The Second Child: Some Notes on Two

I get distracted. By life. By stupid stuff. I’m trying to do better at putting down the phone with the Facebook and the Pinterest and the Etsy and focus more on the amazing young men I’m blessed enough to spend my days raising. They are both turning into such awesome little people. But it’s not easy sometimes. Especially being pregnant. And now, third-trimester exhausted by every little exertion pregnant.

But I have been meaning to write down, somewhere, the unique things about my current two-year-old, to whom I have unfortunately tapered off the monthly letters like his brother got up to two because he happened to be the first. At least I never was one to do baby books, because there would surely be a vast inequality in those as well.

But some of the things that Andrew is doing are things I’d like to remember. And just in case I don’t, here they are.

  • He wants to be just like his brother in all things, including bad attitude moments and temper fits. He tries to cross his arms, which he can’t quite do yet, and he will say, “Humph!” just like Michael.
  • He will come and ask for something, to play the tablet, the Wii, for a snack, etc. If the answer is, “no,” he will say, “Not talking you, Mommy!” and storm off to find the right answer elsewhere.
  • He loves his boxer shorts. So much that he’d rather wear a diaper instead of briefs when all pairs are dirty. He calls them, “bocket shorts.”
  • I don’t know if there is anyone else in this family who can make him laugh harder than his brother can.
  • He loves the Lego Movie and Star Wars. When I think his brother at this age was more into Curious George, Elmo and Thomas. Andrew doesn’t really seem interested in monkeys or Muppets in quite the same way as other little ones. Because his brother’s so long over it all, of course.
  • He is a climber and a jumper. Again, he watches his brother and will practice each move over and over until he gets it. Just like when he was a baby and working to crawl, stand and walk, he is tenacious about mastering those big-kid skills.
  • He’s pretty good at playing soccer. 
  • His use of utensils to eat is pretty impressive. Probably because he can’t stand to have food or anything remotely food-like on his fingers or hands.
  • He is a wonderful imitator. He can put on Michael’s mannerisms like a costume, and it’s pretty amazing and amusing to see this little mini-version of your big kid strutting around.
  • He is shy in new places unless his brother is being wild and crazy, then he will just do whatever it is Michael does. If he’s by himself, though, he is a lot more hesitant until he feels comfortable and confident enough to venture out on his own or hold a conversation. 
  • With family and friends he knows, though, man he can be quite the chatterbox. Which is great to see because his mastery of language and use of new words is quite impressive at this age.
  • Sometimes, he will just look in my eyes and smile. He says, “Mommy have brown eyes… and Andrew have brown eyes.” He knows the eye colors of Daddy and Michael, too, but he always seems happy that his brown eyes are like my brown eyes.

I’m so glad I get to hang out with him every day. And as much as I will miss my big kid when he starts first grade (!!!) in a couple of weeks, I am excited to have some more one-on-one time with my soon-to-be-middle child. He is wonderful and amazing, and I can’t imagine my life without his energy. Even if it occasionally reaches decibel levels I’d prefer to avoid.


I love you, buddy.

Nineteen Months

Dear Andrew,

Another month has just flown by. Your personality is just blooming, and you are so much fun to watch.


Speaking of watching, you see everything and are becoming quite an expert imitator. The object of most of your scrutiny is usually your brother, and you have managed to amuse us all with your mimicry of his style of play. You participate and hold your own during the bedtime introductions, and in no uncertain terms you express your own bedtime identity.


Your vocabulary is expanding by leaps and bounds, your pronunciation is improving and your inflection is often unmistakable these days. You have so many new words I don’t know where to start. You will repeat almost anything, and you are so excited to try new sounds, I can’t help going over and over them with you some days. Even your brother gets in on the action, telling you to say “spider,” “monkey,” “cookie,” or anything else with that certain phrasing that cracks you both up. You have started to greet people by saying, “Hi, cuckoo,” and I have no idea what you were originally trying to say, since it doesn’t really resemble the sounds of any of our names or titles. It’s so cute, though, that we have begun to greet you the same way just to hear it.


