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!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Free hugs

The shirt works.

I wouldn't believe it except that I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears.

He had the shirt less than five minutes and as we walked down the boardwalk, Jesse and Hope were at the tail end of the King family parade. At the front, Andrew, Mariana, and I overheard a girl say, "Yeah, he's kind of cute." One of her friends responded with, "He's hot!" We turned around to see who or what they were talking about and were just in time to witness a group hug as they swamped Jesse. The good brother that he is, he says he was more concerned about continuing to balance Hope atop his shoulders than he was about who was hugging him.

I think we should always send his little sister with him when he's with girls. Especially at cheerleading practice. Although that mascot costume keeps him pretty well covered.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Angels among us

At the beach we are. Again. Yes. That would be my doing. John wants to retire to the mountains. I say that's fine but I hope he doesn't mind the travel between his mountain home and my beach home if he wants weekend visits.

The King method of travel (technically it's the Cindy method of travel) is to leave at the crack of dawn. For us this morning, that meant 5:00 AM. We get a few hours of travel in before stopping for breakfast. I voted for Panera but I was duly outvoted and we ended up at McDonalds. Technically, I didn't get outvoted, we just couldn't find a Panera after crossing the Walt Whitman bridge, but we'll let the kids think that they won this one. Next time, we'll stop before we enter New Jersey.

While enjoying our breakfast, an older gentleman came over to us with a McDonalds bag. He asked if it would be okay for the children to have apple pies. John asked him what the occasion was and he said, "I believe in angels." Apple pie for breakfast! What a treat! I don't know if this man was ever thanked as much as he was this morning. It doesn't take much for the King kids to feel blessed.

I want to be just like that man when I grow up. I hope that I am able to bless others by the simple things, as he blessed us this morning.

P.S. For those who are worrying about the fact that I've announced to the Bloggersphere our absence from our home, have no fear. We made certain to hire Chuck Norris to guard the house. Besides that, all you would-be theifs out there, don't bother. We have nothing of value for you. Believe me, our TVs are older than you. Trust me, it's true. Flat screen? Are you kidding me? These things still have the VCR under them. Get the picture?

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Do we have another vegetarian in the family? I'm not sure, but we had the most interesting conversation at dinner tonight. It followed this most unusual statement by a child who shall remain nameless (but if you know which child has trouble with prepositions, you might have a clue): Eden doesn't enjoy eating chicken because she feels guilty of the cows getting killed.

Hmmm. I'm not quite sure where to go with this one.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The guys

I'm going to boast about my boys for a little here. It's my blog so I can do that.

Jesse was asked to do balloons for the VBS at Living Water Community Church in Harrisburg. He did a great job teaching the older kids to make balloon dogs and sharing with the younger kids, all within the theme of using our unique talents to spread the light of Jesus. It was a little noisy, and possibly too chaotic for some of the leaders, but to this teen who comes from a home stuffed with nine people, it was a piece of cake. Balloons popping here and there, children needing assistance, leaders needing assistance, and kids who can't sit still, none of these affected him at all. Way to go, Jesse!

Andrew was the only member of our family who did not join Jesse at the VBS tonight but he has a good excuse. He is currently in the Bronx, by choice, with the McBIC teens. I love to follow their blog and hear their amazing accounts of God's goodness and revelation. I especially enjoyed Andrew's contribution (of course I did) which I am going to reprint here:

A post from a guy!
Finally we got one of the gentlemen to type a post :) This is from Andrew King...his thoughts may or may not express the views and opinions of this youth pastor...specifically the last paragraph on animals :)

Andrew King

What is up Pennsylvania? I am trying to get my gangster, or gangsta, on for the rest of our trip in the Bronx. After our group went to the Christian Hip Hop concert Saturday night I have been trying, without much fruit, to become more hip, no small task for a 16 year old who only knew one hip hop move before coming to the Bronx (thanks Dr. Barnes).

Last night was really amazing. We went to the Brooklyn Tabernacle, as Aubrey said before, and experienced an amazing worship and prayer service. The passion with which they prayed was unbelievable. I kept getting goose-bumps throughout the whole experience and I don’t think I will ever forget it.

I just came from helping at the Bronx Senior Center. Our group, composed of Ian B., Mandi B., Sarah B., Mitch W., and myself enjoyed talking to a sweet older lady named Matilda. She was an amazing crocheter (sp?) and spent the next 2 hours trying to teach 5 teenagers how to accomplish this great skill. She spoke Spanish and I tried to tell her that my mother, grandmother and great grandmother all knew how to crochet, so how hard could it be? One hour and forty-five minutes later, Mitch, Ian and myself had a four foot long strand of yarn all completed. When we asked her if she could make Mitch and myself a headband with it, she said yes (or si) and then proceeded to undo all (and I do really mean all) of our hard work. However, the final product was well worth it. As I write, I am sporting a green, crochet headband and looking very gangster tooJ.

