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

Monday, August 30, 2010

The firsts

The first day of school brings out many firsts for the King clan -

First day of 10th grade - Wow! Did I just say that I have a 10th grader? I think I'll pretend it ain't so. However, since he's the best high school student I know, I think I'll keep him.

First day of 8th grade - My second son set off for school wearing his Eagles jersey, mostly because his homeroom teacher is a Cowboys fan. That's my boy. He refused to let me walk him to the bus so that was kind of disappointing but I got over it.

First day of 7th grade - My "I'd rather be acting" daughter got off to a great start. Let's keep it up!

First day of 4th grade - My merry wanderer is now in 4th grade, and still wandering. Tomorrow I'm going to tie him to a chair so he can't leave til he's done. Otherwise he finds all sorts of ways to disappear.

First day of kindergarten - And it couldn't come soon enough according to Eden, although she was a little confused as she didn't actually GO anywhere. I think she's wondering what the big deal is.

Not to be outdone, HopeAnne had her first day of viola lessons. Surprisingly she did great! Attentive for one whole half hour.

And then there's Rachel. This is her first day in the King household. Boy is she in for a shock! Or a treat. It's all in your perspective.

Speaking of perspective, we played a concert last night for Stephen Bloom who is running for State Representative. It was a pig roast at a farm. There was also a corn maze so they let everyone enjoy the maze. After going through the maze with her big brother, Hope emerged and immediately asked if she could go back in the forest. It's all in your perspective.

So, perspectives on all of these firsts?

Andrew thinks he's going to have a great year. He likes all of his teachers. However, he admits that he thought Lindsey the Science Teacher was pretty good last year. Until the 2nd day. It went downhill from there. He thinks one of his teachers is really old. At least 40. Perspec;tive, right?

Jesse had way too much fun with his teachers and that Eagles jersey. Apparently his homeroom teacher looked at him and the first words out of her mouth were, "Do you have an older brother named Andrew?" Then it was the same story in English where Andrew's favorite teacher asked Jesse the very same question, in reference to the same shirt.

Mariana says she had "kind of fun and it seems like it's going to be a good year, at least math is going to be great." Wow! Is that my daughter?

Isaac thinks 4th grade was okay. Other than that he doesn't care. And that's my Isaac, a man of few words.

Eden says kindergarten was good. Then I realized she was talking about her preschool into kindergarten graduation at church. That made quite an impression. School today did not.

HopeAnne likes Ms. Barb because she was playing viola with her, even though she didn't get to do "Watermelon, Watermelon."

And Rachel, I'm afraid to ask her perspective. It was a little loud at dinner. But that was with 8 Kings, 5 Algers and 1 Brubaker. Should I tell her it'll be just as loud when it's only 8 Kings and 1 Alger? Probably not. Better to let her find out for herself. At 7:00 in the morning, when the house is really hoppin.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God is good, all the time

There is a man at church who likes to stump me with difficult questions. Well, they're not always difficult; sometimes it's just that the answers are lengthy. For example, during John's interview with the church board back when he was applying for his current position, this man asked me, "What are your top three Spiritual gifts and what are your bottom three?" I want to know how many wives out there had to answer a question like that when your spouse was being interviewed for a job? Oh, you didn't have to be a part of your spouse's job interview? My point exactly. But that's a topic for another day. Last night, this same man asked me, "So, do you regret coming to Mechanicsburg?" Regret? No. Sometimes sad? Yes. The answers were actually easy but he got me thinking. Maybe it's because this week marks the 7th anniversary of our move to Mechanicsburg.

I explained to him that the move was melancholic because of the things I miss. I miss my family. But two hours isn't all that far, right? And I miss my house. I was living in my dream house; a 200 year old farmhouse, in town, with a long driveway, large yard, and a rental property. I miss my best friend who still lives in the apartment we created out of a former office space attached to our two-story garage. But I don't miss the neighbor who lived at the end of the driveway and at times made life miserable. I miss my school since it wasn't just my alma mater, it was also where I taught, where my children attended and where I continued to substitute and volunteer even after resigning to stay home with my children. In many ways it was my identity; it was what I did and who I was. I miss my home tutoring business. I suppose I could have continued that after the move but without the natural connections, it would take too much effort to get the word out and get referrals. I miss the beach which used to be just a day trip away. Now the 3 hour trip means it's always a vacation, rarely a get-away.

