The Tobin Times #41

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:17 pm

My dear Tobin,

You are ready for spring, big time.  Just about every night, you end up running back and forth through the living room and hallway, because you have so much energy to burn.  You have outside time at school every day, but I can tell you’re really missing the evenings you and Miles and your dad spend at the park during nicer weather.  The indoor lap-running works okay, because you generally crash pretty well at night, but it would be better if you could do it out in the fresh air.

This month has been kind of a blur, due to the arrival of your new brother Callum.  We’re getting closer to spring, and hopefully by the time the first balmy days of March arrive, your dad and I will have adjusted and will be able to be more active along with you.  You’ve been a great big brother so far.  You love to hold Callum and kiss him on the head. Today you said, “He’s so sweet and classy.”  I don’t think you know what that means, but it was nice of you to say anyway.  You haven’t expressed any negativity toward him.  Really our biggest challenge is that you have a hard time being quiet.  He’s still little enough that he can sleep through noisy situations, but I’m tired all the time, and sometimes your shouting wears me out further.

You’re still as enthusiastic about life as ever.  You got invited to your first school-friend birthday party, and you talked about it for days and days before the big event.  You had a very good time.  School is continuing to go well.  You are always cheerful when the school day ends, and you seem to enjoy all the works and other activities you do there.  I’m very proud of what a good transition you’ve made.  You want to do everything all by yourself, which is often not very time-effective, but I guess it’s a good idea in the long run.

Of course, you always want to do everything Miles does.  You make homework activities for yourself that are an extension of playing school, and you tell me proudly that you do your homework just like Miles does.  You sing and play the piano like Miles, and your dad and I have noticed that you’ve picked up a lot of his phrasings and vocal intonations.

You are sweetly, spontaneously kind and grateful.  You often genuinely thank me for the meals I make you, even when it’s something extremely low-effort.  You say things like, “Nothing better than a hot bowl of vegetable soup!” and “Thank you for making me three good meals, Mommy.”  It’s easy to catch you smiling.

You got to see all four of your grandparents as well as Uncle Michael in the last couple of weeks, and you had lots of fun with them.  Mubby tells me you were very good while they took care of you during my longer-than-expected hospital stay.  Skittergramps said you were very frustrating sometimes.  I believe both of them.  You’re three.  I’ve been seeing the term “threenager” floating around the Internet lately, which describes the volatile nature of kids your age.  It describes you well.

Your current favorites:  piling up huge numbers of stuffed animals and blankets and sleeping surrounded by them, granola bars, playing Candyland, waffles, dressing yourself, cuddling up for stories on the couch or the big chair.  I am medically forbidden from lifting anything over 15 pounds right now, and I was worried that you would not respond well to me not being able to pick you up.  But you’ve done well.  You just scramble up next to me, get cozy, and we’re set.

Photo by Denny

The hardest part (well, one of the hardest parts) of my hospital stay was being away from you.  One of the days that you came to see us, you asked if I was coming home that day, and I had to say no.  Your sweet little face just crumpled in sadness.  Keep in mind that I am still riddled with post-partum hormones, as well as dealing with the emotional and physical ramifications of a birth that was nowhere near what I hoped for—besides the obviously wonderful result of a healthy baby.  I am a real Milhouse van Houten these days (“You cry when you scrape your knee, you cry when we’re out of chocolate milk, you cry when you’re doing long division and you have a remainder leftover”).  A couple of days ago, I was standing in the shower, and I remembered that broken-hearted look on my sweet little boy’s face, and I cried and cried.

I am aware that it’s dumb to cry in the shower about something that resolved itself nearly two weeks ago.  You probably don’t even remember it.  But when you hurt, I hurt.

And when you laugh, I laugh.  When you get into the bathtub in your underpants and laugh, I laugh.  When you stare at yourself in the mirror and grin, so proud of your haircut, I grin.  When you’re psyched because you kept your Pull-Up dry overnight, I’m psyched (we’re still running about 50/50 on feeling psyched in the morning).

I’m really glad you’re our family’s baloney brother, Tobes.  There’s nobody I’d rather squeeze into a figurative sandwich than you.

Photo by Gary Clarke













Monthly Miles Memo #84

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:11 pm

Dear Miles,

Happy birthday, my sweet seven-year-old.  You can read, write, do math, play piano, and take care of babies.  You are responsible, kind, (mostly) patient, and you still love a good cuddle.  You can handle car line by yourself—that’s where you get dropped off and picked up from the parking lot rather than walked up to school.  You sometimes have a hard time finding things even when we tell you exactly where they are.  You love a good joke and learning about historical figures.  You never once balked at the idea of sharing a birthday, even though your dad and I were hoping it wouldn’t happen, so you could keep your special day.

