Boxing Kids In

christina katerinaNobody likes to be boxed in. But in Christina Katerina & The Box by Patricia Lee Gauch, a box becomes an invitation to rocket into the stratosphere of a child’s imagination. Although originally published in 1971, the story is fresh and timely. Christina Katerina, the heroine of the story is no shrinking violet awaiting a Prince Charming to save her. She’s a spunky and imaginative character who turns a lonely summer day into the beginning of a marvelous adventure.

Christina Katerina salvages an immense refrigerator box. Much to her mother’s chagrin, Christina parks it under the apple tree on her front lawn. Of course, this is no ordinary box. Through Christina’s eyes it transforms from one marvelous interpretation to another. With initial help from her dad and lots of her own effort she keeps reinventing the deteriorating box. She’s an optimistic, self-determined child who presents a marvelous model of resilience and for making one’s own fun.

Casey uses this book in her second grade classroom. It is so popular, she has to replace it periodically! Christina captivates her students and supercharges their own creative juices.  Christina Katerina & The Box    starstarstarstarstar

magnifying lens AQ.2

AQ lens: Adopted children benefit from opportunities to reassemble disappointment and hard facts into a whole which they not only understand and accept, but also allows them to flourish.

This charming story depicts a light-hearted model for that kind of resilience and optimism. Christina Katerina is a girl that likes to make her own choices, create her own solutions and use her abilities to problem solve.

Since control tends to be a guiding issue for many adoptees, they will find Christina to be a character with whom they like to identify. Christina is the driving force behind the story. Without the intervention or prompting of adults, she reinvents the box each time and does it with verve, confidence and spunk!



Not A BoxA similar story, Not A Box written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis  won a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award. This time, the main character is a rabbit who carries a box with him everywhere. When asked why he is toting, squirting, standing atop, wearing, etc the box, he insists that, “It’s not a box!” The simple illustrations answer the question and reveal the rabbit’s vivid imagination. The spare prose allows the wonderful illustrations to carry much of the story.

Like Christina Katerina & The BoxNot A Box fuels the reader’s creativity. The simple illustration style of both books will encourage children in their own artistic endeavors because the message of the story is clear: sometimes only the mind’s eye can truly appreciate the hidden beauty and value of things.     Not A Box      starstarstarstarstar

magnifying lens AQ.2


AQ Lens: The appeal to adopted children is similar between  Not A Box and Christina Katerina & The BoxSince Not A Box features a rabbit as the main character, this story may have greater appeal to children of of color or other cultures. It is also much shorter so it offers a good choice for those with more limited attentioin. 





boxes for KatjeBoxes for Katje by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen offers a more serious view of “the power of the box.” Based on the post World War II childhood experience of  Fleming’s mother, the story tells of the terrible hardships faced by the Dutch. They lacked the basics: food, clothing, shelter, blankets, etc. Americans organized a relief effort which delivered small boxes filled with some of the items which the Dutch people needed so badly.

The father of the family who receives  the relief box writes back to Rosie. In his thank you note, he describes how grateful they were to receive it. Plus, he mentions that they shared the contents of her box with others in his village. Despite their own desperation, Katje’s family still found it in their hearts to share their windfall with others.  What an awesome example of generosity, of giving from one’s basics and not waiting for one’s surplus.The father also begs for some food for their baby.

His letter begins an exchange between the young American girl and the desperate Dutch family. Rosie is moved by the Dutch father’s plea. She sends another box to Holland. Again, Katje’s family acknowledges the packages and tells how  they shared it with their neighbors. Rosie continues to send packages. She also shares Katje’s letters with her own friends and family. Now many people contribute to the boxes which become larger and larger. More Dutch people receive help. The story concludes with the Dutch people expressing their gratitude with the one thing available to them: tulip bulbs.

These lessons in sharing will not be lost on young readers. The story offers a clear example of how a child can make a significant difference in other people’s lives. Boxes for Katje  provides a lovely chance to entice children into empathy and action.     Boxes for Katje     starstarstarstarstar

magnifying lens AQ.2

AQ Lens: Adopted children must balance additional challenges in their journey through life. Grief loss and anger are familiar emotions. A story like Boxes for Katje offers a powerful peek into the difficult lives of other children. It makes a great chance to learn how these families faced and overcome their own challenges.

