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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

19 years ago


Mariana just gave us this message for our anniversary: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I"M REALLY HAPPY YOU TWO MET!!!!! If not... I would have some serious complications in life...

I guess she has a point.

Well, 19 years ago in Montgomery County, PA, it was high 90s with about 90% humidity and our church didn't have air conditioning. And I insisted on an outdoor reception. Funniest Home Videos was a fairly new thing so we were hoping something would go wrong, but it didn't. Despite the temperature, none of the members of the wedding party fell to the floor. The unity candle did not catch on fire. The flower girl and ring bearer did their jobs as expected. And there was no alcohol or dancing so no chance to catch someone in an act that would embarrass him/her later.

So, other than the temperature, what do I remember about our wedding?

I remember that my mom tried to convince me to not make my wedding dress. Knowing that in the past I procrastinated on several sewing projects; finishing one just before putting it on and heading out the door, she didn't think she could handle the stress. She took me to several bridal shops to try on dresses. She was even willing to pay for the one I fell in love with but in the end couldn't convince me to give up my dream of sewing my own dress. Thanks, Mom. I'm so glad I was able to accomplish that goal.

I remember that we teased our flower girl about needing to grow hair on her head for the wedding. She came through and had a head of curly hair just in time for the wedding. Looking at her beautiful curly hair now, you'd never know she was a late bloomer.

I remember my best friend coming over to help us prepare the food for the reception.

I remember that I attempted to keep guests from clinking glasses at the reception by providing only plasticware and plastic cups. They, however, figured out that plasticware banged on metal chairs does make a decent amount of noise.

I remember all of the wonderful songs and poems people shared at the reception, especially the just-for-us song written by our younger brothers.

I remember a letter I received several weeks after the wedding. It was from a college friend who compared our reception to a Country Time Lemonade commercial (remember them?).

I remember that a bee went up the skirt of my wedding dress and it took some time before that crisis was solved.

I remember the song that my aunt led to direct us in the cutting of the cake. Accompanied by all the children in attendance it started with "The bride cuts the cake, the bride cuts the cake, hi-ho-the derry-o, the bride cuts the cake" and went on and on with verse after verse but before it got too graphic, ended with "I guess we'd better stop, I guess we'd better stop..."

I remember leaving the reception in a horse-drawn carriage; the most relaxing part of the whole day.

I remember going from the reception to the nursing home to visit a neighbor who had been like a grandmother to us. She had wanted to come to the wedding but was on oxygen and couldn't handle the high temperature that day. As I leaned over to hug her, a waterfall of bird seed fell out of my hair (remember these were the days before little bottles of bubbles had been invented but after the discovery that rice thrown at weddings ends up in birds' stomachs, so throwing bird seed was both the newest fad and environmentally friendly, until it was found that there were a lot of obese birds living in close proximity to church buildings). She was so incredulous that we had come to visit her that she told everyone about how we came, still in our wedding clothes, just to visit her. She also found bird seed in her bed for days afterward.

Most of all, I remember reciting the vows that promised my love and faithfulness to the man who has taught me so much about unconditional love. Thanks, John. I love you! (There, now you can't say that I'm not lovey-dovey or mushy.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

All in a day


In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that this is actually two days, not one, but it's all related.

The King's Strings played in a wedding on Sat. While some of us have played for weddings individually or in twos, this was the first time the full group played (well, actually it wasn't quite the full group since Mariana had a performance at Allenberry and wasn't going to be able to participate). We get so many comments about how nice it is that we can all play together and that we look like we're having so much fun, I thought it would be good to give you a little insight into what life is really like in the King household. Believe you me, we are just as normal as the next family. Keep in mind that we do really enjoy playing together and that it is fun most of the time.

The wedding, of course, actually starts with the rehearsal the evening before, so my blow-by-blow will start the morning before as well. So, Friday was one of those full days. John left the house at 7:20 to take Andrew to meet a friend only to find out that the car wouldn't start. After blaming me under the assumption that I had left the lights on (since I was the one who drove it home at midnight), he called the service station to come pick it up.

Problem #1: Our household rarely works well with only one vehicle.

He took the van and they went on their way. The service station came for the car and soon called with the bad news that the problem was with the starter.

Since we were all to go to Allenberry to see Guys and Dolls after lunch, John returned the van and took the scooter.

The major problem came after Guys and Dolls. The original plan was that John was going to leave from the show (with the girls) to pick up Jesse and Isaac from Camp Hebron as I needed to stay at the 'berry for the camp awards ceremony. But as you'll recall, he had the scooter. Opting for Plan B, I kept the girls with me and he drove the scooter back to church where he borrowed someone else's car to go pick up the boys and luggage.

I got home from the awards ceremony to find that the boys had successfully arrived home from camp, John had gone to retrieve the scooter, and Grandma and Grandpa had arrived from Ohio. We all changed into more appropriate wedding rehearsal clothes, loaded instruments into the van, said "hi" and "bye" to Grandma and Grandpa and headed off to the rehearsal. The two camp boys were clearly running on little sleep after a week's worth of activity and fresh air. We just headed them in the right direction.

As we still hadn't decided exactly what we were going to play, nor had we practiced all options, we had to wing it. No problem when 6/7 of our group works best by winging it. Major stress for the 1/7 that does not wing it. Ever.

Rehearsal dinner and family announcement for a Saturday 9:00 AM til we're done King's Strings practice/figure out what we're playing for the wedding session. Scratch that. Andrew announces that he needs to be somewhere at 9:00. Make that an 8:00 AM King's Strings practice til 8:45, then a break, then back at it when Andrew comes home at 10:15. Scratch that when Andrew calls at 10:00 to say he won't be done til 11:00. Scratch all practice and plan to pick him up to go directly to the church. Final plan: 11:30 AM King's Strings practice/figure out what we're playing for the wedding session.

About half an hour before leaving HopeAnne showed me her dress. She got something red all down the front. She changed back into her pajamas while I cleaned off the dress. In the end, the dress never did dry so we went to Dress Plan B.