Photo by Gary Clarke

As you may have noticed, you have a new little brother.  You have been excited about his arrival for months, and you even confessed that you planned to use your birthday candle wish to wish that he’d be born.  Well, you got lucky.  I went into labor at 11:30 p.m. on your birthday, and he was born the next day.

You are seriously the greatest big brother I could imagine.  You love to hold him and talk to him and sing to him.  He loves to watch you, and he often calms down when he hears your voice.  He must think it’s pretty cool to have a seven-year-old brother.  You’re not even mad that we didn’t name him Fred.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Seven years old seems to suit you well, too.  The gaps in your mouth are filling in with big new teeth, though you still have plenty of tooth fairy visits in your future.  You’re a dedicated student at school and of the piano.  We offered you the opportunity to miss piano lessons and a day of school so you could come hang out at the hospital more, but you chose to stick with your routine.  Mubby said she could tell it was a tough decision for you, because of course you wanted to come see the baby, but you also found value in keeping things as predictable as possible.

I’m not able to go up and down stairs yet, so our piano practicing has been a little weird.  Our strategy right now is for us to look at the piece you’re working on together, then you go downstairs and play it.  I can hear your playing pretty well from upstairs, so I can give you feedback when you come back up.  Then we move on to the next song and repeat until we’re through your tasks.  You have been getting good piano-related exercise.  I am also doing well in my recovery, so I’ll be able to get back to my normal piano guidance style soon.

Photo by Denny

Your Christmas was a good time, naturally.  We decided to stay home, but we were lucky in that family came to visit us.  We had a great time playing with new toys and enjoying good food with Mubby, Skittergramps, Nana, Papa, and Uncle Michael.  A very special gift you received was a refurbished school desk.  It’s nice for you to have a place to store your stuff, and you look so cute sitting at it.  We’ve still mostly been doing homework at the dining room table, because it’s easier for a grownup to sit down with you there, but you like the desk for playing.

You got a special treat on your birthday:  no school.  We didn’t have much for snow last week, but the temperatures were very low.  As it turned out, you had that one full cancellation and several other late starts on the surrounding days.  Mubby and Skittergramps said that was nice, because you were able to have fun, relaxing mornings together without having to rush around.

Another thing that made me proud while I was away at the hospital:  I had asked if you would be willing to sleep in the bottom bunk with Tobin, because he sleeps so much better when someone’s with him.  Even though you really prefer the top bunk, you were happy to make a sacrifice to help our family.  Mubby said she offered to sleep with Tobin, but you insisted that it was your responsibility.  You take these things very seriously.  I love knowing that I can count on you.

Your current favorites:  the song “Red River Valley,” which you first learned about in a Magic Tree House book.  You and your dad found a recording of it, and I thought it sounded like something you could play on the piano.  I transcribed it as well as I could, and you have had so much fun playing it.  Your piano teacher has been helping you with it, and I think she thought it was cool that you brought in your own music.  That’s also the song you love to sing to Callum the most, but you change the line “the cowboy who loves you so true” to “the brother who loves you so true.”

It’s pretty much the greatest.

Other favorites include Big Hero 6—you saw the movie twice, and you got a book for your birthday and a toy for a big brother present.  Your favorite foods haven’t shifted much.  You’re still in your rut of pasta, Cheerios, hot dogs, and fruit.  Oh, you like waffles, too.

This was your golden birthday:  you turned seven on January seventh.  We tried to make it special for you, with a sparkly golden number seven to hang from the chandelier, yellow balloons, and a cake with a golden seven on it.  We ate dinner at your favorite restaurant (Noodles & Company), opened presents, and tried to remind you how very, very important you are to us.

I think little Callum looks like you, Miles.  It’s hard to know for sure, since his face hasn’t really settled into its final position yet.  Maybe it’s also because he’s a winter baby like you, and he’s wearing the same clothes you wore when you were brand new.  But when I see his little face, it takes me straight back to the winter of 2008.  I was freaked out and exhausted and utterly in love with the tiny guy who looked up at me from his swaddling blankets.  I never would have had two more kids if you hadn’t been so wonderful, Miles.  Even the not-so-good times, the frustrating bouts of stubbornness and illogical behavior and tantrums, all of that taught me that you are worth it.  Babies are the only thing worth anything.