So melancholic, yes but regrettable, no. Our family learned so many life lessons and gained so much in moving here. I like to try to take a God's eye perspective on why He brought us here. I know that His reasons are far more vast than I can even imagine, but even seeing a small part of the picture reminds me that it's a good thing I'm not the one in control.

We learned that even though it may be tough, when God says, "Go," you go. You don't need to plan out your journey because He's already taken care of it. Looking back, He was gently nudging us to take a leap of faith long before we came to that conclusion. In fact, it took some pretty big kicks to the backside to bring us to that point. So you can call us slow learners but when we finally got it, the ball started rolling. Of course things went downhill for some time before they got better. I'll admit that in the thick of things I was having some trouble trusting that there was a bigger plan already set down for us. The short story of a very long and complicated one is that John's last day was fast approaching and we were deciding between two churches, one in Ohio and one in New Jersey. After much prayer we declined the offer in Ohio. Within a week, though, the church in New Jersey decided that since they couldn't decide if they wanted to hire a children's pastor or a family pastor or a youth pastor, then they were going to decide not to decide by not hiring. In desperation John got creative and went to churchstaffing.com. The rest, as they say, is history.

On the way home from my first visit and our first joint interview with a young adult team from McBIC, I commented to John, "This place could be good for our souls." I was so right. The emphases on worship and prayer have taught us so much. The healthy atmosphere brought healing to us as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. The challenge of serving our community has brought us out of our comfort zone and into the lives of some of the most wonderful people.

Since it was our instrumental teachers who encouraged various aspects of The King's Strings, that probably would not have happened if we had not moved here. Mariana would not have had some wonderful venues to pursue her interests in theater. We would not have homeschooled. We also would not have sent our children to public school and therefore would not have seen their joy in bringing unchurched friends to youth group. I wouldn't be dressed up like Cyndi Lauper on Sunday mornings, transforming myself into a naive, treehugging tween named Sam. Come to think of it, I'm not sure if that's truly a benefit. Oh well, it's fun.

And one other benefit. Remember that neighbor I mentioned earlier? The one who put a string across his property line and told us in no uncertain terms that if we ever crossed his line he would break our legs? The one who would stand at that line on mowing day to make sure we didn't miss any of our grass, mow any of his, or break his string? The one who would just stare at me and the boys as we waited for the bus? The one who we think killed our rabbit during the night? I can't tell you how many times we prayed that God would give him a good reason to move. Or that God would miraculously change his heart. After calling the police three times, though, he was no different. Well, in the end God moved us instead. Now we have wonderful neighbors. Someone else is calling the police on Rob.

I love the analogy of the tapestry. God is weaving a beautiful design and can see the whole picture from the top. We can see only the back and sometimes it looks messy. I'm learning that messy is okay. Someday I'll see the whole, beautiful picture. Until then I'm willing to trust Him to lead me. Well, I'm learning to be willing to trust Him. But that's what this life is all about.
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gotta love it



I love this family!

Even when the older kids tease the younger ones.

Even when the younger kids tease the older ones.

Even when the kids tease their parents.

Especially when the parents tease the kids.


Even when the van is dirty, not even 24 hours after I cleaned it.

Even when the basement is dirty, not even 1 hour after I cleaned it.

Even when the bathtub has a perpetual ring around it.

Especially when no one admits to putting the blue Fruit Loop on the ceiling.


Even when someone forgets to put an activity on the calendar.

Even when I spend the whole day in the car.

Even when everyone's arguing in the back seats.

Especially when I need to drive 4 children to 4 different places, all at the same time, and John has a meeting.


Even when certain children need to have the last word.

Even when we no one likes my homemade yogurt or vegetable lasagne.

Even when every King's Strings practice has at least one argument.

