Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two Year Letter

(excerpt from a letter to Miguel's birth parents)

In early November, we had a wild dance party to celebrate Miguel’s second birthday and the near completion of the rehab of our “new home” on the first floor. The little ones spun and hopped below a disco ball illuminated with a bike light as the amused adults swapped stories about the joys and challenges of parenting. Taking advantage of the last balmy evening of the year, we spilled into the back yard for more dancing and a chocolate cake that Miguel had helped Gin bake earlier in the day. It was decorated with an airplane and “toenail” moon, two of Miguel’s favorite things to spy in the sky.

Later, as we swept the crumbs from the floor (you know how toddlers aren’t the tidiest eaters!), we thought about how Miguel has simultaneously changed and deepened our relationships to each other, our friends, our values and our community. We’re still working on our home, riding our bicycles and taking trips, but we have slowed down—the parties end a lot earlier than they used to, and that’s just fine by us. The most significant “slow down” has been Gin leaving her full time job to spend more time with Miguel and to pursue other creative projects related to our building, the garden and writing. Everyday, we feel so grateful to be sharing our life journey with Miguel; he gives us so much joy, and helps us keep our priorities straght.

Miguel is also changing so much, while still retaining the qualities we’ve noticed since he was a newborn. Aside from the occasional squall associated with growing pains or asserting his independence, Miguel is still an incredibly good natured boy, jumping into each day with both feet and a laugh. He gets along well with other kids and loves meeting new people. After a play date, he will gleefully rattle off all the names of the children and adults he saw. Full of sweetness and enthusiasm, he went through a phase of literally hugging trees and saying, “I love you, tree!” When someone cries, a look of grave concern falls on his face and he will rush over with a hug or a kiss. . . and sometimes his special bunny (though he usually decides he doesn’t want to share Bunny afterall.)

Of course, he has his moments of frustration, when he kicks and flails and screams NOOOOOOOO so loudly that all the dogs on the street bark in sympathy, but these moments tend to pass quickly. We try to be firm, calm and loving, frequently using phrases such as, “We are sorry you are upset, but . . . “ and “Please use your manners to tell us what you want. . .”

He has a keen sense of humor. Since his birthday, whenever we ask him how old he is, he’ll say “One!” and then laugh before admitting he knows well that he is two years old. During bath time—which he loves—he likes to make a bubble beard, like his dad. Then he’ll ask about Mommy having a beard, and quickly reply to himself, “That’s silly!!” He loves to play around with his emerging understandings of how the world works and what is normal.

He continues to be quite verbal, and has an impressive vocabulary.
Lately, he’s been experimenting with pronouns. Often he’ll request that we “Carry you” when he means to say, “Carry me” because of course he hears us asking “Do you want me to carry you?” He’s also very polite, peppering his dialogue with ‘please,’ ‘thank you, ’ ‘excuse me,’ and ‘may I?’

His memory also dazzles us. He talks about events that happened weeks ago. He still repeats with perfect pitch the way Gin angrily reacted to a driver who got too close to them. “Mommy said, ‘Oh no, no, no, no, no! to the mean lady in the car!’ Thankfully, he also picks up on our friendlier interactions, “Mommy said, ‘Have a nice day.’

Miguel is an enthusiastic assistant chef. He pulls his ‘helping chair’ to the counter, and offers Gin assistance in tasks such as mixing and breaking eggs, with only occasional splatterings of batter on the walls. He also loves vacuuming, which is good, as our floors seem to need constant cleaning!

Music is one of Miguel’s greatest joys. He is fascinated by guitars and is captivated by a friend of ours whom he sees play frequently. Miguel also loves to pull out Michael's guitar and strum away on it with care. Michael has put together a couple of music mixes (with songs ranging from the Popeye theme song, to the Beatle’s “Yellow Submarine”, to Gnarles Barclay’s “Crazy”). Miguel will ask for songs by name, and knows many lyrics. When he gets really excited about a song, his eyes light up and he starts shuffling his feet. His dancing usually quickly devolves into lots of giggly spinning, interspersed with lopsided hopping.

Seeing new places and meeting people continue to thrill Miguel. This year’s big trips included travelling to Washington, DC for a wedding and Moscow, Idaho for a weeklong visit to college friends and their young children. We also took some weekend bike and camping adventures, and visited his grandparents in Maryland a few times. Miguel greeted each new experience with wide eyes and a mostly good mood. We have also learned to adjust our expectations about what we can accomplish—no more 10 mile hikes or lingering late night dinners!

In a few days, we leave for yet another series of journeys: for Thanksgiving, we travel to Seattle to see Michael’s family (4 aunts and uncles and various cousins for Miguel to play with) and we’ll be in Ecuador for most of December, staying mostly in the town of Baños at a country inn owned by two friends. After a very busy two years, we’re really looking forwards to an extended period of time where we are all three together without the (knock on wood) distractions of work and managing our building.

Miguel will be thrilled about taking a plane again, but his favorite way to get around remains the bus. While we're out for a walk, he excitedly announces each passing bus (he can usually distinguish the Armitage from the Kimball) and he's down right giddy when we actually ride one. He also seems to enjoy the bike seat (his major mode of transportation) and the occasional car ride when we're chauffeured somewhere by a friend. We want to make sure he gets enough exercise, so he’s also walking more, even though it often means slow going for us as he wants to open and close every gate on the block, or point to all the blue “M for Miguel’s” on the sidewalks, which are actually upside down W’s noting where the water pipes are.

After his busy days either at day care (he goes 3 days a week to have time to socialize with other children and give Gin time to work on projects) or home with us, we usually have “family dinner,” complete with a cheers to some part of the day, followed by a regular bedtime routine which begins with brushing his teeth. He's insistent about taking off the cap himself and slathering the paste on the brush. He’s getting better at doing the brushing himself, but we still help him with the teeth he misses.

Next, he patters off to his room to choose bedtime stories from his bookshelf —usually three books to be read with Gin and/or Michael. Good Night Moon, Only in Dreams, and Maisy’s Bedtime are frequent picks. He sometimes turns back the pages to linger on a favorite picture, such as three pigs taking a bath, a bumblebee or a banjo. As we read out loud, we pause to let him finish the sentences, which he does especially well when there is a rhyme pattern. Gin is so excited to tap into her knowledge of children’s literacy to help him learn to become an independent reader and writer. It thrills us to see him sitting in a pile of books, turning the pages, even when the books are upside down.

After reading and snuggling, we put him to bed and play a final, often elaborate, game of peek-a-boo. Sometimes he’ll stay up for awhile and prattle about his day. Most nights he’s fast asleep within minutes, with Bunny tucked in his arms.

It’s been an amazing year. Miguel’s hugs and smiles warm each of our days. We look forward to more adventures and continuing to discover the world through his eyes.

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