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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Camping anyone?

Long weekends are great. They're just very tiring. I think today wins the award for most things accomplished. There was the tail end of the LIFE group (aka Small Group for all who are not as enlightened as McBICers) annual Memorial Day weekend campout, and then it was my plan to take a nap but had only enough time for a much-needed shower before heading to Home Depot to meet with the bathroom remodeling expert and a good laugh as I watched 3 grown men try to fit a bathtub, wainscoting, linoleum and miscellaneous other necessities into our van. After that it was time for a King's Strings practice (you are coming to hear us at the Governor's next weekend, right?), supper, rehearsal for Bye, Bye, Birdie and a movie for Andrew and friends.

Since I threatened to talk about the annual camp-out, I feel it is my duty to follow through. This tradition of camping out together has become a highlight of the year for the King family. Spending two days in the great outdoors, sleeping in tents with the spiders and mosquitos, cooking our meals over an open fire, fellowshipping with good friends (even though one did give me my third invitation to the upcoming women's conference!) - all in the comfort of the Armstrong's backyard, complete with indoor plumbing and full kitchen, and the grandparents' pool right down the road. What more could you ask for? That's my kind of camping! Especially when it comes with a few good pranks.

First, you have to visualize the set-up. We have a tent for Tim, Diann and dog, Frankie. Then there's the tent for Dave and Beth. The next tent in line is for 4 Kings; John, Eden, HopeAnne and me. The smallest tent is for Lindsey and Mariana. Finally, the King family 8-passenger indestructible tent is saved for all the boys - Andrew, Jesse, John, Trenton, Isaac and Josiah. The boys were clearly planning a trick on the girls. So the moms helped the girls out a little bit by donating my cell phone to bury under the boys' tent. After all the kids were tucked into their sleeping bags for the night, the girls made a fateful mistake. They went into the house for something. That's all Jesse needed. He snuck into their tent and scared the pee out of them when they arrived back for the night. We sent everyone back to his/her own tent and about half an hour later the girls started their cell phone campaign. The final joke was on me when Andrew came running out of the tent shouting, "It's just like Christmas! I got a cell phone!" He still hasn't given it back. He claims the old finders keepers line.

So now you know that I'm a camping wimp. I'm willing to spend the night in a tent as long as there is a real bathroom not too far away. But before you start making fun of me you do need to know that it wasn't always that way. I actually spent 2 summers working at a camp in the middle of nowhere in Vermont. We slept in shelters and cooked most of our meals over an open fire. The goal of every Bethany Birches counselor is to be able to light your campfire with just one match. Yup, you're looking at an expert here. But, as always, the pranks are the best part.

I suppose we shouldn't have played tricks on the campers but why not? There were a few of us counselors from Pennsylvania so we often tried to tell the campers that life in PA was very different from life in Vermont. One week of camp we had the campers convinced that in PA we say mo-squweeeeee-toes instead of the normal pronunciation for this little pest. I have to wonder if there aren't a few young adults in Vermont still in the habit of saying mo-squeeeee-toes properly as the Pennsylvanians do. One night we decided to join with another cabin and sleep under the stars. In the morning the other counselor and I discovered that although we had remembered to bring all of the food needed for breakfast, neither of us had remembered the all-important frying pan. No problem because in PA, of course, we don't use frying pans to cook our eggs. We roast them, the same way you roast marshmallows. We had the girls rounding up sticks and sharpening the ends. Not knowing what was going to happen, we showed them how to carefully put the stick through the eggshell and hold it over the fire. Try it; it takes some skill to get the stick through the shell without completely cracking the egg and losing most of your yolk. The joke was on us, however, because believe it or not, "eggs-a-la-stick" does actually work. We all had eggs for breakfast after all and learned a new survival skill in the process.