Especially when every formal pose ends with a goofy face.

Friday, August 20, 2010

BMI, BMWhy?


While yesterday's visit to the pediatrician may have been good for my self esteem, I'm not sure it did much for Mariana's. I understand the need for charts, averages and BMI calculations. And I recognize that there is a childhood obesity epidemic in the United States. However, I really wish doctors would actually look at, ask questions, and assess a child, BEFORE talking about height and weight discrepancies.

Mariana's body type is more like her father; she will never be stick-thin. I've worked hard to help her embrace this while maintaining healthy lifestyles. God could have made her tall and thin but He has a plan for Mariana just as Mariana is. We've talked about the fun roles she'll get to have on stage while her pencil thin counterparts are always playing the boring female lead. I know peer pressure can be tough but I think Mariana has a healthy view of the body God gave her.

And then we go to the doctor for her yearly check-up. The doctor comes in, commenting on how Mariana must be very healthy because in the past 4 -5 years, she's only been to the doctor for her once-a-year check-ups. Then the doctor sits across from me and in a conspiratorial tone, which I guess she assumes Mariana cannot hear, starts to point out the discrepancy between her height percentile and her weight percentile. Then she flips the page of her chart and points out the BMI, telling me that it's "here" but should really be "here" (could she not see the fire pouring from my ears at the point?). I get all that but not once did she look at Mariana to actually assess her health before jumping to statistical conclusions based on two numbers. We got the no soda speech (we don't have it in the house unless there's a party going on), as well as the no junk food speech (none of that around here, either). We were also told to cut back on fast food (do we look like we have the money to eat out on a regular basis?). But all before she took the time to actually look at Mariana. Had she done so, she would have seen that Mariana is very healthy. She not only lives in a house where healthy food choices are encouraged but she is learning to make those choices on her own. She is active and dances several days a week. She is healthy in every other way.

I know I'm not in the medical profession (considered it once upon a time but I just don't do puke, blood is okay, but if you puke you're on your own), but it just seems to me that the doctor's suggestions would go a lot farther if she just took a moment to look at the patient first. I know that time is of the essence, but so is the self-worth of the children.

Mariana read this to approve my posting it. Her comment? "Mom, I hope you're not too upset about this because I'm okay with it." Wow! I'm so thankful for Mariana's attitude and her ability to see herself as God's creation. But I do still wonder about how this kind of doctoring affects the minds of young people who already see themselves only through the eyes of their peers, the media - and their pediatrician.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Allow me to indulge myself

I didn't know I was in the midst of a mid-life crisis. But then I went to Allenberry to photograph their current show, "Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical" and I found that I uderstood all of the jokes and sketches in the show. I guess I'm older than I thought. So this is what midlife feels like.

But that's okay because whenever I'm feeling really old, all I have to do is go to a King's Strings concert. Inevitably someone will make me feel young again. Like Sunday night. Mariana was making small talk with a concert-goer who was asking about the family. The woman audience member did a quick head count of all those wearing red polos and asked Mariana if there were seven children in our family. Mariana corrected her by telling her we only have six. The woman then pointed to each of the seven she had counted. Mariana started laughing when she got to me and said, "No, that's my mom!" You can choose to believe it or not, but this happens at every single concert we have. After that infamous New York TV audition, we were standing on the sidewalk and as people left the theater they would recognize us from the audition and come over to talk. One woman looked at us and asked, "So, you're a bunch of kids with your dad?" Again Mariana made it her duty to correct the very nice woman who might possibly have a vision problem (but why get technical?).

