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, December 31, 2014

Jacque and the cocker spaniel

There once was a dog named Jacque. Jacque, the poodle. The French Poodle, to be exact. Hence the name. Jacque. Get it?

I always wondered how my parents came up with that name. We watched a lot of Jacques Cousteau when I was growing up; maybe that's it.

Anyway, Jacque belonged to my parents before they were parents but Jacque made the transition to shared-love extremely well since I thought he was a fabulous dog.

But then he developed a bladder control problem. And you know what happens to older dogs with bladder control problems...

They go to that great dog park in the sky.

I begged and begged for another dog. One year for Christmas I decided to ask for nothing but a dog so that my parents would have to get me one. It didn't work.  They did, however, promise me that if we ever moved out of town, into a larger home with more acreage, then I could get a dog.

They thought I would forget.

I didn't forget. And in those long years of waiting my great aunt gave me a dog book. It had a hardcover (a rarity), and was big (I suppose it's what you'd call a coffee table book but since I didn't drink coffee nor did I have a table for such drinks, I don't know for certain), and was filled with photos of every kind of dog imaginable. I looked through that book over and over and over again. I read every description. And I figured out what kind of dog I was going to get when we finally moved into that larger house with an expansive dog-friendly yard, a cocker spaniel.

And then I was introduced to Annie. It must have been the musical because I don't think the movie had been invented yet. And I fell in love with Sandy.

I had my breed. I had my name. I just needed the house.

And if you've been doing your holiday blog reading, you know that the house finally came when I was a sophomore in high school. But since we had to build it, I had plenty of time to save my money for Sandy the cocker spaniel. Because I didn't forget. I never forget.

Not long after we moved in, I found a breeder and I found a dog. But since she had papers, Sandy was just not going to do for a name. No, she would have to be Lady Cassandra of Souderton. Except that the litter didn't contain a buff colored female so I had to settle for Lord Sanford of Souderton. No difference since fairly soon there wasn't going to be any he or she about it.

Sandy was the perfect dog.

If it was raining and my dad didn't want to go to the end of the driveway for the paper, all he had to do was say, "Get the paper," and off Sandy would go to fetch it. Slightly soggy, but all in one piece.

Sandy also knew what to do when the neighbor's sheep got out of their pen and into our yard, a regular occurrence. You only had to say, "Sic the sheep," once and he'd go running out the door, over the bridge, and he'd chase those sheep right back home.

Then he'd come prancing back with head held high, knowing it was a job well done. This particular trick was a crowd pleaser and there didn't even have to be sheep out. To Sandy, "Sic the sheep" turned him into the finest sheep dog with or without sheep present.

My brother found that Sandy was the perfect soccer partner.

Sandy didn't allow many balls past him. And if there were unattended gifts, you'd return to find a pile of tiny pieces of wrapping paper that Sandy has dutifully torn off in his quest to find the gifts he wanted. He was kept busy on Christmas day, "unwrapping" all of the paper we had torn off our gifts and wadded into a ball for his holiday pleasure.

If you asked him if he wanted peanut butter he immediately started licking his lips. He never noticed that his daily vitamin was hiding inside.

Sandy was there when you needed a shoulder to cry on and he was there to keep the bed warm at night.

The Good Doctor was not so fond of dogs and the two didn't get off to a good start when my husband-to-be very quickly learned that Sandy believed all food to be his. The Good Doctor took his hoagie (something new for this midwestern boy) to the basement, set it down, went back upstairs for a drink and returned to find a very happy dog but no hoagie.

After we were married, our first home was in an apartment. No dogs. Our second home was house sitting for a couple from church. No dogs. Our third home was a trailer. No dogs. Finally, we had a home of our own but by then Sandy was pretty old. We heard that it's not good to move an old dog so we didn't. He survived a few more years after that until one day The Good Doctor came to tell me that Sandy was no more. He had joined Jacque in the great dog park in the school.

I suppose he was trying to teach a certain French Poodle how to sic the sheep.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More memories of home

Thank you to everyone who posted more memories of my homestead, either on the blog, my Facebook page, or The Good Doctor's page. I wanted to include them here for posterity. Have more? Send them my way.

