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!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The priorities of being 12

Moving right along in my attempt to acknowledge our October birthdays, before November turns into December...

Shoun turned 12 on the 9th of October.  A monumental day for him as he can now vie for "shot gun" when traveling.  Having four shot gunners in the family has also prompted me to make a new family rule.  I no longer want to hear, "I call shot gun," while watching 4 children run to the van.  If I do, you will lose your position.  It just sounds so selfish.  Instead, I'd love to hear someone say, "I nominate ________ for position of shot gun on this trip."  Ahh, music to a mother's ears.

So, yes, we have another shot gunner in the family.  I believe it means more to him than to me.  And there's also Isaac waiting in line for his January birthday to gain his rights as well.

It was a month of so late but Shoun also celebrated age 12 by earning the coach's Most Improved Player award at the soccer award ceremony.  It was a well-deserved award as he has not only worked hard in this, his second season in organized soccer, but he has also become the most improved in the area of muscle tone as well.  I believe he has Jesse to thank for that.  All those orders for push ups have paid off.

So, what other awards would Shoun be winning?

Along with the Most Improved Soccer Player he will also win Most Likely to Bite His Tongue Off (a tongue thinker's habits die hard)

Most Improved Smiler Award  (Sure is good to see!)

Most Likely to Eat Anything (Except Tomatoes) Award

The Good Sport Award (In fact, I think he asks for Jesse to pick on him just so he can prove his status in this area)

Most Likely to Smell Like Deodorant (While believing that the more deodorant you wear, the fewer showers you need to take)

Most Improved in Manners

Fastest Suzuki Viola Learner (for someone who's only been playing 1 1/2 years, he's goooooood!)

Most Likely to Try to Get Out of Work

Most Likely to Call, "I Call Shot Gun," and Most Likely to be Given Shot Gun Privileges By Others

Valuable Team Player

Here's hoping that the rest of Year 12 is a great one and that riding shot gun will be all that you dreamed it would be.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A humble request

My eight year old cannot wrap her mind around the fact that we need money to adopt a child.  Her developing and inexperienced brain just cannot equate the two ideas.  Even my brother, an older and wiser and very learned man, questioned the money needed to adopt.  I don't think I was very good at explaining all of the aspects of it.  I did come across this great blog post that does an excellent job at explaining adoption costs.

Yes, we do know that there are ways to adopt without a large cost.  We know that fostering children and/or fostering to adopt brings with it much less need for finances.  We also know the need is great.  Because of the need, our first choice would be to foster again.  However, the state of Pennsylvania has this inconceivable notion that six children is enough and seven is too many so they make it very difficult to foster once you have six children in your home.  And so my heart breaks every time I hear an on-air plea for foster parents or drive by a billboard looking for families.  But we've already tried two different agencies who thought they could help us through the extra hoops placed in front of larger families, but to no avail.

So this is where we get creative.  We're making cookies like crazy, and selling CDs and nose flutes at our concerts.  People have been so supportive.  More than once we've received a widow's mite toward our adoption and my heart leaps at the love and support from those around us.  I can't wait to tell our child all of these stories someday; to tell our son or daughter about the God who loves each of us and who prompted so many people to give to provide a home to one who needs a loving place to belong.

Which brings us to our most recent fundraiser.  Friends on Facebook, don't get tired of hearing about it yet, we've got two full days to go.  Through our adoption Facebook group, we learned of 32Auctions, an online silent auction for fundraising efforts.  We put the word out to friends and family and have over 60 items on our auction.  Bidding began this morning and I'm finding it almost addicting to watch the numbers rise.  Each child in our family donated an item or a service to bring home their new sibling.  And some of those items are among the highest bid auctions on our site.  But we're not done yet.  The idea of this auction isn't just to get a bargain, or to win an auction, but to get us closer to bringing home our child.  God has a plan and you are part of it.  Take a look at our auction, bid if you feel led, and share the link with everyone in your email list and to your Facebook friends.  Help us get the word out!  Our auction ends Sunday evening, Nov. 18 at 10PM Eastern. Be a part of our journey!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sock wars

"Mom, why are there socks in the deep freeze?"

"Not now, Dear.  I have company."

Too late.  My poor guest was already looking at me as if I had lost my marbles.  Maybe I had.  Maybe I have.

