Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Our family wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! This past week has been one that we have taken to reflect on what blessings we have been a part of and those that we have been able to witness. The picture above is one that I wish was a little clearer. There are all of the kids' stockings and our tree in the family room. The nutcrackers on the mantle are ones that my Grandmother gave to each of the great-grandchildren. Those nutcrackers remind me every year how blessed we are to have so many of our grandparents that have taken a role in shaping our own lives. 

Sunday was the choir's Christmas performance. Our kids were part of the children's choir. Here are a couple of pictures from Sunday evening. Kyle is the tallest one on the left and Rebecca is sitting on the chair to the left. 
This picture below has two of my other kiddos. Ben is standing on the far left and Micah is directly behind the chair to the left with his arms resting on the back of that chair. I'm happy that our children love to serve!
     Mariah also enjoyed the program! Of course, she has her snack of juice.
                          I took a far away picture of the entire group!
Becca enjoys just grabbing our camera and snapping a picture of something funny or cute that Mariah is caught doing. Here they were pretending to sleep. Mariah is a thumb sucker but you will only see that when she is sleeping. Also shown is Mariah's beloved Minnie Mouse!
Here is Mariah's first experience with snow! She wasn't sure what it was, so she investigated slowly.
Okay! Now come on over to Mamma! 
Almost there! You are fine.
There is my happy girl!
Jeremy took the older kids out on Saturday afternoon and Mariah and I decided it was finally time to bake some cookies! 
So here is the confession. She took the measuring spoons and licked them. Then proceeded to dip them into the sugar in the mixing bowl. 
She really did "help".
Then she took her nap while I mixed the next batch of Peanut Blossoms. She slept the entire time I baked. Here was the end result! Yes, I'm impressed with my own photography! I cannot believe our camera did such a nice job.
Of course it was Christmas Sunday at church. My girls were so excited to wear their dresses. They were not the same but as close as I could find. They both loved the white fur. Our family picture is at the top of this post. The picture below is a little bit of a devilish grin!
Mariah seemed to make friends with the Wise Men standing with the grouping of trees here at church. She had just kissed them in this picture.
We got a quick picture of our five kids after we got home from church. Our older boys insisted on wearing their suits today to church. Ben terribly wants a suit but has outgrown his. He is between sizes now. The size 8 is too small and the size 10 is huge. So, we picked a red sweater. And yes, he is being silly.
Do we have a busy life? YES!!! Do we have to change our schedules because Mariah is not ready for things yet? Yes. We have all made sacrifices. But I think if you ask my older kids, they do not think of the changes as sacrifices. They are merely changes in our lives to help Mariah adjust. Would we choose to adopt again? We are waiting to hear what God whispers to us. If this is the final number of our family we are fine with that. Are we willing to adopt again? ABSOLUTELY!!!! 

There are so many orphans in this world in desperate need of a family. They have no one to hold them when their fingers get pinched in a door (like what happened when we were leaving church today). They have no one to pick them up off of the floor when they fall out of their crib after balancing on their tummy on the side rail. That also happened to Mariah this past week. The thing is, I think Jeremy raising his voice at her gymnastics is what actually sent her over the edge. Neither of us could get to her fast enough. Unfortunately, we have a hardwood floor in our bedroom. I think she was more scared than hurt. You see, when we first got home and for weeks later, Mariah would never think of even standing in her crib. She acted as though  she was in shock and would only sit and lie down. What a blessing to watch this former orphan blossom into the child we love! What she doesn't know is, we loved her when she was an orphan! She is now a Kaminski!!

I will end with a link to the video that Jeremy made for Mariah. It comes with a warning that you should have a tissue ready while you watch. I cannot imagine if we had chosen to stop the process because it got tough a few times. Our older four children have such a burden for orphans as a result of this adoption. All four of them tell us they plan to adopt when they are married. 
From our busy, happy, blessed home to yours.......Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Did you say busy?

For the very first time I have missed a weekly blog. Here is a little insight into my life at the moment. In the past three weeks we have had five eye doctor appointments, four doctor's appointments in Morgantown (two hours away), five appointments at the pediatrician, five Christmas practices for the kids at church for two different programs, trumpet lessons, Ben's birthday, Ben's birthday party with 17 kids at our house, our seventeenth wedding anniversary (December 9th), kids' Christmas program at church, Becca had a young girls' meeting, and Mariah's very first birthday with us.

This week so far we have five appointments scheduled. We are supposed to have our social worker come for our six month post placement review. I have not even called her yet to make that appointment. Not to mention that Ben's sinus infection has caused an ear infection and affected his asthma. 

Our sweet Mariah reached a very important milestone this past week. She turned two years old on Friday. We had to celebrate in style! Here is a picture of Mariah's very first birthday cake. 
I stayed up until 2am Friday to get this completed. Since I had a sick little guy all day, I had to decorate after the kids went to bed. Mariah loves Elmo! 

