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. Have fun!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thanks, Mom

Last week was a rough one for the four youngest kiddos and their mother. There was a lot of fighting and bickering which just became very wearying for me. Which then made me question my competency as a mother. Which led to questioning who am I to lead a group of moms if I can't even control my own household? Not a good road to go down.

So last night we had a modified family meeting; Mom, Dad, and the four youngest. We talked about the last week. We discussed better choices to some of the situations that had come up. And we gave everyone an assignment.

Each child was given 5 index cards with the instructions to write one other person's name at the top of the card and then at least four nice things about that person. One card for each of the siblings involved, and one each for Mom and Dad.

I guess it was all worth it when I read this card from my 7 year old:

Mom
1. I love you becus you rub my bak every nite
2. and your prayers meen a lot to me
3. I love you becus you tot me to read
4. I thangk you for all the things you do
5. I love you so much

Here's to a great week ahead of us...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Of dogs and men

Those who know me well can probably guess my all-time favorite children's book. Well, it's not exactly a book, it's a whole series. And I know I'm not really original here, there's a whole following for this series, but it's still my favorite. Of course, I'm talking about the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I can remember when my mom first read Little House on the Prairie to me. I'm fairly certain that she read this one first, even though it's not the first in the series. You can tell that I've been forever scarred, can't you? As if that wasn't enough to send me to therapy, she also fell asleep in the midst of reading, on many occasions. She'd sit her chair in the hallway, between my brother's room and mine, start reading and promptly fall asleep. But here I am and I can walk and chew gum at the same time. It's a miracle!

I have no idea how many times I've read one or more of the series to others. I think I read a few of them to the kids on the bus. Yeah, a teacher I was born to be. We had a 2 hour bus ride for several of our elementary and middle school years. Reading to my brother and a few of the other younger kids was my way of trying to keep them out of trouble during the long ride. It's also where I had my first kiss; we were oh, about 1st and 4th grade, me being the older, more mature of the two of us. But golly, where is this going? Anyway, just recently I ran into one of those kids who said something like, "Don't you remember me? You used to read to me on the bus!" And my old bus driver still brings it up every time I visit my parents' church. He comes running down the aisle to give me a big hug and tells everyone around us that he was my bus driver and that I was so helpful as I read to the little kids. Does wonders for my ego.

I also read one of the books to my first graders. But then I was told by a teacher in one of the older grades that I was messing up their system. She read the same book to her class so I most certainly was not allowed to read it to mine. Ooooookaaaayyyy.

So I have made a point to read this series to each of my children. And now it's the little girls' turn. It's so much fun to curl up on their bed together at night and share my love for Laura, a girl who does all these things that make me so glad I'm not a pioneer. We laugh at the stories of Laura and Nellie, mourn for the loss of crops and income, and imagine ourselves there as Pa plays his fiddle.

But there's one chapter that should be removed from the series entirely. It's right there in book 5, By The Shores of Silver Lake, page 8, chapter 2, All Grown Up. I know it's coming. Every time. But every time I hope that it has somehow been deleted. There are covers missing from my beloved childhood copies, why can't this chapter fall out and disappear? But then I turn the page and there it is. So I tell myself it will be fine; I know what's going to happen. It will be all right. This time, I'll hold it to - . . .

But by the middle of the first sentence on page 8 at the beginning of chapter 2, I'm bawling like I've just lost my best friend. Because of course I have, or will be, as Jack, their precious bulldog companion, dies on the bottom of page 12. Every time. No matter how many times I will him to get in that wagon and go west with Pa, he insists on circling three times, lying down on that blanket, and while the rest of the house sleeps, ceases to take another breath.

Admit it, you're crying now, too, aren't you?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Persuade: coax, convince, get, induce, win over...

The King's Academy is in the midst of persuasive writing. After a wonderful introduction by the likes of I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff,

Click, Clack, Moo by Betsy Lewin and Randy Travis,

and Earrings by Judith Viorst,

we were off and running.

