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!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Yesterday my children went sledding.

I went on a Sabbath Retreat.

What???? Who is this blogger and what have you done with Cindy?

Never fear. It is I, retreat avoider extraordinaire. But I broke out of my comfort zone, drove myself to Leola, PA (even though Mrs. Tom-Tom's navigational skills were a bit rough as she lost her connection, must have been all those buggies blocking her informational beams), and went on a Sabbath Retreat. It's been many moons since I've been in a room with so many Stoltzfus', Weaver's, Hess', Glick's, and hyphenated last names. If the retreat hadn't been so silent we could have played a rousing round or two of The Mennonite Game.

Not only a Sabbath Retreat, but a silent Sabbath Retreat.

What? Cindy silent? I repeat: Who is this blogger and what have you done with Cindy?

Let's just say the Sabbath Retreat brochure was very timely.

About two months ago, I sat down with a friend and godly mentor (she says I can't call her a godly mentor, but I do). I shared some things that were happening in my life and asked her for prayer. Being the faithful intercessor and prayer warrior that she is, she also came back with some words from God to me. One of those messages was that I needed to get away (ha! doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out). Actually, her words were that I needed to make time to get away with God. Okay, just how was I going to do that? So I left it on the back burner for a while.

Then someone forwarded me a brochure about these Sabbath retreats. Well, that someone was really my husband. I wondered if he had sent it to me because he really thought I'd go or if it was just because he was sending it to a mass group of people. Then I saw that that there was a man on the recipient list. Since the retreats are for women only, I realized he didn't intend for me to have any interest at all. Boy was he surprised when I asked if I could go!

After picking himself up off the floor I explained my reasons for wanting to go based on the word I had received and because the day's topic interested me: adoption. The speakers listed were Arbutus Lichti Sider and her adopted daughter, Sonya Smith. It seemed to me that a silent retreat would be more palatable if it was interspersed with speakers, especially if they were speaking on a topic that interested me. Having a former-life connection with the speakers (I went to school with Arbutus Sider's sons) made it even more intriguing. And the fact that it was just one day (no overnighters for me) was an added bonus. Oh, I can't forget the table massage that was also offered. (I could give my fourth spa review but that will have to wait for another post)

If this were a review, I'd give the retreat 5 silent cheers out of 5 for a job well done (keep in mind that I have nothing to compare it to except those painful Spruce Lake Retreat days when I had to cluck like a chicken or endure other such stupid get-to-know-you games). Planned by a board and held at Forest Hills Mennonite Church in Leola, they host 3 Women's Sabbath Retreats a year. Each one is planned around a specific topic but you don't need to have a connection to that topic to attend. A good number of people at today's retreat had no connection to adoption but there were so many topics covered during Arbutus' and Sonya's talks that everyone could glean something from it. During the 3 1-hour quiet times, there were various tables set up for quiet reflection or creation. There was a poetry table (believe it or not I tried this one out but I will spare you the results), a literature table, an art table (not for me, thanks), etc. Rooms were opened throughout the church where you could sit alone, or almost alone. You could choose an optional service during these times as well. These services included chair massage, reflexology, healing prayer, spiritual direction, and of course, that table massage I talked about. Fees were very reasonable and were all on a sliding scale so you could pay as you were able. The brochure says it best, "An invitation to rest, reflect, and remember Whose we are . . ."

Some nuggets I gained from my day away:

From "The Way of Pain" by Wendell Berry, Collected Poems: 1957 - 1982
"For parents, the only way
is hard. We who give life
give pain. There is no help.
Yet we who give pain
give love, by pain we learn the extremity of love."

From My Place by Sally Morgan
"How deprived we would have been
If we had been willing
To let things stay as they were.
we would have survived,
But not as whole people.
We would never have known
Our Place."
And the quiet time reflection question: How have you found/are you finding "Your Place" in your world? What have you chosen to "pass on," to "discard," and to "reshape," from your family of origin? Ohh, such good questions! Ones to think about more than just today.

From a brochure for Rachel's Vineyard:
"Jesus did not come to explain suffering or to remove it but to fill it with His presence."

And a prayer someone shared during the last half hour's reflection time (sorry, no credit given):
"Dear God,
Help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


The Slabaugh's of McBIC are celebrating the birth of their first child this week.

And this week the Lanny Millette family of Camp Hebron is mourning the loss of their son Andrew, a young man of God, serving people in every way, engaged to be married.

The contrast is striking. We know the Slabuagh's well. Kristen lived with us for a summer while she worked at Hershey Medical Center. We loved having her here and Isaac, a 3 year old at the time, had a special bond with Kristen. She had a red blanket that he would request to snuggle under. Ben then lived here several months later when Kristen was back at school. Eden was a newborn and not a good sleeper. That didn't work so well for Ben. He got good use out of a pair of earplugs. How fitting that Kristen was due around Isaac's birthday. We prayed for that baby to come out on Isaac's birthday. It didn't happen. My theory was that it must be a girl and she most certainly didn't want to have to worry about being named for Isaac so she decided to wait. No problem. God's timing is perfect. And we were happy to see Ben beaming in one of the post-delivery photos, even while holding a very unhappy baby. He didn't look like that when Eden cried; it was more like a grimace.

On the other side is the Millette family. We don't know them as well. There's the Camp Hebron connection as our family has had several different roles there in the past five years. There's also the Line Lexington connection as several family members attend LLMC, including Andrew's grandparents. But as we followed their story on Facebook and several other writings, it is clear that out of their heartache, they, too, believe that God's timing is perfect. I believe it was Andrew's father who was able to write, "You give and take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord," just days after Andrew's sudden death.

I was also reminded of God's perfect timing in a conversation I had with someone I barely know. I've only met her a few times previously but we were in a meeting together this week. As soon as she arrived for the meeting, and at various times throughout, she shared bits and pieces about her month. It has been difficult in many ways and she told me that she was finding it terribly hard to function. She was trying to keep herself busy so she could block out how her heart was really feeling. Several times throughout the meeting I felt prompted to ask her if I could pray for her. Each time I waited too long and didn't do it. Finally, as she was leaving, I couldn't pass off the feeling anymore. As soon as I asked the question, I could see her body language change; it was if burdens just fell off and she was already lighter. I prayed and she was so grateful. She even called back later to say "thank you" again.

