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, November 28, 2015

An oops to tell about

I believe that it is very important that we tell stories to our children, especially first-hand accounts of our growing up or current situation. And not just the acceptable and honorable parts of our history, either. Of course we don't tell all to our 3 year olds, but stories do so much for our children. In a Bible study with parents we recently filled a whole white board with reasons for story-telling with our children. Some of the reasons given were:

-strengthening family identity

-helping children understand the viewpoint or feelings of someone else

-stories teach lessons

-similar stories can help heal

-repeating stories of God's faithfulness helps us to remember, strengthens faith for the future

-our stories show our children that we aren't perfect, either

-sympathizing with a child's current situation by sharing a similar one of our own

So, today, I have a story specifically for HopeAnne. This story is meant to show her that I'm not perfect, either and to sympathize with her by sharing a similar incident that happened to me.

HopeAnne is the lone King in the matinees for the Christmas show this year. My social butterfly is enjoying herself but she came home a little upset one day. It took a little while to get the whole story from her but eventually it came out. Apparently she messed up her line, her daily claim-to-fame, she felt just terrible about it, and one of the other little girls continued to rub it in by asking to take that line in the future since she didn't think Hope could handle it (not like it would be her choice to change it, anyway).  Thankfully several of the adults backstage found HopeAnne crying and told her not to worry about it, that she did the right thing by finishing the scene as if nothing had happened, and that the adults mess up all the time, too. When we talked about it, we decided that a good way to keep from worrying about this happening again was to always say her line one time to herself as soon as she arrived at the theater and again just before the beginning of the scene. There have been no problems since then.

Well, in about an hour I will be driving home to tell HopeAnne my own story of messing up and yup, you just go on as if nothing happened.

The name of the Christmas show is There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays. Several years ago Mariana spent two seasons at Hershey Park in a show titled Home Sweet Home 4 Christmas. Those two years must be embedded in my memory because I can't tell you how many times I've told people that was the name of this year's show. Different theater. Different town. And definitely different show title. Every now and then I help out as House Manager and sometimes that means doing the curtain pitch. The first few weeks I was so worried that I would mess up from the stage and welcome folks to the wrong show. But all went well and I thought my brain had finally switched from Home Sweet Home to There's No Place Like One. I guess not. Today I very enthusiastically welcomed everyone to a combination of the two: Home Sweet Home for the Holidays. Oops.

Well, HopeAnne, looks like I'll be rehearsing my line each time I arrive at the theater and again right before heading up to that stage just like you. Maybe we can practice together. On second thought, that might mean that we combine your line and my little ditty. I don't think it'd be a good idea to welcome folks to the Monster Truck Home for the Savings Bond, do you?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thank God for hand turkeys!

Back in our college days we had a friend named Jeff. Jeff had a theory about education majors and his theory could be summed up in two words:

hand turkeys

Jeff thought that in Science for the Elementary Teacher we talked about the anatomy of a hand turkey, in Math for the Elementary Teacher we counted hand turkeys, in Music for the Elementary Teacher we learned songs about hand turkeys and of course in Art for the Elementary Teacher we made elaborate hand turkeys.

I spent many years trying to prove him wrong but this Thanksgiving I realized that he may have been right all along. It appears as if you can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can't take the hand turkeys out of the teacher.

Eden had fun assisting with the turkey treats for Thanksgiving dinner
and HopeAnne enjoyed making turkey treats for her siblings.
The turkey breakfasts are on me. Already sent one out to school with this big bird in her belly. Mr. Picky is enjoying as much bacon as I'll let him eat with a few bites of turkey belly and head in-between. The sleeping teens who don't have school will have to wait til noon or whatever time they finally wake up. Mr. College student? He's an education major. He can make his own turkey.

So here's my theory (which is a bit longer than Jeff's):

Whatever you do, whether it be making hand turkeys or solving algebraic equations about turkeys, or even finding a cure for turkey avian flu, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and don't forget to be thankful for the teacher who taught you to make hand turkeys. And give special thanks to those mothers who never lost their love for hand turkeys!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Running with a purpose

She needs a running buddy, they said.

You do it, The Good Doctor said.

It'll be fun, they said.

Yeah, right. First of all, I run only between the temperatures of 55 and 85 and I just have this feeling about the average temps in late November. Second of all, I'm slow and could never, ever keep up with HopeAnne.

Think, think, think...

The girl can run. The girl loves to run. The girl was most likely born to run. She has always been fast, always been moving, and always loving it.