First, we needed to brainstorm possible topics. But told that any topic chosen will be seriously read and considered for change in our household, the kids were excited to start. You can tell by their list that I'm a really mean mom, can't you?

Possible Topics for Persuasive Piece
I need a BB gun
I should be allowed to own a tarantula
I should be allowed to drink soda whenever I want
This family needs a new little brother
I want a pet rat
I want a pet gerbil
I shouldn't be given consequences for my behavior
I should be allowed to stay up late
I want to make my bed on the floor and not be forced to clean it up
I want to buy Pokemon games
We need another dog
I should be allowed to listen to CDs with the volume turned all the way up
We should be allowed to watch movies without having to read the book first
I want to be allowed to eat an unhealthy breakfast

You'll be happy to know that of the three children working on this assignment, they have each chosen their topic from the list. So, next week, I'll be reading the following essays:

Why I should be allowed to own a tarantula
Why I want a pet rat
This family needs a new little brother

Everyone knows I don't do spiders, and the child wanting the rat isn't the most responsible. That leaves a new little brother up for consideration. Well, I guess I have to give in to one of them, right?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It'll grow back

I'm not a gardener and I've inherited my mother's greenless thumb so simplicity rules in my flowerbeds. There are three types of flowers that I love and which I will plant just about anywhere. For the summer and fall I love Black-eyed Susans. I plan to kick the bucket while they are in season so they can be used as decoration at my memorial service. But for the spring I like daffodils and tulips; especially red and yellow tulips planted together. A few years after moving to our current house I found several packages of tulips on sale, in just the two colors I wanted. I carefully planned how many I would need to line the front walk with these beautiful colors. For several summers, we had the most gorgeous walkway, if I do say so myself. But then an interesting phenomenon started to happen, my tulips began to decrease. It didn't take long to figure out that in their zeal to be outdoors each spring, my beautiful and obedient children were running right through the walkway flowerbed, on top of my sprouting tulips. But Mom, it takes too long to go around the flowerbed! As each year more and more of those newly formed leaves were trampled upon, fewer and fewer plants lived to see the sun. This year, I had one beautiful red tulip. That's it. No more and thankfully not less. Yellow tulips? No more. Not here, anyway.

For several beautiful days it stood proud and tall. And alone. Practically jeering to the kids to step on it as they ran to the front yard. And I'm sure they did. Alas, maybe it will be better if next year we have zero tulips. Maybe I'll forget about what it used to look like with the red and yellow so perfectly mixed.

It reminds me of a sermon I once heard. In fact, it may very well be the only sermon that I actually remember from all those years of bench-sitting. And it wasn't from my home church, not even delivered by the Good Doctor (don't tell him, he thinks he's a great speaker). Well, can you remember any sermons you've ever heard? I'd bet not too many. Well, okay, all you auditory learners might have an unfair advantage on me here. Give me a drama in church, or a soloist with a powerful message and power point or slideshow behind him/her, and that I will remember. In fact, I could tell you about all sorts of messages I've retained that came through these methods. Like.... wait, I digress.

But as I was saying, when I was about 12 years old, my family was vacationing in Ocean City, NJ like we did every summer. And like we did every summer, we went to the Tabernacle, an interfaith church, for Sunday Services. They always employed the most amazing speakers in the summer and that particular year and Sunday, it was Tony Campolo in the lineup. With parents who served as youth leaders, we knew all about Tony Campolo and were very excited to hear him. Hey, any Christian speaker who was allowed to say things like, "Everyone knows that church youth groups are all about Christian youth leaders sitting in the front of those fall hayrides singing 'Do Lord' while all the kids in the back are 'doing it'..." is certainly worth listening to even if it is church. It also happened to be Father's Day (funny that the only message I've ever remembered was not only as a 12 year old on vacation but during a message aimed at fathers!).

That morning Tony told us the story of his lawn, how his property started out with beautifully manicured and fertilized green-ness, and then he had children. Each year the grass got worse; bare patches started to come through and the green areas turned to brown. Each year he reminded himself "it'll grow back" and that it was worth the ugly lawn to realize the memories he was making with his children as they played together on that lawn.