From relatives:

The pictures of the back yard remind me of Easter and the giant egg hunt we did as kids!! That was always so fun. 
Cory Lee Wilson, Niece
(Note from Cindy: This reminded me of the time that Cory came for Easter dinner in her Easter finery but ended up covered in mud after a trip to the creek. Her mom was not happy at all.)

Always enjoyed family gatherings, many memorable memories in the past years. Cindy Godshall, Sister-in-law

I remember Carla, Cara, and I went in the hot tub when it was snowing and then aunt Christine took a picture of us in our bathing suits in the snow! I think I still have that pic somewhere!
Brittany Lynn, Niece

I remember a lot of good times! From playing in the leaves in the fall to sledding down the hill in the winter. Chad teasing us saying only boys can have babies on Wednesdays, to helping Mommom and Aunt Christine make homemade applesauce. This house was like Cara and I's second home! It was always filled with so much love and great memories from my childhood I will never forget! I know the new home will be filled with that same love and many more memories to make in the future!
Carla Mitchell, Niece

This house was a second home and I am sure tons of others feel that way as well I remember baking Christmas cookies and painting them, applesauce making with Mommom and aunt Chris, playing with Sandy, having lunches outside when we were little. This house has so many memories, it will be missed but the new house will be just the same. Love you both, Uncle Glenn, Aunt Christine, and Mommom. Best of wishes.
Cara Hough, Niece

So many of my childhood memories were at this home. I remember it being built and looking forward to returning each time to find it closer and closer to being finished. I can remember a sleepover in particular when us cousins along with Sandy, all slept in a tent in the backyard. My family moved quite frequently as I was growing up and the Bauman home was always a warm, wonderful consistent place I would visit and I always felt so welcomed when I would stay. It was a second home to me for much of my childhood. 

I remember the bathroom, it was a lovely bathroom and if Aunt Chris would have allowed me to, I'd have probably slept in there. When you are one of five sharing a bathroom in a tiny apartment, the idea of showering without running out of hot water and stepping out with a heat lamp warming you is the most beautiful thing ever!! 

I remember the basement, it was there I would watch "The Sound of Music" and "The Karate Kid" over and over again. It was also there where I realized I did not acquire the same singing voice as Julie Andrews and I could not (no matter how hard I tried) perfect any karate moves or trim a bonsai tree. 

I remember the vent in the floor of the kitchen that allowed you to spy on the people and conversations being had in the basement. It was also much fun to lay on the kitchen floor and talk to people in the basement through the vent. Should I have had a cell phone, I could have sent them a text. How much fun would that have been?

Cindy's room was the best (sorry Chad if you secretly wanted a reading nook) but really, her room was the greatest. I'd curl up and read every poem from "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and be completely content for hours drawing and writing at her desk. 

I remember hours and hours of shooting baskets in the driveway and perfecting my game. I'd try to beat Chad and never could, I know now why he would never lower the net for me! I also remember using a water balloon launcher for the first time and how much fun it was to see how far we could get them to go. 

I remember sledding down the back hill with my sisters the winter they got Chicken Pox and infected me. I tried to run them in the crick but Aunt Chris watched carefully. We couldn't go to school so we got to go visit Aunt Christine every day for a week. This made being 14 and stuck at home with your little sisters so much more enjoyable!

It was so neat to be able to go right next door to Mommoms place and visit her. I loved her quilt room and was always amazed of her talent quilting. I was equally amazed at the extensive jewelry collection she had. I'd try on her many necklaces, bracelets and 
broaches and have my own fashion show!

These are only a few of my many memories, as I type this I smile. More and more good memories continue to fill my mind. It is such a wonderful home. Even more wonderful are the people who live there! Thank you Aunt Chris and Uncle Glenn for the fondest of memories, I know your new home will also be great and filled with love because of the special people who will call it home!

