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!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Love is an active noun

Imagine that you've just met someone for the first time. You are trying to have a conversation with her but the little one by her side is not allowing that conversation to happen. The little guy is erratically running around the two of you but that's not the worst of it. He keeps screaming, "Aaaaaa," in these little outbursts. They don't last long but they are frequent. And loud. His mom keeps stopping to remind him that if he wants a turn to speak, he should just ask. At this he will say, "I want a turn to talk." She grants him a turn and he comes up with something that makes no sense. You resume your conversation only to have the whole situation repeat itself. He gets more and more agitated and starts hitting his mom, still screaming every few seconds. You finally give up and walk away.

As you walk away, what are you thinking about this mom and her parenting skills? You've just met her but you can tell a lot in a short amount of time, can't you? She clearly doesn't have control of the situation but instead the child has control over her. You're thinking that she needs a few parenting classes to learn about child rearing, boundaries, and who is really the parent.

Or maybe that short meeting doesn't tell you much at all. It didn't tell you that the child is not only visually impaired, something you could guess by observing him, but that he also has sensory and behavioral issues related to his condition. It didn't tell you that she's been working with him ever since he learned to speak; reminding him to use words instead of screams. You have no way of knowing that she has tried everything she knows to help him understand that his screaming is inappropriate in social situations. And what you really can't see is that she is not only weary of this, but terribly embarrassed and frustrated, probably wishing she had just stayed home. And it certainly didn't tell you that she has 7 other children at home who have, or are, turning out just fine.

Yes, there are those parents who could use some help in child-rearing; who have allowed the children to control the home. But if there's one thing I've learned in the almost three years with Victor, it's that there are a lot of weary and frustrated moms who just need a great big dose of grace, a massage, or a vacation to the beach.

Or maybe all three.

“Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The bad thing

A few years ago I asked Eden (about 7 at the time?) and HopeAnne (about 5?) to tell me what was bad about being little. These were their responses:

Eden: The bad thing about being little is that when you have jeans on, the pockets aren't very big. They're not as big as Dad's. When you're seeing a show, and there are adults in front of you, you can't see very well.

HopeAnne: The bad thing about being little is that when you go on rides, you can't go on the big kid rides.

So I decided to add my own:

The bad thing about being [my age] is that your clothes start to not fit so well, and not because you're growing taller.

The bad thing about [my age] is that when you go on rides, you get much dizzier than you used to.

The bad thing about [my age] is that I still can't see if there is a large (or even average sized) person in front of me and there is no hope of growing taller.

The bad thing about [my age] is that my eyesight is getting worse.

The bad thing about [my age] is that my kids think I don't know anything.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How many are yours

Let me take you to a King's Strings concert for a moment.  After the last song is played, we find our way into the audience for a little mingling and Q and A.  Inevitably someone will ask the all-popular question, "How many are yours?"

And I cringe.  Not because we're the first to hear that question; I'm fairly certain every foster and adoptive family has heard that.  I cringe because I don't like to answer it.

People aren't trying to be rude or cruel. They aren't trying to single anyone out. They aren't trying to say that some are better or more loved than others. They are merely curious and that's okay. I've learned a long time ago that we all say things that show our ignorance in certain areas and just as I want grace for my mistakes, I prefer to respond with grace when others don't quite get it.

So the answer to the question?

"All of them!"

Monday, March 28, 2016

Miraculous healing

...continued from 3/26

A week after surgery and Andrew was still not doing well but that afternoon, he woke up around 2PM and asked to go to MomMom's house. I called my mom to see if that was possible and she agreed to come pick him up. I think they went to visit the animals at a nearby farm; one of Andrew's favorite places. We were shocked and weren't sure it would last but were finally feeling hopeful. What had turned things around so drastically? From a child who could barely sit up to enjoy a story to a child who not only wanted to get out of bed but who wanted to go out and about? We had been trying to motivate him for days.

That evening, a friend from church came to drop off a meal for our family's dinner. This had been such a helpful part of our church's caring for us. Of course she asked to see Andrew and I explained the odd, but wonderful way that Andrew had woken up and asked to go on an afternoon trip with MomMom. Our friend asked what time this had happened. When I told her, her jaw dropped and she said, "That was exactly the time that I felt like I should pray for Andrew so I called my daughter over and we prayed for him." Now it was my jaw that was on the ground.

When The Good Doctor came home for supper, he asked me where Andrew was (remember there were no cell phones to give him a play-by-play during these events and as a pastor, I had no idea where he would be to call him). I told him what had happened and he also asked, "What time was that?" He, too, was incredulous to hear what time this had happened. He said, "Cindy, I was in a meeting with a couple of other pastors. At the end of the meeting, one of the pastors asked about Andrew. I told him how our week had been and he said we should all pray for Andrew right now so we did and he prayed out loud. That was at 2PM!"

Coincidence? Some would say so. But for us, it was our loving God's miraculous answer to many, many prayers on Andrew's behalf. That day was the turning point and we slowly started to see our bright, happy, inquisitive son return to us.

This wasn't the first lesson I learned about the power of prayer during Andrew's surgery. The first two answers came before the start of his surgery.

