>Toddler Adoption: Remnants

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Even in the easiest adoption, I see remnants.  
Or, as my dear friend Jen calls them: hiccups. 
What I mean is that, there are often (Possibly even always…but who am I to extrapolate out so far? Hush now, I don’t always do that……ssshhhhh) little or big issues that crop up, develop, linger…even years down the pike.
As with any kid, the trick is to figure out what is going on and why, and sometimes you’ll figure it out, sometimes  you won’t.  But if you have a child that was adopted, it might be worth reminding yourself that “hey, this might derive from way back in the beginning.”  That said, however, another trick is NOT to attribute every single hiccup to being adopted too; that’s hardly fair or accurate.  But sometimes, especially in those adoptions that really do go so smoothly, the easy ones where adjustment is short and seemingly smooth..it’s easy to forget that even later there might be things that crop up that still harken  back to the beginning.
How’s that for  vague?  Sorry.  What I mean to say is that this has all been on my mind lately.  Our Gabey, adopted at 18 months old, and the easiest smoothest adoption we’ve done out of five, is now a wild and crazy and wonderful three and a half year old.  He is funny and energetic and happy and thriving.  But even so, this summer we have noticed a few “hiccups.”  
Remnants, I think.
Gabey has something of a hard story; as do most if not all of the children adopted from Ethiopia (By definition, it comes with international adoption, that hard history).  
It was never stated that he suffered from malnutrition, and you wouldn’t guess it to look at him, ever.  However I gotta wonder if my sweet baby boy was hungry.

Because even though when he first got home he wouldn’t really eat solid food much – I”m sure it was too strange, everything was literally strange.  He relied and craved a bottle of milk (We took him back to bottle to get him that cuddly imprinting time of bonding tucked into our arms and cradled close – he ate it up on all levels).  That was his main source of calories for a bit, until he relaxed enough to be able to try regular chewing food as his mainstay.  But we knew and expected that process.  It didn’t surprise us and we went with it for the few months it took to adjust.  No big deal.  
But, this summer, we have realized that this boy has no real “full” switch.  
He will eat, if he likes it, and keep eating until we stop him.  He is “hungry” all the time.  If he gets a tad bored (And what kid doesn’t?) he comes to me asking for food.  He asks for his next meal as soon as he is done with his first.  And I have decided that this is a remnant.  It is also, surely, a favored activity if he’s bored…but he will ditch his trucks to try to find food.  That’s significant; this boy loves his cars and trucks.  But it is not because he is hungry – I think it’s something else.  He can almost eat as much as his big brother Anthony – now that is really saying something.   I don’t think it’s because he is just a glutton – he’s three; he can’t be that yet.  
I think it’s because he was  hungry.  
Not IS.  
Was. 
Really really hungry and even if he was getting fed, enough to sustain him… 
I think when he was tiny enough to not understand; 
he got hungry enough to feel that hunger that doesn’t quit.  
Thus, now, he has an impulse to eat.  
A remnant.  
You could say that I”m projecting, I have no way of knowing.  You’d be correct.  I am.  I don’t.  But my mom’s heart and mind says this rings true.  I think it’s a primal behavior.  I think that he won’t get it through any explaining; not only because he’s young yet, but because it is almost subconscious.  It is not a part of his higher reasoning that is firing – it’s deeper, down to a more primal/survival level.  And yeah, he’s been home more than two years…he should know we will never let  him go hungry.  But  you know, those deep down imprints from those tiny days….they impress deeply, long, lasting on a level you don’t get to with words or even a bunch of days.  You need time upon time it seems.  
Happily, we have all the time in the world. We have a lifetime of dinners and lunches and breakfast with this happy boy.  We will  help him learn, gently and consistently, that food is available here, always. But we can help  him learn to moderate that need, to redirect it, and to let it go with time and trust.  Those are the real issues, no??   
Always in adoption, even the early ones: time and trust.  
It all comes back to those, one way or another.  
It’s the Einstein formula: “t squared,” “time x trust.”  
T squared equals love, safety….family.  

 Up the subway escalator in Siena, fun ride!
And it’s the only equation to help sweep away the dusty remnants.

>Old Dog, new tricks: potty training 107

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New  underwear is so much fun.

Ok, I have to say it.  We’ve been potty training.  I wasn’t gonna post on it, because it’s just one of those things, right?  Well, I thought so. I mean, I’ve done this SEVEN times, right?  (Hence, the 107 in the title…erk) Right. 

But this time is different.  Not only because Gabey is a brilliant sweet charming talented child, and no I’m not biased, thank you for asking.  But it’s different because, for the first time ever, it’s been a snap.

Now, I hate potty training.  Because my nature is a lazy slug.  And potty training, it’s messy.  And inconvenient.  Just contemplating it makes me want to go lie down.  And there are thousands of books on “how-to” and “Secrets-of” and advice out the wazoo.  I think somewhere on my shelves I own at least fifty of them. 

