Adult Coloring Books or So I can think

I colored furiously, my crayon going back and forth and way out of the lines. I looked at my neighbor’s perfectly colored picture and broke down in tears. The teacher came back and knelt down next to me. “Kathleen, do you know how to color?” How to color? What? 

I was four years old. I didn’t know there were instructions in how to color. My parents were both educated people with  Masters and Doctorates between them. Our home was full of music, books and lots of discussion. Not much coloring. I had started school early at the finagling of my mama to stay with my sister (and Irish twin) eleven months my senior. My fine motor skills had not caught up with the five and six year olds in my class.

After a quick tutorial on how to color, kind teacher had another student proficient in the art give me a practice session in the hallway. I was amazed. Turns out, it was all about coloring in circles and outlining. I was hooked on coloring.

Fast Forward to adulthood and homeschooling my children:

When I began reading aloud to my children, I discovered a wonderful coloring resource- Dover Coloring books– which range from coloring wild flowers, Shakespeare scenes, history, nature, flags….you name it!


Adult coloring books are all the rage right now!  The Guire family isn’t following suit, but continuing on the path of coloring while we learn. Why should you color? Daughter Ania has been using her adult coloring book while listening to college lectures “so I can think,” she says.

Adult coloring 3

Why should children/adults color while listening to school lessons?

  1. Coloring gives the body something to do while the brain listens and relieves the stress of trying to pay attention.

“A lot of my fellow graduate classmates bring these coloring books into the classroom setting as a tool to focus more on lectures,” Citerella said, explaining that more professors are beginning to welcome this behavior. “For my internship, I find the clients who are fidgeting and cannot sit still ask for coloring the books in order to concentrate on group discussions”- Theresa Citerella, an art therapy student at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. (via The Therapeutic Science of Adult Coloring Books How This Childhood Pastime Helps Adult Relieve Stress)

2.  Coloring, given the right materials, reinforces what the student is learning.

Whatever you are studying, you can find a coloring book that relates to it. Studying the Civil War? Order some Dover coloring books on the subject. My girls love the fashions of the time while the boys appreciated the battle related books. Introducing your children to Shakespeare? Let them color some scenes from the well known plays while you read to them (I suggest starting with Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children for an introduction to plot lines, I read from this to my high school Shakespeare book club before we read the actual play aloud). Here is a great coloring book to accompany the reading: 

Color in a Dover coloring book about the Civil War while reading about it! 

3. You (the teacher) do not have to keep stopping to tell your children/teens to stop fidgeting while you are reading.

If kids are coloring while you read, you probably won’t have to stop and tell them to sit still as often. This ties in with reason number one, but I think it needs its own point. We adults often expect children to sit still for long periods. I can’t. Right now, while typing this, I am getting fidgety. I want to go outside and walk because I have been working in a chair  for far too long. I schedule my days to include many moving around and getting the blood circulating times. Kids don’t know how to verbalize this need so they fidget.

Just a warning- make sure all of your colored pencils are sharpened before you start your lessons or you will be in competition with a pencil sharpener.

*Today The Whole House is giving away an adult coloring book to relieve some of your stress!

How do you enter? It’s simple. Share this post on Facebook and tag TheWholeHouse.  If you don’t do Facebook, just comment on this post to enter. Drawing a name from all who share at 9pm.

Make sure you join us tomorrow for a new series on feminism!

If you have a kid you can’t take anywhere

Do you have kids that you feel like you can’t take anywhere? You have to go some places, like the grocery store or church or the bank, but you dread it. Other optional places, things you enjoyed before you had or adopted That Kid, like the library and restaurants and shopping, you just skip altogether.

Maybe you were expecting it, maybe you knew you were adopting an older kid who might have issues. Maybe it took you by surprise, this strange, hyper child. You just know that once, you were an adult who breezed through errands and now that you have That Kid, you’ve become That Mom– the one whose mouth is set in a grim line, fighting back tears or anger, while this little human that you are responsible for literally sprints away from you to grab fruit out of the produce bins. You can’t leave. You’ve left twice this week already. You have no food at home.

Once, you could meet a friend for coffee but now you drink your coffee cold, in the car, if it hasn’t spilled yet, because the entire restaurant trip was a game of How Many Times Can I Stand on the Seat and Yell About Things I Can See. The one time you went to the library, all the books from an entire shelf were dumped on the floor and he dropped to the ground to scream when you told him he had to whisper.

Clearly, your best option is to have everything you can delivered to the house and give up on friendship until you can drop the kid off at his freshman dorm. Maybe you even have Those Kids instead of just one.

