lunch Week 3

 

 

I hope this helps someone out there!

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Homeschool Coop Assignment #2 – How do you handle people discouraging your homeschool?

 

Assignment #2 for home educators participating in the VHC addresses how we respond to negative folks in regards to our educational choice. DO visit the VHC and see the other responses HERE!

 

What’s not shared is lost,

Zookeeper

 

 

 

What

Virtual Homeschool Coop Introduction

I’m a month behind but, hey, I’m getting there. This is my introduction video for the Virtual Homeschool Coop. Due to incredibly slow internet (and life, in general) it has taken two weeks to edit, and four days  upload, annotate and link up! I am going to have to get up early to take advantage of that unmetered internet….which we have between midnight and 5am. Coffee is my friend…

So…here it is. Apologies for the length. I’m a newbie but I will learn to drink more coffee beforehand, be concise and talk faster. Oh, and not go off on rabbit trails.

Our homeschooling has become so eclectic..it’s an eclectic hodge podge of Charlotte Mason, Notebooking, Robinson’s Independent Learning, Unit Studies, Classical, and fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants. Throw in the catering business as a part of our “vocational curriculum,” and we have a “unique dynamic.” Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

 

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

Coming soon…to a blog near you..

My name is Michelle and it’s been three months since my last blog post. Confessions of an intermittent blogger… I have posted about how I procrastinate with posting previously  so that’s all I’ll say about that. o.O I have been encouraged to try vlogging because it does take less time and it does fit with my tendency to talk to myself. It’s a work in progress but I’m working on it! Some folks are interested in our goofy, large family and how we do things as well as our catering business which we blend with homeschooling. Crazy? You betcha!  SO, we do have tales to tell, tips to offer, recipes and adventures to share. I have been intrigued by the homeschooling YouTube community and am going to try a Virtual Homeschool Coop so there will be posts for that, as well. SO, stay tuned! I do miss being here so will be trying a different platform.

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

I will send the bill….

man-paying-bills

 

I grew up with a dad who felt his primary obligation to the family was to “bring home the bacon.” Oh, and to “exact justice.” But that’s another tale. It’s the “financial” burden that has always griped me. My dad was raised that women were lesser beings and that their roles were not as “important” or arduous as men’s.  I am by no means a feminist, but when I hear the occasional comment made from a male whether in print or via a friend weary of hearing her husband’s reminders that “he’s the one paying the bills,” I want to punch the guy.  This financial worth thing has been on my mind so I decided to look into a little of my “financial worth” just for the fun of it. Let’s just pretend for a moment that I have been hired to serve….

I have given birth 12 times. The average surrogate mother’s fee ranges from $20,000 to $35,000 plus expenses. I have never received an epidural or any other type of pain reliever while in labor. That being said, I gave myself the maximum fee of $35,000. I know they charge extra for the pain relief but I have no scruples about earning for braving transition. There was also that labor that lasted seven days….I could charge extra for that one…

So…

12 x $35,000 = $450,000

That’s the minimum.

A quick search on nannies resulted in the following:  “Check your state guidelines to determine whether live-in nannies qualify for overtime above 40 hours per week. For part-time nannies, hourly nanny rates start around $12 per hour and can run as high as $20-25 per hour in affluent areas, particularly those without public transportation. You get what you pay for.”

I don’t really know how long a child “needs” a nanny so I’m just going to guess until they no longer need a babysitter. I believe in Indiana, a child must be 14 to be of “legal babysitting age” so I’m going to go with that.

So….

For 12 children receiving in-home nanny care from 0-14 without overtime:

$3,066,000

I didn’t add in overtime just to be fair to my olders who have helped tremendously with the youngers. If they were getting paid, they would have earned a pretty penny themselves.

I could stop at $3,516,000 but why would I want to do that?

We homeschool. I’m a private tutor, a proven method for superior education. (Can I just interject and say that if all these years of people asking my kids where they go to school, if my kids had answered, “Oh, I have a private tutor,” folks would be all impressed and “Oh, la-dee-da” then commend us parents for going the extra mile to provide our children with exceptional education. I think we’re going to try this. I’ll let you know how it goes.)