But, little did I know…there really IS a secret to potty training.  Ok, two.  The first one is not so much a secret: timing.  Ya gotta wait until the kid is ready.  I did have a go at it once or twice w/ Gabey over the summer.  Clueless.  Hopeless.  NOT ready.  We bailed.  And ya can’t wait TOOO long (that was my mistake w/ oh, most of the others – except Miss M.  She did it on her own and told me after, I swear. At two. Brilliant girl.).  But, it’s been cold and snowy and we’ve been hunkered down in the house and he just turned three.  Plus he’s in a phase where he refuses to wear clothes.  So, apparently, it’s time. Now.  Whoohoo!

{Yes, my house is a mess, it’s that shedding clothes thing, what can I say?}

But here is the “new trick” for this “old dog.”  And before I say it, I will point out that I realize it’s one of those ridiculous  “everyone knows it but you” kind of things.  And I would also like to point out that I will – evenutally – overcome my resentment towards my friends failing to let me in on this.  And I might, someday, overcome the  humiliation of NOT knowing this.  I long ago accepted I was no “super-mom.” This confirms it.  No matter how many kids I have.

So, here it is: BACKWARDS.

Backwards.  DOH! You put the kid on the toilet backwards!! Why didn’t someone tell me? Ahem -Jean? Toni? All of you bloggy gals?  You can’t presume I know ANYTHING.  I’m a dolt.  I had no idea!  Forget the tiny messy potties and the slippery seats and holding them up on the seat getting a cramp in your back from lifting them….let them climb on backwards, facing the tank!

GENIUS!

WHO KNEW??!!!

Ok, apparently, everyone!  This was a light bulb moment for me.
Thank you, finally, Jean.   
Maybe it’s a southern thing?
Feel free to sound off here and let me know if its regional so I don’t feel like a total dolt (tho I’ve lived in the south long enough to train a few and no one told me.  Not that I”m holding a grudge, Jean……).  Did you moms know about this?? Sheesh.  Well, I didn’t.  But it totally was a light switch for my Gabey.  Ok, and me.  Hey, he can climb up on  his own, check everything out, feel secure.  Very empowering.  Done deal.  He’s trained for daytime and almost for night.  In less than a week.  AMAZING!

So, for those of  you who share my prior lack of knowledge, I”m sharing.
For those of you who presumed we all know, you’re wrong.
For me, I’m just celebrating.  Whew.

>Changing the Trajectory

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 One of our referral pics.

So, our little Gabey Baby is now three, of course.  We did the birthday post and all that fun.
But today we went to the doc for his well baby checkup (And on time, I’d like to point out! A rare occurrence.).
And, no surprise to me, the doc pointed out that  he is super healthy and strong and smart and well.

And Gabriel has grown. 
Not only has he grown older and faster and funnier, he has grown taller and chubbier and healthier.
Not only has he grown in his quirks and climbing ability and refusal to wear clothes….but he has grown, bodily, right off the tracks.

 Gabey and me, at Kolfe meeting Ashalew, Kathy Wolf’s son.

This is the sweet priceless benefit of home. 
Of family.  Of love and a warm  house and plentiful food and a HOME.  
Gabriel has gone from a smallish “almost 50th percentile” in height and weight, to a healthy robust thriving 75th percentile height and weight. 

His trajectory has changed. 
This is the benefit of a home, for an orphan.
This is the benefit of a home, for us all.
Studies have shown this happens, and it’s a gift to see it play out in person.
His trajectory was changed in so many ways, not the least of which is truly, literally physical.

And the unspoken, not so secret benefit of Gabriel being home, is our trajectory was changed, forever, too.  We love this boy.

>Why??

>Why “why?”
You might guess that I am referencing this morning’s craziness (which has all settled down).
Or you might guess that it was another bout of me whining about my basement flooding or my washing machine breaking down (ok, maybe just a little bit). But you’d be wrong. Mostly.
No, this post is just another short reminder of the silly fun of having a two year old.
Because Gabe’s language is exploding and we now have moved deep into the two year old world of why.
By which I mean, “why?” is the word of the week.
No, it’s not fully understood, but man, it sure sounds good and works wonders.
It can make Mom and Dad stop and grin, and the big kids laugh.
It can get him a hug most every time, especially when it is said with a coy smile and a head tilt.
Because it’s still cute.
And it will stay cute for a short while, until he learns that it is most commonly used with the big kids in a whining sulk or with a defiant stance.
But until then, it’s cute.
Why?
I don’t know, it’s just because he’s SO two.

>Aerobic Mass, Part 3

>I know I’ve posted about this before, and it’s not a new concept to me. I’ve had a kid or two over the years…..but it still is somehow always something of a surprise.

Yup.
Another aerobic Mass today, and we are stepping it up to a new level.
Because Gabriel Tariku is officially two now.
So, I’m just saying…those of you who are doing the Shred (Grace, Jess)?
Those of you who’ve made those new year’s resolutions (not this one, not me)?

I’ve got a whole new workout for you!
It’s got it all: weight lifting, aerobic conditioning, stretching, squats, lunges, pushing that envelope past where you think can keep it…hold it hold it, hold him…..

Yup, take my Gabey to Mass.
Keep him quiet and out of trouble in the vestibule.
If I could only figure out how to package this, I’d have a gold mine.
Aerobic Mass, the toddler IS the workout!
Whew. Again. (I should be buff by the time he’s three!)

>Doh!

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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 3

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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.”