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!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

N.O.P.E.

Eden has been learning about trees this month. Seemed like an appropriate subject for fall. Today we read The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall. Of course we had to make some apple pie (to eat with ice cream, of course) as a culmination of this unit. Too bad she almost didn't get to partake of her baking because she just couldn't force down her supper. I can't quite remember, but I think it was she who almost didn't get to eat her birthday dessert last year because she didn't want to eat her birthday meal (the one she had chosen). Or maybe that was Mariana? Or maybe both.

That's nothing new around here. I seem to have created a whole house full of picky eaters. The only non-picky eater is the one who doesn't share my genes. However, she is not free of food-related complaints. She will eat any food, it just takes her forever and usually involves someone else's repeated encouragement to, "Take another bite, please."

We've tried everything. Andrew, of course, was our guinea pig. I think the first attempt to coerce him to eat his supper was to insist that he stay at the table until the plate was empty. But what do you do at bedtime? I guess we could have kept him up all night but something tells me he still would not have eaten his supper. We then tried to just put the food in his mouth and hope it eventually got chewed up and swallowed. Thus followed several bathtimes and bedtimes with grosteque food still in his mouth. I then had to watch while he spit it out in the trash. And of course there was that terrible Thanksgiving when Jesse threw up his turkey on my grandmother because we insisted he eat it. I know my aunt used to serve supper for breakfast the next morning if it wasn't eaten on time but even I couldn't have for breakfast that which was meant for supper.

Which probabaly leads us to the root of the problem. "Hello, my name is Cindy. And I am a picky eater." Let's start by saying that I have improved greatly post-college. However, I will confess that many meals ended up in the napkin. Guess my parents wondered why all of a sudden I needed to wipe my mouth after every bite. But if you had a mother who served liver, calling it "like steak", you'd understand. It wasn't. The smell alone was enough to convince me. And besides, I don't like steak, either. She also put zucchini in every recipe causing me years of stress and an extreme aversion to the green stuff. They say you can't taste it. That may be so, but cake was never meant to have green flecks staring back at you from the fork. It got so bad that one year when the Lillian Vernon catalog came in the mail advertising a great recipe book full of uses for zuchini, I put a huge "X" through it and neatly printed "Sold Out" beside it. I guess it worked because she didn't buy it. Ten years into my marriage and I was still only using yellow squash; never green. It was the principle of the matter. But I got over it.

I was able to find some good uses for my pickiness. For some reason I only ate Raisin Bran for breakfast, only I didn't like the raisins. Some guy in my biology class did like raisins, though, and once I found this out, I never had to dissect another animal in class. For the price of a few raisins and the time it took to dig them out of my bowl before pouring the milk, he did the dirty work. Go figure. Maybe his mom didn't feed him real food at home? Or maybe he was a picky eater, too, and the only thing he liked was raisins. But his mom refused to buy them unless he ate his supper? I really didn't care why he ate the raisins. I just knew I was getting the better end of that deal.

Things were really bad once it was no longer cool to take my own lunch to school. Thankfully the high school had an a la carte line. My daily lunch then became Butterscotch Krimpets and chocolate milk. No wonder I couldn't comprehend math subjects! I bet they came right after lunch when I was crashing from all that sugar. And maybe I would have gotten better grades in gym class if I had added just a little more protein and vitamins to my mid-day meals. And I still can't figure out why I chose chocolate milk; I don't even like chocolate! Probably because I didn't like regular milk and chocolate was my only other choice. There was one advantage to this meal deal and that was the family lunch money rule: At the beginning of the week I was given enough money for 5 regular lunches. Any amount spent over that came out of my own pocket. Any money left-over . . . Even my poor math skills could figure out that I was saving a bundle. I think that's the money that put me through college.

I certainly wasn't alone in my eating habits. My very good friend, Janelle, was just as picky. So, at some women's function where we were forced to eat from the adult menu, we got creative. We decided to start our own organization. We called it the National Organization of Picky Eaters, or N.O.P.E. for short. We, of course, were the founding mothers so could make all the rules. We only needed two.

