Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child. Have fun!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Laughing at myself

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Even in church.

Many years ago, when I first interpreted for the Deaf at our church, there were mishaps aplenty. Thankfully, our friends were very patient and understanding. There was that time that I interpreted a whole foot washing service as sock washing and they didn't bother to bring it to my attention until the whole service was over. As soon as they told me, I knew what I had done, and the correct signs for both feet and socks. For me, (and maybe for them) it has forever changed the meaning of that sacred tradition. Just imagine Jesus on his hands and knees removing the socks from his sandaled and sockless disciples and washing them right there - dipping them in water, wringing them out, wringing them out a bit more, dipping them back in the water, and wringing them out. Rinse and repeat. Can't you just see 12 pairs of socks hanging over the bench they were sitting on for Passover? Or maybe pinned to a line along the side? And Peter, protesting, as Jesus removed his mismatched Argyle socks from his dirty, dusty, sandaled feet? It's okay, just imagine; God can handle it, He created our imaginations and the ability to laugh.

And then there's yesterday, when the Good Doctor asked me to help him with communion. I get this question a lot and I often cannot help. This time I was already sitting in my seat in church so I really couldn't use the have-to-wash-the-cat excuse or the I-have-nothing-to-wear explanation or the-baby-pooped-in-the-carseat-gotta-wash-it-right-now defense so I agreed.

You might think this is not a difficult task but for me, the most nerve-wracking part is that there is this one phrase that you have to repeat over and over and over again, in a very solemn and serious someone-has-died tone. You can't mess it up. You can't smile. You can't let them see you sweat. You have to get your volume just right, too. Too quiet and the poor recipient has no idea why you are offering them a plate of tiny, clear, plastic cups of grape juice or why there is a loaf of bread wrapped in a napkin in your hand. Too loud and you spoil the suspense for the next person in line.

You get one and only one shot with each person and since there are so many people, that's a lot of chances to mess up. And once I start to get anxious over the fact that I have been asked to do this yet again (comes as part of the pastor's wife contract: Do you hereby solemnly affirm that any time you are asked to help serve communion and cannot come up with a sufficient excuse, you will joyfully yet solemnly fulfill your duties with the utmost religiosity? right above Do you hereby solemnly affirm that you will have all of the exact same skills as your pastoral spouse so any time someone comes to you for counseling, advice, or church information, you will respond in the exact same way that he/she does? and right under Do you hereby solemnly affirm that you will never, ever let anyone know that your pastor spouse has faults and do you hereby solemnly affirm that you will agree with anyone who comes to you singing your spouse's praises for something he/she has done at church?), then any recollection of what I was told to say the last time I helped serve communion goes right out of my head. I can remember that it either has something to do with bread or cup, depending on what is in my hands, but that is the extent of my memory. Of course, if the Good Doctor decides to change things up a bit and give you a new line, that is really going to be a problem.

So I always ask for a refresher and yesterday he told me to say, "This is the blood of Jesus shed for your sin." That's was all fine and good for the first person. The second one came along and I repeated, "This is the blood of Jesus shed for your sin," only this time it came out, "This is the blood of Jesus shed for your skin."

I blame Andrew for all of those years of snake ownership in our home. We must have put shed and skin in the same sentence one too many times in those years.

Father, forgive me, for I cracked a smile.

Okay, I outright giggled.

I apologized, corrected my mistake, and moved on.

Now I was afraid of the bishop finding out and the possibility of excommunication so I was very careful with the next person, and the one after that, and the one after that...

But even so, it happened again.

Father, forgive me again, for I almost peed my pants. In church. During communion.

And believe it or not, since some of us are slow learners, it happened a third time.

There are no excuses that can cover that. I'm old? I have too many kids? We used to own a snake who shed her skin?  All sounds so lame when you try to put it on paper.

And to add insult to injury, the Good Doctor insisted that I have to share it with the cyber world because as he said, "It will set you free from the performance trap."