You may be seven years old, but you’ll always be my sweet first baby.









A solid fellow

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:55 pm

Bedtime stories.

A:  Fidgety Fish, by Ruth Galloway.

T:  Illustrated by Erlin Muscular.

I have no idea who Erlin Muscular is, but Tobin thinks he illustrated 80% of our storybook collection.  He’s been mentioning him every night for days.


The dark side

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:57 pm

T:  Why can girls who are pregnant swim instead of walk?

A:  Well, pregnant people can swim or walk.  But I like to swim because it makes me feel lighter.

T:  Yeah, walking makes you feel darker.


Positive associations

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:42 pm

Miles was quizzing Tobin about his preferences for some game he was playing.

M:  What’s your favorite sport?

T:  Uncle Tyler.

A:  Maybe he means football.

T:  I love Uncle Tyler so much.


Upside down and backward

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:37 pm

At dinner. Tobin was describing what happens when he eats.

T:  It goes down through my birth canal into my uterus.


The Tobin Times #40

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:04 pm

My sweet Tobin,

I had forgotten what it’s like to suddenly stop being the (near) sole influence on a child’s brain input (along with your dad and brother, of course).  It’s a little jarring to hear you start singing songs I’ve never heard and rattling off facts we didn’t teach you.  A day or two ago, you walked up to the globe in the living room and  recited a perfect rhyme about the continents.  You didn’t have a one hundred percent accuracy rate with where you were pointing, but I was still pretty impressed.  It did make me wonder–does Central America count as a continent, or is that just a political demarcation?  It didn’t make the list in your song.  I’m going to have to look that up.

This new knowledge set is coming from school, naturally.  I’ve been so happy about the easy transition you’ve made.  You still like weekends and free-form time at home with me in the afternoon, but your days at school have been going great.  It’s been nice for me to have some relaxing time in the morning now that my energy levels are at an all-time low.  It’s also been nice to have some gift-wrapping time with no curious helpers poking around.  Still, my favorite part of every day is seeing you come out of your classroom, excited and proud of the work you’ve done that morning, ready to rush into my arms with huge smiles on both of our faces.  I love picking your brother up, too, but the world-weariness of a first grader doesn’t have quite the sock-you-in-the-gut charm of preschool joy.

I was helping you get off the potty recently, and you started counting in Spanish.  I consider that a sign of true potty success, that you’ve mastered the skill well enough that you can focus on a little foreign language practice mid-process.

There has been a lot of yelling in our house lately.  You want to be closely involved with everything your brother does, and you are sometimes too aggressive with him.  Combine this with Miles’s naturally tender disposition, and the result is shouting and tears at least once or twice a day.  He gets upset, you get frustrated, you guys freak out at each other, and ten minutes later everything is back to normal (usually).  I hope this helps Little Potato get well used to the noise and emotional fluctuations of our world and that he’ll be chill and resilient once he comes out.

Photo by Denny

You love reading the big brother book we got at the hospital sibling class.  You like to hear the details over and over, both the physical (you are pretty clear on what a uterus is by this point) and philosophical (“What does it mean to be a big brother?”).  I’m sure it will be a shock to your lifestyle, especially when you have to give up some amount of cuddling from me.  I’ve been emphasizing that Little Potato is your baby too—he’s our whole family’s baby—and I think your strong independent streak will help you take a leadership role.

The Montessori learning environment has helped foster that independence too.  You want to do everything by yourself lately, which sometimes results in shoes on the wrong feet and some weird clothing organization.  We’re trying to keep a big picture attitude about it.  Sometimes it’s hard to watch you jam toys and games into containers with little regard for strategy or well-being of the contents (especially for your dad), but mostly I’m happy that you want to do it yourself.

Photo by Denny

Your current favorites:  oranges, both Clementine and Cara Cara; Jake and the Neverland Pirates; this Indian mythology cartoon whose protagonist you swear is named Kreeshner (hint:  Krishna); reading while cuddling in Mommy and Daddy’s bed; Bristle Blocks; your animal and letter magnets.  You invented your own Montessori-style work by matching up the pairs of animals.  We ended up with two sets, though a few are missing and for some reason we have three pandas.  You are great at playing pretend, and you also love to squish into the chair with Miles when he’s playing his PBSkids.org games.  He usually tolerates that pretty well.

