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!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Many thanks

I know there is at least one person who reads my blog. I don't know if there are others or not but this particular person attends my church and apparently felt sorry for me last week. I know because I received a very nice gift.

No, it wasn't the Good Doctor. You know how the song goes, he doesn't bring me flowers anymore and all that stuff. The president of the board on which I serve did send me flowers last week. It was nice to know she appreciates my work. But I'm not talking about that, either.

Actually, there must be two people at church who read my blog. There's John (not to be confused with The Good Doctor) who calls me the Erma Bombeck of McBIC and then there's the person who gave me this thoughtful gift. Unless they are one and the same. But I don't think so.

The gift I'm referring to, which was found in my church mailbox, was a carefully concealed pack of cigarettes and attached was a very thoughtful note, "Cindy, I hope next week is better than this past week, but if not . . . you might want to try these."

I'm glad there's someone who appreciates, and apparently shares, my sense of humor. Many, many thanks to whoever you are.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Workshops, seminars, and retreats, oh my!

Prayers appreciated. John and I are leading a marriage retreat this weekend. I don't do retreats and I don't speak in front of people but when someone prophesies over you and says you are to "do the unexpected" and "be the unexpected" these opportunities just sort of start popping up. And unless you want to end up in the belly of a whale, it's usually not a good idea to say no to such a request.

Do you think they'd still want me to speak if they knew that I've never been to a marriage retreat? I went to a marriage workshop once. Worst fight of my marriage, I think. I was forced to go and I don't take to force very well. And it was only because I was the pastor's wife and since the pastor was forced to go to a marriage workshop, by default his wife has to go as well. I was fuming by the time I got there. It must have been obvious (in fact, I'm certain it was obvious since I wanted it to be obvious) because when I sat down next to another pastor's wife friend of mine (as opposed to the health insurance worker's wife friend of mine or the policeman's wife friend of mine) she proceeded to tell me that she didn't believe in divorce but there were times she just wanted to shoot her husband. Wise council, indeed. The church will be most happy to know that I've never considered divorcing their pastor. Anyway, it was such a terrible experience that at the first hint of another upcoming marriage workshop where it was possible the pastors would be required to attend (and, of course, their wives), I made certain that our calendar clearly stated that I had other plans. I was not taking any chances, even when the Good Doctor assured me that there would be no compulsion to attend, no oppression, and no arm-twisting tactics this time around.

It was a bit awkward explaining to my teen daughter why the calendar for October has a huge portion of a Friday blocked off for me to wash the cat when we don't even have a cat and I am deathly allergic to cats, but it got a bit more complicated when she noticed that all of Saturday is blocked off so I can dry the cat. Sometimes one just has to suck it up and withstand the allergic reaction rather than suffer the consequences of a forced-focus on one's marriage.

But oh how I digress. Worse than marriage functions are retreats in general. I think the last time I was on a retreat was when the Good Doctor was asked by the over 60s Sunday School class to lead their retreat. Once again, it was a package deal. Purchase a pastor, get his wife, too. So I went. Now, I will admit that this was a fun group. I did enjoy getting to know many of the attendees (don't tell the pastor I said that). But you know, every time I walked down the hallway of the individual rooms and passed the beautifully decorated name plates on the doors, I heard this little voice calling out to me, "Switch me. Switch me." Finally, thinking it harmless enough, and not able to ignore the voice any longer, I switched the name plates.

All was well until I started hearing whispered conversations about someone who had switched the names on the doors. One poor woman walked into the wrong room, thinking it her room, only to find another couple in "her" room. One woman was very agitated and in her displeasure was bound and determined to find the criminal mind that had plotted such a heinous act. I decided I just had to confess before she worked herself into a frenzy and ended up hospitalized all because of me.

