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!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Colorful runners

The girl loves to run. Now that she's run the Healthy Kids Running Series 1/4 mile several times over,

and a 1 mile race,

and a 5K Color Run, she has decided she prefers longer distances.

While HopeAnne has had great success in her running so far, she has two older siblings who shall remain nameless but who haven't had such a successful career.

Once upon a time, two brothers decided to buy green men suits. They had a lot of fun with those suits. Who wouldn't enjoy going places undercover with full length green spandex suits? Many of their exploits cannot be written on these pages because they don't want their cover blown. But one story stands out among all the rest and deserves to be told here and now.

The brothers got the great idea to enter a 5K race. This wasn't just any race, it was in  the mountains, in the dark. In their green spandex which of course goes from head to toe. To make certain they knew where they were going, they took flashlights and a friend with a flashlight.

We all forgot to consider the fact that two minors running a race would need a parent's signature. Never fear. These minor racers were undercover so they just said they were over 18. They decided to sign in as brothers but with assumed names. The only problem was that they didn't confer ahead of time on the spelling of the last name and one of the brothers is not the world's greatest speller. This resulted in the "brothers" signing in as Kevin Burton and Jay Burten.  Oops Number 1.

They ran the race with their friend in the lead, calling out obstacles along the way. Tree stump right. Hole left. All went well and the end was in sight. Their friend, an avid runner, wanted to finish the race with some semblance of an acceptable time so they told him they'd be fine, he should just run ahead. They could see the finish through the green masks and thought all would be well.  Oops Number 2.

With their friend rushing off to the finish, and the two green brothers holding hands for safety, the naive but cocky younger brother decided to try to beat the older and mature other brother and he took off at full speed. All of a sudden he found himself flat on his back. He yelled at his brother, thinking he must have stuck an arm or leg out to trip him. Not so. In actuality this over 18 year old Burten/Burton brother had just run headfirst into a tree, signed in with a false name, and no parental emergency contact number.  Oops Number 3.

With a hurt pride and a very bruised face, the two brothers limped to the finish, never attempting a masked night time 5K again.

HopeAnne, the moral of the story is ... Never run races with green brothers.

Multi colors are fine.

The End.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The great chocolate chip caper down under-wear

Moms are hard to stump but Andrew really thought he had me this morning.

"Mom, after my shower this morning, I had a really strange experience. I went to put on my underwear and it felt weird."

Note: At this point, I was certain where this was going - a hitchhiking tick from the mountains must have crawled off someone else, onto the bathroom floor, and into his underwear. Problem solved.  I didn't even have to hear the rest of the story. But he continued...

"I checked and lo and behold, there was a chocolate chip, tucked into that little front flap. Now, can you please tell me how that could have gotten in there?"

Me, trying to speak between fits of laughter, "Oh, well, I'm glad it wasn't a tick, but yeah, that's almost as easy as guessing a tick."

"Easy, huh? A chocolate chip? In my underwear? I thought letting the little kids roller-skate in the house was crazy but this is too much. Please explain."

"Yeah, well you see, when the refrigerator and freezer died, I asked the little kids to quickly empty the freezer contents into the freezer in the back of the laundry room. Ever since then, I've been finding chocolate chips in various locations in there, most of which were in one particular basket of clean clothes. I bet your underwear came from there."

"So who did this and why hasn't it all been cleaned up yet?"

"Because Nobody did it and No One is yet to 'fess up."  I guess it could be argued that at this point I was stumped but I don't think it counts where Nobody is concerned because how is one supposed to win over that character?

"Never fear, Mom, I've got them all with me right now. I'll get to the bottom of this."

A little later I received a phone call from Andrew who I'm certain will make a great parent someday because he was able to get the culprit to confess although it did take a circuitous course for the truth to come out.

Andrew: Did anyone here move the chocolate chips from the kitchen freezer to the deep freeze?

Kids: Varying negative responses.

Andrew:  Really, no one here remembers moving chocolate chips from the kitchen to the laundry room?

Culprit: Wait, do you mean the container of chocolate chips?

Andrew: (After a brief pause) Did it have chocolate chips in it?

Culprit: Yes.

Andrew: Then yes, did you move the... container... of chocolate chips?

Culprit: Yes.

Andrew: Did you spill them?

Culprit: Yes.

Andrew: Did you tell anyone?

Culprit: Yes.

Andrew: (Really?) Who did you tell?

Culprit: (Insert other sibling's name)

Andrew: Right. Did you tell a parent?

