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!

Friday, December 28, 2012

King Funeral Home

When I was young, I played teacher.  Constantly.  My poor brother.  I can specifically remember teaching him to spell my name (always start with the important stuff) and then moving on to spell candy (you only have to switch the "i" with an "a").  He also had to memorize whatever Bible memory I was learning in school at the time.

Later on the bus, I read chapter books to the younger kids, again practicing the role of teacher.  It also kept the kids from getting in trouble on the hour and 45 minute bus ride.  But ultimately, I just liked playing teacher.

Children play what they know so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find out at this year's King Christmas that the King children (ie. my husband and his siblings) used to play funeral home.  Why not?  They grew up in the funeral home and their father was a mortician.  Their mom did hair.  For dead people.  I don't know if there's a name for that or not.  Probably not.  I've never heard anyone proudly announce that their daughter had just graduated from dead people cosmetology school.  But then again, things to do with medicine and dead people are usually in Latin so maybe it's something like mortuus persona capillus excogitatorusology.

Anyway, I'm told that they'd dress up (in black, of course) and place one of the younger children in the wagon (usually John as #5 of Sam as #6) and tell them to be really still.  I'm sure tears were involved.  Maybe a little singing.  An obituary was read and the mourners would walk up to the wagon, er, casket, and speak kind words about the deceased sibling.  I was thinking that we should be surprised that these children all grew up to be normal, hardworking adults, able to chew gum and walk at the same time.  But then again...

This conversation led to some confessions.  I learned that Aunt Shirley once went to the wrong funeral. She got herself in a bit of a pickle when a family member of the unknown deceased started asking questions.  She had to think fast, quickly sign the guest book and make a sudden get-away.  I bet she had those funeral directors talking about that women that went to both of their funerals in the same day. Her excuse?  She went in by the back door (the one that you usually don't enter standing up) and got all mixed up.  That's okay, a woman attended my Auntie Frances' funeral and during the sharing time she (the woman, not Auntie Frances) got up during the sharing time and droned on for several minutes about Betty.  We're all fairly certain that Auntie Frances didn't have the secret Facebook name of Betty.

Aunt Shirley also confessed that she has been to a dog funeral.  Not knowing what one would expect at a dog funeral we were all ears.  Apparently you are to serve pumpkin pie.  Cause that's what Aunt Shirley had at the dog funeral she attended.  Hmmm.  I wonder if we were supposed to serve pumpkin pie at the funeral for Eden's hermit crab?

This is all very interesting but I just want everyone to know that if anyone rolls a wagon in here tomorrow, I'm outta here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2013

I cut back on the Christmas cards this year.  Waaaaayyy back.  I felt a little guilty; how do you decide who gets cut from the list?  But in a year where we are trying to fundraise, and where I am learning to live more simply, and in a world where Facebook keeps us up-to-date with everyone and anyone, it was time.  So, here's the 2012 family Christmas card for everyone.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

We recently played a King’s Strings Christmas concert at a county nursing facility.  At the end of our program, we assured the activities director that we would be back.  She was flabbergasted that we’d so quickly agree to return when they can’t pay our usual fee.  John explained that while we do have a set rate to help cover expenses such as lessons, new instruments when the children outgrow them, and upkeep, we also make it a priority to live out James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  And so we will return, not out of obligation or drudgery, but because we have experienced the joy of bringing hope and blessing to dark and lonely places.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

At the beginning of 2012 we were starting to feel the rumblings of God’s call to adopt again.  After several months of prayer and looking at different options, we made the definite decision in July.  We contacted a consultant and by August were beginning the fundraising efforts.  Through King’s Strings CD sales, cookie sales, an online auction, and multiple other efforts, we filed our initial paperwork, finished our home study, had profiles made, and sent several agency applications in the mail.  And now we wait and continue to fundraise.  The rest is in God’s perfect timing and match-making abilities.  He knows that we’re not getting any younger.  We have requested a domestic adoption, under age five.  Other than that, we look forward to being surprised.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Meanwhile, we are in the college search with Andrew (17) who will be graduating this spring.  He has finally narrowed down his choices and is waiting to see who wins the financial aid game.  We do know that he will be far from home next year and that’s okay.  Depending on the school, he’s looking into cinematography or media communications.  He announced in August that he’s challenging himself  to use these last 180 days of school to make an eternal difference; to not just be known as the guy who ran cross country or the kid who loves Philly sports’ teams, but one who truly cares about others.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Jesse (16) joined the ranks of those allowed behind the wheel, growing a few more gray hairs on my head (well, actually, they’re mostly on John’s head).  He’s choosing to invest in the lives of younger kids by co-teaching the kindergarten boys on Sunday mornings and by working with a group of middle school boys on Wed. nights.  He’s showing them that he’s not just about being the crazy high school mascot or all-out dodgeball fan (with his brother), but that he also cares about each of them.  He knows that little eyes are watching and modeling, as evidenced by the kindergartner who showed up at church with his hair spiked – just like Jesse’s.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

The theater world is still Mariana’s (14) favorite place to be.  2012 found her as Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Gertrude in Seussical; Brigitta in The Sound of Music; Viola in Twelfth Night; and Penny in Hairspray as well as co-star of an educational video for the state of PA.  She knows that many of her actor friends live under the constant stress of knowing where the next job may come from and the loneliness of going from place to place.  We’re often told that she is definitely making a difference and that it’s noticed.   The jump from homeschool to public school came easy to her, quickly making friendships that count.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Shoun (12) is growing in so many ways, the least of which is stature (in which he has grown several inches this year).  Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that this is just his second Christmas in our home.  He’s learning to think of others first; in the home, at church, in the neighborhood, and on the soccer field.  After just his second season of American soccer, Shoun was voted Most Improved Player on his team. 

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Isaac (11) just loves people.   He’s quick to ask someone what’s wrong, to offer a back rub, or to care about someone who’s struggling.  His soccer coach mentioned this when telling us about Isaac’s strong leadership on the soccer team this year.  He plays viola with the West Shore Symphony Orchestra and as the only child, he’s certainly making many friends of the adult musicians in the group.  He, too, was in The Sound of Music this summer, playing Kurt.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Saying she wants to be on stage like her older sister, Eden (8) played Gretl in The Sound of Music this summer.  She is currently playing a lead role in a regional theater’s Christmas show.  She has not given up her love of crafts, though.  This is how she shows her love for others and we accept her handmade gifts knowing it’s in that way that she shares her love for us.  

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

HopeAnne (6) is a bundle of energy and love.  Her very presence spreads joy and smiles.  She is very strong and flexible and has put that to good use this year by participating in gymnastics classes.  She is looking forward to no longer being the baby of the family (or so she says now).

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

As you celebrate Christmas this year, and anticipate all that 2013 holds, it is our prayer that you will spread the joy of Christmas to everyone around you, thereby expanding the Kingdom in your neck of the woods.  It takes each and everyone of us, using the gifts we have been given, to make a difference to the hurting world around us.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Merry Christmas!
John, Cindy, Andrew, Jesse, Mariana, Shoun, Isaac, Eden, and HopeAnne King

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Eden's Christmas birthday

This is it.  The last weekend before Christmas.  For the past six Christmases, we have had one or more children in the Christmas show at a regional theater just 20 minutes away (15 if John drives).  Coupling that with King's Strings concerts, we have very busy Christmas seasons.  So busy, that I am seriously considering changing our family's Christmas traditions and celebrations so that we prepare for Christmas during the month of January, when things are much quieter, and then culminate in a celebration Jan. 25th.  But for this year, we are in the home stretch.  This year it is only Eden in the Christmas show and this is the last weekend.  Two more shows to go.

So I think I will take this opportunity to acknowledge Eden's October birthday (guess it's been busy since October around here).  I will then have caught up with the birthday acknowledgements for 2012.  Whew!