Actually, when I'm feeling old it seems as if I don't have to go any further than to the pediatrician's office. It does make me feel old to sit there with my preschoolers when most of the parents of similar-aged children appear to be in their 20s, but today the receptionist made my day. I was sitting in the waiting room with Mariana when the very lovely and extremely nice receptionist opened her safety sneeze shield window and asked, "Mary Anna, is your mother with you today?" Even better, I was sitting right there - and the receptionist was looking right at me! Maybe they pay her to say nice things to old mothers. On the other hand, who's due for a yearly check-up? Anyone not feeling well? A little feverish, maybe? Who's due for a shot? I think I need to go back!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Predicting Eden's future

Today I was dutifully humoring Eden in her daily request to "do school" which means that HopeAnne also wanted to "do school." This child asks for the same thing every day of the week; holidays, weekends, and yes, summers included. Hope was writing her letters while babbling in a constant stream of consciousness while Eden was reading to me about flowers and baskets. It occurred to me that Eden is not only unphased by the constant monologue going on across the desk from her, she is able to learn in this environment. I, on the other hand, am not able to learn a thing. And I already know how to read!

The babbling continued into lunch. I finally looked at Hope, and in what must have been a very weary voice said, "Hope, do you EVER stop talking?" She stopped. And smiled at me. A big, sweet smile, And she stopped talking long enough for Jesse to ask, "Mom, are you tired?"

Yes, I need peace and quiet. I yearn for peace and quiet. (And my children wonder why I take so long in the bathroom. It's only because it's the closest I can get to peace and quiet. At least until someone comes knocking on the door. Or two children are standing outside the door arguing. But if I've slipped away unnoticed it gives me at least a few extra seconds of solitude while they roam the house yelling for me and I can pretend that I can't hear them, or they can't hear my feeble, "In here!")

This led to a conversation about Eden's college years. Having shared a room with Hope, and having shared her school space with the same, Eden is going to be able to sleep and study through everything. It was decided by popular vote that Eden will be able to share a college suite with 7 cheerleaders, all of whom listen to different radio stations at the same time, while also practicing their cheers. In the next suite over will be members of the marching band - percussion and brass sections - who also practice their craft in their room. On the other side will be members of an up-and-coming rock band and of course they will also practice at full volume. Eden will be unphased by all of this. When questioned, she'll calmly reply that she grew up with the Queen of Energy who fell asleep talking to the wall, her Barbies, and no one in particular - for hours. She'll also state that she learned to read and write while sitting across from an ever-spewing volcano of noise. So why, after all these years, should she not be able to concentrate with much less distraction than her own home?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I never thought . . .

I never thought I'd only have 6 children. Enough said. We've been through this one before.

I never thought I'd be the one taking the old tile off the bathroom wall. When I was in high school and my family was building our new house, I was the one who volunteered to stay at the old house to "hold down the fort" and to have supper ready for everyone.

I never thought I'd move away from my hometown. I'm the one whose answer to John's marriage proposal was, "Yes, if you'll move to Pennsylvania." I guess I should have been a little more specific.

I never thought I'd like teen-agers. Our pre-parenting agreement clearly stated that I would raise the children through middle school and then John would take over. He was, after all, the youth pastor. However, not only do I like my teen-agers, I love them. And I haven't had to take any by the throat and shake 'em a few times to try to knock some sense into them (yet).

I never thought I'd be on TV but so far my family has talked me into one cheesy commercial and a reality show audition.

I never thought I'd have a musical family that was compared to the von Trapp's. If I had considered it, however, I would have seen myself as the one making matching outfits out of curtains, not participating musically.

I never thought I'd be a pastor's wife. I do, however, distinctly remember looking at John one day when we were dating and thinking, "This guy's going to be a pastor someday." Why, oh why, did I not take it to its logical conclusion that if I married a man destined to be a pastor, by default that was going to make me the pastor's wife? I must have been in love.

I never thought I'd homeschool. Children belong in school, right? With people who've paid money to learn how to do such things. God has a sense of humor. I haven't given in on this one entirely, though, since my children are not allowed to dress like homeschoolers. At least, they are not allowed to leave their bedrooms unless they are most definitely NOT looking like homeschoolers. And for those of you who don't homeschool, don't worry, I have not turned into a militant homeschooler, meaning I will never look down on those who do not homeschool and I do not believe it is God's only plan for the education of children. Your family is safe with us.