In the rush to leave the house we decided fast food was the best option. We had the foresight to ask Isaac to bring a different shirt to protect the white wedding wear. Why didn't we think to ask the little girls to do the same? I don't know. A momentary lapse of judgement. Eden immediately announces that she has spilled chocolate milk on her white shirt. John asks how bad. I take a look and tell John that we're just going to live in denial for the duration of the ride to church and pretend that all is well.

We get to the church and pile out. I notice that HopeAnne has also spilled chocolate milk on her white dress. Since she is not going to be on stage playing with us and because I have already scrubbed one dress for her this morning, I make the executive decision to leave her as is. Eden, on the other hand, has not one but 3 big splotches of chocolate all the way down her white blouse leaving us no option but to start scrubbing. I take care of that, find her a very large jacket to wear in the meantime and lay her shirt out in the sun to dry.

We finally get to practice. And make our music selections. Just in time for the wedding coordinator to ask what we're playing and in what order. Leaving us just enough time to pray before starting the prelude.

Let me interject to say that this was actually a good day for the King's Strings. Everyone was able to locate their infrequently worn black socks and shoes and all shoes still fit! During our rehearsal, no one blew up at another member and no one ended up in tears. No one threw up, no one came up missing, and only one person forgot his music.

The wedding itself was beautiful with a wonderful testimony to God's unconditional love. One bridesmaid was so moved during the ceremony that at the reception she pulled the bride aside to say that she saw something in the service and in the people there. She wants whatever that is and plans to start attending church to find out. Wow! Amazing!

Oh, and for those who are wondering, the music was beautiful as well with only one snag. John started to play a song in a different key than had been originally planned. No problem for Jesse who was accompanying on drums. And for Andrew, John just leaned over, whispered that he was in a different key and Andrew was able to jump right in. Those who play by ear can do that. I cannot but since I wasn't playing that song, all was well.

And for those who are wondering which one is the 1/7 who does not wing it. I'll admit it. It's me. But I survived and am here to tell about it.

Now on to Wednesday evening's concert. Problem #1: Mariana is gone for the week . . .

Oh, never mind. It'll all work out, right?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You as my witness

I keep a paper in my Bible that has my funeral planned out. I'm telling you this because even though I remind John of this fact often, I know that memory is not one of his strong points and I certainly don't want to go to all the work of planning and recording if my list is not going to be consulted. My family will only get one chance to use this list, after all.

Just in case they have trouble identifying which paper in my Bible is "the one", it is a bright shade of pink and cannot be missed. If, in the end (pun intended) there's more than one pink piece of paper, let me describe this particular one. When Mariana was about 5 years old she drew a picture of a woman having a baby, complete with doctor and nurse in assistance. This is what is on the paper. Like I said, you can't miss it. But it is fitting, isn't it?

Anyway, I have thought of most areas of the service, except for the date. I have songs, Scripture passages, and themes.

I also have "method of body disposal" which includes a request to throw my ashes into the ocean. Yes, I do like the beach but more than that is a desire to have the last laugh (when the ocean winds blow the ashes back into the faces of my beloved family).

The one thing missing was an inscription for the tombstone. Thanks to Eden, though, it's all taken care of. Last night at dinner, my pickiest of eaters got to the end of her meal (with little piles of things all over the plate) and asked, as always,"Can I be done?" For some reason this phrase hit me differently than it usually does and my response was, "That's what I want you to put on my tombstone." Andrew's next comment was, "You should write a blog about that." So there you have it.

Just don't let my family forget. It's very important.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The God Box

I was walking home from Maggie's tonight, enjoying my I-survived-the-week-without-John treat when I saw the most beautiful sunset. (You do know that if you walk instead of drive you can order something a little more special than what you would normally order. For example, if you normally get a small Italian ice, now you can get a large. If you normally just enjoy your ice plain, after walking there you can get ice cream mixed in with your Italian ice. That's what I did. Of course.) And then I got to enjoy the fireflies that seem to be out in larger-than-usual numbers this year. (Bina, my google-savvy friend, I'll let you figure that one out for me.) As I walked and their path split in front of me I felt like I was in the trailer for a sci-fi thriller about an invasion of fireflies from outer space. I saw the neighbors sitting on their porch and asked if they were enjoying the firefly show. Mr. Neighbor said, "Yeah, and there are more this year than I've ever seen." (See, I was right.) We pondered whether or not it was like the cicadas that only show up every so many years. (I know, I should have paid more attention in science class but if you had known my middle school science teacher you would know why it was all just plain boring to me.) Come to think of it, there are no cicadas this year. Instead we have fireflies. I think I prefer the fireflies. At least I don't find these little hard shells all over the place. Those cicada remains are intriguing and fun to show the kids but I also think they're just a little spooky.

Anyway, the beauty of the evening reminded me of Francis Chan's book Crazy Love (one of my favorites, by the way) and his challenge to remember the awe factor when thinking about God (see www.crazylovebook.com for his video, "The Awe Factor"). How often do I notice a beautiful sunset but even more importantly, how often do I remember to think of it in terms of the awe factor of God? I've been seeing fireflies for years, even unintentionally killed a good number while capturing them in jars, without often enough thinking about how awesome it is that God thought to create them - for us.

When our family used this book for family devotions a year ago, we decided to start a "God Box" to challenge us to look at the world around us and its awe-someness. We put it by a door with a pad of paper and a pencil. We were each to write a note every time we saw something that reminded us of how awesome God is. Before opening presents this past Christmas season, we pulled down the box and read the notes inside. The practice sort of dwindled after that but Eden will occasionally say something like, "Look, Mommy, that mountain is so beautiful. We should write that in our God Box," or "Look at all the birds flying out of that field. That's neat. We should put that in the God Box." She's so right. And I'm feeling guilty for letting this practice die. I believe it's time to revive it. And sunsets and fireflies are the first two items of the new year to go in the box. And on a cold winter evening in December it will be nice to read through the box and reflect on fireflies, Maggie's runs on warm summer nights, and sunsets.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Camp MomMomPopPop

Whoever started this whole grandparents' camp is amazing. Our violin teacher calls it GrammyGrampy Camp. I love it. We have Camp MomMomPopPop. Depending on the summer and everyone's schedules, the kids each get a few days to a whole week to spend alone with my parents. The time is full of their favorite activities but honestly, they're just glad to have a little glimpse of what life is like as an only child. And they like it. Wish I could spend a week.