I don't share this to say, "Look at me, look what I did." In fact, more often than not, I've let the opportunity come and go, even with the same amount of prompting from the Holy Spirit. This is my own reminder to take advantage of those opportunities to share Christ's love and light. That's why we're here. What am I waiting for? God's timing is perfect.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spa Reviews

You know, sometimes all you ever hear about is the negative side of things. So, today I'd like to devote my blog to reviewing the positve aspects of a few different local day spas. Getting a massage is something I experienced late in life but which I do enjoy when time and finances allow. I find it's always best, however, to find a therapist based upon the recommendation of someone you trust. So if you trust me, here are my recommendations and reviews.

My very first massage came as a surprise. My eldest child had entered a Mother's Day contest and had to write on the theme, "My mother's the best because . . ." He tried so hard to win the second prize of a 4-pack of go-cart tickets. Instead he won first prize: A 1-hour massage "on the rocks" for his dear mother. Bummer for him. Exciting for me. And I was hooked.

That first spa experience was about 10 years ago in Jenkintown, PA but these days I frequent Spirit Day Spa in Mechanicsburg. I just have to put a plug in for Spirit Day Spa. Brenda Staub, the owner, has been my hair stylist for most of my Mechanicsburg days. That's saying a lot. It takes a woman with a lot of talent to be able to do something with my pencil-thin, baby-fine hair. I've followed her around to several different locations but a few years back she bought this spa. I was thrilled when she told me that she and her family and friends spent an evening prayer walking through the building before she opened for the public. There were also some local people, strangers to her, who showed up when she opened, armed with a gift basket and a desire to pray for Brenda and her business. They offer many services including magic for fine, thin hair, pedicures, manicures, facials, and massages! They have two massage therapists, one who is legally blind and comes with her guide dog. She's even been featured on the local news. The second is Kim, who works wonders on my back.

As much as I love Kim and her massages, there is, of course, a cost involved. So for the in-between times I frequent Drama Queen Therapeutic Massage and Spa. The owner, and only therapist, Mariana King, is excellent at her craft. Not that you can learn everything from a book, but she has done extensive reading in college-level textbooks on the subject. She has charts to fall back on. She has also gotten some informal training from Kim at Spirit Day Spa. Cut her some slack, no school of massage therapy is going to admit her at age 12, even if she is your typical child prodigy homeschooler who has skipped 10 grades, could graduate from high school and pass the college entrance exams in her sleep, not to mention be admitted to Julliard with a full ride scholarship. But that's irrelevant. Her hours are excellent; I've always been able to get an appointment just when I needed it. And her rates are exceptional; all she requires is that she be allowed to watch a movie or part of one while she works her magic. When the movie just happens to be an educational DVD or even a documentary, it's kiling two birds with one stone. I've listened to a good many movies while her fingers work out the knots in my back. She also gives natural facials that include ingredients like oatmeal and honey. These are usually given for free at birthdays and Mother's Day.

Today, however, I received a gift certificate to Two Sisters Day Spa so I decided to give it a try.

I was met by these two beautiful ladies who greeted me with such nice smiles. They were certainly dressed to impress, although slightly overdressed for the task at hand. They opened up the massage table (which looked very much like the one Mariana King uses at the Drama Queen Therapeutic Massage and Spa)

Maybe it's what the trade schools are teaching these days, but this massage was like nothing I've ever experienced. It's a topic of which I know very little (I wasn't homeschooled so unlike my children I am not an expert in all things) so who am I to criticize?

The massage started with the therapists arguing about who was going to start where. Maybe this was some sort of reverse-relaxation technique, similar to the reverse psychology many parents try on their kids. I'm not sure it was working for me but on the other hand, I may just have been a little more tense than usual. It reminded me too much of my little girls and how much they bicker with each other. Come to think of it, there was a lot of arguing back-and-forth during my whole massage.

Another interesting technique the lovely ladies of Two Sisters Day Spa enacted was to tell me how long the session would last rather than to ask me how much time I wanted. It's an interesting way to use a gift certificate, but what do I know? So the blonde therapist informed me that this massage would last 30 minutes. Then she asked me to tell her when 30 minutes were up. Imagine that! I wasn't sure if this was because she didn't know how to tell time or if it was another strange relaxation technique. But then her assistent answered that question as she proceeded to tell me that the current time was 8-0-S. Is it really that easy to get admitted to trade schools these days that you don't even have to know how to tell time? So there I was getting a massage but had to look up every few minutes when the lovely ladies asked me if time was up yet. At one point near the end of my massage I heard a scratching noise at my ear. Imagine my surprise when I looked to see the blonde therapist making check marks on a white board to determine how many minutes were left!

I quickly noticed another striking difference between this spa and others I've frequented. Interesting, there wasn't any relaxing music in the background; no white noise or ocean waves, either. Instead there was a lot of whispering interspersed with loud exclamations of "Eden!!!!!!" and "No, I'm doing her leg, you massage her back!" I also heard a lot of gum smacking from the lovely lady in cornrows and poof and loud, obnoxious sniffing from the lovely blonde. I guess the latter could fall under the category of natural noises, similar to ocean waves or rain, but it didn't have quite the same effect. An interesting approach, though, and maybe there are some who find it relaxing.

The lovely lady in cornrows and poof was especially good at massaging my head and ears until she almost detached said head from said ears. It was probably a new massage technique but I'm almost certain I heard her Snow White high heels slip on the wood floor and wonder if the pulling of the ears may have been her attempt to remain upright rather than to fall flat on her derriere. But it's all speculation.

I have to say the best thing about this spa was that the lovely ladies had such low expectations in the tip department. After my massage I handed each of the lovely ladies a quarter and a penny and they acted as if I had just handed each of them a one-hundred dollar bill.