Eden has done so well in this year's show.  When I first heard which role they were giving to her, and then heard that she'd be the only child in the matinees, I was a little concerned.  But, I told myself, it wasn't my problem.  However, it appears that all those years of watching her sister and the wonderful actors at this theater, and all of the other shows we attend, must have paid off.  I'm told, by those with eyes trained much more than mine, that her artistic choices have been excellent and that she has done amazingly well.  I would definitely agree.  But I'm her mom.  Of course I love to watch her.

So, happy belated birthday, Eden.  And Merry Christmas.  And who the fa-la-la-la-la do you think you are, anyway?  (Inside joke, flashback to last year's Christmas show)  Love you!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mysteries of life explained

One topic people love to bring up to me is laundry.  How often do you do laundry?  How much do you have, etc.  I see the motivation here.  Someone is thinking about how much laundry there is at her house, and is picturing that proportionally to the number of people in my house.  Thankfully, laundry is one job that I enjoy so I honestly don't really think about it.  And a few years ago the Good Doctor and my parents remodeled my laundry room to make it bigger and to include two washers and dryers.  While I don't always use the dryers, two washers does significantly cut down on time in the laundry room.  Now, if the number of bathrooms in my house increased according to the number of people, I'd have a complaint.

Everyone in my house knows that I will do laundry on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  I only do the laundry that is brought to the laundry room and placed in appropriate bins for whites and colors.  I refuse to wander to every room of the house collecting laundry.  Walking a pile of laundry to the specified room is rather easy and can even be done in shifts if necessary.  If the laundry doesn't come to me, you'd better hope that you don't need or want something that's in your dirty pile because I won't be working on it again for a few days.  The older kids now know how to do their own laundry so if they forget to bring it to me, they just take care of it on their own.  They are not so fond of folding, however, so we're working on that.

Recently, three weeks had gone by and I was yet to find the younger boys' dirty clothes in the laundry room.  I gave them my reminders but the rest was up to them.  After seeing a few too many clothes being pulled out of their dirty bin and being re-worn, I decided to give them one more chance.  If the clothes didn't make it to me by the next laundry day, then they were going to do their own the next day.  In the meantime, I tried not to think about how many times they had worn the same pair(s) of underwear.  And that they were okay with this.

So there we were in the laundry room, one boy at each washer, separating colors from whites and colors, measuring detergent, transferring from washer to dryer, and learning to fold.  About halfway through the folding process, one of my pre-teens was obviously frustrated by the number of clothes he had to turn right-side out.  He made a few manly noises of displeasure and could finally bear it no longer.  In frustration he cried out to me, "I don't understand why the washing machine turns all of the clothes inside-out!  How does it do that, anyway?"

With that certain gleam in my eye that can only mean a teachable moment is about to commence, I very gently explained, "Oh, my son.  My wonderfully brilliant son.  He who believes there's an injustice in the world of laundry appliances. The washing machine doesn't turn your clothes inside-out.  The dryer doesn't turn your clothes inside-out.  You turn your clothes inside-out every time you take them off."

He took a moment to ponder this revelation; staring at me in disbelief, looking at me and clearly thinking, "Is she telling the truth?  Could it be?  Is it possible that my own actions could cause such a thing?"

"Yes, my child, it is true.  The washing machine isn't out to get you.  You are the master of your own clothes.  You determine whether they are washed inside-out or right-side out."

His next look was a bit difficult to read.  He was either totally amazed that I owned this vast knowledge or in shock that he could really be responsible for such an act.

Well, you learn something new every day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Safe at home?

I had to get off Facebook today.  The newsfeed about the school shooting is heart-wrenching.  I don't know what to say.  There is nothing that can be said or done at this time to bring the children and loved ones back.  Nothing will take away their pain.  I can pray that they will find the strength for each moment of each of the upcoming days, for each holiday and birthday and in-between day that will never be the same.  I can pray for friends and family to surround them; bringing comfort and good memories.  It seems so small.  But that's not why I had to take a break.

Yes, I was slightly hurt by the person whose status stated that the shooting happened because I voted for a certain political party.  But that's not the reason I called it quits for the day.  I wish it was that simple.

The real reason was because I was getting tired of reading the statuses of friends announcing that they have found the key to keeping their children safe and that the key is homeschooling.  I found myself getting angry and when I was too tempted to write back, I decided I should just stop reading.  Because is that really the key to keeping our children safe?  Do you take your children on car trips?  Maybe errands around the neighborhood or vacations?  Because car accidents happen everyday.  Do you ever go into the city on a field trip?  Every night the news tells me of another incident in which I would not want my children involved.  Do you take them with you when you put gas in your car?  Gas stations and convenience stores have always been dangerous places.  Do you ever eat out?  Last week our local Subway was held up.  The Subway that my son has an application ready to turn in for a job.  Do you go to the mall or to the movies?  Shootings happen there.  And you probably shouldn't homeschool at home because the number of home invasions is on the rise.  The fact is that we can't keep our children perfectly safe no matter how hard we try.

But more importantly, I don't think our job as parents is to try to shelter our children from every imaginable danger.  Yes, we teach them about safety, the kind that tells them to keep their fingers out of outlets, to look both ways before crossing the street and to be wary of strangers.   We keep our homes as safe as possible but I don't think Christ asks us to shelter our children in an attempt to keep them "safe"; the kind of safe that is being thrown around here.  A family called to be missionaries on the front lines of spiritual warfare knows this full well.  Christian martyrs through the centuries have known that.  Families that hid Jews during Nazi Germany knew that their children were not going to be safe because of their parents' decisions.  We protect as much as we can but Christ doesn't call any of us to be "safe."  I guess it's a good thing that even His parents couldn't keep Him "safe."

We can teach peace to our children.  We tell them about "peace that passes all understanding" and that "in this world we will have trouble but God has overcome the world."  We can't keep them with us forever so we pass on the knowledge of the One who can give them peace in the midst of chaos, of fear, and of troubling situations.

We teach them to love and to be beacons of God's light.  I have to wonder how different things would be if more of our children were in real school truly shining God's light?  What if our kids stuck up for the kid being picked on, what if they befriended the girl who felt unlovable, or if they invited the disabled teen to join their family for dinner once a week?  What if the same homeschool families that are priding themselves on their educational decision and their ability to keep their kids "safe," would decide to make their house a home away from home for the kid whose own home life was in shambles?

We tell them that God has ordained every breath of theirs, from the first to the last.  Nothing in-between will catch Him by surprise.  We tell them to trust God, and to follow His plan for their lives.  Really, which is more safe, to be in God's Will even if it is dangerous, or to be in a place of comfort?  And as parents, we can rest in that and release all worries.

When I rest in following God's plan for my life and my family's life and when I watch my children learning to do the same, I don't have to worry about the ones I send off to public school in the morning or those who sit around the table with me at home.  Instead, I can focus my attention on bringing love to those who need it most.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The priorities of being 12

Moving right along in my attempt to acknowledge our October birthdays, before November turns into December...

Shoun turned 12 on the 9th of October.  A monumental day for him as he can now vie for "shot gun" when traveling.  Having four shot gunners in the family has also prompted me to make a new family rule.  I no longer want to hear, "I call shot gun," while watching 4 children run to the van.  If I do, you will lose your position.  It just sounds so selfish.  Instead, I'd love to hear someone say, "I nominate ________ for position of shot gun on this trip."  Ahh, music to a mother's ears.

So, yes, we have another shot gunner in the family.  I believe it means more to him than to me.  And there's also Isaac waiting in line for his January birthday to gain his rights as well.

It was a month of so late but Shoun also celebrated age 12 by earning the coach's Most Improved Player award at the soccer award ceremony.  It was a well-deserved award as he has not only worked hard in this, his second season in organized soccer, but he has also become the most improved in the area of muscle tone as well.  I believe he has Jesse to thank for that.  All those orders for push ups have paid off.

So, what other awards would Shoun be winning?

