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, February 26, 2011


Many adoptive families celebrate Gotcha Day, the day when the child was adopted into their family. With HopeAnne, we were never quite sure which day we should celebrate. Her day of birth happened to be the same day that we were approved as a foster family so even though we didn't know about her that day, it does have double significance for us. Five days later we picked her up from the NICU of the hospital so that's a Gotcha Day of sorts, although at that point we didn't know for certain that she'd be with us forever. Then of course there was the day a year later when we found out that her goal was changed to adoption and we had a family meeting to discuss what her name would be. And finally, 9 months after that, the day we went to court to be told that she was, indeed, ours forever. In the end, it was just easier to celebrate her birthdays, so that is what we do.

For Shoun, we have a similar dilemma. Do we celebrate the day we became power of attorney, or the day we are granted custody, or the day, several years down the road when he become a legal citizen and is legally adopted? Certainly not the latter as we would have nothing to celebrate for about 3 1/2 years (although in actuality we have much to celebrate!). So together with his aunt and uncle and the family receiving his sister, we decided upon Feb. 25 as a night to celebrate, a Night of New Beginnings as our evening's program stated, or Gotcha! Night as we have been calling it in our home.

Gotcha! Night was a wonderful evening of getting to know our new, larger family which now includes relatives originally from Kenya, several families from the church Shoun's been attending in Harrisburg, and others. Of course we had to start our evening with food - 13 pizzas, to be exact, and numerous desserts to share. Who needs anything else?

Thanks and gifts were given to each person and family who has played a significant role in the lives of Shoun and his sister.

A special quilt for the family who so lovingly accepted the children into their home almost a year ago. We thank them for being available "for such a time as this," and for sacrificially preparing the children for their forever families. As they use the quilt in their family, it is our prayer that they will be reminded of how God designs our lives with many connecting patches.

Shoun honored his older sister with a scrapbook so we can continue to send her pictures. She'll be able to watch him grow and see what he's up to.

One of Shoun's favorite past-times is drawing so he drew pictures for his sister which I made into a quilt for her. We even included patches made from King family jeans, so she is now related as she shares our genes!

For Shoun, we each selected a gift and shared words of encouragement and welcome. Some gifts were humorous, others symbolic, many meaningful. Of course, we had to end with our new family picture, the first of many, many to come!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Peace, peace

Lots happening this weekend, the excitement level in the house is pretty high, and I'll admit, I was feeling extremely stressed. Believe it or not, that can happen pretty easily with a full weekend. But, as often happens, the right words came at just the right time.

I've been reading Praying the Names of Jesus by Ann Spangler. It has opened my eyes to various aspects of Jesus that I have previously overlooked, forgotten, or neglected. This morning, settling down with my book, my Bible, and my journal, I read "Prince of Peace" at the top of the page. I learned that the title, Prince of Peace, is only used in the Old Testament but in the New Testament Jesus is revealed as the source of all peace. One of the reflection questions got me thinking: When I am not experiening Christ's peace, what can I change or do so that I can participate more deeply in His peace?"

A good question for the day and when my time on the couch was complete, I found the stress level had decreased and the peace had increased. It was still a busy day, yet peace-filled.

God is good.

Off to Gotcha! Night. What could be better than bringing home a son?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Titanic difference

Apparently I have a reputation in this house for only pulling out the Titanic Soundtrack when I am feeling a little, oh, how shall we say it? Not quite up to snuff, perhaps.

So today, when my son walked into the living room to find me curled up on the sofa, busily sewing the binding onto a quilt (which only has a deadline of tomorrow night), with Titanic in the background, of course his first question was, "Are you feeling depressed?"

"No," I said, "Melancholic."

"What's the difference?"

"Melancholy has only one 'e' whereas depressed has 3."

"Seriously, Mom?"

"Historically, melancholy was another term for black bile since it was believed that an excess of said excretion caused a person to feel sad or depressed. Depression has no such relationship to the dark-colored substances in your iternal organs"

"Well, then, do you have an excess of black bile?"

"No dear, I don't believe so."

"OK. Good. I'll be downstairs if you need me."

Such a kind and caring boy, don't ya think?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hope Hope Hope

Yes, I know it's Wednesday.

Yes, I know that means this is supposed to be Wordless.

But, I rarely write a truly wordless post anyway.

So, yes, I'm going to give you a totally word-filled post today.

Because this email, that came this morning, just blessed me and I want to bless you with the challenge of spreading God's light, even when it may seem like a small gesture. You never know how or when it might touch someone else. And besides, it's related to a past post (see Feb. 5).

Dear HopeAnne,

I have a cool story to tell you about how you cheered me up on Tuesday.