But now I'm tired. Too tired to write. Too tired to be funny. I'm going to bed. Good night. Good-bye camping. So long vacation. Hello regular schedule.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Brain Damage

Bill Cosby's comedy sketches are so funny because they are so true. I love that we can watch them together and all ages can enjoy them. A favorite in our house is his "Brain Damage" sketch. I guess we can all relate so well to this one because to some degree, we all display this phenomena at times. The older kids have the benefit of being young when there were no older siblings to remember the worst of their brain damage. Unlucky for them, however, their mother has a great memory and just in case she might forget she keeps a "funny book" on each child. Here are some of our favorites (names omitted to conceal each child's true identity):

-If you are going to draw all over the back of Daddy's car, do not also write your name. It may be in fairly illegible scrawl but the capital letters are pretty easy to figure out, especially for someone who made a living out of grading elementary school handwriting.

Brain Damage

-If you are being scolded by Daddy, do not choose that moment to try out a quote you heard from Cruella deVille on 101 Dalmatians because shouting, "You idiot!" to his face is probably not the best way to get out of trouble.

Brain Damage

-If you do not want me to know that the clothes you were asked to put away on laundry day never made it past your floor and then were thrown into the laundry in one fell swoop on cleaning day, at least make sure they do not come to the laundry room neatly folded. Folded clothes in the laundry hamper are a dead give-away. So is putting the same shirt in the laundry 5 weeks in a row when I know I have not seen it on you yet this season.

Brain Damage

-If you are going to suck on a marker, choose a color more suited to your natural lip and tongue color. Blue is especially not a good choice.

Brain Damage

-Do not put swimmies on your ankles. When you go into the water your feet will stay up but your head and hands will still go down.

Brain Damage

-Do not cut your hair if you do not have a license to do so. There is a reason you need to have graduated from high school first. Preschool graduation doesn't count. And, after cutting off a large chunk of hair, do not hide it under your pillow unless you plan to do all of the sheet changing next laundry day. And especially do not tell MomMom that it was Mommy who cut your hair. MomMom's know better. That's how they got to be grandmothers.

Brain Damage

-When you see a banana peel in the middle of the road, do not ride your scooter over it. Those cartoon sketches are correct; you will slip. You will go to the doctor and you will end up with a scar. Even worse is the humiliation of having to tell people that you slipped on a banana peel. Even worse is having your mother and siblings tell people that you slipped on a banana peel.

Brain Damage

-When trying on next season's clothes and you hike your pants all the way up to your arm pits to try to be funny, make sure you have your vocabulary correct first. Strutting into the middle of the room looking like Steve Erkel and saying, "Look, it's the new fade" may be hilarious but you will be reminded of this vocabulary faux pas for a long time.

Brain Damage

-If you take your older sister's lipstick and apply it as eye shadow, blush, and lipstick, you might want to look in the mirror before showing yourself to the rest of the family. And then, when questioned, it's not smart to start off by denying any knowledge of said make-up. Once you've looked in a mirror and know you're caught, it's also best to not state that you found the make-up in your older brother's room and he told you it was okay to use it.

Brain Damage

More to come I'm sure . . .

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why I'm not on facebook - technically

10. I was on facebook but they kicked me off. Something like they didn't think my profile picture matched my given age. Go figure.

9. I do not need to see pregnant belly pictures. Although, when first observing this trend on facebook I was concerned that my children would be scarred for life because they do not have any of these kinds of photos of me nor were such photos shared with the general public via facebook. Would they really believe that they had grown inside of me or would they think they came from aliens, or maybe the stork truly did bring them? With weird looks on their faces my boys assured me, however, that they don't care if the stork did indeed drop them off on its rounds as long as they don't have to look at pictures of my swollen belly. Whew! That's a weight lifted from my shoulders.

8. I do not have the time for such a frivolous time-waster. Really, who has that much time to sit in front of a computer and write a bunch of nonsense? I'd have to give up eating my bon-bons and watching my soaps and I just can't do it.

7. I don't want a hug. Or a poke. Or a farm. I don't want fish or jewels or a castle or anything else you might want to send or throw my way. And I really don't have a need to join the mafia.

6. John's facebook page would go down the drain if I did not update it occasionally. His posts written by me get more comments than posts written by him. It's a contest, right? May the one with the most comments win.

5. Most people on facebook lie. Seriously, if your status says, "So-and-so is driving to Florida." Do you think that this person is actually driving to Florida? No, this person is typing in his/her facebook status. However, if John's facebook status says, "Driving to grad school in Virgina." You can be assured that he is honestly driving to Virginia. I was concerned about the lie that John did not write it but upon double-checking I noted that it doesn't say, "John is personally updating his status and says that he is driving to Virginia." Indeed, it simply says, "John A. King is driving to Virginia."

