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!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back to school thoughts

It's the most wonderful time of the year . . . or worst; it's all in your perspective.

For the first six months of Andrew's 10th grade year, HopeAnne's morning question, 5 days a week without fail, was, "Andrew, where are you going?"

"I'm going to school, Hope."

"Oh, right."

So I should not have been surprised when, about 30 minutes after the boys left for their first day of school, Hope asked me, "Where are the boys?" I do hope she's a year wiser and this whole school routine clicks before half of the year has gone by.

As for the rest of us at The King's Academy, our personalities were shining through on the first official day of the 2011/2012 school year.

It's pretty obvious which one was born to be a teacher, all smiles and full of plans for the year. And the future teacher is pretty obvious too, isn't it? The latter was bouncing off the walls from the moment she woke up and couldn't wait until 8:30 to start. The others couldn't hide their disdain for her enthusiasm. That's okay. We're doing what God intended for us to do and we're lovin' it! We don't care what they think.

And deep down, I think they were all excited. What's not to love about new supplies, new books, new subjects, etc.?

Mariana has to be excited knowing that even though this was the official first day of school, she has 30 days down already. That's what happens when you know you're going to be in a Christmas show and your mom/teacher says the only way that's going to happen is if you get at least 30 days of school in during the summer. She squeaked in with 3 days the Friday before school started. And what she didn't know was that she wasn't paying close enough attention to the dates on the top of the log. She didn't just finish 30 days; she had finished 35. Yes, I'm sure there's some excitement under that frown.

And then there's my fifth graders. One told me he was scared for the year because math and writing are hard. Okay, I'll give him that, but what about the other subjects? There has to be something he's excited about. And the other one has been hard at work, finishing his day in record time. Now that's a sign of excitement, if you ask me.

We already mentioned the 6 year old's uncontrollable excitement. Books, scissors, organization, creativity, what's not to love from her perspective? It's all training for her future career.

The five year old is ecstatic as well. You just can't tell on this picture because she's not a morning person. She had just woken up and we made her pose for a picture. I'm sure she's excited to observe our attempts to rein in her energy for a bit of learning.

And the teacher? Of course I'm excited. Back to routine, organization, lesson planning, educating. . . It's great fun. Sometimes. But for now, I'm excited. Because I have new whiteboard markers and they all work. I'm excited because this year we're learning about American history and I love American history. I'm excited because we've finally found a math curriculum for the older grades that we love and because it's being taught by the Good Doctor and not by me. I'm excited because this year all four homeschooled children can read chapter books. Hey, I taught 1st grade and I'm all for picture books, but I love that what we can do and discuss with depth. I 'm excited because we have Reader's Notebooks and Writer's Notebooks this year and we're going to do a lot of writing in both. That means I get to read and write, too. Now that's exciting!

Stay tuned for next week's episode where we'll hear Cindy say, "Where's the number for the Mechanicsburg School District registrar?"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nameless no more

It was about a year ago when my friend, Kym, suggested that I needed a blog name for my husband. She was, of course, referring to the viral blog, Pioneer Woman, and her Marlboro Man. The Marlboro Man mine is not but who wants to copy someone else anyway?

This got me to thinking but I have to admit it was not an easy task. I read another blog where the writer refers to her husband as The Mister. I like that. But it's obviously taken. Back to the drawing board. Most of my suggestions would have been quickly dismissed by the man in question. And I didn't think any of them were the right one anyway.

Then one day I wrote a blog and mentioned the Good Doctor. It hit me; I have a name for the man. He insists that for one whole day, he is going to have all of us call him Doc in honor of his forthcoming credentials. I refuse but decided that writing the accolade isn't as bad as having to verbalize it.

So, blogosphere, let me introduce you to my husband of 20 years, the man I've known for 24 years, the Good Doctor.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Throw the TV

This is a great song that I remember from my childhood. I have no idea if it's the same singer or not. I can't even remember if we used to listen to it on a record, cassette, or the radio. But I do remember the chorus and I love it to this day.
Click here to see the video.

But Dad hasn't thrown the TV out the window and we have not only one TV but two. This has been a point of contention for oh, about 20 years. I would like to throw the TVs out the window. But the Good Doctor insists that there is value in seasonal athletic competitions on the tube. So, being the obedient and submissive wife that I am, we have a TV, yes, two actually. He also says he has to watch the news because pastors need to stay current. Well, I don't know if that's true or not but I sure hope his parishioners appreciate the fact that even though there may be contention in the home, their pastor does know who the president is.

