Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Date night

Like the new format? Change is not always easy but The Good Doctor said it was time.

It all started when I asked him to help me figure out how to put an email link on my blog. He suggested we go on a date for ice cream. Sounded good to me. Only the best place for both ice cream and internet service in a five county radius was McDonald's. So here we are. I on my computer and he with one hand on the keyboard of his computer and the other on his phone. It could be worse; he could be trying to hold my hand or hug me or something lovey like that. Maybe old folk dates aren't so bad after all.

To his credit, he did fix my email linkage problem. He also changed the background. And this and that and the other thing. I changed the picture. And in the process we screwed up a few other things on the site so I guess the job is in progress.

Nice chatting. I guess I'll sign off now while The Good Doctor finishes up his phone conversation and we can continue this date.

At the grocery store. Where did you think we were going?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Virgie Veldora Bauman

This is the only time I ever saw my grandmother with her hair down, figuratively speaking, as The Good Doctor took Andrew's hat and plopped it on her head at my brother's wedding, August 1996

Do you see why I wasn't named after my grandmother? Actually, there's a reason that my brother and I weren't name after any of our grandparents. Harvey, Herbert, Bertha, and Virgie Veldora just were not all that common by the time I came around. Although I have to say I tried really hard to figure out a way to use Veldora, or even Dora, as part of one of my children's names. If it wasn't for that PBS character named Dora, we just might have done it.

A name like this must have a story, right? I'm hoping one of my relatives sets me straight but I believe one of her names came from a name her mother had seen and liked. The other name came from a hired hand. But she always went by Veldora and I don't know the reason for this.

Her memorial service was a meaningful time, with family members sharing the responsibilities. An uncle spoke on behalf of the children. My oldest cousin led the music. As the second oldest grandchild, I was asked to speak at the service. I decided to quickly survey her 16 grandchildren and to share a collection of memories from all of us. What an honor to remember her in this way.

Angie and I had the privilege of interviewing Grandmom as we made questions for a game show-type quiz, Family reunion, 2006

"Grandmom. Grandma. MomMom. These are the names by which Veldora’s 16 grandchildren knew her best. While it may be interesting to note that none of us, so far, have passed any part of the name Virgie Veldora on to the next generation, there are many parts of her life that are being passed down.

I and my cousins have spent this week remembering what it was like to visit the home of our grandparents when we were children. We remember that while we were exploring the barn, terrifying the chickens or kittens, and trying on discarded clothing that had belonged to our aunts and uncles, grandmom was always working. Did she ever sit down? That we can’t remember.

The most common memories, by far, are of food. We remember her roast beef and gravy dinners and still believe that Grandma’s gravy was better than anyone else’s. (A huge apology to our mothers.) We remember homemade root beer and mint tea with orange and lemon. We remember making, and tasting, cookies with her. She didn’t worry about raw eggs. And of course the smell of homemade bread that permeated the house. We remember fresh fruits and vegetables and helping her to prepare them. We would sit outside the door with her, shelling peas, snapping beans or husking corn. We remember canned goods. There were the picnics on the patio and homemade ice cream to be cranked, often topped with some fresh fruit.

But we didn’t just experience things around MomMom, we learned from her. We learned about thrift and simplicity. We learned that you don’t need boots to help Grandmom in the muddy garden; a plastic bag secured around your shoe with a rubber band will work just fine. We learned that empty bread bags make great sit-upons or mats, and that empty yogurt containers make great drinking cups. We learned to sew, cross stitch, knit, and quilt although some of us caught onto and retained these skills more than others. We learned the joy of fresh fruits and vegetables and how to grow, harvest and can our own. Some of us even continue this tradition using Grandma’s own canning jars.