Might set you free from your job, too, dear husband, but just remember, it was your idea to confess. In fact, that was in your sermon yesterday, wasn't it? Confession, right? Yes, I think it was. See, I was listening (but truth be told, that's in the contract too. I do hereby solemnly affirm that I will always be in attendance during my spouse's sermons, sitting with him upfront, looking lovingly toward my spouse but not too lovingly as to be a distraction, nodding my head at all of the profound points, never criticizing my spouse's words, content, or clothing).

Forgive me, Father, for I keep forgetting that one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Celebrating 25

On June 29th, the Good Doctor and I celebrated the survival of 25 years with the same person. Quite a feat. We spent a wonderful day celebrating with the kids and my parents. The Good Doctor insisted that we had to go somewhere to further celebrate this momentous occasion. I insisted that at our house, children can be found in trees, but money cannot. He had nothing to say to that seeing as the bank was also on my side. But, thanks to our favorite eldest, we were able to take not just one, but six fabulous anniversary vacations.

First, he asked the Good Doctor where he would have go if we could go anywhere. The Good Doctor said he wanted to be on a boat. Andrew obliged. It was as traumatic as I suspected a cruise would be. Unfortunately, the vacation suddenly ended early.

Then, to be fair and equal, he asked me where I would like to go to celebrate my silver anniversary. I said a missions trip. He said, "No, really." I said, "Yes, really."

Disclaimer: Andrew vehemently argued against this trip because "it's just wrong" but I forced him to send us on a missions trip since it was my dream to celebrate our anniversary serving somewhere. Everyone knows you can't give one parent his dream vacation without giving the other parent hers. That's not how parenting works.

2nd Disclaimer: This was the only time we actually smiled, dressed up, or stood still on this missions trip. The rest of the trip we were busy digging wells, building houses, worshiping with our new friends, and (of course) holding the most adorable babies.

Just because he had a little extra money in his wallet, Andrew then asked if we wanted to go anywhere else. The Good Doctor admitted that he had looked into a trip to Niagara. He said he found a very cheap hotel. Andrew said, "Why not?"

And since we were going the cheap and cheesy route, he decided a quick trip to Disney was in order. It would have been a great souvenir photo if it wasn't for that guy who walked right behind us.

With such good deals on the Niagara and Disney trips, he went for cheesy of all cheesy and sent us to the Poconos.  It was amazing, as soon as we arrived at the resort, we felt and looked years younger. In fact, we looked surprisingly like the cheesy advertisement that lured us there, even with the fake orange tans.

And since there was a special on flights to northern Indiana, he threw in one more trip to the Good Doctor's hometown to visit the egg, the solitary stoplight, and the King Memorial Home.

This was definitely an anniversary with experiences that brought us closer together and smiling all the way. I can't imagine how we will top this 25 years from now.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Future bucket list

There will be a day in the future when all of my children are grown. It won't be for a very long time and that's okay, but a few of them are getting close to being on their own. I look forward to this day with great anticipation. It has been a joy to watch each of them mature into godly men and women, developing their God-given talents, and serving those around them. I can't wait to visit them and see how they are continuing to bless others with their vocations. And there's no rush, but I'd be kidding myself if I didn't mention that I'm also looking forward to grandchildren. I will be the baby-hogging grandmother but I will also be the next-generation observer, laughing inwardly, and also probably outwardly as their children treat them just like they treated me.

In preparation for that glorious time in the future, I have started my bucket list. I am not putting places I'd like to visit on the list because I assume that the kids will be all over the world and I'll get my traveling in.

This is a bucket list of all the things I'd like to do while visiting my beloved, perfect, always compliant, forever grateful children ...

1. Empty the cupboards of all the cups, place them in the sink, and then be offended that they would accuse me of having a drink of water that day or of not washing my own cup.

2. After showering I am going to leave my soaking wet towel on the floor, right next to a huge pile of water I accidentally splashed onto the floor but somehow didn't notice was there.

3. Bring a backpack of books, pencils, devices, jackets, sneakers, etc. and randomly place items on the floor, sofa, and table. No need to pick them up, just go to bed when tired and let my kids deal with the mess.

4. The day after #3, repeat but this time shove items in hard-to-find and difficult-to-reach places like behind furniture and under sofas and chairs.

