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!

Friday, October 30, 2015

It might be the 29th...or 30th?

Yesterday my friend sent me an email asking Who is going to blog about you? Who's going to highlight your wonderful qualities and sing your praises? Who's going to talk about your accomplishments this year, and note all the ways you've grown? (We can just skip that last part.)

The answer is no one and that's okay. My birthday usually an after-thought with a quick trip to Wal-mart the night before or that morning. But surprisingly, this year was a bit different...

As I was getting ready to leave the house this morning, my phone rang. That's odd, I thought. In the past two months I've gotten a lot of phone calls but never this early in the morning, and the source of those calls isn't here anymore so it can't be that...

It was an anonymous caller just wanting to wish me a happy birthday. Thanks, Aunt Jane (I recognized the voice and then googled her employer just to confirm the phone number.) While she was talking to me, I got another phone call which went to voice mail. When I hung up with the first call, I started to check voice mail but in doing so my phone rang again. Now, I might have born at night (4PM is close enough, right?) but it wasn't last night. No one ever calls me. Aunt Jane never calls me. People know not to call me. Someone set them up to this...

But I was on my way out the door and we have dumb phones so I couldn't log on to The Good Doctor's Facebook account to see what he had done. And here I was being a nice Mom-of-specal-needs-child and visiting an education class at Messiah College so the students could gawk at my screaming, arm biting (his own), toy banging child while trying to ask me questions over the commotion (I tried to warn the professor that this would best be done sans child but she insisted it'd be good for the students to see him in action - well, they got a good show and if you don't count tuition, it was free, too!) and all the while my phone was in my pocket just vibrating away. A good excuse to let them all go to voicemail.

I came home and immediately opened The Good Doctor's Facebook account, while my phone continued to vibrate. Nothing came up on his page but a quick look at his messages showed me what I was looking for. As most of the United States apparently already knows, you were contacted by my daughter on Wednesday with this message:

I have a favor to ask of you. Tomorrow is my amazing mother's birthday. She is an amazing and strong woman and had been the past few months... But she is also a prankster... Always. So I have an idea that I would LOVE you ALL to help me with...

My mom is an introvert and doesn't like talking on the phone. Please do me a favor and CALL her to wish her a happy birthday tomorrow. If she doesn't pick up leave a voicemail

I know some of you are my friends and may not know my mom but that will make this all the funnier. Thank you all for helping me out with this... I've never pulled off a prank with my mother so I would love this. Don't let her know this was sent to you by me I'd love for her to get 50 phone calls... Especially from random people

Here is her number: [removed to protect my sanity].

Happy calls! Thanks!!

Only my dear daughter had her days mixed up so as everyone was singing her praises about what a great idea this was, they were about to prank me on the wrong day. Until someone saved the day:

MARIANA!!!!! HER BIRTHDAY IS FRIDAY, NOT THURSDAY. FRIDAY THE 30TH, OK EVERYONE!

Okay, now I was laughing hysterically and since Victor was the only other person home, he kept asking, "Is Mommy laughing?" But then I laughed so hard I cried:

Mariana, you have celebrated the last 17 birthdays of your mother. Can we call tomorrow, wish her a happy birthday and then tell her that you messed up the date?

Now Victor wanted to know, "Is Mommy crying?" Gotta love Andrew. A man after my own heart - knowing how to prank the prankster. But everyone figured out the confusion and did indeed call on the 30th. My apologies to all y'all but after picking up for the first 2 callers (first and third if you count that voice mail in-between), I had reached my phone speaking quota for the month so the rest of you had to go to voice mail. Thankfully I decided to listen to all of them after supper because I was informed that my voice mail was full and I needed to delete some of my messages.

I can't tell you how many times I heard Happy Birthday on my phone today. Two of you googled the same song off of the internet somewhere. Some of you can sing. Some of you can't. And no, Uncle Jim, your rendition of the birthday song did not win you a place in The King's Strings. Stick to driving our bus. There's always next year, though. Keep practicing.

Loving a good prank, and knowing that someone took the time, ahead of time, to plan for my birthday (even if it was the wrong birthday) was very special and so thank you, Mariana. And the calls, from my voice mail, were all very fun to listen to. I did feel very blessed, loved, and encouraged today. Even if Victor only cared about the donut after the singing this morning.