More important, however, are the life lessons we learned from Grandmom. We learned that silence is golden. While MomMom didn’t say much, her actions did. We knew that in her silence she was always listening. Her little chuckle at the right moments showed us that. In stolen moments of conversation with her, we learned that she knew each of us very well and loved us incredibly. From Grandma we have learned perseverance by all that she did to hold together a large family on a small salary. We have learned about commitment and how to support a spouse through the good times and the bad and about loving “in sickness and in health”. Her actions taught us contentment and happiness. Her service to others, by using her sewing and quilting skills, taught us the value of unselfishness. And as this section of the room goes to show, she taught us the importance of family. We are so thankful for the way she raised her children so that they, in turn, could raise us with the same value system.

There is no doubt in our minds that MomMom possessed a very strong faith. Again, it was not in words but in her actions. We remember her sitting in her chair, reading her Bible or studying her daily devotions. Perhaps the strongest testament to her faith came after Grandpa died and she took over the job of mealtime prayers. These prayers showed the importance of her faith to her.

It is interesting to note that so much of what we remember and have learned from Grandmom are related to her hands and to her heart. We remember that her hands always looked old because they were always working. We remember the dexterity of her hands in work, their wisdom and the precision and gentleness in their motion. And it was from her heart that everything else flowed. As one grandchild wrote: When I first heard that MomMom had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, I began thinking about her heart. I started thinking about how much time and energy her heart spent loving all of us. First and foremost, how much it spent loving God, then her family members. Consider all the people from her church that she loved. That is an awful lot of loving for one heart to do. After almost ninety years, no wonder her poor heart got tired.

The challenge to us, as we enter this part of our lives without Bauman grandparents, is to pass on what we have learned to the ever-growing number of great-grandchildren. To make sand tart cookies and mint tea with our children, because MomMom did. To garden and can our own fruits and vegetables, because Grandma did just that. To save and reuse because Grandmom showed us how. But we all know that it will be even more important to pass on her values of perseverance, commitment, patience, quietness, contentment, unselfishness, love, and above all, a faith in the God who made us and gave us such a rich Christian heritage."

Isaac playing for Grandmom, Valentine's Day 2008, just weeks before her death
See the card sticking out of her blanket? We joked that she must have been cheating in Skip-Bo which she had been playing before we arrived.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feb. 24, 2008

A photo of my high school graduation. Standing next to my grandparents was special for me on this day as my grandfather had been both a principal and a teacher at this high school before his retirement.

At least once a year The Good Doctor takes all of the kids to the beach for two days so I can have some alone time. This came as a brilliant revelation on his part. After many years of encouraging, pleading, prodding, and yes, some bribing, he gave up on the prospect of having me go away on some type of solitude-finding retreat. (Am I the only one who can see that going away with a bunch of people does not promote solitude?) So, this weekend was it.

As time marches on, my weekend of solitude has instead become a weekend of older child conversation vs. the typical range of children. Since The Good Doctor can't take off on Sundays, he has to go away for a Friday - Saturday which means the older kids can't miss school. So I get to share my time with them. They also have too many activities that they can't or won't miss so that contributes to their time at home.

Regardless of addition of the teen conversation, I can still spread out all the scrapbooking supplies and go at it. The teens are on their own for meals; just don't mess with the mess on the dining room table.

Unfortunately my scrapbooking these days is pretty much limited to these once-a-year festivities. This means that I am extremely far behind. I do have a goal of having each child caught up by the time he or she leaves the house; I think this means I have at least a few more years to catch up for some and many more years to catch up for others.

This time Jesse was the child of the weekend. I wouldn't admit how far back I am except that I noticed something as I was working. Trying to get Jesse out of 2008, I happened to scrapbook the pages for my grandmother's funeral bulletin and the family gatherings that occurred around that event. I realized that it was 4 years ago that she died.

Her death wasn't totally unexpected as she had been having some breathing problems and trouble with fluid in her lungs. Several of her family members were able to be with her as she struggled in the nursing home.

