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!

Monday, July 31, 2017

She's 17!

M turns 17 today. It's been an eventful year. Getting her driver's license. Getting into vo-tech. TPR. Celebrating 1 year in our home. Getting a job. Missions trip to the Bronx. And now just waiting for an adoption date. Bittersweet days. Days of joy. Mixed emotions.

When we celebrated 1 year, I asked her if she ever thought it would happen, she told me no. It had never happened in any of her other homes, why would this one be any different? On the other hand, she did say that she thought that if we could put up with Victor, maybe we would stick with her, too?

She told Victor this morning that she was 17. He wanted to know if she was still short. Then asked if she was old.

We celebrated with extended family yesterday, donuts this morning, and later we'll have her chosen dinner: chicken and waffles with peanut butter pie for dessert. But mostly she's just working today - the life of a working woman. Anyone want to stop at Subway to wish her happy birthday before 5PM today?

And for those who were wondering, as far as Victor is concerned, it was sugar free, dairy free, grain free donut holes all around!

That was easier than I thought it'd be!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Another beach trip

Another Bauman-King beach vacation is in the books.

Another year of rides.

HopeAnne looks thrilled to chaperone the little kids, doesn't she?

Victor discovered The Whip, the kiddie version. He loved it!

HopeAnne braced the ferris wheel, her second attempt at a "big kid" ride. 
She feels so much braver now.

Another year of sand.

We enjoyed many concerts from the beat boxing legend, Victor.

Another year of crafts.

He took his painting very seriously.

Nadya focused on purple.

Emoji Pencil Jars!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Romeo and Juliet

To keep the noise in the beach house to a minimum, Mr. Victor and I went for a walk this morning. But I knew better. A walk would not just be a walk. So he came dressed for the water.

He told me that he needed to jump over the shells because I refused to carry him. He also told me that he likes the sand now but he used to hate it (one of his favorite words). Thank God for progress.
I was right. We made it no farther on our walk than straight in. And there we stayed.

When we were down in June the water was still cold so he didn't spend as much time in it as he usually does. Today, however, we won't be able to get him out. He jumped and splashed and fell and got back up. Oh, he also licked the water. Maybe he has a salt deficiency?

He told me he was going in his camper. I asked why his camper was full of water? He didn't know.

He said, "Come in the camper with me, Juliet." I asked, "Why am I Juliet?" He explained the obvious, "Because I am Romeo." But then he must have doubted because he asked, "Am I your Romeo?"

He's still calling me Juliet.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Halfway there

It's been 22 days on Victor's special diet. Not only do we have a new child but we are definitely gaining insights into what causes certain behaviors.

Seven days in, I woke up in a hotel room in New York after dropping Isaac off at music camp the day before. On my phone there was a text from the Good Doctor with this photo:

The Good Doctor found this half-eaten roll on the floor of Victor's room, along with a confession. Yes, Victor had eaten half of it and then for some reason, ditched the rest on the floor. In plain sight. The Good Doctor told me that he was already noticing more crankiness from Victor.

By the time I arrived home three hours later, Victor had moved beyond crankiness to animalistic and violent behaviors. He was banging things and when the items were removed he threw fits like we hadn't seen before. Definitely some of the worst behaviors we've seen. He threw a child's chair and broke it. He repeatedly lifted and banged a kitchen chair up and down. At one point, after I took away kitchen utensils that he was banging on the steps, he sat and rocked and screamed for several minutes, completely inconsolable.

After this episode, I sat on the floor and held him and asked, "Victor, do you remember that piece of bread you ate this morning?" "Yes," he replied. "Victor, that piece of bread is why you are acting like this." He thought a moment and announced, "It was sooooooooo yummy!"