Empathy is an emotion which must be cultivated. This story can be a useful tool in a family’s overall strategy for nurturing emotional literacy in children. It also depicts children being empowered to act, create solutions and make a difference–another very important skill for kids to master.

Decoding the Puzzle: Social Interaction, Personal Space and Appropriate Conversations

Social cues puzzleMastering the subtle, non-verbal social cues is a daunting task. For kids with a less than smooth start in life, often this skill is poorly developed or is overwhelmed by hyper-vigilance. Unless children are taught how to read the “secret” messages of body language, some kids will never learn it. This will leave them confused and often can lead to social isolation.
When they don’t speak the language of behavioral cues children remain on the outside of the emotional/social conversation. The subtle hints other kids give may quickly become far less kind and patient and become mean and lead to bullying. A growing gap will arise.

Without adequate social skills, a child will struggle to mirror the emotional states of others and may respond inappropriately to the overtures of other children and adults. Instead of feeling “mirrored” they may misinterpret other people’s responses and feel mocked and unsupported. Even worse, they may feel threatened which might trigger a complete meltdown, and/or a flight/flight/freeze response. How can you assist your child in mastering the complex task of emotional literacy and the language of social cues?


Personal Space CampOne excellent resource is a marvelous book by Julia Cook titled, “Personal Space Camp.” With a deft sense of humor and zany illustrations by Carrie Hartman, this book tackles the complicated concept of personal space. Louis, the confused main character loves the world of outer space. But when it comes to personal boundaries, Louis is clueless. His frustrated teacher arranges for him to attend “Personal Space Camp.” This thrills Louis. He is surprised to learn that he will not be an astronaut exploring.

Louis is, however, entering unexplored territory: the world of personal space boundaries. “Personal Space Camp” is entertaining and informative without being preachy. It conveys important information that will assist kids that lack an understanding of social cues.


I Can't BelieveJulia Cook has written several other books that delve into the confusing world of social cues and interaction. One that is also quite helpful is, “I Can’t Believe You Said That.” (Illustrated by Kelsey De Weerd, it features multicultural characters.) The story helps kids discern the difference between saying something true:  ”You are fat,” versus something that is appropriate: “You are a good cook.”

Photo © Ilike –

I wrote this article for Growing Intentional Families Together ( ) and have modified it slightly for this blog.

Authors Support National Adoption Month

National Adoption.AllYear-WidgetLandscapeNovember is National Adoption Month. This year the emphasis focuses on sustaining sibling connections for youth in foster care and awaiting adoption. “Every November, a Presidential Proclamation launches activities and celebrations to help build awareness of adoption throughout the nation. Thousands of community organizations arrange and host programs, events, and activities to share positive adoption stories, challenge the myths, and draw attention to the thousands of children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families.” (U.S.Dept. of Health & Human Services) 


2014-10-13 16.29.23 It is appropriate that we celebrate National Adoption Month during this season of Thanksgiving. As parents, we have been entrusted with the privilege to raise children born to other women. We love and nurture them with an awareness that our greatest joy: their presence in our families–began in significant loss for them. This year while giving thanks for your many blessings, remember the birth parents who made such a commitment of faith in us. Continue your education as high AQ–Adoption-attuned–families. Deepen your understanding of the unique needs that adoption creates in a family. Live and love with an eye to the joy of the present moment and a heart filled with empathy, kindness and respect. Books offer a great resource to adoptive families for strategies, a sense of community or a great read for the children. These authors write about the journey that is adoption and as a National Adoption Month Special, the kindle versions will be available for $.99. We invite you to explore these books. (Excerpts are from Amazon)

Expand your adoption library and do it at a bargain price. After you read these books, post your reviews on Amazon and let other families know what you thought.