You know that the remote controls the television, and you ask for “Tie Go,” on television, because “Teen Titans Go” is one of M’s favorite shows. When we watch PBS, you always say, “Thank You” when they do. You count along with the shows and sing a little bit sometimes. When I put on the Big Block Singsong, you follow along. You sing aong with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme song, which is occasionally requested at bedtime. We’ve enjoyed a few awesome dance parties in the kitchen.


You like to dance and applaud. And honestly, what did I ever do without my own personal cheering section after finishing my bathroom business? Even in public, I just have to laugh, because my pride of you learning your way around the potty is both reflected and magnified in your eyes as you clap and shout, “Yay!” as I flush.


You are a good listener, and you understand a lot. I can trust you to follow me when we go places, like taking M to and picking him up from school.


Your ball throwing skills are improving, and your games are becoming more elaborate. You seem to understand the inflection of a joke, and you know when to laugh.


You spilled your water, and you try to grab it with your hand and put it back in your cup. That doesn’t work so well.


However, you have been getting so much better about Mommy leaving you. You give kisses and wave bye-bye to me just like other members of the family. I can see that you trust me to come back just like I always do.


As I was working on this post, I had it all written so beautifully for you, but when I returned to it to insert the adorable photos, half of it went missing. I am finally publishing it months later, with apologies that my frustration with technology caused me to put off writing more in a timely manner.



Seventeen and Eighteen Months

Dear Andrew,


You are eighteen months old now. I’m so sorry that I haven’t taken the time to properly acknowledge seventeen. It’s totally my fault. The days are getting shorter in more ways than just the one, but trust me, we’ve been having an awesome time together!


When Michael started school, I looked forward to spending my days with you, just us. But I’m afraid that I didn’t do a very good job of giving you the time and attention you really needed at first. There were always lists of things to get done, and while I would often include you in my daily rounds of chores, sometimes you got shorted. I’m working on doing better, now that we’re more familiar with this new normal, though. And you do take it upon yourself to help me pay attention, too. Like when I do the dishes and you need some fun, you press yourself into my legs and shove your way through them and around and around.


We’ve begun taking an almost daily walk together. The weather has been cooperating beautifully lately, and it is one of your favorite things to do with me when we’re outside. In fact, if you realize that we’re not heading right to the car, you will reach for my hand when we hit the sidewalk and tug me in the direction you wish to go. Those first few weeks of school were kind of crazy, but now that we’ve settled into the new pattern of our days, I look forward to meandering around the block, picking up sticks and stones and noticing bushes and dogs and planes in the sky, almost as much as you do. You lead me. You hang onto my hand as you crouch down to examine a rock or a twig. Or hit a leaf with a stick or a rock. You’re enjoying the way the fallen leaves crunch underfoot or in your hands. And your favorite stop along our daily path is the sewer grate at the end of our alley. You could spend all day dropping stones, leaves or dirt down to see what happens when each object hits the water below.


You miss your brother when he’s at school. Nearly every time we leave the house, you ask for, “Ki-chael?” And you occasionally say the same thing when we’re just hanging around. And honestly, because of your grandma, I can’t always tell if you’re asking for Michael or a “cocktail,” which is just your way of asking for something to drink. It’s beginning to become clearer, now that you’re forming more and more words every day, and you have been doing very well repeating what you hear. Which means we’re getting closer to the point of needing to turn off certain media while you’re in a conscious state. You have always been an astute observer of your world, and you mimic us and your brother with sometimes surprising accuracy. The other day, he was bragging about his muscles, and you insisted that yours were just as amazing to behold. 


I’ve taken to making myself a smoothie for the main part of my lunch. It’s easy and quick, not to mention delicious. And lucky for me, your nap sometimes coincides with lunch, so I can enjoy my smoothie as I do whatever it is that’s on my list to do without your “helping” hands. Because you love smoothies. Which is great, because as I said, they are quick and easy and full of healthy deliciousness, but they are also very pink and messy, which you don’t seem to mind as much as I do.


