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!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Meet the Klings

The following story is fictional and might not depict any actual person or event.

This is the tale of two families. They share a last name and for a brief moment in time they shared a connection, albeit a minute and harebrained connection. Beyond that, they have very little in common and though it be a small world, their paths are likely to never cross again.

Our first family, the PA Klings, are a happy family. They love life, they find humor in most situations, and they generally see the best in humankind.  You might be interested to know that the PA Klings love music and theater. They are known to burst into song at the most inopportune moments. Our second family, the CA Klings are dairy farmers. They, quite in contrast to the PA Klings, sadly live as if everyone they meet is out to get them and they have to guard their home and herd very closely. One other interesting fact to note is that the CA Klings love crime shows; Law and Order (all of them), CSI (all of them), even old Columbo reruns (there's only one Columbo). Mr. CA Kling, in particular, considers himself a self-taught investigator due to the number of criminal shows he has seen. Nothing gets by him on the dairy farm.

At the beginning of our story, the PA Klings have no idea that there is another family who shares their name and who is about to become entangled in their business.

One day, Mrs. PA Kling received an email in error. This particular email was from a 4-H leader and asked about Mrs. PA Kling's daughter's interest in joining their dairy 4-H club. Mrs. PA Kling knew this email was sent in error because a.) The PA Klings do not own any dairy  b.) The PA Klings never ever expressed interest in joining a dairy 4-H club   c.) Mrs. PA Kling could not imagine any of her daughters having any interest in dairy even with the allure of possibly becoming a future Dairy Princess and   d.) While Mrs. PA Kling always wanted a farm, she was more interested in goats and chickens than bovines.  These errant emails happened quite frequently as the PA Klings had what appeared to be a very common email address. Since the infamous snuggie texter is one of Mrs. Kling's heroes, she responded in her usual fashion; with a totally ridiculous and outlandish email which she assumed would alert the mistaken 4-H leader that she had sent an email to the wrong person.

However, as the PA Klings came to find out, the 4-H dairy club leader in who-knows-where didn't catch the humor in the email and sent a second email, kind of like the unaware other half of those infamous snuggie texts.  So, Mrs. PA Kling did the only thing she knew to do, she sent another email, similar in its outrageous and ludicrous message.  Again, the 4-H leader responded, this time asking for the contact information, health history, and anything else relevant to registering a precious PA Kling daughter for a dairy club.  At this point, Mrs. PA Kling gave up. She was having difficulty thinking of other preposterous and absurd responses and even if this 4-H leader happened to live nearby, Mrs. PA Kling just could not convince any of her daughters to join.

Mrs. PA Kling went about her business and forgot all about the time her daughters almost became 4-H dairy club members to meet dairy farmer's sons who would themselves grow up to propose to said daughters so they could all be future dairy farmer's wives.  Time went by as time will do. A week. A month. Months.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, The CA Klings went into panic mode. Their adored and highly regarded  4-H dairy club leader told them about the two obnoxious emails she received from a stranger. She failed to mention that she was the one who contacted the PA Klings in the first place and that it wasn't the PA Klings that had sought her out. Missing this critical piece of information, Mr. CA Kling immediately decided that a stalker or predator was out to get his (hopefully soon-to-be) dairy princess daughter. Fearing for her life and the life of her dairy cow, Bessie, he turned to his local police department.

His call was picked up by Mr. CA Policeofficer. Mr. CA Kling explained the two hilarious emails that the community's esteemed 4-H leader had received from a cyber criminal. Once again, the important fact that it was the 4-H leader's mistake in the first place, was left out of the evidence list. The police officer on the phone agreed to look into this despicable crime, stifling the laughter that was about to erupt. But though he was born at night, he was not born last night. Even he could figure out that there was a missing link; an email which started the whole thing, and that there was no cause for alarm. He File Thirteened the whole thing and forgot all about it. Until the next day when Mr. CA Kling called again. And again. The next, day, too. Mr. CA Kling was nothing if not persistent and insistent that there was a crime being committed against his daughter. It got so the police department would moo loudly every time the phone rang.  Mr. CA Policeofficer ignored the whole thing as best he could and spent his time on real crimes like trash cans placed too close to the road on trash day and uneutered cats without tags prowling the neighborhood. He did not consider an emailer with a great sense of humor to be worthy of investigation.

This is when Mr. CA Kling saw his door of opportunity. No more small town crimes and mysterious among his herd; he would get to test his skills on the real deal. He sat down at his computer and employed the best stalker and predator tactics he had learned on those crime shows. Never mind that they were always used by the criminal and never by the authorities, this called for the big guns.

