Letter to Eli, March 2014

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Dear Eli,

 

It has been so long since I have written you one of these letters. I hope I will be able to do so more frequently now, but no promises at this point. There have been times over the past year that I have wanted to sit down and capture a snapshot of adorable you for future-Eli but haven’t done so because I felt like if I did I’d need to also be able to keep up with monthly letters, and perhaps even with blogging in general again and that expectation just about paralyzed me.

On the kiddie train...

On the kiddie train…

 

But how silly is that. A letter is a letter. It is a small little gift from me to you, to be opened and enjoyed at some point in the far off future when this kind of thing may  hold some meaning for you.  And so I begin…

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Dear Eli,

It amazes me that you ever had a speech delay, because now you talk. All.The.Time. I was told it would happen. I was warned the time would come when I would secretly wish for a quiet moment to string two of my own thoughts together. And while I confess to times when my introverted self does wish for a chance to recharge, you are a delight to listen to. When asked a question you never just answer… you give the complete backstory as well. “Eli, do you want strawberry or peach yogurt?” “Well, Mama, yesterday I had peach yogurt so today I’ll have strawberry yogurt, because that’s how I eat them… strawberry, peach, strawberry, peach… it’s a pattern.”

 

Eating a strawberry in the field during a class field trip.

Eating a strawberry in the field during a class field trip.

Your random observations and declarations are almost always somewhere on the continuum between amusing and down-right hilarious. I really need to start jotting them down as they happen because as much as I’ll be certain I could never forget one by evening I’m there scratching my head trying to recall it.

 

Whatever it is you are doing at the moment is usually in your mind the absolute best thing in the existence of the universe. Which is great as far as living in the moment, and being content with your present circumstances goes… but a bit challenging when it comes time to transition to another activity.

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We do plenty of front-loading, give lots of warning ahead of time and occasionally use timers, and generally the transition happens without any tears being shed.

Running through Chinatown.

Running through Chinatown.

The part of Chinatown you best remember and want to revisit is the mechanical police helicopter ride. We never even put a quarter in but it entertained you for more than 30 minutes.

The part of Chinatown you best remember and want to revisit is the mechanical police helicopter ride. We never even put a quarter in but it entertained you for more than 30 minutes.

But the discussion…! “But why, Mama? Why can we not just stay here forever? Why can we not just live at the (Barnes & Noble, Bear Park, sidewalk outside of the closed and shuttered strip mall, etc.)?” Every time. Usually I employ logic such as not having our beds, refrigerator, toys, or comfy living room, until the day you countered with “But why then can we not live at Ikea?” I wonder how many people have ever gotten a pet, just so that they could convince their small child that they really did want to go home to see it at the end of the day?

Playing in the fountain with Zoe.

Playing in the fountain with Zoe.

Not that you don’t like being at home. When we are there and it is time to go out a whole different discussion takes place to convince you that going out to the park (or other location) is indeed something you will enjoy. You just like doing what ever it is you are doing at the moment.

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While the last year has required an immense amount of adjustments on your part as you have had to learn to share me with a sibling, you have risen to the challenge phenomenally.

Cuddly, snuggly... You love slow mornings!

Cuddly, snuggly… You love slow mornings!

I may be more than a bit biased, but I think you must be about the best big brother on the face of the earth. You are so kind and sweet to Zoe.  You are good about sharing toys with her and are delighted now that she is getting old enough and mobile enough to play around with you.

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You watch her like a hawk for anything that might be dangerous to her. When she cries in the back seat of the car you have been overheard to say “Aww. It’s ok Zoe. You bwother’s here. I love you!”

You recently turned 4 years old. There is no toddler left… you are officially a little kid, no baby, just boy. You were so excited at your party. No wild-out-of-control-bouncing-off-the walls-excited. You held it inside, where it wreaked havoc on your digestive track. After dashing with you to the restroom at the park during the party I wondered if we should pack it all in and get you home. You responded with an emphatic “I’m NOT sick! It was a GOOD vomit!” And you were right. That night and the following day I continued to watch you for signs of illness but there were none.

Making a wish...

Making a wish…

You are attending preschool 5 days a week now.You have been learning so much. You now know you letters and their sounds, and are working on counting (after 13 you jump around all over the place… it’s pretty cute to listen to.) You love to tell me about what you learn at school when you get home, and I love to listen.

With your Preschool Connections teacher Miss Karen.

With your Preschool Connections teacher Miss Karen.

One of the most notable things about you right now is that you currently seem to be between obsessions. I don’t remember a time when you weren’t completely obsessed with something since you were barely more than a baby. There have been obsessions with musical instruments, airplanes, trains, garbage trucks, and most recently, construction equipment and dinosaurs.

"Excavating" dinosaur bones.

“Excavating” dinosaur bones.

You still like all of those things but there isn’t any one of them that completely consumes every waking moment of your mental life right now. You divide your free time between Play Doh (especially Play Doh Garbage Truck), playing restaurant or ice cream shop in your play kitchen, “cutting the lawn” outside with a doll stroller or wagon (anything stick-like becomes a weed-whacker), or playing doctor or construction worker with role play costumes and toys. You also love to do crafts… the messier the better.

Making stick people.

Making stick people.

You love to pull the whole family into your flights of fantasy. “Mom, you’re a Pteranodon, Daddy is a Tyrannosaurus, Zoe is a Gallimimus and I’m a Parasaurolophus. We’re the Dinosaur fambily!” So we hear the phrase “We’re a ____ fambily!” quite often. But yesterday at Barnes &Noble you were discussing the finer points of cupcakes versus cookies with your Daddy. He likes cookies better. You said “I like cookies too… because we’re just a cookie-loving fambily!” You have yet to learn about inside versus outside voice though, so all others in line with you were amused as well.

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I love watching you play and day dream.

You never cease to delight and please us, my boy. Being your parent just keeps getting better and better.

I love you very, very, very much,

Mama

Letter to Eli- 34 and 35 Months

Dear Eli,

Riding the carousel during an outing with Aunt Jacki.

Riding the carousel during an outing with Aunt Jacki.