So as I watched my one and only tulip stand strong and die, I, too, reminded myself that "it'll grow back". When all the kids are grown and out of the house, I'll replant my tulips and my front walkway will once again shine bright in the spring with red and yellow tulips.

But wait, "when all the children are grown" could be ... how many years down the road? And of course there will be grandchildren by then, so add two, carry the ...

Maybe I'll just walk down the road to the nursery and greenhouse every spring and enjoy their tulips.

But why can't the kids run all over the dandelions instead of the tulips?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On matchmakers and adoption

Several Facebook posts have centered on adoption recently. I guess since the Good Doctor follows several adoption groups, it stands to reason that his newsfeed would have a good number of adoption-related posts. However, for some reason, they have really stuck out in the past month.

On April 18, Renee Sasser Loux shared this post: "I received a note from Facebook saying that the photo I had on my wall, of naked and starving orphans was too offensive and they took it down. I sat for a moment in disbelief at how the reality of the way so much of the world lives made someone so uncomfortable that they reported it as offensive. God help us to see truth for what it is and to fight for justice with all our heart!" Wow! As I continued down my (okay, the Good Doctor's) newsfeed, there were several videos posted by a friend (who has since been taken off the newsfeed) that were very offensive indeed. They had nothing to do with orphans or justice, but were offensive to women and contained plenty of offensive language. I may be a conservative, naive, black-and-white kind of person but this makes no sense to me.

Just this past Sunday, Renee posted this quote from her late husband: "I’m not interested in trying to figure out ways to make my life safe and preserve my comfort. That’s one of the reasons why we adopt in a radical way. On purpose, I set myself up to where I’ve got so much pressure I gotta run after Jesus…” ~Derek Loux It should be noted that Renee and Derek have an amazing story of adoption, redemption, sacrifice, and joy. This is the kind of Christianity I think we are to live. Feeling comfortable? Then it's time to do something radical! Lukewarm Christianity? Never!

That kind of radical obedience, to whatever the call is, will never be easy. That's the way it is. That's why we cling to each other. That's why we seek support. That's why we follow the Father.

This afternoon I read this quote from the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network (SWAN) Facebook page:
"It has been said that adoption is more like a marriage than a birth: two (or more) individuals, each with their own unique mix of needs, patterns, and genetic history, coming together with love, hope, and commitment for a joint future. You become a family not because you share the same genes, but because you share love for each other." Joan McNAmara, Adoptive Parent

Hmm, that may be true. But I'm also a realist. I remember one night we were with a group of adoptive parents and the question was asked, "Did you have misconceptions before going into adoption? Did you think your love could change and cure everything? Did you think you'd fall in love immediately? Have you ever felt like a failure because of a behavior or disability that you cannot change?"

I guess I'm always more of a glass half empty kind of person. I feel like I went into adoption with my eyes wide open. In fact, it was more difficult for me to face the reality of a biological child being dyslexic than facing any issue with an adopted child. However, it's not all roses like some websites, quotes, parents and speakers want you to believe. That's the part that leads us directly back to the One who asked us to be generous with our lives in the first place. And that's okay.

So, I'm thinking that if we're comparing adoption to marriage, then maybe it's more like an arranged marriage. Just like they say in Fiddler on the Roof, you'll learn to like whoever the matchmaker picks! And you do. It may not be immediate. It may ebb and flow. It may be filled with many moments that bring you to your knees. But trusting the Matchmaker, I'm willing to become a family, not because we share the same genes, but because we share love for each other and the One who brought us together.

So Matchmaker, Matchmaker, bring me a match, Find me a find, Catch me a catch... Because just now I read this quote on someone's blog: “It is a poverty that a CHILD must DIE so that you may live as you wish.” -Mother Tersesa

Thank you, Mother Teresa, I'm doing what I can...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Boys!

Throughout each pregnancy, we played the guessing game with the child's gender. I think it bothered other people more than it bothered us. For some reason, they just had to know what we were having and the six months from announcement to birth were too much for some to bear.

