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 with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Friday, December 31, 2010


You don't want to know how much laundry I've done today. And there are still two dryers running. I love vacations but the unpacking when we get home - not so much.

The King Clan rarely chooses to fly when vacationing. In fact, I think I could count on one hand the number of times we've taken the kids on an airplane, and still have fingers left over. Finanaces are an obvious reason. But beyond that, I just could never imagine dragging the children and all of their belongings through all of that airport mess. And since there are more children than we have hands to hold them, the chance of losing someone is rather high. And besides, you lose so much of the novelty of vacationing if you head for the skies.

Take the audiobook, for example. We managed to finish several books on our trip from PA to Indiana. Of course we did take the long way, first to eastern PA, then to Ohio, then up to northern Indiana. My parents, who were traveling separately, apparently enjoyed their audiobook so much that they forgot to spend the night halfway and just continued on to their destination. If you'd like to try their method, I'm sure they'd be more than happy to loan you 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers. It's a good one. I know, I read the book. On our trip, one of the books we enjoyed was Boom! by Tom Brokaw. Great for history buffs. I think it's going to find it's way back into our curriculum for next year.

This year's Christmas vacation was definitely one to remember. It was the year that

Andrew received a bass, Jesse received a saxophone, and we all received nose flutes. Imagine that ride home.

Aunt Shirley gave us all chickens for Christmas and PopPop and MomMom gave us a house (actually the chickens were for Heifer International and the house was for Haiti). We couldn't be happier.

We actually opened our family's gifts on Christmas day. Our tradition has been to do this on Christmas Eve since we spend Christmas Day with my family but this year we weren't all in the same place on Christmas Eve.

We went to Splash Universe in Indiana with the Bauman family. We've never water parked in the winter before. The kids had a blast. We also checked out the Hudson Museum. Wow! What a collection of old cars!

Herb won the jackpot in the King round of Dirty Santa. How come no one wanted to steal his Santa boxers? We also found out that some King family members have it in for others. Why else would Aunt Shirley get the pineapple scented candle when she's allergic to pineapples? And Phil received the Cheese Whiz when he can't have dairy? Hmmm. I'd watch out if I were you.

Andrew's "special" cookies wreaked havoc on certain cousins, causing them to see blue in places blue shouldn't be found. When their paranoia caused them to consult a physician, they were informed that they were either pregnant or had watched too many Smurfs reruns. (Thanks, Marilyn!) It was a great prank but Andrew had better watch out next year.

Of course traveling does have its downsides as well. I, for one, am not a big fan of

Travel toothbrushes. Toothbrushes were meant to be longer than your mouth. If you can fit the whole thing in your mouth, then you have a problem. I can't figure out how to hold the thing. And I don't have extremely large hands. I can't imagine a normal-sized person trying to use one of these things.

Lots of food. I think I've eaten more in the last week than in the whole rest of December combined. Yuck!

Beds and pillows that are not mine. I feel like Goldilocks except that I can never find "just right". It's either too soft or too hard or too low or too high. For this reason I travel with my own pillow. If I could figure out how to travel with my own mattress, I would. I just never sleep well on vacation. I toss and turn wishing for my own bed, my own room, my own air . . .

But distractions aside, we are so thankful for family and the opportunity to see them at this time each year. Just think, we're only 360 (plus or minus) days until we see you again!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

On holes and resolutions

I have never written New Year’s resolutions. I take that back; I did so once or twice way back in school when my writing themes were dictated by those in educational authority and their motivational grades. The resolutions didn’t mean anything, though, and I never even attempted to follow them. I don’t plan to break my anti-resolution tradition. I know myself well enough to know that if it isn’t something I’ve had the motivation to do in the past, I’m probably not going to be ultra-motivated to start it just because the year has changed. I do, however, want to see 2011 as yet another year closer to my goal:

Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What Francis Chan’s Crazy Love did to challenge my Christian walk in 2009, The Hole in Our Gospel has done to my 2010 and beyond. Written by Richard Stearns, former Lenox CEO and current World Vision president, it is his personal journey toward the understanding that most Christians live and work with a gaping hole in their faith. That hole is our failure to whole-heartedly and sacrificially live out Christ’s command to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our failure is one of omission rather than commission; we find it easier to obey the don’ts while dismissing the do’s. This book has challenged me once again to be willing to give up my comfortable American status quo and to pray something like this (adapted from page 198 of The Hole in Our Gospel):

Forgive my blindness to the injustices and sins of omission committed by Christians past and present. I confess my own blindness and sins of omission as well. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, to see the world as You see it. Let my heart be broken by the things that break Your heart. Give me the ability to see through our culture and to serve and love my neighbors with Your vision, instead of the world’s. Give me Your eyes and Your heart and lead my feet and my hands to do your Kingdom work. Give me the strength and willingness necessary to sacrifice that which is comfortable and known and which I have held onto too tightly. I thank you for placing me on this earth for a purpose and look forward to seeing more of that purpose played out in the coming year. Don’t let me forget the lessons of the past as I continue on this journey of life, one step in front of the other. Amen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Right now

Time: 8:11 AM

Outside my window: Barren Indiana farmland covered in snow (Andrew thinks this is where God sent the Israelites to wander for 40 years, it's the worst punishment he can dream up)

Inside my window: A hotel room with one snoring husband, two awaking girls and one almost-teen who won't wake up til I make her

In my belly: Scared you there, didn't I? Nothing, absolutely nothing. In fact, it's time for breakfast so let's get going!

On me: PJs but I won't give you too much information

Looking forward to: Breakfast first, a morning at the water park, an afternoon of cheese factory, some car museum or something like that, and a music shop, pizza supper, and celebrating Annika's birthday

Grateful for: The opportunity to be with family, both immeidate and extended, safe travel, and fun!

Okay, it wasn't my idea, but I read it on another blog and it sounded like fun, as well as being short and sweet. Til I have more time and less vacation . . .

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas letter

I heard a Christmas song on the radio the other day that I really wanted John to hear. I found it online and clicked play. Immediately, like an invisible magnetic force, all six children appeared out of nowhere. Standing around the computer, each one added his/her distraction to the beautiful lyrics I was trying to share; one child was coughing, one was pounding on the table, two were talking, one was trying to get my attention, and the youngest chose that moment to have a meltdown. The song I was so desperately trying to play for John? I Need a Silent Night by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant. The song is about the busyness of the holidays interspersed with the chorus:

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

Have you ever heard a song at just the right moment? Right when you most needed to hear it? At a time when you could appreciate it and relate to its message? Yeah, me too.

We are a loud family. I’ve done my best but there’s only so much you can do. We don’t have to be announced when we arrive somewhere. I realize that each of us is just trying to be heard. On top of that, we have our individual quirks: Andrew gets very passionate when talking sports, Jesse bangs on the drums, Mariana over-dramatizes everything, Isaac fidgets with objects, Eden audibly takes charge, HopeAnne melts down, John snores, and Cindy laughs. Loud also defines the way we make decisions together.

