Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Precious moments

"I'm going to kill you... I'm going to shoot you...I hate you...I'm going to put you in jail!"

Not words you want to hear come out of your child's mouth.

Especially not your 4 year old.

It's one thing to say them to me. I understand trauma. I understand there's more to you than the words. I know that underneath the anger there is a very anxious and scared little boy with a disorder involving sight and the brain. I'm certain that being visually impaired and constantly banging into, tripping over, and falling on things is terribly frustrating.

But it's another thing to say them at school.

Especially in this day and age.

And it's difficult for this mom to be told he did it again today. Two weeks in a row, this was the conversation at pick-up. One therapist suggested that he's just repeating what I say at home.


Another theory was that he's picking these phrases up from the TV in the corner, that obviously must be turned on all day long.

Except that our TV is very rarely on, and even more rare for Victor to be in the room when it is on.

So I asked him one day on the way home, "What happened today?"

"I said mean words."

"What did you say?"

"I said I want to beat you up!"  Pause. "Mom, what does 'beat you up' mean?"

Ah ha. We're on to something.  "Well, where did you hear that?"

"On my Bible CD. They beat him up then they left him there. Then the Levite walked by but didn't help him. Then the priest walked by and didn't help him. Then a Samaritan stopped to help him."

A scared, angry, frustrated little brain trying to understand the world and when dysregulated, trying out words and phrases he thinks might be appropriate to the situation.

Except they're not.

No more Bible CDs for you, young man.

So after two weeks of this, we came to a day off. Thankfully, a respite from the opinions and whispered guesses of others. But a day with Mr. Victor, to bear the brunt of his anger and harsh words. To remain calm and to connect while facing the constant barrage of insulting language. I dreaded the day.

But then he got the pan out and wanted to play Chef. For some reason, I'm always Chef Amanda when we pretend in this vein. And only a real pan and the real stove would do.

(And no, it was not on. And yes, I was there the entire time. No need to call CYS.)

To appeal to his senses, I found a spice from the cabinet. I introduced the name and the smell to him. He added it to his "soup". He requested another. Twenty spices later his soup was complete. And I savored the precious moments with my sweet, loving, and precocious child. The harsh words would return, but for this moment, he was just like any of my other preschoolers back in the day - pretending, exploring, and connecting. Victory has been promised and we continue to wait for it. Until then, I will enjoy each precious moment.

Even when he says he wants to turn me into a beast.

(Okay, no more fairy tales, either.)

Anyone want some soup? Although I do believe it is a little too heavy on the cinnamon and too light on the curry.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Confidence, patience, and endurance

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, 
you will receive what he has promised. 
Hebrews 10: 35 - 36 (NIV)
I was studying this passage this morning and decided it was the perfect Scripture to pray over you on your birthday.

I am so proud of the young man you have become. A man of God with a personality and character that draws others to you. A work ethic that employers notice. Using your gifts and talents just as God intended.

I love to see the favor that God has blessed you with. Doors open and opportunities come your way. Who would have dreamed you'd be working for a Governor? And have the opportunity to intern at a summer Olympics and work at the following winter Olympics. And planning a wedding for October?

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, 
for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward.
For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, 
so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, 
and thus receive and carry away [and enjoy to the full] what is promised.
Hebrews 10: 35 - 36 (AMP)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Victor-isms about family and so much more

Victor's TVI was completing a social inventory to evaluate his progress since last year. This is one area in which he has struggled in the past. Name your classroom friends? No idea. (But you can bet your bottom dollar they all know his name!)

So today, she tried again.

He could name 9 friends.  Big improvement.

He knew siblings and extended family and the relationship of each to him. Excellent.

He knew where he lives, even the country. Extra credit for Victor.

She then asked him what his daddy does at work?

He sits at McDonald's and types on his computer.

Classic. Lots of teens out there hoping for a job like that.

But then he was asked what does his mommy do?

She shovels snow.

If you need me, I'll be standing out front with my shovel, waiting for the next snowfall so I can keep myself busy.


Victor: Mom, when I get big, can I live alone?
Me: Absolutely!
Victor: That will be fancy. Then I can turn Alexa to Volume 10.

Who wants to be his neighbor?