I never thought I'd allow my children to choose their own clothes. And hair styles. But then I had boys whose hair suddently became curly in puberty. It's cute. So I let them keep it long. Even if Grandma doesn't like it. And then there's Jesse who likes to wear bright orange shorts with red crocs. And tie dye. And Hawaiin shirts. He's being an individual and not hurting anyone. So that's okay in my book. And of course there's Mariana who likes hats and long earrings. Again, she's comfortable for who she is. That's a whole lot better than I was at her age. I do draw the line at out-dated and mismatched clothes but that was already addressed in the last paragraph.

I never thought I'd drive a full-size van. I don't know how I thought I was going to haul around my 13 children. Thankfully I've come to find that I enjoy sitting up high in the driver's seat where I can see everything around me. I did not, however, plan to have such a conspicuous vehicle with an even more conspicuous license plate. Even Andrew's friends can keep tabs on me and let him know where they've spotted the "King Zoo".

I never thought I'd take my children in public places with running snotty noses. Then I had children and they had colds and I realized that if I wanted groceries, we had to leave the house.

I never thought I'd help to catch bugs and euthanize them in the freezer. I still feel guilty every time. But I do it. I am an accessory to the crime because I love my bug-loving son.

I never thought I'd own a snake. Well, officially it is Andrew's but it is in my house. Not only does she (the snake) live here but I've grown quite fond of her and probably hold her more often than anyone else in the house. Except on feeding day. I do not participate in the feeding of live animals to another live animal.

I never thought I'd write something that others would read. Well, there was that periodical that closed up shop soon after I began my career as a contributing writer. And there are a good number of skits that have been performed here and there. But other than that. . .

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stop, thief!

We just had a wonderful 2 days of vacation. It started with a matinee performance of My Fair Lady at Allenberry (yay, friends!), then on to Dutch Apple for George M! (great to see you, Chris and Megan), then a good night's sleep before heading to Sight and Sound to see Joseph. And we didn't have to pay for any of it; a nice combination of Cindy's photography comps, comps from friends, and a gift card. The only negative to the whole thing was the notification we received right before all this, letting us know that my very kind and trusting husband had been swindled out of a substantial amount of money through a bad PayPal deal (it's long and complicated and too boring for a Cindy blog). But we will survive and it couldn't completely overshadow the fun of family bonding. (I did suggest that since we have his email address we could send him a "nice" letter, thanking him for leaving our 6 children homeless, starving and wearing rags. John said he'd send him a prayer.)

I suppose there have always been those who feel the need to take what does not belong to them. If not, why would God have felt the need to put the 10 Commandments so early in Biblical history? I personally dealt with this at a very young age when my favorite doll was stolen from the front porch. Presumably it was a thief-in-training neighborhood girl who thought that my "Beth" (named for a favorite babysitter) would be more fun than her own dolls. I sure hope it wasn't an adult male burglar. That's just sick. And no worries, "Mary" (named for Beth's sister, another favorite babysitter) quickly took Beth's place. She was better than Beth anyway; she could cry.

Several years later my parents had a cassette tape case stolen from the family car. I'm not sure what this thief thought he/she was going to find but I'm certain Dottie Rambo and the Gaithers were not the intended goods. Someone out there is a thief who changed the course of his life after listening to Germs on Down by the Creek Bank.

In college John and I went to visit his sister and while we were enjoying a nice restaurant meal a group of thugs smashed the passenger side window of my car to get to the purse that I had placed under my seat. According to the cops they had this type of thievery down to a science and had actually been scoping the parking lot, looking for females who exited their vehicles without a purse. Other than the scare of hearing my license plate announced over the intercom system at the restaurant, seeing my smashed window, and knowing that someone had my license and keys, it was a pretty useless night for those thieves. They must have been pretty disgusted with what they found in my purse because a week later it turned up in the dumpster of a local shopping mall, with all 11 cents still in my wallet. Even though I got my pennies back, I learned my lesson and never hide my purse under my seat. Now I just hide it under all the kids' junk in the back seat.

These people really should start a national registry so they could list the people they victimized and the loot they did or did not get. If they did, they would know that Cindy King is really not worth burglarizing. But now it's gone international, and they're taking things from my own children!

