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

Letter to Zoe, 3 1/2 Months

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Dear Zoe,

This is my first letter to you, I hope the first of many. I write them as a way to preserve memories of your early days which you won’t be able to remember for yourself. As such, they are as much for me as they are for you, as these are the things one can’t imagine ever forgetting but then later on can’t seem to quite remember. They are also for the benefit of loved ones who live far away, who haven’t met you yet, and who may only see you sporadically as you grow. But most of all they are so that you will know how very much you are loved and cherished…and have been since the very beginning.

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Developmentally your most recent accomplishments are grabbing onto small toys and holding onto them, bringing your two hands together to clasp, and laughing (your father nodding his head is particularly hysterical). You’ve been standing up on our laps supporting your own weight while we balance you for many weeks now – you have freakishly strong legs. Your track people walking from one side of the room to the other, especially if that person is your Daddy.

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At a three months of age your personality is becoming more and more apparent as the days progress. You really are a happy baby, ready to reward anyone who talks to you with smiles. You are beginning to laugh more now as well. It’s not the laugh I would have predicted you’d have. It sound a bit like a squawking crow with laryngitis. 🙂 And while there are plenty of fussy moments as you deal with both teething (already!) and reflux, you really seem to be pretty laid back for the most part. I take you to Bible study and you sit on my lap quietly the whole time. It amuses the other ladies there because you fold your hands at your chest and look intently at whoever is speaking nodding your head from time to time, seeming wise way beyond your years.

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We have the ability to capture you at this stage, both visually and audially, but I really wish we were able to somehow record what you feel like to hold. You are so soft, round, squishy and altogether cuddly. You have a way of melting into my arms and then looking at me and smiling, and its just about all I can do to keep from melting myself right then and there. You are growing so quickly that I know soon it will be a whole lot more work to hold you for so long. Already my arms are often quite sore by evening (and almost as often still are the next morning too, as you really like to be held a LOT.)  So I wish I could record this sensation now to enjoy over and over again as the years progress, but since I can’t, I remind myself often to enjoy it now while I can and to try not to worry so much about all that I am not getting done because my hands are full with a baby.

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Your brother is really crazy about you. To be honest, I was worried he’d be jealous and resentful of you after you were born. But although it has been a hard adjustment going from being an only child to having to wait his turn to have his needs met so often these days, he has only good things to say about you. He calls you his cutie baby or his sweetie baby. He says you are so pretty and that you are HIS baby. He takes care of you every way he knows how and is SO gentle.

You two already look like you're in cahoots.

You two already look like you’re in cahoots.

This past weekend when you were crying in the car your father and I heard him say to you there in the back seat, “Awww, bessie, bessie, it’s going to be okay. It’s gonna be okay, bessie, bessie.” He gets very concerned when you cry and informs me that you are crying right away (even when I’m already holding you and trying to comfort you.) Eli really looks forward to the time when you will be old enough to play with him, but please, don’t go start growing up all in a rush or anything. The rest of us need to enjoy your sweet baby-ness a while longer!

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With all the love you could ever possibly imagine and more,

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, 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