So, the next morning, during a rousing rendition of "To Tell the Truth," the perpetrator was to be revealed. I and two other possible felons were chosen for the hot seats. We were questioned and interrogated until everyone had made up his or her mind. When it came time to vote, only one hand went up for me. The room was deathly silent as I stood up to confess. Their faces were priceless. Their perception of the perfect pastor's wife had forever been changed. A pianist, hospitality coordinator, receptionist, nursery room teacher, or church interior decorator would have fit their preconceived ideas; a miscreant did not.

Mission accomplished.

I wonder if they'll have beautifully decorated name tags on the doors this weekend?

Monday, September 19, 2011

We've taken over

This blog, formerly written by our dear wife and mother, the one and only Cynthia Joy King, has been temporarily taken over by those who love her most. We fear she has finally cracked.

It all started this morning when I, John, approached Cindy while she was homeschooling and asked this statement, "Dear, Honey Bunch, Love of my Life, I am coming to you because I am about to leave on some errands and I know how much it means to you when I speak your love language of "doing" so I'm wondering what I can do for you? Out of my unfailing love, humility and perfection, I am willing to serve you in any way. What do you need? Just name it, and I will take care of it." How was I to know that without missing a beat my wife would respond by asking, "Can you get me a pack of cigarettes because I'm really considering taking up smoking? Any idea what brand I should start with?"

It went downhill from there. Later in the day she was on her way to the piano to practice with one of the younger children and with a sense of foreboding she said to me (Mariana), "If you hear a loud bang, don't worry. It's just my head hitting the piano because I've played Suzuki Book 1 songs for TOO MANY YEARS!"

Maybe it was because she came in the kitchen this morning to find the left-overs from a teen boy football-watching, popcorn and ice cream-eating party. Maybe it was the trip to the chiropractor, when he told her she's suffering from a virus and sent her home with more pills than a person should take in one day. Maybe it was because during school this morning she read one too many run-on sentences. Or maybe it's because our computer is not working and the kids have been using her laptop and now it, too, has the spinning wheel of death. Or was it when someone poked holes in her prize-winning pumpkin, saying he just wanted to see if the arrows he was fashioning were sharp enough. They were. Maybe it's because someone walked off with the attachment to the vacuum so she had to clean the den carpet with just the open end of the vacuum.

Yeah, we think that might have been the straw that broke the camel's back because the last we saw of her she was vacuuming the top of Isaac's head, mumbling something about a flowbee and suggesting that if we didn't do something quick she just might have tears running down her leg.

Camels. I think I'll get her some Camels. And you can join us in praying that she is back soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How's it workin' out for you?

My praise of The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns might be getting a little redundant, so my apologies. I have just been so challenged by reading this book. I finally got the Good Doctor to pick it up and even he was (almost) willing to follow me in an attempt to adopt and save all the orphans out there.

I find myself thinking of situations in such a different light since being challenged by Stearns to surrender all to Christ's Will. Not to say, "I'll give you everything, Lord. Just don't ask me to give up my house, my cottage at the lake, my yacht, my child's school, my career, etc." Instead, with open arms I need to say, "I'll give you everything, Lord." Simply and with faith that no matter what happens, it is part of a greater story which I have not written.

Recently, in a conversation about our adoptions, someone said to me, "Well, I hope that works out for you." It took me quite some time before I figured out why that statement bothered me so much but I've come to realize that it's the approach to life, seen behind this statement, that troubles me. The person who said this is a Christian. Like many American Christians, we've come to appreciate our comfortable lives and don't want sacrifice, complications, or "messy" situations to get in the way of that comfortableness. It's that sense of entitlement that I'm always fighting against in my children. If we look at our families, for example, from an American standpoint, "easy" or comfortable is good, "messy" is bad. In this view, raising children, adopted or biological, can be deemed successful by how well it "works out" or looks to our human eyes.

However, from a Biblical standpoint, "I hope that works out for you," should have a totally different result. Did it "work out" for Joseph in prison? Paul and Silas ended up there, too. How about the many martyrs through the years? Or the missionaries at the end of the spear in a remote jungle. Here on earth it looks as if things didn't work out. From Heaven's eyes? Perfect.

