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. Have fun!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Good cop/good kid

As a transracial family, we are aware that there are some topics and issues which some of our children will face that The Good Doctor and I have never had to face. I often turn to blogs and Facebook groups to help us navigate this world in which we find ourselves. Unfortunately, too many of these sources write from a place of bitterness, unforgiveness, and hatred. While we can certainly understand these feelings, I know for certain that no one can live a very fulfilling life when a person's life comes from those roots. We are thankful for friends and biological family members that can speak candidly with our children, sharing from their own experiences. We are also thankful that these friends and relatives can speak from a place of peace, joy, and contentment, despite the injustice and racism that they have experienced.

In the midst of posts and news reports of hatred and racism, I think it's important that we share positive experiences of acceptance, love, and community between races.

We live in a fairly white community. Our 14 year old son, from Kenya, had an interesting experience recently that not only renewed my feelings of trust in our local police department but also serves as an excellent example that even though the news may be mostly negative, when it comes down to it, the world really is filled with people of good intention and acceptance. It needs to be shared to remind us all that we can find good around us. And each of us needs to be reminded to treat others as we would want to be treated.

Shoun was riding his bike home from work last week and was startled to find himself being motioned over by a police officer parked on the side of the road in front of him. He lives a fairly sheltered life in our home, community, church, and schools and has so far been immune to racism. But we've talked about it, and older friends and relatives have told him their stories. He was so scared that he was still visibly shaking when he arrived home soon after.

Imagine his surprise when the officer, who is white, merely applauded him for wearing his bike helmet when legally Shoun did not need to do so at his age. The officer took down Shoun's address with the promise that he would return at some point to treat Shoun to Italian Ice at a local shop. Though shaken, Shoun relayed this story with a huge smile from ear to ear. Not only did the police officer keep his promise, but the owner of the shop provided coupons for the treat. And every time we ask Shoun to share his story with someone else, the smile comes back, even bigger than before.

I don't know if that police officer has any idea the impression he made on Shoun and on our whole family. He did something that he didn't have to do for a teen-ager, a teen-ager who fits the profile that on the news is too often at odds with the police. This officer went above and beyond in a simple yet profound statement of acceptance and community.

And since wearing a helmet is an argument we've had more than once in the four years Shoun has lived here, well, let's just say it was a win in the reinforcing parental values category, too.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The most expensive dinner/weekend ever

The following is based on actual events. Names have been changed and any likeness to real people or places is merely coincidental.

This is the tale of The Most Expensive Dinner Ever that turned into The Most Expensive Weekend Ever.

It started off just like any weekend should when you are heading to Kentucky to see your son win a Student Production Award. The babysitter arrived at 4:30 in the morning and we were on the road by 5:00. We did have a slight complication the day before when we realized that the best-running car in the King collection needed new brakes so we would have to go with Choice #2. But at least we didn’t have to take the King Bus.

We were enjoying the conversation with our New York City-traipsing eldest when, with only an hour and a half to go, we heard a noise, something seemed to be lodged in the right brake for a brief moment, and then the noise stopped. We briefly discussed the situation, all three of us deciding that it was no more than a branch that had been caught under the car, and continued our conversation.

And then The Good Doctor announced, “Battery light is on.” Then, “I’m overheating.” (He meant the car was overheating but within moments I’m sure he was starting to do the same.) Soon after, “All the lights are lighting up here.”

I’ve made this trek to Kentucky before. I know that there are miles and miles of nothingness with nary an exit in sight. There was that time Andrew and I were driving to college and the car needed gas. When we finally did locate a gas station (according to the GPS), we got off the exit and drove 5 miles before finding out that the gas station had closed years before and was already overgrown with brush.

But that was not our fate this time. Olive Hill was just around the corner and up the hill (obviously). By this time driving without power steering, we drove into the first  gas station where we found it was, indeed, no longer in operation (seemingly a common occurrence in Kentucky where presumably fewer and fewer people are needing gas for their vehicles?) but just up the hill a little farther there was a bp.

We pulled in with high hopes that lifting the lid and pouring a little of this here and a little of that there we’d soon be on our way, and a bathroom break for the humans for good measure. No problem. This is why we left at 5AM. We have a few hours to spare.

But The Good Doctor, pastor extraordinaire-turned car mechanic wanna-be, lifted the hood, ran a King’s Diagnostics Test and declared, “We’re gonna need a rental.”

Without smart phones, in the middle of Nowhere, Kentucky, at the only gas station without indoor plumbing, a knowledgeable attendant, or wifi.