The holiday season has been fun and not too chaotic so far.  We decided to stay home, just in case Little Potato decides to emerge early, and all the grandparents are coming to visit us.  You and Miles have been counting down the days, and you especially have loved having the Christmas tree up.  You mess around with the ornaments all the time, and we’ve been making more to fill the hours at home.  We don’t have very many breakable ornaments, but you immediately homed in on the ones that are fragile.  Nothing has broken so far, which is reason enough to be thankful.

I remember being proud as a little kid to give my parents homemade gifts, but at some point I realized that the drippily-glued mosaics and picture frames were actually sort of crappy.  But now, honestly, I cannot wait to open the package that contains the  ornament you made at school.  I hope it has sparkles.

Happy holidays to you, my precious little Tobes.  The best part of the holidays is spending it with excited little kids, and you’re one of my very, very favorites.

Photo by Denny




Of course he does

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:51 pm

T:  I love our ornaments.

A:  They look pretty on the tree, don’t they?

T:  We have the beautifullest Christmas tree in the whole world.

A:  Yes, it is beautiful.

T:  (conspiratorially) I like the breakable ornaments the best.


Monthly Miles Memo #83

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:18 am

My sweet Miles,

This is your very last month of being six.  I remember turning seven myself, how much older seven seemed than six.  Maybe because it’s the first multi-syllabic age?  I can’t say for sure, but it definitely felt like the transition to big kid life.  You’ve continued to be a fun and helpful guy to have around, doing your homework and piano practice without complaint and usually playing nicely with your brother.  You still have a low threshold for wigging out when Tobin annoys you, but you guys have had more and more long stretches of imaginative play together.  Right now you like to do  play-acting versions of Cyberchase and Magic Tree House.

Magic Tree House is a series of books that you’ve gotten excited about.  You especially enjoy biographies, and sometimes the Magic Tree House characters go back in time and meet famous people, like Louis Armstrong (whom I like to imagine is a relative of ours) or your all-time favorite, Leonardo da Vinci.  Your preference is still for your dad or me to read the books to you, but lately you’ve been reading a chapter to yourself at bedtime to get your reading minutes in.  That represents a real paradigm shift for you.  I think it’s the first time you’ve ever felt confident enough to read something a little bit challenging that no one has read to you before.  You’ve had the skills for a long time—you breeze through your school-assigned books effortlessly.  I’m really proud that you’re feeling ready to take on new content and read for the pleasure of experiencing a story.

We did something pretty exciting last weekend.  The kids from Family Folk Machine were invited to record a song that’s going to be part of a CD celebrating local kids’ music.  You sang “Deep Blue Sea,” including your special solo.  I was very impressed by how focused and disciplined you were throughout the recording process.  You’re one of the younger kids in the group, and a lot of the kids had a very hard time being respectful of the recording equipment and keeping their attention on the tasks at hand.  Not you, though.  You kept up your concentration through multiple takes, and I think you could have kept going.  Our leader, Jean, wanted to do one more take, but when she asked the kids if they could handle it, a chorus of “NO!” arose.  You told me later you were going to say “yes,” but nobody else did.  I think you got a good recording in any case, and the look on your face when you heard it played back the first time was one of pure delight.

We’re probably going to be taking a break from Family Folk Machine next semester, not because we don’t enjoy it, but because Little Potato will likely be taking up most of my energy during those early months.  I think you could handle it without me there, but you prefer not to.  I like that it’s a special thing for us to do together, anyway.  We’ll be back next fall, possibly with your brother along with us.  We have our final concert tonight, the annual holiday concert at the Englert.  That’s always tiring, since it’s on a weeknight, and I’m tired all the time these days regardless.  It will be nice to have a break, though I know we’ll miss singing and our old friends.

We had a mostly fun time at both sides of our family Thanksgiving celebrations.  At Jackie and Paul’s, you had fun with cousins Austin, Julianne, and Danielle.  Of course you got some good quality time with Nana and Papa, seducing everyone into the Where’s Waldo universe.  More from that series of books are on your Christmas list.

Photo by Denny

At Mubby and Skittergramps’s house, illness put a bit of a damper on the festivities.  Tyler, Oxana, and Aleks couldn’t visit due to illness at their house, but that didn’t stop you from cheering the Nebraska Cornhuskers to victory.  Unfortunately, that victory wasn’t enough to keep head coach Pelini in a job, so Tyler’s future remains unknown at this time.  We hope he either stays in Lincoln or ends up somewhere reasonably close, because nobody wants that cute little chub Aleks to get away from us.  You especially get so excited when we get new pictures of him, and you were very disappointed when they weren’t able to come for Thanksgiving.