Along with the Most Improved Soccer Player he will also win Most Likely to Bite His Tongue Off (a tongue thinker's habits die hard)

Most Improved Smiler Award  (Sure is good to see!)

Most Likely to Eat Anything (Except Tomatoes) Award

The Good Sport Award (In fact, I think he asks for Jesse to pick on him just so he can prove his status in this area)

Most Likely to Smell Like Deodorant (While believing that the more deodorant you wear, the fewer showers you need to take)

Most Improved in Manners

Fastest Suzuki Viola Learner (for someone who's only been playing 1 1/2 years, he's goooooood!)

Most Likely to Try to Get Out of Work

Most Likely to Call, "I Call Shot Gun," and Most Likely to be Given Shot Gun Privileges By Others

Valuable Team Player

Here's hoping that the rest of Year 12 is a great one and that riding shot gun will be all that you dreamed it would be.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A humble request

My eight year old cannot wrap her mind around the fact that we need money to adopt a child.  Her developing and inexperienced brain just cannot equate the two ideas.  Even my brother, an older and wiser and very learned man, questioned the money needed to adopt.  I don't think I was very good at explaining all of the aspects of it.  I did come across this great blog post that does an excellent job at explaining adoption costs.

Yes, we do know that there are ways to adopt without a large cost.  We know that fostering children and/or fostering to adopt brings with it much less need for finances.  We also know the need is great.  Because of the need, our first choice would be to foster again.  However, the state of Pennsylvania has this inconceivable notion that six children is enough and seven is too many so they make it very difficult to foster once you have six children in your home.  And so my heart breaks every time I hear an on-air plea for foster parents or drive by a billboard looking for families.  But we've already tried two different agencies who thought they could help us through the extra hoops placed in front of larger families, but to no avail.

So this is where we get creative.  We're making cookies like crazy, and selling CDs and nose flutes at our concerts.  People have been so supportive.  More than once we've received a widow's mite toward our adoption and my heart leaps at the love and support from those around us.  I can't wait to tell our child all of these stories someday; to tell our son or daughter about the God who loves each of us and who prompted so many people to give to provide a home to one who needs a loving place to belong.

Which brings us to our most recent fundraiser.  Friends on Facebook, don't get tired of hearing about it yet, we've got two full days to go.  Through our adoption Facebook group, we learned of 32Auctions, an online silent auction for fundraising efforts.  We put the word out to friends and family and have over 60 items on our auction.  Bidding began this morning and I'm finding it almost addicting to watch the numbers rise.  Each child in our family donated an item or a service to bring home their new sibling.  And some of those items are among the highest bid auctions on our site.  But we're not done yet.  The idea of this auction isn't just to get a bargain, or to win an auction, but to get us closer to bringing home our child.  God has a plan and you are part of it.  Take a look at our auction, bid if you feel led, and share the link with everyone in your email list and to your Facebook friends.  Help us get the word out!  Our auction ends Sunday evening, Nov. 18 at 10PM Eastern. Be a part of our journey!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sock wars

"Mom, why are there socks in the deep freeze?"

"Not now, Dear.  I have company."

Too late.  My poor guest was already looking at me as if I had lost my marbles.  Maybe I had.  Maybe I have.

Truth is, I hate sorting socks.  It probably wouldn't be so bad if it was just the amount of socks for two, maybe three, even four, family members.  It also wouldn't be so bad if each sock had a mate in the laundry basket.  But when you have 9 people and approximately 3 days worth of socks for each laundry day, that's a lot of socks.  Factor in the runaway sock principle and you're looking at a lot of socks.  And a lot of frustration.

Trying to make my life easier, I bought everyone their own, color coded and labeled Sock Sac.  I love them and they work great.  If you use them.  Yes, it's really just a variation on the old lingerie bag but they last much longer (I know, we tried lingerie bags first) and seems more gender neutral.  But the older boys won't use them because they don't like the name.  Okay.  I can accept that.  Call it what you want, but use it.  So the deal is, if you use the [Insert Name Here], then all of your socks will stay together, will be easy to sort and therefore will be sorted by me, and finally, will be returned to you.  Don't use the [Call It What You Will], and your socks will not be sorted and will not be returned to you.

All of the socks not placed in the [To Be Named Product] used to be placed in an extra laundry hamper.  Til I found that the kids would just go in there every morning, grab any two socks, and wear them, not caring if they were their own (our socks are labeled with first initial) or if they matched.  This caused multiple problems, including scuffles with siblings who would be upset to find their initials on the bottoms of someone else's feet.  And then the special sock laundry hamper broke.  Drastic measures needed to be taken.

So I put the socks in the deep freeze which is in the laundry room.  Just dumped the socks from the broken hamper right into one of the side baskets.

This didn't seem to bother the kids, though.  It did take them a while to find the socks, hence the announcement while I had company.  Once they found them, they would just go into the freezer each morning to pull out a pair of cold socks.  They seemed to think that cold socks were a minor inconvenience compared to having to take their socks off and place them in a [Haven't Found an Acceptable Name for it Yet].

Obviously my measures were not drastic enough.  So I started taking the wet socks out of the washer and putting them into the freezer before they went through the dryer.  Now grabbing your socks from the freezer in the morning gives new meaning to the term "cold feet."

Funny, more of my children are beginning to use the [Glorified Lingerie Bag Without a Name] now.  It's really fairly simple, folks.  Just find a method which helps them see things your way.  I will win the sock war.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A surprise advertisement

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical professional and this blog is not meant to diagnose or treat any of your ailments.

When I was little, my parents had a record with an old comedy routine and a song about Comet.  As I recall, it championed the use of Comet for everything that ailed you.  That's probably why I can't find the song anywhere.   People today are afraid they'll be sued if someone takes them seriously.  And, of course, we all know that all chemicals are bad for us so none of us would even think of having Comet in our cabinets for its intended use, either.  Now, I don't know anything about the health-giving properties of Comet, but I can speak to the use of another household item which has come under attack by health nutritionists everywhere - Crisco.

So what brought this on, you might be asking?  I'll tell you.  Eczema.  

I have a son who has been dealing with eczema since he was little.  He comes by it naturally, being related to the King family, home of all-cotton-wearing, special-detergent-using, can't-stand-seams suffering folks.  His has never been bad, a rare mild case amongst the Kings, mostly appearing in winter, contained to just a few areas, and daily lotion kept it under control.  He's also not the complaining type so I did most of the lotion reminding and that was that.

Until this past January when it showed up on his face.  At first we weren't sure what it was.  Self-diagnosing and prescribing over the next 2 months, we tried different lotions and then we tried Vaseline.  In an effort to cover all the bases, we also tried an anti-fungal cream.  When it was raw and weepy, we used first aid ointment.  Nothing worked.

In March, the child in question had an appointment for asthma (connection between asthma and eczema, anyone?).  I wasn't going to mention the eczema due to the fact that it was an asthma appointment and being the strict rule follower that I am, didn't want to mention another issue when that wasn't our reason for the appointment.  The very nice doctor, however, did mention it.  How could he not, really?  You'd have to be blind to miss it and of course the first question always is, "Do you lick your lips?"  He asked what I had already tried and agreed that those would have been his first steps.  He warned me that eczema on the face was going to be hard to clear up and gave us a prescription.  Apparently, my layman's definition of "hard to clear up" wasn't the same as the one in the medical dictionary.

That first prescription didn't work.  So at the next well check I (again) wasn't going to mention it (once a rule follower, always a rule follower) but the pediatrician (a different one this time) did (of course).  He gave us a different prescription.  This one made things worse so I called back.  The solution was to go back to the first prescription but use it longer.  When that was finished, I called back to say that it was not working, either.  Apparently we're a tough case, or they thought I was a pest, because we were referred to a dermatologist.  That was in August.  When I called to make the appointment, their first available was in November, Thanksgiving week.  We're still waiting.  He's still suffering.

