Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Year

One year ago today we met our precious Selah for the very first time. The Civil Affairs office was vacant except for our family and a girl behind the curtain......our daughter.
She was scared.

She was not happy.

She was completely unprepared. 

She was silent.

But we were thrilled to meet her and have her join our family and become just like everyone else. 

On Jeremy's 41st birthday we met our precious daughter for the first time. The experience could not have been any different than when we met Mariah.  At least Selah was not screaming and crying. But I believe on the inside she came kicking and screaming. 

Unfortunately when we met her she only had the clothes on her back and a toddler size backpack which we knew nothing of its contents. She wore a pair of knit pants and a pajama top that in English read "Sweet Dreams". She had on two jackets (which were purchased the day before). Her boots were several sizes too small.

We were told she knew very little English. 

You can imagine our surprise when we were in our hotel room that evening getting ready to leave for dinner she walked past Jeremy and simply stated, "I have to go to the bathroom first." 
Selah's choice for supper that night was Pizza Hut. She had never had pizza before so Becca had to show her how to eat it. She liked it!

As we sat in our hotel room that night we heard a ringing sound. We all stared at each other. Then Selah jumped up and ran into our bedroom where he coat was. She pulled a phone out of her jacket pocket and answered. We were a bit shocked. 

We soon realized that she knew much more than anyone thought. We have since spoken to her social worker in China who asked Selah's school for her grades. We know that she was ranked #1 in her sixth grade class of 800.

This year has been one of challenges.  We definitely had a honeymoon period. At six months home the real challenges began and continue.

Raising an older child from a traumatic background takes parenting to a completely different place. It is unlike any other parenting. Yes she is a teenager but her history is something that is a part of who she is. The challenges she presents are entirely different than our other two teens. Her past is very jaded.

As we struggle through daily life we still can thank God for his guidance to bring Selah home. We know that God is in complete control. He led us to her.  But this is by far the most difficult thing we have ever done.

Please pray for our sweet Selah. She is a product of an institutionalized life. She has had no one take a vested interest in her life. An orphanage has nannies with shift changes. No one constant was there to love her and help her along. Now Jeremy and I are attempting to give her something she does not believe she wants and definitely believes she does not need.....a family who loves her unconditionally.

We only want for her to have exactly what our other children experience.........true happiness and love. That can only come from God. She is valued and priceless. Part of our job is to prove that to her.  Quite honestly, that seems impossible to us at this point.

For us this is a happy day. One that we celebrate. For kids who are adopted, these "anniversaries" are very difficult. She has been silent this week. She struggles. It is hard to know how to balance the events and celebration. It is a celebration. We just need to find a way to help her understand that as well.

I'll end this with a Christmas photo. We took this photo the Sunday before Christmas. I'm so glad we did because we ended up with a few sick kids the entire week.
God often is so good to me and brings these verses to mind each time I doubt.

John 14:18
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fourteenth Birthday............Again!

I know it is a strange title but I will explain. When we were in China last December we were a little surprised to see that Selah's birth date was different on her personal social media account than what we had been told. Although she denied it was anything but the "official" date, we had our very strong suspicions that her QQ account was more accurate. 

After months of the secret we have confirmation that her actual birth date is November 24, 2000. Even though we had a very small poor excuse for a birthday celebration while in China, we had another 14th birthday one week ago.

At first Selah was not very happy that we discovered her secret. We waited a few months before pursuing the subject. Jeremy hunted and searched down some people from her first orphanage. Two months ago he finally found and  contacted one of the nannies from Selah's first orphanage. She did not speak English but her daughter was visiting at the time and she was happy to share Selah's story with us. Selah asked us what China would say and was definitely unhappy about a party. We clearly understand she was aware of her actual birthday but was told not to say anything to anyone. She was scared.

Selah's history is not what her paperwork states. In fact, Jeremy and I have both shed tears over what we learned. But it was confirmed to us by from three people that her birthday was definitely not January 4, 2000. Selah was brought to the orphanage the day she was born. There is no doubt that her birthday is November 24th.

We invited several friends of ours and our other kids from church (all girls).  Selah was struggling with the entire idea of a party for her. However we pressed on. We only had three girls not able to make it! We had 14 kids here. Pizza, chips, pop, cake, and ice cream were on the menu. Then a movie. She had so much fun at her very first birthday celebration! 

Her cake made by a friend, Hannah, in youth group.
First time to blow out candles.
It took three tries.
Let's eat!
Typically when given a gift in China you never open it in front of the giver. This was a tough one for her.
Trying to hold in the laugh.
More joy!
Something was funny.
Movie time with all of the kids.
Our birthday celebration on Monday. New clothes.
She does love Olaf. So why not?
She needed a new dressy coat. I think she liked it!
Of course, Mariah had to try too.
The day of her party was terrific. It has been difficult ever since. I am thankful that she could at least let go of some of the pain and hurt she has experienced and allow herself to have fun if only for a few hours.