Rule #1: When asked if you'd like something to eat, just say "Nope."
Rule #2: Always leave a pile on your plate. This can be your vegetables, the skin from your chicken, or the little pieces of onion or pepper you've just picked out of the casserole.

This all worked just fine until I had children. Now I'm learning that wonderful mantra, "What goes around, comes around." Now I am the one telling my children about the wee little starving ones across the ocean. I am explaining that eating what is placed in front of you shows respect for the one who has prepared it. And to their credit, they are usually respectful outside of our home. For the older children, it helped to listen to some other children voice their opinions to a poor hostess serving what she thought was a good meal. That lesson was one I couldn't have orchestrated but went farther than any of my attempts. A trip out of the country also helped to solidify that one. It took a lot of preparation ahead of time but knowing that they weren't going to be allowed anything but what the children in the orphanage had to eat actually made them grow up quickly. Seeing how most of the world eats on a daily basis somehow makes your usual fare more palatable.

But we all have room to grow. I daily dread the loaded question, "What's for supper?" Someone is always unhappy. But someday they are going to thank me. I know they will. Not only will they thank me but they, too, will be hiding zucchini in the bread, cakes, brownies and soups. I know because I've become my mother. I don't even need that zucchini recipe book to know where to add this versatile pest of the food world. It just comes naturally. Have another brownie?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On doing nothing

I was once asked (and I quote), "Do you still enjoy staying home and doing nothing?" Funny, how I can remember who asked this question, where it was asked, and what I said to John when I relayed the story to him later. I cannot, on the other hand, remember how I responded. I must have answered affirmatively, however, since, 3 more children later I still enjoy staying home and doing nothing.

And why wouldn't one find this to be the most amazing way to spend one's life? A typical day begins around noon when I convince myself to roll out of bed. I take a leisurely bath while reading a novel cover-to-cover in the master bath's whirlpool. About that time the nanny arrives to get the kids out of the house so I can have complete peace and quiet for the rest of the afternoon. As long as the bon-bons have been delivered on time, I can enjoy them for breakast/lunch while I start watching my soaps for the day. If not, I just set the DVR while I go out to eat and for an afternoon shopping at the mall.

The cleaning lady arrives during Oprah and also takes care of supper. After dinner I can head to the gym. Once a week there's time for a stop at the spa for a complete pedicure, manicure and massage. Twice a week I head to college where I'm auditing classes. I'm not working toward any degree in particular, just taking a little of this and a little of that. You know, deep and important things like ceramics, biology, British literature, advanced computers and macro economics.

The only bad part about all of this is that it's just so tiring. After a late night movie and a snack of ice cream with Reese's peanut butter cups, I'm ready to hit the sack. Thankfully the cleaning lady always takes care of pulling back the covers just so, placing a towel sculpture on the end and a mint on my pillow.

With all of these perks why would I even dream of going back to work and leaving my life of doing nothing all day? Even if you-know-who, the one who originally asked the question with condesenscion oozing from all pores, thinks it's a boring life that I'd be dying to leave. If people only knew the life I'd have to give up to return to work, they'd stop asking. So, this blog is for you. Now be quiet. I have new clothes to model in front of the full-length mirrors. And I have a movie to watch. And I need to get back to my ice cream before it melts.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back-to-School Night Blues

It's Back-to-School Night time of year again. Since my husband is allergic to anything school or appointment related, I guess it's a good thing only two of our children attend real school. As it is I'll be attending Back-to-School Night at the high school and the middle school. If they all attended the Mechanicsburg schools I'd be sitting through 4 of these; adding an elementary school and the kindergarten academy to my list.

I did not like Back-to-School Night when I was a teacher. Parents made me nervous. I preferred my students to be shorter than me and in teaching first graders I succeeded in that goal with all but one student. I liked him anyway. But parents are a different story. As a rule, they are larger than first graders. They don't fit so well in first grade seats. So I tried to make it fun, make then laugh. Be creative. Sure made me feel better. And by making them sit in those little seats, no one seemed to want to stick around for long afterward. Pity.

So when my first son, the test-everything-for-the-other-kids child rejoined the world of real school, I was excited for Back-to-School Night. I couldn't wait. I was thinking I'd get to meet his teachers and find out what they're really like.