Andrew was recently on a missions trip to Nicaragua. While there he had many amazing experiences but the one to write home about occurred on the last day when the team was out shopping. The team's suitcases had been placed in two buses, all except for a few suitcases which did not fit so were fastened to the top with bungee cords. Andrew's suitcase just happened to be placed on top. While the kids were out shopping, but the bus drivers were still sitting in the buses, a car pulled up and out popped one Nicaraguan thief who grabbed Andrew's suitcase from the top of the bus. His buddy stayed in the car to make the fast get-away when Guy #1 returned with the goods. We've had some good laughs imagining the conversation between these two men when they realized that the contents of this suitcase were not going to land them on Easy Street any time soon.

(Since most of you probably do not speak fluent Spanish I have taken the liberty of translating the conversation into English for you.)

Thief # 1: So open it already! What are you waiting for? Try that outside pocket. That looks pretty thick. I bet there's a big wad of money in there.

Thief #2 (opening the outside zipper): Do you have a headache, Boss?

#1: What do you mean, do I have a headache? Who made you so sensitive all of a sudden? You thinkin' about going to medical school, or somethin'?

#2: Well, I'm just askin' 'case all I'm findin' in here is a bottle of Ibuprofen, a few Pepto tablets and , a prescription for malarial meds, and anti-diarrheal medicine. You got diarrhea, Boss?

#1: No, I don't have diarrhea, and quit callin' me Boss! Check that other pocket. That could have something valuable.

#2: Not unless you break your glasses.

#1: What are you talkin' about now? Breaking my glasses? I don't even wear glasses.

#2: Oh, then maybe you can use these contact lenses. 2 weeks worth, Boss.

#1: Okay, forget about the pockets. Those Americans are smarter than we thought. Must've put their money and valuables INSiDE the suitcase. Open it up, already!

#2: Okay, Boss. Whatever you say. Phew! Do you smell that? Smells like ... Smells like ... Dirty socks and underwear. Yep, that's definitely what it smells like, Boss. You finish. I can't do this. Yep, either you finish or I need some rubber gloves. This job is more dangerous than I thought, Boss.

#1: This ain't no job and my name ain't Boss. And we don't wear stupid rubber gloves like stupid sissies! This is an order: Open the suitcase and see what's inside! Oh, you're giving me a headache.

#2: Need some Ibuprofen, Boss, 'cause I got some right -

#1: (interrupting) JUST OPEN THE SUITCASE!

#2: Right, Boss. Yep, it's underwear all right. Looks like it's been worn front, back, inside and out, too. Boss, this ain't some rich American, this must be one of those teen do-gooders from some North American church! We ain't gonna find noth -

#1: Im gonna give you a headache if you don't finish the suitcase!

#2: Right away, Boss. Okay, dirty socks, more dirty socks, more dirty underwear. Wait! What's this? There's somethin' different about this underwear, Boss. It's decorated. Looky here: eyeballs on the butt cheeks, and "I love Grandma" written around the top.. Hmmm. If I were a bettin' man, i'd guess the teen do-gooder kid forgot his undies when he went to Grandma's house and then I bet his girl cousins went to the store to buy him more but before they handed it over they decorated it. Yeah, that's it, see -

#1: And now you're a novelist? What kind of preposterous story is that? If you don't find somethin' valuable in that bag I'm gonna -

#2: Wait! I found it! Somethin' valuable, Boss. Look at this! A camera battery charger. I've been wantin' one of those! Bingo!

#1: Do you have a camera?

#2: What?

#1: Is there a camera in there?

#2: Ahh, let me see... No, no camera.

#1: So you don't own a camera and there's no camera in the bag. Then what do you think you're going to do with a charger?

#2: That's a good question, Boss. I hadn't thought of that. Okay. You need some khakis? Or some dirty T-shirts? The kid must've spent the last month workin' like a ... like a ... Well, workin' a lot in the sun, let's just say. And without no showers or laundry. Don't those Americans take showers? Or do laundry?

#1: WHAT ELSE IS IN THE BAG?

