The Tobin Times #45

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:27 pm

Dear Tobin,

Summer is almost here.  You are such a fun and active little guy, you’re just loving all the opportunities to be outside.  Sometimes you have more energy for outdoorsiness than I do, but your dad picks up the slack.  You guys go out to the playground just about every pleasant evening, and you’ve made all kinds of neighborhood friends.  You’ve been helping me garden a lot too.  You’re even up for helping with outdoor chores now and then.

Photo by Beth Clarke

You’re almost done with your first year (slightly over half-year, actually) of preschool.  We’re going to miss Willowwind for sure, but not enough to send you there all day, since they’re cutting their half-day program.  It just doesn’t make sense for our family, since we don’t need the child-care hours.  Our purpose for sending you to preschool was to help you learn about the structure of school, following rules, responding appropriately to authority figures, and to make new friends.  You’ve done all of those very well, and I’m sure you’ll do great at the Hoover half-day preschool too.

Photo by Denny

You have so much energy and interest in a wide variety of activities.  Last weekend, we stayed home, but we did a lot of different things with different combinations of family members.  I was thinking over all the things we did, and I realized that you took part in every single outing and adventure.

1.  You and Callum and I went to Daylight Donuts to pick up some breakfast for the gang while Miles and your dad slept in.

2.  You and Miles and I went to the Farmers Market while your dad and Callum stayed home.

3.  You and I gardened while the other guys stayed inside.

4.  You and Miles and your dad went to the playground while Callum and I stayed in.

I think there was more, but I can’t remember it all right now.  Regardless, my point is that you love to be on the go, in the middle of the action.  I think you’re big enough to really enjoy the fun things summer will bring, so we’ll have a good time.  You having swimming lessons coming up, and trips to the Flavor Ice stand and the frozen yogurt shop, and library and museum visits, and probably a lot of other things.

A couple of days ago, as we were walking home from school, you suggested that we have a picnic because you’d never been on one.  That can’t be right, though I can’t think of a specific picnic you’ve been on, so you may well be correct.  We gathered up some food and a blanket and headed out to the park.

You’re good for me, Tobin.  I can get very comfortable in routines, and if I didn’t have someone around to keep me primed for new experiences, I could probably do the same things every day.  I admit my initial response to your picnic idea was to think, “Ugh, that sounds like a lot of work just to eat the same things sitting on the ground that we’d eat at our nice table.”  But I like to say yes when the request is reasonable, so we did it.  You ate more fruit than usual, and we saw some nice birds.

This is not to say there’s not value in routines.  We have some favorites, like going to Panera for lunch once a week or so.  You’re one of the best lunch buddies I could have.  Usually when people ask me if I miss working, my response is that I miss going out to lunch with coworkers.  That’s true—sometimes I wish I could eat Indian food with grownups.  But you often have funny things to say, and I like sharing my lunches with you.  I don’t get a lot of lamb vindaloo these days, but bagels are pretty good too.  I do wish you’d realize you need the bathroom at a time other than right when I set the food on our table, but mostly we have a pretty good thing going.

Your current favorites:  Scooby Doo on Netflix, Legos, cinnamon crunch bagels with hazelnut cream cheese (aka the dessertiest lunch ever), playdates with friends (especially Ben, Hazel, and Jensen), helping in the garden, and putting on your own shoes.  You are up to probably 65% in getting them on the right feet, even.

Have a great month, my little adventure boy.  I promise I’ll push myself to say yes to your crazy ideas as much as I safely can.




Airtight logic

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:40 am

Note:  Alice May is a ghostly character from an episode of Scooby Doo that Tobin likes.

T:  Alice May is  girl ghost.

M:  There’s no such thing as girl ghosts.

T:  Yes there is.

M:  There’s such a thing as ghosts, but not girl ghosts.

T:  All girl ghosts are Alice May.

M:  There’s no such thing as girl ghosts!

T:  There’s such a thing as woodpeckers.

M:  …uh, yes.

T:  Then there’s such a thing as girl ghost woodpeckers!


The Callum Chronicle #4

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:14 pm

My squishy  Callum,

You are an on-the-go baby.  This isn’t really by your choice.  With two big brothers who always need to be taken somewhere or picked up from somewhere, you get dragged along.  You have no regular nap time (and may never), because it seems like there’s never an hour when I can put you down without interruption.  You take catnaps on my lap or in the car, and that’s all fine with me because you’ve been doing a very good job sleeping at night.  You’re always a good sport about being dragged to all the places your brothers need to go.  You are a popular guy at West Music, where we hang out while Miles takes piano lessons.  You and Tobin went to Miles’s school yesterday to help his class do some gardening, and you didn’t squawk a bit.  All the kids wanted to hold you, but I made them stick to talking to you.

I think you’re probably ready for a size-up in diapers, because you’ve leaked a few times lately.  I buy the super-jumbo-sized laundry detergent because I do so much laundry, and this morning I used the last dregs of our old super-jumbo-sized container on the poo-stained sheets.  When I went down today to check on the sheets in the dryer, I saw that the brand new detergent container had fallen onto the floor.  The lid came off and half of the detergent went down the drain, which is fortunately located right near where it fell.

What I’m saying is no more leaking diapers, okay?  I need to make the remaining half of the detergent last a while.

You’re just big enough to stay in the exersaucer for a few minutes at a time, which is useful for when I want to make dinner or shriek in horror at the laundry detergent situation.  You’re not quite strong enough to balance in it by yourself yet, so you get grumpy if you have to lean against the sides for too long.  You do enjoy the little farm animals and noise-making dealies on the rim, though.

You’re starting to become interested in a variety of toys, which is nice, because sometimes handing you a toy will keep your attention for a few minutes.  You’ve also done my very favorite thing that babies around your age do:  discovering your feet.  The weather has fluctuated lately, so you’ve had a chance to explore them both nude and covered.  Baby feet are pretty wonderful things, so I’m glad you have the chance to enjoy them.