I'd like to say I enjoyed that first Back-to-School night. But I can't. It was boring. All they did was hand out the same papers that came home with my child on the first day of school. The same papers that I was told to read and to sign on the "Sign here if you have read these policies with your child" line. I did all that. I am very conscientious about these things. So I'm not sure why these teachers find it necessary to pass the same paper out on Back-to-School Night. Not only do they give these papers out a second time but they also find it necessary to read them to me. If, on the first evening of school, I signed the paper stating that I did indeed read and agree with the classroom rules, I believe these same teachers should be able to assume that I can still read and do still agree with those same rules. They do not have to read them to me again. If I had signed with an "X" then maybe it could be assumed that I did not read it and I need to have it spoonfed to me. But that's not the case. Save a tree. Keep your hand-outs. Use words. Be personal. Tell me your life's history and why you think you're the right person to be teaching my child. These are things I want to know; need to know. Yes, your life history, or as much of it as you can fit into the 7 minutes you have before the next bell rings sending me off to my next class. The second year wasn't much better. Nor the third.

I know there are few teachers who actually want to spend a few extra hours at school on a school night so why not try to make it fun for all? I think the characteristic most lacking on these nights is creativity. Didn't these folks go to school so they could creatively inject a love of their speciality into their students? What happened to that spark? Where are all those great ideas? Where's the humor? Make me laugh. Make me cry. Make me do something. If you teach music, why not introduce a song and get the parents to sing it. You'll soon be able to tell which woman is tone-deaf Johnny's mother. If you teach math, give the parents a test. You'll be able to tell by the looks on their faces which man belongs to the kid who can't seem to get anything higher than a 50%. Collect the papers afterward and tomorrow you could ask the students to grade their parent's papers. English teachers, give 'em a story starter and have them write a paragraph. Now there's a good one. Creativity. It's a great benefit in the classroom, when in front of students or their parents.

Speaking of math, surprisingly it has been the math teachers through the years who have made me most proud to say that I was once an educator. In the past two years of Back-to-School Night nights, it has been the math teachers who have made me sit up in my hard, straight-backed chair and smile. Maybe even laugh at times. Yes, humor in math class! Go figure. These are the kind of people who should be teaching my child. And they were personable. I learned where he went to school, who he married, how many kids he has and what they are up to these days. I know what she does after school. I even know her first name. Now that's an important bit of information. It can tell you how old the person is if I know his name. Ideally my child's teachers should be older than me, with names like Lisa and Karen, Bill and Tom. They should not be named Savannah and Ainsley, Aiden and Brayden. These folks are way too young to be out of high school, let alone teaching my child. Anyway, if math teachers can conjure up a bit of creativity and pizzazz, just think what the rest of the education world could do!

Maybe the building principal should make it into some sort of contest whereby parents can judge each teacher and rate them according to some pre-appointed scale. These are educators. They like evaluations and grading scales. If a grading scale was involved, they'd step up to the plate. If their salaries were involved . . . Never mind. There's a union for that. Anyway, if anyone is listening, I'd like to propose a presentation scale for Back-to-School Night. For example:

Using a scale of 1 - 10, 1 being least effective and 10 being most effective, please rate your child's teacher on his/her Back-to-School Night presentation.

Believability (Does your child's teacher love his/her job, this subject and most importantly, your child?):
Use of technology (Did he/she utilize more than paper hand-outs and were there any typos?):
Creativity (Was there anything to set this presentation apart from others?):
Conciseness (Was this teacher able to fit his/her speech into the time allowed or did he/she need to ramble during and beyond the dismissal bell?):
Personality (Would you want to come back to hear this teacher tomorrow and the next day?):

Yes, I believe a little feedback might just do the trick. It works for our students, doesn't it? Let me just add that this one night out of the year in no way mars my view of the Mechanicsburg schools. From someone whose own public school career ended abrubtly in first grade when the teachers decided to go on strike well into Oct., I was personally leery about God's suggestion to send my children into the proverbial pit. However, we have been more than pleased with the school system, teachers, and academics in the school district. Andrew and Jesse have both made excellent transitions and have done well in every area of their schooling. And all this, despite the fact that their teachers don't know how to run a Back-to-School Night. I think they can be forgiven. And see it as a challenge for improvement. Maybe it'll be better next year. It better be 'cause I'm comin' armed with my pen and paper and my presentation scale.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Moving to Arabia

Cindy, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be a mother and set apart for the gospel of God - the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in cyber land who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. . .