4. It's too easy and way too much fun to use John's account. Just to get things straight, I have John's complete permission to use his facebook account. In fact, I am encouraged to share his account. In all seriousness (which I can accomplish every now and then when I must) he believes I should be reading his messages and seeing his facebook account to keep things on the up-and-up. This way he can be friends with all the ladies without feeling like he's hiding something. Get it?

3. I don't want people tagging me in ugly photos. Have you seen some of the pictures people post and then tag you? If you don't know how to take a decent picture of someone with eyes open and mouth shut, you probably shouldn't even upload it.

2. I'm not that into friends but I feel bad ignoring people's friend requests. And (horrors) someone from high school might find me and then my alma mater would know that I'm not really dead, I'm just banning all their reunions and ignoring their donation solicitation phone calls and letters.

1. I just really wouldn't have anything to say. I'm a fairly boring person who lives a fairly boring life. Writing all that stuff would be even more boring. And who would want to read anything I have to say? No one likes to read about someone else's life. End of story. Now go update your status.

Friday, May 28, 2010

To decompress or not to decompress

I went to JoAnn Fabrics tonight and Ms. Checker Lady was trying to have a conversation with Boy-in-Love but she was too busy with customers. Boy-in-Love was frustrated by the lack of conversation and complained that usually Ms. Checker Lady was not this busy. She apologized but didn't have an explanation. At that moment Boy-in-Love had an epiphany and noted that of course, people needed their craft supplies for Memorial Day weekend - so they would be able to opt out of picnics and gatherings. He even gave an example, "Oh, I'm sorry, I have to do my quilting." As we walked away John said, "Boy, he sure had you pegged." Maybe he's learned something from this blog.

It was a nice ending to the day since earlier this afternoon I received a second invitation to an up-coming women's event. It's amazing how these events bring friends out of the woodwork; people who claim to know me so well that they know I would love to join them in connecting with other women for several days. To that John said, "See, if more people read your blog they would all know not to invite you to these things." To which I replied, "If the whole world wasn't already reading my blog I could write about this incident and decompress and get it all out of my system and no one would read it. But I'd feel better."

Which is actually what I did. But Mr. Pastor/Counselor edited too much out of it. By then it wasn't worth publishing. So this is all you get. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Make 'em work

As much as I love my larger-than-usual family, it can obviously get to be an expensive endeavor. But it's okay. I've got it all worked out.

One of our house rules is that when you turn 15 a job outside the home is mandatory. I guess it's not exactly mandatory but since you also take over most of your own purchasing, each child will (hopefully) come to the conclusion that a job is a necessary part of life. Just to make certain that these jobs are beneficial to the family at large I have spent much time brainwashing each child to pursue a specific job.

The first child is to work at Giant grocery store. This is an obvious one, right? We all need to eat; some of us more than others. Each meal at the King house ends with the landing of the vultures at which time we hear a barrage of, "Are you going to eat that? Are you finished? What are you going to do with that? Can I have it?" It gives new meaning to the clean plate club. So, with the first-born's employee discount I will no longer receive sticker shock at the grocery store.

The next child is to apply for a job at Bruster's Ice Cream. This is purely for pleasure and purely for me. I look forward to running errands by MYSELF and just happen to drive by Bruster's while said child is there. With his employee discount I will be able to order something other than a single cone every time. My mouth is watering already.

Third child's job will be at Panera Bread. Again, it is very convenient to run errands close to this location so I can stop by to say hello and to spend some time with my child. This employee discount card will be for my artichoke souffle breakfast and Chai tea drink. I see this becoming at least a weekly tradition. Lunch is good, too. I'll have to return later in the day for some soup and salad. And maybe, if the mood is right, I just might be able to use that discount to buy a dozen bagels for the vultures waiting at home.

The fourth child will work at Maggie's, not necessarily because I crave Italian ice (which I don't) but because it's within walking distance and the rest of the family enjoys this treat. They do sell ice cream which we usually don't allow anyone to get because it's more expensive. But with this child's employee discount, I should be able to indulge myself.

