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!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

That time again

It comes around once a year. I don't even need to look at the calendar to know it's coming. 24 hours (or less) prior, my loving husband will pile all the children into the KingZoo bus and take them off to Wal-mart. A few hours later they'll come home with secret glances and lumpy packages. The mouths of the younger ones will be held by the hands of the older ones, trying to keep their "secret" mission under wraps. I, of course, will feign oblivion.

This year HopeAnne was the child voted most likely to give it away so she was terrorized and threatened with all sorts of horrible things if she gave anything away. They went even farther and told her that no matter what I said, she was to reply "a candle." So when they came home and I came up the steps from the basement, Hope said, "If you ask me what we got you for your birthday [insert dramatic pause and lower voice to a whisper], it's a candle and it's in the car." I wanted to see how far the brainwashing went so I woke her up in the middle of the night and asked her what she got for my birthday. She opened her eyes long enough to say, "a candle" and promptly went right back to sleep.

Yes, it's my birthday. My loving husband celebrated by saying, "I am so glad I get to grow old with you." I told him he might as well say he's glad he gets to look forward to smelling like a nursing home with me. He did get up early to take me to breakfast (my favorite meal of the day) and he's also taking me to dinner. Well, actually he's taking me to the wedding reception after the ceremony he had to officiate. But I'll get a meal. And it'll be good. And if we had just gone to dinner, I wouldn't have gotten appetizers and dessert. No dancing either.

Jesse was kind enough to transcribe Hope's birthday wishes into a birthday card. It went like this, "Happy birthday to you! I love you mommy. We can't talk about ghosts because they aren't real. I love you mommy cause I really love when you invite... I love you mommy. I love you forever. I love you mommy because you bring us to ice cream places and Frosty to get ice cream. I like when you take pictures but it is hard because I have to go to the bathroom sometimes when you take pictures. I like watching TV mommy, and I love watching TV with you doing your hair. I love to make silly faces at the mirror in the bathroom. I think I like sleepovers when [Eden's friend] comes some day. Not cry because [Isaac's friend] has staring eyes. I like monkeys and puppies and turtles and snakes. I love you mommy." Jesse only needed to add, " Happy birthday mom. I'm not going to rant on and on because there is no way I could do it better than Hope.

My aunt thought it'd be nice if I got to celebrate my birthday with a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and a good story. I did have a cozy blanket but it was at Isaac's soccer game and there was no tea involved. No book on my lap, either. But I did get to see the story of a comeback soccer team and a mother who survived her son's goal-keeping. All on her birthday. There should be a special gift for that.

And my dad made my day with a note that made me cry. Thanks, Dad.

It was a great day.

***11PM addition: As if the day wasn't great enough, it ended with picture-taking at Allenberry's Murder Mystery Weekend. During birthday introductions I was introduced as celebrating my 22nd birthday today. (Thank you, Mykel! I owe you). To top it off, one man stopped me in the lobby to ask me if photography is my full-time job or if I'm in college full-time. Later during dinner, one table stopped me to wish me a happy birthday and to ask about my life as a 20 something. Ahh. My birthday day is complete. Time for bed.

Friday, October 29, 2010


There. I said it. I decided it was best to just get today's topic out in the open right from the start. For some people, it's up there on the family list of bad words. You know, the kind that will cost you a dollar in my house. For others, you have no idea why the fuss. No problem. We fall somewhere in the middle.

It is one of the great mysteries of life that here in Mechanicsburg, we don't celebrate Halloween; we celebrate Thursday-Before-Halloween. I've spent the past 7 years trying to get an explanation for this, to no avail. I have a sneaking suspicion it's kind of like the woman who always cut her Easter ham in half before cooking and it wasn't until she went down the generational line that she found the tradition was started by Great Great Grandma because her roasting pan was not big enough to put in the whole meat. It had no culinary value whatsoever.

In my Halloween theory, several generations ago there was a township commissioner whose wife's birthday fell on October 31. Not wanting to be in trouble with the little lady and to properly celebrate her day, he decided that he couldn't be competing with taking the kids out for candy on the same night he needed to take his wife out for her birthday. So, he came up with the great plan of having Upper Allen Township dress up and walk the neighborhood on the Thursday before. Not knowing the reason, but believing that they might be missing something (and no township higher-up wants to look stupid), other local townships began to follow suit. Some, in an effort to be at least slightly individualistic, decided to celebrate Friday-Before-Halloween instead of Thursday-Before-Halloween or Halloween itself. They just don't get it.

