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!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

We must be Amish

"You have a lot of tids," says the 3 year old who doesn't yet pronounce the "k" sound. We were babysitting for him and his little brother. His comment made me laugh. What was going through his mind when he saw a constantly appearing stream of kids while he was happily playing in the basement?

I wonder if he thinks we have a larger (I still refuse to say "large") family because we're of a lower income than his family, or because my husband and I have low IQs, or because we don't have access to birth control? Or maybe it's because we're agrarian or Amish? I wonder because just this week my 11th grade son's English teacher told the class that those are the reasons parents have large families. This lecture came in response to an essay the class read on poverty and the faster rate of population growth in developing countries in comparison to the rest of the world. She then went on to state the above reasons for large families.

I don't know where she got her information but I do think it would be an interesting read. I also think it would be interesting to find out why she looked at my son when she got to the last category. He says he smiled nicely and simply said, "We're not Amish." My son, who was probably wearing shorts and most definitely wearing a T-shirt, and sitting in a public high school? Amish? Really? We live not that far from Amish populations. I really think she should be able to tell the difference.

Not that being Amish is all that bad. I am intrigued by the simple life. I certainly wouldn't have to do so much driving, horses or otherwise, if we were Amish. Because I'm fairly certain the Amish do not play community or high school sports, they do not take dance lessons or violin lessons, nor do they act in regional theatre. Well, have you ever seen a horse and buggy pull up to the local Little League game and drop off a kid or two (or three)? And I used to think I wanted to live on a farm. And I like animals.

I guess it was a simple process of elimination for her. And of the other options, I think I can see how she thought we were Amish. But really, didn't her research say anything about some parents just liking children? Is it possible that there are those of us who have decided that rather than the latest cell phones and technological equipment, we prefer to fill our houses with new faces? And maybe, just maybe, that rather than a large, empty house with a few people at each end, we prefer a small house with people you trip over every time you turn around? And maybe there are those who feel called to care for orphans?

After Andrew informed her that we aren't Amish, she said, "Well, then, what about Mennonite?" Well, maybe she's better at this guessing game than I thought. And partly right. Mennonite-ism does account for Child #1 - Child #4, but unfortunately does not explain the rest of the team.

You know, I suddenly have this great urge to schedule a parent-teacher conference, pull out that plain cape dress that was my great-grandmother's, and show up at the high school wearing it. Andrew says I'd better not.

Maybe I'll just ask for the references for her statistics. But I'll have to call from the neighbor's house. We're Amish, remember. We don't have a phone.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The book pillow

My seven year old says she doesn't like reading. Personally, I think she only says it because she realizes it's blasphemous to my ears and is looking for a reaction. So, even though it makes me want to shout, stomp, and become a raging lunatic to think that I have a child who doesn't want to read, I pretend not to notice. Because, in truth, she does read. A lot.

So, just in case she really means it, I came up with the Book Pillow. Yeah, it's ugly but I used what I had and she doesn't care.

She was thrilled. Without realizing she was quickly adding to the list on her pillow, she started reading book after book, and asking me to write them down for her. She even decided that the overlap in the back must be a pocket for her current book. Whatever works.

And that's how I got my (possibly) reluctant reader to read.

Do you think this might work for my 15 year old son?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to ask your date to prom

The Good Doctor and I started dating when I asked him to a Sadie Hawkins dance. I was pretty impressed as I had previously neither asked a guy on a date nor gone to a dance. The Good Doctor was not impressed because I called him on the phone to pop the question. I always thought he was being a bit unfair until I watched all that my eldest went through in asking his date to prom.

The plans started about a week ago, when he and the next two in line started planning an elaborate King's Strings version of My Heart Will Go On from the movie, Titanic. Now, the fact that I like this movie always causes Andrew to make fun of me. I guess things change when the one who likes the movie is the one with whom you have more than a family connection. It took a little convincing to get certain younger siblings on board (pun intended), but once they got the we're-a-family-so-we-help-each-other speech from me, it went a little smoother. Next, he had to teach everyone to play the song.

Finally, the most difficult part; finding a time when the social butterfly would be home. We had Plan A but went out for ice cream with a friend, then Plan B the next night but she went shopping with a friend, and Plan C the following night. Third time's a charm.

Walking to her house we made quite a scene. People in cars were waving and laughing. Andrew got a thumbs up from one woman. Then the man across the street was using a leaf blower but he was happy to turn it off for five minutes. The next thing we knew, he had called his wife outside and they enjoyed the serenade, too, even clapped at the end...

Insert music here...

And on the final note...

I wonder if I could send the siblings along to the prom, too?

Oh, you want to know what she said? See for yourself.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Check your work

As a teacher, I always wondered why it was so difficult to get kids to check their work. Now I know. Their parents don't check their work, either. This is how I know: I continually receive emails from people that I don't even know. And I'm not talking about those spam writers, although you'd think that if you were trying to trick someone into giving you their personal information you'd check your grammar and spelling. No, I'm talking about real life parents, like you and me, contacting a group, troop or team of which they are in charge.

You may remember Emma who emailed me thinking I was her mommy. I understand that. She's young. She made a mistake. Once her mistake was pointed out to her, she corrected it.