#2: Right, Boss. I kinda' got carried away there. It's just that I can't stand dirt and germs and such. I'm tellin' ya', if we're gonna keep this up I need to invest in some good rubber gloves. I might catch something in here. You know foreigners and their diseases. Yeah, this kid might have some kind of disease. That's why he's got those meds there in that pocket. Wait, give me that prescription bottle. He must have malaria, that's why he's got this prescription here, see? I better take one of these here pills right now -

#1: Give me that bottle! The kid doesn't have malaria! NOW WHAT"S IN THE SUITCASE?

#2: Ah ... um ... oh ... a sweatshirt. Got an eagle on it. Ain't that the symbol of them Americans? Oh, and it says somethin' here: Pi-hi-del-pi-hi-e-a. What on earth is that? Don't them Americans believe in vowels? Why put P and H together without vowels? What kind of word is that? Oh, I see. I told you this was some teen do-gooder. And he ain't rich, neither. No siree. He buys his clothes at the seconds outlet. Yup, that's it. This here sweatshirt is missing it's vowels so the kid got it cheap and -

#1: Don't you know nothin'? P and H go together in English. They make a sound like fffffffffffff.

#2: Ffffffffff? What are you talkin' about, Boss? Who ever heard a such a thing? Maybe you've caught what the kid's got. Do you need some Ibuprofen?

#1: NO, I DON'T. AND DON'T CALL ME BOSS! JUST EMPTY OUT THE BAG!

#2: Right-e-o, Boss! I got one more thing. A book. A little book. Maybe this kid couldn't read, neither, so he just got a small book.

#1: Give me that. That's a Bible. It's a travel size. See, it says right here: Backpacker's Bible. Even has a name inside: Jesse King.

#2: AHHHHHHH! The King? You mean we just stole this suitcase from the King of America?

#1: Oh, shut up already. They ain't got no king in America.

#2: Oh, for a minute you had me scared, Boss. Afraid that the Embassy was gonna come after us for taking their King's suitcase. But wait a minute. Did you say "Backpacker's Bible"?

#1: Yeah, backpacker. What of it?

#2: Backpacker, eh? Are you tellin' me that this kid has been haulin' that suitcase around on his back? I heard them Americans are big folks. Can you imagine? This suitcase belongs to some kid do-gooder and he carries his suitcase around Nicaragua on his back? How tall you think he'll be when he's full grown? I'm thinkin' at least 7 feet! And a Bible, you say? I heard about them things. Yep, my uncle, you know, the one that immigrated to Pennsylvania? He stole a case of cassettes out of a car once. Found a whole bunch a Christian tapes. Tapes, you know, ah, ah, cassettes, they're called. He listened to them things and turned himself around just like that. Went out and bought himself a Bible and now he goes to all kinds of interesting places with weird names like Casting Crowns and Purple Door. Imagine, a purple -

#1: Give me that Ibuprofen! I've got a headache. In fact, give me all the medicine he's got. I need it all!

#2: Told ya, Boss.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My little drummer boy

I think it's time to face the fact that we are entering a new phase in this parenting thing. We knew it was coming, and I'm guessing that we aren't the only ones feeling just a little out of our league in this one, but it is still a bit of a shock whenever it comes up. "It" has to do with the opposite sex; "opposite" of whichever child we are currently talking about.

For years, my children have watched my blood pressure boil when strangers and friends alike insisted on asking my preschoolers about their girlfriends and boyfriends. I know that we all have our different standards and rules when it comes to "going out" and dating, but I don't know too many people who would allow their kindergartner to go to a movie with a fellow 5 year old. More recently my children have had to listen to my rantings and ravings concerning the practice of middle school (and some elementary-aged) students "going out". Where, I ask, do your friends who are "going out" go? My children respond by looking at me with blank looks, as if I didn't know that 12 year olds can't drive themselves anywhere. As we probably all know, "going out" is not a literal thing, it's more of a state of mind. An ever-changing mind (sometimes weekly), so what's the point?