For example: The yearly Christmas card theme decision. This process was much easier (and quieter) when the children were little and I could dress them in anything I desired, place them in any object I needed, and arrange them into whatever theme I dreamed up. Not so much anymore. Now it’s a family process, and a loud one at that. But it works for us.
So when someone suggested that we dress up in our new King’s Strings outfits and try jumping in the air while holding our instruments, I was game. We even came up with a caption:

Silent Night? Sometimes
Silent Day? Never
Love, Joy and Peace? Always

Things went well until the day of the scheduled photo shoot. Andrew ended up with a last-minute meeting planned for the same time our photos were to be taken. With 8 schedules on the calendar there isn’t room to move or reschedule, so we just squeezed it in. But then it was freezing cold. And HopeAnne didn’t want to remove her coat. Then the wind picked up. And we won’t even mention how many times we had to go “1-2-3 Jump!” before we were remotely synchronized. And the first batch of cards arrived darker than the original. Oh well. Life goes on. Can you believe that - - - - - -

Andrew is in 10th grade. He runs cross country and track, is a member of the orchestra and two smaller ensembles, and is a contributing writer for the school newspaper. He is helping to lead the 6th grade boys’ small group at church, and what a large crew he leads! He also plays on the youth worship team. He is a leader in many circles of influence. We love his dry sense of humor.

Jesse is an 8th grader. He played on the varsity soccer team in the fall and is in the school orchestra. He also plays on the youth worship team at church and loves serving in the preschool ministry. He still enjoys drama, was in a community production of Bye, Bye, Birdie (he makes a great nerd) and helps with puppets and skits in the first service children’s ministry. Jesse knows how to have fun and to keep people laughing. He is also very sensitive to the people around him.

Our other middle schooler is Mariana, now in 7th grade. Life for her is all about the drama. She is currently back at Hershey Park with the lead role in Home Sweet Home for Christmas. Earlier this year she was the only non-adult in Allenberry’s children’s show, Snow White, and was “Sad Girl” in a community theater production of Bye, Bye Birdie. She knows who she is in Christ and tries to shine her light wherever she is.

Next is Isaac in 4th grade. He played community soccer this year where he received extra training as goalie and found that this is a position he really enjoys. He performed in Bye, Bye Birdie with his two older siblings. He is an elf in this year’s Allenberry Christmas show, Becoming Santa. He has come a long way since his first year of acting! Isaac has a servant’s heart at home and wherever he goes.

Eden is so glad to finally make it to kindergarten. She enjoys reading but her favorite past time is creating with crafts, items rescued from the trash, and lots of paper! She, too, is an elf at Allenberry and has amazed us with her dancing and performing. She also takes ballet and tap classes. She is creative, is a good listener, and we see the beginnings of a leader.

HopeAnne is 4 years old. She also takes ballet and tap classes and is a born dancer. She can often be found in the middle of a King’s Strings practice, dancing to the music. She loves watching her older siblings in whatever the entertainment-of-the-day is, and that’s a good thing since she has to follow them wherever they go. She is very loving.

It sounds like a broken record but John is still on staff at Mechanicsburg Brethren in Christ Church, an adjunct professor at Messiah College, and is working on his doctoral degree through Regent University. I’m not sure there’d be time for anything else.

The King’s Strings is officially a group of 8. HopeAnne began viola lessons in the fall and has already joined us on stage. As mentioned in last year’s letter, we did indeed make it to the judge’s round of that national TV show. Our trip to NYC in April was an amazing experience and even though 2 of 3 judges decided we shouldn’t go on, we met many wonderful people and some rather unique individuals. If the whole audience had had its way, we would have gone to Las Vegas. As it goes, however, we ended up with a few seconds of air time this summer but it happened so fast that if you blinked, you missed it. It’s one of those stories that will get told to the grandchildren. Since then, the number of calls we receive has skyrocketed and our borders are expanding. Not only do we have individual concerts on the calendar for 2011, but we also have several weekend retreats where we will be providing input, worship, and entertainment. You can follow our schedule on thekingsstrings.com.

2011 promises to be a year of change: a third driver in the house, more family members in the workforce, college exploration, three teens under one roof, and all the unknowns. The one known is that Jesus, who we celebrate at Christmas, knows it all. We’ll take it one step at a time and cover it in love, joy and peace. Forget the silence. The louder, the better!

Here’s wishing you a not-so-silent but a loving, joyful, and peace-filled 2011!
Merry Christmas From,
John, Cindy, Andrew, Jesse, Mariana, Isaac, Eden, and HopeAnne King

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas and kids

You never know what is going to happen when you mix children and Christmas.

When the King family was a small clan of 5, we were working on memorizing the Christmas story from Luke 2. Andrew, being the oldest, was doing most of the memorizing but Jesse, age 3, was catching much of it as well. However, he apparently mixed in a little of his own version because as Andrew and I recited the passage and paused just after, "And the angel said to them," Jesse stood on his chair and yelled, "Boo!" You win some, you lose some. And it's become one of those family lines that is oft-repeated.

Just a few short years later, we were at Christmas Eve service and the children were called front for a children's story. The children were asked the name of Jesus' mother. Knowing everything as she does, Mariana loudly proclaimed for all to hear, "Sally!" Those pastor's kids. Don't their parents teach them anything?

The much-anticipated Christmas concert at Fairview Chapel occured this past Sunday evening. As I've mentioned before, I just love playing in this simple stone chapel lit only with candles. The evening was well-received and an invitation has already been extended for next year. That's a good thing as Hope inadvertantly insulted an elderly woman sitting behind her in the pews. As the woman explained to us after the concert, she was singing the alto line of one of the congreational hymns when Hope turned around to her and whispered, "You're on the wrong page." Thankfully she found it humorous and not too insulting.

Friday, December 17, 2010

No offense

The King's Strings plays for a variety of events from fundraisers to Christmas dinners, from weddings to funerals. After one of the latter, I asked Isaac what he thought (meaning, how did the music go?). He responsed by saying, "Well, no offense to the person who invented funerals, but they are really boring." Leave it to a 9 year old (whose name means "laughter", by the way) to point this out.

He's right. What I can't decide, is whether or not this is as it should be. People will be sad and grieving, yes. But does that mean it also has to be boring? I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't have to be.

My Aunt Betty Lou was a wonderful human being. Nothing she did while alive was boring and her funeral, in part planned by her, was far from boring. From her Beanie Baby collection which was divvied out to all those in attendance, to the balloons which were used as decorations and later sent off into the sky, to the singing (a LOT of kids songs from one of her favorite activies - Girls and Boys Club), to remembrances and all the rest. Not a boring moment there. Including when the "B" from the word CELEBRATE, which was plastered across the front of the church, fell down during the service.

But other than that, I think I'd have to agree with Isaac that most funerals fall pretty close to the boring category. Family, listen up, there's a new note on my funeral list - NOT BORING. Do whatever you have to do but don't let it be boring. Andrew could play some practical jokes. Jesse could dress up as a clown and make balloon creations. Mariana could sing a fun song from a musical, maybe Do You Love Me from Fiddler on the Roof as I always said that if I could sing, that's the song I'd sing. Isaac could talk in his annoying elf voice (thanks, Roque). Eden and Hope could do their "Sister" routine.

My grandmother thinks that we should have funerals while we're alive so that we know what people think about us. She's right although I do understand why no one has planned one for her yet. What would people think, and all that.

We recently received an invitation to the memorial service of a 90 year old man. I only ever met this man once but I was deeply touched by his obvious love for the Lord, his wife, and his life. He died one week later. The memorial invitation, written by one of his children, said that family and friends should come to the service dressed informally because that's what her father would have wanted. While we were not able to attend that service, I do think that wearing jeans and sneakers would automatically change things. Dressing formally almost shouts boring.

So please save your best jeans and sweatshirt for my funeral. Whenever that is. Or maybe you can just plan it for while I'm still alive so I can hear what you'd say. I won't be weirded out. Remember, I married the son of a mortician. He had his casket picked out long before we met.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What to say?

You know those things that your kids say and you just don't know how to respond? Like when they insult someone in that person's presence? Or those questions about where babies come from? Well, HopeAnne brought me one of these statements today.