Yummy it might have been but at supper I told the whole family in no uncertain terms that the next time someone leaves a banned substance in an easy-to-find-and-reach location, I would lock that person and Victor in a room together for the rest of the day so they would know what I went through today.*

Another day we were shocked to find Victor quietly sitting on the floor playing with play-doh. He had never initiated this kind of play on his own before. However, we are finding more and more that he can tolerate longer periods of creative play with toys such as Duplos, Bristle Blocks, and magnets. It isn't just banging all day, every day. The play-doh, however, needed to be confiscated when we found Victor sneaking bites of it. Homemade play-doh, after all, is made from flour. When asked what he was doing, Victor told us, "I NEED the salt!" Salt in play-doh, yes. Flour, no.

We have been pleased to find so many benefits of Victor's diet. The 8 hour round trip to pick Isaac up from camp resulted in just one episode of yelling and screaming instead of the continual screaming and defiance we've had on every other road trip. He snuggles more. Plays piano and drums more purposefully. Listens to story after story without repeated reminders to sit down. He sits down for a whole meal rather than spinning in the kitchen while we eat. He doesn't bump into things like a human pin-ball machine. Instead, he is able to calmly move from place-to-place.
Victor and Grandma Mary Ann reading together

And our picky eater is slowly trying new foods and finding new, approved foods to eat.

We're halfway there. In three weeks we can start to slowly reintroduce foods and see whether or not they affect his behavior. Thanks to that half a piece of roll episode, we already know that gluten is an issue. And after a few episodes of dairy ingestion, we also know that this is a trigger. We'll see what else we find.

Even Victor knows there is a difference. He talks about his special diet and comments on times he was mean and then how kind he is now. He has to feel so much better inside. The constant shopping and cooking are well worth the time investment.

Stay tuned...

*Note to all mandated reporters: This is a joke. I would not lock Victor and another child in a room for a day. I only said this to make the point that I never, ever again want to experience a day like that. We have not, and will not, lock children in their rooms. Ever. Even when they feed Victor banned foods. Even when they throw chairs at me.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Lord has a will

There's an old piece of tablet paper in my Bible, with the words to a song from my camp counselor days at Bethany Birches Camp. I had copied the words down from the song leader's chart paper, never knowing it's author or source. This morning as I opened my Bible, the piece of paper caught my eye and I googled the title. Imagine my surprise to find that it is an Amy Grant song (a very young looking Amy Grant, I might add!). You might be surprised that a product of the 80s didn't know her Amy Grant but you have to remember that only hymns were true Christian songs in many of our homes. I don't think I even knew of Amy Grant until the song, Friends, came out. I guess that one was okay because it could be used for graduations at Christian schools. Along with hymns, of course.

The song? The Lord Has a Will.

I need you Lord, in all I do.
You're always there to see me through.
I can't get by unless I lean on you, Lord.

The Lord has a will,
and I have a need
to follow that will;
to humbly be still.
To rest in it, nest in it,
fully be blessed in it;
following my father's will.

Your law of love is in my heart.
You wrote it there, it won't depart.
It lights my way, and keeps me out of the dark.

I even found a third verse that I never knew existed:
I thank you, Lord. Your word is sown
into my life, and there it's grown.
It's roots go deep where living waters are known.

There are days I hate following His will. Days when it feels like it'd be so much easier to do my own thing, to turn my back on traumatized kids. Days when I wonder if the effects of trauma can ever be healed and a difference made. Days when I don't want to have to look at myself and at what God wants to change in me so that I can better love these kids. Days when I say biological children are hard, why do I need harder than hard? Days when I want to join so many others who simply share needs and the lack of good in the world on social media instead of getting their hands dirty doing the hard work day in and day out.

And some days I do quit. In my mind I say I'm done. I have myself a little pity party. I hide and cry out to God. I tell Him it's too hard and that I don't want this assignment anymore. I tell Him I'm tired of being rejected. I'm tired of being lied to, blatantly disobeyed, and yelled at. I'm tired of chasing after run-aways and tip-toeing around volatile emotions and tempers.