Within a few minutes, he knew the email account holder's name, Mr. Johann PA Kling. He knew Mr. Johann PA Kling's address in Pennsylvania. He knew that Mr. Johann PA Kling was a pastor and worked at McDonald's Brothers and Cisterns in the Lord Church and he knew the name and phone number of the senior pastor at this church. Or at least he thought he knew. What he never ever considered was that maybe more than one person used that email account. He never ever considered that not all of the users of that account had such excellent writing skills and an over-the-top sense-of-humor. It also didn't occur to him that there was the slightest chance that no one was trying to groom his daughter by twice and done replying to their acclaimed 4-H leader's mistaken email. In fact, it appears as if he never ever considered a lot of things. But he was on a roll. He was about to be the first dairy farmer turned detective to close the biggest criminal ring in PA and CA history.

First on his to-do list was to call Mr. Johann PA Kling's boss at the McDonald's Brothers and Cisterns in the Lord Church. Mr. CA Kling could barely contain himself while waiting for the senior pastor to pick up. You can imagine his disappointment when it was a church administrator who answered instead. His disappointment was short-lived as he figured he could do a little more sleuthing first. He inquired about Mr. Johann PA Kling and the administrator informed him that this particular pastor was on vacation.

HOLD THE PHONE! WHAT?!?!?!?!?! Mr. CA Kling found himself choking, unable to breathe, fear and trepidation gripping his heart with tentacles of dread. Mr. Johann PA Kling was gone from the office? On "vacation"? Surely it was obvious to more than just Mr. CA Kling that Mr. Johann PA Kling was on a plane on his way to CA at that very minute to finish what his dairy club emails had started. Mr. CA Kling coughed out a quick good-bye and said he'd call back later. He spent a sleepless night guarding his home, moving his dairy herd into the house, thereby creating a barrier between his CA Kling family and the criminal mastermind he now knew as Mr. Johann PA Kling.  

The next morning he was bleary-eyed and stubble-faced but he was ready to try again. This time his call to the McDonald's Brothers and Cisterns in the Lord Church was picked up by the boss man. He hurriedly informed his new friend the senior pastor that he had a child predator on his leadership team. His proof? A string of highly suspicious (but hilarious and outrageous) emails from a certain Mr. Johann PA Kling on his payroll who was also missing "on vacation" while really on his way to CA to do away with all of the CA Klings. He informed said senior pastor that he had also called the local McDonald's community police and they were watching Mr. Johann PA Kling.

Thankfully, the senior pastor does not watch crime shows, not even old Columbo reruns. He didn't see things the same way as Mr. CA Kling. When Mr. Johann PA Kling returned (not from CA), the two chatted about Mr. CA Kling and his accusations. Mr. Johann PA Kling was clueless and dumbfounded. He would never do these things of which he was being charged. They both left the meeting confused and unsure how to proceed. So Mr. Johann PA Kling did the only thing he could; he called Mrs. PA Kling. He told her the whole story and her ears perked when she heard him say two emails to a favored 4-H dairy farmer.

HOLD THE PHONE! WHAT?!?!??!?!?! Mrs. Kling practically shouted, "Wait a minute. I sent those emails and I certainly wasn't stalking anyone! I was copying the snuggie texter!"  Mr. Johann PA Kling was not amused. He hung up the phone, contacted a divorce attorney, had papers drawn up, took them home to Mrs. PA Kling, and employed the same silent treatment that was typically effective for Mrs. PA Kling. He didn't watch crime shows himself but his wife did. He knew what these kinds of accusations could mean to a pastor. He wasn't taking any chances; he had to separate himself from the real emailer swift and sure.

But Mrs. PA Kling does enjoy a good Law and Order or CSI on occasion. She knew that no crime had been committed. She knew that she would never even hurt a flea. Well, actually, she is known for squishing fleas found on the dog. She has also been guilty of paying her kids a quarter for each stink bug flushed. But when looking at the facts, it was clear that at this point, Mr. CA Kling was guiltier of stalking the PA Klings than the PA Klings were of stalking anyone anywhere. The only reason they knew anything at all about him was because he had taken the time to stalk and accuse Mr. Johann Kling and let slip his state of origin. So Mrs. PA Kling did the only thing she knew to do; she suggested that they just call the local McDonald's police department and give them the whole story. They did. They laughed. She even offered her phone number so Mr. CA Kling (who probably already had her number) could call and she could apologize for her jocularity which he clearly didn't share. The officer passed that information along but Mr. CA Kling never called. He was either too busy moving the herd out of the house or was on to the next perceived crime wave.