Truth is, I hate sorting socks.  It probably wouldn't be so bad if it was just the amount of socks for two, maybe three, even four, family members.  It also wouldn't be so bad if each sock had a mate in the laundry basket.  But when you have 9 people and approximately 3 days worth of socks for each laundry day, that's a lot of socks.  Factor in the runaway sock principle and you're looking at a lot of socks.  And a lot of frustration.

Trying to make my life easier, I bought everyone their own, color coded and labeled Sock Sac.  I love them and they work great.  If you use them.  Yes, it's really just a variation on the old lingerie bag but they last much longer (I know, we tried lingerie bags first) and seems more gender neutral.  But the older boys won't use them because they don't like the name.  Okay.  I can accept that.  Call it what you want, but use it.  So the deal is, if you use the [Insert Name Here], then all of your socks will stay together, will be easy to sort and therefore will be sorted by me, and finally, will be returned to you.  Don't use the [Call It What You Will], and your socks will not be sorted and will not be returned to you.

All of the socks not placed in the [To Be Named Product] used to be placed in an extra laundry hamper.  Til I found that the kids would just go in there every morning, grab any two socks, and wear them, not caring if they were their own (our socks are labeled with first initial) or if they matched.  This caused multiple problems, including scuffles with siblings who would be upset to find their initials on the bottoms of someone else's feet.  And then the special sock laundry hamper broke.  Drastic measures needed to be taken.

So I put the socks in the deep freeze which is in the laundry room.  Just dumped the socks from the broken hamper right into one of the side baskets.

This didn't seem to bother the kids, though.  It did take them a while to find the socks, hence the announcement while I had company.  Once they found them, they would just go into the freezer each morning to pull out a pair of cold socks.  They seemed to think that cold socks were a minor inconvenience compared to having to take their socks off and place them in a [Haven't Found an Acceptable Name for it Yet].

Obviously my measures were not drastic enough.  So I started taking the wet socks out of the washer and putting them into the freezer before they went through the dryer.  Now grabbing your socks from the freezer in the morning gives new meaning to the term "cold feet."

Funny, more of my children are beginning to use the [Glorified Lingerie Bag Without a Name] now.  It's really fairly simple, folks.  Just find a method which helps them see things your way.  I will win the sock war.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A surprise advertisement

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical professional and this blog is not meant to diagnose or treat any of your ailments.

When I was little, my parents had a record with an old comedy routine and a song about Comet.  As I recall, it championed the use of Comet for everything that ailed you.  That's probably why I can't find the song anywhere.   People today are afraid they'll be sued if someone takes them seriously.  And, of course, we all know that all chemicals are bad for us so none of us would even think of having Comet in our cabinets for its intended use, either.  Now, I don't know anything about the health-giving properties of Comet, but I can speak to the use of another household item which has come under attack by health nutritionists everywhere - Crisco.

So what brought this on, you might be asking?  I'll tell you.  Eczema.  

I have a son who has been dealing with eczema since he was little.  He comes by it naturally, being related to the King family, home of all-cotton-wearing, special-detergent-using, can't-stand-seams suffering folks.  His has never been bad, a rare mild case amongst the Kings, mostly appearing in winter, contained to just a few areas, and daily lotion kept it under control.  He's also not the complaining type so I did most of the lotion reminding and that was that.

Until this past January when it showed up on his face.  At first we weren't sure what it was.  Self-diagnosing and prescribing over the next 2 months, we tried different lotions and then we tried Vaseline.  In an effort to cover all the bases, we also tried an anti-fungal cream.  When it was raw and weepy, we used first aid ointment.  Nothing worked.

In March, the child in question had an appointment for asthma (connection between asthma and eczema, anyone?).  I wasn't going to mention the eczema due to the fact that it was an asthma appointment and being the strict rule follower that I am, didn't want to mention another issue when that wasn't our reason for the appointment.  The very nice doctor, however, did mention it.  How could he not, really?  You'd have to be blind to miss it and of course the first question always is, "Do you lick your lips?"  He asked what I had already tried and agreed that those would have been his first steps.  He warned me that eczema on the face was going to be hard to clear up and gave us a prescription.  Apparently, my layman's definition of "hard to clear up" wasn't the same as the one in the medical dictionary.