In case you're interested in checking out any of these wonderful spas, they can be contacted at the following:
Spirit Day Spa in Mechanicsburg: 717-795-8384
Drama Queen Therapeutic Massage and Spa: She has an unlisted number but I hear you can reach her through her parents and her motto is "Have table, will travel," and "Pay as you can."
Two Sisters Day Spa: Funny, I can't find them in the book anyway and their business is no longer advertised anywhere, it's like the place never even existed

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Today my Isaac turns double digits. Wow! This child had somewhat of a rough start but is turning out just fine, if I do say so myself.

Isaac is our fourth-born. John was done after Number 3. Actually, he was done after Number 2 but since Numbers 1 and 2 were boys I was able to convince him it'd be nice to try for a girl. Mariana likes to remind him that if he'd had his way, he wouldn't have her. It's something to think about.

But I finally was able to convince John that it'd be nice to add just one more child to the mix. And thankfully God worked things out so that John didn't have time to change his mind before Number 4 was on the way.

The next problem came when I found out that I was due Super Bowl weekend. This is not a problem for me. In fact, it would have given me something to do while the rest of the family members were glued to the set. The problem was my husband. Granted, there's not a lot he could do while I was delivering but it is nice to have him there. And I didn't think it'd be very helpful for the laboring woman, who is not responsible for her actions anyway, to have to listen to, "Why'd you do that?" "Come on, come on, come on. Let's get this moving now." or "Touchdown!" It could get very confusing. And there would be the problem of having to time the ride to the hospital before the pregame show or after after-game interviews. There wouldn't even be a half-time option as the commercials are too much a part of the game. I decided to wait this one out.

Once we got over those hurdles, God sent another interesting twist. I remember crying out to God one day that I didn't quite understand how I had a passion for 13 children (I've since come way down, limiting my dream to 12 as a compromise to my gray-haired husband) when John was adamant that Number 4 would be the last. In my prayer I was willing to be the one who received the heart change but I pleaded for one of us to have a change of heart. At that moment I very clearly sensed God saying that I would know I was finished having children (Note: This applies only to biological children) when I had another girl.

Okay then. Knowing that John was finished, I assumed this pregnancy must be that promised girl that was going to take all large-family desires away. However, I wasn't ready to concede, "You were right," so I didn't tell John what I had heard.

Being a person who needs the surprise of "It's a . . . . ," to get me through that process affectionately known as labor, we have never found out the gender of our baby during pregnancy. And in this case, I assumed I didn't need an ultrasound to tell me what I already knew. We've always had trouble coming up with boys' names that we could agree upon so whenever the discussion would come up I'd tell John that it didn't matter; we didn't need a boy's name because we were having a girl. So, we called "her" Eliza Cynthia for a good 4 months leading up to delivery. (I guess it's a good thing John would never let us share our names ahead of time so poor Isaac was only known as Eliza to the two of us. Otherwise it could have been seriously damaging.)

On January 21 I came down with some type of infection. We never did figure out what it was but my temperature was higher than I've ever known it to be. Concerned for the baby because all the baby books and doctor hand-outs say to call the doctor if you have a fever over a certain amount and I was certainly over, I called the doctor. But he just blew me off. There was a lot of noise in the background so I had a feeling he was enjoying his Sunday night and just didn't want to go into the hospital that night. Okay, he's the professional. But I just felt worse and worse. So I called again and was told the same thing; don't worry about it. Then John's sister called, just to see how I was doing. John and I told her what was going on and immediately she told me that if I was her patient, she'd call me in immediately to see how the baby was faring. Armed with this information I called the doctor one more time and pulled rank. This time he told me to go to the hospital immediately.

Now things got interesting as it became clear the baby was in possible trouble. I was given antibiotics, the fever came down almost immediately, and labor was induced. On January 22, the baby was born and the doctor announced for all to hear, "It's a boy!" I, of course, said, "Are you sure? Check again." Amazingly the doctor was right. I checked for myself and sure enough, it was a boy. Oh dear.

Eliza just wasn't going to work for this one. And where was the girl God promised? And what about naming a child for me? I had done all the work 4 times now and no namesake to show for it. So for the first time in our lives we had to call people with the exciting news that we had a boy, but that he had no name.

Since we decided that all we could do in this situation was to laugh, Isaac (meaning "laughter") seemed like a fitting choice. Christian, for a grandfather and a great-grandfather, seemed like a fitting middle name. Bingo! Problem solved.

Wait. Isaac Christian King would give him the initials ICK. Not exactly a good choice for all those places where you need to initial. Back to the drawing board.

Okay, maybe we can figure out how to name this child after me anyway. Cynthia's out. Sidney just doesn't work for either of us (phew!). Well, my middle name is Joy, if we change one letter we get Jay which is also the middle name of favorite uncle (my apologies to all of my other uncles but none of you spent as my time with me as Uncle Leon Jay and I certainly don't remember any of you taking me to an amusement park and then entertaining me by losing your cookies after one of my favorite rides). Bingo! Problem is now solved.

Isaac Jay King it is. And look, it's helpful when learning your alphabet because the letters go right in order: I - J - K. (Side note: When singing the alphabet song it works really well to sing A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-Isaac-Jay-King-L-M-N-O-P, etc. It's a great song for singing to Baby)

And the only ill effects of my fever were that Isaac had to spend extra time under the warming lights. Apparently a fever in the mother often causes the baby to have a lower-than-normal temp. No problem now. This child is always barefoot and in T-shirts, even in the winter. Or maybe they kept him under the lights too long?

Isaac has lived up to his name because he is such a happy-go-lucky child. He takes life in stride and has a positive attitude through it all. He loves all and serves all. His servant's heart challenges me.

(Isaac and Jesse after Bye, Bye Birdie, Andrew trying to look like he doesn't know them)

We love you, Isaac Jay! Enjoy your day with friends and we're glad you love your new bedroom. It should be a great way to start your year in double digits.

