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, February 28, 2014

Exploring talent

Let me just say that I have the most talented children.  But before another mother slugs me for that comment, let me add that we all have talented children. They've all been made with a purpose, with gifts to be used for the Kingdom. It is our job to help them find the areas in which they can shine and spread God's light. For some, like Mariana, this is easy. She came out projecting her voice to every end of the hospital and she hasn't stopped yet.

For other children, it takes more time to find their niche. That's okay.

I'm always saddened when I see children or teens trying more to be like someone else than searching for and using their own gifts.  So many kids will latch themselves onto another person, copy-catting their every activity, trying hard to be like that friend.  I hurt for them as they come up short exploring talents that aren't theirs while their obvious talents are left dormant and little opportunity is given or taken to grow in these areas.

But back to Mariana, our born actress. Last night was opening night of Anything Goes at the local high school. This is my daughter, Erma for the time being, doing what she does best. Excellent work, Mariana!



For her next role, coming up in April, she'll be the adulteress in an Easter production.  Should I be worried about this casting?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Soaking

"Just keep soaking him in the presence of Jesus."

We were at a wedding and a woman from church came up to Mariana who was holding Victor.  This woman began praying over Victor. She said, "I just feel the presence of Jesus so real right here."  And then she told us to just keep soaking him in the presence of Jesus.

So that's what I try to do. One way I do this is to have worship music playing in the room where he is.

Victor may not have sight but we are praying that he has vision.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The genetics of passive aggressiveness

I am an unashamed adherent to the passive aggressive philosophy in relationships. It works for me. I recently found proof that some of my children have picked up on these tendencies as well.

I have a daughter who is the crafting queen.  At age 9.  She is also a prolific writer and I find the beginnings of stories and books in notebooks and on scraps of paper all over the house.  A recent cleaning of the basement unearthed a 3 ring binder with a collection of lined notebook paper which is supposed to be used for school only.  The first page read as follows:

Riters note

Dear reder and lover of crafts
my name is Eden, Eden Joy King. I love crafts do you? Well if you don't I hope that at the end of this book you will love crafts even more then me.
and if you like crafts rite now then I hope you will love this book

Added to the bottom of this paper were the following words:

Hello Writer,
I like crafts too but I do not think Mom will be happy that you used this paper. Give it to Mom.
From, Isaac

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The saga continues

There is a part of Victor's story that I haven't shared much. Maybe I've hoped it would not be a reality if I ignored it. Maybe I just didn't want to see it in print or hear the words plainly spoken.  It is this: The condition that has caused Victor's vision loss is also associated with a number of other medical conditions including, but not limited to, seizures, endocrine issues including stunted growth, mental retardation, and behavior issues such as aggression and over eating.

The ophthalmologist prepared us with dire warnings of all of these.  Thankfully the endocrinologist has so far been less concerned.  An initial exam, bloodwork, and his statement that these secondary issues are only present in 20% of the cases have helped to suppress the fear and worry.  However, there are other concerns.  It is apparent, and was as early as Victor's first bottle in the NICU, that he does not have a shut off valve when full. He will eat until you stop feeding him and I've had to do my own trial and error to determine how much to feed him.  Further, the neonatal follow-up clinic is concerned because his head circumference is growing at a much slower rate than his height and weight.

In my humble opinion, Victor has suffered enough and I don't think any of us need anything else to deal with for a long time.  But I learned a long time ago that my opinion isn't always the best one when orchestrating lives in the universe. There's a much larger picture, a battle being fought, and lives in the balance. I know I'm much better off placing this in much larger, more capable hands.

I am asking, begging, God to spare Victor from any other physical or mental hardship.  I ask you to ask for the same thing.

We thank you.

2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Roses are red, cinnamon rolls are brown...

I hear that it is National Sticky Bun Day.  Woo hoo!  Go celebrate!  I'm not sure if it means you should have a cinnamon roll in honor of the day or if it means you should save the tasty heart attack on a dessert plate and refuse to buy or eat one on its day of celebration.  The Good Doctor has decided that it  means a dozen red roses should arrive on my doorstep.  At least that's what I thought until I read the card.  It did not say, "Happy Sticky Bun Day" but instead said something mushy about this being Valentine's Day and all.  Seems as if those roses he ordered to be delivered on Valentine's Day finally arrived, a week late, but not too late, of course, to celebrate the breakfast item/dessert already referenced.

