The Power of “More”

Eli has some expressive language delays and has only recently begun to sign and say “more”. It is the cutest thing ever, so it is very hard to resist giving into his requests. While we were at grandma’s house over the holiday, Eli quickly learned the power of his speech. Anytime he said “more”, grandma gave him chocolate, cheese, olives, nuts, or cookies, even if he had just brushed his teeth and was heading to bed.

Well, Nate took Eli to the grocery store this morning. In the fruit aisle, Eli signed and said “more”. Nate gave him an apple to munch on. Then, they went past the cookies and Eli threw his apple out of the cart and started passionately signing “more”, first to Nate and then to any passing stranger who might hand him cookies. Somehow Nate made it past the baked goods without a full-out meltdown. It was smooth sailing until they hit the olive bar, where Eli successfully communicated his dire NEED for Greek olives and got to sample a few.

Eli has always been a good communicator. Whether he is unhappy or intrigued, the whole room knows it. But until now, his communication has mostly consisted mostly of crying, grunting, facial expressions, and hand gestures. I wonder if Eli will speak more knowing how far it can get him, both in the grocery store and beyond.

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First Steps and Beyond

September 19, 2012

Nate and I just witnessed Eli’s first unassisted steps on memorial union terrace!

October 16, 2012

On the advice of Eli’s occupational therapist, we are instituting daily “naked time”, which consists of letting him walk around without any pants on at home. Apparently, his bulky cloth diapers are affecting his stance and his ability to balance. Yesterday, when we tried it out, we saw Eli free stand and take more steps in a half-an-hour than he had in his whole entire life. And he was so proud of himself! You should have seen the way his face lit up every time he got up on his feet successfully! I sure hope he learns to walk with pants on one day, but for now I will mop up puddles with a grin.


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Stopping to Notice (From September 17, 2012)

Yesterday, our family was walking on State Street and we happened upon a group of drummers. Now I’m the type of person who passes by street drummers regularly without even registering that they are there. It’s not really my thing. But yesterday, my son Eli, who is just learning to walk, grabbed my hand and forced me to go over and engage with these drummers. He thought that they were the most amazing thing he had ever seen in his whole life (of sixteen months). And when some children starting dancing with rainbow colored scarves, he was forced to sit down and stare with mouth agape. His fascination with the everyday (and trust me, this is an everyday occurrence in Madison) regularly catches me off guard and forces me to slow down and SEE what has over time become invisible. I love him for that.

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Eli’s First Birthday

Happy first birthday, Elijah!

This is the monkey cake that your daddy made. It was a banana cake with chocolate frosting.

This is you enjoying your first birthday cake.  You burned your finger on the hot wax of your birthday candle and started to cry. As soon as you tasted the chocolate, though, you forgave us.

Here is a picture of the fabric birthday banner that dad made for you on the sewing machine. We plan to use it to celebrate all birthdays in our family across the many years to come.  You loved playing with the balloon bouquet. So fun to bat around and chew on! Whoops, pop!

You guests were mostly family–including two sets of grandparents, two uncles, one aunt, and us– but you had a few of your friends come as well. I have learned that it is very difficult to take pictures at a party you are hosting, so pictures of the festivities are a little spotty. And it seems that many of the shots that I did take were blurry.  Here are a few of the better shots:

We’ll have to see if the grandparents have better pictures. Next year, we will definitely have to come up with a better plan for documenting the event!







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One year old

Dear Elijah,

You are one year old!

If I could travel back in time and talk to myself in those first few weeks after you were born, I would say,

         “It is rough now because Eli cries so much and you don’t know how to help him.           Motherhood is harder than you expected. But, you know what? With every month, it will get a little easier.

       And once Eli can crawl, he will become a MUCH happier child.  By nature, he is an       independent, spirited and determined child.  This is not a bad thing.

When he is one, you will proudly look on as he fearlessly army crawls down the drawbridge at the playground and launches himself head first down the slide.  You will delight in his perseverance as he works on climbing stairs, the baby gate, and ladders. As an introvert, you will wonder at his magnetic and extroverted personality, when he gives endless hugs and socializes easily with friends and strangers alike. ”

I think it would have been comforting to know the enchanting future version of you back then in the newborn days.   Here is a video that we made to celebrate our first year together:

It is a bit on the long side, but it captures so many of the fun times we have had together as a family and with friends.