In the midst of all this, and while we are waiting for that up-coming appointment, we have tried every home remedy and cream touted by at-home experts.  Why not?  There's been plenty of time to kill.  Early on in this process we went to the nutritionist who couldn't find anything but suggested that maybe it could possibly, who knows?, be a dairy allergy.  But after 3+ months of torturing the boy by withholding dairy, we knew it wasn't that.

We tried coconut oil.  We tried doing nothing.  We tried even more store-bought and specialty store-bought lotions.  Someone at church told me that an oil and sugar scrub works wonders for her daughter's eczema so I immediately went home, mixed a little of this and a little of that, and we applied.  A few days later he had the worst sores ever.  I guess we don't have the same kind of eczema, or the same kind of skin, or both.  But it was most definitely worth a try.  We tried using straws rather than drinking from a cup thinking that the cup might be aggravating the problem.  Still not working.

As his face goes from one form of red and raw to dry and scabbed to another color altogether, he's continually asked if he licks his lips or if he's been eating something red.  Poor guy.  So a few weeks go when I was once again asked if he licks his lips, I explained our saga all over again.  The woman then simply said, "Crisco."  Crisco?  Really?  At this point we've decided to try everything suggested because, why not?  So, home we went and Crisco was applied.

Now, I know that there are these articles being circulated about how harmful Crisco is.  In fact, I received one just the week before the Crisco-Eczema news flash.  Harmful or not, it is the one item that has given my son the most relief.  Not a cure.  We're still waiting for that (sure, go ahead, send us your best suggestions).  But under the Crisco plan he actually has days where you can barely notice the flare-ups.  And after ten months, you take whatever relief you can get.

So there you have it.  For what ails you.  When all else fails.  Crisco.

Disclaimer:  Not responsible for the contents of this message.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A 16th birthday

October completely zipped by me.  With birthdays, cookie making, and fall sports, I think I missed most of the rest of the month's happenings.  It is partly my fault as I seemed to be especially good at producing October birthdays; 3 of our 7 children celebrate their birthdays during October.  Two of the three children have birthdays on the exact same day as well - four years apart.  And there's also my mom, brother, and me who have birthdays in this month.

We also have this birthday tradition in our family of only having birthday parties every four years.  For the most part it helps to cut down on planning, cost, and excess "stuff."  However, when the three October birthday children are all four years apart in age, that means that my little plan kind of backfires.  Within one week, we celebrated 8 years old, 12 years old, and that all-important 16.  We had a cake decorating party, an outdoor games party, and a dodgeball party.  And (maybe more importantly to each of the kdis) in just seven short days, one child moved out of the car seat, another moved to shotgun and the third (take a deep breath) moved to the driver's seat.

The downside to all of these wonderful birthdays was that their very presence meant that I didn't have time to blog and acknowledge them here.  I love each of my children and enjoy writing about them, particularly blessing them on their birthdays.  Sorry, kids, better luck next year.

But I will take some time to rewind and catch up.  I'm actually going to start with the last of the three October birthdays, Jesse.  Just this week we finally celebrated his 16 year old rite of passage celebration.  As some of you may know and remember, we celebrate several milestones in a more meaningful way than just your typical birthday party.  At age 13 we have a weekend away, at age 16 we have a night of blessing, and at high school graduation there will be another occasion to pass the torch.

In short, at age 16, the child is surrounded by same-sex mentors and leaders, people who have had influence in that child's life in some way.  A few of these adults know the child on a deeper level while others don't know them as well.  However, all of the adults come prepared to speak encouragement and blessing to the child on the occasion of turning 16.  They also speak to Christian manhood (or womanhood, we just haven't had a 16 year old female in the family yet) and help to usher the child from childhood to manhood.  I can't speak from personal experience because I'm not invited, and so far my only role has been as preparer of the food, but from the feedback that comes from the three generations related to me, I can't wait to celebrate this with my daughter in a year and a half.

I also enjoy reading what each person has written down for the birthday child.  Here are some of the words Jesse received that special night:

"As you have turned 16, that magical time when new opportunities and new responsibilities begin to shape not only our schedules, but our attitudes and values,  you are encouraged to step up to be a man, but I'll take it a step further.  Step up and be the man of God that He created you to be, a man after God's heart.  A man with a heart like King David.  He wasn't perfect, but his heart always ended up seeking God and His will above his own."

"I like looking at the meaning of people's names.  Jesse was an interesting name to research, because I found several different meanings, depending on the source.  It was interpreted as 'God's gift' by some, and 'God exists' by others.  I like the latter one, in the sense that it implies your entire life is meant to testify to the existence and the presence of almighty God.  What a life goal, to live out your name!  Oh, one final source, a site devoted to Hebrew names suggested that Jesse, during at least one period of history, may also have been used colloquially to mean 'The Man' like our current expression 'you da man'.  How fitting for you tonight, as we celebrate you - 'the man' - becoming a man."

"Based on my beliefs, Jesse, you have been a man for quite some time.  You have a maturity that unfortunately is hard to find in people your age.  You feel great content in your gifts and abilities that God has given you...You have that aura about you that people naturally gravitate towards, because they know that it is people like you in whom they can instill their trust and friendship.  You do not delight in material possessions, but instead you would much rather invest time and effort in developing relationships with others...I do encourage you...to seek in discovering and perfecting the wonderful abilities that God has given you.  Rejoice in and embrace the friendships you have made and the relationships that are still yet to come.  And above all else, continue to serve and love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  As Colossians 3:23 - 24 says, 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.'"

"One thing I have learned, even when I'm not sure of God's exact direction for me, is that there is no excuse for straying from God's will: He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8  Praying that you always seek God's guidance as you act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

"You have been given a gift of joy.  You bring joy to people's lives, you have sincerity that draws people towards you.  I pray that you follow the paths God has for you.  You are a man of God.  You have followers.  You are a leader.  You will inspire.  You will be a supporter.  You will perform.  God also brought this to me for you to know:  The path will be difficult, but you will endure.  The presure will be stressful, but you will endure.  You will feel overwhelmed and lost at times, but He will set your paths straight."

"You have demonstrated thus far your desire to follow JESUS and to WALK in HIS ways.  My prayer for you is that you will continue to follow JESUS daily and be led by the powerful WORD of GOD, the BIBLE.  We may read books, but the WORD of GOD is our 'initial point', the fixed reference point.  John Wesley read widely, but he always referred to himself as 'a man of one book'.  nothing can compare to the BOOK of BOOKS, the WORD of GOD.  We are on the right path when we allow the BIBLE to be our guide in all of life and continue to follow this passage in 1 Timothy 4:12, which says, 'Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers (and I would add non-believers also) in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.'"

"God has given you an awesome personality and so many gifts.  I have loved seeing you exercise and grow in the gifts that you have been given.  1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) says, 'Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.'  Jesse, I encourage you to continue to find ways to grow in your gifts and use them for the kingdom of God.  Your outgoing and fun personality has impacted many people already and will continue to bring joy and laughter to those around you.  Never apologize for being you!  God has made you uniquely and with an incredible purpose.  You have a gentle heart for others, especially for those younger than you.  I believe that God is going to continually use your personality to impact all kinds of people."

Be blessed, Jesse, as you grow more and more into the man that God has intended for you to be.

Jesse, surrounded by two men who love him dearly, "PopPop" whose name is Jesse's middle name and Dad.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Orphan Sunday

As we change the calendar from October to November, we also switch from National Squirrel Awareness Month to Adoption Awareness Month. While I'm sure squirrels need our love, too, and there are probably many orphaned squirrels, my heart definitely leans toward the orphan of the human variety.  My apologies to all my nut collecting, birdseed stealing backyard buddies.

Many churches across our nation will celebrate Orphan Sunday on the first Sunday of this month.  It has been exciting to read various blogs and Facebook posts about the ways in which churches are bringing awareness to the many issues surrounding the orphan.  Some churches, sadly, will not even mention Orphan Sunday or adoption awareness during this month.  For some, ignorance is the reason; they just haven't heard about Orphan Sunday.  Still others may not see the need.  And there are some who will not mention the cause of the orphan because they are adamant that church should  not be an informercial.