She had her very first birthday cake!

She opened her very first birthday presents!

She smiled and had so much fun!

We pray that she will allow us to share in her life. We also pray that she can accept the unconditional love that our family is pouring into her each and every day. 

Selah, if you only had any idea how much we desperately love you.......

We pray that God will give you the peace in your heart that He desires. We see glimpses of the woman God has designed you to be. We pray that you will allow God to work a miracle in your life. That is our prayer.

As we watch and experience the daily struggles here at home we are reminded often of Bible verses. This verse is what we also pray for our new daughter. Our hearts break as we watch her struggle. We would appreciate your prayers for our family. 

Psalm 34:18
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Giving Thanks

I have read several blogs recently that have hit home for us. Of course most of them involved adoption. This is where God has burdened our hearts. So while we find other causes admirable we cannot ignore the burden we have for orphans. 

I had a virtual friend (a friend of a friend and.....well you get the idea) message me and ask if I would like to join her for dinner with two other "China moms". I was thrilled with the opportunity to swap stories and just eat a meal that I didn't prepare. The timing could not have been better. 
The four of us sat and talked for hours. I have been the only one to travel to China yet so it was neat to hear their excitement as they were talking about travel. Between the four of us we have 26 children! It was very much what I needed. All four of us Christian women seeking support from each other.

Jeremy and I felt it was very important to take all of the kids to vote. Selah was trying to wrap her mind around our form of government and our democratic process. We wanted to show her that it is a distinct privilege to vote for our country's leaders. All four of my grandparents served during WWII. My dad served stateside in the Army during Vietnam. Jeremy's dad served in the Air Force on a secret base in Thailand. He is one of the many men who were exposed to Agent Orange and suffers the lasting effects of that. Men died for us to have this right to vote. We do not take that lightly.
We waited until Jeremy got home from work and loaded everyone in the car and took them to the polls. Little did we know that they would not allow Kyle to go back with us since he is over 14. We also were not allowed to take any photos. Let's just say I was not about to delete this photo after I was scolded. Oops!
Jeremy's radio station had a "share-a-thon" this past week. I took the kids in one day to see Jeremy. He had been working very long hours and we all missed him. 

Anyone who knows Jeremy will verify his long held desire to never be in front of an audience. However, radio was a different story. He can speak easily on the radio as there is no one watching him. Along comes the television station. Well that problem was solved by him directing and editing.......still behind the camera out of sight! This, however, he never saw coming. Yikes!

Our church live streams all services via the internet, Roku, and our cable channel. I turned on the television the other morning and saw this.....
Poor guy! He did fine though! 

As I took the kids in to see him they were put on television and radio.

Can you tell Mariah adores her daddy?
Then Jeremy put Selah "on air". Maybe that was not the best decision. He asked her to read the telephone number to the listeners. She has a very strong accent! Let's just say it was funny but even I didn't understand what she said.
Photos like the one above help me realize our progress. But we still have so far to go. 

As we are approaching the holidays I am made painfully aware of all that Selah has missed. As joyous as these couple of months should be, it actually brings much hurt to the forefront. She struggles with us talking about the holidays before she came.

This is the month that we will be celebrating Selah's real birthday. I know she has mixed feelings. She always made a point of keeping her life in China a complete secret from us. Finding out her true age and birthdate was not her plan. But I do believe she will enjoy the celebration. Her first ever birthday!

Selah grew up without love, nurture, instruction and direction. Not one person took the time to invest in her life. It truly is a daily battle. The choices she is making are based on survival in an orphanage for many years. Those choices hurt others. Children from orphanages learn to become master manipulators who control everything they can at a very early age. We are fighting for her heart. There are days I believe we are so close to seeing her accept our love. Then other days we feel like complete failures. Yet I am assured that God is faithful. 

He has called us to her. What a privilege! But it is an assignment we cannot possibly do alone. I long for hugs. I long for a relationship. I long for communication. I long for her love. I long for her to have a personal relationship with Christ.

I have to remind myself that it is all in His timing. All of this helps me realize how much God loves me when I act ugly. Jeremy and I have finally accepted that this may be as good as it gets. We must remain constant. We must show her the love that she doesn't believe she needs or deserves. Yet we know God is still working. 



Monday, October 6, 2014

The Path to Love

I have not been great at keeping up with my blog. It is incredibly busy here as we homeschool five kids in four different grades and entertain a very busy toddler. We took the kids up to a local park for a few photos. Jeremy is learning some photo editing and we just needed some updated photos. As a general rule of thumb I need to learn that Ben cannot be left to his own as far as wardrobe is concerned. I never noticed he had shorts on. I am glad these are not the good photos! 

