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!

Friday, December 28, 2012

King Funeral Home

When I was young, I played teacher.  Constantly.  My poor brother.  I can specifically remember teaching him to spell my name (always start with the important stuff) and then moving on to spell candy (you only have to switch the "i" with an "a").  He also had to memorize whatever Bible memory I was learning in school at the time.

Later on the bus, I read chapter books to the younger kids, again practicing the role of teacher.  It also kept the kids from getting in trouble on the hour and 45 minute bus ride.  But ultimately, I just liked playing teacher.

Children play what they know so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find out at this year's King Christmas that the King children (ie. my husband and his siblings) used to play funeral home.  Why not?  They grew up in the funeral home and their father was a mortician.  Their mom did hair.  For dead people.  I don't know if there's a name for that or not.  Probably not.  I've never heard anyone proudly announce that their daughter had just graduated from dead people cosmetology school.  But then again, things to do with medicine and dead people are usually in Latin so maybe it's something like mortuus persona capillus excogitatorusology.

Anyway, I'm told that they'd dress up (in black, of course) and place one of the younger children in the wagon (usually John as #5 of Sam as #6) and tell them to be really still.  I'm sure tears were involved.  Maybe a little singing.  An obituary was read and the mourners would walk up to the wagon, er, casket, and speak kind words about the deceased sibling.  I was thinking that we should be surprised that these children all grew up to be normal, hardworking adults, able to chew gum and walk at the same time.  But then again...

This conversation led to some confessions.  I learned that Aunt Shirley once went to the wrong funeral. She got herself in a bit of a pickle when a family member of the unknown deceased started asking questions.  She had to think fast, quickly sign the guest book and make a sudden get-away.  I bet she had those funeral directors talking about that women that went to both of their funerals in the same day. Her excuse?  She went in by the back door (the one that you usually don't enter standing up) and got all mixed up.  That's okay, a woman attended my Auntie Frances' funeral and during the sharing time she (the woman, not Auntie Frances) got up during the sharing time and droned on for several minutes about Betty.  We're all fairly certain that Auntie Frances didn't have the secret Facebook name of Betty.

Aunt Shirley also confessed that she has been to a dog funeral.  Not knowing what one would expect at a dog funeral we were all ears.  Apparently you are to serve pumpkin pie.  Cause that's what Aunt Shirley had at the dog funeral she attended.  Hmmm.  I wonder if we were supposed to serve pumpkin pie at the funeral for Eden's hermit crab?

This is all very interesting but I just want everyone to know that if anyone rolls a wagon in here tomorrow, I'm outta here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2013

I cut back on the Christmas cards this year.  Waaaaayyy back.  I felt a little guilty; how do you decide who gets cut from the list?  But in a year where we are trying to fundraise, and where I am learning to live more simply, and in a world where Facebook keeps us up-to-date with everyone and anyone, it was time.  So, here's the 2012 family Christmas card for everyone.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

We recently played a King’s Strings Christmas concert at a county nursing facility.  At the end of our program, we assured the activities director that we would be back.  She was flabbergasted that we’d so quickly agree to return when they can’t pay our usual fee.  John explained that while we do have a set rate to help cover expenses such as lessons, new instruments when the children outgrow them, and upkeep, we also make it a priority to live out James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  And so we will return, not out of obligation or drudgery, but because we have experienced the joy of bringing hope and blessing to dark and lonely places.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

At the beginning of 2012 we were starting to feel the rumblings of God’s call to adopt again.  After several months of prayer and looking at different options, we made the definite decision in July.  We contacted a consultant and by August were beginning the fundraising efforts.  Through King’s Strings CD sales, cookie sales, an online auction, and multiple other efforts, we filed our initial paperwork, finished our home study, had profiles made, and sent several agency applications in the mail.  And now we wait and continue to fundraise.  The rest is in God’s perfect timing and match-making abilities.  He knows that we’re not getting any younger.  We have requested a domestic adoption, under age five.  Other than that, we look forward to being surprised.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Meanwhile, we are in the college search with Andrew (17) who will be graduating this spring.  He has finally narrowed down his choices and is waiting to see who wins the financial aid game.  We do know that he will be far from home next year and that’s okay.  Depending on the school, he’s looking into cinematography or media communications.  He announced in August that he’s challenging himself  to use these last 180 days of school to make an eternal difference; to not just be known as the guy who ran cross country or the kid who loves Philly sports’ teams, but one who truly cares about others.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Jesse (16) joined the ranks of those allowed behind the wheel, growing a few more gray hairs on my head (well, actually, they’re mostly on John’s head).  He’s choosing to invest in the lives of younger kids by co-teaching the kindergarten boys on Sunday mornings and by working with a group of middle school boys on Wed. nights.  He’s showing them that he’s not just about being the crazy high school mascot or all-out dodgeball fan (with his brother), but that he also cares about each of them.  He knows that little eyes are watching and modeling, as evidenced by the kindergartner who showed up at church with his hair spiked – just like Jesse’s.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