I have not gotten your monthly letter done for a couple of months here. I am sorry. Things have been crazy and when there has been time and energy to write I felt so overwhelmed by all there is to say I’ve hardly known where to start. I guess I’m now just giving up on the idea of the full accounting of Christmas… it’s now past Valentine’s Day for goodness sake! And honestly, I need to rethink the timing and format of these letters to you. If I’m having trouble getting them done now, how will it be when there is a new baby in the house? And as you get older, speaking of your age in terms of months is beginning to seem a little silly. Yet I love taking the time to reflect on and record your growth and development. I like having a place to put the pictures that we take of you over the course of a month… and I also need this external reminder to take pictures each month as I’m not so good about that when just left to my own devices.

Uncle Kevin and Aunt Misa sent an otabe treat from Japan. "I had totabe (otabe)! Totabe be fun! Totabe be tummy fun!" You haven't stopped talking and dreaming about having more "totabe" since!

Uncle Kevin and Aunt Misa sent an otabe treat from Japan. “I had totabe (otabe)! Totabe be fun! Totabe be tummy fun!” You haven’t stopped talking and dreaming about having more “totabe” since!

Aside from the joy of seeing you really interact with the extended family in Tucson, the biggest Christmas development in your life was that you overcame your fear of dogs! I can’t even begin to tell you how huge this is. You now enjoy your time visiting relatives who own dogs. You are no longer constantly on high alert whenever we are outside, constantly scanning your surroundings and overcome by anxiety whenever a dog appeared on the horizon. When we returned from Tucson we wondered how much your new found enjoyment of our extended family’s pets would transfer to other canines we run across in daily life. When we took a New Year’s Day stroll around Laguna Beach and you actually felt slighted and disappointed each time we passed someone walking their dog who didn’t stop for you to pet the dog and have it sniff your hand we knew that indeed we had experienced a Christmas miracle! Your personal little mantra “I be okay” is a powerful thing. And while you are actually not saying it so often yourself anymore you should know that many in our clan are still quoting your phrase to themselves when feeling a need for the reminder.

Mia is your new best friend. You love to play fetch with her, although the poor dog is a bit confused when you run after the ball you've just thrown and try to fetch it before she can!

Mia is your new best friend. You love to play fetch with her, although the poor dog is a bit confused when you run after the ball you’ve just thrown and try to fetch it before she can!

I expect your little sister will be making her appearance any day soon… if these contractions get any more regular maybe even today! I’ve been so very aware of the fact that soon you will be sharing our attention with a newborn. While I am excited to welcome her into our family and begin the process of getting to know her I can’t help but wonder (and perhaps worry a bit) about how it will change our relationship. I’ve been soaking up extended cuddle times with you, and being on bed rest most of the past month has given me plenty of them, mindful that soon such uninterrupted time will be a thing of the past. And you, my boy, are a cuddle junkie! A year ago when you were constantly showing up the Energizer Rabbit I never would have guessed that I would be blessed with so much time to just hold you along side me. It’s truly the best thing ever! Except for the fact that a goodly part of the reason you are content to do so has been you’ve repeatedly experienced the joys of one strain of the flu after another this winter.

With Carly on your Christmas desert hike. You went off on the hike with relatives and without your parents and had the time of your life! You still talk daily about the "pokey" cactus, though I'm very glad they made such an impression on you without any painful encounters. You are a good listener and take adult warnings seriously... cautious like your father :-)

With Carly on your Christmas desert hike. You went off on the hike with relatives  (without your parents!) and had the time of your life! You still talk daily about the “pokey” cactus, though I’m very glad they made such an impression on you without any painful encounters. You are a good listener and take adult warnings seriously… cautious like your father 🙂

Although I know things will be changing in our family dynamic soon, and that the initially it may be a bit rough at times for you, you have shown me again and again how adaptable you can be when given time and space to work through a new adjustment. For your part, you are so excited to have your sister join us after waiting so, so very long! You often come to me to tell me you think it is time for us to go to the hospital to get the baby out! You’ve been know to try to stretch my belly button open to get a peak inside. A few days ago you took your foot to my belly button and told me you wanted to go into my belly. I wondered if you were feeling to need to be the baby again and asked “Why, Eli?” You gave me that look of long-suffering patience with my less than acute perception and answered, “to play with Zoe.”

Fishing for algae in the canal at the park.

Fishing for algae in the canal at the park.

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The catch of the day!

Your ability to answer “why” questions is a new development of the past couple of weeks, and you often begin your answer with the word “because”. It is wonderful to finally have you explain to us the reasoning behind some of the things you will say and do or about a reaction you are having. We are often astounded by the connections you will make between ideas! Your language development has become nothing short of amazing. During our cuddle times you love to just converse with me. In fact you like holding conversations so much that you get upset when other people talk to each other instead of with you. “No Mama, no talk to Daddy. Talk to Eli.” It’s a behavior and expectation we really need to work on, but honestly, it’s a great problem for us to have! Today at a donut shop the girl behind the counter remarked at how much you were speaking. Of course, she had no idea that this little boy who now can sit and narrate the minutest detail of his experience had less than 20 words to his vocabulary just a year ago. It was about the nicest off-hand comment a stranger has ever made to us about you… even better than the times people go on and on about how adorable you are!

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Lately you ask me, without exaggeration, at least 20 times a day if I am your Mommy. You do so with the sweetest tone of voice, and I don’t think the question comes from any real doubt on your part as to whether I am you mother or not. You often tend to phrase statements in the form of questions and this is your way of marking our relationship. It is often quickly followed by you making the universal sound of melting over cuteness (“Aaawwww!”) and hugging whichever part of me is closest to you. Eli, I am incredibly blessed to be your Mommy. There are few things in this life that make me feel as happy as being your mother does. I will always be your Mommy even when you have long outgrown the use of the word. (Which, I have to say, is not yet. Please stop calling me Mom… you’re not even three yet! Mommy or Mama will do just fine for at least a couple more years. Please?!??)

I love you so very, very much!