So how hard is it to take an email off of a registration form and type it into your computer? It must be extremely difficult because I am currently receiving emails from two different individuals, neither of whom lives in my state (I know, they have their addresses and phone numbers as their signature). The first believes that she is Girl Scout leader to someone in my family and the second thought she was my son's (which one?) soccer coach. The other Girl Scout mothers and I are currently in discussion about where we should have our summer camp-out. The other mothers are voting for some cushy indoor camp but I've chimed in with my pick, an outback option with no plumbing, no cabins, no comforts of home.

I've had the most fun with the soccer coach. So far we've had the following conversation (Identifying information has been removed):

She first wrote to her whole team, and me:
Attached is the schedule for practices through mid-May. Game schedule will follow after April 14. Please also note that April 21st is Picture Day for our team - as of now, our team is scheduled for 4:30 PM. Thanks!

So I replied:
Jedidiah is wondering if he can wear a Halloween costume to picture day? I said it's okay with me if it's okay with you. Thanks. Delilah King Anderson

Her response:
Did you mean to send this to another manager? I think [different child] is on our team. Thanks.

My reply:
I'm so sorry I'm just now getting your message. We had a little family emergency here. Oh, I hope this isn't a mistake. Jedi is so excited for soccer season to start and for team picture day. He has his Scooby Doo costume already out, ready to go. He's that excited. With his disabilities, he gets disappointed so often that I would hate to tell him it's all a mistake. Could you please look into this for me and let me know? Delilah King Anderson (You might find that my last name is listed as either McBride or Kelly on your roster. I can't remember if I signed him up before or after my last marriage)

She's so sweet. She quickly responded with:
We will get this figured out. How old is Jedediah? Our team is U14 boys.

My comeback:
Jedi is 13. You'll love him. He's a great kid. It's such a shame we had to leave his former team but for reasons I won't explain in an email, we had to leave Washington state pretty quickly. Would it help if I volunteered as assistant coach? I do have some sports experience having studied gymnastics for 16 years before breaking my arm in a very unfortunate balance beam accident. It's a real shame; I could have gone to the Olympics, I'm certain. Anyway, I watch soccer all the time with Jedidiah. We especially love the Central American teams, don't you? If only the announcers spoke English!

I can't wait to find out how she plans to resolve this situation. And find it most humorous that she hasn't even addressed the fact that my 13 year old son wants to wear a Scooby Doo costume for soccer picture day. Oh my! She is indeed a very kind woman. I'm voting for her for soccer coach of the year!

The moral of the story is: If you are a soccer coach and you've gotten a reply from one of your players who you don't think is really your player and the mom seems a bit (okay, a lot) crazy, PLEASE double check the email address! In the meantime, my kids sure will enjoy this example of what might happen if they don't check their work.


10:34 AM Addition - She replied:
Good morning. We are on spring break right now but I want to resolve this. Are you registered with W------ County? I ask because Jedi is not on our roster. I also checked on the other U 14 team and he's not there either. You got the first email from me because your email address is exactly like one of our players except they use a z instead of an s. So this confusion is entirely my fault! I am sorry for that.

Let me know if he is registered with W------ County and we will go from there. I think there is still room on our team so that's a good thing.

And I sent my last (*sigh) email to her:
Oh! My! Goodness! I think you've found the problem! We are NOT in W------ County! Can you believe it? Just one letter wrong in an email address and what a mess it makes! Wow! Wow! Wow! I just can't stop saying Wow! I guess it pays to double check when typing, huh? One never knows what might happen otherwise. Well, I guess we've got one whopper of a story that we'll be talking about for a long time, huh? I bet this one could even go viral. What do you think?

I appreciate you looking into this, and your honesty, and I absolutely accept your apology. Wow! Wow! Well, that's too bad. Jedidiah was really looking forward to this and I was really pumped about learning soccer so I could help you coach. You sound like a great person and I hope we meet in person someday. Wouldn't you be surprised if that really happened?

Your new friend in cyberspace (but NOT in W------ County :),
Delilah (But you can call me Dee since we're friends now)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Teen expectations

Dear Laura Sybil,

I haven't seen a Laura Sybil column on your blog recently, but thought I'd give it a try in case you're still around. I have a pressing question that has been perplexing me for quite some time. You see, I'm one of those older, mature persons who can't get around like I used to. My children are raised and out of the house. So for quite some time now I have been hiring teen boys to do work around my home; mowing, gardening, landscaping, etc. On occasion, I have them help with an indoor project; remodeling, painting, etc. I have been surprised by how many adults are shocked that I would hire teens for this type of work. Why such low expectations? In a recent job, it was white paint over white paint, not the Sistine Chapel, so how much could a teen, or anyone else, mess it up? They are not 5 year olds with crayons. They were more careful with the monotonous taping than I would be. They were very conscientious and efficient. They could crawl on ladders and on the floor and and in other places that my knees would protest. I have found with supervision and encouragement, teens do a great job at most anything you ask them to do. They live UP to expectations. AND, they make it more fun! The young men who have assisted around my house, have done a great job.

Why do we expect so little from teenagers???