The Sunday before Andrew's surgery we shared his situation with the congregation. I had purchased a stamp that said, "Handle with Prayer," and we told the congregation that anyone who wished to receive a stamp to help them remember to pray could come up after the message. Almost every person went home that day with a stamp on the back of their hand. One of the prayers I requested that morning was that I would be able to sleep the night before the surgery. I am a terrible sleeper even under the best of circumstances and I could foresee a night of restless - or no - sleep. Imagine my surprise to wake up the next morning completely rested! And a day or two before the surgery, a pastor friend whose church was also praying had called The Good Doctor to relay a message from one of his church members. This woman had been praying for Andrew and while she was praying she saw a vision of an angel hovering over operating table, with Andrew below. That image was just what I needed to hold me through those long hours when Andrew was in surgery.

And a few months after surgery, we realized something else that was an answer to prayer. Remember when the doctor told us that if Andrew didn't have the surgery, it was possible that he would be fine but that the doctor's can't predict who will experience pressure on the brain and who will not? Prior to the surgery, Andrew would often get headaches and about an hour or so later he would vomit. We asked the doctor if this could be indicative of pressure already there and he said it could but there was no way to know for certain. It did always seem odd to us that a 4 year old would get such terrible headaches. Well, after the surgery, it never happened again. Something that used to happen once a month, never came again. We were thankful for this confirmation that the surgery was not just cosmetic but medically necessary.

We don't know why Andrew had to go through this experience. We don't know in what ways it has affected him to this day but we have no doubt that God was there with each one of us through every moment of that experience.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Easter baptism

I interrupt the story of Andrew's surgery for another happening in the King household...

HopeAnne was baptized this morning!

Dear HopeAnne,

You can't possibly know how excited I am that you chose to be baptized to declare your desire to follow Jesus. When you were a year old, and still a foster child in our home, we didn't know if you were going to be reunited with your birth mother, or if we would be able to adopt you as our own child. We knew what we desired; to call you our daughter, but we would also have loved to see your birth mother make some difficult changes in her life so that you and she could be together in a healthy home. During this time I was so torn and Dad and I would often pray, "Dear God, please let her be in a place where she can know you and where someday she can make a decision to follow you."

And now here we are! You have made this decision. And the way you made it gives me great joy. You have told us that while your biological sister lived here, you wanted to claim Jesus as your own so that you could share Him with your sister. You may be too young to understand the implications of how that prayer of ours came full circle, but someday you will understand. We have prayed for your biological family since the day you came to live with us and we will continue to join you in praying that they would also know Jesus.

When choosing a name for you, the whole family talked about options. How fitting that three of us came to the table already thinking about the name Hope. For me, it was because when people asked us about your situation, I couldn't give them details, so I would simply say, "We're not losing hope. We know that God has a plan for her life where she can know Him and choose to follow Him some day." We're not losing hope came to have a second meaning when we found out that your goal was changed to adoption. We added Anne because it means full of grace, love, and prayer. Hope, grace, love, and prayer - this is the definition of you.

You know already at your age that life isn't easy. You've seen the consequences of bad choices. You've seen what happens when someone doesn't have stability and boundaries as they grow up. But you've also learned to love someone through the messy. To love even when it is not returned. Never lose that. You will encounter many hurting people in this world. Handle each person with hope, grace, love and prayer and you can't go wrong!

We are proud of you and of who you are.

Isaiah 40: 28 - 31

It's no accident that one of the songs chosen this morning was This Is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickham. These words couldn't be truer today:

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King of Glory

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Love, Mom

*See HopeAnne's testimony here.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


...continued from yesterday

John Glenn (the nurse said to bring his favorite stuffed animal so we did, when asked what the astronaut's name was, our astronaut wanna be matter-of-factly told her it was John Glenn, duh...) was there by his side but healing was understandably slow and painful. It was difficult to watch. He just couldn't bounce back so blood transfusions were ordered. He still didn't have much of an appetite.
He enjoyed a visit from Jesse who came dressed as The Donut Man since he had just been to a performance with his grandparents.

I'm not sure Jesse was completely prepared for this visit as he kept staring at Andrew and finally asked, "Andrew, does your hair hurt?" We saw a bit of a smile and got a tiny laugh.

A week later it was time to go home. We were excited; surely this meant he was better, right? He was still very lethargic and wasn't eating much but going home was a good thing. Or so we thought. We didn't know that since it was once again surgery day that they would do anything they could to get a child discharged to make room for the next one. He wasn't ready, he probably needed another blood transfusion, but we didn't know that. We were just excited to be going home.

Home wasn't much better. It was all we could do to bribe him to move from the bed to the couch to maybe the porch swing, then back to the couch and finally to bed to start the whole thing over.

We tried bribing him with visits to or from the grandparents, food from McDonald's, anything. Nothing worked and we were getting very concerned.

A week later, the miraculous happened...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Surgery day

...continued from yesterday

Surgery day arrived bright and early and exceptionally sunny on July 7, 1999.
It was also the summer of Flat Stanley, but that's a story for another time.

I remember feeling so guilty; Andrew was so happy. He was thrilled to be eating a popsicle for breakfast. He had been freely telling people, "The doctor is going to cut my head and fix my skull," having no way to comprehend what was really at stake and what was to come. How can you prepare a 4 year old for the pain without scaring him?

