Letter to Zoe, 20 Months

Dear Zoe,

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Today is one of those rare days when both you and your brother are taking a nap… at the same time to boot! I guess even this nasty cold making the rounds in our family has its perks because I’ve been wanting a chance to sit down and write a letter to you for quite a while.

You are loving the sesonal changes in our new home so far... so very different from California!

You are loving the seasonal changes in our new home so far… so very different from California!

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A lot has happened since I last wrote. Your father was offered a job in Virginia, and six weeks after we first heard of the possibility we were here. It’s almost been three months now and our heads are finally no longer spinning. I received a call from the Regional Center that you no longer qualified for services as you had caught up developmentally just before we left California! Now your days are spent at home with me and your brother who began homeschooling this year. We have so much fun together.

During a relatively warm rain you and Eli played outside having the time of your lives... I love that you have so much more opportunity to experience Nature in all of her forms here.

During a relatively warm rain you and Eli played outside having the time of your lives… I love that you have so much more opportunity to experience nature in all of her forms here.

You had NEVER before been so dirty!

You had NEVER before been so dirty!

It has been interesting to me that most everything I do with him you are able to jump right in on as well. In fact, on many days, you are more interested in any planned activities I have than your brother who loves free play with every fiber of his soul. You LOVE to paint, glue, write and draw (which of course look just the same though you are pretty specific as to which activity you are engaging in)… as long as it doesn’t get on your hands! We’ve also been shocked to find that you quite naturally already hold a pen or pencil with the correct three point grasp down toward the bottom, just like you’re supposed to.

You are definitely going through a "pointillism" stage... you love to paint dots, saying "dot, dot, dot" as you apply each one.

You are definitely going through a “pointillism” stage… you love to paint dots, saying “dot, dot, dot” as you apply each one.

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You saw this patch of dirt as we walked, shrieked “draw!” and threw yourself down to do just that.

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Language continues to grow exponentially each day it seems. Two word phrases are common and we hear three word sentences a few times each day. You are using the pronouns “I”,  “me” and “you” correctly and often. You are obsessed with pointing and telling me the names of things to the extent that it is really hard to get you to settle down to nap. For some reason sleep has a hard time competing with “door!”, “light!”, “window!”, “pillow!”, etc. You surprise me with the words you already know and I don’t know where you have picked them up… “Eagle!” while holding up a puppet in the store the other day, and “Hawk!” while pointing at the large bird soaring in a large circle above us.

You are now engaging in pretend play. Here you are having a tea party with your giant sock monkey.

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You are able to enter into Eli’s elaborate play scenarios to enough of an extent that he seeks you out to play with him constantly. He refers to you as “my partner, Zoe” and tells you that you are his best friend multiple times a day. He decided you would both be police officers for Halloween… you didn’t mind a bit.

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Saying “cheeeeese!”

You reciprocate his affection very well. You feel you have to do anything he is doing…

Doing everything just like Eli extends to wearing his underwear superhero-style.

Doing everything just like Eli extends to wearing his underwear superhero-style.

The best way to get you to eat is to just let you graze off of his plate… thankfully he isn’t territorial at all. You are still holding steady at a diminutive 20 lbs.

When we are out of the house you rarely will hold my hand but will insist on holding his, whether he want to or not. The view we get walking behind you is about the cutest thing ever! Well, that and turning around in the car to see the two of you quietly riding along holding hands in the backseat.

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You love anything and everything with fur (or feathers) and breath. You fully expect to have a little love-fest with each and every dog you pass on the street, but are beginning to learn to wait until given permission and assurance that the dog is child-friendly. And this mama is thankful that squirrels aren’t so very easy to catch.

Petting a 3 month old Great Pyrenees... You love it when dogs lick you and squeal "Kiss! Kiss!" every time.

Petting a 3 month old Great Pyrenees… You love it when dogs lick you and squeal “Kiss! Kiss!” every time.

Our new neighborhood is full of deer and you check out the window for them often saying “Deer? Deer?” followed occasionally by “DEER!”, or more often (deep sigh) “No deer….”. You enjoy watching birds at the bird feeders and take the job of refilling them quite seriously.

IMG_2918While we still have no pets (not sure we’re ready yet for a dog and I’ve developed a most unfortunate allergy to cats… I really hope that by the time you read these letters that our pet-less-ness will be a thing of the distant past), we plan to get chickens this coming Spring. I’ve long wanted to have them for the sake of the fresh eggs, and since moving to our new home in the forest their deer tick-eating habits make them even more desirable, but a recent visit to the home of one of Daddy’s co-workers who has a small flock sealed the deal.

IMG_2199IMG_2202IMG_2275You chased those poor chickens until one just gave up in exhaustion and let you sit next to her and pet and pet and pet her. Who knew chickens were such a rich source of toddler entertainment as well? It is becoming increasingly evident that you need some form of critter to love on and call your own.