You’ve also started sucking on your fingers pretty fervently.  I hope that’s just because they’re right there and have a nice flavor, because a thumb-sucking habit is not something I want to have to break.  You don’t do it as you doze off to sleep, so I guess that’s a good sign.

I was gone for a while the other night getting my hair cut, and you had one of your frequent evening melt-downs.  I feel so bad for your dad when that happens, because usually you two get along great.  In fact, tonight when he got home from work, you immediately snapped out of the slightly crabby mood you’d been in and started smiling and laughing at him.  But the witching hour witches you pretty seriously some nights, and you were angry and frustrated by the time I got home.  Usually I can calm you down immediately, but that night you maintained your freak-out for quite a while.  I don’t know if that’s because I looked different with a new cut and color or because I smelled different, all coated in salon products I don’t usually use.  Maybe you were just plain tired and mad.  You did eventually chill, so I guess you’ve accepted that superficial changes don’t alter my ability to care for you.

I wish it had been that simple a few weeks ago when we went to Des Moines for a special surprise birthday party for Nana.  Normally you’re such a sweet and calm-natured kid, but that night you wigged out and simply could not be re-wigged.  I feel bad because it was your first time seeing a lot of those family members, and they got a very out-of-character impression of you.  We just spent time with Aunt Oxana, Uncle Tyler, and cousin Aleks, and Tyler kept commenting on how calm and pleasant you are.  Of course, he’s the dad of an extremely curious and energetic almost-toddler, so anyone who mostly sits still probably creates quite a contrast.

You may yet explode out and become a wildman.  It’s hard to tell just yet.  I got my picture of you in the same little hooded baby outfit your brothers wore at this age, and looking at the three of you, it’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t know their personalities.  We’re getting to know you, sweet Callum, but you still have a lot to do in your growth and development.  For now we’re enjoying your smiles, giggles, and tolerant nature.  You made one of your first attempts to communicate with me today (besides crying and smiling).  We were at West Music waiting for your brother to finish his piano lesson, and I was holding you on my lap.  You’re normally fine in that position, but today you kept shifting yourself over so you were cradled in my arms.  That’s not something you ordinarily go for during regular hang-out times, because you like to look around.  It took a few times of you doing it, but then I realized—duh—you wanted milk and you were assuming the position.  I thought it was pretty cool that instead of crying, you found a way to tell me what you wanted while maintaining your mood.

Happy four months, my little guy.  We’ve got a fun summer coming up, and with your brothers around, I bet there will be even fewer traditional naps.  But life is for experiencing, and I love experiencing it with you.



Photo by Beth Clarke




Monthly Miles Memo #88

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:54 pm

My dear Miles,

You have had quite a couple of weeks.  I think you’ve missed more school in the last two weeks than you’d missed the entire rest of the school year.  You had a bit of health trouble (all under control now), which was stressful for you.  I am really proud of how well you handled it, though.  You’ve maintained a good attitude about your medications and were always cooperative at doctor visits.  The only thing you were really worried about was missing an important chapter in the book your teacher is reading to you at school.

We had a fun experience last weekend recording the song “Brown Gold” with Family Folk Machine.  It was pretty cool to try new sound equipment, and we just got to hear the audio today.  You had a solo, and your little voice sounded so clear and sweet.  I’m proud of the bravery you’ve developed for singing, both in front of an audience and for a recording.  I’m also very proud of how well you handled yourself during the recording process.  It was a long process for a kid, but when things got tiring and frustrating, you moved past your own feelings and kept working hard for the good of the project.  It’s going to be turned into a video, so we’re both  excited to see the result.

Your new favorite thing in the entire world is the ice cream truck.  It had never shown up in our neighborhood too much before this season, but now we’ve seen it twice.  I remember the thrill I felt when I was a kid and an ice cream truck would go down my street.  Even though it’s the same kind of treats we have in our freezer (though I think the ice cream truck leans more toward the artificial colors and flavors than I generally select), there’s something really special about waving down the ice cream man for a treat on the front porch.  It must play to our predatory ancestry or something.  I hope our ancestors had tooth fairy money to spend on the treats they happened upon.

Speaking of the tooth fairy, you’ve lost another tooth after a long hiatus from tooth loss.  It happened while we were in the car on our way to Ames, and unlike just about everything else you kids have in the back seat, you didn’t drop it onto the floor or between the seat cushions.  You held it tightly until we got there, and sure enough, the Ames tooth fairy came through for you.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Our true purpose in going to Ames was to see Cousin Aleks and his parents, who are up from Nashville for a brief visit.  You had so much fun with the little guy, although he doesn’t like to sit still for too much cuddling these days.  You love all babies, I think.  Of course you’re still wonderful with Callum, and your dad told me you were having a ton of fun with a little one-year-old at the playground the other night.  This afternoon I told you an anecdote:  Tobin, Callum and I went to your school today to do some volunteering in your school garden, and when I told Callum “We’re going to school to see Miles,” he broke into a big smile and even laughed.  When I told you that, you were so psyched that he knew your name.  It might have been a coincidence, but he definitely responds to you.  I think you’re the family member who can make him laugh the most.

We’re going to Nashville in July for a week, and it looks like we’re going to drive.  I hope you can work your comedy stylings on him during that long haul.  I’m dreading it already, but not because of you.  You’ve done a great job on car trips lately, and though you probably won’t love sitting in the car for nine hours, I know I can trust you to handle it.

