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!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Self-care

I know that self-care is important. It's possible I've reminded you that self-care is important. There was an excellent article going around recently about the necessity of self-care for adoptive mothers. I commented about how true that was, true for all mothers, but in particular for adoptive mothers, mothers of special needs children, and those who had a child going through an especially trying time or phase. And I thought I was taking care of myself. But I was wrong.

As yesterday's post revealed, I had a massage. That was great. But what I didn't say was that I had received that gift certificate way back in May. It took me that long to take an excellent Mother's Day gift, intended for forced self-care, and actually use it.

It was about three weeks ago when I realized that I needed to do more to take care of myself. I love my children and I love my adopted children and I love my special needs child, but whether we like to admit it or not, the latter two groups do tend to be more all-encompassing and draining, through no fault of their own.

I realized that part of the problem is that I'm an introvert, a home body. While my friends might take care of themselves with some retail therapy, I hate shopping. Others might call a bunch of friends and plan a monthly Girls' Night Out. Just thinking about it gives me seizures.

But just like I need to drink half of my body weight in water each day, and I need to go to bed at a decent hour so these Morning Person bones can wake up at the break of dawn feeling refreshed, and I need to spend time with the Lord each day, I also need to find a way to recharge. Think of the airline stewardess telling you to put your oxygen mask on first, then on your child. I knew that. I've told people that. But I wasn't doing everything I needed to do to take care of me.  And I didn't realize it until a very special friend asked me the simple question, "So, now that you've told me about everything else going on in your life, what are you doing for you?" I had no simple answer.

Since then I've been on a mission to find the answer to that question. I'm still searching but it is definitely an active search. I will find an answer. And I will take care of myself.

For the Good Doctor. For my kids.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Massage Day

Yesterday started as Dentist Day for the Kings. That means 4 Kids, 1 Baby, 2 Hygienists, 1 Dentist, and 1 Mom. No, I didn't count it as a day of school but we were there long enough that I know a few homeschoolers who would have done just that. And then it was New Hairdo Day for HopeAnne. That means 1 Child, 1 Baby to chase, 18 Braids, Numerous Tears, 54 Beads, and 1 Mom. I slept well last night.

Today was Massage Day. For me. That means 1 Mom and 1 Massage Therapist, Quiet Music, the Sound of Water Flowing, Massage Oil, and All the Kinks Worked Out.

My massage therapist is wonderful. Actually, she's not my massage therapist. She couldn't possibly survive on the income from one or two massages a year so she I have to share her with many others. But she certainly knows what she's doing and doesn't say things like, "If I didn't know better, I'd say this is the back of a 70 year old woman." She might think it but she has never said it aloud. She knows just how to find the knots and apply just the right amount of pressure. And she had the most amazing God story to share with me today. She reminded me to believe in miracles. I'm certain she did more for me in one session than the chiropractor has done in the past few months. I think it's time to change strategies to nip this pain in the bud. Well, it's way beyond bud stage but it is time to send it off without a return ticket. Yes, she definitely gets my vote for best massage therapist in town. Lucky you, I'm willing to share.

Oh, and did I mention that she's blind?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The broken plate

For most of us, a visual illustration will make a point stick much better than any 3-point sermon or lecture. I can think back on 40+ years of weekday classes and weekend sermons and I can't honestly remember one of them. (My apologies to the Good Doctor from whom it could be argued that I should have memorized every word.) What I do remember, are specific skits, or object lessons, or even a soloist singing thought-provoking lyrics. Makes sense since Jesus used parables and object lessons to teach both those closest to Him and the crowds that followed Him. What excellent examples we have from His life on earth.

When teaching a truth to my children, I like to think of a story (parable?), or an object lesson, or even a reenactment (no video cameras, please), to help make the point stick. One of my favorites, which has probably been used on each of the older children at some time in their first 10 years, is one I believe came from a Focus on the Family publication. We all struggle with our words, and remembering to speak kindly so this lesson has the children race to see who can empty a tube of toothpaste first. After congratulating the winner, I then ask the children to race to see who can put the toothpaste back into the tube first. Some will attempt, others will realize the futility. It's an excellent demonstration of how our words come out easily, but cannot be put back. From this realization, we can talk about controlling the tongue.

