The Liebster Award

Our sweet little Zee Family blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award!

liebsteraward

Fellow Momma Jess from Give me Strength, a heart-felt blogger, warrior, balancer of all crazy things in this life, put this blog on a growing list of talented, funny, beautiful people in the blogging community to have received this acknowledgement.

The Liebster Award is meant to encourage and promote other bloggers within the blogging community. “Liebster,” a German word, means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, lovely, pleasant, valued or welcome.

WOW!
First, let me take a moment and tell you about Jess. Our paths crossed only briefly in person, but despite both of us moving, adding some kids, changing our lives all around and up and down, we’ve kept in touch thanks to social media. Jess started blogging just a few months ago. I’ll never forget her FaceBook post that basically said, “Thinking about a blog… should I?”

YES, I screamed into my phone’s FB app.
And then I proceeded to write a probably very long response comment about how it is a calming therapy for me and how much I would love to see what she had to say. She did not disappoint. Her blog absolutely lives up to the tagline “laughter and encouragement…” She writes consistently, which I appreciate, and honestly, which I admire. She has made me think for hours after I leave her page and I’m off doing some chore or task.
So, thank you, Jess.

OK, so this award has rules! And I’m trying desperately to be a rule follower, not breaker, in my old age!

1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you. (Done!)
2. Answer 11 questions the blogger gives you. (Next!)
3. Give 11 facts about yourself. (oooooh!)
4. Nominate 11 other blogs. (So, they’re supposed to have less than 200 followers — some of mine have more than that and some I don’t know! So I might be breaking a rule! AH!)
5. Let them know you nominated them.
6. Give those bloggers 11 questions to answer.

Alright. Here are my questions from Jess and my answers:
1. What is the one thing that you want most to accomplish this year?

Balance. Did I answer that too quickly? I’m getting much better at it all — mom, wife, housewife, photographer, Mary Kay, family, friends… sometimes I can’t do it very well in one day or one week, and often, I forget to take care of me! I’m highly considering a day or weekend completely away and all by myself, disconnected! GASP!

2. What is your favorite quality about yourself?

I’m caring about others, almost to a fault. I love making people happy, I love the idea of memories and traditions. Sometimes, I definitely set expectations too high.

3. What is something that is guaranteed to make you laugh?

Addie-isms. That girl thinks of the craziest things. This morning, she said she had to go see Santa. When I asked why, she responded with, “Santa sing with me.” What??? Just now, she handed me her empty snack bowl. “I please, I just, it’s just I want more fishes.”

4. When you want/need to relax, what do you do?

Oh man, relaxing rocks! I like any and all of the following: coffee or tea, a good book, an old classic movie, crocheting, a walk or run outside, taking photos, calling someone just because, or just a random drive.

5. How did you come up with the name of your blog?

I’m not very original! Last name starts with “z!” Zee Family! In the very beginning of this blog (I actually had two earlier versions of this blog!), I even did things like “zee baby” and “zee house” — man that got old really quickly!

6. What or who inspired you to begin blogging?

Keeping in touch with long-distance loved ones and creating sort of a virtual recap of our day-to-day lives for the kids to enjoy one day.

7. Name your guilty pleasure.

M&Ms. I have entire bags of them, various flavors, hidden. I don’t eat a lot at once, but man oh man do I LOVE them. (Please e-mail for address and favorite flavors, haha just kidding!)

8. What is your least favorite household chore?

Either emptying the dishwasher or putting laundry away. I love washing dishes by hand and I really don’t mind doing or folding laundry. But I hate putting all those nice warm clean things away! Weird.

9. Do you utilize social media as a blogger? If so, how?

A bit here and there for this blog, mostly just on FaceBook. With my photography blog and business, I use Pinterest (to share ideas with future clients), Instagram (to share a lot of behind-the-scenes moments) and FaceBook.

10. To date, what would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

Being a Mom. Seriously, this is a great job. Super difficult. So frustrating sometimes. Always questioning yourself. But I love every moment I have with Z & A.

11. Where is your favorite place to shop?

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of Etsy shopping, but typically I HATE shopping. My most recent purchases are 90% for my photography or for someone else!

My 11 random facts:
1.I have an insanely blended/mixed family. Dad, stepmom, two stepsisters, a half-sister, a half-brother and a gaggle of nieces and nephews. I grew up with an entire family that I wasn’t even related to and I LOVE them beyond words because blood never mattered.

2. I am so addicted to coffee. I typically have at least two to three good-sized cups a day. A couple of times a week, that goes WAY up. I couldn’t even quit 100% during my pregnancies. Doctor said all of the side effects were not worth it, so I went down to one cup of caffeinated and sometimes a decaf or half-half cup.

3. Despite my love of coffee, I’ve never been to the coffee shop that’s literally like five blocks from the house. I need to do that.