"Mom, I forgot to cry when Snow White died."

What do you say to that? How was I supposed to take this comment? Should I be upset that she appears to have no empathy or compassion? Has she become desensitized to the plight of poor, weak princesses? Or am I looking at this all wrong? Should I be glad that she made it through the saddest part of the movie without crying? Is she a better person than me because I cry pitifully through every tear jerker?

So what did we say to this?

"Thanks for the Facebook status."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Simplicity or Glitzy?

We love Christmas concerts. We get to play in the most beautiful venues. Interestingly enough, within one week we will have played at the most lavish venue for the year and the simplist. Today we were at the Governor's mansion and next week we will be at Fairview Chapel in Maryland, a restored one-room chapel with no running water or electricity. Make sure you use the bathroom on your way there and dress warm. Today, however, was decorated lavishly and guests were treated to drinks and desserts served by well-dressed waiters. I think that either John or I should run for governor someday. You could easily fit 13 (or more) children in this house. In fact, I think it would make a nice group home or orphanage. The chapel, not so much. Funny, back in the day when the chapel was used, most people probably had houses the same size as that chapel, and they filled them with large families. Times sure have changed, haven't they?

My Uncle Jim told me to tell Mr. Governor hello and to let him know that he has a pothole on the road in front of his house that needs fixed. Unfortunately the honorable Ed Rendell was not present at his open house for me to pass along this little bit of news. Too bad as I'm sure he would have been right on it. As proof that he did show up to his own open house in 2008, we share this photo (I am the small one in the back, the one who looks like she's been photoshopped into the picture):

The family dogs were in attendance, however. Beautiful dogs they are. They always enjoy the string instruments so much and make their rounds through the performance areas. They aren't much for having their photograph taken, though. I understand. I'm the same way. This quick shot was from 2009 when the Shipman Violin Studio was performing (Mariana in the hat, of course).

Thank you to the many friends and family members who came to watch us perform. Were we right? Is it not the best hot chocolate around? Our apologies for not warning you about the no purses rule. That was a new one from last year. I guess I understand with all the security precautions. Interestingly, you were allowed to bring instrument cases into the residence without so much as a scan or pat down. So for next year we'd be happy to loan you a guitar or violin case in which to place your wallet, phone, make-up, comb and brush, or any other important item that you need with you at all times. Although who knows what security measures might be in place next year?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Famliy magic

There are different kinds of magic. There's the sorcery kind. Don't worry, that's not the kind we're talking about. There's also the slight-of-hand kind. I don't like that kind. I know there's a logical explanation for it all but I can never catch the magician at his trick so it just makes me mad. Well, except when my little children try a trick for the first time. Now those tricks I can figure out. A third type of magic could be called family magic. This is the kind that can make a garage door magically go up for the toddler who has never seen it before. It's also the kind that can make sandwiches appear by saying "Abracadabra ala Peanut Butter Sandwiches" and sneaking the plate around the other side of the unsuspecting preschooler. Sometimes, however, it goes terribly wrong. Take last night for example.

Eden had been wanting to watch a particular movie ever since we got it out of the library earlier this week. It was finally time; I said she and HopeAnne could watch it after supper. Well, supper was over and I was enjoying an extra minute or two of relaxing (family rule: the person who makes the meal doesn't have to clean up the meal, the people who don't help with the preparation of the meal have to clean up, hence my moment to sit) and wasn't ready to go downstairs to turn on the movie. Eden was getting just a bit impatient so unbeknownst to her, Jesse headed downstairs to secretly start the movie. Andrew soon followed to tell Jesse to hide from sight when the deed was done. After waiting long enough for the movie to start and for the boys to hide, I told the girls to stand at the top of the steps and say, "Abracadabra, movie start." At the same time, the boys, hiding in another room of the basement, heard the movie's theme song and realized that they had started the wrong movie.

Too late. The girls were already on their way downstairs and what was supposed to sound like little girls praising and thanking their brothers sounded more like a meltdown. It was a meltdown. The boys wisely waited until the crying stopped before appearing from behind locked doors. Maybe next time they will apply that all-important principle - check your work.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Now go

"You are now entering your mission field."

This was written above the exit doors of the church John and I attended for a period of time during college. It made a big impact on me and I've thought of it often in the years since. I've wanted to paint it above all of the exit doors in my house and in my church but that didn't seem practicial or aesthetically pleasing. Maybe I shouldn't be so worried about what is and isn't aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do.

Last year I found a landscape photo that I had taken that reminded me of this quote. It was of a long driveway surrounded by a stone wall and large, established trees. The picture was taken in the fall. With Andrew's help (Andrew, how do I add text to my picture? Mom, you click here where it says "Text". He's such a smart boy) I added this message. It now hangs above the door we use most often. Next to it is a closeup of multi-colored fall leaves with the passage from Matt. 28:18 - 20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

But I don't think it's big enough. It needs to make a glaring announcement each time we walk under it. I think I need to give myself a Christmas present this year. Hmmm, I wonder what that could be?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Creatures at home

"Thank you, God, for all the creatures around this table. Amen."

This is how I used to end my suppertime prayers. Well, almost. This happens to be Jesse's version, first quoted at age 2 years and 10 months. Even then we never knew if it was an accidental misinterpretation or a profound commentary on life. Either way, my version went like this:

"And thank you, God, for all the missionaries and preachers around this table. Amen."

I first heard it on a radio program and thought it would be good to try out at home. I like it. And I think it worked. I see traces of its influence in ways big and small. There were those years when Jesse wanted to be a pilot so he could fly missionaries to remote locations. That was replaced by the desire to be a builder so he could build orphanages. While both dreams have come and gone, it in no way diminishes his calling to be a missionary and preacher to the world in which he lives.

During a church missions celebration several years ago, the kids were given the assignment to go around the display area, asking people several questions. One of the questions was to ask for the person's definition of a missionary. Most people answered that everyone is called to be a missionary as commanded by Jesus in Matt. 28:19, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations." (NLT) One former missionary felt it necessary to tell the children that only certain people can be missionaries. Oh well, he's allowed to have his opinion. It's probably just an issue of semantics, anyway. And the kids got the point regardless.

I know they got it when they tell me I have to pick up yet another public school friend to take to Wednesday night youth group. I know they got it when they are willing to step out of their comfort zone to teach their peers in Sunday school or in a small group. I know they got it when they choose to serve in the preschool or nursery ministry at church. I know they got it when they are willing to take a cut in pay to play a concert for a group that cannot afford to pay, but that would benefit from a concert. I know they got it when they walk around the nursing home visiting with the residents after the concert. I know they got it when they choose to give up freetime to mentor younger children. I know they got it when they are willing to sit with a grieving friend and to show their support at both the viewing and memorial service. I know they got it when not only are they willing to live with less personal space than most of their friends, but they are willing to let that space shrink even further. I know they got it when their hearts break with the things that break God's, and they then act accordingly. I know they got it when they are willing to use their gifts and talents for God's Kingdom now, not waiting until a certain age. I know they got it when they show a servant's heart at home. I know they got it when their lights are shining into the darkness in which they sometimes find themselves.

And I am happy.

Thank you, God, for all the missionaries and preachers who were around this table before they dispersed into their mission fields for the day. Amen.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bah humbug - never!

We're those people you've been complaining about. You know, the folks who start Christmas long before Thanksgiving? Before October has reached it's end, in fact. I guess we even have the Hallmark and department store folks beat.