Of course everyone likes to guess. Some use the how-you're-carrying method, or want to know if this pregnancy feels like the others. If I used that method, the first four would all be boys because to me they felt like the first. It was just Eden who caused all sorts of trouble in utero. The heartrate method seemed most scientific to me but even that only worked 50 percent of the time for us. For Mariana's pregnancy a friend insisted she had to try the Drano method. Don't ask. But it did work. The test said girl and it was indeed a girl. But it did have a 50/50 chance of being correct. Using intuition alone, I was only correct 3 out of 5 times.

For the most part, it didn't matter to me whether I had a boy or a girl, but I will admit to secretly hoping that the first child was a boy. I had always wanted an older brother and a younger sister. Unfortunately, God didn't answer either prayer and my parents only supplied me with a younger brother. No matter how much I begged, they were steadfast in their resolve. So when it was my turn to provide subsequent siblings with an older brother, I'm glad God answered my unspoken prayers. And when the second was a boy, that was fine, too. I decided that I could handle a house full of boys. But it was nice of God to send a few of the female variety to even things out a bit.

Boys get a bad reputation and I apologize to my sons for that. I remember when one high schooler came home from health class lamenting the fact that the day's speaker talked about sexual violence as if all of the boys in the room were offenders. I'm sorry for the looks from the older folks in the row behind you at the theatre, folks who have already assumed that you are going to be raucous and ruin their entertainment. I apologize for the neighbor who yelled at you for choosing a few nice tomatoes from her "free" basket, presumably thinking you were up to no good rather than following my request.

On the other hand, I thank you for so many things. Thank you for keeping me laughing and guessing. Thank you for your appreciation for food and your gratitude for my labors. Thank you for loving your sisters; for refusing to put up with their roller-coaster emotions but respecting them nonetheless. Thank you for being leaders that others can look up to. Thank you for mentoring others. Thank you for showing your sisters how men should treat women so that they know what to look for in a spouse someday. Thank you for wrestling and throwing ball with the younger ones so that I don't have to do so. Thank you for growing in wisdom and stature (keep in mind that stature is relative), and in favor with God and men.

For anyone else who has boys, you might enjoy this website called MOB Society. On those days when you've stepped on too many Legos, scrubbed too many grass stains, and watched too much testosterone wrestling in the living room, it'll give you a renewed love for each and every one of those little ones.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Suspended

I never, ever, ever thought I'd be in this place. One of my children is about to be suspended from school.

I don't blame the teachers, well not really. Actually, I can't. We try to teach respect, responsibility and accountability. That means an understanding that your actions do have consequences. If you choose not to complete your homework by its due date, you will have to suffer the consequences. Multiple infractions will result in more serious consequences.

And it's not that my child wasn't warned. Each time the assignments were not completed, the consequences were spelled out and executed. After the last violation, the phrase "in-school suspension" was thrown around quite a bit.

At first this child was thrilled - a day without schoolwork. But then it was explained and it didn't seem like so much fun anymore. But, the desire to avoid the punishment wasn't as strong as the desire to slack off and avoid schoolwork.

So now the teacher is at the point of no return. To suspend or not to suspend? This is the question. And the second question is this: How does one suspend a homeschooled student? If, as was explained to this child, a day is to be spent in solitude with nothing but school books, where is this happy event to take place? We have very few places in this house that would qualify as complete solitude, none of which is deemed acceptable for a whole day's placement. And who will supervise this day apart? If it's the teacher, then who will teach the rest of the class? I guess we could call the principal but I can assure you he will give me some explanation about his responsibilities being the bringing home of the bacon so that school supplies and curriculum can be purchased (I know it's not going toward teacher salaries) or this that and the other thing about how he has no idea what is being taught and how it's being taught so he knows that he would be of no help at all in this supervisory position.

A difficult position, indeed. Anyone want to play guidance counselor for the day?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Three little words

This morning my child said, "I hate you." I guess I should be thankful that it took 17 years of child-raising before hearing these words. I know I'm certainly not the first parent who has been the target of this verbal assault. Once upon a time there was a little girl named Cindy who I happen to know very well, who penned a lovely poem centered on the theme of terrible parents (while growing up in a very healthy and loving home, I might add). I know the words were expressed in anger, and out of frustration for receiving a consequence after a poor choice.