I forgot to take my Bible to church this morning. As has already been established in an earlier post, venues with large groups of people are not my favorite places to be. So, at first I thought maybe the lack of a Bible was a sign from God that I should just turn around and go home. Unfortunately, when I told John of my predicament he thought that maybe my lack of a Bible was a clear sign that I should be in church. So I went to church.

I then had the dilemma of deciding where in church to go. I could go to first service or I could go to Sunday School.* I decided to go to Sunday School to be antagonized by John Miller (the formally nameless man at church who likes to ask the tough questions). Since I'm often dressed up like Cyndi Lauper on Sunday mornings, I feel like my presence in Sunday School would be a distraction so I don't get there on a regular basis. When I am there, John likes to comment on my presence. This morning was no different.

The discussion this morning was on Paul and the book of Romans, particularly the first verses, some of which were paraphrased and rewritten at the beginning of this post. We were asked to shout out descriptors of Paul and his writings. Someone commented that Paul's writings are "not fluffy and he cut to the chase" (I know because I wrote it down). Upon hearing these comments, John felt the compulsion to stare at me with a knowing look, implying that my writings could be similarly described. At this point several people noticed a nonverbal exchange going on between the two of us so the discussion shifted from Paul's writings to mine. Thanks, John.

In my discomfort I was still able to learn a lot about Paul and his book to the Romans. Thanks, Dennis. I probably learned all of this in Christian school many moons ago but forgot about it soon after the test. For example, I haven't really thought about Paul's run-on sentences until we were asked to perform a variation on sentence diagramming, using the first several verses in Romans. I would like to point out something that has been bothering me since this morning but which I felt would be pointless to point out while Dennis was trying to make a point and that is that it was proposed that "the gospel" was the object of this first sentence but since it is in a prepositional phrase it cannot be the object because the object of the prepositional phrase can never be the object of the sentence. I'm just sayin'. And I'm trying out my ability to write a Paul-style run-on sentence. But I know where you were going with this so I kept it to myself as long as I could. I do feel better now.

Anyway, I also learned that Paul went to Arabia for three years and we unfortunately know nothing about this time in Paul's life. How sad. I wonder what the book of "Arabians" would have been like if he had later written a letter to the people there. It may have been my favorite book of the Bible. Or yours. We could be studying that now instead of Romans.

Maybe I should consider moving to Arabia for 3 years. Maybe not Arabia. Maybe the beach. I could live there for an extended period of time. But don't worry. I wouldn't leave you hanging. I'd keep updating so they wouldn't be the three lost years in Cindy's life. Until then you can find me studying the run-on sentences in Romans. Maybe I'll assign Mariana to diagram a few of them this week. She loves diagramming sentences.

*Please don't feel the need to send me an message telling me that they are Bible Fellowship Groups and not Sunday School classes. I never did quite get the reason to change the name. And I have never seen a Bible fellowshipping with another Bible so it really makes no sense to me in that regard. And then, as if Bible Fellowship Group isn't hard enough to remember, each one of these groups has its own separate name. I can never remember the name of my class so when I sign my kids into their classes and I have to list my location, I have to give up and just list my location as John's location which is usually the sanctuary only it's not a sanctuary at McBIC it's a Family Life Center. Sometimes I can't remember that name either because it's not exactly intuitive. I usually don't go to the Family Life Center with my family since they are all in their own classes and it's not the center where my family got it's life so that doesn't work for me either. Pretty soon they won't call it church either and then I'll have to remember something like Mechanicsburg Brethren in Christ Family Bible Fellowshipping Life Center Building.

Monday, September 6, 2010

No Butt Baumans


The infamous homemade root beer










The Bauman's, drunk on Aunt Ellen's erroneously concocted root beer, look to the sky thinking they'll find the missing hit-and-run driver in the clouds.