A friend recently asked me to schedule some time with her as she and her husband are getting closer and closer to their anticipated adoption. As I've contemplated what to share with her, I really think this is where I'm going to start. If God has truly called you to adopt (or pack up and move, or minister in Ecuador, or start a new non-profit, or . . . ), then the good news is that it WILL work out because we DO know the end of the story. Will it look the way you expect? Probably not. Messy in the meantime? Maybe. Filled with blessings and help from above? Absolutely. And in the end? A reward ready and waiting.

Might I need a few trips to the Funny Farm before it's all over? Yeah. In fact, I was there today. But that's okay.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 13

We don't have a garden. Not that we don't want a garden, but with less than a quarter of an acre, and most of that under large shade trees, it just doesn't work. So, other than a raspberry patch and maybe a tomato plant or two, we don't even try anymore.

We compensate for our lack of home-grown vegetables by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and have done so for about five years. We have a compost bin where most of our food waste is thrown but occasionally I will just throw something in the back flowerbeds. Pumpkins always find their favorite resting place out there. So it's not surprising that we typically have a volunteer pumpkin plant or two, sometimes even a few volunteer tomato plants. But this year we got some type of mutant volunteer pumpkin plant. It has completely taken over the area in front of my laundry room door so that I can't use it.

From there it goes past the compost bin, over a bush...

...around the corner of the house...

...and is heading toward the road out front.

On the other side of the laundry room door, it goes past the hot tub...

...and is well on its way to the neighbor's fence.

So far we've harvested this beast and we look forward to many more pumpkins which have just started to grow.

Maybe I have a green thumb after all.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reverend Mother

Like many of my female counterparts, I can never get enough of The Sound of Music, movie or musical version.

Previously, it was Maria with whom I could relate the most. She is, of course, the mother of seven children. And she's a whiz at fashioning matching kids-wear out of curtains. If only I could sing.

But this weekend, I learned that I may have more in common with Sister Margaretta who, at the end of the movie must admit, "Reverend Mother, I have sinned." So, like Sister Margaretta, let me just clear the air here and say it with conviction, "Reverend Mother, I have sinned."

The wheels were set in motion several weeks ago. As was noted in a previous post, friends of ours had asked The King's Strings to play for their wedding and reception. Because they are theatre folks, they decided upon a theatre-themed wedding and long ago when they asked the priest if they could have show tunes in their wedding, he told them they could have whatever music they chose. However, just weeks before the wedding the church's music director decided that they could not play secular music during their wedding for fear the members of the audience would recognize the music and begin to hum along or get the words stuck in their heads.

Now, let me say that I do recognize that sometimes churches have policies concerning wedding music. If so, this should be communicated up front, before a couple chooses their favorite music and before they ask their musicians to practice said music. I have to ask, however, how much damage is done by being so black-and-white and telling a couple that they can only have church-sanctioned music? Even if you do have a music policy at your church, I'm not sure why all secular music needs to be automatically thrown out. If a song is not anti-church, anti-Christianity, or anti-marriage, is it really necessary to throw it out? Take Sunrise, Sunset for instance. Okay, they're Jewish, not Catholic but it's a beautiful piece that touches the hearts of parents everywhere as we think back on how quickly the years have gone by to bring us to this point. So why can't the mothers walk down the aisle to this song? And who's to say that Tevye and his family didn't convert to Catholicism after being forced to leave Anatevka? Let's consider One Hand, One Heart from West Side Story. It seems to me it's all about the very same marriage vows that the priest will lead the couple through on their wedding day. And songs from The Sound of Music? Maria's Catholic and was going to be a Nun. She even got married in a Catholic church. That should mean something, shouldn't it?

But I'm obviously not a church music director, Catholic or otherwise, so I guess I just don't really understand how this works. But I certainly did sympathize with our friends. We were so ready to help that we even suggested we could change all the names of the show tunes into church-sanctioned lyrics, google translate them into Latin, and write The King's Strings as the composer so no one would be the wiser.