Christy Knieriem, Niece

 I remember coming there years ago for birthday parties for Aunt Bert and picking her up for trips to Lancaster. One time Butch & I were waiters for a Aunts & Uncles Dinner prepared by Christine. In more recent years Chris would hold the Moyer Dinner planning meeting. She was the perfect hostess and the table was always beautifully decorated as well as the rest of the house. It will be hard to leave but there are many more happy memories to be made at the new home. I can't wait to see it. I know it will be beatiful!
Sue Marx, Cousin

I have so many good memories of visiting and living in your house, but what I remember from my first visit (in addition to the warm welcome I received) was how comfortable your house is. After growing up in a drafty old house with creaky wood floors and squeaky doors, I loved how warm, quiet, and comfortable your house is -- especially the perfectly clean and super soft carpet! Over the years I enjoyed watching our dogs and kids playing in the creek -- that was always a highlight. We will miss being there, but we are happy that you have found a great new place that fits your needs. I am confident that your new house will soon feel like home because, as I learned from my parents’ recent downsizing move, it will be filled with your most cherished possessions and YOU, and that’s what makes it home!
Jodi Bauman, Daughter-in-law

From family friends:

I have great memories at your house. The yard was always in tip top shape with beautiful flowers. I remember being in the hot tub when it was cold and then running like mad for a warm house. Chris has a gift for decorating and the house was always sparkling. Will miss that place but looking forward to visiting your new home.
Sharon Kauffmann

We remember being in your hot tub outside on our anniversaries in January when there was lots of snow on the ground! What an experience!
Glenda Moyer

From our small group which was more like family:

I have only 1 memory of the house Glenn and Chris lived in before this one, and many memories in this house on Halteman Road. I drove bike past there many times as we rode from our house to the Harleysville trails. (We saw Glenn out working many times.) 
I remember many things from having small group in this house: being held up high from Sandy as I was terrified of dogs. The carpets were always really soft and clean. I liked how the hall bath's sink area was separated by a door which led to the toilet and shower. There was a heat lamp in that bathroom, right? (That seemed luxurious to me then, and still now.) 
I remember admiring Cindy's beautiful room full of dolls, dolls, dolls! 
I remember it was at this house that I heard about this weird thing called "e-mail" for the first time. There was a computer which "had email" in Chad's old bedroom. How did this possibly work? It was so mysterious to imagine typing something that would show up on someone else's computer! 
Something memorable happened when the guys (okay, it was all my dad's idea and I think the other guys just stood around and laughed) tried to kill a groundhog near the stream: the fire wasn't controlled as well as he hoped and my dad's arm hair got burnt off. 
The kids always liked playing pool in the basement. I remember when Chris got her cabinets built down there for her many quilting supplies. 
The hot tub was pretty exciting for all of us! I remember passing out a few times there from staying in too long. 
I remember eating at the kitchen island with other small group kids. 
I remember Chad bringing several girlfriends to this house. (There were a lot, it seemed, but I'm pretty sure he never brought two at the same time. Being about 10 years younger I admired them all, and I think I can remember each of their names. I liked Jessie's french braids. A lot.) 
I remember hearing about Chad and Jodi's engagement there. Since moving to Virginia over a decade ago, I think I had only been back to this house 1 time or so, until this past August when I asked Glenn and Chris if my family could stay there for the weekend. (Knowing now that they are moving, I appreciate this opportunity even more. I enjoy the chance to be in a place I have memories "one last time".) So my last memory of this house was sleeping in Cindy's old room (it is that to me much more than it is a "guest room" because of how enchanted it always seemed when I was a little girl) along with my husband and baby. My two older boys slept in Chad's old room. My boys loved playing with the neatly organized toys in the basement. It felt homey to walk on the soft, clean carpets once again. I look forward to seeing the place Glenn and Chris will call home next!
Melissa Ritter

From my brother, Chad, who may have envied my window seat but clearly is the scholarly one now. Some of these are my memories as well but many occurred after I had already left home:

Many of my earliest memories have to do with helping turn that overgrown, wild field into a lawn. I remember cutting down that half dead tree Cindy mentions in her blog, with only a dull axe, a middle-schooler’s strength, and my perennially blister-prone skin. It took me all day to cut it down and into pieces. I could do it now with seven minutes and a chainsaw, but it felt like a wonderful accomplishment at the time. I retrospect, I suspect mom and dad of giving
me that job, and dulling the axe, so they could get some work done on the house, and I will be adding that gambit to my
parental repertoire. 