There are many ways to address behavioral problems and today we’re talking about addressing those through play. Whether your child is four or eight, bio or adopted, expectations can heighten frustration for both parent and child. If you have a child who is purposefully and actively being disobedient, that’s another issue– but a kid with sensory issues or traumatic past might honestly have no idea how to go to the grocery store. Last week, I talked about using little toys to work through this with younger kids, but an activity with a wider age range is role play!

For ten minutes today, your bookshelf is the library. Your dinner table, a fancy restaurant. Your dinner prep, a grocery store of cabinets. Your story time, a church pew. You pick the setting. You direct the kids. You clearly and simply narrate what is happening and enforce rules, here at home when redirection or correction isn’t disruptive to others or pointless to an overwhelmed child. Include all your kids and let them model behavior for each other!

Make it fun! Get bags for “library books” and pretend to scan your cards. Make someone the librarian. Use shopping bags for groceries, make a dinner menu for your restaurant and hire a kid or husband as a waiter.

Then stick to the rules. Whisper at your pretend library, stay seated until everyone is finished with dinner, walk with groceries and only pick up items when instructed to.

It’s a game but it’s teaching expectations. It’s working through issues intentionally, rather than waiting until you’re in the moment and helpless. Then, when issues do arise in public, That Kid can be reminded, “Remember, we practiced this. I know this place smells weird to you, but let’s just pretend we’re playing that same game again.”

Playing through situations will feel silly, but the chance for practice and verbal instruction together might open the doorway for conversation that reveal some of the actual motivations behind a child’s behavior. We were just talking here on Sunday about practicing handshakes for church and discussing why our older boys might be reluctant, at church, to shake hands or say hello to others. Adam and I each had theories, but then our oldest just looked at Adam and said, “I don’t shake their hands because I don’t know their names.”

An offered hand at church has led to him squealing, hiding, clinging to our legs, or staring blankly. And he wasn’t being bad– we had no idea that he was trying his best to follow our rules about strangers! People he didn’t know were trying to grab a part of his body and his parents were just standing there– no wonder he had been freaking out! We got a chance to explain the difference between a stranger talking to him or grabbing him, and greeting an adult properly with mom or dad standing next to him. We’ll be practicing handshakes this week, too!

Is there anything you feel like your kids would benefit from “practice” in?


The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The Walrus and the Carpenter, Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll, best known as the author of Alice in Wonderland, was also known for his silly and nonsense poetry. The opening stanzas of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” are one of my favorite examples. It’s immediately silly to almost anyone who understands the English words, or who has had the poem translated for them, because the joke is dependent on understanding basic laws of nature. The sun rises and sets. That’s daytime. The moon or stars come out and it’s dark. That’s nighttime.

If you walk on the edge of a cliff, you might slip and fall. That’s gravity. If you climb a tree too high, you might step on a branch that can’t hold your weight, and it will break. If you jump in a pool without knowing how to swim, you either stand in the shallows or you drown. If you sleep in until eleven in the morning, the sun doesn’t wait for you. If you leave a matchbox car in the driveway where the real cars usually park, it gets crushed.

These are basic rules about the natural, physical world that most people can’t remember not knowing. Do you remember when you learned that gravity worked? Most of us go through the process as babies and toddlers, gaining information by experience and a correctly working grasp of cause and effect.

Unfortunately, for a lot of children with RAD, FAS, or on the autism spectrum, they have only a patchwork understanding of these laws. If they aren’t understood, some kids will make up their own rules in the mental absence. This means a child who is living, walking around, and playing in a world with foundational lies about what will happen to him in the physical world.

If you have a baby or a toddler, your baby is working on learning and understanding these things! And most babies will learn without any formal instruction or therapy if they aren’t dealing with brain or neurological issues.

You know you have a kid who doesn’t have a developed grasp of natural laws if you hear them say things like, “I won’t fall off this cliff [that I’m leaning over precariously], I’m not stupid.” He says this because he has assumed that, rather than gravity being a force outside of him, that he can control some element of the physical world. Of course he knows not to fall. That would be dumb. But all the variables that make other humans naturally cautious around cliffs (loose rocks or moss to slip on, other people walking by, stiff winds, etc.) are unavailable to this child. It’s like living in a world where a kind of precise mental algebra is required with a kid who still thinks he can make 2+2=5 if he just wants it enough.

So, what do you do? What do you do with this kid?

You make him play.


Water play is a great way to start. As an added bonus, if you’ve got a daredevil who doesn’t yet know how to swim, it can be a lot less stressful than going to the pool (although I highly recommend giving kids a chance to learn to swim, from you or someone else).