For those churches who have not heard about Orphan Sunday, or Adoption Awareness Month, it's up to us to spread the word.  For those who don't see the need, or who think that church should not be an infomercial, I suggest a quick look at Scripture.  We teach our congregations that God tells us to love our neighbor, to trust in Him, not to worry, and to use our gifts.  How then is James 1:27, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world," an infomercial or not necessary?  And Isaiah 1:17, "...learn to do right!  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow?"  Psalm 82:3 tells us to "Vindicate the weak and the fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute" and Jesus himself says, "I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me...Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me."  I don't think Jesus considered it an infomercial to encourage, even mandate, His followers to care for the fatherless, the husbandless, the homeless, the oppressed, and the destitute.  As Richard Stearns says in his book, there is a big, gaping hole in the Gospel that many of us live.

Maybe it shouldn't have been named Orphan Sunday or Adoption Awareness Month because I can't find any verses anywhere in the Bible that say we all need to adopt.  Maybe a better title would be Destitute Sunday and Oppression Awareness Month.  They don't sound very nice, do they?  However, adoption Awareness Month and Orphan Sunday don't have to be scary to churches or to those of us sitting in them.  Just like Breast Cancer Awareness Month doesn't mean that we all need to have breast cancer, and National Squirrel Awareness Month doesn't mean we need to love squirrels, Adoption Awareness Month doesn't mean that we all need to bring orphans into our homes.  Reading Scripture, however, does give us reason to bring awareness to the topic, and to encourage Christians to follow God's mandates to care for those who can't care for themselves.  We also need to thank and support the ones who are already doing this and to provide encouragement and options for those who don't know how yet.

I love to watch the body of Christ in action.  As each part comes together, as each one uses his/her gifts, as each family lovingly works together, Christ's call to love orphans and widows gets that much closer to His original plan.  How?  These are the people that I love to see.  These are the ones who are caring for orphans and widows in their distress. . . .

The grandparent of an adopted child, who wasn't the one feeling the call to bring this child from an orphanage to a home in the US, but who supports her daughter's family one hundred percent.  Or the grandparents who invite their adopted grandchild to spend several weeks of summer vacation in their home, even though they know that the special needs of that child will take all of their time and energy.

The family of young children, doing fine but struggling to live on one income, who chooses to donate money to the adoption fundraiser of a family in their church.

The family whose neighbor was recently widowed, that makes an extra plate of food from their dinner, thus creating "TV dinners" for her freezer.  That same family helps rake leaves and shovel snow for her.

The teenage boy whose best friend lost his father in a tragic accident.  The teenage girl who befriends the insecure student sitting next to her in class, later finding out that she is an adoptee struggling to find her place in her family and school.

The college student who chooses to babysit for a family with an adopted child, realizing that those few hours each week may be difficult due to the behavioral issues of the child, but knowing how much the break refreshes the weary parents.

The congregation that sets up an adoption fund or benevolence fund to financially support those in need or those stepping out in faith.

The teen girls who choose to maintain contact with their friend, a foster child, even though she is moved to another home.  They value her friendship but they also know that they are now the most stable relationship she's ever had, as well as her only Christian influences.

The extended family giving up part of their Christmas vacation to work in a homeless shelter together.

The small group that gives their time, labor, and financial resources to support an organization working with orphans in a third world country.

The family that has a special fund so that every year at least one member of their family can serve on a missions trip.  Many times, they all go together.

The young man that chooses to give one hour every Sunday morning to be a "buddy" to the preschool child with Down Syndrome since the little boy finds sitting and attending in Sunday School to be a struggle.

The couple, with an empty nest on the horizon, that decides to do foster care.  Eventually, their oldest daughter and her husband adopt one of the foster boys raised in their home.

The family that brings the neighbor boy to church every week and who also support that same boy's single mom in whatever ways they can.

The married couple, struggling with infertility, that chooses to adopt an infant and to maintain contact with the birthmother, praying for her healing and salvation as much as they pray for their newborn son.

The former addict who now mentors teens and young men, keeping them accountable and encouraging them as they struggle to remain clean from their own addictions.

The small group of families that seeks ways to bring awareness to the issue of sex trafficking.

The woman who walks alongside her best friend, purposefully praying for her and her family of adopted children on a regular basis and listening to the joys and struggles of the journey.  She has their picture on her refrigerator and their names in her Bible so she never forgets.

These are the faces of adoption awareness month.  These are the people caring for both literal and figurative orphans.  These are the hands and feet of Christ.  Caring for "the least of  these" isn't an option but how we care for them, that comes with many options.

Now go!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cross country, yes!

Today Andrew runs his last race of his high school cross country career.  He is happy to have qualified for districts and will be running at the Giant Center in Hershey.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the sport my eldest has chosen and to tell you why I think cross country is most definitely the best high school sport.

Reasons Why Cross Country is the Best High School Sport

1.  No one gets cut from the team.  You can have as many or as few runners as you like.

2.  No one sits on the bench.  Everyone runs, every time.  Even if you're injured, you don't sit on the bench because they don't in fact, even have a bench.

3.  Meets are quickly canceled in case of rain or threat of rain or a course that is too wet from yesterday's rain.  The runners may not really care what the field conditions are, but this mom is thrilled to watch a (mostly) fair weather sport.

4.  There is no overtime.  Meaning that those same spectators that do not have to stand or sit in the rain, also do not have to spend extra time at the field.  The gun goes off, you run, you finish.  Period.

5.  There are no fights in cross country.  Coaches do not yell at coaches.  No one argues whether a ball really went through the goal posts or not because there is no ball.  No one accidentally or on purpose gets a stick too high because there are no sticks.

6.  There are no expensive pieces of equipment that one must buy, other than sneakers.  And some teens are quite content to run in regular sneakers or hand-me-downs.  No pressure from coaches to spend lots of money.  No pom poms, shin guards, mouth guards, etc.

7.  There is no concession stand so this parent doesn't have to take a turn pretending to be friendly to a bunch of moms that I don't know.

8.  The end of year banquet is a quick, over and done deal.  And it's a pot luck at my church.  So I don't even have to buy a ticket to attend.  No tears, no long soliloquies.

9.  You can participate no matter what your motivation is for participating.  Don't plan to try for a cross country scholarship in college?  No problem.  Don't plan to ever attend a summer cross country training camp?  Who cares.  Never plan to give it all for the team?  Doesn't really matter.  Here to lose weight or work toward a healthier lifestyle?  Sure.  Running just to stay in shape for the sport that you really love?  Come on out.

10.  And the best thing about cross country is that it's the only sport I know where the person who comes in last gets more support and cheers from the crowd than the person who came in first.  Effort is valued.  That's my kind of sport.  Someone should have told me about cross country when I was in school.

My apologies to my second born who had the misfortune of choosing mascot as his school sport, a sport that didn't make it to the number one spot on my list.  While I considered making it my favorite high school sport, having to serve in the concession stand left a bad taste in my mouth.  But never fear, school mascot is definitely my second favorite high school sport.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Of loaves and fishes and checks

Mark 9:24  I do believe!  Help me overcome my unbelief!

There is a story of George Muller's orphanage in the late 1800's.  One morning as the children sat down to breakfast, there was no food on the table.  In faith, George prayed for the provision of food that God had given them.  Soon there came a knock at the door and it was a local baker.  He told George and the waiting staff and children that God had instructed him to bake bread and donate it to the orphanage so he was doing so.  Not long after that, another knock came at the door.  It was a milkman, explaining that his milk truck had broken down outside the door and that he wanted to give some of his milk to the orphanage.

