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!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


My eldest is a tiny bit of a wimp. Well, actually he's a big wimp. But a self-proclaiming wimp, so it's okay. If he was the family drama king I'd say it was an act. But he's not. And it isn't.

To see him on the soccer field, dodgeball court, or Ultimate Frisbee course, you'd never know. He's an all-out, gotta-win, go-for-the-gusto kind of player. Therein lies the problem.

Indoor dodgeball on carpet leaves one with nasty rugburns that don't heal. Rather than skip the sports for a week or two until the wounds healed, he bought himself some knee pads. But since he didn't want the knee pads rubbing against the injured body part, he covered the sores with bandages and the whole get-up just created more rubbing. It was a nice try.

Again we tried to convince him to sit it out for a few days but to no avail. After several weeks of an oozing wound, I layed down the law: Either you soak in salt water and then rinse with hydrogen peroxide, or you take up knitting on the sidelines while you watch your friends play. (I honestly don't know if there's anything scientific or medical about the whole salt water/hydrogen peroxide business but it worked for my family growing up and I did find at least one website to confirm this theory.)

"But Mom, it will hurt."

"Not much, Dear. I think you can handle it."

"Soaking for 15 minutes? Are you serious?" (You have to also imagine the whiney voice here)

"Yes, Dear. I think you can handle it."

It's a good thing he has such a nice little sister to hold his hand throughout the trying ordeal. And it was a wonderful opportunity for a teachable moment as we talked about Matthew 5 and being salt in the world. Of course we did have to put up with a lot of moaning and whining in the background. I think it helped get the point across; salt is healing but can also be painful. She seemed to think it all a bit odd.

This is when it got really painful (or so he says).

She's even considering a career in medicine now. Hey, if she can calm even the toughest of athletes, she can calm anyone!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Generation to generation

I admit I'm a bit old-fashioned. My sewing closet is fuller than my clothes closet. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've bought a baked good rather than made one. And I never wore a bikini even before sporting a lovely 5-baby belly.

But maybe nothing speaks old-fashioned more than a female sitting in a chair with her embroidery in front of her. For me, it conjures up images of the Ingalls girls sitting around the fire with their needle and thread. I think of the 200+ year old sampler that we inherited. I sure would love to know the story behind that one! In fact, there may be a book in that theme some day.

Here are two quilts that my grandmother embroidered for my children.

When I was in elementary and middle school, I diligently worked on these cross-stitch patches and then forgot about them. Many thanks to my mom who saved them all those years and sewed them into a quilt for Jesse when he was a baby.

I tried to teach my eldest daughter but it wasn't really her cup of tea. When she worked at Sight and Sound she started a bib for one of her co-workers who was expecting a baby. She didn't finish. So then she decided it would be for someone else who was expecting. She didn't finish it for that baby, either. Now that those children are in school themselves I'm thinking I should just plan to finish it for her future child.

And now this craft is being passed on to the next generation (although I'm quite certain I have never worn such a fancy outfit while doing my needlework). Eden spent a few days with my parents last week and came home working on her own cross-stitch patch. I'm already thinking about how I'm going to hide these when she finishes so that I can make them into a quilt for her child someday. The best part is that she can thread her own needles and knot her own knots; this is a gifted child for sure.

Not to be left out, the youngest decided she wanted to learn, too. So while my mom was here this week, she taught HopeAnne the same way she taught me, with huge X's spelling out her name. We unknot and re-thread every other X or so, but she's getting there. She's so excited about this new endeavor that she woke me up bright and early this morning, knocking on the door with cross stitch in hand, wondering if I could please help her.

Next maybe we'll have to start our own quilting bee!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Now I get it

I'm not sure why the Good Doctor is often so enthusiastic about going grocery shopping for me. It's not that I don't appreciate his willingness to be helpful; it's more that I know how frustrating it is for him to do so. Inevitably my cell phone will ring ten minutes after he has left the house. Mariana and I will smile knowingly at each other as I answer. Sure enough, the Good Doctor is having trouble and he hasn't even gotten past the first aisle.

I do my best to be specific; going through each item, line by line, before he leaves the house. Since my list is written in geographic order according to the store's lay-out, I now just need to specify how many, or which brand, or even what type of container he is looking for. Since this going-over of the list has now taken so much time that I could have been halfway through the store myself, I give him many outs. But no, he's desperate to help (or so he says). What's a girl to do?

And then the phone rings. What kind of flour did you want? Unbleached? Whole wheat? Bread? I can't find the cupcake liners. Could I substitute Kleenex? You could just wrap it around the inside of the cupcake tin? No? We solve the issues in the baking aisle and he's off again on his mission to prove his shopping worth. And the phone rings again. Light days? Overnight? Wings? Extra long?