We were thankful to be at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where we not only had the best doctors but a whole staff that made patients and families their specialty. Andrew would be given meds while with us so that he wouldn't remember being separated from us, but also would not be put under until we were gone.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We were in a room with other parents and about every hour we would be visited by a nurse whose only job was to check in at each operating room, receive an update on the child, and then report back to the waiting room. We lived for those updates. One-by-one, the other parents would leave to be reunited with their child in recovery.

Seven and a half long hours later we were given the word that his surgery was over and we would be able to see him soon.

Soon was an hour later.

Surgery was over but our journey of healing was just beginning.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Good friday

Good Friday 1999.

We sat in church but I couldn't concentrate on most of the service. I kept getting stuck at God having to watch His Son suffer. I don't remember letting the tears fall, but while my eyes weren't crying, my heart was.

That morning The Good Doctor had taken Andrew for his four year old well-check. That's all we expected it to be. A well-check. Nothing more. The Good Doctor never took the kids to their appointments but for some reason, he offered to take Andrew that day. I think that was God-planned.

During the appointment, the doctor mentioned that he was concerned about the top of Andrew's skull. He noticed that the two plates had grown to form a ridge, almost like to mountain ridges, one forcing the other up and over the other. The Good Doctor repeated the reassurance that it's probably nothing. But when you've just been told that you're to make an appointment with a pediatric neurosurgeon, your mind has a hard time thinking it's only nothing.  The Good Doctor believed the professional's opinion. But I just knew. A mom just knows.

So all I could think about that Good Friday at church was that a visit with a pediatric neurosurgeon could only mean one thing and that one thing would lead to watching my son suffer. And while it would not come anywhere near the torture and anguish Jesus had to suffer on the night we now call Good Friday, for me the near future looked unbearable.

And it wasn't long before that which I knew in my heart became reality. It took the neurosurgeon less than five minutes to determine that Andrew had craniosynostosis. In layman's terms, his soft spot had closed too soon and his skull was not allowing his brain to grow in the direction and way in which it was designed to grow. The doctor was angry that this had been left go for so long; he accused us of not taking Andrew for regular well-checks. We countered that we had; Andrew had been to every single well-check as prescribed by the medical community. We told him that we had asked Andrew's doctor about his oddly shaped head but were told that everyone's head is shaped differently. We told him that at one point, a visit to a doctor out-of-town for a suspected ear infection when Andrew was 1 had resulted in that doctor rudely telling us that our son had craniosynostosis and that he was going to be blind or brain damaged. We assured the neurosurgeon that immediately upon arriving home we mentioned this to Andrew's doctor but he again answered that everything was fine.

The pediatric neurosurgeon explained that had this been caught before Andrew was a year old, the surgery would have been less risky, the recovery easier, and the covering of the brain would have naturally filled in the open places left after surgery. I remember asking the doctor if the surgery was really necessary; it seemed quite invasive if it was only for cosmetic purposes. He patiently explained that it was possible to let it go, that maybe it would not cause any problems and Andrew could still lead a normal life. However, he cautioned, the brain wants to grow a certain way and if it can't, the pressure can be unbearable, even causing blindness or brain damage. He told us it was our decision but that if we chose not to have the surgery and we did start to see signs of brain damage, it would not be like a broken arm that could be set and fixed. Once the brain experiences damage, the damage is done; it cannot be fixed.

We were sent to speak to the pediatric plastic surgeon who would perform the surgery along with the neurosurgeon. They would work together to remove the skull, reshape it, and place it back on Andrew's head in a way that would allow his brain to grow as it should. We were told that a brain knows which way it is supposed to go and that as soon as the current restrictive skull was removed, the brain would miraculously reshape itself.

And so, July 7, 1999 was set as surgery day. The neurosurgeon assured us that he did an average of one of these surgeries a week. That fact may have confirmed our faith in his abilities, but nothing was going to completely reassure parents who were about to allow their son's brain to be exposed for hours while we could only wait in a waiting room ...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Disney dreams

I had to wait until I was 12 to go to Disney World. The wait seemed forever and I was even less patient because the timing of our trip was dependent on one thing - my brother.

He had to be able to walk around the mall without complaining before my parents would consider a trip to Disney World. The argument being that if he couldn't walk the distance of the mall without complaining than they didn't want to put up with his complaining at the much larger amusement park.  Between you and me, I think it had more to do with finances or their own timeline but it make for a good incentive program.

And it only took him 9 years.

I honestly don't remember much about Disney, even after the wait and anticipation. I do remember It's a Small World (and now you're going to be singing it all day, you're welcome) and Space Mountain which I found to be quite a let-down, finding it not at all scary. Probably thanks to my dad for introducing me to the joys of roller coasters much earlier. In actuality I remember more from Wet and Wild, a water park, and Sea World where I fell in love with Cindy the Dolphin and added my money to their coffers buy purchasing a stuffed animal version of a dolphin I named (say it together now) Cindy.

But going to Disney World is almost a rite of passage so of course we would have to take our own children.

When Andrew was two and Jesse 19 months younger and Baby #3 was there but we didn't know it yet, and The Good Doctor was a youth pastor, the annual church convention was scheduled for Disney World that year. Well, not at Disney World, but close enough that one day would be spent at the park and one night would be rented out just for the convention-goers. Spend a week with The Good Doctor (yeah right)? Take the kids to Disney? Sure. It'll be fun, we said.

