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!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Speak, Lord

It's funny how our children have selective listening. Then again it's pretty loud in our house so it's possible that they really can't hear me when I'm speaking. Just this morning I was trying to ask the Good Doctor a question when at the same moment Andrew was emptying one side of the sink to ready it for dishwashing. Come to think of it, our house is often like a noisy restaurant. Maybe we all have some type of hearing loss.

So, imagine my surprise, when Shoun came down the stairs this afternoon saying, "Yes, Mom? Did you call me?" My response? "Who are you and what have you done with my son?" Usually, if I really do call for this child, it takes several attempts before he can hear me. So I assured him that I had not called for him and sent him back up to play. A few minutes later he was back down the steps, "Mom, did you call me?" Seriously? Twice in one day? Within minutes? Boy did I wish I had something ready for him to do since he seemed so eager to please. "Sorry, Shoun, I did not call you. But, if you hear that voice again, just respond with, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

He just stared back at me with a blank look.

Something tells me he hasn't heard that Bible story yet.

I think I'll read it at dinner tonight. Won't he be shocked when he hears that familiar phrase?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mariana's birthday menagerie

Happy 14th birthday to the most energetic and spirited turtle I know...

...to the cutest and best tap dancing beagle we've ever seen...

...and to the brightest, yellow-est, and most loyal bird we've ever met!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Revolting!

I just finished reading Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting by Dorcas Smucker. My aunt was the one who first referred this book to me. She told me that she thought of me as she read it.

Hmmm...was it because the author is Mennonite? Or because she has a tribe of children? Was it because of her connection to Kenya and her adopted Kenyan son? All of these reasons?

With all of these reasons, I have to say I was at first drawn to the book mostly because of the title. I so wish I had thought of it first. I love it for all of its implications. There are days when the peasants are revolting because of a family decision which they find too restrictive or incomprehensible. Other days the peasants are just plain revolting either because of their behavior, lack of grooming, or choice of activity. Some days they are revolting (descriptive) and revolting (action) at the very same time.

In the end I enjoyed this quick read (I started it this morning and just finished it) mostly for the last chapter which chronicles the family's voyage into family missions at an orphanage in Kenya and the subsequent adoption of one of the boys there. Boy can I related to the author's desire to "...give our children an accurate perspective on how blessed they are in relation to most of the world. How do we teach them that their blessings come from God with a responsibility to use them wisely and share with others? And how do we teach them that other cultures have much to teach us, and that every person in the world is as valid and valuable as they are?"

I ask myself these same things frequently, summed up for me in one all-encompassing question: How can we as a family combat the American ideals of consumerism, materialism, and entitlement? The answer often seems vague and too difficult to attain yet we press on. The reality is that we're all on a journey of seeing our American life through God's eyes rather than our own. We can't look to our neighbors to find the answer, Christian or otherwise. We can only look to God to reveal to us our blindspots and entanglements.

And then we can sell all we have, give to the poor, and move to some third world country to serve in an orphanage and adopt all the kids there.

Just kidding, Kids.

I think.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yearbooks

Now be honest all you folks over 30 (I could probably say all those over 20 but just to be safe, I'll go a little higher), how often do you look at your high school yearbook? Do you even know where it is? Or has it been so long since your mother said, "Get these things out of my house" that you've completely forgotten where you stashed them?

Honestly, as if the hair styles and clothing choices weren't bad enough, there just aren't any good memories that make me take these tomes off the shelf and peruse them on a regular basis (regular here being relative as in about every ten years).

But my boys just came home with their yearbooks and with ninth and eleventh grades fresh in their memories, and lines of friends just waiting to sign their books, they're super-excited. As are we. Because, you see, Son #2 made it on the two-page spread of pages 10 and 11.

Yep, that's my boy, the Wildcat. The pictures are great, but the interview's better. You have to hear it in his words:

Q: How did you become the Wildcat?
A: Well...I wanted to be a cheerleader, but I tanked my tryout, so they made me the mascot.