Thank You,
Venting to You So I Don't Vent to Others

Dear Venting to You So I Don't Vent to Others,

This is probably a question better asked of The Good Doctor who has not only personal opinions but doctoral research to back him up. But since he's too busy working on his dissertation to write a blog, you're stuck with my personal opinion. I do, however, have the advantage of listening to The Good Doctor talk in his sleep and I overhear phrases such as emerging adulthood, Industrial Revolution, and Psychosocial Theory of Development. Translated, I think it all means that if we, those who live post Industrial Revolution, apply the Psychosocial Theory of Development to those with emerging adulthood, we will see that we have a problem. (It could be argued that that is why I write a blog while The Good Doctor is writing a dissertation.)

In all seriousness, you are right. Our society does expect too little of our teens. I heard somewhere (read somewhere?), that modern, developed societies are the only ones that even have a teen-age stage of development. In the past, and in third world cultures, you are a child or you are an adult. Period. But things have changed. This may be where the Industrial Revolution fits into things but I am no expert.

I can say that in our home, we have been purposeful about ushering our children into adulthood, leaving no room for teen slacking. Call it a hazard of growing up with a young adult pastor and psychologist for a father and a blogger for a mother. Or something like that. We've watched far too many young adults try to live life post-high school, still with this "nothing is expected of me yet" mindset. We want more for our children. So yes, I think you're right, too little is expected of our teens.

So how do we combat that mindset? Oh my, do you have a week? In a nutshell, as my favorite college professor used to say, "As ye think of them, so are they." I think she may have been related to King James, but she made her point. If we expect more from our teens, they are more likely to live up to our expectations. We expect more in our home, and are thankful that there are many adults around our children who also have high expectations for them. They respond well to positive reinforcement, so as they excel, the encouragement of those they have served motivates them to do more the next time.

In conclusion, there are three books I highly recommend. The first is Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris. From it's front flap: "A growing movement of young people is rebelling against the low expectations of today's culture by choosing to 'do hard things' for the glory of God...Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life." Every parent of a pre-teen should read this book, and then insist that their teens read it. A follow-up to this book is either Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are by Alex and Brett Harris or Generation Change: Roll Up Your Sleeves and Change the World by Zach Hunter. Both of these books give real-life examples of teens who are rising up to higher expectations, and changing their world in the process. Knowing that all of these books were written by teens just makes them more inspirational.

Thanks for what you are doing to encourage the teens in your sphere of influence. Sounds like their parents are setting a good foundation at home, and I'm sure your high expectations are motivating them to go above and beyond in everything they do. So we, and the parents of America, thank you.

Laura Sybil

Monday, March 26, 2012

Charlie Brown and Snoopy

One of the first musicals I saw when I was younger was You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I have no idea how old I was but it must have been early elementary school. The only scene I remember from that performance is the last song, "Happiness." Although my parents took me to many musicals since then, and now I have taken my family to many musicals, I never saw another performance of Charlie Brown

until last week.

I know it's really supposed to be all about Charlie Brown. But when your daughter is playing Snoopy, it's going to be all about -

you guessed it, Snoopy.

Snoopy singing "Snoopy"

Snoopy and Linus

Snoopy in "The Red Baron"

And my favorite, Snoopy in "Suppertime"

Yes, we're very proud of our daughter, the dog. Next up, Gertrude the bird in Seussical.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A mystery and a confession

We had two wonderful friends over for lunch this week, on separate days. Each of them are actors at a regional theatre in the area. Each of them, in separate instances, told us of an interesting mystery which occurred at their theatre. What makes their story even more fun is that it happened in the midst of murder mystery weekend, but which was totally unrelated to the script that was being acted out. Here's their story:

Early in the day last Saturday, someone had placed a very large bowl/vase/glass (depending on your point of view) in the middle of the table in our dressing room. This glass was very similar to the one used by one of our actors during the weekend, but shaped a little different.

Soon after, someone received a surprise package from home which included those little magic capsules which expand into foam shapes when placed in water. So, into the large glass went the capsules. They were left there for the afternoon and when the actors came back for the evening cocktails scene, no one thought much more about the glass and foam objects in the middle of the table. But when they returned at the end of the scene, lo and behold, there were three fish in the water with the floating shapes. And a bottle of fish food sitting next to them.

A week later they're still trying to figure out how the fish got there and no one's fessin' up.

Now here, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story, from my perspective.

I drove over to the theatre last weekend to drop off my daughter who was filling in as one of the actors. It's quite a short gig; show up, get dressed, die, then go home. But she loves it. We were the first to arrive in the dressing room and we noticed this glass vase in the middle of the table with those silly little capsule thingies that turn into foam shapes when placed in water. I looked at my daughter and said, "You know what that bowl needs? It needs some fish. Stay here. Have a great time. I'm going shopping. I'll be back soon."

Not knowing the area all that well, I drove to the one place I did know; Target. I wasn't sure if they sold fish with their pet supplies, but I figured it was worth a try. Boy was I bummed to find that they didn't have fish. Oh well, I thought, it was fun while it lasted but better luck next time. I did a little shopping, and left to return to the theatre. As soon as I walked out the door it came to me, "Wait a minute! This strip mall is pretty long, I wonder what's at the other end...Petsmart! What do you know?" So off I went.

Hello, ma'am. May I help you?

