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!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Eyes to see and ears to hear

My husband took the kids to the beach yesterday. They'll be coming back in a few hours but while they were gone I was able to go through paperwork that's been sitting on my counter for months. Of course I was also able to go to my favorite frozen yogurt place for a bit of a treat, but that goes without saying. One of the things I found was a bulletin from a church we visited months ago. I had written down the questions asked by the pastor and meant to mull over them and answer them. Instead they got buried on the pile, surfacing every now and then for a quick read and momentary thought, only to be re-buried.

If you were to pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, how might God transform your outlook on your current reality? How will you invite God into your life experience this week? What choices will you make this week in order to value the needs to others rather than focus exclusively on your own needs?

Now I have brought them to the light once again and it's time to fulfill that promise to myself to not just read, but to act. I will pray for eyes to see and ears to hear. I will pray for a transformation of reality. I will invite God into my life experiences this week and I will make choices to value the needs of others rather than to focus exclusively on my own needs.

Here we go...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Staying in contact

One of the blessings of adoption is the addition of the child's birth family to your family. It is humbling to share the role of mommy with a child. There is this other woman out there who did what she could, within her emotional, physical, and financial means, to prenatally care for the child who now calls you, Mommy. I can only imagine, but never fully comprehend, what she goes through when making an adoption decision or when saying good-bye to her child.

Our arrangement with Victor's birth mother was that we would send letters and pictures monthly during his first year of life and then every three months thereafter. These letters go to the adoption agency who then sends them on to *Tracy. While still in the NICU we suggested to the social workers that it would be nice to update her daily if we could and that we'd love to establish a blog just for her. They agreed to ask Tracy this question and she said yes.

We are so thankful that she did. Last Wednesday I put March's letter in the mailbox. When I went back to the box later that day, I found February's letter had been returned, Return to Sender, Unclaimed, Unable to Forward. I was confused. I googled the agency and found that they had been shut down by the state in February. While this wasn't a shock as we had many concerns in our interactions with them, I was shocked to find out in this manner. I immediately sent Tracy a note through our blog, explained the situation, and asked her if she felt comfortable giving us her address. A few days later she responded and did give me her address. I was filled with relief knowing that this tie to Victor's birth family has not been severed.

How sad, though, for the many families who did not have such an arrangement. How many birth mothers are waiting for pictures of their children, not knowing what happened with the agency, and possibly thinking they have been abandoned by the adoptive family. And for Tracy, who has placed other children through this agency, she's left to wonder if she'll ever be able to regain contact and see pictures of the children she loves. Without last names, how are they ever going to find each other?

Thank you, Jesus, that we live in a time when open adoption is an option for birth families that want to stay in contact. Thank you for nudging us to set up a blog as means of connection with Tracy. Thank you, too, that we can continue to speak love and encouragement into her life. I pray that she knows she is loved and valued and pray that you, Jesus, would heal the areas of her life where she is hurting. I pray for miraculous intervention so that she can stay connected to her other children as well. Amen.

*Name changed to honor her

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dr. Seuss meets the Good Doctor's family

In the town of mechanics
Near the mountain of south
Lived a family of Kings
Who all ran at the mouth

So at this table of brown
'Neath a ceiling of white
We must all speak in rhyme
Never fear, it's just 1 night

Just to be nice
We'll give you 1 slip
Please do your best and
The fabulous prizes we'll skip

Dr. Seuss would be pleased
While on green eggs we dine
Enjoy your evening
But speak only in rhyme

With these words, we were ushered into another family night courtesy of Mariana and Isaac who planned the evening from the green delicacies to the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish... desserts, from the order to speak only in rhyme to the Lorax (and friends) inspired plantings, and finally ending with The Lorax himself.

Another fun aspect of the evening was the silverware - we weren't given any. Each of us was given two cooking utensils with which to eat our food. This called for great creativity in eating and possibly, more napkins than usual.