For me, Halloween meant birthday celebrations. With my brother's birthday on the 27th, mine on the 30th and my mom's on Halloween itself, this one week out of the year was sugar rush unlimited. In fact, my mom insisted that by the time her birthday was celebrated, she didn't want cake; a pie would be much more appreciated. So, October 31 meant dressing up as whatever costumed character my mom had creatively made that year, piling into the car, driving around to all the relatives, and finally gathering at the home of one of those relatives to celebrate the October birthdays. Since we didn't get candy and other desserts on a regular basis, this was the time to stock up. This tradition continues to this day although the King clan is, sadly, no longer a part of the Halloween/birthday tradition. Thanks to the Mechanicsburg tradition of celebrating on a separate evening, we did decide to drive the 2 hours to surprise my mom on her birthday one year. The family was chatting around the table when who should arrive at the door but the King family!

As has already been suggested, the day also brought out the sewing skills of my mother, and later myself. She made Raggedy Ann and Andy, Tweety Bird and my favorite, Miss. Piggy. My own children have had to put up with the Wizard of Oz themed year, Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, and Veggie Tales. Even as recently as two years ago there was talk of doing Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs, including Mom and Dad in the fun, but before the actual day came around, the eldest child decided he was too old to be a dwarf.

But other than that, we are now on our own, dutifully celebrating Thursday-Before-Halloweeen with our neighbors. We did change things up a bit this year. Rachel, who is living with us, told us that her family often participated in a local Light in the Night event. We thought it sounded like a great idea and Mariana took the bull by the horns to organize it.

She donated a portion of her Christmas show earnings to fund it, and convinced Isaac and Eden to do the same with their paychecks. She got several of the girls in her Wed. night small night group to donate their time to help run it. So, neighborhood children who showed up to our address were offered carnival-type games, hot chocolate, and popcorn in addition to the customary candy. What fun!

Now we spend our time evaluating the evening, what we'd do the same, what we'd do differently, and if we will do this again. Til next year, folks?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eat to play

I am not athletic. That's no shock. In high school, there were times when I wished that the hand could make the field hockey stick connect with the ball, or the foot to the soccer ball, or even the bat to the softball. It was not to be so. And eventually an eye doctor confirmed what I had known all along: I was absent in Heaven on the day that depth perception was handed out to all the babies waiting to be sent down to earth.

All these years I was led to believe that I missed out by never having a team to call my own. I was ostracized and laughed at because the only gym class I could pass was physical fitness and that was because we set our own goals. I was excellent at setting low goals and reaching them by the end of the quarter.

Until my brother came around, my poor parents were bored because they didn't have anything to do weeknights and Saturdays. After all, it's not much fun watching someone sit in her room and read a book. Not a whole lot of excitement happening there. However, I think that it really could have benefited my self-esteem if they had thanked me for my lack of sports ability because I saved them the years of having to sit through middle and high school sports banquets.

What is it about sports teams that the season always has to end with a banquet? When dance is over for the year, the dancers don't have a banquet. When the last newspaper is distributed for the year, the journalism kids don't have a one either. These are not just small affairs, either. We have to dress up for these things. They come complete with extravagent ballroom meals and boring talks. And the infamous slide show that never works. Until a steady stream of coaches, then fathers, turns the equipment on and off a few times. And then the coach, who is usually not a gifted orator (and why should he be, the only examples he ever had of speeches was at former sports banquets), stands up to make a speech. And then he reads off the names of all of the athletes and they come up front to shake his hand and get a piece of paper. For whose benefit is this list read? Do our athletes have such short attention spans that they cannot remember they just played soccer? Or been running around a track? After all, the only athletes invited to the soccer banquet are the soccer players, as is also true for the cross country banquet being exclusively attended by cross country runners. Maybe the list is for the parents? So we remember why we were driving to and from school every evening?

