Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tears and Joy!

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.
                                                                                                                   --Washington Irving

Tears seem to be more frequent for me these days. Maybe it's the post-adoption hormones that seem so similar to the postpartum hormones. My heart seems so tender. I posted on my Facebook page on Sunday about an adoption friend who unexpectedly said her final goodbye to her 22 month old baby girl after only being home from Ch*na for 6 weeks. The funeral was this past Thursday. I am thankful Joanna was able to experience the love of a family which ultimately showed her the love of her Father in Heaven.

Then a sweet family who was adopting from Mariah's orphanage was to have their Gotcha Day on Monday. They found out that their precious boy was hospitalized after they arrived in Beijing. Unfortunately this little boy is too ill to travel home. He actually was still in the hospital and the family never met him. This family's agency was less than helpful and this couple, and their two girls who traveled with them, came back to the United States broken hearted. They are still pursuing this sweet boy and are desperate to bring him home.

Several other friends had unexpected health complications with their new kiddos. My heart breaks as I read the stories of these families. It truly makes me more thankful for my family and I just want to hold on to my kids and husband a little closer. The pages of my prayer journal have filled up in the past few weeks. The neat thing is that many of these sweet people are friends whom I have never met. God has allowed me a special bond to other adoptive families. It seems as though families are under attack and it breaks my heart to watch them suffer.

Now onto a few lighter notes........I am taking a few minutes this evening to look back at our week. This is kind of what I feel like........
Rebecca has told me countless times this week that she thinks I look like this Wonder Woman! Then Jeremy decided to spill the beans about my childhood. When I was about 3 years old I was infatuated with Wonder Woman. I loved to watch Linda Carter on the show. I even went so far to use the cape I had and would spin around in the yard pretending I was this fictitious figure! My kids got a huge laugh out of that. Becca insists that my hair is exactly like this Lego mini-figure. I like to think that I am the modern day Wonder Woman. 

Monday started out trying to convince Mariah that our new "routine" includes church on Sunday. It seems that anything outside of her normal schedule just throws her for a big loop. I worked on our school room then took Kyle to the doctor for his allergy shots. The good news about that is I am officially trained to give him the shots at home now. That really frees up our schedule!!!

Tuesday morning we had a 10am appointment at the orthodontist for Kyle. After three hours of continuous work, the braces are on and look good!
For the next 24-28 months this is what Kyle will look like. He is slowly getting used to his new look. He has a pretty bad malocclusion and he has been the lucky recipient of headgear! Can't believe he is growing up so fast!

Friday was a super long busy day. We all got up around 6am then made the two hour trip to Morgantown to see Ben and Mariah's endocrinologist. Let's just say that Mariah is not the best traveler. She can last for about 25 minutes then the whining, crying, kicking and general unhappiness is in full force. She does not enjoy traveling. She doesn't mind her car seat, it is just the trip itself she hates.We have tried everything. We have videos for her, we reclined her seat, we have a window shade beside her, and we have four kids that surround her and wait on her every single need. Here is the proof of her unhappiness! 
It was not the sun bothering her. It just so happened when I snapped this picture, the sun came in through the front window as Jeremy drove around a sharp bend. She was agitated well before this. Then about 10 minutes before we arrived at Ruby Memorial I looked back and saw this........
Ben was a little confused that he is not the only one seeing the endocrinologist anymore. I'm sure he'll get used to it.
The doctor had us all over the place today. They each had appointments with the doctor. He sent us up for Mariah's ultrasound. Then we were sent to have a bone age x-ray of Ben's hand. Then we were sent down to the lab to have yet more blood work for Mariah. Lastly, we went and had the necessary training for Kyle's allergy shots. PHEW!!!!! It was a busy day.