Mama

Letter to Eli, 33 Months

Dear Eli,

I don’t think I can tell you how much I am enjoying you at this age! When you were a little baby, you were so cute and sweet in many ways I almost wished you wouldn’t grow and change because I thought I’d miss that stage too much. I couldn’t imagine you would be any more sweet than you were then. I knew it would get easier (that it HAD to get easier!) but I wondered what would be lost as you matured. But the truth is it just keeps getting better and better. I now sometimes think of you at four, seven, or ten years old and wonder if parenting you could be anywhere near as rewarding then as it is now. Hard as it is to imagine, I now believe that life with you will continue it’s present trajectory of wonderfulness, even as we are sure to face the various inevitible challenges of growing up along the way.

You love to discuss all the different parts of vehicles. We hear "It have wheels on it!" exclaimed often.

You love to discuss all the different parts of vehicles. We hear “It have wheels on it!” exclaimed often.

So what is so fun about this particular age? For one your capacity for self-expression continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Of course I’ve always felt that I’ve known you extremely well, but now I know so much more about what is going on inside your head and heart. And it is delightful. You are funny, and fun-loving, sensitive, affectionate and loving, and oh, so imaginative! Nothing in our home is ever as it seems anymore. A chair is not a chair… it is a garbage truck. Your wagon is a lawn mower. Cords, straps, strings, etc. are seat belts. (I love that you are super concientious about keeping them from going around your neck.) And when you are in full garbage man mode (which is often!) almost everything is “ew, yucky!” and the garbage truck needs to eat it. The only things exempt from this treatment seem to be the library book What Brothers/Sisters Do Best and the baby doll we bought you back when rinsing your hair in the bathtub was cause for much anxiety. These things you soberly declare “Not ew yucky! This clean!”  I think you are doing well at preparing yourself for the roll of big brother.

Playing with play dough is definitely among your most loved activities.

Playing with play dough is definitely among your most loved activities.

Here you are sharing the love. :-)

Sharing the love. 🙂

This month riding your bike has become one of your favorite activities. It used to be that you would just kind of walk along dragging the bike along with you between your legs. Now you sit and glide and have learned to steer around obstacles with pretty impressive precision. You are still using your little quadracycle that is really too small for you, and I think you are ready for your balance bike, but we have an issue with your helmets. The toddler helmet simply won’t fit over your head at all and the youth helmet just slides right off the back of your head. So for now I’m content to let you just ride the bike that is closest to the ground and not apt to tip over. You are so funny coming down the small hill on the sidewalk yelling “I don’t have a helmet! I don’t have a helmet!” You definitely inherited your father’s saftey-conscious gene.

Play Kitchen at IKEA

You love to go play at IKEA! The play kitchen is by far your favorite. (You’re getting one for Christmas. I think I’ll enjoy your reaction almost as much as you’ll enjoy receiving it!)

You really like hiding and spinning in this chair at IKEA as well.

One major development with you over the past month has been that you have been learning how to manage situations that make you feel anxious. Dogs have been a long standing source of fear for you. Up until now the mere sight of a dog, even a small one on a leash far away, meant that you had to be picked up and carried, wimpering until the dog was long past. Then all of the sudden, one day as we were walking past a PetSmart on dog adoption day you opted to continue to walk with me holding hands instead of having your Daddy carry you safely by all the commotion. You kept saying to yourself, “I be okay, I be okay.” I was so proud of you! Since then you use that tactic for self reassurance fequently. I hear you tell yourself you’ll be okay at times when I haven’t even been aware there was anything amiss in our surroundings. Not only are you okay, little Eli… you are doing fantastic!

The other situation this new level of maturity became apparent this past month was when we ran into a neighbor family on the sidewalk. For some reason though they are among the nicest and friendliest of people they have always struck terror in your heart. This time though, not only did you say “Thank you” to the lady when she complimented you on the car you were playing with, but you allowed us to be invited for a visit inside their home! There you ate the cut up apple she prepared for you, remembering your manners, and lasted for about a 15 minute visit. I was so pleased and frankly astounded. They have always wanted to help us watch you from time to time and we trust them, but it hasn’t been possible. Perhaps now it will be.

Enjoying a soy ice cream sandwich on Thanksgiving. By evening you had tasted and loved your first piece of pumpkin pie!

Enjoying a soy ice cream sandwich on Thanksgiving. By evening you had tasted and loved your first piece of pumpkin pie!

Keeping you away from dairy because of your allergy was never an issue as far as you were concerned. All I had to do was tell you the desired item had milk in it and would make you all itchy and you wouldn’t want it anymore. Until Thanksgiving weekend that is. All of the sudden there was sobbing and much distress everytime you couldn’t have something. With the whole holiday season upon us we knew this was going to be an ongoing issue, so we decided to let you challenge the allergy again as we have quite a few times (unsuccessfully) in the past. We figured either you’d have a reaction we would have to weather over the next 3 or 4 days and the experience would then be fresh in your mind as Christmas goodies came your way, or we’d find you’d finally outgrown the allergy. Well, it would seem you have outgrown the allergy! You are gleefully scarfing down pizza and pumpkin pie. I am giddy at not having to scrutinize every label quite so closely anymore. I think you are still a bit sensitive, or maybe just not used to digesting dairy protien so we are limiting the amount you get quite a bit, but I think this Christmas will be much more enjoyable for you from a culinary standpoint this year!

When childcare fell though for us at the last minute before my prenatal appointment this month you accompanied us to the doctor’s office. You really enjoyed the experience! I don’t know if it was seeing your sister on the ultrasound, seeing someone else being on the examination table for a change, or the fact that there was a garbage truck picking up the trash from the building’s dumpster as we were walking in. Since then you keep asking to go to see the doctor. At church you climbed up an outdoor staircase and started to climb on top of the 6 foot high wall, and when I told you to get down please because I didn’t want you to get hurt and have to go to the hospital you almost lept off immediately. “I want to go to the hospital!” you kept saying for quite a while after that. Before the week was out you got to do just that as I had a bit of pregnancy trouble. Unfortunately (for you) you slept through the entire thing! You did get to see the hospital when you came back to visit me later that evening and to pick me up the next morning, though. Now you want to go back, and to be honest, I wish you’d quit saying that, because I don’t! Not for a few months anyway!

Sleeping though all of the hospital excitement.

Sleeping though all of the hospital excitement.