A major accomplishment this month was your participation in the Lucas Spelling Bee.  You were on a team with two second-graders, and you held your own.  First graders are the youngest allowed to participate, and I think you had a good time.  Your team didn’t win, which disappointed you, but you made a very respectable showing.  You’re looking forward to being in the spelling bee every year you’re a Lucas student.  Your dad was a judge, which was pretty cool.  He didn’t cheat for you, and you didn’t need him to.

School is going great, though you’re looking forward to upcoming summer break.  You’re taking a few fun summer school classes, but fewer than ever before.  We’re going to have a lot of time together, you and your brothers and I.  I’m going to have to make a big list of activities and adventures and art projects so we don’t go crazy.  I have a few in mind already, and I bet the Internet has more to offer.

For Mother’s Day, you and your dad and brothers took me out for some good food, got me a nice present, and did a reasonably good job of going a whole day without fighting.  You also made me a very special project in school in which you listed your top ten reasons for loving me.  You’re right about the laundry thing.  Oof.


I am so happy to have you for a son, Miles.  You’re a fantastic kid, and I will always find time to sing with you, give you cuddles, and read Batman books.











Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:12 am

I trimmed Tobin’s fingernails, which was overdue as they were getting pretty long.  Later, he went to scratch an itch.

T:  Why aren’t my fingernails working?


A new iteration

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:20 am

Tobin asked what the word version means.  I tried to explain it by saying it was when there’s one of something, then there’s a small change.  I was having a hard time getting my point across.

T:  Oh, you mean like a variation?


Utter destruction

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:29 pm

We were visiting my parents.  Tobin was in his pajamas and Miles was in the bathtub.  Tobin was messing around in the bathroom and managed to get himself all wet.

A:  Tobin, you’re all wet, and those are the only pajamas I brought for you.

T:  I’m doomed!


The Tobin Times #44

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:35 pm

Dear Tobin,

When nobody was looking, you turned sweet again.  I understand that this preschool age is a time of a lot of growth, and that has to be hard on you.  It’s funny how much you can change and grow from one month to another.  Sometimes you regress.  You’re never boring.  You are often concerned about the well-being of those around you.  You frequently wander into a room and ask, “So, how’s Callum?”  You know how to keep a conversation going by asking open-ended questions.  Mubby told me you guys were Skyping the other day and, when there was a lull in conversation, you said, “So, you had fun in Nashville?”  It reminds me of your great-Granddad’s bartender style.

I was chatting with the nanny of one of your classmates, and she said Ben is really excited about inviting you to his birthday party.  She told me that he doesn’t want to invite everyone in the class, because not everyone is nice to him.  I was so proud to learn that you’re a good friend.  You were super psyched to hear about the upcoming party, so I hope you have a good time together.  Ben’s one of the littler guys in your class, as are you, and I think sometimes the bigger boys get overwhelming.  You have plenty of experience holding your own with Miles, though, so you probably can usher Ben to safety.  Unfortunately, Ben won’t be joining you at Hoover in the fall.  You seem unconcerned about the transition, though we’ll see if that changes as August approaches.  Your friend Jack from Willowwind will also be at Hoover, though I don’t know if you’ll be in the same class.  You’re a pretty resilient kid, so I bet you’ll do fine.  I’m probably fretting about it more than you are.

Spring has afforded more opportunities for outside play, which you always enjoy.  The rainy days thwart you, but when the ground is dry, you love to play with your construction toys in the dirt in our front yard.  You also sometimes drag your big Imaginext toys outside, because for some reason they’re just more fun to play with out in the sun.  Warm and humid days bring out your trademark curls, and I love fluffing them.  You’ll probably find them annoying when you’re older, but for now, I’m glad you’re proud of your crazy mane.

You’re full of enthusiasm and joy, and your lust for life brings a smile to my face many times a day.  We’re in Ames visiting Mubby and Skittergramps now, and when I told you about our plans for the trip, you said, “That’s my best dream!”  About fifteen minutes into our drive to central Iowa, you said, “I’m going to take a nap.”  You closed your eyes, leaned on the side of your car seat, and slept for an hour.  Then you woke up cheerful as can be.  That’s pretty major, since you’re usually very crabby when you wake up from a nap.  It was one of the most pleasant sleep experiences of yours I’ve ever witnessed.

We’ve been working in the garden together.  We put up a pea trellis and planted two kinds of peas, carrots, and two kinds of lettuce.  You’re not afraid to get dirty, and the hardest part is keeping you from digging up stuff that I’ve already cultivated.  You’re a great friend to worms, especially the small ones.  You hold them up and coo, “He’s so cute!”, not unlike how you coo over Callum.  We like to make plans for the summer, when we’ll run through the sprinkler in the back yard and take breaks to munch strawberries from the strawberry patch.  I hope you have a taste for fresh-from-the-vine peas, too.  Those were always my favorite as a kid, partly because I thought I was really getting away with something by raiding Skittergramps’s garden.  I didn’t figure out until decades later that he planted peas just so Tyler and I would eat them, and he didn’t care at all whether we did it straight from the source or off a plate at the dining room table.  Heck, he was probably happy we saved him the work of shelling them.

Your current favorites:  lunch dates with me at Panera, where you eat bagels with cream cheese; Imaginext toy videos, wherein adults play with toys and post videos; actually playing with Imaginext toys; lining up all the Imaginext characters and accessories in order of size, affiliation, and color; ice cream with “black stripes” (Hershey’s syrup); doing anything Miles is doing.  You guys recently inherited a computer that Uncle Tyler thought was beyond repair, but your dad put a new hard drive and some elbow grease into it, and now it’s a fantastic machine.  You love to use it, but you’re pretty good about balancing your screen time with more creative and active pastimes, too.

I’m looking forward to a fun summer with you, my little sweetheart.  We’ve got some fun adventures planned, both grand and small (kind of like you).





Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:59 pm

Tobin was showing me one of his action figures.

T:  And he has a helmet…and…eye helmets.