Roses are red,
Cinnamon rolls are brown.
Flowers that arrive a week late,
Could make the Good Doctor frown.

And if you want to know which company you should NOT use next Valentine's Day, you might want to check with the Good Doctor first.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Passions and pursuits

Yesterday my child came to me with a request to reverse a healthy food change I have made in the home.  Angry, but controlled, my child had a well-thought out appeal, complete with written notes. Disagreement aside, I was impressed with the maturity of the argument.  For a child who struggles with calm and kind dialog when angry, this was a big step. We discussed.  I asked for time to think about it.  The Good Doctor and I chatted.  In the end, this child has been given the assignment to research the reasons why I have made this particular decision.  When finished, I'd like to hear a list of pros and cons from the perspective of this child. I am hoping for intelligent, mature dialog and that we can come to a mutually agreeable conclusion.

I could have immediately disagreed.  I could have argued that I have done my own research and it's a done deal.  But I try so hard not to allow food choices to become an idol and insisting on my way, without discussion, possibly negatively and permanently affecting a parent-child relationship, seemed to border on idolatry.

There is no lack of passion in today's mothers.  We want the best for our children, for our families, and for ourselves.  Knowledge, on every side of every argument, is just a few finger taps away.  There is so much passion that mommy wars are declared and fought daily, often hourly, so easily, on the battlegrounds of social media.  Passion fuels research and research takes time. And all of this time spent in passionate research and battle leads to neglect first of all in our relationship with God, the One who should determine where our passions lie, where our time is spent, upon which hills we will post the most.  Second, it takes us from our families, the ones we say we're fighting to save. It can create rifts with the ones we most want to protect. Third, it divides friendships and unwittingly or purposefully heaps guilt on the best of relationships. Finally, if we're busy at our keyboards and pouring through books, we are kept from being the hands and feet of Jesus to the hurting around us.

This morning I was convicted. Like any other idol, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these motherly pursuits. But I do need to constantly check myself. Where does my pursuit of God fit into my schedule? If it's not first, if it's not the pursuit driving all of my other pursuits, if I don't spend at least as much time with Him as I do with all of these other pursuits, then it is all a resounding, clanging idol. I pray my passions come from God. I recommit myself to seeking God first and to spending more time with Him than I do researching any number of helpful topics.  May God direct my minutes, my thoughts, my passions, and my actions.

If I speak in the tongues of gluten free diets, essential oils and natural cleansers, but have not love, I am only a one-minded Facebook poster or annoying soapbox standing blogger. If I have the gift of exercise and can fathom homeschool curriculum, and if I have faith in my ability to find and feed my family the most organic fresh fruits and vegetables, but have not first pursued the love of my Father, it is nothing. If I give all my time to researching vaccinations and surrender my sleep to read the latest opinions and posts on adoption, but have not time or love to pursue God, to give time to my family, or to share with those in need, I gain nothing and I will be nothing.

I was made for so much more than this.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Understanding, part 3

Yesterday was the third, and final, installment in our unit on understanding blindness.

We talked about sports that would be available to a visually impaired person and how others might be modified.  We learned about goalball which is a sport specifically for the visually impaired.  You can see it played here.

Next, each child was assigned the name of a person who is visually impaired.  Options might be Louis Braille, Fanny Crosby, Helen Keller, Morris Frank (and/or Buddy, the dog), Ray Charles, or Erik Weihenmayer.  They were given an assignment to research their person and to create a poster presentation for the group.  The posters were to answer the following questions:

1.  Tell us something about your person's childhood, including how and when he/she went blind.
2.  Tell us something about your person's adulthood.
3.  What is your person known for?
4.  If you could choose 5 descriptive words for your person, what would they be?
5.  What does this person's life teach you?
6.  If your person's life was made into a movie, what would you call it?
7.  What is one quote from your person that you found interesting?

The children also included 3 pictures of their person and used a stylus to "write" their person's name in Braille.

The presentations were interesting and informative and we all learned that blindness doesn't have to stop someone from pursuing a dream.





Finally, we took some of Victor's board books and added textures, 3-D objects, and braille to make them more enjoyable for him.




Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Blast from the past

My word for 2014 is LESS.  Part of that has been cleaning out and weeding out. It's been slow going. I seem to be busier than usual but when I can, I tackle another area.  One day last week it was a little used kitchen cabinet. As I went through the items in the cabinet, I found the few bibs I had saved, presumably for my grandchildren? Or maybe they were for guests. Quite possibly I knew deep down that we weren't finished after HopeAnne's adoption.  Hidden in the pile were these gems that made me smile.

Isaac had Eden's name in the Christmas gift exchange that year.  I took a few of his drawings, traced them on fabric, embroidered them and made them into bibs.  Ahhhhhhh....

Dinosaurs - a favorite drawing subject, a theme that lasted for a very long time

A portrait of himself, his siblings, and the dog.

These are the craft projects I love the most!

Monday, February 17, 2014

One little words

A while back we painted several walls in our kitchen with chalkboard paint.  The plan was to change the verses and sayings every few months. It stayed the same.  For a very long time.

So when January rolled around, and the younger kids and I chose one little word on which to focus for 2014, I decided those chalkboard walls would be the best place to display our words.  Up front and center so we could remember and contemplate and hopefully, to change. ourselves for the better.

You may remember that my word is LESS.

Mariana chose PASSION as found in the focus of the verse she chose, 1 John 4:9-11:  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Shoun picked COMMITMENT and is working on giving 100% to schoolwork and chores while remembering James 1: 2-4. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

Isaac took a word that had been talked about during a church youth activity, PERFECTION.  His verse is 1 Corinthians 1310 from the Living Bible translation:  But when we have been made perfect and complete, then the need for these inadequate special gifts will come to an end, and they will disappear.

PRAYER is the word Eden chose and she's focusing on Jeremiah 29:11-12. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

And HOPE is working on smiling more; remembering to be joyful. Romans 12:12  When you hope, be joyful. When you suffer, be patient. When you pray, be faithful.


It made me smile to see how God spoke to each child when choosing a word.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Closed doors

Two people who I love dearly are facing closed doors right now. Closed and locked. It's not easy to watch. On the other hand, I have a new appreciation for closed doors.

I used to think that closed doors meant God was sitting in Heaven purposely slamming doors just to see how I would react.  And since my reaction usually involved a complete meltdown, I imagined Him laughing at my immaturity.  How sad.

That's not to say I now face every closed door with a smile and joyfully go skipping off to find an open door.  But I do know my Heavenly Father doesn't delight in putting obstacles in my way, anticipating some crazy door pounding, theatrical tantrum as I try without success to open a locked-and-thrown-away-the-key door.

So, I'm sorry, dear ones, I'm not praying for those doors to open.  They may.  I am, however, praying that you would see God's goodness and His plan for you in the midst of closed doors.  I'm praying that your faith would not waver; that your view of God would be accurate and genuine. I pray that you would see the new path for what it is; better than anything you could have imagined for yourself.

Press on!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Loving encouragement from moi



I'm not good with words of affirmation.  In the five love languages list it's all the way at the bottom of my list.  Right down there with physical touch.  Way down there.  Way, way down.  As in, you can't get any lower.



It's not that I can't think of encouraging words; it's that I think of too many words.  I would love to affirm the Good Doctor by saying, "Thank you for going to the grocery store for me," but then I would really have to follow it up with, "Too bad you got cherry M and Ms when I explained in great detail that what I wanted was a bag of Valentine M and Ms so I could make cookies and those cherry things are just gross.  Who ever heard of cherry flavored M and Ms?"  See?  I just don't think he would feel so affirmed after all that.  And I'd really like to say, "Thank you for volunteering to go back to the grocery store to get Valentine M and Ms so I can make cookies," but then I would definitely have to add, "But why would you buy me a whole bag of mini regular M and Ms rather than the requested Valentine M and Ms so now I have to go through the whole bag and pick out just the red ones for Valentine's Day?"  Just doesn't work well when all my life I've been told that if I have nothing nice to say I should say nothing at all.

And it's not much easier with the children.  I'd love to say, "What a lovely purse you made me out of jean pockets," but then in full disclosure I'd have to add, "I'll just put it with all of the other lovely trash-to-someone's?-treasure crafts you've made for me."  How crushing!  I couldn't possibly say that.  Or when I'd love to say, "That was so nice of you to leave the room before farting," but I'd have to follow it up with, "But you really should not have come back into the kitchen so soon afterward because your scent is killing off the guests."  Yes, sometimes it's better to say nothing at all.