I have very special memories of this quiet and humble woman. To me, her covering represented much about who she was and I am so thankful that my aunt was able to find two of my grandmother's coverings even after she thought she had thrown them all away (it's a good thing my grandmother never threw anything away). I now have those two coverings in a prominent location in my house and they are a great conversation piece.

4 Generations - My grandmother, my father, me, and Andrew, Easter 1995

So today, 4 years later, I remember and I celebrate a life lived to the glory of God. I am so thankful for a godly heritage and all that my grandmother taught and passed down to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. What a blessing!

Four of our children with my grandmother, Christmas 2007, just two months before her death

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Crime and punishment

Remember the consequences jars? They have more than met my expectations.

First of all, they helped to create a break-through with one child who was getting too comfortable with boundary pushing. I can't explain it. Maybe my previous consequences seemed arbitrary? Now, you get what you get and you can't argue with a consequence you've picked yourself. Over the weekend, this child ended up completing almost every task in the "I Blew It" jar, but since then, it's been fairly uneventful.

Secondly, my house is getting cleaned in places it hasn't been cleaned in a long time. I may not even need to spring clean this year because it will already be finished.

Finally, who would have thought that the "luck of the draw" could produce such fitting consequences, but sometimes you just have to drop your jaw at what comes out. Take this morning, for example. A certain child had to pick out of the "I Blew It" jar and what came up? "Clean up the dog poop in the back yard." Her crime? Throwing underwear at her sister. (Okay, there was more to it than that, but you get the picture.)

The Good Doctor always says the punishment should fit the crime. Apparently the jars agree.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Giant Bible memory lesson

Sometimes I get these ideas in my head. Sometimes I even get great ideas. Sometimes these ideas never get farther than the brainstorming process in my head. Other times they get started, only to die a quick death. And then there are some ideas that are good ones and that stick around for a while, maybe forever.

My children probably enjoy watching me go through these phases. They ebb and flow; come and go. I can just hear my children as they reminisce about me someday.

"Remember when she went through her rice and beans phase? We had rice and beans once a week. She said she was teaching us about frugality and how the rest of the world lives. I think she was just trying to get out of eating meat. Or attempting to get Eden to expand her culinary horizons beyond yogurt and sandwiches."

"Or the time she went through the hymn phase. We not only had to sing the hymn of the week every night at dinner but we had to learn about the history of the hymn. She said she was passing on our heritage and voices from church history."

"And then there was the time she decided the whole house had to be a giant Bible memory lesson. We had an art project where we had to make an animal sculpture but she didn't stop there. The animal had to be holding a sign with a verse from Proverbs. She said it had to relate to our current lives, ie. no verses about quarreling wives. She put a verse above the door and made the steps into a daily scripture lesson.

And of course there were verses we had to memorize."

I pray that this is an idea that sticks. I love Deuteronomy 6: 4 - 8: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

So look out, Kids! Next plan: Paint the names of God on the basement wall.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sandwiched Valentines

We have several friends who find themselves part of the Sandwich Generation, caring for their growing children while also caring for aging parents. While we are fortunate enough to have healthy parents so have not yet joined this group, yesterday did find us in a different sort of sandwich - smack dab in the middle of those who are able to effectively and romantically share Valentine's Day while we plod along with life as usual.

Before I go on, let me add that I am in no way bemoaning this fact; I am instead ecstatic to be able to witness both young love and mature love, both branching out from a godly foundation. And I am more than happy to sit back and remember the good old days, while watching love blossom and mature right in front of my eyes.

The day started with a beautiful note from my parents, accompanied by this picture of the first Valentine's they ever exchanged as a dating couple, in 1964. (Andrew admitted to reading this email just after learning about Thoreau who died in 1862 so he read this and first thought, "Wow, they were alive during Thoreau's lifetime," just before realizing the error of his thought process.)