Why is it that things are always more fun at the grandparents' house? I can remember spending time with my dad's parents. It wasn't usually overnight but we had a blast. Of course a few extra cousins didn't hurt. What can a few cousins do with a deserted barn? Play house or school most times. We dressed up in clothes that had probably belonged to our dads. Maybe they were waiting to hand them down to our children? There was an old cast iron stove that was great for making pies out of the old pie plates we found as well. The summer we found a bag of cement you might think we had hit the jackpot. Cement pies were undoubtedly the best around.

Well, my parents don't have a barn. And my mom doesn't save everything she's ever used. So I'm not exactly sure what my children do when they're there. The boys go see Phillies games. Mariana goes to the theater. I know they're given only foods they like; missing a meal because you refused to eat it doesn't happen at Camp MomMomPopPop. There's the go-cart. And cable. Numerous opportunities in Philadelphia keep them busy, too.

But we all know it's more than that. It's making memories. And knowing you're loved and special. It's visiting relatives. And finding out who your grandparents are; what makes them tick, and why your mom acts the way she does.

Did I mention that each child gets a grandparents' vacation sometime in their elementary years, too? Andrew and Jesse went to California because they wanted to visit LegoLand. (Side note: My parents never took me to California) Mariana went to Chicago to the American Girl Place. Isaac wanted to go to the jungle but apparently the possibilities are not endless. So they went on a Disney Cruise. Big sacrifice, right?

So thanks Mom and Dad for the heritage you've given to my children and the memories you are continuing to make. We all thank you.

So when did you say it's my turn?

Our village

I am so thankful for the many people who support our family. Our network of family and friends is vast and sacrificing. If it takes a village to raise a child, just think what it takes to raise 6 of them. While John and I are the primary caregivers and molders of our children, we can't be there all the time. Our children need godly mentors who model what Mom and Dad are teaching. They need confidants when they just need another person to bounce something off of. And on a mundane level, sometimes we just need another set of hands.

This is never more apparent than when, for whatever reason, John is out of town for a time. This week he has been at Regent University as part of his doctoral program. I don't know what it is about children and dad-free days, but they are just different all 24 hours of each and every day that Dad is gone. Take the time that John was leaving for a youth retreat. He was not out that door more than 5 minutes before Jesse threw up. Cleaning up this type of body fluid does not work for me. I am more likely to add to the mess. None-the-less, clean it up I had to do. That began a long weekend with sick children. This time it was the dog who decided to get sick right after John left. Tempers, meltdowns and clashes are also more frequent when he's gone. And the needs for our taxi service? A record-breaking week, I believe.

That's when others have been able to step in. Thank you to all of you for your willingness to help out in a bind. You are very appreciated. What are you doing this time next year? Keep the dates open. I'll be in the same place once again.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No touching allowed

Got your attention, huh? Yes, you're right. I am a "please respect my physical space" woman. As I like to borrow from the original "Dirty Dancing" movie, "This is my space. This is your space. I don't go into yours, you don't go into mine." (I know that's not exact but it fits my purposes better that way) But that's not what I want to talk about tonight.

I am talking about the practice of not only allowing your food to touch on your plate. More specifically, the people who unabashedly purposefully mix their foods on their plate - and enjoy it.

I love my parents. I have been enjoying the last several days with them while John has been out of town. They are great parents to me and grandparents to my children.

But tonight, when my dad handed Jesse his salad bowl and asked for a scoop of ice cream, IN the unwashed salad bowl, I was reminded of one of my most humiliating moments as a middle school student. (To be honest, I have many humiliating moments in my life but this was definitely a very memorable humiliating moment.)

My dad has always mixed all of his foods together on one plate. Growing up I heard the arguments: "It's all going to the same place anyway" and "You should see what it looks like 5 minutes after you eat it." But I was a picky eater. I didn't even want to eat the food on my plate that was separated. And the thought of mixing all those horrible tastes? Too much to bear.

The moment I referred to earlier occurred when I had a friend over from school. This was the first time Kristine had been to my house which means that we were still in the mode when my parents should have been on their best behavior. Everything was fine until lunch time. You'd think a meal of hot dogs, baked beans, and macaroni and cheese should be pretty kid friendly and it is. Unless you mix all of those foods together on one plate. I knew there was no way Kristine was ever going to enter my house again just by the way she stared at my dad's plate. She obviously had never seen anything like it before and lost her appetite then and there. Oh the humiliation!

I do have to say that after all these years I've forgiven him for the in-front-of-Kristine incident. I'm over it. I even mix many of my foods together on the plate. The one item, however, that should never be mixed with anything but made-for-it toppings, is ice cream. Don't mess with the ice cream.

Love you Dad. Happy early Father's Day. And to help you celebrate on Sunday, you can mix anything you like. And think of me thinking of you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pick your own

You know the saying, "You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose but you can't pick your friend's nose"? I don't know who came up with it but I love it. I thought of this today as I got a call from someone who apparently struck up a conversation with John, learned that we homeschool and that our children play instruments and decided that it was too perfect to pass up. In a two-for-one deal she has decided that we just HAVE to get together so she and I can become friends and my children can become friends with her children. I'm trying to decide if my very social husband suggested this friendship or if she's acting on her own accord. Maybe I should put my feeling aside and give this a chance. I'm sure she's a very wonderful person. After all, my best friend became my best friend only after telling her mother that in changing schools she didn't need her mother's help to meet people; she could make her own friends. But in the end she befriended the one person her mother was trying to introduce her to in the first place.