Half mile, 5K, it's all the same to her. There was even that time she ran a 7.5K because she got distracted and ran an extra loop during a 5K. She looked pretty tired crossing the finish line that time but a few minutes later said, "Let's run back to the van!" You go, girl!

So we found her a running buddy that could keep up with her and even push her a bit. At their practice 5K a few weeks ago, HopeAnne thought she needed to walk a lap or two but then ran 5 extra laps to join her friends who were still finishing. Yeah, push her a little.

Sure enough, it was a chilly 41 degrees for race day. I should have run, it might have kept me warm. Even Mr. Victor, otherwise known as Mr. I-Only-Wear-A-Diaper-Pants-and-One-Shirt who initially protested the turtleneck onesie (TAKE OFF THE NECK!!!!!!!!!!) and tried to get out of the sweatshirt, finally gave in after an hour and 15 minutes and allowed us to wrestle the coat on him. If nothing else, that event alone makes the day a success.

But the other success is this little girl and the joy that running brings to her and the self-esteem it builds within her. Everyone needs to find their purpose. She has found hers.

And it's even more than running for her. A few months ago she ran a race. After crossing the finish line in first place she saw that another girl was struggling to walk the end of the race. In the past, this family has been very unkind to the girls and to me. Lies were told, malicious words were spoken directly and indirectly, and the hurt was very deep. But we talked about it a lot, realized that there's always hurt behind those who hurt, we forgave, and hoped that in the process we were able to shine God's light of love. HopeAnne expressed that in the most beautiful way when she ran over to the struggling girl and, along with the girl's mother who had been so antagonistic in the past, they walked across the finish line together. One day she came home from the running program she had participated in and told me that she had a new friend. She told me her name and then told me that she wanted to be this girl's friend because she had shared that because she was heavier than her classmates she was often made fun of and didn't have many friends. Yes, she has found her purpose.

And the icing on the cake:
Finishing 15th out of 428 girls, ages 10 and under

Go, Hopie, go!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Role models

In my prayers this morning I released "the one" to Jesus. He came from behind and put His arms around her and held her. She was smiling. They walked off together. I asked Him if she'd be okay. He told me that it would be a long road but someday she "will know".

But then He showed me a picture that was also part of Victor's story a few years ago. I saw a red carpet and it led to a very large stage. On that stage stood my family and Jesus holding a baby. Children started coming in from all sides to join us until there was quite a crowd on the stage. He said, "These are my children, Cindy. These are your children. You will show them my love. You will bring them to me. You will rescue them. It will be hard. You will get dirty. Your heart will hurt. I will be here. Have faith. Move mountains. Break chains. Be faithful. You need only be still. I will bring them to you. You will know. Trust me.... This wasn't just about loving "the one", this was also to prepare you..."

I love the stories of Corrie ten Boom. Her family chose to do the hard and hid Jews during the Holocaust. They knew the risk. But they also knew it mattered to each one. And they were caught. Corrie lost her dear sister and her father in the concentration camps. But after her release she was still able to say it was the right thing to do and to do the hard work of forgiving.

Jim Elliot is another person I like to read about. God gave him a heart for a remote tribe in Ecuador.  He and his family knew the risk and Jim, along with four other missionaries, were killed while trying to connect with the people. Later, several of the widows returned to live with the very same people who had killed their husbands.

And Mother Teresa. What beautiful stories there are of how she loved the outcast. She knew the risks of disease and dirt and poverty yet she chose to live among them every single day. So humble, so wise, so full of love, and so open to giving that love away.

Social media was not even an option for each of these people. But even if it had been, I'm pretty certain Corrie ten Boom wouldn't just have been writing thought-provoking Facebook posts telling others to join the movement to hide Jews from the Nazis while she and her family continued to move about freely in the community and earning a living in her father's shop. And I don't think Jim Elliot would simply have been sharing blog posts about how others should relate to violent people groups while he and his family were safe and secure living the American dream. Mother Teresa? I don't think she would have been fulfilled by just re-posting challenging memes about loving the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable while spending her days attending sermons and lectures in large cathedrals or churches. Instead, each of these individuals would have been doing. And not because they were trying to make a point or turn the attention to themselves but simply because they knew that it was what every Christian is called to do. And if they weren't on the ground serving "the one", they were on their knees with their Lord, intimately communing, finding refreshment for the needs of the day, getting their marching orders, asking for and receiving wisdom. If they had just talked and not been willing to sacrifice comfort, finances, and safety for "the one",  how many lives would never have known the love of another, the that comes from the love of a Savior? I guess their lives still could have influenced others, but it wouldn't have been a model of love and service, it would have simply been a model of talk. And we certainly don't need any more Christians who are all talk and no love.