While we are unharmed, I cannot say the same about our furry, four- legged friends in the basement. So far Kenton has killed two rats, one with a broom stick handle and the other with a dustpan. While I was walking in the basement, a rat charged me, but I picked up a dodgeball and hit it before it could run away. I didn’t kill it, in case PETA is wondering, I might have broken a leg though J.

Peace out. I think I’m going to have to work on my gangster slang a little more.

Andrew King

One correction: Andrew's mother does not know how to crochet. His grandmother tried to teach his mother but because her giftings lie in crafts such as fine needlepoint and tiny hem stitches, her crochet stitches always got too small and tight and eventually impossible to complete. His great-aunt attempted to teach his mother to knit but that scarf never got farther than the size of her hand. However, the knitting box that his mother made out of an old oatmeal container (which his mother found in her grandmother's attic, the kind that saved everything after the Depression just in case there would be another Depression and people would need empty oatmeal containers) was a work of crafting genius.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I'm trying a new approach to grammar instruction this year. We are keeping a notebook in which we place any published, written material with one or more typos, misspellings, grammatical errors, or any other editing goof. Not opposed to bribery, money can be earned by locating the error(s) or by finding one yourself and adding it to the notebook. Church bulletins alone will keep us in the money for a long time to come.

Don't worry, your emails, blogs, texts, and Facebook statuses are safe. I have it from an authority in the field that these areas are safe from scrutiny. (Don't believe me? See Michael Hyatt's take on the matter: http://michaelhyatt.com/should-you-hire-someone-to-proofread-your-blog-posts.html) It may still drive me crazy, but you won't end up in the notebook. And I can't end up in yours. Unless you are my child. Then all bets are off because you are held to a higher standard; that whole pastor's kid thing. Or something like that. On the other hand, I reserve the right to change this rule at any time if I see something that is glaringly obvious or which tickles my funny bone.

So, if you invite my child to your child's birthday party, your invitation may just end up in our notebook. Don't feel too bad if this happens to you; you're in good company. You can also know that you are providing me with teachable moments for my children. It was such an invitation that started the notebook. The invitation in question hung on our bulletin board, staring me in the face everyday, taunting me with its message of "Your invited" until finally someone (I think it was the Good Doctor) corrected it for me. I slept much better after that.

Only a few days old, our notebook is filling up fast and just as I had hoped, the kids are fighting to be first to find the error(s). Poor Jesse is feeling a little handicapped in this area. He tells me not to worry; his English teacher wasn't good at these things, either. Great. No wonder my boys loved him so much. Here's how the search went for Jesse this afternoon:

Jesse (in frustration after hours looking at one Kohl's ad): Mom, how do you find these things?

Me: Jesse, I'm nowhere near an expert (I only taught first grade, you know) but when I read, these things just jump out at at me and yell, "Horrors! Cindy, this [insert error here] is incorrect and inaction would be incompatible with your belief system. You MUST act now!"

Jesse: Well, they say to me, "Jesse, I'm hiding but your mom will pay good money if you find me. Come spend hours poring over my page and if you're lucky, you just might find me."

And later,

Jesse: Mom, this is the hardest 50 cents I have ever earned!

But by golly, he earned it fair and square. Pays to look, right? (Pun intended)

I'm looking forward to the first day of school. Teachers are notorious for sending home letters that list classroom rules, procedures, and standards. Without fail, each teacher will state the need for my child to hand in error-free assignments to get good grades (a point for which I do not disagree), but the teacher will have written this on an error-riddled hand-out. Oh, I can't wait! It'll be teachable moment Heaven. Or Heave, according to a recent church bulletin that shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. When a certain child finally recognized that error, my loving response was, "Bingo! If I take this typo to its rightful conclusion, I can assume that when I die, I am going to heave." Or is it when I heave, I feel like I'm going to die?

And while we're on the subject, one of my other Seventh Day reading favorites goes something like this: "We would like to congratulate Sue and Bob on the birth of their new baby boy." It always makes me wonder in what circumstance we would congratulate someone on the birth of their old baby boy? And what would an old baby boy look like? No hair? A comb-over? Maybe false teeth?

Well, I could go on all night. Time to stop. But please, if you find a published error we could add to our notebook, send it our way. We're all about earning more money! And teachable moments!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pay it forward

Back to the zoo. It was a very fast transition, chauffeuring here and there, convincing children that they really were tired and in need of going to bed, all that fun stuff we missed while we were gone.