It's always good to get an outsider's perspective on your extended family. In-laws are especially good for this role. John's first thought about the yearly Moyer family reunion was that it's the only place where you can see cape dresses and Harley Davidson T-shirts conversing together in the same room. I hadn't ever thought of it before, but he's right. And then there are the Bauman's. The in-laws on this side of the family came to the conclusion that Bauman's are not only lacking in the gluteus maximus area but they also have a small divit, conceivably handmade by God for a more comfortable placement of one's wallet in the back pant's pocket. It has even been suggested that we have T-shirts made with some type of catchy phrase like "No Butt Bauman" or "I'm a Bauman - no ifs, ands or butts" (my personal favorite).

Praises are often sung to the Bauman butt at the annual Labor Day camp-out. This yearly event finds any number of Bauman siblings and their offspring, and their offspring, converging on Uncle Carl's backyard. There was a time when 4 generations could be found sharing the backyard on Labor Day. Sadly, we are now down to three generations and the patriarch and matriarch are missed. This year our total number was somewhere around 30+, a large number in and of itself, made even more amazing when one learns that approximately the same number of eligible relatives were not in attendance. (I can assure you that any attempt to compute the actual amount will result in someone being missed or extra persons being added. I can tell you from personal experience, however, that when it comes to daily life, such fine mathematical details are not only irrelevant but unneccessary. Let's just say that the Bauman's are a very prolific group and leave it at that.) We come from far and wide; from such exotic places as Virginia and Indiana, Lancaster and Souderton. And if that's not exotic enough for you, one year brought relatives from Hawaii (relatives who have since decided that Ohio is more exotic than any of the above locations).

You have to understand that while this yearly event is called a camp-out, it bears very little resemblance to the actual practice of camping out. Camping enthusiasts may even want to end their reading at this juncture so they are not sickened by our dismemberment of the camping process. We do sleep in pop-up campers and tents. Well, some of us do. Some sleep on cushy mattresses in the back of their vans. Some sleep in Uncle Carl's house, on beds. Some go to their own beds, in their own houses. But because Uncle Carl's backyard looks like some form of tent city with all of the proper-looking equipment, we can call it camping. Of course the (illegal) fire and evening s'mores make it close to real camping as well. Other than that, well, let's just say we all use the indoor plumbing and meals are cooked in the kitchen or on grills, not over an open fire. It works better that way. Although, one third-generation Bauman camper did decide to use the corner of his family's tent as a urinal. You know, we laughed as his mother had to deal with this situation but upon pondering this more fully, I believe he was just trying to get the whole camping experience which we have denied him all these years. He may be onto something here. If it's too hot, we bring in industrial-sized fans to cool down the party tent erected for game playing and meals. If the Phillies are on, we go inside to enjoy the flat-screen TV. You get the picture.

This year's fine camp-out was succinctly summed up by Cousin-in-law Matt's Facebook post: "Matt Johndrow ‎@ the Bauman family gathering! Ribs from the grill, Smores around the fire, fireworks, sleeping in the tent on a 45 degree night, drunk driver crashing into the neighbors house at 3 am, pancakes for breakfast and Carl setting the grass on fire and Rob dashing in to save the day.....expectations for the weekend have been met!" Immediately, comments came in from Bauman descendants all over the world, needing more information about this weekend's events. And they are smart individuals indeed who need more details for this family knows how to create adventure. It is within the Bauman clan where grandparents run go-carts up exterior house walls. It is at the Labor Day camp-out where the Bauman's have been known to weather hurricane-force winds and electrical storms by holding onto the METAL posts of the party tent while singing "Nearer My God to Thee" and "Arky, Arky." The reason? No one wanted the tent to blow over or we'd have to help set it back up before dinner (and it made for some good video footage, too). It is the Bauman's who allow youngsters to ride all number of 2- and 4-wheeled vehicles but then have to smile and turn the other way when said vehicles are plowed into one's prized Mustang, parked in one's own driveway. It is at the Bauman camp-out where we willingly take in-laws to the emergency room when attempts to ride those vehicles turn bad. Very bad.