Q: What's your favorite part about being the Wildcat?
A: Chicks dig it. (Single, and free to mingle, ladies!)

Q: What skills must you have to be the Wildcat?
A: None...I sucked at tryouts, remember?

Q: How long do you plan on being the Wildcat?
A: Hopefully only another threee years...I'm not planning on failing.

Q: Why did you decide to become the Wildcat?
A: The Angel Gabriel descended from Heaven and told me that, according to a mandate from God, I was destined to become the mascot. I'm just following orders.

Q: What has being the Wildcat taught you?
A: All cheerleaders are blondes (It's a true stereotype).

Q: What do you think the Wildcat means to Mechanicsburg?
A: The Wildcat is a symbol of strength, excellence, and good looks. Mostly the last one...

Q: What's the worst part about being the Wildcat?
A: Being attacked by Munchkins.

Q: Is it hard not to talk while being the Wildcat?
A: Not relevant. I ignore this rule.

Q: Is it hot in the Wilcat costume?
A: I'm hot enough. WITHOUT the costume!

That's my boy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sweet bully

Dear Laura Sybil,

What do I do with my pushing, hitting, grabbing, strong 15 month old who will look at me and deliberately do something that she KNOWS she shouldn't do? Can I put a 15-month old in time out?

Sincerely,
I've Had Too Many People Tell Me My Sweet Girl is a Bully


Dear I've Had Too Many People Tell Me My Sweet Girl is a Bully,

So, you say your child's normal, huh? Because she's really right on track for trying to assert her independence. If you ever had any doubt about whether humans are inherently good or inherently bad, I bet you're figuring it out now, aren't you?

Well, if the first step is always to admit you have a problem, you're well on your way to success.

So, what can you actually do? You are right to nip it in the bud now. She is in that transition stage from completely dependent to trying out independence. While it's never too late, you definitely want to show her now that you mean what you say and that there are boundaries. Total independence is, of course, that absolute that we want for our children. And a companion goal for our children is for them to respect others and to represent Christ. Believe it or not, getting to those absolutes starts now and if parented well, you're more likely to enjoy the results in about, oh, 18 years.

But I still haven't answered your question. My official, highly research-based answer is, it really depends. Some children, you can look at them and they will know that you are disappointed and will cry. You don't have to punish at all, or rarely. I'm told this is the kind of child I was. I still am prone to crying if you look at me funny. I'm guessing your child's not like that or we wouldn't be having this conversation. Other children will respond to time out. And others, you just need to get really creative. Find what works for your child, at her stage, at her age.

If you want to start with time out, you can absolutely do that with a 15 month old. Start by putting her in a chair, on a mat, on a step (don't pick something so specific that you're out of luck at Grandmas because she doesn't have the right time out chair). We used a step because, well, every floor of the house had one and so did most places we went.

You'll probably need to literally hold her the first few times. I'd hold her arms, facing her. Use the same words or phrases each time so she gets the idea. As in, "I asked you not to do fill-in-the-blank but you didn't listen to me so you need to go to time out." Then you take her there and hold her just until she sits a second or two without squirming or fighting you. Then spend another few seconds saying something like, "Remember, I asked you not to fill-in-the-blank. If you do that again, you will need to sit in time out again." Be prepared to have her turn around and do it again just to test you. And maybe a few times in a row. And looking you straight in the eye, with a big ole smile on her face. Just be consistent. No need to try to reason with her or explain to her the detrimental aspects of her behavior as opposed to the benefits of obedience. She is only fifteen months, after all.

Be ready for the fight of your life but it's worth it in the end. I truly believe that our children can't be a light for Christ if they don't "grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God AND MEN". They need to know boundaries, obedience, and respect.