The child then gave me ten reasons why I was hated. Interestingly, nine of the ten were the result of consequences to the child's choices. For example, "You take my toys away during school" and "I have to run 3 laps outside the house when you see me running around inside the house," made the list as did, "You don't let me have screen time when I don't finish my schoolwork." The tenth item on the list was, "You think I'm dumb."

Trying to ignore the three hurtful words for the time being, I decided to write a list for this child, "10 Reasons Why I Love You." Number one on the list said, "I love you because God made you." A little farther down I wrote, "I love you because you have learned so much and you are very bright." I also wrote, "I love you because you are my child and nothing you say or do will ever change that."

There will be another day to talk about hurtful words and "in your anger do not sin." But for today, I want this child to know that I will always love all of my children, no matter what. Period.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Evolution of date night

There was a time when date night meant that the Good Doctor (who was still years from being labeled the Good Doctor) would pick me up from the lobby of my dorm (it was the Dark Ages, guys were only allowed in our dorm for a few hours each evening), we would go somewhere really inexpensive, and then I would be dropped back off at my dorm room (because it would now be open hours) where we parted ways. Sometimes date night consisted solely of dinner in the campus dining hall, or studying together in the lobby.

The Good Doctor, who is the romantic among us, and is better at remembering small details like the exact anniversary of our first date (I know who asked who to what, but couldn't tell you the month, day, and year) and our first kiss (I do know that it was at midnight, at the exact center of Krehbiel Bridge, during a full moon - just to make sure we reaped the full benefits of the college legend which said it must be accomplished in that manner in order to ensure a future marriage, but as to the numerical details, I have no idea). He also remembers what he deems the most romantic date ever. He claims that he brought McDonald's Big Macs back to his dorm room (yes, I'll confess, I used to love Bid Macs), and stuck a candle (illegal in the dorm) into a toilet paper roll (a candle holder was not on his college packing list) for mood lighting, and called it a romantic evening for two. I must have blocked this memory from my mind.

Ah, to be young and (half of us) romantic again. Date nights are so different now.

The actual date portion is much different, usually consisting of dinner and a trip to Wal-mart or the grocery store. We try to get out together at least once a month although it doesn't always happen. At times our alone-time is interrupted by a phone call which we can always predict to be Mariana fuming about Eden. "Mom, she won't let Hope in her fort clubhouse and I told her she needed to let her in but she won't listen to me so I told her to go to her room but she won't go to her room." It's always fun. And sometimes the phone stays silent yet we come home to find a list of grievances on the table. Nothing like a great ending to a great evening.

Last night was one of those times. We enjoyed a wonderful evening at Allenberry Playhouse, celebrating the opening of the 2012 season with a free dinner and show. Sure beats Big Macs and a candle in a roll of toilet paper. Cheaper, too, when you're guests there by invitation to celebrate the opening of the 64th season). Kudos to our friends on a wonderful opening day of Forever Plaid.

We enjoyed the show, food, adult conversation, meeting new friends at the table, and conversing with old friends as we left for the evening. Only to come home to find a pile of brightly written notes (red marker) on the center of the dining room table. Immediately, I knew I was not going to like what I'd find on those papers. I was right. What I found was a complete timeline of the evening. (When not noted, the author is Eden)

5:32 Eden ate chips and graps when I told her not to (by Shoun)

5:40 Hope shskeesd my arm as tite as she kude

5:42 Hope bangd a char and stompt

5:48 Hope sed she was stuped

6:24 Shoun did not speeck well

6:47 Isaac was playing his ukaluly wen he had to clene

6:49 Eden was turning off a CD and I was listening to (by Shoun)

6:50 Isaac made fun uv me and [a boy I like]
6:50 Shoun made fun uv me and [a boy I like]

6:52 Shoun yelled no in my ere

6:58 Eden annoying Shoun and Isaac (by Isaac)