They spoke of having weathered a lot in the years together but know that their love has weathered every sunshine-y day as well as every stormy day. "We love each other more for all the events that have happened in our lives. We thank God for what we have because of our union, two great children, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and of course our 8 and almost 9 grandchildren." Sorry, Mom and Dad, I know I didn't ask your permission to share your message, but in a day when divorce is the norm, and when we continue to watch many of our own peers struggle in their marriages and relationships, we are thankful for the legacy you have set for us.

Then my day consisted of thoroughly cleaning the family room (aka. the basement) for a special dinner that was being planned by my eldest. I unscrewed most of the lightbulbs to create mood lighting (to which HopeAnne later asked, "Why do you want it dark?" I said she should ask Andrew, which she did. His reply? "Go ask your mother."), added some candles and brought in a table complete with tablecloth and fancy cloth napkins (I had to specify that they were fancy because we use cloth napkins every day but these are the hodge-podge, found at the Salvation Army variety for which I am loath to scrub out stains or iron so we use as-is). Then I got the bread dough ready for stromboli and prepared other foods for the happy couple. I will add that as soon as he arrived home from school, the originator of this plan did help out to the best of his ability. He also enlisted the help of his enthusiastic younger sisters who were dressed in their Sunday best for their role as servers in the newly-developed restaurant.

Actually, the four younger siblings had all been enlisted to help for the evening. In addition to the servers, Isaac was employed as chef,

and Shoun as waiter. Don't worry, they were all sufficiently paid for their service, each receiving his or her own favorite candy: Gum, Tic-Tacs, Skittles, and Airheads.

When the couple arrived, with girlfriend blindfolded and asking, "Are we at Cracker Barrel?" the natives were giddy with happiness to be put to work. They also enjoyed the added task of making restaurant noises with their plates and silverware, just to keep up the facade for a little longer. Once seated, the couple used their dinner bell to call the help to their table. Shoun showed up in a suit and tie and asked if he could bring them something to drink. Then two little waitresses came down and served them while Isaac played kitchen cook. Can't ask for better chaperones, I mean waitstaff, than that.

I must give my husband some credit here. We did go out to eat, sandwiched between taxiing our beloved daughter to and from a rehearsal. And after a nice, relaxing dinner together (and stop at Bruster's, of course), we came home to find the four youngest in bed but this note: Eden at 5:25 tonight screamed, copied me, annoyed me, gave me the angry eyebrows, 5:30 screamed bloody murder. See, now you know why we have to live vicariously through my parents and our children.

I believe that at this time I should also sing the praises of my second oldest who spent the day handing out rocks with notes. His orchestra teacher was one of the happy recipients and shared this photo with us.

Thank you, Jesse, Andrew and Maggie, Mom and Dad, for sharing your day with us. You reminded us of Valentine's Days in the past (when we were childless and free) and that there will come a day in the future (far in the future) when we, too, will have an empty nest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Pinterest holiday

I just may have gone a little overboard on the Valentine's gifts this year. Thanks to Pinterest, that is. It can't be blamed entirely on Pinterest, however, as I have never bought those pre-printed commercialized cards for my kids to fill out. Back in the days before Pinterest there was Family Fun magazine and this little gem filled my file cabinets with all kinds of useful and fun activities, including creative Valentine's Day cards.

So this year, in addition to our hot chocolate Valentine's (see last year's post for more information on this one), we also made...

What can I say? This gave the little girls something to do, helped me bless the kids with sugary, pre-packaged treats that I wouldn't normally buy, we have personalized gifts for the neighbors, and we also have a basketful of goodies to take to our friends at Allenberry Playhouse who are just returning after more than a month off. Good timing, for sure!

Monday, February 13, 2012

My latest invention

"You are such a stinker."

"This family is crazy."

"Our house is going to be spic and span."