I have been able to assert a small portion of feminine rule in the power these TVs hold in our home. First of all, we have never purchased a TV. Those that we have owned through the years have been handed down to us; from parents, and even from the estates of those who have gone before us. Yes, they are antiques by the time we receive them. So, flat screens may be in but the only thing flat on our TVs is the remote. Secondly, any TV in our home will not be the centerpiece of the living area. The living room where we entertain guests, does not house a TV. Back in the days when it did, the room arrangement actually had a chair in front of the TV that had to be removed when someone wanted to watch the thing (the TV, not the chair). Third, we don't have a myriad of cable channels; it's basic here. If your must-see sports team is not on the channels we receive, you might just have to play a table game with the rest of us. Fourth, the TV will never be on during the day, and unless there is a major sporting event that your father can't miss, it won't be on at night, either.

So imagine my chagrin to find that more and more doctor's offices are playing TVs in the waiting room. First it was the orthodontist and all of his "free" perks, one of which is the constantly running CNN channel. Don't let them fool you; it isn't free. It's been paid for by the King family and all their children who are missing adult teeth and who need major work to correct this problem. Then it was the oral surgeon's office (yes, when you are missing adult teeth you not only need orthodontic work to fill in those huge gaps, you also need to have baby teeth pulled to make the gaps that need to be filled in). Thankfully, we don't go to that office as often. Now, it's the eye doctor. Andrew had an appointment this week and as is customary, the whole flock traipsed in. Our entrance was just as the first strains of "Days of our Lives" were sounding.

Great. Not only is the TV on, but we are watching soap operas. Okay, I thought, I guess we'll have a lot to talk about on the way home. Well, it got worse. Within the first few minutes one of the women called the other a not-repeatable-in-the-King-home word. A few of the older kids heard it, I just sent out a, "We will not repeat that at home," reminder, and all was well. Then only half an hour later, the word came back. This time it was with emphasis, as in, "You're a -----, quite a -----." While contemplating how to solve this problem, and wondering if any of the children had picked up on it, my six year old said, "Mommy, what's 'quite a -----?"

Okay, time to change the channel. I suggested PBS. I'm sure all of the waiting room appreciated the fact that we were now watching a quilting show instead of their favorite soaps. But I learned a lot about how to make a quilt with half-hexagons. It was quite lovely. Now I just need to find the time to sew one up.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Think, child!

Back in my school teaching days, before I was a has-been, I spent the end of the school year reminding parents of the importance of having their child continue math and reading practice over the summer months. Particularly for the children in my reading class, those students who fell below grade level (think what you want about ability grouping, it doesn't matter for the sake of this conversation), I highly encouraged parents to plan regular skills practice. Thankfully, some of those parents even chose summer tutoring and many came to my home for this instruction. While my tutoring business is no longer in business, my own children have been regular attenders in my summer tutoring/don't lose skills over the summer program. Now that I have the benefit of being former teacher and current parent, I would add one more area to those which parents need to assign regular practice and that is the area of problem solving. Here we are the week before the school year officially begins, and I am seeing major deficits in the problem solving abilities of the elementary school students in this household.

Take this scenario from yesterday as a prime example:

Child holding a handful of Tic-Tacs (which, by the way, I did not buy but which were given to the children): Mom, does this count as a healthy snack?

Mom: Exactly what would make you think that this is a healthy snack?

Child: Ummmm, it's under 100 calories.

Mom (after thoughtful pause): Hmmmm. This is true. I applaud your math skills but exactly which ingredient in those Tic-Tacs might you classify as healthy?

Child (without thoughtful pause): Mint?

Mom: That's an interesting guess. Why don't you go check the package label for the amount of vitamins and protein present in that handful of Tic-Tacs and get back to me.

Child (skipping off, thinking he or she will soon be enjoying a handful of little white candies): Okay.

Mom (15 minutes later, after realizing that this child never returned): Hey, {insert name of child}, what did you find out about those Tic-Tacs?

Child (with sheepish smile): Oh, they're not healthy.

Mom: Did you find a healthy snack?