And I got to go to Shady Maple Smorgasbord. And jump on the back of the cart while The Good Doctor pulled it through the parking lot. So it was a good day. Even if Facebook sent me an ad to buy a sweatshirt that said, "Never dreamed I'd be a sexy Grandma with a special education degree but here I am killing it." No fair that they took my information and assumed that at my age and with a few gray hairs here and there (HopeAnne says I have four) I must be a grandma! For shame.

Oh, and Mariana, just wait til April Fools Day... (It is, by the way, just 154 days away.)



Thursday, October 29, 2015

Our sensory troubled dinosaur

Some of our friends and family members don't do this holiday and that's okay. I get it. But for us it's about friends and neighbors and community. We have some neighbors that go all out; they sit around a fire on the driveway, adults chatting while kids come by. They are very serious about community spirit. Some hand out pencils and erasers and all kinds of little goodies as well as the candy. The Good Doctor usually ends up talking more than walking and the kids get a bit exasperated. Shoun was just remembering the year it snowed and the kids froze while Dad talked.

We didn't think Victor would cooperate. His sensory issues mean that even putting on a sweatshirt as these days get colder means 10 minute tantrums, intermittently throughout the day, every time he remembers that I won the clothing wrestle challenge for the day. And winter coat? I tried that once. Next time it'll have to be someone bigger and stronger than me or else I'm just going to have to risk getting turned in for not putting the big, scary, abominable winter coat on my child. It's your choice - watching the kid bang his head into the wall, bite his own arm, and scratch my face to get the coat on, or skip it, warm up the van, and make a run for it.

So what to do about the kid and dressing up. Well, I had a costume that I found second hand that was just a zip-up sweatshirt. Well, not exactly just a sweatshirt. It does have a hood (horrors!) and dinosaur trappings sewn on; increasing the weight of the whole outfit (again - horrors!). I knew we needed a Plan B so I scrounged around in the dress-up box and found a duck costume someone else wore once-upon-a-time. Of course it, too, has weight and texture but at least it would be all-encompassing and my thought was that after the hissy fit he would calm down and resign himself to the get-up since there would be no easy way out. And if that didn't work? Plan C was to dress him as Carrie Ingalls to go along with HopeAnne (Laura Ingalls) and her friend (Mary Ingalls) and their time-warp buddy from Happy Days. The girls dress him up in dresses all the time and for some reason, that generates absolutely no reaction from him.

But surprise, surprise, after just a tiny bit of push-back (and a little bit of a candy bribe), we had it on and zipped. The hood took a bit more coaxing (and a little bit more candy), but it, too, went up.



Isaac had just come home from soccer practice and Shoun from swim team practice. They each attempted to convince me that they should go out Trick-or-Treating as they were. Isaac insisted he was authentic because he even smelled like a soccer player. I wasn't so easily swayed. I do have a problem with the older kids not putting any time or energy into a costume and then going out just for the candy. I think Shoun solved that problem for himself when he realized it was too cold to go out dressed as a swimmer. Especially considering the type of swimwear that swim team members wear. Just sayin'. So they stayed home and hassled all the other teens that showed up a the door without thought or creativity.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

People are more important...

People are more important than things...

People are more important than things...

And then there was that day I found the box of my wedding things that someone had carelessly knocked to the floor of the closet in the basement that The Good Doctor insists does not get wet when it rains nor does it get moldy.

My veil, my shoes, the ring bearers pillow we made from my wedding fabric...

But the most difficult loss of all, the Bible that was carried by my mom, her sister, her mom, me, two cousins, and Andrew as ring bearer in another cousin's wedding. The Bible that my mom just passed on to me for safe-keeping this past spring when she moved. The Bible that she just asked for, to display at her 50th anniversary in January.

People are more important than things...

People are more important things...

Maybe I'll be ready to say that tomorrow.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The lion and the thorn

We are loved so well. It was beautiful and comforting to wake up to so many Scripture verses, prayers, and encouraging notes. I spent much of my evening awake, praying for "the one" and that's a sleepless night I'm okay with. The picture that kept coming to mind was of a prone figure, alone in bed, weeping, a picture that was a reality here one night when I was able to speak truth and offer prayers while stroking the hair of one who wept. Except this time, there was no one to do the same. And so my prayers, combined with all of yours, made sure the comfort came from somewhere. I have to believe that. It has been said that foster care is a spiritual battle and I know this to be true. We have seen the battle waged for this life and it's a costly one but I'm not going to leave the battle and I thank each of you who is in the trenches with us.

There was an email awaiting me when I woke with the description of a vision God gave to someone while praying. I am so visual and I know God sent this just for me. It is a perfect picture, albeit heartbreaking, of the choices that have been made.