The morning we were to leave we suspected Jesse had an ear infection. We were able to get one dose of antibiotics in him before take-off. That should have been our clue that we were supposed to just stay home. We didn't. I spent those first days stuck in a hotel room with two miserable boys. By Disney day, Andrew also had an ear infection. He suffered through that day with a fever and malaise. That should have been our clue that we were supposed to pack it up and head home. We didn't. So I spent the next few days again stuck in our hotel room with two miserable boys who were also vomiting by this time. We decided to venture out on the last day, to explore a toy store close by. By then I wasn't feeling well. But not an ear infection. I spent the last night in the bathroom, not far from the throne. Not the best way to fly home.

We should have learned our lesson but no, fast forward to January 2008 - 5 kids. What were we thinking? A trip to Florida to visit Grandma, a concert for her retirement community, and - three days at Disney. Yeah, what were we thinking? The stomach bug decided to go through our family. While we were at Disney. Eden left her lunch at Pizza Hut. I spent the night cleaning up after several little persons in the hotel room, and then it was my turn, at Epcot (while The Good Doctor and I took turns taking the healthy children to a park while the other parent stayed back with the currently sick ones).

I think the rest of the kids will not be going to Disney World until they decide to take their own kids.

And I'll stay home and laugh. Or have nightmares.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Try it! You'll like it!

There are many things in life I have been asked to try. Some worked out better than others.

Riding a bike (still love it)

Liver (still hate it)

The violin (and the playing goes on, almost 4o years later)

Roller coasters (Dad's idea, and a good one)

Learning to drive (thanks, Mom and Dad, for forcing me)

Jumping off a cliff into a raging river (oh, wait, that was my idea, still the most adventurous thing I've ever done)

A helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon (would have been much better if I didn't already have food poisoning)

New hairstyles (only if Brenda cuts it)

Writing everyday for the month of March (almost done)

Writing a book (The Good Doctor should quit asking)

And now I'm trying progressive lenses (no comment)

Hope this works out.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Happy swing

It never gets old.

A child walks in the house holding a flower or two.

Crocus. Daffodil. Lily. Black-eyed Susan. Even Dandelion.

There's a learning curve. The first ones have no stem attached but after time, they are perfect for the table.

This morning he was helped by his sister and with a little prompting, remembered to add, "Happy swing, Mommy!"

Yes, Mr. Victor, "Happy spring to you, too!"

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Giving and receiving

We talk a lot in our home about "following the nudge" or listening to the Holy's Spirit voice, stepping out of your comfort zone, and helping or encouraging someone else. Just like anything else, it takes practice. It can feel weird. It can seem unsafe or unwise.

One morning last week, The Good Doctor was sitting in his office (McDonald's) enjoying his cup of water (Sweet Tea), when he overheard two teen guys from the high school say that they had missed the bus. He felt that nudge, heard that Voice, "Offer to take them to school." It didn't take long for him to decide to do just that. They jumped at the chance and after also offering to buy them breakfast (one agreed, the other didn't), he drove them to school. The drive was less than 10 minutes but he used the time to talk with them about their plans after high school, encouraged them to make school a priority, and reiterated the importance of that diploma. In the grand scheme of things, a fairly inconsequential act, taking up less than half an hour of his time, and going just slightly out of his way.

Apparently it was so much more to these two young men. They saw Mariana during the school day and loudly told her how awesome her dad was and how there should be more people like Mr. King in this world. They were so impressed that he had given them his business card and told them to contact him at any time if they wanted to talk about post graduation, or school, or life in general.

We never know when we might make a difference in someone else's life.

And when it happens to us, we need to remember.

That same night, The Good Doctor and I were out to eat. Just the two of us. I know, how did that happen, right? Thanks to Mariana being gone, the boys having a job, the girls at a birthday party, and a saint who agreed to watch Mr. Victor, we were alone.

We enjoyed our meal which we didn't have to make or clean up, and the conversation was only interrupted by the waitress who wanted to serve us and wasn't interrupted by little people who think we are here solely to serve them. Towards the end of the meal the waitress came and said, "Okay, well, if you don't need anything else, you're free to leave whenever you want; your meal has been paid for."

We just stared at each other.

And then The Good Doctor stood up to look around the crowded Friday night restaurant. He couldn't see anyone he knew and besides, I told him, sit down. He wanted to know who to thank. I told him I had a feeling they didn't need to be thanked.

It wasn't that we were in dire straits and were going to have to wash dishes to pay for our meal but this kind gesture did allow us to deposit the cost of the meal into the next child's orthodontic expenses. Even more than that, it encouraged this weary mom in ways that the giver will never know.

Thank you.

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. Deuteronomy 4:9

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dear neighbor

Dear Neighbor,

A neighbor, according to dictionary.com can be a person who lives near, or simply is near, another. It can also refer to another human being or can be used as a term of address. A neighbor, as the Biblical story goes, is one human being showing mercy to another.

I choose to call you neighbor because I don't know your name. You don't live in my community but you are just a few streets away, near enough. I write to you because it is my hope that after reading my thoughts, you may be more likely to show mercy in the future, and thereby truly deserving of the term, neighbor.