You really love babies a lot.  I’ve been trying to paint a realistic picture of human infancy for you and Tobin,  so you’re not let down when Little Potato arrives and isn’t all that much fun right away.  I’ve been telling you how babies, at first, just sleep and eat and poop and cry, and sometimes it can be very tiring and frustrating.  Without fail, you remind me, “But they’re worth it because they’re so cute.”  I can’t deny that one.  My clearest memory of your birth, Miles (even clearer than vomiting on your dad’s shoes while in labor), is my absolute certainty that your bruised, swollen, cone-headed little self was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Photo by Denny

I still feel that way.  Your baby teeth are falling out and impossibly big adult teeth are growing in their places.  You’re stretching out into a string bean, and I see your ribs every night when you make silly poses in front of the mirror.  You’re still little enough to cuddle up in the big chair with me and read a chapter of the Magic Tree House, though.  I know you’re almost seven and everything, but I’m glad you still fit right into the crook of my arm.




Powder room

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:44 pm

Denny was opening a new package of Kleenex.

T:  What’s that?

D:  Kleenexes for the bathroom downstairs.

T:  Bathrooms don’t have noses.


The gentle glow

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:28 pm

Miles was being grumpy.

D:  Here, this might cheer you up.

M:  Nothing can cheer me up.  Except a lava lamp.


Baby got back

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:38 pm

Tobin and I were snuggling in bed together.  He went to brush his teeth, then he returned.

A:  So, I see you’re back.

T:  (turning his back to me) You see it, do you?



Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:39 pm

Denny and I were telling the kids about the ancient days of television, when we couldn’t fast-forward, pause, or rewind, and we had to watch whatever was on rather than picking a show of our choice, and all the other indignities of the 80s and 90s.

A:  And if you had to go to the bathroom, you just had to miss some of the show.

M:  Um…you could pee in a bowl.

The Tobin Times #39

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:50 pm

My dearest Tobin,

Times, they are a-changing.  This has been a major month in terms of your personal development.  As I may have mentioned last month, we did a weekend-long potty bootcamp, and it works pretty darn well.  That weekend had a fairly large number of accidents, then somewhat fewer the next week, and fewer the week after that, and now I’d say you’re reliably potty trained.  You still wear a pull-up at night, and at the moment you’re about 50/50 in terms of keeping it dry overnight.  Still, though, that qualifies you for preschool.

Our plan was to get you started at Willowwind at least a month before Little Potato’s birth, so you could get established in your routine there before the major change happens on the homefront.  That seems like it’s going to work out fine.  We visited there last week, and while you were a touch apprehensive, you got very interested in some of the Montessori works (especially the “potion,” which involves pouring colored water back and forth between containers).  It helped that you saw your old friend Digger Ben, who isn’t in your class but with whom you will have recess sometimes.  You also saw Craig, the grandpa of some kids we know from Miles’s time at Willowwind, who is a volunteer story reader for the preschool classes.

We came home and had lunch, and afterward you asked, “Can you drive me back to Willowwind so I can do more potions?”  We had to settle for a homemade approximation.  It really made me smile that you wanted so much to go back.  As long as they haven’t rotated the potions work out by the time you formally enroll, I think we’re golden.

As I was considering the prospect of enrolling you, a not-so-small part of me was thinking, “Oh, let’s just keep him home one more semester.  I’m going to miss him.”  I will absolutely miss you, but it will also be really nice to know that you’ll be doing fun and interesting activities at school while I’m taking care of a tiny newborn (and taking advantage of morning nap opportunities).  Let’s face it:  if you were home, you’d be watching videos.  And knowing you, you wouldn’t be content to sit still and watch a video for long.  You’d be watching ten minutes of a video, then wanting to do something else, which would leave very little time for the rest/nursing/diaper changing/laundry/walking around making silly noises cycle that comes with a tiny baby.

I was just telling your dad what a great gift it is that you and Miles have been playing together so well lately.  You’ve been playing school, Minecraft (not the app version, but a play-acting version you guys invented that involves Bristle Block swords and shovels), and other made-up games.  A couple of minutes ago, Miles came up and told me about something involving Lego races.  You were excited that you won a silver coin, which I’m pretty sure Miles pilfered from your dad’s change jar.  Not only am I thrilled that you guys are getting along and using your imaginations, but it’s going to be a huge help after Little Potato’s birth.