To our credit, we have good reason. For the past 4 seasons we've had 2 or more children in the Christmas show at Allenberry. For a show that opens the first week of November, one must start rehearsals in mid-October. But actually, at home we've pulled out the Christmas CDs even before that. We need this much time to listen to Christmas music, decide what we want to place in this year's King's Strings concerts, write music as necessary, order some and put the rest on "repeat" so we can listen to it over-and-over again and learn it by ear. And then of course there's practicing together. This all takes time and I don't think our December concert-goers would appreciate it much if we waited until the first Sunday of Advent to start thinking about Christmas.

But if you're looking for an apology for our pre-Halloween Christmas joy, you won't find one. Why not celebrate Jesus' coming longer than the prescribed Sundays of Advent? Listening to and singing Christmas music for so long has been very beneficial in preparing our hearts. In fact, I overheard one child tell someone, "I'm so glad we're a musical family because we get to listen to Christmas music longer than most people." So besides the fact that our Christmas preparation schedule is determined by the activities we find ourselves in, I do believe it's possible to redeem the commericialization and prematurity of holiday celebrations. Consider this:

Who decided that it's only possible to prepare our hearts for the one month of Advent? The flip side of this is the phrase I've often heard from Christians: We should have Christmas in our hearts all year long. While I'm not really into trite sayings, I have a feeling that these are some of the same people who start complaining when Christmas shows up in October. I love to talk with my children about the Christmas songs we're listening to and to pull out the Christmas storybooks. The childlike wonder can transform any Scrooge. And isn't that our role as those who believe in the real reason for Christmas? I'd love to see us redeem the season by spreading joy (even if it comes right after Halloween) rather than complaining every time we see a premature Christmas display.

If "love came down at Christmas" and if we are to "spread the good news of Christmas" all year, then I want my children to practice that. Rather than be known as complainers, I want my family to spread joy wherever they go. If someone hands my daughter a Santa Claus sticker, I could loudly announce to the store cashier that we don't believe in Santa. Or I could say, "Just think, all day long when you see that sticker on your shirt you'll remember Jesus, the best gift giver ever!" Or we could talk about Santa Dan, a good friend and godly man who uses his Santa look-alike features and beard to dress up and bring toys, food, and other necessities to the less fortunate people of central Pennsylvania. And if I see a display that incorporates the true meaning of Christmas (and not just a generic holiday banner), rather than bemoan the fact that it's too early to advertise the season, I want to thank that business for being willing to use the word Christmas. Complaining won't stop the stores from commercializing Christmas. But a little extra joy and light at a stressful time of year could do wonders for ourselves and those with whom we come into contact.

So I say with gusto: Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Santa Dan and his wife, of course!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Musical Christmas misadventures

We spent a wonderful day with some of our theater friends (in light of yesterday's post, there were no guards at this gathering). If you want to have a great time, this is definitely the group to spend your day with.

So, in honor of all our theater friends, and in light of recent happenings at one of our favorite playhouses, I'm going to write a Christmas musical. A sneak peek to whet your appetite:

"The Misadventures of Santa's Actors"

(Disclaimer: No, the King family does not celebrate Santa. The theater where our kids act, however, uses Santa in every Christmas show title. Don't worry, it ends with the greatest story ever told.)

So, beginning again:

"The Misadventures of Santa's Actors" takes place on Christmas Eve when 7 actors and a Santa Claus are stranded in Penn Station, hoping to get home for Christmas. One is here because her recent appendectomy kept her from going home a week earlier. Another rushes into the station after finding out that her car has been towed and she needs to find an alternate method of transportation - quick! Two unemployed actors arrive at the train station after using their limited strumming ability, mixed with a large dose of vocal fortitude, to find enough cash in their guitar cases to get them to their respective homes. Here's hopin' Mom and Dad provide the cash to get them back to the big city. The fifth is on her way home but a show closing case of laryngitis has her communicating all in charades. She's an actress; it works! The next couple, former actors and curent theater owners in the South, are headed home after a whirlwind tour of all their former haunts. They have their kids in tow, all named for roles they played in musicals during their careers: Rolfe, Liesl (the roles they were playing when they met), Curly, Nellie, Millie, and Lil Annie (from Annie, naturally). And Santa - he's just finished his last shift sitting on a chair facing a long line of snotty nosed kids. He's just glad he can finally go home where there aren't as many germs and no one demanding favorite toys, except that someone has stolen his backpack containing all of his earthly possessions. Of course our dynamic group of actors will burst into spontaneous musical numbers featuring your favorite Christmas songs, including a STOMP-like rendition of Jingle Bells, I'll Be Home for Christmas on maracas, and their own rendition of the Charlie Brown Christmas dance. It's a Christmas musical sure to put a smile on your face and which you'll want to return to year after year after year.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The end

I hope you all know how fortunate you are that I am able to write this blog. We almost saw the end of my ability to post. Ever. I saw my freedom fleeting before my very eyes. Although, if I was going to be stuck anywhere, it was probably a good place to live out my days. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As many of you know, Mariana is employed as a performer at a central Pennsylvania family-friendly, chocolate-inspired amusement park (name withheld to protect the usually innocent). Because she is under-age and must comply with the state of Pennsylvania's child labor laws as well as the rules of the central Pennsylvania family-friendly, chocolate-inspired amusement park, she must be accompanied by a guardian at all times. As such, she wears a pass with her lovely photo on it and her guardian carries a small laminated pass that clearly states "2010 Performer's Pass: Guardian of Mariana King" and "Enter at Employee Gate Only." Most of the time we enter the park with little trouble, although they often look at us funny and scrutinize our passes as if we're mother-daughter thieves trying to illegally enter said park. Exiting has never been an issue and we just walk through with a friendly good-bye. Never a need to flash a pass to exit. Tonight, as usual, we entered with little more than a glance and a security wave through the employee-only gates. It was when we tried to go home that we had trouble.

As we were walking toward the employee gate to leave, I glanced up and saw not one but three guards standing in the way. I joked to Mariana that they sent a whole swarm of guards to meet us this time. Little did I know how true that was going to be.

We got closer to find that the three power-wielding men were blocking the exit gate. The following is an exact transcipt of the conversation that followed:

Guard #1: (Presumably the leader as he did most of the talking): What do you think you're doing?

Cindy: We're leaving.

Guard #1: Do you work here?

Cindy (Pointing to Mariana): She does.

Guard #1: Then she can leave but you can't.

Cindy (Laughs, thinking he is joking - Hey, it's always good to have a funny guard)

Guard #1: Well, this exit is for employees only. How did you get here?

Cindy (Still thinking he 's joking): She drove herself.

Guard #1: Well, you certainly didn't park here.

Cindy: Yes, we did. We're parked in the employee parking lot.

Guard #1: But you didn't come in through this gate.

Cindy (Beginning to realize that there might be a problem): Are you serious or are you joking?

Guard #1: I'm serious. You certainly didn't come in through this gate.

Cindy: Yes, we did. She's an employee. She works in the theater.

Guard #1 (Said to Mariana while pointing at Cindy): Did you bring her in here with you?

Mariana: Yes, I did.

Guard #1 (Looks at Mariana with a conspiratorial glance, clearly saying without words, "Come on, I know you're lying.")

Guard #2 (Finally getting a voice): Well, we don't allow non-employees to enter through the employee gate.

Guard #3 (Also breaking his silence): And I know I wasn't here when you entered.

Cindy (Thinking to herself: This is true but how does it relate to our current situation? Are you the only guard allowed to admit people? We had a very nice, non-power wielding female guard when we walked through)

Guard #1: Who is the employee?

Cindy (Thinking to herself that we've already been through this and digging in her purse for her pass): She is. She has a pass. And so do I.