I was feeling very sad on Tuesday. But the Lord kept whispering to me "hope, hope, hope." I thought He was telling me to have hope that I'd be happy again. But then His whisper said "____________, I'm not saying 'have hope' (even though you should still do that). I'm saying 'Hope, Hope' as in 'HopeAnne'. Remember how she gave you a Hot Chocolate Mix as a Valentine present? Well, her love for you will cheer you up today. Go enjoy HopeAnne's gift."

Well, I got up and made your hot chocolate. And with every sip, I felt how thoughtful it was of you to give me such a delicious hot chocolate drink. I actually made 3 cups with your hot chocolate mix!

See? God called your name, HopeAnne. Yes, the God of the universe actually said your name to me. He knew weeks ago that I would need to be cheered up. So He chose YOU, HopeAnne, to do that. God not only loves you with an everlasting love, but He knows He can trust you to obey His voice.

So there you have it. Thanks for cheering me up on Tuesday. You are, as I used to sing to you, a beautiful, beautiful baby and a beautiful, beautiful child.


I'm thinking I should have had some of Hope's Hot Chocolate yesterday. Maybe it would have cheered me up when I found the bald spot she had cut into her hair. Or later when I found my brand new shirt that she had also cut into, giving one sleeve a "hole" new look.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cosmetologically-challenged folks

There is one profession which no one in my family is gifted to pursue, and that is the esteemed, professional hair stylist.

The nice thing about this fact is that a parent can always tell early-on. No use setting a child up for failure or disappointment later in life. It's best to just face it as early as possible, choose to explore other talents and gifts, and pursue them.

My innocent victim was my doll. I didn't just give her a trim; I gave her a sort of spotty close shave. Just in case I would ever forget this first experience and decide to pursue a career involving hair and a scissors, my mom was kind enough to save this doll for me. She is a constant reminder that I should only be in the stylist's chair, not behind it.

Jesse was the first of my children to wonder if they might have some talent in this area. I found an area on the back of Andrew's head that was shorter than that around it. He was too young to be able to believably confirm or deny the accusation so I was never able to say with confidence that he had done it. However, I do know that I did not attempt a buzz cut with a scissors and unless Andrew is a contortionist, there's no way he could have gotten this spot himself.

Daisy* was 4 years old when she attempted a similar type of career exploration. Unfortunately she tried it out neither on an inanimate object nor on a sibling, but on herself. It was soon after she had received a really bad hair cut at one of those cheap hair cutting places where they employ people whose mothers should have discouraged them at an early age. So when her hair one day looked worse than the day before, I asked Daisy if she had cut it. She very believably denied it so I just thought it was the funny way it was growing in after the professional fiasco. Until she went to my mom's house and my mom asked her if she had cut her hair. Without missing a beat, she told my mom that I had done it. Now the suspicion was beginning to grow. That night, I lifted up her pillow to find not a small chunk of Daisy-colored hair, but a very large chunk.

The Evidence

I called my stylist who assured me that she deals with this kind of thing all the time and that it would be no problem to fix it up. We scheduled an appointment for the next day. Tara was still assuring me that she could fix anything as she plopped Daisy into the chair but then changed her tune with a very sorrowful, "Oh no." Apparently she is able to fix all wrecks but the one I brought to her.

Post-professional Fix, front view (More damage on sides and back)

That life-changing experience not only kept Daisy from the scissors but must have also scared her siblings into foregoing hair-related career choices because we had many beautiful, happy, and carefree days between 2002 and 2011.

Until today. HopeAnne had asked to have her cornrows taken out Sunday afternoon and to have her hair in a "ponytail and poof." Since the month was almost up and it was close to time to change her hairstyle, and because I had the few hours necessary for the painful and time-consuming task, I agreed. This morning, as I was adding the daily dose of moisturizer to her hair, I noticed a large section no longer in the ponytail. I didn't think a whole lot of it until I also found a bald patch near the front of her right side. I asked her if she had cut it. She denied it. Then I went to comb the area that wasn't in the ponytail and lo, and behold, it came right off her head and stayed on the comb. I asked again. This time she knew she was busted and admitted it. The tears came, too.

Then she had to face the family. Older brothers can be quite good at instilling the fear of God in a 4 year old who is now sporting a not-so-attractive bald spot. I'm just glad they had a snow day so they were here to back me up on this one.

*Name changed to protect the innocent.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to make it very clear that I DO ask my victims for permission to use their names and their stories in my blogs. Sometimes it is necessary to change names to protect the innocent. I respect each individual's need for privacy and protection and will alter, omit, or change facts to uphold their reputations. At times it takes more cajoling and persuasion than at others, but I never post something without full permission granted.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Abundant blessings

Yesterday marked the kick-off of the 2011 King's Strings concert season. After two years of playing a repertoire we called, "My Favorite Things," we have decided to change our focus. Well, actually, I decided to change our focus. Due to a weather postponement, we ended up with two concerts for this kick-off. It was busy, we put 300 miles on the van, but in the end we were blessed in ways we could never have imagined.