In the end, we didn't have to take such drastic measures and most of their music was allowed to be played for the prelude and postlude. Their favorite song however, intended for the recessional, was a likely candidate for the chopping block. Feeling their pain, and rather than take the chance of losing THEIR song, the one thing they HAD to have in their wedding, we came up with a Sound of Music Nuns-type plan.

The official wedding order of service said that we would be playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring for the recessional. This song was of course chosen by the music director, not the couple tying the knot. We placed this music in our folders and dutifully played it for the rehearsal. It sounded lovely and all was well.

Somehow (and no one's talking so we still don't know exactly how this happened), the beloved piece, Grow Old with You from The Wedding Singer, mysteriously appeared in our folders and this is what was played for the recessional on the actual wedding day. The bride and groom were ecstatic and even the bride's mother looked over at us and gave us a very grateful thumbs up. It was perfect and all was well.

After the wedding the very nice music director asked us the name of the piece we played for the recessional. I told her the name of it and she said, "So it wasn't an arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Many's Desiring then? Because the organist and I didn't recognize it and were wondering. I had Jesu listed on my order of service."

We looked from one to the other, silently whispering, "Reverend Mother, I have sinned." Then, looking bewildered, we let out a collective, "Ooooohhhhhh. Huh?" and hurried to the van to exhale and to collapse in a fit of giggles. All was well.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Out and about

The Kings don't get out much.

Well, you try budgeting for a meal out with a family or nine, or traveling to an exotic location with enough luggage for a baseball team, or even maneuvering a twelve-passenger van through unexplored territory.

So when offered the opportunity for The King's Strings to play for a wedding and reception in Poughkeepsie, New York, we jumped at the chance. Of course we also wanted to bless our actor friends from Allenberry Playhouse, Andrew and Melissa. We have so enjoyed getting to know them while they were in the area and Mariana, Isaac and Eden were privileged to be cast in shows with them. And when we heard it was going to be a theater-themed wedding, we were even more excited.

We spent a lot of time listening to a CD we made of all the wedding music from musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof, Wedding Singer, Sound of Music, West Side Story and Shrek. We can all now sing the CD in order, from beginning to end. When Words Fail and This is Our Story are two new favorites and the van gets awfully noisy when these two pieces come on.

But behaviors like singing boisterously in the van, while acceptable amongst the family, are not always acceptable in public so our four hour trip to Poughkeepsie was interspersed with min-lessons on how to act at a fancy restaurant, during a wedding, and among strangers. Even before leaving the house, the packing list included lessons in what not to wear to certain occasions. In the end, all went well and to the undiscerning eye we may have even looked like we live and travel this way all of the time.

But we know better. Take for example the following episodes which could have meant our secret was out of the bag.

Packing for the trip, one child wanted to know if there were going to be beds in the hotel.
Oh my. This could be a long vacation.

Walking into the luxuriant accomodations of our hotel, one child saw a sign that said, "No Public Restrooms" and was very concerned that we would need to "hold it" for the whole weekend.
I guess we should have included a discussion of the words "public" and "private" before attempting this trip.

During the wedding rehearsal, one son was very thirsty and wanted to know if he could get a drink from the Holy Water "fountain."
Whoops. We forgot to talk about what you will find in a Catholic church.

At the rehearsal dinner, our very large and commercial-looking van needed to be parked between a Beemer and a Lincoln. This called for a quick review of van exiting procedures so as not to touch or knick either vehicle.
Oh dear, looks like that one was a near-miss.

The fancy, stemmed water glasses were a new one. A certain child needed instructions on how to hold the glass without dropping or spilling the contents. Another did spill it. And yet another insisted on wiping sweat off the outside of the glass.
You have to understand that our cupboards are, of course, filled with mostly plastic.

The fried appetizer looked very appealing to our hungry crowd and they chowed down quite eagerly until they found out what it was.
Well, you can't really blame us for not explaining this one ahead of time; even I had never had calamari before (and still haven't). But some of the kids actually liked it.