I hope you like him as much in practice as you do in theory.  You’ve been wanting to look at a lot of pictures and videos of yourself as a baby, including a super-cute one I just saw of you making ecstatic noises about blueberry puree.  You often say, “I love babies.”  We’ve been talking a lot about what it means to be a big brother.  Although I hope to continue the pregnancy into January, it’s possible that this is your last month as the baby of the family.  That’s kind of hard to fathom, but it’s also pretty cool to see you settle into a more mature lifestyle.

Not every moment has been easy.  You’ve had some serious tantrums lately, including one a couple of nights ago when your dad dared to put lotion on your dry skin.  It was bedtime, and being tired surely didn’t help things.  You screamed and howled, and there can’t have been more than five seconds of quiet before your sobs morphed into snores.  Then you had a good night’s sleep and felt fine in the morning.

Despite the rosy picture I painted above of you and Miles getting along so well, we’ve also had some trouble with you being too physical with him.  Your dad thinks it’s the Spider-man books and videos, which may be the case.  Sometimes your pretend web-slinging becomes more like punching, which is definitely not a habit we want to encourage.  The good news is that you’re becoming more responsive to punishment.  We don’t like yelling at you, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works.  It’s hard to see you get so sad, but hitting is not an option for us, either in terms of your behavior or our discipline strategy.  Your dad has been taking to your room and putting you in your chair for a time-out, and that seems to be reasonably effective.  Here’s to hoping you get the message and don’t get aggressive with another kid who wants to use the Willowwind potions.

Your current favorites:  weird British cartoons (the Octonauts, Where’s Wally, the Numberjacks), playing with Miles, earning potty success stickers, messing around with really expensive musical instruments while Miles is at his piano lessons, Play-Doh, playing with your Imaginext toys, licking my arms (sigh), preparing pretend food.  Last night you made me about fifteen pizzas, all of which were pepperoni-tacos-mushroom-veggies.  You also like to play with the toy stove Mubby got you, as well as helping out with real kitchen tasks.

Photo by Gary Clarke

We had a small snowfall last weekend, and you were so excited to get your Grand-shovel out, which is what you call the shovel Skittergramps got you.  You and your dad got our sidewalk and driveway cleared, but you didn’t want to stop, so you guys cleared the walks of some elderly neighbors.  Dr. Abadhi caught you in the act, and you earned your first dollar.  You were very proud and spent it on sour gummy worms.  You even shared them with Miles.

I really appreciate how receptive you’ve been to our nudges over the last month, Tobin.  You’re a smart, ambitious kid, and I know you’re ready to handle these new challenges that await you.  I’m still glad you’re only going to preschool half-time, though.  I’m not quite ready to send you off full-time yet.  Besides, if you were at school all day, I’d have no excuse to figure out exactly what the heck Numberjacks are.

With love as you charge confidently forward,




Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:06 pm

Tobin came out wearing one of Denny’s bedroom slippers and one of his gloves.

T:  I’m part man, part person!


Time traveling side dish

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:24 pm

Earlier, Miles walked in from school and asked what smelled so good.  It was vegetable beef soup in the crock pot.  Denny was trying to get him to have some at dinner, but he refused.

D:  Well, excuse me for wanting you to try something that you said smelled good.

M:  I thought it was cornbread.

D:  Mommy hadn’t even started the cornbread then.

M:  I was smelling the history…of cornbread…in the future.


Monthly Miles Memo #82

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:30 pm

My dear Miles,

At our choir rehearsal on Saturday, one of the adult members mentioned to you how much you’ve grown.  She didn’t mean in height (although I was looking at shots from an earlier concert, and you did look pretty tiny).  She meant in terms of your confidence, poise, and bravery.  When we first started, you wouldn’t leave my side for a moment at rehearsals or concerts.  Now you’re happy to run off during breaks and play with your friends (mostly a cadre of Minecraft-loving boys), and you sang a sweet and clear solo in our concert yesterday.

I hope that kind of confidence is emerging in school, too.  We had your first parent-teacher conference of first grade a week or two ago, and your teacher used the phrase “deer in the headlights” to describe you early in the year.  She did say that you’ve opened up more, but our biggest concern for your school success is your confidence level and your willingness to take risks.

We mostly like your school, and the diversity of the student body is largely a very good thing.  The downside is that due to a variety of issues in students’ lives, the teachers need to spend a lot of time and energy on basic classroom management.  I suppose that’s a concern in many schools.  Still, I’m not completely comfortable with the emphasis the staff put on rule-following and obedience.  I can see both sides of it.  Obviously, keeping a classroom under control is a prerequisite for a learning-friendly environment.  On the other hand, I don’t often see you getting rewarded for critical thinking, creativity, or kindness toward others.  I see you getting rewarded for being quiet in the hallways and not disrupting class.  Again, these are clearly good skills.  I just hope you’re getting enough of what you need to help you improve—challenges and support for risk-taking and encouragement to branch out—rather than what you’re already good at.