After we got the worst of the land cleared away, I remember having the large lawn graded and seeded, only to have a torrential downpour wash a good deal of the seed into the creek and leave deep rivulets in the previously perfectly sculpted landscape. I think about how tragic the timing of that downpour felt to me at the time, and yet how relatively minor the consequences for us were, every time I hear of impoverished people somewhere in the world having their crops and livelihood far more devastatingly destroyed by flood. 
I remember running electricity for the house, sweeping its plywood floors over and over and over again, and watching in wonder as my parents’ vision for the place slowly came to fruition. 

I remember working with uncle Dwight (whose crew laughed or looked confused when I used his real name) doing something he truly seemed to love doing: building houses. And in the midst of my remembering, I miss him. 

I remember Grand Pop helping us with the house. And in midst of my remembering, I miss him, too. I remember him accidentally ramming his vehicle into the garage soon after the house was built, becoming the first one to damage it. It didn’t occur to me then, but now that I am a father it seems somehow so poignant and appropriate that in one’s old age one should damage the treasured possessions of one’s children. Mom and Dad will need to damage quite a few of mine to make up for what I did to their 1991 Honda Accord LXi on a slippery curve one dark night in Green Lane. 

I remember helping to build both versions of the bridge across the creek, the second far more impressive than the first. I remember helping to build the fake wishing well around the septic tank as well. I am grateful for every minute I spent building things on that property, since there’s rarely been a month of my life since then during which I haven’t used the skills I learned there. 

I remember canvassing the neighborhood road sides for discarded beer bottles—shockingly easy to find—filling them up with water, lining them up on a hay bale, and blowing them to smithereens with my BB gun. 

I remember spending hours and hours and hours building dams, redirecting water, catching fish and otherwise enjoying the poetry of running water. 

I remember trapping and shooting muskrats to keep them from undermining the banks of the creek and destroying the lawn. I now wish we had just let them live their lives and enjoy the creek as much as we did. 

I remember being secretly jealous of Cindy reading books on the window seat we built for her (the one she mentions in her blog). I was too busy trying to pass as a jock to admit it at the time, but I’ve been trying to find a place to build
one for myself (or my kids) ever since. 

I remember falling asleep on those super soft (and Christine-clean) carpets many, many afternoons.

I remember watching lots of Phillies games with Dad in the basement. I remember watching NASCAR with Godshall uncles after holiday meals. 

I remember mom always sleeping with her door slightly ajar, enabling her to see my bedroom door from her bed and keep track of my comings and goings. Despite angsty teenage movies telling me I should have resented her supervision, I remember never feeling anything but gratitude for the concern she showed for my well-being. 

I remember spending a lot of time there with my younger cousins, and then later my nieces and nephews. I remember telling a 2-year-old Andrew that no crying was allowed at the dinner table there. And I remember it working. 

I remember regular, enjoyable visits from my family’s closest friends, especially the Guengerichs and Cassels, who, despite knowing my entire history and the geographical distance between us, continue to keep in touch and root for my success. 

Like Cindy, I remember feeling privileged to have my grandmother living under the same roof, and grateful for her never-ending supply of caramel candies. 

I remember discovering that Sandy was a tenacious canine soccer defender and playing with him for hours. I remember pressing on his swollen chest during one of our visits after I had moved out, and recognizing from his reaction, with sadness, that his days were numbered. 

I remember having a heated argument with dad, one summer in high school, about whether I should work or attend
basketball camp. For the first time in my life, Dad backed down and allowed me to make what he and I both knew was the
wrong choice. I remember feeling simultaneously very adult and very embarrassed. It was an important lesson in the responsibility that comes with adult privilege. I hope someday to allow my children to make bad decisions and become adults as graciously as my parents did. 