6:59 Eden hitting Shoun (by Isaac)
6:59 Isaac was sososososo meen
6:59 Eden did it, to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (by Isaac)
(Addendum) We both did it to be mean! (by Isaac)

7:00 Eden clawed me (by Isaac)

7:00 Isaac rote that to be meen
(Addendum) We both did it to be meen

Now, fully out of date mode and into mother mode, I made a few observations. First, it was just another night at the King house. Second, the babysitter (Jesse) was conspicuously absent in these exchanges. Third, the exchanges all stopped at 7:00 PM. I had told Jesse he could put the girls to bed when he couldn't stand them anymore. Hmmm, I wonder when that happened? Finally...

won't tomorrow be fun?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Whether the weather

"Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not."

My children are a little confused by spring-time weather. This happens every year. It doesn't matter how much I explain, over and over again, that every day is going to be different, and even though one day is warm enough for shorts, that doesn't mean that the next day will be, yada, yada, yada, they will still leave the house ill-prepared.

Take today, for example.

When I said it'd be cooler today, one heard, "It's going to be cooler than a tropical island" while the other heard, "We're going back to winter-like weather.

At least we gave the college students a good laugh as my come-as-you-are clan walked through the campus for Mariana's voice lessons.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Communion

When I was growing up, and until we moved away from my hometown 8 years ago, we attended a church that celebrated foot washing during Easter week. I didn't realize until adulthood that my church, and my denomination, were unique in this practice. I can remember first experiencing it from the sidelines; not being able to participate until after freewill baptism. It always seemed a bit awkward, the women being separated from the men, gathering with other female participants, some first removing stockings, others putting their feet in the basin, stockings and all. But I have also been drawn to this tradition and to its message of servanthood and humility. To participate in a ritual that Jesus practiced the night that He was betrayed, washing the dirty and dusty feet of all of His disciples, even the one who would betray Him. I remember my mom telling me that rather than seeking out a friend for foot washing, she always looked for another woman who seemed to be standing off to the side, alone. She would then approach that woman to wash her feet.

As I remember these experiences, I'm drawn to the faces of the little ones watching. There's power in watching, but there's also power in participating, even if we don't exactly "get it" at the time. Because we are all on a journey. Even as adults, some of us "get it" more deeply than others.

The same is true of communion, another tradition of Easter week. Some churches practice this weekly, others on a more limited basis, but all as they lead into Easter Sunday. It was on the day we now know as Maundy Thursday, that Jesus, and all of the Jewish population, sat down to celebrate Passover. The youngest Israelites weren't barred from this meal, they weren't just observers, they were participants. The youngest member of the family even held a very important role, that of asking why this night was special. God had ordained the celebration of Passover to help His people remember, to pass on the story from one generation to the next so that they would never forget the way He saved them from the slavery of Egypt.

The night that Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples, He changed the meaning of the service forever. He told His disciples that it would forevermore be a reminder of His shed blood and broken body, all for a different kind of freedom. This time, He was saving His people from the slavery of sin. His death and resurrection would bring us eternal freedom. Again, He gave us the gift of symbolism and celebration to help us remember, to pass the story from generation to generation so that we would never forget His saving act and our abundant life.

I don't know when or where the tradition of communion, in many churches, became for members and adults only. If children were such a vital part of the Passover celebration, why are they excluded from communion? The answers are intellectual and varied. But we have determined that communion is intended for our children. Do they completely understand the first time around? No. Do I completely understand after having been served communion many times through the years? No. But the eyes and ears of our little ones are picking up more than we realize. In some ways, maybe they "get it" more than we do.

I recently read the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo. While the book is not about communion or Passover, it was while reading that we found a great idea for sharing communion with families around us. Todd Burpo, a pastor, told how his family opens up their church during Easter week, and invites families to share communion together in a very informal, come and go, atmosphere. The idea fit so well with our idea of communion that I passed it along to the Good Doctor. We decided to open our home on Maundy Thursday and invited several families to come at different times to share in the act of communion. We also spent time in prayer, blessing each family and praying for specific requests.

