Continuing Education and Fostering and Adopting

“How do you handle lying?”

“My son is stealing every day, what should I do?”

“My kid is so angry all the time, I can’t seem to get him on the right track!”

These are just some bits of conversations I have had with adoptive/foster parents. Kids getting kicked off the bus, suspended from school, kicked out of kid’s church. I could say, “Been there. Done that,” and sometimes I do, but that is not enough. Adoptive/Foster parents need real tried and true info to help them on their journey. We parents need to understand where the behavior is coming from, what’s going on inside the child’s brain, and what we can do to help foster attachment as well as moral and physical development.

What happened?

If you adopted a cute cuddly baby or toddler and he suddenly starts behaving in off the wall ways, you may be asking yourself, what have I gotten myself into and what happened? What did I do wrong? I used to ask myself this on a daily basis. When rotten behavior burgeoned its ugly head and morals seemed non existent, I cried, disciplined and when traditional parenting didn’t work, I delved into research. That doesn’t make me super woman. I am definitely not a super hero. What it did for me was bring me out of denial. I was denying that there was anything different between them and my bio kids because I felt like it meant I loved them less. It didn’t. That was a lie. The other lie that was difficult to battle was “you’re not being fair!” from the bio kids. I had to approach dealing with behaviors differently in my adopted children and it was evident that I was doing things differently. I wish there was a magic wand I could wave over my bio kid so they could understand I am parenting two different backgrounds, a set of kids from a secure foundation and another with no foundation of family. You can’t base fair on two different circumstances to begin with. It wasn’t fair that my adopted children had traumatic beginnings. Let me get back on track here, education is the key for parenting children from hard places.

A New Perspective.

Out with the old. In with the new. That is the perspective we must take in parenting children who have had trauma in their lives. Adopted/foster kids don’t come with a clean slate that we can write on. They come with a chalk board full of past. We must acknowledge that and focus on child rearing that meets them where they are, not where we expect them to be. For example, we expect an eight year old to act his age, yet if he has had a traumatic beginning, he may only have an emotional age of three or four. He may lie, because in his mind, he believes you will believe exactly what he tells you because his brain is only developed to the stage of a three year old. Four year olds think you only know what they tell you.

It’s a difficult thing, this re-shifting of parenting. It’s a bit easier if you think of your children as half their physical age and measure their brain development rather than their shoe size. If they have poor impulse control, they are using only the downstairs brain, it takes time and consistent parenting to help these kids move to the upstairs brain. Kids who have not had the opportunity to explore truth and fiction may struggle with the two, not matter their age.

Raising children from hard places helps me understand the portion of scripture referring to renewing my mind. When raising these children with cognitive dis-regulation due to early trauma, it takes a constant flow of education, a renewing of the mind in how to meet these kids where they are mentally, physically and spiritually.

. Check this video out for help in handling lying.

 

Gifting a set of tickets (non professional) for the Show Hope Empowered to Connect Simulcast today!  How do you enter? Share this post on Facebook and tag The Whole House (you must tag to be entered!) For more info on the simulcast including how to order tickets, find it here. Drawing at 9pm!

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Memories of the Pre-adoption wait

The water in the pot hit boiling point and air bubbles pushed to the surface in symphonic cadence disproving the myth that a watched pot never boils.  Two faces peered into the pot mesmerized by bubbles.

“Hey, does water have air in it?”  my youngest shouted.

“Yes, remember the model of  the H2O atom you made?” I answered

He ran to the family room mantle and grabbed his model (that’s where we keep our atom models, where do you keep yours?) and slid back into the kitchen yelling, “I got it!  I got it!”

*Dance of JOY*

Aha moments are priceless.  I can’t buy them with Mastercard.  I can’t download them on iTunes.  I can’t get an app for them on my phone.  I can’t order them on Amazon.  I can’t order them at all.  I wait for them.