I remember feeling like I had the best house for parties, particularly during the summer. I remember constantly bringing friends home. I remember them luxuriating in the welcome they received there. I remember friends feeling so at home in our house they would help themselves to ice cream from the freezer in front of my parents. Three of my college friends lived there for a summer. I married the last of them.  
I remember my high school soccer teams’ disgusting habit of spanning the midday period between our sweaty late-summer two-a-day practices with a lunch time dip in the whirlpool followed a nap on the basement floor. Similarly, remember jumping out of the whirlpool to make snow angels with friends in mid-winter. I remember nudity being involved in both of these traditions. 

I remember, most of all, the pride mom and dad took in that house, and how it taught me to value and invest in my home, my family, and my friends.

Thank you to my parents for teaching us all how to make a house a home.

Monday, December 29, 2014

He popped the question!

I should probably let Shoun tell this story. Of all the children, he seems to have it memorized word-for-word. But I'll let The Good Doctor tell it in his (and Shoun's) words, with my help:

It was December 29, 1989. I was in cahoots (this is a word all the children agree has to be in the story) with Cindy's dad. I had actually met with him over Thanksgiving break that year. I did some work for him at his office and then sat him down for a heart-to-heart chat, asking for the hand of his daughter in marriage. He agreed and we started to conspire how I was going to get to PA during Christmas to surprise Cindy.

Why December 29?  Cindy and I had started dating the first month of our freshman year of college. By our junior year we knew that we were going to get married but Bluffton College (now University) did not have any type of married housing and the local community was not very inclined to rent to college students. We talked about how nice it would be if we could be hall directors in which case we'd have an apartment on campus but knew that would be a long shot. So, Cindy and I had looked ahead to our college graduation which we knew would be late May 1991. We figured a month after that would be a good time to make this thing official so we picked June 29, 1991 to be our wedding date. We didn't check with the church or anything but hoped it would be available. It was, after all, well in the future. Cindy, who does not like surprises, and who also doesn't trust me to get things right (or according to her plans), had left many hints about a good time to propose. Most importantly, she wanted to make her wedding dress, didn't want to start before an official engagement, yet was very emphatic that she needed a summer to work on it. She left big hints about Christmas being a good time for me to propose but then I realized that Dec. 29 would be exactly 18 months before the date we had chosen for our wedding.

Cindy hitched a ride home to PA for Christmas break and I went home to Indiana. Her dad and I had explored various options for me to travel east from Flatland, USA. Our final plan was that I would leave from my grandma's house in Ohio on Dec. 28, drive to Bluffton to pick up Cindy's yellow Plymouth Turismo which was a much more reliable than my 1972 Pontiac Bonneville, and then drive as far as I could before spending the night somewhere in PA. I ended up staying at the Motel 6 off the PA Turnpike in Harrisburg, just 5 or so miles from where we now live. Who knew!  Anyway, after arriving at the motel, I called Cindy, who thought I was still in Ohio. She questioned me about each of my family members, wanting to know what they were doing and how they were. I made it all up but unbelievably, she bought the whole story. The next morning, I drove to her dad's office, passed the time by doing some work for him, and then after learning that Cindy and her parents had left the house, I broke into their home as had been prearranged.

I was prepared. I had a ring, I had memorized 1 Corinthians 13, I had 18 pink baby roses (her favorite roses and the number of months til the wedding) and I was dressed to the nines in my nicest clothes. I had a Christmas gift of a block of famous Guggisberg Swiss Cheese (a Mennonite Swiss delicacy that my family enjoyed and gifted to people they liked) for her family, wrapped and in the fridge. I settled in to wait.

Cindy was not prepared. She was wearing her staple outfit, jeans and a sweatshirt, and was enjoying time with family at her aunt's house. Afterward, her parents asked her if she wanted to join them at her brother's high school basketball game. She declined (shocker - although she admitted later that she did entertain the thought of accepting their offer, had she figured out what was going to happen next, she would have agreed just to see them squirm) and they dropped her off at home. They sent her into the house, knowing that I would be there waiting. On her way through the kitchen, she stopped at the fridge to put some leftovers in there. Upon seeing the round, wrapped package, she commented to her dog, Sandy, "Oh, what is this? Looks like a bomb in the refrigerator."  Yes, she did talk to her dog. She always talked to her dog. She also let the dog sleep with her but that was going to change in 18 months. I panicked, figuring that she knew I was there. But no, she did really truly believe a bomb had been placed in the family's refrigerator. And yes, I still went through with the proposal even though my wife-to-be talked/talks to animals and had/has an overactive imagination.