So what's a mom to do when she knows she should be more encouraging?  Well, I'm working on it.  I'm much better at writing than speaking so when I saw an idea to write encouraging thoughts on hearts and post one each day from Feb. 1 - Feb. 14 on each child's door, I was on it!  I did enlist the Good Doctor's help in writing encouraging notes but that's because 14 words of affirmation times 6 children (the oldest and youngest missed out this time) equals... well, even I know it equals a lot of writing.  Someone did suggest that I should also include the Good Doctor, maybe even posting his hearts on our bathroom mirror but, well, maybe next year.

Instead, I'll just thank him for all his help with the hearts.  But you could have heeded my instructions to read my comments first so you didn't double up.  I had to redo half of them!

Oops, too many words.  Time to shut my mouth.

Happy Family Love Day to one and all!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Victor goes to kindergarten

No, he's not a child prodigy.

No, we didn't risk his immune system malfunctioning by taking him into the germ incubator called kindergarten.

But Eden's book about Victor has gone where Victor can't.

Two of Eden's books were bought Sandra, Eden's director from The Sound of Music.  The books flew


all the way out to California where they were welcomed by Sandra and her grandsons.  Yesterday

Sandra took one if those books into her grandson's kindergarten class and read it to the children.

When she finished the book and finally revealed to the children that Victor is blind, one little girl said, "But look at the the stuff his family does with him!" Sandra told the children that we will raise him to view his blindness as a minor inconvenience in his life, admitting that this may be over their heads, but it amazed their teacher.

Thank you, Sandra.  I am convinced that adults must teach children to value life, all life.  It starts with learning the value of ourselves.  There are so many ways to instill this in our children.  This is not blindly (pun intended) praising our children for everything imaginable. This does not necessitate participation trophies for everyone. It does mean we purposefully and diligently tell children, our own and those with whom we come in contact, that they are treasured just for being them. Write it down in a special note. Speak it to them. Often. Our children need to know that they were created by the God of the universe with love and thought and purpose.

It can't stop with valuing self; we also must teach our children to value others, to see every human being as a treasured person, also created by the God of the universe with love and thought and purpose.  We need to first model this to our children before we can try to teach it to them. Our words to and about others and our actions toward them, will speak louder than any lecture. We need to talk about what the world values and compare it to what God values. We need to help our children understand that we all have the need for love and attention and to feel valued. Bullies won't bully if they know they are

treasured.  Kids won't make fun of another child if they truly understand that all people, big and small, are made by God for a purpose.  I know it's not as simple as that but if we can start that process by taking Victor to kindergarten, I'm all for it.

You are valuable.  You are treasured.  You are important.  Believe it?  You need to.  Now take that message to one other person today. And another tomorrow... And the day after that...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Understanding, Part 2

Whoops, a whole week has gone by.  I could lie and say that it was on purpose so that I could go right from our first lesson on blindness into the second lesson, but that would be lying. So I won't.  No excuses.

Anyway, this morning we continued our journey into better understanding Victor's world.  I was excited when one child sat down and said, "I'm excited to find out what we're going to do today!" We started by talking about the word VALUE and placing value on people, all people.  I shared a post from one of my favorite blogs, a post where the mother of several children with special needs shares how God taught her the value of all life.

We then broke into two groups to practice using our senses to discern what's around us.  Half of us tried to identify the scent on a cotton ball (soy sauce, coconut extract, almond extract, vanilla, and lemon).  The other half played Memory with Victor's textured bean bags.  Remember all that fabric that people gave me to make Victor's Quilt of Many Textures?  His vision therapist had the great idea to use the remaining fabric to make bean bags, two of each, so that Victor can use them to play a Memory type game.  That's exactly what we did. Isaac discovered that depending on the fabric, the beans inside made different sounds and he relied on that sense more than his sense of touch.  He got them all correct!


Our next part of the lesson was on Braille and we started with a movie about Louis Braille and how at age 16 he invented the reading and writing system still used today, in many languages, all over the world.  We were fascinated by the simplicity of the code, yet struggled with the degree of difficulty in actually reading and writing with it.  Each child put the letters of their name in order (last week we outlined the letters with puffy paint), then practiced forming the letters by using tennis balls and baseballs in muffin tins and finally they wrote their names on paper using the Braille chart.