This is one of my favorite stories of faith.  I've often prayed that God would give me these kinds of stories but at the same time realized that I would need to be in a place of need to experience these miraculous provisions in faith.  Just like the 5,000 who, in Jesus' day, were fed on the mountain. Had they been sent home for lunch, or if someone had provided their food for the day, they would not have been witness to the multiplication of that simple lunch, enough for one, and of the bountiful baskets left over.  So I've also prayed that God would allow me to be in those places of need so that I and my family could experience not only the miracle that comes from faith but the left-over as well.

Recently in the adoption journey, we received the home study invoice a little earlier than we were expecting.  Desiring to pay for this adoption from our fundraising, we weren't at a place where we could pay the bill.  The next day we did receive a check from a family wanting to help with our adoption.  It was out of the blue, so unexpected, and such a God thing.  But it didn't cover the whole amount.  That night I went to bed praying that God would provide the funds that weren't there yet.

The next day we were approached by a couple holding an envelope in their hands.  They said that they felt like God wanted them to bless our family and they were giving us this gift with no strings attached; it was ours to use as we wished.  I asked them if they knew that we were adopting again and with surprised looks, the confirmed that they did not.  I couldn't help a tear of joy as I told them about our journey, about the invoice, and my prayer.  They then confessed that they had felt this nudging this past summer but were just now getting around to sharing this with us.  I told them that I thought the timing was perfect.  Of course, when we got home and looked at the amount on the check (you already know this is coming, don't you?), the amount, coupled with the check from the day before was the the exact amount we needed to pay the agency doing our home study.  For days, anytime I thought of this miraculous provision, the tears would freely flow.  How can anyone say that is a coincidence?  As I like to say to myself, "Oh, me of little faith."

And God wasn't finished, we also received a third check from a family wanting to be a part of our adoption journey.  And then another cookie order came in.  Just like the loaves and fishes, there were baskets left over.  And so we continue to fundraise for this little blessing that we know is a gift from God.  He will provide just what we need, when we need it.  And when I doubt, I can remind myself of the story of the multiplying checks.

Deuteronomy 4:9  Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Adoption grace and blessings

This morning, as I read (yet another) beautiful adoption story, I was reminded again of the sacrifice of the birthmother.  We have in our possession a lovingly-written letter from HopeAnne's birthmother to us which we plan to give to her on that day when she can both understand and believe the words that this woman gifted to her.  Our joy on termination day stood in stark contrast to the pain of the woman who gave life to this peanut of a little girl.

But another blessing of our newest adoption announcement has been the willingness of others to share their own adoption stories.

A man, old enough to be my father, told us that he had been adopted.  For years he has tried to find information about his birth family, mostly for the sake of his children and grandchildren, to have a health history he can pass down.  He knows he was born in the days when unwed mothers were sent away to "Aunt Edna's" for a vacation, only to return, predictably, about 6 months later, forever changed  by the events of the pregnancy and birth.  His suspicion that it could have been someone in the community, and that his aunts and uncles could tell him the truth, will now never be confirmed since they have all passed on.  But there is no anger, no bitterness.  There is life and grace in the adoption story.

Just this week we received a letter from a wonderful friend.  Just recently, she revealed that she had been adopted as an infant.  Her words brought tears to my eyes.

"I was really moved by your adoption cookie story and immediately knew that I wanted to help.  Being an adopted child myself, I have embraced all that this has meant to me over the last several decades.  A selfless act on the part of a brave and strong woman.

God led me to my forever family and I know he did the same with HopeAnne and Shoun.  I have never thought of my family as being anything other than, my family, although I have found that there are people who don't believe that.  There have been points where I have struggled with that notion and accept and embrace that this was God's will.  I, too believe, that God is also calling you to do the same once again.

I loved the adoption cookies and thank you for sharing them with [my daughter].  You have been so kind ot her over the years and certainly have accepted her as part of your family.  See, genetics has absolutely nothing to do with it!  There is so much love to be shared and I know you have more to give.

Looking at the end of the month budget, I find I was a bit ahead of where I thought I would be, so please add the enclosed to your fund.  no cookies, no thanks, just one step closer to God's work being fulfilled for your family.

Blessing to you all as you continue on this journey."

I am truly humbled and thank God for the gift of life that this woman is to her family and friends.  Thank you, not just for sharing your end-of-the-month gift, but for sharing your story with our family.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cookies anyone?

For anyone who may have missed the actual information for our cookie fundraiser:

You can call them Stuffed Cookies...
You can call them Inception Cookies...
But we like to call them Pregnant Cookies...
...because we're expecting.  Well, kind of...

Yes, the Kings are adopting again!

If you like cookies, and an Oreo cookie stuffed inside a chocolate chip cookie to be exact, then have we got a deal for you!  Order just a few or a dozen or two, and you can help us help another child.

If you are interested in some cookies
1.  for yourself (it'll be our little secret)
2.  for someone special (awww, you're so sweet)
3.  for a gift (Surprise!)
4.  for a picnic (hurry up, it's getting colder out there!)
5.  for a college student (we've already sent orders to colleges as far as MA and CO!)
6.  for someone who can't make it home for the holidays
7.  or you fill in the blanks (Be creative - you can do it!)

then please let us know at kingzoo@comcast.net.  Let us know if you'd like us to include a note, if you're local and plan to pick up or would like a drop off, where you'd like them mailed, etc.

Individual cookies have a minimum suggested donation of $1.00 or more (Remember, each cookie is really the equivalent of 2 or 3 cookies)
A dozen cookies has a minimum suggested donation of $10.00/dozen or more
Keep in mind that shipping adds an additional cost of approx. $7.00 or more/dozen

Just as exciting as getting closer to our goal is the many ways people are choosing to bless others through our fundraiser.

A family sent cookies to their nephew/cousin far away in college.  He reported that they were the best cookies he's ever eaten (really - those were his words - I didn't make it up).

Grandparents ordered cookies to be delivered to their grandchild for her birthday.

A couple sent a donation and asked us to bless any of the college students who attend our church.  The best part of this story?  The couple lives out of the area and doesn't even attend our church except when visiting relatives.

One of our instrumental teachers gave a donation and asked for just one cookie per week at the child's lesson.

A musical theatre friend of ours, now back in college, shared a beautiful story of how her younger sister was adopted and her desire to someday have a family of her own that grows through adoption.  She sent a donation and later reported that her office really enjoyed the cookies they received!

A youth worker at our church ordered cookies to be sent to a former youth who is now at college.  The college student is now doing his best to find someone else to send him a dozen or two.  :)

A young woman's mother was scheduled for cancer surgery so she ordered cookies to take along for her mother and the family post-surgery.

A 16th birthday party was blessed with some of our special cookies.

A friend asked us to send cookies to someone currently serving in ministry.

I can't wait to see where they are going next!

Friday, September 28, 2012

God is good.
All the time.

All the time.
God is good.

I love this simple, yet profound prayer.  Why, oh why, can't I remember it all the time?

When started this adoption journey knowing that fundraising would be a large part of it.  We knew that we'd wait on God's timing.  And we agreed that "it was good."  But then a week went by.  And the money didn't float down in an envelope from the sky.  (Yeah, my faith was that short-lived.  Okay, it's a slight exaggeration.)

I had my moments of discouragement.  "Lord, I'm not getting any younger."  As if the One who created me in the hidden places didn't already know that!

And that's when He showed up.  First of all, we found out that there is a discount offered for all paperwork turned in this month.  And then the icing on the cake, as only God can do: I had been reading the form wrong.  Our initial payment need only be half of what I thought.  And guess what?  We already have that amount.

God is good.
All the time.

All the time.
God is good.

Oh, and then our adoption consultant posted this link to her Facebook page.  Yes, I believe it with all my heart.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I enjoy writing.

Okay, so that was just the understatement of my posting career. One could deduce, then, that I also like to teach writing. And you'd be correct.

