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!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Halfway there

It's been 22 days on Victor's special diet. Not only do we have a new child but we are definitely gaining insights into what causes certain behaviors.

Seven days in, I woke up in a hotel room in New York after dropping Isaac off at music camp the day before. On my phone there was a text from the Good Doctor with this photo:

The Good Doctor found this half-eaten roll on the floor of Victor's room, along with a confession. Yes, Victor had eaten half of it and then for some reason, ditched the rest on the floor. In plain sight. The Good Doctor told me that he was already noticing more crankiness from Victor.

By the time I arrived home three hours later, Victor had moved beyond crankiness to animalistic and violent behaviors. He was banging things and when the items were removed he threw fits like we hadn't seen before. Definitely some of the worst behaviors we've seen. He threw a child's chair and broke it. He repeatedly lifted and banged a kitchen chair up and down. At one point, after I took away kitchen utensils that he was banging on the steps, he sat and rocked and screamed for several minutes, completely inconsolable.

After this episode, I sat on the floor and held him and asked, "Victor, do you remember that piece of bread you ate this morning?" "Yes," he replied. "Victor, that piece of bread is why you are acting like this." He thought a moment and announced, "It was sooooooooo yummy!"

Yummy it might have been but at supper I told the whole family in no uncertain terms that the next time someone leaves a banned substance in an easy-to-find-and-reach location, I would lock that person and Victor in a room together for the rest of the day so they would know what I went through today.*

Another day we were shocked to find Victor quietly sitting on the floor playing with play-doh. He had never initiated this kind of play on his own before. However, we are finding more and more that he can tolerate longer periods of creative play with toys such as Duplos, Bristle Blocks, and magnets. It isn't just banging all day, every day. The play-doh, however, needed to be confiscated when we found Victor sneaking bites of it. Homemade play-doh, after all, is made from flour. When asked what he was doing, Victor told us, "I NEED the salt!" Salt in play-doh, yes. Flour, no.

We have been pleased to find so many benefits of Victor's diet. The 8 hour round trip to pick Isaac up from camp resulted in just one episode of yelling and screaming instead of the continual screaming and defiance we've had on every other road trip. He snuggles more. Plays piano and drums more purposefully. Listens to story after story without repeated reminders to sit down. He sits down for a whole meal rather than spinning in the kitchen while we eat. He doesn't bump into things like a human pin-ball machine. Instead, he is able to calmly move from place-to-place.
Victor and Grandma Mary Ann reading together

And our picky eater is slowly trying new foods and finding new, approved foods to eat.

We're halfway there. In three weeks we can start to slowly reintroduce foods and see whether or not they affect his behavior. Thanks to that half a piece of roll episode, we already know that gluten is an issue. And after a few episodes of dairy ingestion, we also know that this is a trigger. We'll see what else we find.

Even Victor knows there is a difference. He talks about his special diet and comments on times he was mean and then how kind he is now. He has to feel so much better inside. The constant shopping and cooking are well worth the time investment.

Stay tuned...

*Note to all mandated reporters: This is a joke. I would not lock Victor and another child in a room for a day. I only said this to make the point that I never, ever again want to experience a day like that. We have not, and will not, lock children in their rooms. Ever. Even when they feed Victor banned foods. Even when they throw chairs at me.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Lord has a will

There's an old piece of tablet paper in my Bible, with the words to a song from my camp counselor days at Bethany Birches Camp. I had copied the words down from the song leader's chart paper, never knowing it's author or source. This morning as I opened my Bible, the piece of paper caught my eye and I googled the title. Imagine my surprise to find that it is an Amy Grant song (a very young looking Amy Grant, I might add!). You might be surprised that a product of the 80s didn't know her Amy Grant but you have to remember that only hymns were true Christian songs in many of our homes. I don't think I even knew of Amy Grant until the song, Friends, came out. I guess that one was okay because it could be used for graduations at Christian schools. Along with hymns, of course.

The song? The Lord Has a Will.

I need you Lord, in all I do.
You're always there to see me through.
I can't get by unless I lean on you, Lord.

The Lord has a will,
and I have a need
to follow that will;
to humbly be still.
To rest in it, nest in it,
fully be blessed in it;
following my father's will.

Your law of love is in my heart.
You wrote it there, it won't depart.
It lights my way, and keeps me out of the dark.

I even found a third verse that I never knew existed:
I thank you, Lord. Your word is sown
into my life, and there it's grown.
It's roots go deep where living waters are known.

There are days I hate following His will. Days when it feels like it'd be so much easier to do my own thing, to turn my back on traumatized kids. Days when I wonder if the effects of trauma can ever be healed and a difference made. Days when I don't want to have to look at myself and at what God wants to change in me so that I can better love these kids. Days when I say biological children are hard, why do I need harder than hard? Days when I want to join so many others who simply share needs and the lack of good in the world on social media instead of getting their hands dirty doing the hard work day in and day out.