Now that you are 12 months old, some things are easier, some things are the same, and some things are getting harder.  For example, you do better on car rides.  You can usually last for 30 minutes before you completely lose it. That’s a huge improvement! But, at the same time, diaper changes are much harder. You wriggle and twist until changing a diaper becomes akin to tacking a slippery pig. The other day, your dad told me that when he has to change your diaper on the floor he does a move called “The Anaconda”, which involves pinning your torso between his legs.  “Oh, did you learn that trick from a parenting blog?” I asked. “Nope, it’s mixed martial arts, “he replied.  Hilarious.

Your mastery of the art of resistance extends far beyond diaper changes.  When you don’t want to be in our arms or be picked up, you go  “rag doll” on us.  You could teach those protesters up at the Capitol a thing or two about a “sit-in”.

Though you still don’t talk, you have two new communicative gestures. You point and you nod.  The pointing is pretty endearing, especially because it is all-purpose. You use it to say hello and goodbye, to point out something that interests you, and to express desire. The nodding, which is often done violently as if you were head banging, never ceases to crack me up.  I keep meaning to shoot a video in which I ask you bogus questions and have you nod in agreement.

Now that you are a speed-demon at crawling, you sometimes catch up to the cats. Our cats have been so good about letting you engage with them that I worry about their mental states. Are they gluttons for punishment? Is it possible that they are depressed and have given up on self-preservation?

Another new thing this month is your fascination with your fork and spoon. We have never spoon fed you. Rather, you have fed yourself from the start using your fingers. From months of observation, though, you know how spoons and forks work as tools. You work hard at getting food on your fork, chasing watermelon around your high chair tray, even when it would be easier to pick it up in your hand. Regardless of how you get the food to your mouth, you seem to eat hungrily at each meal. You must be going through a growth spurt because each week you look taller.

You are growing up so fast. If I could have one wish, it would be to experience the world as you do, while holding on to all of the knowledge that I have currently. In your world, you must expect the unexpected. You are starting to figure out the laws of physics—if I drop this food off of the high chair it falls to the floor—but there are always exceptions. Balloons that float away? Amazing.  It must be wondrous and exhausting to experience so many firsts.

Where do we go from here, little one?  Wonder what future-me would tell current-me about the year to come…

Lots of love,


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Eleven Months Old

Dear Elijah,

You met a huge milestone this month. No, you didn’t say your first word or start walking. You had your first Altoid–cinnamon flavored. The box fell open and, quick as a flash, you grabbed one of the spilt Altoids off of the floor and popped it in your mouth. It was curiously strong, as advertised, yet you resisted all of my attempts to fish it out of your mouth.  From the look on your face, you didn’t enjoy it much, but you kept sucking and chewing on it until it was gone.  That’s my persistent little boy!

This month you became newly enthralled with how things work. For example, you will spend five full minutes concentrating on putting the lid on the water bottle.  You love the water bottle so much, in fact, that it is my go-to method of distracting you away from unsafe objects and activities.

But your interest in mechanics doesn’t stop at the Nalgene. You also run your finger across the tread on your stroller tires and examine how they spin. When I chew my food, you try to cram your finger in my mouth to investigate how my teeth grind. Recently, you learned to turn the light switch on and off. And every time we walk through the door, you insist on opening and shutting the mailbox.  All of this spatial awareness gets Daddy excited…Lego time must be right around the corner!

It is fascinating to watch you probe your environment, discovering new pieces of old ground every day.  You crawl around the room, pull yourself up on the furniture, and poke at knobs or push buttons.  Your toys are fun, but you are clearly interested in mastering every part of your territory. More and more, you play independently for longer stretches of time, secure that we are in the vicinity.

This month you have made two new friends in the neighborhood—Calvin and Noah. Both are about 15 months, walking, and saying a few words. You love playing with them on the playground, and it’s fun for us to have new parent friends, too.  We are doing a trial run of a babysitting co-op with Noah’s family. It is a relief to have that type of support in the neighborhood, since most of our family is so far away.

We have also seen our LLL pals–Cora, Griffin and Ben this month, though we’ve missed baby Shannon. Hard to believe you all are going to turn one year within the next month!