For over two years I have been impressed with the idea of "story" and that we are all given important roles to play in God's grand story. As a Christian individual, it is imperative that I explore the role that God has given me and that I sacrifice all to play that role, no matter what it takes or how impossible it seems. As a parent, I believe one of my most important jobs is to help my children find the roles that God has given to them and to prepare them for living those roles, now and as they mature into independent adults. In tying the two together, our family, too, must explore and seek out our place in this world.

It has been exciting to see The King's Strings flesh this out and to fulfill our role. The Bible passage that our family has chosen to remind us of our role is Matthew 5: 14 - 16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

When we are asked to lead in a worship service, these are the verses that we share. Our music, John's message, and our testimonies all center on these verses. These services have been received well and I began to wonder if there was a way to tie that message into our regular performances.

My biggest challenge was figuring out how to combine the fun and funny with the serious and scriptural. I didn't want the former to cheapen the latter and I also didn't want our concerts to end up looking like two separate and distinct programs rolled into one. I wanted them to flow together because what we do is inter-connected with our story.

So, I approached these first two concerts of the year with a bit of trepidation. Would it work? Would it flow? Would people "get it"? The final verdict? Yes, yes, and yes! The concerts were so well-received and the conversation afterward answered all of my questions to the positive.

The first program was for the over-60s group at a church in the central PA region. Not only did they bless us with a wonderful lunch (turkey roll, mashed potatoes and an awesome angel food/cream cheese/whipped cream dessert), but their love for the children and the program was obvious. Their prayer of blessing for us at the end of the program, combined with the individual affirmations, sent us off with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts. Funny how that works: It is our prayer that we will be a blessing to those we entertain but we often come away blessed as well.

Our second concert was a homecoming, of sorts. We found ourselves back at my home church. The church we attended together after our wedding. The church where John served as youth pastor before we moved to this area. It's all one-and-the-same. It was exciting to look out over the almost-full sanctuary and to see so many familiar faces. When Andrew introduced himself, John interrupted to ask for a show of hands of all those who remembered when Andrew was born. 80 - 90% of those in attendance raised their hands. Then I asked how many had changed his diapers. A few brave souls admitted to this task. Andrew came right back with, "Well, I wear boxers now, just wanted to clear that up." Fun, fun! Gotta love his sense of humor. I'm told it's just like mine. Hmmmmm.

Conversations afterward kept us for another two hours as we reminisced and updated each other on the past 7 years. Blessings abounded during the course of the evening. God is so good. I never made it to the dessert table. That says something; I was thoroughly enjoying the fellowship with these brothers and sisters in Christ.

One conversation in particular still has me shaking my head in wonder about God's hand evident in all that we do. This woman, who I look up to as a devoted woman of God, came up to me and said that when Mariana sang our final song, she remembered back to the day that John had announced his resignation and we both shared. She said she remembered that I sang the same exact song that Mariana performed for our finale. I told her this couldn't be because I don't sing. She insisted. As we continued the dialogue, my memory was jogged. She was partly right; I didn't sing the song (sparing all listeners), but I did choose to read the words to the chorus as I tried to put into words what it's like to follow God's call into the unknown.

The words were from Here I Am, Lord, a hymn based on Isaiah 6 and written by Daniel L. Schutte: "Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart."

It felt like I had come full circle. The same words I used as a foreward to the Mechanicsburg chapter of our lives, are the same words that we now use to represent the sacrificial obedience that our family chooses to employ in our individual and collective lives. Her affirmation and confirmation of that was such a blessing to me. Not only that, but she went on to share that when I spoke those words in 2003, it was as if she had heard the song for the first time and she has gone back to those words many times through the years as she has faced decisions in her own life. God is good!

Another conversation also reminded us of the blessings that come from following God's call. This man reminded John of a conversation they had shared during the tough days of our transition. He recalled telling John, "It will be hard to leave, but you need to leave." In other words, when God gives you a calling, it's not necessarily going to be easy, but it is necessary. In riding through the tough times, you will find blessing. Only in self-surrender and obedience can we become who we were meant to be and play our role as God created it.

What's your story? I absolutely love to hear from others as they share the blessings of finding their role and living it out in the day-to-day. God is faithful. You will be blessed.

"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." (Matthew 5: 14 - 16, The Message)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Date night

Date night to the father-daughter dance (with a foot-pop just for Mom)

A special night for a special girl (her dad's kind of special, too)

And her brother

Who didn't want to be left out

And who knows just how to ruin the moment

Or, possibly, to make it more memorable.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 10

Even more priceless would have been photos of the faces of each family member as he/she entered the dining room and found one of these Valentine hearts resting on each dinner plate. Just imagine:

The preschool girls with deep admiration and shrieks of delight for their wonderful mother and her excellent ideas.