Jesus was once asked to clarify which commandment was the greatest. He answered with not one, but two commandments and I think there's a reason they were paired together; it is impossible to do one without the other:

Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God 
with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Matthew 22: 36 - 40

No, they wouldn't just have been writing about loving and serving, they would have been doing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Football or Recital?

Someone recently asked for advice on raising larger families. I don't know that I have any of that but I did say that I have to give myself a lot of grace. One thing that is very difficult for me is when I have to miss someone's event because I need to be taxiing other children or going to a different event or because it's an event to which Victor is not invited (per my specifications) so I stay home with him.

Senior Recognition Night for football was the same night as a violin/viola recital. The Good Doctor graciously volunteered to go to the football game (it was a sacrifice but someone had to make it) so I represented at the recital.

Thankfully, someone agreed to take photos of the important parts of the game (ie. not of the game itself) so that I could be there in spirit. After the fact.

And then the mascot decided to try cheerleading for a night. I wonder why King Kat never did that?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Not for the faint of heart

Someone once gave the older boys a few action figures to take on vacation. They were given the suggestion to hide them each night after the little kids went to bed so they could find them in the morning. It was kind of an Elf on the Shelf idea except the mischievous elf had not been born yet. And it was summer, not Christmas. And there was no Pinterest for creative, over-the-top ideas. So, no, I guess it wasn't anything like the elf at all. Anyway, the little kids enjoyed finding the action figures hanging from the chandelier and dangling over the toilet and I don't remember what else.

So I guess I should not have been surprised when Victor's snake started showing up all over the place. Actually, Victor calls it a fake, not a snake. I don't know why. He can tell me that the fake says ssssss so I told him to say sssssssnnnnnnnnn-ake but he said "Ssssssssssssnnnnnnnnnn-no . .  . . . . fake."

I tried.
Imagine running down the steps, minding your own 
business, and finding this at the bottom.

Now we're on a roll. No one has ever spelled out the rules but I think it goes like this: If you find the hidden snake, you are allowed to move it to a new location.

I will admit to a little jump every time I open a drawer or the microwave or see this thing dangling from HopeAnne's pull-up bar but it's good, clean fun so why not?
She wasn't impressed to find it in her backpack. 
Not too thrilled about the time it was in her bed, either.

(And if you decide you'd rather not visit just in case you find the newest hiding place, that's fine. I understand.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Loving Victor

Several people have asked for updates about Victor recently so this is probably a good time and place to do that. Victor is now 2 1/2, very active, very verbal, and very much work. It's often difficult to determine if his behaviors are because he's blind, has a neurological condition, or simply because he's 2.

It's nice that he is so verbal. It's hard to believe that once upon a time he needed a speech therapist but just like his gross motor skills, once he learned to talk, he sped right through the next 10 stages of development. Walking went right from a few steps to jumping, climbing, and running. Talking went from one word (with water bottle - connected as one word - being one of his first) to sentences of significant length. He knows what he wants and when he wants it. "No thank you," is a common phrase. Too common.

Although he was initially diagnosed as completely blind, with pale and under-developed optic nerves, we noticed around 1 year of age that Victor had at least some light perception. His ophthalmologist is still baffled at this since his shine-the-flashlight-in-Victor's-eyes brings no response but Victor always knows if the light is on or off and is always asking to touch every lamp we pass, even if it is far up in a cathedral ceiling.

Mandated reporters and Helicopter parents note: We do not allow Victor to touch lightbulbs or other dangerous heated devices nor do we allow him to climb ladders to touch lamps in cathedral ceilings. I said he asks to touch them, not that we comply to every request. Continuing on...

Around 2 years of age we noticed that if something was held right in front of his eyes, as in right in front, he could often identify it. He loves books and as we held each one millimeters from his eyes, he could identify which one it was. Turning on Elmo's World on Youtube for the first time, with the sound off, with no prior conversation to give him context, he put his face right up to the computer and asked, "Elmo?" More recently we have noticed that he will take a new object and hold it up to his face to name it rather than putting it in his mouth to tactilely identify it as he used to do. We don't know what this means for his vision but it has clearly improved and when he is old enough to verbalize it and have an exhaustive eye exam, we will know more.

