Welcome to The Whole House!

If you’re a regular reader, we hope you’re enjoying the updated look! If you’re new here, welcome! This blog covers adoption, attachment issues, homeschooling, parenting, and more! We’re glad you’re here! Feel free to read the most recent posts or just browse the archives.

What Success Is…

 

I love the New Year, fresh and crisp as a winter wind. I love the new journals. The new business planner (that I still have no idea what to do with). I love the new Word. I feel refreshed and renewed. Christmas decorations have been put away, except for the greenery I couldn’t stand to put away.

greeneryI take off at a sprint, ready to accomplish all, whatever all is. Sometimes it’s as if I am playing whack a mole, no matter how many books I have read on goal setting and essentialism. Life just doesn’t always work that way, unless you have no family, friends or never get sick. With my personality, I must be careful not to make goals a god. Success is Not an Accident and Essentialism are a few of my favorite books on success and goal setting. I recommend them. They have helped me weed out things that aren’t essential. I have a better idea of how to set measurable goals. I have a definition of success. It’s not what I would have defined it as when I was in my twenties or even thirties. It’s not about knowing the right people, money or wearing the right clothes. And, grab onto your seat, success is not always about achieving your goals. Success is not about being able to do everything. It is more about being able to do the thing that is before you well.

“Successful people are those who have learned how to consistently apply God’s laws in their lives. They ascribe their achievements to focus, hard work, strong relationships, perseverance and the blessings of God.”- Tommy Newberry

I love this definition of who successful people are. We can’t always control our circumstances. Sometimes our list of goals get sidelined while we work on the business of living. Does that mean we aren’t successful? Of course not.

A mother working on a project to make her home more beautiful and comfortable is interrupted by sickness. Is she still a successful homemaker?

A writer working on a manuscript puts writing on hold to participate in a community project is still a writer, right?

A health nut who teaches about the blessings of whole foods and the benefits of exercise gets knocked flat by an immune system disorder. Is what she teaches still true?

I’d love to measure my success by a bar graph or a beautiful circle graph with bright colors. It doesn’t work that way. Often our path to success may seem as if we are running from the snake in a zig zag pattern (like my mama taught me). That’s what we see. That’s not what God sees.

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart
And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him,

And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]. Proverbs 3:5,6

When I trust in and rely on the Lord, I have to throw my own insight and understanding out the window. Every day I must get up and acknowledge the Lord. I must recognize Him and say, “This is your day, Lord, what would you have me do with it?” The truth is, I pray in warp speed, acknowledge my plans and start a frantic frenzied race to the end of the day. I am, shoulders hunched, with frayed nerves, pursuing a success that never satisfies. Success is doing the will of God on the path He has placed before you with the strengths and weaknesses that He has bestowed on you. Success is not about being perfect. It’s about being obedient. It’s about acknowledging Him, recognizing that He is ultimately in control. If my plan falls through, I can be assured that He is has a better one. What about you?

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday, join us!

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Getting to Know You- Our Adoption Story in a Nutshell

“A tiny plane blipped across a map of endless ocean at the front of the cabin. I gripped the plush blue arms rests. I battled claustrophobia while my three children, courageous and ready for this overseas adventure, raided the snack cart every time it squeezed past.  My husband Jerry snoozed. It was November 1999.

Focus on the goal, I commanded myself. You are going to adopt your new children.

I grabbed my purse and fished out the precious Polaroids of Damian, Gregory and Ania, sent airmail from the orphanage. The prospective members of the Guire forever family looked directly at the camera, as if staring straight at me instead of the lawyer who had snapped the photos in a hallway of the orphanage:

Ania, a pumpkin-faced four-year-old gripping the drapes behind her, willing them to swallow her up; Gregory, a Peter Panish five-year-old sporting an Indian feather cowlick and mischievous eyes; Damian, a somber faced seven-year-old with a worried soul in a young body.

What compelled me to board a plane, fly to a foreign country and adopt strangers?

God in His wisdom built the foundation of society on the family: Adam, Eve, a beautiful perfect home, and the command to be fruitful and multiply. Adam and Eve ate the only forbidden fruit and sin entered the world–the great divorce of heaven and earth. The first family was torn apart.  Adam and Eve were ripped from the garden and from the connection with their heavenly Father”

Adoption is like walking in the middle of the movie and taking a seat. You didn’t see the beginning. You’re not exactly sure what sort of plot or family  you stepped into.  This paragraph gives you a bit of my story and you have joined me in the middle of it.