The 10-year old boy looking a bit indecisive but definitely believing his mother is the sweetest person he's ever met.

The tween-age girl with an outward look of disbelief that her imperfect mother would even attempt such a feat, but inwardly cheering for such a great and perfect mom.

Two teen-age boys who couldn't have been any more extreme in their responses. One with a look that meant, "Seriously, Mom? Did you really have to do THIS? Have you not even considered what my friends would say if they saw this? Of course they will never see this because I'm going to eat it before there is any proof that I actually ate a hot dog cupid's heart for Valentine's Day dinner, but what IF?" (Please don't tell him that this idea was titled "Puppy Love" in the magazine) And another boy, who with a small smile wordlessly said, "I just love to see him get so upset about the little things. Thank you, my dear, loving mother, for antagonizing him so. You make my job of embarrassing him so much easier by the loving things you do."

And my love-struck husband who carved a small portion in his day to remember the holiday and to take me to breakfast, finishing the picture by emitting small chuckles every few minutes and with a look that said, "You are always so predictably unpredictable."

Or maybe he did actually say that.

Gotta love Family Fun magazine and their great holiday ideas.

And we finished the meal with Sweetheart Cupcakes from allrecipes.com. I'm not into buying boxed cake mixes but they had these creative red and pink surprise centers. And I just happened to find a box of yellow cake mix on the bent-and-dent discount table at Giant that morning. I did, however, make the icing from scratch. Wanting to give them a strawberry flavor I considered putting strawberry puree in the icing but since that would mean that I couldn't eat one due to allergies, I opted instead for Nesquick Strawberry powder. An experiment that worked quite well! It definitely helped to cover the boxed-mix taste of the dessert.

King Family Icing

Cream together:
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. shortening
1 c. butter or margarine
1 lb. powdered sugar

For strawberry flavored icing, add Nestle's Quick, Strawberry flavor. Don't ask me how much since I just dumped til it was tasty. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hot question

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition arrived in the mail today. As mother and current head-of-household (or parental-figure-mail-bearer), I figured I had a few choices.

A. I could cut out the pictures of the mostly naked ladies wearing things that I wouldn't call bathing suits (but which probably cost more than my current modest, cover-everything outfit consisting of boots, jeans, shirt, and jacket), and post them on my freezer to give me the motivation to give up ice cream. But it probably wouldn't look too good if any of the other pastors visited and found half-naked ladies taped to my freezer. Wouldn't be good for any company, actually. Scratch that idea.

B. I could cut out the pictures and tape them to my bathroom mirror to give me the motivation to give up ice cream. But since my husband shares said bathroom, scratch that idea.

C. I could cut out or tape together all offending pictures and allow the King household menfolk to enjoy what's left of their magazine. Except that pretty much just leaves the bottom half of page 17 and the right 1/3 of page 59.

D. I could throw away the whole magazine. But that wouldn't really be solving the overall problem . . .

E. Give it to Mariana to practice her fashion design ideas. She could cover all the ladies with very modest, King-household-appropriate dresswear and then we could send it back to the publishing company.

F. Send it back with an encouraging family-focused letter. Nah, they wouldn't read it anyway, a waste of postage.


G. Handle it Biblically and poke out the eyes of all the males in my household.

Monday, February 14, 2011

For love of the game

My boys love dodgeball. I guess they get it from John. Although, once while playing dodgeball in grade school, I was the last one out. I think I was too short for the others to hit.

But notice I said, "once." After that it was back to being the last one picked for a team and like all other sports, it ended up on the bottom of my enjoyment meter. But unlike some other sports, I found a way to cheat in this detested game, making gym class and recess a little more bearable. It was one of those deep secrets that one never tells. However, the other day I felt that it was time to confess this to my children, to get it in the open, to heal, to ask for forgiveness, and to go on.

My confession came about something like this:

Andrew and Jesse were discussing the weekly dodgeball games at church and hypothetically about people who habitually cheat by pretending to leave the court when out, but then sneaking around and returning to the game illegally.

Feeling the guilt returning, and knowing it was time to end the years of psychotic illness due to my unresolved sin, I blurted out, "I used to cheat in dodgeball, too."

Silence. Stares by my loving children who couldn't dream of their mother cheating in anything. So I continued,

"Yeah, I never liked to play the game so as soon as it started and as soon as the balls started flying, I'd just find an opportune time amidst the bedlam to walk off the court, pretending I'd been hit and had to leave the game."

They were dumb-struck. They saw a new side of me. Andrew, needing clarification, summed it up like this, "You mean you cheated so you could LEAVE the game?" And then drumming up all the compassion he could muster said, "You should write a blog about this."

So I am.