I can SOW, but the reaping comes much later.  This is true for everything, but with children who have learning challenges or attachment issues, the wait may be longer.  The victory is all the sweeter if I can maintain my peace during the waiting.I remember THE WAIT  during in my pre-adoption journey.  I had been living in the pre-adoptive limbo for so long I didn’t think it would ever had an end.  Adoptive parents know this limbo well, the paper work is finished (finally).  The home study is complete (yay).  INS has approved.  Finger prints are inspected.  Everything has been forwarded to the proper authority in_________(fill in the blank).  Then comes the most excruciating part.  WAIT FOR THE CALL.   Yes, I remember those instructions.  Simple right?  The hard part is finished.  WAIT, an inactive state, right?  Rest, sit down for six months, have a cup of coffee with your WAIT.

Waiting is a part of life, right?  I wait at the grocery store, the cell phone provider, the doctor, the dentist, etc… What I do while I wait determines how I feel about the time spent.  I am assured while I wait- it will eventually be my turn.  I need to have this attitude with my children.  As I sow, I know I will eventually reap.  They will reap the ‘aha’ moment and I will reap the joy with them.

“Cast YOUR bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”- Ecclesiastes 11:1

I will find it after many days.  Not two days, not two minutes.  Many days.  If you are sowing connections, lessons or training with your child.  Don’t give up.  WAIT.  Have a cup of coffee with your wait.  Read a good book.  Relax.  You threw your bread out on the water, let God take care of it.  The tide will come back in and wash upon your feet cool and tickly, you will laugh and be full of joy as you cast your bread, your sustenance, your life, time and energy upon the water again.

Linking up with these lovely ladies! 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.
thanksgiving  2 2015
Thanksgiving at the Guire Shire

*All quotes from Positive Adoption: A Memoir 

Linking up with these lovely ladies today:

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Five Things You Can Do to Help an Adoptive/Foster Family Part IV

Ever wonder what you can do to support adoption/foster care? Maybe you don’t feel as if you can take a child into your home. Maybe you already raised your children and you aren’t ready to start over. It may be that you have a heart for adoption,but it’s not time for you to walk the adoption road, a few more things may need to fall into place. The good news is, you don’t have to adopt/foster to support it. You can support those who do and it’s not terribly difficult.

 External religious worship [[b]religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.” James 1:27

*If you missed the beginning of this series, you can find it here.

4. Don’t judge the parents by the child’s behavior.

Good parents who have successfully parented bio children are suddenly labeled the ‘bad’ parent at church, school, field trips, if the adopted/foster child has behavior issues.

These behavior issues can be a lack of brain development. Both abuse and neglect can halt brain development causing a child to freeze developmentally while his peers soar past him. A child from a hard place is typically half his physical age emotionally. An eight year old will acct like a four year old. The child may have no self-regulation skills whatsoever. He may grab food off someone else’s plate, kick, hit, yell, get kicked out of Kid’s Church, steal hot chocolate (in bulk) from the church kitchen (true stories, I don’t make this stuff up).

Brain development

These behaviors show a lack of self regulation, not a forever problem. Some adults may try to wish these away, saying things like, “He’s a good kid, maybe you are just too hard on him.” The problem is,this glazing over the behavior or blaming the parent doesn’t heal the child, it hurts him. These behaviors are a result of his past, something that happened on someone else’s watch. In order for the child to heal, his brain needs to develop in areas it hasn’t. He needs to gain some upstairs brain skills. The child can do this through attachment. Yes, attachment grows the brain.

Here’s the catch, parents are correcting which is difficult when a child is not connected. The child needs time and reason to trust. Don’t assume the parents aren’t working on it. Don’t assume because the child continues in these behaviors that he isn’t being parented well. He may be catching up in attachment, development and being truly parented for the first time.

It’s time for adoption talk link up! Join us!

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School and Adoption Sensitivity: The Challenge of Homeschooling Adopted Children

Homeschooling adopted children is a great option, not the only one, but a great one. I think when i say that I homeschool my adopted children, it’s as if I took the easy road, I had it in the bag. I can tell when I explain our education choice, a person has that look on her face. I took the low road, right? I didn’t have to get them up in the morning and they could do school in their pjs, right? Wrong (well, maybe pjs sometimes).

I didn’t choose homeschooling my adopted children because it was easy. It wasn’t. It isn’t. Their fears don’t disappear because I homeschooled. Their developmental delays didn’t vanish because they were home. I didn’t let them hide and settle in comfortably where they were academically, emotionally and physically. I challenged them. Every day. It was/is hard. For them. For me. And so worth it.