Jerry and I had the seed of adoption in our hearts when we married in 1985.  We were in the midst of communications with a  pregnant teen mom to adopt her infant (early in our marriage). She changed her mind at the last minute.

Ten years and three kids later, we opened the door to adoption again. We started with phone calls, information packets and not a lot of headway. Then an adoption coordinator called us from Huminska’s Anioly and asked us some pointed questions, “Are you going to fill out the paper work? Will you take three children?”

We said, “Yes!” to three and headed down the adoption road at full speed. Of course anyone who has traversed the adoption road knows that means at a snail’s pace most of the time. And yet, every time we filled out a document or put our finger prints on paper or had another visit for the home study, we felt as if we were one step closer to those children.

Two weeks before our travel date, we got a call from our adoption coordinator,Tracy, “there’s a baby!  A younger sibling! Do you want him?”

“Of course!” We couldn’t imagine leaving the little on behind. Tracy didn’t know the sex of the baby or if he was eligible for adoption. She only knew through some research on the attorney’s end and a question while interviewing Damian who asked, “what about the baby?”

The judge said “NO!” to our pursuing the adoption of the infant. He was easier to adopt out and other Polish couple should get the chance. The Guire family flew to Poland with INS approval to bring back four children.

Christmas in Wheeling
Back row: Amerey, Damian, Audrey 

Front row: Hunter, Gregory, Ania and Rafal

The first meeting in Warsaw with our attorneys in a hotel lobby was tense. Jerry asked about the baby. “Forget about the baby! Focus on the three you came to adopt!”

We couldn’t let it go. We prayed. It was all we could do. We were in a foreign country with no power, no say in what would happen next.

“The next day dawned gray and cold, just like the one before. I felt as if I had entered an old black and white movie and I hoped it wasn’t a Hitchcock. I packed everything back in the suitcases and we hauled the luggage down to the lobby. We were traveling with Walter and Bartek  to Pietrokow, where we would meet the Director of Orphans.

Walter was already surly-faced when he arrived. He rushed us out of the lobby into the stinging gray air. I was stuffed in the back of a small taxi with a seat belt embedded in my hipbone and a child on my lap. The windows remained permanently fogged, blocking my view of the city we were leaving and then the countryside as it flew by. My children, tired from the previous day, settled back into their seats and ventured an occasional, “How much longer?’

When dad came to pick us kids up for summer visitation, the departure was swift.  We packed our bags in the trunk of his current car and rushed down the lane, leaving a trail of dust behind us, Mom growing smaller in the distance.  This is the moment the fear gripped me. The familiar faded and the unknown lay before me. The tense anxiety choked me while my stomach churned. Down the highway we sped to another unknown destination; Dad rarely bothered to sit down and explain where we were going and what it would be like this time. The landscape changed from the hills of West Virginia to the bluegrass of Kentucky or the plains of Iowa, where once we raced beside a tornado as it ate up the fields beside us.

Every year, it was a new home in a new state. And every year, it was the same unstable summer, with our travel and activities dictated by someone else’s moodiness or alcoholism. New places did not fill me with hope. They were foreign landscapes with no known retreats or safe hideaways from the too-familiar emotional climate. The unrest filtered down to me and cemented my fear and presupposition: There is nothing good in the world.

This journey was not on my terms, it was on God’s. There was absolutely nothing I was in control of: when I could go to the bathroom or what mode of transportation I would use or what foods would be available to me. This was not about my comfort level. It was dependent on my trust level.

God does not hand out easy passes. What God requires of me is always greater than I think I can handle. If I would have succumbed to my fears, I would still be at home. I would probably be living comfortably with three children, but it would not have been God’s perfect will for me. It would have been trading something of eternal value for temporary ease. I would have gone through life feeling as if something were missing if I had ignored the still, small voice and listened instead to the bawling fear.

After several hours of driving, we pulled into the snowy little city of Pietrokow. The taxi wound around into the heart of the city through snow-covered narrow streets of old stone buildings. We skidded into an icy drive: the office of the Director of Orphans. She came outside to meet us. I leapt out of the car to drink in a breath of cool fresh air. Walter had already stepped out of his taxi and was speaking to her. Bartek appeared by my side and asked,

“She wants to know if you want to meet the baby?”