Do you think I should tell my children that when they were younger I used to cheat in CandyLand so that THEY would win and the game could finally come to an end? Nah, they can probably only deal with this kind of news a little at a time. Better to let them digest the dodgeball situation first.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Singing Praises

This was John's Facebook status today:
4 Hopkins kids + 7 King Kids - I King Kid at home + Lots of movies + Lots of Wii + Lots of "good" food - Minus the really good food Cindy made but I left at home + 2 Dads = LOADS OF FUN

Well, actually I wrote it. He had one like it:
4 Hopkins kids and 6 King kids (Minus 1) and two dads = fun.

I just didn't think it was descriptive enough. Mine got more comments, anyway. That's usually the way it goes.

If I had a Facebook account, which I don't, which has already been addressed in a former post, today I would have written:
1 Mom + A massage at Spirit Day Spa + Brother's Pizza with 1 King Kid - Said King Kid soon to leave for a day with friends + Panera Bread + Bruster's + A table full of scrapbook supplies = 1 Happy Mom, good for another year of mothering (but not yet so don't come back too soon) Thanks, John and Kids!

Once a year I sing my husband's praises so loudly that the whole neighborhood can hear me. Kind of like a friend of ours who has his wife sing hymns to him (you know who you are, Dave) such as Amazing Dave, How Great Dave Art, and Praise Dave From Whom All Blessings Flow. I'm not that type of wife. Except once a year, a month or two after Christmas when my husband packs up all the kids, sleeping bags, movies, and Wii games, and off they go. At this time every year, I'll sing whatever you want.

It all started about 5 or 6 years ago when John had this wonderful idea to give me the Christmas gift of a weekend alone. For years he had been trying to get me to go to this retreat or that weekend away. He kept telling me it'd be great fun and that he'd be more than happy to watch the kids while I went away. He never got the hint that sending me away for a weekend "alone" would be sheer torture. But in a burst of inspiration he decided that first year to give me the gift of a weekend at home while he took the kids to the beach for three days. He had no idea what he had just done.

My thanks were so plentiful and continued for such a long time that he was floored. I was practically singing his praises to strangers on the street. He kept asking if I liked his gift, which is nothing unusual, that's what all the Kings do, but this time I didn't make fun of him when he asked. I just honestly told him over-and-over how much I enjoyed my weekend. Realizing that he had hit the jackpot with this one, the tradition continues. Well, it has dwindled from 2 1/2 days to 1 1/4, but hey, who's counting? It's still the best gift he has ever give and it's the gift that keeps on giving. It's gets me through the next 365 days. And since he's found another family with a wonderful husband who understands the gift of alone-time, they now enjoy the equation you see above. Any maybe someday my husband will work Monday through Friday so he, too, can stay for an extra day. Sounds heavenly, doesn't it?

So what exactly do I do during my quiet time? Well, it varies from year-to-year, but not by much. I usually spend most of the time scrapbooking, each year choosing a different child to get his/her scrapbook caught up. Actually, at this point, no King child is entirely caught up, but no one is more than a few years behind so I count that as a win. I always hit Panera Bread for a late breakfast and then Bruster's for an early supper (yes, supper - I get something big so it's hearty). This year I had some money left on my Spirit Day Spa gift card (thanks, kids, for that Mother's Day win last year!) so I started my weekend with a massage by Kim. Then, since Mariana stayed back for a shopping trip with friends today, she and I enjoyed dinner at Brother's and some much-needed mother-daughter time. Then we scrapbooked together for the rest of the evening. This morning, after Panera, I went to Boscov's to use a gift card that I got for Christmas. I stongly dislike shopping but having a gift card, and no kids, makes it a little more palatable, so my weekend alone often includes a stop such as this. More scrapbooking, followed by a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Blast for supper, more scrapbooking, then clean-up just as the crew was arriving home.

And while I'm still in the blissful state of quietness and reflection, in pour my wonderful husband and beautiful children. And somewhere, out of the stillness I heard these words, "Uh, Cindy, I didn't want to tell you this until we got home because I didn't want to bother you, but look at Eden's eyes." Or maybe I didn't hear those words. Because if I did, it would mean that he just allowed Eden to contaminate the whole Hopkins' crew along with the rest of her siblings as she spent the last 24 hours in close proximity to a houseful of kids. And it would mean that it's Saturday night and what am I supposed to do about pink eye now? But because it's Saturday night and I can't do anything about it and because I should be in a relaxed state right now, I'd better take a look. Yup, pink eye.

Welcome home, Everyone! Love you! Thanks for the alone time.

Oh, and feel free to partake of the Chex Mix, 4 dozen cookies, 4 batches of pancake mix, and hot chocolate mix that you left here. It was too much for me to eat - alone.

Friday, February 11, 2011


I have always been a fan of the read-aloud.

My mother used to read to my brother and me before bed. She'd place a chair in the hallway between our bedrooms and read, sometimes until she fell asleep. I remember her reading the Little House series and books by Marguerite deAngeli.