While his vision has improved, his sensory issues have worsened. I've mentioned several times his aversion to many foods and clothing such as sweatshirts and winter coats. He won't touch anything squishy such as play-doh. He also isn't fond of soft items like stuffed animals. He needs a lot of activity that uses his muscles, especially upper body. Climbing up the slide rather than the steps may have been off-limits to all of the other children in my home but Victor needs to do this. Crawling is another good activity for him which uses these muscles so we have a tunnel that he can play in. The ball pit also helps him to use these muscles. He has a weighted vest which he wears a few hours each day. It helps him to slow down and to be less erratic on his feet. He also has an insatiable need to bang. Everything. We have an antique bench that is now pock-marked due to Victor's habit. It has been suggested that I could hire him out to distress antique furniture. Not a bad idea.

Mandated reporters and Helicopter parents please note: That was a joke. We do not plan to hire out our 2 year old.

Potty training? No understanding or interest. So he's the first King kid still in diapers past his 2nd birthday.

Giving up the pacifier for nap and bedtime? Not gonna happen if I want my sleep or two hours of free time each afternoon. He has sleep issues, common to blind individuals, to begin with. Besides, his occupational therapist has said that the strong sucking is necessary for his sensory needs. Since he's the first King kid with a pacifier at all, we'll go with that theory.

But probably the most difficult for me are Victor's behaviors which like I said could be blamed on his age, his lack of vision, the way his brain is affected by his condition, or all of the above. Victor and I don't go out in public very often. When meeting new people, his response is usually to scream. Loudly. When in a room full of people, his response is to scream. Loudly. When being held by someone (me) talking to someone else (you), his response is to scream. Loudly. His next response is to bang his head on the nearest wall or floor or person, to roll on the floor in a complete meltdown tantrum, to hit himself or the closest person, or even to bite his own arm. Thankfully, biting someone else has been very rare and most often one of us at home and the one time it happened to someone outside of our home, the parent was extremely kind and gracious.

Victor does love music and his therapists have all suggested that he be around more children his own age so when I found a parent-child music class, I thought it would be a great idea. And the class was a great idea - for the music. Victor loves the music and the movement and knows that "On Tuesday we go to music class." He doesn't sit well, but neither do the other 2 year olds. He may not be sitting but he knows exactly what is happening in the class. And besides, the child can sing the whole Newsies, Annie, and Frozen soundtracks so maybe sitting through Michael Finnegan and Knick Knack Paddy-whack feels a little childish to him. The real problem has been the other moms, helicopter moms in particular, who like to look down their noses at me and my apparent lack of parenting skills. One week Victor was moving around the room as he usually does. One of the other little girls was also walking around. She and Victor had a mild crash, no one was knocked down, and no one cried. But the mom rushed over, scooped up her 2 year old who was perfectly fine and proceeded to coddle and breastfeed her til she recovered from the traumatic experience that never happened (unless you count touching a hyperactive special needs child - I guess that could be considered traumatic to some) while the rest of us sat in the circle trying to decide if we should go on or wait for the milk break to be over. Last week the mom informed me that her daughter was afraid Victor was going to knock her down again. She didn't look afraid to me and I know she isn't verbal enough to make that known to anyone but I kept Victor away so she (the mom) didn't have to worry about that which really concerned her - contact with the kid who wasn't like all the others. Made me feel absolutely wonderful as a parent. Also made me decide that I hope that little girl never meets another special needs person in her life because I don't think she'll have been given the skills to be compassionate.

But then we have other friends who have helped their children understand Victor and his needs. I loved the little boys who honestly and sincerely asked me how Victor would be able to enjoy something that they love - running. And another mom told me that her son enjoys playing with Victor at church and who told his mom that it's okay that Victor screams sometimes because he can't see. This gives me hope that there is a place for Victor because selfishly, my biggest fear is that Victor will be kicked out of places like church because of his behavior - and I need that free time every week! We joined a homeschool co-op this year, not because I suddenly became an extrovert in need of spending time with homeschool moms whose children are all holier and smarter than mine because mine have been to real school but because the only child that is homeschooling this year is a social butterfly and feared that she would be lonely. But my heart has been so happy to find that Victor's teachers not only accept him but have found ways to include him in the room. They used a bubble machine the very first day he was there and my heart exploded when I arrived to pick him up and saw that they had positioned him right next to the machine so he could both hear the motor and feel the bubbles with his hand as they came out. He still talks about the bubble machine when I say we're going to co-op. I cried watching the video of the 2 year olds and saw how he was included in so many of their activities. Someone in there obviously understands how important this is to Victor. And to me.

So that's how Victor is doing. I pray for grace and patience for each day and daily have opportunities to grow in each of these areas. But we love him and enjoy the precious moments with him; times when he will cuddle, when he will snuggle and read books with us, when he says, "I love you sooooooo much," and when he is learning a new skill.

He's our victorious Victor and we love him soooooooo much, too.