That first prescription didn't work.  So at the next well check I (again) wasn't going to mention it (once a rule follower, always a rule follower) but the pediatrician (a different one this time) did (of course).  He gave us a different prescription.  This one made things worse so I called back.  The solution was to go back to the first prescription but use it longer.  When that was finished, I called back to say that it was not working, either.  Apparently we're a tough case, or they thought I was a pest, because we were referred to a dermatologist.  That was in August.  When I called to make the appointment, their first available was in November, Thanksgiving week.  We're still waiting.  He's still suffering.

In the midst of all this, and while we are waiting for that up-coming appointment, we have tried every home remedy and cream touted by at-home experts.  Why not?  There's been plenty of time to kill.  Early on in this process we went to the nutritionist who couldn't find anything but suggested that maybe it could possibly, who knows?, be a dairy allergy.  But after 3+ months of torturing the boy by withholding dairy, we knew it wasn't that.

We tried coconut oil.  We tried doing nothing.  We tried even more store-bought and specialty store-bought lotions.  Someone at church told me that an oil and sugar scrub works wonders for her daughter's eczema so I immediately went home, mixed a little of this and a little of that, and we applied.  A few days later he had the worst sores ever.  I guess we don't have the same kind of eczema, or the same kind of skin, or both.  But it was most definitely worth a try.  We tried using straws rather than drinking from a cup thinking that the cup might be aggravating the problem.  Still not working.

As his face goes from one form of red and raw to dry and scabbed to another color altogether, he's continually asked if he licks his lips or if he's been eating something red.  Poor guy.  So a few weeks go when I was once again asked if he licks his lips, I explained our saga all over again.  The woman then simply said, "Crisco."  Crisco?  Really?  At this point we've decided to try everything suggested because, why not?  So, home we went and Crisco was applied.

Now, I know that there are these articles being circulated about how harmful Crisco is.  In fact, I received one just the week before the Crisco-Eczema news flash.  Harmful or not, it is the one item that has given my son the most relief.  Not a cure.  We're still waiting for that (sure, go ahead, send us your best suggestions).  But under the Crisco plan he actually has days where you can barely notice the flare-ups.  And after ten months, you take whatever relief you can get.

So there you have it.  For what ails you.  When all else fails.  Crisco.

Disclaimer:  Not responsible for the contents of this message.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A 16th birthday

October completely zipped by me.  With birthdays, cookie making, and fall sports, I think I missed most of the rest of the month's happenings.  It is partly my fault as I seemed to be especially good at producing October birthdays; 3 of our 7 children celebrate their birthdays during October.  Two of the three children have birthdays on the exact same day as well - four years apart.  And there's also my mom, brother, and me who have birthdays in this month.

We also have this birthday tradition in our family of only having birthday parties every four years.  For the most part it helps to cut down on planning, cost, and excess "stuff."  However, when the three October birthday children are all four years apart in age, that means that my little plan kind of backfires.  Within one week, we celebrated 8 years old, 12 years old, and that all-important 16.  We had a cake decorating party, an outdoor games party, and a dodgeball party.  And (maybe more importantly to each of the kdis) in just seven short days, one child moved out of the car seat, another moved to shotgun and the third (take a deep breath) moved to the driver's seat.

The downside to all of these wonderful birthdays was that their very presence meant that I didn't have time to blog and acknowledge them here.  I love each of my children and enjoy writing about them, particularly blessing them on their birthdays.  Sorry, kids, better luck next year.

But I will take some time to rewind and catch up.  I'm actually going to start with the last of the three October birthdays, Jesse.  Just this week we finally celebrated his 16 year old rite of passage celebration.  As some of you may know and remember, we celebrate several milestones in a more meaningful way than just your typical birthday party.  At age 13 we have a weekend away, at age 16 we have a night of blessing, and at high school graduation there will be another occasion to pass the torch.

In short, at age 16, the child is surrounded by same-sex mentors and leaders, people who have had influence in that child's life in some way.  A few of these adults know the child on a deeper level while others don't know them as well.  However, all of the adults come prepared to speak encouragement and blessing to the child on the occasion of turning 16.  They also speak to Christian manhood (or womanhood, we just haven't had a 16 year old female in the family yet) and help to usher the child from childhood to manhood.  I can't speak from personal experience because I'm not invited, and so far my only role has been as preparer of the food, but from the feedback that comes from the three generations related to me, I can't wait to celebrate this with my daughter in a year and a half.