My mind whirled.  See the baby?  Meet the baby?  Was this some sort of cruel joke?

“Well, yes, of course,”  I answered quietly, scarcely daring to hope.

Walter spoke again and Bartek interpreted, “She wants to know if you want to adopt the baby. She says that she will speak to the judge for you.”

I suddenly felt giddy. In one day the impossible had become possible.”

The Guire family increased by four in January of 2000 and the four new Guires were able to join us in the states in February of 2000.

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Damian, Adam, Audrey, Ania, Gregory, Hunter, Seth, Amerey, Rafal, grandsons Sam and Theo being held.

There is much more to the story and you can read it by ordering Positive Adoption: A Memoir  in which I weave the story of my childhood with the story of my children’s adoption.

thanksgiving 2015
Ania, Amerey, Me (Kathleen), Jerry, Damian, Rafal, Gregory, Hunter
family photo Thanksgiving
Ania, Amerey, Audrey, Me (Kathleen), Jerry, Hunter, Gregory and Damian in background. Amerey has no idea what happened to Rafal. He is behind Gregory.
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Thanksgiving at the Guire Shire

*All quotes from Positive Adoption: A Memoir 

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Kids and Grief

The picture is four by seven and we five siblings lean into each other, smiling. The funeral home is crowded with friends and family. The rich walnut wood work goes unnoticed. We are smothered in grief. Everyone loved my mother. It seemed as if everyone she had ever known was there. I felt numb and floaty.

You may be reading and thinking my mom died recently. She didn’t. It has been twenty-one years. January 8th is her birthday. Every year I go through the same cycle. I begin the year with gusto, lists, a word, getting back to good habits and BAM, grief hits me out of nowhere and knocks the breath out of me. Grief sneaks up on you just when you think it has left. I have a few melancholy moments over Christmas when the scents, the music and putting up the tree triggers a memory, like Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail in the clip below.

The grief body slam is always a great reminder for me of how our adopted/foster/special needs kids react to triggers. They don’t know what hit them when there is a sight, smell or action that is tucked deep in the recesses of their minds and something triggers it. A song. A freshly baked pie. A police siren. And the kid is off. Dysregulated.

It sometimes takes me a day or two to recognize grief. It is not a stranger to me, but sometimes I don’t want to recognize it. I want it to stay a stranger in the shadows and leave me alone. My body aches. I weep at weird times. I’m an introvert, so I isolate. Because I’m adult and have some experience, although my epiphany may be delayed I recognize grief and call it out by name. Kids from hard places usually do not/cannot. It’s interesting to note, we don’t just grieve the wonderful people and the events. We also grieve the not so great circumstances because they were our ‘normal’. So when a child is grieving the loss of an aunt who abused him, we must understand. That is part of his story and when we let grieving happen, healing comes next.

“Some adoptive parents believe that once a child is home, all the people in his past will be forgotten. They fail to recognize an important truth: simply, they won’t be forgotten.”- Wounded Children Healing Homes

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We parents often expect birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s to be either blank slates or full of our memories, not their trauma. We must understand the child’s world. We must see things from their perspective. If we do, then the child’s behaviors, ‘bizarre and illogical’ or paralyzed by fear will make sense.

I’ll leave you with just some reminders and tips:

  • Remember, the reaction is not about you personally. It is to a past feeling or event.
  • Teach your child some coping skills. (Putting on headphones and listening to music, going to his room when company is overwhelming, walking and talking it out with a parent).
  • Require your child to continue to act with respect.
  • Teach your child to use words.
  • Pare down your schedule to the essentials and use the downtime to do things that are comfortable for your child. Read aloud. Play with Legos.
  • Remember your reaction to his struggle and pain is forming a new pathway in his brain if you are consistent and calm.
  • Let them talk about it if they are willing and don’t judge.
  • Take the time to write down triggers in a notebook, find patterns and watch for them.

These are just some suggestions that have worked for others (and my family). Find something works with your child. If you need some more info, try attending some ETC Parent Training in your area or the ETC Simulcast on April 7th and 8th.