5. Wear every pair of socks in my suitcase (I'll pack extra for good measure) and then leave them scattered around the house, remembering to separate all matches so that when they are found, there will only be one of each. I'm sure that as soon as they decide to throw one away, the match will be found.

6. Every time I open a door to the outdoors, or a to a cabinet, or even a drawer in a dresser, I'll leave it open. When questioned, I will claim short-term memory loss and argue that there is no way I was ever in that area today.

7. Volunteer to unload the dishwasher but only unload half of it. I will then leave the room with escaping laughter as I watch my kids load the rest of the washer with dirty dishes and run them through another cycle. Wasted time, water and electricity? Who cares? I will no longer be paying for it. They will. Repeat daily throughout my visit.

8. When the grandkids ask me to play Monopoly (my ultimate least favorite game), I will gladly agree. Within 10 minutes, another grandchild will have asked to play checkers, I'm sure. Even though he is too young for this game, I'll agree.  I will abandon Monopoly without cleaning up (and neither will the first grandchild) to play Checkers. Since he is too young for games of skill, we will just shoot the checker pieces around the table. Many of them will land on the floor but who needs them, there will be enough on the table to keep us busy. Then someone will want to go outside to ride bikes and kick soccer ball, and draw with sidewalk chalk. We will have one last checker shooting match to see who can get the remaining checkers onto the floor the fastest and then we will go outside without cleaning up. We will have a great time playing outside. When we are finished, we will put the bikes right next to the closed garage door, on the outside of the door, never inside. We will leave the chalk in the driveway to be run over when my adult child returns home from work, and the soccer ball will be right at the bottom of the front steps.

9. Hopefully DVDs will be around just long enough... Each time we watch one, we will leave it out of the designated cover. We won't pile them neatly, either. We'll just leave them all over the TV stand, a few on each shelf. Scratches might be a nice, added touch, for good measure.

10. Take the kids to the library and to Redbox, using their library card and credit card, of course. We'll stock up for the week. Then I'll forget where I've put them and when they're due.

11. Roll my eyes, sigh, and complain to my friends each time they ask me to watch their kids for a few minutes or help them out by taxiing one of them somewhere, even though I'm getting free room and board during my visit and I'm borrowing their car and using their gas.

12. Bring a few tiny Legos that I have saved before dividing them and sending them to the kids for their kids. Choose a Lego piece that best matches the floor and accidentally drop it when no one is looking. Ignore the cries of pain that come from your child when he or she steps or worse yet, kneels on said piece. When questioned, I will tell my child that I don't have any idea what Legos are being referred to or how it could have gotten out of its designated location.

13. Buy grape juice for the kids. Spill some on the refrigerator shelf, the front of the fridge, and the kitchen floor. Look at it, look around the room to see if anyone saw me, and then if not (and they won't because I'll choose my timing well), just walk away. The next day, repeat with honey or caramel sauce.

14. Dye water to the color yellow. Put drops on the toilet seat and a larger puddle on the floor in front of the toilet. Admit to nothing. (Could do this with actual pee but just can't see myself doing that. On the other hand, I may be persuaded by the time my kids are on their own.)

15. Go through their closets and pull out perfectly washed and clean clothing. Put it into the laundry still folded. Refuse to do laundry while at that house.

16. All day long, ask what is for dinner. Turn up my nose every time. In-between, remind them of the foods that I hate (which will be in the dish they are preparing). Sit down for dinner and remind them once again that I hate certain foods. Put a tiny amount on my plate. Stare at it. Give some to the dog. Hide the rest in my napkin. Tell them I am full. Ask for dessert. Eat lots.

17. Between meals, take food out of the fridge to be eaten in the living room and other off-limits locations. No need to use napkins. Just use the furniture. Best done with spaghetti or other messy foods. Leave plates, bowls, and silverware in the off-limit location but don't admit to being the offender. If napkins were used, leave these, too. Works best if they have a dog.

18. Carve my name into furniture, write my name on car upholstery, put stickers that won't come off onto expensive antiques, bang holes into the kitchen table with a fork. This way, my children will never, ever forget that I have been there.