At this moment, I stepped around the corner. Cindy immediately figured out what was going to come next and apologized for her attire. She begged me to allow her to change first but I declined. I didn't need any more time to be nervous. I gave her my speech, recited the verses, got down on my knee and popped the question. She said yes.

Then she went to change.
The only thing missing from this photo is that wrapped block of cheese/bomb from the fridge.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Except that a few months later I was asked to serve as hall director for our senior year. Yes, the job came with my very own apartment. We could have gotten married the summer of 1990 after all. But my dear wife-to-be was busy making her dress. The wedding would have to wait.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Moving on

Well, now you know all about how the Kings celebrate Christmas Eve Eve and Christmas Eve. Maybe you've been wondering what on earth do we do on Christmas Day? Well, we rush The Good Doctor out of the Christmas Eve services just as fast as the church will let us and we head east. We arrive just in time to get a second wind because MomMom and PopPop always have stockings waiting for us and we definitely need to unwrap the underwear and socks to wear the next day. Be sure to ask the boys about the Emergency Underwear  - Just Add Water  - that they received. Even Mr. Victor got such a second wind that he refused to go back to sleep until well after midnight, making for a delightful (ahem) Christmas day.

My parents and my 90+ year old (because you should never share a woman's age) grandmother still live in the home that was built for us when I was in high school. My mom's brother, a builder, did the construction work but our family did everything we could to be a part of the project. Okay, I admit, I was not as much into the work at the construction site but my job was running the chuckwagon at home so that at the end of the day everyone could enjoy a nice, gourmet meal of hamburgers or cream dried beef gravy on English muffins, two of my specialties back in the day.

But those days are coming to an end and this year with be a year of transition. My parents have settlement in January for a new-to-them home with much less land and upkeep. It was a priority for them to find a home where my grandmother could still live with them and where she could still have her own quarters. While it may not be the same as having her own apartment, God has led them to a property with the perfect solution for the three of them, and space besides for the King clan to invade them on a regular basis. The day after Christmas a For Sale sign went up on their property.

My dad asked if we could start our Christmas morning with some memories of this house.  He went first...

I learned something new when my dad shared that one of the reasons he chose this land was because it was a cornfield with stream running through it. This reminded him of growing up in Lancaster County. He remembered there was a stream in the woods and he and his siblings made paths for trucks and tractors and built bridges over the stream. He just felt like this was the property that God had for us, and it brought back memories of childhood. His father, my PopPop Bauman, also helped with many projects during the construction of our home.

He said he remembered me vacuuming the sawdust off the studs as they went up, trying to keep my room clean and he remembers me painting my room. My mom, however, is pretty sure she was the one with the vacuum.

He remembered that there was only one tree on the property when they bought it. He remembers my brother, Chad, chopping down that tree. I had forgotten that every bush and tree has been planted since moving here. That same landscaping that he worked so hard to improve upon year by year, is one of the reasons why it's time to move. The upkeep is too much work. He fondly remembers many times when passers-by would pull over when he was out to tell him that they enjoy watching him work and take care of his property. This fall, when trying to keep up with the leaves, he knew that time had come to pass the upkeep on to someone else.

He finished by saying that after 30 years, God has other things for us and it's time to move on. He and my mom are committed to taking care of Grandmom through this move and in their new home. He put into words what we all know to be true, "It will be different."

My mom went all the way back to the first home they owned. They had moved there when I was 2 years old. For her, that house has memories of their children growing up. This house is full of memories of the grandkids growing up. With tears, she thanked the grandchildren for wanting to come here as she knows this isn't true for all of her friends.

Andrew remembered a time as a high schooler when he almost died on the family go-cart at this house. He had been driving around "the loop" and was thinking that it was about time to stop but decided to do one more lap. He had circled that lap so many times that there was more mud than traction. He went down the bank and into the creek. Thankfully, the helmet and seatbelt held him and he didn't hit the roll bar. He did get a nasty burn from the seatbelt.