"Mom, you are Eugene-ious." (I think she meant a genius but has been listening to too much Eugene on Adventures in Odyssey lately)

These are the accolades my children were singing to me as they helped me with my latest invention: The Consequences Jars

First, we hav the "Uh-Oh, We were fighting so now we will work together to..." jar. Second we have the "Oops, I failed to put something away so now I have to sing "I Will Leave My Place" while I*..., and finally we have the "Oh Dear, I really blew it this time. To help me remember not to do this again, I will..."

Each jar is filled with possible punishments for each crime. Some of my favorites include:

(For the duo found fighting)
-Make a list of 10 things you love about Mom
-Act out the story of Little Bunny Foo Foo to everyone in the house
-Write a letter to someone out of state and make sure it gets mailed
-Think of 5 perfect ingredients for Party Mix, write them on the grocery list (no more than 2 sugary treats, please). When Mom purchases your items, make the Party Mix together
-Play a King's Strings or Suzuki song together
-Write a song about getting along and sing it to Mom
-Wash each other's feet and clean up the foot washing supplies
-Take the sheets off of both your beds, take the dirty sheets to the laundry room, and help each other put clean sheets on your beds
-Choose one of each of your scrapbooks and look at them together

(For the forgetful one who didn't put something away, remember the child must also sing while completing this task)
-Tell Mom the story of The Little Red Hen
-Research cleaning uses for baking soda or vinegar and choose one to try (no need to sing with this one)
-Rub Dad's feet for 10 minutes
-Make up a new cleaning song and sing it to Mom
-Draw a picture of yourself picking items off the floor with Mom and Dad in the background smiling really BIG
-No singing but you need to say, "I am a cleaning machine" 10 times, in 10 different voices

Of course there are also typical tasks such as vacuuming an area of the house, scrubbing a bathtub, or sorting socks. There are even a few cards that say, "You are FREE!"

Now I just need to wait for my next victim. I mean, test subject.

Oh, here they come now. Let's listen in:

"I'm never fighting with anyone in this house again."

"Oh, yeah? You can't do that!"

"Why not?"

Oh yeah, this should be good.

*The "I Will Leave My Place" song is sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells", Lyrics as follows:
I will leave
I will leave
I will leave my place
Better than
Better than
Better than I found it
I will leave
I will leave
I will leave my place
Better than
Better than
Better than I found it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dorothy at church

This is proof that I have matured and mellowed in my 16 1/2 years of parenting.

Previously, I would never have allowed my child to wear Dorothy's red slippers to church on a Sunday morning. I also would not have allowed my child to wear clothes that are too big.

This morning I did both. I told her that she was lucky she was Child #7, otherwise she wouldn't have gotten away with it.

I don't think she understood the significance of that statement. Child #1, on the other hand, understood completely.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

31 days dare

We moved to this area when Isaac was 2 1/2. Since the older three children had already started to excel on the violin, it was important to us that we find a teacher who would continue the excellent instruction they had begun. We were given a list of the Pennsylvania certified Suzuki teachers and told "good luck." Not knowing a whole lot about the area, and how far various places were, I just started calling. Our former teacher had given us some questions to ask potential teachers including, "Do you continue to take classes in Suzuki instruction?" As I asked one potential teacher this question, she started to laugh, and said, "I teach those classes!" Okay, then.

She asked that the kids audition for her, so we packed up the crew of four (oh, those were the days, we had it so easy then) and drove to her beautiful home situated on the banks of the Susquehanna River. After listening to each of the older children, she agreed that she would take them on as her students. Then she pointed to Isaac and said, "But I'm really interested in that one. I start a new 3-year old class every other year and will be starting one this fall. I like to have at least three children in the group and need one more." Well, we had never started any of the children that young before and I wasn't really interested in doing so at this time. We discussed it a little more and she finally spoke the clincher: "I'll only charge you half price." Deal! Even better was that she taught with her partner so rather than sitting at her house for 2+ hours while she taught 4 children, we only had to be there for an hour.

