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, May 28, 2011

My Hero, part 4

For better or for worse, our eldest child is most like his mother. This is probably more to my advantage as we understand each other. So it was no surprise that we both had the same idea when a certain man sat in front of us at ArtsFest this morning. How is a person supposed to get a good picture in this situation? Well, as momma always said, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." At least I think that applies here. For what it's worth, here is our portrait study of,
"Her Husband, His Father, Our Hero."

Sure is a nice head of hair on that 40-something, though, isn't it?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tornadoes and other such weather

Prior to last night, I had never been under a tornado warning. In fact, I've never really thought about what to do in case of a tornado. My dear husband, born and bred in tornado country has thankfully filled me in over the years. If at school you should be sitting in the school's hallway with a book over your head or in your classroom under a desk. At home you head to the basement or to a shower. But when I heard that there was a tornado warning, I still had to google "tornado watch and warning difference" to know if it was time to head downstairs or time to listen to the radio for something worse. Silly me. That was the last thing I did before the electricity went out. Then we scrambled to find all the King family flashlights which mysteriously disappear every year between church camps and camping trips. Apparently you're supposed to have these things on hand and already waiting for you in an emergency pack in the basement. You're also supposed to have a battery-operated radio so you know what's going on in the real world. Obviously we didn't have one of those either. Or, we probably do but at some point it was probably carried off by some child interested in studying dinosaur technology of the past. But I am proud to say I have learned a lot about what a person can and cannot do when power has been lost for 24 hours and counting, due to the high winds of a severe storm. But first, let me say how thankful we are to have a house and each other and for the safety God afforded during the night.

Okay, here goes:

I learned that you can google "tornado watch and warning difference" before the power goes out but once it does go out you can't google "what to do during a tornado warning."

(Gratefully this was the most damage to our property)

I learned that during a power outage you can't find any of the household flashlights. You can find lots of old candles with broken or sunken wicks that won't light.

You can't check the weather reports but you can have someone who is out driving in the mess call you with frequent updates.

I learned that you can't sleep in a hotel (HopeAnne's desperate suggestion) but you can listen to worship music and pray so that you can sleep in peace in your own bed.

You can defrost and clean out your fridge and freezer but you can't just open the door of said appliance to find something to eat.

I learned that you can't cook supper, nor can you heat up your take-out pizza in the microwave. You can, however, be thankful that you don't live in the dark ages (pun intended) so that take-out pizza is an option (even lukewarm).

I learned that you can't use your laptop or cell phone unless they have been properly charged ahead of time but you can (hopefully) go to your husband's place of work to catch up on life and charge your phone and laptop.

I learned that my husband is pretty smart under pressure. It was his idea to pack up all the refrigerated and frozen foods at 3:00 in the morning and to drive them to an undisclosed location (hey, we don't want you eating all the food from our deep freeze!) until further notice. On the other hand, I learned that even I cannot possibly finish all the ice cream in the house before it melts to slush so it's better to feed it to the dog than to dump it down the drain.

(We've been watching this nest of baby birds for several weeks now. Unfortunately we think the storm blew the babies right out of the nest. This was the only one left this morning. It is still unable to fly but we've seen the mother return to feed it and later in the day it was hopping around the yard behind it's mother. Every now and then she'd fly a little and the baby would attempt to follow.)

You can listen to "When will the lights come back on?" all day but you can't give a definitive answer.

My son taught me that you can do homework if you cradle your flashlight like a cell phone and let it shine down on your schoolwork. However, you can't use google to look up any questions that you might have.

My other son learned that you can't use Microsoft Word to type up the outline that is due the next day but you can pull out paper and pencil and do it the old-fashioned way.

Hope learned that if you flip every light switch in the house, you will constantly be saying, "Hey, this one doesn't work, either." The rest of us have learned that no matter how many times you habitually turn on a light switch, nothing will happen if you are under a power outage.

The children also learned that you can practice your violin, viola, or cello but you can't practice the bass guitar or electric piano. Singing is okay.

I learned that in the face of life without power, one child becomes clingy, another crabby, one more helpful, one talks incessantly, another becomes obsessed with the absence of a usable hair dryer, and the other two tell corny jokes. On the other hand, it can't stop us from having moments of bonding.