Child: Oh, yeah, but I have to ask you if it's healthy. It's another kind of thing with mint.

Mom: What is it?

Child: I don't know.

Mom: Well, did you check the package label?

Child: It doesn't have one (pulls a red and white peppermint from the drawer, which once again I did not purchase, I don't even like these things!) but here it is. Is this healthy?

Mom (leaving out the door for The Funny Farm): I'm not going to answer that question.

Interestingly enough, after my return from The Funny Farm, I assigned this child a chart to be filled out. The left-hand column was a list of "Things I know about healthy snacks" and the right-hand column was "Things I know about unhealthy snacks." This formerly deduction-challenged child was able to make some excellent points on both sides of the chart (minus the statement, "They are not healthy" listed on the right-hand side). When asked why I was asked about the healthy attributes of Tic-Tacs and peppermint candies, the sheepish smile returned with the statement, "I wasn't thinking." Smart child.

It's a good thing school starts on Monday. Guess what our first subject is going to be?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Down on the farm

I was not meant to be a farm girl. God knew that and made certain I married the Good Doctor, a man who hated working on the farm growing up and who would oppose any of my efforts to bring the farm to our humble abode. I think I had even prayed as a little girl that God would send me a spouse who wanted to farm so it's a good thing God sometimes says no.

But I do think it's important to expose my children to farm life. I honestly think there is no better place to raise a family. Just not one that I am mothering. So whenever I meet someone who is raising her family on a farm, her status goes up by several nothces on the greatest mother meter. Stacy, I loved our times with your family at Merry-Mead. Thanks for the friendship but also the good ole farm exposure. And to our new friends, the Stoner's, thanks for a wonderful evening at Apple Valley Creamery. Such wonderful experiences and such good memories, and of course educational, too!

But that whole life and death cycle of the farm is what trips me up the most. Kittens are cute, until they get hit on the road. Chickens are very useful for Sunday morning brunch, until one becomes Monday evening dinner on the grill. Rabbits are cute and fluffy until you find one unmoving on the floor of the cage. I can't even make it through Bambi and he's a cartoon! Spiders (of which there are many on the farm), on the other hand, can be squashed. Thank you, Sharon, for saving us from one last night.

So wouldn't you know that our first experience at the farm last night was one of those cycle of life lessons one can learn so well when up-close and personal with nature? As we were driving up to the farm, we could see a cow in the distance, licking off a calf. We hurried over for a closer look, only to find that the calf had clearly been born some time ago, had been completely cleaned off by its faithful mother, but was obviously not moving. It was pointed out that since this mother was not in the maternity barn, the calf had probably been born prematurely. In answer to my questions, I was told that the mother would most likely continue to stand by her baby until it was taken away.

And you thought it was bad when I cried through Bambi and Auntie Frances refused to take me to any more animal movies? Now my family won't take me to any more farms. Or animal movies. Or to the library to borrow animal stories. Or to the beach to buy more hermit crabs.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I'm learning

I l have mellowed through the years. It may not be apparent to those who live with me because it has been so gradual and because there was so much room for improvement. But every now and then a situation arises where it is obvious even to the Good Doctor that change has taken place.

Case in point: Several years ago we took a meal and a gift bag to a new mother. Being an organized person, I had packed the gift bag several days prior and had left it in the living room so I would remember it on my way out the door. A few weeks later the new mother returned my dishes and a Duplo block she said she had found in the bag. She had rightfully assumed that the Duplo wasn't part of the gift. Even though I'm fairly certain it wasn't I but a young child in my house who placed that Duplo in the gift bag, I was horrified that someone might think me incompetent in gift giving. It bothered me for weeks.

Fast forward to this week: I had a gift bag to take to a 4 year old's birthday party. Wanting to include my younger children in the process, I packed the gifts in the bag and then asked my 5-year old to go into my room, look under my bed, and get some tissue paper to put into the bag. She followed my instructions (at least I thought she did), and later asked if she could be the one to take the bag to the party. I should have checked the bag first because when the birthday boy started to uncover his gifts, he pulled out not tissue PAPER from UNDER the bed, but sheet after sheet of tissueS from BESIDE the bed. Believe it or not I was able to laugh it off. But I think we'll be having a lesson on prepositions this week. And studying the difference between tissue paper and tissues.

