It’s happened.
He found it.
Gabe found that toddler power word: “no.”

His words have really started clicking. It’s great fun to listen to him. He can even put a few two word bits together: “bye bye mom” and “get down” (yes, he might have heard this one a few times…it’s a busy house, ok?). But this weekend, he finally claimed the biggy: “no.” But he does “no” with his own style, by which I mean, with volume and force and the cute mispronunciation: “Doh.”

To get the full effect, you have to imagine this at full throttle, full shout and repeated a minimum of four times, face stern or furious before he bursts into tears. He sounds like a cross between a Simpson character and a kid with a very stuffy nose. He hauls this show out every time you tell him “no Gabey, uh-uh” and he doesn’t want to be told no. So he just yells it back and then comes to me to be held as he starts to cry. Because it’s scary to try to grab such power for a little guy! We try not to laugh, but it’s hard not to. So it doesn’t have quite the effect he’s hoping for, not yet. Now of course we have to work on teaching him, “no, please.” We’ll get there.

And, yeah, he’s almost two. Perfect timing!

>Toddler Adoption: Adjustment, Part 4


Gabriel has been home FOUR months now!
This past weekend we passed our four month mark!

Here’s his report:

Brothers are great fun.
Maybe more fun than girls.
But they are pretty good too.
But wrestling and running is best of all.
That kid in the mirror?…..He’s a blast!
Dancing is great fun, especially if it’s got a good beat!
Mom is a terrible singer but I like it anyway.
Hey, I can really throw things, far!
And kick ’em too!
Yeah, I can do magic. Dad’s keys? Gone!
Love the shoes!
Ok, most all shoes.
Meat is disgusting, unless it is hidden in lasagna.
Potatoes, tomatoes and berries are best of all.
Unless it is chips, salsa, or popcorn.
Who needs sleep anyhow?
Boating is maybe the best fun of all.
Dad’s beard is worth exploring, haven’t quite figured that one out yet.
If I don’t know the word, a loud shout and emphatic point work just as well.
Up, Mama, Hi, and Eewww, seem like good words.
Baby cussing works too…….
Ok, not really, just trying to get those pesky words straight.
But if you say them emphatically and with great expression and a big gesture, then everybody laughs…because it’s like baby cussing.
Laughing is fun.
Dishwashers are for climbing.
Ok, everything is for climbing.
Toys? I laugh at toys.
The whole HOUSE is my toy!
I can make a toy out of anything!
Man, I’m FAST.
But not as fast as the cat.
There is something fascinating about the computer, I mean, look at all those buttons.
The warming drawer is just a fine place to sit.
Baths are fantastic fun.
Splashing water everywhere is very satisfying.
If I smear food in my hair, I get a bath!
Mom gets really loud when Notre Dame plays that ball game thing.
Which means I get to be really loud too!
I like that.
There are always people around in this place, and they are always the same ones.
Hugs and kisses are there for the asking, and even a lot of time when you don’t.
I think it’s alright here.

>Toddler Adoption: Adjustment, Part 3


Gabriel Tariku, home 3 months

And yeah, he IS “Mr. Happy.”
He is also, Mr. Fussy.
Mr. Loud
Mr. Jealous
Mr. Demanding
Mr. Climber
Mr. Cracks us Up Funny
Mr. Poor Sleeper
Mr. Mischeivous
Mr. Loves to Wrestle
Mr. Speed Racer
And my personal favorite: Mr. Cuddle Bunny

In other words, he is a toddler! And even now, we still see Gabriel adjusting to life here in this country, with us, with a family and a mom and a dad. The adjustment is more nuanced now. The bonding, while it is the ongoing work of a lifetime, it seems to be well on it’s way to firm cementing – in both directions. He seems crazy for us and we are surely crazy for him.

The big, first pass adjusting things are settled. Gabe is no longer afraid of the dog, instead he races to her, pats her, leans on her, it is one of his almost-words: “Dah.” He eats many things now instead of almost nothing and only milk in a bottle. He doesn’t panic if I leave the room, though he often will follow me as fast as his little bowlegs will carry him. He knows the lay of the house and careens around with abandon, confidently manuevering the tables and corners instead of bumping his head. He goes to any and all of his siblings, letting them cart and carry him and only fussing mildly if one of the girls changes his diaper instead of me. He is very assertive at making his wants known, pointing and pulling us to get him something, insistent.

It’s the nuanced things now we notice; the little things that remind us, he’s still adjusting. It’s so easy to take for granted that he’s ours, he’s just part of us now…it feels in a way like he’s been here forever. But now and again, we are reminded.

When he falls asleep now, better in my arms than anyone else’s, I remember that he used to fall asleep alone, and prefer it. Now when he wakes, he often wants, demands, to be brought into our bed to sleep between us with a contented sigh. A small thing, yes, but really: huge. Before he would only really sleep, even, alone, in his portacrib…secure and similar to his old orphanage crib (though softer and right next to me).

He is a smoocher now. While his reports from the updates reported him as “a little aggressive” he is actually a super affectionate, assertive, cuddler. He smooches and fish kisses and hugs and when he does he gives a humming sigh. Which makes my heart melt, every time. Not much better in the world than a humming melty hug from a smiling toddler.

Gabriel still has almost no words. He almost has a few words: “mama,” but only in distress, “Daa” for Dad, sometimes, and “Dah, for dog. He almost, almost says “hi” and he waves with abandon. But that is it. He relies on grunts and screeches and pushes and pulls. However, it’s coming, it’s subtle but I think it’s coming (and yes, I am no speech therapist so one of you might beg to differ) because I hear him sing. Now, yes, it’s singing, baby singing babble and not quite a tune and yet, clearly a happy tune. He didn’t sing before. He babbles and talks now, just not in our words but he’s clearly telling us stuff. Before he just watched the world and only made noise for fairly big need.

Now, he comes to me, me the mom, for the magic kiss: the owie kiss. And that might seem like a no-brainer, all kids do that, right? Well, no. Not Gabriel, not until recently. Before he would bump his head, sit up, rub the noggin and blink, get up and go on. And his brother would say “wow, he’s tough!” And I would agree with a “yeah” but inside I would wince “oh”…because that resilience came at a cost. He had to grow it when he couldn’t get a mom kiss on the booboo. And it made me have an ‘owie’ on his behalf, in my heart. But now…now he gets the most minor bump and he looks to me or runs over to me and I scoop him up and kiss it. Make it better.

So, how are we doing at three months home? I’d say pretty well. If you don’t look, you’ll miss the adjusting, you might presume it’s done. But if you pay attention, you’ll see great, important progress.
And when I kiss that owie, again, my boys say, “Oh, he’s not as tough, you’re making him soft!” And I say, “No, I am making him ours.”