ABC cover with badges

Gayle Swift – ABC, Adoption and Me

Named a Favorite Read of 2013 by Adoptive Families, (the award-winning national adoption magazine.) Named a Notable Picture Book for 2013 by Shelf Unbound in their Dec/Jan 2014 issue; Honorable Mention – Gittle List of 2014; Finalist; IPNE 2014 Book Awards , Honorable Mention 2014 Purple Dragonfly Book Award 
 A child’s review: “Most adoption books only talk about the good part of adoption. ABC shows adoption from the kid’s side.” ABC, Adoption & Me expresses their complicated feelings in a way that makes them feel normal and which makes it easy for them to discuss with their families.  Includes a parent guide. ABC, Adoption & Me celebrates the blessing of family and addresses the difficult issues as well. Exuberant, multicultural illustrations depict a wide range of families

Nat Adopt promo.DyerJody Dyer – The Eye of Adoption
“No one just adopts.” From the very first steps of acknowledging adoption as a choice to the final document that seals the deal, Jody Cantrell Dyer paints a raw, warm, heartbreaking and eventually triumphant portrayal that narrates the entire adoption process through compassionate and humorous prose. Dyer’s candor and soul color each page of The Eye of Adoption. She directly addresses the sorrows of infertility and the demands of adoption while consistently word-weaving a life rope of assurance, humor, and optimism for her readers. A middle-aged wife, mother, and teacher, Dyer “tells it like it is” in hopes that waiting adoptive parents, birthparents, adoptees, and those close to them will find kinship through her story.”

Nat Adopt promo.Tim ElderTim Elder – 7 Steps to Domestic Infant Adoption
This take-action resource guide will save you TIME & MONEY as it shows you what it takes to go through the domestic infant adoption process. It is packed full of over 100 links, tips, articles, and my personal adoption stories. 
My name is Tim Elder – I’m an adoptive dad. I’ve been in your shoes. My wife and I went through a miscarriage and years of infertility before we adopted our children. We were blessed to adopt them as newborns – one in 2007 and one in 2012. After going through the domestic infant adoption journey twice, I have a strong desire to help others – like you – get through it so I created this guide to help you.

Nat Adopt promo.deanna Kahler     Deanna Kahler – From Pain to Parenthood
Follow one woman’s incredible and heartfelt journey from the pain of miscarriages to the joy of becoming a parent through adoption. Witness the many struggles that can permeate your life in the aftermath of pregnancy loss. Take a glimpse at the overwhelming desire some women have to become a mother. Celebrate the joy of overcoming adversity and achieving your dreams. Filled with honest, raw emotions and helpful coping tips, “From Pain to Parenthood” promises to touch your life with a real story that shows the power of the human spirit and the beauty of a mother’s love.

Finalist, 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Parenting/Family

Nat Adopt promo. Debbie MichaelDebbie Michael – But the Greatest of These is Love
On a March evening in 2000, an unexpected and unsettling thought came out of nowhere, disrupting Debbie Michael’s comfortable life—adoption! It was neither her idea nor her desire to adopt; she was already the mother of three. Instinctively, she knew God was speaking to her, but she did not want to listen if His message required action as life-changing as adopting an orphan. Dread lingered in the aftermath of the disturbing suggestion, and a debilitating fog of uncertainty settled over her life. A journey of a thousand miles (or five thousand, in this case) might begin with a single step, but Debbie was not eager to take that first step. Though God was relentless, she remained adamant. She was determined to ignore the nudging. But God would not be ignored! God pried Debbie out of her comfortable existence and opened a door to a life she didn’t know existed. But the Greatest of These is Love is about much more than adoption. It is a story about the powerful and astonishing ways God uses ordinary people to accomplish His divine intention that we love one another.

Nat Adopt promo.Kristen NicoleKristen Nicole – Our Road to Family
“My husband and I are adopting. Does anyone know what that means?” There was more than one answer to that question for Kristen and Dan, and this remarkable story takes you through their adoption journey from beginning to end. From fertility issues to two successful adoptions, Kristen eloquently sheds new light on each step of the adoption process. With an inviting and friendly style of prose, she guides readers through the heartache of having to let a child go and onto the joy of holding her child for the very first time. An honest portrayal of a different road to parenthood, this story affirms the real blessing that adoption can be.

10 Awesome Reasons for Reading As a Family


Afro-American family reading a book in the living-room

10. Children learn language from hearing it spoken. Seems rather obvious, but this doesn’t make it any less true. The more words children hear, the more they know and understand. Changes in pace, inflection and tone help to set words apart so children can hear and understand them more efficiently.