And just why do the parents have to attend? When I was in a school production and we had an after-show party, it was always students only. So why do the athletic kids need their parents to accompany them? It's not because they need us to cut their food; they always ditch us at the door anyway. And it's definitely not so they can thank us for all of the athletic ability we bestowed upon them. I couldn't figure this one out and the answer eluded me until this year. Now that I am an experienced sports banquet attendee, I have figured out that the only reason the parents are invited is so that we can hold and carry home the beautiful "Participation Award" certificate that is handed out to each player. And I paid money to socialize with strangers, while my son sat with his friends and made strange bodily noises, just so I could carry home a piece of paper stating that my son participated in the sport of varsity soccer?

Thankfully the middle school soccer folks got smart this year. Rather than combine with the high school and make us pay outlandish prices for a 5-course meal, they decided to have a pizza party at the middle school. I'm liking this. For just $7/person Jesse and I could get a pizza and subs meal, complete with homemade desserts and a donated cake. Not only that, but just for showing up, we were sent home with a free left-over pizza. The sports banquet that pays for itself. After all that, I carried that Participation Award certificate home with pride. That's one for the fridge. Way to participate, Jesse! And next week is the cross country banquet. They got smart, too and are having a potluck. If I plan this one right, and put our food at the end of the line, fewer people will take from it and we can bring that home, too. Maybe sports banquets aren't so bad after all. They do seem to know how to multiply the food.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Our Little Punkin

Look what we found in the pumpkin patch . . .

. . . our little "punkin" . . .

This was the way we announced King Kid #2. Little did we know what we were in for with this one. Our family doctor used to say that Jesse knew he was going to be the middle child long before we knew he was going to be the middle child. Well, that was back when there were only two. And when there were three, Jesse did indeed fit the role of middle child. Of course we all know that he's long since passed the middle child position. Only someone forgot to tell him that he can stop acting like the middle child! He has "cleaned" shoes in the toilet, caused a major plumbing bill by flushing large items, "decorated" the walls and furniture with paint, and run around the house wearing Mr. Potatohead body parts.

When Jesse was only 18 months old I wrote, "You love to make people laugh and are very good at it." Funny, that same child recently told me that his life motto is, "Life's too short to be normal." I'd say he knows himself pretty well.

It's hard to believe that the toddler who had a seizure every time he experienced some type of "trauma", would grow up to love amusement parks and be the 14 year old daredevil who got a snowboard for his birthday. You have to understand that "trauma" in this case meant a small fall, like down one step or off a riding toy. The child would try anything, but couldn't handle the agony of defeat.

The 18 month old who entertained us with his version of Larry's Hairbrush song, by repeating in his best monotone,"Where, hairbrush? Where, hairbrush?", has become a wonderful singer. From Louis in The King and I to Zeke in High School Musical and many roles in between. And that violinist who had such trouble standing still for his teacher, has become an exceptional cellist. Even if he did switch instruments only for the chance to sit down while playing. And that drum he received when he was a little boy (in all I think he got 3 different drums for 3 different birthdays) served him well. He's now playing on the youth worship team. He can also play the mandolin, hammered dulcimer, and guitar and is hoping to soon learn the saxophone.

Yes, our little pumpkin turned comedian is growing up . . .

. . . into a very big comedian who continues to entertain and amaze us. This is the child who taught us to say chocolate meatballs when asking for Cocoa Puffs and to call his grandparents Mumsie and Popsie (complete with English accent). And whose favorite color was stripes. The child who stood on a box (presumably a pretend wall) and declared, "I'm Joshua!" The child who recited the Christmas story by saying, "And the angel said to the shepherds, 'Boo!'"

The first grader who had trouble leaving his clown side at home when he went to Sunday School, has grown into a teen-ager who better understands when to turn the fun on and off. (And thank God for at least one understanding Sunday School teacher who knew there was a great kid inside there. If it had only been that other, every other week teacher who couldn't see the good behind the funny, I think Jesse and I would have both dropped out of the whole church scene.) Now he's on the other side, helping to teach the 4 year olds at church, and leading the Christian Club in public school.

