Here is the latest on Gus. You can see last month here.
Height: 2′ 6.25″* Weight: 21.4lbs
*Obviously either this month’s measurement or last month’s is off.
Words he knows and says spontaneously:
- Aa daa (all done)
- Mo (more)
Words he repeats often but hasn’t used spontaneously:
- Genta (gentle)
Signs he knows:
- All done & drink, which are exactly the same in Gus-sign
He is highly motivated by praise. He will do something right and then clap his hands and say “yay!”
He is also often very aware when he is doing something wrong. Today, he threw his napkins on the floor, looked at me, smiled, and said “nuh-uh” while shaking his head.
He has figured out how go through the doggie door and how to open up doors, at least our bedroom one. Fortunately, he hasn’t gotten out of his crib yet, and the baby gates still contain him.
He loves to take things and move them. Meaning I have a hard time finding anything we usually keep at his level. Shoes, toilet paper, his drink, etc., are constantly disappearing.
I love his spontaneous hugs and kisses. You know, the charge at my legs kind.
I do not enjoy the baby gate being shut every single time it’s open.
He tries to put most things in his mouth… dirt, rocks, any toys…
He loves movement– swinging, upside down, thrown in the air, etc.
He seems to prefer having shoes on, but not clothes. Or, just one shoe. That is pretty typical, he will take on off and leave the other one on for awhile.
He still sucks his thumb all the time, especially when he is stressed.
He dances to music and the vacuum cleaner.
Sleeps: He still sleeps the same amount as last month, although he seems to a bit pickier about where he will sleep. He has fallen asleep in the car, our bed and the crib, but not anywhere else, including the stroller.
Eats: He will still eat anything and begs to try everything as I am cooking, including raw chicken. If he sees something new, he will throw down whatever he is eating and beg for the new thing.
Loves to: explore, be outside
Dislikes: teeth brushed, buckled into car seat, diaper changes most of the time
Still taking questions for a Q&A. So, if you have anything you want to ask, leave a comment or email me.
As I talked to a friend today, I was reminded that I want to portray our attachment period honestly. I am so happy to have Gus home that I hesitate to ever open my mouth with a complaint.
One question my friend asked me is whether this is easier or harder than the period after Reed and Lena’s homecoming. Much, much easier, because we are already parents, there is just one of him, and we have a better support system than we did the first time around. We were just much more prepared this time, mostly because of our experience the first time around.
Gus has transitioned in to our family MUCH easier than Reed and Lena did. Of course, it’s possible that we are still in the “honeymoon” period, but Gus is doing very well. Most of his behavior seems very normal for his age.
However, there are challenges. Some of them are just part of parenting a toddler, and a few are related to his past.
-Prefers women to men, including me to Aaron: This is pretty normal. He’s has not spent much time around men, so he naturally prefers me and other women to men. This is a challenge, because while he super comfortable with me, he is only okay with Aaron. He won’t look to Aaron for comfort yet, and still gets a bit upset if he sees me leaving.
-Communicating: I am used to communicating with Reed and Lena, at their level. We are signing with Gus, and the idea is still pretty novel to him. He knows a few signs, like “more” and “all done” and we are working on several more signs. But, even though he knows them, he doesn’t understand how to use them without prompting, and I need to remind him that he has a choice. Choices are very new and exciting to him.
-He’s into everything: This is definitely a typical age thing, but I think it is only complicated by the fact that everything is new to him. He probably hadn’t seen a toilet before we picked him up, or any kitchen stuff. He watches me with great fascination when I brush my teeth or put on makeup. It is ALL new to him and his preferred ways of exploring are touching and putting things in his mouth.
-Hitting/grabbing/pulling hair/biting to be funny: Of course, this is also all typical 17mo old stuff. And it is exhausting. “Gentle”… 500 times a day. This is particularly frustrating when he is hurting Reed or Lena. Fortunately, they have a lot of patience with him.