9. Reading often means reading repeatedly. Again, this helps to reinforce and accelerate learning and comprehension. This is an essential foundation for literacy, an important life skill.


8. When you spend time reading together, kids learn that you value reading. This sets a great model for them to follow and lays the groundwork for a lifetime reading habit.


7. Your reading selections will reveal and teach your values. Choose stories that enlarge your child’s understanding of his world and his importance in it.


6. Read stories that show children facing a variety of situations and reveal many different solutions. This will expand your children’s problem solving skills, will encourage a willingness to risk failure and learn his way to success and mastery.


5. Share stories that reveal the depth of his cultural heritage as well as that of other people. Find stories that depict images that allow him to see himself reflected in the pictures as well as the content. This will enhance his understanding of his roots, his family, and himself.


4. Expose your child to stories that explore many cultures from around the world. Help him to grow into an empathetic, caring global citizen.


3. Read for fun. Find books that entertain and tickle the funny bone. It is essential to spend time having fun as a family and good books is one great way to do that.

2. Your time and attention are an essential priority to your children. When you interrupt your “To Do” list to share a book with your child, they get a clear message that they are important to you.


Drum roll please. And the TOP reason for reading together as a family is …


1. A good book shared in a parent’s lap creates a sensory memory—of being close, connected, and shared experiences. Relationships and attachment are strengthened in these shared, pleasant moments. They are the building blocks of family life, of a family’s history together. Positive experiences build resilience and help to rset the negative hits of daily challenges. Read, laugh and love as a family.






Sharing Wishes Opens a Window to a Child’s Heart

wish by LevensSome people collect stamps, some people collect coins. I collect books. I believe in books. I turn to them for entertainment, for information, for comfort and for community. As an author, I view books as my channel for touching reader’s hearts and lives. As an adoptive parent and adoption coach, I search for books that enrich and nurture adoptive families.

Recently I learned of a picture book gem—Wish: Wishing Traditions around the World by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Elisa Kleven. While this lovely book has no direct adoption themes, it is still a delightful resource for adoptive families. The multimedia illustrations are a treasure. Rich in detail, children will pore over them with pleasure not only for their intricate beauty, but also to find the hidden treasures that Kleven has incorporated into the illustrations.

The theme of the book—wishing—resonates with readers, adults, and children alike. The international flavor that infuses the books is an added bonus. Roseann Thong has selected a fascinating array of unique traditions from around the globe. These easily lend themselves to enrichment experiences based on the tradition described in the home or classroom. Some of the wishing traditions offer an irresistible urge to perform. Talk about the various things children around the world wish for. Ask children to imagine what it would be like to yearn for that wish. Ask them to consider being that child and discuss the feelings and ideas that the wish evokes. This is a great way to raise awareness of the differences between American standards of living and that of other countries and to assist them in developing empathy.

I love books that have layers of experience for young readers. Wish is certainly one of these books. It will expand a child’s view of the world. And, as adults ask children to share their personal wishes, a wonderful window opens—the child reveals the secret yearnings of their hearts’ dreams. Wish offers an opportunity for some intimate and honest sharing—the kind of connection all families–especially adoptive families–want to nurture and cherish. The exquisitely detailed multi-media illustrations are a wonderful metaphor for the complexities of a family; each element contributes to the beauty of the whole. Wish is a quality addition to a family’s multicultural library and will contribute to a child’s ability to see himself as a global citizen, a member of an increasingly interconnected and interdependent and diverse world.

Books Open Hearts, Minds and Doors

Child Book Week collageBooks deliver high adventure, help inform and educate, entertain and encourage and they can create community and healing. A good story talks directly to the heart and becomes a part of the reader. Casey and I believe that ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture Book for Adoptive Families is that kind of special book. Adopted kid and adult adoptees report that ABC, Adoption & Me captured their thoughts and feelings about being adopted. To celebrate Children’s Book Week, we are participating in a great book giveaway. Enter for your chance to win a paperback copy of ABC, Adoption & Me. We ship only to the US and Canada.

Good luck and good reading!


winner is...



a Rafflecopter giveaway

“Renee” <>”Renee” <>

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…