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!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Crucible

Our school district's high school decided to tackle The Crucible as their fall play. Not every high school could do this but these teens really worked hard and approached a difficult drama with skill, emotion, and professionalism.

It is very difficult for me to read or watch anything where one segment of society turns against another but I recognize the value of remembering and learning so that we don't repeat history.

I'm very proud of our very own Mary Warren.

But next time, could you do the right thing and speak up for truth?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Real, safe conversation

What did your Thanksgiving look like?

I'm not talking about the weather. I'm not talking about the food.

I'm talking about the people around the table. Were the guests all talking together or were most of your family members looking at their own phones, scrolling through Facebook or checking emails?

Thankfully, my holiday was filled with much laughter and communication but sadly, this may be a lost art.

This is the first generation that thinks it's normal to sit in a group without participating in the group; to gather around a table while each person carries on his own conversation with friends far away.

Recently, my friend Susan Vigliano, posted a list of iphone guidelines. They were spot on. Our kids don't have phones but the older ones do have devices so we all sat down together and looked at Susan's list. We adapted it to fit our family, adding to parts, subtracting others, but all with the goals of safe device use and healthy social habits.

Grandparents and those without children aren't exempt from this, either. I recently spoke to a grandmother who told me that when she travels out of state to visit her grandchildren, she hates to sit down with them, only to have each of them pull out their phones and ignore her.  She has started to text them all while sitting amongst them, to remind them that she just traveled far to see them. And then there's the youtube video of a family sitting down to dinner and when the sons pull out their phones and distractedly pass the pepper instead of the salt, the father pulls out his typewriter and starts typing.

I highly recommend that you take this list, discuss it with your children and make it fit your own family or home. And parents, you might need to look at your own habits before you can enforce these guidelines among your children.

I Phone Guidelines for teens -- Copy and paste into a doc to go over with your teen.

1. It does not go to school.

2. It does not go into the bathroom.

3. It does not go into the bedroom.

4. It goes to bed with Mom and Dad at night.

5. It can go to youth group and church on Sunday to use the Bible Aps – no texting or games during teaching time. That’s really rude.

6. Only add apps that Dad approves.

7. The camera is for appropriate photos and video only. Anything mom can’t see isn’t appropriate. There should be no question or gray areas here.

8. Mom and Dad must have the passcode at all times and access to the I Phone anytime they ask.

9. No social media like Instagram, Snap Chat, Facebook etc….until we all agree that it’s a good idea. There are safety issues, but there are also other issues like social development that need careful thought. Developing teens don’t need to count their likes all day. That will make you weird and malformed. Your identity and security come from God. When we agree that it’s a good idea then we become your first friends and have access to your account. Any secret secondary accounts will result in high-level consequences. For instance – a season off sports and/or a long period of grounding.

10. Most of your conversations with friends should be in person, not over text. Text is not the same as communicating in person. People say things in text that they would not say to someone’s face. That makes development irregular. You are the first generation to develop in a significantly irregular way socially. Let’s limit this for that reason. Keep text to about 20% of all communication so that you don’t become a Franken-person.

11. Any more than 45 minutes a day of device use is harmful and unnecessary. People sitting in the same room interacting with other people through devices all the time is very strange and not appropriate. Please limit your use to no more than 45 min a day. Go outside. Go to the movies. Play a board game. Take a bike ride. You need to disconnect from multiple, ongoing conversations all the time. It’s really weird and unnatural. It can’t possibly be good for your brain or your social development. If you need studies, please let me know and I’ll find them. I think you already know this in your gut, but I’d be happy to prove it if you feel it necessary. Your brain needs some quiet and detachment each day. One of the signs of addiction is agitation when the substance is removed. If removal of your device causes agitation then we need to pay attention to that.

12. I don’t care what your friends are doing and what their parents let them do. Period.

13. Violations will result in confiscation of your device at ever increasing degrees for continued violations up to and including permanent loss. One week, one month, three months, six months….permanent loss.