For a private tutor – $10-$15 per hour. Holy cow. I have no idea how much time we’ve put in. I’m going to give a low-ball estimate based on the 180 day school year, average 4 hours a day (sometimes more, sometimes less – the kids do more on their own as they get older) and include all 12 kids AND preschool though we’re far from done. I want to know the grand total!

$1,555,200

We’re at $5,071,200.

I have to include my laundry service as there has been rarely a day in the past 20-some years that I haven’t done at least one load of laundry. I’d say the average is 6 loads a day, some days more. I looked at a couple of sites and laundry services such as Laundry Locker or Lazy Bones who charge by the pound or item and charge for each additive such as detergent and softener. I have no idea how many pounds of laundry I have done! If they charged by the mountain or trash bags, I might be able to guesstimate but that’s overwhelming. I can’t NOT include it, though, because I have spent so much of my life on it! So, going with Lazy Bones’ $1.70 per pound, and I average out the fact that in the earlier years of our family, we did not have MOUNTAINS of jeans, towels, etc., I’m going to guess 25 pounds per week. (I know this week, I’m working on at least 50 pounds if you could weigh it all.) 25×52 weeks = 1,300×27 years=35,100 x $.73($1.70-$.97*-the cost to do one load at home) = $25,623.

That makes $5,096,823.

I haven’t even included my earnings from being a private chef, private chauffeur, event planner, “administrative assistant,” not to mention MAID! Nope, can’t leave that out –  I briefly peeked at what a house cleaner earns: “Professional house cleaners typically set house cleaning prices one of two ways: By hour, or by square foot. Hourly costs range from $25 to $35; square foot rates are often used for a “first clean,” as a baseline for pros to work from.” If I “just” cleaned 5 hours a week at $25/hour, and we know it’s more some weeks, less during “those” weeks, that’s an easy $175,500

Ahem…. $5,272,323

I could go on but then this post would be one of those you look at to see how long it is then pass it up because you don’t have the time. Am I right?

You pay the bills? Well, sir, pay that one. Better yet, try doing all of the above. One of the reasons a woman’s brain is spaghetti is she has to tackle all of her professions pretty much every day, keeping track of it all and mentally preparing for the next task and the next day and the next week… A man’s compartmentalized brain would implode!

Well, I must be off…I have to “earn my keep.” The first thing I’m going to do is delegate because I didn’t even get to my roles as a business-owner…which I need to do today in addition to all of the above…sigh….

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

 

*I found the cost to do a load of laundry at home in this fabulous post, “A Cost Comparison of Home Laundry and Laundromats” on “The Simple Dollar,” a resource to save to your favorites. Incidentally, in this post, the author says it will take 600 loads to recoup the price of the washer and dryer which will take 2 years if you do one load a day, compared to going to a laundromat. Yep, our appliances paid for themselves a long time ago….

(Photo Credit: http://cdn.moneycrashers.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/man-paying-bills.jpg)

In The Laundry This Month

 

 

I started collecting the stuff I find in my washers and dryers (I have two of each, one washer is out of commission for the time being). I have a little brass pail on one of the washers and whatever I find I toss in the pail. (Change goes in a bank I have on the washer, too. I’m going to save up for a trip to Hawaii with pennies). I’ve been so intrigued by the variety and strangeness of the pail’s contents each month, I just had to start taking pictures! Now I’m posting the pictures because I can’t think of anything better to do with said pictures. I figure we can have some fun with this. Some people read tea leaves, let’s read what I found IN THE LAUNDRY THIS MONTH. This pic is actually from February.
FEB 2015I could do an eye spy. That’s what I’m going to do! At the end of the year, I’ll have a book printed for the kids! He he…in the meantime, there are stories that could be derived from the plethora of junk. And mysteries. For example, how in the heck did the buckle and clasp from a long-gone newborn car seat get in the wash? How did that horse sticker end up in my pail? It, obviously, did not go through the wash.  I see an old Creative Memories cell phone charm. Somebody has been digging through my stuff because I didn’t know I still had that thing. One thing I’ve learned for sure from this pic is that, the next time one of my girls says they can’t find a ponytail holder, I’m sending them to the laundry room.