Yes. I'm looking for some plain old goldfish.

Do you want feeder fish or fish for pets?

Um...pets? (In retrospect, I probably should have said feeder.)

Okay, we have these over here

(Really, $2.99? For a joke?)

or these feeder fish over here which are 29 cents a piece and some people find they have more luck with these as pets than the more expensive ones.

Great! I'll take 3. And where is your fish food (in case the fish survive the night)?

Now I had the fish, but I still had to get them into the bowl unseen. I returned to the theatre with the fish in a Target bag, to throw off any witnesses, of course. I smuggled them into the dressing room only to find that several actors were still in there. So I turned around and hid them in the coat closet while I went into the dining room to photograph the scene (which was my real purpose for being there). After a little bit, I tried again. This time, the costumer was the only one there. So I left and tried again later. Each time, I found only the costumer in the room. It finally dawned on me that maybe she stays in there all night so I was going to have to figure out a way to transfer the fish without her knowledge.

I waited for just the right moment and thought I had it when she had her back to me, placing clothing on hangers, and hanging them on a rack. I quickly untied the fish bag and dumped them in. Sorry, fish, it wasn't the gentlest transition to your new home. And it made a loud pouring sound. I'm not sure why she didn't turn around just to see what that noise was, but thank you, Molly. Just as I was pouring them in, Yosef, one of the kitchen workers, walked through. I quickly stuck my finger to my lips in a shushing sign. He smiled and walked away. Failure averted.

Then I pressed my luck. I wanted a snapshot of the fish in their new home. But while taking their photograph, one of the actors walked in. "Nice fish," I said. "They put real fish in there now? Oh, those poor fish." Disaster averted, again. I calmly left the room.

A little later, who did I see leave the dressing room for the buffet line? The costumer. Oh well. The deed was done. At the end of the scene, I returned to the dressing room to find all of the actors staring at the bowl of fish and overheard someone in the room say, "No, it wasn't me. But I wish it was. It's brilliant."

The only mystery remaining, besides who killed Jack Diamond, is what happened to all of the fish after that weekend?

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Back on March 11, the fine folks at Two Writing Teachers offered a challenge to their writers to spend some time reflecting on their writing thus far.

I admit it. I'm late. Thirteen days, to be exact (if I did the math correctly).

But late is better than never, right? So here are my thoughts on this writing challenge.

1. My mornings are different - I now wake up in a panic every morning with the agonizing question, "What am I going to write about today?" There are better ways to wake up. I suppose there are also worse ways to wake up. At least I'm not worrying about what I'm going to wear when the prevailing question is centered on what to write.

2. My schedule is different - My daily agenda now includes cooking, cleaning, teaching, doctoring, mentoring, comforting, chauffeuring - and writing. Again, there could be worse things to fill up my time. It just adds to the panic. And depending on how you look at it, I'm either getting more or less exercise these days. My running time has often turned into writing time but if the quote found on Two Writing Teachers today is correct, then I am exercising even while sitting at my computer.

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”
— Jane Yolen

3. My motivation to check my blog during the day has changed - I love comments! Especially written ones. I knew people were reading my blog before, but only because they would reference something in passing, a topic or detail that only could have been known had they read my written thoughts. Now people comment, so I have proof they're out there. Okay, they have to comment so technically it doesn't count. But if I don't tell myself that it will make me feel important.

4. My motivation for writing has changed - I have no idea who my audience is anymore so I've kind of strayed from my original intent. No, I've greatly strayed from my original intent for as you may recall, my original intent was just to write for myself; to reflect and unwind from the day. Then The Good Doctor decided he needed to go public with my blog and so it became a forum to share the zoo with friends and family. But then friends and family started to share my blog with their friends and family and people started asking questions about life in a family of nine; how do you do this or that, why do you that or this? And now some days I feel like I'm writing for my writing professor except that there are over 100 professors and I've only ever met one of them, the persistent one who talked me into this. I'm certain this is not the intent, just my own self-esteem issues coming to the forefront and making me think things I shouldn't think.

5. My quality has changed - Some days I publish a piece that is rather short and of which I am not proud but I do it because I need to write every day or I will feel like a failure because I've started something and not finished it. Again, my own issues. But back in the day when no one expected me to write every day, I wouldn't bother publishing something unless I liked it myself.

6. My self-esteem has changed - But above all, writing everyday has been good for me. Each day closer to the goal gives me a self-confidence that I didn't previously have. In fact, I not only have been writing here everyday, I entered a writing contest, not with any thoughts of winning, but with a self-assurance that the judges won't laugh at my humble attempts nor should they immediately File 13 my submission. And for someone who has less than 10% of a normal person's self-confidence, this makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dinner and a show

Our friend, Sabra, was here for lunch today. I think she was complimenting us when she stated that eating at our house makes for a great "dinner and a show." Since she's an actress, I'm pretty certain it was a compliment. At the very least, she finds us entertaining. And I think today she was referring to the fact that she walked into our home just before the commencement of a very serious ceremony, the burial of Eden's beloved hermit crab, Bella.