Jesse, don't stop being you. You are a great son and a caring big brother. You are sensitive to the needs of others. You are respected among your friends and are a born leader. God is using you in so many ways and we look forward to seeing where He takes you from here. Keep having fun and

Happy 14th!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

First, my apologies. I have been told by my friend, Kym, that I have been doing this whole blog thing all wrong. She should know. She's an expert in such matters. She herself has her own blog. A much more intellectual blog than I will ever write. But anyway, she informed me that all good bloggers know that Wednesdays are known as Wordless Wednesdays. Apparently I am supposed to just give you a picture on Wednesdays; no words. I should be able to find a picture that speaks for itself; something that needs no words. This should be interesting enough to catch and keep your attention but I am not allowed to add any words. This could be difficult. Or maybe not. Who knows? I guess time will tell.

So now the difficulty is finding the picture to use. I have been having a little trouble with this one. I just need to find a picture that speaks for itself. One that doesn't need any explanation. Or added thoughts.

I think that I could get into this wordless thing. It could save me a lot of time. Yeah, all the time it normally takes me to think of a subject, write it out, edit it, etc. I could spend that time eating bon-bons and catching up on my soaps. Yes, I think this is a pretty good thing.

So you'll have to let me know what you think about this wordless business. I think I'm liking it. I don't have to write as much this way. That will definitely be nice.

Oh, and one more thing: Welcome to the world, Julia Rayanne! It was nice visiting you today. And holding you. I got my baby fix for a while. You are definitely a beautiful baby.

That's it. No more words. I'm not talking anymore. Because it's Wordless Wednesday. I know. Kym told me. Til tomorrow, then. That's all for now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Twoo Wuv

My children love me. I know they do. They have lovingly expressed their devotion to me through the years, in so many different ways.

When Andrew was 2 1/2 he told me that I looked like a rooster. After I explained that we usually only say that to people when their hair is sticking up, he changed his mind and affectionately told me that I look like a cow. His compliments have brightened my days ever since.

A few months later he showed even more love when he started singing that oldie but goodie Christmas song, "Children go Where I Send Thee," but substituted his mom-honoring version: "Children Go Where I Cindy."

But his best compliment came at 3 1/2 when he said, "Mommy, you make good pie." It may not seem like much but since it was followed with, "And Daddy makes good grapes," I knew he saw my effort and I was loved.

Jesse, even as a young 2 year old, could see that I was a little challenged in the interior decorating department. No problem. On more than one occasion he took it upon himself to repaint various furniture items and walls. Carefully placed handprints was a common theme.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? At 3 1/2 Jesse told me that he was going to grow up to be a mommy just like me. Hmmm, I guess that's flattery. A year and a half later he was planning to marry me when he grew up.

When Mariana was 4 she brought me to Biblical status. We were reviewing the Moses story in our family devotions. I asked someone to name Moses' mother and Mariana very proudly answered, "Cindy!" Okay, it sounded more like Cinny. But I knew what she meant. She meant that I was as wise as Jochebed and could have come up with a plan as great as floating a child on water, if need be.

By the time she was 6, though, I must have dropped a few notches in her way of thinking because her evening prayer included, "And please help Mommy not to sin." May not look like love but at least she was concerned enough to take me to the One who changes mommies when they need it.

At age 8 she had things a little more in perspective when she told me that she likes "plain people just like you." She knows who I am yet she still loves me.

Isaac, like his father, has always been loving and affectionate. Even at the age of 1 he always wanted to be near me and if we weren't in the same room I could count on hearing, "Mom, are you?" within a few seconds. At the same time, as I was teaching him to spell his name, I named the letter as I wrote it, "I," and he quickly responded with, "love you."

At 1 1/2, when the rest of the children were complaining about the food set before them, Isaac was the only one to pronounce my food, "deyicious."

Eden says she likes how I talk to the dog. I told you she was the next teacher in the family. Teachers are so good at finding the small things to praise. It's baby steps, right? At least she didn't say she likes how I talk to myself.

Hope loves me so much she couldn't bear to see me leave for the Funny Farm shoeless yesterday. As I walked out the door she was shouting, "Mom, not without your shoes!" Now that's true love.