A:  Goggles?

T:  No, eye helmets.


The Callum Chronicle #3

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:15 pm

My little Cal-puppy,

Congratulations, my love.  You’re officially out of the fourth trimester, that time in infancy when, if we were any other species, we wouldn’t have been born yet.  Thanks to our big skulls housing our big brains, we humans have to be born when we’re still basically fetuses, which can be tough on parents and babies.  But now you’re three months old, all ready for the world.

To be honest, you have been a pretty sweet and chill guy since you were newborn, so the fourth trimester wasn’t even that awful.  Still, it’s nice now that you’re completing your basic tasks more predictably.  You’re sleeping more reasonably:  you’re not much of a napper, but you do a good job at night.  You’re eating just fine:  I stopped recording your feedings and am just nursing you as you request it, since you’re growing and thriving.  You’ve been in three-to-six month sized clothes for a couple of weeks now, which makes me ache a little, but it’s better than shrinking.  You poop and pee copiously, as a baby ought.

You’ve got a fantastic, huge, and quick smile.  You’re starting to laugh.  It’s not completely regular yet, but it’s unmistakable.  You even laughed at my old favorite “Pew, pew, stinky feet” joke.

I put you in the same striped outfit that I photographed your brothers in around this age, but I didn’t manage to get a surefire winner in that photo session.  I’ll have to try again on another good-light-in-the-bedroom day and post that next month.  I have a three-up frame all picked out.  I’m glad we’re done having babies, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a frame for four five-by-seven photos that matches our general frame aesthetic.

I’m also glad we’re done having babies because kids are a lot of work.  Fortunately, you have a very sweet disposition, and that helps a lot.

You’re starting to discover your hands and your capacity for grabbing things.  Your aim still isn’t very precise, but you’re pretty good at getting your hands into your mouth.  I really hope you don’t end up a thumb-sucker.  We tried to give you a pacifier, but you weren’t really into it.  I breathed a sigh of relief to some degree, because breaking a kid of a pacifier habit seems like a huge pain.  But thumbs are a much bigger headache—cutting them off doesn’t seem like a good option, because I like you as a primate—so I hope you don’t get too attached.

Your favorites haven’t changed a lot yet.  You like milk, watching your brothers, cuddling up under my armpit, your bouncy seat (until you don’t), your swing (until you don’t), and going on walks.  One thing that’s been frustrating is that you no longer conk out when your dad wears you in the mei-tai wrap.  That has complicated bedtime.  Now, instead of sleeping peacefully with your dad downstairs while I put your brothers to bed, I have to get you to sleep and then scamper off to put your brothers to bed.  Sometimes you stay asleep, sometimes you don’t.  When you don’t, I have to stop what I’m doing with your brothers and go address your needs, and then your dad takes care of the big boys.  He doesn’t mind doing it, but for some reason my presence is in high demand from everyone at bedtime.  I’m not sure why lying next to me in the dark is so much better than lying next to him in the dark, but it’s everybody’s first choice.

I hope one day to lie next to your dad in the dark again.  You’re pretty happy in your position right next to me for now, though.  I’m sure we make quite a picture.   You start out in the middle of the bed on a pad to catch any puke or diaper leakage, but you scoot closer and closer to me throughout the night.  You often manage to pivot so your head is right up against me but your feet are pointing out toward the side of the bed.  I have the sheet and comforter only up to my waist to keep your head away from possible suffocators, and I have a small blanket that I can put on my upper body but keep off you.  I also sleep with a sock over my eyes to block the light from the lamp I keep on so I can check periodically that you’re in a safe position or to locate the nose suction apparatus if you’re stuffed up.  Everything’s an adventure.

And, like a little edelweiss, every morning you greet me.  Your smiles are really the best.

We’ve been taking a lot of walks together, now that the springtime is warming up the air.  I love this time of year, with the tree buds poking out and the first flowers starting to show.  We’re even in that miraculous few days when the magnolia trees are in bloom but they haven’t shed all over the lawns and sidewalks yet.  I was telling your dad the other day, I think a winter baby is harder than a summer baby during late pregnancy, with all the hassle of trying to put on boots and winter gear and worrying about slipping on ice and weather emergencies that complicate travel.  But the upside of a winter baby is that now you’re a spring three-month-old, and we can get out together and enjoy that amazing rebirth that our side of the globe goes through every March and April.

Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow.

I love you, my Callum.






Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:51 am

Tobin wanted to watch videos on my computer, and I wanted him to wait a while.  He went to the couch and sat.  Later, I joined him and offered to help him get started with a video.

T:  I was so patient I freaked myself out!


Monthly Miles Memo #87

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:01 pm

My special Miles,

As usual, at the end of your piano lesson today, your teacher came out to update me on what you worked on and what we should think about for next week.  Now, she is normally a very positive and effusive person (perfect traits for a kids’ music teacher), but this week she was especially excited about your progress.  You have been rocking your hardest piece yet, Linus and Lucy (aka the Peanuts theme).  I think I wrote about that last month, when it was brand new and very daunting.  Now you can play the whole thing, beginning to end.  It’s still not completely smooth—you need to pause here and there to find the next hand position—but I am very impressed by your hard work and dedication.  It’s a whole lot harder, mentally, to play competing rhythms on the right and left hands than to just play chords on the left.  I am so happy that you haven’t gotten frustrated and given up.  You’ve just chipped away at the piece every week, and you’re now getting to the satisfying part:  sitting down and playing a really cool song.  It’s been a privilege to go through this experience with you.

We had a fun, small-scale Easter celebration last weekend.  Sunday morning represented a brief lull in a swath of illness that has gone through our house.  Tobin had his mega, multi-orifice blowout a couple of weeks ago, and then he had an apparent relapse.  I think it must have been something else, something more contagious, because not long after we got done hunting for eggs, I started to feel queasy.  I spend most of Sunday in bed, and a day or two later, your dad got it.  You and Callum have so far miraculously avoided it.  I think we’re all past it now.  I really, really hope so.