You still get very upset anytime the vacuum comes out, so we’ve tried to make it so you can be out of the house when that needs to get done. Unfortunately, your aversion to it is one more reason that particular chore may not get done as much as it probably should. However, you do love to help with whatever else needs doing. You were beyond thrilled when I let you scrub the toilets. If I hand you the duster, you’ll follow my movements through the house exactly. You wipe the table. You sweep the floor. You push my grocery cart. You are just so enthusiastic about doing everything just like the big kids do. You would cook dinner yourself every night if I would just lift you up and let you get your hands on that spoon.


You have started to sing along with your Rock ‘n Roll Elmo, and you really seem to like music. You even dance and clap a little bit, and it’s quite fun to sit down and sing along with you. You also like to count and recite the alphabet. You can’t really say any of the actual numbers or letters, aside from maybe “a” or “c,” but you’ve got the right inflection, and it brings a big smile to your face when we figure out that you’re counting and we count along with you. You like to play ball, and your form is… interesting. It used to be the way you danced, and now has become the way you pitch. You lean way over to one side before letting the ball fly from your hand. sometimes you tip so much that you fall right to the floor. You always let us know right where you want us to be, too, whether it’s to receive your perfect pitch or to sit down for snuggles or a favorite show for screen time.


You sit on the potty every day at least once at bedtime and sometimes other times. And most nights, I can even get you to do your business there. It’s a great accomplishment for one your age, and lately, you have gotten as happy with your successful toilet visits as I am. You flush and clap your hands and shout, “Yay!” and run through the house naked as the day you were born. Maybe I shouldn’t write about that here, but since the potty has been a familiar thing to you pretty much your whole life, now that you’re starting to really understand the concept, cause and effect of things, it’s pretty neat to see how you’re making the routine your own.


You are still quite the daredevil and can’t resist the stairs. Any stairs. And you’ve taken to following your brother’s lead when he climbs the furniture. You can now officially reach (and pull your body onto) the kitchen counter. I had to remove one of the glass shelves from the entertainment center because you had hoisted your body onto the shelf below and knocked it off the supports with your head, thinking you could then use that shelf as a ladder to reach the very top, where the best toys, like picture frames and DVDs, are kept. You have been practicing your climbing on the playground at Michael’s school when we drop him off or pick him up. You can hold your own, now, even when the place is teaming with wild and crazy elementary students. You follow them up and over and around and through, and you will rage if any of the kids dare to offer a helping hand or stand in your way. You have no fear and seem to have no idea that you are still so much smaller than they are. You can do anything. You truly believe that, and it’s one of the many things I absolutely adore about you.


You finally say “mama” on a regular basis, although I’m not entirely sure you’ve connected it with me beyond the contents of my bra. When we sit down or I pick you up, you pat or point to my chest and say, “mama,” and I will nurse you because as much as I laugh about it or roll my eyes that all I am is a pair of breasts to you, I know it’s not true. And after all, it is a pretty sweet way to ask. And at least you say it more often for me now, which I never thought would happen. And even when you refused to say that very special word to me, I never doubted you knew exactly who I was and precisely where you belonged. Right there, curled up in close proximity to this mama’s heart.



School Kid


Tuesday morning, we sent our first born son off to full-day kindergarten. This is a huge deal in our house. Because aside from the two-hour, once-a-week Bible study class we’ve done, M has never before attended school. He has been hanging out with me or his dad every day for his whole life. He never even went to daycare.

I worried about and prayed for him as this week approached. I don’t remember my first day of kindergarten, but I do remember first grade. And I remember how being assigned a seat next to a boy in my class set me off crying. I’m sure it wasn’t only sitting next to a boy I didn’t want to sit near, but that all the emotion of such changes that come with starting school just spilled out of me at that precise moment. My first grade teacher knew exactly what to do and say to calm me down, like she could read my mind. I hoped for such care and kindness for my own boy as he began his journey through school. Because even if he doesn’t melt down this week or next, there may come a time when it just hits him like that, and I hope that his teachers will be the kind who get it.