I don't know if you remember the incident last week or not. Maybe it came and went for you. For my son, and for our family, it's hard to forget. These things don't happen in our community, or at least that used to be our experience. We've talked with our children about them, hoping that they would never have to experience them, but always (naively?) wishing that they would not happen here. Not in our neighborhood. Not with our neighbors.

In case you have forgotten, let me refresh your memory. Our teen-age son, born in Kenya, was riding his bike to meet some friends. They all had parental permission; they were just planning to have a snack together and enjoy the company of each other. These are good kids; making good choices as they head into adulthood. He was alone on the road. Do you remember him? Do you remember that you saw him stop his bike next to a mailbox? You must remember this part because it is where you enter the scene. I don't understand this kind of thinking but you apparently only saw two small parts of the whole; you saw a non-white male stopped beside a mailbox. So what? That's right, so what? But you chose to make a very large jump, a huge assumption. You yelled across the street to him, "Get out of that mailbox! If you don't get out of that mailbox right now I'm going to call the cops!"

You might feel a bit foolish to learn that he never even touched the mailbox. You might feel even more foolish to learn that his flip-flop had fallen off and he stopped the bike to bend down, pick it up, and put it back on his foot. That's it. He didn't touch the mailbox. He didn't open the mailbox. He had no intention of doing either. He simply put his flip-flop back on and continued on to meet friends.

None of us wants to think that this was an issue of racism but what else can we think? We have gone through every other possibility in our minds and none of us can come up with any other possibility. Did you take the time to stop and look? Because there's a big difference between messing with someone's mail several feet off the ground and bending over to pick up a flip-flop. If it had been his brother, just 3 months younger but white, would you have jumped to the same conclusion?

There are so many other things you could have done; so many other things you could have said. You could have done nothing. You could have looked across the street, and simply watched as a teen-ager replaced his flip-flop and continued on his way. No one would have faulted you for that. You could have asked if he needed help (if you truly had no idea what he was doing). You could have even reprimanded him for wearing flip-flops while bike riding; we've had that discussion many times. But you didn't choose any of these options and we wish we knew why.

Did you know that just last summer, this fine young man was stopped by a police officer in our community, not in an act of profiling or racism, but to thank him for wearing a helmet while biking? He then took him to the local ice cream shop for a treat. And did you know that he was biking home from work that day; a workplace where he is known as one of their hardest, most respectful workers? Did you know that his swim coach just told us that he wished that he had a team full of teens like our son? Have you ever seen him interact with his siblings? How he banters with the older ones and cares for the younger ones? That is the person you chose to not treat as a neighbor; the person to whom you did not interact with mercy.

I don't know why you reacted the way you did. I don't want to make assumptions about you as you did about my son but it does make me wonder; what makes one person mistreat another based solely on the color of his skin? I don't know. Do you? Would you be able to answer the question? I write this letter so that in the future, you will think about how you treat others. It is my hope that you will take the time to look at someone, no matter the skin color, no matter the age, no matter the disability, no matter the gender or how he "looks" and see that person as another human being. I pray that you will remember that along this journey called life we should choose to love our neighbor, to show mercy and compassion.

Hoping to change the world, one neighbor at a time,

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dear praying friends

Dear Praying Friends,

I write this with tears streaming down my face, in awe of an awesome God and His moving behind the scenes to answer the deep longing of our hearts.

But since I've been so lax in updating all of you, here's the background to the story...

As Victor is close to turning 3, we have been working on the transition from Early Intervention to the Intermediate Unit. We have had such amazing therapists through these 2 1/2 years and we are going to miss them but I'm told, and am confident, that our new therapists will be just as wonderful. Victor will continue with OT and TVI services and will be picking up O&M (Occupational therapy, Teacher of the visually impaired, and Orientation and mobility, for those less-enmeshed than us).

One question that has come up multiple times has been the question of preschool. I'll be honest, we've never sent any of our children to preschool. As an introvert and homebody, I'm quite content to not have to leave my home twice a day to transport a child to preschool. And with a houseful of children, who wants to drag everyone out twice a day to take just one child to preschool? There is also the fact that you can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can never quite take the classroom out of the teacher; learning is life at our house starting from the day we bring them home from the hospital. Why pay for school when it goes from sunup to sundown inside our own four walls? And speaking of paying, well, yeah, there's that sticky issue, too.

However, as we've discussed preschool with Victor's therapists and with his developmental pediatrician, we all agree that the preschool experience will be an essential next step. We are also in agreement that he should be in a regular preschool and not in one through the Intermediate Unit. In discussing this during our evaluation time, they agreed as well.

The next step was, of course, finding a preschool that would accept a visually impaired child, with significant sensory needs, and self-injurious behaviors. Our first thought was to check out a local college's preschool. All it took was one visit and we didn't need to look anywhere else. They were so welcoming; never a moment's doubt that they would work with him or that he would be accepted.

That left us with two dilemmas: Victor needs to choose to be potty trained before preschool starts in the fall and we need to find someone to attend preschool with him daily so that he is not a danger to himself, so that he can safely navigate around the room, to help him learn to self-regulate his emotions, and to help him correctly relate to his peers. We have started the paperwork trail to be approved for a TSS, but without knowing if this would happen, we started to explore every option. With the blessing and nudge from the preschool itself, we also looked at options within the college student body; would there be a student that would like to work with Victor in an internship or even as a type of student teacher experience? It seemed a long-shot but it never hurts to try. I have also been putting feelers out to everyone I know to see if someone would even feel a call to do this, out of the kindness of his/her heart.