The fifth child will work at Brother's Pizza. We like Jerry, the owner, and he likes us. There is no pizza in Mechanicsburg better than Jerry's. The child who works here will learn to work hard. And oh yes, we'd all be able to go out for pizza more often. Imagine that.

The sixth child's employer will be Rakestraw's Ice Cream because we should all support local businesses. Did I mention that frequent stops for discounted ice cream would be appreciated very much by me?

If there end up being more King children, that's not a problem. There's always Cold Stone Ice Cream, Rita's Italian Ice, Dairy Queen. . .

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Don't ruin a good story


We love to read in this house. I am so thrilled that we're raising a house full of readers. Besides the enjoyment of finding a King child with nose in book, family read-aloud time is a favorite. Together we have enjoyed all sorts of books from fantasy (not a personal favorite as I see no point in reading something that could never happen) to all sorts of fiction to nonfiction (remember 19 Steps Up the Mountain?) and everything in between. But one genre you won't find me reading is the animals hurt or dying genre. I just can't do it. And I certainly can't watch the movie version.

My great aunt found this out early on. Aunty Frances (said with much fondness for she certainly did introduce me to many things I wouldn't otherwise have experienced) decided that I needed some culture. She decided that I needed to enter the wonderful world of the movie theater. For my first experience she took me to see Bambi. Can't go wrong with a cute little deer and his friends, can you? Little did she know. I cried from beginning to end. She waited a few years and when she decided that I had grown out of the crying phase she took me to see Benji. Bad move. I hadn't grown out of anything; I bawled through that whole movie, too. She never took me to another movie after that.

Then there were the books. Like most little girls, I loved the Little House series. But even this series has its troubles. Jack, the beloved family dog (spoiler alert) dies in chapter 2 of By the Shores of Silver Lake. Reading it out loud to my children, I tried to convince myself that I could do it. I was sure I could do it. But in the end, I was crying rivers. Thankfully John happened to be home at that moment. I had to hand the book to him to finish the chapter. Now I know I need to reread this for my younger children who never had the joys of meeting Laura and Pa. Maybe we'll skip the whole Silver Lake era and Jack will be able to live forever this time around.

I refuse to read Rascal, Old Yeller, and Where the Red Fern Grows. Each of these could be deemed great literature in the King house - if only they ended with the same number of live animals with which they started.

But by far the most emotional read aloud moment came while reading Incident at Hawk's Hill. For some reason my memories of this book did not include the death of any animals. For those who are not familiar with this story, it is about a young handicapped boy who wanders off from his family's farm. After he is found they discover that he had spent his missing days with a badger. This is all fine but when a neighbor sees the badger he, well...I won't give this one away. Let's just say that I was crying so hard the kids didn't know what to do about it. Children #s 1, 2, and 3 were all laughing at me. They just couldn't see why someone should be so upset about a badger. Child #4, the sensitvie one, brought me a box of Kleenex which was soon emptied. Again, John happened to be home so the book was passed to him to finish. I tried not to lose it, I really did. In the end, (spoiler alert), the animal is not dead. She revives and is fine. Then you should have heard my family laugh at my expense!

So if you ever have aspirations to write a book or make a movie, please make sure the animals all survive, healthy and in one piece, from beginning to end.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Babies

Date night for the Kings has become an act of ingenuity. Fitting in time for just the two of us, while taxiing six children to their various activities, is understandably difficult. In recent months we've adjusted to date mornings instead of date nights. Yes, we do wake up around 7:00 AM on Saturdays just so we can go on a date. As an added bonus, I am a morning person. Even more of a bonus, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. And if that's not enough, breakfast is typically cheaper than other meals. But, there are those rare Saturdays when the children's taxiing begins too early and the date has to be nixed. Like this past weekend. However, we did find a few free hours Friday evening so John decided we should see a movie. The movie of John's choice: Babies.