The funeral almost occurred yesterday. I had noticed over the weekend that the hermit crab was dead but I wasn't sure how to tell her seven year old owner. So I didn't. Then, yesterday morning Eden said to me, "Isn't it amazing that Bella has lived such a long time?" "Uh, Honey. We need to talk." After our talk, Eden checked into things herself. A few moments later the five year old announced that she saw Bella move. Great news! The dead has come back to life! So we had to wait for a period of time to determine if my diagnosis, or HopeAnne's diagnosis was the correct one. I won.

Eden's experience with funerals is limited. She did accompany me to a funeral about a year ago, so I guess her memory of that is where she developed the agenda for the occasion. So I was very interested to see what was about to transpire.

First, she insisted that we all had to wear black. I was surprised to see that she knew of this tradition but I shouldn't have been. The funeral she attended with me was for a conservative Mennonite man. Of course everyone wore black! They always wear black. But she didn't know that. Needless to say, she couldn't convince us to wear black. She did convince Shoun to wear his suit. He loves to wear a suit so it didn't take much persuasion. And since he was the pastor for the day, his attire contributed to his authenticity. HopeAnne brought her flower girl basket to drop roses but was quickly told by her older sister that it is not necessary to have a flower girl at a funeral - wrong ceremony.

Then, she told us that we had to walk by the casket, drop something into the casket, and greet her as we went by.

Following the receiving line, the pastor spoke, and the anguished mother reflected on a life well lived.

Next she closed the casket. This took a little more work than she had expected.

No problem; just put your knee on it and lean into it a bit.

At the conclusion of the casket closing, we had to follow her outside for the burial.

She had already chosen a beautiful plot under a maple tree, with daffodils to surround it every spring. The pastor started digging.

The pastor and the bereaved had a little spat over how deep the hole needed to be. Meanwhile, the worship leader led us in a fine rendition of Kum Ba Ya.

In the shuffle, the hermit crab fell out of the casket. She just picked it up and shoved it back in. Crisis averted.

When the grieving mother finally determined the hole "good enough", she placed the casket in the ground, took over the shoveling duties,

stomped on it a few times,

and placed her gravestone marker over the place where Bella now lies.

May she rest in peace.

Sabra, thank you for your amazing contribution to our funeral today. We hope you'll come back again for the next in our subscription series, "Dinner and a Show at the Kings."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Next Page

Okay, I'm looking for some honest feedback here. This piece is a combination of thoughts throughout our daughter's foster care and adoption, and looking forward to the day when I hope we can meet her birth mother again.

She closed the book. It was the same as that first day, almost 19 years earlier, when she’d written the first entry, placed the book on the same table, and walked out the same door.

“My Precious One,” she’d written on that blank page. “I haven’t met you yet. In fact, I’ve only known about you for three hours. The caseworker called this morning. ‘Mrs. King,’ she said, ‘We have a 5 day girl being discharged from the NICU today. Will you be her foster family?’ There was no need to discuss it. Of course we would.”

She smiled, placed the book on the table, and with a spring in her step, walked through the door to her car.

Her family fought over their precious little one; over who would feed her, who would rock her, and who would play with her. They gave her everything they could. The one thing they could not give her, the one thing they didn’t know if they should give her, was the one with whom she had bonded for those first 35 weeks of her existence.

“My Precious One,” she wrote in that book two years later, “We got the phone call we’ve been waiting for! At your next hearing, your goal will be changed from reunification to adoption. You are to be our daughter! Of course we’ve loved you as a daughter before I even left the house to pick you up. But there was always a sense of holding back, not wanting to ask, ‘What if?,’ but knowing it was a possibility. Are you really to be ours?”

She listened to the children playing outside, closed the book, placed it on the table, and walked through the door to join them.

But circumstances and perspective can change so quickly.
“My Precious One,” she wrote a few months later. “We went to the courtroom this morning for the termination of parental rights. We knew it would be a day of mixed emotions. Your birth mother was there and she held you and loved on you. She looked the judge in the eye and announced that she was voluntarily giving up her parental rights. She declared that she loves you very much but she’s just not in a place to raise you. She said that she knows you are loved in our home and that we will raise you to be the person you are meant to be. The judge looked right back at her and told her that she is a very brave woman. I didn’t realize that my joy would be another mother’s pain.”

She wiped a tear, closed the book, placed it on the table, and went outside to be alone.

The years went by quickly as they always do. As her precious one approached her high school graduation, they talked about the mother who had been there first. They wondered what life had been like for her. They finally put wondering aside and boldly made the first call. Plans fell into place and a meeting was arranged.

“My Precious One,” she wrote again. “Thank you for allowing me to be part of this momentous day. We cannot predict what this day, or those to follow, will bring. Only know and remember that I love you, have always loved you. You are becoming the person that you were meant to be. You are loved.”

Her precious daughter was in the car and it was time to go.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

All about hair

Today I have decided to use this forum to once and for all answer a question that I get asked all of the time. Strangers. Friends. Even family. I can always tell when it's Christmas because we see people we only see once a year, and every year, like clockwork, they ask the same question. And every year I give the same answer. And 365 days later, they're asking again. So here's your answer:

Yes, I do HopeAnne's hair.