Last weekend, daughter Ania and I hiked to Raven Rock, about 1.5 miles to the overlook and I’m pretty sure it was ten miles on the way back, straight up. Homeschooling is like the hike. It was rocky terrain. The climb was steep. We babbled all the way down, ignorant to what lay before us on the way back. Still we enjoyed the view, both ways. We high-fived when we hit the finish line, dripping in sweat and in need of food. Homeschooling is not an even ride for adopted children. They may babble excitedly about the year until you hand out some assignments. It may be rough terrain, but the view when you and your child crest the hill, when he gets a concept, when he understands a problem, when he conquers. It’s breath-taking.

So, if you choose to homeschool your adopted children, there are some things you should do.

  1. Find a support group.

I host a Mom’s Tea at our local homeschool co-op (THESIS) every Friday during the school year. I think I got asked to host because I am on the older/wiser side of life, but this tea has been such a blessing to me. There are so many families homeschooling special needs children nowadays and the Moms at the tea understand. We have common goals and common struggles. We support each other. One Mom shared with me that she wouldn’t have made it through her first year of homeschooling without this group!

2. Don’t be afraid to throw out the formal curriculum for a season.

We parents can get so caught up in our children being academically on target that we forget that some of the children came from hard places. They don’t know how to be part of a family and we are more concerned about the fact that they cannot write their name. Practice some life skills and family habits for a while. Read books aloud. Again and Again. Practice sitting at the table for a meal as a family. Talk about what families do together as if it were natural. “See, you can do it, we sit at the table and eat together because we are a family.”

“We do chores together as a family.”

“We play games together as a family.”

3. Don’t be afraid to backtrack.

My eight year old son knew how to read and write when he joined the Guire family. The only problem for him (and me) was in Polish, not English. He had made it clear he wanted nothing to do with his native language and we had to go back to the very beginning. The alphabet. Phonics. And we did. I didn’t want him to be embarrassed, so I made sure he was in the room when the younger kids were covering phonics lessons so he got double duty.

A lot of parents are afraid their child’s education may have gaps if they go back and recover the basics instead of moving forward with the rest of his peers. I say, the child’s gaps will be wider and more noticeable if you don’t backtrack. The truth is, no one knows everything they need to know when they graduate. No one knows everything. There is always room for improvement and education is a life long habit, not a brick and mortar building. It is emotional intelligence, critical thinking and character, not just book learning.

education

4. Don’t try to school like everyone else.

The culture of the United States is sameness, whether we admit it or not. Never has Pete Seeger’s tune, Little Boxes rang true as much as it does today.

“Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same,
There’s a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there’s doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.”

We are all trying to be the same. Just go to the sidelines of your child’s soccer game or swim meet and listen. Watch. Kids are wearing basically the same thing. Moms talk about school projects, work, recipes, shopping or their kid’s progress. We try to measure up and fit it to some sort of agenda we learned on the side lines.

Education has increasingly gone mainstream. No child left behind means teach to the middle of the class while kids at the top and kids with learning delays fall behind. No child left behind cannot work because it doesn’t fit each child’s need for education. We don’t have the resources and manpower in our school system for all of  the children with special needs, learning delays, emotional issues and then there are the kids who knock the IQ tests out of the park. So, why would we bring these kids home and do exactly what the classroom is?

Why would we mimic the classroom for the child with ADHD or a child on the spectrum who cannot hold still? Why would we follow the What Your Child Needs to Know Guide when a six-year-old child missed so many days of school in his former placement that he doesn’t know how to write his name? When he doesn’t know the difference between a letter and a number?

Find out what your child needs. Does he need to learn to be part of a family? Does he need to go back to the basics? Can he read? Can he sort colors? Shapes? Does he know what money looks like?

Homeschooling is not for everyone. I’m not knocking the school system. I come from a family full of hard-working educators. I know some awesome teachers, child psychologists and administrators. If you decide to homeschool your adopted child, it should be based on what he needs, not what other’s expect of you,not what everyone else is doing. Choose the best choice for him long-term and enjoy the journey.

