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!
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
I've learned to handle it by not setting my expectations too high. That way I can ooh and aah and sound excited when I receive a dish pan or frying pan or even the annual pajamas and a candle. From Wal-mart. Purchased the day before. But who's counting?
So imagine my surprise when the Good Doctor gave me the best gift ever -
Auntie Katrina is coming from Utah to visit! If you don't remember, Katrina is a great friend and was a huge part of our adoption journey. After reading the news in a card from the Good Doctor, I was able to enjoy not one, not two, but three "I'm coming to PA" videos from Katrina. Just think, she's giving up the slopes and her daycare toddlers to spend some time with us!
The Good Doctor did such a good job with this gift that I even voluntarily spoke his love language, even if for the briefest of moments.
I'm so excited to be picking her up from the airport today. How fun it will be to reconnect after all those memorable moments together in Utah. She has been such a special part of our journey.
I just hope she's as excited to spend a few days in a house full of ten as I am to have her visit. She may need a long vacation after this vacation.
Monday, December 30, 2013
Ours start Christmas Eve Eve. Since one of our traditions is to sleep over at MomMom and PopPop's house Christmas Eve, we have our celebration on the day before Christmas. Thus, the early start.
Christmas Eve Eve includes family movie night except that often, family movie night becomes two family movie nights because it's difficult to find something for everyone. And Christmas Eve practice at church kind of cut into the Christmas Eve Eve family movie night as well so next year I'm putting my foot down, no one leaves the house after 6PM. Family and traditions trump everything else, after all.
Anyway, 6PM is the whole family movie. Then, after the younger kids go to bed, 8PM is the big kids' movie. So far we've done popular 80s movies but I suppose we will run out at some point and either have to start over or move into the next decade. It's been fun to introduce the kids to some of our favorite movies and to have mature conversations afterward. Of course special snacks, not normally found in our house, are included.
Christmas morning starts with a little something to hold you over until brunch. This year the children found instructions and a daily schedule (with approximate times but enough information so I didn't have to answer the same questions X7 all day long). Their first assignment, while everyone was gathering, was to write encouraging notes to their grandparents. When all were awake, or at least upright, we sat down together. This year we finished the Jesse Advent Tree, then spent some time debriefing from the events of 2013, and had a time of prayer. Then, one of my favorite parts, reading the encouraging notes we wrote to each other and placed in our stockings. A few years ago we did this in lieu of stocking gifts and we've enjoyed it so much that it's been a treasured tradition. I may or may not have cried a bit during this part.
Of course there are gifts. The children exchange names and that's always a fun time so they went first. There's always someone who has given it away ahead of time but HopeAnne was the hero of the gift exchange this year. She had Shoun's name but every time Jesse tried to torment her and ask her again to tell him whose name she had, she'd always respond, "Jesse." She stuck with it so well that she even had him almost fooled into thinking that she did have his name. It was all her idea to make Shoun a blanket.
There were a lot of special gifts this year including a handmade picture from Mariana...
...car decals for John (just to make people look twice as he drives around town in a small car presumably filled with 10)...
...a Cookie Monster from Andrew to his Secret Santa, Victor, who promptly chewed on his new toy (Victor did the chewing, that is). Victor also had Andrew and chose this shirt all by himself ...
...noise makers for Victor made by Eden and HopeAnne (yes, they did use empty pill bottles and yes, we did cover up the labels so he wouldn't look like such a druggie, and yes, we did use childproof caps and yes, we did hot glue gun the lids just to be safe)...
...footie PJs from the boys, who insisted I open their gifts at the same time, just to be fair...
...handmade scarves from Jesse...
...and tune in tomorrow for the best gift of all (but here's a hint)...
Sunday, December 29, 2013
See Eden's testimony here.
I'm proud of you, Eden. I don't think I had stage presence like that until I was in my 30s!
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Saturday, December 21, 2013
But yesterday was the last show and tonight is our last concert.
We're just about reading to relax and get ready for Christmas.
I do feel like we've done a better job of preparing ourselves for Christmas than in past years. With a baby in the house we've had to say no to a lot of extras. We had fewer December concerts than in past years. We've also been using the Advent Jesse Tree to remind ourselves why a Savior had to come and how everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus. It's been good for all of us.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
When the Good Doctor found out you could submit pictures to Awkward Family Photos, he submitted this one.
We won $100 and Jesse's photo is in their latest holiday book.
And now we keep getting all kinds of things from them. Especially magnets.
Who knew someone would use a magnet to hang up her picture of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus? Is that sacrilegious?