If you have a little kid or toddler, just bowls of water and cups and spoons on the back deck or in the yard are a great idea. Strip down to a diaper or put them in a bathing suit, expect them to get soaked, and let them go to town. Demonstrate pouring and scooping water.

A slightly older kid is ready for something more advanced. Try making boats out of paper (here’s just one, you can find lots more) and floating them in a bin or the bathtub. If your child ends up a little frustrated at a poorly made boat, talk through it if he’ll let you without resistance, drop it if he’s getting too upset. Either way, that solid wall of frustration he’s hitting (even if he says stuff like, “This is dumb, I hate this,”) is not you failing to educate or entertain, it’s the wall of natural laws and he will have to encounter those, often with frustration, to learn that they are beyond his manipulation or control.

You can do sink or float experiments with a bin or bowl of water and random household items. Use a piece of paper to keep track of what sinks and what floats if you want. Most kids who do this will get really excited by the first thing that surprises them, and then they will want to put everything in. Let them try! Exclude stuff that would be ruined by water unless it’s something you feel like you can replace– even a small paper thing being ruined is a good learning experience. Spoons sink, wood floats, what about spoons with a wooden handle? Keep going for as long as your kids are interested. You might be surprised at what they assume will float or sink– don’t mock them or tease them about it right now. This is true mental process coming to the surface and it will shut down if they feel like it’s making them vulnerable.

If you have an even older kid, wash the car! Scrub the sides of your house! Even if you don’t have a hose, toting buckets of water or bowls of water back and forth between the sink and the outside for washing something will be good. Mixing soap, scrubbing, and rinsing are exposing your kid to scientific processes of muscle and chemical composition that are teaching him something solid about the world around them, about forces he cannot change or redirect. Buckets of water are heavy and the only solution to one that is too heavy is to dump some of the water out.

Repeated exposure to processes and experiences like this are laying new foundational work in the brain. It will need to be repeated if you have a child with neurological issues or delays. This path has to be walked so often that, by use, it begins to take over and replace the old paths of understanding. And if you don’t have a child with delays or issues, this kind of play still stimulates and encourages a kind of mental work and creativity that will spill over into their understanding and other play.

So, grab some towels or catch a sunny day, turn on some faucets, and get ready to get soaked!

P.S. Just as an FYI, I’m not a personal fan of sensory projects. I hate being wet, for one thing. I’m not the biggest fan of being dirty. But you don’t have to be a parent that loves these things to still do them and engage in them for your kids! If this isn’t your favorite thing, don’t skip it because it’s not your thing– try it once in a while to see what your kid thinks! And just be okay with not liking it much, just like you do about taking them to get shots or making dinner. You already do necessary things without loving the activity, because you love your kids and know that it’s good for them!

Why I didn’t send my internationally adopted children to counseling fresh off the plane


In the book Solomon Says, a young girl named Tracy is removed from the home for sexual abuse at the hands of her father. She is labeled ‘sexual abuse’.  Tracy says of a foster home she liked,

“The only problem was they put me in a sexual abuse program. We had to drive about sixty miles every Monday to get there. And I was feeling, ‘Why am I getting punished for this crap?” They’re preaching at me all the time about how this isn’t my fault. That’s what bothered me. They’re all saying, ‘This isn’t your fault.’ And I’m —‘Fine, I think I got that point now, I know that.’ Every time I said anything, ‘This isn’t your fault.’ ‘GOD, i know. Would you just tell me something besides that all the time?'”


  1. Adopted children need time to feel secure.

Kids don’t need to feel like there is something wrong with them. Many of them already feel that way because of past abuse and neglect.

My kids were fresh out of the orphanage where they had spent the better part of two years. For the youngest minus the five months in the hospital it had been his whole life. There was a natural therapy going on. It was a new set of suppositions. We will eat meals regularly. There will be food available all the time. Mom will bathe me. I have clothes to wear. Mom and dad are in charge. They read me stories and tuck me in. The kids didn’t need anyone to tell them that orphanage style living wasn’t the highest on the food chain. They knew it. Instinctively. They didn’t want to go back there. The children wanted roots. Stability. Yes, survival mode reared its ugly head daily. Regressions came and went. Triggers sent kids off the deep end. But, here’s the thing- my kids were raised by ‘social workers’, doctors, etc, professionals were high on the fear factor list for my children. The last thing they needed fresh off the plane was to be embedded once again in the social system. No, they needed time to be part of a family with a mom and a dad. Those wounds were fresh and they needed the salve of security not probing questions to open them up again.Kids don’t need to feel like there is something wrong with them. Many of them already feel that way because of past abuse and neglect.