Mariah seemed to enjoy her cake. She even pulled the cake board over and put her hand right in the icing! She wasn't sure what she had just done! Here are a few more pics of her special day.

The next three pictures are "Birthday Brunch with Daddy". Jeremy does this with all of the kids on their special day.

Here are a few from here at home. Her first ever present........a doctor's kit! We are all well-immunized now!
She loves this Dora the Explorer doll.
We enjoyed watching her as we sang Happy Birthday. She did a great job trying to blow out her two candles.
We kept it a low key day! Just the seven of us.
We ate Chinese in honor of Mariah. We went to a take out place and the Chinese woman there was shocked when we walked through the door with her. She looked at us and said, "You have a Chinese daughter! Oh wait. No. She is Korean." We smiled and Jeremy shared with her that Mariah is, in fact, Chinese. The lady was so sweet with us and called her 4 year old son out from the back to come play with Mariah. Mariah was very interested in this little guy but he never spoke.

Waiting for our Chinese take-out.
I have a confession to make. It has to do with this picture.
I have posted this as my profile picture on Facebook. Now the story behind the confession.  Our sweet friend took our pictures for us. It was our first professional pictures ever taken as a family of seven.  This is the one day that Mariah decided was not a good day to take a nap. I tried. I tried hard to persuade her to nap. She was not interested. Well, not until about 30 minutes before we needed to get out the door. When I got Mariah out of her crib, I also got an attitude. This picture happens to catch her with a handful of leaves ready to throw at anyone within range. So, as cute as this may really wasn't pretty!

I'll go back now and show pictures from Ben's very first birthday party with friends. We had seventeen children here for that party. The theme was camping/military. Ben couldn't really decided so we combined the two. 

Here is the cake. We bought this one!
Lots of fun with swords.
Evidently it was a lot of fun in the basement.
PVC pipes for marshmallow guns! Jeremy spent quite a bit of time cutting those pieces.
 Our "campfire". 
 Jeremy and the boys making their marshmallow shooters!
Here are a few pictures from the kids singing at the mall.
Ben.......thoroughly enjoying himself.
Here are our oldest two. They are getting so tall!
After singing at the mall, Mariah had a little accident. Instead of putting her in dry clothes, Jeremy put her in the car without any pants....just her diaper. When we pulled into the garage this is what I saw. Becca's Broken sunglasses, winter coat, no pants, and no socks and shoes......that completes the look!
I am sad knowing that Mariah's birthday will also be a date that is shared as a tragedy. In China, a man went into a school and stabbed 22 students. In Connecticut, a mentally deranged man went into an elementary school and opened fire on elementary school students and teachers. Twenty-eight people lost their lives as a result. My heart is heavy as I think and pray for the families affected. 

This sounds like what so many others are saying but I am so thankful to have all five of my children safe. We live in a world with so much evil.

Friday also was a day that a very dear adoption friend watched as her three year old Chinese daughter was taken into her fourth open heart surgery. Lily made it through the surgery but is in terrible pain every time she takes a breath. I ask that you lift this family up in prayer. Jacques and Emily have four little girls and Emily is pregnant with their fifth child.  If you would like to read their blog you can do so here 

Monday, December 3, 2012

December Birthday Number One!

Sunday was a special day in the Kaminski home! Nine years ago this sweet boy was welcomed into our growing family. He has added perspective that we never dreamed. 

I had a mostly normal pregnancy except for vomiting the entire nine months. It is safe to say I was tired of being sick. Jeremy and I decided to begin our Christmas shopping that year on December 1st. For us, that was really early.

Our sweet neighbor offered to watch our older three kids who were ages 4, 2, and 17 months. We began with dinner out then shopping. While at Toys R Us,  labor was in full force. I was in denial but Jeremy noticed the white knuckles on my hands as I was stopping in the middle of the aisle grabbing on to the shopping cart. I kept telling him it was just good ole Braxton Hicks contractions. Well, he knew better. 

We finished our night of shopping. I was mighty uncomfortable and very agreeable to any gift Jeremy was picking. I just didn't care at that point! 

We picked the kids up and asked our sitter if she was busy later. Mind you it was already 9pm! She knew what that meant. We got the kids home and bathed. I packed a couple of changes of clothes for them and we put them in bed. I showered but didn't crawl into bed. I had just changed the sheets that afternoon and I was saving the clean sheets for our family when they came.

We finally arrived at the hospital at 1am. The hospital was very slow and thought it was a false alarm. After checking me, I was six centimeters dilated and then the rush was on to find me a bed.