A few months ago, we studied bats together so it was great to find this video of a blind teenager who uses echolocation to successfully maneuver with the use of a cane or by holding his arms out to make his way.  Amazing!

Tune in next week for Part 3 of Understanding.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Understanding

"Feels like..."
"Oh, I know what it is."
"What is it?"
"I think it tastes better when I'm not seeing it."
"Mom, my pants are wet.  I mean, the bottom part of my pants are wet."
"Mommy, I don't have my plate."
"Can you feel it?"

If you had been at our house for snack on Tuesday morning, you would have heard these comments, questions, and more.  Along with another family, we are learning about several different life challenges like blindness, deafness, the physically handicapped, autistic, etc.  Born from a desire to have the children experience some of life from Victor's point of view, blindness is our first stop.

This week we learned about how the eye works and some of the things that can go wrong to cause visual impairment.

We experienced eating a variety of foods while blindfolded; pouring our own cup of water, eating pudding, opening a single serve bag of chips before eating, and a pancake with syrup.  It may have been the craziest combination of foods we've ever had a one sitting but the items were chosen with different tasks in mind.






I was happily surprised that each of the children agreed to participate with very little peeking.  They experienced spilled water and syrup that only flavored a tiny corner of the pancake because the child couldn't figure out how to guarantee full coverage.  They had sticky fingers and messes to clean up.  But they all dove right in with a willingness to be uncomfortable to better understand Victor's uncomfortableness.  And we talked about what dining might be like for him.

If you want to help your child understand what life will be like for Victor as he grows older, I'd love to share my lesson plans with you.  You could also prepare a meal for your family to eat while blindfolded.  Our vision therapist told me that sleep masks work best as blindfolds and we found them to be great for this purpose.

And then we let the kids watch a video of themselves eating while blindfolded. How fun to laugh at ourselves and to learn from some of our mistakes.

We also watched these youtube videos about blindness which you and your children might find helpful or interesting:

4 Tips You Can Learn From Blind People

Seeing Through the Lens

And then, completely of her own accord, Eden wrote this poem which shows her empathy toward those who struggle due to challenges they cannot control:

I Wish They Would See by  Eden King, Age 9

I wish they would see that they're not
much different from me.

They play games
And like some of the fames.

I wish people would see that they're not
much different from me.

They play in the sun
And have fun!!!!

I wish they would see that they're not
much different from me.

They have some fun
and run run run

I wish they would see that they're not
much different from me

I am me they are them
What would the world be if they would see?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The extinction of the birthday treat

When I was little, my mother made whoopie pies every October so that I would have an awesome treat to take into school to share with my peers for my birthday.  Truth be told, it was the only day of the year that most of the kids even payed attention to me.  And a mom who made whoopie pies for a birthday treat?  I'm pretty certain it didn't get any better than that.  There were a few unfortunate years when my brother chose Jell-O jigglers to take into school but then again, he didn't need a whoopie pie making mother to give him popularity points, he had plenty all the other 179 days of the year.

Imagine my thrill when I became a mother, knowing that I was going to be able to carry on the fabulous birthday treat tradition.  But then my children were born with minds of their own and not only did they, like my brother, not need whoopie pies to boost their self-esteem, they also didn't share my taste for exceptional home made goodies.  One year Jesse chose ice cream sandwiches.  Ice cream sandwiches.  You can't make ice cream sandwiches.  Well, I take that back.  Pinterest says that you can make ice cream sandwiches but since they don't have their roots in Amish cooking and can't be found in any authentic Mennonite cookbooks, I would be genetically unable to make home made ice cream sandwiches.  That was the worst trip to the grocery store I ever took.  To buy ice cream sandwiches for my son's school birthday treat.  And since it was in the same school that I had taught, a Mennonite school with Mennonite teachers who all knew that ice cream sandwiches cannot be homemade, I couldn't show my face for a week!

But then we started to homeschool and the annual birthday treat became a thing of the past.  Making dessert for the family is not the same thing as making a masterpiece to take into the classroom to impress the teacher and to thrill the students.  To make matters worse, even if our children had been in school, most schools have banned the best of these treats, somehow trying to brainwash parents into believing that carrot and celery sticks are treats and the new best way to celebrate your child's entrance into this world.  I'm not going to get into allergies and preferences and politically correct birthday treats, but I'm sorry, there is no way that you are going to convince me that a box of raisins is the best way to celebrate my child's birthday.  I'm so glad you were born, Son.  Here, take these grapes to school and tell your teacher how much I love you.  Whoopie pies, yes.  Ice cream sandwiches, maybe.  Crackers and hummus?  No.