Victor, what should Megan and Jesse put on their wedding gift registry?

Echo Dot
Teddy Bear Nightlight
Record player and don't forget the records, you need Epic Charlie Daniel's Band and Wagner, he died a long, long time ago
Lights for around the bed
Ball that you can roll on like this and you can pick it up and toss it around (Yoga Ball)
TV Signal
Talking and singing burner
A snowman that sings Jingle Bells
Headphones for Jared because he's very big, I met him at church one time, his voice is tired
Amps, and speakers, and microphones then I can come to your house and play with all those things
Computer systems
Bop-It and Simon
Barbies for Megan
Jared needs a drum set
You should get an alarm system (Side note: Funny thing is, in most houses, alarms are to keep people out, in ours, alarms are to keep people in! Victor is understandably confused.)

Should they have any pets?
A bunny named Waldisquare, it's a girl

What do they need in the kitchen?
Speakers in your kitchen then you can hook up your phone and play music
Paper towels
Window alarms

What about in the bathroom?
Sinks, bathrooms, toilets, soaps, paper towels, toilet paper

What do they need in the living room?
A record player
Yoga balls to sit on

What do they need in their backyard?
A hot tub! Ha! Ha!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Just can't wait

That's my Jesse.

It was the first day of his spring break. But not hers. He told her he'd make the trek to see her the next day, saying, "I don't want to drive all five hours in one day." He calls himself the Master of Half Truths. Well, he didn't want to drive all five hours in one day.

But he did.

He arranged it all ahead of time so she'd be out to dinner when he arrived. He'd wait on the steps where her father proposed to her mother. He'd sing a song, he'd make his speech.

He'd pop the question.

And just like that, we have two weddings on the horizon. We couldn't be more proud of our boys and their respective fiancees. It will be a joy to officially add them to our family.

Just can't wait to add more Kings!

Friday, February 23, 2018

God sees you

This is for my friends who are parenting children with special needs, children from places of trauma, or children with mental illness. Sometimes it's all of the above.

No, I'm not saying that parenting in general isn't difficult. But today, I'm reminded just how much more difficult it is to parent where there's more than meets the untrained eye.

This morning we met with the special education team in our district for Victor's transition to kindergarten meeting. What an amazing school district we are in. This isn't our first rodeo with members of this team and we've said the same thing after each encounter. However, this morning it was glaringly obvious to me that Victor is exactly where God wants him to be, in this home, in this community, in this school district.

During a time when Victor's behaviors are out-of-control at home and preschool and no one can put their finger on the exact cause for this turn or what to do, I needed that reminder. I'm not perfect but God knew my weaknesses. Yet He gave Victor to me anyway. There was a purpose and a plan. Every detail of Victor's life was orchestrated by One who knows so much more than I can ever imagine. Including bringing him to this community and these schools. Including making me Victor's mom.

And that is the word I want to share with my fellow travelers this morning. You were chosen for this child. You were chosen for this task. None of us were chosen because we had what we needed for the job. None of us can do it on our own. And that's the point exactly.

As I prayed for wisdom in Victor's specific situation, these words came loud and clear from my Comforter:

Stand firm. Persevere. Don't give up. Don't grow weary.

Let us know become weary in doing good, 
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest 
if we do not give up. 
Galatians 6:9

This verse has been one of my go-tos in recent years, when I need strength and encouragement. Oh, how often I want to give up. If the Good Doctor had a quarter for every time I've told him that I quit. I'm done.  I don't want to do this anymore...

Ask him what kind of vacation we'd finally take with all that money (alone!) or what kind of house remodeling projects we'd start.

But this morning I also looked up verses with "stand firm". I was surprised (but not surprised, really), to find that many of these references are within passages about Satan. So, special mamas, let us stand firm. Let us deflect Satan's arrows of disappointment, depression, despair, and doom. Let us stand firm in His promises, love, and strength.

But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.
Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor in the Lord
is not in vain.
1 Cor. 15: 57 - 58

And if you aren't parenting a child with special needs?  Then maybe today you can encourage one who is. A letter (a real, paper and pen, letter!) to say you care and you see what a great job she is doing. A cup of coffee to bring physical strength to one more day. An offer of a night out for adult conversation or babysitting so she can enjoy a rare date night. Because just after Galatians 6:9 tells us not to grow weary, it instructs us to encourage others along the way:

Therefore, as we have opportunity,
let us do good to all people,
especially to those who belong 
to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:10

God sees. And we do, too. Stand firm.

