Thursday, May 28, 2009


Welcome to my new blog! It got finished earlier than I was expecting, so I'm a little late on the official kick-off and a little early for June 10th's birthday party. But welcome anyway! I hope you love the new look and the updated pictures as much as I do.

Things are still a bit under construction, but I wanted you to notice a couple of things: 1) I'll be advertising for Andrea Ward Studios on this blog, so all of the sidebar pictures are courtesy of Andrea! There will be a button up soon that you can click on. It will take you directly to her site, where you can view some great samples of her photography, as well as her brilliant fine art. She is worth every penny in either medium, so I hope you'll stop by to check out her work.

2) I added a section in the sidebar that takes you to some of my favorite posts from the last year. If you haven't been following me for long, I hope you'll go back and check these out. They might be good for a laugh or two. (And be sure to check out my most recent post - yesterday was a doozie of a day.)

Don't forget to check back in for details on my upcoming birthday party. I'll be conducting my first giveaway, and you might win the birthday present.

Can't wait to hear what you all think about the new look!

So You've Had a Bad Day...

Have you ever had one of those days?

You know what I’m talking about. If you’re anything like me, it’s starts with a scenario similar to this:

You’re totally late…

The kids are being less-than-cooperative...

And your cell phone is nowhere to be found.

You waste precious minutes frantically searching, and then give up, dial your own cell number, and follow the ring.

Is that my butt ringing?

Yup. There’s your cell phone… in your pocket.

I had one of those days yesterday. It wasn’t necessarily a bad day. It was just an exercise in frustration that left me wondering if everyone (myself included) is completely incompetent.

Now granted, I kind of set myself up from the get-go by planning a full morning of errands with four small kids. And since the first stop was Goodwill, and I had a rather sizable donation of stuff-the-needy-will-no-doubt-appreciate, it took me awhile to pack the kids into my crammed van. Eventually, I took out a seat, lined the three girls along the back, and put Ty behind me. The problem was, I soon realized, that I also needed to make room for the two tires I was supposed to have a mechanic install on my car (Stop #2). I wrestled the tires out to the driveway, then went to work shoving stuff around to make room for the tires.

Which were, in the meantime, rolling down the street.

Guess I should have paid more attention to that slight slope we live on. But after chasing my two tires to the end of the road – and finally catching them – I loaded them into the van and headed off to run my errands, a bit sweaty but no worse for wear.

Goodwill was a quick stop. (And I’m confident that my stuff was greatly appreciated.) The mechanic wasn’t too bad either. My kids got a kick out of watching the van get new “shoes,” and I finally had a few free minutes to feed Ty his breakfast. Poor kid. He was very grateful for the attention. But then things got a little hairy when I heard my cell phone beeping out its last gasps for breath.

Oooops. Forgot to charge the phone. That’s okay, I’ll stop by the pharmacy for my prescription, swing by home to pick up the charger, and give it some juice during my doctor’s appointment. Oh, and I need to dig my debit card out of the laundry so I can buy the kids some lunch. And I’ll put the other seat back in, in case we need to pick up Ella’s friend after the doctor.

Unfazed, I packed the kids back up into our newly-shod van and headed for the pharmacy. Where I was informed I no longer have a prescription. Indeed, I transferred it to Target last month, when I found a coupon for a $10 gift card – with prescription transfer. Totally out of my way, mind you, but who passes up ten bucks at Target?

Hmmm. I think I have an old script written out at home. I’ll just pick that up while I’m at home and then swing back over here before my appointment.

I ran home, grabbed my phone charger, flipped through my medical file for the old prescription, dug my debit card out of the laundry hamper, wrestled the extra seat into my car, and headed back to the pharmacy where a very nice technician - who sadly knows me by name - filled the prescription while I waited.

Good. I think I can still make my appointment on time. You know, all things considered, this day is going pretty smooth.

Of course, I didn’t count on my chiropractor running 55 minutes behind. I should have, but I didn’t...

The first twenty minutes weren’t too bad, but then the potty breaks started. Emily kicked it off – because if there is a potty within a half mile of her tush, she’s got to go! And thanks to the power of suggestion, Ella and Evie were soon in need of a break as well. Then it was Emily’s turn again. (I’m telling you, she just really loves potty time.) She didn’t produce anything, but Ty did – as evidenced by the whiff of him I got as he toddled by.

Oh no. Please don’t tell me I left the diaper bag at home.

I did.

I ran out to the car and frantically searched every seat pocket, nook, and cranny for a spare diaper, but no luck. After a few more minutes, the smell was so strong that I had to whisk him off to the bathroom (with Evie in tow for a second round) and clean him up as best I could. At first my plan was to let him go commando and risk an accident. But even I’m not that inconsiderate. Instead I checked the wait time (one more ahead of me) and tossed the kids back in the car. I figured I had 10 minutes to locate a diaper for Commando Boy, and pick up some lunch for my now cranky, hungry girls.