For us, it was an evening of remembering Passover, the last supper, Jesus' death and resurrection. As we prepared the communion bread,

I loved listening to our seven year old, who has now participated in various forms of intergenerational communion for 3 years, tell her five year old sister the story of Moses and of Passover, of Jesus and of Easter. As each family came and we talked together, our five year old was often the one who would then tell the visiting children a bit of the story. Did she and the other children understand all of it? No. But I was reminded, even as the youngest children just sat on a parent's lap, playing with an empty cup, that they were already learning from observing. Next year, they will understand a little more, and each year following.

As one father of a four year old wrote later that night, "I just wanted you to know how much we enjoyed spending some special time with your family this afternoon! You truly impacted us all. Our four year old just had such a beautiful prayer at bedtime tonight. I know I will not get it word for word, but it went something like, "Thank you so much for that delicious bread that was your body and that juice that was your blood." Praise the Lord! Thank you for being so generous in opening your home, spending your time, and being obedient to what God asked of you. We are praying that the blessings will return to you all many times over!"

Deuteronomy 5:12 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Luke 22:19 Do this in remembrance of me.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sending dogs to school

Dear Laura Sybil,

First of all, let me say that I hate your name, especially your last name. Please change it. Pronto.

Second of all, can you please get off this blog and write a book on homeschooling? And before you start composing your answer beginning with, "There's a plethora of materials out there for homeschoolers," let me tell you that I don't want their advice. I am really struggling with being a homeschool mom. I used to be a real teacher in a real school. Now I homeschool in a home school. Real teachers have weekends, June, July, and August, and the hours from 4pm - 7 am to get away from school. Yes, school is very much in us during those times off, but it is a break, it's different. You can leave property if you want. You can choose to do something else. And most importantly, the kids are gone. What do homeschooling parents get? Where do they hear an, "Amen! It's like that for me, too?" Are there books or blogs that deal with the toll that homeschooling takes on the teaching parent? If I happen to stumble upon a homeschool book, website or blog, it is more of the delightful journey the family is on and how homeschooling is all pros while other options are all cons. Am I the only one who has a bad day? Why do I feel so guilty after talking with my homeschool friends, rather than rejuvenated?

Sincerely,
You're My Last Homeschool Hope

P.S. If you don't feel called to write a book, I guess that's okay. Just know that you are an example to me. I don't understand it all, and never will yet your walk matches your talk - and that speaks volumes to me. So......................get writing!!!!


Dear You're My Last Homeschool Hope,

You have no idea how well-timed your letter is. And quite honestly, could have been written by me, to you. So maybe we can give each other hope.

Today is standardized testing day for the King family homeschoolers. You have no idea how much I have dreaded this day (well, after reading your letter, you probably do know). Not because I'm worried about the test scores. I am confident that my children will do fine and any weaknesses uncovered by the test will promptly be added to our curriculum so that they're covered for next year. No, my worries had to do with spending almost 5 hours in a room full of homeschool moms. Talk about guilt - it came in the first half hour! Sounds like you've had some conversations like this:

Woman making small talk with me, "Oh, I see your daughter is an eighth grader, too. I am so stressed about homeschooling in high school next year. What is your curriculum plan?"

"Ummmmmmmm..........," I stalled, while trying to decide if I should lie and avoid the inevitable, or tell her the truth and take my lumps. I decided on the latter but blurted it out fast in the hopes that she'd misunderstand, nod, smile, and move on. "She's going to the high school."

"Oh." Insert complete body language change here. No longer overly friendly, we'll be best friends sharing curriculum before the testing is complete but now I'm staring at the face of complete and utter disdain. "Why would you do that? Don't you think you can handle it?"