Forgive her, for she knew not what she did. She can't read the fine print.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Maybe the first author was blessed with a best-case scenario; a "Disney World" fostering situation. It happens. Some children do thrive immediately. Some children bond easily and some never struggle with identity or past issues. But more often, children still struggle with abandonment, control, disruptive behaviors, anger, and a host of other issues even in the most loving environments. It takes a lot more than structure and love. Studies have shown that for many of these children, the trauma and losses they experienced early on will hinder their ability to think, reason, and process for a long time, sometimes forever.
And it effects not only the child and parents, but the whole family as well. We attend an adoption support group. I go for me. I need this place where I'm not alone, where we understand each other, where we can talk about what's happening at home and where we can share research and ideas. I go for my adoptive children. They need a place where they are not alone, where they understand each other and where they can talk about what's happening at home and in their minds. I go for my biological children. They need a place where they are not alone, where they understand each other and where they can talk about what's happening at home and in their minds. Someone recently asked me if it was fair to separate the kids into bio and adopted kids at support group. It's not only fair, it's necessary. Both sets of children need a place to talk and vent and share their feelings without fear of hurting the other party's feelings. They are at different places, they come from different backgrounds. They need to be with those who understand and validate their feelings. The biological child who made the above picture may not have done so if sitting in a room with an adopted sibling close by. I need to see this, though, because it tells me how this child is feeling.
Another child made this picture. We talked about it and it gave me so much insight into this child's feelings. Between the two of them they have identified that adoption is stress, a weight (as represented by the large mug and small hand) needs preparation, diverse (thus the different chips in the top left corner), hope, joy, not simple, different, and includes more kids. Neither child would say that adoption is wrong. Neither would say that we shouldn't have adopted. Neither would I. Parenting is hard, some children are more difficult than others. The same is true of adopted children but with the addition of loss and sometimes trauma, it can be even more difficult.
Growing up, I saw missionaries as the epitome of Christian service. I loved their slide shows (yes, I'm that old) and their testimonies of God's goodness in the times of trial. One that I've never forgotten was a family called to Papua New Guinea (I had never even heard of Papua New Guinea prior to their presentation but I've never forgotten it since). They lost a child to a sudden accident while on the mission field. They grieved but they also knew that God was still in control. They never expected life in service to be perfect or "pretty" but expected hardship to come. In answering the call, they knew that they would need to be willing to be uncomfortable (or worse) so that others could be comfortable. I remember wishing for such a "noble" call and wondered why I wasn't special enough to be chosen for God's service.
Today I know that being called to the mission field overseas is not the only kind of service. Each of us is called to our own "hard place" but a place from where we can love the unlovable and serve the least of these. We also need to go forward in our place of mission knowing that it is going to be difficult.When someone is called to overseas missions, they go through extensive training in culture, language, the Bible, etc. The sending agencies want their missionaries to be prepared for what they will face. They want them to know ahead of time that they will need to be uncomfortable so that those they serve can be comfortable. They want them to have hope in the hard places but to be realistic as well.
This goes against everything in our American culture which tells us that we need to be comfortable at all costs. But we don't serve the gods of selfishness, consumerism, and entitlement. We serve a God of love, compassion, and service. We give sacrificially to those we are called to serve because we serve a God who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. In our love for Him, we serve others. It hurts. It's messy. It's love.
I'm more aware than ever that when I talk to those who are considering orphan care of any kind, I want to be hopeful yet realistic. I want them to be aware of the issues. Know the statistics and the research. Love and pray. A lot. Seek help. Get respite. Know that you are not alone. If you have a Disney World adoption, know you are blessed. If you don't, you are still blessed but don't feel like you're doing something wrong. Press in to the One who asked you to care for His children in the first place. Parenting, and especially parenting wounded children, is where we learn to rely on His strength and wisdom. And ultimately, there is hope.
If you aren't called to adopt, maybe you're being asked to help those who have. Pray for them. Get to know these parents and their children. Offer respite if you can, for either an adopted child or the biological sibling(s). Even a few hours apart from the child can be so refreshing for every member of the family. Behaviors that come out at home will often be non-existent for the few hours that child is with you. That doesn't mean the adoptive/foster family is doing something wrong. Don't judge. You can help relieve some of the stress in the family by just being a safe place away from home.
And if you aren't called to adopt or help those who have, you aren't off the hook. You are called to your own hard place. It won't be easy. You won't be able to do it on your own strength. But you likely won't have to leave the country to find it.
