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 with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Shepherding

In early 2000, the Good Doctor and I worked with a local pregnancy center, in their "shepherding program." As a shepherding home, we opened our doors to single mothers-to-be. They lived with us while pregnant and for a few months afterward, until they transitioned to their next home.

The first young mother came to our home when I was pregnant with Isaac. We not only talked about pregnancy and babies together but I taught her to cook (when she came she thought that being able to macaroni and cheese out of a box was the epitome of meal prep) and tried to prepare her for life as a single parent. As we spent more time with her it became apparent that she was suffering from significant mental illness and likely would not be able to parent on her own. In the end, she transitioned to a group home where she could live with her daughter and have more supervision than if she had found her own apartment. She continued to spend time with us on birthdays and holidays. We stayed in touch for several years and know that she did eventually live on her own and had at least two more children. Along the way we lost contact with her.

The second mother, though younger than the first, definitely had a better skill-set for life on her own. I was able to accompany her through delivery and to witness the birth of her son. We have also lost contact with her but last we heard, she was living on her own with her son and successfully attending community college.

I  often wonder about these two women and their children who would be teens themselves now. I pray that they are in communities where they are loved and where their children have come to know the Lord. We never know what seeds we plant or how our lives have impacted another. I recently ran across the beautiful letter that the second mother gave us when she moved out...

"To: John, Cindy, Andrew, Jesse, Mariana, and Isaac -

I appreciate all that you have done for m. You all will be blessed and then some.

Please be careful of who you allow in because this world is getting more and more vicious. Everyone isn't who they claim to be and I would hate to see something ba happen to you guys. Many good things will come your way. Thank you for allowing me to have roof over my head and food to eat. My son will definitely be told about you all when he gets older.

To all the kids:  Be grateful of your parents. They are the best thing that happened to you. You all are very fortunate to have parents who care about others besides themselves. When you get old enough to understand what I'm saying then you too will realize what beautiful people you have in your lives.

Mariana, I know you always wanted a sister. Be patient and you just might get what you wish. If not, you can always call on me. As of right now, your mom is the closest you'll get to a wonderful, caring and trusting sister.

To all the kids: When all else fails, you can always turn to your family and God. You can never go wrong there.

Cindy, Thank you for coming to the hospital with me. If you weren't there, I would have fainted by now. It was a crazy experience, but I got a beautiful son out of it all. Thank you for all the tips.

John, You keep being the great preacher and parent that you are now and you will have all you need. Believe that!

To all the boys, Be good for your mother and father. Always protect your little sister. She is precious to you all. Keep your head in those books and continue to be excellent with the violin.

There aren't enough words for me to say to you all about how much I appreciate what you have done for me."

Monday, May 14, 2018

Friday nights

When I was growing up, Friday nights were at MomMom's. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered every Friday night (with very few exceptions!) for dinner, talking (the adults), and playing. It was where birthdays were celebrated and the kids were allowed to roam the neighborhood together. I remember walks to the park (and catching crayfish - whatever did we do with them once we brought them home????), swinging in the backyard, and roller skating up and down the hills. It was a different time, when the kids could go on adventures together and no one accused the parents of "free ranging" us. We were just kids, a bunch of cousins making memories together. I think it continued well into my middle school years, likely due to the busyness of my younger brother and cousins.

I recently read of another large family who has a weekly family dinner planned; a night when the adult children have a standing invitation to return home - whenever they are in the area, and my mind immediately went back to those Friday nights. I shared my Friday night memories with the Good Doctor and we decided that this would be a great idea for us and that with two weddings on the horizon and another child possibly moving out this summer, there was no better time than the present to start. No obligations, just a standing invitation with the hope that it will be a desired event - and not just for the Mama who loves to see her family together.

This past Friday was our first attempt and right from the start we had to improvise, but that's what family is all about, right? HopeAnne had a track meet so we packed up a picnic and ate while she ran. Outwardly she wasn't always so pleased with her cheering section (especially when she was the only one who heard her name along with whoops and hollers - while running a warm-up spring), but inwardly it had to feel good to have so many family members there for her. And afterward we enjoyed family games around the table.







Here's to all the Friday nights in the future...


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mom - according to Victor

My mom is ___ years old.
I don't know. I'm thinking... but I don't know how old. I never know how. Do you have a clue?

My mom sounds beautiful when...
you are really sweet. You know when you're sweet? You're sweet on spring days like when it's sunny out. Right?

My mom is not very good at...
making shakes.

My mom's job is...
keep people safe. Am I right?
(I tell him this all the time!)

My mom laughs when...
it's funny. You laugh when you hear silly things.

My mom is really good at...
I'm trying to think...playing with me.

When Mom is alone she likes to...
go to the beach.

Mom is happy when...
I do something that my mom likes like when I'm nice.

When I am at preschool my mom...
does homeschool.

The best thing Mom cooks is...
I'm not sure about that...rolls, but I meant the factory makes the best rolls.

If Mom had a million dollars, she would buy...
gum.
(I don't even chew gum. I think this is meant for him.)

My favorite thing to do with my mom is...
go outside. Isn't that a good one?

If I could buy Mom a gift I would buy...
Trying to think...I could build you something like the foster closet. And you know what I would get for you? I would give you a kiss. You know what I would say? Happy Mother's Day!

Mom is super because...
you take me to school.

When Mom was little she...
I don't know, I wasn't there!