And for any who are concerned about God's promise for a girl: I took it up with God again. And again He clearly said I'd know I was finished when I had another girl. This time He added a little more, "You will know you are finished when you have another girl and her name will be Eden." Oh dear, John's never going to go for this. Another baby? And the name, Eden? He doesn't even like regular names. But that's a story for another day.

Oh, and about that Super Bowl problem: Because Isaac was born on the Monday before the Super Bowl, he was able to go to his first Super Bowl party at less than a week old. I know, I know, for my mother's generation who would have still been in the hospital and for today's mothers who don't leave their houses for a month and who don't let people near their babies for the first half year, this sounds horrific. But he survived. And lived to tell about it. So, Isaac, how was that first Super Bowl, anyway?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 7

Let's just say that I am no good at this wordless business and call it a day.

Or not.

Since this is my latest household project, I thought I would share it with you. Management is very tired of partner-less socks and has tried for years (approximately 15 to be exact) to find a solution. If you have been witness to the lonely sock pile in my house, you know what I mean. Think of the number of misplaced socks you have with 2 people, then multiply that a few times and you'll be close. It got so bad that the little bin I was using had to be replaced so I bought one of those collapsible hampers. Yep. A collapsible hamper. And it was almost completely full. Sad, I know.

But thanks to my friends at Allenberry, we have a new system at the King household. One day when I was child wrangling in the green room, I overheard this conversation:
"Peter, where are my socks?"
"Where did you put them?"
"In my lingerie bag."

Aha! Lightbulb. There's an idea. One of those, "Why didn't I think of that?" ideas.

Now each family member has his/her own lingerie bag (don't tell my boys that this is it's intended purpose) marked with the appropriate child's name. Any socks that you want sorted and returned to you must be placed in this bag before bringing it to the laundry room. Any socks not in a bag will be placed in the sock bin-of-rejects and you are on your own to look through and sort your own socks. So far, so good.

This sign, which will be hanging in my laundry room soon, is just a reminder of days gone past and of what life could be like for those who do not follow the system.

Next I'm going to make a pre-sort reminder. And yes, it is going to include pink underwear. First I need to "borrow" (no, I don't plan to wear it) some unsuspecting child's whitie tighties, soak them in some pink dye, then hang them from the line next to a bunch of red clothes. Brilliant.

I love visuals.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I have been asked to speak. The topic on which I am to speak? Making God a priority in my life.

Hmmmm. Preaching to the choir, I suppose. Make it a soloist. Me. But it'll be good for me.

First problem. I barely passed every speech-giving unit in school. Not just once, but every time it came around. Elementary school, middle school, and high school. Two categories on the evaluation sheet did me in every time: Volume and speed.

Now, the speed part, I get. Even during evaluations as a first year teacher my principal remarked on that one.

But volume? Had they not heard of microphones? Yes, it was a Mennonite high school but it wasn't Amish! Electricity had been invented and we did use it. Chapel speakers got a microphone, four days a week whether we needed it or not. So why force students to give a speech without a microphone? How many times is that going to happen in life? If the room needs a microphone and people have been asked to present, chances are, they will be given use of the microphone.

Second problem. Writing a bio. I only had a few sentences in which to sum up my whole life. Except that my first attempt ended up looking like a summary of my kids. The second attempt was a little better. So I had my dear husband look over it.

He thought it was pretty good but he did have one suggestion: I should add a sentence about him, stating that he is a pastor. He said it'd give my talk credibility. I believe his reasoning was that people would read that my husband is a pastor, would assume that at least some of his intelligence and Biblical knowledge had rubbed off on me, and therefore they'd be willing to listen.

Now, I am not a feminist. I never have been and I have never aspired to be one. The closest I get is preferring to open my own car doors. However, I am also not planning to get to Heaven on my pastor husband's coattails and I am certainly not riding them in my bio. I love my husband. He's a good man. But I am Cindy. I am woman. Here me roar.

Well, maybe you won't be able to hear me roar if they don't give me a microphone. But I promise I'll roar really slow so you can understand me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Loose lips

I think I may have just made the biggest mistake of my life. You know, the kind that comes back to haunt you over and over and over and over .............. again. Me and my big mouth.

It went like this:

We were on the way home from violin lessons, which for the uninformed, or for those who can't keep track, means that Andrew, Mariana, Eden, and I were in the car together. On they radio they asked listeners to call in with examples of "family secret code." These were explained as those little sayings between family members that mean something to them but wouldn't mean anything to anyone else.

We talked about our own family secret codes (which are fairly numerous, actually).

Well, let me back up. In my family of origin there's one word that says it all, "Tim." Now, I'm not going to go into detail here because it's way too difficult to explain in writing and I assure you, you wouldn't get it, but if my mom, brother, or I should happen to say the name, it would elicit hours of tear- and pee-inducing laughter.

Okay, so in my current family, Mariana mentioned the first secret code: 8:53. This little time announcement is not used to announce the time but instead means, "I'm really tired of being asked when we are going to do such-and-such so for the time being I'm just going to say 8:53, no matter how many times you ask, so don't bother asking again." It can also be translated as, "Do you really need to know exactly what we are doing at exactly what time? Believe me, we won't leave you behind. You'll find out on a need-to-know basis and you'll have plenty of time to get ready." Or, if you're lucky, it means, "I've already told this to at least 5 other siblings so if you really want the right answer, go ask one of your siblings." This comes from the Disney Cruise when I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the time the 6th child asked me when the evening entertainment would begin. I shouted out (okay, maybe it wasn't exactly my nicest mom voice) "8:53," and from that day to this 8:53 is the start time for many King family activities.

"Get off the escalator." This is a new one and all credit goes to Jesse's homeroom teacher (I think) or some other highly gifted educator at Mechanicsburg Middle School who, at the beginning of the school year, told the kids a story about a boy on an escalator going up. When the escalator suddenly stopped for some unexplained reason, the boy just stood there, waiting for it to move once again. The moral of the story is quite easy to figure out and I think it's brilliant. You probably don't want to hear me tell you to get off the escalator.

We were in the middle of reminiscing about another King family secret code when a caller to the radio station announced that whenever she or her husband yells "1-4-3" across the room to the other, it's their code for "I love you." The caller was announcing this for the first time publicly and admitted that her children were with her as she was calling and were learning this for the first time.