So my daughter made me giddy with excitement today when she told us how at her school, they find all kinds of reasons to celebrate, and each celebration comes with treats from home.  Broke up with your boyfriend?  Don't worry, someone will lift your spirits the next day with cupcakes.  Want to do something enjoyable to mark the occasion of Fat Food Friday (not its real name but I was afraid if I used their real name for this day, I'd get too much hate mail)?  Take Puppy Chow or Pregnant Cookies. Want to celebrate a birthday?  You guessed it - take Whoopie Pies!  Her birthday isn't until May but I have already gotten her to sign a contract stating that I can make whoopie pies for her school birthday treat.  Welcome to arts school, the school where the rules are made up and the grades don't matter.  And where a mother can make whatever she wants to celebrate her child's life.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

THAT neighbor, too?

Thankfully, not everyone has a neighbor like that.  You know, the cranky, rude, curmudgeon in that house right next to yours.  But some of us do.  And some of us have.  Do you have to love that neighbor?  How do you love that neighbor?

We had one of those.  His name is Rob and he's still there.  We are not.  Rob is a rather large man with a very sweet, quiet wife.  She spoke to us only if Rob wasn't around; he spoke to us only when he was threatening us as in, "Keep your *^$%^&** kids off my property," and "Don't get your *&%#@$^&* lawn mower on my side of the line."  And when I say line, I mean line.  Rob actually pounded two stakes into the ground to mark the corners of our property and then he strung a line between the two.  It made it extremely difficult for us to make sure we mowed all of our property without taking the mower over the line (and he would know as he always made sure to stand right next to it while we mowed, towering over the poor soul pushing the mower, menacingly daring someone to go a millimeter over the line.  Heaven forbid if we had ever accidentally split that line with the mower.  If he happened to be home from work when the children and I were playing in the driveway or waiting for the bus at the end of it, he'd stand right there, just over his line, glowering at us.  One morning we woke up to find our pet rabbit dead and bloody, never confirmed but suspiciously not-from-natural causes. On several occasions he threatened to break our kids' *$#^*#@* legs, once standing outside our front door yelling at John while I herded the kids into a separate room and closed the door.  On those occasions, we called the police.  In fact, the neighbor on the other side of Rob, a very tiny postal worker with a heart of gold, caring for his ailing mother, also called the police after Rob pushed him.  Apparently, he got too close to the line on that side of the property.

Rob is clearly mentally ill.  At least that's the only way my mind can wrap around a person such as that.   We called the police when our children were so clearly threatened.  But the rest of the time?  That was my dream home, to be my forever home, and Rob was the only negative aspect of living there. We talked with our children about loving Rob even though we didn't like what he was doing.  We reminded them often to keep their play and toys far away from the dividing line. We tried to serve him in ways that didn't put our lives in danger.  If he was home, we shoveled snow just to the line.  If he wasn't, we shoveled the whole sidewalk around his property.  When we delivered cookies at Christmas, we left his at the door rather than wait until we knew he was home.  We also prayed for Rob.  We prayed that God would change his heart, that Rob would see our desire to do good.  We prayed for our safety.  And in full disclosure, I often prayed that Rob would get a job transfer and need to move to another city, far, far, away. Instead, God gave us the nudge that we should move our family to another job, another part of the state.  But Rob is still there.  When we drive our kids past the old house, we often see that infamous vehicle in the driveway, the one that brings feelings of dread all over again. I am thankful to know that there is another family still living in the neighborhood who regularly prayer walk the block and include Rob and his wife in their prayers.

So, yes, loving our neighbor in the general sense means we need to love the unlovable and our enemies, and the same applies to our actual neighbors, too.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Love your neighbor

One of the basic foundations of the Christian faith is, "Love your neighbor." We teach our children to follow these words and are very careful to model this mandate as well.  We spend a lot of time showing them that this doesn't mean neighbor neighbor, but giving them a broad definition of neighbor as anyone with whom you come in contact.