Andrew taking over the typing: The attendant wasn’t the most friendly, either. The conversation went something like this.

Us: Excuse me, what exit are we on?

Attendant: I don’t know.

Us: We just need to know to tell the towing company.

Attendant: I don’t know.

Us: There is a major US highway that direction right?

Attendant: Yes.

Us: You get a lot of visitors driving through?

Attendant: Yes.

Us: What exit do they get off of to get here?

Attendant: I don’t know.

Us: Did you watch the baseball game last night?

Attendant: Yes.

Us: Who’s on First?

Attendant: I don’t know.

Us: Third base.

At that point, Dad and I went inside to check for rental and tow truck info. We got a bunch of numbers, went outside and began calling every Enterprise and Rent-A-Car in the area (including U-Haul, we were desperate). You know those Enterprise commercials that say “Pick Enterprise, we’ll pick you up,”? They should be replaced with the line “We’ll pick you up, unless you are in Olive Hill, Kentucky on a Saturday afternoon, then you’re on your own and you better remember where your friends in Kentucky live, if you even have friends in Kentucky.”

Fortunately, I have friends in Kentucky. Unfortunately I didn’t remember where they live. I started by calling famous celebrities in Kentucky, but J-Law was filming something in LA, William Shatner was out on a horseback ride, Josh Hutchinson was trying to grow taller and Johnny Depp was getting into character for his next Tim Burton role. With all the celebrities busy, I started calling as many KY Asbury students as I knew. I played phone tag for a while, calling Kentucky friend after Kentucky friend who couldn’t help but could point me to other Kentucky friends.

Me again: I prayed. God, let us get there in time for the red carpet. That’s all that matters here. In the meantime, send us a miracle that will get us there.

Spotting these men on horses coming down from the olive-less hills, I thought our miracle had arrived. Maybe we could start a new tradition of nominees arriving at the Emmys in and on unique transportation devices. At the least, we could be the subject of someone’s winning entry for next year. But alas, they bought their cigarettes and left. Without us.

About this time it was a toss up as to which one of us would take up smoking ourselves and use the conveniently placed gas station ash tray. Since we were in KY though, we took up dip instead.

It was time to start considering how I was going to look unshowered, with baseball cap, and fancy schmancy dress.

The miracle showed up in an Escape driven by the very handsome, winsome, chivalrous, courteous, muscular, Dwayne Johnson look-alike, film connoisseur we’ll call simply, “Coop”. Because that was his name.

About this time we received a text from the babysitter who had braved Chocolate World with one world class runner, one rule follower, and one very difficult yet adorable visually impaired blind child. It seems as if she had misplaced her keys and was wandering around the Hershey parking lot with formerly named crew in tow. Yeah, it was one of those days.

Coop ushered us into his Miracle Mobile and provided lively and entertaining conversation as he drove us the hour and a half where we could pick up our rental at the Lexington airport, the only place where we could find an Enterprise in all of Kentucky that does operate on a daily schedule, even on Saturdays.

(The Good Doctor assures me that we will call AAA and get signed up first thing in the morning.)

With all of our belongings now transferred into the very modern rental car (It doesn’t have a key. Who knew such a thing even existed?), and Coop sent on his way with a gift of gratitude for his services and the promise of a flowery recommendation if he should ever consider chauffeuring as a career, we were all set to head to our hotel to shower and change.

Except it was too far away and not enough time remained if we wanted to make it to what the email described as “the red carpet experience.”

So we found a McDonald’s. We entered as three disheveled, unshowered, weary travelers. We exited as three disheveled, unshowered, weary yet dressed up travelers.

We got that red carpet experience.

We also found ourselves at the most expensive meal ever. Minus air conditioning.

We should have eaten in the rental car.

But hey, we were here. We were dressed up. I even found a dress that cost me nothing. Well, actually it did cost me something when I bought it for my daughter’s prom but since she found it cheap on ebay and since we never thought it’d be worn more than once, well, I guess you could say it didn’t cost me anything. Except for a tow, car repairs, a rental…You get the picture.

We hobnobbed with the elite. Andrew got a lot of feedback from professionals in the field. He even discussed a possible internship with a professional but after asking for the man’s card, realized that he had applied for said internship and was turned down. That’s okay. Andrew’s now in New York. This guy’s still in Kentucky.

He got his award. He thanked his parents – because they were in attendance. And Coop.

We were proud. Very proud.