Which now brings us to the reason for this prayer letter. This morning I happened to see one of the preschool teachers and she was excited to tell me that unbeknownst to us, one email behind-the-scenes led to another which led to another and we are one final step short of having a college student to work one-on-one with Victor next year. That final step involves approval from powers-that-be beyond the college staff; in other words, my least favorite thing - bureaucracy. Please join us in praying that they would approve this request so that both the college student and Victor can benefit from this experience. Most of all, we have been given hope!

When I heard that little whisper telling me "your child will be victorious", we believed it so much that we gave him the name Victor. What a constant reminder that the victory has already been won!

Thank you for faithfully lifting our family up in prayer,

Thursday, March 17, 2016

St. Patty's Day (really bad) limericks

I have no idea why this incident with a dog named St. John popped into my memory today. This memory comes from our college days when the pastor of St. John Mennonite, the church we attended, invited a bunch of young adults to his home for a meal. St. John was chained but if you got too close...

So in honor of St. John and St. Patrick...

There once was a dog named St. John.
To a pastor and wife he belonged.
Named after the church
We found in our search,
The church that we settled upon.

There once was a dog named St. John.
A saint? He was more of a con.
Good Doc got too close
And got a good dose
Of St. John's welcome gone wrong.

There once was a man named Good Doctor
Who was destined to be a wise scholar
A bite in the butt
From that big mangy mutt...
Who knew it'd be future blog fodder?

We have no idea the reason behind the photo
but we think the sign said, "For Cindy".
That's our story and we're sticking with it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mr. Victor's career aspirations

Mr. Victor is expanding his home remodeling business.

You may remember that his incessant banging has effectively further distressed our antique (formerly church pew) dinner table bench.

Now he is branching into kitchen reorganization. For a small fee (or even for free) he will empty out your utensil drawer, bang each item (to distress whatever furniture you ask him - or don't ask him) to distress.

He will also reorganize your freezer and refrigerator. Who knew the soy sauce is better stored in the freezer and the bag of frozen veggies should be left in the fridge?

Need help in the laundry room? He will happily take your already clean and folded laundry and put it in the dirty laundry baskets. He is also quite fond of putting clothes into the washer. It's okay, he will only try to climb in with the clothes a few times.

If you are already pretty organized and don't need his help in these areas, he is also working on his cosmetology license. Who knew that a protein shake is the best foundation for spiking hair?

In all seriousness, I often look at him and wonder what he will do as an adult, more so than with the other children. I wonder if we will ever get his self-injurious behaviors and sensory issues to a place where he can fit into the workplace?  Will he have the independence skills he needs? I wonder if he will live on his own? Will he have friends who will encourage him to do what he can on his own, but will they also be willing to give of their own time to help him do what he cannot?

Will he be accepted in a sighted world?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I know what I like

A few years ago my aunt introduced me to a charming book called I Know What I Like by Norma Simon. Soon after, the girls and I read the book together and then each of us tried our hand with this structure. Each of their pieces gave me insight into who they are. I recently thought of these pieces and remembered that I had never finished mine so here goes:

I Know What I Like

I know what I like.
Do you know what you like?

I like to make treats for my family.
I like to make new projects out of the material in my stash.
I like to make organized plans - for anything.
But I don't like to make dinner for picky eaters.

I like to touch a dog's soft fur.
I like to touch a baby's foot.
I like to touch a new book.
But I don't like to touch bugs.

I like to be with my family.
I like to be at the beach.
I like to be in a soft, comfortable chair with a good book.
But I don't like to be in crowds of people.

I like to smell the ocean.
I like to smell homemade bread.
I like to smell cinnamon and vanilla.
But I don't like to smell a dead skunk on the road.

I like to see my family all together.
I like to see newborn babies.
I like to see musicals.
But I don't like to see children being disrespectful to others.

I like to hear my children playing their instruments.
I like to hear about a child placed in a loving home.
I like to hear people say that they have been touched or changed by something our family said or did.
But I don't like to hear my children fighting.

I like to taste my mom's apple pie.
I like to taste peanut butter in anything.
I like to taste ice cream, licking it slowly off the spoon, enjoying every mouthful.
But I don't like to taste cold medicine.

I like to catch my children making good choices.
I like to catch someone's eye in the middle of a good practical joke.
I like to catch a good show, especially if I know someone in the cast.
But I don't like to catch the stomach flu.

I like to try new foods (but this wasn't always the case, sorry, Mom).
I like to try on new clothes even if they're only new to me.
I like to try to create new objects out of up-cycled fabric.
But I don't like to try new things in front of people.

I like to pay Balderdash.
I like to play practical jokes.
I like to play in The King's Strings.
But I don't like to play games with competitive people.

I like to go to the beach.
I like to go to historical sites and museums.
I like to go on vacation with my family.
But I don't like to go to parties.

You know what you like and don't like.
I know what I like and don't like.
I like being me.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Before that

On Saturday night I went to bed without my supper, wonderfully full of food and friendship.