For some reason this woman's surprise revelation (sounds like one of those confessions that could end up on Oprah or Dr. Phil) loosened my lips and I spilled forth a secret family code that the childrens' dear father and I used while dating (and probably for a few bliss-filled years following). He would gently tap out the following pattern: Tap. Pause. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Pause. Tap. Tap. Tap. Or, sitting next to me in class, he would lean over and in my notes, romantically write l llll lll. I would know immediately that he was telling me that he loved me. I fell for it. Hook. Line. And sinker.

Insert: Ahhhhhhh, that's so romantic.

(He is, after all, a King)

Or if you're more like my children: Why????????? That's so cheesy. Or corny. Why didn't you just say it?

I honestly don't know. I don't know how it started. I don't know why it continued. And I really don't know why I told my children. Especially this particular grouping.

(We managed to graduate even while writing patterns of endearment to each other in class. One of us with honors.)

Now Andrew goes around tapping me on the shoulder. Only he doesn't do it right. John's tapping was very gentle and most definitely said, "I love you." Andrew's is more like a nail gun and says something like, "I really like you guys and you're great parents but this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of and I'm never going to let you forget it."

Oh dear. Now if friends start tapping me when they pass, in much the same way they clucked at me after reading that particular post, I'll know I'm in trouble.

(Engaged! But love me, love my dog. See last post if you don't get it.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Squirrels and parenting

I have failed as a parent.

I have done my best to pass on the virtues of peace, justice, and love. Treating others better than yourself. Do no harm to any creature with four appendages or less. All that good stuff.

And in the end, this is how they turn out.

A few nights ago the dinner topic du jour was about some "awesome" video on youtube that depicts squirrels being catapulted through the air. Where's the love? (And don't you all quit in the middle of this blog to look it up yourself. Shame on you. Your mother would be so ashamed!) I'm told it was presented to my eldest from a friend at the lunch table.

Now I know what all you homeschoolers are thinking. You're thinking that real school was my first and biggest mistake. If I had just kept my wee ones close to my heart until they got married, I wouldn't be dealing with this.

Something tells me that squirrels still wouldn't be on the top of their peace and justice list. And besides, I have an uncle who catches squirrels and paints their tails red just to be certain they aren't finding their way back home after he deposits them "on the other side of the turnpike." I've heard the family jokes about the rash of red-tailed squirrels found dead on the turnpike because they tried to run home. And my father has attempted numerous methods of ridding his property of groundhogs, some said methods involve explosives. So I think it's in the genes. And no, I do not find these accounts funny, either.

But back to the subject of this youtube squirrel video. Not only has my clan seen this video more times than necessary in the past 48 hours and not only do they think this video is right up there with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia movies, they want to make their own version of the squirrel catapult. I asked them to show some respect for their mother and to please desist from such violent speech and thought. They responded by informing me that the squirrels do not die. I told them that maiming any of God's creatures is just as bad, maybe worse. They completely ignored me and went on to discuss how best to construct the catapult and where to position the video cameras for best effect.

And worse yet, the father was right there in the heart of the discussion. What kind of man have I married? When I had him sign the prenuptial agreement stating that he was to kill every spider, centipede, and tic that found its way into the house, I had no idea he was so violent toward other creatures. I had no idea that it would come to this. Or maybe all his doctoral schooling made him lose common sense. Maybe he's having trouble counting legs. I should check into that.

On second thought, this is the same man who says that animals don't need names and who did not name his animals on the farm growing up. He also had to be persuaded to allow pets in the house.

I hope he likes the dog. Because he might be sleeping with him tonight.

And the kids? Well, I can't send them to the doghouse; that's not legal. But they're still young and impressionable. Maybe there's time to sway them to my side.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 6

Okay, I'm not going to follow the rules. This will not be completely wordless. I apologize in advance but I really don't like it when people tell me what to do. And because some faceless person decided that as a blogger I need to use no words on Wednesday, I will therefore want to go against the flow. My first Wordless Wednesday was filled with needless chatter. My second attempt was actually published on Tuesday rather than Wednesday. But then I ran out of rebellious ideas. Until today.

Our venture into the snow (before breakfast of course, because everyone was too excited to wait), was followed by a few rather interesting conversations:

Eden: You know what I don't like about snow?

Me: What?

Eden: (as she is playing and I am shoveling) I don't like having to shovel all the snow when we go outside.

Go figure. Good thing for her I do like to shovel when I go outside.

HopeAnne: (after all the layers have been applied and she has been turned into a Pink Marshmallow, as Jesse has called her) What are we supposed to do when we are outside in the snow?

I don't know. Why don't you just make a few more snow angels, throw a few more snowballs, and crawl around a bit more in the snow. Then let me know what you think you should do outside in the snow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


At church on Sunday, a friend told me that my comment on his blog earlier in the week was his 100th blog comment. I, of course, wanted to know what I had won. Nothing.

Well, you can't blame me for asking. I have been known to win wonderful things at Wendy's, just for being the 100th customer of the day. It works like this:

Every year during the month of October, we take advantage of the Frosty's coupons. These coupon booklets can be bought for only $1 and each contains 10 free Jr. Frosty coupons. So we buy 10 booklets. 10 booklets for $10 gives us 100 Frosty's during the months of Nov., Dec., and Jan. before they expire. It doesn't matter to us that they're supposed to be handed out to Trick or Treaters. Who would give out ice cream when you can keep it for yourself?