If you had known the two of us in our pre-children years, this choice would definitely shock you. Let me explain:

John comes from a family of six children. He decided long ago that six children is way too many. It's nothing personal against all of you King siblings; it just wasn't for him. I, on the other hand, had decided early on (as in about age 6) that I had only two goals in life: two be a teacher and a mother. If you look back at that wonderful School Days book that my mother kept for me, you'll see something like this listed under "Future Goals": Kindergarten: Nurse or teacher, 1st grade: Mother and Teacher, 2nd grade: Mother and Teacher, 3rd grade: Mother and Teacher. . . I won't bore you with the next 9 years except to say that it eventually just became "teacher". Not because I had decided not to become a mother but because once I learned how that happened, it wasn't cool to say it anymore.

I didn't give up on that God-given dream, and I truly believe it was/is God-given. Just as my oldest son plans to pursue a career in film technology, and my oldest daughter was born to act, I know I was to be a "Mother and Teacher". Of course one must build skills for her future position. So, babysitting became my thing. I also read stories about families. My favorite books were about families that adopted numerous children.

Fast-forward to college and after 2 years of dating John I decided that I'd better let him in on "My Plan"; the one that included tons of biological and adopted children. I decided that the best way to share this with him would be to ask him to read my all-time favorite family story: 19 Steps Up the Mountain. It is the wonderful story of a sacrificial family that had a total of 19 children, many of whom had physical and mental handicaps (this was all part of "My Plan", too). Surprisingly (to me) John did not share my love for this family or their mission. Interestingly, since that day John refuses to read any book I recommend. My daughter, however, will read any book about foster care, adoption, and large families. I have also read many of these books, including 19 Steps Up the Mountain, as family read-alouds. I figure a little education and persuasion, mixed with a large dose of brainwashing and indoctrination can only help "My Plan".

It could have been a deal-breaker. I'm not sure John really understood my passion for "My Plan". Everyone else did. Even our younger brothers got it and at our wedding performed a song they had written. One of the verses said, "And when your 13 kids are grown, we'll call them on the telephone. We'll tell them they should make a fuss 'cause we want them to be just like us." He still didn't get it.

So, here we are, 6 kids later. John wanted 2; I wanted 13. Six could be a pretty decent compromise. If I thought it was enough. But I don't.

To be continued . . .

Monday, May 24, 2010

Boys and Girls

First a word of praise for all of you who were worried about how I was going to fair as a single parent at the track banquet tonight, knowing that my son would ditch me for a table full of track friends. Oh, I guess I would be the only one who qualifies as "all of you who were worried". Well, just to put all you nervous souls at peace, God led me to a table of strangers who were very friendly. I actually had an enjoyable evening talking with them. Now I'll go spend the next several hours over-analyzing the whole conversation.

Speaking of my track-and-friend loving, Mom-ditching son, God blessed me with three wonderful sons. I love my boys. God also blessed me with three daughters. I love my daughters. While some may argue that in your household there is no difference between sons and daughters, there is a definite difference in mine. And I love it! This is why I am so thankful that Bringing Up Girls was just published. I have been waiting for this one since . . . Well, since I finished reading Bringing Up Boys several years ago. They are both excellent books, very insightful and extremely helpful. I highly recommend both of them if you have one or more specimens in either category.

Well, this is all a little too serious for me so tonight I leave you with something I wrote several years ago, back in the B.E. (Before Eden) era. I had forgotten about this little piece of literature but my mother saved it and recently gave it back to me. Yes, this wonderful woman who saved all my brilliant school days writings, is still saving my work. Here goes:

"You know God has blessed you with sons, when . . .

Five minutes into dinner: Son # 1 points out that the process of squeezing the ketchup bottle makes sounds which resemble the passing of gas, one of those topics of conversation that is not supposed to be voiced at the table. Because he is the first-born, compliant son, he drops the conversation as soon as I ask him to do so.

Five minutes later: Son #2 burps. Sons #1, #2, and #3 laugh hysterically.

Five minutes later: Son #1, needing more ketchup, makes sure Son #2 is paying complete attention. Both enjoy the sounds elicited from the ketchup bottle and if it weren't for me putting an end to the little show, Son #1's plate would be completely covered in ketchup.

Two minutes later: Son #2 mentions that he is trying to burp. I gently suggest that the polite thing to do would be to conceal it and none of us would ever know.

