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!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

One little word

I don't know who came up with the One Little Word thing. Probably someone who got tired of New Year's resolutions yet wanted something to commemorate the new year. So here we have it, the pressure to conform by choosing one little word as a theme or challenge or encouragement for the year. Every year I refuse to conform but then a word comes to me anyway so I might as well follow through.

It was actually back on December 18th, when our Sunday School teacher ended class by suggesting that we ask God this question: What do you want me to do for you in 2017? I scribbled the question down on the back of my bulletin and was about to pack up when the answer immediately came to me so I added it: Let my heart break for what breaks yours. Give me the strength to bear it. Remind me to allow You to bear the burden for me and with me.

And then I wrote one more thing because I knew what my word had to be for 2017: Break

I think I may have rolled my eyes at God.

Break? Really? Doesn't my heart break enough for the vulnerable and broken? Does it have to break more?

But I already knew the answer. And thankfully I know the One who will hold my heart just as He asks me to allow my heart to be broken even more.

“Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. 
Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, 
moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. 
We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. 
We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. 
At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. 
We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. 
We situate ourselves right next to the disposable 
so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.” -Father Greg Boyle

One of my friends, who is great at holding me accountable, waited until January 6 before wondering if I had fallen off the One Little Word wagon since there had been no mention of it.

I told her my word.

She asked if I was taking a break or planning to break toes?

Neither, I said, and promised a blog post. It was already in my head and my journal, but becoming difficult to organize and post.

Because I'm not sure I want this one little word (but that's probably the point, right?). Since December 18th, I've come to realize that break not only means breaking my heart even more for the brokenness around me but also to break old habits and sins that weigh me down and keep me from truly hearing from and experiencing God.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God you will not despise.
Psalm 52:17

I've been challenged recently by testimonies and stories of friends and strangers who have been able to successfully and totally surrender areas of their lives to Christ - areas of temptation and sin, and bad habits that weighed them down. I'm humbled by their commitment to changing themselves for Christ, rather than changing Christ to fit them. This is what I'm seeking this year as God works with me to break down the areas of my life that I have not surrendered to Him.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, 
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:14

God, help me to throw off that which hinders. Weights aren't necessarily wrong, they just aren't necessary!

And during a time of prayer, God spoke these words to me:
"Break. Together we'll break chains this year - yours and others. Give it time..."

He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

So here's to 2017 and the year of break - breaking my heart and my chains. And here's to healing and wholeness and freedom.

"It gets darker and darker, and then Jesus is born." Wendell Berry

Friday, January 13, 2017

Victor, Victor, Victor-isms

Victor: Mom, I pooped!
Me: Oh, great! Where?
Victor: In the restroom.
Me: Um, Victor, there is no poop in the potty. Where is your poop?
Victor: In my butt!
Victor: Mom, what are you doing?
Me: Flossing.
Victor: You can't do that!
Me: Why?
Victor: Because that's what boys do.
Victor: I want my microphone!
Mariana: I want you!
Victor likes to be in charge. This is nothing new. Recently, however, he has taken it to a whole new level...
"I'm going to help you. Say 'okay'."
OR "Can I do that? Say 'sure'."

Andrew overheard this one day and decided to try it.
"Mom, I want you to buy me a new car. Say 'okay.'"

It didn't work for him, either.
As we walked out of preschool, Victor asked, "What do you feel on your face?"
"It's snow," I replied.
"NO," my smartie-pants replied, "It's snowFLAKES!"
When Victor is mad, he swears. At least, he would if he knew real swear words. But he just uses every word that we've asked him not to say and it comes out sounding a lot like swearing. Thankfully, he doesn't yet know any real swear words although his sister taught him to say fartsicle thinking it'd be funny and would keep him from yelling his swear words like stupid, hate, what da cwap, and what da heck (all thanks to big brothers and sisters) except that when he says fartsicle it doesn't quite sound like that. What a humiliating conversation that was at pretty school. So, since Victor is committed to noncompliance, we have realized that if we tell him that good words are bad words, and show no reaction to real bad words, he will say the good words (with fewer bad words thrown in). Here's how it works:

Victor: Eden, will you read this book to me?
Eden: I will read it one time. Period.
Victor (upset that she will only read it one time): Don't say period!
Eden (realizing her opportunity): Oh, you're right. That's a good idea. Period is a bad word, a really, really bad word. So don't ever say that.