More recently, I stumbled across an object lesson about the effects of hurting another person. In the end, God used this lesson to teach me as well. I've used this lesson with two different children, on two different occasions. In each situation, the child had purposely done something against another person.  I took a plate from the drawer and walked outside with the child. I asked the child to throw the plate to the ground several feet away. To their credit, each of them first looked at me like I was nuts but when assured that I truly wanted them to break the plate, they did. The plate shattered (between you and me, I never liked those plates all that much anyway). I told the child to apologize to the plate. After doing so, I asked the question, "Did anything change? Did apologizing to the plate fix it?"  In both cases, this led to a wonderful conversation about the damaging effects of our actions, the need for apologizing, but the realization that even if we glued it back together, the plate was ruined. Lesson learned and we moved on.

Recently, however, God gave me a picture to show me that I missed the end of the story, the other side of the story. After a very hurtful experience, I saw Jesus picking up the pieces of my heart much like we carefully picked up the pieces of that broken plate. He put those pieces together one by one. It didn't look anything like it had in the beginning, but it was healed just as a surgeon would heal a wound. It is scarred but it's not useless. We can do our best to pick up the pieces after hurting someone but true healing comes when Jesus picks up the pieces and puts them back right where they belong.

And that's a picture that will stick with me.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Girl gets role

Think back to your teen years and you may remember this movie. Girl is extremely talented in some area, maybe dance, or drama, or ice skating, or art but she doesn't come from money, or the right part of the country, and her parents, while supportive, have no idea from where in the gene pool her talent has come. So, they do everything they can to give her the training she needs to develop that natural talent that everyone says she has. She finds out about a specialized camp or training school, in the right part of the country where all the talented folks are, and applies for a scholarship. In a scene with upbeat music playing in the background, she goes to the mailbox and finds the letter telling her that she should pack her bags, she got that coveted scholarship! But once at camp she finds that she doesn't fit in. It's not about talent after all. Here it's still all about who you know, how many years you've been coming, how many accolades your parents received in this field back in the day, and how much money you've got. So at the climax of the movie, Girl gives it her all and outshines everyone there, but the prized spot on the team, the lead role, the whatever, goes to the less-talented girl with the parents who make a sizable donation every year, who has been coming since she was three, and whose mother held the very same standing in her younger years. Oh, and adorable, funny, and kind Guy, the one who has been so encouraging to Girl, gets the longed for spot next to the girl with all the luck.  But then you know how it ends, Winning Girl falls or gets sick or wakes up with a pimple and Girl jumps in at the last minute, starring with Guy, showing that she had the most talent all along. Girl ends up with Guy, they both win for the rest of their lives, never grow old, and live happily ever after.

I think of these movies, or the books that I admit I read back in the day, because these specialized camps and training schools really do exist. And they do often run on politics, not talent. I know, because my daughter has chosen to attend one of them for each of the past two years. The scholarship letter of my 80s movie has been replaced by an email but the reaction was the same.  She packed her bags for the experience of a lifetime; learning from the best of the best. She found out very quickly after arriving that first day, that most of the campers have been going for years, many of them spending the whole summer there, not just one session like she would be. It didn't take long to be told that only those who were "lifers" and those who were the oldest, and those who spent all summer at camp, would get the lead roles. But that was okay with her. She was there to learn. Sure, a great role in the big show would be nice, who isn't going to dream big, but she made up her mind to attend every lecture, every master class, every learning session she could. She was going to put that scholarship to good use and not waste a minute of her time; she was there to develop her talents. And that first year, she proved the whole Girl goes to camp and meets Guy movie all wrong. She did land a role in the owner's show, the one known as the Big Show, the one that you have to have all the connections to land. It was an ensemble role but even so, her cabin mates told her this was unheard of for someone without camp clout. She knew who to thank and praised God for the opportunity.

Getting another scholarship this year, she packed her bags and headed off for round 2. Again knowing that she was the underdog but with prayers that she would learn more about her craft and be a blessing to others, no matter what. Late last night the news came, and once again, a miracle. This time she was given a lead, again in the owner's show, the Big Show. And not only that, four campers were chosen for Improv Troupe and she is one of the four. I am so proud of her for her willingness to step out of her comfort zone, for her desire to be a blessing, and for the words that came after the exciting announcement. Her prayer requests were not that she would be the most amazing actor there, or that she would be a stand-out in her role. Instead she recognized that she has been given favor "for such a time as this" and she asked us to pray that in this position where she is getting to know so many people that she would be a blessing and encourager to them. She wants to love on everyone she meets.

I suppose it wouldn't make as great a movie, but it makes my heart sing.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Just like normal

Victor unrolled his first roll of toilet paper last night and even tasted it a bit.  He also discovered kitchen drawers and explored the contents of the lower drawers, almost pinching his fingers in the pushing and pulling. Sound like normal childhood behavior? You bet. And I may or may not have let him do all of the above while an arm's reach away, watching, just because it was that - normal. I love to see him being "normal" even when it's Trouble with a capital T. Sometimes I think his biggest problem is not that he's blind but that he's normal.