How does one respond to that? While high school was the worst four years of my life, and while math and science are most definitely not my best friends, I do indeed think I could handle it IF God told me to do it. I truly believe that nothing is impossible with God IF we are within His plan. If His plan was for me to homeschool my daughter, or any of my three oldest children, He would have made that perfectly clear and He would provide for me. But He has not asked me to homeschool these three in high school. At least not yet. But how do you explain that to someone who believes that all God-fearing Christians must homeschool? A dilemma indeed. Knowing that I'd already lost the fight, and that there was a roomful of ears waiting for me to incriminate myself even further, I decided to plow on. "Well, every year we ask God what He desires for our children. If he tells us to send a child to school, we do. If he tells us to homeschool a child, we do. And each time we've made a decision, it didn't take long for God to also confirm that it was the right one."

"How so?" Clearly she needed some proof of this blasphemous thought.

"Well, when the first one went to public school, within the first month he had invited all of the boys at his lunch table to church and every single one had come at least once. By Easter, one of those boys was bringing his family and before the end of the year, every member of that family had been baptized and continues to come to church to this day. Recently, the boy's mother said to me, "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Andrew. I think about that every day and thank God for your son.' That's how I know it was the right decision."

There was a long pause as she tried to decide whether or not to kick me out of the building then and there, before she finally decided on, "Well, I wouldn't send my dog to my public school."

On that point, I think we finally agree. I am fairly certain God won't be asking me to send my dog to our public school, either.

And yes, I've read the books, been to the websites, and browsed the blogs and have found the same thing you have. So what do I do? I stay away from homeschoolers. I purposely choose to spend most of my time with non-homeschooling families. I get fewer guilt trips from these folks and I can honestly share my bad days. Why not? They all think I'm crazy for homeschooling in the first place and would be shocked if I didn't have bad days. No condemnation from them if I start talking about sending a child to real school. They do it everyday. Right or wrong, I don't know, but it works for me and keeps me sane.

Sincerely,

Laura Sybil

P.S. Your words are most kind. Actually, it is you who inspires me. So, why don't you take that money that The Good Doctor paid you to tell me to write a book, and have yourself a nice latte on me, or him. Sit at the coffee shop for as long as you like and don't think about school at all.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Flu season

Out on the washline I have a full set of sheets, blanket and quilt. That means that I'm either in the throes of spring cleaning or someone got sick last night.

I'll give you a hint: I can't even begin to think about spring cleaning until schooling is finished for the year and we have 40 days to go before we reach 180.

Yep, we apparently did not make it through flu season unscathed as I had erroneously assumed.

Can someone please explain to me, how it is possible for a father to completely sleep through "Mom, I didn't notice that I threw up in my bed!" (said while standing right next to his ear on his side of the bed), the hallway lights turned on, the loud noises across the hall as I took off all the bedding, (trying to be as loud as possible - my apologies to the sick child's roommate) and put on new bedding, Lysoled the entire house from top to bottom, and did two loads of soiled laundry? And not just once, but twice? And still be able to claim complete innocence in the morning? What? Someone got sick? Really? Who?

Amazing, really. I think I want to be a dad when I grow up.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On a scale of 1 to 10

It's that time again. We have a pre-driver in the house and he needs to complete a list of tasks before he can take his permit test.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how'd I do, Mom?

You did great, Jesse. I'd give you a 10.

Thank you, Mom.

No, thank you, Jesse.

Jesse's no procrastinator. He can now check date with mom off his list.

About a month ago, I was gone for the evening and received this message on my cell phone,

Hello, Cindy, this is Jesse. I was wondering if you'd like to go out for dinner and a movie tomorrow night? You can call me back at this number to let me know. Thanks. Bye.

He made me smile. But unfortunately I was busy the next night. Tonight, our schedules were finally free so off we went.

He was very sweet, insisting that I had to pick the movie (I would have preferred Titanic 3D but he wasn't into having me cover his eyes during a certain scene so I said forget it) and the restaurant. He held the door for me. We played games with the sugar packets at the table. We played paper football. I think I won because he seemed to be making up the rules as he went. I suggested we should talk since we were on a date. Shouldn't he be trying to learn more about me? He suggested "Rock. Paper. Scissors." Then he showed me his skill at killing flies. Lovely.

But all-in-all, he definitely passed the test. If he weren't my son, I'd let him date my daughter. He knew the right answers to my dating quiz. We're off to a good start.