Sometimes I stare. It’s hard to believe someone so beautiful could have so much of my DNA, you know?
I stare at my kid a lot. I don’t know if that is weird or if I will ever stop, but I can’t really help it. I love to watch him, to observe his face and movements and drink it all in.
There is one thing in particular that I love to catch, and it’s a smile blooming on his face. He will be standing there, mouth slack, observing something (Elmo and Dorothy, for one, or the opening title sequence of House of Cards, for another), and one side of his upper lip will catch just so and curl upward, like it’s been hooked by a fishing line. Then the rest of his lips will curl back and reveal his teeth and a full grin, a drop of delight.
Internet, let me tell you a thing my two-year-old has done three times now in the past couple of weeks. The first time he did it, it was funny but I figured he was being sincere. The second time, it was funny and I thought it was a cute repeat. The third time, I realized this kid is yanking my chain.
He will fart audibly, and then get super wide-eyed and look at me and say, “What was that?!” as if to cast blame elsewhere.
This post is a month overdue, but that is what happens when you have a toddler. Madness and time travel.
On Nov. 5, Holden turned two. His language skills are taking off like a weird little rocket, just zooming up and up each day. And even though half the time we are totally bewildered by what he is trying very emphatically to tell us, the other half of the time he’s being so suddenly crystal clear that it’s shocking.
He will ask, “What is that?!” and wants us to name everything again and again, so he can commit it to memory. We play this game many times a day, pointing out our surroundings and body parts. He can repeat back a few things but he can point out damn near anything you can think of. He loves to show his belly. When I show him mine, he loves to cover it back up. Smart boy.
He likes to call for things. His daddy, the kitty, his cup of milk if he can’t find it.
He has finally started saying “bye bye” when we leave, and he’s starting to purposefully say “mama” now. Not sure why he never picked up on those two phrases earlier, but it’s fun to hear them now.
He loves books. So much. He will sit quietly and page through them, or bring one over and crawl up in my lap so that I will read to him. In particular he loves his Bill Cosby Little Detective book about the farmer’s market (because we pick out and name all the food) and his Grover book about animals (because we pick out and name all the animals).
Back in September, he took his first real extended overnight roadtrip, and was a real trooper, even though he’d been sick with some mystery virus. We had a great time exploring Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and spent a long day at Dollywood, during which he was SO GOOD. He liked riding rides and watching people. We let him feed the ducks and he snuck some duck food but didn’t care for the taste too much.
Holden had his first real Halloween this year, too. We didn’t really do much last year since he wasn’t walking yet, but this year we dressed him up as a lion and went out on the town. The weather was weird on Halloween night so we didn’t realize until several houses in that the Sylvan Park streets we were cruising (to stay close to my work, since I was still on the clock) had actually postponed their Halloween festivities until the following night. Ooops. So we took our five pieces of candy and headed to the Green Hills mall, where everyone else had apparently gone an hour earlier. We saw lots of kids in costume but it was sort of petering out by then. Our little lion enjoyed the people watching, and his first taste of Twix.
One of Holden’s favorite things to do is hide and jump out to spook people, particularly his daddy. In the morning, we will be playing in the living room and he will hear his daddy stir in the bedroom or bathroom, and he’ll get this wide-eyed look and come running to me and begging to hide under a blanket or behind a pillow. Then, when his daddy walks into the room, he will pop out and we’ll yell, “SURPRISE!” Daddy plays along every time.
Another favorite thing is counting. We can go to five, although “four” and “five” sound a lot like “one” and “two.” Still, this guy gets really excited when he counts all five fingers.
And he loves to flip the light switches to turn the lights off and on.
He weighs in at 24 pounds and is in the upper percentiles for height, so still long and lean. He’s got super strange taste in food, and really loves nuts and seeds and baked/dried veggies (peas and green beans mostly) more than anything. Not a big fan of meat in general unless it’s bacon or pureed and snuck into some vegetables. Can’t get enough of those fruit pouch things. Loves milk, water and juice.
This child loves pomegranate jewels and hates bubble baths.