Friday, February 16, 2018

No matter what

In the face of yet another school tragedy, where kids are killing kids, social media has lit up once again with pie-in-the-sky, more-divisive-than-uniting answers to what I think we all know, deep down, are systemic issues with many roots.

I usually stay out of the conversation. I'm not a Rhodes Scholar, I have few letters behind my name, I have no intentions of ever being a doctoral candidate, and I parent enough trauma in my own home that sometimes I just can't deal with the trauma outside. And for that I am sorry.

But of course, as the story unraveled yesterday, there were themes from this young man's story that jumped out at me, themes that the media barely touched on - adoption, death of parents, expulsion from school (yes, even this one). Why? Because in my world, all of these themes shout trauma, rejection, separation - heaped one upon the other in what must have felt to this young man like love would never be stable, never be close enough to reach, and never for him.

No, not every child from a place of trauma is going to take a gun into a school. Not every child is going to take his inner turmoil out in such a public way. Some children have more resilience than others and as of yet, we have not figured out how to determine the amount of resilience a child has. Are there some children who suffer extreme trauma yet miraculously heal? Yes! Do some children, teens, and adults walk the difficult path of recovery and come out not just healed, but healers, on the other side? Yes!

This we do know. If there is going to be healing, it takes the unconditional love of at least one caring adult. Someone who says, "I'm here for you through thick and thin. Pull out everything you've got. Show me your worst. I'm not leaving." Past trauma makes it difficult to connect, to attach, to receive and give love. That shouldn't matter. Each child deserves at least one person in their corner. Sometimes it's a parent. Sometimes it can't be. That's where the rest of us need to step in.

There's a meme that pops up each time there's tragedy inflicted by a juvenile and it says something like, "We need to care less about whether our children are academically gifted and more about whether they sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria." I agree. But it's not that simple. We can't assume that we can send our kids to school and they're going to learn to sit with the lonely. Similarly, we can't expect to talk with our kids about sitting with the lonely and have it happen just like that. At best, we'll raise kids who are great at telling everyone how they should care for the outcast. At worst, we'll raise kids who don't care at all. Why? Because, as we all know deep down, our kids are watching more than they're listening. And they all reach that magic age where their hypocrisy meters are fully charged. We can't possibly expect to tell them what to do if we aren't doing the same.

I'll be the first to admit that loving those who can't or don't love back is not easy. It's easy to love those who love back. It's easy to bless those who are already blessed. But what about those who react to our love and blessing with anger and hate?

I fail at this. Too often. But I try. And not just because I feel like I need to show my kids what to do. But because I know it's what Jesus does for me. If I'm not inviting the stranger, the outcast, the lonely into our home, then I'm not living like Jesus and I can't expect my children to do so. If I am not friendly or kind to those I deem unworthy because they won't reciprocate, then I can't expect my children to do so. If I'm not willing to meet people in their place of sorrow and hurt, then my children won't, either. At the same time, if I'm not modeling boundaries so that I don't succumb to compassion fatigue or burnout, how will my children learn to set their own healthy boundaries? If I'm not walking my own healing journey, being saved from my own stumbling blocks, how will my children know they need to do the same? Wounded people may wound people but healed people can heal people!

I'm not naive enough to think that there's one easy solution for the systemic issues surrounding violence, but I do know that there are a lot of people who need unconditional love. And I'm trying to do my part to love when it's not easy, to step into another's "stuff", and to model this so my children do the same.

Monday, February 12, 2018

District orchestra

We've gone to a lot of concerts through the years.

Some we've enjoyed.

Others were to be endured.

Some were just the right length.

Others had us checking our clocks on a regular basis.

This year's District orchestra concert, at which Isaac secured principal violist and a short solo, was a pleasure.  Director Justin Lewis chose music that was enjoyable for the teens and a delight to the listener.

And bonus, Justin's mother, Jesse's former cello teacher, was in the audience. So fun to have a quick catch-up chat with Mrs. Lewis!