Culprit: No.

Andrew: Did you pick up all the chocolate chips when you were done?

Culprit: Yes.

Andrew: Well, no you didn't. And I'm almost afraid to ask, but what did you do with the chocolate chips once you picked them up?

Culprit: I put them back in the container.

Andrew: Yeah, I was afraid of that.

Just another day at the King household.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Kings go to the mountains

Spend two days with friends at their cabin in the mountains? Why yes, I think we will.  Even Jesse, less than 24-hours post wisdom teeth removal, decided to recover next to nature rather than at home in bed.

Hot dogs, s'mores, mountain pies (just for kicks, ask Shoun what happens when you make a mountain pie without filling - whoops), hikes, the outhouse, deer tracks, family secrets shared 'round the campfire, tick removal...

Swimming in the creek in the spring... Brrr...
Reading in the morning sun...

And did we mention how we got to the cabin?
Fishing... 3 for Isaac, 1 for the teacher. It was rumored that Isaac caught more fish in 1 hour than the owner of the rod has caught in 2 - 3 years. This may or may not be true...

Mr. Victor enjoying the great mountain air, and showing off his standing abilities...

Man to man chats on the cabin porch...

And some of us learned some gun safety from the best teacher and received lessons in how to kill Bambi's parents. Okay, they only learned how to aim at cans and water bottles but we all know where that leads, pictures of smiling friends holding the heads of dead deer...

Poor HopeAnne, she looks like she's trying to lift a bazooka...

Maybe the most special moment of all was acting upon a nudge from God, to reenact a healing story from the Bible, and to have Eden pray for Victor's healing, surrounded by all that God made, and Christian friends to love, pray for, and support our family.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Great strides

Mr. Victor is making great strides these days. He is definitely a crawler. And walking won't be far behind. He prides himself in letting go for a few seconds when standing up and holding onto something. But for now he is on all fours, exploring his world, not caring that he's likely to crawl right into a chair or sofa or wall, just because he can't see it there. He's fearless and that will do him well. Between May 5 and 15 we saw the eruption of his first 3 teeth with no ill effects. All of a sudden, there they were.

Oh, and he can ring the doorbell with his backside. Not something that just any baby can do.

Thank you to those of you who prayed for Victor and his MRI on Wednesday morning. After waiting 2 hours past his scheduled appointment, and trying to explain to a 1 year old that he couldn't eat due to the impending anesthesia (which is, by the way, impossible to explain), all went well.  I just spoke to the doctor this morning about the results of the MRI, all of which were exactly as expected.

Translated from doctor speak to Cindy's comprehension, and into written form for you, here are the more detailed results:

Viewing Victor's optic nerves was, of course, the reason for the test. The MRI confirmed that both optic nerves are smaller than they should be. Where the nerves join the brain, this is also smaller than normal. And finally, as you follow the optic tracks deep into the brain, these are also small. All this to say, Victor's optic nerves do not have the ability to take messages from his eyes to his brain. He is blind.

Victor's pituitary gland was a second reason for the scan. In about 20% of the cases of children with bilateral optic nerve hypoplasia, the pituitary is also involved because it is located in the same location as the optic nerves. There are several possible outcomes of this, the most common being issues with growth hormone. Praise God, Victor's pituitary looks exactly as it should which confirms what the endocrinologist has suspected. There is no reason to believe that Victor will develop pituitary issues.

A look at Victor's brain did show a small amount of scarring which likely occurred soon after birth but appears to have been asymptomatic since all NICU ultrasounds were completely white with no gray or dark areas at all.

So while it was difficult to have Victor's blindness confirmed in this way, there were no surprises in the results (only in being left alone for over an hour with a very hungry baby and no word of explanation or sympathy).

We know that God receives all the glory through Victor's story, whether that be in a miracle of complete healing, or in the miracle of the weak being made strong. Keep praying for Victor and for us. Has God given us more than we can handle?  Yes, He most certainly has. But right here, in the middle of the storm, is where we can look up and see the face of our Savior, right there with us. He was in the NICU, always standing next to Victor, hands on him, protecting him. He's right here with us now, always standing next to us, giving us just what we need for the day, for the moment. This is not about us, this is about growing in grace and trust and about giving all the glory to the One who knew how our lives would intersect with this precious little boy, long before we knew there'd be King Child #8.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sweet 16

3rd time we're going through this 16th birthday thing. 1st time with a daughter. Last night I asked Facebook friends to share what comes to mind first when they think of our vibrant, dramatic, and spiritual daughter.  Here's what they came up with...