Two minutes later: Son #2 burps. Son #1 says, with genuine praise, "Wow! That was as loud as Daddy!" (Daddy just happens to be at seminary and is missing this whole show. It's a good thing, too, as he would probably join in) Son #3 laughs with the other two. Keep in mind that he is only 11 months old; he must be an early bloomer.

Five minutes later: Conversation about bodily noises and functions continues between Son #1 and Son #2 until I remind everyone (trying desperately to keep my own laughter at bay) that all such conversation and noises are banned from the dinner table. And henceforth are not allowed anywhere else for that matter.

Five minutes later: Son #2, finding no more enjoyment in the dull conversation that followed the previous one, has finished his meal and excused himself from the table.

Two minutes later: Son #1 leans toward me conspiratorially, and in a whisper says, "Mom, he (referring to Son #2) was passing gas in the bathtub last night." After a slight pause, he continues, "And it was really neat. Ya know why? Because in the bathtub it made these neat little bubbles." All resolve was immediately gone and I lost it but I also remembered that yes, even in the midst of less-than-favorable dinner conversation - I love my boys!"

2010 Update: Daughter #1, sandwiched between Son #2 and Son #3 has decided that if you can't lick 'em, join 'em and she can now burp "as loud as Daddy" herself. Mom has not gone the can't-lick-'em-join-'em route and to this day does not make gross noises at the dinner table or anywhere else. She is still trying to maintain order at the table while Daddy continues to prove that he is indeed the loudest of the bunch. With Daughters #2 and #3 it is too soon to tell but Mom is hoping they'll take after her.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Still in shock

Oy vey! What has become of my blog?

Church, as my cousin has so helpfully reminded me, is yet another institution that has been created by extroverts (thanks, Angie). I usually try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Not easy when you're a pastor's wife and said pastor likes to meet new people as often as he takes a breath. I am, believe it or not, part of a Bible Fellowship Group (Sunday School for those not as informed as the Brethren in Christ). I enjoy this when I'm not acting in KidStuf and can usually find a nice seat in the back, by the nearest exit door, in case I should be asked to cluck like a chicken. However, one fateful Sunday, my arrival was enthusiastically announced by one very extroverted person who then decided that I should sit with him and his wife on the far side of the room. Horrors! But, thanks to one memorable incident, I decided to forgive him and continue with the class.

About a month prior to Mr. Loud Mouth's Fellowship Group invitation, I went to class after a rather lengthy absence due to acting, volunteering in preschool ministry and various other motherly duties. I sat down and the woman beside me began to introduce herself and to ask me questions about whether or not I had ever been here before, how often I came, etc. I very quickly realized that she thought I was a new visitor to the church and she was trying to make me feel welcome! I was so excited that there was someone at McBIC who had not yet been introduced to Mrs. John King that I just let her continue. I made sure my answers were vague enough so that she couldn't connect me to my up-front husband but that I also couldn't be accused of lying in the church building. By the way, she should get the McBIC Welcome Committee award because she did an excellent job; very thorough and welcoming! So I keep going back because every time I see her I remember that every now and then I can be anonymous. I hope she wasn't too embarrassed when she finally put it together because she was so sweet and made my day.

As if it typically isn't difficult enough to try to get through the hallways without having to talk to people, now everyone seems to want to talk about blogs, introverts, retreats, chickens and birthdays. As I turned the corner this morning someone stopped me to talk about the blog. Then I continued on my path only to be stopped by someone else, for the same reason. A little farther along someone clucked like a chicken as he passed me (good one, Joe, and I really think you'd be good at the whole pastor/spouse retreat stupid get to know you games thing). Before he could finish his clucking, someone else stopped me. This went on all morning. HELP!

On another note, my brother informed me that he was unaware that I am not, nor have ever been, a card-carrying member of Extroverts of America. After I pulled my jaw back up from the floor I realized that he is to be excused from this oversight. How could someone who enjoyed socializing know that his sister was back at home contentedly reading or sewing - alone? He did, however, send us the link to this great article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/

That, my quickly-expanding set of friends, is why he is known as The Smart One and I am not. He reads interesting articles and I write a blog. Thanks - and love you, Chad!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Getting old

I have decided that I am too old for birthdays. I'm not referring to my birthdays, I actually like them. I don't have to prepare anything for my birthday and if things are going well I might even get taken out to eat or someone might buy me some great tasting ice cream or I might even get a gift that isn't an appliance. What I'm referring to here are my kids' birthdays. I think I'm getting too old for them.