I think we would all agree that speaking in rhyme for a whole meal is exhausting. Two folks solved the problem by eating in silence, not a bad solution considering the amount of effort involved just to ask for the grapes to be passed.  And two children in this home are rhyme-challenged, one through age and the other through too many school transitions at a  younger age. The first just laughed, the second tried charades with his mouth closed. Sorry, Charlie, wrong meal to look for a deal. Jesse was a master, right up there with Dr. Seuss himself. And then we had the one who often sounded more like Shakespeare.  Definitely a fun evening!

The evening was fun
From food to crafts
Til next time comes around
We've got memories and laughs...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mysteries of home

There are many questions that just cannot be answered no matter how many years you study the issue.

Just where do all the matches to the socks go?

Why is it so difficult to turn light switches off when the action to do so is the exact opposite of the action to turn them on (an act which doesn't seem to be difficult at all)?

Why do you always find the missing library book the week after you give up and pay for it?

Why do children still insist, I put them in my closet, when it's clear that the shoes aren't there? And then they act mortified when you respond with, Well, then, they must have walked away. Where do you think they might have gone?

And most recently: How can your child own 6 pacifiers but at any given time, you have to scramble to find just one? But then in the morning, you can mysteriously find 4 of them under that same child's bed (and you know they weren't there the night before because you were frantically looking for them)? I've never had a pacifier-addicted child before so this is new investigative territory for me.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Remember when...

"Remember that time when..."

Yeah, how could we forget? Do we look exhausted? We should. I know for myself, I didn't sleep for days leading up to that event. And I lost 5 pounds that weekend. I also recall that I forgot to pack my hair gel. It's funny what you remember.

Will we look back on the experience with fondness?  I think most of us do. What purpose did it serve? I don't know although I do know that we were supposed to be there. There was definite confusion and disappointment afterward but fond memories, too...

The thrill of the phone call and later the email
Playing in Times Square, having passers-by think we're famous, and getting their pictures taken with us
Seeing the inner workings of television
Having so many friends in the first row, loudly (obnoxiously?) cheering us on and knowing that family members were in the back doing the same thing
Seeing the crowd standing and hearing them chanting so that we couldn't hear ourselves play
The roar of the crowd and the ovation at the end
The woman who came up to me on the sidewalk, pointed her finger in my face and said, "I know why you're called The King's Strings.  I know. And it doesn't have anything to do with your last name. I saw the Holy Spirit on that stage with you when you were playing.  I know."

When we're old and gray, and sitting around chatting about "the good old days," these are the things that will make us say, "Remember when..."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On Guadeloupe and plagiarism

My dad volunteers to visit with residents of a nursing in the area where I grew up. Recently a new man moved in and my dad began to get to know him on his weekly visits. In their conversations, he found out that this man's wife was one of my junior high teachers.

"Do you remember Mrs. X?" he asked me on my last trip home.

I smiled. Do I remember Mrs. X? Junior high social studies. A classroom in the newly built addition. Yes, I remember Mrs. X.

I remember her dark, wavy hair, her ready smile, and her bubbly personality. It's interesting that this is the picture I have of Mrs. X because my one memory of junior high social studies is not a pleasant memory.

We were studying the countries of the world that year. At some point we were assigned the task of choosing a country for extensive research. I don't know how other students went about the process of choosing a country but I went to my bedroom where I had a cabinet my dad had made to house the many dolls in my doll collection.
The collection, then and now, with some unknown girl standing in front

A doll collection isn't all that unusual but this collection was not filled with porcelain or collector's dolls. Instead, it was full of dolls from around the world, carefully selected and lovingly donated by friends and family as they traveled to places far and near. I chose one of my favorites at the time, a doll from Guadeloupe.

Not good at taking tests, and finding that junior high math was beyond my numeric capabilities, writing was something that I enjoyed and at which I could succeed so I spent a significant amount of time on this assignment. I checked out numerous books from the library. I read and took laborious notes. And I wrote. Boy, did I write. On the due date, I turned my paper in with much pride.