Mariana (Holds up her pass, which has been hanging around her neck in plain view this whole time)

Guard #1: Only the employee is allowed through this gate. You're surely not parked in this parking lot and this is for employees only.

Cindy (Still looking for the pass which she always has at-the-ready when entering but has never had to use when exiting. It would be easy to find if she wasn't so confused and flustered): But I am her guardian. I have a pass which says "Guardian". How do you think a minor gets here?

Guard #2 (Feeling bolder and smarter as time passes): We do not let guardians through this gate, only employees.

Guard #3 (Pointing to sign on gate and talking to Cindy as if she is short-of-brain cells as well as stature): It says right here - Employee Exit Only

This never-ending conversation went on for several more rounds while Cindy tried to imagine life stuck in the central Pennsylvania family-friendly chocolate-inspired amusement park. A never-ending supply of Reese's Peanut Butter cups didn't seem so bad. It might get kind of cold for sleeping, though. And they don't sell ice cream in the park in winter. Her brain tried to compute the rationale behind allowing guardians to enter the park but refusing them leave. She finally located her pass and held it right under their noses.

Guards #1, 2, and 3: Ohhhhhh. We can let you through.

It was that easy.

Later, as we were processing the evening, we were reminded of a conversation we overheard earlier. It was between several other guards, located elsewhere in the park. These guards were joking about how it'd be to their liking if this particular central Pennsylvania family-friendly chocolate-inspired amusement park adapted the TSA full-body scan and pat down procedures. Must have been something extra in the water tonight that caused power-exerting feelings and actions in the men wearing brown uniforms.

Please pass the Reese's.

Mariana with writer, director, and producer of Home Sweet Home for Christmas, Matt Davenport (who has absolutely nothing to do with the refusal-to-allow-departure guards in today's story and who would be aghast if he knew his actors and their guardians were being treated with such contempt)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

OCD Thanksgiving

By now I'm sure many of you have seen the obsessive-compulsive Thanksgiving letter as it makes its way around the cyber world. If not, it's a must read. You can find it here: http://www.californiakara.com/p/thanksgiving-letter.html

In fact, you'll have to read it to better understand my thoughts for today. Because you see, as I read this letter, it made perfect sense to me. No use having your meal ruined by someone not following your carefully thought-out plans. You didn't take so much time attending to every little detail to have something forgotten or misplaced. But as I thought about it more, I realized that the writer of this letter is not an exact copy of me. The major difference here is that this writer is, as my husband would say, a High D personality. Now, I can never remember what all the letters stand for in those personality tests - that's John's job - but I do know that I am as far from a High D on those tests as you can get. In fact, I do not get along with High D people; they run right over me and have me cowering in a corner saying, "Yes, ma'am," and "No, sir" even though I don't agree with a thing they are saying.

So here's the difference: I would never write such a letter. I would be thinking it. I would be hoping everyone follows my directions. If I were to give you directions for Thanksgiving dinner, this is how my letter would come out (with notes in parentheses so you can understand the reasoning behind the words):

Happy Thanksgiving! (You are receiving this a month early because I am an over-planner and I want you to know that the holiday is approaching and it's time to start planning for it so that nothing goes wrong)

From: The 2010 Thanksgiving Planning Committee (Never put your name on something because if people don't like it they will complain about you; making it a group effort makes it look like you have friends who agree with you)

I am so thankful that I have all of you to help with the meal preparation. (Actually, I feel like I could do it better if I just did it all myself but that would be a lot of work. I'm going to try to allow you to help with the meal but I am very concerned that it won't all turn out just right. I don't have much faith in all of you but I'm trying. I do appreciate your futile attempts but I already know that I will be frustrated by the results.)

Below, you will find your name and the item you are to bring. Please let me know if this is a problem. (While I like what the original letter writer penned: "Now, while I do have quite a sense of humor and joke around all the time, I COULD NOT BE MORE SERIOUS when I am providing you with your Thanksgiving instructions and orders. I am very particular, so please perform your task EXACTLY as I have requested and read your portion very carefully. If I ask you to bring your offering in a container that has a lid, bring your offering in a container WITH A LID, NOT ALUMINUM FOIL! If I ask you to bring a serving spoon for your dish, BRING A SERVING SPOON, NOT A SOUP SPOON! And please do not forget anything," saying so would be too bold.)

Please bring your food item ready to be served. (This should not need to be stated but since not everyone can be as organized and detail-oriented as me, it needs to be spelled out.)

The Mike Bauman Family
1.Your turnip casserole, if you'd like. (By adding "if you'd like" I'm implying that you are the only one who likes it but I don't want to come out and say it. I'm hoping you'll figure it out yourself.)
2. Two half gallons of ice cream, you can get whatever brands or flavors you like but I know from other years that peanut butter swirl seems to be a favorite and of course vanilla is always a good option. (Make it sound like this is from past experience when really you just prefer peanut butter but can't say so.)

The Bob Moyer Family
Green beans or asparagus in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. You can make both if you'd like but you don't have to do that. If you make the green beans, it would be good to have about 4 pounds but if you make asparagus you might need 5 pounds. Last year we really liked the light sprinkling of toasted nuts on the top but I remember that you said it'd be better without the cheese. ("Would be good" and "might" make it look like you're not telling anyone what to do, only suggesting it. "Remembering" conversations that never happened is always a good idea, too.)

The Lisa Godshall Family
Lisa - congratulations again on your recent wedding! - we're all excited that you will be able to contribute this year. Could you bring the hors d'ouvres? (Questions are always good.) In the past we've always had something light. Since no one likes cocktail sauce and beans, you probably want to skip recipes with those ingredients. Last year we had a small platter of fresh vegetables so that might be a good idea. Everyone liked that. That might be nice. But you can bring whatever you'd like.

The June King Family
Could you make mashed potatoes like you did last year? They were so good and everyone loved them. (Compliments are always good). Last year you made 15 pounds and that was just perfect. You can serve it however you'd like but someone was remembering that the blue serving dish didn't work out so well. (Never admit that it was you who remembered that.) You might want to try using a smaller container and putting the rest in a plastic Tupperware container and we can replenish it as needed. Or you could just put it in two regular-sized casserole dishes. It's completely up to you. (But your way didn't work before so you should probably just use my ideas.)

The Amy Hostetler Family - PLEASE READ CAREFULLY (In other words, you never read my notes and if you do, somehow you always mess something up so please don't mess up this year.)
1. Pumpkin pie. I will send you my silver palate recipe. You don't have to use it if you don't want to use it. I just thought it would save you the trouble of finding one. I know that this one tastes great. (No need to tell her that last year's recipe wasn't any good; that might hurt her feelings.)

Looking forward to the 28th!!

Cindy and the 2010 Thanksgiving Planning Committee (one last shot at making people think that you aren't the only obsessive -compulsive member of the family.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! You'd better go back and find that email that Aunt Matilda sent out earlier this month. You wouldn't want to miss any of her directions!

Friday, November 19, 2010

35 days, 13 hours, 15 minutes

Christmas 2006 - Feliz Navidad

Recently returned from a family mission trip to Mexico, we didn't get too creative with the picture. The card, however, started out with, "Greetings from the King Kids! We decided we were tired of Mom's cutesy Chrismtas greetings so we staged a revolt. No more dressing us up like angels and shepherds, we said! No more putting us in stockings or large packages. No more posing in wise men costumes from India or outfits that read 'Fa La La La La' when seated in order. We're done! This year, we're in charge. So, we got our heads together and after hours of deliberation, disagreements, and delegations, we decided to send you a picture to represent our recent trip to Mexico."