Now we do have to pause here. This one always gets me. Do I look like an extra long kind of person??? I was the shortest or second shortest (Natalie and I took turns depending on the year) in my class every year in school. Take a look at all those class photos and you'll be sure to find me in the front row, usually on the end. I have been described in many different ways through the years but I know for a fact that extra long was never, ever considered. And we've been married for how long?

Anyway, I finally get the phone call that he's just minutes from home and could I please send the children out to carry in the groceries. This is the fun part.

Dear, my list said instant pudding and you brought home the stove top variety. How am I going to make Oreo Fluff with the wrong kind of pudding? And generic brand tissues? Yes, I do use generic for most items, but tissues? The list specifically said Puffs and there is a reason for that. If I had wanted generic, I would not have written Puffs. Only one gallon of milk? How many children live in this house? One gallon will get us through the next meal and that's it. And of course that little box? It clearly states extra long even after I went over it for the 100th time.

But now I understand. Because today my mother and I ventured out into the domain formerly visited only by our menfolk. By ourselves. Well, almost. We did take the five year old along, not because we thought she'd know the difference between satin and eggshell, but it just made it easier for the folks left at home. So to support our menfolk who were busy creating holes in the bathroom wall, we left to conquer Home Depot. How difficult can it be?

Now, first of all, I do think we were at a disadvantage since our list was not written according to the Home Depot lay-out. So when the friendly man at the entrance asked if we needed help, we confidently told him, "Not yet." Second, I do not believe our list was specific enough. Here's what we were given:

9 inch paint roller (not the fuzzy roller things you put on the roller, just the roller)
staple gun staples 3/8 in.
cabinet knobs 2 in. wood square
shower rod (should come standard but if not the shower is 58 1/4 in.)
faucet, current one is 6 in. across
toilet paper holder
switch single gang/double toggle/sp ivory
1 qt. chocolate swirl paint
1 qt. basketry paint
1 qt. Kilz
bumpy paint for the ceiling
flooring 73 1/2 X 57
shower curtain liner
Elmer's Carpenter's Woodfiller 8 oz. or smaller
paintable caulking white 1 tube

Well, I knew where the paint area was, so we headed there first. Only it turns out Kilz comes in several varieties. And we needed to decide what type of sheen we wanted on our paint. And neither of the Home Depot paint experts seemed to know what "bumpy paint for the ceiling" meant. So I described the bad patch job someone had done on the ceiling at some point in times past and that we were trying to hide it with "bumpy paint for the ceiling." Expert #1 knew what I wanted and sent Expert #2 to get it only Expert #2 came back with what Expert #1 said was the wrong item so Expert #1 and Expert #2 argued about it a little bit before realizing that "she" was still standing right there in front of them. Expert #2 won.

Then we tried the caulk. Do you know how many kinds of caulking you can buy? Acrylic/Latex. Silicone. Urethane. Biscuit. Clear. White. But we were bound-and-determined to do this without the cell phone. Knowing how the men would handle this, we just picked up a box of extra longs and went onto the next item.

The faucet was a bit tricky. They don't come with outside measurements, only inside hardware measurements. But we're women. We just asked for directions and a very nice elderly man explained it all. Now we know.

The staples had us stumped for quite some time. We could not find the kind we were looking for. Finally we realized we were in the electric staple gun staples section. Making sure none of the contractors were looking, we smoothly moved down a section. No harm. No foul.

The good news is that so far we have not been asked to take anything back to exchange. Yet.

The bad news is that we just might be sent to Home Depot alone again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 15

The third, and final, installment in my Laundry Room series. This series has been one year in the making but is finally complete and proudly displayed in its intended location to serve as a reminder to all. Needs no words of explanation.

Well, not many anyway.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Laughter's Birthday

Happy 11th Birthday, Isaac Jay! Don't cry; your name means laughter. It can't be that bad.

Time to go home. Don't worry. You're going to love this family.

See how much you're loved?

Hmmm...Well, I'm not sure who would do something like that to you...But look how cute you are!

Yes, well, about that. Let's just say I'm really sorry, and you're a good sport (no pun intended).

Awwwwww. Have a great day! You deserve it after all you've had to put up with around here.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

First Date

I love it that Eden's first date was with her older brother. I'm not sure if Andrew would agree. This is how it happened:

The children exchange names for Christmas. They enjoy scheming and planning for gifts but to make or get a gift for each sibling could be a bit out of reach. So each November we draw names. I love to watch the planning that goes into the gift. Some children have even chosen to purchase or make a gift for each sibling in addition to the name drawn.