19. Volunteer to cook a meal. Leave a little bit of food at the bottom of each pot, skillet, and bowl. When asked to clean them, I will insist that I need to wait because the food has hardened. I will put water in each container to soak, and then each successive day, when asked to clean the dishes, I will emphatically state that I will get them but they are still soaking.

20. Pretend to lose multiple items, barely look for them, and then ask my child to find them for me. Of course they will be in obvious or appropriate places and will be found immediately.

21. Say my child's name repeatedly but when acknowledged, I will have nothing of real importance to say or I will ask my child to get something that I could have easily gotten for myself.

22. When a band-aid is needed (or even if it is not), separate the wrapper into two pieces, leaving one next to the trash can and the other in front of the toilet. When I no longer need said band-aid, I will just drop it wherever the mood strikes. Face down on the floor is a good location as the ends stick and are difficult to remove. Another good choice is next to the sink where it can be both bloody and wet.

Note to my children who are about to abuse me in my old age, let me state for the record that this is a compilation of comments on a FB post where I was lamenting the issue found in #1. None of the rest of these are my own ideas or are actions perpetrated by children in this house but are clearly ideas formed by parents less loving than I.

Oh, and I have never, ever lied to you.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Search me

...or why I don't usually post on social media in response to current events...

Every few days or weeks, a major event occurs that makes the news. All of a sudden, posts spring up on all sides of the issue. I appreciate the diversity in my social media friends and knowing them as individuals, I can see where their varying opinions come from. A particular post might receive multiple positive comments, all in agreement with the poster or it might start a vicious and back-biting argument between friends of a friend of the cousin of the original poster, people who have never, and will never meet but feel safe enough to anonymously argue with someone about whose past or present life experiences they know nothing about. Data, often skewed to make a point, will be sited. Quotes lifted. Those who feed off of conflict sit back and smile. Others cringe. Those who count comments as points toward a prize feel like they have just met a new record. But no one is changed, especially not the causes of the current events which are often deeper than any of us could ever reach in our lifetime.

This is not to say that I don't know what's going on or that I don't have an opinion about current events or that I don't want to see change. No, the reason I pause before posting is because I'm not convinced that posting about current events changes anything, in the heart of the poster or in those who read it, and especially not in the situation at large. It might make me feel good for that moment. Maybe it will make me look good in front of social media land. But does it change anything in me, every moment of every day? For myself, I want to be more concerned about what is in my heart all the time, not just when an issue is at the forefront for 72 hours.

I want to find myself on my knees every single day praying,

"Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139: 23 - 24
It's easy to be a small person in a big problem and to take sides, point blame, and yet stay safely removed. It's easy to post or repost something in response to current events, but does it change my heart? If someone reads my post, will it adequately show what is in my heart? Probably not. More likely, it will mask the sin issues I really face. Will it change anyone's mind about me in the positive? Probably not although it might change their opinion negatively and that might not have even been my intention. And in the end, will anything change at all? No.

Search me, God, and know my heart. Show me my own sin issues and offensive ways - fear, worry, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, selfishness, gluttony, etc. How has my heart contributed to my own  blind spots that keep me from doing something about the needs in front of me? And have I, either by omission or commission, contributed to the deeper issues that are at the root of the current events? Have I mishandled my finances, or my time, or my love in such a way that I am part of the problem? Search me, test me, and know me. Change me from the inside out.

See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting; help me to make the necessary changes so that I can see the needs in front of me and do something about it. I can't personally or single-handedly change the world. Let's be honest, none of us can. My cute meme won't even change my small sphere of "friends" but seeing my changed heart might. Seeing my actions might. If God can help me change my heart, I can start to make a difference right in front of me. I can love my family better. I can love my neighbor better. I can better love each person with whom I come in contact - each moment of every day. I don't just want to care about a situation or a people group or an injustice while it is in the news, I want my life to reflect an ever-changing heart that cares and sacrificially makes a difference every single day.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Some more Victor-isms

