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

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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

Happy Father’s Day 2013

Dear Jeff,

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I love your patience and gentleness,

the way you can calm a hysterical baby (even when I’ve run through my bag of tricks to no avail).

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I love how you make time for your children everyday…
no matter how busy your life becomes.

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I love how you never stop being amused by Eli’s three year old antics,

and remind me to do the same when I’m tired at the end of a long day.

I am grateful that you nightly record in your journal the funny and touching things he has said that day.

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I love how you are teaching our son, through your example, how to one day be a loving, strong, supportive and caring husband and father himself. 

I am thankful to be sharing this parenting adventure with you, my best friend.

Much love always,

Karen

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, 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

Social Stories

As Eli becomes older and more aware of himself he has been getting more reticent around strangers. His speech is emerging, to our great delight, but he isn’t confident enough to speak with most other people outside the family or his speech therapists. I remember how he used to work his extreme cuteness as a 5 month old for all the attention he could in the checkout line at the grocery.

I wondered at the time how two introverts (me a bit more extremely so than my husband) could have given birth to such an extrovert. Now he’s either showing himself not to have fallen that far from the family tree, or this is just another developmental phase. Time will tell, and in the end Eli will be Eli. Introvert or extrovert, it’ll be just fine by us.

In the meantime, Eli has been growing increasingly uncomfortable with playing outdoors within our immediate neighborhood. He is fine as soon as we are away from the home and in a public place. I think the difference is that on our sidewalk our friendly neighbors will stop to greet him. Somedays he will go out but becomes nervous when other people walk by. Other days he refuses to play outside at all unless I take him away from our neighborhood. While I don’t mind if he is by nature going to be a more introverted individual, I don’t like seeing him experiencing such anxiety to the point where it is hindering him from enjoying one of his greatest joys in life.

To help him gain greater level of comfort with playing in our neighborhood I’m making a couple of social stories for him.

Social stories are short stories targeted very specifically to a social skill an individual is struggling with. A quick Google search will provide an abundance of information as well as sites offering free social stories with generic illustrations for a variety of  life skills. While social stories were developed as a tool to help individuals with Autism  learn specific social skills, it seems to me they are a powerful tool to help any child with an area in which they are struggling. It is my hope that these stories I’m creating for Eli will normalize something that he is currently finding threatening.

Here are the pictures and text from the first one I made just to get him thinking about all the things he so enjoys doing when we are outside. These stories are supposed to be short and this one may be a bit too long. And because it doesn’t really address any sort of social skill perhaps it can’t really be called a “social story” at all.  Whether it fits the definition or not I think it’ll help.

Eli Plays Outside

Eli draws with chalk.

Eli rides his bike.

Eli plays with dirt.

Eli plays in the tree.

Eli waters the garden.

Eli watches the cars and trucks.

Eli plays with leaves and sticks.

Eli plays with his wagon.

Eli plays on the stepping stones.

The second social story I’m going to make for him I won’t post here because it will contain photos of the neighbors who might not appreciate me posting their pictures online. The text will go more or less as follows:

Our Neighbors

Our neighbors live in the houses around us.

We see them walking on the sidewalk.

They go to their garages. Then they drive away.

When they come home again, they walk from the parking lot to their houses.

Our neighbors are friendly. Sometimes they stop to say “hi!”

We live in a nice neighborhood.

The photos will obviously be of neighbors walking back and forth on the sidewalk, or in the parking lot. I spoke with one family about a picture of them waving hello. The others I’ll most likely just take on the sly from the front door as opportunities present themselves. Again, perhaps not quite a social story as it doesn’t deal with teaching him how to respond appropriately. He’s only 2 and if he doesn’t want to talk to people he doesn’t know I’m ok with that. Pressuring him to do so will only raise the anxiety level, the exact opposite of what will encourage him continue practicing to speak. Right now I just want him to get comfortable with seeing the neighbors when he is outside. 

When Eli first began going to the group therapy program he had great difficulty sitting with the other children for circle time. They made a social story for him there called Eli Sits in Circle Time with photos they took of him during a few of his more successful moments. He loved it and wanted to read and reread it. He also began to do much better during circle time after we started reading his book together.

Since I gave him the book less than two hours ago Eli has wanted it read to him eight times and at one point insisted on leaving the book to go out and water the tree and use the sidewalk chalk for a while. Yay!

I hope these new stories help him navigate this current bumpy spot in the road he is experiencing. If nothing else I think he will enjoy having another book with himself as the main character!

Happy Father’s Day!

My beloved husband,

Before I ever met you, when thinking of the sort of man I wanted to marry, the most important characteristic was that he be a good father.

Over the past two years you have surpassed any vision that I had of what that would look like. You were with me the entire time during the labor and delivery, giving me so much support through your calming presence.You have never flinched during or deferred from diaper duty. You know how to sooth and comfort even when the object of your kindness sounds like a fire siren 3 inches from your ear. You endure nightly encounters with a restlessly sleeping toddler’s fists, knees and elbows without complaint. You have spent countless hours dancing, bouncing and singing Eli to sleep when I feel like I can’t nurse another minute. You are so patient and help to ground me when I’m at my wit’s end after a long day of toddler care.

You know how to cut a rug with Eli in a way I could never do. You delight in your son in so many different little ways, and make sure I share the moment as well. You spend quantities of time giving Eli focused attention in a way many other fathers don’t until their children are much older. And many other fathers never will at all.

And I could go on and on, but you are coming in the door with Eli after spending time together outside.

I thank God that he answered my prayer said for so many years, so many years ago. In you He gave me all I asked for and so much more!

Happy Father’s Day!

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

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