Even though I work really hard to limit his screen time, David is a full-on TV-loving kid. He’ll watch anything, anytime, anywhere and if the TV is off, he asks me non-stop if we can turn it on. He tries different techniques all the time: “I have a good idea, Mommy! Let’s watch TV!” Or my favorite, “But, Mommy, we haven’t watched TV in a long day!”

The other day he asked to watch TV and I was trying to avoid a tantrum by talking to him (and changing the subject) instead of saying yes or no. I was hoping he’d forget about it and just move on.

David: Mommy, can we watch TV?

Me: David, you really love TV, don’t you?

David: I do, Mommy! TV is my favorite! I love TV!

Me: David, which do you love more, watching TV or playing with Caleb?

David looked at me, horrified, as if he was ashamed of me for even asking him to make such a terrible, miserable choice.

David: MOMMY! I love TV and Caweb THE SAME!


Pumpkin patch

If you follow me on Instagram (if you don’t, I’m amandaleighvt), you know that my family’s version of a trip to the pumpkin patch was a trip to Kroger to buy pumpkins. There are pumpkins on my porch; everyone’s happy. No thanks to me, they did get to visit a real pumpkin patch, too.

A week or so ago, David’s preschool class took a trip to a local pumpkin patch. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’m not the type to throw confetti in the street because it’s fall. I like warm weather, so I get grumpy about the end of summer — the short days, being cold, all the plants dying. But I don’t get so grumpy that I can’t enjoy a trip to a pumpkin patch with a gaggle of three-year olds and their siblings on a beautiful autumn day.

All the kids and parents from David’s school gathered at the entrance of the farm and waited for a tractor to come take us to the pumpkin patch. Remember when I mentioned how much David loves holding things in his hands? We’d been there just a few minutes and David found this little pumpkin. He lifted it from some display and carried it around with him the whole time.


We went to Lloyd Family Farms, which also happens to be home to a bunch of national champion Paso Fino ponies.


Excuse my while I geek out on horses for a second. I grew up around horses, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Paso Fino in real life. Paso Finos are really cute, gaited ponies. Even though I’ve ridden my share of gaited horses (Tennesee Walkers, specifically) Paso Finos were different. The trainer gave us a little presentation and it was really, really cool. I talked to him for a while, trying to ask questions that made it sound like I knew what I was talking about. He was really nice, gave me a card, and invited me back for lessons. Thank you, sir, but this big mama doesn’t look too great on a 14-hand pony.

Instead, I’ll just stand at the rail with my baby girl and dream.


While Mary Virginia and I were dreaming about horses, Caleb and David climbed on the golf cart as if IT was the main attraction. Boys, is the golf cart doing a perfect Paso Corto around the arena? I didn’t think so.


I was actually really impressed with this pumpkin patch experience. They had a beautiful farm, lots of animals to look at, and we even got to pick our pumpkins off the vine. Not that I’m a pumpkin patch expert or anything. In fact, I think this is my first trip ever to a pumpkin patch. There’s a chance that, after reading that sentence, my mom is sitting somewhere picking her jaw off the floor, in utter horror that I’ve forgotten all the family trips we took to pumpkin patch. The only place I remember ever getting pumpkins a ceramic store in Boones Mill that filled its parking lot all the way to the highway with pumpkins. There’s a chance that this isn’t my first trip to a pumpkin patch, but it is the first I remember.

This is my friend Britton. Lots of the parents of the kids in David’s class happen to be my friends, which is nice. Especially on field trip days.

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Britton took the next two photos.

This is me in total mom-of-two mode: book bag, umbrella stroller, sensible shoes. David is still clutching his pumpkin.


I brought the umbrella stroller along because I thought it would help with Mary Virginia. And it did. Mary Virginia sat in the stroller, content, for extended periods of time. The problem was when I took her out of the thing. She became hysterical. We rode in wagons pulled by tractors from place to place around the farm, and when we got on the wagon I had to take her out of the stroller and fold it up. She was so upset that, at one point, the teacher asked me if I needed a first aid kit. She was crying so hard that the teacher assumed she’d been hurt. No, I explained, she’s crying because I took her out of the stroller. And then he entire wagon full of people went, “OH! Now it makes sense. That’s a totally logical reason to scream like a maniac at the pumpkin patch.”

It was Britton, actually, who finally got her to calm down, when she gave Mary Virginia a grape from her sons’ lunch.


And so, when the tractor stopped at the pumpkin patch, Mary Virginia sat smugly in her stroller eating a snack while the rest of the children ran around looking for pumpkins.

David held onto that tiny pumpkin until he found one off the vine, then he dropped it and we never saw it again.DSC_8642



Two pumpkin pickers in plaid. Discussing the weather, erosion, and Paso Finos.

Month sixteen

Mary Virginia is sixteen months old. If you’re a careful reader you might have noticed that I didn’t write a fifteen-month update. I’ve been late with updates before, but I’ve never completely skipped one. I’ve justified it, though. After all, we’ve been busy, I spent most of last month recovering from summer travel. Most importantly, Mary Virginia is my second child. I’m also a second child, so I’m well-acquainted with the life of unfairness and inequity she has in store. So, Mary Virginia, this is how you do it: “Mo-o-om! You wrote a fifteen-month update for David, but not me! My life is totally unfair!”

To add to the injustice, since we no longer have a DSLR, all of these photos (except the last one) are from back when she was 15 months old.