The story goes like this:

Kym (a pseudonym of her own choosing) had attended public school her whole life, which was up through 8th grade at this point. Except for a short stint in public school for kindergarten and first grade, my school career was all in Mennonite schools. Kym's parents decided that she should transfer to Christopher Dock Mennonite High School to complete her pre-college education, much to Kym's consternation. Her mom, a CDMHS alum herself, tried to make the transition easier by offering to introduce Kym to the daughter of her high school friend. Kym very firmly stated that she could pick her own friends and didn't need her mother meddling in her affairs. So, during the first week of school when Kym told her mom about the violinist named Cindy that she'd met in orchestra, her mom got to have one of those famous parental "I told you so" moments because this just happened to be Cindy Bauman, the daughter of her high school friend. Kym has never lived this down but I am most grateful that Kym chose me to be her friend. It is a friendship that has lasted beyond high school, through college (even though she was in Indiana and I was in Ohio), back to PA for employment, and beyond. I value her not just as a friend but as a prayer partner and spiritual encourager. She challenges me in my Christian walk and amazes me with her faith and trust in God.

So Kym, thanks for your friendship. Keep choosing your own friends. And let me know when you're available for lunch again.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Funniest Home Videos

John's at Regent University for the week and my parents are here to help with the taxiing. We decided to pull out some old home movies. I'll let the kids tell about it - in their own words (keep in mind that they're children and you can never believe everything that they say).

Jesse: First things first, you can't trust anything Andrew says. He was cheating and lying since he was 2. It all started at a family reunion when we were playing a game of horseshoes. Andrew couldn't throw far enough so he decided to just waltz up and place the horse shoe on the stake (he missed anyway). It's been the same since then. He cheats in every game from Go Fish to Apples to Apples (don't trust him).
In all of our home videos, everyone thinks that I'm just running around not paying any attention to anything but me. That's not true. Inside that head of mine is a highly intelligent brain just waiting to explore the world. And by the way, I was holding back my true ability to make Andrew look good. I'm such a loving brother!
I can't say I can give Andrew, or even Mariana the credit for bringing the acting bug into our family. Even though Andrew says he starred at the youngest age in WE LIKE SHEEP at Penn View Christian School as the shepherd. He looked so cute with his little glasses. I especially loved his solo. I will remember it to this day. "1, 2, 3, 4...16,17,18,19...31,32,33,34...58,59,60,61...72,73,74,75...97,98,99,100." I even bypass Mariana. She IS the drama queen without a doubt, but I was the one who influenced it all. When I was two months old I played baby Jesus in the Christmas play at out church. Andrew thinks I messed up my lines (he's lying). I have to say I stole the show.

Now thats all from me folks. tune in next time to hear me rant about "bad words" in my house.


Andrew: Well, all I can say (well, this probably isn't true) but during these videos I learned 3 main things about myself

1. I was far superior in mind and body than the rest of my siblings, NO EXCEPTIONS!!! During all of these videos, I found that I was able to count to 10 and identify the numbers, all before the age of 2 and a half. Compare that to my brother, who laughs hysterically as he is torturing my uncle's cat with its toy. My golfing skills were on par with Tiger Woods, and I was the only one at my great-grandma's 80th birthday party to hit a wiffleball. My brother, couldn't even throw straight, if you could even call it a throw. And all throughout the videos, my siblings kept saying, "Oh, he's so cute," "look at him, awwwww." "Oh look at what ANDREW is doing." My stunning looking blonde hair, (yes, I had BLONDE hair) made up most of my good looks. But don't worry, I still look good with brown hair.

2. No matter what my siblings may say about my acting ability, I let the acting bug in to the family. While Mariana was drooling on the floor, Jesse was still in diapers and Isaac was waiting to be born as a girl, I (yes I, Andrew King) started my acting career as a kindergartener while playing Joseph in Line Lexington's Christmas Spectacular "LIttle Drummer Boy". I then continued my career the following Christmas in first grade as Will in the theatrical musical production of "Wee Sing". I had a solo singing, "Peace on Earth good WILL to men." I starred in that show and I was a hit among everyone watching. But I wasn't done yet. Before considering retirement, I decided to star in one more musical production. As Jesse has already pointed out, I did appear in Penn View Christian School's "We Like Sheep". But what he didn't say was that I was the only non-sheep role in the 90 person cast. And I was one of only 7 main parts, and you guessed it, everyone but me was a low, smelly, stinky, sheep. Because of the success of that show, I decided to retire young and put my acting career behind me. Could my life be different now if I didn't stop? Most likely. Would I most likely be on Broadway? Absolutely. However, I chose a humbler route, where I can truly shine in my own way.

3. I was very thoughtful and a great thinker at ages 2-3. I loved to figure out how the bubble blower mower my uncle had worked and the bubble gun my aunt had was also something that I took to immediately because of, (you guessed it) my highly developed brain.

All right I am done now, my siblings are dying to stop me humiliating them on my Mom's blog. Just as a heads up though, anything bad my sister or brother say about me is 110% not true. Thank you for your time.
Your truthful messenger of the Truth
Andrew King

Mariana: Ok, My mouth is open, was and always will be open... Even at age 1 I was trying to tell my uncle the "right way" to "mate" pumpkin flowers. (no joke, our reunions are quite the affair). I really am not that embarrassed of our home movies because most of the ones that we have been watching so far have been from age 0-1 so... I didn't really do much. But, I did discover that even as a baby my mouth was open! (even if nothing was coming out) By the way, I don't like knowing what people did to me when I was a baby! Can't you people learn that there are MANY other ways to make a baby laugh other then PUTTING YOUR FACE IN THEIRS!!!!!! PERSONAL BABY SPACE!!!!!!!! And also, why do people throw babies in the air???? like NOT COOL! It is very scary knowing that you could have been dropped as a baby!!!! I also learned that at a very young age... I had great dancing abilities. I was good no lie...