14. Please sign here__________________________

Thanks, Susan!

Monday, November 17, 2014

What can Victor see?

What can Victor see?

Let me give you some of our observations.

If you turn the lights out and darken the room, then place lighted objects or toys (such as a flashlight or flashing ball) on the floor, Victor will reach right for them.

When his therapist brings the light box and leaves it here for a time, Victor is obsessed with it. He will go in his room and say "on" until someone turns it on for him. If you then turn it off, he will immediately request that it be turned back on. If you place large items on the light box, he will reach right for them.

Sometimes, just for fun, I will quietly approach him while he is concentrating on a favorite toy. I will place my face about an arm's length from his face. If I am on his left side, he will soon turn his head my direction, smile, then reach out and grab my face. I had to stop doing this because I was afraid he'd gouge my eyes out or scratch up my nose.

It could be argued that he heard us place the objects on the floor before he reached for them. It could be argued that he hears us turn the light box off so asks us to turn it on. It could be argued that he senses my presence next to him.

So what can Victor see? We don't know but we have our guesses. Someday he will be able to tell us what Victor can see.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Creativity strikes again

My parents recently attended an event where they happened to be seated with an administrator from the school where I used to teach. As often happens, conversation turned to common ground which in this case happened to be me. My parents reported that he spoke very highly of my teaching, telling them that he remembers my creativity and that he lists me in the top 10 teachers he's ever had working under him.

I write this not to stroke my own ego. In fact, in true Cindy fashion my first thought was that this must be on over-statement or miscommunication. My second thought (knowing that my parents aren't habitual liars) was regret that it's been almost 20 years since I was in the classroom. I had a brief period of wondering if this was some kind of sign that I was supposed to go back to teaching. It's not that I haven't considered it. I have. Plenty of times. There are times that I'll think of an idea or find an old one in my filing cabinet (yeah, I still have plenty of teaching files), and think about pulling that old teaching certificate out of hibernation (or whatever the state calls it), take all those classes I'd need to take to bring it up to snuff, and get out there and interview. And then I'm able to think realistically again and know that at this time of my life, I do not have the time to give to a classroom. And when I'm really honest, I don't know if I would be happy in a classroom today. The opportunities for teachers to be creative or less than they used to be. There's that old creativity thing again.

But then I saw this compliment for what it was - an encouragement.

Some days, the task of raising a child who is blind seems insurmountable to me. The teacher in me looks at child's play as learning and at playtime as opportunity for pre-reading or early math skills; setting the stage for future learning. I know how to do that with a sighted child; I've been doing that for a long time. But a blind child? I've never done that before. My training in special education focused more on developmental delays than vision issues.

I even looked into dusting off that old certificate just so I could get certified in teaching the visually impaired. But when I broached the subject with the Good Doctor, he said he didn't think it was necessary. He said he thought I was a creative enough teacher to prepare Victor just as well as all of our other children. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Thank you, Lord, for an encouraging word. First, from an obvious source and confirmed by an unlikely source.

Truth be told, creativity is what my elementary and middle and high school teachers always mentioned in the comments section of my report cards. God was preparing me for Victor even way back then.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Christmas elves

We've been supplying Allenberry Playhouse with elfkins for quite a few years now. 6 of the 8 King kids have now been on stage there, many of them playing Santa's helpers at one time or other. It seems as if everyone gets their turn to be the cute factor on stage.

Christmas 2007 was our first Allenberry Christmas show and probably my favorite year. There were no elves involved but nothing beats your 6 year old saying, "And God bless us, everyone!"

The following year Jesse was a human brat-turned-obedient child. And I have no idea what happened to the pictures from this year. This was all I could find.