After all of the appointments we went for a bite to eat. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Chili's? We don't have a Chili's in Parkersburg so this is a treat. This is what happens when you whine and cry almost the entire two hour trip instead of sleeping. She was exhausted but woke up in time to eat!
We both smiled when our server asked us if it was all on one check. We have only eaten out twice since returning from China. Both times we were traveling. Both times our server asked us if it was all on the same check. I guess in our society, we are considered a large family. 

Target followed Chili's. We also do not have a Target nearby. Isn't that a crime? After just a little shopping we loaded up and headed back to Parkersburg. Once again we had an unhappy camper the entire way home. 

Jeremy ran into our neighbor once we got home. Greg works for the railroad and drives this truck each day to work. Sorry for the terrible picture.
Greg said he left for work this morning and looked out his side mirror and saw a sword stuck in the bumper of his truck. He just laughed. I wonder how that happened? This is a very common scene here in our street!
As a small treat to the kids we decided to give in to the peer pressure of families driving SUVs and minivans. Let's just say they were thrilled when we allowed them to choose their own Star Wars figure. Thank you Steve and Joanna for allowing us to steal your idea! 
Left to right is Darth Vader, Padme, Little Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Ahsoka, Clone Trooper, and Princess Leia. As a mom with three boys and at least one girl heavily involved in Star Wars, I also enjoy seeing this. I'm honestly surprised that Jeremy went for this.

When I tell you that Mariah eats everything, I truly mean everything. As I changed a diaper this week I discovered that Polly Pocket's clothes can be eaten and remain unchanged once they pass through a certain toddler's body. We are beginning to rethink this whole crib thing too. What am I supposed to do with a toddler that literally eats her crib?
There is a huge chunk gone from her crib! It is no where to be found. I assume Mariah has consumed this as well. Really??????

Here is hoping to an uneventful week. That is unlikely around here. I know there are haircuts for my girls and dentist appointments for four of us this week. School begins the day after Labor Day.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Daddy's Influence

This is not the first picture that I have posted that Mariah fell asleep in her high chair. Probably will not be the last either. This was last Monday. I had been on the phone with my sister and Mariah desperately wanted (she did not need) my attention. I left the kitchen since her screaming only got louder each time I ignored. This was what I found after only about 5 minutes. You can even ask my sister. I had to wake her early from her nap and take her, Kyle, and our sick Ben to the doctor's.

I think I have come to the conclusion that our life will be busy every single day! So what did I expect with five kids, right? I wouldn't have it any other way! I think as many parents tote their kids back and forth to sports, we tote ours back and forth to doctors' appointments. Once I convince the ENT clinic that I can give Kyle's allergy shots myself, that will greatly ease our schedules. I guess they just don't understand that we have been giving Ben his growth hormone shots for 7 years. I really don't need the training. Just give me the supplies and I'm good to go! But they have protocol to follow.

If I leave Mariah in Jeremy's hands for more than say.......5 minutes, this is what I come back to find.
Yes, a machine gun. Nerf of course. Jeremy is so proud of this feat he is able to pull-off. He says she is a natural.

Just in case you have a hard time believe Jeremy's influence on our five precious is another perfect example. This one with our older daughter. Jeremy will often look at any of our kids and do this very thing. "I'm watching you!" You can see Becca's beautiful blue eyes here.
Here we caught the kids and several neighbors playing with matchbox cars in our driveway. So much for the theory by some that homeschooled children are socially deprived.
This next picture is the inseparable duo!
And we cannot leave out Micah! Look at his eyes!
Next is our Asian princess. Not sure I would have called her a "princess" on Monday. Nevertheless, here she is in all of her cuteness.
We had a slow easy evening this night so we took her out to play a little. She really enjoys it but doesn't follow the rules. Yes, she has rules. Yes, she mostly ignores them! She especially does not agree with rule number 1 while playing on the road. Welcome to Mariah's world. This picture below is Mariah trying to hitch a ride on our neighbor's scooter. She wasn't happy when Daddy took her off that ride. Do you know how fast those things go? WOW! They look fun, but not for a 20 month old, for sure!
She gets hot outside and then sought refuge in, well....ME! No complaints here.
Then she found a squirt gun and off she went.
This weekend is the Parkersburg Homecoming. We have never been there to visit and thought since the weather was gorgeous, we would venture down to the festivities. We have a beautiful view of the Ohio River. Just in case anyone is curious if our boys are growing.......this is for you!
What happened to the time? How is Kyle so much taller than me? He is only 13! Micah will have me soon too. By the way, Kyle's shirt is one we got from him that has a picture of The Great Wall. I think it is one of his favorites.
Mariah seemed irritated with her stroller so I got her out to enjoy the scenery. Jeremy snapped this picture. She is not preferring me at this moment. Not sure why. I am the one who thought she looked like she needed out but notice how her arm is pushing against my shoulder. We still have some work to do with this wee one. She really wanted anyone but me. I'm praying that will change...SOON!