Problem is, I'm not really into Frosty's. First of all, they originally only came in chocolate. I don't like chocolate. I never understood the point of developing a dairy treat that only comes in chocolate. It always seemed to me to be a personal affront by the folks at Wendy's. Second of all, the worst car accident I was ever involved in occurred because of one of those chocolate Frosty's. My friend and I were on our way to Bethany Birches Camp in Vermont to serve as junior counselors for the summer. We were being driven by the camp's summer director. He had just bought his first brand new car and was very proud of it. We stopped for lunch at a Wendy's in Schenectady, New York, and were second in line at a stop light. Dave had bought a large Frosty which I was trying to put in the cup holder for him but it was spilling out. I said, "Eww, yuck," and Dave looked down to see what was happening. Out of the corner of his eye he thought that traffic had started to move so at the same time he pressed on the gas. Only the traffic hadn't moved. His car was totaled but we were all fine, except for chocolate Frosty all over everything. Third, I'm not a vanilla person. At least not with my ice cream. I may be pretty bland in the rest of life, but don't offer me vanilla ice cream unless you have some pretty good toppings with which to douse the blandness. And finally, have you seen how small a Jr. Frosty really is? It's not worth the energy it takes to move the spoon from cup to mouth.

So I don't like Frosty's but the rest of my family loves the fact that for 3 months out of the year John is forever asking, "Anyone want a Frosty?" "Who wants to ride with Dad to the grocery store? We'll get Frosty's on the way home." "Dad's driving us to dance? Great, he always stops at Wendy's on the way home."

Okay, I didn't want to be left out yet I didn't want to eat plain old bland vanilla cream. So I came up with a plan. I, too, would treat the kids to Frosty's on the way home from dance. Only I wouldn't eat mine on the way home; I'd wait until we got home. Then I would take a few Reese's Peanut Butter Cups out of my secret stash in the freezer, chop them up, swirl them in and voila! - the closest thing to a Dairy Queen Blizzard that you can create in your own home.

I just didn't expect Andrew to walk through at that moment. He questioned the brown stuff in my vanilla Frosty. Thinking fast I just told him the truth - that I had been the 100th customer at Wendy's so I got to pick a free mix-in.

It's amazing how many times I've arrived at Wendy's just in time to be the 100th customer.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Light activity?

My hospital discharge instructions said, "Light activity: rest at home, sleep, watch TV, read." No joke. And the nurse made a special point of highlighting this particular instruction. She said it's her favorite one.

Honestly, I find it hard to believe that "sleep, watch TV, read" qualify under "light activity." In my book they seem more like "no activity." Wouldn't "light activity" be better defined as 1/4 - 1/3 of your usual work load? As in make one meal a day (instead of 2 or 3), clean up after only 1 child (instead of 6 + husband), wash a few of the dishes in the sink (instead of all of them), and drive one errand (instead of spending the whole evening in the van). But, I was willing to give it a try, by the book. Armed with a stack of 9 books, and my computer, I crawled into my bed, plumped up my pillows, turned on the heating pad for my aching back, and gave "light activity" my best shot. I didn't like it very much. It's not all it's cracked up to be.

It has taken me a week, but I have finally found at least one advantage to light activity restrictions. And that has been to read various blogs. I've learned all kinds of useless information about people from all around the globe. Yup, there are a lot of blogs out there written in languages I can't even identify. Some in English that don't make much sense, either.

I did, however, find one blog that I will be returning to and that is http://sherrieeldridge.blogspot.com. As an adoptive mother, I've recently been on an adoption reading binge. I recently devoured A Man and His Mother: An Adopted Son's Search (Green), Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children (Hughes), Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow (Keck), Choosing to SEE (Chapman), and Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptvie Parents Knew (Eldridge). Sherrie Eldridge, the author of the last book, is also the blogger I mentioned. She herself is an adoptee and has a wealth of resources for adoptive parents and their children. As we pursue the adoption of another child, this time an older child, I know that I will be needing more help than ever before. Thank you, Sherrie, for the time you are taking to be a resource for adoptive families. And for giving me a reason to stay in bed.

Is it time to move on to moderate activity yet? I vote yes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

No excuses

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." (Mohandas Gandhi)


Did you see the made-for-TV movie, Change of Plans, last night? I probably wouldn't have watched it if my mom hadn't forwarded an article about it. According to the forwarded message, written by Dennis Rainey of FamilyLife, the movie would be pro-family, pro-children, and pro-adoption. Sounded good, all things that are dear to my heart, so I announced that it'd be showing in my room at 8.

I can just imagine how difficult this decision was for the boys: Chick flick with Mom or football in the basement? Girlie movie? Sports? Believe it or not, they chose athletics over real life movie. Go figure.

So Mariana and I watched the movie together. I didn't think it was the best movie ever made. Child social services do not respond and function like that. Believe me, I know. Lots of holes in the story and too-easy endings. However, the message of the movie (from its official website): to show how "fulfilling life can be when you look beyond your own plans and invest in the lives of others" is one that's also near and dear to me. It's the heart of Jesus' gospel. It's too bad that Wal-mart had to be the one to remind us why we're here.

It's the same message found in The Hole in our Gospel (Stearns) which I mentioned a few days ago. How many of us would be willing to take in four orphaned children, sacrificing your own plans in the process? We are called to life-changing, radical living. The world is watching. Are we ready to say a simple "yes" instead of "Yes, Lord. I'd love to do that for you. Just don't ask me to give up my home, my life-style, my job, my bank account, or my dog."

And it's not just about orphans. If God asks us to leave our job and our hometown, are we ready to pack up and go, no matter what others say? If God asks us to drop everything and start a non-profit, are we willing to do it, without holding onto our day job "just in case"? If God asks us to travel overseas, are we ready to go without excuse?

I'm talking to myself here, too. I've been asking myself these questions a lot. How often have I said, "God, I'll do whatever you want, but don't ask me to ....?" I'm trying to live with open arms and a broken heart, a heart that is broken with the things that break God's heart and open arms to welcome all who He sends. And it's not just about orphans. Really it's not. It's whatever passion God has put into your heart. How much could we say to the world around us if that is how we all truly lived? That's how Jesus lived. Wal-mart shouldn't have to remind us of that. I'm glad they did.

Hmmmm. I'm convicted.

"[Jesus] chose His followers to be the change - He chose you, and He chose me. We are the ones who will bring the good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, and stand up for justice in a fallen world. We are the revolution. We are God's Plan A . . . and He doesn't have a Plan B." (Richard Stearns in The Hole in our Gospel)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Loneliness for #6

HopeAnne (age 4): I don't like it when Mommy has surgery.