So much wonderful food came at us during the course of our meal that more than one member of the family had to be rolled back to the hotel room due to a gorged belly.
So some new advice: Eat up kids and digest slowly; this is all you're getting for the week.

Driving from one location to another we passed a blue 1965 Lemans convertible. One child said, "Look at that neat car." John questioned, "The old one?" "No, Dad, the blue one."
Hmmm. Maybe we need to talk about antiques and their value beyond color.

On the same drive, as we drove in the direction of NYC, we were pulled over at a terrorist check. I guess our vehicle, being so large, fit the nation's description of a potential threat. The officer, however, took one look at the back of our van packed full of instruments, with stick figures of all nine of us on the window, and at our license plate with KINGZOO spelled out and decided that our kids were more a threat to their parents' sanity than to America. He told us we could proceed.
Welcome to New York, kids!

The kids sat down at the reception to find champagne glasses filled with the real thing. It took some quick actions to remove the cool-looking drink from the hands of some naive but eager children. Our server was kind enough to permanently substitute said glasses with sparkling cider-filled replacements. Only to have one child down his whole glass before the toast was even one-quarter of the way finished.
Why didn't we think of having a family-only mock toast in the privacy of our own home?

Next order of business was for one child to remove the intricately-folded cloth napkin from the drinking glass and promptly place it on the head.
Clever? Yes, it did look somewhat like a rooster's comb or, with a bit of wishful thinking, a mohawk. Appropriate? Not really.

We had a little trouble with the vernacular of the rich and famous. One child didn't know what a carafe was (and thought the bar tender said "giraffe") so had a little trouble locating the soda that was readily available on our table. Another one ordered ribs when the option had actually been rib-eye steak.
I think I know what our vocabulary words will be this week.

The drink stirrers quickly became musical instruments while waiting for our food.
I know we're a musical family and were hired to provide music for the occasion, but really kids, is that necessary? They are drink stirrers! For your drink. To stir it. And that's it. You don't even need to stir soda. Oh, just forget it.

But all is forgiven. Every one of you handled yourself well and appropriate (mostly) to the occasion. You music was beautiful and well-received by everyone. We even got an offer to play for our server's wedding in Poughkeepsie next June which we unfortunately needed to decline. And just think how much you'll already know when next you are thrust into life beyond our four walls.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beautiful music

When I was young, it was the tradition of the Mennonite churches to support the Mennonite nursing homes (before the term became politically incorrect) by taking turns providing entertainment for the monthly residents' birthday parties. When it was our church's turn, the adults rounded up a bunch of us young'uns who played instruments and instructed us to play for the residents. I'm sure I played for several of these events but the one that was most memorable was the year that I got yelled off the stage.

I must have been about 9 years old and was standing up front playing my violin. A woman in the first row started yelling, "Tell that girl to shut up. Just tell her to shut up." This was in the days before dementia patients were separated from the rest of the residents but I have survived the humiliation by telling myself that this was likely a woman suffering from dementia and she didn't really know what she was saying and thereby didn't really think that I was that awful.

I was reminded of this incident once again when last night we rounded up the members of The King's Strings to play for the residents in the dementia unit at a nearby retirement community. Our children are no strangers to this kind of venue and I am so proud of them for their poise and compassion when confronted with older adults whose behaviors resemble those of young children. There was a woman in the front row who continued to speak out but instead of telling us to leave the stage, she offered repeated votes of confidence. There was another woman in the back who stood up from time to time to conduct our little group. I have to believe that she was a choir director or music teacher at some point in the past. She even came front to stand with us during one song and Andrew, who she chose to stand beside, welcomed her with welcome bow. After the concert the children took the time to walk among the audience and speak to or with the residents. This is definitely part of what it means to look after orphans and widows.

I admit that I am the weak link in The King's Strings so maybe I should take to heart what the woman said so many moons ago. I don't have the cute factor of our younger members who are just learning to play and I don't have the skill of the older ones. Not having learned by the Suzuki method, about the only thing I can play by ear is Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and that's only after having played it with one Twinkler after another for the past 12 years.