Tuesday, he was nervous. The night before, he was both excited and scared. We tried not to talk too much about it because he’s kind of like his dad in that he doesn’t want to think too much about what worries him, especially if it’s unknown and out of his control. It was a fine line to walk, though, because like many five-year-olds, he also does better in new situations when he has some idea of what to expect. Because we ourselves didn’t know exactly what to expect, that part was a little harder.

So far, he loves school. And the adjustment has been pretty seamless for him so far. I can tell that there are some things he’s still working out about the new normal, though, because we’ve had a few tough times with him at home this week. And I expected that. The way he talks about school itself, though, I can see that he is enjoying himself there. After that first day, he’s happy to go there, happy to be there, and even a little not-so-happy to leave. He was not one of the kids who left class the last few days in tears. And I haven’t gotten any phone calls, yet, either. So that’s a bit of relief for me.

I, on the other hand, could never have prepared myself enough for this. This milestone of releasing my hold on my baby. I’ve been watching him grow into this amazing person. I’ve seen him get taller and stronger day by day. I’ve listened to his stories and participated in his games that have become more and more involved and elaborate. He is funny and kind and wild and wonderful. And even though building robots or pretending to be a thumper lion is not my personal idea of fun, it’s been so quiet around here without him asking me when I can come play, can I get his bike out, can we watch a movie.

But as much as I miss his presence and his energy around here, I know he’s right where he needs to be now. He is great with his little brother, but he needs to run around with kids his own speed and skill level. He’s eager to learn new things from someone that’s not me. I hate letting him go. It scares me that there will now be so many influences in his life that I can’t control and may never even know. And it’s hard for me to look back on our time at home together and believe that I always did my best, that I really prepared him for the world as much as I could have. I know I still have great influence here at home, but the dynamic has already began to shift, and I am continuing to hope and pray that he will do more good than bad, that he will show kindness and respect, and that he will be exposed to positive influences, encouragement and support.

The thing is, he’s already made me so very proud, and I can’t foresee any scenario in which he won’t always do just that.

Sixteen Months

Dear Andrew,


You are sixteen months old and taking it to the extreme. You are a ball of energy, rivaling even that of your big brother. You love to run and jump and laugh and tumble and do anything and everything that your little body of yours will let you do. You run fast. You love hard. You throw your emotions around the room. When you’re upset, you wail and thrash about. You fling yourself to the ground and if it doesn’t solve your problem once, you pick yourself up and try it again.


You want to do EVERYTHING that your brother does. And God love him, he’s really trying to not be annoyed by that. But you do tend to push him around and grab his things a bit too much for his liking. Most of the time, though, I love watching you watch him. You take in his every move, studying as much as you can with how fast he goes. And you launch yourself right after him. Whether it’s face planting off the arm of the couch (which I find much more hilarious than others in our household do) or tackling your daddy or jumping on the bed, you do what you can, a miniature, more awkward and fumbling shadow of our Michael. So we try to help him to be a good example for you.


You have so many more words now. There seems to be nothing that you won’t at least attempt to repeat. Well, except Mama, that is. I have managed to trick you into saying it by teasing M when he says “um-uh” and I repeat it and we laugh and laugh. You repeat it as “ma-ma,” and shriek with joy. Whatever. I’ll take it.


You say “Thank you” to ask for things. You pretend to talk on the phone starting with hello and ending with bye, pressing a finger to your palm like you’re ending a call. We’ve been enjoying the cool Wisconsin summer evenings by taking walks around our block, and you are eager to point things out to me and chatter away about it all. I feel like we are coming to understanding each other pretty well, even though I often wish I knew exactly what you were trying to express with all your sounds and syllables.