In 2009, Isaac was the lone King representative on the Allenberry stage while Mariana was off performing with Matt Davenport Productions at Hershey Park and Jesse decided he was too old. That year Isaac got to be elf, human, and Santa, all within an hour and 15 minutes.
In 2010, Mariana was once again hired by Matt Davenport and spent her evenings at Hershey Park. Eden decided to give acting a try and Isaac was back for another year. This was the year the elfkins grew pointy ears.
And this is my absolute favorite picture of Eden from this show.
If you saw Mistletoe Magic in 2011, you finally got to see 3 King kids on stage again. This time we had 2 elfkins and 1 human. I just loved Mariana in this starring role with her own solo and backup singers.
Eden had a starring role in 2012 and even got to be human that year. Isaac decided to take the year off. The outfit made it's second appearance on a King kid in a Christmas show.

2013 was the year of the cast; the broken bone variety. Isaac told audience members that he accidentally hit it with a hammer in Santa's workshop. In reality it was a boring old soccer injury.

Which brings us to 2014 and HopeAnne's first time as elf. After appearing in Annie during the summer of 2013, she wasn't sure she wanted to be on the stage for the Christmas show last year. This year she was ready.

Looks like we'll have to add a few more kids so Allenberry has plenty of elfkins lined up for the future.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Am I a bad parent?

Jesse was born with a gleam in his eye; an extra twinkle that spelled trouble before he even knew his alphabet. Our doctor said that Jesse knew he was going to be the middle child even before we knew he was going to be the middle child. (In case you are wondering, Jesse was indeed, the middle child for three whole years.)

I had my concerns as he entered kindergarten. Going to the same school where I had formerly taught and continued to sub and tutor students, I knew all of the teachers. Even before the first day of school I was imagining the awkward phone conversations with his teacher. "Hello, Cindy, can we talk about Jesse's classroom behavior?" Thankfully, the phone calls never came. They didn't need to. I volunteered in the classroom once a week; we had our conversations in person.

And then we moved. To a new community and a new church. I became the wife of the new pastor. And my kids were PKs in a new location. And nobody knew how awesome my children were.

The first Sunday came around and I went to pick up my middle child (who was technically no longer the middle child) from his new classroom. The teacher proceeded to tell me all the things Jesse had done wrong that Sunday. I don't know what it was specifically but it probably included being the life of the party (in Sunday School, where there wasn't supposed to be a party), creating ways to become the center of attention, and then basking in that attention.

Thankfully, the following Sunday, there was a different teacher. While there was a short mention of a few unacceptable behaviors, she sandwiched it between her joy at having Jesse in her class and calling out positive traits and behaviors she had seen.

The next few months went by like this. There were three teachers who genuinely loved and cared for Jesse and for our family. They would be sure to praise whatever good qualities they could find while gently sharing those behaviors that needed follow-up. But every other week, when that other teacher was there, I'd brace myself for a laundry list of bad behaviors. I began to feel so discouraged that sometimes I just didn't take him to class the weeks that she was there. I couldn't handle hearing one more negative comment about my son.

Those weeks, I'd leave feeling discouraged and angry. I convinced myself that I was a terrible parent and that this woman was judging both my parenting and The Good Doctor's ability to be a pastor, based solely on my son's behavior in class.

I share this story because as I talk with young mothers, I hear some familiar words and thoughts:

My child got kicked out of daycare for biting. What are we doing wrong?
My daughter's kindergarten teacher called. My daughter is hitting other children. I feel like a bad parent.

And as they get older, it's the same thing, but with different behaviors:
My son is failing math. Should I have prepared him better when he was a toddler?
A friend wrote on Facebook that all of the girls in her daughter's small group make fun of her daughter. My daughter is in that small group. Where did I fail in teaching her to accept and encourage everyone?

And it goes even beyond high school.

When do we get to let ourselves off the hook?

The answer is, way back at the very beginning. Yes, we need to search ourselves. A few hours in Mommy Time-out, seeking the Lord's wisdom is a good idea. But we also need to realize that our children have the same free will that we do. They are going to make mistakes just like we did and still do. If you go around hitting your peers, then I guess you probably are to blame for your child's hitting in school. But since that's very unlikely, then it's time to stop blaming yourself.