Our time away was perfect. The perfect length, ending just about the time we didn't really know what to talk about anymore. The perfect location, enjoying our favorite bed and breakfast to date. The perfect excursions, really, even though we had no plan other than, "What do you want to do now?" There was just one little thing that will be remembered for all time - The Missing Wallet Fiasco.

We were at the Park City Mall and had just returned to the car. John reached for his back pocket and realized that his wallet was missing. So, back into the mall we go. John with his gimpy leg and me walking just fine. He went one direction where he thought it might be, and I went the other. A phone call confirmed that neither of us had found the missing wallet. Thoughts of having to cancel all of our credit cards, leaving us without funds for the duration of our vacation, were passing through my mind. We went to customer service where the woman working pronounced John a very lucky man and gave me permission to use this as ammunition for years to come. Personally, I think he did it on purpose just to remind me that he's still the same man I married 20 years ago, albeit a little grayer. He still wouldn't remember his head if it wasn't attached. But, that's why he married me, to make sure his head is securely attached every morning and evening.

But the story gets better. After all that running around the mall, I decided I needed to stop at the bathroom on the way out. Wouldn't you know it, but someone left her keys in the bathroom stall. So, back we went (keep in mind that the bathrooms are near the exit, customer service is dead center in the mall) to customer service, telling the same woman that she was going to remember us for a long time and that we were already paying it forward. I bet it was another couple celebrating their anniversary and the wife left the rental car's keys sitting in the bathroom. I'm so glad we could help keep another couple on speaking terms like some stranger did for us.

Until the 25th . . .

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's a small world

Well, our quiet time is winding down. I have come to the conclusion that I will survive the empty nest but will still do my best to ward it off for as many years as I can. Looks like we may still get in a bit of canoeing and possibly a bike ride before we collect the children from their various ports of call and rejoin the zoo.

Yesterday's excursion took us to Lancaster where we watched God weave our story with that of another in this very small world. So let's start at the very beginning; a very good place to start.

Several months back, John found a bed and breakfast on Groupon and booked it for our anniversary. The name of the B and B, The Red Umbrella, was intriguing. Turns out it came from a serious of artwork that the B and B owner found and enjoyed. The artwork, done by Liz Hess of Lancaster, includes a red umbrella in various locations throughout the word. Each room of the B and B contains at least one piece from this series. I went on the artist's website and we decided to visit her Lancaster studio yesterday.

The artist herself was working in the studio and we struck up a conversation. Her name had sounded familiar to me and when I saw on her website that she had spent several years in Sweden, I was even more certain that we were going to be winning a round of the Mennonite Game. Sure enough, she was in Sweden with someone I knew from church when I was growing up. This common connection also works in the studio several times a week but happens to be in Sweden for the summer.

This led to even more conversation and eventually The King's Strings came up (no conversation with John can conclude before The King's Strings is brought up). Liz Hess then began to talk about Lancaster's First Fridays where shops are open and many studios have live music. She mentioned that her current performers would be leaving their position in August and she was looking for new musicians.

The rest, as they say, is history. We need only discuss it with the children and look at the calendar, but it looks like we have some new gigs lined up. Anna, the owner of the bed and breakfast, is thrilled with this connection and is excited to come to one of the up-coming First Fridays to hear us.

From Groupon to income, thank you, Jesus!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Twenty years

Last week we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. I had a blog all written but it was in my head and the time never became available to get it from head to computer. Oh well. It must not have been that good anyway.

My husband thought that we needed to celebrate this one by getting out of Dodge. I can't imagine why. It's not like we can't find time to be alone when we're in a house of nine people. So he asked me if I'd go on a cruise with him. Really? What line of work does he think he's in? Besides that, how does he think I could logistically arrange for seven children while we go cruising to some exotic island. And more than that, I have no desire to go on a cruise to some exotic island. I'm the one who wanted to go to Nova Scotia for our honeymoon - no ship, no pirates, no hurricanes, no bikinis, and very few people. Never wanting to be accused of not compromising in my marriage I did agree to go on a cruise with him - for our 50th anniversary.

So alone we are but not on a cruise. I have to say that he did well. He found this wonderful Bed and Breakfast in Grantville, PA. The Red Umbrella is it's name and yes, I am putting in an ad for this amazing place. I highly recommend it. The location is perfect, not too far away, yet away. The hospitality is great. Breakfast was very nice. And the shower is larger than my whole bathroom.