And sure enough, this morning he was mad at me. "You stupid period!" he yelled, "PERIOD! QUESTION MARK! DOT DOT DOT!" Usually I don't worry about laughing when he does something like that because he can't see me anyway but I have to admit to having a lot of trouble keeping my laughter silent when he actually called me a dot dot dot and thought I'd be upset. (And to all you folks who have perfect children, I wouldn't normally be happy that my child yelled at me but if you had to live with a noncompliant, angry child who seems to enjoy hurting the people who love him, you'd be happy, too, that at least you didn't have bite marks or a black and blue mark this time or that he didn't hurt himself. At a certain point you have to stop sweating the small stuff, or at least re-evaluate the definition of small stuff. And I've been called worse than a question mark or dot dot dot before. I can handle it.)

And later,
Mariana: Victor, can you please stop jumping on the couch?
Victor: No! What the heck question mark! Period! Stupid period!

*Sigh* Just another day in the life...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The proposal-that-wasn't

Don't worry, it's not a photo of a house on fire. Not even close.

I know these photos don't look like much to you. But they do tell a story. And it's a good one. It even has a moral of which good old Solomon wrote.

It all started a few weeks before Christmas when a certain someone, (let's call him Solomon, in honor of the man who spoke in proverbs), Solomon, conspiratorially confided in his siblings that he had figured out a great plan, a plan involving a Christmas proposal. "It's foolproof," Solomon repeatedly told his siblings. "It makes perfect sense," he suggested to his unbelieving siblings, "Why else would (let's call this sibling Jeroboam, just because it too sounds Biblical) Jeroboam be bringing his girlfriend (we'll call her Miriam for the same reason), Miriam, to MomMom and PopPop's for Christmas? We all know Jeroboam loves MomMom and PopPop so much so of course he has chosen this time and this location to propose."

"It's foolproof," he stated, one last time.

That's all it took to plant some ideas in the heads of these siblings as well. And of course, it didn't take long for a little birdie (aka a sibling) to break her vow of silence and tell me what Solomon had so positively related to her and the other younger siblings. I texted Jeroboam, told him that I had just found out that he was proposing over Christmas and sarcastically berated him for not telling me first. He assured me that Solomon had no idea what he was talking about so I texted back, "Well then, let's make it happen. Just for Solomon." The text quickly came back, "YESSSS!"

And so, the proposal that wasn't a proposal was hatched. Solomon, it was determined, would be given the important job of photographer so he could be front and center when the proposal didnt really happen. The plan morphed and evolved and got better and better as siblings Aaron and Milcah were soon involved as well. Jeroboam was sure to tell Miriam that he would be proposing, but not really proposing and that her participation was, well, necessary to the plot. She agreed. He also met with her parents, not to ask their permission for her hand in marriage but for their participation in a fake proposal for which he did not need to ask their permission for anyone's hand. They agreed and on Christmas eve, Miriam's father leaned over to Solomon and whispered, "Get some great pictures, okay?"

Christmas day arrived and we enjoyed breakfast (minus the annual cinnamon buns, but you already know that story), church, lunch, gifts, and then a little downtime before Solomon was secretly told, "Phase 1," which meant that he was to grab the camera and a cellphone and head out to the special location (the clubhouse in my parents' community), hide himself, and get ready for some great photos. As soon as he was gone, Jeroboam gathered the rest of his siblings around, "So," he said, "I understand that Solomon has told you all that I'll be proposing to Miriam today..." Smiles all around, and no one seemed to notice that Miriam was also in the room for the secret announcement. "...Well, I'm not proposing ... but because Solomon is so sure that I am, we're going to stage it for him." Aaron is going to go along to record Solomon who thinks that Aaron is recording the proposal.