So, for all those Bauman's far and wide who are waiting with baited breath to find out the truth about this year's events, I will gladly fill you in on the details of the drunk driver, fire, and heroic rescue. About the pancakes, you'll have to ask Matt. The only explanation I have is that they do not have pancakes in Virgina and that is why he was so excited about pancakes for breakfast. Or maybe they only eat pancakes for dinner in that hallowed land. Or maybe it's his wife who has never before prepared pancakes for him. He'll have to ask his mother-in-law to make them for him more often. But then he might not get his pretzel salad as often and that would be sad. Now, on to the story. . .

Sunday evening found us all gathered around the campfire, enjoying our s'mores and homemade rootbeer. Unbeknownst to us, Aunt Ellen made a mistake when mixing this year's rootbeer and family members were becoming drunker as the evening wore on. Deciding that enough was enough, we decided to hit the hay as they say and each person staggered to his or her own tent. About 3:00 AM some of us were awakened to the sound of a car alarm. It appears as if one of the cousins (who shall remain nameless), had left his tent and still drunk, entered the kids' battery operated Corvette. Not needing a key to start the engine and heedless of his inebriated state, he put the pedal to the metal and promptly ran that little car into the battery operated Mustang parked on the other side of the driveway. The impact caused the alarm on Uncle Glenn's car to go off, waking up the whole crew. Wracked as they were with homemade rootbeer induced hang-overs, most stayed in their sleeping bags, frantically attempting to locate the alarm clocks they mistakenly assumed were producing the obnoxious noise. Uncle Carl, however, managed to stumble out of bed and was able to help the arriving police officers in their efforts to locate the cousin who by that time had fled the scene, an apparent hit and run. In the morning, by this point already addicted to the erroneously concocted rootbeer, the members of the Bauman clan all chugged more bottles of the stuff with the already-mentioned famous "pancakes for breakfast." In the heat of the day, a very inebriated Uncle Carl decided he wanted to get that campfire going again so he piled on the remains of his old pool deck. He also wanted to see if a cup of water placed on a roaring fire would have the same result as one placed in a regular-sized campfire, a small variation on the annual experiment. While chatting, it was soon discovered that even though the cup would not burn below the level of the water, the lawn was on fire. The possibility of placing a cup of water on the lawn fire, to see if it would have the same outcome was discussed but was quickly thrown out. Meanwhile, cousin-in-law Rob who had refrained from the rootbeer so that we would have a designated driver in the likely event that there was a need to head to the ER, not only kept his wits about him but heroically pulled a tent spike out of the ground, punctured the side wall of the above-ground pool and allowed the gushing water to extinguish the smoldering lawn, all while the rest of us sat under the well-protected and shady party tent and discussed the fire and the events as they unfolded. We did consider donning bathing suits and swimming in the former backyard which had now become a lake of pool water but knowing that drinking and swimming do not mix, we played Coffeepot instead.

And if you believe that, I have a Bauman Butt Glut Creator to sell you. For just 3 easy installments of $19.99 a month you too can have a beautiful Bauman butt, complete with wallet pocket.

If, unlike me, you prefer the boring truth, here's your version:

Part 1: At about 3:00 AM some of us were awakened by a screech, some by a thud, and some by an obnoxious car alarm (it is true that some people thought their alarm clocks were going off for work). Apparently a drunk driver missed the curve on the road in front of the house and ended up going through the neighbor's hedge, stopping just feet from their house. Deciding that his best course of action was to leave the engine running, exit the car, lock the doors, and hide, the alarm was caused when police officers tried to enter his vacant and still-running car. Mr. Drunk Guy was finally found and the car alarm was silenced. End of Boring Story Part 1.

Part 2: On Monday afternoon Uncle Carl did decide that he wanted to get rid of more of his old deck wood so he piled it higher and higher on the fire. Suddenly the lawn caught on fire. While most of us yelled, "Fire!", sat back to watch the action and discuss the advancing flames, Rob grabbed a trashcan, emptied out the garbage, filled it with water from the pool, and doused the flames. End of Story.

I don't know about you, but I'm already looking forward to more action next year.