The outcome of our hospital visit is that I am now on bedrest. This is quite difficult for you, and for that I am very sorry. Even so you try to be so helpful and bring me things I need, and take things from me to throw away, etc. You also give me a lot of cuddles and snuggles, which I just adore! Hopefully things around here will normalize soon, but even if they don’t I know you will handle it just fine.

Due to my being on bed rest now our Christmas plans are a bit up in the air right now. I so hope we’ll be able to take you to see all the relatives in Tucson, but we will just have to see how the situation develops. At least if we don’t go you are too young to know what usually happens and won’t be as disappointed as you would be if you were older. In the meantime you are loving the whole Chirstmas thing as you are finally old enough to “get it”. You are so excited about the Christmas tree and will look at it and say “My Christmas tree!” For a boy who previously wouldn’t speak a word to any stranger, you now have a lot to say if they only ask you if you have a Christmas tree. Then it’s “It have lights! It have o’naments! It have a star on top!” When you say the last part you put your fist on top of your head for emphasis. And the best part is that you don’t even yet realize that Christmas means getting presents. You’re just loving the beauty and specialness of the season. Yep, regardless of where we spend it, Christmas this year with you is going to be so much fun!

I love you so very, very, very much!

Mama

 

Letter to Eli, 32 Months

Sitting in the front seat of the police car during the police officer’s visit to your preschool.

Dear Eli,

October of 2012 was all about transportation for you, and there is no sign of you letting this particular obsession go anytime soon. It all started a couple of months ago with the flat tire on our car after which ALL tires had to be inspected, and changed by you multiple times. Then we took the plane trip to Washington last month and a full-blown obsession was born. That has led to trains and the biggest one yet GARBAGE TRUCKS. Your conversation these days runs from “Ai-yai (Eli) be pilot. Fly up high in the sky!” (and you’ve made it clear Mama will be the one sitting in the back seat), to “Garbage Kuck have tires. Garbage Kuck eat garbage! Ew ‘ucky!” And when asked to throw something away, “It’s for the Garbage Kuck!”These conversations are then repeated at least  15 times until you switch to a new mode of transportation to talk about.

Last Sunday you started the day saying “I want to see a Garbage Kuck.” This was then repeated rapid fire most of the drive to church, and continued immediately after church, and then continued multiple times throughout the days and the following days as well. Literally, you made your need known hundreds of times! Unfortunately for you it would be Thursday before you would see a garbage truck while on your way home from preschool.

As long as it has wheels or better yet “a propellor on it!” it is worthy of at least 5 hours of your deepest consideration daily. Your Halloween costume this year was an airplane, and yes, it did have a propellor on it. 🙂

Your favorite thing to play lately is play dough. You make play dough garbage trucks, airplanes, buses and cement trucks and occasionally a play dough snowman who then helps you repair the broken tires of the play dough garbage trucks and airplanes. Play dough now takes up more of your free time than even your beloved instruments, although sometimes the two do meet, as they did in the play dough trombone you requested from me this afternoon.

Making play dough airplanes.

You have also for the first time begun doing representational artwork. While you were enjoying yourself painting on a pumpkin you began spreading paint on the paper that was under the pumpkin. I thought you were just smearing it about as has been your want but then I saw you adding deliberate circle shapes to the bottom. You looked up with a huge grin and declared “It’s a Garbage Kuck!” The following day you made some  different colored bended stripes on a piece of cardboard with crayon and told me it was a rainbow! Let me tell you, Mama is having trouble keeping your easel we’ve gotten you for Christmas tucked away until Christmas! It’s going to be a LONG two months for me in that regard!

Playing dress up with high heels at preschool. Amazingly you do better at walking in those things than your Mama can!

Your ability to imagine and play pretend games has really taken off, almost overnight it seemed, this past month. When we don’t have something you want if we say, “Well, why don’t you pretend you have it?” You look at us like that is the best idea you have ever heard, and full of smiles begin to do just that. Cutest.Thing.Ever. I wonder how long this will last?

“Driving” the tractor.

As Mama’s belly continues to expand you are contemplating the coming baby. I think you have mixed feelings. If I am rubbing my belly as we relax together in the evening at times you make it clear that I need to cover it up Right NOW! But then there are times like yesterday when we had the following conversation out of the blue.

You (looking up from your important work on the vacuum cleaner’s wheels): Baby come? Baby come to Ai-yai’s (Eli’s) house! Baby come now!

Me: Yes, a baby is coming to our house, but we have to still wait a long time before she comes. She will be your sister.

You, with a big smile: “And I will be her Ai-yi!”

And just so you can see how much you have grown here are some pictures we’ve taken each of the three years we’ve gone to the Pumpkin City together.

2010

2011

2012

Last year you didn’t want to sit still for anything, including pumpkin patch photos!

2010

2011

2012

Unfortunately the same mechanical car was being repaired when we went to take these photos this year.

One interesting thing about you, is that when you are doing something that should be all kinds of exciting for you, such as the train ride below, you usually have an expression of extreme boredom on your face. But just when we think we got it wrong and didn’t predict what you’d like as well as we thought, we find that afterwards you have all kinds of breathless chatter about the experience, even days or weeks later. I guess you just sit back and are very busy with the serious business of taking it all in so you won’t forget a thing!

Your father and I continue to be astounded by the amount of delight that you give us on a daily basis. We are so happy that you can now share so many of your thoughts with us. It really does just keep getting better and better!

I love you so very, very, very much!

Mama

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Linking to Growing Slower: Tuesday Baby Link Up

Letter to Eli, 29 and 30 Months

Dear Eli,

I have fallen behind in my letters to you, and just at the time when you seem to be changing most rapidly. Now I feel like I don’t even know where to begin in trying to give you a bit of a recap of your life over the past couple of months!

You have changed from attending the toddler group speech and occupational therapy group to going to the developmental preschool program twice a week. You love it there! It’s in the same building as the other program and there is some overlap of the teachers and therapists that you adore so much. One main difference is that the day is three hours instead of two and you go BY YOURSELF! Last March I would never have guessed that you would have become this independent so quickly.

You are so proud of the things you make at school! We are going to have to figure out some strategy for storage as they are beginning to take over the house, yet I don’t dare throw much of anything out. You love to go and fish a project out of the pile and declare “I made this!” Even something made weeks ago will be revisited with equal amounts of pride and satisfaction as the paper that came home just the day before. Anything I tape to the fridge is soon in tatters as you feel the need to remove it to show it to me again.