My first stop was another drug store. I confess, there was no way I was going to unload my kids just for a quickie diaper purchase. On the flip side, I once got in trouble with the county sheriff for leaving my children in an unattended car for 2 minutes. (A story for another time.) I was stuck with option 3: the drive thru.

“Hi. I’m sorry, but is there ANY way I could just get a package of Huggies Size 4?”

She looks confused.

"I know this isn't standard operating procedure, but I really need a diaper and I promise you don't want my children in your store right now."

“Um, do you want regular or supreme?”

“Hmmmm. You know? I honestly don’t care.”

God bless that sweet girl in the pharmacy department for picking out the smallest, cheapest package she could find. I paid for my purchase, pulled into a parking space, and diapered a suspiciously damp bottom.

Nothing like closing the barn door after the horse gets out.

My next stop was Burger King. It took some creative maneuvering through the lunch traffic, but I eventually got my sack of chicken nuggets and French fries. Except that somebody forgot stick the fries in the bag.

(I admit at this point that I yelled something to the effect of "ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME?!?!)

Too bad I was already back in traffic. More creative maneuvering ensued and I was eventually back in the drive thru line. I had to cut in front of a lady who was having difficulty locating exact change, but at least I got my fries.

A few minutes later, I was back at the doctor’s office with four kids, a sack of fast food, a stroller, bottled water, and a picnic blanket. (Because at this point, I figured we'd just make ourselves at home.) As I finished getting lunch laid out, the doctor called my name.

Evie jumped up and yelled, "I have to go potty!"

"NO, you don't. Now sit down and eat!"

“You know,” the doctor said, as we walked into her office, and she closed the door behind her. “I wouldn’t be you for all the money in the world.”

Really? Because it's only noon...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Changes in the Air...

"Wait. Am I on the right page? When did we go back to plain white Minima? And isn't the name different? When did the name change? I SO need to check this blog more often..."

Yup, you're just in time. There are big changes brewing here at Put Me in the Zoo (formerly Surviving 4). For one thing, there's a birthday coming up. On June 10, this blog will celebrate it's first - but hopefully not it's last - birthday! In honor of a milestone I thought I'd never reach, I'm giving my blog a full makeover, complete with name change and face lift. By the first week of June, you should be able to see new pictures of all four monkeys, courtesy of Andrea Ward Studios, as well as a brand-new blog template from Danielle, The Design Girl.

Of course no party is complete without presents, so be sure to check back in time to participate in my first blog giveaway. I'll do my best to make it a good one.

In the meantime, I'm going to finish my INSANE Spring Cleaning project, which is officially entering it's third week. Heaven help me. What was I thinking? Hopefully just a few more days...


TDT #2 (The Darndest Things: funny comments my kids make that can't be turned into an actual post)

Evie crawled into bed with me a few mornings ago, looking for a snuggle. What she got was a nose-full of morning breath when I rolled over and said, "Good morning, Sweetie."

She slapped her hands over her nose and mouth and said something I couldn't make out.

"What did you say, Evie?"

She pulled her hands back and shouted, "Mommy, you are stinky in my nose!" Then she rolled off the bed and ran away.

Think I'll be adding Listerine to my grocery list this week...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Feeding the Hungry

It's four o'clock in the afternoon and heaven help me, it's the witching hour.

If you are the mother of any child under the age of 5, you know exactly what I mean.

If your children are in school full time - elementary school, college, whatever - you used to know what I mean, but you've probably suppressed the memory of late afternoons spent in the company of pre-schoolers. I think doctors refer to it as post-traumatic stress syndrome. Regardless, get ready for some regressive therapy because I'm about to dig up your buried past:

Four o'clock is the witching hour because the pre-schoolers are up too early from the naps they took too late, they are bored with every activity that occupied them throughout the morning, and they are hungry, even though it's way too soon for dinner. Unfortunately, you - the mom who needs a nap more than anybody in the house and who can't come up with a single "fun" activity to do - has to figure out what to feed the little vultures.

I don't know how four o'clock always manages to sneak up on me. I mean, it comes around at the exact same time everyday. But for some reason, I'm always caught off guard when my kids come marching downstairs to demand food and I realize that I have no idea what to feed them. Obviously I know I'm supposed to give them something healthy, like rice cakes smeared with peanut butter and sprinkled with twigs and berries. But I don't really have it in me to listen to their whining for the next hour, when a big bowl of ice cream makes them so blissfully quiet.

However, I stumbled onto an idea recently that actually seems to be working for my kids. I can't claim credit for this brilliant plan, since my mom says she's the one who told me about it - and it turns out that a lot of parenting magazines also suggest this approach. But in case you're living under a rock like me, I'm going to tell you about our Snack Tray Technique. ("Technique" is probably overstating a simple plan, but whatever...) The idea is to give kids an option about what and how much they eat by offering them not one, but several snacks.