So what do the parents of seven do when given time away? Oh, get your mind out of there; I'm not like that. No, I insisted we go on a bike ride so ride we did, for 20+ miles. We found a great Rails to Trails path through Conewago Township. It's very well kept, partly shaded, and connects to the Lancaster-Lebanon Rails to Trails which meant we could just keep going and going and going . . . Plenty of wildlife, too. Deer crossed our path and a great blue heron led us down the path for a short while.

We also saw a movie but I don't recommend that so I won't leave a recommendation for it. Julia Roberts is great and so is Tom Hanks. Just not in this movie.

And that's that. Off for another bike hike. Where should we go today? If you see my children today, tell them that I love them and miss them and know they are having a great time.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th

Happy 4th of July! We are celebrating at my favorite place, the beach! It has now become a tradition for us to spend the day (usually the week) in Ocean City, NJ, enjoying the parade, the beach, and of course, fireworks. We did get rained off the beach this afternoon but that's okay. We got several hours of sun, sand, and ocean before the rains came.

Last year we decided to join the parade and unbeknownst to us, there were prices given and we almost missed the ceremony where The King's Strings received their first (and maybe only?) 2nd place prize trophy.

Well-meaning friends and family have asked me how I, an Anabaptist, can enjoy the 4th of July. My answer is simple: I enjoy my freedom. I am thankful to live in a country where I can go to church, own a Bible, talk about God in a concert, raise a family in peace, and write a blog. Even to have the freedom to choose against military service. Even though my faith and up-bringing compel me to live a life of peace, I am not so arrogant to believe that an Anabaptist belief system is the only way to get to Heaven (that is through Jesus Christ alone, nothing else). Embarrassingly, it took a few years of attendance at a non-denominational church for this truth to get through to me, and this not until I was past my 30th birthday.

When my daughter starred in a show which asked current and former service men and women to stand to be honored, I was asked how I could allow Mariana to be in such a show. An interesting question, and one which a non-Anabaptist may not understand, but one which I can answer with a heartfelt thank you to all those who have served. I wish that my freedoms and opportunities in this country had come about through peaceful means, but that is not the case. I am thankful for those who have followed what they believe to be their calling so that we can follow our calling. This particular show was a reminder of the sacrifices that are made, not just by one person, but also by a parent, and maybe a spouse and children as well.

Judy Clemens Smucker, in the book Lost Sons, did a great job of writing about the struggle many Anabaptists face when they have to wrestle with questions such as these.

Several weeks ago we played a concert for the Marine Corps League. We joked that this may have just been the first time that the Marine Corps Hymn was played on strings, by a bunch of Anabaptists. Without exaggeration, this was the best audience for which we've ever played (well, minus that amazing crowd in NYC a year ago); their encouragement and applause were nothing short of amazing! Afterward, one of the men came up to John and said something that I will remember for a long time. He said, "It was wonderful to see your family play tonight. That is why we did what we did, so that families can have the freedom to do what you did tonight."

So again, Happy 4th! Thank God for your freedoms and the opportunities you have in our country. It's easy to complain about what we don't have or what we don't like. Be joyful in what you do have. And thank the men and women who have followed a call to serve our country so we can have these opportunities. Remember their family members who spend holidays alone and who face other difficulties while a loved one is away from home.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Take a hike

We spent another morning hiking together. This time we went to Hawk Mountain near Hamburg, PA. It also fulfilled Andrew's requirement for planning a family vacation. It's a bit of a stretch, I know, but Andrew's not exactly a high achiever when it comes to family vacation planning. I hope his future family likes day hikes.

Side note to large families: When you go on vacation, always compare the family membership prices to the cost of paying for each individual family member. In most cases, the family membership will be cheaper than the individual prices. In this case, our family membership entitles us to 18 months of access to the mountain trails, educational programs, and informational newsmagazine.

Anyway, nothing like a good hike to bring out the unique personality traits of each of us.
We have the invalid with a knee brace, nursing a recent dancing injury.

Map Boy and Binoculars Kid

The Mountain Climber with inexhaustable energy

Resting Girl

And Good Older Sister

Of course, ever the good teacher, I had to take advantage of an educational opportunity. It is, after all, after July 1 so all hours count toward school. I would have been remiss to neglect the opportunity to point out a real, live owl in our midst.

I was hoping we'd see it in action, especially because the ground was covered with chipmunks, but we must have been too noisy. Or maybe it was sleeping since it is a nocturnal creature.

We found it difficult to take a picture of Camera Man since he always had the camera in his hand, but we did find a good example of his artistic eye.

And one more, Sleeping Beauty, wasn't with us. He had been invited to a sleep-over, which naturally turned into an all-nighter. Someone has his priorities in the wrong place, don't you think?