A few months ago he invented a game we call papertowelball. At first we tried to get him to stop throwing the ball up on the counter, but we realized he was trying to hit the paper towels. And a game was born. So we bought him a proper basketball goal, but he still preferred the paper towels, so we ended up having to hide them (since one of the downsides of papertowelball is that the ball will constantly get stuck up there or accidentally — or not so accidentally — get thrown into the sink). He is taking to his basketball goal pretty well and I hope to have him on Leno within six months.
He’s had a couple of pretty epic tantrums that have tested my patience (and I failed) but for the most part, when he’s feeling well, this guy is a lot of fun to be around. He likes to wrestle and play pretty rough, and he has a wacky sense of humor. He’s very sweet, though, and gives good hugs and kisses, and has the best laugh. We are having quite the adventure.
You know who you are:
Twenty months on this earth now, barreling toward two years. I haven’t done a proper update in months and for that I am sorry but I am letting it go. Guilt fuels nothing but bad things and my sparse internetting has not kept you from blooming into a beauty to behold and an ox to contend with should you determine you might not be getting your way.
You are strong and determined and stubborn just like the two of us responsible for your particular blend of DNA. You are sometimes easily frustrated, quick to lash out in anger, and of questionable temperament when you are tired. You are a clone of us, boy. Sorry about your luck! You also seem to have inherited my delicious mosquito-bait blood rather than your father’s blood, which is spicy and not to their liking. You are shy and take a good twenty minutes when in any new setting or when among unfamiliar people (as in, anyone but me and your dad) before you will warm up and have any fun.
But you are also so lovely and sweet and shy and so silly and talkative when you feel comfortable and safe.
You are way into high fives — especially if I ham it up like your thwack really hurt my hand, tough guy — and being outside. You like to taste things: My arm, that thing on the floor, the trees.
You enjoy taking things out of containers and then putting them into other containers, and then taking them out and putting them back in again. You like to pick up all your toys off the floor and put them in your new toy box. And then when your toys are put away you like to put everything else in your box too. The remote, my shoes, your sippy cup. Everything has its place, and it’s in your toy box.
I have not yet tired of just sitting and watching you toddle around on your own two legs. You were a late walker — a super late walker at 19.5 months. Everyone told us not to worry, to enjoy the crawling phase. Once they’re walking, you’ll be chasing them all over the place! But it’s hard to enjoy the crawling phase with that nagging worry in the back of your head that something is wrong. That we should have caught the problem by now and started correcting it. And then sure enough, as soon as I had halfway resolved to contact ECI, I saw you go from coffee table to chair on your own legs one morning. As if it was nothing big. We had been encouraging you to walk and you’d do it if we stood you up and pointed you in the right direction. But this morning was different. You decided you’d get around on your feet as a matter of preference. And you’ve been toddling around since then, only stopping to crawl when it is strategically necessary for you to terrify Ms. Kitty on her level.
And I have loved every minute of the walking phase so far. You stay cleaner (going somewhere only to have you act as a Swiffer the whole time can wear on one’s nerves and your clothes), your knees aren’t nearly as banged up, and you look freaking ADORABLE walking around, dude.
You don’t understand why we won’t let you just go go go. Why we have to hold your hand and guide you down the big hill in the front yard or across parking lots or along the edges of deep water or up next to dogs that weigh five times what you do. You waited so long to walk, you probably wonder why we are putting so many limits on your newfound superpower.
You caught on early to the concept of catching and throwing a ball, and now you have a fantastic overhand fastball. I’m completely serious. You have good aim and you’re a damn good faker, too; you can look one direction and hit a target in the other. And catch without looking. You favor your left hand for pretty much everything, which your Grandpa will take great pride in some day because he TOTALLY CALLED IT when you were a tiny baby. How does he know these things? I will take a guess: He grows wisdom in that crazy beard of his.
Your favorite books are the ones with animals in them and we “read” them by going through and naming all the animals. You are so totally confused by the concept of a Grover but you seem to get who Elmo and Cookie Monster are. You have a bad habit of throwing your books directly at my face when you want to read them or when you want to stop reading them. You also do this with your cup and all of your toys. I’m not sure you understand your own strength but you probably also really enjoy watching how worked up I get when you clock me on the nose with a full cup of milk. We’re working on our control; mine involves me not Losing My Shit every time I get a busted lip and yours involves you placing things gently on the table. It’s a walk we will walk together for a long time, I’m sure.