You have to understand that I have never been able to do a thing with my own hair. I inherited my mother's stick-straight, fine, thin hair. (And her allergies. And her bad eyesight. And... but who's counting?) Anyway, there's nothing you can really do with it except to grow it long and let it hang, and join a group of hippies, the latter of which I have never done. I did spend too much time and money in the 80s, getting perms to try to make it look like I belonged to the decade. But no one was fooled, especially my parents who had to foot the bill for that experiment in futility. So I've found that short is best. No work, no fuss, no trying to defy the odds and get volume out of a wet noodle.

Until recently when The Good Doctor informed me that he prefers my hair longer. So now I spend a lot of money on products to give volume and sticking power, only to get a rat's nest of gluey deposits and hairspray-induced sneezing fits. But I'm not bitter or anything; just stating the facts.

My boys all have thick heads of hair, but they aren't standing in line for me to style it. For the older two, puberty not only changed their voices, but changed the hair on top of their heads and they suddenly had these untamable curls the girls can't resist. (They're going to love me saying that, but you can't deny the truth) The next in line came with the thick, curly hair in place. Son #4 has always had a thick head of hair. We're waiting to see about the curls. Maybe something will happen when he can no longer sing as high as his sister.

Daughter #1 has fine hair, but she, too, has recently received a head full. And she even has some body to it. Beautiful.

But by the time it was full enough to do something with it, she went through her hat phase, and now wouldn't let me touch it with a ten-foot pole. It's okay because she spends enough time in the bathroom to beautify it for weeks at a time, even though for some reason she's back at it in just a few hours. Daughter #2, I think, has my hair. She looks really cute when it's short and sassy. Like her mother. Until somebody told her to grow it long. I digress.

Daughter #3, then, was handed to us with a head of thick, black hair. Interestingly, we were told we were picking up a caucasian baby. Funny, because even though we're not medical experts, we were pretty certain from the moment we first saw her that this baby was not caucasian. Not that it mattered to us, but we really didn't want to be arrested for taking the wrong baby from the NICU. So we just smiled, signed the papers, and left before someone could tell us we had the wrong baby; we were already in love. Thankfully, the case worker later admitted to her mistake so we do know that we were given the correct baby.

While her hair was straight at first, it didn't take long to become a head full of beautiful kinky, curly (which also happens to be a product line, I've come to find out) hair. When she finally had enough hair to do something with, I looked into finding someone to do something with it. Wow! I had no idea. Not quite ready to remortgage the house in order to have the girl looking good, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Isn't Google wonderful?

We now have it down to a science. First we have to choose a style. Sometimes we find one on a real person's head and we follow her around til we know exactly how to replicate it. Other times we find one in a picture book. More often, we peruse the internet. Then, we have movie day. We start the movie while I take the former style out. Then she gets a bath and we wash her hair. Finally, we finish the movie (and maybe even watch another one), while I style her hair. It's great Mommy-Daughter time and other than her screaming during a particularly knotted section, which I'm told has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with the hair, it's quite fun. It just takes a lot of time. But she's worth it.

Now, repeat after me so you don't have to ask again, "Cindy does HopeAnne's hair." Very good.

But I will admit to paying someone else to cornrow the other girls' hair. Vacation will do that to you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring adventure

Whenever my brother and his wife propose an outing to their daughter, they call it an adventure. So, in that vein, our family enjoys an adventure every first day of spring, thanks to Rita's Italian Ice and their yearly celebration. When you have seven children, ya gotta look for every free opportunity you can find.

And it couldn't have come on a better day. Tuesday is violin lessons day - forty minutes away - and we just happen to pass a Rita's en route. So on the way home, we all piled out to wait the ten minutes til opening. It's a good thing we got there when we did, because when we left the line was 5 times as long.

After violin on Tuesdays, we head to the library. It wasn't much out of our way to stop at yet another Rita's for another round of free ice's.

After the library, we back-tracked just a little to find the third Rita's. It would have been directly on our route from the second Rita's but since we were all feeling a little full, and wired, we thought a brief lay-over at the library would be good. The gym would probably have been a better choice at that point.

We decided to become food critics in the process. The first Rita's had slushy ice and they didn't fill the cups all the way to the top. The second Rita's was giving out free soft pretzel and custard samples and a local business got in on the deal; handing out bags of popcorn. The third Rita's had the longest wait but the friendliest service. Three of us were brave and ordered a different ice at each location; one not so brave soul ordered the same flavor three times.

Now we're home sporting multi-colored lips and tongues. Everyone has peed, and is ready for a sugar-crashing nap. Well, I am, anyway.

Oh, how we felt like homeschoolers on our little adventure. Such sweetness (pun intended) from the little things in life. And as Tim Hawkins says in his homeschool comedy routine, "Thanks for letting us out, Mom. It just goes on forever. I'm gonna write this down in my journal." Journal. Blog. Same thing, right?

Monday, March 19, 2012


So many parenting responsibilities could be narrowed down to one virtue: Self-control. Of course, our kids aren't the only ones with this problem, right? I, for one, have my own self-control issues. But I like to believe that on this journey called life I am a little farther along than my children. And that it is my responsibility to teach them self-control so that they can be healthy, can get along well with others, will be productive adults, and above all, God-honoring in all they do.