And I have a feeling I'll be blowing my nose in tissue paper retrieved from under my bed for awhile but it's all good. See, I am learning. Even that would have sent me directly to the Funny Farm if it had happened just a few short years ago.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ode to a hermit crab

I believe that the King family business of pet-sitting has closed before it got off the ground. Actually, the in-your-home branch of the business is still intact. Jesse has done wonderfully with Frankie, the robust cat belonging to the neighbors. She (yes, Frankie is a she) is alive and well. However, please do not ask us to watch your pet in our home as our home has been shut down for this type of business due to Department of Public Welfare concerns.

You see, it all started when Eden's friend asked her to watch her pet hermit crab for the week. Eden was excited that her hermit crab, Bella, would have a friend for the week so of course she agreed. All went well for the first five days and Bella and Pebbles seemed to be enjoying the company. On the morning of day six we awoke to find Pebbles out of her shell (ewww, grotesque!) and on the floor of the cage. Warned that sometimes they exit their shells only to molt and even though they appear dead, they are not sincerely dead. So, we waited. Twenty-four hours. But the hermit crab was still dead, not just merely dead. We had to break the bad news to Eden's friend's mother who had to break the bad news to the seven year old. Not good. Bella immediately went into mourning and moved into her deceased friend's empty shell; apparently in an attempt to remain close to Pebbles forever.

Thankfully, having a pastor in the family can come in handy at these times so even though we failed in the vet department, we were able to take over the funeral arrangements for Pebbles. Pastor John lovingly wrapped the deceased in a white fabric and plastic-lined metal coffin and she is lying in state in our garage. The public is invited to calling hours daily for the next week. Next Wednesday, right on schedule, the kind and compassionate folks at Waste Management Funeral Home will bring their big, green hearse roadside to pick her up.

For those that couldn't make it to the funeral service, I give you excerpts below:

Pastor John spoke about the life of Pebbles and all of the good she has done. He reminded us that, "She's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead. However, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. As William Shakespeare once said, 'All that live must die, passing through nature to eternity.' Pebbles not only passed through nature, she was a part of it until a large net scooped her up and delicately placed her in the wire box of joy where she was chosen by an adoring child."

The funeral dirge was sung by the Lollipop Guild. They moved us all to tears with their beautiful rendition of Crusta Est Et Vacuus, Non Est Hic (or The Shell Is Empty, He Is Not Here, for those not familiar with this beautiful Latin hymn by the 18th century songwriter Oceanio Maritime Cousteau). They chose the aqua-marine colored choir gowns, decorated with pearls. The congregation joined in with 4-part harmony, closing the service with Under the Sea.

Reflections and memories of a hard-working life were given by Pebbles' closest friends, Dory, Nemo, Sebastian, Flounder, Flipper, and SpongeBob.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Crabitats of Love: Foster Care and Adoption Services for Lost and Abandoned Hermit Crabs.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The importance of saving energy

Every few months we receive a nice letter from the electric company showing us how our usage compares with that of our neighbors. It is imperative that I receive the mail on these days or the Good Doctor reads these letters and immediately has a conniption. Conversely, this is the same man who has a conniption on a getting-warmer day in spring when he comes home from work to find that I have refused to turn the air conditioner on for yet another day.

I do not argue the importantance of saving energy, and am usually the one attempting to implement new energy-saving practices in the home. In the summer I keep our household environment at a nice, humid, sub-Saharan temperature. In the winter, we survive at a crisp not-quite-freezing climate. I, too, remind the children to turn off lights when they leave a room.

But on the other hand, I think there is a mathematical miscalculation behind his quarterly tirade. I admit that I have very limited math skills. However, I think I learned somewhere along the way, that if you are going to compare two items, the variables should be as controlled as possible. So, following this stream of thought to its rightful conclusion, if the electric company is going to compare the average monthly power usage of homes in the neighborhood, shouldn't it make sure that each of those homes has approximately the same number of people?

We live in a 40 - 50 year old neighborhood and many of our neighbors are still the original owners. Their children have long since left the home, leaving just two occupants in the home. Sadly, in too many of these homes, only one parent is still living. It hardly seems fair to compare the electric usage of one person to that of a family of nine. To that end, it doesn't seem fair to compare a family of 4 to a family of nine. Of course we use more electricity than our neighbors when none of the other homes in our neighborhood have more than four people living in them!