One of the biggest challenges is just that I was pretty comfortable parenting 2 preschoolers. Most of the time, I knew how to communicate with them, motivate them, etc. It is a whole new learning curve. An expected new learning curve, but challenging nevertheless.
I am ready for nap time most days. But, I’m always ready for those sweet post-nap kisses, too!
Our weekend was pretty relaxed. Our one big to-do was that we wanted to each take each of our big kids out on a “date”. Some alone time to hang out and check-in with them.
I let them pick what they wanted to do. Reed wanted to go get ice cream. I told him we could do something else after we got ice cream and he was so excited to go to the playground for awhile. And, when we left, he was super excited to go home and go “swimming” in our “pool”. Reed moves fast!
Lena just wanted to go to the playground. Lena soaks up my undivided attention whenever she gets it. So, I put down my cell phone and gave it to her. All I needed to do was narrate everything she was doing on the swing. “Higher!” “Slooooower.” And she laughed and laughed. Then, I pushed her myself and sent her to outer space. She called me on the phone from outer space and told me she loved me.
Am I driving you crazy that I don’t have much of an update on Gus? Poor kid didn’t get to leave our house all weekend! Actually, that might be a happy thing for him– he hates getting buckled in to his car seat. It is also 100+ here every day, so the options for where to go are limited.
A video of the little goofball.
Honestly, he’s a lot harder to photograph that my bigger kids, because he rarely slows down! I am trying to get some photos for an adoption announcement, and we’ll see if that ever happens…
You often hear stories about a parenting meeting their adopted child and it’s love at first sight. It happens. But, more often are the stories you don’t hear. The love stories that are won after many battles, the love that grows slowly, day after day watering with no noticeable progress.
These stories are so much more complicated. They’re not shiny and fairy-tale like. They are the stories of tears and sleepless nights. Prayers and painful questions. Recognizing the hurt of a young child. And the deep wounds and the inadequacies of an adult.
But, while I hesitate to share it, Reed and I are one of those stories. Reed came into our relationship hurting. Cognizant that I was another woman in his life. Who was I? How long would I stay? For me, it was more like he ripped my stitches out. As some people would say, he pushed my buttons. Opening up old hurts and frustrations. Creating new ones.
Honestly, we seemed incompatible at first. Most of the time, we drove each other nuts. I wanted so badly to control him and manage him, not considering his strong willed personality. Only made worse by people who told me that I need to win and make sure he didn’t think he was the boss.
He was never interested in me. He would pick anyone else’s attention and affection over me. Even if we were alone, he would just ignore me, if he had everything he needed. We would both celebrate the moment Aaron got home, giving us relief from our long days together.
For months, we just plugged on. I did my best to fake it. Meet all of his needs, hug him and kiss him. We’d play together and I’d walk away frustrated and exhausted. Other people would tell me how wonderful they thought he was, only twisting the knife a bit more. A reminder that it was just our relationship that was broken. Still, we plugged on.
The milestones were tiny.
One day, he drew me a picture.
Another day, he’d grab my hand out of nowhere, holding it as we went on our walk.
He’d do silly things just to make me laugh.
When he broke his leg, he let me hold him when his leg hurt late at night and we watched movies together.
One day, a friend pointed out how nervous he looked when I walked out of his view.
I woke up one day and realized I wasn’t faking it anymore. I hadn’t been for awhile. My love for him was real. I was not longer acting out love because I knew we both needed it. I was being affectionate, and doing things for him and spending time with him because I loved him.
Now, it seems like he draws me at least two pictures a day. He asks me to play with him all the time. We love to read books together. I enjoy poking him whenever we pass each other. And, it’s not uncommon that he grabs my hand or wraps his arm around my leg when we go on walks. Sometimes, I just like to sneak up and tell him I love him, which makes him run away in embarrassment… smiling.
We still have plenty of moments where he drives me nuts, or he gets mad at me, because he got in trouble. Plenty. He’s 5. We’re both human.