You’ve been a fun guy to have around lately.  I’m glad your dad and I are feeling better, because it seems like you’ve been getting the short end of the parenting stick lately.  When our resources were so strained, the most capable kid ends up taking care of himself more than usual.  It used to be that Callum would be happy to sleep downstairs in your dad’s arms while I put you and Tobin to bed, but lately he’s been very grumpy at night and will only accept me.  That means that you and Tobin haven’t been getting your usual nighttime ritual, which involves me lying in bed with you and cuddling until you both fall asleep, first Tobin in the bottom bunk and then you in the top bunk.  Tobin has been pretty ticked off about that, and listening to his bad attitude is only marginally easier than listening to Callum scream.  You, however, have been so sweet and understanding.  I really appreciate how your age and maturity level have advanced to the degree that you can think of others’ needs and see some empirical priorities.  Still, it breaks my heart a little when I have to crawl down from the top bunk, apologizing for not being there for you, and you sigh a shaky sigh and say a reluctant, “Okay.”  Last night Callum did better and I was able to stay with you.  Maybe that will start happening more often.

Once we start Family Folk Machine again in the fall, we’ll have some special time together.  Tobin claims he’s joining too, but something tells me he’ll spend more time playing with his friend Digger Ben than singing.  Like your piano work, singing together in Family Folk Machine has become a really important Mommy/Miles activity, and I’ll be glad to get back to it.

You were a featured part of a concert a couple of weeks ago, the For Kids & By Kids project.  The Family Folk Machine kids recorded a song for the CD of the same name, and you performed live at the Englert for the CD release event.  It’s pretty cool that you’re a soloist on a CD distributed to people all around the city.  You did a great job, exhibiting no noticeable stage fright or reluctance to sing right into the mic in that big, full theater.  That’s a pretty big sign of growth for a kid who has struggled with shyness.  I love it when you stretch yourself, Miles.  You can do amazing things.

I read an article  today that scientifically supports something I’d always suspected:  babies wake up a lot at night because it’s a natural part of our evolutionary progress.  The article went on to state that there’s a strong correlation between babies who wake up a lot at night and  high cognitive function, empathy, and conscience.  I wish someone had told me that when you were a tiny baby, Miles.  I remember how much I struggled in those early months when I was so sleep-deprived.  Later on, when we’d worked out a pretty decent night management strategy and I didn’t feel tired during the day anymore, I still felt stressed out because I kept getting the message I was doing it wrong.  “Good” babies sleep through the night, and “good” parents find a way to make it happen.   By the time Tobin was born, I was totally over any hangups about that and just did it in a way that worked for us, and you’d better believe I don’t let anybody make me feel bad about the way Callum sleeps.  But you were my first baby, and I wanted to do it right, whatever that meant. The staff at the doctor’s office tsk-tsked me about co-sleeping, about putting you down when you were already asleep, about nursing you to sleep.  I beat myself up about it plenty, but I could never bring myself to do anything else.  Those things soothed you, and when you needed me at night, I just woke up and took care of you.

Well, apparently that helped to make you smart and empathetic, so those tsk-tskers can suck it.

Yes, I realize correlation does not equal causation.  Yes, I am still jealous of people whose babies naturally sleep eight consecutive hours through no particular effort on the parents’ part.  But the article helps.

Over the weekend, you proposed a game for our family to play called “Secret Friends.”  We each drew another family member’s name out of a shoebox (except Callum, who cannot read, write, or dictate).  All week we’ve been writing notes to our Secret Friend, and you’re planning a big reveal event this weekend.  You helped Tobin write his notes, and they’ve all been very sweet.  I’ll have to gather them up and post pictures of them when the project is finished.

I hope I get to lie with you until you fall asleep tonight, Miles.  I did it when you were a baby, and even though you don’t truly need me to do it now, I’m pretty happy that you want me to.  You’re not going to want your mom in your bunk bed with you forever, so I’d better soak you up while I can.







The Tobin Times #43

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:43 pm

My sweet(ish) Tobin,

Not that these letters are ever on time anymore, but at least I have a good excuse this month.  Hoo boy, have we had a week.  You had your personal worst sickness of your whole life, one that your dad and I think is the worst one any kid in our family has ever had.  It was an all-out spew fest, both upper and lower.  You couldn’t keep anything down for the first day or so, not even water.  Fortunately it abated somewhat and I stopped being worried about dehydration, but it continued for about four and a half days altogether.  You were crabby and lethargic and generally miserable.  I’m so glad you’re doing better now, able to get back to school and your normal creative fun.

You’re really into imaginative play these days, especially with your Imaginext toys.  I think I’ve written before about how you like to watch videos of people playing with the toys, which is kind of weird, especially since it’s usually adults.  But you’ve used some of the plotlines from the videos as springboards for your own play, so I guess it’s not totally worthless.  You like to play with the Joker’s Funhouse, the space station, the Eagle Talon Castle, and all the dinosaurs.  Unlike your brother, who gets uptight about the Joker and Spiderman interacting because one of them is D.C. and one is Marvel (don’t ask me which, but he knows), you have no problem with crossover.  Your knights go into space, which sounds like just the kind of adventure a knight would enjoy, if he had the technological resources.  Mubby and Skitter are coming to see us this weekend, and Mubby has promised a couple of new Imaginext toys.  You are absolutely quivering with excitement.

