Yesterday Eli and Talia stayed home from church due to a nasty stomach bug. When I came back after the sacrament service, I found Eli sleeping like this.
Poor little guy! (Cute, though.)
For weeks I've wanted to post an update on our Eli Jameson. Funny thing about kids--they insist on constantly changing, regardless of whether or not you get around to capturing the moment. The past couple of months, Eli has grown rapid-fire: perhaps not physically, but certainly developmentally.
Most notably, Eli's begun to talk--in entire epistles. Back in the fall, Eli participated in a developmental screening at a community event. While he was on target in most areas, his speech clearly lagged behind. "Please share an example of a two-word phrase that your child uses." Awkward silence. "Ummm, there aren't any." At the end of the evaluation, they concluded that Eli wasn't lagging enough to require formal intervention, but ought to be closely monitored. Well, somewhere over the past few months, Eli leaped straight from one-word utterances to complex grammatical phrases. Almost overnight, he switched from "House" to "Mom, I want to go home now, please." His vocabulary surprises me--a couple days ago he broke out with "That's awesome!"
All the same, Eli's pronunciation is still developing, so interpreting his baby-talk can take quite a bit of guesswork. Just this morning I mistook "puppy" for "poopy." Brooklyn is "Blooblin," and NomiAnn is "MommyMan." As for Papa Kay, Eli insisted on calling him "Gwampa Chawels" for most of our Memorial Day vacation. "Chawels" has long been both a favorite word and a favored grandparent. Even if you don't understand him, it is quite obvious that Eli is sharing quite specific messages when he jabbers. Often he will repeat himself over and over and over again until you're finally able to decipher what it is he's trying to say.
While generally happy and easy going, our Easy E has a temper that can flare up unexpectedly. His two year-old tantrums are so passionate that they're almost comical. Okay, I confess. To me, they are comical--downright hilarious, even. Maybe it's the come-what-may attitude of having three kids (after a point, you just stop stressing as much about what everyone else thinks), but I simply can't help but giggle. Out of nowhere, Eli will get upset about something totally irrational and suddenly launch himself on the ground. Feet kicking, arms flailing, lungs wailing. Fortunately, the wails are usually masked as he buries his face in the ground, no matter whether it's dirt, gravel, carpet or grass. I'll stand back, trying hard to suppress my chuckles as he works through the rage.
In all seriousness, it must be extremely difficult to be two: yearning for independence, yet having so little control over your life. You want to do it all on your own, but the truth is that you still need a lot of help. A couple of weeks ago Eli was really angry with me. While I can't remember the cause of his wrath, I remember that he finally got so upset that he came running up to me for hugs and snuggles to help him feel better. In this moment, I couldn't help but think about my relationship with my Father in Heaven. So often I too want to be independent and do it all myself. I get angry when things don't go my way and storm off in an angry huff. Yet inevitably, I finally feel so rotten that I come running back for comfort and consolation. And just like an earthly parent is grateful when a belligerent toddler returns to their lap, our Heavenly Father likewise welcomes me home.
As challenging as tantrums can be, I'm grateful that Eli's hitting phase has been over for awhile now. Right around the time Eli turned two, he started walking up to random kids and pushing them for no reason whatsoever. Generally not hard--it was more like a science experiment. "Gee, I wonder what will happen if I push this little girl. Will she cry? Will she shove me back? Will I get put in time out? Will we have to go home?" No matter what the inner-workings of that little mind, as a parent I positively cringed every time I dropped Eli off at nursery or the gym's childcare. Play dates were cancelled, talks were had, apologies were made, and just when I thought I was going to rip my hair out, it stopped. The hitting disappeared as mysteriously as it began. This was a good reminder to not become too distraught with the challenges of specific phases--time passes, and usually kids grow out of their worst habits.
Eli's best habit has to be his boundless affection. He is the snuggliest, huggiest, friendliest little boy! I've often thought that I ought to bring him around to hospitals and nursing homes the same way that people share their therapy dogs. Never having met a stranger, he greets most everyone with a cheerful "Hi" and a hand wave. He loves to give hugs and cuddle. He's proud to share his name, "I Eli!", and up until last week when you asked him how old he was, he'd hold up an entire hand and say "Five!" It was so fun to watch everybody's reaction as they processed his response. Delighted to be the center of attention, he quickly learned to add "No, six!" just to get a few more laughs. But alas, maturity is catching up with him, and our little boy has recently graduated to being just two.
While Eli may be pushing three, he still relishes his role as the baby of the family. In no great hurry to grow up, he still sleeps in a crib, prefers his high chair, and insists on wearing diapers. We haven't even bothered with potty training because every time we ask if he wants to use the toilet like a big boy, he responds with "No, I a little baby. You change my diaper." Frustrating? Perhaps slightly, but I feel confident that he'll let us know when he's ready.
Typical boy, Eli still adores trains, cars, and trucks. Yet with two older sisters he also enjoys wearing headbands, playing with dolls, and toting their pink puppy purses.
The past couple of months, it's been delightful to watch him emerge from the world of parallel play and actively engage in the pretend world of his sisters. They now treat him as an equal as they play school, house, church, princess, or dolphins. Many times I've responded to the call of "Mom," only to hear "Not you, our pretend Mom!" I'm a little worried about Eli being bored next year when Talia leaves for kindergarten. He likes Mom fine, but his sisters are definitely best when it comes to entertainment.
Academically, I suspect Eli will be ridiculously well-prepared for school because he's paid such close attention as Talia's kindergarten preparations. Every time that Talia does her fifteen minute "computer preschool," Eli stands on the chair behind her, mimicking all of the letters and sounds. About a month ago we finally allowed him to have his own computer school account, so he's subsequently become pretty adept with a mouse. He counts well, knows some letters, and is surprisingly good with all the colors. I remember it took the girls forever to sort out colors--we actually worried Brooklyn might be color-blind.
And of course, being part of the Wheeler family, Eli loves to both read and help cook. This bilingual story, "The Empanadas that Abuela Made," let us combine the two, all while practicing a bit of Spanish.
With a storyline modeled after "This is the House that Jack built" and empanadas reminiscent of pumpkin pie, the book was a great hit all around.
Love you, Eli!
Over the past few days, we remembered a couple of additional Eli-isms. They're such an integral part of your personality that we just had to go back and add them in.
First of all, you LOVE breakfast. While you enjoy eating in general and will happily sit perched in your high chair for hours, breakfast is by far your favorite meal of the day. Without fail, your very first word in the morning as you stand up in the crib will be "Frekfast!" You eat a bowl of cereal before your sisters even crawl out of bed, only to insist on eating once again when they sit down to the breakfast table. One Sunday I was talking to your nursery leader about how we really do feed you well at home, no matter how greedily you devour your snacks. When I told her about your two breakfasts, she started calling you her little "Hobbit" with First Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevenses, and so on. Pretty funny, considering our Hobbit kinship.
Next, you are SUPER ticklish. Your neck, your back, your knees, your toes, your armpits--heck, we don't even have to touch you before you start laughing hysterically. The really amusing part is that even though you look like you are dying from laughter, you positively LOVE it when we tickle you and beg for more. If we stop, you'll start lifting up your arms just so we'll start again. The complete opposite of your mother, who has threatened to divorce your father only once--for tickling her armpits.
Lastly, well, there are too many lasts to list, so let me just say that you are SUPER cute and we are so glad to have you as part of our family.