And speaking of your declarations… in the area of speech you have really taken off. You now use complete sentences more often than not. And you talk all. the. time. (unless we are with other people)! And know what? I’m loving every minute of it! Just nine months ago you’re expressive language was evaluated to be at the level of a nine month old baby, now you are pretty much right on track. You still have trouble with pronouns and some pronunciation problems, but nothing that is very out of place for a two and a half year old.

One thing that you say constantly, as in at least 100 times a day, is “Oh My!” I was unaware that is was something I said on occasion (or perhaps often) until you picked it up. You say it anytime one might say “Look!” or “Wow!” or “Uh oh.”  It’s actually quite cute, if somewhat repetitious.

Your father and I have been marveling at what an easy child you are to manage these days. At the store you will find things you want, bring them to us (“I need this!”), but if we ask you to put it back on the shelf you cheerfully do. We can generally reason with you, and verbally prepare you for those stickier situations that have caused behavioral problems in the past, and you do alright. Maybe it’s the recent surge in your language ability, or perhaps just a new level of maturity. You have always been a delightful child, but easy has never been a word I would have applied to you. I gotta tell ya, I’m enjoying this stage immensely! We’ll see how long it lasts. 🙂

You now joke often and seem to always find the humor in things. The people who work with you at school comment about this as well. They say they love having you around because your laugh is so contagious! Your first verbal joke appeared right around the time you turned 2 1/2. You said you wanted to eat, so I asked you what you would like to eat. Your reply? “Eat pee pee? Eat poo poo?”  Yep, you are definitely a boy. Now one of your favorite jokes is to try to convince me that Dan Zanes on the concert video is playing a guitar even though you know it’s a mandolin; for some reason you find this endlessly entertaining.

The pictures in this letter were taken during our family’s recent vacation to Washington State. It turns out that traveling is pretty hard on you at this stage in your development, more so than it has been in the past. You begged multiple times each day “Go home?” But even so you were a wonderful travel companion. Our flight out was delayed an hour in the terminal and then an additional two hours in the plane just sitting on the tarmac. This for a late afternoon flight that should have gotten us into Seattle for a in time slightly late bed time. But my boy… such a trooper! You were cooperative and meltdown free the entire time, even though we didn’t end up in bed in our hotel until 2:30 a.m. I’m still shocked, it’s more than I would expect from any 2 year old, much less from one who has had  sensory processing and excess energy issues.

Now every time you see a plane overhead you say “Eli do that. Eli do that again!”

Even though you pined for home and your beloved guitars you enjoyed our time playing in the forest and at the beach, climbing on a stationary train, and playing with children in the families we visited. Since getting home though you haven’t been liking to spend much time out and about. You last for one activity, such as a visit to grandma, school, or going to church, but then it’s “Go home!” even if the next activity is something that is generally toddler approved, like going to the park. I think (hope) as we settle back into a routine you’ll become more comfortable being out in the community again.

Your fascination with music and instruments has grown beyond guitars and drums. You now pretend to play the trombone, the trumpet, the bass and the violin. You can identify the saxophone, french horn, tuba, piano, harp, bass, banjo, mandolin, accordion, harmonica, and I’m sure others that I just don’t recall right now. When we pass a music store with real instruments in the window you will stay there transfixed for 15 minutes or more. Once I read to you the sign on the door saying that they give music lessons so that people can learn to play instruments. You began tugging on the door with all of your might begging to go inside. Luckily the store was closed, because  you are still a pretty much walking death sentence to any instrument you get your hands on (other than the drums). When you learn to treat things a little more gently and you have a bit longer of an attention span I am sure music lessons will be in your future.

And finally, our days of babywearing have come to a definite end. We had pretty much stopped the practice with the onset of this pregnancy, but the Ergo made it’s appearance once more to help us navigate the airports on our trip. I’m glad I had this last opportunity to enjoy you this way, and that you were in a sleepy, snuggly mood for a portion of it. I’m so thankful that the morning sickness has pretty much faded and that I had the energy to do it. It really felt so nice and I needed that opportunity to say goodbye in a gentle way to this part of our relationship. But the day after we got back from our trip the doctor told me that I should now not be lifting any more than 20 pounds. Oops!.. you are somewhere between 38 and 40 lbs. at this point.

I hope you want to still hold my hand for a long time to come.

I love you so very, very, very much!

Mama

Letter to Eli, 29 Months

Dear Eli,

Oh my beautiful boy, what a challenging month this has been! I think it is safe to say that it has been the most difficult month we have experience together from both of our perspectives. And while I would give almost anything to have been able to make it easier for you, still, I’ve got to say that you have astounded me with your resilience.

Your Mama is growing you a sibling that will be born right around the time of your third birthday. Both your Daddy and I are so pleased, as we have wanted you to have a sibling’s life-long companionship from the very beginning, but weren’t completely convinced it would be possible. So many people have commented to me already that you are going to make a terrific big brother, and they are so right! You have  incredible sensitivity and a heart overflowing with love for those around you. I can’t wait to see the shape that will take as you forge a relationship with your new brother or sister over the years to come.

The temporary downside of this pregnancy however is that it has come complete with all the morning sickness Mother Nature can dish out. I’m quite familiar with it as it took up residence in your poor Mama for the first 4 months of her pregnancy with you as well. We are praying it doesn’t feel as inclined to stick around quite as long this time.

This has meant a quick succession of great losses for you. As I am barely able to lift my head from the pillow for the greater part of most days you have lost a playmate. You’ve never been one to like playing by yourself, yet the best I can do now is watch you and comment on what it is you are doing as you do it. It’s just not the same. There have been no art projects or cooking sessions, no going out to visit friends in the neighborhood, few tickle sessions, and much, too much, TV.

I can no longer carry you in your beloved Ergo. Not only do I not have the energy, but as I am also usually light-headed and unsteady on my feet, the last place you should be is strapped to my body. This also means that I’m not carrying you in my arms much at all either. One good side to this though is that you are learning to cuddle. You have always craved physical contact, but unless there was nursing involved, it had to be with the one holding you standing up. Now that you will snuggle in along side me for a good cuddle while reclining it’s become a much more relaxing experience for me!