And Mr. Johann PA Kling eventually rescinded the divorce papers although he did make Mrs. PA Kling promise never ever to post or email anything in cyberspace until first having it approved by him.

All's well that ends well.

But don't mention anything to Mr. Johann PA Kling. This story traumatizes him.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Crucible

Our school district's high school decided to tackle The Crucible as their fall play. Not every high school could do this but these teens really worked hard and approached a difficult drama with skill, emotion, and professionalism.

It is very difficult for me to read or watch anything where one segment of society turns against another but I recognize the value of remembering and learning so that we don't repeat history.

I'm very proud of our very own Mary Warren.

But next time, could you do the right thing and speak up for truth?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Real, safe conversation

What did your Thanksgiving look like?

I'm not talking about the weather. I'm not talking about the food.

I'm talking about the people around the table. Were the guests all talking together or were most of your family members looking at their own phones, scrolling through Facebook or checking emails?

Thankfully, my holiday was filled with much laughter and communication but sadly, this may be a lost art.

This is the first generation that thinks it's normal to sit in a group without participating in the group; to gather around a table while each person carries on his own conversation with friends far away.

Recently, my friend Susan Vigliano, posted a list of iphone guidelines. They were spot on. Our kids don't have phones but the older ones do have devices so we all sat down together and looked at Susan's list. We adapted it to fit our family, adding to parts, subtracting others, but all with the goals of safe device use and healthy social habits.

Grandparents and those without children aren't exempt from this, either. I recently spoke to a grandmother who told me that when she travels out of state to visit her grandchildren, she hates to sit down with them, only to have each of them pull out their phones and ignore her.  She has started to text them all while sitting amongst them, to remind them that she just traveled far to see them. And then there's the youtube video of a family sitting down to dinner and when the sons pull out their phones and distractedly pass the pepper instead of the salt, the father pulls out his typewriter and starts typing.

I highly recommend that you take this list, discuss it with your children and make it fit your own family or home. And parents, you might need to look at your own habits before you can enforce these guidelines among your children.

I Phone Guidelines for teens -- Copy and paste into a doc to go over with your teen.

1. It does not go to school.

2. It does not go into the bathroom.

3. It does not go into the bedroom.

4. It goes to bed with Mom and Dad at night.

5. It can go to youth group and church on Sunday to use the Bible Aps – no texting or games during teaching time. That’s really rude.

6. Only add apps that Dad approves.

7. The camera is for appropriate photos and video only. Anything mom can’t see isn’t appropriate. There should be no question or gray areas here.

8. Mom and Dad must have the passcode at all times and access to the I Phone anytime they ask.

9. No social media like Instagram, Snap Chat, Facebook etc….until we all agree that it’s a good idea. There are safety issues, but there are also other issues like social development that need careful thought. Developing teens don’t need to count their likes all day. That will make you weird and malformed. Your identity and security come from God. When we agree that it’s a good idea then we become your first friends and have access to your account. Any secret secondary accounts will result in high-level consequences. For instance – a season off sports and/or a long period of grounding.

10. Most of your conversations with friends should be in person, not over text. Text is not the same as communicating in person. People say things in text that they would not say to someone’s face. That makes development irregular. You are the first generation to develop in a significantly irregular way socially. Let’s limit this for that reason. Keep text to about 20% of all communication so that you don’t become a Franken-person.

11. Any more than 45 minutes a day of device use is harmful and unnecessary. People sitting in the same room interacting with other people through devices all the time is very strange and not appropriate. Please limit your use to no more than 45 min a day. Go outside. Go to the movies. Play a board game. Take a bike ride. You need to disconnect from multiple, ongoing conversations all the time. It’s really weird and unnatural. It can’t possibly be good for your brain or your social development. If you need studies, please let me know and I’ll find them. I think you already know this in your gut, but I’d be happy to prove it if you feel it necessary. Your brain needs some quiet and detachment each day. One of the signs of addiction is agitation when the substance is removed. If removal of your device causes agitation then we need to pay attention to that.

12. I don’t care what your friends are doing and what their parents let them do. Period.

13. Violations will result in confiscation of your device at ever increasing degrees for continued violations up to and including permanent loss. One week, one month, three months, six months….permanent loss.

14. Please sign here__________________________

Thanks, Susan!

Monday, November 17, 2014

What can Victor see?

What can Victor see?

Let me give you some of our observations.