Jesse reminded my mom that he loves the red blanket and a particular pillow and he put in a request that these two items make the move to the new house so he can continue to use them when visiting. He admitted that many times there was less candy in the snack drawer after he had left their house. Jolly Ranchers, in particular.

My parents have a beautiful clock they bought in Switzerland and the children knew they were never to touch it. Mariana said that it always reminded her of the glass cover over the enchanted rose in Beauty and the Beast so she just had to play with it. Thankfully, it never broke. She also thought MomMom had the best dress-up clothes.

Somehow this reminded everyone of the big bed in the guest bedroom (my old room) and they all agreed that getting to sleep in that big bed, by themselves, was a treat. My mom laughed at the memory of some of them sleeping in that bed, but by morning, there were no sheets on the bed. We all know who those restless sleepers are because the same thing happens at home!

Shoun always enjoyed the train set up my dad had in the attic. We all laughed at his memory of the edible grass my mom bought one Easter because it intrigued her.

Isaac enjoyed helping PopPop mow this past summer, mostly because he got to use the riding mower. Insert laughs and jokes about that old family movie of me learning to drive the riding mower. Let's just say that I am more stubborn than my parents and that was the one and only time I rode that mower or any mower. Unfortunately they get the last laugh whenever they pull out that video. Mariana reminded Isaac of the cute tutu and diaper photo of him that was taken in this house.

Eden's favorite place was the creek. She always wanted to bring her bathing suit, even in the winter, so she could play in there. She remembered the time cousin Annika brought a net and was trying to catch a frog. When one was caught, Eden wanted to keep it as a pet.

HopeAnne loves arriving at the house, running downstairs to say hello to everybody and just start playing. She usually pulls out the tea set first.

John remembered the night he proposed, Dec. 29, 1989, 18 months before the date we had chosen for a wedding (which would be one month after college graduation). He was in cahoots with my dad to break into the house while I was out for dinner with my parents. At this point, the kids picked up the story because they had heard it so many times.

Even though I spent more years in the duplex we owned prior to building this house, this will always feel like my homestead. One of my best memories of this house is that my maternal grandmother lived here with us. It was built on a slope so that she had her own apartment in half of the basement, with an exterior door and windows. She even had an extra bedroom for all of her craft projects including the large quilting frame that until several years ago, was never empty. Looking back, my only regret is that she did not live with us sooner. I am grateful to have lived, at least for a time, in a three generational home.

I loved my bedroom in this home. I helped to paint it and choose the colors for it. Shelves and a desk were built into one wall with the perfect window seat in the middle. I spent many hours reading in that very spot, looking out over the cornfields across the street.

I remember my surprise 16th birthday party. My mom left, saying she was going to work, when really she was circling the block until I left to babysit. I returned home in sweatshirt and jeans and was embarrassed to hear, "Surprise," when I walked in the door. I remember my high school graduation party. This time my mom was embarrassed as we acted like little kids, going down the hill on skateboards. There were also times we tried to make a slip-n-slide down the hill.

Like John, the night he proposed is one of my memories. As is the day we dropped off a basket of goodies with balloons, rang the doorbell, and ran, announcing to my parents that they were going to be grandparents.

Next Christmas we will make new memories in a new location. It will be different, but it will be family.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

King Christmas once again, part 2

After the homemade cinnamon rolls, and the brunch, and the stocking letters, and the gifts, our Christmas Eve continues with family games. In the past, I have planned the games but this year I asked for help.

We played Spoons and Electric Orange.

The little girls each chose a Frozen themed game. HopeAnne had us all sing, "Do you Want to Build a Snowman" (for which the boys were all, okay mostly, good sports) and then we all did just that with marshmallows, pretzel sticks, icing and food gel.

Eden had us creating life-size Olafs.
Mariana made Dad, Mom made Andrew...
Shoun made HopeAnne...
Isaac made a seated Jesse

Jesse, our master Wal-mart shopper, took a detour from his favorite store to purchase Bingo and an interesting version of basketball from Five and Below.

Getting smarter

And then it was time to get ready for church.

Another family-focused Christmas Eve which will be a wonderful memory to share through the years. I can hear it now...