Influential... A sweetheart, brilliant, and talented... Electric!... Alive... Inspiring actress... Not afraid of what others think... Playing to an audience of one... Motivated... Beautiful spirit... Lively

She has a caring heart... Oozing with talent and spunk... full of passion and bold leadership... Happy young lady...

Winniewana (great memories from a young friend years ago who couldn't pronounce Mariana)... Energetic, outgoing, and passionate... She is a beautiful expression of God which is so evident...

Grace, love, and brilliance... Beautiful - inside and out!... Joyful and Joyous!... Radiant... Frozen!

Delightful!... Lovely... Enthusiastic... Immaturely mature!!!!... Amazing... Caring... Talented... Wise beyond her years... Unique... Inspiring...

My Brigitta is ABSOLUTELY VIBRANT....and wholesome, and fun, and smiley, and interesting, compassionate, a great listener, a musician, smart, intellignt amd loving....and all not necessarily in that order. But when I see her I always think vibrant because she is so in the moment- not into yesterday, which has passed, not overly anxious about tomorrow or looking forward to what is to come, but mostly, she is vibrant in the today she has been given.

Ahead of her time... What a strong, beautiful, spirit... Full of life... Beautiful smile... Honest, thoughtful, kind, selfless, positive... Compassionate...

Wise beyond her years... Two, too, to to cool, kewl, kool (Mariana will know who that is from)... Unique... Inspiring... She will go far...

I couldn't agree more 
(and Victor does, too, even if this photo doesn't show it)!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

His grace finds me

I woke up with the words to Matt Redman's song, Your Grace Finds Me, in my head. Whenever I wake up with a song on mental repeat, I ask myself why God gifted that song to me for that day. After pondering this a bit this morning, and going through my usual morning activities which (unfortunately) included a bit on Facebook, I realized that I was the one needing  grace.

And Facebook was the trigger. A post popped up that I had first seen yesterday. It was a post that made me question my parenting and my choices as a mother. But it wasn't just that post. I'm sure it was the cumulative effect of so many posts and articles and opinions. Having a long history of low self-esteem and lack of grace for myself, it was bound to happen. Look and listen long enough, and someone with my history is quickly going to take it all to heart and think she screwed up her kids. Because according to all of the information thrown at me, I find myself questioning every decision I made for and about my children, from pre-conception to the present time.  It doesn't matter that I look around my table and see eight great, healthy, well-behaved, and intelligent kids. The inevitable result is always guilt and disgrace.

But when I realized that the words of this song were for me today, I also realized that my God is so much bigger than all of this. I may not have done it right and I may still be doing it wrong but my God is able to heal and restore, to look beyond and to speak words of wisdom to me right when I need them.

Moms, if you find that your story is similar to mine, let this be the day that you begin to give yourself grace. Let this be the day you rely more on the Holy Spirit and His guidance than on all the words of wisdom coming from social media and your well-meaning friends. Because at the end of the day, it's not going to matter whether or not I drank the glucose water during my pregnancy or that I sent my children to public school, it's not going to matter if you used disposable diapers and let your children chew on plastic toys. What's going to matter is that you listened to that still, small voice and that you trusted in a God who is bigger than whether or not you used a baby carrier or held your baby on your hip, a God who can use your children for His kingdom whether or not you had a home birth, even if you heat your food in a microwave.

Grace for you. Grace for me. Grace for the day and every day to come.

Your great grace
Oh such grace
Your great grace
Oh such grace

So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace
Forever I’ll be

Your grace finds me
Yes Your grace finds me

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

No coincidences

We recently received this message in response to an ad we posted on Craigslist:


  Thanks for getting back to me ..So let's do like this, actually now
I'm not in town for now, I came to visit my son so i wont be able to
meet with you but am ok with the price as seen on the advert, I'll
proceed in issuing a Check out to you and when you received the check
, I will make arrangement for pick-up. So get back to me with below
details asap.

Postal Code:
Phone Number:
Total amount for the item:

And as soon as this is provided, the payment will be overnight to you
and i will let you know when its mailed out. I need you to be honest
with the sale as I am a God fearing person.


God Bless.