I love to see your blossoming understanding of people and words. You enjoy singing and dancing with your Rock-n-roll Elmo, and when he sings the alphabet song, I can almost see the light go on as you run to the kitchen and press the button for the Leapfrog magnetic alphabet thing we have on the fridge. You are so proud of yourself that you understand it’s the same song that can come from two different places. You understand potty time, which is now regularly part of our pre-bedtime routine. You know how it works and what’s expected of you, even if you don’t always entirely follow through with it all. And those are just a couple of small examples. I’ll have to remember to talk you through some other things to see if it helps.


And speaking of bedtime, you have come to know exactly what to expect. You sit with me on the couch after you and M are brushed and washed and pajama-ed. M will announce himself or have someone else introduce him, and he’ll come out and rile you up. We have to work on this part, I think, because sometimes he gets you a little too excited right before you’re supposed to sleep. Then you tend to take FOREVER to finally fall asleep. And since we still need to be there with you for that, it can be a little tough on your old mom and dad.


This month, I went to an interview and got a job. It’s a pretty good deal so far, because the shifts are short, and I’ve been able to work them pretty well into our current schedule without having to farm you and M out to whoever will have you. You have a great time with friends and family when I have to be apart from you, but when I’ve got you back in my arms again, I can tell that deep down, it freaks you out a little bit. I know how much you still need me, little one. Trust me, I know. And I want you to know that no matter how far away I go or how long I’m gone, you are part of my heart, too, and I will always return. Eagerly, gladly, enthusiastically to those little arms, reaching up, wide open for those hugs, that special embrace that keeps me smiling.



Coming to the Dark Side


At no time do I feel so old as when I attempt to learn something new about technology.

Two years ago, I got my very first texting plan and a phone with an actual keyboard on it. I know, welcome to the 2000s, right? At the time, pretty much everyone on my contacts list had already been texting for ages and were now relying on autocorrect and voice features. Hold on, there, guys, my phone still has buttons on it.

My husband got himself a sweet smartphone, and not long after that, he got himself a tablet for his birthday. He’s way more hip than me. The year previous, I was super excited for my plain old Kindle Touch. Because I like to read books, and that thing still reads like paper. And trust me, it even took some significant convincing and in-person comparison shopping to get me the Touch over the original version.

And last week, my husband had finally had enough of his phone forgetting that it was still a phone (not so “smart” if you ask me, but whatever), and he upgraded to a new one, since it was time to renew our contract anyway. Funny how that works out, isn’t it? Or maybe not. Anyway, we found that the old phone, even though it sometimes didn’t make sounds or randomly entered car-docking mode, which it technically isn’t even supposed to have, would still operate like a tablet using wi-fi even without being connected to the wireless phone network or 3G or whatever the heck they’re calling that everywhere available telecommunications feature nowadays.

So. Even though the idea was to use it on occasion to occupy one or more of the children when necessary, I kind of started playing with it and decided to adopt it for myself. And not just for playing Robot Unicorn Attack, either.

You see, for several months, I’ve been eyeing up and pricing new cameras. Both the fancy DSLR variety and the teeny point-and-shoot types. Because my ancient point-and-shoot is slow and broken and has a battery that can support a few videos and one or two flash photos and promptly dies. And because my DSLR still has a broken flash, doesn’t shoot video at all and is a little bit more limited than I’d like if I ever actually get serious about my photography.

But let’s get honest for a moment. Will I ever get serious about photography? Maybe. But now is definitely not the time. I have two small children and several other related and unrelated activities going on right now. I don’t have time to re-learn what I may have once known about f-stops and exposures. And I really don’t have time to sit on my computer and mess around in Photoshop for hours on end to get that one shot just right. So, for the most part, I’ve been satisfied with what comes right off the camera, but for those times when I’d like to play a little, enter James’ old smart-phone.

It shoots faster than my old point-and-shoot, but not quite as immediate as my DSLR. It takes video. The photo quality is at least better than the p&s if not also the DSLR. There are filter effects and photo editing tools available with a quick touch or swipe of the finger, and it’s tiny enough to sit comfortably and easily within reach in my purse or pocket. Everything I was looking for in one or two new cameras with wi-fi to boot.