This year Eden had Andrew's name. It's the first year that she actually chose what to get for the gift exchange. When the kids are little, the likelihood of just blurting out the recipient's name is too great, and the child has no funds, so I help them. One year I had a child make a gift without knowing who it was for. The night before we exchanged our gifts, I finally clued the child in and the gift was wrapped, leaving little time for a premature reveal.

So Eden took her gift-giving job very seriously. First she made a card with pictures of snowmen, appropriately labeled, "Andrew" and "Maggie." Next she made him a gift. I believe this was also snowman themed. Finally, she decided she wanted to get him a gift card to a restaurant so he could go on a date. We went to Giant and looked at the gift card options. I tried to give a few suggestions, some of Andrew's favorite restaurants. In the end, she decided on Cracker Barrel, being her favorite restaurant, of course.

After Christmas, my mom was teasing Andrew and Eden, suggesting that Eden should have told Andrew that the gift card came with a caveat, that being that he had to include Eden on this date. Andrew declined. Eden likes Maggie a lot so she got excited about this prospect. Somehow Maggie found out and said she'd enjoy that. Andrew, being the smart young man that he is, knew that he was out-numbered 2 females to 1 male and decided to make the best of it.

He properly picked a very excited Eden up at the door and escorted her to the car.

He first asked if her father was home (which he wasn't) but instead promised the young lady's mother that he would have her daughter home by bedtime. He's not stupid; ditch the sister early. He opened the door for her and saw that she was safely in her car seat.

I love this in so many ways. First, I love that my 16 year old son agreed to take his little sister along on his date. Second, I love that he took it a step further, picking her up at the door, talking to her parent, assuring both of us that he'd take care of her and have her home on time. Third, I love it because Eden clearly felt loved by her older brother's attention. And of course I loved that there was a chaperone on the date! Andrew taught her so much in the short amount of time he spent with her this evening. Lessons that she will remember as she gets older and looks for a special someone who will treat her with the same (yet different) respect.

Thank you, Andrew. You did good.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Morning routine

I am a morning person. The Good Doctor is not.

When he insists on setting his alarm for his day off, I'm always a bit suspicious. But with good intentions, he'll tell me that he has a lot of schoolwork to do and he wants to get a head start. Sounds like a noble ambition and a good example for your children. Go for it!

And then, since we've been married for 20 years and know each other so well, this is how it plays out:

The alarm, which is positioned right next to The Good Doctor, goes off. He doesn't wake up. I kick him.

Side note: This is The Good Doctor approved method of wake-up whether the cause be snoring, an alarm clock, or an intruder in the night. I started out our marriage by pinching his nose shut. He didn't like that. So the kick-method was his idea.

He hits the snooze. He rolls over. And goes back to sleep.

I am now wide awake but tell myself that I will be able to go back to sleep if I just try hard enough.

The alarm goes off again. I am still awake. The Good Doctor is not, nor does he wake up. I kick him again. I ask The Good Doctor, since you are getting up, would you please unlock the front door and turn the lights on for the neighbor who comes to our house for his ride to school? He agrees, hits the snooze, rolls over, and goes back to sleep.

After the third round of this procedure, I get up, unlock the front door, turn on the light for the neighbor, do a load of laundry, send the kids off to school, intervene in at least two squabbles, wash the breakfast dishes, get a shower, get dressed, and start school with the kids left behind.

Then The Good Doctor gets up. He has a lot of schoolwork to do, you know.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

We resolve

2011 for The King's Strings (and by default, the King family), was all about letting our lights shine.

This was the focus for our concerts where each of us shared ways in which we could shine God's light using our unique passions and gifts. We encouraged audience members to do the same. We read Matthew 5:16 - 18 from both the NIV and The Message versions.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (NIV)

Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (The Message)

Call me a visual learner, or one who prefers creative language, but I just love the word pictures found in this passage when read from The Message. Think what you want of Eugene Peterson, but his rendering of this passage has really inspired me this year. I want to bring out the God-colors in this world! I want to prompt people to open up with God! Yes!

On Christmas Eve morning, as we reflected on 2011, we all shared experiences in which we were obedient to shine God’s light to those around us. From public school kids praying with hurting friends, to the workplace where we could just be real and conversations opened up, to befriending exchange students who weren’t always easy to understand, to tugging on an elderly gentleman’s coat and wishing him a “Merry Christmas,” just speaking the examples out loud encouraged us to continue this into 2012. Sharing letters that we had received, from people who had been blessed or whose lives had been changed, were even more inspiring. Sometimes we don’t even know when God’s light is shining through.