MomMom: Why is that?

HopeAnne: Because I'm lonely.

Andrew (15 going on 16): Seriously? In our family? I think there's some sort of personal issue there.

I think he may be right.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Face it

I owe this one to my friend, Kym, who got me started:

You know you are getting old when . . .

-You have surgery to remove body parts you don't need anymore and you can remember this type of surgery being talked about in hushed tones when you were a child because it wasn't politically correct to talk about such things
-You can talk about medical issues you've been suffering for 20+ years, and it isn't something you were born with
-More friends than not are on blood pressure and/or cholesterol meds
-Your post-op goal of the day is simply to poop and that when that goal is achieved you are free to announce "mission accomplished" at the dinner table. Why not? You've been giving pooping, potty training, and puking updates at the dinner table for years now. Why not add your own?
-You are in the hospital and the nurse insists on calling you "Mrs. King" rather than your first name
-You question your doctor's competency, not because he made some fatal error in judgement, but because he looks too young and doesn't have a good old-fashioned name
-Your oldest is turning 16. I guess this doesn't mean you are as old as you'd be if your youngest was turning 16.
-That same almost-16 year old asked you (seriously) how it felt to know that you've likely lived half of your life already.
-You are again receiving college solicitations only they aren't addressed to you.
-You go into an antiques shop and see some of your favorite childhood possessions. Like that little rolling telephone. And your favorite Little House on the Prairie lunchbox.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas card confusion

What to do with Christmas cards? I just love getting Christmas cards from friends and relatives. This year we received 89! I recently read a magazine article trashing the yearly Christmas card. I get it. They all tend to be the same rainbows and roses year-in-review, maybe with a bit of sad news at the end, but all wrapped up nicely before signing off. But I do not agree with this author. When many of our friends and relatives are miles away, we just don’t get to hear what’s going on in their lives. This once-a-year update is priceless to me, especially if it comes with a picture or two as well.

The winning picture this year goes to my cousin and her family. She dressed her son up to look like Santa Claus, and the two family dogs received reindeer antlers. “Santa” is sitting on the fireplace ledge holding the reins of the two posing dogs. It’s the cutest thing. Even Hope walks around the house saying, “I love that picture of my friend, Max. It’s so cute.” Okay, so she has the wrong cousin’s child’s name, but I have a lot of cousins and we have a lot of kids so it’s understandable.

But what do you do with all of these cards after the holidays? When I was little we saved all of the cards to make crafts the following year. Placemats made out of used cards were popular for many years. They were fun to make and I believe we gave them to teachers as gifts. Then for a time we made little gift boxes out of the cards and their backs. I think many of these went to the local thrift shop to be sold with jewelry.

But there are all of these lovely photos, too. What to do with them? One year I put all of the cards and photos in a basket and placed it in the middle of our kitchen table. Each night we’d choose a new card and/or photo and we’d pray for that person or family before we ate. Then for a while I took all of the photos and posted them on a bulletin board in our kitchen. It was a fun way to remember them all year long. Several years ago I started posting just a few at a time, with numbers to correspond with the days of the month. We’d focus on praying for whoever was in that photo on the day they were posted. Occasionally I’ll tell someone that he or she was on our prayer calendar that day. Interestingly, there was usually a reason God placed that person on that day.

So I now have my pile of cards and I’m trying to decide what to do with them this year. I can go with one of the past projects or we can do something new. I’m open to any ideas you might have. But hurry up because they're taking up space and the Christmas stuff needs to go away.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

TMI warning

I am home and resting after surgery yesterday. This has been a long time in coming and should bring to the end a painful 20+ year journey with endometriosis. And that is why I am writing this even though it might be too much information for some people. I will admit that most of this post was written in my head while under the influence of Percecet yesterday so I may regret it later but if it can save a young girl from a repeat of my journey, then it is worth it.

Back when my relationship with endometriosis began, there wasn't much known about the disease. Even if I had known that something was wrong and had sought the help of a gynecologist as a teenager, it's likely that I wouldn't have gotten the correct diagnosis. But I wasn't looking for help. I thought all of my pain, nausea, and strange symptoms were normal and that there was something wrong with my ability to deal with pain. It wasn't until college, when other symptoms appeared, and the pain sometimes became unbearable, that I sought help from the medical community. Sometimes seeing a doctor at college, and other times waiting until I was home on break, we still weren't able to put the pieces of the puzzle together and a diagnosis never came.

It wasn't until I was teaching, and sometimes struggled to make it through the day upright, that I decided to really pursue some answers. By this point I had only one pain-free week each month before the whole cycle would start again. Thinking that it was intestinal-related, I went to a GI specialist. He promised to get to the bottom of it and was one of the nicest doctors I have ever met. But after exhausting every possible diagnosis he could come up with, he said these words, "I think you might have endometriosis." I had never heard of it before but was willing to try anything. He gave me the names of two different doctors I might try.

When I called the first one and the receptionist told me she could get me an appointment in 3 months, I told her I'd be dead in three months (I was only half kidding, I truly thought I might be dying), and hung up. I called the second one and they could get me right in. That should have been a clue that I really didn't want to see this guy. Turns out he's an old army medic who thinks his patients are all trained fighters. In a not-very-kind way he told me that there was no way I was having pain, there's really no such thing as endometriosis and that there wasn't anything wrong with me, it was all in my head (note: I had three ultrasounds from three different times in hand to prove that I had cysts where cysts didn't belong). I went home ready to give up on doctors and the whole thing, believing that maybe it was all in my head. If it wasn't for John's encouragement to continue, I may have given up on ever finding an answer.

When the GI doc heard about my experience he was truly sorry that he sent me to that particular doctor. He said he'd call the first practice I had tried and see if he could get me in earlier. And he did. The doctor he sent me to was awesome, agreed that I probably had endometriosis, scheduled surgery to officially make the diagnosis and was with John and me through the whole infertility issue that came with the diagnosis. I can't tell you how many times he went out of his way for us in the process of endometriosis and finally having children. One time he came into the office on a Saturday to do a test that absolutely positively had to be done on that day. He chose to be there for Andrew's delivery, even though it was his day off, and welcomed Andrew into the world even though it meant he was late to pick his son up from school. Oops. I was sad to leave that practice when we moved and have not yet found someone as knowledgeable and as kind as he is.