That said, I decided to combine our Fruit of the Spirit staircase with the consequences jars and (hopefully) drive the message of self-control home. So the "I blew it" jar gained a new slip of paper: Sit on the Self-control step and write 5 sentences about how self-control could have helped you in this situation.

And then I waited. Sure enough, the seven-year old "blew it" this morning and had to pick from the jar. "Mom," she said with the slip of paper in her hands and a confused look on her face, "What is 'self-control'?"

Funny you should ask. So after our discussion, and after her imposed writing assignment, I had this fine essay to chuckle over:

"I cud of yoused self-control by not saying I am gowing to be as selfish as I can. I was mene and I shood not be mene. I have lernd that I need to be kinnd. Evry one has to have self-control. Now I no that you need self-control."

Thank you, Eden, for such a splendid discourse on self-control. I just may print this out to hang on my wall as a little reminder to myself.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thanks for the encouragement

This writing challenge has brought so much encouragement in the way of comments. Kym told me it would be so. That was part of her spiel when trying to get me to write. Other participants have written about the eye--opening experience of finally understanding what students suffer when faced with a blank page and a deadline looming.

But it goes so much farther than writing. Whenever we step out of our comfort zone, we need to know that someone noticed and that our efforts were appreciated. A friend of mine calls these "kisses from God," the little (or big) confirmations that you're on the right track.

A few years ago our family auditioned for a national TV show, and we made it to the second round. It was an extremely stressful time, made even more tense by some last-minute changes from the powers-that-be. We all sensed that we were to be there, but it was definitely the most challenging adventure our family has ever experienced. When the final vote came down, and we were not to go on, we were confused. If we had spent so much time in prayer prior to pursuing this, and had no doubt that we were to give it a try, then why did it end so quickly?

After the audition we were immediately whisked back to our hotel. Since we had guests still inside the audition hall, we walked back to wait for them on the sidewalk. When the auditions ended and the house emptied onto the street, many people recognized us and encouraged us as a family group. Many wished we had been voted through. Those were the little "kisses from God" that we needed. But them one woman came right up to me, stuck her finger in my face, and said, "I saw right through that." Uh-oh. What did she mean? Did she think we weren't all playing the instruments? Did she think the music was pre-recorded? That we were performing some type of instrumental version of lip sync? Then she was coming back with her finger once again pointed right at my face, "I know why you're called The King's Strings, and it has nothing to do with your last name. I saw the Holy Spirit up there on stage with you and I have only ever seen that one other time in my life." That was a big ole' kiss from God!

Recently, after starting a Mom's Group to encourage and equip mothers, I was once again reminded of the value of those kisses from God. One mother told me that this group, the books, and what she was learning, were not only impacting her, but also her neighbors as she shares what she's learned with them. This morning, two men came up to thank me for what their wives were learning while participating in this group. Little kisses from God can go a long way!

Excuse me, I need to go encourage someone now.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Green treats

We're not Irish. But St. Patrick's Day does make for a good excuse to create another basket of treats for the kids. Since the Valentine's Day basket (even though we're not Roman, either) went over so well, I thought a basket of green treats would be a nice extravagance.

The only requirement to partake is that you have to be wearing green. It's amazing how quickly younger folks can change their clothes when it means they'll get a little more sugar than usual.

And we didn't want to leave our Allenberry Playhouse friends out of the fun, either. This one's coming your way tonight, guys!

Happy St. Patty's Day, Everyone!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Where is the...?

If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

And one daily experience that used to leave this Mama very unhappy was the dinner scene. After I'd spent an inordinate amount of time in meal preparation - alone, it would be scarfed down and left for me to spend even more time cleaning it up - again alone. If I was lucky, a starving child would come along during the prep period and ask to set the table in hopes of getting a meal before wasting away. Purely selfish motives and it didn't really help to make Mama all that happy.

So about two years ago we instituted a new King family rule: Every member of the family will help with dinner for one half hour. You can either help with thirty minutes of dinner preparation, or thirty minutes of after-dinner clean-up. And no, setting the table does not take thirty minutes, nor does that one job save you from clean-up duties. (Believe me, it's been tried as in, "But I put the cups around before we ate. Do I really have to clean-up?")

While this family ordinance means that I get to enjoy relaxing in my end-of-the-table throne during clean-up, it does mean that I have to contend with items put away in very interesting locations. Meal preparation has become a whole new experience as I stand in the middle of the kitchen, asking, "If I were a teen-age boy, where would I put a wire whisk?" or "If I were 11 years old, where would I think a measuring spoon belongs?" and "If I were 5, where would I put Mom's rolling pin?"

And when opening a drawer to find an obviously (to me) out-of-place item, I am reminded of that old Bert and Ernie book, appropriately named The Ernie and Bert Book, where Ernie sends Bert on a long chase to find out why the goldfish is in Bert's cowboy hat.

Around here, it goes something like this (and yes, these are all actual true-life scenarios, although they may not all have happened in the same day):

I need the ketchup. Does anyone know where the ketchup is?

No, but why is there a pot holder in the junk drawer?

Maybe because there was a paring knife in the pot holder drawer.

I see. So where is the paring knife?

Your guess is as good as mine. Have you seen the pizza cutter?

Yeah, it's with the pots and pans.