Moments to cherish. True love. Yes.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Table Talk

The dinner table is a great place to get some help with your homework. With a table of 8 you can throw out your latest discussion questions, project requirements, or any other assignment and get the perspectives of those from a variety of ages, skills, and life experiences. Tonight we were helping Jesse with a career inventory he was to complete. Poor guy had to come up with 20 careers he'd like to pursue. I have to say I do think 20 is awfully high. You'd have to be amazingly gifted to come up with 20 areas of interest, even if you hadn't already started thinking of life after college. I can remember having to do these things in middle and high school. I always had trouble after the first blank on the list.

1. Teacher
2. ??? I don't know. Well, you have to write something else. Okay, then. Is special ed. teacher different from a teacher?
3. ????? I really can't do this. Well, what else would you like to do? I don't know. Elementary teacher?
4. ??????? I need more? How about preschool teacher?
5. ????????? How am I supposed to come up with 5 careers? I only want to be one thing. Can I just write teacher again?

One time we were given a very scientific career inventory. The first time I completed the survey it told me I should be a secretary. Yeah right, I just love talking on the phone. And talking to real people is even better. So I checked out the score I should receive to fit in the education category and went back and changed my answers to make it say teacher.

So, when Jesse said he needed help, we were more than willing to jump in. We asked him what he had on the list so far. He explained that he had already gotten some help in class and had been able to rule out a few possibilities. While working on this assignment he asked his teacher, "Hey, Mr. Capriotti, would I make a good counselor?" So Mr. Capriotti suggested they try it out. He took a chair next to Jesse and said, "I've been feeling pretty down and sad lately. What do you think I should do?" Jesse's response, being a little on the non-sensitive side, "Suck it up, cupcake," gave the class a pretty good indication that this would not be the right career for him. Next he tried, "Would anyone trust me as their surgeon?" Again, no support. In the end, however, he didn't get much help from the family dinner table because what followed was a discussion of the careers that each family member should NEVER consider.

Andrew, we decided, should not be a talk show host. You generally need to say more than "good", "fine" and "nothing" for a job like that. You also need to be very low on the "um" scale. He did make a good argument that the jokes between the ums would keep everybody laughing and watching. He has a point but we still don't think it's the career for him. We also told him not to consider a career as a PETA representative. He's not much of an animal person. Just ask Linus.

We didn't think Jesse would make a very good philosopher. He's not really a deep thinker. He's also not much into sharing his deep, personal opinions. He'd much rather make someone laugh. Pro sumo wrestling is probably not in his future, either. He doesn't really have the build for it.

Hands-down it was agreed that Mariana should not become a comedian. While she is great on the stage, her jokes need a lot of work. I will say that she has come a long way from her early knock-knock days.

Who's there?
(While looking around the room) Light
Light who?
(Still looking around the room) Light on the ceiling (followed by hysterical laughter for herself)

She did argue that she can act funny. This is true. Just not a trait for a great comedian. We also didn't think she'd make a good butcher. She's not really that into meat. Case in point: When she heard someone say "butcher", even though she didn't realize it was meant for her, her response was, "That's disgusting." This is the child who wanted to be a vegetarian until I pointed out that the root of vegetarian was the same as vegetable. She knew not to ask if she could be a carbohydraterian.

For Isaac's own safety the majority vote was that he should not be a professional gymnast. Built like his father and self-proclaimed clumsy to boot. One of Isaac's first phrases as a toddler was, "I'm okay" and it's still the most used today. His brothers, both of whom have shared his room at one time, announced that he would also not make much money as a maid. Isaac can walk into a pigsty and proclaim it white-glove clean.

Eden, bless her heart, would be sent packing if she were a private in the army. She prefers to give orders over taking them, she'd starve on army rations, and when tested (yes, during dinner), she couldn't do even one proper push-up. We also decided she would not make a good speech therapist. She'd have a whole generation of kids running around talking about boys and gulls and rushing to be fust in line.

Poor HopeAnne would never make it as a librarian. She just couldn't follow her own rules in keeping the noise level down. This is the child who shouts at us to be quiet because her dolls are sleeping. We also don't think she would survive as a spy. When questioned she would first point out that her lips were sealed, but upon spying a bird flying by she would lose her train of thought, shout, "Oh pretty", then, "My name is Hopie and I work for the United States Government." To her credit this would be followed with a hand over her mouth and the after-thought, "I'm not supposed to tell you that." She might then be able to suggest, "I'll make a deal with you." It has worked with her father.