A few days later it was returned, with a Big Fat C written across the last page. A C? I couldn't believe it. This would have been a welcome grade on a math assignment, but a writing assignment? And one in which I had spent so much time and effort? When I finally read her small print, I found that she had given me a C for plagiarism. I knew what plagiarism was. I also knew that I had not plagiarized at all. A strict rule follower every moment of my life, I had taken pains to make sure I did not plagiarize. In fact, if at any point during my writing I was afraid I had mistakenly plagiarized even a phrase, I would go back and change it, just to be sure. Yeah, I was that OCD about it. So to be accused of something that I would never even consider, and took great pains to avoid, left me speechless and confused.

For the first and only time in my life, my mom went to bat for me. I'm thankful that I wasn't raised in an airport with helicopter parents but I'm also thankful that my mom chose that instance to stand up for me. We went back to the library, checked out all the books I had used for my report, and took them to school for Mrs. X to determine if it was my own writing or if it had come directly from the book.

A few days later the verdict was in, an A for my effort but after all I had gone through to get there, it didn't come with pride or satisfaction in a job well done.  I was embarrassed. I was frustrated and I was confused. I couldn't understand why someone would accuse me of such action and I felt like she saw some type of character flaw in me to assume that I would do so. It took me years to realize the compliment that Mrs. X inadvertently gave to me by grading that paper and accusing me of plagiarism.

And even though I've never been there, Guadeloupe is forever engraved on my memory.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Goodie bags

Recently, I was driving through an urban area with Eden and HopeAnne. Stopped at a traffic light, a homeless person crossed the street in front of us, pushing a grocery cart. We talked about what it meant to be homeless, what items might be contained in that cart, and why a person might be homeless. I told the girls that I know someone who keeps goodie bags filled with hygiene products and snacks in her car. Whenever she sees a homeless person, she stops and hands out one of her goodie bags. That's all Eden needed to hear.

"Mom, I think that's what I want to do with the money from PopPop and MomMom."

Uh-oh. This one is way out of my comfort zone. But it's her money and she was told to use it for anyone but herself. But this means that someone will have to go with her. And what if we can't find any homeless people?  Good try, but you just saw one. But that could be dangerous. Maybe. But you're the one who's always preaching that we should go out of our comfort zones, step out of the boat, care for the least of these. I meant orphans, cute little babies you can feed, and comfort, and cuddle. Well, wouldn't the homeless fall under some type of orphan category? This was the argument going through my mind in the seconds before saying, "Sure, that's a great idea."

When we got home, she made her list. We went online and found some other ideas. She added to her list.

We went shopping.

She organized and filled bags. She made cards.

We prayed over those bags and their recipients.

And then yesterday, Eden, Mariana, and the Good Doctor took a little trip into the city.  First they found Don, the homeless man Mariana has come to know as she goes to and from her arts school every day (and yes, when she first told me about the man for whom she bought a bagel, I was a little concerned, until I remembered this is what we've raised her to do). They chatted, they handed him a bag, he thanked them over and over.  And then Eden said, "Can I pray for you?" He agreed and so right there, she prayed for him.

This is what happens when you teach your children to love with a Crazy Love, to act radically, and to love the least of these. This is living purposefully. This is letting God's light shine through you; following the nudge. This is being the hands and feet of Jesus, in the body of a 9 year old.

Monday, March 24, 2014

When you take a girl shopping...

One day HopeAnne and I went on a shopping spree.  She took such great delight in roaming the aisles. She was side-tracked a few times, looking at baby boy clothes, peeking over the racks at something in her size, but ultimately she remained true to her mission, to buy pajamas.  She found the racks she was looking for and then her shopping frenzy began. She pulled off first one pair, then another, and then another, while I frantically tried to keep track of the monetary tally in my head.

Why, you might ask, did I allow my child to spend so much money on pajamas? Because the pajamas were not for her, not even one single pair.

This month we are organizing a service project to donate items to our county's Children and Youth services. These are the forgotten people in the foster care and adoption world. These are the ones who see so much "ugly" on a daily basis. These are the ones who often have to be the bearers of bad news to innocent children. They are the ones who work in a profession with such a high burn out rate. So I called them one day and asked: How can we help you? The woman on the phone said that they need backpacks and pajamas to give to children who come into foster care. She said that they need diapers for the families with very young children. And so my parenting class is collecting these items this month. When HopeAnne heard about it, she immediately wanted to participate. She had some money that she had been given for Christmas, then told she had to use for someone else. This is what she chose to do with it.