JAN 2015

Playing catch-up, this one is from January. I spy a knob from a piece of furniture. I need to find out what’s missing its knob. There is a rock in both pics. It looks like the same rock! We don’t keep rocks, people.  I have reason to believe one of the boys is “borrowing” his brothers’ guitar picks because the green one keeps ending up in the little brass pail.

The crocheted doll pants are…weird. Did not know we had such haute couture in the house.

I see this junk as reminders of how blessed we are so why not? I have reminders here of my daughters’ pretty hair, my kids’ love of nature and creating art, of Christmas, imagination, my great-grandmother (I see one of her earrings up there – why, I don’t know), of music in the home and my kids’ love of making obnoxious noise to drive their mom crazy because they love me (pirate whistle in the top picture).

There you have it. Tell me my future from these, make up a story, judge my kids, or quiz me on the items and I’ll guess at what they are.

What’s not share is lost….in the wash,

Michelle

A Stitch in Time

Several years ago, I met a “mom of many” who became a sweet friend but, at the same time, she made me sick. She sewed most, if not all, of her children’s clothes and they usually matched. Sometimes she would even match. Our kids were in homeschool band together and during rehearsal, moms would chat in the nursery and this friend would sometimes discuss sewing techniques she had discovered. I remember thinking, “I need to try that! (except when she spoke of an easier way to make the boys’ ties…my eyes glazed over for that one. I’ll just buy the matching vest and tie, thank you).  I used to sew all the time. In my younger days, I would take advantage of the quiet of the night and sew til 3 a.m. so as to finish my project. My first two girls had a few matching dresses, many that didn’t match, costumes, doll clothes and I made all of the kids’ stockings until child number 8. I have fabric for everyone’s stockings. I just don’t see that hunk of time sew. I asked my friend (we both had “only” 6 kids at the time) how in the world she found time to sew so many outfits. She told me that some days, she only gets one stitch done. Say whut? She said she leaves her sewing machine out with her current design left under the presser foot ready for the next five minutes she can sneak in and sew a seam. My personality type was stymied. I’m the kind of person who wants to get a project DONE in one sitting. I could not wrap my brain around it.

I have implemented that principle of getting things done in bite-size pieces in many areas but mostly with housecleaning and business projects. I can organize a pile for five minutes then stop when the timer goes off. That’s a big deal for me! I did have it down for the sewing at one time but got out of practice. Now I have a new laundry room with a sewing table and I feel motivated and obligated to get back to it.

One area I struggle with the “one stitch at a time” method is writing. For example, I need to quit right now and head to the shop to carve a cake and make curly Q fondant strips for the mane but I’m having a hard time stopping because I’M NOT DONE, YET!!! Oh, fine….I’ll be back….

Okay, I’m back. It is not easy to get back on the train of thought after being derailed by the to-do list. So…where was I? Oh, yea…early this morning, I took a moment to read a post from one of my favorite bloggers and guitarists, Mark Lee.  His latest post is “Embrace the Chaos,” which totally describes my life, talks about learning to blog amidst the nuttiness of life rather than wait for that ideal day or idea. He also suggests working this habit into other aspects of life.