The quest for independence is a hallmark of this stage of toddler-hood and you are not immune. You have to climb everything, blow your own bubbles and now prefer the “big kid’s swings” at the play ground.

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The last couple of weeks have been especially sweet for our family as we were visited by 2 grandparents and 3 aunts. You are completely smitten by your Grandpa Jim (and he with you, I might add).

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Enjoying the music of a street musician with Grandma Susan. Just after this photo was taken the two of you participated in an adorable session of toe tapping to the beat. You had it down!

It helped that on the day he and Grandma Susan had to leave Aunt Jacki arrived.

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Now the countdown is on to when we will see them all again over Christmas.

IMG_2530And so, dear sweet Zoe, you have little glimpse of yourself at a most adorable stage in your life. You are a constant source of joy and amusement. Your father and I feel so blessed that we get to share our lives with you.

Since moving I’ve managed to step up my game a little bit by posting what you and Eli are up to a few times a week on Facebook for our friends and relatives who are now so very far away. Even though you are not getting the monthly letters like your brother did, I hope you will have access to those archives when you are old enough to be interested in them, for there you are now well documented :-).

I love you so very, very much!

Mama

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Letter to Zoe, 12 Months

Zoe- 12M

Ah, my dear, dear, Zoe,

 

Window shopping in Chinatown.

Window shopping in Chinatown.

Where do I even begin? I have not done the best job of chronicling your babyhood thus far. I began writing letters to Eli when he was 18 months old, and I always wished that I had begun right at the beginning. Then I got a second chance, with you. And you know what? I hadn’t figured in how overwhelmed this mama gets during that first year, especially since this mama births babies who don’t sleep. So, please know, I’m doing my best, and a lack of a well documented babyhood is in no way related to any lack of love, because of that, my girl, you have plenty!

Zoe on the kiddie train.

Inasmuch as I haven’t written an update for you since you were (ahem) 3 1/2 months old, I have a digital mountain of a backlog of photos. This letter may be a bit lengthy, so settle in, get comfy and enjoy. As most people at one time or another wonder what they were like as a baby, here is a bit of a description of the unique joy that is you…

Then... back when you stayed where we put you (about 3 months old).

Then… back when you stayed where we put you (about 3 months old).

Now... well, actually two months ago.

Now… well, actually two months ago.

You are a baby on the go! You combat-crawled at 4 1/2 months, crawled by 6, walked pushing things in front of you (including your brother in a wagon, no picture as I was too busy hovering to catch you before your noggin hit the sidewalk), and walked alone by 9 1/2 months. If there is one thing you are, it is driven!

Chasing after Eli.

Chasing after Eli.

While you are way ahead of the game in the gross motor department there are other areas where you have not been progressing quite on schedule. You have sensory processing issues which affect you in different ways. One is that eating solid food has been a challenge for you. This means that you are a hungry baby, but being much too busy to really tank up during the day, you still nurse like a newborn at night. The best of nights you are only up 3 or 4 times. On so many others you want to nurse 10 or more times a night. Even so you have fallen by 50 percentile points on the weight charts so we are working with occupational therapists and your pediatrician to help you over this developmental speed bump. In the meantime you have one tired mama who is groggily stumbling through motherhood as best she can. The fact that it is a minor miracle to achieve any nap longer than 20 minutes for you doesn’t help matters much. For a baby who doesn’t eat or sleep much you sure have a LOT of energy!

As far as going to sleep, the only one who seems to be able to lull you into dreamland is your daddy. He dances you down to sleep pretty much every night. With me you will relax and nurse, then spring up again signing “all done” with all vigor as you flounce off the bed and out of the bedroom.

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Photo credit: Mary Hurlbutt

But your daddy… well, he has special powers and and as he moves and sings you just melt into his chest. He then often keeps you against him for a couple of hours so that I can get a bit of sleep. In response, you have developed daddy-attachment much earlier in life than you brother did.

Make a wish...

Make a wish…

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You are now quite a fan of cake!

You are now quite a fan of cake!

Another area of development that was of concern was speech. Not that much is expected there at your age, but you weren’t producing the sorts of sounds in babbling that are necessary for speech later on. No, instead you spent the greater part of the past year squawking and screeching like a Pteranodon, supplying the perfect sound-track to Eli’s dinosaur phase. To be honest, we were a bit concerned that once you did begin to speak it would be with a voice like Edith Bunker’s, such were the raucous noises coming from our beautiful baby girl.

Mom! The man with the HAT...

Mom! The man with the HAT…

...has a DOG! (and you are dog-obsessed. You keep signing "dog" for at least 2 minutes after the latest dog has passed.)