(What we found when Isaac went to soccer)

You can go outside once the rain stops, but you can't open the garage door to get your bikes out (until Dad comes home and uses his super strong muscles to open it for you).

You can also catch up with your neighbors who have also migrated outside. You can even catch and return the neighbor's run-away African tortoise. You can't keep said tortoise even though he is very friendly and just likes company.

I learned that when the power is out you will save on your electric bill but even a family of nine will have to add an eating out column to the family budget (I think the kids are enjoying this way too much).

I learned that you can't write a blog but you can think up a bunch of ideas and then go to your husband's workplace to type them up.

(The source of all our trouble. We're told by neighbors that it was a confirmed tornado)

And most importantly, I learned that you can ask Jesus in your heart in the midst of the storm. Just ask HopeAnne who announced this morning that she did just that so she wouldn't be scared. You can't take that away.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Welcome home

I don't go away very often. There are reasons for that but I am here to assure you that it has nothing to do with the huge welcome party my family plans for my arrival back home. They go out of their way to make sure I know I was missed and that I am now more appreciated than ever. Here are just a few of the special surprises they had planned for my arrival after being away only two days:

A sink full of dishes (I am certain they made some type of culinary delight that required the use of so many dishes in the preparation of said cuisine. I think they forgot to serve it, though.)

Papers and crafts all over the living room (They were working on a "Welcome Home" banner, I'm sure of it.)

Scraps of paper and various dirt on the floor (Presumably a trail so I could find them amidst the household chaos.)

Towels to be hung up (Ater late-day baths so they'd be squeaky clean for my arrival, right?)

Toys in the wrong place in every room of the house (Maybe they were sorting out toys for the Salvation Army?)

Important school information and papers to sign (To show that they believe my signature is better than their father's, they waited until I came home to unload everything.)

More excuses than usual to delay bedtime (Because they missed me so much and just wanted to hear my voice "suggesting" that it was way past time to put the BopIt away, turn out the lights, and GO TO SLEEP!)

A dog peeing in the house (He obviously caught onto the excitement that Mom was home and we're celebrating.)

An overflowing toilet that left standing water all over the bathroom floor (To remind me of the beach that I just left. How thoughtful.)

A conveniently absent husband (Who wanted me to be able to experience all the joys of a home-coming in solitude and rest.)

Home Sweet Home.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My hero, part 3

Well, I'm on a roll. Maybe it's some sort of mid-life crisis that has me turning all sentimental and romantic and sappy. Whatever the reason, I just had to let you know what a wonderful father my husband is to our children.

As each one came into the world, he was right there beside me. Riveted to the TV, to whatever sporting event happened to be in season as that precious little bundle of joy came into this world.

He was there for all the night-time feedings for which he could be of use. That is, he would have been if it were possible to wake the sleeping giant in the middle of the night. And if it had been physically possible for him to feed one of our bottle-boycotting children.

Most importantly, he's a very involved parent. Want to throw a football? He's there. Want to get beat in Chess or Scrabble? He's right on it. Needing a bedtime story? Great! (Just don't pick a long one) Want to ride bikes in the road in front of the house? No problem. He'd love to supervise.

Sorry, but when this opportunity presented itself, it was too good to pass up. I quietly called Eden and Hope in for a bath (after snapping the picture, of course). I told them that we were going to play a trick on Daddy so they should quickly and quietly clean up their outside toys and come in the house. Then, while they were getting ready, I had Mariana call John on the cell phone to tell him that Mom wanted the girls inside for a bath. From the living room windows, we watched him jump at the first ring, agree to Mariana's request, and then call, "Girls?" No answer. Hmmmm.

Please forgive me. I'm not a total tyrant. I did thank him later for being such a good sport.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

3 teens in the house

Three years ago we were awaiting the arrival of a new baby. I had been awakened around midnight by the cries of a child with a nightmare. As I reached up to comfort him, my water broke and the journey began.

We thought we were pros by this point; prepared for anything. We already had Baby #1 who was born wide-eyed and ready to tackle the SATs. 19 months later we welcomed Baby #2 who was born with a look that told you he always had something up his sleeve and who knew how to entertain. And now, 19 months after that, we were just waiting to find out if we could only produce boys or if there just might be a girl in there. I felt the same during those 9 months as I had for the first two pregnancies, causing most people to say it must be a boy. We couldn't decide on a boy's name and actually spent our laboring time in the hospital writing names on papers, having John hold them behind his back, and having me say "right" or "left" to narrow it down. Not being able to pick out a name usually means the parents will have a baby of that gender. And if you believe in the fetal heartrate method of gender-guessing, this baby was most-likely a boy.