Suzuki students usually start on a box violin; a pseudo instrument made from a macaroni and cheese box with a paint stirrer neck. The bow is made from a dowel rod and block of wood. It makes sense to practice on something not as breakable as a real instrument. When Isaac was finally ready for his first real instrument, being younger than the other children when they began, we needed to get a smaller instrument. So we searched ebay (like always) and won the bid for a 1/10 size violin. When it arrived in the mail Isaac proudly took it out of its case, moved the bow across the strings, looked down at the instrument and said, "It not workin'."

It not workin'. That phrase has become a common one in our house, used by one and all. Just last night I was talking to John about a frustrating situation with a particular child and said, "It not workin'."

So I've been thinkin', a dangerous pastime, I know (as they say in Beauty and the Beast). And if it not workin', then that means something probably needs to change. And the one to change probably needs to be me.

As I was thinking, I came across a list of 31 Days to Loving Your Husband Better, or something like that. It sounded like a good idea, and one that I promise I'll come back to. But in the meantime, I realized that maybe I could try the 31 Days to Loving This Child Better. Sort of a purposeful 31 days of prayer meets the Love Dare, but for a child, not my husband. Make sense? I think so. I'm working on my list and will post as I figure it out and try it out.

Maybe I'm the only one who sometimes struggles to love a child like I should. If so, then I'm writing this so you can hold me accountable. Or maybe everyone else has already thought of this and I'm just a little slow. But if I'm not the only one, then maybe my 31 Days challenge can help someone else, too.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pinning vs. filing

I finally did it. I held off as long as I could but I gave in. The pressure was great, people kept asking me if I'd caved, but I held out. Until about 2 weeks ago and I just had to see what it was all about. I gave in, conceded, caved. I yielded, buckled, succumbed. I joined Pinterest.

And yes, it is addicting. I saw one woman who had 14,281 pins. How or why does one get 14, 281 pins? Has the new American motto suddenly become, "The one has the most pins, wins?" And boards titled "Dream Home" and "Someday"? If we don't watch it, Pinterest might just become the wholesaler for seeds of discontent.

Apparently I and these other folk have different motives behind our pinning. For me, Pinterest has become my new filing cabinet. You know those drawers and drawers of teaching and parenting files that my husband has had to move from one house to the other through the years? And sometimes even one room to the other as we remodeled and reorganized to fit yet another child. Yeah, well, I have been trying to weed through them for years and I have thrown away many of them. Now I am down to only five drawers. Hey, I thought that was pretty good.

The problem with files and filing cabinets is that when the drawers are closed, they are out of sight and out of mind. The nice thing about using Pinterest as my new online filing cabinet is that the ideas are right there when I open my computer. We've already made several nice meals and enjoyed delectable desserts. And my sewing closet is getting emptier although to the untrained eye it's still pretty cluttered.

So this is my latest Pinterest project. I found it online for sale but decided I could make it just as easily. Eden had just given me these tutus, saying she didn't use them for dress-up clothes anymore. A project that includes upcycling, recycling, and de-cluttering is a definite win.

And Eden's bag was the center of attention at dance class tonight. John's already afraid to take HopeAnne to her class on Monday because he says he knows what the ladies will be clucking about this week.

Anyone else have a tutu in the back of a closet somewhere? I could take that off your hands...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Doughnuts for school

Every child in this house has been homeschooled at one time or other. I'll admit it; I was never going to homeschool. I was a teacher, right? And children belong in the classroom with a teacher who has spent a lot of money learning how to be a teacher.

Then two formerly homeschooled students came to my classroom. This just solidified it for me. Neither one of them was ready for the great big world of "other children". They were socially unable to play well with others. On top of that, before the first day of school, each set of parents made certain to tell me over-and-over again that their child was homeschooled, gifted above all of the other students, would certainly be heads and tails above all the other students, and I would need to make sure their child was not bored in my class. Well, I guess if you compare Johnny to Johnny, he will always be gifted, the best in his class, the shining star. Maybe I didn't have the best examples of homeschooling in front of me, but it did solidify my decision never to homeschool.