If there is anyone local who would like to join us in collecting these items, please let me know. We are collecting until April 6 and then I will deliver them on April 7. We are also collecting baked goods and treats that I can give to the social workers on that day. A little something to thank them for advocating for the least of these. If you aren't local you might consider calling your own area Children and Youth and asking them what their needs are.

And my HopeAnne, once a foster child herself, doesn't yet fully understand her connection to the children who will receive these pajamas she so lovingly picked out. She doesn't understand that a file with her name on it once sat in an office similar to the one where these pajamas will be stored, waiting for another child who so desperately needs to find hope and a future. She may not fully understand now, but as she grows and matures, I pray that she will continue to have compassion for the least of these, that she will continue to bring hope to the hopeless.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Big Houdini

It's hard to believe it's a little less than a year since we received the email that started with these words:

"I'm sending a unique situation over.  _________ had a hispanic baby boy on April 13th. She has named him Noah. He weighed 1lb 13oz and is in the NICU. [Birthmother] has already relinquished but is still in our birth mother housing until she chooses a family. I texted her case worker today for an update on Noah. Last I heard, he was surprising all the nurses & nicknamed the little fighter in the NICU. He is a little famous cutie in there with with an adorable head of dark hair." 

"Little fighter" was just one of his many NICU nicknames. The Vic-man, Mr. Victor, Peanut, Little Peanut, and the list goes on and on. In those first days it seemed that each new person I met had a special name for this special baby boy.

One of the feats Victor was known for was wriggling out of the positions his nurses so lovingly placed

him in, surrounding him with bumpers and pads to contain and keep him comfortable. His favorite

position was on his belly but he'd kick and stretch his legs and push himself up and over the carefully
placed positioners.  On more than one of these occasions, Little Houdini was what he was called.

Well, Little Houdini is now Big Houdini. He's still exceptionally strong despite his prematurity. And that bouncy seat where I used to place him when I needed to contain him? Not going to work anymore as Houdini has figured out not only how to take off the toy bar but also how to push himself up into almost a standing position, giving himself more leverage to throw himself back against the seat and make it bounce down to the floor and rebound with a vengeance.  Oh well, it was fun and useful while it lasted.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

That game

"Mom, we played Amazon Woman tonight."

Three of my teen boys excitedly told me all about this great game they played at their Youth Hang Out Night.

"What's that?" I asked the first child who shared his new favorite game.

"It's where the guys all link arms and get into a tight ball and then the girls need to try to pull us apart."

"Oh, I know that game. I played that when I was younger."

Silence. Shock. Each young man flabbergasted that this game had been invented in the Stone Ages and trying to picture their mother participating in it.

"Yeah, it's true. Only we didn't call it Amazon Woman."

"Well then, Mom, what did you call it?"

"That game where half of you link arms and get into a tight ball and then the rest of the group needs to try to pull them apart."

Again silence.

"That's lame.  But I bet you were great at that game, Mom."

"You think? I bet I was better at finding an excuse to leave the room just when the stupid get-to-know-you games were about to start so I didn't have to participate."

Just another day of learning at the Kings. Yes, we did have games when I was young.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hello there...

I am borrowing this from a bunch of fine folks who each borrowed it from someone else. You can see all the credits here.  Originally the inspiration came from this:

Hello there...

i am daughter, grand-daughter, wife, and Mom 

i keep meticulous notes, lists, and files 

i wish I would stop wishing for things 

i love my crazy, hilarious, and unique family

i dance? Only at weddings but I wish I could be free to dance in celebration and worship 

i sing? Only if no one is listening 

i think we're all here to make a difference in whatever corner of the world we've been placed 

i really love my crazy, hilarious, and unique family 

i need sleep and time 

i should give my house a thorough cleaning and weeding out of stuff 

i can sew 

i like a really good book that I can't put down (and time to read it) 

i make cakes, cookies, and other sweets the good ole' fashioned from-scratch way

i always keep my promises and if for some reason I can't, I will be more upset than you

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Two Sisters Day Spa, revisited

Way back in 2011, I wrote a review of the Two Sisters Day Spa. While they have remained in business since that time, their hours have been erratic and I do think they've gone out of business and reopened numerous times. Yesterday, however, I received word early in the morning that they'd be open for a short time and that I was going to be the recipient of a free spa treatment.  According to the sign I found on my kitchen table, the spa was free only if your name is Mommy.