As we all know (since she's always front and center), Baby #3 was definitely a girl; wide-mouthed and announcing her presence to the whole ward. I am certain that's where she first started to practice projecting to an audience. It's also where we decided that this every 19 months deal would have to come to an end. We had finally figured out how that was happening. But it's all good. Look where that early experience has gotten her.

Even her name was correctly chosen for her personality. My aunt says I should have known better, being a former teacher and all. But she hadn't met Mariana yet when she said that. No, a plain Jane name just wouldn't have worked for this child. Have you ever met a Drama Queen whose name was Mary or Ann or Sarah or Sue? (Disclaimer: To all the Marys and Sues, etc., please do not write to express your offense at my suggestion that your names aren't good names. They are. My only point here is that they would not have worked for Mariana. She needed a difficult and different name.

For someone whose name is mispronounced 9 times out of 10, Mariana has no qualms correcting people. She still has close relatives who insist on calling her "Mar (as in car)-eeeee-an (as in can) -nah" instead of "Mary (as in Mary)-ahhh (as in what you say when the doctor sticks a log down your throat)-nah" A friend in dance has shortened her name to Mar (rhymes with far) and one young friend had such trouble that the best she could do was Winnie Wanna (funny thing is, it stuck, and you can still hear the older boys calling for Winnie Wanna on occasion). Forgive us. It was our attempt to use the name of two former students of mine (Ana - pronounced Ahhh-nah), while also honoring her grandmothers: Mary Ann King and Christine Bauman. All that to introduce our unpronounceable name choice: Mariana Christine King. But don't get all nervous about what you should call her. She will let you know. From across the room if she must.

The spelling of her name has been just as painful. From MaryAnna to Marianna to Mary Ana to anything starting with an "M", she's had to be on top of this one from day one. At age three we were at a children's museum when another mother, trying to make a friend for her daughter, asked Mariana her name. Mariana emphatically replied, "It's Mariana. That's with 1 "n" and 3 "a's." Alright-y then. I think the other mother walked away, determing that my daughter was much too bold for her daughter.

So Mariana, let me just say that I am extremely proud of you. You have not hidden your talents nor have you pushed them aside until you're an adult. You use them now, every day, in many ways. How many parents can say that their 13-year old daughter has a longer resume than her mother? And how many mothers have a 13-year old daughter who brings home a bigger paycheck than Mom? Well, let's be totally honest. You've been bringing home paychecks bigger than mine since you were about 8 years old. And your resume surpassed mine in length when you were 10. But I'm okay with that. Really I am.

It all started in Aunt Shirley's basement when you wrote, directed, produced, and starred in The Mariana Show with your cousins, most of whom were older than you.

Then on to Molly in Annie in community theatre.

After that it was the start of several seasons at Allenberry,

a run with Sight and Sound Theatre,

and two Christmases with Hershey Park.

No matter where it is, I love to see you on stage.

But more than that, I am proud of your character. Since in all honesty we've been calling you a teen-ager for oh, about the past 3 years, let me just say that you put me to shame. Your faith, your commitment to Christ, your maturity, and your ability to understand deep and serious subjects, is well beyond your years. You are a role model to many. You are a light to everyone around you and I am proud of you. Keep it up.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?

Friday, May 20, 2011

My hero, continued

Well, I decided that since I broke out of the mold to sing my husband's praises yesterday, I might as well just continue to go with it.

This week a package came in the mail. In the past this would have been an exciting experience, with all of us wondering what might be in the box and who it might be for. But since so many packages these days just contain yet another doctoral-class textbook, none us were holding our breath. So imagine my surprise when I opened it to find that the box contained a special gift for me!

Now I need to say that while my husband is much more romantic than I am, gift-giving is not his love language. So this was indeed a nice surprise. It's not every day that a wife finds one of these in her hands. It is obvious that my husband put a lot of thought into this gift to make sure that he got me just the right thing. It is the right size and color and is a perfect fit. Just what I wanted. I couldn't love him more.