Last evening as I was thinking and praying about you and ________ and the situation a picture came to mind that I’ve been thinking about—of a lion with a thorn in his paw trying to be helped by someone who simply wants to pull out the thorn so the lion can be free from pain. The lion reacts against the person trying to help it and attacks believing the person intends to bring greater pain, when in reality that person is the best chance the lion has to be relieved of pain.

I have a letter written, ready to go out to the mailbox, to let someone special know that we will never stop caring, never stop praying that the thorn will someday be removed and that the lion will know the One who came to heal.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

11 to 10 again

We no longer need to hide our wallets or our devices. No one is walking on eggshells anymore. We don't have to talk to a family member through a locked door and I won't be meeting anymore young men in the driveway who have come with a get-away car for a would-be runaway (although it was quite the adventure and will be in my book someday). The Good Doctor won't be setting door and window alarms tonight (and then immediately forgetting and thus opening one only to alert the whole house to his forgetfulness) and no one will have to sleep on the sofa to hear the front door "just in case". "It's actually peaceful," someone said this evening. But no one is rejoicing. No one is throwing a party. We are all grieving in some way.

In our hearts, our family is still a family of 11 but if you physically line us up and count us, there are only 10. And none of this was our will or our plan. We promised to love until the end and we will. But sometimes love is rejected and when one chooses to leave, begs to be removed, there is nothing that foster parents without rights can do but watch it unfold. When one rejects love so forcefully that they can't see truth among the lies they've created, not even speaking truth to them will make a difference. At least not now. But we pray that seeds were planted that the Holy Spirit can bring to bloom in due time.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6

I love how God knew before time began what I'd be dealing with today and where I would be in my daily read through the Bible. This morning I was in 1 Samuel. I got to chapter 8 where the Israelites are asking Samuel for a king. He doesn't want to comply because he knows what is going to happen but the people insist so he takes it to God. Verse 7 popped right out at me, "...it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me..." Just the reminder I needed. While I feel betrayed and rejected, it's really not about me at all. I love with the love of God so who is ultimately being rejected?

And the picture I have is of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus looking for one thing, was offered everything but walked away dejected, understanding on one level what he was leaving behind yet not really understanding at all. He thought he knew what he wanted, Jesus offered him so much more, but he couldn't see past what he would need to give up. We watched as one dear to us couldn't give up the need to be in control, the need to use self-preserving habits that weren't working, the need to run every time the going got too rough, one that wasn't ready to let the heart of stone be chiseled into a heart of flesh. Instead it was easier to build a kingdom that seemed safe and a reality that was a dream that can never come true and in so doing be convinced that the grass would be greener anywhere but here.

"I want out of here," was spoken so many times in the past week that the wish came true not because we wanted it or asked for it but because the one who wanted it was willing to sign it into being. But when the wish became a reality it was not really what was desired but it was too late; the wheels of "the system" had been set into motion and could only be stopped by the one who started it but that would mean admitting a mistake had been made and that is still just too difficult.
l'm glad we had this cake for dessert last night,
not knowing it was our last opportunity to 
speak affirming words to the one who was planning to leave.

We hurt because we loved but we also hurt because there is one hurting more than us, who is now alone again. We pray that someday the heart will soften and be open to allowing us in. Until then...we pray. And we will continue to do what we are asked to do - love the one in front of us and encourage others to do the same. For all of the "ones" out there.

Ezekial 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.




Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Waterfalls and smashed pumpkins

A smashed pumpkin. No big deal. Except that it represents all the pain, anger, hurt, and rejection that one heart can't contain when faced with love and truth. It has to come out. When a human being has no idea what love looks like, can't see it overwhelming, enveloping, it knows only how to react.

Some would say give up. Some would say don't risk the pain and rejection in the first place; choose only to love those who can love back. Some would say don't risk the hurt. Some have said it. But I can't.

I went to God in lament today. I cried out for wisdom and strength and love for one who doesn't want to be loved. It's hard to sit back and watch someone self-destruct out of anger and depression and hurt and to feel like the darkness is winning out over the light.

