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, March 29, 2015

Guaranteed your kids will hate it

My dad will eat anything.

Well, almost anything.

He's not a fan of yogurt. And he absolutely does NOT like liver.

My mom loves liver.

Every now and then when we were growing up she would decide it was time to indulge herself and we had no choice but to join her.

To her credit, she did try to make it more palatable. She even resorted to little white lies on occasion.

There was the memorable day when I came down from the second floor, and that distinctive liver aroma was already wafting up from the kitchen. With fear and trepidation, I asked my mother what we were having for dinner (if I had known how many times I would be asked that question in my own stint as mother, I never, ever would have put her through that horror, but it would be years because I would  understand). With a smile on her face, she simply said that it was like steak.

Steak? So I had been wrong. It wasn't liver after all. I wasn't much of a fan of steak either but Oh, glorious day, we were NOT having liver!

Until 5:00 came around and she placed that piece of meat in front of me and I just knew; that was NOT steak.

Apparently my mom had tried a new recipe, Guaranteed Your Kids Will Love Liver.

I hope she got her money back.

I've tried to explain to my children that they should be singing my praises because I have never, and I will never, try to serve them that disgusting stuff. But no, they don't believe me. Instead, they have decided that egg casserole is the most disgusting food on earth.

But what's a mom to do with an overabundance of bread crusts in the freezer? Egg casserole, of course.

So today I tried a new recipe, Guaranteed Your Kids Will Hate Egg Casserole, Just Add Veggies and You'll Seal the Deal.

I tried to make it more palatable with the promise of whoopie pies for those who could choke it down without vomiting.

Well, with all these left-over, uneaten whoopie pies, I guess I'll have to have another. Don't mind if I do.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The requisite resume

There are moments in time when you just have to break one of your steadfast parenting rules. This week brought me to one of those times.

Mariana has had a situation concerning resume writing. As she has understood the assignment, she was to create a resume that would get her a job in the career she plans to pursue. So, knowing from the age of three that she wanted to work in theater, she made a theater resume. It wasn't hard; she just modeled it after the same one that has been handed to director after director in audition after audition, which led to role after role and which had been modeled after actual professional acting resumes.

Understandably, a theater resume looks little like a traditional resume and it's likely her teacher (who has an accounting background) has never had experience with a resume such as this before. Mariana has tried to educate her to no avail. Her teacher told Mariana that she had showed Mariana's resume to two other teachers and someone who works in human resources and they all agreed with her that they had never seen a resume like that, and that she would "never be hired" with that resume. Never mind that she already has been hired with that resume, multiple times, and it has been looked at and critiqued by many professionals in the field. The assignment came back with red ink all over it and comments such as "This reminds me of a Playbill. This is not the venue for that."

So I did the only thing I could do. I made a resume for her. If the teacher wants her to "list skills and experiences to a specific job area" she will get a list of skills and experiences to a specific job area. I'm pretty certain this is exactly what she is looking for in a resume.

DANIEL, Babylon …………………………………. 605BC

  • ·      Slave laborer in quarry
  • ·      Mentored in the arts of dream interpretation and handwriting analysis
  • ·      Mentored by lion whisperer

SNOW WHITE, Country Far, Far Away……...........….1750
  • ·      Responsible for care of orphaned princess
  • ·      Mined for jewels
  • ·      Implemented state of the art burial practices for those afflicted by Sleeping Death
  • ·      Designed and built glass coffin trimmed in gold

THE KING AND I, Siam…………………………………..1862
  • ·      Implemented race transformation with eye liner, spray tan and wig
  • ·      Increased knowledge of climate conditions in O-he-o
  • ·      Playacted in The Small House of Uncle Thomas
  • ·      Learned to waltz

PETER PAN, England…………………………………………….1912
  • ·      Served as flight instructor
  • ·      Oversaw new home construction as site manager
  • ·      Facilitated treaty with tribe of natives
  • ·      Proficient in Fairy First Aid and curing the ill with a kiss
  • ·      Discovered the secret to living forever

MILLIE, New York, New York……………………………....……1920
  • ·      Developed survival skills and street smarts
  • ·      Assumed flapper lifestyle
  • ·      Increased speed of elevators by fast tap dancing
  • ·      Typed 50 words per minute while tap dancing
  • ·      In depth knowledge of carpet cleaning agents
  • ·      Skilled in kitchen sanitation tasks
  • ·      Investigated white slavery ring, and captured perpetrator who was brought to justice

ANNIE, New York, New York………………………………..………….1933
  • ·      Made things shine like the top of the Chrysler building
  • ·      Took down notorious child abuser and 2 felons
  • ·      Discovered the secret to being fully dressed
  • ·      Worked alongside President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s co-creator of the New Deal

HAIRSPRAY, Baltimore, Maryland…………………….......………1962
High School Student
  • ·      Conducted exhaustive search for mysterious bells only heard by large, big-haired, easily excitable teen girl
  • ·      Overcame oppressive, racist and hostile upbringing to integrate Baltimore, Maryland