And we even got to hear a speech by Nick Clooney (yes, father of George) who was inducted into the Gold Circle of the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

For the record, Andrew would like it to be known that he did suggest we leave a day early. “Just in case we have car trouble or something like that.”

A good time was had by all.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Butterflies and flowers, oh my

With finances a little tighter than we'd like them to be, we decided on a few smaller day trips rather than longer vacations. One such day trip was a Girls' Day Out to Hershey Gardens.

I'm thankful for children who don't need a lot of expense and entertainment to have fun. We enjoyed the time together and meeting a wonderful group of ladies who just happened to be exploring this area of the state while attending a conference at Messiah College. They asked us to take their photo and then reciprocated for us.

Maybe next year they will attend a photography conference. BUT it is a lovely photo of the tree.

The butterfly house was definitely a favorite and Mariana was a favorite of the butterflies.

Of course, no day trip is complete without ice cream or frozen yogurt so we just had to partake.

Thanks, Ladies, for a fun and enjoyable day.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Only 24 years

Looks like someone borrowed my camera while The Good Doctor and I were out for an evening.

And then Mr. Victor got in on the fun.

Or maybe he was ruining the fun. It all depends on your perspective, I guess.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A picture

It started with a picture in my head.  I described it to a family friend who drew it out for me. Unfortunately, the drawing is either gone or misplaced. I looked, believe me.

When it looked like the picture in my head, she helped me transfer the drawing to pattern and we started cutting out the prototype using a little of this and a little of that including (if memory serves me well) a sheet set that had been a wedding gift to my parents. My apologies to the giver of that sheet set whose gift only lasted for 25 years.

The result was this lovely creation.

Which I wore for the wedding rehearsal. Why not?

And then it became this...

Which became this.

It was exactly as I had pictured and what I was looking for - simple, no train to break, get stepped on or ripped at the outdoor reception, and a one-of-a-kind creation that was short enough for my stature and for me to wear ballet slipper-ish shoes rather than heels. My kids make fun of it all the time. They don't realize that their clothes will be just as dated when their children look at their pictures.

So imagine my surprise when, on a whim, my daughter tried it on one day and announced, "Wow! I like this a whole lot better than I thought I would."

And to think it started with a dream to make my wedding dress and a picture in my head.

Happy Anniversary to The Good Doctor and me.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Field trip

At least one day of every vacation needs to be an educational day. We did have that unique lesson on the Native Mermaidians but it wasn't quite enough so today was deemed educational day. We decided to try out the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, NJ. Whether you believe in educational days or not, this is a great choice. It is perfect for all ages and very family friendly. The only downside is that it is not wheelchair or stroller friendly; you will be going up and down several sets of steps and the path isn't flat or even.

We were able to get up close and personal with fiddler crabs, a red-winged blackbird, turtles, and other sea creatures.

And a rare opportunity - a terrapin digging a hole for her eggs. The Wetlands Institute then numbers the hole and covers it to protect the eggs from predators. When the eggs hatch they will weigh each baby before allowing it to return to the water.

Take your lunch; they have a nice little picnic area.

And for families with blind children, there are plenty of hands-on opportunities; a rare find in these days of don't touch the exhibits or the animals.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The tide is turning

Four days into our beach stay and the tide might be turning.

It started on Day 3. Isaac took Victor to the edge of the waves, Victor in water shoes this time. He sat down with Victor in his lap and allowed the waves to just lap at their feet. While Victor continued to be cautious, putting his feet up on Isaac's legs as often as Isaac would let him, he did manage some smiles and laughs. Every now and then a bigger wave would come and Isaac would warn Victor of a big one. If it fizzled, Isaac said, "Oh, false alarm."

Yesterday, as soon as Victor and The Good Doctor joined us on the beach and Victor heard Isaac's voice he asked, "More false alarm?" I had to translate for Isaac, "I think he wants to go into the water with you."

And that was it.

He ran in and out of the waves, getting mad at us each time we touched him, trying to shield him from the bigger waves. He also yelled at waves that came up too high on his body. Knees only, seems to be his mantra.

This time around, it was Eden who scored a private swimming hole. Two lifeguards for one child isn't a bad deal.

And maybe it's something in the air, but these two can rarely be found in the same 12 foot radius without fighting, but here they are, working together.

The result? The perfect spot for a cool dude to sit and chat on his (I use that word very loosely) phone. I did put an end to the phone conversation quite quickly (we did not come to the beach to call friends at home, or to work, ahem, Good Doctor) but it doubled as a good reading spot.