Last weekend our boy turned one year old. In one year he has grown so much, learned so much about the world, just as we have learned so much about him. The night of his birthday I stayed up late after everyone else had gone to sleep and fell absorbed looking through pictures of when he was born and of him as a newborn. I then went back even farther and glanced through pictures of Ava as a little babe and noted such distinct differences between them even then - differences that are reflections of their contrasting personalities. Why do we ever imagine that two humans would be the same? How can we possibly be surprised by their differences? These two little ones, so perfecty complementary, make our family feel - complete.
On his one year birth-day we celebrated our sweet boy Eli, but internally there was also a celebration for this mama too as I reflected back on the days leading up to Eli's birth. He and I worked hard in those days - and really it was all just the beginning. I can see both how much Eli has grown in his one year and also have more of an inkling of how this is still just the beginning - how much more change and growth and learning for us all - is to come. His birthday reminds me, too, of how far we have come here in our new home. He was just starting to stretch my belly when we arrived here in Minnesota. A year and a half later our family has grown, as has our community and comfortability in this place we call home.
This boy of ours is pure joy. Even at one year old there is so much that we know about him, so much that is apparent of who he is and will be. He is strong, patient, persistent, engaged, a good problem solver, confident, a man of action, and, so far at least, a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I know his tickle spots. I know how to make him giggle. I know that some of the worries I had about him when he was born have subsided - and some of them will remain on indefinitely. I have observed many differences between him and his sister. Lately, though, as he grows and matures, I am seeing more similarities: his attention (though he may choose to pay it to something other than her favorites, books and animals); his gentle nature; his (mostly) even temperament. I am so very proud of him, and each day I grow more amazed with all he is learning and how he is growing. I love his deep gutteral laugh and wide toothy grin. I love the way he is so warm and snuggly in the early morning - our little snuggle package. I love his wild, exuberant, two-handed wave. I love how he climbs all over me like a monkey and teeter totters on his chubby legs as he practices taking steps over and over again. This boy, who will always be my baby even if he is now 'officially' a toddler, he steals my heart.
Eli's celebration was in some ways less grand than Ava's first birthday bash. Our lives were quite different then, living in Ann Arbor amidst a rich and vast community of friends. And, let's face it, having only one child makes accomplishing anything - like planning a big party - quite a bit simpler. But Eli's birthday celebration, spread over the course of a long weekend and shared with his Grandma and Papa, was perfect in its own way. A trip to the zoo where he leans up close against the floor-to-ceiling tank of tropical fish pointing and squealing at each blaze of color as it flitters by, dinner out at a favorite restaurant, a visit from friends who couldn't resist bringing him his first doughnut, gifts, cake (carrot), and most importantly, quite a bit of cuddling and family time.
I finished Eli's birthday crown just in time with the help of Janet at Felt on the Fly, who sells the most fabulous 100% wool felt in every color imaginable and who so expeditiously rushed a felt order out to this procrastinating Mama. I loosely followed the crown pattern in Amanda Soule's book The Creative Family. I was inspired by the absolutely beautiful crown that my dear friend Angela made for Ava's first birthday, starting a tradition we will cherish for birthdays to come.
I remember sitting at the dinner table before Eli was even in my belly, feeling this barely perceptible, but very much present feeling that someone is missing. With Eli here with us and the four of us together, that feeling around the table has changed to an ah yes, here we all are.
Happy Birthday, my sweet boy. We love you so so much.