“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Our theme this year is Emmanuel, God with us. Jesse and Mariana/Andrew play a beautiful rendition of O Come O Come Emmanuel and Mariana sings both God Is With Us and Be Born in Me. We talk about answering God's call as Mary did, "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." We remind our listeners that because Jesus came as a baby, because of His sacrifice for us, and because He lives in us, we can do whatever is asked of us. Then we share our 2013 journey. It's been a very meaningful Christmas season.
But I have to admit that there's another reason I enjoy our Christmas concerts and that's because we take a break from singing Daddy Sang Bass. It's not that I have anything in particular against Johnny Cash or this song. The dilemma for me is that everyone knows the song. They know the words. So when Daddy sings bass, they all look at me but instead of seeing Momma sing tenor, they see nothing 'cause Momma don't sing. At all. A bit confused, they wait for the second round and sure enough, that Momma up there don't move her lips at all. By the next go-round they've figured out that Momma's a dud so oldest daughter takes over the role.
It's not that the fam didn't try to make me sing this phrase. They did. They brought out all the usual arguments, "Oh dearly loved mother, what makes you think you can't sing? You have a beautiful voice and you just need to sing more." Did I mention that my family members suffer from short-tern memory loss? It hasn't been medically diagnosed but these same people who tried really hard to get me to sing in front of millions are also the ones who just days prior made comments like, "Uh, Mom, you, like, just changed keys in the middle of that verse," or "Is that, like, really how the song goes?"
How can this be, you ask yourself, as I am Mennonite and all Mennonites sing? Believe me, I have asked myself this same question. My high school asked this same question and as I was found lacking, well, that explains my experience at said high school. Can't sing? Dud. If it weren't for the fact that I look so much like my mother and get called by her name more often than my own when I return to my home area, I'd have had a DNA test to see if I had been switched at birth. On the other hand, she claims she can't sing, either. According to family legend it was my brother who ended her singing career by lauding her rendition of a Sunday School song with, "That's not how we sing it in Sunday School." Must be some kind of generational curse or something.
So I have definitely been enjoying my sabbatical from the weird looks and forced smiles that come during our family's version of Daddy Sang Bass. I've tried to suggest changing the words: Daddy sang bass. Ana sang tenor. Poor little Momma can't join right in there. 'Cause singing seems to make her a troubled soul. But they won't have it. The Good Doctor is convinced that it's an audience favorite so it's here to stay. I guess there's nothing I can do about it. Except to live for the month of December every year.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
I have tried many ways to curb this habit. Effective for one child was the reward of money. I would start the day with two pockets full of quarters, one for each of the worst offenders home during the day. Each time the word was used incorrectly, a quarter would be removed from that child's designated pocket. At the end of the day, whatever was left belonged to that child. One child got rich. The other, well, not even a quarter. One kicked the habit, the other dug his heels in deeper and the addiction became stronger.
Just the other day I asked him how much money he had in response to his request to make a purchase. He told me, "I have, like, 4 or 5 dollars." I asked for a recount as I am positive that when he gets to the check-out, the cashier is not going to say, "That will be, like, $5.00," and allow him to, like, pay whatever amount he happens to have.
I can't imagine being a high school teacher or college professor and having to listen to student speeches. I hereby apologize to the Asbury University professors for sending my oldest child, a horrible "like" offender, off to college without first effectively removing the word from his vocabulary. I tried but I was obviously very lacking in my ability to do so. They must be doing something right, however, because upon arriving home for Thanksgiving vacation, I noticed that this child speaks with less frequent interruptions of that annoying word.
Part of the problem is that they don't see the problem. Or rather, they don't hear it. Two of our children, the worst of the worst, do not even notice the number of "likes" in their speech. Until I mention it and start counting. At which point the offending child cannot even finish his/her story because removing the word is foreign and as if I've asked them to finish the conversation in a new language.
I have one very sweet, obedient, and lovely child who has kicked the habit on his own and all but completely eradicated the exasperating verbal vomit. How did he do it? After trying to listen to several peers speak to a large group of people, he realized how distracting the word was. At the end of the presentation he was certain that what they said must have been profound and life-changing but because his brain was stuck on listening to (and counting) each utterance of "like" he couldn't concentrate.
What a good boy. There is hope!
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
He has a point and I try to implement these specific instructions when telling my children what to do.
But I guess that when I asked someone to let the dog in,
I forgot to also ask her to unhook the chain as well.
Poor Linus was patiently waiting for me to rescue him.
Better luck next time.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
There are other times when it can be consuming. Like when we're trying to take pictures. You can't call Victor's name and expect him to look at you. You can't make eye contact and hope for a cute smile. You can't make goofy faces to get his attention or that perfect smile for the picture. When you hold him and wish you could get a smile by locking eyes. When you see another child of similar age smiling, rolling over, sitting up, even starting to crawl.