Before that, I relieved Isaac of his childcare duties and tackled the task of making a supper for the children, one that I did not plan to join them in eating.

Before that, The Good Doctor and I enjoyed the long drive home from Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Quiet moments alone to chat are too few and far between.

Before that, we said good-bye to our friends.

Before that, we stuffed ourselves full of good Pennsylvania Dutch home cooking (although I never knew that coconut shrimp and pierogies were PA Dutch delicacies) at my all time favorite restaurant. I was sure not to miss the shoo-fly pie at the end.

Before that, The Good Doctor and I took off for our journey to meet my best friend and her SO for lunch.

Before that, we visited a new friend who had just arrived home from the hospital. We were honored to be invited in as her first guests.

Before that, I spent my morning happily doing chores around the house, reminiscing about the wonderful friendship I've had with my best friend from high school; a friendship that has survived college years many miles apart, a few years living side-by-side, and now 2 hours away.

Before that, I woke up happy and ready for the wonderful day ahead.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The big 2-1

This is it.

This is the day.

We'll celebrate with donuts during brunch.

We'll sing.

Maybe we'll even send him a video of us doing this.

All because this is it. This is the day that my oldest turns 21.

So we will celebrate even though he's 9 hours from home.

This is our first-born, a typical first-born; the guinea pig, the rule follower, more like his mother than he might ever admit. Creative, funny, sarcastic, sensitive, full of ideas, and the follow-through to carry them out.

21 years is a long time to sum up in one post. I thought of 21 photos, one for each year of his life but I won't bore you. Although, remember, this is the first-born; we actually have one photo for each week of the first year of his life and the trend continued.

One of my fondest memories of Andrew was when he was about 13 years old. He used to organize his siblings and the neighbors into his own acting studio and production team. He would write little sketches about James Blonde and then the kids would act them out around the neighborhood. On this particular occasion, he was filming a chase scene and he concocted his own roving camera by mounting the camera and tripod onto our wagon. He sat in the back with the camera while someone pulled him. Ingenious.

This was when we knew that this child was headed into the film industry. Sure enough, that's where he now finds himself as a junior in college. Using every bit of that creative, industrious talent to direct and produce an eclectic mix of films. As his biggest fans we still pull up his documentary on hedgehogs and all of his istandTV productions from his NYC internship last summer. And there's more coming.

And this summer he will head to the Olympics as a camera operator in the press conference room at the Olympic's International Broadcast Center. Maybe I'm just a little sad that he's not a Momma's Boy, and I'm not a helicopter parent, in which case he'd have to take me along.

Andrew, we hope you can use your DD gift card today so you can enjoy a donut at college while we enjoy your birthday donuts here. We got the good ones, from Shady Maple, in honor of you. I have long forgiven you for arriving 10 days late and for taking more than 24 hours to make your arrival. I am proud of you for following your calling, for stepping out of your comfort zone, for your ambition, and for trying new things. We love you. Love, Mom and Dad

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Peace and quiet

This guy.

He might just be the most wearying, frustrating, 2 year old enigma.

And the most cuddly, lovable little guy.

He is always moving and it usually involves spinning, running, and/or banging. Just last week, as I picked him up from childcare at church I was asked what to do about all of that banging. I promised the caregiver that if she could figure it out, I would make it worth her while. I also patted my back; I figured that if she couldn't stand it after only a few hours, then I must be doing pretty good for not committing myself to the Funny Farm after more than a year of banging.

A few days ago, Mr. Victor came to us with his older brother's headphones. The Good Doctor and I decided that the unspoken sibling rule stating that anything left on the floor was open season would qualify in this situation so we got him all set up.

The result was nothing less than miraculous.

He sat.


He barely moved.

His breathing slowed.

The best part? He was tethered to the computer by that short cord connected to the headphones. He was right by our side, easy to supervise, yet not banging anything onto our bodies or the furniture around us.

We immediately looked online for a pair of headphones that he could call his own; cheaper than brother's but could withstand a visually impaired 2 year old with sensory processing disorder. We didn't find anything that fit the bill.

But last night, at a consignment sale, I found something that I thought might do the trick. And for the price - even if they only lasted a week, it would mean a peaceful, centered child at less than a dollar a day. Into the bag they went.

And this morning, onto his head they went.


He sat.


He barely moved.

His breathing slowed.

And he was tethered to Isaac's tablet so he could be supervised but without jumping on the couch or banging anything on his brother.

His music of choice? Depends. Raffi. Johnny Cash. Newsies. Maybe even Elmo's World to switch things up. His tastes are eclectic and it doesn't matter because it means a bit of silence for the rest of us.


Friday, March 11, 2016

ABC's of me, part 2

Andrew,  first in our family

Blindness, something I never thought much of until Victor was diagnosed in 2013

Cynthia, my real name but please don't call me that

Dinner, don't ask me what we're having - But if you must know, ask the 7 other people who have already asked and shared their opinion

Eden, Number 6 in line

Foster care and adoption and the plight of the orphan, my calling

God, the only reason I get up and do this thing called life day after day

HopeAnne, 5th to join our home but finds her place as Number 7

Isaac, 4th born but 5th in line, insists he and Shoun are not twins

Jesse, the second born

King, became my last name in 1991 but my students always started the year insisting that I should instead be Mrs. Queen.