My mom had this great idea (you can tell her I said that) - only give the kids a birthday party every 4 years. Saves time and expense, cuts down on more stuff around the house and makes birthdays 4, 8, 12, and 16 seem all that more special. I never felt deprived under this plan so I implemented it with my own children. It worked great, til I had an over-abundance of kids who kept having birthdays while I just kept getting older. I also didn't plan things very well. Two years ago Eden turned 4 (thus needing a full-fledged party) and then one week later Jesse turned 12 (and of course he wanted his promised party as well). This year Mariana turned 12 just two weeks before HopeAnne turns 4. It is most definitely those 4 year old parties that put me over the edge.

Each child is allowed to choose his/her party dessert. The little kids always choose a theme cake. No problem. You name it, I've probably made it. There was the Egyptian pyramid for my history buff, the train for the Thomas fan, a fish for my nature fan and an assortment of bugs and animals just because. HopeAnne chose a pink elephant. We know why it was pink; everything is pink for her. We're not so sure about the elephant part. But you can't just have supper and dessert and then send everyone home so I also decided to make a pink elephant pinata to go with the pink elephant cake. Between the papier mache and the cake I've been elbow-deep in flour all week.

But it was all worth it. HopeAnne had a great time with her little friends. The big kids enjoyed their older siblings and we enjoyed the adult conversation with parents. The rain held off for the evening, well most of it. No one got hurt during the hitting of the pinata (sorry to all you America's Funniest Home Videos fans). The only bad part was the end of the evening when Hope had a meltdown because it was time to go home. You can't win them all.

I guess when the next child enters the King household we'll need to make sure his/her birthdate is not too close to a pre-existing child's birthday.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Privacy, please

It has come to my attention that someone, who shall remain nameless, has made my blog public on facebook. It is one of the great mysteries of marriage that God usually pairs an extrovert with an introvert. I started this (the blog, not the marriage) mainly as an opportunity to rant, get rid of some steam, and maybe share some things that my family needs to hear (in a passive aggressive way, of course). And let's face it, who really finds someone else's life-reduced-to-a-blog all that exciting?But the nameless person in my marriage (who, I have to admit, does complement me in many ways) decided that privacy was not to be mine in this area. What's left?

I learned very early in my marriage that when an extrovert says, "You know what would be neat" the next sentence is not going to be something in which I will want to participate. In fact, it will probably involve breaking a rule of some kind, being in a group (horrors!) or doing something which will cause great embarrassment.

This is why (confession time) I do not go on retreats. Retreats are made only for extroverts. They involve groups of people, mingling is mandatory, and stupid get to know you games are a given. So much for privacy. And after one dreadful retreat experience, I was done for good.

John, as has already been established, loves retreats. So when we were invited to a pastor/spouse retreat at Maple Pond in the Poconos (name changed to protect the guilty), there was no doubt that we were going (never mind that it was mandatory). I did, however, put my foot down and insist that I was NOT going to go to the first session where I was positive stupid get to know you games would be on tap. We took our time checking in and carrying our suitcases to the room. At this point John was too close to people and action to stay away from the session. He insisted that enough time had passed so surely we could slip in unnoticed. I did not agree but being the submissive introvert that I am, I allowed him to drag me, kicking and screaming, to the door. At this point he put his ear to the door, listened for a few seconds, then again assured me that it was quiet so he was certain there were no stupid get to know you games going on (although I don't think he called them stupid). Feeling quite confident in his new-found detective skills he opened the door to a room full of people, bunched into various groups. They all looked over at us and the man in charge pointed right at me and said, "We're playing a get to know you game. Cluck like a chicken." And he didn't just ask once. He didn't even ask politely. He insisted (how I feel about being told what to do will have to wait for another day).