John 1: 4-5
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

So like David, I took my discouragement and rejection to Jesus. We went for a walk and ended up at the top of a waterfall. This was new for me. Usually we walk on the beach but this time He needed me to be at a very high place. He asked me to look around at the vastness and houses down below and in quietness and tenderness He told me that it wasn't just about this one person. He reminded me that this is about all of the children who, through no fault of their own, don't know love or family or grace. This goes so much farther than our family's sphere of influence; this is for all the kids who find love to be so foreign that it is scary and they have to put up defenses that are not only worthless but injurious. And it's not just the orphans. It's the widows, the fatherless, the broken, the lonely, the poor, the oppressed. Just take a look around. He told me I have to talk about all of them to raise up others who will do the hard business of loving those who will reject perfect love but who need it the most. This wasn't a new vision. This is an old one shown to people in every generation, in every type of service, because we are a people so prone to forget that we don't have a choice to love. It is a command. We have to love even when it is not returned. Especially when it is not returned. We love when called to love, even if the other party is hell-bent (believe me, I've been called and have heard much worse in the past few months) on cutting deep into the hearts of those who love.

Because that's what He did.

Where does our model of love come from? If we profess to follow Christ, if we name ourselves Christians after Him, then we have to look to His example. Some people are so hurt and broken they don't know how to accept love but don't they deserve it even more? His mission statement, which He quoted from the prophet Isaiah, leaves no room for doubt:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4: 18 - 19


And in the doing, He has given us example after example. Most pronounced to me recently is not how He loved the "easy ones", the ones who wanted to get well, the ones who came to Him, but how He loved the ones who didn't love back; those who forgot to thank Him, the Pharisees always trying to trick Him, the rich, young ruler who went away sad. And the greatest example of this, for me, is Judas. Jesus even knew the end of the chapter. He knew that Judas was going to reject Him to the very end. He knew the hurt that Judas was going to bring. He knew of the betrayal. But He also trusted His Father's plan and loved Judas to the very end. Rejection of love is not a reason to withhold love and grace. Betrayal is not a reason to give up. While boundaries are important, our own fears of being hurt and rejected are not excuses to not love in the first place. And I don't know the end of this chapter. But I do know the end of the story and I know that love truly does win.

When God calls us to love, we love. Period. When He calls us to care for someone, we care. Period. When we are called to fight for someone, we fight. When we are called to sit still and pray while God fights for us, we sit still. We pray. We obey. We don't worry about the outcome; that is not for us to know or use as a qualifier for success. It is not our calling to avoid pain. Christ didn't. It is our calling to suffer as He suffered but to remember always that we do not suffer alone. We can go to Him, we can lament until we can praise. And we can be comforted. We surround ourselves with others who understand mission and calling and for some, their calling includes praying us through, supporting us through, or encouraging us through.

And our strength and wisdom and love for another day will come from the Lord.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains -
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord the Maker of Heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip -
He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you -
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm -
He will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121

The story is told of John Williams, missionary to the New Hebrides Islands: After speaking eloquently at a conference about all of the successes he had witnessed on his mission field, another missionary got up to speak. This second speaker gave a brief report, humbly reporting his lack of similar success. And then he ended with this quote, "But I have this comfort: when the Master comes to reckon with His servants, He will not say, 'Well done, thou good and successful servant,' but 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.' I have tried to be faithful!" This is all that is asked of us.

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers,
half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that we will live deeply in our hearts.
May God bless us with anger
at injustice, oppression
and exploitation of people
and the earth,
so that we will work
for justice, equity and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed
for those who suffer,
so that we will reach out our hands 
to comfort them
and change their pain to joy.
And may God bless us with the foolishness
to think that
we can make a difference in our world,
so that we will do the things which others
say cannot be done.
-attributed to St. Francis of Assisi


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Carving time to be together

With our family, one activity can hold several purposes. Of course, there's always the just-for-fun version of an event.



And there's always one who has to be different, to try to use the largest knife possible.

But for some it's learning new smells, tastes, textures, and sounds. Of course, not every household uses a drill for pumpkin carving but when yours does, you need to learn to deal with it.

And for others it's all about learning to be part of a family, having fun without a cell phone or television, and choosing and carving a pumpkin for the very first time. You don't even have to participate with a good attitude because you're loved with grace abundant and that's part of learning about family even at the pumpkin patch. Especially at the pumpkin patch.

For everyone, it's about letting your creativity shine!



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Celebrating with Jesse

People keep asking how my second oldest is doing at college and I have to give the honest answer, "I have no idea." No news is good news, I suppose?

He does not answer texts or call his mother just to say, "Hello." But occasionally he'll update Facebook, or someone else will tag him in a post or photo. So I know he's still there.

That's how I know he's jumped in with both feet, continuing the tradition that is Jesse. Intramural sports wearing tights, being elected class secretary, and asking for more Nerf guns for his birthday.