I think this is what she really wanted. It hurts my pride a little. On the other hand I love this man more than she does, so I completely understand how smitten she is. I still am after almost 17 years of marriage!
The homecoming rides were a terrible price. We allowed the kids to each ride one ride. This was Ben's choice. He always has fun!
The other three older kids wanted to ride this......The Sizzler (also known as The Scrambler). Becca got squished but they all loved it!
I ventured to church this morning as well. We made it just in time for Sunday School. Notice the traditional Chinese outfits for my three younger kids. They loved them and had a lot of pride wearing them.
Once home from church, Jeremy took Becca outside to get her picture. It was a little too sunny!
Lastly, Rebecca requested Daddy to take this below picture. I thought it turned out pretty neat. Becca loves Dragonflies!
This week includes a visit to the doctor's on Monday for allergy shots. Tuesday, Kyle has an orthodontist appointment to get his braces. That is a two-hour appointment. Friday will be spent in Morgantown seeing one of our favorite doctors, Dr. Jones. He is such a super guy! We have seen him every three months since Ben was one year old. He knows us well. Friday he sees his newest patient......little "MC". Hopefully, we get great news!

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Mama's perspective, ten years later.

To say I am a little busy is an understatement. Since returning from China I have taken the kids to 13 doctors appointments. I also had an appointment for myself. Some of those appointments were combined and 6 of those were just allergy shots for Kyle. Regardless, it took time to drive to the doctor's office, sometimes with all five kids. I'll spare you pics of my real house and you can just assume that it looks pretty close to this.....
Or this.........
Or even this....
Do you see who the culprit is in every single picture?

Then I came in the room and saw this one......
Jeremy says that "mom" had enough! I assure you that I have never one time ever crawled onto the roof of our house to escape. Not that I haven't felt like it before.

Finally we are on the mend. I ended up taking Kyle to the doctors Monday for his allergy shots and called and asked if I could bring Becca to be looked at as well. Poor Becca has been so stuffed up for almost three weeks and a few days she complained of her ears hurting. As suspected, she has a sinus infection. The staff at the doctor's office joke about naming one of the exam rooms "The Kaminski Room". Monday we have our standing allergy shot appointment. I will be so glad when I can do those from home! 

Mariah is still taking an antibiotic for the parasite. She will finish that up today. We are told that Flagyl causes a metallic taste in your mouth. This could explain why Mariah's appetite has drastically changed. She is not eating nearly as much as before. We are not worried. This may be her normal appetite as the parasite is likely gone but we will not know for sure until the end of August. I'll be happy when I am not dispensing medication all day long.

I thought I'd take some time to share with you a few things as I have reflected over the years of being a mama (my kids have always called me that instead of mommy and I don't really know why). Being a parent has by far been the most rewarding job I have ever had the privilege of partaking. It has also been the most challenging. I have not shared this with very many people but I feel that if I share our heartaches and trials, it may help another parent.