Remember that time when Mom lost that 4th emergency bowtie so only 3 of us boys got one? So unfair.

Remember that time when Mom scheduled TB tests for Christmas Eve just so she could renew our homestudy? What kind of gift was that?

Remember that time when Mom and Jesse said the big kids were going to watch Little House on the Prairie for Christmas Eve Eve? And Andrew got mad because he was going along with it but Mom thought he was serious so gave up the game too quickly?

Remember that time when Mariana kept giving false starts in Electric Orange and her team had to go backwards?

Remember that time when Dad forgot about our Christmas Eve Eve family movie night and stayed at work late instead?

Remember that time when Shoun forgot to buy a gift for his Secret Santa and wanted Dad to take him to Wal-mart during the family movie night?

Remember that superb idea Mom had to wrap our gifts in snowmen and then we had such fun rearranging them when she came up with so many alternatives to the numbering system? We have such an incredible Mom, don't we?

Yup, that was our 2014.

Friday, December 26, 2014

King Christmas once again, part 1

Well, it was that time of year again. That most wonderful time of the year. A time of trying to keep the right balance between the real reason for the season and the fun of gift giving. A time of traditions and relationships.

As always, our festivities began on Christmas Eve Eve. We've graduated to two movies on this night and I think this was the third year for that tradition. The age difference is just too great. This year's selections were Prancer for the little kids and The Truman Show for the big kids. The latter like to make fun of our 80s and 90s movies but I don't think we've let them down on Christmas Eve Eve (Split) Family Movie Night Yet. The Good Doctor, who isn't good at surprises, had let it slip that it would be a Jim Carrey movie.  We did give some of the big kids quite a scare when we handed over a Little House on the Prairie DVD, explaining that there was a Christmas episode that Jim Carrey played in as a child. But we had to admit the truth when some children were ready to walk out of the room and skip the movie altogether. Someday we'll be able to all enjoy the same movie together. But by then maybe we'll also need to have a selection for the grandkids.

Christmas Eve morning starts with cinnamon rolls and brunch.

Then on to reading the notes in our stockings. I have often wondered if the kids mind that I did away with stocking stuffers several years ago but several of them assured me this year that reading their notes is the best part of Christmas. I have to agree.
Help! I can't read cursive.
She even put a card to herself in her stocking.

Not all the notes are serious. Guess who this one was from?

Then the kids exchanged their Secret Santa gifts. Yes, we do all know that there is no Santa but it's just an easy way to identify the fact that we don't force each child to purchase gifts for all the others. Some years there are those kids with a love language of gift giving and who have enough funds to surprise everyone, but the exchange of names keeps the pressure low. It's always fun to see what they come up with for each other.
Some are master wrappers
Some say, "Mom, I want to get him something that has Superman on it."
Some give funny gifts (and a serious one later).
And someone remembered that time when Big Brother took her to the mall and he wanted to buy himself that Spiderman sweatshirt but refrained.

This year I packaged all of their gifts inside snowmen. I positioned them all around the house but said nothing about there being gifts inside.

After the kids exchanged their gifts, I gave them this speech,

"Some of you may have noticed that there are snowmen all over the house.

Some of you may have noticed that there are 8 snowmen around the house.

Some of you may have noticed that there are gifts inside.

Some of you may have noticed that there are numbers underneath the boxes (a few sheepish hands went up).

So, okay, go ahead and find your snowman."  Of course, they assumed the numbers were for birth order.

"Now that you have your box, I have a confession to make. I was afraid you'd figure out that they were in birth order so I put them in reverse birth order."  Time to find the right box again.

"I have another confession to make. They are not in birth order at all. They are in order according to when your birthday falls in the year, beginning with the January birthday." There were a few mad faces at this point but not wanting to miss out on gifts, they all rearranged the boxes a third time.

"I have another confession to make. They are actually in alphabetical order."
If looks could kill, Mariana!

Thankfully, this was correct or I may have been banned from the house for the rest of the holiday season.

Fun, fun, fun. For me, at least.

So now we will have even more music playing around here...

Tomorrow, part 2 of the King Christmas