I am saddened when I hear my children say that they don't enjoy writing. Writing should be enjoyed because it is an extension of yourself. Unfortunately, much of the writing we do in life (particularly before the age of 30), is what we are told to write and yes, it's not always fun. Sorry, kids.

But I'm more saddened when a homeschooling parent sits with me in an evaluation and says, "We didn't do much writing this year. She doesn't really like to write and well, I don't, either." I suppose the argument could be made that this family plans to homeschool through the high school years so can continue to choose how much writing is assigned (or not assigned). My counter argument remains that not only is writing extremely important for a child, if your child decides to go to college, good writing skills will be of utmost importance. I've also had parents say things like, "Well, I didn't really teach writing this year but she wrote a lot of stories." I'm glad she wrote a lot of stories but how are her non-fiction skills? Can she critique a book? Does she know how to write a complaint letter? Can she effectively persuade someone of something?

I am thankful to have a great friend who is still in the trenches of teaching in elementary school (as compared to me, a has-been) and who is very interested in the teaching of writing. She has passed along so many good ideas and books. One of these has been the use of a Writer's Notebook and a Reader's Notebook. Sometimes the two overlap, and that's the point. A good reader uses what he's reading to become a better writer and vice versa. Through the writer's notebook the children can explore so many aspects of writing and on most days, can write what they want. However, there are times when we will look at a specific genre because it is necessary to consider various styles and themes.

Learning about writing gives us so many themes to discuss as well. I love having these conversations with my children. One aspect of writing that we often discuss, especially when it's done well in a book, is "show, don't tell"; when a writer describes something, or gives you clues, without coming right out and saying it. This morning I realized that my seven year old, who has been enjoying Beverly Cleary's Ramona books, "gets it" when she had this to say during a discussion of characterization in writing, "I love how the author writes and the way she puts things. You know that Ramona is curious but the author never says that. She doesn't call any of her books Ramona, So Curious or Ramona, The Curious, but you definitely know that Ramona is curious."

Yes, Eden, she is curious! And so are you. Keep writing and maybe someday, like your older sister, you will actually say to me, "Mom, I have good news. I got 100% on my history speech. And I need to give you a hug and a kiss because you taught me how to write great introductory and concluding paragraphs. My teacher said so. But since I know you don't like hugs and kisses I'll just tell you. So thanks."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Green cats

As an elementary teacher with special education certification, it was no surprise that many of the children with behavioral and learning challenges ended up in my classroom. I didn't mind since this was the population I most enjoyed teaching although there were many days when I wished I had a few more corners to better separate the children who couldn't stop talking to each other. As is still the case, many students came into the classroom with the label of ADD or ADHD. Some of these children truly had trouble attending and my heart went out to them. There were others, however, who were just BAD. My heart went out to them, too, but for totally different reasons, ones that had more to do with the parents than with the children.

 My heart for this population of learners is what prompted me to tell the Good Doctor, while we were dating, that it was my plan to adopt 20 special needs children. In turn, he told me, while we were dating, that it wasn't going to happen. I married him anyway and while we don't (yet) have a houseful of special needs children, God did bless with me a dyslexic child (the brain of the dyslexic fascinates me everyday) and another who is classic ADD. My attention-challenged child just started kindergarten and it was my suspicion that her prenatal and birth experiences might hinder her learning that caused us to wait a year before sending her to school. Any child who is likely going to struggle in one area of schooling, is going to do well to wait and eliminate as many stressors as possible. So, wait we did.

And boy was I right! This is how a typical typical lesson with Hope goes:
Hope (reading): Color 1 cat green. (asks) I color 1 cat green?
Me: Yes. You color 1 cat green.
Hope: Is this a cat?
Me: Yes.
Hope: Are you sure because it looks like a kitten to me.
Me: Cat. Kitten. On this page, it's all the same. Just follow the directions.
Hope: Wait. How many am I supposed to color?
Me: Well, read it again.
Hope: (reading) Color 1 cat green. (asks) Green? Does that say green?
Me: Yes, that's what it says.
Hope: Green? I've never seen a green cat.
Me: Me either. Just color it.
Hope: Well, cats can be brown or grey or black or white.
Me: Yes, just follow the directions.
Hope: I like cats that have all of the colors. I think they're cute. Do you think they're cute?
Me: Yes, I do.
Hope: Then why can't we have a cat?
Me: Because I am allergic to cats.
Hope: Oh, right. Wait. What color am I supposed to color the cat?
Me: Never mind. Just do the next one. Read this word and write it under the correct picture.
Hope (reading): Pan (asks) Is this a pan or a pot?
Me: Well, it could be either but for the sake of the short vowel a worksheet, let's assume it's a pan. Hope (erasing): I wrote a capital P but I want to make it lower case so I have to erase it.
Me: Okay, but it really doesn't matter.
Hope (erasing again): I don't like that one; the line isn't straight enough.
Me: It looked fine to me.
Hope (after finally writing a P): Can I give it hair?
Me: Hair?
Hope: Yeah, can I put hair on the P?
 Me: No, you cannot put hair on the P. Please write the next letter.
Hope: Wait, what am I writing?

And that's just the first 5 minutes of school!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teachers can be wrong

Teachers are human, just like the rest of us, and sometimes they are wrong. I know, I was one. I also know because I've been on the receiving end of a teacher's wrongness.

When I was in 6th grade, my social studies teacher accused me of plagiarism on a major report. I can still remember the teacher, the report, the country about which I wrote, and I can even remember what some of the books looked like. Mrs. Waddington insisted that my report on Guadeloupe was taken directly from a library book and gave me a C. Looking back, I take that as a great compliment. I may not have been the world's greatest student, but if there was one thing I could do, it was write. I'm sure I spent a long time on that report and I know for certain that I didn't copy it from a book. My parents didn't go to bat for us very often, figuring it was up to us to fend for ourselves, but my mom was also so certain that I had written that report, that she was willing to speak to the teacher for me. We also volunteered to hand in all the books I had used to write that report. In the end, Mrs. Waddington changed my grade to an A. Who knows if she believed me or just didn't want to read through all the books we handed in, but all's well that ends well.

Fast forward to 2012 and my daughter was accused by a teacher of not doing an assignment correctly. All of the students in our high school have to take Career Development during their high school experience. I have yet to find a student who finds this class even the slightest bit helpful in his or her career development. But life relevance has never had to be proven when creating high school classes, so take it, they do. This week the students were asked to complete an online personality and career survey.

On a side note, I don't take much stock in career inventories. I remember taking one in high school which said the perfect career for me would be one in business. Yeah right, the girl who had trouble passing high school math? Business? Really? So while all of the other students were finishing up, I went back and changed my answers so it would say I should be a teacher. Because what the inventory didn't know was that I had already decided what I was going to be when I grew up.

Anyway, back to Mariana. She completed her survey, read the report it gave, and sat back with a pleased look on her face. Mariana asked the teacher if she could print her report. The teacher rudely replied, "You can't possibly done. It should have taken you at least another 15 minutes. You must not have read the questions thoroughly." At this point, another student glanced over, read the description on the computer screen and said, "Oh, that's her all right."

For all who know Mariana, you tell me if this describes her or not:

"People like you are usually very warm, outgoing, and talkative. You make friends easily and are often popular and well liked because you are so enthusiastic and cheerful. You care deeply for your family and friends, and like to express your feelings through words and actions. People often say you have a gift for language and are able to articulate your strong beliefs and opinions with tact....

Creative and often imaginative, you may love learning, daydreaming, and entertaining others with your many artistic talents. you have a quick mind and are good at putting ideas and concepts together... You like to be in charge and can usually come up with a plan of action for even complicated projects. But you tend to become annoyed when someone tries to change or interrupt your plan... You find it very hard to stay calm and objective when you're upset. You're a very sensitive person; you know first hand that it is both a blessing and a curse to be so insightful about other people...