The biggest change in your life though has been that we were forced into weaning. I had always planned that you would be able to nurse as long as you felt the need. I dreamed that you would grow up with sweet memories of the time you spent feeling safe, secure and so very loved nursing in my arms. I had read up a lot on nursing through pregnancy and then nursing a toddler alongside a newborn. I know it is very possible and a wonderful experience for many that choose to go that route with their family. But for me this morning sickness is too great an obstacle. It is so very difficult for me to eat and I am losing much too much weight. Not only was I unable to take in the extra calories that are required for the pregnancy and the additional calories needed for breastfeeding, but the act of nursing itself made the nausea beyond unbearable, further decreasing my ability to eat and keep down food. Initially, we decided just to night wean as at that point the worst wave of illness generally caught me during the very early morning hours. You and Daddy moved into your room to sleep leaving mama with the “family” bedroom (and master bathroom!) to herself. It took 14 nights for you to accept the idea of sleeping without chi-chi. It broke my heart to hear you cry for me and to be unable to respond to you, but your Daddy was with you, loving and comforting you the whole time. As the morning sickness has become even worse we eventually had to stop even your daytime nursing sessions. This has also been difficult, but not nearly so much as the night weaning. You now have accepted that “chi-chi is broken” and you don’t ask anymore. I am so sorry, Little One, but please know that I sincerely tried my hardest to keep going. I would never have done this this way if I had any other choice.

But because of all of this you are learning to sleep! Most nights now you are only up once begging to eat. Other nights you sleep all the way through. Getting you down without nursing still remains a challenge. Naps only happen if Daddy takes you out in the car in the afternoon. You go down and sleep through the transfer into a stroller and your father gets a couple of hours to work on his laptop or do some reading in the air-conditioned Barnes And Noble Cafe before you wake up. At night,  initially you would just go an go and go until eventually you’d crash wherever you happened to be, which was often on the bathroom floor.

Now you will occasionally go down lying in bed next to one of us, or with a story in bed with Daddy, but that is still rare. Most often it still takes Daddy holding you and dancing slowly as he sings to you. You are very specific that this has to take place in a certain spot in the living room. Sometimes it feels like baby steps, but considering you were still often up six times a night just a few months back, you really have made a lot of progress. Eventually you will learn how to negotiate that release that takes you to the Land of Nod independently.

In many areas you have been becoming increasingly independent. Probably the most often heard phrases in our home these days are “Eye-yai (Eli) do!” and “My turn!” And oh the tragedy if your father or I should accidentally preform a task that you think should be yours… even if it is something you’ve never shown interest in doing before! While not always convenient this drive of yours towards independence is helping you to grow rapidly in all sorts of skill areas.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been letting you play with the iPad far too much to keep you entertained while I am unable to engage with you the way I always have before. You really love using YouTube. Your favorites are TuTiTu videos, episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (you don’t seem to care what language it’s in so we are hearing a lot of Eastern European cartoon voices lately), and most of all videos by Dan Zanes and Friends, especially All Around The Kitchen and House Party. You can’t watch the music without strapping on your guitar and playing along. You also now will switch between an acoustic guitar and the electric guitar as appropriate (even when playing along with music on the stereo). You think all guitars should be plugged in now so you’ve rigged up ways to attach the vacuum cleaner cord or the cord to an old Skype headset to your guitars before you begin to play.

As I am writing this to you a bit late it’s getting difficult to remember where one month ended and the next began in terms of what you’ve been doing lately. Especially since we are lacking photos this time around I think I’ll stop here. I’ll be writing to you again really soon.

Thank you for all of your patience, help and understanding this past month. I know it has been difficult but you have done a marvelous job of adjusting. I am so, so proud of you!

As always, I love you very, very, very much!

Mama

Letter to Eli, 28 Months

Dear Eli,

This month your world here at home expanded as we opened up the kitchen. You were such an energetic baby and young toddler, full of frenetic activity and not seeming to understand much of any rules we tried to make (nor the word “no”, EVER)  that we had the baby gate keeping you out of the kitchen since you could crawl.

Your Mama has been doing a lot of reading and learning lately though.  It has encouraged me to involve you more in household activities and help you toward independence by allowing you to learn new skills by actually doing what may seem a bit dangerous, such as unloading glass dishes or peeling carrots. I also realized you are not the Godzilla baby you once were any longer. You listen, usually understand, try to follow direction, and are much calmer than you were just a few months ago. So, with a lot of guidance and supervision, you have been learning the ways of the kitchen.

Helping to wipe down the refrigerator.

You have been in seventh heaven with the new arrangement. We’ve been seeing a lot of pots, pans and random kitchen items pulled out of cupboards and onto the floor, as you never had the opportunity for such exploration when you were younger. You are good about putting things away when asked though and now we are seeing a lot less of kitchen-floor-as-counter-top than we were at the beginning of the month. The exploration and joy for you has well been worth the inconvenience and added dishwashing for us. In fact you now know how to load and unload a dishwasher! I was amazed to see you already know where everything goes. An added benefit is that meal preparation is no longer a stressful time of you fussing and complaining on the other side of the fence. Instead I try to find jobs you can do to have a part in making the meal. Hopefully this will carry over into a willingness to try more foods.

You love to help with baking projects… especially banana bread. You are a master at banana mashing and at turning on the mixer.

And when there are no “real” cooking experiences to be had you are quite adept at creating your own.

Similarly you have been stepping up your participation in other household chores mind-blowingly exciting household duties. As you are no longer terrified of the monster residing in the vacuum you delight in harnessing his power to your whim. This particular day you cleaned up all of the rice that overflowed while you played in your rice bin, then you went on to chase down every dust bunny daring to set up residence around the washer and dryer. I am now seeing how beneficial your obsession with the vacuum can be. 🙂

A restful moment with Cori.

This past month you have enjoyed spending time with your cousins. Cori watched you for a few hours one evening while your Daddy and I had a date night for our anniversary. You did so well (as did she)! It is fun seeing you grow ever more independent. I expect you will be having many more Cori-Eli Fun Time opportunities from here on out.