Speaking of the patriarch of the clan, we came up with three answers for him. He wouldn't make a good stay-at-home mom, preschool teacher, or secretary. He can't multi-task, he walks right over or by jobs that need to be done, he likes to sleep, and he's deathly allergic to children's appointments or school functions. He also doesn't like toys that make noise or beings that make messes. Finally, he's not organized.

And for me, it was unanimous that I would not make a good counselor. Sorry Mr. Capriotti, but Jesse gets it from me. My favorite response to those with issues is to take them around the throat, shake them and say, "Just snap out of it." Besides, I spend too much time at the Funny Farm myself. It probably wouldn't be good for business. The kids also didn't think I'd make a very good math teacher. They cited numerous examples which will not be listed here. But in the end they had me convinced when they reminded me that math teachers do not have personality but lovingly assured me that I have plenty of personality. Aren't they great kids?

In fact, God has uniquely gifted each one and it will be exciting to see where those gifts lead. As a preschooler Andrew's career choice was to be an astronaut. We thought he just might be the first pacifist to enter the space program without going through the military first. About the time of his surgery he had an interest in medicine but that quickly passed. For a while now he's been pretty set on a career in the film industry. If he can influence this industry as he's influenced his lunch table, we'll be thrilled. Jesse had this mother praying very hard when he announced in first grade that he wanted to be a pilot and fly missionaries around the world. For a time he was interested in engineering or architecture, wanting to build orphanages in other countries. More recently he's thinking about education but just isn't sure. Mariana, as we all know, entered the world with her mouth opened and she has not shut it yet. But that's a good thing as she has needed those God-given lungs to make the world her stage. Who knows where this will take her. Isaac hasn't quite settled on one direction. We have seen him morph from a natural science curator to a video game creator. More realistically, he is very good working with his hands and as most of us know, is an excellent musician. Eden is a born teacher. Not much else to say there. And HopeAnne, time will tell but it will definitely involve much movemet and little sitting. John still hasn't decided what he wants to be when he grows up so he just keeps going to school til he figures it out. Me, that's easy. I want to be a mom and a teacher. I'll have to try that out some day. When I'm not at the Funny Farm.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Object Lessons

I love it when living object lessons just fall into our laps. Truly, I could think of stories and examples and recite them to my children. But it certainly doesn't mean the same thing as actually having a "Yes, this really happened," experience to share. Like today (you knew that was coming, didn't you?)

We have talked about "sense of entitlement" ever since we went on a family mission trip to Mexico in 2006. Prior to leaving we spent several months preparing ourselves for the lessons we were to learn. Sense of entitlement was clearly a new phrase to our then 11, 10, 8 and 5 year olds. They caught on quickly to its meaning but didn't really start to understand until they were actually in the orphanage and surrounding areas. The day we went to the "colonia" at the city dump really opened their eyes. But of course returning home to comfortable suburbia quickly gives us varying forms of memory loss. So we continue to talk about these things.

This afternoon I was volunteering with a local non-profit agency that serves underprivileged families. The families had been invited to dinner and a show. While I was waiting for more families to arrive, I witnessed an interaction between another patron and the hostess. The patron had come to complain about the food at the buffet. She claimed that she had not been told that the buffet was mostly child-friendly. In return, the hostess very kindly stated that whenever the scheduled show is a children's show, the buffet is set with children in mind. So, in addition to the usual salad choices, they were serving chicken fingers, hot dogs, fried shrimp, mac and cheese, corn, and mixed vegetables. The woman raised such a fuss that the hostess offered for her family to choose from the main menu (not charging her an additional fee). The woman agreed to this option, took the menus and returned to her seat. About 5 minutes later her husband arrived in the lobby and said, "You gave us these menus but they are all for lunch. We want breakfast." The hostess explained that breakfast had closed 2 hours prior and all that was being served was lunch. He very rudely handed the menus back to her and said, "That won't do." Did he not realize that she had already offered him a deal by allowing him to order from the menu for no additional fee when it didn't come close to the price he had paid for the children's buffet and show?