As a result of all of these play dates, plus a little help from good old mom and dad, you’ve also developed some new social skills. Though you don’t talk yet, you are a great mime. You laugh loudly whenever we do, happy to be part of the fun. And you loudly babble in a conversational rhythm. You wave goodbye, though not always at the appropriate time.  And, finally, after months of effort on our part, you have begun to sign. You sign for milk consistently, though it seems like you use the sign for everything. We think you’ve made the sign for daddy, too—at least the spread fingers part of it.

This week has been a rough one and I am sad to report that you were sick as a dog on your eleventh month birthday. You had your first ear infection, and with it several days of fever. Then, yesterday, you sprouted a red, angry rash—a reaction to the antibiotics. You were a miserable, clingy baby. And I was a miserable, sleep-deprived mommy.

Still, I can be having the crappiest of days, walk in the door and see you beaming at me—genuinely overjoyed to see my face.  No one has greeted me so enthusiastically and consistently in my life. The power of this guileless greeting sets me right and reminds me of my priorities. It is contagious and nearly impossible for me to remain unhappy when you give me hug after hug, all the while smiling that toothy grin.

Your innocent, wide eyes make me want to do more and be better for you every day—whether that means taking you to the library, learning sign language, continuing to breastfeed into your toddlerhood, or even managing my work-related-stress better so that it doesn’t spill over into our home life.

When I was pregnant I had all kinds of ideas about what parent I wanted to be. The day-to-day parenting reality doesn’t always live up to my ideal. Sometimes I am crabby or short-tempered. Dad and I snap at each other because we are sleep deprived or stressed. Sometimes I feed you sugar or salt, even though you are not supposed to have either before your first birthday. I let you play with BPA-ridden toys because we have them and you like them. But I like to think we get it mostly right most of the time.  How’s that for a parenting motto? I’m not sure how to measure the success of our parenting.  But gosh do we love you. Don’t ever doubt that.



P.S. It is getting harder and harder to capture you on film because you are always on the move.  I’m including this last picture, even though it kinda looks like you are pooping, because your curls slay me with cuteness, and I have to document them. Feel free to retaliate when you are old enough to understand or feel embarrassed, but until then…

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Nine Months. What? You say he’s ten months old today?

Dear Elijah,

You aren’t afraid of anything or anyone. You aren’t walking yet, but you cruise along the furniture, you go up the stairs in a couple of minutes flat, and you recently learned how to switch from holding on to the couch to holding on to the coffee table. You bounce up and down like you have springs for legs. You have so much energy!

You love to climb. We find you dangling off of shelves, tables, and the tops of baby gates. Now that you’ve figured out how to sit down after pulling yourself up, you no longer cry because you’re stuck. Your problem solving skills are rapidly evolving, too. Most of the time you can figure out how to go around a barricade.  Today, because the weather was unseasonably warm—the mid-sixties—we went to the park. You liked crawling through the tunnel and playing on the drawbridge and slide. I see many more trips to the playground in our future.

You also started swim lessons this past month. It’s like music hour combined with bath time. They sing a lot of songs and let you play with rubber duckies. Dad has started submerging you in the water and teaching you how to blow bubbles.

Last month you had four top teeth come in all at the same time. It hurts when you bite our finger, which happens every time we try to fish something out of your mouth.Since you spend much of your day crawling around and scouting out stray blueberries and stale Cheerios, along with any piece of dirt that our daily cleaning has overlooked, you bite us quite frequently.

Sometimes you pretend to be shy—but I swear it’s just an act. We recently went to Pacific Grove, California so that I could present a paper at a conference. On the plane rides to California, you made so many friends. You leaned or climbed over the seats to say hello to our fellow passengers. Inevitably, they would talk to you, and we would end up swapping stories about raising kids. On the last plane ride, you spent a solid half an hour sitting on a stranger’s lap. You crawled right over and made yourself comfortable. She seemed nice enough and didn’t object, so we let you be.

Occasionally, you do cry–mostly because you are tired, because you’ve fallen down, or because dad has left the room. You’ve turned into a big daddy’s boy this semester because dad’s been doing most of the childcare. Your whole face crumbles when he leaves the house.  You are good at communicating your displeasure through your different cries and squeals. Recently, you’ve begun stringing together some consonants, too. You’ve got mama and idye-dye-dye down, though I don’t count either as “words”.