I know you're not supposed to use the word normal. But let's be real, we're all thinking it. When I'm asked what Victor is doing, we all know it means in comparison to a non-blind child of his age (read: normal).

And so I give you an update on the normal and not-so-normal things that Victor is up to these days.

He is definitely toddling around. He amazes us with how he can walk around the house without walking into anything. But then other times he will walk right into a cabinet. Items on the floor will always trip him up, but they can also be invitations for trouble, if they are boxes to be opened and explored or shoes to be eaten. One thing he enjoys doing is walking toward the front storm door when the inside door is open. It is a full window storm door and we believe it is the light that draws him there. If he is seeing light and dark it would also help to explain how he can walk down the hallway without hitting the side walls, or why he can walk through doorways without bumping into the doorframe. he does seem to have some trouble balancing and still falls frequently but we have no doubt that he'll learn to compensate for the lack of sight. His physical therapist says he is doing so well that she is probably only going to come for one more session and then her time with Victor is finished. That will be a bittersweet goody-bye.

His speech and communication are beginning to develop also. He is starting to make more sounds and to try to say words like dada, mama, down and door. They don't sound exactly like what they are supposed to be, but he is trying. He does say "uh oh" very clearly, especially when he falls down or drops a toy. He knows how to growl like a lion and makes a panting noise for the dog (who he likes to follow around and terrorize). He does try to copy a lot of the sounds we make. He also uses some sign language but hasn't been as quick to pick it up as our other children, presumably because he can't see what we're doing; he can only feel the motion we do with his hands. He was evaluated by a speech therapist who does think that he could use some help to catch up so she's going to start seeing him once a month. You don't realize how much of speech is connected to what you can see. He's also going to begin to see an occupational therapist every other week.

Victor is such a fighter and has frequent temper tantrums. I believe it is a combination of normal toddler behavior with the added frustration of not being able to see. When I become discouraged with yet another tantrum, or embarrassed by his actions in front of others, I remind myself that it is that same fighting spirit that kept him alive during his first moments and months of life. And then the next minute he is so loving. He gives hugs and makes a kissing noise. he likes to rock in the rocking chair and if we stop for too long he makes a sound like, ahhhhh, which means that we are supposed to keep rocking. He does the same thing when he wants us to sing his night-time song.

He loves music (whew!). His favorite songs are If You're Happy and You Know It and Head and Shoulders. If he wants us to sing the first one, he just starts clapping or stomping his feet and we know which verse we are to sing. If he wants us to sing the second he points to his head. He also knows several other body parts like his belly and his ears (because Isaac taught him to cover his ears when he hears a loud noise). He points to himself when we ask, "Where's Victor?"

Mostly he's loved like any other baby of the family. Just like normal.



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Marriage at this age

About a month ago I received an email from a friend and in it she included this observation, "It is sure unsettling to realize we're at the age where friends' marriages are feeling shaky and separation/divorce is mentioned."

I've been thinking about what she said. After I got over the fact that I was, indeed, of an age to be "at the age," I realized that she's right. There's no judgement, there's no guilt, there are no easy fixes or answers, but it is a reality. Marriage is difficult. We all have our junk and our faults. We have our issues and blind spots. There is pain in commitment; there is pain in leaving.

All this thinking reminded me of a blog post I read several years ago entitled, "Absent Spouse Syndrome." Knowing that every situation is different and there are many struggles between people, yet also knowing that this is happening around me, I have asked permission to share these insights by linking to Debby Bentch's blog here. She answered with an emphatic, "Absolutely!" Thank you, Debby!

Please, if you are married, know someone who is, or are in a position where you counsel those who are, you must read this blog. Someone you know may resonate with these words. Maybe that someone is you.

Absent Spouse Syndrome by Debby Bentch on her blog, The Pavilion.






Monday, July 21, 2014

On disappointments, divine moments, and deafening music

If you speak to one of the Kings today, you may need to repeat yourself. We attended a teen rally last night and you know what they say about the noise level at these things. Normally most of the blame would be placed on the drummer but in this case, that drummer belongs to me so you probably don't want to go there.

