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!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Summer reading again

Tomorrow marks the last day of school for one child, next Tuesday is the last day for a few more, 1 is finished the end of next week, and one more child the week after that. Ahhh, they might be thinking, summer vacation, no school, no work, no homework, no books.

But they'd be wrong. The King kids always have to read over the summer. There's daily independent reading but there's also the summer book club with 2 other families. Together we choose one book for each month, the older kids and parents all read the assigned book each month, and then we get together to discuss it at the end of the month, usually over ice cream but always over food. One year we even had the author join us for the discussion.

We've read books by C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and Heidi Baker. We've covered topics like living your faith in America, and loving like Jesus.

In the past I've blogged about it after the fact and many other parents of teens have expressed interest but since summer is over, it never happens.

So this year I'm ahead of the game. We've already conferred with the other two families in our little book club and have come up with this summer's game plan. For anyone interested, feel free to copy our reading plan:

June - Crazy Love by Francis Chan
July - Moral Revolution by Kris Vallotton
August - God Guides by Mary Geegh*

We are often asked how we get our kids to read during the summer. More importantly, how we get them to read "boring Christian books". It's easy, we force them. Actually, there's a bit more to it than that. Here are some tips that we've found helpful:

1. The overall family value of obedience, no matter the age. Summer reading is something we do. It's an expectation and except on one occasion when a child chose not to read the book (and also did not get to participate in the end-of-the-month fun), all have respectfully complied.

2. The parents read the book, too. We're not asking our kids to do something that we won't do. Well, I can speak only for myself here. The Good Doctor might have a few confessions to make.

3. Peer pressure in the home. The older teens who are around read the book which in turn creates positive peer pressure for the younger teens.

4. Peer pressure outside the home. Because we partner with two other families, and because each of us takes advantage of positive peer pressure, all of the teens will do what the other teens are doing.

5. Food. They are teens, after all. Each end-of-the-month discussion includes a treat, either homemade at someone's house or bought at an ice cream shop or other specialty store. Maybe you could pair your discussions with a tour of local fare that you've never tried before.

If you and your friends decide to join the fun with your teens, we'd love to hear about it.


*A note about this book. You can purchase it on the website linked above. You can also find it on Amazon for $1 more. If you are like The Good Doctor, you will take one look at the author, call her outdated, and question me as to why we are reading this book. Trust me. You will be changed by reading this short but simple yet so profoundly encouraging book. As far as the author looking outdated, I suggested to The Good Doctor that they might be able to find a more recent photo of the author but I'm not certain many of us would appreciate the photo of an exhumed and photographed person, no matter how up-to-date.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ahhhh-na's birthday

It was the middle of the night and Andrew woke up with an apparent bad dream. As I made my way into his room and reached up to the top bunk where he was sleeping, my water broke. I calmed Andrew down and got him back to sleep, went back to bed to tell The Good Doctor who immediately rolled over and went back to sleep.

When she entered the world, she came with her mouth wide open, projecting so that everyone on the whole ward could hear her. And she hasn't shut it since.

They say we can use our gifts for good or not-so-good and she has used that mouth for good.

She didn't have to be chosen Peter Pan for me to know that.

She didn't have to be voted Junior Prom Princess for me to know that.

It's evident in who she is and in what others say about her. It's in what others see when they look at her.


She has uses that strong personality and those loud talents to bless and encourage others.


Happy 17th birthday, Mariana! May you day be filled with the sound of your name pronounced correctly (Hint: Mary-Ahhhhhhh-na) and the sight of just one N in your name.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Life lessons

Sometimes things just don't go as planned. Sometimes I don't handle those things very well. Sometimes I don't handle them well when they happen to my family members. Sometimes, I surprise myself.

HopeAnne decided she wanted to run in the Girls on the Run 5K. She didn't participate in this organization during the school year because she's not yet old enough but when we found out that their final event of the year was open to the public and then when she found out that some of her friends would be there, she wanted to go.


This was her first 5K without a running buddy. In the past she has gone with Jesse and/or Megan and one or both of them stayed with her the whole time. She was a little nervous about knowing the route but we assured her there would be plenty of people along the way to help and suggested that if in doubt, follow the crowd.

We should have known that it is never a good idea to tell your children to follow the crowd. Especially when that crowd includes 4000 people.

It was a 2 lap course and coming around after the first lap she was about 20th overall.

And then when we should have seen her coming toward the finish line, she was nowhere to be seen.

The Good Doctor, who was farther down the course came running up to tell me that he saw her at the final turn and instead of going up toward the finish line, she looped around for a third lap.

We checked the clock. She would have had a 27.30 time.

Instead, she was still running strong. She did admit later to having to walk a little during the 3rd lap. Good thing. I was afraid she was going to collapse.

My fears began to get the best of me. I was afraid not only for her physical safety (thinking she would not know when to stop or would be fearful of letting people down if she stopped) but for her emotional well-being. Would this cause her to hate running? Would it negatively affect her self-esteem when it was supposed to do the opposite? Would she be a crying mess when we finally found her?