You still love to look at books. “Dear Zoo” is your favorite. Kroll, your babysitter, taught us all of the signs for the animals, so we’ve been practicing those. I think you understand a few signs and words now, but I have yet to recognize/see you sign.

Wonder what this next month will bring? Possibly your first steps?  A legitimate “mama”? We can’t wait to find out….

Love,    Mom

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Eight Months

Dear Elijah,

Yesterday, while we were looking at one of your lift-the-flap books that Grammy Pink sent, you gave a crying baby a kiss. For a couple of weeks, every time that we have read that book (and even though we seem to have fifty books, we cycle through them pretty fast since you love to read), I have talked about how we should help the baby feel better and have modeled giving the baby a kiss. This time, I did not kiss the baby. I just suggested that you do it. And you did! This proves to me that you have the receptive language that I thought you did!

Your language is starting to sound more human and less like white noise. You make multiple syllabic words now that resemble English rather than the Slavic language you were spouting for a few months. (I kid you not. We have the sound files to prove it!) If I were a gambler, I’d place my bet that your first word will be one of our cats’ names (Lila and Rosie).

You LOVE the cats, but they disdain you. Well, maybe disdain is too harsh of a word, but they are definitely wary of you. You will sit and babble to the cats– smiling the whole time—but they try to keep a five-foot radius. When you do get close enough, you pull their tails. You’ve taken whole chunks of hair off of Lila’s neck.  Gentle is not in your vocabulary—though I am working on fixing that!


You have spent much of the last month in your papa’s care while I have been working on dissertation fellowship applications and preparing a paper for a February conference in California. You and dad have a really calm rhythm to your day. You get up at 6 a.m., play for an hour, take a nap, play some more, eat a snack, play, nap—well you get the idea. About 4:30, we all make dinner and then eat.

Some nights, we give you a bath. Lately, when you have seen the water running, you have gotten so excited that you’ve tried to climb into the tub. And who can blame you. You get to play with two rubber duckies and all of the sea creatures Grumps got you for Christmas. For some reason, though, you prefer to stand in the tub, which has got to be the coldest way to take a bath in Wisconsin’s winter.

After your bath comes one of the sweetest times of the day. We all go into the bedroom and dad reads books to you. Your favorites are “Goodnight Moon” and “Goodnight Gorilla”.

You sit with rapt attention and turn the pages, although admittedly you often do it too fast. Then, we all talk about the day while you crawl around on the bed or play quietly. Eventually, you start getting fussy and that’s when we turn out the light.  You still wake up frequently at night-about every hour or so. I am beginning to think that other parents’ stories of their babies “sleeping through the night” are fantasies. We are sleep deprived but trying to power through it and be present for you during the day.

Many parents comment that life gets harder when their child becomes mobile. For us, it’s been the opposite. Yes, you require more attention, but you are so much happier. You love being able to crawl from one end of the house to other, picking up “bonus food” off the floor and pulling yourself up on the furniture. Your crawling is definitely in beta 2: you can crawl on your knees now, though you often prefer to just scoot, as that is faster. You have even starting tentatively climbing the stairs. So far, I have seen you get up two. Yikes!

Now that you have two bottom teeth—they came up one after another in December—you are able to process food more effectively. You seem to be building the association between hunger and eating. When you see the Cheerios box or bananas, you kick your legs enthusiastically, as if to say, “Yes, please.” When we had turkey chili, which was well spiced with cayenne pepper, cumin, and cinnamon, you gobbled it up and wanted more. I take pictures of you eating, so that I can prove to you later that, yes, you did eat barley, sweet potato, kale, and broccoli once upon a time, and you liked them, too.

Both dad and I are so grateful that we have been able to spend so much time with you during your first year of life. It hasn’t always been easy or ideal because I am always caring for you or working—no down time for me in the evenings—but our conversations are well punctuated with exclamations of awe, such as “He’s so damn cute”, or “Look how big he’s gotten. That shirt doesn’t even fit him anymore,” or “Did you see him walk along the table? When did he learn how to do that?” It is a privilege to be your mom.