And there you have it; a Christmas card written by the kids. That wasn't really. But people thought it was. Fun, fun!

Christmas 2007 - H O P E

It seemed like a good idea to create the letters in the word "hope" to celebrate the up-coming adoption and to share our hope in the future. We didn't, however, count on Eden have a complete meltdown. Oh well. You do the best you can.

Christmas 2008

Just your run-of-the-mill Christmas collage photo with a Year-in-Review Quiz

"How much do you know about the King family happenings of 2008? Put on your thinking cap, grab a mug of hot chocolate, turn on your favorite Christmas CD, wrap yourself in your warmest blankets and read on . . .

Questions included:

What exciting thing happened to the King family in April?
a. We went surfing in the Pacific
b. We went on a cruise to the Arctic
c. We were on Funniest Home Videos
d. We adopted HopeAnne

Jesse went on vacation in June. Where did he go and with whom?
a. Audio Adrenaline concert with Grandma Mary Ann
b. The Amazon with MomMom Bauman
c. Hang gliding in Colorado with Cindy
d. New Mexico with PopPop

Which family pet escaped this year and where was it found?
a. Isaac's fish, found in his bed
b. Jesse's guinea pig, found in the fridge's veggie bin
c. The family's dog, Linus, found sharing a bowl of spaghetti with a female cocker spaniel
d. Andrew's snake, found in a desk drawer

What does John teach at Messiah College?
a. Botany
b. Household Organizational Micromanagement
c. African Ballet Belly Dancing
d. Psychology

And just in case you didn't know the answers, we kindly supplied them for you:

After being a foster child in our home since June 2006, Hope officially became a member of the King family. The adoption hearing was made even more special with over 40 friends in attendance, a Christian judge who allowed us to pray in court and a butterfly release along the Susquehanna River.

Jesse went to Vermejo Ranch in New Mexico to enjoy horseback riding, hiking, fishing and hanging out with PopPop. Two food firsts for Jesse were lamb and eating his own freshly caught fish.

Yes, we DO have a corn snake and yes she DID escape for the first time after 7 years of contented living in her fish tank and yes it was CINDY who found her in a desk drawer and yes the snake DOES now have an escape-proof cage handmade by PopPop

Although there have been rumors of John teaching dance classes at Messiah, it is the psychology department where he can be found as an adjunct professor. Actually, all family members but Cindy have made appearances in his class to demonstrate different points. If he took Cindy into class he wouldn't be able to use her as an example for so many of his topics.

Christmas 2009

Another plain old family portrait (can you tell that the children have officially revolted against my ideas?) accompanied by a list of the King family favorite TV shows and movies from 2009, including:

MASH - 2009's remake of this oldie-but-goodie was in a completely new battlefield: High School. Andrew took the giant leap from middle school to Mechanicsburg Area Senior High. He remains a great student but more importantly his character remains steadfast...

What Not to Wear - Jesse took a break from his regularly scheduled program to participate in an episode of What Not to Wear. He was nominated by Andrew who is daily embarrassed by Jesse's creative wardrobe...

The King and I, Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera - A favorite with many , this show featured the King kids in various theatrical roles...

School Musical 7 - After watching John complete elementary school, junior high school, high school, college, and 2 master's degrees, viewers are now able to watch this reality series where John is working on his doctorate in Counseling Education and Supervision...Since so much time is being invested in this endeavor, we certainly wish the King family well and hope that John does not get voted off until his 4 years have been completed. Along with Cindy we also hope that there is never a School Musical 8.

John and Cindy Pulus Six and Counting - This show follows the Kings as they pursue foster care and possible future adoptions. Unfortunately, for some strange reason the state of Pennsylvania believes that 6 children is a large amount and has done its best to limit the numer of foster children in a home...

So now you see my dilemma: How to keep the masses happy while being considerate of my family's right to say no. How many days are left til this year's cards need to be in the mail?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

36 days, 15 hours, 9 minutes

Christmas 2003 - Stepping Out in Faith...

We weren't feeling much like laughing this year. It had been a rough one. But on the other side of it we wanted to share our testimony of God's faithfulness. We made a family project of cutting out mini houses. The door opened to a picture of the children stepping out of our front door. Inside the house envelope was the annual letter. It was also to represent our change of address and move to Mechanicsburg.

Quotes from this year that still hold true today: "This move has been the best thing for John and me as individuals, for our marriage and for our family . . . He has a flamboyantly creative side that keeps us guessing (Jesse, of course) . . . Mariana is in kindergarten and is still our drama queen. She has something to say about every subject and answers questions even when she doesn't kow the answer . . . We were able to find Suzuki violin teachers in the area and the children's playing has just blossomed since coming here. We are now well on our way to a King Quartet . . .Taking such a huge step of faith this year has been a wonderful blessing to us!"

Some people let us know that they felt let down by this year's card; apparently it wasn't funny enough. That's okay. There was plenty of time to continue that tradition.

Christmas 2004 - 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and all Through the House Not a Creature Was Stirring . . .

We're told some people read the front of the card and before turning the page said, "Yeah, right," which was exactly what they found written on the inside. After a short hiatus, this card announced another King Kid - Eden this time. Knowing we were running out of card ideas, this card ended with an appeal for future ideas. A few people answered the call and sent us their ideas.

Christmas 2005 - Once Upon a Time

A Suzuki concert requiring medieval wear provided us with costumes just begging to be worn again. This letter began, "Once upon a time in the village of Mechanicsburg, there lived a royal family."

Would you believe it also stated, "Andrew, the 10-year old knight, just capped off an excellent rookie season in soccer, scoring 18 goals...Andrew is still playing the violin and especially loves fiddling which is not something you typically hear in a castle...Jesse's favorite school subject is gym...The lovely damsel, Mariana, turned 7 this year...She is very dramatic and creative...(Isaac) loves animals and was thrilled to win a fish at our church's fall fest. The fish that Isaac named Fishfood died after only three days ad Isaac was devastated. Maybe he will find a new pet under the tree this Christmas (which he did indeed, more fish)...The royal King and Queen decided that Isaac should switch from violin to viola, thereby creating the official castle string quartet...And then there is Eden, the very sweet castle jester..."

Are you getting some ideas for yourself? Tune in tomorrow for the final installment in our trip down Christmas Memory Lane...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Inspired by Julie

I finally watched Julie and Julia. I know, I'm really far behind in my movie viewing. I don't get out much. I am, however, completely up-to-date in my Veggie Tales, American Girl, Angelina Ballerina, and Little House on the Prairie. So I'm not a total loss.

I have to say that I am now inspired in my blog writing. Julie, the main character (for those of you who saw this so long ago that you now can't remember the plot), decides to cook through Julia Childs' cookbook of 524 recipes in 365 days and to blog about her experience. So, I'm trying to decide what my yearlong project could/should be.

I immediately ditched the Julia Childs idea since my picky eaters most certainly aren't into French cooking and I am most certainly not going to touch a duck.

Sticking to the cooking theme, however, I thought about cooking through the recipes in the Franconia Culinary Pride 'n Joy (Mennonite) Cookbook. But with over 800 recipes I thought it was a little out of reach. And while daily doses of variations on shoo-fly pie, jams, and homemade breads sounded more palatable than French cooking, I believe all those fats and carbs would have some disastrous results on my family's health.

I knew I had to find something I was more passionate about than cooking.

Children, of course.

So I thought about adopting a child each day for the next year. But unfortunately that's logistically impossible. And 365 does sound like a lot of children. Even to me.


I thought it'd be fun to read a new book each day for the next year. The only problem with that is that I have a family to raise. I don't think this goal is very compatable with my other responsibilities.