You know how to point to all sorts of things. You can show me where the red stars are in your bedroom, and where the blue stars are, and where the wall is, the door, the ceiling, and more. Tonight we were outside and I asked you where the house was and you showed me! Every night before bed we say good night to all the things on your wall, including the air conditioner (“thanks for keeping us cool!”) and the humidifier that looks like Mr. Kitty’s head, and we do it in the same order so that you know what’s coming. You like to make the blue star swing and you touch the H made out of buttons that Coco made for us. And you point to the bumblebees stuck to the back of your door before you touch the blue and black dots.
Daddy and I both have been hearing you say your name. I heard you say it to the mirror today and it’s kind of hard to believe, but I’ve heard it a few times now. You love to hear us count and say the alphabet and you will chime in with your own additions and sometimes make perfect sense. Other times we just assume you are being creative. You say “da” for ball and a couple of other things, but I figure now that you’ve got that walking thing out of the way, we’ll start to recognize more and more words as the weeks pass.
We cheated and put you in a forward-facing car seat part-time (it’s in my car) last month. I felt squicky about it but you are really only in it once or twice a week. You still ride like a balled-up armadillo in the back of your daddy’s car. The first time you rode forward facing, you had THE BEST TIME EVER. However, you can’t really figure out how to fall asleep in your new seat since it’s not as laid back and since there’s so much more to see, so long roadtrips involve a lot of whining. From both of us.
I started reading a book about how to better communicate with toddlers, so I’ve started doing and saying some utterly silly things that I hope will help me empathize with you a little better and not just assume you are being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole (although of course you still have that option at all times). Mothering a toddler is at times the most frustrating thing I have ever done (it barely beats out being in a relationship with an adult male) but I always just have to stop and think about how, two years ago, you were inside my tummy and had never even breathed air! You have evolved A LOT since then. Two years ago, I was eating Nutella out of the jar and crying at the season finale of Food Network Star. I think you pretty much win the evolution battle this round, kiddo.
You’re a doll. I love you beyond what I thought I could muster in this lifetime. It’s true.
When Ray goes to pee, he makes a big production out of it. Not for me … most of the time. For Holden.
He goes: “Dada gonna pee pee in the POTTY!” and acts like it’s the most exciting thing he’s ever done.
Holden, of course, takes the bait with great gusto and follows Ray into the bathroom and watches him do his business. Ray bids his urine a ceremonious farewell by saying, “BYE BYE, PEE PEES! BYE BYE!” and flushes the toilet, putting down the seat and the lid. At which point Holden, who has been watching the entire scene with rapt attention, reaches out to pat the closed lid a couple of times while Ray says, “Godspeed, pee pees. Godspeed.”
It is fucking adorable, the whole thing.
But it means we are already potty training. Enter the frog potty. Oh lord god help us all.
Holden technically took his first steps back in early March but he pretty much decided that that business was for chumps and he’d rather scoot and crawl around for travel purposes. We’d try to encourage him to walk but he would crumple into a ball every dang time, for about a month and a half.
One day Ray was brushing his teeth and Holden was in the bathroom watching, clinging to his legs, when he took off walking out of the bathroom, turned the corner and toddled down the hall. Then he went back to not walking again for a while. It’s been a little frustrating, especially when people start giving you the stink-eye for having an 18-month-old who isn’t a biped yet. “Y’all must hold him all the time!” my aunt said. Nope. Not even close. He just likes to crawl, because he is fast. And when he walks, he is slow and wobbly.
Anyway! For a week or so now, he’s been totally game any time we stand him up and tell him to go walk somewhere. To each other, to a chair, to the changing table — he seems to not mind the destination and gets pretty freaking excited when he gets there. Which is pretty cool, considering I was getting convinced he was NEVER GOING TO WALK AGAIN and was working on my back muscles so I could carry a 15-year-old around.
He still isn’t too keen on just standing up and walking from Point A to Point B, but that’s coming. I’ve seen him do it a couple of times over short distances and once he figures out he can move AND transport lots of things at the same time, he is going to be all over it.