A Birthday Party for Eli #2

 

IMG_8079This past weekend we celebrated our two-year old with a perfectly simple, sweet, intimate party.

What started out as a plan for a  bonanza of a house warming/toddler birthday with all the things and all the people turned into a small gathering of just a couple of friends and grandparents. We decided to move the party from the lunch hour–and Eli’s prime nap time (what were we thinking!?) to a relaxed early afternoon time slot at two o’clock (how appropriate, no?). Instead of burgers and hot dogs and all the fixings, Simeon made a tapas dish called papas bravas and a strawberry upside-down cake. Maggie and Sam brought a vibrant green salad and Emily and Scott brought a bubbly wine for the grown-ups. With vanilla ice cream and sugar cones from the pantry it was the perfect amount of food for the guests and super scrumptious all around!

Good food, good people, and a best of all: a brand-spanking new Radio Flyer tricycle for the birthday boy. He rode that thing in circles all afternoon. We even taught the boys how to hitch a ride on the back! They loved it. It’s so fun to witness these little friends fostering a friendship that I hope will last and last.

And then, as we started singing “Happy Birthday” to my baby boy, he grabbed my face in his hands and pushed his cheek next to mine. He held us there until the song ended–suspended side by side. As I reflect now, it’s how I’d like us to remain as he grows. Arms and faces and hearts, looking forward together side by side. With plenty of cake to share, of course.

 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Eli!

Eli, you’re two!

Happy birthday to my smiley, savvy, spirited son. My tiny twin, traveling companion and curious co-conspirator. Two years on this earth and you have become more of yourself each and everyday.

I want to tell you: You are utterly delightful. You have an unmatched enthusiasm that shines especially bright when you see big trucks and “mobycles” (motorcyles). You unselfconsciously share your pleasure with anyone in earshot. “WHHOOOAAA!” you exclaim, finger pointing out the window at the massive wheels. “Mobycle by!!” [Translation: “A motorcycle just went by!”]

You enjoy learning the names of things (“What dis? Mama, what dis?”). And you allow yourself the full experience of your feelings–no matter how big or joyful or painful. Sometimes, because you’re only just two, your feelings overtake you and you fall instantly to the ground like you’ve heard enemy warfare when it was only my announcement that its bedtime and we’re not going back downstairs to read. You look up at me with an exaggerated frown and a big crocodile tear rolling down your cheek and its all I can do not to crack a smile back because you’re just so cute when you’re pouty.

Your words are coming in more fluently now and you enjoy using them with tremendous frequency.  “Bye bye, mama, vroom vroom!” is something you now say to my red Subaru Forester whenever we leave the car to go inside. “Walking” you announce as a pedestrian passes us. “All done, eggs” you tell us as you finish eating breakfast. You’ve recently started calling me Mommy after hearing Sammy Koschak use the phrase in Portland while we were visiting. “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” You yell my name and smile most mornings when I come in the room. “Daddy,” too has become a favorite word. Especially when I’ve put you down for the night and you don’t yet want to go to sleep. “Daddy, up, up! Daddy, up!” You also like to tell us to “sit down” on the wool ottoman that flanks your crib for a nightly song set of favorite lullabies. Unless of course, you reject each one on the first note with a commanding, “No!”. On those nights we sit for a few moments with the soft light of dusk peering through the blinds and MoMo gently nuzzling at our hands for attention and chin rubs before getting up and letting you fall asleep on your own. You’re getting so good at that, kiddo!

You’re aware and curious and enjoy mimicking other kids whom you find fascinating. You’re an observer and I think you’re going to make a great writer and journalist or engineer or artist because you’re aware of the details of things and know what attracts you and repels you in equal measure.

It’s clear you know yourself even if you can’t express it to us yet and it is among my greatest joys to witness you as you come into your being.

Eli, I love you. I am amazed by you. I still regularly ask out loud, “where did you come from?” And silently to myself I acknowledge that I’ve known your old soul from the beginning of time. You, my stardust child, are as ancient as the wind and as fresh as the sunrise. What tomorrow holds of course I can only imagine, but if my mind serves, year three will be adventure we both won’t want to miss for even one second.

Happy birthday, Bubba.

Here’s a brief look back at your second year:

I Can’t Believe It

Eli is sleeping in a crib.

In his own room.

Without any fussing or whining about it.

At all.

***

Let’s back up.