Benjamin came into this world at 6:42 in the morning weighing the most of any of my kids at 6 pounds, 14 ounces and was healthy! Or so we thought. After they took him to the nursery to clean him up I realized something was not right. My mom and dad had made it here in time for his birth to wait in the waiting room. Jeremy and my parents went home around 8am to get a little bit of sleep. I was alone.

The nurse came into my room and I insisted on speaking with her. Where was my baby? She hesitated but then explained to me the concern. Ben was born with a very deep dimple in his spine at the sacral area. She said they called the pediatrician and he was coming over to see Ben. I have had two children at this hospital before and I know that NEVER happens. Again, I was all alone. I immediately called Jeremy and he came right away.

As it turns out Ben was transferred to Nationwide Children's in Columbus by ambulance. He had a ton of tests run and it was determined that he had spina bifida where two vertibrae were affected. He also had a tethered spinal cord. We were not really given any options on how to proceed and ultimately surgery was scheduled for Ben at ten days old. That was one of the most difficult times for us. Our three older babies were at my in-laws and my parents were with us in Columbus. Ben's surgery took about 4 hours and he had complications in recovery. The pain was unbearable for Ben and for my heart. We leaned on the Lord for our strength during those very dark days. The only visitors we had were my parents and my brother and sister-in-law. It was a very difficult time for us. We were also told Ben may not be able to walk and may not have bowel and/or bladder control. Wow! That was no where on Ben's radar. He walks, runs, and has full control of his bowels and bladder. He has a "different" run but not many notice. 

At 7 weeks old Ben was diagnosed with RSV and pneumonia. He ended up in our local hospital for 12 days. The doctors considered having him taken back to Nationwide Children's, but in the end he stayed locally. He went into respiratory distress once and that was scary. As a result of the RSV and pneumonia (in both lungs) Ben visited the hospital many times during his first three years. He was finally diagnosed with asthma. He also struggled with ear infections continuously. He had his first set of tubes when he was thirteen months old. The second set came with an adenoidectomy and tonsillectomy when he was only 2 1/2 years old. That was a difficult surgery for him which ended with an unplanned stay at the hospital.

Ben's wonderful neurosurgeon has kept a very close watch on him. MRIs were ordered every six months for the first few years. Now they happen yearly. Four years ago, Ben's MRI showed Chiari Malformation. He is symptom-free for now and we pray it stays that way.

At seven months old Ben fell two deviations on the growth charts. After being referred to an endocrinologist, the testing showed he does not produce growth hormone. The official diagnosis is Growth Hormone Deficiency. We have been giving this sweet child injections of human growth hormone for 7 1/2 years.

This helps explain why our Ben is so determined. I remember a conversation with our pediatrician about Ben and his "spirit". Our doctor told me that it is that very determination that has not allowed Ben to be a victim. He has fought for the things that we take for granted. Ben has fought for his very breath on many occasions. These problems do not define this beautiful child.

If I could take this all away from him I would. In a heartbeat! However, God has allowed this to be a part of his life. Ben does not ever complain. He laughs about his shots. He never, ever complains about the medication he takes daily for his asthma. He does forget to take it though. He never complains about the six specialists that are a part of his care. Our pediatrician has a special place in his heart for Ben. How do I know that? Our doctor told me! 

The woman that marries this boy will be very blessed. I love his zeal for life! Ben is my cuddle bug! He needs lots of love. I am happy to oblige! 

Now that I just gave his entire life story, I just wanted this little guy to know that I love him to the moon and back!  I wish I could make things easier for him but then he would not be who he is if I could have changed things. Happy birthday our sweet Benjamin!

It is that very fire in Ben that Mariah just does not understand. Poor girl! She just does not get it. Honestly, she is irritated by it. One day she will understand that he truly just loves her. He always asks for a kiss and hug. On occasion she will give in to his repeated requests. She will imitate Ben more than anyone else. He has taught her most of her sign language. Ben taught her to clap. He taught her to blow kisses. I just don't think she has realized that yet.

This rare picture was taken on Wednesday. Mariah crawled up on the couch with Ben. I hurried and had to snap a picture. After all, I had to prove to Jeremy that it really did take place.
 Mariah makes an occasional appearance in the school room.
At church today Mariah climbed up onto a chair. I could not help but snap a picture of our Chinese Princess!
The ladies at our church have done a fabulous job decorating. I had a little fun snapping a few pictures. Sandy and ladies are terrific! Your job is often overlooked. Thank you for your love and dedication to our church and mostly, our Lord! 
Since Mariah struggles to sit still, we ventured down to Daddy's office. He has a lot of "stuff" in there to play with......several computers, sound boards, editing equipment, DVDs, walkie talkies, phones, and headsets. How much fun is that? And, how much trouble could one 23 month old possibly cause? Just ask Jeremy!