4. I’ve never had a speeding ticket…

5. … because I’ve talked my way out of them.

6. I love Wikipedia and IMDB. I will Wikipedia at least five or six times a day. (Who’s that guy in the commercial? Can a conjoined twin have a child? Where is most of the world’s heroin made?)

7. New England is my favorite place in the world. I love the history, the culture, all the great writers from there. And I love lots of snow and mountains.

8. Despite my love for reading, my lowest grade in my first 12 years of schooling came from 6th Grade Reading. Ms. Grob said I was terrible at comprehending what I read. I cried over that C+ for a solid week.

9. Hurdling was a bad life decision. I did it to help out my team my senior year of high school. I absolutely sucked at it, first of all. But, because my technique was so poor, I wound up getting a torn hip flexor on one side and bursitis in both hips. I feel it to this day. Also, one day I ran into a hurdle so hard that I fell back completely onto the track and tried to regroup before anyone noticed. But my blood-soaked body and limp gave me away.

10. I love to laugh. I’ve been known to belly-laugh and snort.

11. Nicknames include: Wendell, Coal Car, Gemela, Dubya, Breezy, Baby Girl, Pookie.

The questions I’m sending to my favorite bloggers:

1. What has been the biggest surprise in your blogging journey so far?

2. What three things in a “typical day” make you happiest?

3. Share a favorite photo with you in it.

4. Where’s your favorite getaway?

5. What most concerns you about the next generation?

6. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition?

7. Name three fears.

8. Who was the last person to encourage you and how?

9. What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned this year?

10. Where do you see your blog in five years?

11. Have you ever hit “publish” on a post you regret?

And finally, my nominees for the Liebster Award:


Barren to Beauitful

The Life and Writings of Kate Baer
Give Me Strength (Jess, I had to send it right back to you, I’m sorry!)
Tales From the Trenches
Our Epic Story
Chasing Rainbows
Nicole Schwalm Photography
When the Heart Speaks
Mommy Life After PhD
Being Jane
Becoming Jolie

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‘Love is who we are… “

I am listening to Sara Bareilles’ “Love is Christmas” and “Winter Song” on repeat with giggles in the air and assorted play food on the floor. My daughter offers me a “teapot” and my son is singing random words to the song with a smile on his face.

We are preparing for a wintery coating and a couple of days without Daddy. My heart is content despite the shoveling and the missing I’m about to do.

“I don’t care if it’s gonna rain, our little room is warm and stable…”

*
We shared an amazing belated Thanksgiving celebration with 10 of the best loved ones. Giggles and good smells and gifts and delicious food. People who traveled far and wide just for a few hours in our new home.

We were cramped and it was loud but my gosh, was there love. In chickey kisses and hand pats and camera clicks and bites of yumminess.

“I don’t care if the house is packed or the strings of light are broken…”

*
One of my bestest friends and my favorite 2014 bride, Kacey (the Caboose!) and her hubby Drew came to our house on Saturday for a visit and again, full heart. They trekked up the TurnPike in a torrential downpour but arrived with smiles and excitement. We shared coffee and local pizza and silly games with the kids. We played adult games after bedtime for babies and even shared a glass or two of wine. We watched their wedding video and laughed over how I messed up the bouquet not once, but twice! Addie thought Kacey was a princess and both kids were attached to Drew the entire time. (The cat, too!)

I am so constantly grateful for loved ones who make the effort and sacrifice just for some time in our world.

“All we need is your best my love; that’s all anyone ever wanted…”

*On Sunday, we went to a fun Breakfast with Santa event. I finally located the local Down Syndrome support group, PODS of NEPA, and we were invited to their event this weekend.

We weren’t sure to expect, and honestly, I had to do some convincing to get Scott excited about it at all, but boy, were we surprised.

We walked through the doors of a catering hall 40 minutes north of us and before we spotted the beautiful decorations and centerpieces, the magnets and other 3-21 giveaway items, the kindness of strangers, we noticed hundreds of people. At least 50 families who “get it” or “got it” or are “getting it” just like us.

Babies with almond eyes and adults with kind smiles; verbal and nonverbal kiddos of all ages; talk of aides and school and independent living.

We sat with a family of four — a nine-year-old boy with DS, his 12-year-old big brother and their mom and dad. By the end of the morning, with coats on, we were celebrating their son’s bravery in finally trusting Santa’s lap and exchanging business cards and well wishes and promises of friendship.

I just kept looking around, whispering “Look at this, my love,” to the toddler on my lap.

I watched little Alex stroke his Mom’s cheek with a piece of hair he pulled from behind her ear and told her how Z-Man does the same thing to me. We shared one of my favorite smiles and a nod.