Our four oldest kids were born very close together. Kyle was not even five yet when Ben was born. So we had four children in 4 years and 10 months. Can you imagine how busy we were? Our youngest three (now four) are special needs I'll explain.

When Micah was only 16 months old I was 34 weeks pregnant with Rebecca.  My water broke. After testing amniotic fluid for hormone levels, the doctors here decided her lungs were severely underdeveloped. So I was packed into a lovely ambulance and driven 2 hours to Ruby Memorial Hospital.

I labored for 37 hours with our precious baby girl. When she was born, she was whisked away from us to the NICU and was revived three times. Her lungs were so immature that within an hour of her birth she was put on a ventilator. We watched that sweet baby struggle for every single breath. Her face was bruised from the team trying to quickly provide her an airway. It was one of the scariest times of our lives.
In the meantime, my two older boys were being watched by our sweet neighbor. Kyle was 3 1/2 and Micah was only 16 months old. They knew our neighbor very well and loved her but the time away was very difficult. After 2 days in the hospital with me my parents drove back to Parkersburg and picked up my sweet boys and took them to PA. From there they were passed between the two sets of grandparents.

Once we finally got our baby girl home, my parents brought our boys back. I had missed them terribly. Can you imagine how I felt when my sweet 16 month old baby completely rejected me? I have pieced together this puzzle and realize that all along the Lord was preparing us (or me) for this rejection that I would face with our second daughter. Micah rejected me for months. I was only good enough to change his diaper and prepare his meals. He was defiant with me. He kicked when I tried to change his diapers. I felt like he hated me. Once Daddy walked through the door, I no longer existed in his eyes. 

It was a very long struggle. He wanted nothing to do with me. Again.....does this sound familiar? I had no idea that God was preparing me for this little one we now have........10 years later! 

I can honestly say that as I sit here typing this post, it was all worthwhile. My Micah is the sweetest 11 year old I know. He and I have such a special bond. Jeremy will tell you that I am the only person that Micah allows to snuggle him. Micah comes in from playing outside to find me and wrap his arms around me and tell me he loves me. That is my paycheck!

Micah has come a long way. He is so resilient! He struggles with Auditory Processing Disorder and Sensory Deficit Disorder. This has caused significant speech delays for him which also hinders his learning. He learns in such a unique way. He is a boy of few words. His visual memory is nothing shy of stellar. Homeschooling him has taught me that it is okay if kids do not learn from reading or studying the traditional ways. He also has a great sense of humor.

Micah has stretched our schedules to the limit as well. I have taken him to occupational therapy and speech therapy for many years. We have had a physical therapist in our home for him as well. We have taken him to Cincinnati Children's for a diagnosis that seemed impossible to get. We have a beautiful son who makes us smile....daily. I had no idea what God was doing all of those years ago. I love watching His plan unfold!

I write this to explain how beautiful God's plan is because we chose to obey. We chose to find our daughter in China. Micah's rejection of me is very similar to Mariah's. 

I have noticed a huge difference in Mariah in the eight short weeks we have had this sweet baby. She doesn't reject me. She gladly accepts my love, my kisses, and especially my food! There is still a long road yet to travel. She may always prefer Jeremy to me. She may not. Either way, I am thrilled to be the recipient of her many hugs and kisses received daily from this beauty! She does love us. She loves me and in that I rejoice! 

It is funny to hear Jeremy with her when he gets home from work. She is so excited to see him. He swoops her into his arms and immediately goes in to kiss her neck, something that I cannot stand! She definitely gives more love to him, but I still get a lot! I think Jeremy feels bad when she is loving on him as I hear him whisper in her ear, "Mariah, give Mommy kisses!" He is pretty sweet too. Sometimes I get those kisses, sometimes I don't. 