Sixteen-month old Mary Virginia wouldn’t even recognize fourteen-month old Mary Virginia; she’s totally different. She has 12 teeth now, says close to 30 words, has traded her high chair for a booster seat, and has a definite opinion about what she wears every day. Some things are the same — she’s still a picky eater, she loves lawn ornaments, dolls, books, and climbing much higher than she is allowed to climb.


These past two months, we’ve set a new record. Mary Virginia hasn’t been sick at all. She hasn’t been on antibiotics or to the doctor for a sick visit in two months. That’s the longest streak since January.

There is also another big, huge difference that stands out from the rest. A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, Mary Virginia started sleeping through the night. After sixteen solid months of consistent night wakings, we put her to bed one night and she didn’t wake up until the next morning. It’s still new, so it feels both tenuous and luxurious. We’re sleeping through the night.

Whenever you say things like this in a public way, it feels dangerous. Like the universe will read this blog and start organizing efforts to ruin it. But you know what? I don’t even care. Now that I’ve gotten a few solid nights of sleep, I feel like I can take on the universe, no problem.


After sleeping all the way through the night, the first thing Mary Virginia says to us in the morning is, “DOO!” It’s how she says shoe, and Tom and I know that our number one role as her parents is to keep close tabs on her shoes. She loves her shoes, specifically a pair of Champion hand-me-downs. The only time she doesn’t wear them is when she’s sleeping or when we have to dress her. She doesn’t have a lot of patience our inability to put her pants on over her giant shoes.

Next, she asks for her milk. MIL! She says, over and over. Then, milk in hand, she starts a full-house search for her favorite outfit. Every day she asks to wear the same thing, a Virginia Tech jersey Tom got for David. She’s pulled it out of his drawer, from the dirty clothes hamper, from the laundry basket. She brings it to me, holding it out saying “dat” and drops it at my feet.

Then, wearing her jersey and shoes, she walks over to the front door and starts requesting to go outside. OUSIDE! OUSIDE! She doesn’t care if it’s raining or cold or if Mama hasn’t had a chance to drink her coffee. Most days, often by 8 a.m., David, Mary Virginia and I are all outside. She used to want to look for lawn ornaments the whole time, delighted by tiny stone kittens and bunnies, but now she just wants me to push her around in a dinky little umbrella stroller. It’s so dinky that I have to lean over to push, one I have to steer with both hands, so I can’t drink a cup of coffee while I push. In fact, its the same umbrella stroller I reluctantly pushed David in the day before Mary Virginia was born, when we went to Kroger to get a refund for the bag we accidentally left.

When she’s in that stroller she’s perfectly content for a long time. She sits quietly, kicking her feet back and forth, contemplating her role as Princess of the Neighborhood.



Mary Virginia loves dolls and stuffed animals, and she’s amassed a few favorites. She sleeps with a blanket, three dolls and a stuffed Elmo. But her all-time favorite doll is always the doll that someone else is holding. And partially because Mary Virginia is so very adorable, but especially because she is entirely dramatic and throws herself to the ground when she doesn’t get her way, she often gets to hold any doll she pleases.

One thing Mary Virginia does not love is taking baths. She used to love them, but one day that all changed. Her reaction is so strong that I’ve spent several nights trying to remember if she had some sort of traumatic event in the water. Once, she cried so hard after a bath that she threw up. We give her infrequent, quick baths that don’t require her to sit in the water. Slowly, it’s getting better. The most frustrating thing isn’t that she’s almost never clean; it’s that the whole time David’s in the bath, she acts like she wants to get in with him, raising on her tiptoes and leaning over the edge of the tub. Then we plop her in and she dissolves into screams and tears of betrayal because HOW COULD WE!?!?


Mary Virginia spent a few weeks with a giant scrape on her nose. She fell on the sidewalk, and I didn’t see it because I happened to be having a serious conversation with her brother about not hurting his sister. I heard her crying and when I turned around and saw her on her belly, I figured she was having one of her throw-my-body-on-the-ground tantrums. But she wasn’t.

From the looks of the aftermath, she tripped over her DOOs! and did a nose-first-dolphin-jump into the sidewalk. Coincidentally, David scraped up his face when he was her age, too, starting a tradition that there isn’t a page for in most baby books.

She scratched it several times, and it looked much worse before it looked better. Whenever strangers saw us, they stopped to fawn over her and express their condolences. They’d look at my little cherub with bumps and bruises, wearing a Ryan Williams football jersey and say, “Poor little guy! He looks tough!”

And I’d just nod and say, “Yes, yes he is.”


Dear Mary Virginia,

By the time you’re old enough to read this, I hope you know me well enough to know that I’m joking about the whole second-child injustice thing. I hope you know that, if I could, I’d write 1,000 words about you every single day, about how you’re growing and changing and every day you surprise us with new things you’re learning and doing. How you laugh and laugh and laugh at your brother, how you try to launch yourself out of your car seat every time I put you in it, how you always help us clean up at the end of the day, how you love to stand on top of the toy box, how you squeal when Daddy chases you around the house.

If you ever, even for a moment, wonder if you are completely loved, the answer is yes — yes, yes, yes. We love you so much, Mary Virginia. And you are completely known and entirely loved by your Creator; more than you or I could imagine. I pray that you’ll know and always remember that. It’s what I want you to know today, as my sweet cuddly 16-month old, and always.

Also, don’t ever tell David this, but you already call me “Mama,” and he didn’t start doing that until he was more than a year older than you are now. So that also helps you out in the whole family hierarchy thing.

From one marginalized second child to another.

I love you,