Linking up with Kristin Taylor for Three Word Wednesday. Join us!

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Thriving Through Christmas 25 Day Countdown Day 24

Welcome to your twenty-five day countdown and thriving guide.If you have been following this series, scroll down past the picture for today’s tip! Make sure you click the follow via email button on the right to receive your “25 Days of Thriving through Christmas” in your inbox each day! Raising children from hard places is challenging. Surviving the holidays with a smile on your face while parenting is even more challenging, that’s why the Positive Adoption Team has put together this handy little series. Don’t stress. It’s not a huge to-do, not more than a paragraph or two each day. Easy peasy and encouraging. So, take a minute each morning, open your inbox and read. This year, let’s not just survive the Christmas season, let’s thrive!

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Tip 24-

Celebrate the EVE..

One of my fondest childhood memories is midnight mass. Sitting in the choir loft with my mama and  listening to her beautiful voice and hearing the gospel readings. It made the night seem so much shorter. After mass, my sister and I giggled in her bedroom for hours (my poor mama)! Then a few short hours later, it was Christmas morning.

But, oh the EVE.Such a short word for such a long day. What seems like a few hours to adults can seem like years to children. Tomorrow is the day that everyone is waiting for. It is THE DAY. We pound that into their little heads. Wonderful things happen on Christmas. Jesus is born. We read the Christmas history in Luke 2. We open presents.

The best remedy? Do something. Celebrate the day.

  • Play a game.or two.
  • Go outside for a walk.
  • Make a special meal.
  • Get out a puzzle.
  • Go visit a nursing home.
  • Go caroling in your neighborhood.
  • Have kids exchange gifts with their siblings.
  • Open the Christmas pajamas.
  • Do a craft.
  • Re-enact the Christmas story

Celebrate the EVE!

Biblical Application:

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!(A)

Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is [a]coming soon].- Philippians 4: 4,5

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. For tomorrow we celebrate His coming. He is near. He is here. Rejoice. Don’t wait for the unwrapping of presents, He is present with you, right now. Right here. Gladden yourself in Him.

Thriving Through Christmas 25 Day Countdown Day 23

Welcome to your twenty-five day countdown and thriving guide. If you have been following this series, scroll down past the picture for today’s tip! Make sure you click the follow via email button on the right to receive your “25 Days of Thriving through Christmas” in your inbox each day! Raising children from hard places is challenging. Surviving the holidays with a smile on your face while parenting is even more challenging, that’s why the Positive Adoption Team has put together this handy little series. Don’t stress. It’s not a huge to-do, not more than a paragraph or two each day. Easy peasy and encouraging. So, take a minute each morning, open your inbox and read. This year, let’s not just survive the Christmas season, let’s thrive!

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Tip 23- It had better not be perfect!

Every year when the kids and I were putting up the Christmas tree, my Spock-like tendencies came out. Every candle had to be perfectly spaced. The ribbons had to be equal distance apart.  All the lights had to be white and homemade ornaments had to go on the back side of the tree. I wish I could go back and time and change those practices. I cannot. But, you can learn from my mistakes. Part of my habit was personality. Part perfectionism. I wanted the tree to be perfect. I’m not sure who the tree was being perfect for. It wasn’t for the kids. They would rather have popcorn and homemade ornaments. Colored lights. They wanted colored lights.

The problem with perfect? It doesn’t help children. It leaves them wanting. It makes them feel as if they don’t measure up. The last thing a child from a hard place needs is the expectation of perfectionism. They are wrapped in control that leaves them in manipulation mode. To add perfectionism to that ballgame spells disaster. Instead we need flexibility. Fun. Willingness to bend. Willingness to bend down and see where they are and join them.

Biblical Application:

“In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down from heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.”- C.S. Lewis

Kids who have come from traumatic beginnings or kids who have just had a hard day need us to descend to their depths in order to help them reascend into joy. This is the Christ-like Christmas act. This is not perfect. It is messy. It is not self serving. It is bowing down to serve. It is paper chains strung across the living room. It is flour all over the floor when baking. It is globs of shapeless cookies with mountains of icing. It is sloppily wrapped gifts with half a yard of tape around them. It is falling asleep on the floor under the Christmas tree with a child who pops out of bed like a batch of popcorn. It is joy in imperfection. Bend down to bring those in your world up with you.