Library, can't miss our weekly trip to take back the old and pick up the new

Mariana, the first daughter and third oldest child

Nap, every Sunday whether I need it or not (let's be honest, I always need it)

Occupation, first housekeeping in a nursing home, then daycare teacher, former teacher and tutor, current co-director of Victorious Hope Adoption Consulting

Pets, we've had gerbils, rabbits, dogs, hermit crabs, a parakeet, and a snake, love them all, hate the grief when they go

Quiet, the book that taught me more about myself than any other (Introverts, you must read it!)

Relaxing, at the beach of course!

Shoun, came into our home 6th but is 4th in line

Therapists and social workers, always coming in and out of the home

Undergraduate, elementary and special education, graduate work in special education, the rest of the degrees went to The Good Doctor

Victorious Victor, our 1 lb. 13 oz. peanut comes in as Child Number 8 (so far)

Wishes three, what would I ask for? Time to sew each day, to be able to sing, and for my children to believe in the value of a clean house as much as I do

Xtra hours in each day, ahhh, that would be nice

Yummy foods, pizza, authentic ethnic dishes, chai, ice cream, Reese's peanut butter cups and anything I don't have to make or clean up

Zoo, what we call our family

Thursday, March 10, 2016

ABC's of me

In struggling to come up with something to write today, I decided that this would be the day to try something new; something found through reader other posts in the Slice of Life Challenge. I considered several options and kept coming back to the ABC's of Me but past experiences held me back. I kept thinking of all of those Stupid-Get-to-Know-You-Games in middle school and high school where you had to introduce yourself with a describing word that starts with the first letter of your name. It didn't matter if it was your first, or last, or both - C and B were equally difficult.

Caring sounded trite, Comedic too self-indulging (or wishful thinking), Contrite was not in my vocabulary at the time...

And then there was my last name which started with B: Blessed sounded churchy. Behaved would just perpetuate the Goody Two Shoes image. And neither Breath-taking nor Beautiful were options...

I couldn't even default to my middle name because J would be just as difficult.

And then I thought of all of those acrostic assignments where there was always at least one letter that just didn't fit the theme.

As my daughter, who is also participating in the challenge, waited for the school bus, we talked about my dilemma. She is headed out on a field trip today so we both know what her topic will be tonight. However, she had an interesting thought about whether or not I chose to do the ABC's of Me. She said, "Well, at least you have each of our first names."

And right there she had me convinced. Eight children. Eight different letters. I was so careful and purposeful to give them names that started with different letters. Even those who came in older, with names, have so far cooperated with my plan. I somehow thought this would minimize confusion when trying to recall a name on the spot (I was wrong) and that it would help other people see them as individuals (slightly more successful on this one). Yes, Eden's right; eight children = eight letters done in the ABC's of Me.

Okay, I'll do it.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Life lessons from The Little Mermaid

My three oldest children are still bitter.

They were fairly sheltered for those first few years. With three children in just over 3 years, they were more like triplets in what they were and were not allowed to do. It was very easy to control what came into the home and we definitely used this to our advantage.

Let's just take a moment here to mention that this is utterly impossible when you have toddlers, grade schoolers, high schoolers, and college students all under one roof.

But once upon a time, it was not only doable, it was done.

When The Little Mermaid was on TV I thought it would be a nice treat if they could see it. However, upon previewing it, I was fairly certain that Ursula would be too scary for them. Remember, they hadn't seen a whole lot prior to this and you have to admit, she and her cohorts are pretty hideous. Also keep in mind that one of these children, who shall remain nameless, had nightmares after watching Muppet Treasure Island and I had to keep the movie out of our home much to the chagrin of her brothers. Also keep in mind, that these are the same three children who ruined their first movie theater experience by crying as soon as the sharks appeared in Finding Nemo. And here we thought we were giving them a fun, new experience!

Back to The Little Mermaid - -

I decided, way back when, that I'd show them the movie but I would skip all of the Ursula scenes. With much anticipation, we sat down to enjoy the (half) movie together. The only problem was that now the movie made no sense to them; the storyline was gone.

So, Andrew, Jesse, and Mariana, now that I have watched the musical in its entirety twice (with Ursula in it), I would like to fill you in on what you would have learned had you been able to watch this movie:

If you don't like what your dad says, do whatever you want.

If an adult tells you that something is too dangerous to do, never mind them, do it anyway. Not only will it turn out okay, you're likely to meet a prince who will fall madly in love with you and will be your future husband.

Having a beautiful voice will get you a great guy. Every time.

Crabs make terrible nannies.

Crabs make terrible relationship counselors.

Never give up your voice for a guy you only met once and that was while he was drowning so you really couldn't get a great view. And this holds true no matter how cute he is.

On the other hand, giving up your voice, and losing the deal, really means nothing as long as you can break a seashell in which case your voice will come right back, Daddy will forgive you, and you can go floating back up to the surface to find that super hot guy.

Life is better under the sea.

If you have poositivity, everything will turn out right.

Having seven daughters is too much stress; they just fight and bicker and get jealous of each other. All. The. Time.

If you don't know what to say, or have lost your voice, just dance. Someone will be able to figure out what you mean.

Mermaids-turned-humans don't need their fathers to speak for them; they can choose who to marry on their own.