And some days I do quit. In my mind I say I'm done. I have myself a little pity party. I hide and cry out to God. I tell Him it's too hard and that I don't want this assignment anymore. I tell Him I'm tired of being rejected. I'm tired of being lied to, blatantly disobeyed, and yelled at. I'm tired of chasing after run-aways and tip-toeing around volatile emotions and tempers.

When I'm done, and the tears are gone, and there's nothing left but weariness and quietness, He steps in and speaks words of comfort and encouragement. he rends me of His promised. he brings Scripture to mind. He points me to Jesus and says, "Look, He did the hard work, too. He followed my will. He got His hands and feet dirty. He was rejected. I don't expect you to be perfect like my Son. There is plenty of grace for your mistakes. I only ask that you rest in me. Drink from my living water and keep your roots strong. Nest in me, believing that I will care for you like a mother bird cares for her hatchlings. Allow me to open your eyes to see the blessing of following my will. Yes, there is blessing in the pain. I am there. Open your eyes and see!"

The Lord has a will,
and I have a need
to follow that will;
to humbly be still.
To rest in it, nest in it,
fully be blessed in it;
following my father's will.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Before and after

I have a different child. As I said to the Good Doctor the other day, "I finally have a little boy and not a monster."

We've tried all kinds of things. Some things helped a little. Some things not at all. It was suggested that the next step would be a neuro psych evaluation which would probably result in heavy meds. He wouldn't be the first child with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia to head this route. The only problem is that they won't see him until he's 5. And I don't know if I'm strong enough to wait another year.

So we tried a different alternative. And since alternatives are often frowned upon by professionals, we've been pretty quiet about some of the things we've tried. I've heard the arguments - that I'm just a stupid mom who isn't knowledgeable enough to understand what is good for my child. I've been accused of only getting my information from blogs and of blindly listening to other less-informed parents who have been through similar situations and who claim to have found success from alternative methods, and in the end I'm just seeing what I want to see.

Believe me, if it was as easy as seeing what I want to see, I wouldn't bear the scars and black-and-blue marks from being kicked, bitten, and scratched. I wouldn't be sitting on my bathroom floor crying because I've just dealt with the 10th roll-on-the-floor tantrum over something I can't fix and it's just 10AM.

So we decided to try the health, wellness and nutrition route. It just makes sense that God would create our bodies to heal themselves. That's not to say that medications can't be part of that but if medicine has failed us, why shouldn't we try something else?

I came home from the first appointment crying but this time it wasn't a little one's tantrum that set me off. This time it was because a doctor finally listened to me. I felt validated. I felt believed. And for the first time I could begin to trust that someone was going to stick with us until we found some answers.

You don't have to believe me but I know what I live with. I know what life was like "before" and "after". The changes in diet aren't easy for any of us who have to tell him he can't have something he requests but we noticed a difference in just half a day. Five days in, and we realized there was only one tantrum. In five days, just one. Instead of 4 or 5 or more per day. And in those 5 days were two dayswhen I was gone and one of the college kids was in charge - a disruption that would cause any child to dysregulate. But even so, just 1 tantrum in 5 days.

And then this happened.  A run-in with the fireplace. He told the nurse that he was on the chair and then he got up and thought he was running to the door but he went the wrong direction. In this case, I think his visual impairment got the best of him and he got himself turned around. Instead of running through the doorway he ran full force into the outside edge of the fireplace.

I can't even imagine what this would have been like prior to this week. Strange people, smells, and noises. Pain. A needle. It would have taken at least three of us to hold him down. And then to lie quietly for the doctor to stitch him up? Again, it would have taken several of us to manage that.

But not now. He was pleasant. He cried as any child would but it only took me holding his hands to calm him. Holding his hands. Not holding him down. And instead of running around and drumming on everything in the exam room while we waited, he drove his "car" to "New Jersey" and told me he was the delivery man. Just like a normal 4 year old with an imagination who would be interested in anything new on wheels.

I'm not saying that he doesn't still yell or prefer to stay outside when I ask him to come in or that he never spins or drums. I am saying that he is more focused and centered. He is calmer. He can sit and attend to a task for more than a few seconds. He is more compliant. He is finally able to concentrate enough to understand cause and effect. And he can stop his racing brain and body long enough for a mid-day nap. That has not happened since he gave up naps 7 months ago. And he spins and drums much less often than before. He is a little boy whose behavior more closely resembles his peers than it did just one week ago.

I finally have a little boy. And I have hope.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Beach week

I told the Good Doctor that I'm pretty sure if I could prayer run or prayer walk on the beach every morning, I'd be able to deal with anything. He said we'd see what we can do about that.

For now, I'll have to hold the memories of this week's mornings alone with God on the beach.

Victor resurrected last summer's worship team for anyone within hearing distance. And then he banged so hard on one of his "drums" that he broke it. What's new?

But the big news from this year is that even though he still fusses and complains when walking from the street to the beach and back again ("I don't like the shells!"), he was willing to play in the sand and even allowed Isaac to dig a hole and bury him.