School teachers kept me mesmerized with wonderful classics such as C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

My only complaint was that it took too long to finish a story. To solve this problem I would just go to the library and check it out myself so I could read ahead.

So of course I started reading aloud to my own children as soon as I possibly could. In turn I've passed along the greats that were read to me along with some new ones. Some we've loved, some we've not, and some we've disagreed. Our current modus operandi is to gather in the living room before lunch. I wrap up in a nice, warm blanket and invite the dog to lay across my feet. The children gather around as I bring our newest book to life. Our second-to-last book was Home of the Brave by Katherine Alice Applegate. I don't often choose a book by roaming the library shelves but I was desperate. It caught my eye because of its ties to Africa, immigration, and finding ones way in America; themes that are near and dear to our hearts right now. We LOVED it! There was so much more to explore in this gem: African proverbs, imagery in writing, effects of war and fitting in. From there we read Ten Kids, No Pets by Ann M. Martin, because, of course, I read every book about this subject that I can. So, not wanting to start another book until Shoun is here full-time (no one likes to arrive in the middle of a book), we decided to start William J. Bennett's The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories. Because no one ever expects to read it from front to back (do they?) and we can begin and abort at any time.

We've actually had this book for quite some time, since Andrew "gave" it to John in 1995 (I believe it was a hint to read to him more), but never read more than a few selections from various chapters within the book. So, today we sat down, ready to dive into the first of Bennett's 818 pages of virtues.

What a good idea! The first chapter is titled, "Self-Discipline." Already, after just one morning of learning from Bennett's comprehensive collection, we've learned the following:

-If you don't say please, a creature will run out of your mouth and jump into your brother's mouth, thereby making him say "please" twice
-If you are in the habit of slamming doors, something will fall on you and you will die.
-If you don't shut doors, you'll be sent to Singapore.
-If you are frisky, busy, modest, bright, pure, happy, and gentle, you will be chosen as someone's Valentine.
-If you have a curl in the middle of your forehead, you will either be extremely good or extremely horrid.
-If you don't go to bed when your mother tells you to do so, a fairy will come down your chimney. If you accidentally hurt her, the fairy's mother will come down the chimney and get you.
-If you wiggle too much, you will turn into an eel.
-if you go to the zoo, and let go of your nurse's hand, you will be eaten by a lion, feet first.
-Dogs and cats who fight in the middle of the night will eat each other, as witnessed only by the household Dutch clock and Chinese plate.
-If you don't listen to your hunting hawk's advice, you might accidentally kill it when it is trying to save your life.
-If you don't eat your soup, you will die in five days.

Wow! Such good advice people gave 100 or more years ago. Doesn't quite compare to the happily ever after stories of today. I can't wait to see what we learn as we continue in the self-discipline chapter tomorrow! One thing's for certain, my children will have so much more self-discipline than yours by the end of this chapter. Who wouldn't with consequences like these?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Serious punishment

I see 7 children as a blessing. Others as a punishment. It's all in your perspective.

Eden (age 6, totally serious, summarizing The Sound of Music which she saw over the weekend): There was a lady who was a Mun, or something like that. She was always late and she never got to pray so her punishent was that she had to help this family that has 7 children. That's like us, we have seven children.

Mariana: Mom, were you a Nun? Did you forget to pray?

Jesse: Wait, what are you talking about? Atilla the Nun?

HopeAnne: Mommy, I know what conswensus means.

Me: Conswensus, huh? Go ahead. Enlighten me.

HopeAnne: It means punish.

Me: Oh, consequences! Maybe that's how I got 7 kids?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 9

Print #2 in the Laundry Room Rules Series, Because it's better to be safe than sorry

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who eats Grapenuts?

My favorite winter meal is soup and homemade bread. Better yet is soup that's been in the crockpot all day so the smell is permeating the house. Start baking the bread, and the whole house is ready for dinner. It's even better if there's snow on the ground and a fire in the fireplace. But seeing as only God can supply the first and we don't have the latter, most times I have to do without the atmosphere. Thankfully, this week's meal plan has soup scheduled for tonight - and there's still snow on the ground. I guess I could sit in front of Andrew's Mac and light the fireplace app for the full effect. Or not.

Tonight's soup du jour is Vegetable Bean. Mmmm. I can't wait! I know at least one child who will be going to bed with her belly a little on the empty side. Oh well. That's her choice. She just doesn't know what good food is.

And the bread tempting us with its aroma tonight is Grapenuts Bread. You knew there had to be a good use for Grapenuts cereal (other than breaking your teeth), didn't you? A wonderful cook from our previous church brought this to us along with a home cooked meal after the birth of one of the King kids. Sorry I can't remember which one. They all just run together after time. Remembering which kid had just been born is the problem; I remember who made the bread. It was Mary Hange and we're still enjoying Mary's excellent recipe. Be prepared to eat it warm, just out of the oven; it's just not as good the next day. If you think you're going to have any trouble with that, just give us a call; we'll be right over. Not tonight, though, we have just 23 minutes to go for our own loaves. Better get started so you, too, can enjoy it tonight.