Ok, enough about me... now MOM... So I don't get this "80's" style. like the 20 inch glasses with frames that looked like cardboard boxes. Also... I think its extremely funny how mom's cheerleading outfit ( yes, my mom was the cheerleader...)
was known as "skimpy", the dresses were at the knees and the sleeves were PUFFY! PUFFY SLEEVES ON A CHEERLEADER'S OUTFIT?!?!?!! REALLY?!?!?!!?! AHHHHH they looked like they should be on a hill going YOOODDDEEELLLEEHHHEEEHHHOOOOO!
She said that she stopped cheering because the "popular" girls showed how mean they can be to MY MOM BY SAYING SHE ISN"T POPULAR!!!! MEAN!!! But seriously... they all looked like geeks with their glasses and frizzy perms. HMMMM, maybe I got my dancing abilities from my mother's cheerleading... hmmmmm. I'm sooooo glad that I didn't live then... Also... just so you know... my mom dated this guy in high school who had red hair and a big nose... I realized that she only dated and married a guy with big noses!!!! WHAT IS WITH THAT!!!!!!! Lastly... guys should not wear shorts that go above their knees... PERIOD! like no objections... my Mom said that she married my dad for his legs but... I'd prefer not to see them... thanks anyway... I think that I'm done...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Overheard at our address

Someday it's going to be very quiet in the King household. I'm doing my best to make sure that time is a long time in the future but I am a realist and do know the day will inevitably come. Until then, I give you . . .

The 10 most common phrases heard in the King household:

10. "What's for supper?" This is my least favorite question in the whole wide world and will someday be the theme of a blog. For now, just know that the most typical answer is, "Go ask the last 5 people who asked me that question today."

9. "Seriously, Mom (or Jesse)?" Asked by Andrew, it can be addressed to any family member but since I am usually the one asking him to do something and since Jesse is the one usually doing something to embarrass him, our names are the most common.

8. "Not now, I'm eating my bon-bons and watching my soaps." While I don't believe I've ever eaten a bon-bon in my life and the house rule is no daytime TV watching, this is my passive aggressive method of telling my family that I am the only one in the house who doesn't have time for such frivolous activity so neither should they. It's not working.

7. "Get the camera!" Yes, we are a picture-taking family. We have scrapbooks coming out to wazoo but someday my children will thank me. Until then we'll just keep capturing those memories. My all-time favorite was the time Mariana was playing with baby Eden. Mariana lifted her into the air just as Eden did what babies do best after eating and she puked all over Mariana's face, neck and clothing. While Mariana was screaming, "Get a towel!" the rest of us were screaming, "Get the camera!" One look at Mariana's 2005 scrapbook will tell you who won.

6. "Have you practiced your fill-in-the-blank instrument yet today?" said at least 5 times a day, soon to be 6 times a day as HopeAnne will begin to play the viola this fall. It has paid off, however, so I'll just keep asking.

5. "You owe me a dollar." See June 4th's blog if you don't get it.

4. "Are you going to eat that?" A newcomer to the King family, this phrase quickly made up for lost time as the boys seem to need more and more nourishment at each meal. Anything is fair game at the end of every meal as the vultures take over my boys and they swoop down to devour whatever they can.

3. "You know what would be neat." Explained in May 21st's blog, this utterance is usually followed by John seeing my back as I turn and leave the room. After almost 19 years of marriage I am a fast learner and no longer make the mistake of sticking around to find out what he thinks will be "neat" (ie. dangerous, adventurous, illegal or embarrassing).

2. "We all have issues. Some of us more than others." This is used to remind ourselves that it's okay to make mistakes. It's also used to remind ourselves to be forgiving of the glaring issues we see in others.

1. " That would make a great blog." Variations include: "You should write that in your blog." and "You're not going to write about this in your blog are you?"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What's with the leg?


I never thought I'd be proud to say that my son makes a great nerd, but I am and he does.

We saw last night's performance of Bye, Bye Birdie at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Certainly not bad for community theater. Roque "Respect the Collar" Berlanga did a great job directing and as we sat there, John and I found many examples of Roque's influence, all those little things that made it great. Another win for a talented young man. Our family is fortunate to know him.

We sat in the McBIC box seats with a bunch of folks from church. I believe the largest laugh of the evening from our section of the house was when Jesse entered the stage for Telephone Hour. Playing Harvey Johnson, and dressed as a nerd, he played the part better than a non-nerd should. I honestly didn't recognize him at first. I knew he was in the scene and was looking for him but with the taped-up glasses and slicked-back hair he was someone else's kid. I haven't seen that much polyester since the matching blue polka-dotted suits my mom made for my brother and me back in my preschool years.

Mariana, as always, wowed us with her stage presence. Her dance with Albert as "Sad Girl" was very graceful and she faints so dramatically when in the presence of an Elvis impersonator. We are thankful that in reality she has more sense than that.

Isaac was very handsome with his slicked-back hair (non-nerd style) and Boy Scout uniform. We enjoyed watching him sing "What's the matter with kids today?" A line that I think I will need to repeat often in the coming years.

But I did leave the theater with one very important question: What's with the leg? I'm sure you've seen it, it's in every movie and Broadway show. It's the female's seemingly "natural" response when standing to kiss the leading man; she "spontaneously" and gracefully bends one leg at the knee and lifts her foot several inches off the floor.

Is there an anatomical reason for this? Something I missed in health class? Or is there a historical reason? Something I missed in history class? If someone has the time to research this, I'd love to know it's history. I'd google it myself but between eating bon-bons and watching soaps I just can't fit it in.