If you turn the lights out and darken the room, then place lighted objects or toys (such as a flashlight or flashing ball) on the floor, Victor will reach right for them.

When his therapist brings the light box and leaves it here for a time, Victor is obsessed with it. He will go in his room and say "on" until someone turns it on for him. If you then turn it off, he will immediately request that it be turned back on. If you place large items on the light box, he will reach right for them.

Sometimes, just for fun, I will quietly approach him while he is concentrating on a favorite toy. I will place my face about an arm's length from his face. If I am on his left side, he will soon turn his head my direction, smile, then reach out and grab my face. I had to stop doing this because I was afraid he'd gouge my eyes out or scratch up my nose.

It could be argued that he heard us place the objects on the floor before he reached for them. It could be argued that he hears us turn the light box off so asks us to turn it on. It could be argued that he senses my presence next to him.

So what can Victor see? We don't know but we have our guesses. Someday he will be able to tell us what Victor can see.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Creativity strikes again

My parents recently attended an event where they happened to be seated with an administrator from the school where I used to teach. As often happens, conversation turned to common ground which in this case happened to be me. My parents reported that he spoke very highly of my teaching, telling them that he remembers my creativity and that he lists me in the top 10 teachers he's ever had working under him.

I write this not to stroke my own ego. In fact, in true Cindy fashion my first thought was that this must be on over-statement or miscommunication. My second thought (knowing that my parents aren't habitual liars) was regret that it's been almost 20 years since I was in the classroom. I had a brief period of wondering if this was some kind of sign that I was supposed to go back to teaching. It's not that I haven't considered it. I have. Plenty of times. There are times that I'll think of an idea or find an old one in my filing cabinet (yeah, I still have plenty of teaching files), and think about pulling that old teaching certificate out of hibernation (or whatever the state calls it), take all those classes I'd need to take to bring it up to snuff, and get out there and interview. And then I'm able to think realistically again and know that at this time of my life, I do not have the time to give to a classroom. And when I'm really honest, I don't know if I would be happy in a classroom today. The opportunities for teachers to be creative or less than they used to be. There's that old creativity thing again.

But then I saw this compliment for what it was - an encouragement.

Some days, the task of raising a child who is blind seems insurmountable to me. The teacher in me looks at child's play as learning and at playtime as opportunity for pre-reading or early math skills; setting the stage for future learning. I know how to do that with a sighted child; I've been doing that for a long time. But a blind child? I've never done that before. My training in special education focused more on developmental delays than vision issues.

I even looked into dusting off that old certificate just so I could get certified in teaching the visually impaired. But when I broached the subject with the Good Doctor, he said he didn't think it was necessary. He said he thought I was a creative enough teacher to prepare Victor just as well as all of our other children. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Thank you, Lord, for an encouraging word. First, from an obvious source and confirmed by an unlikely source.

Truth be told, creativity is what my elementary and middle and high school teachers always mentioned in the comments section of my report cards. God was preparing me for Victor even way back then.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Christmas elves

We've been supplying Allenberry Playhouse with elfkins for quite a few years now. 6 of the 8 King kids have now been on stage there, many of them playing Santa's helpers at one time or other. It seems as if everyone gets their turn to be the cute factor on stage.

Christmas 2007 was our first Allenberry Christmas show and probably my favorite year. There were no elves involved but nothing beats your 6 year old saying, "And God bless us, everyone!"

The following year Jesse was a human brat-turned-obedient child. And I have no idea what happened to the pictures from this year. This was all I could find.

In 2009, Isaac was the lone King representative on the Allenberry stage while Mariana was off performing with Matt Davenport Productions at Hershey Park and Jesse decided he was too old. That year Isaac got to be elf, human, and Santa, all within an hour and 15 minutes.
In 2010, Mariana was once again hired by Matt Davenport and spent her evenings at Hershey Park. Eden decided to give acting a try and Isaac was back for another year. This was the year the elfkins grew pointy ears.
And this is my absolute favorite picture of Eden from this show.
If you saw Mistletoe Magic in 2011, you finally got to see 3 King kids on stage again. This time we had 2 elfkins and 1 human. I just loved Mariana in this starring role with her own solo and backup singers.
Eden had a starring role in 2012 and even got to be human that year. Isaac decided to take the year off. The outfit made it's second appearance on a King kid in a Christmas show.

2013 was the year of the cast; the broken bone variety. Isaac told audience members that he accidentally hit it with a hammer in Santa's workshop. In reality it was a boring old soccer injury.

Which brings us to 2014 and HopeAnne's first time as elf. After appearing in Annie during the summer of 2013, she wasn't sure she wanted to be on the stage for the Christmas show last year. This year she was ready.