So, the threesome headed out and at some point Aaron separated from the group to join Solomon off to the side. He interviewed Solomon, even asking him for his words of wisdom for the soon-to-be happy couple. Soon enough Jeroboam and Miriam arrived at the planned location. If you look closely (a magnifying glass will help), you can see Miriam's back just behind the post in the second photo. Jeroboam got down on one knee and asked his question and just as planned, Miriam cried, threw the ring which was really just a dime, and ran away from Jeroboam. A few minutes passed and then Jeroboam dejectedly left after her.

Solomon's face in Aaron's video, at this point is priceless. He's confused. He looks at the spot which is now empty, then at Aaron, then back to the empty spot, and back at Aaron. "What just happened?" he asks, clearly baffled by this recent string of events. Aaron feigns similar confusion and at some point one of them suggests that they go in search of the ring. The search, which is also all caught on film is cut short due to darkness and cold but with Solomon's promise to come out and search again in the morning.

When Aaron and Solomon arrive back at the house, we asked Solomon where he had been, and he loyally responded (thinking he's still keeping his brother's secret), "Looking for something in the van." "For half an hour?" "Yeah," he says, although not as confidently this time.

But when Aaron comes around the corner smiling and Miriam shows up from behind a closed door, he knows something is going on even if he can't quite put his finger on it. "What just happened?" he asks again. As it's explained to him, he is congratulated for his loyalty to his brother and given a Taco Bell gift card for his troubles.

And who knows, maybe the same thing happened to the first Solomon and that is what prompted him to pen those now famous (and true) words, "Pride goeth before a fall." Except that I don't think good old Solomon even knew Olde English. But whatever. And aren't you glad you aren't a member of the King family where pranks run in the family (comes through my side, I'll admit).

Oh, and looking at the three (the only three) photos he got of the proposal-that-wasn't, I'm pretty sure he won't be asked to hold the camera for the real proposal for which Miriam insists Jeroboam needs to put as much time and effort into planning as he did planning for the fake one.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The table's smaller


I took two boards out of the dining room table on Wednesday. One college student left on Monday, a second left today, and the third has just one day left.

My parents gave us the dining room table as a wedding gift. They took us to Lancaster County, right to the barn where the Amish men made buggies half of the year and tables the other half. The young, barefoot Amish boy met us and took us to the lower level of the barn where they had their sample tables and chairs. He asked how big I wanted my table to be. I said as big as I could get. My parents tried to talk me out of it. Why did I need a table that would seat 12 or so? Because. Just because.

I hope they're thankful now that they bought me the table with all the boards. In fact, we probably need a second one as we start to add significant others. But don't worry, I won't ask for a second. We wouldn't have room for it, anyway. Because for all those people who say, "Wow, you must really have a big house for all those kids," the honest answer is that no, we don't. Our house is probably smaller than yours. But we make it work. Some of us make it work with fewer complaints than others. Some with more. But I, for one, wouldn't want to clean a larger house. This one has enough cleaning, thank you.

Enough cleaning. But never enough kids.

Hopefully they'll be back.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Our Christmas angel

The Good Doctor's mother likes to say, "Well, you know, you meet all kinds...." I think no one knows this more than those who don't quite fit the mold, or those who love those who don't quite fit the mold. There have been times when we have been out and about with Victor, and we've met people who look at us with disgust or whisper among themselves, their words and meanings written all over their countenance.

And then there are those who go out of their way to show love and care for a child who needs it.

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about Victor's encounter with a Santa Claus at a family gathering. Victor told Santa that he wanted a working bunny. I had explained how Victor's bunny had been broken for about 11 months yet Victor was still talking about them, in fact, mentions his broken bunny to most everyone he met whether for the first time or the hundredth time; he mentions it almost everyday at pretty school.

A few days later I received a message from someone offering to look at the bunnies, to see if either of them, or even both of them, could be fixed. I passed on the bunnies and we waited for the results.

Yesterday, when arriving home from Ohio, I found this email:

"Bunny I has clearly been engaging in riotous living with little regard for his health and well-being, and as a result, suffers from an advanced case of cirrhosis of the circuit board.  Despite my best efforts, he passed away quietly in his sleep yesterday.  Bunny II seems to have been taking much better care of himself and has responded very well to some vitamin injections and a little physical therapy.  He now appears quite healthy and ready to return to normal activity.  I did see that Bunny I was carrying an organ donor card, and noting they are a perfect transplant match, I'm returning him to you on life-support, just in case Bunny II should require something in the future."