When I'm done, and the tears are gone, and there's nothing left but weariness and quietness, He steps in and speaks words of comfort and encouragement. he rends me of His promised. he brings Scripture to mind. He points me to Jesus and says, "Look, He did the hard work, too. He followed my will. He got His hands and feet dirty. He was rejected. I don't expect you to be perfect like my Son. There is plenty of grace for your mistakes. I only ask that you rest in me. Drink from my living water and keep your roots strong. Nest in me, believing that I will care for you like a mother bird cares for her hatchlings. Allow me to open your eyes to see the blessing of following my will. Yes, there is blessing in the pain. I am there. Open your eyes and see!"

The Lord has a will,
and I have a need
to follow that will;
to humbly be still.
To rest in it, nest in it,
fully be blessed in it;
following my father's will.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Before and after

I have a different child. As I said to the Good Doctor the other day, "I finally have a little boy and not a monster."

We've tried all kinds of things. Some things helped a little. Some things not at all. It was suggested that the next step would be a neuro psych evaluation which would probably result in heavy meds. He wouldn't be the first child with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia to head this route. The only problem is that they won't see him until he's 5. And I don't know if I'm strong enough to wait another year.

So we tried a different alternative. And since alternatives are often frowned upon by professionals, we've been pretty quiet about some of the things we've tried. I've heard the arguments - that I'm just a stupid mom who isn't knowledgeable enough to understand what is good for my child. I've been accused of only getting my information from blogs and of blindly listening to other less-informed parents who have been through similar situations and who claim to have found success from alternative methods, and in the end I'm just seeing what I want to see.

Believe me, if it was as easy as seeing what I want to see, I wouldn't bear the scars and black-and-blue marks from being kicked, bitten, and scratched. I wouldn't be sitting on my bathroom floor crying because I've just dealt with the 10th roll-on-the-floor tantrum over something I can't fix and it's just 10AM.

So we decided to try the health, wellness and nutrition route. It just makes sense that God would create our bodies to heal themselves. That's not to say that medications can't be part of that but if medicine has failed us, why shouldn't we try something else?

I came home from the first appointment crying but this time it wasn't a little one's tantrum that set me off. This time it was because a doctor finally listened to me. I felt validated. I felt believed. And for the first time I could begin to trust that someone was going to stick with us until we found some answers.

You don't have to believe me but I know what I live with. I know what life was like "before" and "after". The changes in diet aren't easy for any of us who have to tell him he can't have something he requests but we noticed a difference in just half a day. Five days in, and we realized there was only one tantrum. In five days, just one. Instead of 4 or 5 or more per day. And in those 5 days were two dayswhen I was gone and one of the college kids was in charge - a disruption that would cause any child to dysregulate. But even so, just 1 tantrum in 5 days.

And then this happened.  A run-in with the fireplace. He told the nurse that he was on the chair and then he got up and thought he was running to the door but he went the wrong direction. In this case, I think his visual impairment got the best of him and he got himself turned around. Instead of running through the doorway he ran full force into the outside edge of the fireplace.

I can't even imagine what this would have been like prior to this week. Strange people, smells, and noises. Pain. A needle. It would have taken at least three of us to hold him down. And then to lie quietly for the doctor to stitch him up? Again, it would have taken several of us to manage that.

But not now. He was pleasant. He cried as any child would but it only took me holding his hands to calm him. Holding his hands. Not holding him down. And instead of running around and drumming on everything in the exam room while we waited, he drove his "car" to "New Jersey" and told me he was the delivery man. Just like a normal 4 year old with an imagination who would be interested in anything new on wheels.

I'm not saying that he doesn't still yell or prefer to stay outside when I ask him to come in or that he never spins or drums. I am saying that he is more focused and centered. He is calmer. He can sit and attend to a task for more than a few seconds. He is more compliant. He is finally able to concentrate enough to understand cause and effect. And he can stop his racing brain and body long enough for a mid-day nap. That has not happened since he gave up naps 7 months ago. And he spins and drums much less often than before. He is a little boy whose behavior more closely resembles his peers than it did just one week ago.

I finally have a little boy. And I have hope.