Since his birth until now we were co-sleeping–rather successfully I think. I never experienced the kind of sleep deprivation I had been warned of and duly dreaded. Sure, Simeon and I were tired after the birth and our regular night time schedules were wonky for a few months, but overall I’d say we were lucky to experience quite a quick return to what amounts to a normal night’s sleep for most adults, roughly 6-7 hours per night.

Since we were getting sleep and Eli was still night nursing like a champ, it was only reasonable not to fix something that wasn’t broken. And I definitely had no interest in moving him to another room just to get up every few hours to walk over and nurse him. I’d prefered staying half asleep myself and moving hardly at all. So co-sleeping continued. Until the wheels started to come off…

Maybe a month or so ago I started to get this antsy feeling like Eli was really ready to sleep on his own. He certainly appeared to want Mama to put him down and fall asleep nursing but I also want to eat ice cream for dinner. Just because I want it doesn’t mean I actually want it, you know? It was starting to take longer and longer to get him to fall asleep and it was harder and harder for me to leave the room without him waking and crying out. Plus, night nursing was taking too much from me. It didn’t seem like he really needed all those calories. I had to respect my mama intuition–something had to change.

Before Eli was born I had purchased a few books on sleep to prepare for what I thought was going to be that epic battle for shut eye. But since we hadn’t found a battle to fight, I had put the books away. Recently, I brought one back out and now I can’t help but to sing it’s praises.

The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon, MFT and Julie Wright, MFT gets all the gold stars. This book gave us a game plan to win back our bed and our nights. Simply said, in two days the transition was done. I’m still picking my jaw up from the floor.

Essentially, the program requires that you brave a night or two of crying (NOT crying-it-out style) in order to help your baby discover their capability and trust their independence.

The book carefully explained that the crying is really just a reaction to a shift in a deeply entrenched pattern not a result of insta-trauma from a newly negligent parent.

The protocol is as follows:

  1. Put baby down awake, but drowsy.
  2. If baby cries, wait five minutes, then go in a do a “check.” Stand by the door and say a phrase that communicates your love for and confidence in your child. Ours was, “Good night Eli. I know you can do this. I love you.” Then leave.
  3. If crying continues, repeat step #2. Continue your five minute checks as long as baby cries. (The checks make it clear to baby that you’re there and that you’re responsive, just not taking on the responsibility of “soothing” any longer.)
  4. If baby is making other noises, don’t interfere. This is baby learning how to self-soothe.
  5. Rejoice because the baby is down and you have your evenings back!*

*(I added step #5, can you tell?)

In all seriousness, night one was difficult. Eli protested mightily when we put him down and for many hours after. It was torturous to hear him cry and not be able to swoop in and save the day. But I thought the analogies offered in the book were apt. For example, just because he wants to climb a bookshelf doesn’t mean I’m going to let him, even if he cries.

I wasn’t prepared for what happened on night two.

We went through our newly minted bedtime routine: bath, nurse, play, books, songs… I picked him up and put him in the crib. One little wail… And then nothing… Still nothing.

He went to sleep! And stayed asleep until a few hours later to nurse. A few minutes later I put him back in the crib… And no noise. Not a peep. Just back to sleep he went! The program worked. And he is right this very second asleep in his crib in his own room. He went down awake and now he’s asleep. It feels like a mini-miracle. Was it always this easy? Could we have done this months ago? I don’t know, because honestly, part of me probably wasn’t ready for my baby to leave the bed. Eli grows up on his own timeline but my mama heart has to keep up. And sometimes, I think my heart gets heavy with the passage of time and slows down. But then, of course, I see how well he’s doing and what it means to our boy to be present with him right now and I’m back to my lighthearted self. And I keep up. So here we are. With a child on his own and guess what?

We are thrilled. What a discovery! I’m so grateful I listened to my instinct that he was ready to do this–that we all were ready to do this. And I’m especially grateful that Simeon was game to try out the protocol, even though he hated every minute of it. That’s partnership!

So, may you ‘sleep like a baby.’ Because right now that statement is truly making my heart sing.

And how about a couple of cute pics of Eli sleeping in our bed just before we transitioned him? 🙂

Eli asleep 2

Eli asleep

Letter to My Son: 12 Months

Eli bday 3

Dear Eli,

I posted to Instagram today to comment on your first birthday. I thought I’d copy my post here for future reference and because it speaks to who you are and how I feel about you.

Eli bday 2

Happy birthday, my sweet boy.

“I couldn’t imagine what my baby would be like while I was pregnant. It seemed impossible that a tiny human would emerge from within me. But here he is a whole 12 months later with so much life in him. His essence is sweet and curious and contemplative.