Back to food, how about ice cream?

I could always try a new flavor of ice cream each day for the next 365 days. That probably wouldn't be very good for the figure. Or the grocery budget. Or my overall health. Maybe it'd be better to just make up a new flavor for each of the 365 days.

Something more adventurous?

I could do something on my Buckette List. Only it's not very long.

I could add something new to my Buckette List each day for a year. Only I'm not that adventurous and after 365 new items it would no longer be a Buckette List, it'd be a full-blown Bucket List. I'm not interested.

I'll give it til Dec. 31 to decide. Ideas appreciated.

37 days, 17 hours, and 13 minutes

And there then was . . .

Christmas 2000 - "Gifts Fit for a King"

This was the final installment in the King pun series and shared a little about each family member while remembering the gifts that were brought to Jesus when visited by the Magi. Some things never change as a line from 2000 so aptly shows: "Jesse has a knack for making others laugh . . ."

Christmas 2001

This is my personal favorite and the winner of the 2009 WordFM Christmas Card Contest (they didn't say it had to be a recent Christmas card; I checked the website numerous times before submitting it). We took lines from this carol and applied them to our life. A little sampling -

"Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly . . . or fingerprints, crayon marks, drawings or any other variation of handiwork.

Tis the Season to be Jolly . . . Our year actually started out with the birth of 'Jolly'. Isaac, which means 'laughter', was born on January 22.

See the Blazing Yule Before Us . . . We don't have a fireplace but Jesse says we should. He says we need it to catch the Big Bad Wolf should he happen to come huffing and puffing around our house.

Strike the Harp and Join the Chorus . . . Well, no one plays the harp in the King household but Andrew has been playing the violin since January and Jesse just started this fall. Andrew loves it and we enjoy his progress. He even played God is So Good at our Thanksgiving Eve service and O Come Little Children in December. Jesse insists the drums are more his style but we've convinced him to stick with the violin at least until he gets a little older.

(2010 Note: See how that one turned out?)

Sing We Joyous All Together . . . We aren't always singing, and we're not always as joyous as we should be, but we're thankful that we are all together. We are so blessed to be a family and we enjoy making memories that will stay with each of us forever. A big thank you to each of you who have helped make our year a special one.

Heedless of the Wind and Weather . . . I guess this is what you could say about Mariana when, one day in November, she asked if she could wear her bathing suit to her aunt's house so she could go swimming. It's so hard to think logically when you're three!

We'd love to share more about our family and our year but we've run out of verses!"

Christmas 2002 - "Have You Herd the Good News?"

I don't know if PhotoShop had been invented yet. If it had, we had no idea what it was. We did, however, go on a road trip to Idaho where the kids posed on a statue of a buffalo. We also have a creative and gifted sister-in-law who worked her magic with that buffalo photo and one with a herd of cattle. Each child contributed to his/her own section of this letter. And no, it didn't announce an up-coming King birth. These were the seminary years. We took a break.

Again, a sampling -

"Have YOU heard the good news . . .

from Andrew? I played violin in 3 weddings this year. One was in Idaho. We rode in a motor home all the way to Idaho...In September I rode more than 75 miles in the MS150...I bought a snake in April named Cornelia...

(2010 Note: We still have Cornelia)

from Jesse? Thank you, God for helping me swim in swimming lessons. Thank you, Jesus, for coming into my heart. Thank you that I could play baseball...Thank you that we could go to Dinosaur National Monument...Thank you that I lost my first tooth and that I have a new tooth growing up.

from Mariana? ...God is helping me play the violin by myself without any help. God helps me read...I was in a TV commerical.

from Isaac? (by Mommy) ... I am changing from a toddler to a little boy with my own personality. Trying to keep up with my siblings has given me a number of scrapes and close calls (like a big skid mark on my nose!) but I am blessed to have such wonderful plymates. Even though I'm little they take time to play with me and to teach me new things (although I could really do without being dressed up as a girl by them!"

Little did we know what the next year was going to hold, beginning just a month after those letters went out . . .

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

38 days, 5 hours, and 5 minutes

The countdown is on to come up with a new and exciting Christmas card from the King house to yours. The problem with creative Christmas cards is that once you send one, you are forever expected to produce another one the following year. For a time, the creative juices were flowing. And for several years I had very young and very cooperative children who didn't know better. Now I have teenagers. They aren't so young and they aren't always cooperative. They aren't so willing to wear silly costumes and to be modeling some cutesy saying. This whole Christmas card thing is now a family discussion which doesn't always end well. But it will come. Eventually.

Just in case this year's card doesn't get off the ground (pun intended, you'll get it if the card idea works), let's just take a trip down memory lane.

Christmas 1996 - "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

This is an example of coming up with the card's theme after the picture was taken. I'm not sure if Andrew had ear wax or something else in his ear, or if he was adjusting his hearing aid. I do know that it gave us a perfect line to start the card. The card then talked about common sounds around the King household with a 21 month old and a 2 month old and speculated about the sounds on that first Christmas night.

You'll want to remember that this was in the days before digital cameras and photoshop but please note that no children were harmed in the photographing of this scene. And Jesse has gotten past the fact that he was a 2 month old angel. He was also a 2 month old Jesus that Christmas season but he slept through both services of that role so he doesn't even remember it.

Christmas 1997 - "Just hangin' around - waiting for Christmas"

The theme of this year's card was (you guessed it) - waiting. It's tough to wait when you're 2 1/2. It's not so easy when you're just over a year old, either. For that matter, waiting is hard for all of us, just as it has been through the ages. So this card also shared our reflections on the Israelites and how they were waiting for the Messiah. It was also through this Christmas card that we announced the expected arrival of King Kid #3: "Cindy, as well as the whole family, waits to put a face to our third child, due in May." We know of at least one person who, upon reading the heading of the card, knew that it was going to announce another child. I guess it was about that time again.

Christmas 1998 - "Wee Three Kings"

This was the first in a series of cards that took advantage of our last name. We found that organizing three kids ages 3 and under was a lot more difficult than getting two to sit. Our plans for the kids to sit nicely and pose was a major failure so we just ended up using the chaos to write about how our best-laid plans don't always work. Jesus didn't really come according to what the people were expecting, either.

Christmas 1999 - "Good Kings Come in Small Packages"

You can probably see where this one went. We talked about what a gift each child was to us and their unique personalities. We wrote about the gift of healing in Andrew's life after surgery for craniosynostosis the summer before. And we celebrated the gift of Jesus.

And yes, the kids were actually IN the boxes, even though it looks like they're holding them. Mariana is also holding an Easter PEZ dispenser and eating PEZ candies, not because it was planned that way, but because it was the only way we could get her to sit.

To be continued...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not my kid

One of my favorite books is Cheaper By the Dozen (of course). The real one. The book, not the movie. In fact, I don't know if I've ever even seen the movie. For all you folks who watch movies more than read books, yes there really was a family that had 12 children and lived to tell about it. In fact, it was the children who had the idea to write a book. Makes me wonder what my children are going to write about me someday.

Not that we have 12 children.


Anyway, back to the story. One of my favorite glimpses into the real-life Cheaper By the Dozen Family is when the mother answered the phone to a conversation like this one:

Child on phone: Hello, Mom? This is Erica. Can I go to Jenny's house?

Mother: Yes, dear. Have a good time.

It wasn't until she hung up that she realized that she didn't have a daughter named Erica and that she had just given someone else's daughter permission to stay at someone else's house.

Oh well. These things happen. It's best to just go on.