One more word of caution: This doesn't mean that you are free and clear. Remember that I said you need to spend time with the Lord and seek His wisdom in how to work with your child through this phase. You can't blame yourself or immediately decide that you are a bad parent, whether or not the teacher or coach makes you feel as if you are, however, it is imperative that we work with our children's teachers and coaches and whoever else is in a place of authority over our children. We need to have follow-through at home. Our children need to listen and be respectful and they can be taught this at very young ages. Some children need more guidance and reminders than others (take my "middle" child, for instance). But if adults don't enjoy being around our children, if their peers don't enjoy being around them, then they really cannot be salt and light.

And a final word of encouragement: That first grade boy who found the wrong ways to have fun and entertain his peers? He grew up into a high school senior, spending the first two periods of his day interning in a 3rd grade classroom. This morning his cooperating teacher visited our church. As I was being introduced to the teacher, that encouraging and positive first grade Sunday School teacher from long ago was standing next to me. She overheard the cooperating teacher talk about Jesse's natural talent for teaching and his rapport with the 3rd grade children, about his belief that Jesse will make a great teacher in a few years. She threw her arms up in the air and said, "I knew it! I just knew that God was going to redeem that energy and those behaviors!" And she's right.

I thank God for her prayers, for her smiles each week when I picked Jesse up from her classroom, for her love for him and our family. I thank God for redemption. And I thank God for grace. Grace for my children and grace for moms.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

This stuff works, people

You might remember my post from a few days ago about Mommy Time-out. This really works.

I woke up early last Saturday morning to take Mariana to the high school. It was still dark so I put my glasses on, only to realize that there was a line going across one eye. I took them off, washed them, and tried again. Still a line going from my eyeball to the outside edge of the lens. I took them off and looked closer this time. I saw what appeared to be either a crack or scratch. We left as I was trying to figure out what could have happened.

It didn't take long for my mind to wake up and put a few things together. I remembered seeing a particular child sitting at the kitchen table playing with a safety pin. He and his safety pin were very close to my glasses but I couldn't imagine why he would have picked them up nor why he would have had his safety pin anywhere near them.

I was mad. I had a scratched lens that was annoying to look through and no proof as to what had happened or what to do about it. I spent a few hours mulling over the situation and once again, God's wisdom was better than anything I could have come up with or imagined on my own.

When my son woke up, I asked for his hand. I very calmly placed the safety pin in his palm. I said, "I want you to know that you are forgiven. I do hope that you will come and talk to me when you are ready."

It took all day but after supper he came to me and said he wanted to talk.

I'm certain that if I had blamed him or yelled at him or even asked for a flat-out confession, I would still be playing detective, trying to find out what had happened to my glasses. Instead, on his terms, he came to explain and apologize.

And it's a good story, too.  Kind of like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  See, this is how it went:

If you're playing with a safety pin, you are also going to want to play with wax.

(Mom's note: I have no idea where the wax came from and I decided it was better not to ask.)

If you're playing with wax, you are going to want to play with Mom's glasses.

If you play with Mom's glasses, you are going to get wax on them.

If you get wax on Mom's glasses, you are going to have to get it off before she finds out.

If you want to remove the wax before Mom finds out, you will need a safety pin.

If you take a safety pin to a pair of glasses, it will scratch the lens.

If you scratch the lens, you'd better put wax, safety pin, and glasses back where you found them so Mom doesn't find out.

You get the logic here, right?  Of course you do.

The story gets better. You think it'd be really easy (if not expensive) to order a new lens but what you don't know is that my eye doctor changed practices since my last appointment this summer. I called the new practice last Saturday to order the new lens. They told me that they didn't have all of my doctor's old records. They told me they would look to see if mine was among the records that they did have and assured me they'd call me back that day.  They also told me the same thing on Tuesday and Friday. I'm still waiting. And still seeing the world with a line through it.

I think I'm going to march myself over there, ask for the receptionist's hand, place my glasses in her hand and say, "I want you to know that you are forgiven. I do hope that you will come and talk to me when you're ready."

That'll work, right?