Somewhere along the way we forgot that neighbor can still mean neighbor.  We got so busy telling ourselves that neighbor means the homeless in the closest city, and the immigrants without family, and even the starving children a continent away that we forgot the people who live next to, across from, and two doors over.  Our neighbors.

When we moved here 10 years ago, we didn't plan to stay.  The move was so fast that in buying a home we were just looking for a suitable available building; we didn't have time to research neighborhoods, schools, and communities.  We just picked the best of the options given to us, packed up, and moved.  But it didn't take long to realize that God had placed us right where He wanted us.  And moving again seemed so daunting and labor intensive that we haven't visited that thought in years.

That doesn't mean that we wouldn't love more land (chickens?  yes!) or more kitchen counter space (it's better not to look around so as to avoid coveting) or more square footage (more bedrooms, anyone?) but we have replaced desire with love for our neighbors.  Maybe someday God will call us to move but for now, we're here for a reason.

Recently I invited several friends who love their neighbors well to come into my parenting class to talk about how they put this love into action.  As one of them so aptly reminded us, "These are your people," and that's how I want to remember my neighbors.  Yes, these are my people, this is where God planted us, so we will serve those planted around us.

Get your shovels, kids, we've got some work to do!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Go to school

My oldest daughter took her first school career sick day last week.

Keep in mind that this is only her second year of school.

She was quite proud of herself.

She obviously does not take after her mother who, by the end of her 11th grade year had perfect attendance in high school.  But after they announced to the whole student body the names of those who had such a record, and my name was one of only two in the 11th grade with such will-power and stamina and love of school (if only you could see my gagging face right now), I decided it was time for a change.  I no longer wanted to be associated with George McDermott (name changed to protect his privacy) who was the other 11th grader with what can only be described as a highly active immune system coupled with some inner drive to wake up and crawl out of bed 180 days out of a year (really, what was I thinking?), and likely fueled by a mother whose parenting philosophy included the theory that if you weren't throwing up you were healthy enough to get your derriere out that door and if you had just vomited then obviously you've gotten it out of your system so get yourself cleaned up and get out that door, your ride is in the driveway!

Something changed that on that awards ceremony day.  I suppose something snapped.  I could blame it on the teachers; if only they had given me some cool award like the Ms. Menno Award for Meek Mennonite-ism in Phys. Ed., or the Becky Stutzman Home-Ecky Award for Perfect Seams and Delicious Execution of Grandmother's Pot Pie Recipe in Home Ec Class, I might have come out with more motivation to excel.  But they gave me the award for perfect attendance.  With George.  And people laughed.  So on that day I vowed that I would never face such humiliation again.

To be certain that I did not go to school for the full 180 days of my senior year, I would have to strategically plan.  And plan I did.  Lo and behold, my efforts payed off.  Not only did I skip on senior skip day, but I also stayed home on another day just to be certain that there could be no mistaking - I was NOT to be awarded the honor of perfect attendance during all four years of high school.

But as we discussed this the other night around the dinner table, my children brought up a humbling thought; maybe, just maybe, if I had been the kind of student who aspired to be the best student attender (well, one of the best as there was still George to contend with), my life might have amounted to something.  With that kind of motivation, consistency and persistence, I could have labored in a lab until finding the cure to the most deadly cancers.  If I had been a student of ambition, steadfastness, and unflagging determination, I could have been the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  If I had only been driven, enterprising, and relentless, I just might have been the first female in space.

Alas, it didn't come to be.  All because I missed school during my senior year of high school.  It is with sincere apologies to my mom for my lack of teenage ambition, commitment, and dedication.  If I had only listened to her, stuck it out, stayed the course, and gotten my backside out that door every time she told me to do so, I might be somebody today.

So children of the world, here is my advice to you: Don't be like me and my daughter.  Be like George McDermott (name changed to protect his privacy), wherever he is today.  Get your whole self out of bed every morning of every school day, 180 days of the year, for four years.

Your Mama will be so proud.

And what, you ask, became of George McDermott (name changed to protect his privacy), school attender extraordinaire who did manage to get to school 720 days?  Well, a quick google search tells me that he's either senior geologist in some governmental agency, on some humanitarian board, or the owner of a veterinary hospital.  Of course he could also be the George McDermott (name changed to protect his privacy) in the police photo on google but that would go against every point I've trying to make so we'll assume that's the wrong guy; that man probably skipped school.  Be like the real George, go to school.