The thing is, there’s a reason I’ve been resistant to the smartphone/camera for so long. And it has nothing to do with the technology itself, but everything to do with my own hubris.

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Fifteen Months

Dear Andrew,

You are fifteen months old, and you are so awesome.


I’ve pretty much given up on you ever saying “Mama” with any frequency or reliability. And honestly, it doesn’t bother me anymore because it’s more like a joke now that we share. You try to say all sorts of new words like, “faster,” and “strawberry,” and you get increasingly excited when your brother tries to teach you new things to say because, hey, he’s talking to you and not yelling at you or snatching his stuff out of your hands. You are learning animal sounds and can bark when I ask you what the dog says. You can repeat a lot of the other animal sounds, too, once I clue you to what they are, but your default is the barking, no matter which animal I ask you about first.


You also like to sing and dance. Your dance is this tip sideways that sometimes results in you falling all the way over. Even so, you have a big cheese-ball smile on your face and occasionally applaud your own efforts. (This does not only happen while dancing, but any time you try something you didn’t know you could do.) And I love to listen to you talk or sing to yourself. It’s especially entertaining when you don’t realize that anyone is actually paying attention. You will wander around some days singing, “Yo-ah, yo-ah,” because of the song that Michael often requests at bedtime. It’s one of the few songs you recognize and try to imitate, but even if I just hum or “do-do-do” to myself, you’ll often repeat those various sounds, too.


You will climb or try to climb anything. You can’t resist stairs, and you’re really getting good at going up and down. You can climb onto the couch or the bed without any help at all anymore, and there are fewer and fewer “safe” spots where we can put things that we don’t want to fall into your curious little hands. You want to do anything that anyone bigger than you is doing, and even if you can’t quite make your body replicate the motions exactly, you throw yourself entirely into the activity and often fail with a flourish.


You love to help. You sweep and pull weeds (or other plants). You load the dishwasher at Grandma’s house, you pick up toys and you “sort” laundry. You are happy enough to be part of whatever mundane task we have to get done in a day, except vacuuming. That big old vacuum cleaner scares the pants off of you every time. If it even appears from within the closet, you run off screaming. You cry and need to be held even while I’m trying to suck the crumbs up off the carpet. And you’re not happy until that monster machine is locked back up behind closed doors again. Same goes for the food processor, the bread machine, the magic bullet. You’re even wary of the slow cooker, the rice maker and, most recently, the food dehydrator.


And speaking of running and screaming, your tantrums are getting more and more dramatic. You don’t deal well with disappointment at all, and denying you of the one thing you need to have happen right now at this moment will lead you to throwing yourself on the ground and writhing around in agony. You put your mouth to the floor (or the grass or the pavement), and you wail. And when that doesn’t work, you return to whoever offended you by denying your most reasonable request and repeat your gesture of desire. Some of the things that have set you off have included: offering you a bite of banana instead of a sip of coffee, not opening the bottle of glitter/glue/water we made to distract you and/or help your brother calm down when he has his own moments of rage so you can drink from it, putting away the scissors before you’ve had your turn and daring to cut your food into smaller pieces than the rest of us have on our plates.


For the most part, though, you are the happiest and most friendly baby, wait, toddler, that I could imagine being around at this moment. You always wave and say, “Hi,” to our neighbors, and you blow kisses and wave and say your version of “Bye,” when you or anyone else leaves or goes to bed. Your bliss at being alive and discovering all the world has to offer you is contagious and encouraging, especially during my bad days and hard moments. Because guess what? Even if you never, ever say the word, I can see in your eyes that you know your mama well. When you squeeze me tight and rest your head on my shoulder before running off and trying some other daring feat, when you run at me with your mouth closed and saying “mmmmm” in preparation for some big kisses, when you smile and laugh just because you caught my eye, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love me. Completely. You love your family, friends and neighbors without reservation, and there are not enough words in the world to tell you exactly how much this unbridled affection means to us all.


The One Who Shall Not Be Named