SEUSSICAL, The Jungle of Nool, Dr. Drake by the Lake.............…1980
  • ·      Demonstrated that popping pills is bad for your tail
  • ·      Traveled the world in search of rare elephant and missing clover
  • ·      Persevered to win affection of said elephant
  • ·      Implemented strategies for healthy body image
  • ·      Freed captured elephant from a gang of monkeys
  • ·      Using the “You teach him earth and I will teach him sky” philosophy, successfully partnered with an elephant to raise an elephant bird

Credit to AFB for the wonderful resume idea and starter points. This is the one and only time I will ever do my child's homework. Sure was a whole lot more fun than algebra.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Family mission

Once while entering the grocery store, the kids and I were happily surprised to see a friend with his son. They were on their way out so we stopped and chatted for a time. Maybe too long but the kids did a great job of entertaining themselves while the two adults talked about family mission. Yeah, at the grocery store. Who cares about the weather and pleasantries when there are more important things to discuss?

This father, who works in the business world, had a great point. He said, "I've never really thought about the idea of a family mission statement before but why not? As I've heard you talk about family mission I've been reminded that in the business world we're taught that a company without a mission will go nowhere. Of course the same would be true for a family!"

Yes! He got it! Maybe that's the easy part.

It makes sense and we're easily persuaded that a family mission is a necessary part of defining our family's DNA, but actually sitting down, praying about it, and writing out what comes next, well, that's the hard part.

We're busy.

We're distracted.

We feel inadequate.

We [fill in the blank]

But that is exactly why we need a family mission. Referring to it will remind us who we are, where we want our priorities to lie, and why we do what we do. When distractions come or when we know we are too busy or when we don't know where and how to spend our finances, our family mission can tell us what needs to be eliminated or where we need to spend more of our time, money, and focus.

So, how does one write a family mission statement? Generation to Generation by Wayne Rice has an excellent, easy-to-read chapter on writing a mission statement. Unfortunately it's also out of print which means that if you're not local to me, you'll have a hard time borrowing my copy. But honestly, long before Wayne Rice (or anyone else) was writing about family mission, there was the Holy Spirit to help you. Ask and you will receive, right?

But if you want one family's example, here you go:

Way back when there were only 3 children in the King clan and when only one of them could actually read and write, we sat down together in the living room and unrolled a large section or newsprint (remember those huge rolls of creativity-inducing goodness?) across the floor. We gave each child a marker and asked questions like these: What does our family do? What do we do to help others? Why do we do what we do?

The children wrote answers all of the paper. Well, one child wrote the answers. The other two drew pictures while we transcribed their answers. We used the results of that project to come up with the following family mission:

Teach and learn about God
Help and encourage each other
Enjoy activities together

Kindness to everyone
Imitate Christ
Never fight, hurt, or lie
Go where God leads

Family worship and prayer
Always serve God and others
Mom and Dad go on dates.
Immediately obey
Loving words and actions
Young and old are respected

And my favorite part of our family's mission? Mom and Dad go on dates. Because those were Andrew's exact words when he wrote them on the paper. After The Good Doctor and I had a nice chuckle over that, we realized that it was part of our mission since having a strong, everlasting marriage was most definitely part of our family's mission.

See, it doesn't even have to be a paragraph. It doesn't have to use flowy, wordy language. It doesn't need to follow a prescribed form. This one was written for a family with young children, in language they all could understand, and has been prominently displayed since.

Now it's your turn.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

On scooping and praying

Th mother of another child with optic nerve hypoplasia recently mentioned her child's issues with self-feeding. Really? You mean we're not alone? Turns out this is quite common among our beautiful, sometimes frustrating, visually impaired children.

Sometimes it's beyond frustrating. Sometimes I wonder if our OT is just a little too obsessed with getting Victor to eat with a spoon. Sometimes I wonder if he's also not just being age-appropriate in his determination to either be fed or to feed himself with his hands only.

I think by now we've all had his spoon thrown at us. We've all worn oatmeal or yogurt. The bowl has been thrown to the floor too many times to count as well. And the tantrums. This child can move the high chair from one side of the floor to the other just by banging his head against the back of it in anger. Try having a conversation around that. Try getting anything else done while this is going on.

One morning I reached my max. I placed the bowl and spoon on the table, walked away, and stood at the sink to wash dishes while I tried to figure out what to do. As tears flowed freely, I finally realized what I should have remembered all along. I can't do this. I can't have all of the answers to parent my children. I certainly can't have all of the answers to parent my children who come to me with the trauma of separation and adoption and I absolutely can not know how to parent a child with visual, neurological, and possibly endocrine issues. But I have access to the power of Jesus in me and that is where I will find the wisdom to parent.

I started begging Jesus to come and help me; begging Him to calm Victor and to give him the desire to pick up that spoon and eat. A picture came to me, of Jesus standing behind Victor, rubbing his hair and speaking to him gently. I decided to join Him so I went over and did the same. Would you believe that the fight left Victor, he picked up the spoon, said "scoooooooop" just like he's been taught, and put that spoonful of oatmeal into his mouth? He did.