As a young mom at the age of 29 with four children under the age of 5, I was overwhelmed with life. I questioned why God felt I was a good enough mom for what Micah needed. I was tired of the appointments. I was lonely. I was tired of trying to find out what was going on with him. But I pursued. I was not giving up on our boy!
Micah is now 11 and there is absolutely no evidence of that rejection I faced when he was 16 months old. In fact, Micah does not really even like to hear those stories. He feels bad. He will likely always struggle to communicate. But I can read that boy like a book! Expressive language is the most difficult for him. But, I have a boy that loves me and cherishes me.

This is a comfort to me as I am walking a similar road with Mariah. I have perspective now that I would not have had if we didn't have a very similar struggle with Micah. I know it will get better. It already has! She has lost so much in her life. Just like Micah lost me for a while. Then when I finally came back into his life, I had this baby girl and that was not cool! 

Now I am so excited to see what Mariah will be like as she gets older. I have seen what a wonderful young man we have in Micah. I wonder what God has in store for our sweet girl. 

If you took the time to read this, I would encourage you to encourage another mom who may be struggling. I was lonely and discouraged. Now we are years past that trial and see the utter joy in every one of our five kids! God is good, even especially in those difficult times.

Here is my sweet boy and me.....(Rebecca was the photographer.)
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.                                                     Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sweet times!

I'll be honest and admit that I don't remember this picture being taken on our Gotcha Day. It was taken by either my hubby or my mom. Aside from my squished (that may be a western Pennsylvania term) nose, this is a sweet picture. This caught the very first kiss that Mariah received from me. You can still see the absence of emotion on her sweet face. Oh, how I loved that moment yet it brings back those raw emotions of her pain. 

I did not give her this kiss right away. I patiently waited for her sobbing to subside a little. Honestly, it probably was still a little too soon for her. We had been waiting for her for 18 months but she certainly was not waiting for us. 

As I reflect on those days in China, I am amazed at the restraint that my parents had. My poor mom and dad were there for our support and they truly meant it. My dad got stuck carrying the huge camera case of the camera that my sister graciously allowed us to take on our trip. It is a joke now but I don't think my dad really enjoyed that! But, they never one time complained. 

They toted luggage through airports for us. They went through the breakfast buffet a few times just to get breakfast for themselves, Mariah, and me. Without them, I don't really know how we would have survived.  Jeremy and my dad have a few inside stories that I'm not sure we will ever be privy to. Mom and I would stay in the hotel rooms and we would send the guys on our errands. They also held the passports and all of our money. Jeremy was the designated money exchange rate person. I honestly could not concentrate on it enough to calculate the exchange rate from RMB to American dollars. I have to admit that it was so nice to just defer to Jeremy. It was funny because my parents began to do the same. 

It is probably Jeremy's fault that mom had to buy an extra suitcase for souvenirs. Jeremy would convince my mom how great the prices were. My mom cannot avoid a great sale. Just ask the sales people at her Peebles. They know her by name! 

So I've ventured off topic here. Probably no surprise for those of you that know me well! That picture at the top of this blog post is one that my sweet husband gave to me after work on Wednesday. He worked on it a little bit and stopped at Walmart on his way home from work and bought a beautiful frame and gave it to me. The writing at the bottom of the picture reads this: 

The two people connected by the red thread are pre-destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. This cord may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.

This is an old Chinese Proverb. Of course the red thread spoken of here is invisible. Jeremy and I firmly believe that Mariah was meant to be ours from the very beginning of time. So when Jeremy came home with this sweet picture, I was so touched. Yes, I cried. I just thought it was sweet of him. I think he just feels bad that we have been sick for a while now too.

Mariah and I again stayed home from church on Sunday morning. I decided that Sunday evening might be a good try again. (This is also a pathetic attempt show another picture of our sweet girl!) Can you also tell she is sick?
Well, there was a concert. The Collingsworth Family came and it was packed! That was too much. Mariah was overwhelmed with the entire night. Jeremy and I made the decision that night that I would stay home with her for a while.