All day I've been trying to wrap my mind around the sense of entitlement this family felt. Meanwhile the 34 people who showed up from the non-profit were overly grateful for the meal they were receiving. I didn't hear any complaining, all were extremely polite, and thoroughly enjoyed their meal. I so enjoyed my time getting to know some of them on a more personal level. Most of these children had never eaten at tables with cloths and centerpieces before. They wanted to know about the property and what my role was. We talked about our families and school. I learned all of their beautifully creative names and how to do their hair (I'm always looking for new ideas for HopeAnne). I'd much rather spend a meal with any of the 34 than the 2 who caused such trouble with the hostess. And likely, their discontent did not end with the conversation with the hostess.

As if that is not difficult enough for me to understand, on the way home Mariana told me about another family that was overheard in the dining room. They were dressed in their Sunday best and had likely come from right from church. They walked into the dining room to see what was being offered. One turned to the other and said, "This doesn't look like our type of crowd. Let's go somewhere else." I pray that none of the members of the non-profit group heard this comment. Instead, I pray that their meal and their experience seeing a quality show for the first time left them feeling blessed, special and loved.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Boys

I grew up in a family of two childen. One girl and one boy. And we each had names that were used to distinguish one from the other. Cindy and Chad. No confusion there. I've been told that once upon a time I was called Cynthia but since the Pennsylvania Dutch grandparents just couldn't get their mouths around that tricky "th" it was shortened before I was old enough to know the difference. Well, except when I was in trouble. Then "Cynthia Joy" came out pretty clearly.

John, on the other hand, grew up in a family of 6 children. He happened to fall in as number five. There have been some reunions where each child goes by his or her number as in, "Hi, I'm John, #5." I remember this most vividly when John's mom remarried. To introduce her six children to his six children (they now like to say they have six and one half dozen children), and all of the spouses, we each wore nametags with our name and number. I was "Cindy, Wife of Mary Ann's #5." It worked out quite well.

But there is another trend that I have noticed in larger families and that is to clump kids together and to differentiate in this way. I have heard some families separate their children into "Bigs" and "Littles". Growing up, John's family had "Herb", "the girls", and "the three little boys". I believe they were still referred to as "the three little boys" even while we were dating. I do think the title fell away after the first of the little boys got married.

Alas, we have fallen into the same pattern here in the King Zoo. Our clan starts with, simply enough, "The boys." Next we have Mariana and then we have Isaac. To round things out we have, you guessed it, "The girls." It works for us, we know who we are referring to when using these shortcuts, and the two in the middle don't seem to be suffering from any type of identify crisis for not fitting neatly into a boy or girl category. However, it has gotten the children into trouble in other settings. At a family reunion, Mariana got yelled at by an extended family member because after hearing John say it was time for the girls to go to bed, Mariana did not seem to be following these instructions. Mariana had to explain that she was not one of the girls, that title was instead reserved for her younger siblings only.

When the kids were little we were often asked if Andrew and Jesse were twins. Believe it or not, someone just recently asked this question. It obviously has nothing to do with looks, although one can wonder if they might look more alike if Andrew's head were not man-made. On the other hand, if there is any King kid who is said to look like someone from my side of the family, it's Jesse. And Andrew is all King. But they have been pretty close in size throughout their lives. Andrew got my allergies, my poor eyesight, my behind-the-scenes personality - and my stature. So although they are 19 months apart in age, they have always been closer in height. And now, poor Andrew has been surpassed by his younger brother.

More importantly to me, however, is the close bond they share, even though it has undergone changes. They have been best friends and encouragers, even though they don't always understand how the other one is wired. Jesse's adventurous spirit often encouraged Andrew to try things he wouldn't have attempted on his own. And Andrew's love for reading encouraged Jesse to pick up books he would otherwise have skipped. Recently, as each has started public school and spends longer periods of time with others, their circles have expanded and become more separated. That's okay. My boys still enjoy time together and it's great to see them grow up, each encouraging the other in different ways. I am so proud of each of them (and the other four children, too, but today is about "The boys").

Tonight was no different. It was a good night to be a mom as "The boys" got dressed up in their finest to spend the evening with a group of friends. It's a Homecoming alternative, of sorts and I am thrilled at the planning that went into this group activity. I have been promised pictures of the whole group, but for now I will just have to enjoy the ones I was allowed to take before they left the house.

Have a great night, boys. I love you and am very proud of you.