And then there are the questions. What are we going to do about schooling? What family traditions should we change because they are based on sight? What family activities will we avoid? Will he be musical? Can I continue to interpret for the deaf when I have a child who will never see me do so? Will my church have a place for him? Will he have friends?
But at the end of each day, I know that we're going to be okay. Victor is right where he is supposed to be. We are so blessed to have him and he is blessed to have life. Like the rest of us, he will find his place in this world. He will make a difference. He will serve others. He will shine a light in dark places. Yes. This is what he was created to do and he will fulfill all that God has planned for him. He will be victorious and in the process, he will teach us to be victorious, too.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
I ignored them as long as possible, especially the one on his neck, just under his jaw. I had a cocker spaniel growing up. He lived a good, long life, but after 16 years, he, too developed cysts in and around his mouth which led to putting him to sleep. I don't like to spend excess money on my pets (some days I have a hard time justifying my pet ownership to myself, knowing that the money for food alone could be better spent on human need or suffering elsewhere) but I also don't want to see them suffering or dying. In my avoidance of the cyst on his neck, I failed to notice that it was getting larger. Over Thanksgiving my uncle noticed it and asked about it. I decided I needed to check again. Sure enough, it was almost the size of a tennis ball. It was time to call the vet.
The Good Doctor valiantly offered to make the call and the appointment. Anticipating the appointment date, five days away, I assumed the worst and started to say my good-byes to Linus. I also prayed. It felt silly. I have a son who is blind. I spent three months away from my family, asking God to help my son breathe. Now I'm asking Him to heal my dog?
But you know what? The night before the appointment, I planned to show the Good Doctor each cyst so he could be informed and feign interest in the dog's welfare when he went to the vet. Would you believe that every cyst is gone?
I have learned so much about prayer this year, to ask in the big things and in the small. I am learning that the God of the universe loves me with a love that I will never fully understand this side of Heaven. A love that cares about the things I care about, a love that takes care of the things I care about.
Friday, December 6, 2013
One of those "other" messages was a letter for us about Victor and his adoption. This is from a family that is still grieving the loss of their precious son and brother. Thank you for your words. And to the many who are still sending us your reflections, thank you. I have not published all of them on this blog but we are keeping them for Victor. How special each and every one is to us.
"It's been in the back of my mind since you first requested to hear how Victor has touched the lives of the community. It's incredibly hard for me to put it into words. While you were in Utah, I followed each blog post and excitedly waited for more to come, hoping and praying for good news. I have some understanding of what it feels like to see the struggles one little man can endure. Our oldest son ... had his own hurdles to cross and unfortunately, it never seemed like he did that. For 3 and a half years, we had a newborn. His room was filled with special equipment needed to survive each day. He ate liquids through a tube (and we tried 3 different kinds!) but loved any purees we would spoon feed him. He needed his temperature and heart rate monitored, and sometimes went for a few days at a time hooked up to oxygen. And with all of the specialists he saw and 6 therapists coming into our home, we never had any idea how long his life would be but expected him to grow old with us. With his birthday tomorrow, he has been on my mind almost constantly. When I think about Victor in contrast, I am hopeful for a long, blessed life for him. It fills me with joy to see how he has changed and grown since you first saw him and shared him with all of us! I am thankful for Victor, the smallest, cutest, most loved super hero I know. Thank you Kings, for your open hearts, for your love and sleepless nights and for putting the story into words for us! And Mr. Victor-ious, I'm sure that if we meet someday, you're going to be in for one giant hug, with tears of joy on the side."
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I'm waiting for the day that my children arise and call me blessed for making them eat healthy food. Right now it sounds more like complaining. Or whining.
Someday my children will arise and call me blessed for homeschooling them. Actually, one has thanked me for her few years of schooling at home and just recently another unexpectantly thanked me for teaching him about adverbs. Baby steps.
I can't wait until my children arise and call me blessed for making them wear a coat when it's cold. The other morning one child left the house in a huff because I made him put on a winter coat, on top of his short sleeve shirt. Looking out the window, I saw him take a few steps into the wind and immediately pull the coat tighter around him and he even pulled his hood over his head. It's kind of like arising and calling me blessed, isn't it?
I think that there will even come a day when they will arise and call me blessed for making them clean their rooms. If opposites attract, then all of my children are going to marry neat freaks. For the sake of marital bliss, I'm certain that they will one day thank me that they know how to keep things clean. At the very least that they know how to placate a neat freak.
For now they just roll their eyes because I keep telling them that someday they will arise and call me blessed.