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!

Friday, September 28, 2012

God is good.
All the time.

All the time.
God is good.

I love this simple, yet profound prayer.  Why, oh why, can't I remember it all the time?

When started this adoption journey knowing that fundraising would be a large part of it.  We knew that we'd wait on God's timing.  And we agreed that "it was good."  But then a week went by.  And the money didn't float down in an envelope from the sky.  (Yeah, my faith was that short-lived.  Okay, it's a slight exaggeration.)

I had my moments of discouragement.  "Lord, I'm not getting any younger."  As if the One who created me in the hidden places didn't already know that!

And that's when He showed up.  First of all, we found out that there is a discount offered for all paperwork turned in this month.  And then the icing on the cake, as only God can do: I had been reading the form wrong.  Our initial payment need only be half of what I thought.  And guess what?  We already have that amount.

God is good.
All the time.

All the time.
God is good.

Oh, and then our adoption consultant posted this link to her Facebook page.  Yes, I believe it with all my heart.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I enjoy writing.

Okay, so that was just the understatement of my posting career. One could deduce, then, that I also like to teach writing. And you'd be correct.

I am saddened when I hear my children say that they don't enjoy writing. Writing should be enjoyed because it is an extension of yourself. Unfortunately, much of the writing we do in life (particularly before the age of 30), is what we are told to write and yes, it's not always fun. Sorry, kids.

But I'm more saddened when a homeschooling parent sits with me in an evaluation and says, "We didn't do much writing this year. She doesn't really like to write and well, I don't, either." I suppose the argument could be made that this family plans to homeschool through the high school years so can continue to choose how much writing is assigned (or not assigned). My counter argument remains that not only is writing extremely important for a child, if your child decides to go to college, good writing skills will be of utmost importance. I've also had parents say things like, "Well, I didn't really teach writing this year but she wrote a lot of stories." I'm glad she wrote a lot of stories but how are her non-fiction skills? Can she critique a book? Does she know how to write a complaint letter? Can she effectively persuade someone of something?

I am thankful to have a great friend who is still in the trenches of teaching in elementary school (as compared to me, a has-been) and who is very interested in the teaching of writing. She has passed along so many good ideas and books. One of these has been the use of a Writer's Notebook and a Reader's Notebook. Sometimes the two overlap, and that's the point. A good reader uses what he's reading to become a better writer and vice versa. Through the writer's notebook the children can explore so many aspects of writing and on most days, can write what they want. However, there are times when we will look at a specific genre because it is necessary to consider various styles and themes.

Learning about writing gives us so many themes to discuss as well. I love having these conversations with my children. One aspect of writing that we often discuss, especially when it's done well in a book, is "show, don't tell"; when a writer describes something, or gives you clues, without coming right out and saying it. This morning I realized that my seven year old, who has been enjoying Beverly Cleary's Ramona books, "gets it" when she had this to say during a discussion of characterization in writing, "I love how the author writes and the way she puts things. You know that Ramona is curious but the author never says that. She doesn't call any of her books Ramona, So Curious or Ramona, The Curious, but you definitely know that Ramona is curious."

Yes, Eden, she is curious! And so are you. Keep writing and maybe someday, like your older sister, you will actually say to me, "Mom, I have good news. I got 100% on my history speech. And I need to give you a hug and a kiss because you taught me how to write great introductory and concluding paragraphs. My teacher said so. But since I know you don't like hugs and kisses I'll just tell you. So thanks."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Green cats

As an elementary teacher with special education certification, it was no surprise that many of the children with behavioral and learning challenges ended up in my classroom. I didn't mind since this was the population I most enjoyed teaching although there were many days when I wished I had a few more corners to better separate the children who couldn't stop talking to each other. As is still the case, many students came into the classroom with the label of ADD or ADHD. Some of these children truly had trouble attending and my heart went out to them. There were others, however, who were just BAD. My heart went out to them, too, but for totally different reasons, ones that had more to do with the parents than with the children.

 My heart for this population of learners is what prompted me to tell the Good Doctor, while we were dating, that it was my plan to adopt 20 special needs children. In turn, he told me, while we were dating, that it wasn't going to happen. I married him anyway and while we don't (yet) have a houseful of special needs children, God did bless with me a dyslexic child (the brain of the dyslexic fascinates me everyday) and another who is classic ADD. My attention-challenged child just started kindergarten and it was my suspicion that her prenatal and birth experiences might hinder her learning that caused us to wait a year before sending her to school. Any child who is likely going to struggle in one area of schooling, is going to do well to wait and eliminate as many stressors as possible. So, wait we did.

