Sunday, May 26, 2013

Then and Now

Had to start out this post with Gabe's latest funny-he knows he can ALWAYS get me to laugh when he does this.  He came up with this trick all on his own.  He is such a ham :-)
Three months home and we are seeing a new child.  Gabe has come so far in so many areas, I thought it would be fun to write up a "then" and "now" post.

Then: A boy who immediately hugged and kissed anyone he met, trying so hard to always be in the good graces of anyone who seemed in authority.  Part of this was just his personality, waiting to show it's true face, but much of it was simply survival mode.

Now: Gabe doesn't reach out for just any adult now.  He is happy in mine or Brian's arms, content knowing we will provide him food when he's hungry, comfort when he's hurt, a safe place to be.  He still hugs and sometimes kisses others, but it's because he wants to, which is a huge difference than feeling like he has to.
Smiling for a picture to send to Olga
Then: According to our translator, Gabe only spoke about ten Russian words when we picked him up.  He would babble a lot, mixing pieces of words, but didn't have much of a true vocabulary.

Now: Gabe correctly uses well over 35 English words, and understands probably 95% of what we say to him.  He follows directions correctly, he has a great memory, and only needs a small amount of prompting when he doesn't understand something.  He still signs a lot, even while he's saying the word correctly.  He is recognizing and talking about his emotions, a big developmental step.  He likes to tell me when he's excited, and we have a standing joke about being grumpy (which is a fun sign to make, and he makes to cutest grumpy face ever).
Today, while sitting on my tummy as I laid on my bed.  These are some of our favorite times together.  He needs a haircut!
 Then: Gabe would only hold our gaze for a few seconds at a time, and his attention span was very short.  When he first came home, getting him to sit on my lap and read a book was nearly impossible.  He was very restless and wandered a lot.

Now:  Gabe looks forward to nap time and bed time because he likes to read a book together.  We lay in his bed and sometimes use a flashlight to read the book he has chosen.  He loves to talk about what is happening in the book, and is so smart, pointing to things I ask him to point to, answering questions like "where is _____?" and labeling animals, people and things.  It is the neatest thing to point out families in books to him.  We point at the mommy and daddy and the son and daughter, and I tell him, "this is like Gabe's mommy, and this is like Gabe, and this is like Leah, and this is like Jake and Kennedy.  This is a family, and we're a family too!"  He always gets a big grin and says, "family," such a happy look on his face.  Often he'll lean over and kiss me.  He is understanding what being in a family means, and that he is a part of a family.  This is the most rewarding thing in the world to witness: him belonging, finally, to someone, and realizing it.

He now will look me in the eyes for a long time, and I see no fear there anymore, no trepidation, no wondering if I'm the real thing, if I'm going to stick around or if my "shift" is going to end.  He looks at me with those giant pools of brown eyes he has and he trusts that I truly love him and want him.  He is no longer so restless, content to sit in my lap for longer periods of time and just snuggle (oh how I love this!).  He lets me hold his hands and stroke his hair and rub his tummy.  He is learning how to play appropriately with siblings and how to take turns.  He is realizing that they are not his competition (usually!), and playing together can be really fun.

Gabe made this for me in church on Mother's Day.  My first of many little hand prints to come.  Brought tears to my eyes.
Then: When he would eat, he would moan with nearly every bite, saying a little "mmmm" sound, like it was the first food he'd had in ages.  He would eat so fast, taking bites so big I couldn't believe he wasn't choking with every swallow.

Now: He tries nearly every food we offer, no longer moans when he eats.  The only food he takes giant bites of still is oatmeal (which he ate often in the orphanage).  He gets mad when I tell him to take smaller bites and show him what size is good, but then he does it and says, "mom!" to get my attention so I can see that he's taking smaller bites.  He is learning to trust that I'm not going to take away his food, that he can take his time eating.  He would also always try to eat one of his siblings' food, even when he had a full plate in front of him, seemingly wanting to load up on as much as he could from wherever he could get it.  Now he only tries this occasionally, and usually as a joke to one of his sisters or brother.  He knows when he asks, "more?" I will almost always say yes (unless I know he has had plenty and don't want him to have a tummy ache from eating too much :-)

Then: When he would be reprimanded for disobeying or hurting someone, he didn't really seem to care at all.  He would laugh and try to run off.  He had no empathy at all, really.

Now: He gets sad when he's in trouble.  I almost feel bad saying I was cheering inside the first time he had a little trembling lip when he was in trouble for hitting Leah once.  I was so excited that he actually felt bad that I was disappointed in him.  That was a great sign of attachment and a huge victory for our relationship.  He now always shows emotion when he has to go to "time in" on his bed for disobeying or breaking family rules.  I sit him across from me and hold his hands while I tell him what he did wrong and how to fix it.  He says "sorry" appropriately and genuinely cares when he's been scolded.  And I am so proud of the way he almost never hits anymore, instead he expresses his feelings through his words and signing/actions.  He's learned that it's okay to be angry or sad and express that emotion, as long as he's not hurting anyone while doing it.  And I have to say that his little rants when he's mad are actually quite cute, pointing his finger and going off in a mix of Russian and English words/sounds. When he's finished I can usually have him laughing almost immediately just by making a funny face or tickling him.

Jake and Gabe still have their share of tough moments, figuring out their new relationship as brothers, but they are having more and more moments of this, too.  There is no sweeter sound than that of your kids belly laughing with each other.  These two can crack each other up like no others.  They seem to "get" each other's humor :-)

These are just a few of the examples of what big positive changes Gabe has gone through since being adopted.  I think back to those first visits with him, and those first few weeks home and I am amazed he is the same boy.  It finally feels like so many of his protective layers have finally been peeled back, and his true, adorable personality is beginning to show.  He has such a fun personality-he appreciates humor and loves to say "silly" when things are funny.  He loves to be tickled.  He loves for me to swing him around in my arms.  He loves to play dress-up and dance.  He LOVES to be outside and dig in the dirt, water the grass with the hose, and just run.


Some random photos from our life these past few weeks:
At a rest stop on the drive to Utah recently.  These two were being silly and getting huge laughs from each other.  

The drive to Utah was pretty fun because it was a mix of rain and sun and rainbows.

I have been working like mad in the yard this spring and  decided I needed a garden hat.  Gabe seemed to like my choice :-)

Besides the skinned knees, look at his legs!  No longer just skin and bones, there is something to squeeze now!

Watching Gabe and Leah figure out sibling-hood has been  fun.


My thoughts often return to the other children in Gabe's orphange, and the hundreds of others waiting for families of their own.  Adoption is scary.  Its a giant leap of faith.  It is not easy, any of it.  But neither is anything worth having or doing or being.  And watching Gabe unfold into the boy he was meant to be, knowing what his life would have been like living in an institution for the rest of his life, well, there really aren't words for it.  I feel profoundly privileged to witness it all and be his mom, forever.  If you've ever thought about adoption, look into it.  There is a whole worldwide adoption community out here ready to support you and answer any questions you might have.  There are millions of children, here and abroad, who need a family.  I guarantee there is one who would fit perfectly into your family.  Think about it :-)