We spent the weekend before July 4th with family as Aunt Jenni and Ali came to visit. Cori and Ali watched you a lot while we were all together, giving your Daddy and I time to visit with the adults. I think you had them both fairly well worn out by the time Sunday night rolled around.

Hanging poolside with Daddy, Ben, Cori and Ali.

Cori and Ali, and lots of water… it just doesn’t get much better than that!

In one single day during that weekend you managed to accidentally fall into the deep end of the pool, fall down a flight of stairs, and jump up on a patio chair causing it to fall over backwards sending you hurdling into a plant stand. Amazingly, you emerged from each disaster unscathed though a bit shaken up. I think I sprouted a few white hairs that day. The next morning I was so thankful to wake up with you snuggled up next to me all in one piece.

You still enjoy a good spin!

The ever popular words “Ewww! ‘Ucky!” are now used for anything that could even remotely be considered gross. You seem to relish the particularly messy diaper changes as there is all the more reason to declare the situation “Ewww! ‘Ucky!” over and over again. It’s enough to make me wonder if this factor alone will push off any desire to learn to use the potty even farther into the future. (Just so you know, the yuckiness could still be loudly proclaimed up until that golden moment of the flush.)

Play dough birthday party… Great for blowing practice! Soon you’ll be blowing your own bubbles. 🙂

The “Happy Birthday to You” song is getting heavy rotation at our house. I’m not sure why you are so fascinated right now as your birthday is neither very recent nor soon to come. You’ve managed to fish a pack of candles out of the baking cupboard to play with. (Sorry, but the matches will remain locked away!) When you aren’t playing with actual birthday candles, toothbrushes, sticks, or wooden peg people will do. You sing (again and again) “‘Appy ew you! ‘Appy ew you!” It’s the first recognizable song you’ve ever sung independently, although before this there have been a few songs of your own creation.

Happy Birthday, Thomas!

Little Eli,  you continue to delight us. Thank you for adding such an incredible layer of joy to our lives.

I love you so very, very, very much!

Mama

Letter to Eli, 27 Months

Dear Eli,

I can’t believe another month has flown by. As always you continue to blossom and grow, thrill and amaze. About the growing part, you know, you could slow it down a little. We recently had to retire about 2/3 of your wardrobe seemingly overnight. That and your Mama is now having to put limits on your Ergo time…

On Mother’s Day

You continue to love music and now demand to sing songs you have learned at school at random moments throughout the day. The photographs below were taken on a day, which was part of a string of days , when you demanded to sing about “Matilda the Gorilla” at least 67 times. You now will sing out yourself on various words of a song and participate in the hand motions, but mostly it’s Mama serenading you about that singing gorilla. We need to learn some new songs. Fast.

You are speaking so much more now. Spontaneous two word phrases abound! Some times you say so much more than that, but I’m beginning to struggle to understand you when you get especially verbose. All of the people who work with you in speech therapy have expressed how thrilled they are with your progress. Of course, your daddy and I are the most thrilled of all. One of the cutest things we hear often around here is “No, no, no, no, no!” said rapid fire and with a tone of great dismay, usually due to a toy falling off the table or another equally great calamity.

This month you had your first carousel ride. You are a fan on the music, movement and the animals, but not so much of having to pick just one animal and sticking with it the entire ride!

At the park you initially demanded that I “drive” you to visit all of the well-loved people and places in your life. I kept encouraging you to be the one to do the driving.

Of course, now you think that we should make the same transition with the family car. The time between now and your learner’s permit is going to go by way too slowly for you, and way too quickly for me.


I love these two photos of you playing in the strange light of the recent partial solar eclipse.https://folkhaven.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/shamelessly-lazy-toddler-jeans/

You have become quite bashful when we are out in public. This is your most common reaction to a stranger paying you any attention. I guess for you being cute has its drawbacks, because it seems there are a lot of people out there that would love to chat with you.

This past month you developed an obsession with vacuum cleaning. Not only will you be entertained for long stretches of time by the mere presence of the upright vacuum in the living room, but when it is squirreled away in the closet any and all toys have the ability to morph into vacuums. You often will be heard humming around the house waving a vacuum in the form of a guitar, flute or shovel in each hand. For a couple of weeks you spent great deal of energy demanding that your father or I vacuum this way with the toys of your choosing, while you sat back and supervised, pointing out all the spots that we “missed”. Then I found a forgotten Dust Buster in the closet that still works. Now you are happy to do most of your vacuuming yourself, and we actually are seeing cleaner floors because of it! You continue to love to sweep as well, which is good, because playing in your rice bin is another recent obsession.

Doing our best to raise a tree hugger…

…the kiss was all your idea.

We went on a field trip to a small zoo with your the group from ICEC. There I learned that you do not share your mother’s fascination and enjoyment of goats. When you saw those crazed and hairy beasts craning their necks over and under the fence you decided we should leave the zoo RIGHT AWAY. And had it not been for the Ergo I’m sure you would have, with or without me. Unfortunately, the goats were pretty much at the entrance to the zoo. You eventually calmed down and enjoyed parts of the experience, but for the most part you were not enamored with the animals as I had hoped you would be. But there is hope for you yet. In an old letter written by your Grandma Beverly when your father was about four she wrote that he “prefers his animals behind bars”. As you know, your daddy is quite the fan of the four-legged, so between your genetic heritage and our relentless influence we will make an animal lover out of you yet. And hopefully you will enjoy them more in nature than behind bars.

You have developed a new strange little habit of “going to sleep” at random moments in public areas, as demonstrated on this staircase. Maybe you want to get in on the planking craze?

Anyway, toward the end of our time at the zoo you decided to make yourself comfortable on the sidewalk, right in front of the mountain lion enclosure. One of the lions immediately went into predator mode and rushed over to you, thankfully stopped about two feet short by the chain link fence. There it crouched at attention, completely focused on you, all the while licking its chops. I sat you up to show you what had happened, but you remained much less impressed by the mountain lion than it was by you. So I guess it’s up to me to make sure you grow up understanding that if you ever encounter a mountain lion in a less controlled setting, playing dead is probably not your best option.