So I found myself in a bit of a bind last night when we decided that it wasn't worth packing stands and music for a half hour concert. Standing next to Isaac, I fudged my way through most of it by a combination of air bowing, faulty by-ear playing, and watching Isaac's fingers. I appreciated Isaac's many smiles of love and encouragement even though I'm sure his perfect-pitch ear was ready to whack my fingers a few times with the backside of his bow. In comparison, the Good Doctor is known for telling me to try harder; lecturing that everyone can play by ear if they just put forth enough effort.

So as I'm sure you can see, Isaac's compassion for my predicament was a welcome relief. About halfway through the concert, however, he changed his tune (pun intended) and decided to have a little fun with me. Seeing how I was watching his fingers to determine my finger placement, he decided to play every note with just his first finger. For those not knowledgeable in the playing of stringed instruments, a player usually uses four fingers, his index finger through his pinky, numbered one through four. In this way I was able to watch which finger Isaac had on which string and copy it. By using only his index finger he had to shift, meaning his finger was all over the place on the fingerboard. It was next to impossible for me to determine what note he was playing. Rather than get angry, I thought his joke rather ingenious and told him so. His smirk was priceless and he's been enjoying the joke a bit too much since then.

I went back to air bowing and all was well. And someday, when I'm ready to get back at Isaac, all I have to do is play every night just slightly out of tune. His well-trained ear will cause him all sorts of anguish. I'll just smile and tell him I love him.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Deuteronomy 6

I was once told by a woman involved in her church's leadership, "Three year olds can't learn."

It sounds like a comment that could have been made twenty or more years ago, before the influx of knowledge on child development and before the publishing companies were falling over each other to publish the newest and best preschool Sunday school curriculum. Sadly, it was just a few years ago and it came during a discussion about preschool programs in churches. Her belief, clearly summed up in this sentence, was that it was useless to provide professional resources to the teaching of young children because they are too young to be taught.

Wow! Up until that point I didn't realize that my young children, who had been learning since birth, were so precocious. Her church clearly wasn't the one for me and my children.

But sadder still is the fact that many families are operating this way when it comes to the spiritual training of their children. The church is not supposed to be the primary source in this area; it can't be. My children spend one morning a week at church, maybe two and that's definitely not enough time for the church to impart spiritual truths. And they aren't supposed to be the primary source for my child's spiritual training. Deuteronomy 6: 6 - 8 is written to me, not to my pastor or church's youth leaders: These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

I think Satan has done an excellent job of supplying parents with plenty of excuses for not teaching our children spiritual truths in the home. "I don't know enough about the Bible and I wouldn't want to teach my children the wrong things." "We had family devotions when I was growing up and it was SO boring." "We're so busy. When would we have time to do that?" "The ages of my children are so varied, how can I reach all of them?" "I'm so overwhelmed and don't know where to begin." And don't think pastor's families are exempt. Just ask the Good Doctor.

I've often wondered how churches can help parents regain their role in the home. Maybe educating and empowering parents is just as (or more) important as finding the right curriculum for the children. A few hours each week is not enough, especially when I hear church leaders like the woman who insisted that three year olds can't learn. I think of how many years she had already missed with her own children, and the children of her congregation, and I cringe.

But I also don't want to come across as one who has it all together. I have certainly had many missed opportunities and I always wish I had done so much more. But through the years I have employed a variety of methods for "impressing them on my children." When the children were younger, we did a lot with manipulatives, hands-on materials, and play-acting. Now with the teens we can read together, books like Do Hard Things and Crazy Love.

A particular passion of mine is for my children to know the story of the Bible. Too often, especially in church, we teach the Bible in a hodge-podge of stories. One week they are learning about Jonah and the next week it's Peter. If it happens to be December, the Nativity is thrown in there and then it might be back to Adam and Eve followed by Paul. By Easter we go back to the crucifixion and resurrection and then maybe to Abraham. Again, I've tried various methods to relay this information; some of it worked and some of it didn't.