So I responded with a message of my own (but don't tell The Good Doctor as he has banned me from emailing people I don't know even if they message me first):


  Thanks for getting back to me ..So let's do like this, actually now
I'm not in town for now, either - what co-inky-dinc. I came to visit my son, too, so i wont be able to
meet with you but am ok with the price you are agreeing to as seen on the advert, I'll
proceed in giving out all my personal information out to you after you send me your contact info so I can report it to the craigslist offenders websites. So get back to me with below
details asap.

Postal Code (we generally call it a zip code in these parts, your son would know that):
Phone Number:
Total amount of times you've tried to con folks:

And as soon as this is provided, and if you are indeed a God-fearing man, I will first of all apologize and then I will gladly accept your cash when we meet at a mutually agreeable location. I promise I'll be as honest
with the sale as you are as I am also a God fearing person - funny, another co-inky-dinc.


God Bless.

Funny, he never got back to me but we did sell the item to an actual God fearing man who was very honest and paid in cash with no need to exchange personal identifying information.

But contrary to my response and as you probably remember, I really don't believe in co-inky-dincs. Since Victor's diagnosis, God has placed the most amazing people in our path.

Recently we had a concert for a local Lion's Club. I will admit to going to this concert with a bad attitude; I had been at a conference all day and rather than meet more people I just wanted to go home. But off to the concert I went and I told part of Victor's story as I often do. After the concert we were approached by a woman who said, "Would you like to meet someone who is an advocate for the blind and who has worked with them for many years?"  Would I? Absolutely. It turns out that this man, blind himself, was the featured speaker earlier in the evening. He ran a school for the blind out of state for many years, is now retired and travels around speaking and advocating for guide dogs for the blind.  The children and I had a wonderful conversation with him and learned his perspective on several topics common to the blind.

And just last week I received an email from a woman who found this blog through a website called WonderBaby where I had submitted an article. She is blind herself, and a teacher of the blind. She asked if she could send some Braille pictures for Victor. Of course! Today, those pictures arrived in the mail and I'm excited to figure out a way to display them in his room.

So many God-orchestrated moments!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

One of the children was asked what they got for me for Mother's Day. This child responded with, "A therapist."  I guess, after my year, no one, including me, would have been surprised if this had been the truth. It wasn't.

I was treated to an early gift  of a "Cupon Book" made by Eden.

HopeAnne also gave me an early gift of a Mother's Day Eve trip to the ER after a terrific demonstration of a mother's famous last words, "It's all fun and games til someone gets hurt." Three stitches above her right eye later, we were home just in time for the dawn of Mother's Day.

Actually, just prior to that, the girls and I were honored to bring a program of song, skits, and words to the women's banquet at a church near my parent's home. We were happy to be spending the night with my parents so that the whole family could return to the same church to provide the whole worship service for Mother's Day morning. Thus the excitement and goofing off at bedtime. So we scooped up the bleeding HopeAnne and took an unscheduled detour to the emergency room, arriving back to my parents just before the clock struck the beginning of Mother's Day.

I loved celebrating Mother's Day with my family, bringing music and words of encouragement to this congregation that has such a heart for orphans and widows. It is a joy and privilege to see each of my children using their gifts to serve the Lord and to be able to do so together is an added bonus.

First thing yesterday morning my children did wish me Happy Mother's Day, one at a time, in rapid succession. Having not been born yesterday, I figured this one out rather quickly so asked the third child who came my way, "Did someone tell you to wish me a Happy Mother's Day?"

"Yeah, MomMom told us to do that. Guys! Why did you all come at once? MomMom said not to do that!"

Oh, and I did receive gifts, one of which was not to a therapist, but to a massage therapist, a much needed gift. And a journal of kind words from my husband and children. Apparently one of the children whom shall not be named was asked to purchase a nice journal for Mom. Good choice, huh? :)

While the journal itself may not look special, the notes inside certainly were.

HopeAnne's last run of the spring season was also on Mother's Day so many of us went to cheer her on. Another win means that she was the Champion of the spring session just like in the fall.  Way to go, Hope, stitches and lack of sleep and all!

And my Mother's Day would not be complete without ice cream or frozen yogurt. Thank you, all!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Good, good

You and Me


The question has been asked of us and around us, Can white families adopt children of other races and cultures?  Just last weekend the Good Doctor and I attended an adoption conference and in one of the break-out sessions we listened to a Black adoptee talk on the topic, "Can Black and White Mix?"

Maybe for some, the jury is still out, but I can say that for my family, just as my 7 year old daughter demonstrated in her unprompted drawing, "You and me, many colors, good, good."