It's really not as overwhelming as it sounds. I found these great plastic, divided trays at the grocery store for a little over a dollar apiece. Of course, if you have loads of money, you can also purchase the same thing at Pottery Barn for 20 times that amount. If you're feeling thrifty, a muffin tin works from your cabinet works just as well. The point is to have something divided that can be filled with an assortment of snacks, like this:

The picture doesn't show it very well, but this snack tray has 3 slices of cheese, a handful of sunflower seeds, a few chocolate chips, 3 crackers, and some grapes. I usually try to have enough of a selection so the kids have the option of protein, dairy, carbs, fruit, etc. And sugar. I don't know if it's scientific, but as a kid I was never allowed to eat chocolate on a regular basis; now, as adult, I will eat it by the pound. So my thinking is that maybe if the kids can enjoy it in moderation, they won't crave it so much.

The other nice thing about the tray is that the kids can eat as little or as much as they want. If the kids aren't that hungry, there are only a few things they will eat purely for the taste - and the portions are small. If they're starving, they can eat everything on the tray, but I can be confident that they satisfied their hunger with nutrition as well as treats. Of course, I don't do any refills on the tray. Our rule around here is, "You eat what you get and you don't pitch a fit."

Of course, our little snack tray system isn't foolproof. For one thing, my kids like to eat different things, so as soon as those trays hit the table, the bartering begins. Emily usually gives all her fruit to Evie and her sunflower seeds to Ella. Evie gives her crackers to Emily and collects all the cheese. Nobody gives up the chocolate.

Speaking of chocolate, I've had to learn to be careful about where I stash my chocolate chips. A few days into our snack tray program, I was on the phone with mom2drew, raving about my snack tray success. After I hung up the phone, I walked into the family room and saw three chocolate-smeared, near-comatose faces gazing blankly at the television. I knew there was no way that 10 chocolate chips could have created that mess. Then I noticed the completely empty, 12-oz. bag lying on the floor. The same bag I'd just opened - brand new - 30 minutes ago.

I guess my kids can eat it by the pound, too.

I've also had to be on the ball about preparing snack trays. One afternoon I was upstairs with Ty, and didn't get down quick enough to put the trays together. I came into the kitchen to find Ella and her sisters on the floor fixing up their own snack trays. It wasn't too bad, actually. Ella picked some pretty good snacks out of the pantry, and I couldn't fault in her portion control. But yes, those are scissors on the floor next to her.

New rule: Only Mommy makes snack trays.

Which means that I'd better get going in the kitchen. It's 4:15 in the afternoon and heaven help me, I'm late with the snacks. Maybe the witching hour will pass quickly today.

Or not...


Author's Note: You asked for it! More of my unsolicited advice, that is. If you're looking for some, and you missed my posting earlier in the year, click here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Little Miss Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Ella has been dying to plant a garden for months now. I have no idea where she came up with the idea, but every day this past winter she carried her little green garden shovel out back to dig in the dirt patch next to our patio. So far she's planted everything from loose pocket change to a handful of dry-roasted sunflower seeds she found in my pantry. She is NOT pleased with the results. But rather than explain to her that money doesn't actually grow in gardens (or on trees, for that matter), I decided that maybe it's time to try vegetables.

Now, don't worry - I know you're thinking that I don't have the time to keep up with a garden, and I totally agree. I'm not at all optimistic about this endeavor. Generally speaking, my house is where plants go to die, as many a green-thumbed family member can attest. I've killed virtually every un-killable plant out there without so much as lifting a finger. Or a watering can, as the case may be. (Although I won't take responsibility for the pansies - the bunnies got those.) But a garden seems so important to my sweet girl. Plus, it occurs to me that she might actually eat a vegetable or two if it comes from her own backyard.

Or not.

Regardless, after much deliberation and many, many, many hours spent in the Home Depot Landscaping department, Ella and I finally planted a real garden. As expected, my little girl got pretty into it. She took one look at my gardening hat and gloves, and raced off to find her own set of accessories:

(Something got lost in translation... Yes, that is a winter hat and gloves. And yes, it was HOT.)

But somehow - after several hours of burying an assortment of teeny, tiny little seeds that I may very well never see again - we got our vegetable garden planted. And watered. Ella was so excited. In fact, she couldn't wait to get home from school the next day.

"Mommy, Mommy, I want to go see my garden! Can I? Can I?!?"

We walked to the backyard to gaze out over the little plot of land which, to my untrained eye, looked fine. Ella disagreed. She put a hand on her hip, shook her little head, and sighed.

"It doesn't look good, Mom."

"Oh Sweetie! Sure it does! It's going to take some time, you know, but pretty soon we're going to have lots of yummy tomatoes and zucchini and green beans to eat." We just have to remember to water them...

Ella sighed again and replied, in her most earnest tone, "I sure wish we could plant cookies instead."

That girl is a kid after my own heart. I bet you don't even have to water a cookie garden. Just a little milk now and then, and you've got yourself a bountiful harvest.

But no, we had to plant vegetables. And darned if I don't have to go water them. AGAIN.