So when I got a postcard in the mail from the orthodontist's office, reminding me of Jessica's appointment for Nov. 30 at 4:15, of course I checked the calendar to confirm. Uh oh. No orthodontist appointment listed for Nov. 30. For any King kid. So I double-checked: "Appointment for Jessica on Nov. 30 at 4:15" it clearly stated. I looked again. Yep, I'm on the November page. And yes, I'm looking at the 30th. Still no King kids listed for an orthodontist appointment on that date. Check the postcard one more time: "Appointment for Jessica..." Wait a minute. . .

We don't have a Jessica.

We do have a Jesse. Now I don't know who is confused, the orthodontist's office or me. It could go either way.

It could be my mistake. I used to be ultra-organized. But then I had children. Not so much anymore. There was the year that Mariana was supposed to have her 5 year old check-up in May. I missed the appointment. I put my tail between my legs and called to explain my oversight. They were very nice and gave me another appointment a month later. I missed that one, too. This time I put my tail between my legs and my best sheepish face on and admitted my oversight once again. They gave me an appointment for July. Mariana finally got those kindergarten shots, just two months after the original appointment. To my credit, there was also a lot of stuff going on in our lives at the time and I was probably not at my emotional best (in fact, I think it was the longest Funny Farm stay ever).

But of course it could be the orthodontist's office. They do have a lot of patients and we do constitute a large portion of their patient base. In fact, I believe our contributions have completely furnished their waiting area, paid for all of their in-office magazine subscriptions, and will be sending all of the employees' children to college. All because they inherited their father's predisposition to not grow adult teeth and their mother's crowded mouth (and you all thought I had a big mouth - ha!). So I gave the office a call.

Me: Hello. I received a postcard in the mail reminding me about a child's appointment for Nov. 30 at 4:15. I'm not positive, but I don't think this is my child.

Receptionist: Let me check. You do have quite a few children so I can see how you would miss a child. (Shows you how often we really are there - they know me by voice alone)

Turns out Jessica King is not one of mine. Too bad. I'm sure she would fit in just fine.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Now that's a funny title for a blog post in November. Maybe she meant Christmas but got confused. Or maybe she's been in the car taxiing too many kids to theater rehearsals and shows and her mind's a little loopy.

Don't worry, folks. I have complete control of all my faculties. I think. It's just that we joined some friends tonight to help them make Communion bread. This is something I've wanted the kids to experience but since I've never made Brethren in Christ Communion Bread before (it's the recipe found in the Bible), we needed to find a more experienced BICer to show us the ropes. So, John Miller, I'm going to write nice things about you in this post. (And I thank you for not asking any difficult questions during the making of the bread.)

On the way over, we read the going-to-someone's-house rules once again: No fighting, yelling, talking over people, kicking, hitting, pinching, biting, etc. After the behavior review, Eden wanted to talk about Communion bread. She remembered that the holes in the bread represent Jesus' wounds from the nails. It seems she was listening and learning the past two Easters when we had an intergenerational Communion service in our home. Yeah! That's why we did it.

I just love when we can immerse our kids in Biblical stories. A while back I wrote a series of lessons for the kids on the life of Moses. Kind of like the Easter eggs that each contain a symbol from the Easter story, we had a box of objects to remind us of aspects of Moses' life. Then one year, after learning about various Old Testament heroes and the altars of remembrance that they built, we built an altar of thanksgiving to God. We mentioned different ways that He had provided for us through the years as we added each stone to our altar. So it bothered me that Communion, rich in symbolism, was a Biblical act that most churches keep away from children. John and I talked about it and decided that the Last Supper needs to be part of our children's observances.

So I researched the Passover supper that Jesus would have been observing with his disciples the night that he was betrayed and wrote a text for a Last Supper observance that we could use intergenerationally in our home. It combines aspects of the Seder that Jesus observed with the hope that we have in a resurrected Christ. It was offered to the church, encouraging small groups of people to find a way to celebrate Communion in a smaller, more intimate home setting.

But there was one problem: Several people didn't know what to do with the kids in their intergenerational service. Most had not allowed their children to participate in Communion before this night. Not quite knowing why or how to explain my ideas to them, I decided it was time to bring in the big guns so I went to John for some help. Together, we put some order to our thoughts:

"When inviting your guests, you will want to let them know what you have planned. Some people may find the symbolism and service too different for them to participate. You will also want everyone to know that the children will be included in this service. This will likely be a new concept for people and some may find it unacceptable. The following will explain why we believe our children are not only allowed to participate but that they should participate; however, each parent will need to decide this issue for him/herself.

In many churches, as with those in which we were raised, children were not permitted to participate in the act of Communion. They were usually kept in a separate room, sometimes given grapes and crackers as an alternative. Not much about Communion was explained to them. As adults many remember feeling excluded at this time without an explanation as to why.

Obviously, churches have reasons for this approach. Many people quote a passage from 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul chastises the church for receiving the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner:

1 Corinthians 11:28-30 - A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

We agree that we should examine ourselves when we receive the Lord's Supper and that it should not be taken lightly. However, this passage is often used to imply that only those who have attained some type of spiritual level or understanding can partake of the Lord’s Supper. Some denominations mandate that only those who are members of that particular church, or those who have been baptized, or those who have participated in some type of prerequisite can observe Communion with that particular church body. Before allowing these verses to determine who can and who cannot participate in Communion, we also must understand the context of what Paul was writing about. Earlier in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul was chastising the church because of the wrong way they were eating and drinking (with division in their ranks, getting drunk, etc.), and when he wrote verses 28 to 30, it was in this context that he said that we ought to examine ourselves.

As we have looked into the traditional Seder, or Passover meal; the meal that Jesus Himself was celebrating on the night He was betrayed, we have come to realize how much this tradition focused on children. It was a re-enactment, a retelling, and a reliving of the flight of the Jews from the slavery of Egypt. Jews were immersed in this retelling using many of their senses – HEARING the story repeated over and over again, SEEING symbols from the Exodus and TASTING reminders of that life and that night. One of the significant goals of Passover was to stimulate the children to ask questions. The symbols and rituals served to arouse their curiosity in this process and to ensure their remembrance.

If Jesus commanded us to observe Communion “in rememberance” of Him, then we believe He intended it to pass on the reality of Jesus to the next generation, just as the Seder was passing on the remembrance of deliverance from Egypt. We, too, are in slavery until we accept Christ. Have our children accepted Christ – to the best of their ability and understanding? Could it be that for each of us, young and old, the delineating factor is whether we understand these concepts in an age-appropriate manner? Could it be that for each of us, some farther along in our spiritual journey and understanding than others, the question is not whether we have attained full knowledge, but whether we are willing to look at Christ’s sacrifice and to take another step closer in understanding what it took to save us from our sins?

Since the Bible does not give us a direct answer to this question, we encourage all parents to explore the Biblical passages on Passover and Communion. Speak with your children about these topics as well as their understanding of sin, remorse and forgiveness. If, as parents, you have decided that Communion should be reserved until each child reaches a certain point in his/her walk, an “age of accountability” perhaps, that is fine. Our encouragement to you would be to explain your reasons to your children. Don’t let them feel excluded. Instead, allow each child to feel accepted for who he is and where he is in his spiritual journey. Share with your children the joy you will feel when one day they can join you in a Communion service."

So while we understand that not every family will come to the same conclusion that we did, I am so thankful for a service that helps explain Communion to me and my children. As we celebrate together around the dinner table, we can better "do this in remembrance of me."

And now that we've participated in the making of the bread, we're also one step closer to being real BICers. Thanks for allowing us to invade your home. We had a great time and you're excellent teachers.