This summer I came across a curriculum called Grapevine Studies. I usually don't buy Bible curriculum because I feel like I can brainstorm and come up with ideas on my own. However, I was really intrigued with this series. The description from their website, (Click here for website), states: "Grapevine Studies provides effective, easy-to-teach Bible curriculum to disciple students ages five to adult. Through the use of Bible timelines and easy-to-follow lessons, Grapevine Studies will give your students a panoramic view of the Bible." I decided to try it, starting with my 5 - 10 year olds.

I'm hooked. The children ask for it first thing every morning. When we miss a day, they are upset. They love the timeline drawings and symbols and they are remembering what they are learning. So, for anyone looking for a place to begin, this just might be the jumpstart that you need. The even better news for you is that if you use the coupon code TAF at checkout, you receive 20% off your first order.

And let me know if you try it; I'd love to hear your thoughts. Even more so, I'd love to know that you're starting to talk about these things when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up, that you are tying them as symbols on your hands and binding them on your foreheads.

Monday, September 5, 2011

On man caves and quilting parties

I have 14 first cousins, and that's just on my dad's side. There are even more on my mom's side. I never realized that this was all that unusual until I met John. He has a grand total of 4 first cousins. And my Bauman first cousins and I have been busy. Between us (so far) we have added 29 members of the next generation.

You should see the crowd when the aunts, uncles, first cousins, and second cousins get together.

And that just might be the most notable aspect of our family; the fact that we see each other on a fairly regular basis. Most of us see each other at least once a year and for many of us, it's two or more times a year. Of course Christmas always includes a family reunion but quite possibly more popular is the annual Labor Day Camp-out in Uncle Carl's backyard.

Every year we have the same discussion about how many years this has been going on and every year we come to the same conclusion - no one knows. We do know that it started with just Uncle Carl, Aunt Betty Lou, and their four children. Some time after that, Aunt Mim and Uncle Joe joined in with their clan. Eventually it grew to where it is now so that any of the Bauman siblings and their children and grandchildren are invited.

Each year comes with the traditional camping activities (Bauman style): battery-operated cars, playing with fire, intergenerational games,

sleeping in the backyard, homemade root beer, and ribs on the grill.

But every year there are surprises.

Like the grill used this year.

Last year Aunt Ellen came with a box full of quilt squares that my grandmother had cut out and in some cases, had started to sew together. Being a very thrifty person, no scrap of material was thrown away in her home but was instead cut into as many pieces as possible. We had fun going through these boxes, recognizing scraps of fabric from a blouse or a jumper that had been made for us as children. Uncle Wilbur and Aunt Dolores took these scraps home to make into quilts to donate to Mennonite Central Committee to be sent to countries that they serve. As we drove to the camp-out this year, I wondered if those scraps had been used yet and whether or not we'd get to see the results. The anwer to that question became the biggest surprise of this year's camp-out.

Before our arrival, one of the quilts made with the fabric scraps had been placed into a quilt frame. But it wasn't just haphazardly placed around the house. No, Uncle Carl sacrificially gave up his man cave for the quilting frame and knotting party. You have to understand that he probably spends more time in this garage than in his own home and that the floor is probably cleaner in there than in most of our kitchens. What a perfect location! He started out supervising to make sure that our needles didn't touch his prized posessions but he did get in on the fun himself. Although he did say that there were to be no pictures and word was not to get out that he allowed the women to use the garage for a quilting party.

We thought it was so perfect that we just might have found a new annual Labor Day tradition. What says "family" more than a quilting party of three generations knotting a quilt started by the great-grandmother of the group?

There was much talk about how Mother/Grandma/MomMom/Grandmom/Great-Grandmom Bauman would have enjoyed being a part of the circle. I found it interesting to learn, however, that she would not have joined us on Sunday, believing that quilting was not to be done on the Lord's day of rest.

Thanks, Carl, for sharing your man cave and I promise not to show these pictures to anyone nor to allow word to get out that you shared your space with us.