A peek at our day is nothing fantastic. I consider it a success if I feed all six kids three meals a day. Every night is around the dinner table as a family with a home-cooked meal. 

I am amazed that Mariah can completely destroy a room in 2 minutes or less. 

This is how my dining room looks at any given time.
And my living room..........
Then along with the homeschooling we have normal household chores. The kids wash their own clothes but I do fold them, usually after everyone goes to bed.
This week I had a mountain of ironing as well as changing out the summer clothes for the fall/winter things. 

As I was in the kitchen fixing dinner I smiled as I watched Jeremy at the grill and our sweet Ben just spending time together.
I have noticed Ben spending more time with Daddy. It really is sweet. The two of them were chatting away and laughing. I'm sure I don't even want to know what was being discussed! 

Each Sunday Ben gets up at 6am and leaves with Jeremy to go to church. He was upset a few weeks ago when he was sick and had to stay home. 

On another note.......we need a bigger grill!
I don't think I have had as many tea parties in my entire life as I have had with Mariah! She loves them.......and so do I! Occasionally we get to include Jeremy.
I walked past Mariah's bedroom the other day and heard her playing. Then I peeked in to see.
In science we are learning about the Table of Elements. Then we moved on to solutions using a solvent and solute. Here was our experiment that produced Carbon Dioxide.
I have to admit that this is a beautiful sight! She is one very busy toddler and this nap time is imperative to schoolwork completion! Notice the thumb-sucking. I love it!

I felt the need to spend a little bit of one-on-one time with Rebecca. She has experienced so much change in the past 2 1/2 years. The dinner was her choice. She wanted Olive Garden. It was perfect since we had a $25 gift card! If you notice.......she is taller than me.
It had been a while since Jeremy and I had our picture taken. We asked Ben to take a photo and this was the result. Twice!
Rebecca to the rescue!
I am so thankful for this amazing man I married! This past year has been one of many changes and challenges for our family. We have probably tripled the gray hairs we each have. 

We have had many difficult days here as life in America is proving to be very difficult for Selah. We have had to make many adjustments. And I am so glad that Jeremy and I fully trust each other. He is the "relief pitcher" when he comes home from work. 

Several things have come to light over the past few weeks. Jeremy has maintained contact with some of Selah's friends in China. Finally, we are getting some answers to questions we had in China. 

Selah's nanny from her first orphanage confirmed what we suspected all along. Selah's birthday is not January 4, 2000. Her nanny remembers exactly when Selah was born and was very clear to us it was November 24, 2000. Our 14 year old is really only 13. It is sad that she is afraid now that the truth is out. She asked us, "What will happen when China finds out?" We tried to convince her that nothing will happen and she is safe but she simply does not believe us. 

We believe that the orphanage merely wanted her to find a family sooner. We do not know why the January date was chosen but the November date makes much more sense. It puts her in the correct grade in school and her bone age x-rays now match her chronological age. We are not upset at all. I am thankful that God allowed this to happen and she is able to be with our family sooner than if her birth date was in November. 

Jeremy messaged with one of Selah's nanny's and she gladly told Jeremy details about Selah's past and it really is heartbreaking. She has been through terrible loss and grief in her few years. We pray that one day she can move forward and accept that she is here and we unconditionally love her. 

We have seen a few moments where she has allowed herself to be vulnerable. Even tonight as she was going to bed she asked Jeremy if he saw her new clothes. I took her shopping Saturday evening for a few things and she was so excited to wear them for church. It was cute to see her excitement over a new sweater and skirt. Then she loves for Jeremy to tuck her in bed.

She is beginning a very slow process of healing. 

It is hard and painful.

I am so thankful at God's goodness to give me a toddler that tells me countless times a day, "You're my favorite mommy!" and, "You're the best mommy ever!" Because without that I would seriously doubt my ability to be a good mommy to my two girls who right now need me the most. 

My greatest concern is that Selah will never accept Christ as her Savior. Then I fear that she may never truly accept us as her family. This is hard work and we are diligent 24 hours a day. We shower her with love and the discipline of a family. We bathe her in prayer daily. 

This is hands down the toughest thing we have ever done. But we have no doubt that we were called to this journey. We will pursue her for as long as it takes because we desperately love her. Everyone else in life has failed her so we have a lot to prove. But God is faithful, always.

Proverbs 18:10
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.