I'll take it!

So later in the day, after all work was done, I was led to the waiting area complete with magazines.

The selection wasn't so great, ESPN, Running, and Birds and Blooms, the latter of which must have been from their very first salon because it was dated 2010. I have no idea where they found such a thing, maybe in their family's box reserved for magazines which you can cut up for school projects.

As I was the only one in the waiting room, and the first on their schedule for the day, I can say that the wait time at Two Sisters Day Spa is better than any other facility to which I've had an appointment.

First there was a leg massage. Let me add that there are two great reasons to frequent this spa over others. First of all, they don't make fun of winter white legs. Secondly, pets are allowed.

Then bilateral hand massages. Another reason to return to this particular spa: The attire on the owners is unique and unforgettable.

And last but not least, a soak in the "foot massage thingie" as referenced on the spa's services board.  Thanks to whomever dropped this item off on our porch with the note, "Enjoy your pedicure." The two sisters of Two Sisters Day Spa did offer me a pedicure but I declined.

Mr. Victor was next on their list.

One of the two sisters, spa co-owner turned amateur photographer attempted to capture his delight but was successful mostly in taking 20 pictures of the top of his head.

The Good Doctor was next on their list and then their final client for the day opted out, claiming smelly feet. I'll leave you to decide to whom the stinky feet belonged.

Here's hoping they're open for business again soon!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

They got nothin'

My high school friend, Kym, used to say that I lived in the boonies. It wasn't really the boonies, but compared to her neighborhood, I suppose there were fewer houses and more farms.

Then I went to a college which really was in the boonies.  No stop light, no McDonald's.

So I guess it stands to reason that when this girl who lived in the boonies went to the city for a weekend, she wasn't prepared to know how to keep her valuables safe.

John and I had treated ourselves to tickets to a Michael Card concert. We later chose one of Card's songs to be sung in our wedding so that and the concert itself, are wonderful memories.

The rest of the time there, not so much. We weren't far from John's sister and her husband so we spent some time with them and had dinner out together. I hated carrying a purse so as we pulled into the parking lot, I did what I usually did, I shoved my purse under the seat.

Just after we had been seated there was an announcement at the restaurant, asking for the owner of the vehicle with license plate ______ to come to the front desk. The license plate was mine so my brother-in-law went to check it out.  He came back with not-so-great news.

Someone had smashed the passenger side window and stolen the purse. I was a poor college student so the only money in the purse was a few coins. The credit card was quickly canceled. Of biggest concern to me were my stolen ID and keys. I knew that the likelihood of the perpetrator(s) driving several hours to my dorm or 12 hours to my home was highly unlikely, but they did have my addresses and keys and I had a vivid imagination.

Several days later I received a phone call on the lone dorm floor phone (no cell phones, people!). My purse had been found in a dumpster not far from the restaurant. Everything was in it, including the few cents worth of change and the credit card we had already canceled. The cops explained that they were likely only looking for cold, hard cash.

Then they probably shouldn't have chosen a poor college student to rob. They got nothin' and I got a smashed car window but I also got a story.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Our Lenten reading, A Place at the Table:4 Days of Solidarity with the Poor by Chris Seay, had us pondering Thanksgiving on St. Patty's Day. Admittedly we are a few days behind so technically this theme wasn't supposed to coincide with the March holiday, but it did for us. The day's reflection was on entitlement and the suggestion that a remedy for entitlement is thanksgiving. 