Then there were all those homeschooling families that told me that because I was a Christian I had to homeschool. They had quite persuasive arguments, including the fact that they never have bad days, but always lost me when I asked, "In exactly which verse of the Bible do you see, "Thou shalt only homeschool"? I call these folks militant homeschoolers and I stay far away. I know I'm not the only one who's been hurt by these parents who seem to take great pride in their homeschooling and fail to see that God does not exist in a one-size-fits all plan of parenting. He needs all kids, with all kinds of gifts and talents, to be trained "in the way they should go" so that they are ready to do His will. Homeschooling may be part of the plan for some kids, but most definitely not for all.

But my mom always told me, never say never and when life circumstances brought us to a place of considering homeschooling, my life flashed before my eyes. I asked my eldest what he thought of the idea. Prior to this, at any suggestion of not being able to go to school, my second grader would have a conniption. I was certain that this was a good sign that we were not to homeschool. But this time? He quietly answered, "Sure." So I told God one year, absolutely no more, just until we all heal. Well, you can see how that all turned out for me. God knew what we needed. He also, of course, knows when and if it's time for each child to go to real school. But that's another story for another day.

In the meantime we plod along day-by-day. Some days we are one, big, happy, homeschooling family, just like the militants would like you to believe is the norm. More often, I'm a stressed out mom and teacher, lesson planner for four, mother to seven, meal planner for nine. So what do we do when life gets tough? We laugh. Even as I leave for another stay at the Funny Farm, I'm sure to hear the laughter as the door bangs behind me. What do we find so funny? Well, homeschooling, of course!

Here's a little glimpse into the (stereo) typical day of the homeschooling family:

Mariana: Mom, since I'm making donuts, can I count this for school?

Me: Hmmm, where exactly do you see school in this project?

Mariana: Well, I wrote the ingredients on your grocery list so that's writing. Then I read the recipe so that's reading. I learned that donut can be spelled doughnut for an excellent spelling lesson. I had to measure the ingredients which gives me math and there's definitely science in the process. I should get health credit because I know these are not healthy. And I listened to my ipod so that's music.

Me: Don't forget the fact that you found the recipe online so that's computer ed. You told me what you were doing and that's kind of like a speech. And you almost burnt the house down with the hot oil, thereby getting a freebie lesson in fire safety. Maybe some art credit for the abstract powdered sugar designs on the tops of your donuts? You walked between the fridge, sink, and stove so your steps could count for gym class. Just add a timeline of the history of the donut and you've got social studies. Wow! I'm on a roll here. Wait, that's a pun. Get it? Now you've got an English lesson, too.

Mariana: So, do I get a day of school out of this?

Me: Call it Family and Consumer Sciences and we have a deal. Now go get all of your other subjects done. Oh, and change your clothes. You look like a homeschooler.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Butterflies

Gotta love Super Bowl Sunday! We used to have a party at our house to celebrate the day. But then John had Sunday evening church services to facilitate so Super Bowl Sunday became just another Sunday night at the church. When the Sunday evening services were no more, we found that an interesting phenomenon had occurred; everyone else (insert teen reasoning here) had bought a big screen TV, leaving only the King household with dinosaur TV relics. Now no one wanted to come to our house to view the big game because on our TVs it just wouldn't be as big as at their own houses. So now we spend the evening home alone.

Which is nice in its own way. Actually the older boys had youth at church so they celebrated the big night by watching the game and playing too many rounds of dodgeball. Mariana played piano and sang beautiful worship songs. Isaac alternated between the game and homework. Eden played nicely by herself. The Good Doctor and Shoun were left to speak to the TV alone. Believe it or not but pastors don't always sound like pastors when the Super Bowl is on. Apparently there was a certain "stupid, idiot ref" who should have made a call but didn't. I don't know; I wasn't in the room.