Recently, I picked him up out of the car and swung him around. As I reached to help Lena, he wrapped his arm around my leg unexpectedly. “What’s that for?” ” ‘Cause I love you.”
I wrote this for myself, as a reminder of how far we’ve come. And to share with my friends, who are at the beginning of their complicated love stories.
Reflecting on this whole process, as I’ve read and edited this post over several days, I realized it doesn’t end here. I am not done with this sort of difficult love. A reminder that I especially need to love people in my life who seem incompatible with me, who seem impossible to love and who I think may never love me back.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Today was our last visit for this trip. I am glad to be going home, but it is sad to say goodbye to Alyona. Today was a good visit for us. I felt like we interacted with her a lot. Alla and Alyona’s nanny talked a lot and Alyona seemed pretty content to play with us.
I am not sure why I brought toys. Next time, I am going to go around my house before we leave and find odd little things to bring. On a whim, I grabbed one of the disposable combs from our hotel room. What a hit! I thought it would be good bonding for me to brush her hair, but her nanny suggested that she brush mine. Even better! She was very interested in brushing my hair. She kept asking me “does it hurt?” And I’d say “nyet, nyet” and then she’d ask again, like she didn’t believe me. A little 3 year old brushing your hair tickles more than it hurts!
After that, I got out the scarf. Hours of fun can be had with a scarf. I am not even kidding. R&L enjoy a scarf as well. Alyona likes to wrap it around her head or others’ heads. She looked like a nun, a model, little Red Riding Hood or a babushka, depending on how she wore it.
This is another game that she really likes. It is difficult for me to do this with her.
Later in our visit, she decided that she needed to style my hair again. She has this little bubble blower, which blows air. She saw a big girl using a blow dryer one day, and now she uses her bubble machine to “blow dry” her hair.
We played a lot of hide and seek/peekaboo or as they call it cuckoo. She always recites this little poem, with help from Alla or her nanny. I really wanted to get a video of it, since it has been a staple of our week here. She got distracted by the camera and forgot to look for me! Oops!
Another favorite moment of our visit today was when I was trying to get her to play cuckoo again. I covered my eyes. She came over and said “ne plach” (don’t cry). It was so sweet. I pretend to cry some more and she told me again and gently grazed her hand over my cheek. It was a very loving gesture. I think that says a lot about the kind of care that she gets at the hospital.
We brought a Russian-to-English CD to give to Alyona and her nanny today. We have the English-to-Russian version. It teaches lots of basic things and I got it thinking that perhaps she would have an opportunity to listen to it, since she has a 1-on-1 nanny. I was afraid it might seem like we were forcing English on her already, but both Alla and her nanny seemed very excited about the idea. She has a CD player in her room, so they can listen to it right there. Alla joked that they ‘d probably be speaking English when we get back, and it’s true– they’ll probably know more English than we know Russian!
We had a lot of fun, and then she heard her friends playing. She was not so happy. This whole week we have been trying to entertain her in a tiny little 5’x15’ room. It is understandable how bored she was! We had a hard time entertaining R&L in the large playroom at their orphanage. Alla said maybe it was time for us to go. I agree, as I’d rather have shorter fun visits with her than long, exhausting ones. We said goodbye and she kissed us both.
I know Alyona is getting some really wonderful care at the hospital. I am not concerned about her physically or emotionally at all. Her nanny is like a mama for her and she has some wonderful friends to play with. However, I am anxious for when we get to come and bring her home. For those of you who are not familiar with Russian adoption, we will have court in about 6-8 weeks, probably the end of January, a 10-day wait period and then we can do all of the paperwork to bring her home– passport, birth certs, embassy stuff.
A few people asked about the nannies. Alyona is an exception that she has a round-the-clock nanny. There is a special fund in place that allows her to have the nanny. The other child only have a nanny during the day. Either way, it is really wonderful for them to have that kind of one-on-one motherly care. Alyona’s nanny assists her medically, but she also spends a lot of time playing with her.