Upside Down: A book review

July 14th, 2017

If I could recommend one book to every person who’s close to an adoptive family, this would be that book.

What might attachment problems look like in real life?  What’s behind the counter-intuitive parenting strategies and boundaries adoptive families might set in place around their adopted child?  Shannon Guerra answers these and other questions in her recent book, Upside Down: Understanding and Supporting Attachment in Adoptive Families.  Guerra has a forthright, wryly humorous writing style and includes plenty of quotes from other adoptive parents.

This book hits close to home for me.  I was intrigued by the subject material and requested a free copy in exchange for an honest review. The author and I each have a child who spent those crucial early years in the same infamous orphanage in Pleven, Bulgaria.  Infamous, that is, for depriving its inmates of nearly everything a human being needs to thrive.  Our children were hardwired to relate to other people in pathological ways in order to survive.  Turns out, there’s no simple fix for some kinds of broken.  Progress toward a solid, healthy child-parent bond can be exceedingly slow. “Like watching hair grow,” the author wrote to me.  Every centimeter of ground is hard won and easily lost.

Weighty, scholarly volumes have been and will be written by experts about all aspects of attachment in adoption.  Thing is, most of us will never read those.  Guerra’s book covers the essentials in seventy-five readable pages.

To the adoptive parent, Upside Down says, “You’re not alone.  We’re in this together.”

To the onlooker, the book says, “Here’s the problem; here’s how you can help.”

Do you know an adoptive family who’s dealing with attachment issues?  Do you want to be part of the solution rather than contributing to the problem?  Upside Down.  Buy it.  Read it.  Pass it on.



Spring into summer

July 10th, 2017

Daniel and Laura birthday-gifted Jane a set of window boxes for her room–Laura funded them, and Daniel built and installed them. Jane planted one with edibles, such as miniature cherry tomato and pepper plants and herbs, one with shade plants, and this one with succulents.  We’re making tentative plans to plant a small vegetable garden next year and put Jane in charge.  She’d be happiest with a small farm, tending plants and animals, but we haven’t been able to manage a garden since before Katie came home in 2011.




Verity has a newfound love of playing games and helping with chores.  Here she is cheering for herself after folding and sorting her own clean laundry, shirts, pants, and pajamas.




She loves to wipe down everything within her reach in the kitchen with a Norwex kitchen cloth.  She does a pretty good job, too, with reminders to stay on track and be thorough.




She doesn’t have the propensity for negative self-talk that many of us struggle with.  Haha!  Here she is cheering for herself again!




Wow, seems like yesterday I took the next two photos.  We started our new school year a week ago, and I am again passionately loving BiblioPlan history which I do every afternoon with the four boys (and Josie, until she goes back to school)!  Right now, any day I get to teach history to the children is a very good day!




Ironic that a few feet away from that blackboard, these two guys were hard at work catching up on their English!  They need a good bit of help and supervision with it, so they come join me wherever I am working.


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Because my skin has become extremely sensitive to chemicals in our environment, I began making some of my own personal care products.  A good friend of mine was opening a brick-and-mortar gift shop in a nearby town and asked me to make my solid lotion bars to sell in her shop, Pebbles and Lace.  I use organic ingredients and pure essential oils.  They have become one of her three top-selling items. So, can you believe it?  For a few hours a month, I’m an artisan with a microscopically-small home business!  Creating lovely things is therapeutic, and I’m enjoying it immensely.




With the help of the four boys, I finally conquered the new basement.  Not the prettiest room, but are we ever grateful for the indoor play space!  I still have long-term (very long-term!) plans to paint the concrete walls and hang fabric to cover the rock walls.


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In May, I was able to go to Longwood Gardens for a day with my very dear friend Jennifer.   The beauty and peace of that day soaked into us and rested and renewed our souls!  I guarantee you that neither one of us would have beamed so peacefully for the photo at the beginning of that particular day!  This was taken right before we left the gardens.




On this evening, I just had these five children at home.  They are treasures to my heart.




Sweet little people.  But don’t tell Stephen I said that.  Haha!




This is Katie, proud of herself for being a big helper and handing me only *one* item at a time.  Go, Katie!