During our time there, I observed young adults on fire for the Lord, a worship band that knows how to use the strengths of each person without drawing emphasis to just one, and songs with lyrics chosen for "such a time as this." However, most of the time I was looking at my son on the drums (you couldn't miss him, front and center, roving lights and fog notwithstanding), and thinking, 

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deut. 4:9)"

Because the very reason he was there, and the path to this summer job opportunity, came about through a series of events that could only have been orchestrated by a higher power. It was not without frustration and disappointment, but is one of those stories that must be remembered when the inevitable discouraging moments come again. It is a testimony that needs to be shared to encourage others who find themselves in a trajectory that seems to be leading only into dead-ends and failures.

And so we will make it a part of our family's oral tradition, shared again and again to remind us of God's sovereignty, goodness, and faithfulness, to remember that God sees the big picture when we can only see the moment. And the best way for me to remember a story is to write it down.

Last fall, Jesse auditioned for the high school musical. Jesse has always been a comedian (just ask his kindergarten teacher) and entertainer. We like to say he was bit by the acting bug when he was in a commercial for CBS21 news as an elementary school student. It was a cheesy commercial, but that was just the beginning. From there, he went on to several musicals at a local regional theater and some work in community theater. One director pulled us aside while in rehearsal as Louis in The King and I to tell us that Jesse had a natural talent that only a few professional actors have and he can sing, too, which is a bonus for young males. So of course he was discouraged to find that he had only been given a small role, but no one was really surprised. Anyone who has been involved in high school musicals knows that there are usually politics involved and if you're not a part of one of the choirs, your chances of being given a good role are pretty slim no matter your experience, talent, or what the other students see in your audition. That was the first disappointment but then came another...

Jesse auditioned for district orchestra and for the second year he made it in, at the same time realizing that his placement put him in a pretty sweet spot for possibly making regional orchestra. But if he made it, regional orchestra would be meeting the weekend before the musical; the most important weekend of rehearsals for the production. He had to make a choice, and according to the musical director, that choice needed to be made within minutes. He decided to drop out of the musical and try to make it into regional orchestra.

District orchestra weekend came and he auditioned. He had spent a lot of time in preparation and felt really good about his audition. The section of the piece that he was asked to play was difficult but he believed strongly that he had not only done his best, but he had nailed it.  Then more disappointment. One of the judges had made an error in the way the auditions were held. The judges held a quick conference and decided to throw away those scores and to re-audition the kids. The second time around they chose an easier section of the piece which, it could be argued, leveled the playing field. We'll never know if he would have qualified for regionals under the first audition but the results clearly showed that not only did he not qualify under the second audition, he went down a few chairs. He was devastated. He was angry. No musical. No regional orchestra. He questioned everything.

In the midst of his pain, I held onto a truth; God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good. I wondered what God could be up to here, knowing that we might never know. When the initial hurt passed, I wondered aloud to Jesse if all of this could have something to do with the middle school retreat. Jesse is a leader for a group of middle school boys. They look up to him with awe and respect. If Jesse wears his bandana a certain way, they will find a bandana to wear the same way. Some have even cut their hair to look like Jesse. One year for a Superhero costume night he convinced them all to come dressed as Look-alike Jesses and it didn't take a lot of convincing. The middle school retreat was also scheduled the same weekend as the musical's tech rehearsals and regional orchestra's rehearsals. In my musings I wondered if God really wanted him at that retreat, maybe even need him at that retreat.

The weekend of the retreat came and went and Jesse and his boys had an amazing weekend. Was that the reason for all of this disappointment? We were calling it a blessing from God, albeit in disguise, but God had more; He wasn't finished.

A few weeks after the retreat, Jesse received an invitation to be part of the summer ministry team through Salt N Light. It seems as if they were in need of a drummer and the middle school retreat's speaker, a member of Salt N Light, was checking out the drummer for the weekend who just happened to be ... Jesse King.

He asked Jesse's leaders about the character of this kid on drums and he watched as Jesse interacted with the middle schoolers who were there. He liked what he saw. He was looking for a drummer who could also interact with kids and teens in the camps where they would serve. He found what he was looking for.  Jesse did indeed need to be there that weekend. Our finite minds thought it was for the younger kids. God had a bigger plan with hope and a future and Jesse couldn't be happier to be paid to lead kids and drum for the summer.

Prior to leaving for another week of camp with Salt N Light, Jesse asked for prayer to cover some feelings of inadequacy when around the other members of the team, mostly college students. I reminded him of how he got where he is. I reminded him that if God was the one who orchestrated the events to bring him to this position, then God obviously sees him as adequate. There's no one else he needs to impress.

But I was impressed. I'm his mom.

God is good.
All the time.
All the time.
God is good.