The theater world is still Mariana’s (14) favorite place to be.  2012 found her as Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Gertrude in Seussical; Brigitta in The Sound of Music; Viola in Twelfth Night; and Penny in Hairspray as well as co-star of an educational video for the state of PA.  She knows that many of her actor friends live under the constant stress of knowing where the next job may come from and the loneliness of going from place to place.  We’re often told that she is definitely making a difference and that it’s noticed.   The jump from homeschool to public school came easy to her, quickly making friendships that count.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Shoun (12) is growing in so many ways, the least of which is stature (in which he has grown several inches this year).  Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that this is just his second Christmas in our home.  He’s learning to think of others first; in the home, at church, in the neighborhood, and on the soccer field.  After just his second season of American soccer, Shoun was voted Most Improved Player on his team. 

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Isaac (11) just loves people.   He’s quick to ask someone what’s wrong, to offer a back rub, or to care about someone who’s struggling.  His soccer coach mentioned this when telling us about Isaac’s strong leadership on the soccer team this year.  He plays viola with the West Shore Symphony Orchestra and as the only child, he’s certainly making many friends of the adult musicians in the group.  He, too, was in The Sound of Music this summer, playing Kurt.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Saying she wants to be on stage like her older sister, Eden (8) played Gretl in The Sound of Music this summer.  She is currently playing a lead role in a regional theater’s Christmas show.  She has not given up her love of crafts, though.  This is how she shows her love for others and we accept her handmade gifts knowing it’s in that way that she shares her love for us.  

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

HopeAnne (6) is a bundle of energy and love.  Her very presence spreads joy and smiles.  She is very strong and flexible and has put that to good use this year by participating in gymnastics classes.  She is looking forward to no longer being the baby of the family (or so she says now).

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

As you celebrate Christmas this year, and anticipate all that 2013 holds, it is our prayer that you will spread the joy of Christmas to everyone around you, thereby expanding the Kingdom in your neck of the woods.  It takes each and everyone of us, using the gifts we have been given, to make a difference to the hurting world around us.

Expanding the “King”dom . . .

Merry Christmas!
John, Cindy, Andrew, Jesse, Mariana, Shoun, Isaac, Eden, and HopeAnne King

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Eden's Christmas birthday

This is it.  The last weekend before Christmas.  For the past six Christmases, we have had one or more children in the Christmas show at a regional theater just 20 minutes away (15 if John drives).  Coupling that with King's Strings concerts, we have very busy Christmas seasons.  So busy, that I am seriously considering changing our family's Christmas traditions and celebrations so that we prepare for Christmas during the month of January, when things are much quieter, and then culminate in a celebration Jan. 25th.  But for this year, we are in the home stretch.  This year it is only Eden in the Christmas show and this is the last weekend.  Two more shows to go.

So I think I will take this opportunity to acknowledge Eden's October birthday (guess it's been busy since October around here).  I will then have caught up with the birthday acknowledgements for 2012.  Whew!

Eden has done so well in this year's show.  When I first heard which role they were giving to her, and then heard that she'd be the only child in the matinees, I was a little concerned.  But, I told myself, it wasn't my problem.  However, it appears that all those years of watching her sister and the wonderful actors at this theater, and all of the other shows we attend, must have paid off.  I'm told, by those with eyes trained much more than mine, that her artistic choices have been excellent and that she has done amazingly well.  I would definitely agree.  But I'm her mom.  Of course I love to watch her.

So, happy belated birthday, Eden.  And Merry Christmas.  And who the fa-la-la-la-la do you think you are, anyway?  (Inside joke, flashback to last year's Christmas show)  Love you!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mysteries of life explained

One topic people love to bring up to me is laundry.  How often do you do laundry?  How much do you have, etc.  I see the motivation here.  Someone is thinking about how much laundry there is at her house, and is picturing that proportionally to the number of people in my house.  Thankfully, laundry is one job that I enjoy so I honestly don't really think about it.  And a few years ago the Good Doctor and my parents remodeled my laundry room to make it bigger and to include two washers and dryers.  While I don't always use the dryers, two washers does significantly cut down on time in the laundry room.  Now, if the number of bathrooms in my house increased according to the number of people, I'd have a complaint.

Everyone in my house knows that I will do laundry on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  I only do the laundry that is brought to the laundry room and placed in appropriate bins for whites and colors.  I refuse to wander to every room of the house collecting laundry.  Walking a pile of laundry to the specified room is rather easy and can even be done in shifts if necessary.  If the laundry doesn't come to me, you'd better hope that you don't need or want something that's in your dirty pile because I won't be working on it again for a few days.  The older kids now know how to do their own laundry so if they forget to bring it to me, they just take care of it on their own.  They are not so fond of folding, however, so we're working on that.