HopeAnne and I were holed up in the sewing room. I was making good on that promise to both empty more fabric from my sewing closet and make her a pillow to match her quilt. And the game was just the right length to allow me to not only begin, but to also finish that project. Of course I had to surprise her with the end result in the morning since the littlest ones did not stay up for the entire broadcast.

While HopeAnne was a foster child we decided to make her a quilt for her first birthday. At that point in time, her goal was still reunification with her birth mother. When I thought of her life, I often thought of butterflies. Not only bringing hope and freedom to those caught in the cycle of addiction and single parenthood, but new life in Christ which I prayed over her life, not knowing in whose house she might be raised.

So we created a quilt with flowers, caterpillars, cocoons, and butterflies. Each family member participated. Then I sewed them together. I knew that there was the possibility she would be leaving our home, and I had resigned myself to allowing the quilt to go with her.

But that didn't happen and the quilt is here, on her bed, where both she and the quilt belong. But that's not where the tale of Hope and the Butterflies ends. Because for her adoption day, we left the courtroom, crossed the street, and stood along the river to release butterflies together. The weather didn't quite cooperate and it was a bit too chilly for the butterflies. That means we probably don't want to dwell too long on what happened to those creatures once they left our hands. But it also means that they weren't really into flying so we got to enjoy them for a little while.

Definitely a beautiful day with a beautiful little girl, celebrating the beautiful act of adoption.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pillow pals

"I just love standing right here in this room; I just love listening to the sounds." HopeAnne King, February 4, 2012

I have to agree with Hope on this one. I, too, love the sounds of the sewing room. Although for me growing up, the sewing room was also the basement family room but I can remember playing while my mom was sewing. The whirr of the machine and the snip of the scissors are two sounds that remind me of childhood and of my mom. Of course I was often on the floor playing around with quilt squares or hand sewing my own project.

And look at me now - a woman who would spend all day in her sewing room if she could. Which she can't. But she can steal little moments here and there. So I have a new goal and that is to use up as many of the scraps and fabrics in my sewing closet as I possibly can, buying as little as necessary to complete any project this entails. Because therein lies the problem with my sewing closet. Each time I make something, I end up needing a larger piece to complete it; the backing for a quilt or a certain color to match someone's decorating preferences. And since my math isn't that great, or because I want to be certain that I don't run out, or both, I always have left-over fabric that ends up on the shelves on my closet.

Monday was Day 1 of Project Clean Out the Sewing Closet. It was easily combined with Project Locate a Gift for a Birthday Party Hope is attending. Hence: Pillow Number 1. Would you believe I was able to complete it fully with items on hand, until I got to the very last knot of the pillow top. Well, my goal was almost accomplished. And buying one little skein of embroidery floss was a whole lot better than going out to buy a yard or more of fabric which would leave me with more fabric scraps to replace the fabric that just left my closet.

Of course Eden then decided that she wanted to make a pillow for a friend. A little birdie told us that this friend's favorite color is purple so we changed the color scheme, but made the same pillow. And Eden helped. She arranged the quilt squares (I had to keep quiet as patches were not placed as I would have placed them; I'm sure my mom remembers those days), numbered the rows for me, piled them up, and even helped me sew. I don't think the sewing process was intended to include a child sitting on one's lap as it is not very comfortable or efficient. But we managed quite nicely. A picture here would have been cute except that I would have been in the picture which would have deemed it unblog-able.

We also decided to add a pocket to the back of Eden's pillow. She wanted to include a note to her friend which she wrote on paper and I traced onto fabric. (The friend's name is purposely edited out because we're not sure if she reads this blog of not)

Week 1 of Project Clean Out the Sewing Closet is now complete. So why doesn't my closet look any emptier? Never fear. Week 2 is just about here and HopeAnne has already announced that she'd like a pillow to match the quilt we made for her bed. Better get started...