There is no cure for endometriosis but there are medications and procedures that can lesson the symptoms. And for some, pregnancy is a great treatment. Thankfully, this was true for me. Not only did I feel better when I was pregnant than when I wasn't, the endometriosis itself stopped growing and I had relief for quite some time even after delivering the baby. It's always hard for me to listen to people complain about being pregnant. For some of us, not knowing if we'd ever get to experience pregnancy, I think we learned to accept, and to even enjoy, every aspect of it. What's a little discomfort, weight gain, fatigue and morning sickness when it's a whole lot better than not being pregnant at all?

All this to say that it should not take someone 10 years to get a diagnosis. So for any parents of teen girls, be vigilant. Listen to them. Extreme abdominal and back pain and frequent nausea are not normal. Even if the symptom seems totally unrelated, take it seriously. Endometriosis can be anywhere in the body. At one point it was in my lungs and I coughed up blood. Who would have thought?

Even though there is no cure, there are medications and treatments that can help. This isn't the dark ages of gynecological medicine. I never want to hear of a young girl in the twenty-first century going through what I went through with endometriosis.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I have alternately been convicted by, and fascinated with, collections. I have to admit that I have had several collections throughout my life. What do I do with all those stamp collection books I worked on so diligently when I was younger? And all of the books that have multiplied since I was first introduced to the joy of reading. The Little House series is sadly falling apart but I just can’t throw any of them away. Even my favorite picture books are still there, mixed among the newer favorites that came from those great book club points during my teaching days. About twice a year I decide I really need to go through them and purge. That goes well until I doubt myself. I start to think,: Well, this one can be used when I teach folk tales. And this one makes for a great story starter. There are also the books that were favorites of each child, or given by a special person. They really should be saved for the grandkids, right? In the end, I only ever part with half a dozen each go-round.

My husband says he is never moving my book collection again; we either need to stay in this home til we die or I need to part with the books. He has also said he’s never moving my collection of maternity clothes and that wish has come true; I got rid of them 6 years ago. After 5 pregnancies they were pretty out-of-style and well-used anyway. Those oversized clothes we used to wear to hide our bellies have been replaced by tight clothing that accentuates the bump. Even the consignment shop didn’t want my clothes. But that’s not where this was supposed to be heading.

Collections. I can remember going to a mother/daughter banquet when I was younger where tables had been set up all around the room displaying various collections owned by women in the church. I was fascinated by the variety in the displays as well as the personal stories that went along with many individual pieces in a person’s collection. I wanted to start all sorts of collections.

Through the years I’ve met people who collect all variety of objects. I have an aunt who collects salt and pepper shakers. She just received a new one at our Christmas gathering; a cute little baseball glove with a ball resting in it. I know someone else who collects teapots. My grandmother collects glass shoes. My father built her a display in the shell of a doorless closet. Complete with glass shelves and lights it was beautiful as well as functional. Except for all of the dusting. When she moved in with us, her apartment was designed with a space for the whole display. Once when The King’s Strings was booked to play out-of-state, we were invited to the home of the couple that had invited us to their venue. Their house was beautifully decorated with what must have been every Buyer’s Choice caroler that had ever been made. It was a little scary visiting that home with six children but we survived and so did the dolls.

It’s not that I don’t think people should have collections. It’s just that I go through periods of time when I look at my own collections and wonder if it was money better spent somewhere else. As we all know, there are people who would love to have some clothes on their backs, food for their mouths or four walls and a roof. Or maybe the space to store them could be better used. If I removed all the books from my house I could probably fit another half dozen children in here. And think of how much cleaner my house would be if I didn’t need to clean around the things I’ve collected. I could certainly do without the added collection of dust bunnies.

But I can’t do it. I have gotten rid of some of my smaller collections. The books, however, are staying. At least for now. And in a tied position with the books is my doll collection. My grandmother started this collection for me in 1974. She took a trip through several European countries and brought back a doll from each country she visited. I wasn’t old enough to appreciate the gift (go ahead, do the math), so my mom labeled each doll with my grandmother’s name, the year, and the country from which the doll came. From that time on, whenever we hear of someone visiting another country, be it returning to one's native country, traveling as a tourist, moving as a missionary, or even working for the United Nations, we send along a little extra cash and the request for a native doll. That small starter set my grandmother brought home has now become a collection of over 50 dolls from more than 40 countries.

At some point my dad built a display case for my collection. Being the perfectionist that he is, he designed it to match my white bedroom set, complete with painted gold trim. These days the dolls are stuffed in there a bit tighter than they used to be and it resides in Mariana’s room with the rest of the matching bedroom set. The collection is hers now, too, but I still consider it at least partially mine.

I used to use the excuse of cleaning the case just so I could take the dolls out, admire them, and reminisce about the people who gave them to me. One year I decided to research each country’s flag so I pulled out the World Book Encyclopedia (google was far from being created) and painstakingly drew each flag on a rectangular piece of paper. A toothpick taped to each flag completed my project. It was impressive. Laminated, even. But alas, only one lone flag has survived. Yeah, Switzerland!

Well, lest this go on too long, let me get to the point. This post is actually a paid political announcement. Last January I decided to call the Simpson Public Library to see if they'd be interested in our collection for their entranceway glass display. The woman in charge told me that it sounded like a great idea and since it was so unique she was going to bypass the usual waiting list and put me right in the schedule - for January 2011. I told Mariana on the way over to the library today that this had been on the calendar for so long I was afraid I had the wrong day. But we didn't and a portion of the collection is now there for all to see. If you're in the area, go have a look. You'll make me feel better, knowing that my collection is worthwhile to someone else.

And if you're traveling beyond central PA, let me know. I have a few dollars and a request to send along with you.