If I were a mom I would...
cook. I would love to go to Nashville.

My mom always says...
I love you.

I love my mom more than...
donuts.




Saturday, May 12, 2018

Birthmother's day

In some circles, this day (the day before Mother's Day) is known as Birthmother's Day.

I understand why some wanted to create a day alone for birthmothers but I'm not sure it's a day to be celebrated. No woman ever chooses to be in a situation where she cannot raise her own child. No one grows up looking forward to choosing another family for her child.  No woman chooses to be an "orphan" herself, with no one to encourage or support her as she raises her child.

So while I am all about celebrating the courageous women who labor not only to bring a child into this world but to selflessly labor in choosing what she deems to be the best future for her child, I'm not sure it's a day to be celebrated.

There is always grief involved in foster care and adoption. For all parties. There is always a separation. Often times, there are life-long struggles for the birth family, child, and new family.

To C--, I--, T--, and B--, today is not a day to send you flowers or cards. No, today is a day to tell you that we celebrate you each and every day. We honor you in our home.  We hope that we have not added to your pain but that in some way, we have been able to lead you to the One who can bring you comfort and healing. We hope that you have felt our love and acceptance of you as individuals and as the first mothers to each of our children. We know you were not perfect but neither are we. We ask for grace as we, with God's help, strive to raise your children in a way that would make you proud. We love your children and we love you.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

My view

Graduations are an interesting thing.



Same song. Sounds like a funeral march. Same robes. Non-flattering although maybe that's the point. Same hats. Never stay on.

And same problem.

If you're not short, you may not understand.

But this was my view of the processional.

 




And my view of the prayer.


But since Jake rolled out of bed just in time to attend graduation with us,  I handed the camera to him. He had a much better view.

So he gave us 10 second updates about what was happening.

He also took some pictures of Jesse since that's why we were there. That's him. In the middle.



But thankfully they told people to sit down for the good part. The 3 seconds or so that it took them to state my son's name.












But the good news is, he got his beautiful diploma cover.
It only took him three years to get this blank piece of paper.
He makes us so proud.

My view of him coming across the field. Same guy in my way.






Oh, and this was my view of the benediction. It was a good one.
The benediction, that is. Not necessarily the view.


But the views around campus are beautiful.














Now off to Shady Maple to celebrate!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Prom...again

It's prom season again.

That time of year when some teens turn to outrageous and outlandish prom-posals and some just text the question.

That time of year when some dip into their bank accounts for new or rented formal wear and others wear what they have.

That time of year when some parents, who seemingly don't know how to have just one high schooler at a time, divide and conquer to make sure everyone is covered and the pictures are taken.

I've never been to a prom so I have to live through my children in this regard. I can't say I'm a fan of the event. It just seems to cause more angst and hurt feelings than necessary for teens who are already struggling with identity and self esteem.

But this year I had two favorite parts. I loved having dinner with Mary before prom and yes, she successfully kept that white dress clean!


And I also loved chatting with Shoun the next day when I asked him about his evening. He had some great insights into the money that teen-agers spend on just one night when a greater percentage of the world lives in poverty. Sobering but I loved hearing his heart.





May every teen know where their true identity lies and be willing to give up their treasures so others may have enough.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fill a bag

At eight years of age, she said she wanted to collect items to give to children in need. We chatted a bit about what that might mean and who her focus group should be. We decided that filling backpacks for children in foster care would not only fit her desire to help kids but would also fit our family's mission of caring for orphans and widows.


In that first year we collected 26 backpacks for children in our county's foster care system.

Four years later Backpacks of Hope has collected and donated a total of 568 backpacks and now serves the children in four counties.

Earlier this year we heard about a company which was choosing employee-nominated ministries and organizations for which they would match donations. A friend of ours works for this company and said she wanted to see if Backpacks of Hope could get selected. She and her husband are in the process of adopting from the foster care system and also have a heart for this population. We applied and BOH was selected! So in March we held a Matching Fundraiser and raised above and beyond our goal!

With the funds raised and matched, and the donations received, it was determined that in April we would hold our first ever Fill-A-Bag event.





It was her vision and her collaboration that brought this day to fruition.  So with 5 organizers, 24 packers and volunteers, 2 hours of set up, 2 hours of packing, and another hour of clean up, the first ever was complete. With 115 bags packed and ready for pick-up by those 4 counties next week, we consider the event to be a complete success!


She recently spent her career day experience with some folks in safety administration.




We can safely say this is the first and last time she'll
be in the back of a police car.

Not sure what she wants to do, she has plenty of time to figure that out. Some say teacher. She is very much like her mother. I can see her as a teacher, but more and more I see her in some form of social work and this is what she is thinking as well. Trauma is a buzzword these days but it's one that's not going away. She gets it. She has witnessed it first-hand in her siblings.  She knows what is healing and what is not. And she knows that one's definition of success has to change. Humans heal in their own way and their own time and some choose not to try. We can't change them. But we can love them. And this she knows well. She has been hurt but she understands that there's more to someone's behavior than what you see on the surface. She knows what secondary trauma looks like and hopefully she is learning how to avoid it in herself if she does choose to care for others. She will go far. And not just because I say so. There has been a prophesy over her life that sees her leading a large helping organization someday.

And as her mother I ponder all of these things in my heart.

Serve, love, and dream, my dear Eden. Think of the masses that have been comforted because you dared to believe that an 8 year old could start something like this!