Today we picked up Victor's bunnies (the working one and the organ donor one). He hasn't left his bunny's side. He is being oh so careful and gentle when holding it or picking it up. And if you can't tell, the first photo is Victor's smile at having his bunny back.

Yes, you do meet all kinds but when you meet the giving and loving kind, it helps to alleviate the sting from the negative ones. May we all strive to be the kind of people who bring joy rather than pain. Everyone has gifts and everyone comes across needs right in front of them. We are thankful beyond words for the Christmas angel who was willing to take time to perform surgery on two bunnies, to diagnose the problem in one, to correct it, and to make a little boy happy (and occupied!).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Books and drums

Okay, so our Christmas wasn't all about the missing yeast.

It was also about books.

I would have loved getting books when I was growing up. My kids, not so much. I'm not sure what happened there; it certainly wasn't for lack of modeling and reading aloud and instructing and good old fashioned trying.

Maybe my braille reader will be my voracious reader.

In the meantime, I can give them books if I feel like it. It's my house and my gifts.

But to sweeten the pot, we told them that if they read the book by the end of January, they can choose a gift card from a stash of random cards we bought. First come, first served.

No, I'm not ashamed to succumb to bribery.

It was also the Christmas of drums. But that's nothing new. I think that might be our reality from now on. Jesse had Victor's name and knew just what to get for him.

And John managed to bring this drum home from Kenya.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A cereal Christmas morning

Some Christmases are more memorable than others. Some are known for circumstances or weather or special people. We have ...

... the Christmas Jesse was Jesus
... the Christmas Andrew and Jesse put their underwear on their heads
... the Christmas all the kids had the stomach flu
... the Christmas we met my brother's family at an indoor water park
... the Christmas we transitioned to my parents' new home

And this year shall forevermore be known as the year I forgot the yeast.

Every year, as tradition dictates, we have a movie night Christmas Eve Eve. At some point during either the first or second movie, the cinnamon roll fairy quietly excuses herself to get the cinnamon rolls ready to rise. She then joins the family who has no idea that she ever left (someone, please let tell her if Miss. Daisy dies at the end of the movie or lives to berate Hoke for another day). Christmas Eve morning she wakes up bright and early to prepare the cinnamon rolls to rise again and then everyone wakes up to cinnamon rolls that appear to have made themselves and to have magically plopped themselves on the center of the breakfast table. As if one morning is not enough, the whole scenario repeats itself Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at my parents'  house where we wake up to another round of magically appearing cinnamon rolls.

Except this year, someone forgot to pack the yeast for MomMom and PopPop's house.  The cinnamon roll fairy was all set to get the ball rolling Christmas Eve while everyone else chatted in the living room. She looked in the refrigerator where she had emptied her cold food bags and couldn't find the yeast. She looked again. She even looked in the bag with the dry ingredients in case she had mistakenly placed it there. Alas, there was no yeast to be found.

If it had been any other ingredient, her mother would have had plenty. But yeast, who keeps yeast around just in case?

No problem, the Good Doctor was ready to help out. Certain that a grocery store would still be open, he headed out to find some yeast. Closed. He tried Wal-mart. They're always open, right? Closed. At least they're giving their employees a holiday. He even tried a gas station/deli but of course they don't stock yeast. "Yup, we're traveling from Massachusetts to Florida  for the holidays, and well, the missus is wondering if you might happen to have some yeast?"

Nope. No yeast for the weary traveler.

So, while visions of sugarplums danced in the heads of the rest of the family, the cinnamon roll fairy  was awake in bed trying to figure out how she could have forgotten the first ingredient, the main ingredient for the cinnamon rolls.

Merry Christmas, everyone, enjoy your cereal!

Note: No family members were harmed by a Christmas morning without cinnamon rolls - their grandfather saved the day by filling in as Donut Fairy. Wawa may not have yeast but they do have donuts.