And boy was I right! This is how a typical typical lesson with Hope goes:
Hope (reading): Color 1 cat green. (asks) I color 1 cat green?
Me: Yes. You color 1 cat green.
Hope: Is this a cat?
Me: Yes.
Hope: Are you sure because it looks like a kitten to me.
Me: Cat. Kitten. On this page, it's all the same. Just follow the directions.
Hope: Wait. How many am I supposed to color?
Me: Well, read it again.
Hope: (reading) Color 1 cat green. (asks) Green? Does that say green?
Me: Yes, that's what it says.
Hope: Green? I've never seen a green cat.
Me: Me either. Just color it.
Hope: Well, cats can be brown or grey or black or white.
Me: Yes, just follow the directions.
Hope: I like cats that have all of the colors. I think they're cute. Do you think they're cute?
Me: Yes, I do.
Hope: Then why can't we have a cat?
Me: Because I am allergic to cats.
Hope: Oh, right. Wait. What color am I supposed to color the cat?
Me: Never mind. Just do the next one. Read this word and write it under the correct picture.
Hope (reading): Pan (asks) Is this a pan or a pot?
Me: Well, it could be either but for the sake of the short vowel a worksheet, let's assume it's a pan. Hope (erasing): I wrote a capital P but I want to make it lower case so I have to erase it.
Me: Okay, but it really doesn't matter.
Hope (erasing again): I don't like that one; the line isn't straight enough.
Me: It looked fine to me.
Hope (after finally writing a P): Can I give it hair?
Me: Hair?
Hope: Yeah, can I put hair on the P?
 Me: No, you cannot put hair on the P. Please write the next letter.
Hope: Wait, what am I writing?

And that's just the first 5 minutes of school!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teachers can be wrong

Teachers are human, just like the rest of us, and sometimes they are wrong. I know, I was one. I also know because I've been on the receiving end of a teacher's wrongness.

When I was in 6th grade, my social studies teacher accused me of plagiarism on a major report. I can still remember the teacher, the report, the country about which I wrote, and I can even remember what some of the books looked like. Mrs. Waddington insisted that my report on Guadeloupe was taken directly from a library book and gave me a C. Looking back, I take that as a great compliment. I may not have been the world's greatest student, but if there was one thing I could do, it was write. I'm sure I spent a long time on that report and I know for certain that I didn't copy it from a book. My parents didn't go to bat for us very often, figuring it was up to us to fend for ourselves, but my mom was also so certain that I had written that report, that she was willing to speak to the teacher for me. We also volunteered to hand in all the books I had used to write that report. In the end, Mrs. Waddington changed my grade to an A. Who knows if she believed me or just didn't want to read through all the books we handed in, but all's well that ends well.

Fast forward to 2012 and my daughter was accused by a teacher of not doing an assignment correctly. All of the students in our high school have to take Career Development during their high school experience. I have yet to find a student who finds this class even the slightest bit helpful in his or her career development. But life relevance has never had to be proven when creating high school classes, so take it, they do. This week the students were asked to complete an online personality and career survey.

On a side note, I don't take much stock in career inventories. I remember taking one in high school which said the perfect career for me would be one in business. Yeah right, the girl who had trouble passing high school math? Business? Really? So while all of the other students were finishing up, I went back and changed my answers so it would say I should be a teacher. Because what the inventory didn't know was that I had already decided what I was going to be when I grew up.

Anyway, back to Mariana. She completed her survey, read the report it gave, and sat back with a pleased look on her face. Mariana asked the teacher if she could print her report. The teacher rudely replied, "You can't possibly done. It should have taken you at least another 15 minutes. You must not have read the questions thoroughly." At this point, another student glanced over, read the description on the computer screen and said, "Oh, that's her all right."

For all who know Mariana, you tell me if this describes her or not:

"People like you are usually very warm, outgoing, and talkative. You make friends easily and are often popular and well liked because you are so enthusiastic and cheerful. You care deeply for your family and friends, and like to express your feelings through words and actions. People often say you have a gift for language and are able to articulate your strong beliefs and opinions with tact....

Creative and often imaginative, you may love learning, daydreaming, and entertaining others with your many artistic talents. you have a quick mind and are good at putting ideas and concepts together... You like to be in charge and can usually come up with a plan of action for even complicated projects. But you tend to become annoyed when someone tries to change or interrupt your plan... You find it very hard to stay calm and objective when you're upset. You're a very sensitive person; you know first hand that it is both a blessing and a curse to be so insightful about other people...