Friday, September 12, 2014

Kaminski Academy

Like so many of my friends I also posted photos of our first day of school on my Facebook page. Admittedly, the night before I was scrambling to get the room pulled together after the end of last school term. I didn't even have their old curriculum packed up. Yep! Me who usually never procrastinates.........procrastinated!

So here is what many of my Facebook friends saw. Empty desks the night before.
Then my token photo with the kids at their desks. Since I was so ill-prepared for school I completely forgot to get a photo that morning. So after lunch I made all of them pretend we were beginning our day. Notice Mariah's lack of glasses? She was on her way up for her nap when I snatched her to the basement.
To a few my school room looks impressive. Please don't be fooled! We are in the basement with no windows in this room. It is cold here all year round and the lighting is less than desirable. Ben's spelling and reading happen on the floor in front of my white boards. 

School can be quite chaotic for us. I am teaching 10th, 8th, 7th, and 5th grades. It is a little unique as I am learning how to teach Selah. She speaks English very well but the sentence structure is tough. We are also working on her social etiquette and world view. We use a variety of textbooks. But before I share our current curriculum (which I have been known to throw out part way through the year and begin all over) I want to share how my children "use" our school room!

 Most of the day this is where Kyle is found. On his bed.
Micah is not even in his own room. Here is Ben's bedroom......two floors ups from the schoolroom!
Don't they look ready to study histroy? This is how we learn in the afternoons. Right on the couch in my family room. We are comfy!
Selah struggles with the idea of homeschool. She is often found at her desk.
Typing does require a more traditional approach.
I came down from the kitchen and practically tripped over Ben as he was playing Candy Land with Mariah. At least they were getting along, right? 
Mariah takes after her mama. We love books! She chose the living room to "read" her books.
Now for the meat of their studies. We have come to love the unit study approach to homeschooling. This approach allows me to include all of the children in 8th grade and below to study Science, Bible, History, and Literature together.

My sister graciously has allowed us to borrow her curriculum as she is one year ahead. We use My Father's World. What a wonderful way to teach! We love our couch time during Mariah's nap time. We purchase all of the student worksheets for each child, a Language Arts curriculum, Math curriculum, and additional Science for the 7th and 8th graders. 

By the time the kids reach 9th grade, My Father's World has done a fantastic job of preparing the kids to be mostly independent in their studies. This is preparing them for college. I honestly know that a few of my other kids will not be using the same curriculum as Kyle for their high school years. They learn very differently. 

During the first three weeks of school Kyle has already read Julius Caesar. He has quite the book list. 
He will read all of those plus his Chemistry which is on back order until October. This may be a clearer photo of his extensive list, a lot of English Literature!
Selah, Micah, Rebecca, and Ben are using the final year in MFW.
This is really neat that Selah's first full year of schooling she will learn what has made our country so great. I'm not sure how she will take that but we will press on. I am learning how to teach Selah. She speaks English very well but the sentence structure in English is tough. We also will work on social etiquette and opening her world view.........not an easy task!
Selah is not thrilled to have her photo taken but she was a good sport...sort of! She will use My Father's World for much of her studies but we will also work on the 4th grade level of grammar. She needs the basics and we'll start there. Selah is very strong in math and has completed 3/4 of a Pre-Algebra book in just 4 short months. She also will be working on translating some Chinese memory books of adoptees for their families. We sit together and work on it. We laugh a lot as the translating is tough. We are still working on some bonding adn this seemed like a great opportunity.
Micah: The Story of the World (History), SOS Science, The World of Science, LifePacs for Language Arts, MathUSee and many read a louds. This curriculum includes reading many missionary biographies. We do this after dinner as a family. I look forward to it!
Becca's is much the same as Micah's but a grade below.
Benjamin will use My Father's World (History), MathUSee, The World of Science, All About Spelling, and All About Reading. There is much reading and other books included.
Here are some more of the books we will use later this year:
So far we have covered the first 14 presidents but most of them we learned last year.
We have learned patriotic songs such as America the Beautiful and The Star Spangled Banner.

Schooling happens all over the house. As a result my house is never clean. EVER! 

Our schooldays are interrupted many times. This week we had an orthodontist appointment that lasted too long. We have a doctor's appointment for Kyle tomorrow. Mariah also has speech therapy on Fridays. 

The kids are at their desks to begin their day by 9:15. They all do their independent work such as Math, reading, and typing. I can bring Mariah to the schoolroom to play while I work with Ben on spelling and reading. All while Mariah's "playing" usually involves disappearing and getting into paints or closets or something she is definitely not allowed. The life of a three-year-old is quite eventful!
It took her all of 2 minutes to find paint. I took a few things up to my bedroom and this is what I found when I returned to the kitchen. I had already changed her pants and wiped her face off then took this photo. The kitchen floor bore a remarkable piece of Mariah's artwork.