We were introduced to Chesterton's quote in the book and I had the children copy it into their journals. We talked about it and pondered its meaning. It was a little difficult for the seven year old to understand but after we discussed it, she was able to see the relevance to thankfulness. In her journal she then wrote:

"I am thakfoll for hoo fast i run and foo hoo good i am at gymnastics and for mi frands and misalf." (For those who don't read invented spelling, let me interpret: I am thankfull for how fast I run and for how good I am at gymnastics and for my friends and myself.")

I was pleased at how quickly the older children could fill a page with all that they were thankful for.

Anne Voskamp must be reading the same book we are, and must be similarly behind in her readings, or maybe she was just feeling the need to be thankful because her blog post yesterday fit right in with this theme. 15 Ways to Happier Grateful Kids. Who doesn't want that, right? Maybe it should have been titled 15 Ways to Happier Grateful Moms?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Children's clothing

A long time ago, before I had children, long before the days of Pinterest, back in the days when the mailbox would be overflowing with magazines of every kind, I had a file in my cabinet labeled Children's Clothing. I would pull out pictures from high end children's clothing magazines and keep them in the hopes that someday I would make similar styles for my children. You know, matching outfits, lots of ruffles, bow ties, and lace.

And I did make a few. Very few. But because I had children, there was no time to make all those fancy things I had my eye on. Instead, the few outfits I did make ended up being very simple or better yet, practical.

One year for Christmas, I made Mariana matching clothes for herself and her American Girl doll; a set of matching PJs, and matching prairie dresses.

Of course they were handed down to the next girl in line who is enjoying them just as much. Or maybe I'm the one enjoying them just as much.

Growing up, my mom made most of my school and church clothes. While some girls were embarrassed to wear handmade clothes, I loved mine. She always added an extra little something to make it unique. She'll tell you that she doesn't know how to sew and that these outfits were nothing special but to me they were. It was always fun to watch my cousins' school pictures through the next several years because as those outfits were handed down, each often had their turn being worn for a school picture. My only disappointment is that none of those outfits are still around; I'd love to see my girls wear some of them, at least when they were young enough and still wore what I wanted them to wear.

I think I finally threw that old Children's Clothing file away. I gave up on having the time to sew those illustrious outfits. And my children, living in a day when dressing up isn't what it used to be (My mom made me dress up to go to Phillies games! But that's a story for another day), probably wouldn't have wanted to wear those fancy fixings for long anyway.  There's always grandchildren. And there's always Pinterest.

Maybe someday...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Do you see what I see?

The other morning while taking a walk, a woman passed us and as usual, commented on the cute baby in the stroller. In a grandmotherly tone, she reminded all of us that the sun was in the baby's eyes. We looked at each other but none of us felt it necessary to correct the woman or to blurt out, "He's blind," to a total stranger. Instead, we said nothing.

As I've said before, the most frequently asked question is whether or not Victor can see anything at all. The ophthalmologist has said since last August that he didn't believe Victor could see anything, not even light. He based this upon his exams where he would shine a light in Victor's eyes. Victor would not flinch or squint or squirm or make any reaction at all.

While we didn't like admitting it, this was our observation as well. I have taken Victor outside in the bright sunlight and seen his eyes roll up toward the sun with no reaction. I have fed him in front of a window and moved in and out of the sunlight to see if his pupils would react and they did not. There were those times in the beginning when we felt like he got excited when the Christmas lights were turned on but that was just explained away as our own wishful thinking and Victor's excitement to be playing on his back.

On Friday, we visited a park while waiting for Andrew to finish his last class before spring break so we could head home. Just before leaving I put Victor down on his back to change his diaper. I even thought to myself, It's awfully sunny but it won't matter to Victor.  But then I noticed something. Isaac was standing above him and was partially blocking the sunlight. When Isaac moved and the sun fully hit Victor's face, he squished his eyes closed. I told Isaac to stand there again, and then to move out of the way again. Victor again clearly closed his eyes tight against the light. John came over and observed the same thing. He ran for his ipad so we could document this reaction.