Oh, you don't have soup simmering in the crockpot? Nor do you just happen to have Grapenuts on hand? Ah, that's too bad.

Grapenuts Bread

1 c. Grapenuts cereal
2 c. buttermilk
Pour buttermilk over cereal and let sit.

4 c. flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. sugar (I use a little less but don't tell my family)
Mix together and add to the Grapenuts mixture.

2 eggs, slightly beaten
4 tsp. butter or margarine
Mix together and add to the rest of the ingredients.

Put in 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Footloose in midsummer

This past summer I decided it was time to introduce Mariana to a classic. Well, not exactly a classic, but a movie that defined my generation. Well, maybe not exactly my whole generation but it did define the culture in which I grew up. A movie that will forever be known as my all-time favorite movie. Well, not exactly my favorite movie, but one with which I was able to relate. The movie, for those of you who don't find the answer obvious, is Footloose. You know, the one where the town won't let the kids dance because dancing stimulates the lust of the flesh. Oh wait, that's the town where I grew up. The movie is about the town that can't dance because of a horrible accident that happened several years prior. The town's response was to ban all sorts of things. Wait, now I'm really mixing up my stories. Was that the movie or my town? Or both?

Anyway, Mariana and I enjoyed this wonderful movie together and at the end, while I was sighing a deep sigh of contentment, my daughter announced, "That was the cheesiest movie I've ever seen." See if I ever watch a movie with you again!

So it has taken several months but I finally decided that it was time to introduce her to another movie that defines me. The movie which contains the role I was destined to fill. The role that brought out the best in me. The role where I received such wonderful reviews. The role that came about because we couldn't dance because dancing stimulates the lust of the flesh (stick with me here, there is a connection). This movie, for those who don't find the answer obvious, is A Midsummer Night's Dream.

And how, you ask, is A Midsummer Night's Dream related to dancing? In my high school, as in Footloose, dancing was forbidden. As I have already established, it stimulates the lust of the flesh (seriously, folks, if I had a quarter for every time I heard that phrase while I was growing up, I'd be able to afford dance lessons to make up for my lack of skill in this area). The lack of dancing would be quite a problem at prom so we didn't have a prom. Instead we had a junior-senior banquet. In actuality, it was a great idea. The juniors would put on a play, decorate the cafeteria in a theme taken from the play's setting, and the juniors and seniors would enjoy dinner and a show, prom-style. Without the dancing. Because it stimulates the lust of the flesh.

So, my junior year, the chosen play was A Midsummer Night's Dream, an ambitious quest for a group of high schoolers. And we weren't happy about it. What teenager really wants to put on a Shakespeare production? But we learned so much from that experience. Well, I'll speak for myself. I learned so much from that experience. I believe it was preparation for 20 years down the road when I'd be asked to walk around church in a red wig and Cyndi Lauper style clothes, even though at the time I had never even heard of Mechanicsburg, PA or John King for that matter. KidStuf hadn't been invented yet. Come to think of it, Children's Church really hadn't been invented yet.

But back to the topic. So, A Midsummer Night's Dream it was. Not exactly your typical conservative community entertainment. So we had to put a play-by-play in the program for those not familiar with the language or style of Shakesperean drama. And the seniors were so upset that the play included in their ticket price was Elizabethan, that many of them left after dinner. Before they got to see little ole me dressed up in a bright red ice skating skirt with matching tights and a glittered face. Oh well, it was their loss. Thankfully the community was a little more ambitious and did come to the following public performances. And they were wowed by that little Puck in the bright red skirt and tights (and little did they know that it's usually played by a male).

I tried to introduce Mariana to this classic by showing her the old videotape of our high school production but alas, the video was broken. Probably a good thing. The quality wouldn't have given it a proper showing. It was an unsual set, though, with scaffolding and ladders. And fairies on roller skates. You don't see that every day. Nor do you see your mother doing gymnastics for Shakespearean drama, wearing a bright red skirt and tights with matching glitter on her face. Yes, best to keep that video broken.

So we rented a different version from Netflix. I didn't have great hopes. What 12 year old likes Shakespeare? Fewer numbers than we found in the senior class when I was a junior, I bet. But what a trip back in time it was for me! Despite lying facedown on the massage table, or maybe because of it, I was transported to a school auditorium in the 80s. My mind could see each classmate, in costume, in his/her appropriate place on stage. I could hear their voices. I could feel the glitter on my face. In fact, I could even feel it in my contacts. Only I don't wear contacts anymore. Nevermind, it was still painful. And I bet if we still had the same family car, we'd still be finding glitter between those seats.