Recently, three weeks had gone by and I was yet to find the younger boys' dirty clothes in the laundry room.  I gave them my reminders but the rest was up to them.  After seeing a few too many clothes being pulled out of their dirty bin and being re-worn, I decided to give them one more chance.  If the clothes didn't make it to me by the next laundry day, then they were going to do their own the next day.  In the meantime, I tried not to think about how many times they had worn the same pair(s) of underwear.  And that they were okay with this.

So there we were in the laundry room, one boy at each washer, separating colors from whites and colors, measuring detergent, transferring from washer to dryer, and learning to fold.  About halfway through the folding process, one of my pre-teens was obviously frustrated by the number of clothes he had to turn right-side out.  He made a few manly noises of displeasure and could finally bear it no longer.  In frustration he cried out to me, "I don't understand why the washing machine turns all of the clothes inside-out!  How does it do that, anyway?"

With that certain gleam in my eye that can only mean a teachable moment is about to commence, I very gently explained, "Oh, my son.  My wonderfully brilliant son.  He who believes there's an injustice in the world of laundry appliances. The washing machine doesn't turn your clothes inside-out.  The dryer doesn't turn your clothes inside-out.  You turn your clothes inside-out every time you take them off."

He took a moment to ponder this revelation; staring at me in disbelief, looking at me and clearly thinking, "Is she telling the truth?  Could it be?  Is it possible that my own actions could cause such a thing?"

"Yes, my child, it is true.  The washing machine isn't out to get you.  You are the master of your own clothes.  You determine whether they are washed inside-out or right-side out."

His next look was a bit difficult to read.  He was either totally amazed that I owned this vast knowledge or in shock that he could really be responsible for such an act.

Well, you learn something new every day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Safe at home?

I had to get off Facebook today.  The newsfeed about the school shooting is heart-wrenching.  I don't know what to say.  There is nothing that can be said or done at this time to bring the children and loved ones back.  Nothing will take away their pain.  I can pray that they will find the strength for each moment of each of the upcoming days, for each holiday and birthday and in-between day that will never be the same.  I can pray for friends and family to surround them; bringing comfort and good memories.  It seems so small.  But that's not why I had to take a break.

Yes, I was slightly hurt by the person whose status stated that the shooting happened because I voted for a certain political party.  But that's not the reason I called it quits for the day.  I wish it was that simple.

The real reason was because I was getting tired of reading the statuses of friends announcing that they have found the key to keeping their children safe and that the key is homeschooling.  I found myself getting angry and when I was too tempted to write back, I decided I should just stop reading.  Because is that really the key to keeping our children safe?  Do you take your children on car trips?  Maybe errands around the neighborhood or vacations?  Because car accidents happen everyday.  Do you ever go into the city on a field trip?  Every night the news tells me of another incident in which I would not want my children involved.  Do you take them with you when you put gas in your car?  Gas stations and convenience stores have always been dangerous places.  Do you ever eat out?  Last week our local Subway was held up.  The Subway that my son has an application ready to turn in for a job.  Do you go to the mall or to the movies?  Shootings happen there.  And you probably shouldn't homeschool at home because the number of home invasions is on the rise.  The fact is that we can't keep our children perfectly safe no matter how hard we try.

But more importantly, I don't think our job as parents is to try to shelter our children from every imaginable danger.  Yes, we teach them about safety, the kind that tells them to keep their fingers out of outlets, to look both ways before crossing the street and to be wary of strangers.   We keep our homes as safe as possible but I don't think Christ asks us to shelter our children in an attempt to keep them "safe"; the kind of safe that is being thrown around here.  A family called to be missionaries on the front lines of spiritual warfare knows this full well.  Christian martyrs through the centuries have known that.  Families that hid Jews during Nazi Germany knew that their children were not going to be safe because of their parents' decisions.  We protect as much as we can but Christ doesn't call any of us to be "safe."  I guess it's a good thing that even His parents couldn't keep Him "safe."

We can teach peace to our children.  We tell them about "peace that passes all understanding" and that "in this world we will have trouble but God has overcome the world."  We can't keep them with us forever so we pass on the knowledge of the One who can give them peace in the midst of chaos, of fear, and of troubling situations.

We teach them to love and to be beacons of God's light.  I have to wonder how different things would be if more of our children were in real school truly shining God's light?  What if our kids stuck up for the kid being picked on, what if they befriended the girl who felt unlovable, or if they invited the disabled teen to join their family for dinner once a week?  What if the same homeschool families that are priding themselves on their educational decision and their ability to keep their kids "safe," would decide to make their house a home away from home for the kid whose own home life was in shambles?

We tell them that God has ordained every breath of theirs, from the first to the last.  Nothing in-between will catch Him by surprise.  We tell them to trust God, and to follow His plan for their lives.  Really, which is more safe, to be in God's Will even if it is dangerous, or to be in a place of comfort?  And as parents, we can rest in that and release all worries.

When I rest in following God's plan for my life and my family's life and when I watch my children learning to do the same, I don't have to worry about the ones I send off to public school in the morning or those who sit around the table with me at home.  Instead, I can focus my attention on bringing love to those who need it most.