I'm still looking for the ketchup. And where's the lid to this pot?

On top of the stack of dishes.

Has anyone seen the 1 cup measuring cup?

Found it! It's with the drinking cups.

Of course it is. Measuring CUP, drinking CUP. It's an easy mistake. So, where is the missing drinking cup?

Here, it is. Someone put it in the Tupperware drawer.

Did you say Tupperware drawer? Of course. It's a Tupperware drinking cup. I think someone's been thinking too hard around here. Did you find the ketchup?

No, but I need a knife and spoon. Any idea where I might find them?

The knife's in the desk drawer and the spoon's with the water bottles.

I'm not even going to ask how they got there. Have you seen my rolling pin?

Yeah, it's with the play-doh.

Okay, I think I know this one; it's easy... One of the little girls was helping that day and thought it was a toy? I'm going to heat this soup in the microwave and then I think we're ready to eat. Hey! Guess what? I found the ketchup. In the microwave. Just where (someone thinks) it should be! I think I'm getting a headache. When did cooking get to be so tough?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My son's lament

I made the mistake of asking my second oldest what he is reading in 9th grade English class.

"We're reading The Secret Life of Bees. Unlike all the other books we've read, I decided to give this one a chance."

"Good for you, Jesse." I had a feeling I knew where this one was going but I added, "I really enjoyed that book. What's your opinion of it?"

He ran from the room, returned with the book in hand, and started reading from the back cover, "This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come."

I waited for the tirade. It came.

"Last I checked, I'm not a female and will hopefully never be a mother. I'm a dude; I don't want to read this."

"Well, surely you have been reading a variety of genres, with both male and female protagonists?" Who was I kidding? I read and signed the class syllabus six months ago; I know what's on it.

"Do I really have to read about female puberty*? I don't think so. My teacher told us this book is more for the females in the class. She said we should get over it because we read plenty of books for the guys. But Mom, unless you count Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, which I did really enjoy, they've all been chick flicks so far! And the rest of the year is, too."

"Ummm, I'm glad you enjoyed Agatha Christie?"

*His exact words. Keep in mind this is the same child who got stuck with presenting an oral report on Follicle Stimulating Hormone in health class last week because he happened to be in the back of the room and the last to reach the sign up sheet. It might not have been so bad except that his friend erroneously informed him that follicle means hair so it must have something to do with hair growth. When Jesse found out the truth, it was the beginning of another tirade on another day. He and his friend now know more than they ever wanted to know about FSH.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A great essay

My oldest is now 17 years and one day old. Technically, it's 17 years and 17 hours old, but who's counting? It hasn't exactly been the best birthday month for him. He did have an orthodontic appointment scheduled for his birthday; it couldn't be helped but since it was supposed to be a short one, it should have been fine. It wasn't. An hour and a half later he pulled in the driveway, breathing fire and spitting nails. He wasn't happy. And just a few days ago he took his first shot at the SAT, which left him drained more than he had expected and which created a monster who was higher than a kite for the rest of the day. The rest of us suffered through his incessant talking and excess energy, presumably the effects of stress and sitting quietly for too long.

Andrew is a writer (did I say he's a lot like his mother?) and he spent a good deal of time telling us about the written portion of the SAT. He explained that his AP English teacher has been working on essay skills all year so he felt very prepared. His strategy, passed down from his teacher, is to first explore any personal sob stories you might be able to use. He then gave us an example from English class. The students were to write, in class, an essay about a past experience that has significantly impacted their present. Andrew went on to describe his theme, using a surgery he had when he was four years old. The plight he told was not the same one I remembered.

"Wait a minute!" I had to interrupt. "You mean she tells you to lie to make a good essay?"

Yeah, Mom. She told us we could even make something up if we don't have an experience that relates to the topic. The goal is to write a good essay; not a biography.

Hmmm. He's got me thinking. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Birthday traditions

My oldest turns seventeen today. For him I think it's anticlimactic; sixteen was an important one, eighteen will be, too. Seventeen just kind of falls in the middle. So why is it that this birthday makes me feel so old?

Our family birthday tradition is to start the day with donuts (because we all need a sugar high to go along with the birthday buzz, right?). Since Andrew's role has always been as guinea pig in this parenting thing, I guess he'll also need to be the one to let us know how many candles constitute too many candles for a donut.

Seventeen is apparently not too many.

As in many families, another King family tradition is that the birthday child gets to pick the meal and dessert.

As I've observed through the years, the desserts have gotten less complicated, the meals more complicated. My teens don't ask for themed birthday cakes anymore. Instead they ask for desserts like Monkey Cake, Dirt Dessert, or apple crisp, all of which are much less time consuming. But while they used to request simple, inexpensive meals like hot dogs or hamburgers, now they choose homemade stromboli or steak with mashed potatoes.

No problem! Anything for the birthday child!

Age 4, Baseball was his interest

Age 5, He wanted to be an astronaut

Age 6, The year he was into bugs

Age 16, The problem with Monkey Cake is that it's best eaten warm, which of course, melts the candles.

Happy Seventeen, Andrew. Oh, and I am really sorry about that orthodontic appointment scheduled for today. Whoops. I hope you can chew your steak tonight.