I thought of making up a story. Something about how the body's natural response to puckering while standing results in an involuntary reflex which causes the female's dominant leg to autonomically bend. But then I'd have to admit that my body has failed me; my knee has never bent while kissing. Come to think of it I'd have to admit to having kissed someone and I just don't talk about things like that so I gave up that idea. Then I thought that there could be a great story from Queen Elizabeth's day; a tale about her first kiss and how it happened that she was also nursing a sprained ankle at the time. She raised her foot to kiss the guy because it hurt too much to put pressure on that foot. When the royal subjects saw it, however, they thought it was such a beautiful gesture that they all tried it. Of course the common folk saw that and didn't want to be seen as village idiots so they adopted the practice. The practice eventually made it to the Americas with a boatload of pilgrims from a prominent foot-raising village in England. But then I'd look like one of those commoners not-in-the-know for all these years. Or perhaps it goes back to the days before the Louisiana Purchase when pioneer women had to worry about little varmints running across the prairie and so lifted a foot out of reverence for those that were there first. But then everyone would think me hypocritical for crying during stories about hurt animals while having no regard for them in real life.

So, I decided to try it out. You have to understand what it took for me to even think about attempting such a thing. Physical touch just is not my thing. I figured I could stand around puzzling over the practice or I could just try it for myself so when I saw John standing in the doorway of the living room I thought it was as good a time as any to see what all the fuss was about. I went up to him, put my arms around his neck and raised my right shin, ankle and foot slightly off the ground. I was very proud of myself and was waiting for that leading-lady feeling to take over.

Then Andrew walked by and informed me that I forgot to kiss John at the same time.

Shoot! Better luck next time.

Government regulations

The social worker was here yesterday. Seems silly to do a yearly re-eval on a family that doesn't currently have a foster child, but that's the law and there are a lot of them when it comes to foster care. You'd think the foster parents are all criminals. At least that's how I often feel when these evaluations are being done. I know they mean well and only have the best interests of "the child" at heart but sometimes it's more than a bit much.

There is a young boy who is being considered for our home. We don't really know the status of this situation as it has been "in consideration" for several months. Up until yesterday we didn't even know his name. But yesterday she let it slip. His name is Isaac. Well, that would be interesting, wouldn't it? God knows best. If we're to have 2 Isaacs, then so be it. It sure would make the business of retrieving the right name just a little easier knowing that if you say "Isaac" you'd be correct 2/7 of the time. We might even be able to stop calling kids by their shirt color: "Hey Jesse. I mean Mariana. Oh, you in the red shirt. Come here."

As is often the case, it was a new caseworker who had never been to our home before. She was a trooper while I had to locate a phone to prove that we do have emergency numbers posted on them, even though it seems to me it's faster to memorize 9 -1-1 than to turn the phone front-to-back while copying these numbers from the mandated sticker. She didn't even criticize when I had to pry the phone from Andrew's ear to show it to her.

She pretended not to notice the tub full of plaster and broken tile when I flushed the toilet to demonstrate that we do indeed have working plumbing. I, of course, felt it necessary to point out that we are in the midst of a bathroom renovation, just in case she thought we were into some new type of bathing or spa treatment. She even agreed to skip the upstairs toilet demonstration when we found it was occupied. To the child stating, "Don't come in, I'm in here," I just had to respond with, "Are you on the toilet? Will you be flushing it when finished?", and she accepted that as a working throne.

She was able to look at the plethora of instruments in the bedroom-turned music room-could easily be changed back to a bedroom room and imagine a beautiful bedroom for a child, complete with bed and dresser. She also maneuvered her way around the mess in the boys' room (quite expertly, if I do say so myself) to see that there is also room in here for another child.

She checked the outlets which (check) I had remembered to check that morning and they were all covered. She forgot to look for the Mr. Yuck stickers. That's a good thing as I believe a lot of them ended up in the recycling when the cleaning bottles were empty. We tested each smoke alarm. All are in good, working order. I tried to tell her that she would only have to be here when there's bacon in the oven to know that the one in the kitchen works just fine, but it didn't work. I had to drag over a chair to climb up and manually push the little button.

I made it easy on her when I was able to state that we don't have guns in the house (so she didn't have to check for gun cabinet locks), we don't use the fireplace (so it doesn't need a cover), nor do we have a shed in the backyard (so she wouldn't have to rule out kids being forced to sleep in it). She could also quickly check off "no" in the sections asking if in the past year any household members had been convicted of a felony or had a protection order issued against them.

She was a little dubious when I told her how much we spend on cable per month. Apparently she doesn't know anyone else with basic cable. She also questioned the low amount we spend on phone service. All I had to do was tell her about the new-yet-no-so-improved Magic Jack service that John bought. I told her that as long as one doesn't mind dropped calls and a phone that decides when you can or cannot make and receive calls, it's well worth the savings. But when she figures out our income and compares it to our expenses she'll see that it all works out just fine for us.

We were speeding through the re-eval until she asked if we have any pets. Linus, the cocker spaniel, was easy since he just had his rabies shot and I had thought ahead and mailed a copy of the vaccination certificate to the office. The fish were a little more difficult as she could see that their tank is looking more than a little green. Hopefully she knows we take better care of our children than we do our fish. The snake threw her for a loop. I think she had a little trouble spelling Cornelia and she was a little sheepish when asking if snakes need rabies shots. Not that I know of. But maybe the mice that we feed to her need proof of vaccination? After plenty of years with the state foster care system, I am pretty certain that will be a law on the books some day in the future, requiring that the vaccination certificates for feeder mice be on file in the agency's office. Funny, she never asked to actually see the snake, though. That's good. At least she didn't have to look the other way when passing the toys on the basement steps. Toys on the steps, for non-foster parents not in the know, are illegal in foster homes. But don't worry, they will be removed and replaced and removed again for good by the time another child is placed in our home.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Brain damage, part 2

Well, since I took advantage of my kids' lapses of judgement as subject material for a post, I figure I should also share my own moments of brain damage. Go ahead. Have a good laugh at my expense. But watch out, you just might be the subject of my next blog!

I am allergic to strawberries and bananas. No problem, right? Just stay away from the forbidden fruits. Easy with bananas. Not so easy with strawberries; they used to be my favorite fruit. That was back before biting into one would tighten my throat, give me a headache, cause my eyes to water and make my lips plump up more than a raised-for-Thanksgiving turkey!