Potential careers and majors for you to consider:
Actor and Performer
Entertainer or Artist
Music Director
Television Producer"

Hmmm. Sorry, Ms. Teacher, I'm going to have to back my daughter up on this one. In fact, I have a feeling that "not reading the questions thoroughly" is part of Mariana's personality. Why read the whole question when you so clearly already know the answer? It's probably a good thing she completed this thing quickly, otherwise it may have told her she should be an undertaker or landscaper when she grows up. Heaven help us all!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Talking t.p.

Yesterday, someone posted this picture on Facebook

with the question, "Who does this?"

Well, I don't know who first came up with the idea (or I'd reference it here), but I immediately knew it could be put to good use.

We have a problem around here, and the problem is that I seem to be the only member of the household who replaces the empty toilet paper roll with a new one. At first I thought maybe it was an issue of lack of skill but lessons in the complex process of removing one tube and replacing it with a full one didn't change anything. Next, I thought maybe it was an issue of strength; the new, full roll, was just too heavy. But after watching the children wrestle with each other, I decided that couldn't be it. Finally, I realized it must just be an issue of forgetfulness. But thanks to the idea of talking toilet paper, I have (hopefully) solved the problem.

I'm waiting for some smart-aleck child to use the talking toilet paper to his or her own advantage. It's been 24 hours and counting...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Persistence pays off

In a conversation a friend casually mentioned that her children weren't allowed to date until they were 40. Now, this isn't the first time I've heard this type of comment, although usually the minimum age is a bit lower, somewhere around 35. On the one hand, I get where these folks are coming from. I get that they are attempting to save their children from unnecessary pain but really?

Lord willing, I would like grandchildren. I am assuming that at some point God and the Good Doctor are going to tell me that we are not to add anymore children to our clan. But I am doing my best to see that there isn't too much lag time between our last addition and the addition of the first grandchild. So, you can see, requiring my children to wait until 35 or 40 just would not work well with my efforts to have a smooth transition from youngest child to oldest grandchild.

I am not saying that I push my children to date at a young age. That would be just as counterproductive as me forcing them to wait to begin this process. However, I have been informed that my daughter has a suitor. I wasn't exactly ready for this but should have known it was coming. She has quite a beautiful personality that matches her God-given exterior very well. She sings, dances, and entertains quite well. She is also outgoing and friendly.

From my perspective, he comes from a good family, has been raised to love the Lord, is in church on a regular basis, loves God and loves my daughter. What more could a parent want? The fact that he and my daughter are both only 6 years old could be a bit of a problem, but he appears to be quite persistent so that's in his favor.

I don't know exactly when his infatuation began but he shared his devotion with HopeAnne one day this summer when we were visiting his house. On the way home she informed me that this young man from her Sunday School class had asked her to marry him. I asked her how she responded. "I told him no because I'm marrying someone else." Uh oh. I hope she let him down easy. Further investigation couldn't get her to disclose her intended other than that he has dark hair and he was, at the time, in preschool.

Since that time, I have discussed this with the little boy's mother. Apparently he has already shared his intentions with her and I found out that HopeAnne is actually his fourth choice, after first asking his mother, and then each of his two sisters, for their hand in marriage, only to be informed that it doesn't work that way.

One Sunday Jesse, who volunteers in their classroom, informed me that I needed to speak with Hope. He said it was really cute because Hope and her pursuer were holding hands in Sunday School but that soon after he saw HopeAnne hitting the young man. "Well," I asked, "why did you hit him?" "Mom," she stated, "he wouldn't leave me alone!" Well, that left me with a dilemma. I don't want her hitting people but on the other hand, if a boy won't take no for an answer, you do probably need to give him a more obvious answer.

I apologized to the little boy's mother for my daughter's behavior. She told me that it was definitely not a problem as my daughter had finally told her son that she would marry him.

"Oh, and do you know how this came to be?"

"Yes," she answered with a smile, "he told me that he just kept asking her to marry him until she finally said, 'Oh, all right!' and that's how he got his answer."

That's one smart, persistent, future son-in-law!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Crime scene investigation

Andrew and I are great partners in crime.

Well, actually, we investigate the crimes so I guess that makes us perfect partners in crime busting.

Take today, for example. I found this drawn on the rug in the little girls' room.

Upon further investigation, I found a second drawing, faint, but similar in nature to the first.

As a lover of CSI, Law and Order and (*sigh*) my favorite, but canceled, Cold Case, I know that criminals often leave a signature. I shared this information with my partner and told him that I was certain the suspect lived in that room. He reminded me that it is mostly psychopathic criminals that leave their signature at the crime scene. Yes, I repeated, I am fairly certain that the guilty party lives in that very room.

I calmly asked both parties who was responsible for the drawing but each pled her innocence. My partner suggested we try the good cop/bad cop interrogation procedure. I asked him which he was going to be. He said it was my duty to be the bad cop.

I sure hope it works!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Get weird

"So I am entering my senior year and it has recently dawned on me that this will probably be my last chance to reach out to a lot of friends that I have gotten to know really well..."

This is how my son began his challenge to the congregation during Youth Sunday last week at church. I was floored. Aren't rising seniors usually just concerned with breezing through their classes and getting out of school as soon as possible? That's what I was thinking as I went into my senior year 25 years ago.

"Starting tomorrow, I have 180 days left to make an impression on the students and teachers at my high school. Whether that impression is good or bad, depends on whether or not I allow God to work through me. If dodgeball, Philadelphia sports and the violin are the only things that people remember about me in 20 years, then I have officially wasted my four years in high school and I ultimately have made no lasting impression....

While our youth group missions team was in Puerto Rico, we were challenged to 'get weird' in front of our peers. Getting weird looked different every time. Things as big as getting up and sharing a testimony to the rest of the team, praying for someone we just felt called to pray for, or things as small as dancing outrageously to music or just yelling as loud as we could all qualififed as getting weird, as long as we were out of our comfort zone.

Now I understand 'getting weird' to the extent we had in Puerto Rico might not be completely socially acceptable here...

But what if I acted differently? What if students at area school districts started to notice their friends behave in a whole new way? In a society that teaches us to conform, it is often difficult to step out in faith and just trust that God has our best interests in mind. But what if we tried?

Matthew 5: 14 - 16 says, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden...In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven." Often we gloss over the 'cannot' in verse 14 or we choose to ignore it completely. But if we truly are following God's calling on our lives we CANNOT be hidden. People will see the change in us if we allow ourselves to 'get weird' and step out in faith...

We live in a dark world; there is no arguing with that. In dark places, light cannot be ignored. So what dark place can you make an impact in?... And adults, you thought for a minute I was letting you off the hook. God has put you and all of us in our specific areas of influence that we can have the most impact in. And if we let God's light shine through us, we cannot be ignored. We can bring revival to areas that are spiritually dead.

When we put ourselves out on a limb, people will notice, and change will happen. Our church and youth group has hoped for a revival for years, but the most common form of a 'revival' does not happen in a large group. Often, it happens person to person, friend to friend.

So the final challenge? Start an inner revival in yourself. Get your heart right with God, and when you do, others will notice something different about you that CANNOT be ignored. Stepping out on a limb may be difficult, but the eternal outcomes far outweigh the temporary discomfort. In my last year in high school, I want people to notice a change in me, and then want that change for themselves. That is a legacy worth leaving."

On Sunday after church, our family had a commissioning service for each child for this school year. Our seven year old asked a very good question, "What does commissioning mean?" We explained it as getting your orders. So in a literal sense, we were sending each child into this school year with God's orders to "get weird," to go out on a limb, to leave a legacy, to start revival one person at a time, and to make a lasting difference. It was a special time of prayer as each of us prayed over the others, some going into the public high school, others being homeschooled or cyber schooled but charged to make a difference in soccer or gymnastics or wherever they go.

And Andrew's morning challenge couldn't have been a better charge to all of us in our own sphere of influence. I may have wasted my high school years which can't be reclaimed, but there's always this moment, "for such a time as this."