Or you can ignore the behaviors and just will them away, or let her continue as she wishes so that you don't break her spirit by (Heaven forbid) telling her no. You could always try to sweetly reason with her, deliberating the merits of internal vs. external motivation and Piaget's psycho-social stages of development, while suggesting (but not enforcing) the value of kindness to others. Be prepared for a nightmare on your hands in a few years.

If you're looking for something to do in your free time, there's a great book (I think, anyway) called Parenting By the Book by John Rosemond. I actually just found it in the past few months but I totally agree with everything this guy is saying. People have often asked us how we parent or why we parent the way we do and I never quite knew how to answer because I didn't know if my parenting has any credibility other than the fruit. But according to this guy, it does. The premise is that we parent like God parents us. So simple, right? He sets boundaries, demands love and respect toward Him and others, allows us to suffer the consequences of bad choices, yet loves us unconditionally through it all. I like it.

Be creative, consistent, and have fun. And don't take it personally. If Adam and Eve were the first kids, and God was the first parent, even He couldn't raise perfect kids so why should we think we can? Our children have the same stinkin' free will that His had. And so do we.

Sincerely,
Not An Expert But You Did Ask So I Answered (aka Laura Sybil)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mom is great...

It's Mother's Day.

The day when your children say, "Happy Wider Hips, Bulging Stomach That Will Forever Think It Needs Room to House an 8 Pound Bundle, A Bladders That No Longer Works, Gray Hairs and Perpetual Sleeplessness Day." Okay, they don't really say that. But that's what they mean.

I usually know it's Mother's Day because I get a warning 24 hours prior when the Good Doctor loads the troops in the van for a trip to Wal-mart. They come home with silly grins, a few carefully selected cards, and at least one child with loose lips who will let slip the wondrous news that I am soon to be the proud owner of a new candle, Eeyore pajamas, a frying pan, or dish drainer (yes, they are all true stories).

A week ago they knew Mother's Day was coming because their wonderful Sunday School teachers had them make cards which each and everyone of the youngest members immediately handed to me after church. Shoun handed me one which said, "Happy Mother's Day From Jesse." I paused for a few seconds, trying to figure out why Jesse's teachers would ask a high school kid to make a Mother's Day card. I couldn't. So I asked Shoun who said, "Oh yeah, that. It's from me but I was thinking about Jesse when I made your Mother's Day card so I wrote his name." If it's the thought that counts, what does one do with lack of thought? Oh well. I decided to hide the cards until this week so I could put them on the table the night before, walk out to the kitchen and say, "Oh look, you made cards for me. How special."

So I was a little confused this year when the van stayed parked in the driveway all weekend. I thought maybe they had forgotten my special day. But there were a lot of rumblings about a trip to Color Me Mine and a misplaced Hallmark bag. I considered taking the Good Doctor's purchase out of the bag, writing a glowing tribute to myself inside, and then replacing it as if it had never been touched. But I was good; I just handed it over and suggested he fill it out himself.

Before the sun could rise this morning the Good Doctor was trying to wish me Happy Mother's Day with his snores. I accepted by suggesting he find another place to worship me in due fashion. A few hours later I was again awakened by a very enthusiastic young child, who opened and shut the door just to see if I was awake yet. I faked it long enough for her to make this door opening gesture at least three times before I finally resigned myself to starting my day. By that point the Good Doctor had persuaded the poor child that she had to wait to distribute her gift until lunchtime.

I received several well-wishes as I came to breakfast. Along with two Mother's Day hugs from the child who most takes after his father. Guess what Isaac's love language is?

I sat down to type a note to my own mother, while my 7 year old tried to ask a very pressing question. Apparently I ignored her three times before she finally got through. I reminded her that I cannot do two things at once to which my second oldest responded, "Yoga pants." That got my attention. With a smile on his face he admitted that it was his idea to get me yoga pants for Mother's Day, in honor of my favorite comedian, Tim Hawkins. However, the sketch in question was revealed at the most recent Tim Hawkins show for which I had to give up my ticket when we couldn't find a sitter for the little girls and without being there, the Good Doctor didn't think I'd understand. So Jesse gave me the gift of laughter this morning by referring me to this sketch of Tim Hawkins trying to figure out his wife's secret to parenting success. While I think yoga pants would have been a great gift from Jesse, I'm also thinking they'd be an ever better gift for the Good Doctor for Father's Day.