I guess a friend bought this Steeler helmet/cup holder. Mariah knew exactly what it just didn't quite fit.
She is a climber and got up on Jeremy's chair in 2 seconds flat!
After church was over I ventured upstairs. Mr. Neil and Miss Precilla are always so sweet and love on our kids. They are the substitute grandparents since our families live three hours away. When they realized it was Ben's birthday, they wanted to meet me at Burger King to have lunch. Since Jeremy and the older kids had to stay for their lunch(which was also prepared by Sandy and Diane) then practice for the Christmas programs the plan worked perfectly.

Neil made friends with Mariah. She then stole most of his french fries at lunch.
I will leave this post with a picture of my favorite birthday boy and his cake!!
Happy ninth birthday my sweet energy-filled boy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Giving Thanks with a Grateful Heart

If this little face doesn't paint a picture worth a thousand words, nothing will. We have so much to be thankful for this holiday season. We have five beautiful, wonderful, lovely, sweet, ornery, unique, and I could give so many more adjectives to describe our kids, but I'll spare you. 

We had the distinct honor to watch Mariah celebrate her first Thanksgiving ever. It meant more to us than it did her but it was so neat! Those eyes on that face are twinkling! If you remember when we first were handed this child, she was scared to death. She still has those shadows of wistful expressions at times, but she has come a long way.

This post will have lots of pictures as we spent the holiday in Pittsburgh. To explain a few things first, we stayed at my parents house. There were twenty-three of us spending two nights. It was quite the adventure. Each family had a bedroom. I have one sister that lives just a few miles from my parents house so she did not stay. With that sister and her family, there were twenty-nine there for Thanksgiving!

In order for us to make things fair, we always go home for Thanksgiving and take turns eating dinner at our parents' home. This year was my parents' turn for us to be there for dinner. So, there are many pictures from the festivities there. Not to mention that my mom has a new camera and commissioned Jeremy to take over 100 pictures.

Mariah only had a heavy coat and it was in the 50's. So, like a good cousin, Josh let Mariah borrow his coat. It was a sunny day but she enjoyed the swings.
Cousin Caleb enjoyed spending time with Mariah as well.
Wagon rides were a highlight. 
Becca loved pulling Mariah!
Joshy even got in on the fun!
It may be possible that the wagon rides got a little rough. 
Pap's deer stand served as home base for a few different games.
Then Pap got the go-carts out. Yes, that is my dad driving.
Uncle Steve even got out Pap's quad and took all the kids for a ride. For some reason, Noah (my 13 year old nephew) ended up with a band aid on his head.
Since it was a beautiful day, we decided on family pictures. This is the first time we have had all seventeen of the grandkids home at the same time. Here are my parent's with their grandchildren.
Then some of the individual families. This is my oldest sister, Patty, and her family.
This is my next oldest sister, Tina, and family. Yes, we could pass for twins but there are 3 years between us.
This next picture is my sister, Tammy. She is only 14 months older than me.
Here is my family!
Then my "little" brother, Stephen, and his family.
Here are my parents with the five of us kids.
Then all of us girls.
Mariah was finally able to meet a few family members. Aunt Tina enjoyed a little of one on one time with Mariah.
She also met her cousin, Joshua. He just turned two a few weeks ago. Mariah can be a bit bossy. She sort of took over poor Josh. I'm not sure he liked it!

This was Mariah's Thanksgiving dinner. She ate everything except the stuffing. She had mashed potatoes with gravy, candied sweet potatoes, baked corn, turkey, and peas.
In the middle of Thanksgiving dinner preparations, mom stopped and played with Mariah right in the middle of the kitchen floor.
My brother spent a good part of the day working on my mom and dad's internet problems. He is an IT guy and I'd be lying if I told you I knew exactly what he does. I know it is also his degree in computers but much more complicated than that.
Here is the "kids table".
The big side.
And the other side......

A picture of us!!
We were on our way to visit Jeremy's parents and I took this picture.
Once we got to Jeremy's mom and dad's house, Mariah was a bit overwhelmed. She was into everything. She thought nothing was off limits.
Even the kitty, Frosty.
We got Jeremy's parents together for a picture with Mariah. Unfortunately, Mariah's head was right in front of Jeremy's dad's face.
We had a wonderful time home for the few hours that we were there. We need to make a trip to my Grandma Bash's apartment to visit her when we are home next time. I was hoping to see her at dinner at my mom and dad's but it didn't work out. 

Thanks to Jeremy for taking all the pictures. The only problem he wants that expensive camera.

It is with a very grateful heart that I give thanks to the Lord for his provisions for us. We are especially thankful for the addition to our family. I'll leave with one final picture of our entire family. Uncle John came up from next door and was sweet enough to take this picture. All twenty-nine of us!