I have never been the same. And believe me, while I have been forced to attend pastor/spouse retreats (What is it about pastor/spouse retreats? Do you ever hear of electrician/spouse retreats or garbage collector/spouse retreats?) since that fateful day, I NEVER show up for the first session and I NEVER enter a room unless someone other than my husband has scoped it out first. And for all you folks who keep giving me invitations to the yearly women's retreat (I believe one year I received a total of 7 invitations; in my church mailbox, through email and one-on-one), now you know the real reason I ignore your efforts. Nothing personal, ladies.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Insights into Paul's life

I went for a jog this morning. This is the time when God and I usually have very good conversations. Of course there are the times that it centers on the phrase, "Just get me through 5 more minutes" which is then repeated every 5 minutes. Other times it's a great time to pray for whatever comes to my mind in that half hour. Still other times it's messages that come through loud and clear through the songs on my ipod (by the way, do you know how many Christian songs are about running?). Well, this morning, two things about Paul's life became very clear. First of all, I now know why he used the race metaphor so often. Second of all, I know what his "thorn in the flesh" was.

As a complete non-athlete (unless you count a few elementary and junior high years in gymnastics and 1 year as a cheerleader), this whole running thing has amazed even me. Spurred on by my best friend who decided we should add a 5K to our *buckette list, I decided to give it a try about this time last year. If there was ever a time I wished I lived in the mid-west, this is it. No matter which direction I choose to run, every hill around my house goes up more than down. For the most part the whole C25K (couch to 5K for those who are athletic and wouldn't have to work so hard at athleticism) thing went pretty well, until winter when I was NOT going to freeze my bippy (a phrase my father always used although I never really asked him what a bippy is so I may be offensive without realizing it - sorry) just to cross something off a list. So, the first nice day of spring I was at it again and again I was doing really well - until it got cold again. So, I will admit that today was the first day out after a week off for "cooler" temperatures. That was my first mistake. My second was forgetting my knee brace (due to a recurring running injury, now doesn't that sound so athletic?). I decided not to go back home for it but to instead tough it out. Bad mistake. That might work for my cross country running 15-year old, but didn't go so well for me.

All this to say that while limping through my run and fighting for every breath, it occurred to me that the mystery of Paul's thorn in the flesh was not such a mystery after all. Any 40 year old first-time athlete in training can tell you that Paul was most certainly a former non-athlete who, for unknown reasons (maybe he also had an ambitious best friend?) decided to train for a 5K. Being at the ripe old age of 40 he quickly found out that age is certainly a thorn in the flesh, even on the straightest of tracks. Have you read his letters lately? There are an awful lot of references to running. That should have tipped me off years ago. But, then again, in the world of running, I guess it takes one to know one, right?

*Buckette List defined - I decided that since my Bucket List was most definitely not as long or as adventurous as most, it didn't qualify to go by the same name. So, I've started referring to my list as my Buckette List. Less pressure and more fun that way.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A brief introduction

Welcome to my blog! I've been threatening this for quite some time, just as I often threaten to go to the Funny Farm. I currently live in The King Zoo, caretaker of 1 husband and 6 children and one guest that makes frequent secretive stops at my house. In order of appearance in my life they are John, Andrew, Jesse, Mariana, Isaac, Eden, and HopeAnne. The mystery guest is named Nobody and even though he is not an official member of the family, I sometimes think he's here more often than anyone else.

Let me give you some examples: Who played with the stacking dolls in the living room and left them all over the floor? Answer: Nobody; Who got the milk out and left it on the kitchen table? Answer: Nobody; Who is supposed to be helping to clean up the supper dishes? Answer (you guessed it): Nobody. Tonight was the last straw. It's Wednesday and everyone knows that I'm supposed to have a free night on Wednesday (it's kind of a thing of the past but I do what I can) and part of my free night ritual is to have ice cream - with all the toppings. However, when I went for the sprinkles tonight, I found an empty container in the cupboard. I didn't check yet but I'm fairly certain that if I start asking around, I'll find that Nobody ate the last of the sprinkles and left the empty container for me to find.

Hence, my visit to the Funny Farm. It is here where I come to relax, scream a little and to hopefully find the energy and motivation to go back to the zoo. Of course, a big bowl of ice cream with cut up Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (minus the sprinkles *sigh*) will help, too.