And while Zack was quite happy to meet Santa, Addie was not so pleased — at least not until the snowman character picked her up for a few minutes. Sorry for crashing your photos, other kids! She tells us on repeat still:

“Addie cried… I just wanted to see Snowman… Snowman said ‘hi’ to me…”

Even after five goodbyes, when I spotted Alex’s mom in the lobby on our way to the car, I went in for the sort-of-creepy-mom-who-needs-to-get-out-more hug. And she hugged me back tightly. And Scott and I both keep saying how we feel much less alone now.

“I’ll be your harvester of light and send it out tonight so we can start again…”

I think as I get older, it’s not that I realize what’s truly important — it’s simply that I appreciate it all — the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, the dreams and the surprises.

Even something as simple as a makeshift tea party with a snowman-phobic little girl and her hair-petting big brother is an absolute treasure.

We have more Christmas carols to sing, snuggles to snuggle and traditions to turn into memories.

My life is very good. My life is filled with love.

Adventures in Housewifery — Homemade Laundry Detergent

My friend Nicole is amazed that I am becoming a master of housewifery (yes, it’s a word and yes, it does sound like sorcery) and said I should start sharing some of my adventures, good and bad, as I experiment with new routines and rituals, ways to cut corners and ingredients to save money on basic supplies.

 

My first true foray into being one of THOSE moms — you know, the pseudo-hippie, cost-efficient, wise-and-beautiful-simultaneously mommas — was making my own homemade laundry detergent.

It started with a panicked moment after Addie (brace yourselves, ye of weak stomachs) smeared poop from her diaper across the bars on her crib, the wall behind the crib, in her hair, among all of her stuffed animals and oh yes, across every square inch of sheet and blanket.

The best part? We didn’t have a drop of laundry detergent in the house.

So I did what any freaked-out Mom would do — I Googled.

Page after page, blog after blog displayed many of the same similar ingredients and a super-easy process.

For my test run, I simply used:

ONE bar of ZOTE soap (found in the laundry aisle of most large grocery stores/Wal-Mart)

THREE cups of Arm&Hammer Washing Soda (Do NOT confuse this with Baking Soda!)

 

I shredded and grinded up the soap until it formed very tiny little strips (I used a food processor; you can also use a grater, etc)

I then mixed in the washing soda powder, put it in a labeled bucket with a lid and handle for easy transport. (Aren’t my labels cute?)

 

(Sorry about the photos — I wasn’t expecting much to happen with this and just snapped a few quick shots with my phone — I’ll do better)ImageImage

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Now, you can use Borax with these two ingredients, too, to add a little stain-fighting power, but I didn’t have it my first time around and, quite honestly, I thought my colors stayed bright and my stains came out great (even dirty bottom-of-toddler-socks marks!). It’s got a fresh scent to it, but the clothes don’t have much of a scent to it when they’re all done. (Some people swear against Borax and some swear you can’t do homemade detergent without it, so decide for yourself).

I’ve also ordered some essential oils (lemon, orange, lavender) to add a drop or two in every load for added grease removing powers (as suggested by several Mommy Bloggers) and for a little smell.

My next batch will be much larger (probably doubled or tripled) and I may try the Borax and definitely the essential oil.

 

To use, I let just less than 1/8 cup of the mixture dissolve in warm-hot water for a few seconds before I change it to cold water and add my clothes.

I then do my load of laundry as normal — fabric softener, etc.
ALTHOUGH… I have a recipe for fabric softener I’ll be trying shortly, too!

 

We do a LOT of laundry in our house. Between kids’ clothes, Scott’s work clothes and regular clothes, workout clothes and the occasional poop-a-polypse in cribs destroying half of a Bubble Guppies stuffed village, it’s not unusual for us to do five to eight loads a WEEK. Detergent is bought at LEAST once a month.

These are not EXACT prices, but on average, our detergent costs about $13-14 for a bottle that’s supposed to do at least 60 loads of laundry (doubtful, but sure). That works out to almost $.25/load.

With the Washing Soda ($3-4/box of 50-plus ounces) and Zote soap (about $2-$2.50/bar), and not needing to use as much as normal detergent for a load, I believe it costs us about… wait for it… $.03/load.

21 cents difference over five loads a week for four weeks a month = $4-5/savings a month, just for the low end of our laundry. I’m OK with saving $60-plus a year (probably closer to $100 for us). For us, it’s more about dropping that $14 -$28 purchase every month on our grocery trip and only needing $6 in soap and $3 in washing soda.

Now, the essential oils (about $3 each, but will last FOREVER) and Borax (still not sure if I’m even going to use this) will add to our per-load cost, of course, but still a good deal.

 

 

Upcoming homemade adventures:

Fabric softener

Coffee creamers

Febreze

Swiffer Wet sheets

Dryer sheets/balls

Various cleaners (all-purpose, furniture polish, etc)

Got any suggestions or ideas for me?