  1. Counseling is good. However, it is not good for everyone, all the time.. There is a time and place for everything.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:

2 A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted,(A)

3 A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, Ecclesiates 3

My face went numb. My arms tingled. I looked in the mirror at my scarlet blotched neck and splashed water on my face.I was at  high school at a basketball game with friends. My parents were bowling nearby and I got stuffed into an ambulance while authorities tried to get in touch with them. (No cell phones). And then asked questions about my drug use. I didn’t use drugs. I didn’t drink. I was having a panic attack, my first.

My first counseling session was during my freshman year of college. Panic attacks reappeared. Mom put her foot down. I only went once. My face red with shame. Anxiety ruled the session. I wasn’t ready to face what ate at me. I needed time and maturity before I was. So I took my proverbial shovel and buried it. During the college years, I had several healing baby steps. And some relapses- a bout with an eating disorder and a few more panic attacks.

15855532426_bef22c648a_oCounseling is great at the proper time. When someone needs help and asks for it. Recognizes the need. I didn’t recognize my need, not yet. I only recognized the problem which I thought (as many hurt children do) was me. It never occurred to me that it was circumstances that had happened to me.Thankfully, God, in His omniscience, knew my suppositions and he put me in a group of gals who had a hunger for the Word and prayer. We dug deep into the Word together, talking and counseling each other for hours on end. That intense time was another chapter in my healing journey. I had begun to believe that all I needed to heal was God, me and some friends (which is true sometimes). But, God shot that belief out of the sky. I ordered a book Healing is a Choice: 10 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and 10 Lies That Can Prevent You from Making Them after a friend suggest it. The first lie? “All I need to Heal is God and me.” I threw the book across the room.

“You are willing to acknowledge that there is something that needs attention. You admit there is smoke, but you balk at the notion of fire. You admit to something, but deny that it needs attention from others. Rather than stay isolated inside your own solitary cave, you hole up there with God, expecting God to meet every need and heal every pain. It does not happen, because that is not God’s plan. God’s plan is for us to connect with each other to facilitate healing in our lives.”

I didn’t want this to be true. I wanted to work it out with God in my own home. I didn’t want to open up, to be vulnerable. Problem is, I stuffed until there was no room left in body, soul and mind. Then fear. Anxiety ruled. I didn’t want to drive. I didn’t want to leave the house. When I brought up memories with siblings, theirs were different or they were still so deep in denial they couldn’t relate. So, I made the call, hand shaking, sweat pouring, clenched hands, shallow breath. If you are not sure if you need to see a therapist check out this post by Marty Walden here.

Wait, you say, I thought this was an anti counseling post? No, it is when the time is right, therapy is good. It is good to have someone to walk beside you on the healing journey, not to be dragged along kicking and screaming the whole way. Then it does more damage than good. Healing is only healing if the wounded is ready.The woman with the issue of blood had to find Jesus and touch Him. She went out of her way. She wanted to be healed (Matthew 9:20-22). Two blind men followed Jesus ‘shouting loudly, Have pity and mercy on us, Son of David’ (Matthew 9:27) .  Often we adoptive parents must cover our wounds and parent while we watch our children suffer with their own. They lash out at us verbally knifing those scars of ours, but they don’t see, they don’t recognize their need. So we wait. As I said, two of my children went to the same therapist i currently go to. As teens, they were ready. Also, they are bios. The children who were adopted may take longer to recognize the need. Be patient. Don’t push. Another option, get some counseling for them. By that I mean go to a counselor in lieu of them going and then quietly  put into practice what you learned for them.

This is not a therapy bash. I had a steep learning curve when it came to counseling outside of my own comfy home or safe in the confines of the church pew. God can use your friends. He can use the Word, but, if you, like me think you can do it alone, He may challenge that. At the same time, remember your adopted children may not be ready or willing to relive the trauma just yet. Therapy at the wrong time can cause more trauma. A child with a shame based nature needs some time to attach to parents and become secure before he examines the chapters of his former life. When he realizes the first few chapters are getting in the way of his right now, he is ready. But, he must come to you in one way or another, grab the hem of your t-shirt or yell loudly in the street,’ I NEED SOME HELP HERE!’


*I use the therms counseling and therapy interchangeably in this post! Both have the same goal. Therapy is from the term Psychotherapy which means a long term approach to healing and a doctorate behind the name. Counseling has the same goal and usually denotes a master’s degree in counseling. Both are effective.