Back in the van we told the just-awakened Mariana about what happened. She nonchalantly said, "Oh yeah, the same thing happened to me this morning." She explained that when she fed him breakfast, they were sitting in front of a row of full length windows and the sun was shining in. He was fussing and not eating. She wondered whether it was the sun in his eyes so moved him and sure enough, he calmed down and started eating.

When Heidi Baker prayed over Victor, her words were that his healing would be a progression. And last week at church, there were more prayers for Victor's ultimate healing.

These are the things that make you go, Hmmmm..... and ponder them in your heart.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


As I've traveled through various slices for the March Slice of Life Story Challenge,

I have found several teachers who are currently reading R.J. Palacio's Wonder to their class. I was drawn to these posts first of all because this is our current read-aloud and secondly because I love to hear of teachers who are using literature to help their children understand differences.

Caution: This post contains a spoiler. I included it because I believe it is not going to ruin the book for anyone, but want you to be forewarned.

As a young girl who already knew she wanted to be a teacher and a high school student who explored various opportunities working with students with special needs, my heart will always be for the downtrodden, the bullied, and those who struggle in any way. Exposing my children to stories with these themes is a priority for me.

I've wanted to read Wonder to them since it was published. Several times I put myself on the library's waiting list, only to have it arrive when we were in the middle of another book and not ready to begin. Then I'd have to return it in two weeks with no chance of renewal since it was still on hold for someone else. And of course I had that three month sabbatical when I was in Utah with Victor. When we started our until on blindness, we also started reading Wonder together. Finally!

Just as everyone told me, and as I continue to read on the current blogs, the book is an excellent read. Every child should be exposed to August and his experiences as a 5th grader in school for the first time,  enduring the cruel treatment of others in response to his facial deformities. Of course, in the wonderful world of literature, by the end of the book, there are those who see him for who he truly is. Life doesn't always turn out that way but if we can change the hearts of a few of our children toward others, maybe we can make the world a better place for the Augusts of this world. This is my theme as I read this book, and others like it, with my children.

Other books we have enjoyed together on the topic of understanding differences of many kinds:

Betti on the Highwire by Railsback
Flying the Dragon by Lorenzi
Home of the Brave by Applegate
Hurt Go Happy by Rorby

I'd love to hear about others!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Traveling with Kings

Traveling as a party of 8 is always interesting. So is traveling as a party of 10 but that doesn't happen as much anymore. Of course traveling as a party of 8 for 60 hours in a week and a half was beyond description but I wasn't on that trip so you'll have to ask the rest of my family. This trip is 18 hours round trip to see Andrew in Kentucky, to celebrate his birthday with him, and to bring him and a friend home for spring break. 8 people traveling to Kentucky, 10 people going back home.

One of our biggest hurdles is deciding what to listen to; radio or CD and if CD, which one and who gets to pick it? This time the problem was solved by taking turns.  So this was our listening pleasure:

Les Miserables radio theater Disc 1
Little Women radio theater Disc 1
Les Miserables radio theater Disc 2
Squanto Disc 1
Les Miserables radio theater Disc 3

If you took a nap or weren't paying attention, you could wake up in a whole new country, a completely different time period, or even speaking a different language. And somehow, other than Les Miserables, we never got to finish a story. It's a good thing we've heard them so many times that we can recite sections verbatim.

Games are always fun, especially with our age spread. We tried Encore, giving a word and needing to sing as many lines from songs that contain that word.  We also tried story telling with pictures I pulled from magazines. The story starting with the picture of a girl sleeping in a car (I wonder where that inspiration came from?), went on to include monsters, a lamb and a chick who were friends, a Sunday at church where the sermon was about fire in the belly (yes, that was a picture from a magazine), a dead plant that turned into a bird which turned into a rock.

And of course you have to have fabulous prizes and since this is America, we all won - an all expense paid trip to Kentucky!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

10 things right now...again

When I wrote my first 10 Things Right Now, I mused that it might become a series of posts, celebrating each of my children right now.  So today, in honor of my eldest's birthday, I write for him.