I also enjoy reading what each person has written down for the birthday child.  Here are some of the words Jesse received that special night:

"As you have turned 16, that magical time when new opportunities and new responsibilities begin to shape not only our schedules, but our attitudes and values,  you are encouraged to step up to be a man, but I'll take it a step further.  Step up and be the man of God that He created you to be, a man after God's heart.  A man with a heart like King David.  He wasn't perfect, but his heart always ended up seeking God and His will above his own."

"I like looking at the meaning of people's names.  Jesse was an interesting name to research, because I found several different meanings, depending on the source.  It was interpreted as 'God's gift' by some, and 'God exists' by others.  I like the latter one, in the sense that it implies your entire life is meant to testify to the existence and the presence of almighty God.  What a life goal, to live out your name!  Oh, one final source, a site devoted to Hebrew names suggested that Jesse, during at least one period of history, may also have been used colloquially to mean 'The Man' like our current expression 'you da man'.  How fitting for you tonight, as we celebrate you - 'the man' - becoming a man."

"Based on my beliefs, Jesse, you have been a man for quite some time.  You have a maturity that unfortunately is hard to find in people your age.  You feel great content in your gifts and abilities that God has given you...You have that aura about you that people naturally gravitate towards, because they know that it is people like you in whom they can instill their trust and friendship.  You do not delight in material possessions, but instead you would much rather invest time and effort in developing relationships with others...I do encourage you...to seek in discovering and perfecting the wonderful abilities that God has given you.  Rejoice in and embrace the friendships you have made and the relationships that are still yet to come.  And above all else, continue to serve and love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  As Colossians 3:23 - 24 says, 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.'"

"One thing I have learned, even when I'm not sure of God's exact direction for me, is that there is no excuse for straying from God's will: He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8  Praying that you always seek God's guidance as you act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

"You have been given a gift of joy.  You bring joy to people's lives, you have sincerity that draws people towards you.  I pray that you follow the paths God has for you.  You are a man of God.  You have followers.  You are a leader.  You will inspire.  You will be a supporter.  You will perform.  God also brought this to me for you to know:  The path will be difficult, but you will endure.  The presure will be stressful, but you will endure.  You will feel overwhelmed and lost at times, but He will set your paths straight."

"You have demonstrated thus far your desire to follow JESUS and to WALK in HIS ways.  My prayer for you is that you will continue to follow JESUS daily and be led by the powerful WORD of GOD, the BIBLE.  We may read books, but the WORD of GOD is our 'initial point', the fixed reference point.  John Wesley read widely, but he always referred to himself as 'a man of one book'.  nothing can compare to the BOOK of BOOKS, the WORD of GOD.  We are on the right path when we allow the BIBLE to be our guide in all of life and continue to follow this passage in 1 Timothy 4:12, which says, 'Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers (and I would add non-believers also) in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.'"

"God has given you an awesome personality and so many gifts.  I have loved seeing you exercise and grow in the gifts that you have been given.  1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) says, 'Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.'  Jesse, I encourage you to continue to find ways to grow in your gifts and use them for the kingdom of God.  Your outgoing and fun personality has impacted many people already and will continue to bring joy and laughter to those around you.  Never apologize for being you!  God has made you uniquely and with an incredible purpose.  You have a gentle heart for others, especially for those younger than you.  I believe that God is going to continually use your personality to impact all kinds of people."

Be blessed, Jesse, as you grow more and more into the man that God has intended for you to be.

Jesse, surrounded by two men who love him dearly, "PopPop" whose name is Jesse's middle name and Dad.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Orphan Sunday

As we change the calendar from October to November, we also switch from National Squirrel Awareness Month to Adoption Awareness Month. While I'm sure squirrels need our love, too, and there are probably many orphaned squirrels, my heart definitely leans toward the orphan of the human variety.  My apologies to all my nut collecting, birdseed stealing backyard buddies.

Many churches across our nation will celebrate Orphan Sunday on the first Sunday of this month.  It has been exciting to read various blogs and Facebook posts about the ways in which churches are bringing awareness to the many issues surrounding the orphan.  Some churches, sadly, will not even mention Orphan Sunday or adoption awareness during this month.  For some, ignorance is the reason; they just haven't heard about Orphan Sunday.  Still others may not see the need.  And there are some who will not mention the cause of the orphan because they are adamant that church should  not be an informercial.