The Imaginext toys are in your bedroom right now, because we had to clear out the basement due to a destruction/reconstruction project.  It’s handy for you to have them there, so maybe we’ll leave them.  You can just duck away and go have some playtime.  Sometimes Miles plays with you, but other times you’re happy to just sit there and make up stories for your action figures and dinosaurs.  Callum isn’t much of a playmate yet, but he does love to look at you.  You’re still a great brother to him, sweet and mostly gentle.  You love to hold him and talk to him in a sing-song voice.  I’m sure your name or some version of it will be among his first words.

One of your favorite things to do after I pick you up from school is suggest that we go on a lunch date to Panera.  I try to say yes to that once a week or so.  It’s not too far out of the way and it’s not too busy at 11:30, and you’re always happy to have a tub of cream cheese and a few bites of bagel. Other days we go to Hy-Vee and pick up a slice of pizza or beef and broccoli for you.  Other days we come home and eat leftovers or your usual favorites, pasta or waffles.  Breaking bread with you is a fun thing to do.

We’ll have to find out what time Panera starts serving their lunch menu, because your schedule is going to change a bit in the fall.  We’ve known for a while that Willowwind would likely be ending its half-day program, so we applied to the preschool program at Hoover Elementary.  We found out last week that you got into it, which is great news because it’s reasonably close to our house and has the best hours of any of the possibilities we considered.  Rather than 11:30, it ends at 11:00 every day.  That’s slightly less convenient, but it’s better than the programs that go through the lunch hour.  I like having lunch with you, and you’re only three.  It seems early to ship you off every day with a sack lunch when we could be eating together.  It’s also free, which is going to be a significant boon to our budget.  We haven’t visited it yet, but we’ve heard good things.  There’s a parents’-only visiting day next month, and unless we see something that’s truly alarming, that’s where you’ll be starting in August.

Unfortunately, Ho0ver is slated to close in the next few years, so once Callum is old enough for preschool, we’re going to have to figure out something else once again.  So it goes.

I’m not going to tell you that every minute we’ve spent together lately has been perfect.  You’re truly, madly, deeply three.  That has led to some departure from your previously sweet and relaxed nature.  I think you’ve had more temper tantrums in the last couple of months than in the whole rest of your life up to that point.  Sometimes you just roar with rage.  The fact that you haven’t been feeling well probably doesn’t help matters, but it can be pretty hard to deal with you when you get absolutely irrational like that.  Sometimes you freak out so hard you pee your pants.  I think it’s just because you get so overwhelmed with emotion that you lose control of yourself, but it does feel suspiciously like an act of hostility.  It will pass, I think.  Miles went through it too (though not the peeing part—that’s new and fun).  We’ll get beyond it just in time to start round three with Cal.  So it goes.

We had a fun family get-together at the Honey Creek resort at Lake Rathbun a couple of weekends ago.  Our main purpose was to celebrate Aunt Dorothy’s 95th birthday.  She’s an aunt by marriage on your dad’s side, but I feel a special connection to her because she was friends with my grandmother, whom we refer to as Maw.  You never met Maw, but Dorothy is still lively and bright.  I hope she’s with us long enough that she can tell you stories about Maw.  You also had fun with Nana and Papa, Aunt Shannon and Uncle Mark, and lots of other family members.  The hotel was very nice, though unfortunately we had a couple of snafus that left me sleeping in a not-huge bed with you and Callum, and an alarm went off twice in our room during the night.  It was not the most restful sleep I’ve ever had.  We still had fun, though.  You and Miles had a blast at the indoor water park, and we had a fun walk by the lake with Papa.  You also enjoyed the fancy cookies Dorothy’s granddaughter made for the occasion.


I think if we can survive this half-year, Tobes, our family will be under control.  Of course, Callum can’t walk yet.  That will create a whole new set of challenges.  But I’ll save speculation about that for his letter.  This one’s for you, my little firecracker.  May your frustrations ease away; may your health be good; may you never stop thinking it’s funny to stuff something in the back of your pants and pretend it’s a tail.

Even when you drive me crazy, I love you more than I knew I could.




Tight lips unsink chips

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:26 pm

A:  I’m so happy you didn’t have to throw up last night, Tobin.

T:  That’s ’cause I keeped my mouth closed.


The Callum Chronicle #2

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:37 pm

Dear Callum,

You’ve now completed your second month with us, and already you’re becoming less like an amorphous blob and more like an actual person.  You’ve become a smile master, especially for your brothers.  Just this morning, Miles was talking to you before school, and he got so excited because of the big smiles you gave him.

You have your grumpy moments, but mostly you’re a pretty chill guy.  You, like most babies, are a morning person so far.  You will usually sit quietly and happily in your seat while your dad and I scramble around to get your big brothers ready for school in the morning.  You don’t like to nap anywhere but your car seat, which is okay for the time being, but you’ll need to learn to nap elsewhere before you outgrow it.

We faced your two biggest struggles so far:  your first cold and your first immunizations.  They were both kind of awful, though the cold was worse.  We’re still dealing with the dregs of it, in fact.  If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be up at 5 a.m. sucking snot out of a baby’s head with a crazy tube contraption, I don’t know if I would have believed it.  Overall you’ve been a good sleeper, though this cold has not been great for your sleep patterns.  The shots weren’t so bad during the actual injections—you cried for a moment and then calmed down.  But I could tell you felt crummy, because the whole rest of the day you spent either sleeping or crying.  Fortunately you seem to have recovered from that, and I’m glad you’re on your way to being a well-vaccinated individual.

We went to visit Mubby and Skittergramps, which was your first road trip.  I don’t know if you had fun or not, but I did.  It was good to see them and spend some time with Joe and Suzy as well.  This weekend we have a trip coming up, and we’ll see Nana and Papa and other family members.  It will mean your first hotel stay, which is an important milestone in any baby’s life, at least any baby who lives with me.