Between the moments of exceedingly high blood pressure and rants, we do enjoy many interesting conversations with our children. Sometimes the discussions get a bit awkward as we have teen conversations above the listening ears of preschoolers. HopeAnne, with her ADHD personality is never really paying close enough attention. Eden, the observer, is. Never was this more apparent than after one such conversation when Eden said, "Mom, I know a REALLY bad word. It's sax." My response? "Yes, dear. That's a REALLY bad word and it's not something you should be talking about." I am a little concerned about what will happen when she meets a sax player or sees a saxophone up close or if we go to a concert and she asks about that "J" shaped instrument, but I'm willing to cross that bridge when I get there.

Thankfully other peoples' children have given us many opportunites to watch and learn, laugh and discuss. Like the boy who has been sending Mariana love notes since 2nd grade. These are not your typical "Do you like me? Circle 'yes' or 'no'" notes but are notebook paper-length discourses on his affection for her. They also share his undying love for her while insisting, "I love you so you have to love me back." I can't imagine what type of parent encourages this type of thing in 2nd grade. I guess it could be argued that maybe his parents don't know. But if that's the case then according to his writing ability even as far back in 2nd grade, he's the next Mark Twain or Charles Dickens.

And then there are all the girls who have befriended Mariana with the larger goal of getting Andrew or Jesse to like them. That's ingenuity. It also turns the King kids off - all of them. And their parents. So don't try it. Or we will talk about you around the dinner table.

Or like the first week of 7th grade when Jesse came home from school to tell us that he had been asked out by two different posses of girls. Apparently if you are too shy to ask a guy to "go out" with you, it's standard practice to send your group of friends to do the deed. And in case you're wondering how he answered, just remember that he's been sufficiently brainwashed to know that if you are only in middle school and have no where to go, you're better off not "going out" in the first place. There was also the girl who started emailing me to ask me about our family and our church. She said it was for a school newspaper article. When I told Jesse she seemed like she needed a church family and maybe he should ask her to youth group, he smiled sheepishly and said he couldn't because she liked him.

More recently Mariana tagged along with me to a photography job at a junior and senior high camp. While eating our meal, a certain male camper came to sit with us and proceeded to tell Mariana that he likes her hair and her eyes. More specifically he likes how she expressively uses her eyes when she talks. To his credit, he also complimented Mariana's mother's eyes. Not to his credit, he mistakenly assumed that I'd be thrilled to find him hitting on my 12 year old daughter right in front of my (beautiful) eyes.

And just last week Jesse was invited to play drums for a theatre performance involving a large number of preteen and teen girls. Unbeknownst to Jesse, a 13 year old male drummer is considered a highly desirable specimen for hormone-crazed girls. It didn't take long before girls were trying to get a peek at him, tucked away behind the drum set. One staff member relayed a crazed conversation between her and a female teen trying to find out more about this young man. During a break, one of the girls who knows Jesse from a previous show made it her job to introduce enraptured girls to him. During the same break, Jesse was accosted by a group of girls, one of whom was so stricken with his hair, that she could only ramble on-and-on without making any sense. One young woman came to me and asked, "When did Jesse get so cute?" How does a mother answer this question? Hasn't he always been cute? I thought he was cute when they first put him on my chest and later when we carved a pumpkin and put him inside to introduce our new little pumpkin to the world. I also thought he was cute when he wore that princess dress and when he sang the Bunny song from Veggie Tales. I don't really think that's what she meant, though. Jesse found this all quite humorous, which is a good thing, and we had a nice, long talk on the way home.

I have, however, come to terms with the fact that this parenting job will likely turn into a mother-in-law job and quite possibly (we hope), a grandparenting job one day. It also occurred to me that that day is not as far away as it once was. I could go one extreme whereby I forbid my children to leave the house, tie them to the kitchen chairs and implant tracking devices under their skin. Or we can keep talking and I can continue to pray for each future spouse. To that end, may he or she be at least 21 years old before first meeting my child. (I know some people make this age as high as 30, particularly for their daughters, but let's be honest, I want grandkids before that! And besides, we've read Interviewing Your Daughter's Date by Dennis Rainey. We're prepared.)