Photo by Denny

You’ve taken on some new interests lately.  You still like Wild Kratts, but it’s no longer the first thing you want to do when you get home from school.  Recently you’ve been more excited about the Magic Treehouse book series and accompanying website.  You could absolutely read the books on your own, but for the time being, you like your dad or me to read them to you.  I think your dad read to you for over an hour last night.  I do wish you’d challenge yourself, but it’s pretty sweet for you guys to have that special activity to share, too.

Tobin and I had a rough day today.  He’s not feeling his best and he’s been pretty tough to deal with.  But after you got home from school, you were so kind and helpful to him.  You guys got an educational computer game going, and you included him so well.  Now you two are playing school.  He calls you “Mr. Miles,” and no one is more excited than you when he raises his hand to ask for a bathroom break.  There will be more on the potty training in his next Tobin Times, but for now, I want to focus on you.  You’ve been a great support and champion for him as he develops, and as I get more tired and uncomfortable in Little Potato’s pregnancy, I appreciate it all the more.

You and Tobin went to a big sibling class at the hospital a while back in preparation for Little Potato’s arrival.  When you arrived, the teacher had a slideshow ready to go, and the first slide was of a big cat cub.  It was clearly posed in a studio situation, lounging on a branch against a white background.  The teacher asked what kind of animal it was.  You looked closely and said, “It has retractable claws, so it’s not a cheetah…”  I suggested that it might be a lion cub.  You looked again and said, “No, because lions don’t climb.”  We never did figure out exactly what it was.  I still think it was a lion cub who was posed by someone who didn’t know a fake tree was an inaccurate place for it to be.

In any case, I was impressed by your application of knowledge, as was the teacher.  She also appreciated that you knew what an umbilical cord was.

Photo by Denny

Your Leonardo da Vinci Halloween costume was a big hit, especially since we pinned print-outs of the Mona Lisa and da Vinci’s flying machine plans to your cape.  You had fun at your class party, and once again, you were proud and helpful to your little Spider-man brother who wanted to do everything with you.  You also did a good job going around the neighborhood.  Our pantry is still full of treats, even with your dad and me doing our best to help.

You’re excited to become a double big brother, and I have zero doubt that you’ll do well.  One of your favorite things to do lately is text, especially with Uncle Tyler when he sends us pictures of baby Aleks.  You coo over how cute his is, and then you demand my phone so you can reply.  You really enjoy the speech-to-text feature on the phone, especially when it gets the words wrong.  It’s pretty hilarious sometimes.  You wanted to text your dad that Tobin had a potty-palooza (code from a book about potty-training for a poop in the toilet), and the phone changed it to “party pollution.”  We decided that such an event would pollute a party pretty thoroughly, so it made sense in a way.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You’ve finished swimming lessons for the year, and you enjoyed them so much we had to promise that we’ll go swimming as a family soon.  You improved a lot.  You gained confidence and can swim a few yards doing a couple of different strokes.  You’re still a little tense in your back float and reluctant to relax and lean completely back, but you’ve definitely improved over the course of this fall’s lessons.  We’ll get back to that once the winter is done.

I know I’ve told you this many times before, Miles, but I’m so proud of you.  You’re in a really good stage right now, and I’m relishing it.  Thank you for being such a kind and thoughtful boy.  I’m so glad I’m your mom.




A grave injustice

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:24 pm

I was picking a sticky bit of something off Tobin’s head, and a few hairs came out with it.

T:  (in outrage) What did you do to my curls?


Key to the city

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:39 pm

We were talking about a trip we took to the Florida Keys and speculating about what might happen if we did it again.

T:  Would we drive to the airport?

A:  Yes, and then we’d fly to Miami, and then we’d rent a car and drive to the Keys.

T:  Your ami?


The Tobin Times #38

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:28 pm

Dear Tobin,

As we brainstormed baby names, your dad and I were talking about how we didn’t specifically plan to give you the nickname Tobes.  I had envisioned calling you Toby, which I still sometimes do.  But somehow, the nickname that stuck the best was Tobes.  I don’t know why.  It just suits you.  You’re a Toblerone, a Tobalicious, sometimes a Toby or a Tobester, but you’re most often a Tobes.