Time for Adoption Talk Link Up!  Join us!

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Five Things Your Adopted Children Would Like to Tell You Part II

Hi, thanks for joining me for the Series “Five Things Your Adopted Children Would Like to Tell You”. If you missed the introduction, you can find it here. Last month, our focus was PLAY and ways to play or use home therapy for free. We’ll have more posts on that in the future, but the theme for the month of June is “Adoption.”

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“I hate you! Why did you adopt me anyway?”

“I can break it I want to, it’s mine! It’s junk anyway!”

“I didn’t eat your candy!”

“That’s stupid!”

This is the voice of a child who cannot self-regulate.

When a brother broke something that belonged to me and then screamed and yelled and struggled through not knowing how to regulate his own responses or manage his own brokenness or recognize his own sin, a family member asked me, “How do you keep forgiving him?”- Audrey (excerpt from Why You Should Break Your Bio Kids’ Heart)

Adoption is messy. Children who are adopted from hard places have trouble verbalizing their feelings. They struggle with self-regulation and want to control everything and everyone around them. Trouble is, if we parents aren’t careful, we end up focusing on the behavior instead of digging deeper to the root of the problem. It’s quick and easy to think the child is misbehaving to get on our last nerve. We tend to think the child wants to make us angry.

The poor choices in behavior speaks what child is unable to state verbally.

2 .I’m not always misbehaving to make you mad. Most of the time it is because I do not have the skill to self-regulate and I maintain my control by keeping you out of control.

Hurt children have a knack for making us adults feel out of control. They do know how to push our buttons. They seem to own a special button locating radar. Once they find the button, they push it mercilessly. And we adults, like puppets on a string flail around, flopping from hot to cold at their will. Rarely, if ever do these kids apologize. If they do, it is we parents have been steam rolled all day.

 If we know our kids can’t self-regulate, how do we parents step out of the ring and become the coach instead of the opponent? 

1. Recognize ” the child feels in control because you are out of control” is a fallacy.

The child who is out of control seeks to control his environment.His desire is to be safe, secure. What he usually gets in return for his behavior is pushed away when what he needs is the opposite.

Believe me, I totally get it. I have been caught in the control trap. I have engaged when I should have walked away. When I step back and think about what is really going on. Raising a hurt child is like living in opposite world. He pushes away when he needs to connect. He controls when he needs to let someone else be in control so he can feel secure. He destroys because he feels worthless.

2. Stop letting the child push your buttons

Hurt children can scope out your buttons like a sniper and he is a great shot. The tough job of the parent is to keep those buttons off.Don’t react. Stay calm and give a consequence.

For example is you watch a video of your child doing flips on the couch (that his sibling recorded) and the child lies and says he didn’t do it (true story gleaned from a friend’s Facebook page), don’t yell because he lied. Maybe jumping on the couch is one of your buttons. Tell him he lied. Don’t ask. Give him a consequence if you think it merits one. Put the pillows back on the couch and vacuum the room.

If the offense is more serious, the kid destroyed the baby swing with a machete. Or broke into the neighbor’s house and stole a jar of coins. Or choked, hit, or _______ another human being. The law in my house is people are more important than things so the harming of a person is the most serious offense. The violation of property is second. When a person is harmed, the consequence must be swift, involve an apology and usually some chores the  offended child was responsible for.If the If your teen becomes destructive and violent and things get out of control, call the police. Don’t be ashamed to do it. It is not you that misbehaved. It is him. Wouldn’t you rather a teen who went on a rampage have a stern talking to and some serious consequences when he is fifteen and under your roof, rather than him continuing ont the path to self-destruction and seriously hurting someone or ending up in jail at eighteen?

The goal is to connect and redirect. The goal is to teach the child how to connect and therefore distinguish the behavior. You have to treat the sickness, not put band aids over the symptoms.

3. Be an in control parent.

Being a in control parent may seem like a repeat of number two,it isn’t. It is a totally separate job. Not letting your child push your buttons is an inward behavior. Being an in control parent is an outward behavior. Being an in control parent means you are the boss. You make the rules. You set the schedule. You are proactive, which is the opposite of reactive. You don’t wait for things to happen. You make sure they do.