But recently a different section of the Matthew passage has been jumping out at me: “Be generous with your lives.” And because it’s jumping out at me, it also means that it’s being imposed upon my family, because that’s how I operate.

This morning I began reading in a book I received for Christmas, Listen: Finding God in the Story of Your Life by Keri Wyatt Kent. She quoted sections from Luke 6, first from the NIV, and second from The Message (ah, an author after my own heart!). We know this passage from the NIV as the section where we are told to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, and to be merciful. But reading from The Message made a few words and phrases pop out.

To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that's charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. (Luke 6:27 – 36, The Message)

There it is again, that business about living generous lives. Definitely food for thought.

So if our family was into New Year’s Resolutions, I guess this would be it: To be more generous with our lives. I’m excited to see what 2012 brings.

And that’s sayin’ somethin’ because I’m not a particularly life-generous person on my own accord. This is definitely a God project.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 15

My oldest male teen-ager (who I shall refrain from naming so as to save him either a big head out of pride or the shame of embarrassment) made dinner while I wasn't around. He didn't realize that the grease catcher on the griddle was broken but ingeniously solved his own problem with a measuring cup. And another. And another. And yes, one more. Well, frying hamburgers for a family of nine (with 4 growing boys) produces a lot of hamburger grease!

And no, our kitchen is not really made for cooking for a crowd. We all have to improvise.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Over the river

I rarely like doing the same thing the same way, twice. Take crafts, for instance. The Good Doctor has often suggested that I mass produce crafts for sale. The problem is that after I make something once, I don’t feel like making it again. I quickly get tired of the same old recipes, preferring to try new ones even though the old ones “work.”

So, why should we take the same old trip back and forth to Ohio every Christmas, the same old way? It’s better to change things up a little bit. For example, one year we decided it would be nice to try the whole trip with an unconsolable baby. Mariana was happy to oblige. Another time we decided to throw in a little stomach flu. All of the children wanted a piece of that one.

This year we decided to try out a little car trouble. Exactly halfway home the battery light went on. On my vast mechanical experience, I quickly diagnosed our problem as an alternator which was not allowing our battery to recharge. Okay, it wasn’t me but our good friend, John, who was willing to diagnose that over the phone. Unfortunately, he was not able to fix the problem over the phone, or give the Good Doctor the directions to perform the auto surgery himself.

So, we tried the next best thing – Walmart. For just under $200, we became the proud owners of not one, but two batteries to get us home. Since the van started up right away in the Wal-mart parking lot, the thought of the hour was to proceed until we had no more battery. That turned out to be the wrong idea since it lasted just a few miles and we had to pull off into the nearest gas station.

It was then that the Good Doctor and the Twit turned into true heroes. Don’t’ worry, the Twit calls me Chief and we’re both okay with that. It’s a long story, and an inside joke and neither one of us feels put-down or bullied by the nickname. Think of them as terms of endearment, right up there with the Good Doctor’s nickname. Anyway, our two masculine heroes braved the elements to save the car and our trip home. Keep in mind that the Good Doctor had a flight to catch early the next morning so an overnight stay in some western PA hotel was out of the question.

Working with the wrong-sized wrench, but unable to return to Wal-mart since the battery was now completely dead, they persevered through storm, high winds, and drought, to put in one of the brand new batteries. In a moment of panic they did attempt to enlist help from the gas station attendant but aside from knowing the workings of the cash register, he was pretty clueless. To their credit, giving up was never an option.

With the mission accomplished, our heroes returned to the van with instructions for the masses: Wrap up. Keep positive. Don’t breathe. The last instruction being to keep the windshield from steaming up when we couldn’t operate the heat or defrost.

Now the adventure really began! This is why it’s good to change things up a bit. Our van ride quickly turned into a good old-fashioned trip in something like a one-horse open sleigh. Complete with crisp winter air, jack frost nipping at our noses, kept warm with furs, muffs, and a heated brick to warm our feet. Only without the furs, muffs, and heated brick to warm our feet. It was just like riding to Grandma’s with Laura Ingalls and her family in the big woods of Wisconsin.

We decided to do what Laura and Pa would have done – sing! Jingle Bells and Over the River and Through the Woods seemed appropriate. We sang ourselves warm. Until the windows steamed up. That put an end to that.

And then we went through the whole heroic battery changing thing again. This time our heroes seemed to know what they were doing and the deed was done much quicker, even with the necessary nature calls to a hidden area.

With all the excitement of this year’s ride, what will we do next year?