Potential careers and majors for you to consider:
Actor and Performer
Entertainer or Artist
Music Director
Television Producer"

Hmmm. Sorry, Ms. Teacher, I'm going to have to back my daughter up on this one. In fact, I have a feeling that "not reading the questions thoroughly" is part of Mariana's personality. Why read the whole question when you so clearly already know the answer? It's probably a good thing she completed this thing quickly, otherwise it may have told her she should be an undertaker or landscaper when she grows up. Heaven help us all!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Talking t.p.

Yesterday, someone posted this picture on Facebook

with the question, "Who does this?"

Well, I don't know who first came up with the idea (or I'd reference it here), but I immediately knew it could be put to good use.

We have a problem around here, and the problem is that I seem to be the only member of the household who replaces the empty toilet paper roll with a new one. At first I thought maybe it was an issue of lack of skill but lessons in the complex process of removing one tube and replacing it with a full one didn't change anything. Next, I thought maybe it was an issue of strength; the new, full roll, was just too heavy. But after watching the children wrestle with each other, I decided that couldn't be it. Finally, I realized it must just be an issue of forgetfulness. But thanks to the idea of talking toilet paper, I have (hopefully) solved the problem.

I'm waiting for some smart-aleck child to use the talking toilet paper to his or her own advantage. It's been 24 hours and counting...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Persistence pays off

In a conversation a friend casually mentioned that her children weren't allowed to date until they were 40. Now, this isn't the first time I've heard this type of comment, although usually the minimum age is a bit lower, somewhere around 35. On the one hand, I get where these folks are coming from. I get that they are attempting to save their children from unnecessary pain but really?

Lord willing, I would like grandchildren. I am assuming that at some point God and the Good Doctor are going to tell me that we are not to add anymore children to our clan. But I am doing my best to see that there isn't too much lag time between our last addition and the addition of the first grandchild. So, you can see, requiring my children to wait until 35 or 40 just would not work well with my efforts to have a smooth transition from youngest child to oldest grandchild.

I am not saying that I push my children to date at a young age. That would be just as counterproductive as me forcing them to wait to begin this process. However, I have been informed that my daughter has a suitor. I wasn't exactly ready for this but should have known it was coming. She has quite a beautiful personality that matches her God-given exterior very well. She sings, dances, and entertains quite well. She is also outgoing and friendly.

From my perspective, he comes from a good family, has been raised to love the Lord, is in church on a regular basis, loves God and loves my daughter. What more could a parent want? The fact that he and my daughter are both only 6 years old could be a bit of a problem, but he appears to be quite persistent so that's in his favor.

I don't know exactly when his infatuation began but he shared his devotion with HopeAnne one day this summer when we were visiting his house. On the way home she informed me that this young man from her Sunday School class had asked her to marry him. I asked her how she responded. "I told him no because I'm marrying someone else." Uh oh. I hope she let him down easy. Further investigation couldn't get her to disclose her intended other than that he has dark hair and he was, at the time, in preschool.

Since that time, I have discussed this with the little boy's mother. Apparently he has already shared his intentions with her and I found out that HopeAnne is actually his fourth choice, after first asking his mother, and then each of his two sisters, for their hand in marriage, only to be informed that it doesn't work that way.

One Sunday Jesse, who volunteers in their classroom, informed me that I needed to speak with Hope. He said it was really cute because Hope and her pursuer were holding hands in Sunday School but that soon after he saw HopeAnne hitting the young man. "Well," I asked, "why did you hit him?" "Mom," she stated, "he wouldn't leave me alone!" Well, that left me with a dilemma. I don't want her hitting people but on the other hand, if a boy won't take no for an answer, you do probably need to give him a more obvious answer.

I apologized to the little boy's mother for my daughter's behavior. She told me that it was definitely not a problem as my daughter had finally told her son that she would marry him.

"Oh, and do you know how this came to be?"

"Yes," she answered with a smile, "he told me that he just kept asking her to marry him until she finally said, 'Oh, all right!' and that's how he got his answer."

That's one smart, persistent, future son-in-law!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Crime scene investigation

Andrew and I are great partners in crime.

Well, actually, we investigate the crimes so I guess that makes us perfect partners in crime busting.

Take today, for example. I found this drawn on the rug in the little girls' room.

Upon further investigation, I found a second drawing, faint, but similar in nature to the first.

As a lover of CSI, Law and Order and (*sigh*) my favorite, but canceled, Cold Case, I know that criminals often leave a signature. I shared this information with my partner and told him that I was certain the suspect lived in that room. He reminded me that it is mostly psychopathic criminals that leave their signature at the crime scene. Yes, I repeated, I am fairly certain that the guilty party lives in that very room.

I calmly asked both parties who was responsible for the drawing but each pled her innocence. My partner suggested we try the good cop/bad cop interrogation procedure. I asked him which he was going to be. He said it was my duty to be the bad cop.

I sure hope it works!