I suppose it happens with all babies who are later in birth order, but we’ve been dragging you around to all kinds of things.  This morning you went to Tobin’s school to watch his music program.  Later you went to pick up Miles and then to his piano lesson, after which we went out for ice cream.  I’m sorry you didn’t get any.  Maybe you can have a taste before the summer is over.  Through all of it, you were very calm, sleeping peacefully or just watching the action.  As long as you have a full tummy and are well-burped, you seem happy to be along for the ride.  I hope that pattern continues, because you have a lot of rides ahead of you.

Photo by Gary Clarke

I was chatting with another mom of three at Tobin’s school, and we were talking about the sweetness that comes with knowing a particular baby is your last baby.  I admitted to her that I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw away my positive pregnancy test, since I know it’s the last one I’ll ever have (unless something truly unexpected happens).  She said she felt the same way and kept her last one, too.  That made me feel slightly less crazy.

It’s just that babies don’t last, you know?  I’ll never have my own sweet little two-month-old again.  I’m probably going to say this every month of your life.  I’m often tired and sometimes frustrated, not necessarily with you but with the strain that comes with being a stay-at-home parent to three kids.  This summer may be a challenge.  But you’re growing so fast, and you’ve already changed from the little squirt we brought home from the hospital.  You can focus your eyes and chew your fingers with your little gummy jaws.  You recognize familiar faces and have really loud toots.  I don’t even really mind waking up in the night to feed you, because that’s a special thing that only I can do.  When you cozy your little head up to me, it makes me so happy you joined us.

Photo by Denny




Monthly Miles Memo #86

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:18 pm

My dear Miles,

The other night, we were in a predicament:  Tobin had taken a nap, which meant that you were likely to fall asleep first at bedtime.  To anyone not familiar with our bedtime routine, it goes like this:  you, Tobin, and I crowd into the bottom bunk together, and we stay there until Tobin falls asleep.  Then you and I extract ourselves and go up to the top bunk, where I cuddle with you.  After that, I go into the master bedroom, where I sleep for a couple of blissful hours by myself until your dad is ready for bed, at which time he brings Callum to me.  For the time being, while Callum is still nursing frequently at night, your dad has been sleeping in the bottom bunk with Tobin.  It’s a double bed, so it’s not quite as ridiculous as it sounds.

Anyway, as you can gather, it’s all a delicate dance.  If you fall asleep before Tobin, I have to try to wake you up to get you to the top bunk.  A lot of times that doesn’t work.  Either I simply can’t wake you up without doing something drastic that would wake Tobin up too, or I half-wake you up, which sends you into a state of frightened panic.  I don’t want to do that to you, so I usually just leave you in the bottom bunk with Tobin.  Then, when your dad comes to bed, he has to go up to the top bunk.  However, partway through the night, either you or Tobin usually wakes up and is dissatisfied with the situation.  You want to go up, which means your dad has to come down, or else Tobin wants to come in with me.  I don’t like that because I’m worried about him squashing or otherwise disturbing the baby.

This will all get a lot less complicated when your dad gets back to bed with me.  That does assume, of course, that Tobin will be okay with sleeping alone.  Surely before his high school graduation he’ll sort it out.  Anyway, in the meantime, it’s bad news when Tobin takes a nap, because it sends the previous paragraph’s chain of events into motion.  So when he took that unexpected nap the other day, I suggested that you go up to your bunk by yourself while I waited for Tobin to fall asleep.  That way I figured you might fall asleep on your own in the ideal bunk. or I could come cuddle you a little later than usual.

You are generally not okay with that idea, so I sweetened it by suggesting that you could read a book with a flashlight under your blanket.  You went for that.  You took a brand-new book up and started reading.  When I got Tobin to sleep, I climbed up to check on you.  You were still awake.

“Did you get a lot of reading done?” I asked.

“I finished my book.  A long time ago.”

This is all to set up the fact that you are a crazy fast reader.  You easily blow through a chapter book a day, and you could probably do more if we weren’t worried about you exhausting your supply.  You are either finished or almost finished with the Magic Treehouse series, so we’re trying to find some new chapter books to challenge you.  At your school conference, your teacher was showing us some of your test scores.  Apparently at this stage in a first grader’s development, he or she ought to be able to read 33 words per minute.  You scored 137.  Yes.

But, as usual, I wasn’t worried about your academic progress.  You’ll be doing ELP testing, which I hope goes better than it did last year.  You didn’t do so well on the verbal section last time, though you clearly are not deficient in that area.  What I suspect happened is that the testing environment threw you.  Rather than sitting down for a written test, a teacher you didn’t know gave it to you verbally.  You have a habit of clamming up when you’re nervous, and I’m guessing that’s what happened.  I don’t know whether the test will be the same this time around or not.  Frankly, it’s not a big deal to me whether you qualify for ELP or not.  I think it would be good for you—I don’t think your teacher has the resources to offer much more than the basics to the students in your class.  On the other hand, you’re kind of easily overwhelmed, so maybe you’re not ready for that kind of thing yet.  We’ll just have to see how it all works out.

Your school’s Fun Night was last week, and it was a totally different experience for you than last year.  Last year, you got overwhelmed by the crowd and noise and threw a crying fit.  This year, you zeroed in on the games you wanted to play, ignored the stuff that didn’t interest you, and had a great time.  You even won a book in the Book Walk.  You’re done with it already, of course.  You and Tobin had fun decorating cakes to donate to the cake walks.

You are still a sweet brother to Callum and mostly a sweet brother to Tobin.  You might have a different opinion, but it doesn’t seem like Callum has had too big an impact on your daily life.  You may have to wait a little longer to get what you need from your dad and me, but overall, you still do what you need to do.  You do your homework, play your games, practice piano, and read your books.