Eli bday 1

I love his giggles and tiny teeth and copper hair and chubby cheeks. The way he watches people and listens and shares. His zesty-ness. His cuddles and hugs and how he dances. All the cliches are true. This boy has my whole heart and I’m becoming a better me because of him. I’m grateful and honored and so tremendously excited about what the next year holds.” ❤️

Eli bday 4

Love forever,

Mama

12 Things I Learned in My First Three Months of Parenthood

12 Things I Learned in My First Three Months of Parenthood via soultospeakblog.comA list from present day me to the me pre-baby. 12 things she wouldn’t have guessed then but are oh so true now.

  1. Any waist size smaller than 39 weeks pregnant will feel slim.
  2. If you ever want to read again, get a kindle. One handed is the new two handed.
  3. And 8:00pm is the new 11:00pm.
  4. If the laundry gets done today, you’ve won.
  5. You never thought you’d get so comfortable lifting up your shirt in public.
  6. No matter what time it is, if you sit down to eat, he will want to too.
  7. You will require liquids from 5-11. In the a.m. it will be coffee. In the p.m., wine. Two cups will do.
  8. He is the cutest baby ever. Seriously. Other babies are cute. He is cuter.
  9. Even his cry is cute.
  10. Accepting help isn’t easy. But it gets easier.
  11. You will realize how much you have in common with a gorilla
  12. Yes, having a baby changes everything. For the better.

A Blanket for Eli

I’m so excited to share this baby blanket FINALLY. Phew.imageimage

After finishing a knitted blanket for the baby of friends I decided to knit one for my own little babe. I started it this past the spring figuring I had plenty of time to complete the project before my delivery. Well, that was a sweet thought… it took a lot longer than I expected and I wasn’t sure I’d ever complete it!

image

The pattern I chose is deceptively simple. I say that because though I had never knitted from a pattern before once I learned the knitting shorthand the process was a snap. But the real challenge was keeping track of all the changing stitches! Each row was so different from the last that in the beginning I had a lot of trouble finding my way. For the first third of the blanket I probably ended up taking out as many stitches as I put in!!

image image

I knit at home and on the go, making progress, then taking out row after row and starting over again. It was a great meditation on letting things be just as they are. And a wonderful way to pass the time imagining the little person who would take up space beneath the stitches.

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And here he is. This little bundle all wrapped up in so much love. The finished product came out a lot smaller than I expected. But perhaps that is because I didn’t finish it until a couple months after Eli was born and he’d already grown so much in that short time. All that matters is that this heirloom is complete. I love it, and I think he does too. Ok, knitting needles, what’s next??

 

A Letter to My Son: Week Two

imageimageDear Eli,

We’re one day away from your two week birthday. How odd to be counting birthdays in weeks instead of years.

And yet, it still feels like only days ago that you were brought from within me to meet the world. How quickly then the sun and moon exchanged places in the sky, over and over and over, while your dad and I stared at you in fits of wonder and breathless amazement at your tiny yet overwhelming existence. Your realness.

Of course everyone wondered who you would look like, mother or father. From the first picture posted to Facebook people said Ah! He looks just like Simeon! But baby boy, I’m not so sure. I think you look like your own person most of all.

I’m not surprised that you came out with hair–I was born with a full head–but that your hair retains a reddish hue woven beneath your light brown locks, well, that was surprising. I expected nothing but inky black.

And your eyes, perhaps they do resemble your father’s, but then, what about those exaggerated creases at the sides? Are those not slivers of almonds like mine?

No doubt that little bow mouth came from the Wieden clan. And your huge hands and feet must mean you’ll grow to be tall like a true Bittman Boy.

Everyday reveals more of your likeness, as your eyes emerge from the swelled cheeks of birth and your lower lip extends outward showing itself, finally.

While I examine your teeny tiny fingers (such long fingernails you had at birth!) your hot breath expires in a quick pant. Your eyes search me and past me with a gray-blue luminosity.

Your level of awareness is astounding. That chair, that blanket, that plant, that window. You take it all in, one thing at a time, patiently.

Until you get hungry. Then your quiet demeanor descends to snorts and yelps, as you search by scent for the breast. Your eyes shut tight and mouth agape, you struggle to find me. I do my best to help a little but not too much. I want you to find your own way. We’re figuring out that dance now as I know we will everyday from here on out. How much do I give how much will you take?

The best is watching you recover as you get what you want and I sigh, contentedly, knowing that within you and within me is the pure instinct that will save us both.

I love you, little Eli. What an honor to watch you grow.

Forever yours,

Mama