We went to the Wetlands Institute again. It may be small but once again I was impressed with how much of it is hands-on. It's great for Victor. This year he enjoyed the osprey nest replica.

Family bumper cars can be fun.

And Victor got his two favorite rides as well.

"Watch the train, please. Watch the train, please."

Isaac had a wonderful helper for his famous morning omelette.

It might have been just a little chilly on our last day.

Til next time...

Monday, June 12, 2017

Spirit of Adoption

A Spirit of Adoption is mentioned several times in the Bible. It's a concept that intrigues me, along with the obvious opposite, a spirit of slavery. Many today refer to this as an orphan spirit. Either way, a person lives as if there is no one who really loves or cares for them and as if they have to look out for themselves because no one else does.

The Roman understanding of adoption was quite different from our understanding of adoption. In ancient Rome, it wasn't children who were adopted, it was adult males. These young men usually still had two living parents so they weren't orphans at all. If you were adopted, then, by a Roman, you had all the rights as if you had been born of that father, including wealth, power, and social standing.

Many, if not all, of us struggle with an orphan spirit. We live as if we have no one to call our own, as if we have to do it all on our own, as if there is no one to share in our successes, if there are successes. There is no place where this is more evident than in interacting with those who have experienced the loss of one or both parents, especially those in foster care. However, there are also many who live out of this mindset even though they do have an intact family. Satan is always trying to keep us from our true identity and loves to see us living out of a slave or orphan mindset.

Still not sure what this looks like? Both of the sons in the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son are examples of the orphan spirit. One son thought that he had to perform to win a father's love, and the other thought he had to come home begging to earn even a small portion of his father's love back. Ebenezer Scrooge is another example. He thought he had to do it all on his own, not owing anything to anyone but everyone owing him.

Recently one of our children went through an exceptionally difficult time. The orphan spirit was rearing its ugly head and all forms of love were being pushed away. Awakened in the middle of the night, I spent those hours praying for this child and asking for wisdom in how to proceed. The words that came to me were just as relevant for me in my struggles as they were for my child and for all of us who struggle with an orphan spirit.

These are the words God spoke to me:

You can choose to live like a princess in the house of the King
You can choose to live like a servant in the house of the King.

Either way you have the privilege of living in the palace albeit within a specific set of rules, responsibilities, and expectations.

But only one way will bring you happiness, freedom, and a life of opportunity.

It's your choice.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For [the Spirit which] you have now received [is] not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption [the Spirit producing sonship] in [the bliss of] which we cry, Abby (Father)! Father! The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are children of God. And if we are [His] children, then we are [His] heirs with Christ [sharing His inheritance with Him]: only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory.
Romans 8: 14 - 17

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A ray of hope

11 years ago today we received the news that we were an officially licensed foster home. And on the other side of the Susquehanna, another mother was delivering a baby girl five weeks early. We were ecstatic to learn that we were going to be foster parents. To whom? We didn't know. The mother on the other side of the river was soon to learn, if she didn't already know, that her little girl would not be going home with her.

Five days later we got the call.  Knowing there was a caseworker on the other end of the phone, the three oldest children were gathered around waiting to hear if a child would be coming to our home. "We have a five day old infant being discharged from the NICU today. Will you take her?" I said yes, the kids cheered, and then we called the Good Doctor, "It's a baby girl!"

Today she turns 11 and knowing that our joy means another woman's grief is not forgotten by me. Does she think about her daughter? Does this day bring back memories? This is not as God intended. Our world is broken and lives are shattered every day. But if we are willing to be uncomfortable so that others are comfortable, the blessings far outweigh the trouble and chaos.

And so today we celebrate Hope because in the midst of brokenness, there is hope and a future. Her smile brings hope to everyone she meets. She tells me that when she is at track club, she encourages the girls who are discouraged. She is a shining light, a ray of hope. Just as God intended.

We just need to say yes!

Friday, May 26, 2017

You've been in the Son

I'm learning the joy and value of spending time in God's Presence. Several years ago we watched Compelled by Love, a documentary about Heidi Baker and her ministry to the people of Mozambique. In the documentary, she says that she has to spend 3 hours soaking the presence of her Savior daily and that without that time, she couldn't do what she is doing. I know I'm not Heidi Baker and I don't live in her culture, but that comment has not left me. She's right. We can't expect to serve if we aren't being filled by the One who gives us the life and breath to serve.

This morning as I was soaking and praying and listening, Jesus and I went for a walk on the beach. Nothing unusual there, that's often where He takes me and I love the conversations we have in my sanctified imagination. But this morning, He walked me into the water, just where the waves were lapping around our feet. We stopped walking and He turned my face toward the sun and told me to look at it. He said, "Just as people know you've been in the sun when they see your tanned skin, people will know you've been with the Son because you will radiate me."

"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13

These were the same men who cowered in fear when Jesus was arrested and crucified. But they didn't stay there. We do grow and mature in the Spirit but only if we spend time with Jesus. The Message translation says, "...they were seen as companions of Jesus." I want to be seen as a companion of Jesus, too!