Girls’ Night was haircuts and the best burgers in town!  Those are fried green tomatoes on Josie’s burger and it was served with spicy bam-bam sauce on the side.  Her choice and she loved it!




Speaking of beauty, this corner feeds my soul by its presence in my room, although I’ve only managed to have a friend for tea twice this year so far!




The children crammed so much fun adventure into the few weeks between family vacation and Laura beginning her full time job.  I miss her like I would miss my right arm if it left me; we’ve cleared the calendar as much as humanly possible and are finding our balance in our new normal.  The children loved introducing Josie to one of their favorite spots, Sam Lewis State Park, and Josie did a fabulous job with her first experience at rock-climbing!








Verity has the birthday thing mastered now, at the great age of seven years old!





Here she is trying to be patient until it’s time to open her birthday presents!  (Every time she opened one, she looked it over, laid it aside and said, “Next one!”  Ha!)  These seven years of Verity have been one of the very best gifts God has ever given our family!  We’ve enrolled her in first grade in our local school this year and are excited to see her begin this new adventure!  We finally feel like she’s READY.




On this day, I found out less than forty-five minutes before leaving the house for an extended appointment with one of the boys that our helper wouldn’t be available to babysit, so I took all nine youngest children with me.  Now, that’s nothing for some of you power mamas out there, but with many older children here I’d never had to do that before.  The children did a super job!  I was so proud of them, especially considering I’d had no time to feed them beforehand and the appointment went well past lunchtime!  It was a gorgeous day, so we stopped for food afterward and went to our favorite park and had a blast!  Josie said, “See, Mama, it turned out to be a fun adventure!”  (That doesn’t mean I want to make a habit of it, for sure!)

For some reason, all nine children congregated on this one piece of play equipment this time.










Of course, being us, we had to throw a bit more excitement in there.  Sure enough, after getting all nine children loaded up, I found the van battery had died, so we unloaded and fit in some more fun while we waited for Joe to come to the rescue!  (And how about pizza for supper tonight, dear?)  Neat thing was that while we were waiting, a woman and her two children stopped by the park, and she recognized me from this blog.  She’s a missionary and adoptive mom in Eastern Europe who’s home on furlough and just stopped in at the park half an hour before we finally left for home.




A thunderstorm arises just as we finally get all the children into their swim suits?  Let them play in the rain instead of the pool!

And that’s how we roll around here.  We quit waiting for perfect a long time ago and just get as much fun as we can out of where we are right now.  Hope this post brought a smile to your face wherever you are right now!



For whatever may lie ahead

June 15th, 2017

Recently, our family stayed at a state park in this lodge…




On this lake.




We swam in the lake…




Went boating several times…







Went on lots of long hikes…




Or walks, if one didn’t happen to be a hiker…











Or ran…


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And ran…




And ran some more…




Or jumped…




Or sat down to contemplate a dandelion, as the case may be…




Some of us wore flowers in our hair, but only if we were one of the wee faerie folk…




Speaking of wee faerie folk…




We made tasty meals in large quantities…




And ate well…


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From the left, Dad, Mom, Mindy, Daniel, Laura, Jane, Josie, John Michael, Peter, James, Stephen, Verity, Benjamin (Katie and Nathaniel had other drinking arrangements, as did Joseph and Lindsay while they were with us; Joshua had to stay home and work)




Played lots of games…




From morning…




Until far into the traditionally Jelly-Belly-accompanied night…




Read aloud to children…

[This little gem is “Rain in the Woods and Other Small Matters,” by Glen Rounds.  We read outdoors until we got to the part about the soft, spring rain, at which point a soft, spring rain chased us indoors.]




[Charming childhood favorite, “Mr. Apple’s Family,” by Jean McDevitt]




Or read to oneself, off in a quiet place…forest-scented…aaaahhhhh




Played with small, cute persons…


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Set off with maps for unaccompanied adventures…




Slept and napped like babies…




Visited a couple of museums…




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And a historical site…








And were generally very happy and carefree…




…for almost two weeks.


The Best:  Being together far from home responsibilities and pressures, with very sketchy internet and cell reception, in the beautiful world God made, until we were rested to the very bone.


“Will we ever get to come back here to stay again?” asked Josie.


Our reservation is already on the 2018 calendar.


The end.