That takes practice and an attitude of “must write.” People often ask me, “how do you do it all? How do you balance the big family, homeschooling, theatre, owning a business?” Balance? Um, no. We have had to learn how to blend.  Having babies constantly in our home became a part of our norm. Home educating became a part of our lifestyle. Theatre came into our lives and it’s just “what we do.” The catering scene has become a big part of our days and that’s just it, it’s something that becomes a part of our schedule. Sometimes we work what needs done for the business around our homeschool; sometimes homeschool is worked around the job that needs done. I know I need to squeeze in two loads of laundry a day in order to maintain the piles and keep everyone in clean socks and underwear. I use a lot of post-it notes and checklists to stay on track. I’ve also learned to use a timer to limit time spent decluttering or cleaning projects. If I didn’t, I would spend the whole day on that one project until it was done. I have other things to do! Like write. I have blogged many times here about how I haven’t been blogging, yet have not once considered quitting. I don’t think I can. Some of us think through the written word! I need to blend the writing into the batter and stop treating this as if it’s “extra;” something I can do after I get everything else done. Being  practical, if I need to set a timer, I’ll have to learn to stop then pick it up later and add “another stitch.”  I received a Bluetooth keyboard for Christmas and it’s one of my favorite tools. I fumble around with texting and trying to email on my phone.  My keyboard not only removes that frustration but I can sit in the car waiting for play rehearsal to finish and start another post on the WordPress app…which I have done. But you’ll have to wait for that one…it needs a few more seams.

I did it. I have proven to myself that it’s possible for this “must finish” personality that I can step away from the project and come back to it later then just  add to it in between the other parts of my day. Guess what else I did today? I started hemming some jeans I found at Goodwill. I only have them cut and pinned…and waiting for the stitching to begin.

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

 

NEW

Laptop

It’s a new year and that means the title of this post probably brings the expectancy of a typical cliché New Year’s post about resolutions, weight loss goals, and new beginnings. I might get to those things later and I will be able to only because of our NEW internet service! I had all but given up on blogging again due to lack of internet and lack of time to linger at my favorite coffee shop and mull over my next blog post.  I’m one of those that takes advantage of insomnia and early morning quiet to write so even when I have managed to scurry out for internet usage, it was for business. I also got a NEW used phone (LG G2) this past year and that has kept me connected with my business and some marketing. But blogging over the phone is a pain. I hate texting and I hate, loath and despise autocorrect. I’m pretty sure I have lost years of my life just fixing words that were fine until they were “corrected.” I did get a NEW Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard so I can now TYPE on my phone(I love this thing!)…SO much faster for me. It’s still not the same when trying to manage a website, invoicing, blogging, and, dude, Pinterest.

We live in a little bowl of a valley and all attempts at internet service, thus far, have ended in disappointment. Our first internet was dial-up. Nuff said. Next was Bridgemaxx which worked great at first but then bogged down. They kept coming out and resetting things and troubleshooting. We realized later that we had it installed in the winter and as leaves grew in on the trees that surround the giant dip we live in, connectivity was comprised. Bridgemaxx had great customer service and refunded us everything we had paid for our attempt. They were also straight up honest when they came out again a few weeks ago to see if their new tower they put up would work for us. The apologized and said it wouldn’t work for us rather than tell us, “Oh, yeah! You have a signal! That’ll be a $50 installation fee with 6 months of customer service headaches.” Kudos, Bridgemaxx! We tried the Verizon Mifi Hotspot after that first attempt with Bridgemaxx. It kinda worked but the terrible customer service, overcharging and terrible customer service were enough for us to willingly pay the early cancellation fees and rid ourselves of that pestilence.  The other problem with Verizon was the terrible customer service. Did I mention that already? Boo, Verizon.  The last service we employed was Frontier. It was adequate but it was SO slow all of the time and EVERY time I called they said it was because we had reached our data limit so our data had been toggled. It could have been day two of the monthly cycle and they still told us that. Finally, we were told that it did appear that we might have an alignment issue but for an additional $6.99 a month, they could come out and take care of that for us. Say whut? The dish is on our roof. We didn’t cause any alignment issues but WE have to pay for THEIR alignment issues. Sorry, we don’t pay for sucky service like that. Boo, Frontier.