10 Things Right Now - for Andrew

1. If you are truly 19 today, then that makes me old. Then again, 20 would make me ancient. Let's wait a year for that.

2. Clean your room; I'm on my way.

3. You bought your first car and it's sitting in our driveway at home. Enjoy it and be safe!

4. I think you have watched more movies in the past 6 months than I have watched in my entire life. Since you're a film major, I guess that's a good thing. Just think, if you took up a hobby like crocheting or knitting, you could get so many projects done during all that movie watching.

5. I miss your sarcasm and sense of humor around the house.

6. You are allowing all of us to come to Kentucky to visit you at college. You're brave. We considered standing outside of your class to wave and call and thoroughly humiliate you as you exited but that was quickly voted down.

7. You made the transition from high school to college very well. You were ready to go, you needed to go, and you are thriving.

8. You are the greatest oldest brother. Your younger siblings look up to you. They love when you call them. They are thrilled to finally see where you live and work and go to school.

9. You are going to be an RA next year. Congratulations on that honor. You probably don't want to hear this, but in that regard, you're a chip off both parental blocks.

10. I am so proud to call you my son. Even if you are making me older. Have a great day!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Two children received piano lessons as a Christmas gift this past year. It may seem like a strange gift as you don't ever hear commercials touting, "Piano lessons, the gift that keeps on giving as they have to practice...and practice...and practice..." And I think our children are getting used to slightly strange gift getting since we've tried to simplify the seasons. But for these two children, this seemed like the perfect gift. At least one of them plans to major in music and I knew from my own experience that music theory made so much for sense as a pianist than it did as a violinist.

The other night as I sat on the sofa listening to one of them practice his lesson, I was taken back to my own days of piano lessons. I didn't start at the piano until I was in 8th grade. I can imagine my parents' thoughts in reaction to my constant begging, "We have to remind her to practice her violin everyday, why would we add another instrument?" So I was told I would have to wait until 8th grade. At that time I could also choose to discontinue the violin if I wished.

I went to a local music store to study piano with Jane. Unbeknownst to me, the girl who was to become my best friend took flute lessons from the same woman. Poor Jane; once Kym and I met, her life was never the same. She was the perfect teacher for me; understanding that I didn't plan to be a concert pianist but just wanted to play for personal enjoyment. But sometimes she was probably too easy on us, turning the other way when it was obvious we hadn't practiced and allowing us to take her on tangents with colorful stories when we were trying to avoid a lesson for which we weren't prepared.

My favorite story about Jane was the year she decided to have a contest. I can't remember the exact nature of the contest but I believe it included a practice chart. With little work on our own part, Kym and I were neck and neck the whole way through the contest. And at the end? We both won in a tie which I'm certain Jane orchestrated from the start. I still remember that my prize was a t-shirt with a piano and Kym's had a flute.

I've often thought it would be fun for the two of us to reconnect with Jane. We were trying to do that about ten years ago but her husband was in the midst of a serious illness and it didn't work out. Maybe t's time to pursue tat again. Jane not only taught me to play the piano but she modeled a love for life.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A or B?

"Have a great time," the Good Doctor said to me as I was bidding him farewell.

"John, I'm going to the eye doctor."

"Well, at least it's not the dentist."

He had a point there.

The problem with the eye doctor is first of all, it takes too much time. There aren't too many days where I have an hour and 45 minutes to sit in a little room, mostly just waiting for my eyes to dilate. I guess this wouldn't be quite so bad if I could actually get a little reading in. But of course the act of dilation renders this past time impossible.

The worst part about going to the eye doctor, however, is that it makes me feel like an idiot.

"Which is better, A or B?"

"Could you repeat that please?"

"A or B?  B or A?"

"I'm not sure. One more time, please."

"Which is better, A or B?  B or A?"

"They're about the same?"

This is a simple question. I should know the answer. But I sit there. Trying to figure out if A is better or if B is better. And then they throw in C.

And I just want to go home. Without the super stylin', you're lyin' to me wrap around, place inside your glasses, sunglasses.

But I can't. Until I know which is better. A.... or B....?  B.... or A....?  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!