Instead my children honored me with a very large gift card to Panera Bread. My mom also knows me well and sent me the same thing. Looks like I'll be able to run away to Panera this year when I need a break instead of hiding out in the bathroom feigning constipation. Thanks, everyone! I also have a specially painted mug from Eden and a heart shaped ceramic container that Hope says is painted like Jupiter.

But the best part of the day was reading the cards. John's words stated (and I'm putting it here so you can all help me hold him accountable to this): "I am so incredibly blessed to have you as my wife and the mother of all my children - those in our family, and those yet to join the band."

To all my current band geeks - I love you! And to my future band geeks - What are you waiting for? Get yourselves on over here already!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kitchen redo


About a week ago, the Good Doctor once again obliged one of my bizarre ideas, by painting chalkboard paint around the top of our kitchen walls, and down the side of one cabinet. He knows to just do as he's told and to not ask too many questions. Secretly, I think he was just glad I wasn't asking him to knock out a wall, expand and upgrade the kitchen. What's a can of paint in comparison to that?

I, on the other hand, knew exactly what I was going to do with it.

It's all connected to putting the Word of God in our hearts, and posting it on the doorframe of our house.

Thanks to my wonderfully artistic daughter, we now have verses about speech. They've all come from the wonderful blog challenge for 31 Days of Replacing "Baditude" with God's Word and Gratitude (although my little artist did skip a few words - oh well). So far we're still in the warm-up week. But we do have our bracelets and we are already much more aware of our words and how they affect others.

Come join us?

Friday, May 11, 2012

No complaints

The atmosphere in our home has definitely been much more peaceful since we had a little sit-down heart-to-heart. But not wanting to leave things as they are, I'm trying a new tactic.

Inspired by Cheri Gregory at The Purse-onality Challenge, we're all sporting complaint bracelets. Well, not quite all of us. It was a little difficult convincing the teen males that they had to wear a purple bracelet, and the poor Good Doctor couldn't make it fit. He made a valiant effort with a rubber band but that only lasted 24 hours. I thought the females of the family would be a little more motivated if they had bracelets more suited to their individual personalities, so I just took a look on etsy.com.

So here's the challenge, with a few modifications for our family, whenever you want to say something that is complaining, sarcastic, spoken in a critical tone, or full of gossip, you need to stop yourself. If a banned comment slips from your lips, you are to move your bracelet from its current wrist and place it on the opposite wrist. If a parent hears you speak in one of these inappropriate ways, then you will be asked to switch your bracelet. We decided (very quickly) that it would not be a good idea for a child to correct another child. That could very easily get out of hand and defeat the purpose. If you have kids, you know exactly what I'm talking about. We did say, however, that if you are willing to change your own bracelet as well (for having a criticial spirit), you may gladly (and kindly) correct a sibling. The goal is to have a full day without having to change your bracelet. After 21 days of no bracelet changing, you are considered cured. But seeing as the "tongue" is a chronic human condition, I don't know if that will ever happen.

Oops. I guess that was kind of critical. Excuse me while I switch my bracelet.

Now, if you're an adult, you're probably wondering what the reward is for not having to switch your bracelet. Funny, but only adults have asked me that question. The kids are content just being able to say (gloat?) that they have not had to change their bracelet. So don't tell them that life's actions always need rewards.

Over the next month or more, we'll be looking at verses that relate to our thoughts and to our words. We're also working on a kitchen transformation that will help us remember to think and speak kindly. Oh, don't get so excited. Cindy is NOT finally getting a new kitchen. But the whole family is getting a kitchen transformation.

I'll take pictures tomorrow so you can understand it better. Until then, no complaints!