For those churches who have not heard about Orphan Sunday, or Adoption Awareness Month, it's up to us to spread the word.  For those who don't see the need, or who think that church should not be an infomercial, I suggest a quick look at Scripture.  We teach our congregations that God tells us to love our neighbor, to trust in Him, not to worry, and to use our gifts.  How then is James 1:27, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world," an infomercial or not necessary?  And Isaiah 1:17, "...learn to do right!  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow?"  Psalm 82:3 tells us to "Vindicate the weak and the fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute" and Jesus himself says, "I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me...Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me."  I don't think Jesus considered it an infomercial to encourage, even mandate, His followers to care for the fatherless, the husbandless, the homeless, the oppressed, and the destitute.  As Richard Stearns says in his book, there is a big, gaping hole in the Gospel that many of us live.

Maybe it shouldn't have been named Orphan Sunday or Adoption Awareness Month because I can't find any verses anywhere in the Bible that say we all need to adopt.  Maybe a better title would be Destitute Sunday and Oppression Awareness Month.  They don't sound very nice, do they?  However, adoption Awareness Month and Orphan Sunday don't have to be scary to churches or to those of us sitting in them.  Just like Breast Cancer Awareness Month doesn't mean that we all need to have breast cancer, and National Squirrel Awareness Month doesn't mean we need to love squirrels, Adoption Awareness Month doesn't mean that we all need to bring orphans into our homes.  Reading Scripture, however, does give us reason to bring awareness to the topic, and to encourage Christians to follow God's mandates to care for those who can't care for themselves.  We also need to thank and support the ones who are already doing this and to provide encouragement and options for those who don't know how yet.

I love to watch the body of Christ in action.  As each part comes together, as each one uses his/her gifts, as each family lovingly works together, Christ's call to love orphans and widows gets that much closer to His original plan.  How?  These are the people that I love to see.  These are the ones who are caring for orphans and widows in their distress. . . .

The grandparent of an adopted child, who wasn't the one feeling the call to bring this child from an orphanage to a home in the US, but who supports her daughter's family one hundred percent.  Or the grandparents who invite their adopted grandchild to spend several weeks of summer vacation in their home, even though they know that the special needs of that child will take all of their time and energy.

The family of young children, doing fine but struggling to live on one income, who chooses to donate money to the adoption fundraiser of a family in their church.

The family whose neighbor was recently widowed, that makes an extra plate of food from their dinner, thus creating "TV dinners" for her freezer.  That same family helps rake leaves and shovel snow for her.

The teenage boy whose best friend lost his father in a tragic accident.  The teenage girl who befriends the insecure student sitting next to her in class, later finding out that she is an adoptee struggling to find her place in her family and school.

The college student who chooses to babysit for a family with an adopted child, realizing that those few hours each week may be difficult due to the behavioral issues of the child, but knowing how much the break refreshes the weary parents.

The congregation that sets up an adoption fund or benevolence fund to financially support those in need or those stepping out in faith.

The teen girls who choose to maintain contact with their friend, a foster child, even though she is moved to another home.  They value her friendship but they also know that they are now the most stable relationship she's ever had, as well as her only Christian influences.

The extended family giving up part of their Christmas vacation to work in a homeless shelter together.

The small group that gives their time, labor, and financial resources to support an organization working with orphans in a third world country.

The family that has a special fund so that every year at least one member of their family can serve on a missions trip.  Many times, they all go together.

The young man that chooses to give one hour every Sunday morning to be a "buddy" to the preschool child with Down Syndrome since the little boy finds sitting and attending in Sunday School to be a struggle.

The couple, with an empty nest on the horizon, that decides to do foster care.  Eventually, their oldest daughter and her husband adopt one of the foster boys raised in their home.

The family that brings the neighbor boy to church every week and who also support that same boy's single mom in whatever ways they can.

The married couple, struggling with infertility, that chooses to adopt an infant and to maintain contact with the birthmother, praying for her healing and salvation as much as they pray for their newborn son.

The former addict who now mentors teens and young men, keeping them accountable and encouraging them as they struggle to remain clean from their own addictions.

The small group of families that seeks ways to bring awareness to the issue of sex trafficking.

The woman who walks alongside her best friend, purposefully praying for her and her family of adopted children on a regular basis and listening to the joys and struggles of the journey.  She has their picture on her refrigerator and their names in her Bible so she never forgets.

These are the faces of adoption awareness month.  These are the people caring for both literal and figurative orphans.  These are the hands and feet of Christ.  Caring for "the least of  these" isn't an option but how we care for them, that comes with many options.

Now go!