Let's test this out by taking a look at laundry. I am certain that we do much more laundry on a weekly basis than each of the 1, 2, or even 4 member homes. Then there's dishes, rooms used, etc. It would make sense that it takes more hot water to bathe and provide clean dishes for a family of nine than for those half the size.

Having said all that, it is my sincere hope that the next time we get one of these reports from the electric company, we will be rewarded instead of chastised. Instead of a tirade, we will hear, "Well done, my good and faithful family. Our electric bill was NOT double the amount of our neighbors. You have done well in handling this small amount. Let's celebrate together! Bruster's for everyone!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A productive walk

I took Andrew to his violin lesson tonight and found myself with 45 minutes of alone-time. What to do, what to do? Normally I would have taken a book with me but Andrew stole the next book on my list and the next book in line is still being read by its original owner and hasn't been loaned to me yet. I decided that a walk to and at the nearby park was in order.

On a side note, in just under one month he should be able to take himself to violin lessons. That is both frightening and necessary.

As I arrived at the park I looked up to see a beautiful rainbow. At first it was fairly pale and only half of it was visible. Soon it was joined with it's double, but both were still only halves of a rainbow. Not long after, the bottom rainbox had become much brighter and could be seen in its entirety. The phrase, "I have set my rainbow in the clouds," came to mind as I wove through the paths of the park. What power there is behind those words and the image of the rainbow.

With thoughts of power, and beauty, and promises in my head, I continued my walk. I saw a woman walking a dog and pushing a stroller. As our paths were about to cross, I noticed that the "stroller" was some sort of contraption that housed two guinea pigs in a little tent-like structure on top and a similar tent-like structure on bottom with its own guinea pig. Wow. That's one you don't see everyday. I never knew guinea pigs needed to be taken for walks. Maybe that's why Jesse's guinea pigs didn't live such long and productive lives; he never took them outside for walks.

I guess I could be grateful that she wasn't taking her pet tarantulas for a walk. What's next? Fish tank strollers? I can just picture it now: One of those jogging strollers with a large tank of water in the front, fish sloshing back and forth to the rhythm of the jogger. Or maybe a tag-along for the bike that has room not for two children but for two pet pigs, carefully buckled into the back.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wrinkles be gone!

I hate ironing.

When Mariana was little, she was visiting my parents and saw my mother at the ironing board with iron in hand and an article of clothing on the board. "What are you doing?" she innocently asked. Oops. My secret was out. I'd like to say that my daughter was oblivious because I only ironed at night after everyone else was asleep; safer for the children that way. But I'd be lying. In actuality, I only iron when I sew.

I guess I could say that I do iron on occasion. But only when the dampen-the-offending-article-of-clothing-and-put-it-in-the-dryer method doesn't work. Or when the hang-the-dress-on-the-curtain rod-while-you-get-a-hot-shower method fails. Or after I've tried running my hands over the area a few times, willing the wrinkles out. And I only iron my own clothing. If someone really wants a flat shirt, she can iron it herself. If someone doesn't like the extra folds in his pants, he knows where the iron is. Just ask all the old ladies at church. I'm sure they have conversations on Sunday mornings about that pastor's wife who has no homemaking skills and whose husband stands up front with wrinkled clothing.

Please remember that these are the same ladies who probably grew up ironing underwear and napkins. Underwear? Are you kidding me? Just be happy you have clean undies. Who cares if they're wrinkled? My mom told me that if I was ever in an accident, she wasn't going to come to the hospital to retrieve me unless the hospital personnel could assure her that I was wearing clean underwear. She never said anything about it needing to be ironed flat. And cloth napkins? I have enough trouble keeping up with the washing and drying and folding of cloth napkins before we run out. I certainly would not have time to add ironing to that list! Does your mouth really care if your napkin has an unwanted fold or two? I'd much rather see my children wiping their mouths with a wrinkled napkin that using an arm or hand because I didn't have time to tend to the ironing.

Looks like I passed the same poor homemaking values onto my daughter. So far she, too, only irons when sewing. If this picture is a true representation, it looks like she enjoys it much more than I do, though.

But aren't you glad we at least own an iron? And my 13-year old knows how to use it? And she sews, too. That should count for something. Home economics credit at least. Oh yeah, they don't teach that anymore. I bet the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher doesn't iron, either.