The good news is that strawberries are really only in season for a short time every year. The bad news is that there are so many wonderful ways to enjoy them! Freshly picked is great. So is ice cream with strawberries. I can always go for strawberry pie or strawberry shortcake as well. And we can't forget chocolate covered strawberries (and I don't even like chocolate) with either white or milk chocolate. I mean really, whoever heard of a great-tasting chocolate covered raspberry, even if it was recently picked from the garden?

So when the family goes strawberry picking and the boxes of red, ripe berries are sitting around, what's a girl to do? After making jam all day, there was half a box left. Those little fruits were crying out, "Eat me! Eat me!" So I snuck a few. Not so bad. So, why not go all out and make a nice dessert? Next thing I knew, there it was; hot out of the oven, smothered in milk, and covered with strawberries. Boy was it good. Don't tell anyone, but I even had a second helping.

I should also mention that there is only one day every month that I actually work for someone other than a family member. There is only 1 teeny-tiny small day out of 30 or 31 that I have to look nice enough to leave the house and be in front of other people. That would be today. So not only did I eat the forbidden fruit, I can't even take any Benadryl to make myself feel and look better because I actually have to think and function outside of my favorite four walls!

It's okay, we can all say it together: "Brain Damage." Thank you. I feel much better now.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Another morning acting in KidStuf with the very flamboyant, naive, and fashion-challenged Sam Treehugga Green. This one was a bit rough. My husband has kindly asked me to not print my scripts off at home due to the large number of pages necessary and the old printer which we own. To accommodate this request he has also offered to print them off for me. So, on Monday I forwarded my script to him with specific instructions (think Bill Cosby-kids-taking-a-shower type instructions) to print them, bring them home AND give them to me - all before leaving for DC on Tuesday morning. I got them Saturday morning. It was a good try. So it was not until yesterday morning that I sat down to take a good look at the script, only to find out that I was in the hot seat this week with about half the lines. Uh oh.

I know what you're thinking, why didn't I just memorize it from the email? Well, apparently I have some type of rare learning disability where I cannot memorize a script unless it is on paper, I can look down at it (as opposed to looking up at a screen) and can physically circle each and every line. Little drawings in the margins are helpful, too. You should have seen my drawing of a parade on this morning's script. And the watermelon carving contest. Oh, and the watermelon face painting picture was pretty good, too. But I digress.

All this to say that it was Norman who saved me by remembering that line about the first and second graders making the mascot's uniform, and coming up with a great cover. In thanks and appreciation for this great save, and for his fabulous "recitation of lines" as a mascot for the Watermelon Festival, I have agreed to do some free advertising for him. Here goes:

Timetosignup.com

Introverts, this is the website for you! I can personally testify that this was made for people like you and me. Don't like to walk up to people with sign-up sheet in hand? No problem. Send an email. Can't stand to use the telephone? No problem. Send an email. It doesn't get any easier than this. Check it out. And as a special bonus - no papers to print off (which makes Sam Treehugga Green very happy)!

And if you order now, you'll also receive a free autographed picture of Norman in his watermelon mascot costume, while supplies last.

Okay, I made that last part up. But the rest is true. PLEASE check it out or I might just be on my own next time I'm on stage. Great for all those summer gatherings. The pool party your kids want you to organize for the whole youth group: Timetosignup.com Aunt Polly's 80th birthday party that you somehow got put in charge of: Timetosignup.com The 4th of July picnic after the parade: Timetosignup.com The neighborhood block party: Timetosignup.com The Watermelon Festival: Timetosignup.com The possibilities are endless. And the best news: You don't have to talk to anyone to do it!

Anything else I should say, Andrew? (And by the way, thanks for letting me tape my lines to the outside of your watermelon costume. I just didn't expect you to turn around so much on stage. Oops!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Silly Bandz

I am not one to get into the newest fad (or "fade" in our house, thanks to one of those inside jokes) and therefore was really hoping to avoid the Silly Bandz craze. First of all, we don't budget money for non-essentials like character-shaped rubber bands. Second of all, I don't need more junk on the floor that Nobody put there but Nobody is going to help clean up. And most importantly, there's a definite life lesson in not following the crowd and yet another in choosing wisely where you plan to spend your money.

Unfortunately, not all of my children's friends agree. It started when Jesse's many friends just started giving them to him. Then the little girls thought they looked cool. Sorry, I'm still not buying them. I do, however, have a bunch of generic bands. They're all shaped like circles but you're more than welcome to wear them if you'd like. They didn't buy it. Then Mariana and Isaac were given a few. Then even Andrew got one. Finally, one of Eden's friends felt sorry for her and for Hope and gave them each a Silly Band.

That's when it started - the gimmies. Eden went to church the next time around, saw her friend, and immediately asked for another Silly Band. I happened to not be with her at the time but her second mother (Mariana) tried to tell her this was not proper etiquette. Well, Second Mother only succeeded in causing a big scene and Eden got the requested Silly Band. So did Hope. For good measure, I suppose.

And then Hope had a birthday. And the cards with money started coming. She decided she wanted to buy some Silly Bandz. And Eden remembered that she had some money saved up in her bank. So, off to the store we went. One package covers an entire forearm. Poor Hope has such skinny little arms that they all hang loose. She doesn't mind. So now we are spreading the joy to other children less fortunate than us :). Ah, revenge.

On one positive note, they do come with a built-in discipline system. You want to have a meltdown? Fine, hand over 1 Silly Band. You want to continue your meltdown? No problem, hand over another Silly Band. You want to scream in the house? You know the drill. Hand it over. Can you please help to clean up your room without arguing, complaining, whining or yelling? Wonderful! You've just earned back 2 Silly Bandz. I did have to give up the practice of transferring the Bandz from child's arm to mine; I can't stand the feeling of all that plastic on my wrist.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Watch your mouth

Eden (5 years old) is becoming quite rich. The source of her recent cash flow is her parents and older siblings. The problem, as we've come to find out, is that when teen-agers and preschoolers share the same house, the language of the older children is not always appropriate for the younger ones. This is not to say that the older kids have suddenly developed a passion for four-letter words. The culprits in our house have been words like "hate", "dumb", "stupid", and "shut up".