While listening to Mama Mia's Thank You For the Music...
Victor: Mommy, thank you for the music.
Me: You're welcome, Victor.
Victor: Did God give it to me?
Me: Yes, He did give us music.
Victor: Does God have music?
Me: Yes, I believe he does.
Victor: On His ipod?
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Victor was teaching M to play the violin.
V: Here, I'll help you. Put your finger down.
M started playing...
V: Is your finger down?
M: Yes.
V: Put your finger down!
M: I don't need to put my finger down for this part.
V: Okay, I'm going to the grocery store for a screwdriver.
He then gave her some "cards"...
M: I don't want them.
V: Use kinds words.
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Me: Victor, why did you kick HopeAnne?
V: She took my worship team.
Note: Worship team = Upturned bowl and screwdriver that he was using as a drum and drumstick.
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After repeated requests for Victor to sit quietly on the sofa while I read to the girls one evening, Victor continued to jump on the sofa and onto the sofa from the coffee table. Suddenly, in a surprising twist (for the child who is amazingly agile), he missed when jumping from coffee table to sofa. His eyes got big but he got up, dusted himself off, climbed onto the sofa, sat down very gently and said, "That is why I should sit on the sofa." It lasted all of 5 seconds.
********************
While on vacation in Ocean City, NJ, each day, Victor would ask, "Is the ocean on?"
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In the sand, one of Victor's favorite activities is playing his "worship team," a set of buckets arranged upside down in front of him. Favorite song choices? Yellow Submarine and Come Together.



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The Good Doctor's preferred method of emailing, texting, and note taking, is speaking into the device, using voice recognition. The older kids laugh at his methods but today we found out that this may actually be teaching Victor a bit of grammar...

Victor likes to pretend that a shovel is a microphone. On the beach today he asked MomMom to talk into the microphone. She said, "My name is MomMom and I'm here with Victor on the drums." Without missing a beat, Victor added, "Period."
Asking Uncle Chad to speak into his microphone



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

25 years

25 years ago today I was getting ready to be married. I don't think I had slept much the night before but that's nothing new. I had purposely planned a 10:30AM wedding because I didn't want to be sitting around all day trying to figure out what to do with myself. I also wanted to have a small lunch rather than a bigger evening meal. And it's a good thing since the high temperature for the day was 98. In a church with no air conditioning and an outdoor reception. This is my formal apology to all who sweated during those hours. Spend the day today indoors. In the air conditioning. On me.

Two days ago our children planned a lovely day of activities. All we knew was that we were to keep the day open. The night before we were told that we had to be ready at 8AM and that the dress code was what we would normal wear. Oh, and that we didn't need comfortable shoes for walking. No other hints.


The schedule that only they knew existed

In the morning, it was obvious that something was up because teens and adult children who are usually not seen until noon were lined up for the bathrooms. Ready to go, I entered the living room only to be told, "Your gift for the day is that you and Dad get to spend the whole day alone....with Victor." I declared a mutiny. They changed their minds.
First stop was breakfast with Andrew, Sarah, Shoun, and Isaac. Apparently, Andrew had drawn the short straw and got stuck with breakfast. In reality, Jesse had originally drawn the short straw but because Andrew had to reschedule a dental appointment for Monday, he had to switch. And of course, while we were eating, the dentist's office called to say that they were canceling his appointment because the dentist was sick. Figures. But we had a wonderful time so thanks, guys!

We then went home for a short break while the next crew got ready. They didn't tell us where we were going but on the way The Good Doctor figured it out and started calling out directions. He was right. Miniature Golf with Mariana, Jake, Eden, and M.

Home again where we found HopeAnne loading toilet paper into the back of the car. My only guess was that our next location did not have restroom facilities???? So after a quick trip to the indoor facilities in the comfort of my own home, Jesse, Megan, and Hope led us to our next destination which was a picnic lunch that they had prepared to look like our 4th (or 5th) month dating anniversary. Back in the day I loved Big Macs (before learning about healthy eating and before my metabolism changed) so for this particular date the Good Doctor had somehow gotten rid of his roommate for the evening, bought us Big Macs and fries, placed a candle in a roll of toilet paper, and called it a celebration.