…has a DOG! (and you are dog-obsessed. You keep signing “dog” for at least 2 minutes after the latest dog has passed.)

But then a few weeks ago something clicked for you, almost overnight. All of the sudden you began spouting a new word or two almost daily, either verbally or with sign language. At present count you have around 15 words and 16 signs. It’s so cute when you use a new word and Eli is the first to notice it. He gets so excited and proud of you! And your voice? Perfectly sweet with no trace grating notes of crone.

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You graduated the Early Intervention Program you attended in Laguna Beach in February and are now attending ICEC’s intervention three-to-one program for older babies. You seem to really enjoy the time spent with the other babies, music, stories, developmental gym and activities. We carry over as many of the activities as we can here at home as well.

Adorable in your cap and gown, for the whole 15 seconds you actually had that cap on your head.

Adorable in your cap and gown, for the whole 15 seconds you actually had that cap on your head.

You and your brother have such a beautiful relationship. He loves to hug and kiss you, and now that you are a walking baby he likes to pick you up and lug you around. (You generally are not so thrilled with that last part.) You show him such tenderness as well. We were astounded when once when Eli was crying 9 month old you grabbed a tissue and went over to him and began to wipe his tears away! My prayer is that the two of you continue to have a close relationship as you move through childhood and into your adult lives. Eli is doing his part in making elaborate plans as to what kind of house and what kind of car the two of you will share “when Eli and Zoe grow up.”

You try to do whatever Eli is doing.

You try to do whatever Eli is doing.

 

 

You love to swing, and spin, and twirl. I’m sure that when you are but a little bit older you will want skirts that flair and get all billowy when you spin about, and you will be spinning about constantly.

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The first time I put you in a swing it was on an impulse as we were already at a park with Eli. How I wish I’d been prepared to video the experience. You shrieked with glee so loud that I think people blocks away must have heard you! And this from a baby who usually maintains a poker face when out in public.

The Zoe your mama, daddy and Eli enjoy.

The Zoe your mama, daddy and Eli enjoy.

The Zoe you show to the world at large.

The Zoe you show to the world at large.

About that… with us you laugh and smile and are full of mischief. But I’ve learned not to try to show you off. You don’t warm up very quickly to strangers, and have even taken your sweet time with extended family who love you to bits. We have yet to reach a point where you can be left in the care of others. The most you have lasted in the church nursery is 15 minutes, and that was just this past Sunday! But you are making progress.

Communing with Uncle Joey.

Communing with Uncle Joey.

It was the sweetest thing when at your birthday party you not only let Uncle Joey hold you, but you let him walk away with you in his arms for a full 40 minutes! Sweet Zoe, you will find that this world is full of people who love you, and that number will only continue to grow as you grow and your daily activities expose you to ever widening circles. How could they not? You are altogether lovely.

You have begun to come out of your shell and wave at people when we are out in public, especially when you are in your stroller.

You have begun to come out of your shell and wave at people when we are out in public, especially when you are in your stroller.

Waving "Hi!"

Waving “Hi!”

In February we had dedicated you to the Lord in church. It was a very simple, short and beautiful affair. I was kicking myself for forgetting the camera at home when Mary Hurlbutt told me she was all set to take photos for us. I just love how they turned out!

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All four of us after the service.

All four of us after the service.

You are loving to imitate what you see others do these days. You try to feed your baby dolls with your sippy cup, and help your brother change their diapers. You like to pretend to talk on the phone…

Who's calling?

Who’s calling?

"Speak up, I can't hear ya!"

“Speak up, I can’t hear ya!”

…and you have a special relationship with each and every broom you encounter. (Eli did that too. What is it with babies and brooms?)

Just sweeping up a bit.

Just sweeping up a bit.

Out of all of the books on the book shelves in our bedroom you always choose this one…

Trying to tell us something, Zoe?

Trying to tell us something, Zoe?

You love to climb. I’m not loving this interest of yours quite as much as you are.

Ready to rule the playground!

Ready to rule the playground!

Last weekend I turned my back for probably 30 seconds to go fetch the stroller while we were at the Town Center fountain. You’ve always gone over the the first big step up to the fountain and been stopped as it comes up to your chest. I heard other mothers gasped and turned around to find you had scaled both it and the second step and were teetering precariously over the water as you joyfully slapped at it. Water happens to be another great love of yours; “agua” one of your very first words.

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Your hair is really just starting to come in. I think your little bald noggin is quite cute, and I don’t mind not having to struggle yet to get it washed and combed yet.

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Zoe, more than anything else I want you to know how loved and cherished you are. We are so enjoying experiencing the unfolding of your personality. You are a precious gift to our family, and one that we do not take for granted.

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I love you so very, very, very much,

Mama