A simple example of proactive parenting is shceduling meals. You fix breakfast. You don’t wake up and think the kids are playing nicely, we won’t have breakfast and then wonder why the kids are having a breakdown an hour later. You set a schedule because the hurt child does not recognize his own body’s signal for hunger and thirst. When you meet those needs by providing food and water every two hours, then you quell some meltdowns. You feed the body, hydrate the body so the brain can function properly.

Schedule play. Make it a point to play with your children on purpose. The parent who waits for this to happen with a hurt child may wait a life time. Hurt children need purposeful play to help them connect. (You can read some great articles on play in last month’s posts) Talk therapy usually doesn’t work with hurt children. They can manipulate and lie to the counselor, plus they don’t want to continually rehash their troubled past.

Parenting a hurt child is no easy task. It is a worthwhile one. These children deserve a chance to attach and we parents can give it to them. We must be the more mature one in these scenarios. Helping these kids heal is a full time job. Dr. Karen Purvis refers to it as “investment parenting”. The more time you spend sowing seeds the greater the harvest.

Linking up with these lovely ladies today!adoptiontalkbutton

Answering “Those” Questions

When I was in third grade, the boy who sat behind me poked me, pulled my hair and stapled my fingers. Most of the time I just grinned and bore it because I have a peace-maker personality. Most days. Some days I couldn’t take it anymore and I wanted to say something. Something hurtful laced with wit and a touch of logic. I never did. And I don’t have that instant comeback down-pat. It bothers me the most when it pertains to my children. I hear the insensitive question and I freeze, with my mouth agape. And when I can reply, it doesn’t come out right. It comes out more like an insult than an explanation. I am like Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail.

And I love her response (via email) after her breakthrough:  “And an amazing thing happened. I was able, for the first time in my life to say the exact thing I wanted to say at the exact moment I wanted to say it. And, of course, afterwards, I felt terrible, just as you said I would.”

With that said, I am excited to participate in this blog link up and answer “those” questions from a non-threatened position. I’ll try not to stray into insults and anger, but excuse me (and any adoptive/foster Moms) who do. You see, you may just be making conversation, but some of your questions hurt worse than stapling our fingers to our desks.

1. Which ones are your real kids? (while pointing at my kids)

If I had a penny for every time somebody asked me that, I’d go on a big shopping spree. They are all my real kids.

Adopted is a past tense verb. They were adopted. They are now part of the family.

If you don’t understand the true meaning of adoption, then you don’t understand the Gospel.

 Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love.

For He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will [[b]because it pleased Him and was His kind intent]—Ephesians 1:4,5

We were adopted into the family of God. We are siblings of Christ. We have a heavenly Father who sacrified His Son  for our redemption into His family. Family was the first intention of the universe. We (Gentile) Christians don’t walk around calling ourselves the adopted kids. No, because the spirit bears witness with our spirit, we cry, “ABBA, Father.” Never once when my children and I were out in public did one of them preface my name with “Adoptive,” it is just “Mom” or “Mommy.” They are secure in their identity as my children.

Some would say that my theology doesn’t have anything to do with my reality. I can hear the whispers, “Remember when her kids came ‘home’ to the states, I do. She didn’t birth them.” So, true, but I remember sister, when you came into relationship with Jesus, and what a glorious celebration that was. You are now my sister in Christ. My children are ALL my real children.

Or maybe you are not a Christian and this just sounds like religion to you. Maybe you have a different perspective. Let’s find a definition of adoption we can agree upon.

adopt-to take and rear (the child of other parents) as one’s own child,specifically by a formal legal act. (dictionary.com)

Adoption is a formal act. Once the papers are signed the child is legally part of the family. He was adopted. He is a real part of the family, not some outsider or pretender.

2. Why didn’t you let your children maintain their native language?

I often tell the story of when I laid down the law and made my children stop using Polish because they were only using it for cursing. It was never my intention for them to lose their native language. It was theirs.

At my step-father’s funeral dinner, a Polish priest had approached my newbies and spoke to them in their native tongue. Some of them hid behind me while others ran to cower under a table. I have talked to other parents who have had similar experiences with their internationally adopted children.

