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!

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.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beach bum

The beach is my happy place, my safe place.

I'm pretty certain it's Victor's, too.

He loves the wind and the first thing he did when we went onto the beach was to lean back from my arms into the wind, raise his arms, and smile really big. He continues to put his arms out every time we are in the wind.

He's so at home here that he's learned how to clap, how to growl, how to go up steps, and he's walking more and more everyday! In response to "Where's Victor?" or "Where's Mommy?" he points to the named individual.

Maybe we should stay.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hello mudder, hello fadder

I try. I really do try.

When the first child went to camp, I contacted as many people as I could to send him letters. In return, I asked for just one simple postcard telling me that he was having a good time. I supplied the postcard, I addressed it, and I even added the stamp. All he had to do was write a simple sentence or two.

But camp came and went with nothing.

The next year two boys went to camp. I tried again with the same tactics. But when they came home, my pre-addressed and stamped post cards were right where I packed them, next to all the clean clothing that was never worn.

The next year I tried a new plan. First, I promised to pay them for every outfit worn at camp; no more coming home with all clean clothes. That worked. They either put on clean clothes everyday or they spent the last morning pushing all their clothes around in the dirt. Second, I provided them with pre-addressed, stamped and almost-all-written letters.

Dear Mom,

Camp is ____________. Today we ____________. It was ___________. The best part about camp is _____________.

Love, ___________

All they had to do was fill in the blanks. Still nothing. I should have filled in the blanks and put the letters in the mail myself. I could have pretended that it came from the child away at camp.

I gave up that year. Never again did I include postcards or envelopes in their camp gear.

But wonder of wonders, look what came in the mail this year -

It took 6 children, going to camp over a span of 12 years for someone to remember Mama while away.

Of course she did spend most of her letter tattling on her younger sister who was also at camp, and the rest of the letter discussing campers with a sense of entitlement (yes, she used that word) and the non-camp items they brought with them.  But she sent me a letter! I didn't provide her with an envelope and I didn't give her a stamp. In fact, she had to use her own canteen money to purchase the stamp herself.

She loves me!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Big brother, little brother

Big Brother was concerned about adding Little Brother. Heading off to college, not only was it embarrassing to have Mom and Dad add a new baby to the family, but Big Brother was concerned that Little Brother wouldn't know him. Finding out that Little Brother was blind just added to the consternation; how could they even connect through pictures?

I don't think there's any more cause for unease. Except maybe when Big Brother has to tell others that he has a Baby Brother.
"You play, I'll sing."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

23 years

In lieu of a mushy anniversary post (sorry to disappoint all my romantic fans), I am going to share with you some wedding and marriage advice; little tidbits I've learned in my 23 years of experience. Most of you can just skip this as it's really just brainwashing for my kids. They've heard it many times but sometimes it's helpful to have it in writing.

1. No matter what all those wedding cards tell you, marriage is not supposed to make you happy. It is, instead, supposed to make you holy. That's right. I learned that at a marriage weekend workshop seminar thingie that the Good Doctor was forced to go to because he was a pastor and he had to represent his congregation and support the speaker at this hallowed affair. And of course a married pastor can't be forced to go to a marriage weekend all alone so his wife should be forced to attend as well. Yes, believe it or not, churches are the only institution in all of America that can force the spouses of employees to do things even though they are not on payroll. So she was and she did. She was neither happy nor holy that weekend. But she was there. And she learned this amazing advice: God did not design marriage to make you happy but to make you holy. Don't forget it. Someday, you'll thank me for sharing that with you and we can all be holy and unhappy together.

2. Make your wedding unique; it should represent the two of you. It should not represent your parents or your siblings or your best friends or anyone else who thinks they need to give their input (except mothers who brainwash you years in advance; you should listen to them). So, if you want to wear the prototype of your dress to your rehearsal instead of the customary bouquet of shower ribbons taped to a paper plate, go ahead. Where else will you get to show off all your hard work in designing and making your gown?

And if you want to wear your favorite plaid pants that are going to look like a pair of your son's PJs 20 years in the future, go right ahead.

You say you want an outdoor reception when the weather is supposed to be high 90s with 90% humidity, why not? It's your day.

3. Skip the expensive photographer. I know this goes against all those wedding magazines that tell you that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that you should take out a special loan just for the photographer, but I'm telling you that's bad advice. Look at this picture.