At the end of the day at the zoo we took a ride in this little train. You were very tired and subdued and I wasn’t sure how much of an impression it made, but ever since you have been so excited when you see a train in any form. Your wooden train has been getting quite the work out daily as you load it up with all of the little people and animals you can cram on it.

Few things warm my heart as much as seeing you play in a natural setting. One of the best parts of my childhood was growing up in the country, playing long hours in the fields, woods and stream. I hope as you grow I can find many opportunities for such play for you. This local park and a few downed branches is as good a place as any to start.

I love you so very, very, very much!

Mama

Letter to Eli, 26 Months

Dear Eli, This past month has been a tough one for us, although I am not sure how aware of that you have been. Your grandmother has begun slipping beneath the final waves of dementia and has gone into hospice care. As she becomes more and more unresponsive she still takes enjoyment from you. Even when nothing else seems to get through to her, a hug and a kiss from you, or even seeing your picture will bring out a smile.

Grandma and Uncle Kevin watching you play.

While this has of course been quite difficult for me, for you it has meant that Uncle Kevin and Aunt Misa have come from Japan to visit.

“More dizzy!” you said. Again, and again, and again. Poor Uncle Kevin ended up quite motion sick!

We have all been enjoying their presence here with us, and you have taken to your Aunt Misa like a little bear cub to honey. You can’t seem to get enough of her. When they are here you are constantly playing with her, hugging her, climbing on her, demanding one game and then another.

Enjoying the Elmo sushi Aunt Misa made you.

She likewise has taken to you as well. She and Uncle Kevin have watched you on a number of occasions this past month, allowing your father and I more “date night” opportunities than we’ve had since you were born.

I think this practice with being able to separate from us a bit more frequently has been helpful in getting you ready to re-enter the Thursday group therapy program. When we had tried having you participate there a couple of months age, while I went into the parent education meeting it was a disaster. You were beside yourself during the hour we were apart and for days afterwards were extra clingy. You even had night terrors that night. Last Thursday though we gave it a try again for the last half hour of the program. You did fantastic! No tears, and you enjoyed and participated in the activities. You were very excited to tell me all about getting to use the alligator puppet during circle time when I came back for you. I was so proud of you!

Wearing a helmet as you try out your 2 wheeled “Footcycle”.

You have also been doing a lot of things you were previously afraid of or adverse to up until now. You are now enjoying a variety of swings. You are eating almost normally. You are even willing to wear a bicycle helmet now! It seems like almost everyday you surprise me by doing something I wouldn’t have imagined you doing just a month ago.

Your obsessions with guitars and working like Daddy are neither new, nor are they showing any sign of diminishing.

What is new this month is your attachment to playing with your wooden slice and bake cookie set. You never tire of the humor of pretending the cookie just off of the cookie sheet is hot and about to burn you!

Also new is your attachment to your stuffed giraffe. You have periods when ‘Raff has to do everything with you. Books must be held so he gets the best view and you bob his head along to the words of the story. His hoof must be used to push buttons on remote controls or to hold any pencil or crayon. It is most distressing to you if anything happens without ‘Raff’s participation when you are in this mode.

Technology AND live music… it just doesn’t get any better than that!

Your father and I spent a delightful Saturday at the beach with you earlier this past month. I hope we can do a lot more of that throughout the summer months. You serenaded us in the car for 20 minutes on the way home singing an Eli original goodbye song to the beach.

Even in the midst of many stresses our family is experiencing right now you manage to bring so much joy to us everyday. Thank you for delighting, inspiring and loving on us in this way that is so uniquely yours.

I love you so very, very, very much!

Mama

Letter to Eli, 25 Months

Dear Eli,

Today you are 25 months old. This past month your immune system has been given quite the workout! As soon as you are fever-free long enough to go back to speech therapy you promptly pick up another bug. This month you have had the flu, a sinus infection and croup. I guess it’s all part of the rite of passage of being a toddler going out into the world.

You are currently feeling much better and, as the weather has gotten so nice out lately, it has become very difficult to coax you back in from the outdoors. You can now open the screen door by yourself, and if I forget to lock it you are quick to make a break for it.

Playing with your little wagon is a favorite activity. You push…

or pull it up the hill. It’s a lot of work for a little guy.

But then comes the fun of chasing the wagon back down the hill…

or letting it chase you. Too much fun that must be repeated over and over again.

“Gardening” also is endlessly entertaining what with all the dirt and water involved. The plants aren’t quite so interesting, although you couldn’t pass by the jasmine without smelling it while it was in bloom.

You like to drop twigs and dirt down the storm drain,

or watch the traffic go by. Buses and trucks are super exciting!

You continue your campaign to convince us that air conditioners are actually really big drums in disguise.

Daddy is still the coolest person in your universe (even cooler than Elmo!)

Working just like Daddy on your laptop.

One of the biggest developments for you this month has been that you have started to sing! You have decided that the arm of your highchair is a microphone. Seeing you singing and playing your guitar is about the cutest thing EVER!

Singing a duet with Jose Feliciano.

Just last month you wanted to be in the Ergo most of the time we were out of the house. That wave of separation anxiety is waning and you are wanting down to walk more and more. (My back thanks you!) It used to be to show us something you would demand to be picked up and then would direct us where to go. These days you will try instead to lead us by the hand, or more frequently, by the thigh. I haven’t fallen yet but have come close a time or two when your tug was sudden and unexpected.

Riding a bike has finally become appealing enough that you will endure the dreaded helmet, at least for short periods of time.

I don’t have a picture of this as it happens quickly and then the moment is over, but when you are feeling thankful for something you will rush over and bestow kisses on the hand that is doing the thing that pleases you. Most recently it you did it to your daddy when he played guitar with you, and your Aunt Jacki when she put on the DVD you really, really wanted to see. You are such a charmer!

You love pointing to letters and having them named for you.

You rode a merry go round for the first time this month and LOVED it!

Sidewalk chalk isn’t a new thing for you, but I like this photo of you using it.

Most important of all, this month you have really fallen in love with books. I can’t begin to tell you how happy you make me when you pick one out and ask me to read to you! You have all sorts of endearing reading behaviors, but I already wrote about them here, so I’ll just end this month’s letter with a picture of you enjoying a story with your Aunt Jacki and your guitar.

I love you very, very, very much!

Mama

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