We have had a wild month.  We’ve been traveling all around, visiting family and attending events.  You’ve seemed extra sleepy lately, taking many more spontaneous naps than usual.  I don’t know if it’s all the activity or just a developmental stage, but after being napless for months, you’re back on them now and then.  Last night, it wasn’t even bedtime quite yet.  Your brother was reading you a story in the big chair, and from the other room, your dad and I heard him say, “Tobin, are you awake?”  You didn’t answer, so we went in to check on you, and there you were, snoozing with your head on your brother’s shoulder.  Your dad put you in bed fully clothed, and you slept a full night’s sleep.

My big plan for next weekend is a potty training boot camp.  You haven’t been too cooperative so far.  You’ll sit on the potty now and then, but it’s never your idea, and you almost never get anything out.  Starting this weekend, we’re going to be done with diapers.  The Three-Day Potty Training method specifies no bottoms at all in the house (they say for three months, but that doesn’t really seem realistic).  We’ll try it for the weekend anyway, and hopefully you’ll get the hang of it.  I don’t plan to let you back into diapers, but maybe after the weekend is over we’ll put you in big-boy underpants.  I’ll need to check on the status of our cleaning products.  You do seem interested in earning the stickers that go with the potty-themed book Nana got you.  I hope those remain motivating.

Your current favorite thing to do is play game after game of Trouble and Dinosaur Train Pop ‘n Race, which is basically Trouble with dinosaur illustrations.  You don’t seem to care a lot who wins.  You just like popping the die dome and moving your little pegs around.  We don’t play a cutthroat version (ie, nobody gets sent back home when another piece lands in the same spot).  Maybe we should switch to that, because just moving in circles around the board is pretty boring.  You also enjoy jumping back and forth between the couch and the futon downstairs, wearing your Spider-man costume to pick your brother up from school, and talking about Dr. Dreadful (still).  The next time I write your monthly letter and I don’t mention Dr. Dreadful, it will either be because you finally forgot about the blasted thing, or I’ve become so used to hearing about it that it’s no longer discussion-worthy.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You and your brother are both really into the show Wild Kratts right now, and you’ve both taken to spouting various animal facts.  You drew perhaps your best artwork yet today, a couple of squid.  You like the episodes about bats and platypuses a lot.  Thanks to Netflix, you can easily watch them between games of Trouble.

Photo by Denny

I took you to a doctor’s appointment last week for your annual check-up.  You’re at the 48th percentile for both height and weight, so I guess I have official confirmation that you’re not a little chub-chub anymore.  Your grocery store girlfriend commented the other day that you seem to look a lot older all of a sudden.  You’re thinning out, and your cheeks are less squishy.  We were counting birthdays last night, and you told me you’d be four on your next one.  I did my usual exaggerated sorrow response, bemoaning the loss of mah bay-bay.  You said, “You’re just kidding.  You like me being four.”  I had to admit that you were right.  I can’t imagine loving you any less, ever, even when you’re a weird teenager.

Last weekend, you and Miles stayed at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house for the first time without your dad and me.  He and I went to Minneapolis for a brief babymoon.  You had lots of fun.  Mubby kept you beyond busy, with excursions and crafts and apple-bobbing.  When we got home, you asked me why we went to “that apple place.”  It took me several guesses (I assumed you meant either the orchard where we picked apples last month or the orchard activity center to which Mubby and Skitter took you) to figure out you meant Minneapolis.

Other recent events include a trip to Nana and Papa’s farm along with a visit to the Covered Bridge Festival.  You got to pet a baby lamb, which Papa plucked right out of its pen, much its mother’s irritation.  You played out by a creek, rode in a tractor, jumped over and over into a corn pit, and ate a lot of junky vendor food.

Photo by Denny

We also had fun at my cousin Debi’s wedding.  It all took place outside in her big new backyard, and you had a great time riding around on scooters with cousin Josh and popping the giant bubbles Miles blew.

We have more busy times coming up:  next week you have your last swim lesson, Big Sibling class at the hospital, some time with your favorite babysitter Olivia while your dad and I go to Miles’s school conference, and of course Halloween.  You may need a few more naps this week, but at least it will be nice to be home for the weekend.

Pants-free weekend, that is.  This could prove to be interesting.

I will still love you if you pee on the floor.
I will still love you when you turn four.
I will still love you, with or sans clothes.
I will still love you.  You’re my little Tobes.

Photo by Denny



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