Why on earth do I need a photo of my hand? There is absolutely no reason for this photo except to compare my veins now with the way they looked then. And to remember that for the first and last time in my life I painted my nails. Or maybe if I ever noticed a growth on my hand we could compare it to this photo to see how much it has grown in 23 years. That's it; no other reason. But thankfully, this is the only inanimate object photo that I wasted my money on. Do you know what you pay your photographer to do these days? All that money does not go to taking more pictures of you and your friends and family. It does not even go to taking that pimple off your face since that is pretty much a one-click fix that you could do yourself. Instead, you'll find that your multi-million dollar wedding photos CD includes a picture of one of the balloons from your head table. It'll be a nice photo, very creative and artistic, but 20 years from now you will say, "I paid for that?"  Unless you plan to have a balloon theme for your child's nursery, you will have no other use for that balloon photo. And what about the picture of the lantern from the doorway to the reception hall? Maybe if you happen to become the proud owner of that reception hall someday you could use the photo in your promotional literature but in your wedding album, absolutely no use. My favorite wedding album is actually the one made of candids that friends and family took and gave to us later. Like these photos of the flower girl

with the Cabbage Patch doll bribe that got her down the aisle

and picking her nose on her way to be introduced at the reception. No modern-day photographer in his right mind is going to give you a photo like that. Instead, included in that fee that could have been your first car, she will happily photo shop the flower girl's arm by her side, maybe even holding a pretty posey or possibly moving that ring bearer over so he's right next to her where he's supposed to be. But then you'd have no chance to submit anything to Awkward Family Photos with the chance to win millions. Or at least $100.

4. If you're feeling this scared the day of the wedding, you should probably get out while the gettin's good.  Whether you're just reading those vows for the first time or that whole holiness vs. happiness thing is finally sinking in, just run while you have the chance.

5. Keep it simple. My grandfather performed our wedding ceremony. He wasn't married in a church.

He didn't have a 5 course meal at a reception hall. He didn't believe in bridal gowns, tuxes, or wedding rings. And as far as I know, there's only one wedding photo (and thankfully it's a picture of the happy couple and not just their hands). But he was just as married as any of the couples at the elaborate weddings I go to today. In fact, I am fairly certain he was both happy and holy. I've never heard anyone on his deathbed saying that he wished he had spent more money on his wedding. Truth is, I've never heard anyone say anything on his deathbed but if I did, I'm sure it would have nothing to do with spending more money on anything. Save your money. You'll need it to adopt a child someday. Or to donate to my next adoption. Or to send to those starving children in Africa 'cause I can assure you that your future children aren't going to finish every meal just because you tell them there are children who are going without. Sponsor a child instead. Your elaborate wedding isn't going to do anything for the cause of Christ; living simply so others may simply live has so much more potential. There will be many material temptations throughout your marriage, start with your wedding to make choices that reflect a simpler and giving lifestyle. I thought I was keeping my wedding simple, and comparatively I was, but if I had it to do all over again, I would go even simpler.

Remember: It's not about you. It never was. It never will be. Have fun. Be happy. Be holy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Kingwold vacation, part 9

This is your day to rejoice as the King family vacation posts are coming to an end. I will bore you no more. But first, we must reminisce about the end of our story.

As you probably can guess, since Disney is Disney, no detail is left untouched, no matter how small. Every need, every want, is taken care of, always. Every person you meet has a smile, a helpful hand, or whatever you need for the moment.  The problem is that the good vibes end abruptly as you descend the stairway to reality, or rather, bureaucracy - the dreaded customs room.  They really should have signs as you descend -


Smiles forbidden.

You are now leaving the land of Happy and entering the domain of Grumpy.

It was a world of laughter but here begins the world of tears.

You must stop having a good time.


We silently wound through the queue, dread in our hearts, fear in our minds, until we got to the last two people before the customs booth. John and several of the children were told to move on to the space behind the booth while I was stopped with the rest of the children behind me. And then ensued the following conversation:

Ma'am, you need to wait here.

Excuse me, shouldn't families enter customs together?

Yes. Are you with your family?

No, sir, you sent them on ahead.

You're with them?

Yes, we are.

You're all the same family?


But only immediate families go through customs together.

We are immediate family. That's my husband and those are my children.

Who is with you here?

The rest of my children.  We need to be with that man up there, the one with the red face who is yelling for me to join him because we can't go through customs if we're not all together.

But you can only go with the people on your customs declaration form.

We are on the same form. We are one family.

You're one family?

Well, we were when we came in here but if you look at my husband you'll see that he's extremely upset that I am not obeying his orders to join him so we may not be one family much longer.

Oh, then you may go ahead, ma'am.

Thank you, sir.

I like to believe he thought I looked too normal to be mother to so many.

Welcome Home, Kids!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kingwold vacation, part 8

Five years ago when we were given a similar vacation blessing, some of us took the opportunity to get up close and personal with dolphins. This involved some kissing

and dancing.

So this time around, some of us decided to find out about sea lions.

This involved some kissing

and hugging

but no dancing.

Am I the only one who noticed that I still have the same bathing suit five years later? Oh dear. No wonder my teenage daughter says my clothes are vintage. Only she didn't call my bathing suit vintage. Maybe it's time for a new one.