Love you lots,


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Baby’s First Christmas

Dear Elijah,

We headed home to Cincinnati for your first Christmas. First, you and I flew home, and then dad joined us a week later. You loved having new people to flirt with, and I was happy that you got a chance to get to know your family—Mumma, Bapa, Auntie Em, Grumps, Grandma Robin, and Uncles Maxwell and Jacob.

You spent most of your time exploring the new house in your Beta 1 version of the crawl: you pull yourself along with your arms while pushing with your legs. It’s exhausting to watch, but you love being free.

Here are some pictures from Christmas day:



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Dear Elijah,

So, I’ve been a little remiss in posting. I compose posts in my head, but it’s been hard finding time when I am not watching you or working to sit down and blog. Days seem to zoom by, and I never get enough done. Such is the life of a working mom!

But back to the subject at hand–your favorite subject–you.

I find myself staring at you sometimes, in wonder at how big you’ve gotten. You are no longer the eight-pound baby I cradled during those first few weeks but a BIG 27 inch long and 18 lb boy. I have a new appreciation for why parents can’t shut up about their children. It has been AMAZING to watch you transform from a little bean who could barely hold up his own head to a little man who is already commando-crawling and pulling himself up on furniture.  We even witnessed you giggle for the first time last week—after weeks of worry on my part about your lateness in meeting this particular milestone. (Sidenote: first time mothers should disable Google search at night. At one point, in the early hours of the morning while I was up breastfeeding, I managed to convince myself that you were autistic.  Clearly, given all the smiles and eye contact you make, this is not the case.)

Your body is ripped–I’m sorry to say this, but you might never be in this good of shape again in your life. You have abs of steel because you are constantly trying to sit up from a reclining position. For example, when you are getting your diaper changed you basically do crunches the entire time. You also do full body Pilate’s style workouts for hours each day while you work on crawling. And you have some serious trunks on you, too. If you can get a hold of a table or our arms you can push yourself to a standing position and stand with minimal support. And, boy, do you love to stand! I think you would do everything standing if you could.

You clearly express emotions. When you are excited, you kick your legs and smile. When you are frustrated, you arch your back and throw a massive tantrum. (By the way, Dad and I think that if you ever start a punk rock band, “Massive Tantrum” would be a great name for it.  “Lake of Poo” would also be fitting.)

You have become quite a mama’s boy, too. I guess this is separation anxiety, which is smart from an evolutionary standpoint, but taxing for dad and me. While nothing beats seeing your little face light up when I enter a room (HUGE smile, legs kicking), you often cry when I am out of sight or when I put you down. Leaving you with your babysitter is hit or miss—sometimes you play with Taneka happily, and other times you cry while she is here. You are content with dad, except when you are tired—and then, watch out! Dad and I recently stumbled on this clip from the old show Dinosaurs and found it quite fitting (minus the talking of course).

You want to be part of everything that we are doing, whether it is reading email on our iPhones, or petting the cats, or even drinking coffee.  It is hard to eat around you because you want to eat everything that we are putting in our mouths.

You are so observant when we go out. We have been going to story time at the library since you were four and half months, and you not only listen to the stories but also enjoy watching the older babies and toddlers. Even the librarian commented on how alert and interested in your surroundings you were.  You try to chase the bubbles during the bubble song, but otherwise seem uninterested in the singing.  Perhaps, my exuberant singing is already embarrassing you.

To top it all off, you are also smart as a whip. For example, you can drink from a glass. You know that pizza is the best food on the planet. And you’ve figured out how to make mommy materialize out of thin air using your voice alone.

I’m not going to sugar coat it–you are a lot of work. But, so far, you’ve been worth every second of it.

One of my close friends whose son is two (hi, Gretchen!) claims that she loves each age and stage better than the last. I can see how this might be the case.  I often find myself looking forward to our future as a family.  The other day when I was making apple pancakes, for example, I paused for a moment to imagine a busy family united around lazy Sunday breakfasts. What if THIS is the recipe that you come to associate with home, with me?  I imagine finger painting with you when you are two or reading the Boxcar Children or Harry Potter before bed when you are five.   I imagine our first family camping trips where we will build fires and tell ghost stories. There is so much to look forward to.



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