Til next year, ladies.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Friday night football

Having attended a peaceful football-less high school, I was previously naive regarding the lure of Friday night football. Now that we have someone to watch, we decided we should make the trek to the stadium for the first game of the season. So, we packed everyone into the van and headed out for an educational experience like none other.

Walking past the baseball fields on the way to the stadium, Hope noticed the empty baseball bleachers. She couldn't believe her luck at having found front row seats for the whole family, that is until we told her she had the wrong stands. But that was nothing compared to the shock we received at the gate. The coach should like us because paying for the King family to enter, I do believe we supplied his salary for the season.

Our friendly MASH Wildcat had informed us that his cheerleader friends would be providing face painting so Hope and Eden were looking forward to this, that is until Hope passed the first of these similarly clad high school fans. She decided this must be the face painting that had been mentioned and she didn't want anything to do with it.

Turns out my husband and I do complement each other very well. He kept me informed of the happenings of the game while I gave him a running commentary on the antics of the mascot...chasing the girls

...eating the captain's cheer chart (he thinks she'll be not-too-happy about this later)

...getting some brotherly advice on mascoting (or maybe on girls, who knows)

...doing The Worm

...standing out in a crowd.

You know, this was actually fun for everyone. The little girls had fun collecting the various seed pods that had fallen onto the stands from the nearby trees. Shoun liked walking up and down the bleachers. Isaac enjoyed the band performing next to us. Mariana searched for friends. I'm beginning to see the draw. We'll have to make this a regular happening.

But maybe we should take out a loan first.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hey Purple, Hey Gold

My son is a cheerleader.

I never thought I'd say that. Since his father was not a cheerleader, I guess that means he takes after me. Although, seeing as my stint as a cheerleader lasted all of one basketball season, I'm not sure it really counts. It might have lasted longer but Jenny and Teesha, the seasoned, older, more beautiful and more popular girls on the squad, made it very clear that only beautiful and popular girls like themselves were allowed to be cheerleaders and I didn't qualify.

Maybe if the school colors hadn't been purple and gold Jenny and Teesha would have given me more of a chance. Apparently you needed natural beauty and popularity like theirs to look good in that combination.

Then again, maybe not. Some things are just not meant to be.

I should point out that Jesse begs to differ with my opening statement because even though he practices with the cheerleaders, he's quick to point out that he's the mascot. He tries to tell me that he's going to mascot practice, but I know better. If you're walking into the school behind 30 pony-tailed and identically beribboned blondes, I think the majority wins - it's cheerleading practice.

But cheerleader or not, I'm proud of my son. A freshman as mascot is pretty cool. And if God wants us to use all of our gifts for Him, then Jesse has no choice but to put all of his entertaining to good use. Underneath the fur of a wildcat is a good start; it's better than acting up as class clown.

And that's not all. I know my prayers have been answered and my boy is letting his light shine everywhere he goes, even to his newfound blonde and beribboned friends.

Take today for instance. Jesse's ever-vigilant older brother (brother's keeper, you might say) came home from cross country practice (which of course ends half an hour before cheerleading practice, thus making these parents drive to the school twice during supper) to report that he witnessed Jesse's light-bearing himself. As Jesse and his buddies were walking down the hall, they came upon a cheerleader and her boyfriend in a loving embrace. My self-appointed light-bearing, anti-dating policeman proclaimed, "Red Rover, Red Rover, the purpling is over," and pushed his way between the two lovebirds.

He not only makes his mother proud, but his former counselors at Camp Hebron, authors of the "Girls are red, Guys are blue, No purpling" campaign should be happy that their message goes beyond church camp. And his youth pastor, author of the ever-popular and widely quoted dating flow-chart, should be grateful that Jesse not only took the message to heart for himself but he is taking the word to the byways and hallways of the public high school. That's MY boy.

But really, how could the lone male amidst 30 beautiful and popular (just ask Jenny and Teesha) females be anything but a light?