Well, imagine my surprise in finding that my 12 year old loves to watch Shakespeare? She gets it. She didn't call it cheesy! And she's not just pretending (remember, she needs to give me a massage to watch a movie so there's a cost involved for her, she could give up on it if she hated it). She even laughs at the appropriate places! I do need to remember that this is the daughter who chose Shakespeare as her summer topic of study a few years back (one of the perks of having a former-teacher for a mother is that you have to choose a summer topic of study - and you actually have to study it). She loved that, too, so I should have been prepared.

But what exactly do you do with a daughter who enjoys Shakespeare? I believe that is the question of the hour. One to ponder while I travel back to the lines of my youth (minus the bright red skating skirt and matching tights).

"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends."
-Puck's closing lines in
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hot Chocolate

I don't drink hot chocolate; as a general rule I don't eat chocolate. Period. However, my children drink hot chocolate on a regular basis in the cold months. So about once a week I find myself mixing up the secret family recipe to keep our pantry stocked. I didn't realize our hot chocolate habit was so unusual until a friend of Andrew's said, "That's hot chocolate? We just get these little packets that you empty into a mug."

What do you know? How simple. But I just can't break tradition. I'm still using the same recipe my mother made for us so many moons ago.

I have no idea where the recipe originated. All I know is that it's what my mom made every year and so did most of the ladies at church. It was served in the church fellowship hall after Christmas caroling, at Mt. Top with church friends after sledding all day, and in my home after shoveling.

We like to say it's healthier and cheaper than the bought packets but I don't know that anyone ever tested it. And is hot chocolate ever healthy?

But this week I found a new use for our hot chocolate: Valentine's cards.

I was never a big fan of the store-bought, just-add-name version of said cards so we always make our own. One year we stuck oranges in a bag, added a "Orange you glad we're Valentine's?" note and voila!, a Valentine. We've also taped Snickers onto card stock with a note reading, "Valentine, you make me laugh." So it was back to the drawing board when the little girls needed Valentine cards for their Tap and Clap class.

First, we made the hot chocolate, easy enough. Here's the no-longer-secret family recipe:

1 quart dried powdered milk
1 box Nestle Nesquik Chocolate Flavor (21.8 oz.)
6 oz. CoffeeMate
1 c. powdered sugar

Mix it all together. (My apologies to all my friends who prefer recipes that come with video instructions. I haven't been able to talk Andrew into making a video of me making hot chocolate)

To make your hot chocolate, put a heaping 1/3 cup of mix into a mug and fill to the top with boiling water. My family also likes to pour hot water only 3/4 of the way full, then add warm or cold milk to fill.

Next we poured the mix into little treat bags, added a few marshmallows and chocolate chips,

stapled on a note saying, "You warm me up, Valentine," , included the directions, and we were done.
Apparently it's so easy you can make it while wearing your ballet leotard.

Kid-friendly, but not necessarily sanitary. Caught!

Friday, February 4, 2011


We have such wonderful friends. They bring us meals when we have surgery, they help transport our kids, they invite us to their houses (not for the faint of heart), and they give us their hand-me-downs. But one very wise and giving friend stepped it up a notch by sending us this message:

Want a 4 month old?

My heart was beating, my hands were shaking, and I was using every ounce of self-restraint to keep from shouting, "John and Cindy Plus Eight!" from the rooftop.

So, I did the only thing I could do. I replied that I would absolutely love to take in a 4 month old, tell me where to sign. I was so excited my hands hit the L in absolutely too many times. But who's going to grade spelling at a time like this?

And then I read my husband's response and I got even more excited, "SURE!!! We'll adopt all the children of the world," and I was singing praises to my husband's miraculous change of heart.

But then a quick trip to reality when I read the rest of his message, "Seriously, that would be completely overwhelming to me personally right now, but probably not for Cindy."

Okay, I guess he's right. We really should take this one child at a time. I always did rejoice when those ultrasounds showed only one baby. Twins would probably not be in our best interests at this time, even if they are 10 years apart. I was thinking there's definitely space for a crib in Andrew's room, though, so if John should change his mind in the next day or two . . .

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Poor Linus

A friend sent this to John this morning, it comes from Mikey's Funnies, daily, clean humor.

One afternoon, Sue was in the backyard hanging the laundry when an old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard.

Sue could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. But when she walked into the house, he followed her, sauntered down the hall and fell asleep in a corner.

An hour later, the dog went to the door, and Sue let him out.

The next day he was back. He resumed his position in the hallway and slept for an hour. This continued for several weeks.

Curious, Sue pinned a note to his collar: "Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap."

The next day the dog arrives with a different note pinned to his collar: "He lives in a home with eight children. He's just trying to catch up on his sleep."

Now I know why Linus actually begs to go into the den alone every day. Maybe I should be letting him outside to find a friendly neighborhood family with a quiet hallway for napping. We do have a lot of elderly neighbors with no kids. That should work.