But because we don't hear from him, we didn't know that he'd actually be home on his birthday so instead of celebrating with him today, his celebration was Day 3 of our sugar fest and we feasted with him last weekend when he also decided to come home, that time to entertain as King Kat one more time.
Nevertheless, we are thankful to celebrate 19 years with our "Pumpkin Boy" today. Somehow I planned this just right and my firstborn comes home for spring break to celebrate his birthday and my second born comes home for fall break to celebrate his. Maybe the 3rd will be home for the summer for her festivities after she graduates? Never mind, she'll be in New York. I'll just enjoy them while I have them home.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Birthday, the movie

It's like some sick sequel to the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day.

The alarm goes off at 6:40AM.

Time to eat the donuts.

Sing the song. Blow out the candles.

And since the older kids didn't have school today, back to bed.

The Good Doctor tried to shake Shoun a bit to wake him up but Shoun admonished him, "Stop it! I'm going back to bed after this."

Thankfully, he was a bit more awake for his birthday dinner and dessert.

And let me just say that this young man has come a long way.

Working at a farm really grew him up this summer. He discovered that he doesn't want to do manual labor for the rest of his life but he proved himself not only responsible but a hard worker no matter the weather or job assigned.

He is growing in character, learning to be a leader and not a follower, and is finding that building trust gives more freedom and more privileges.

He smiles more, laughs more, and communicates more.

We love you, Shoun!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Eden is 11 - almost!

October has arrived again and with it birthday week at the King household. You might have to just roll me out of this month.

Today we celebrate Eden who is turning 11 tomorrow. Tomorrow we celebrate with Shoun who also has a birthday on the 9th. And Saturday we will celebrate with Jesse whose birthday is next week. Three birthdays, three days in a row means 3 mornings starting off with donuts and 3 suppers ending with dessert. It's a sacrifice we have to make once a year.

Eden.

This child has shown such great faith at an early age. Her prayers challenge and encourage me and others. She has a heart for others that is backed up with action. But she has also lived enough and seen enough to know that praying for others and serving others doesn't alway look pretty or end the way we wish.

In the last year she has experienced unfair and unkind treatment yet she continues to love and give to others, even to those who hurt her.

Where God is sending you, I don't know. But this I know, you will go with a servant's heart, covered in prayer, with grace and love.
Disclaimer: This was the obligatory first day of school photo but no child of mine has ever been allowed to wear PJs to homeschool. Ever. Because no one has ever been allowed to go to work in PJs. Ever. It's a good life lesson to learn. But since I'm so adamant about it, Eden thought it would be fun to get a photo of Hope in her PJs. Done.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

You are a treasure

I was blessed to speak at a women's event last night. I was going to wear a royal blue shirt; the only new piece of clothing I own (really new, not just new-to-me). But then it came down to 5 minutes before I was supposed to leave and I was thinking it was probably too much work to change out of the clothes I already had on. Except I noticed that Victor had shared his chocolate covered granola bar with the sleeves of my shirt so even though The Good Doctor protested, saying, "You look just fine. Why are you changing?" I went with my first instinct. The royal blue shirt it was.

Why does this matter?

Before the event started, the organizers, decorators, speakers, and worship leaders spent time in prayer. Part of this experience was being prayed over. As soon as I took my turn in the to-be-prayed-over seat, the woman smiled and said, "I found you!" That was a bit odd, was my thought. She continued, "My daughter-in-law was praying for me today, knowing that I'd be praying with all of you. She told me that  she received a message for 'the woman wearing a royal blue shirt.'" At this point I looked around and sure enough, I was the only one wearing a royal blue shirt. No one else had anything even close. In fact, I either missed the memo or am more out of line with fashion laws than I thought because everyone else was wearing fall colors. She went on to give me the prophetic message, the one specifically for the woman in the royal blue shirt. A word that not only encouraged who I am but also showed a glimpse into the next step in my spiritual journey.

And why does this matter?

Because this reminder that God not only knows my name, not only knows what I'm going to wear before I know what I'm going to wear, but cares enough to speak words directly for me, was not just for me. And that reminder led me to pray the same prayer over each woman who was going to be coming to the event that evening. As I prayer walked the building and my room, I prayed that each woman would hear something during the evening that was meant specifically for her. Whether from one of the speakers, in a worship song, a comment from a friend, a word in prayer over her, or even a still, small voice, it was my prayer that each woman went home knowing that she was the treasure in God's great treasure hunt.

Even the woman in the royal blue shirt.