FINALLY, after the Bridgemaxx tech failed to get a connection for us that last time, he recommended Exede. If there are commercials for this service, I missed them as we don’t get TV.  I’d never heard of it! We had it installed Saturday on a cold, windy, rainy, cloudy day and it worked great from the get-go. I’ve been holding my breath waiting for it to stop working…. It’s still working…and it’s FAST! I have yet to have to deal with customer service as it’s still early in the game but they did assure me that all of their customer service representatives are in the U.S. Suweet!  Nothing against anyone outside of the U.S., it’s just hard to work out a problem when neither person can understand the other.     If this continues to work, I will put up the 12 or so blog posts I tried to post through my phone but…did I mention my phone signal in our giant pothole is a little slow, too?   SO, unless my propensity for jinxing technology (as anyone who knows me knows I have) shorts out our service, you can look forward to (or dread) NEW posts  during this NEW year.   I’m back!

What’s not shared is lost,

Michelle

Pictures are worth thousands and thousands of words

After receiving the news that my 2-Terabyte External hard drive with all of my photos since 2004 is toast, I find myself looking for a back-up plan for any and all photos I’m able to scrounge to save somewhere. I *had* backed up my photos on the Creative Memories Digital Center site. Creative Memories rewarded their loyal customers, some of whom had been with CM since it was Shoebox to Showcase over 20 years ago (ahem, I for one), by claiming bankruptcy (again) and giving us precious little time to purchase any needed supplies for finishing projects (I’m broke so a moot point) and precious little time to salvage any photos or finished digital albums saved on the site. From what I could tell when I did check the site this summer to see if my photos were still there, my only option for saving my photos was purchasing photo CDs. Again, broke. No option to download my own photos and albums for safe-keeping? Thanks a lot CM. The way I understand it, they are “reorganizing” and have “great things in store.” Newsflash Creative Memories, your consultants and loyal customers are ticked off. Good luck with that.

Anyhoo, enough of me venting. The finality of pictures of births of my precious babies, vacations, cute candids, birthday parties, zoo trips, road trips, homeschool field trips, crafts, messes, cooking together, lego constructions, Christmas, concerts, starting our business, foodie pics, friends, family gatherings, et al. being gone forever provided for a restless sleep as I quietly cried myself to sleep Monday night (okay, I whimpered a little). I keep telling myself this world is not my home but I am sentimental and I’ve seen my kids pour over the scrapbooks I have completed. It’s a huge way to pass on the story and the love. I am the curator of the museum of memories and I have failed.

Creative Memories did drive home several points that I did take to heart and need to put back into practice:

  1. Print your pictures. Even if you can’t get to scrapbooking them, print them before you can’t. I took this more seriously when I used film and became lax when I went to digital. I either need to get those digital scrapbooks done or get those photos printed. Backing up isn’t enough. I backed up my back ups and my pics are still gone (did I mention one laptop crashing and then next one being reset to factory settings? I didn’t think so.)
  2. Back up. Nuff said.
  3. Journal. We all have a story to tell and no one else can tell it. Pictures in an album aren’t enough. Example #1: I have a photo of my great, great, great grandmother in one of those old, pretty but deteriorated albums. She was a Cherokee who walked the Trail of Tears, married a white man and here I am. All I have is a photo, which is awesome but I’d give anything to know her story. I wish someone had written it down. The hard times in which she lived and how she overcame would be a story of bullying this culture can’t appreciate. She had to have been a strong woman. I just wish I knew the tale so I could pass it on. Example #2: I have another old scrapbook that I believe my grandmother made. She did some pretty creative stuff, cutting photos into shapes, arranging some on one page into a star shape, but rather than journal who’s in the photos and what’s going on, she cut quotes and captions from magazines and pasted them under the photos. I look at it and get so frustrated because I don’t know why the pictures were taken, who’s in them, what’s going on. SO many cool pics, and I can tell who my dad is and his siblings and parents, but that’s about it.
    4-IMG_20131016_132157

    No…no I cannot identify these. The irony of this page’s title confounds me…Such cool photos, though!

     

Back to backing up, I’m now reviewing all of the reviews for best photo storing/sharing sites and I will come to my own conclusions and get back to you. If anyone out there has a favorite, let me know! In the meantime, learn from my mistake. Back up your backed up back ups.

What’s not shared (and thank you, God, that I have shared photos on Facebook and my blog) is lost, lost, lost… 😦

Michelle