We have noticed that Mariah has begun to reach for complete strangers. Not strangers to us, but strangers to her. After it happened several times we realized that she still needs more time for that attachment to occur. At the orphanage, Mariah would reach for anyone who would give her the attention. She did not discriminate from one nanny to another. Here it has to be different. She has to learn that Jeremy and I will now meet the needs that all of all those sweet nannies did before us. This is tough especially when she is reaching from our arms to another person. 

Our agency has recommended we make her world very small. That means we should stay home with her as much as possible. That also means that Jeremy and I should be the only ones holding her. I know how hard this is for our church family who has been so faithful to pray for us. After all, how do you turn from a child that is reaching for you? Especially if this is that child.......
All the research has explained that we cannot even begin to expect the true bonding to take place for at least 3 months. I guess we have a way to go.

Mariah is still preferring Jeremy to me. This is really tough for me. I don't think Mariah got the memo that I am mommy and I love to snuggle my kids! It makes me sad that her guard is slightly still up. 

Now you'll think I'm crazy after what I will say next. This child has the absolute sweetest hugs and kisses. She just began this week to wrap her arms around my neck. She has only done this twice with me. However, she has been doing it with Jeremy for a few weeks. She also loves to kiss Jeremy then me back and forth. It is really cute. But she still needs time and that I have!!!

After the concert Sunday night, we were talking with Phil and Kim Collingsworth about Mariah and adoption. I guess Phil told Jeremy we needed to show Mariah to his wife Kim. Evidently she has talked about adopting before. She was so excited to see us and talk about adoption. So maybe I need to pray for that family!! 

When we got home from church, I looked at Mariah's toe. When I bathed her Saturday night I thought her toe looked a little irritated. This is what it looked like Sunday night. I wouldn't exactly call this a little irritated.....
After a quick call to my mom (a retired nurse) and an email containing this photo, we decided she needed to go to the doctor's in the morning. Would you believe that we have yet to hear this child cry for pain? She has fussed a little with pain, but never cried. We have one very tough girl! The nurse practitioner put her on an oral antibiotic. 

I also should mention that we got some of the results back from Mariah's lab work. She has a parasite. We are all certain she has had this for a long time. I am so glad we have not taken her swimming yet. My other kids have been begging us to take her in the pool. This parasite is contagious. She was put on an antibiotic for this as well. 

Along with a terrible stuffy/runny nose, fever, infected toe, a parasite she has not been feeling well, but you would not know it. The stuffy nose doesn't allow her to suck her thumb either. She is not sleeping well.

I went to the doctor Tuesday for a terrible sinus infection I have had for months. I am praying for relief from this soon. I don't think Mariah has much of an immune system. So today (Friday) we went to the healthfood store and bought her a bunch of immune boosters.

In spite of her being sick, she continues almost as if nothing is wrong. Mariah found an empty water jug and claimed it as a toy. Then Micah put her in this cardboard box........
......and pushed her all over the house. She was belly laughing. The lighting was bad as I just grabbed my camera and began to film. 
We are still experiencing some "firsts". I forgot she had never seen my laundry room before. Once I started the washer, she was mesmerized!
Jeremy has a wedding to video tape this weekend. And guess who is staying home? This just means we will have more time to spend bonding. 

As for the wedding......Congratulations Amanda and Cody!!! May God bless your marriage as He has ours! 

I am so thankful for the wonderful God I serve. Only He can truly heal the hearts of the hurting whether it is physical or emotional. Several of my adoption friends are struggling with their little ones. Will you pray for them?

*Meredith's family was able to bring Brooke home after her open-heart    
*Emily finally was able to bring Lily home after her open heart surgery. 
*Suzanne is in the hospital with Clara after cleft lip/cleft palate repair.
*Heidi is still working hard on bonding with her Mollie. I posted her blog on my Facebook page.
*Karen brought Mariah's orphanage friend home last week and LuXue is still     grieving.