An hour later we were picked up and taken home for a short break before who should arrive at the door but my parents. They took us to City Island where we had a nice, relaxing ride with great company on the Pride of the Susquehanna.

We arrived home to the smells of supper baking but a curtain covered the kitchen door so we couldn't enter. Half of the kids were preparing supper and the other half were the chosen ones, otherwise known as cleaner-uppers. We had a delicious meal which ended with cake and ice cream.

Then the kids wrote questions about our wedding, our marriage, and what we know about each other. We had a fun- and laughter-filled evening answering questions like what were you thinking while the pastor was speaking during your ceremony, to how do you put up with all of these kids, to the ever popular but never answered who is your favorite? This question came up twice but we were too smart to fall for that one.

We were very blessed to spend the day with our closest family. Many thanks to the kids for organizing this and for all the work you did at home during the day. Tonight we have plans to bore the kids with our wedding video during dinner (we're bribing them with pizza) and then get family photos taken (we're bribing them with ice cream). Gotta take advantage of having everyone in the same place at the same time.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

The year of...

Another week at the beach has come to a close. 2016 will forevermore be known as...
The year we had 8 of our 9 children here. Maybe someday we'll get everyone to the beach at the same time but until then, we'll take 8 out of 9.
The year Victor made us stop 15 minutes into our trip because he had to go to the potty. The child who has refused to be fully trained after more than a year of trying, announced after only 15 minutes in the car that he had to pee. Being only 1 mile from a rest stop, we decided to humor him. But as we pulled off the highway, he informed us that he wanted to pee in the grass. No problem, we'll just pull over to the far side; the grassy area where people probably walk their dogs. But while standing, he changed his mind, now he had to poop. No problem, we'll just pull out the potty that we packed away for the beach house. Except that no one actually thought we'd need it along the way so it was packed underneath three other things. Lucky for Victor, he did actually produce some poop for that potty.

The year we spent the first day with my friend, Kym, and her friend, Michael. Those stuffed shells were amazing as were the peanut butter balls (aka vegetable meatballs).

The year Eden and HopeAnne decided to buy not one hermit crab each, but two hermit crabs each. They don't mate in captivity, do they?

The year of "the incident". The whole family was shopping at the dollar store on the boardwalk (because where else would a family of 11 shop?) when Shoun was questioned by the clerk, "Did you buy that soda?" It probably wouldn't have been a big deal except that Isaac was standing right next to Shoun, also drinking a soda that he had just purchased, but he was not questioned. Shoun told her that he did, indeed, buy that soda. She demanded to see the receipt which he promptly displayed for her. She then grabbed another bag that held items he bought from another store and searched it to make certain he was not using it to shoplift from her store. As soon as we heard about what had happened, the Good Doctor promptly returned to the store with both Shoun and Isaac, stood in front of the woman and said, "This is my son, Shoun. This is my son, Isaac. Do we have a problem here?" She knew immediately what he was referring to. We can only pray that the lesson has been learned.

The year that Eden introduced Victor to cotton candy.

The year that Victor and Andrew enjoyed a lot of quality time together, including being carried on Andrew's shoulders and leaning over to speak directly into Andrew's ear whenever he had a request.


The year that Isaac had surgery and was supposed to return to the doctor half-way through the week to have the stinky, hot, falling-apart mess removed and replaced but received a phone call from the scheduler pushing it off another week. Ugh!
The year that Victor continued to protest loudly at being forced to walk across the sand from sidewalk to ocean and from ocean to family sitting under umbrella but also the year that he would actually touch the sand with his hands.
The year Victor was obsessed with the Beatles and had all of us singing Hey Jude and Yellow Submarine at the top of our lungs in the van - multiple times.

The year Eden dressed Victor up in her tankini and he morphed into a darling little girl with a sundress. And then got mad when we made him exchange it for his own bathing suit.

The year of No. Victor's word, not Andrew's. Here's hoping it isn't next year's word as well.

The year of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. 2 down. Anyone else?

The of more memories, laughs, and fun. See you next year!