“Some parents have sought out native speakers to help their children communicate or feel more comfortable, only to have terrified youngsters on their hands. For some children, hearing their native language or seeing people for their country of origin is frightening. Though familiar, these sights and sounds may remind them of painful times, and some be worried they are about to be sent back.”- Lois Ruskai Melina, Raising Adopted Children

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When my kids got a bit older and had some healing under their belt, I purchased Rosetta Stone and several of my kids plowed through two years of Polish, but it didn’t stick. Truth is, as my son Gregory pointed out to me a few days ago, “I didn’t want to learn it, so I didn’t.” We switched to Greek and Latin studies.

3. What are you doing to maintain their culture? Do you celebrate Polish holidays?

And then the friend launches into a list of festivals coming up in the nearby area. Truth is, my kids didn’t have any of that sort of culture in their childhood. They lived in an orphanage. They didn’t go to museums or restaurants. They didn’t sing folk songs around the campfire. You can read more about that in my post, Take that (adopted) kid away from his culture, please.

One of my sons was talking me through some of this post and he said, “If you ask a stupid question, you’re going to get a stupid answer.” I’m just quoting. He said it, but I thought I would take it a bit further. Bear with me.

I could take my kids to a local orphanage and let them spend the day there. Maybe someone would steal something from them. Just like it was in the good old days. Or maybe, I could feed them smaller amounts of food, so they remember what it was like to be hungry.

I think I just ran down that road I said I wasn’t going down. Sorry. I feel horrible. Not enough to erase everything I just said, just kinda like I got a good right hook in.

As far as heritage, my kids have enjoyed studying the history of Poland and get excited when they see news pertaining their country of birth. We participate in a World Cultures Fair at our homeschool co-op and we have represented the country of Poland twice. It requires research, food prep and my lovely Polish pottery for serving strong coffee. Ania just followed a snapchat event that took place in Warsaw recently. Pretty cool stuff.

Polish pottery

To recap, and to give you a handy cheat sheet with shorter answers because if you ask me these questions in public, my mouth will drop open and I will stare at you blankly. I might just pull  out this cheat sheet.

1.  Which ones are your real kids?

All of them.

2. Why didn’t you let your children maintain their native language?

Their native language triggers some nasty memories and they don’t want to remember it.

3. What are you doing to maintain their culture? Do you celebrate Polish holidays?

They didn’t experience the culture you are thinking of (art, holidays, birthdays, outings). They don’t want to celebrate their culture. They want a new one. They like the new one just fine. 

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Why Go Outside When All the Electrical Outlets are Inside?- for Kids (adopted, foster)

Hi, thanks for joining me. Positive Adoption is focusing on PLAY for the month of May. If you missed some posts, you can start with

Why Go Outside When the Electrical Outlets are Inside?- For Moms

and then check out

Take a Hike, Kid!

Congratulations to Lori Shaffer who won a copy of :cover

My adopted children had their beginnings in a culture where going outside was not only a necessity, it was a daily practice. Their orphanage was two kilometers outside a Sulejow, a small village in Poland. Moms went out and in the middle of December, wrapped babies tightly in blankets and put them in the stroller and set off for daily errands on foot.

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The children in the orphanage returned home from school and ate the main meal of the day about two in the afternoon and then headed outside to play at dusk. The sun set by 3:30, but this didn’t stop the playtime ritual. Outdoor play was the as much the norm in twenty degree weather as it was in warmer temperatures. Going outdoors was a way of life.

The kids went outdoors, but there wasn’t much time for creative play. there was no time to frolic in the woods, to explore a stream or build a fort out of sticks. The play of the orphanage resembled Lord of the Flies on the basketball court. There were no rules and not enough staff to pay attention to everyone or to ensure that every child went outdoors. Fifty-seven kids fought over a few sleds and threw rocks at each other while some children hid inside. The kids had a fear of the woods similar to that of the characters in M. Night Shyamalan’s, the Village. They stayed in the open expanse of the yard behind the orphanage. Both of to-be-Guire boys panicked when Jerry and I suggested a hike in the woods.

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Just being outside does not give a child the creative playtime that they need for optimal development.