Because now that he has replaced the broken crock pot lid, my life is a whole is a lot easier.

A little background might be helpful, especially for those who were not there last Sunday when the original crock pot lid met it's early demise.

John and the little girls were planning to attend a birthday party while the rest of us went to a Tim Hawkins performance (I want to be just like Tim Hawkins when I grow up). Just to be nice, I volunteered to make the baked beans that would be his contribution to the cook-out. To keep them warm and for easier travel we placed them in the crock pot. In what was to become a fatal error, he chose to take the pot out of the heating element for travel. Upon arrival, he slipped, the lid fell into the pot of beans, and shattered into many tiny fragments. As seasoned parents, we would be okay with a fly or two in the beans, even a little dirt, but glass is an obvious deal-breaker. The party had to go on, with or without baked beans.

And just to show that he is sincerely sorry, he made certain to buy me a new lid. Just the right size and color. A perfect fit.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My hero

I am about to do something that I don't do very often. But it's a momentous day and my life has just been saved so I must give credit where credit is due, no matter how much it pains me. That is why I sit down to write this just moments after my heart has returned to its God-given place in my chest (where it definitely fits much better than in my throat). If I do not write this now, I will lose my nerve and once again pass up the opportunity to do the right thing.

My husband is my hero.

You can tell me that I need to say it more often, but I chaf at being told what to do. You can tell me that I need to go to a marriage retreat, but I know that I have plans that day. In fact, I'm fairly certain that if you look at my calendar, it definitely says "wash the cat" on that day.

Don't worry. He's well-aware that I am verbally-challenged and no longer expects much. He also knows that I'm challenged in many other areas as well. He loves me anyway. I guess it's because we have such a clean cat. Or we would, if we happened to own a cat.

But for today, he is definitely my hero. Just as my family was being held hostage by an intruder. Just as my brave-but-not-so-brave 10-year olds alternated between running for safety and standing at my side holding hammers. Just as I was about to breathe my last,

My phone rang. And it was my hero. And just as he's been made to do, upon hearing that his wife was about to be ambushed by a huge predator of wives, he offered to come home from work to save me. Not only did he offer, but he drove all the way home from a conference to rescue his wife from a danger so intense she would have been standing on a table if there had been one in the laundry room where she was held hostage.

Now, all you feminists, let me just say that I did my best to rid our house of this menace on my own. I talked sweetly to him. I showed him the bottom of my shoe. I even opened the door and suggested nicely that he'd be better off out in the rain than in my laundry room. But he didn't listen to me. In fact, he had the gall to turn around and run back toward the middle of the room, putting us all in grave danger.

So, my wonderful, brave, and loving husband did the right thing. He came in the house, grabbed the first tissue he could find (Puffs, of course) and caught that spider in one fell swoop. Knowing that that attack would not be good enough, he squished and squashed til there was nothing left of that tormenting, trouble-making, thorn-in-my side spider.

Then he asked for his reward. I told him he could have the $5 reward I had offered to the child who would dare to save me from that terrorizing creature. I guess that's not the kind of reward he was looking for because he refused to accept it.

The two 10-year old boys are still trying to convince me that they deserve to split the reward since they were ready and willing to rid the house of that invador of our privacy. Silly wimps with hammers. You might look good with those hammers on your shoulders but you did nothing to save me. Wait til I tell your future wife!

But it was a big spider!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Raising anti-litigation kids

My 6-year old has apparently caught onto our litigious-happy culture. She volunteered to clean the kitchen floor today (what 6-year old doesn't like any excuse to play in water?) and the job came complete with warning signs.

And for those who can't read, maybe a little illustration of what might happen if you're not careful:

And just in case you find yourself looking at the floor while walking, a duplicate of this sign was taped to the wet floor itself.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Automatic Email Reply

I'm sorry but I will be out of the office and unable to update my blog until further notice.

I thought a mental health day would take care of it but instead I've checked myself into The Funny Farm for an extended time period of time.

It all started when when our cook didn't show up for work. That wouldn't have been so bad except that on the same day, the maid didn't show up. That'd be doable but my babysitter was also absent. Then my secretary was a no-show and the same for my personal assistant. The only one who did show up was the chauffeur.

In the meantime, please feel free to explore other blogs. There's some really good stuff out there.