Looks like we'll have to add a few more kids so Allenberry has plenty of elfkins lined up for the future.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Am I a bad parent?

Jesse was born with a gleam in his eye; an extra twinkle that spelled trouble before he even knew his alphabet. Our doctor said that Jesse knew he was going to be the middle child even before we knew he was going to be the middle child. (In case you are wondering, Jesse was indeed, the middle child for three whole years.)

I had my concerns as he entered kindergarten. Going to the same school where I had formerly taught and continued to sub and tutor students, I knew all of the teachers. Even before the first day of school I was imagining the awkward phone conversations with his teacher. "Hello, Cindy, can we talk about Jesse's classroom behavior?" Thankfully, the phone calls never came. They didn't need to. I volunteered in the classroom once a week; we had our conversations in person.

And then we moved. To a new community and a new church. I became the wife of the new pastor. And my kids were PKs in a new location. And nobody knew how awesome my children were.

The first Sunday came around and I went to pick up my middle child (who was technically no longer the middle child) from his new classroom. The teacher proceeded to tell me all the things Jesse had done wrong that Sunday. I don't know what it was specifically but it probably included being the life of the party (in Sunday School, where there wasn't supposed to be a party), creating ways to become the center of attention, and then basking in that attention.

Thankfully, the following Sunday, there was a different teacher. While there was a short mention of a few unacceptable behaviors, she sandwiched it between her joy at having Jesse in her class and calling out positive traits and behaviors she had seen.

The next few months went by like this. There were three teachers who genuinely loved and cared for Jesse and for our family. They would be sure to praise whatever good qualities they could find while gently sharing those behaviors that needed follow-up. But every other week, when that other teacher was there, I'd brace myself for a laundry list of bad behaviors. I began to feel so discouraged that sometimes I just didn't take him to class the weeks that she was there. I couldn't handle hearing one more negative comment about my son.

Those weeks, I'd leave feeling discouraged and angry. I convinced myself that I was a terrible parent and that this woman was judging both my parenting and The Good Doctor's ability to be a pastor, based solely on my son's behavior in class.

I share this story because as I talk with young mothers, I hear some familiar words and thoughts:

My child got kicked out of daycare for biting. What are we doing wrong?
My daughter's kindergarten teacher called. My daughter is hitting other children. I feel like a bad parent.

And as they get older, it's the same thing, but with different behaviors:
My son is failing math. Should I have prepared him better when he was a toddler?
A friend wrote on Facebook that all of the girls in her daughter's small group make fun of her daughter. My daughter is in that small group. Where did I fail in teaching her to accept and encourage everyone?

And it goes even beyond high school.

When do we get to let ourselves off the hook?

The answer is, way back at the very beginning. Yes, we need to search ourselves. A few hours in Mommy Time-out, seeking the Lord's wisdom is a good idea. But we also need to realize that our children have the same free will that we do. They are going to make mistakes just like we did and still do. If you go around hitting your peers, then I guess you probably are to blame for your child's hitting in school. But since that's very unlikely, then it's time to stop blaming yourself.

One more word of caution: This doesn't mean that you are free and clear. Remember that I said you need to spend time with the Lord and seek His wisdom in how to work with your child through this phase. You can't blame yourself or immediately decide that you are a bad parent, whether or not the teacher or coach makes you feel as if you are, however, it is imperative that we work with our children's teachers and coaches and whoever else is in a place of authority over our children. We need to have follow-through at home. Our children need to listen and be respectful and they can be taught this at very young ages. Some children need more guidance and reminders than others (take my "middle" child, for instance). But if adults don't enjoy being around our children, if their peers don't enjoy being around them, then they really cannot be salt and light.

And a final word of encouragement: That first grade boy who found the wrong ways to have fun and entertain his peers? He grew up into a high school senior, spending the first two periods of his day interning in a 3rd grade classroom. This morning his cooperating teacher visited our church. As I was being introduced to the teacher, that encouraging and positive first grade Sunday School teacher from long ago was standing next to me. She overheard the cooperating teacher talk about Jesse's natural talent for teaching and his rapport with the 3rd grade children, about his belief that Jesse will make a great teacher in a few years. She threw her arms up in the air and said, "I knew it! I just knew that God was going to redeem that energy and those behaviors!" And she's right.

I thank God for her prayers, for her smiles each week when I picked Jesse up from her classroom, for her love for him and our family. I thank God for redemption. And I thank God for grace. Grace for my children and grace for moms.