Children from hard places (such as an institution or multiple foster homes) need to be introduced to nature in a new way. Fears must be calmed. Kids need to feel safe and they need to learn to play in creative ways.

“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.”-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

Once my new Guires came “home” to the states, fear ruled in erratic ways. I quickly learned my children did not understand the physical laws of nature and therefore could not play safely.

  • fireflies became giant trucks speeding down our meadow at them
  • a whirlwind of leaves became a tomato (tornado) causing hysterics
  • boots and other belongs were thrown in the creek and floated downstream never to be seen again
  • a child rode his brothers bike straight toward the trampoline and almost decapitated himself
  • a child started a forest fire with a stolen lighter and burned an acre of ground

I didn’t have a Rachel Lynde reaction, “Mark my words, Marilla. That’s the kind puts strychnine in the well.”

I didn’t think my kids were reckless deviants who would kill me in my sleep. NO, these were adventure seekers who didn’t get the foundations of nature in their early childhood. Every child naturally desires to explore the expanse of nature.

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So, why take these nature deficient children outside? Why not keep them inside where it is safe and introduce them to some other advantages they had missed, like technology. Gaming, computers, internet, DVDS and not so dangerous occupations? Most importantly, nature has healing and restorative powers. The biggest issue these kids need to overcome is their faulty foundation concerning nature.

Most kids get the foundation of physical laws when they are toddlers. When a tow or three-year old climbs the first branch of a pine tree and fall six or eight inches, she gains a healthy respect for gravity. When a toddler eats a few bites of sand or dirt covered rocks, she sees minerals and elements for what they are, NOT FOOD. When a five year-old wades in the stream and slips on a moss-covered rock, he appreciates and knows intimately what slippery means. He may walk away with a couple of scrapes and some wet clothing. These experiences are priceless and, met with the proper reaction from parents, build a healthy respect and love of the outdoors. When kids are NOT introduced to nature at a young age, (like my adopted kids), there will be misconceptions, fears and bigger or more serious mishaps. See the list above.

Fear should not keep your child from nature, from experimenting with its restorative powers, using all the senses, washing away all their cares, and developing a healthy respect for the laws of nature. It is especially important for hurt children to get outdoors and experience creative play.

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If your child is struggling with nature deficit disorder or has some major misconceptions about nature because he was an institution or busy just trying to survive in multiple placements, start small. Their fears may not seem real to you, but they are real to them. Go outside holding their hand. It may take weeks or months of this before the child feels safe enough to let go (true story). Watch the fireflies with them. Talk about it. Wade in the creek with them. Talk about it. Throw rocks in the river with them. Talk about it. Build a dam in the creek. Talk about it. Throw sticks in the creek and watch them float down stream. Talk about it. Jump over things. Talk about it.

“Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion.”-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

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My Favorite Adoption Books by Category

My Favorite Adoption Books by Category

1. Memoirs

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More about my memoir here. 

memoirYou can read an interview with author Aaron Eske here.

2. Educational- the dog- eared books that I pull out often!

51oBlN+J5SL._SS500_Parenting the Hurt Child

Dr. Karyn Purvis (co-author of The Connected Child) has, by far, the best training program for raising children from hard places. Any parent can learn TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) through the videos series. Another great option is finding an Empowered to Connect conference near you.

3.Favorite Adoption Theology book (also dog-eared)

adopted for Life

“Love of any kind brings risk, and, in a fallen world, brings hurt. Simeon tells our Lord’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that a sword would pierce her heart. That’s true, in some sense for every mother, every father. Even beyond that, every adoption, every orphan, represents a tragedy. someone was killed, someone left, someone was impoverished, or someone was diseased. Wrapped up in each situation is some kind of hurt, and all that accompanies that. That’s the reason there really is no adoption that is not “special needs” adoption; you just might not know on the front end what those special needs are.”- Russell Moore

4. My favorite Adoption Children’s book

Bye Bye Baby

The story of a baby who is sad and sets off one day in search of a mummy. He meets many people and animals who refuse to become his mummy, but offer to help him in his search. They find a lady who has no baby and she agrees to be the baby’s mummy. Then the search begins for a daddy

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