Our feeding problems didn't vanish completely in that moment. He still prefers to be fed or to use his free hand to eat while the other holds the spoon. Sometimes he still starts out by throwing the spoon and attempting to pry the bowl out of my hands so he can fling that as well. But I've been changed. And that was the plan all along, wasn't it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The rock of 40 dollars

It's been a tough 2 months for the King clan. Rough seasons with several of the children, some financial stressors, a horrible respiratory and head cold, back pain flare up from an old injury, having to put our dog to sleep, and now the stomach flu. Mix into that dealing with a special needs child who has behavior and sleep issues along with visual impairments. And of course lack of maternal sleep due to sickness, a blind child, and just general insomnia, and it has felt like we just can't catch a break. At 2AM when HopeAnne started throwing up, all I could do was laugh and declare this latest attack to be "preposterous." And I thought that would be my new word for this season.

Then in Bible study this morning, we talked about Deuteronomy 4:9:

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

We talked about how important it is to remember the ways that God has answered our prayers in the past, and to never forget His constant care for us.

It's so easy to laugh at the Israelites who not only knew God's past provision through the oral tradition of Jewish history, but who had seen God's hand at work in their salvation from Egypt, the parting of the sea, walking through on dry ground, and numerous miracles after that. But then in chapter 4 of Deuteronomy, God knows it's necessary to give them a reminder:

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

And we're the same way. We so easily forget. We need this reminder, too. I need this reminder.

How do we keep our finite minds from forgetting the works of our infinite yet personal God? For me, it's writing them down. Keeping a list. But not a paper list that can be lost or crumpled, but rather on rocks to display as a constant reminder.

Not long after I left Bible study this morning, someone approached me. "Cindy," he said, "this morning I put some money in my pocket and God told me I would know who it was supposed to be for. And now I know." He handed me the money and left.

How do you adequately show your gratitude in a situation like that? By his act of obedience, he gave our family so much more than a financial gift. He changed my "preposterous" season into one of  hope. He added another rock to our collection of answers to prayer.

God spoke through that gift, clearly telling me that He does see me. He does care about my family. He has never left us. He is always here. I can trust Him.

Sometimes we get to be the giver. Sometimes we need to be the receiver.

Friday, March 13, 2015

I have a 20 year old. Did I just say that?

20 years ago today, God chose to give me a son.

We didn't have Facebook so everyone could tell me how they were parenting, thus giving me ridiculous standards to live up to.

We didn't have blogs like 21 Ways to Make Sure Your Child Makes It to Age 20 or 16 Things Not to Say to the Mother of Boys or You'll Send Them Over the Edge or even The Best 11 Books You Must Read to Your Son or You'll Ruin Him for Life.

We didn't have Instagram or Twitter to immediately post all of his many accomplishments (Andrew, aren't you glad there aren't any pics out there somewhere in Facebook land of you sitting on the potty for the first time, or even of your descent into this world?).

But somehow we made it here anyway. Imagine!

Thank you for your willingness to volunteer as first born, guinea pig, and family prototype.

Wait a minute, you didn't really agree to all of that, did you?

Well, regardless of how you feel about it, God clearly called you to the role and knew that you were perfect for the job. You set the standard high for those following you. Your compliance and desire to please paved the way for others to come into our home. You have led by example in a quiet and unassuming way that is noticed more than you know.

And then you grew up and moved away and that was part of God's plan, too. It was time to figure out who you were in a place where you were no longer the pastor's kid, the oldest of the King clan, or a member of The King's Strings. You could have chosen to be anyone but you chose well - you chose to be you. The you God made you to be. The not-perfect but godly young man who leads well, who has a creative and professional eye for media, who feels deeply and who sets an example for many.

And it sure was nice of you to choose a college that sends you home for your birthday! See you soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Flying high

There is a video that keeps replaying in my mind. In this video I see Peter Pan appear for the first time, leaping over the nursery windowsill with ease, flying onto the stage. What comes through even larger in that internally repeating frame is the joy radiating from Peter Pan because this isn't just another musical. This isn't just the opportunity of a lifetime. This isn't the result of some lucky break.

This is a calling. And when people live out their calling, others can't help but notice.

There is talent, yes, but there is also joy.

There's no need to put others down. There's no need to wish poorly on others. There's no need to brag or puff oneself up. There's no need to compare or to try to be like someone else.

In fact, when truly living out of one's calling, you will live in the opposite spirit. You will be known as one who lifts others up, who encourages, and who shines a light that others can't help but notice.

So as I enjoyed watching Mariana live her dream in Peter Pan, and I listened to the many people who came to tell me how amazing she was, it was what most of them said next that made my heart burst with pride. Mothers and students and teachers all telling me that while Mariana's talent got her this role, her spirit, humility, and encouragement of others is what truly stands out.

Yes, she was Peter Pan but she could have been the dog (as two peers suggested she should be) and she still would have been the first to encourage, the first to inspire, and the first to shine.

That is knowing who you belong to, who calls you Beloved, and what He made you to be.

Congratulations, Mariana! The day will come again when you find yourself in the ensemble or in a role you didn't desire, whether because of politics or talent but I am confident that you will always be known more for the light you shine than the one shining on you.

And that makes me prouder than you can imagine.