While The Good Doctor took off backwards on the course, trying to locate her, I started praying. Thank goodness because those worries quickly became prayers of trust. God had her in His hands. There was a reason for this, although what, I had no idea.

He finally found her and ran with her until he could send her sailing through the finish.

To our complete amazement, she shrugged off the whole thing. We tried to play up the fact that now she knows just how far she can run, and it's a whole lot further than a 5K.

And then she told us she just wanted to jog back to the car.

What went wrong at that turn that should have been her last? Turns out it was a combination of factors. John spotted her just before the split and yelled, "Go left!" She ran a few more strides and couldn't remember what he'd said. She asked someone running near her who told her it was their first lap and she assumed they were on the same loop as her. They weren't. Also, as she looked at the area where she should have turned, she said she saw all the bystanders blocking the way so she thought it was the wrong direction. The poor volunteer assigned to that area had been trying to get the bystanders to back up but they weren't listening and not enough large groups had come in yet at that point to cause them to have to move.

That's okay. We have one very happy girl who ran her heart out, went the extra mile so to speak, and found out that she's stronger than she thought she was.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Prom 2015

It's that time of year again. That time when every weekend there are photos on Facebook of our teens dressed to impress. Now that we're on Child Number 3 of 8, I think we've got this down to a T.

First, you go to the park and you take photos of the putting on of the corsage and boutonniere.


Then the photos of the group

and the men

and the women, although it might have been in the opposite order.

And if it starts to rain, you go under a tree.



And then the siblings join you.

Photos in the rain.

If it's a year of more than one King going to prom, you drive to the next location, preferably indoors since by now it's pouring.






Awwwwww

Quite possibly the tallest and the shortest in the school, good thing they were not each other's date

Best photo of the night was of Mr. King with a photo of himself on someone else's phone. This is his solution to a rare problem: Being on prom court when you made the decision not to go to prom. This way a friend can hold up his photo for the person needing to dance with him and if he should get elected King, they have a place to set the crown. Skype was his second option. Maybe next year they'll ask people if they want to be on prom court, or even if they plan to attend. I'm sure Jesse and Megan are enjoying their dinner out together.

This was a close second for best photo of the night. For once, her mouth is closed and someone else's is open.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bir Mother's Day

Happy Bir Mother's Day!



Apparently Mr. Victor was singing Happy Birthday in the background and she got distracted. But he did sleep through the night so that was the best gift he could have given me, even if he did refuse to say Happy Mother's Day all day and instead sang me the birthday song and asked for a donut.

I never ever would have guessed that I'd be preaching on Mother's Day but The Good Doctor somehow convinced me that it would be a nice Mother's Day gift (for whom, is my question?) if I would join him on the podium today for a touching and heartfelt Mother's Day message.

On spiritual warfare.

Sometimes the pre-made schedule just doesn't fit the calendar.

We made it fit.

The consolation prize was that he convinced (bribed, maybe?) the older children to get the younger children ready for church and to bring them to church all on their own so that he could take me out to breakfast.

It ended up being a cover for practicing the sermon at Panera Bread.

But at the end of the day I can honestly say that their willingness to get up at 7AM to attend to the younger children (mostly Victor) and Eden's willingness to make muffins for the family's breakfast, and their volunteering to get everyone to church on time and looking nice (Victor was already on the second outfit of the morning by the time they got to church and after church I noticed that his pants were on backwards which they conveniently blamed on the nursery staff, but all-in-all it was a win), made this the best Mother's Day by far!

And then dinner out to celebrate. Jesse added a bit of adventure by telling the younger set that they were not allowed to use silverware; only chopsticks. I was allowed to use silverware since it was, after all, Mother's Day.

Victor used chopsticks for doing what he does best, banging.

After the initial failed attempts, and a bit of pouting, she got the hang of it.

And then cards including a poem by Shoun:

I hope you have a great day
We will all go outside and play
While you stay inside and sleep
But don't worry, we won't make a peep
But before I get carried away,
Have a happy Mother's Day!!!

and two cards from Hope:

happy mutrs day I hope you like your pesful day thank you for being a vare nies muther no mader haw i akt I will olways love you

Happy mothers day
You are kind
You are prity
You are a good kook
You are good with miy hare
I noe you love me


It's good to know I'm not just any old kook but a good kook and she likes my rabbit handling skills, too.

To end the day, Andrew came home with a great card that I can't post.

Thank you, everyone for the best Mother's Day ever!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Banging

Victor likes to bang.

No, Victor needs to bang. His cup on the high chair tray. The kitchen utensils on the steps (you should see the steps). His block on the coffee table. His head on the wall.

We think we've figured it out. It's a combination of his lack of vision and sensory issues.

He needs noise in his life; it's a sense that works for him.

And he needs sensory stimulation such as spinning, swinging - and banging.