Understandably, there are occasions to use these types of words. When you are of a certain age, you are better able to distinguish the appropriate from the inappropriate times. For example, "I won't go on retreats because of the stupid get to know you games" is completely acceptable. "You're stupid" is not. "I hate when people leave their toys all over the house" is okay; "I hate you" is not. While I think it is fine to say, "I wish this long-winded speaker would shut up," I do not want my children telling each other to "shut up." You get the picture.

There is another word that I really do not like to hear anywhere but which the older boys in particular seem to be passionate about and that is "crap." I have tried to suggest that if you must use this word in the house, and in front of your little sisters, please use your little cousin's version and say "cwap" (actually, I think she was saying "clap" but "cwap" works well for my purposes in this situation, too). The boys looked at me as if was out of touch with reality and told me in no uncertain terms that if their friends heard them say "Oh cwap" that'd be the end of life as they know it. Hmmmm.

So, because of the foul mouths in the house, we had to come up with a plan. My philosophy is to hit 'em where it hurts most and at this age, that's the wallet. Hence the "Buck a Word" policy we have implemented. If you hear someone say a "bad" word, that person has to pay you a dollar. Everyone thought it was funny til they had to start paying up.

Funny, it was John who had to dish out the first dollar. It was also less that 24 hours since the policy had been implemented. He was a bit perturbed with a certain child one day and in the midst of his frustration, he let one of the banned words fly (to protect innocent ears I'll omit the exact word). Within seconds Eden was at my side saying, "Mommy, Daddy has to give me a dollar! He said a bad word!" She was right and he paid up.

In actuality, I think we've all paid Eden at least a dollar each since the beginning of the plan; she must have the best hearing in the house.

We have had to iron out some kinks due certain questionable practices. For example, does it count if you're repeating something someone else said as in "..and then my friend told her it was a really stupid idea." Or what happens if you're reading a book out loud and one of the banned words shows up? Do you have to pay up? And finally, if you spell the word rather than say it, do you have to pay for it? All very good questions with sometimes complicated answers.

I'm just warning you. If you visit the King house you should probably bring a few extra dollars with you - just in case Eden is listening.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A very cryptic story

Once upon a time there was a family of musicians. A call came to be a part of something big. Some of the family members wanted to do this; some of them didn't. So, each member of the family spent a week praying, studying Scripture and talking to mentors. After a week, the family came together to discuss the offer. Believing that God wants us to let our light shine wherever we go, including this opportunity, the unanimous vote was to follow God's plan. So we did. Which brings us to today. Here we sit with our hands tied and our mouths gagged (figuratively, of course). The End

But it's really not the end because you see, this family learned so many important lessons over the past 6 months. We learned how to better work together. We learned to take our act to the next level. We broadened our repertoire and we're working on more. We learned to make a godly decision. Together and individually we've grown spiritually and found even more joy in worshipping, praying and studying God's Word together. We have a new motivation for our concerts. Realizing that so many people live and work under ridicule and insults, we desire to challenge others to use their talents to serve God and to find joy in serving and encouraging others. We thank God for all the opportunities He is giving us to let His light shine through us. Even in the most secular of settings we have seen and heard evidence that those in the audience saw Christ through us. We've learned to follow God's plan even when the journey doesn't make sense or the end is confusing. We've seen His hand in the most difficult of circumstances and know that He will provide the peace and the skills necessary to complete any task He gives to us. We know that we only see a small part of God's plan and we're excited to someday see the whole picture.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A gift of love


Four years ago today, June 1, 2006, we were officially approved as a foster family. We were told it might take a while to place a child in our home since we were requesting a child aged 5 or younger and our agency placed mostly older children. We were willing to wait.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, a single mother was admitted to Harrisburg Hospital and on June 1 gave birth to a 4 lb. 5 oz. baby girl. Born five weeks early with no prenatal care and with drugs in her system, AundreaUna Ciera had entered the world.

In the morning of June 6 I got a phone call. I clearly remember the day as the children gathered around to hear the news from the other end. The social worker asked if we would be willing to take a 5 day old who was to be discharged from the NICU that afternoon. I/we said "yes" and the wait began as our foster care worker had to give our home study to the county to see if they would choose our home. I also had to make the phone call to John to tell him that I had accepted a newborn baby girl.

Within the hour we knew that we were the chosen ones! By 4:00 that afternoon we were at the hospital picking up Aundrea which is the name the social worker had mistakenly given to us. But by the time the mistake had been figured out, the name had stuck.

I didn't know quite what to do with this little 4 pounder as the first five King kids came out about double that weight. Some friends came to rescue us, even bringing a box of the preemie clothes their daughter had worn.

Thus began a beautiful journey from foster care to adoption. It had its ups and downs as she traveled the foster care system. One horrible weekend we were told that she was going to be returned to her birth mother. While we would have loved to see a changed life and reunification, it was clear to us that her birth mother was not ready. We spent the weekend praying for Aundrea, her mother and for us. Amazingly, it was just a few days later when it became apparent that Aundrea's goal was going to be changed to adoption.

As John often says, there is no good story in foster care. In our joy we realized that there was a birth mother who was hurting. Our hearts continue to go out to her as she remembers June 1 with very different emotions than our memories. We pray for her daily, remind HopeAnne Aundrea King that her birth mother loves her very much, and send pictures twice a year (after Hope's birthday and again after Christmas). It is our prayer that she would come to know Christ so that we could all be reunited in Heaven some day. We have a beautiful letter from her that we can give to Hope when she is older. We also have the story of her birth mother's sacrificial love the day she relinquished her rights rather than have the court terminate them. As the judge said that day, it was not a cowardly act as some might say, but a gift of love. Thank you, from the King family to you!