You still love to play piano.  I am often tired by the time piano-practicing time comes in the evening, and sometimes I’m not as patient as I should be.  I’ve been trying to catch myself when I get impatient—I know you know what a quarter note is, and I know you’re taking liberties with the rhythms because you’ve already mastered the traditional way and are just entertaining yourself.  Mostly, I want piano to continue to be a joy for you, and me being crabby at practice time isn’t going to help that.  You’re learning to play a simplified version of Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy.”  It’s the hardest song you’ve ever attempted, and you’re still getting started, but I know you’re going to work hard and master it.

Your current favorites:  pasta (of course), Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips, apples, popcorn, the Magic Tree House books, playing Imaginext toys with Tobin (especially the Joker’s Funhouse, a special gift from Mubby), cooing at Callum, and adding things to your Christmas and birthday lists.  You like drawing and writing and playing Wii with your friend James.  You made a really nice card for your dad’s birthday last weekend, and you helped Tobin make one too.

Have a good month, sweet Miles.  I’m glad you’re getting braver about the crowds at school, trying hard piano songs, and being alone in your bunk.  I look forward to seeing what the next month brings.


















Toupée touché

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:25 pm

T:  That is the worst wig I’ve ever seen.

D:  What wig?

T:  (pointing at Denny’s head) The one on your hair!


High standards for Jeeves

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:55 pm

T:  What’s a butler?

A:  It’s a person whose job it is to help you with your life’s small problems.

T:  Like…someone who could help you get out of a secret prison?


The Tobin Times #42

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:48 pm

My sweet Tobin,

Happy 42 months!  I guess that makes you three and a half.  We have your first school conference tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to hearing what your teachers have to say about you.  I feel like things are going well, from the brief conversations I’ve had with your teachers at pick-up.  You have been having fun with your friends, and you have learned all kinds of good songs.

Unfortunately, we’re probably going to have to switch you to a new school in the fall.  Willowwind is probably cutting their half-day preschool program, and I don’t want to send you all day.  You’re still so little in my eyes.  I know a lot of kids your age go all day, but since I’m not working now, it seems silly to pay twice what we’re paying now just so we can spend more time apart.  You wear me out, but I truly enjoy your company.  It won’t be long before I have to send you to kindergarten.  No need to rush it.

I had a strange conversation with the director of one preschool we’re considering.  We were setting up a time for a visit (which hasn’t occurred yet), and I asked about the option of sending you 5 days a week.  Despite not saying anything about it on her website, on the phone she told me she only allows girls to do that.  Three days a week are intended for 4- and 5-year-olds, so kids who attend 5 days also spend time with 2- and 3-year-olds twice a week.  Apparently the director thinks girls are inherently gentler or something, because she said she worries about boys knocking over the 2-year-olds in their rough play.

I thought that was a weird policy to have, and she was not receptive to the idea of meeting you and making a decision based on you specifically.  You can be a bit rambunctious at times, but you are truly a kind boy.  The only issues you’ve had so far at Willowwind have involved girls being aggressive toward you.  The way you treat baby Callum is proof to me that you understand the level of gentleness little ones need.  That conversation was a turn-off, but we’ve only heard good things about that preschool otherwise.  Several people we know have kids who’ve gone there and they’ve loved it, so who knows.  We’ll see what kind of impression we get when we visit.  There are other options around town, too.

You are super into Imaginext toys right now.  You love to make the dinosaurs and ogre and little characters battle.  When you’re not playing with the toys, you’re either watching or begging to watch videos of people playing with the toys.  It’s an industry I never knew existed until you got interested it it—adults playing with toys and narrating little stories about it.  You can only see their hands.  There are hours and hours and hours of them on YouTube.  We try to discourage you from watching them too much, but you seriously love them.

You had your first school Valentine’s day party a couple of weeks ago.  Because Miles hand-made his Valentines, of course you had to too.  You did a good job gluing sparkly hearts and ribbons onto the cards for your friends, and you got lots of nice ones in return.  Your teacher had very nice things to say about you in her card.  I was  proud to read that you’re a good friend to your classmates.  I wasn’t really surprised—you and Miles have your squalls, but you’ve also learned a lot about how to play with others in your relationship with him.


It can be frustrating to be a little guy sometimes, and you get pretty grumpy now and then.  It seems like you’ve had a nonstop cold all winter, and that hasn’t helped.  You do a good job staying cheerful most of the time, but things can get a little ugly when you’re tired.  You also have a hard time listening.  Today you picked something up off the coffee table and threw it on the floor.  I asked you not to throw things.  You then blithely picked up a marker and tossed it onto the floor too.  That’s the kind of thing that drives me crazy.  I understand doing foolish things sometimes, but to specifically and rudely ignore directives like that is maddening.  It’s probably just part of being three.  I remember your brother behaving like that too.  I’m working hard to be consistent with rules and not back down when you test them.  All the books say kids appreciate boundaries and structure, so I’m going with that, though you sure don’t act like you appreciate it.

Most of the time, you’re silly and affectionate and fun.  You like trying out new vocabulary words, even when they don’t make sense.  This morning you used the word retail totally out of context.  You like to dance and sing and pretend to read Miles’s chapter books.  You like to help me cook and set the table, and your favorite thing is to bring the stepstool over to whatever I’m doing in the kitchen and climb up.  You give frequent and sincere compliments, especially when I cook your favorite dinners.  Today you told me you liked my shirt.  Yesterday you told me my ponytail looked goofy.

Sometimes you like to wear sneakers over your footie pajamas.  Who looks goofy now?

Aw, I’m just kidding.  You’re the cutest and you know it.

I love you, my sweetheart.



Called on a technicality

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:15 pm

Tobin has had an on-and-off runny nose for months, and he’s acquired a taste for it.

D: Tobin, don’t lick your snot.
A: Snot is not food!
T: No, it’s a drink.

Powered by WordPress