So Eden and I went to the Salvation Army and bought pots, pans, and tin boxes that make a lot of noise. And The Good Doctor stopped at some garage sales and bought up more of the same (our apologies to the grandmother whose heirloom serving dish is now being used to control Victor's aggressions).

I put a bunch of the items in a box along with a small plastic bat, a spatula, and a few other bang-able objects. Voila! Banging box. Now when he needs to bang something he shouldn't, we just scoop him up and take him to the box.

And then we decided that we shouldn't be the only ones enjoying Victor's music and The Good Doctor made a Banging Wall.

I bet the neighbors wish they had let us get those chickens we wanted instead.

Monday, May 4, 2015

My own log

To the Woman at Dairy Queen Yesterday Who Gave Me the Death Glare When Victor Screamed,

As I went to bed last night, I had a scathing blog post all written out in my head. I figured it was justified. I told myself that everyone would understand. I took into account all the similar Facebook posts and blogs I've read in the past. And there have been many, forwarded to me multiple times: 5 Things Not to Say to Mothers, 10 of the Worst Things to Say to Adoptive Families, 15 Sayings a Transracial Family Should Never Have to Hear, and 20 Things to Remember When Talking to the Mom of a Special Needs Child. Now I had my own. I was angry, I was bitter, and I was felt vindicated. I just needed some morning sun and time to sit at the computer.

But during my run this morning, I heard instead from the Voice of Truth (Running is not listed as one of Gary Thomas' pathways but I'm pretty sure it's one of mine. Maybe it's because I'm such a slow learner in both my running and prayer life.) who reminded me that while I'm spending so much time inwardly berating someone for judging me without understanding, I was doing the same thing to you.

So Ma'am, it is with my deepest apologies that I write you what I should have been willing to write last night:

To the Woman at Dairy Queen Yesterday Who Gave Me the Death Glare When Victor Screamed,

I am writing to apologize.

First of all, I would like to apologize for my son's actions. I am sorry that he screamed so loudly when you were sitting so close. Maybe we should have known better. I usually do stay home with him while the family enjoys these fun excursions. And to my credit, I did ask The Good Doctor to go through the drive-thru, but his experience with Victor in public is not as frequent as mine; he didn't know what was going to happen. But I should have known. Especially after a full day with a very short nap. Especially after I forgot to bring the bag with his supper to his sister's race. Especially since his cup was in that bag. Especially since we are in the middle of testing to find out why he has such an insatiable thirst and since there may be a medical reason why he refused that ice cream (I know, it's hard to believe that someone would refuse ice cream, believe me, I don't understand it, either) and instead demanded a cup of water. Especially when there was such a long line and it took forever (to a 2 year old's mind) for the requested water to arrive. Especially when I know that my blind two year old is prone to acting out by hitting, biting, banging his head, and yes, screaming, when he doesn't immediately get what he wants. I truly am sorry. I should have known and I should have been more considerate of the needs of those around me.

But more importantly, I would like to apologize for my thoughts toward you. When you looked at us like that, I was embarrassed and that made me angry. As I scooped him up to go sit outside on the curb, I was angry that you didn't realize that we're all fighting battles and that maybe my son's screaming went far deeper than my abilities as a parent. But today I realized that I was just as guilty for not remembering the same for you. At least you were honest and let me know what you were thinking. I may have hid my thoughts, thinking I was justified because I didn't speak them or show them (or maybe I did), but according to my Bible, my thoughts were the same as your actions. I have no way of knowing what was behind your condescension; did you have a bad day, too? Do you have a medical condition which affects your hearing? Maybe my son's screaming reminded you of something painful? Maybe you never had children and there is pain there? Whatever the reason, the fact remains that I have no idea what battles you are fighting and in my own embarrassment and feelings of unworthiness, I had no right to be angry at you. I'm sorry.

Yes, your actions allowed me to hammer another nail into my homemade sign which reads, "Unworthy," but that is my issue, not yours. That comes from my own pride and need to find value in the wrong places. That comes from allowing too many situations to pile up, each one justifying another nail, giving my sign permanent residence in my life. Instead, this morning, I realized that I need to switch out that sign for another. I hope that in the future, I can react with this sign boldly proclaiming, "I am a child of the King - and you are, too."

This is a broken world. I am broken and you are, too. I can't be angry at you for not understanding my family. I can only change myself. I only hope that I can be one who is willing to be uncomfortable so that someone else can be comfortable. I'm sorry that I did not leave the restaurant with the right attitude last night but hope that in the future I can do that. I should have used it as a teaching moment to show my children that we have a choice when faced with hostility. We can become bitter, too (look around, our American culture says we have a right to do so), or we can respond with love and grace. And I hope that in the future you might be able to do that for someone else. But if not, hopefully they will be willing to do it for you, and that you might find such grace over and over again. Because I believe that is what my Jesus would have done. And that is the example I long to follow.

Wherever you are, I hope that you are enjoying this beautiful day, and may it be a peaceful and quiet one, too!

Sincerely, Cindy