4/15/2014

Orange-Garlic Chicken

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:10 pm

I invented dinner tonight.  I bought some chicken parts at the grocery store yesterday, mostly because I wanted to make Tobin’s favorite roasted broccoli and I thought the chicken would go well with it.  I didn’t think much about what I would do with it until today.  Here’s what I did.  Denny said I should blog it because it was good, and it increases the likelihood of having it again.

If my father had blogged in my growing-up years, we might have had more repeats.  Dad made a lot of inventions, and sometimes it was a little sad, because they were often very good and we never had them again.  Not exactly, anyway.

I had a whole bunch of clementines to use up, so that’s where I got the orange juice for this recipe.  You could substitute beverage-type orange juice.

Orange-Garlic Chicken

Marinade:

Juice of 6 clementines (about 3/4 cup) + enough water to make about 2 cups
1 clementine, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped (could also use parsley if you’re a cilantro-hater, but I’m a cilantro lover and I really liked what it brought to the dish)

3-4 pounds chicken parts, bone in and skin on

Glaze:
Juice of 3 clementines (or a generous 1/3 cup)
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
a pinch of salt
pepper
1 tablespoon butter

Combine marinade ingredients in a gallon-sized ziplock bag.  Squish them around to dissolve the salt.  This would probably be easier if you use warm/hot water, but I didn’t.  Add chicken and squish it around so marinade is touching all of it.  Put the sealed bag in a big bowl in the refrigerator and leave for 6-8 hours (even overnight would probably be fine).  Flip the bag occasionally to make sure all the chicken has had equal access to marinade.

Preheat oven to 400F.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the marinade and dry it thoroughly.  Put in a rimmed baking sheet (I used a 9×13 and it was a little crowded, so I might use a bigger pan next time).  Roast for about 30 minutes.  While the chicken is cooking, make the glaze:  melt the butter in a small saucepan and saute the garlic until it softens up.  Add the juice, salt, and pepper, and boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup.

At 30 minutes, baste the chicken with the glaze.  Return to the oven and continue to cook until the light meat is 165F and the dark meat is 170F (about 45 minutes total cook time, in my case).  I basted it one more time after it came to temperature and broiled it for a minute or two to crisp up the skin.

This would also be good on the grill.

4/11/2014

Monthly Miles Memo #75

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:35 pm

My dear Miles,

You’re 75 months old, huh?  That number seems big and small at the same time.  It feels like I’ve known you for hundreds of months, decades…and yet, you’re still a little boy in a lot of ways.

Your dad and I have noticed that you seem to be dropping into another period of disequilibrium, and we’re right about on schedule for that.  We were remembering some of the challenges our family faced last summer, when you were being particularly hard to get along with.  Recently, you’ve been lots of fun, easy-going and sweet.  But as the weather warms and we approach your half-year mark, things seem to be shifting back.  Is it a way to exert some control?  You’ve always had a stubborn streak, but lately you’ve been reminding us even more strongly that you don’t like being bossed around.

I don’t like being bossed around either, but dude, you have to wear your shoes to go to school.  I had a dentist appointment the other morning, so you didn’t have your usual routine.  When I got back from the dentist, your dad looked like he’d aged six months or a year.  He did manage to get your shoes on, but he couldn’t get you to brush your teeth.  What gives?

And there’s this thing you do—oh boy, it drives us crazy.  We’ll ask you to stop doing something (say, kicking the back of the seat in the car), and you have to do it one or two more times before you’ll stop.  It seems  like you’re nonverbally indicating that you recognize that you have to submit to authority, but you have to get one more kick in there to make sure we know you don’t like it.

I don’t mean to be negative.   I just want to be honest.  I think I sometimes lean toward the overly sunshiny in my posts, and that’s just because I don’t figure anyone wants to hear a bunch of complaining.  But we have our struggles.

I’m an optimist, though, so I’m always looking for the best in you.  You often show your best side, and those are my favorite memories.  We had a wonderful time on our vacation, and you accomplished your goal of making an excellent sand castle.  Your best times were in the pool, though.  You showed water bravery you’ve never shown before.  With the help of your water wings, you splashed and dunked and wiggled all over the place.  You made some friends in our condo complex and had a lot of fun with them in the pool.  You ate popsicles and noodles and french fries and were mostly sweet to your brother.

A big event happened in your mouth on vacation.  You lost your first tooth.  You were excited and proud, though the dollar and a quarter the tooth fairy left didn’t interest you too much.  I think cash is not particularly thrilling to you, since you see so little of it exchanged.

Photo by Denny

You reached a major milestone:  we set you a two-pronged goal of good behavior on vacation and reading twenty books all by yourself.  You accomplished it, so you earned a Nintendo Wii U.  We had held off thus far on a major gaming system, although I think your dad has been wanting one for a while.  You played Wii at a friend’s house, and of course you got hooked.  We went out and got a set, as well as a new TV to go with it.  Our family rule that you can only play on weekends (“Wii-kends”), and you count down the days all week.  You’re becoming quite a Mario expert.

Photo by Denny

You have about two more months of kindergarten, then we’ll settle into a more relaxed summer routine.  You’ll be taking some summer classes at your old digs, Willowwind.  You’ll also have some time off.  We plan to go to Lincoln to see your future cousin once he arrives in June, and you should definitely have more swimming lessons.  This winter was so awful, it’s great that spring is finally showing up.  It can be hard to drag you away from your computer and video games, but once you get outside, you always have fun.  You’ve gotten out on your bike a bit lately, and you and your dad and brother have been exploring the tunnels in the park.

Photo by Denny

Let’s try to keep it together and have a good spring and summer, my little Scoop.  I’m looking forward to having more time with you.  We’ll go to the library, play on the playground, eat frozen yogurt, and maybe even play a little extra Wii.

Love,

Mommy

 

3/27/2014

The Tobin Times #31

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:56 pm

My sweet Tobin,

Your brain is going so fast.  You are constantly learning, imitating, reciting, and analyzing the things you experience.  We just got back from our vacation to the Florida Keys—more on that later—and last night I heard you recite a book you hadn’t heard since before we left.  It wasn’t a short little board book, either.  It was a full-on story (Tacky the Penguin), and you knew the whole thing, almost word for word.  You’re a little sponge for input, so we’re trying to make good choices about what you consume.  You got more screen time than usual on vacation, but it was mostly Sid the Science Kid.  Some people find that show creepy, probably from the CGI animation, but I like it.  You learned a lot about rotting fruits.

You’ve been very sweet lately, really relishing cuddling up with your brother and giving your dad and me lots of hugs and kisses.  You were so excited when Miles taught you how to buckle your own seatbelt on the airplane (and, unfortunately, how to unbuckle it).  You love to climb into chairs with him and generally invade his space when he’ll let you.

Your naps have been getting more erratic.  You still nap more days than you don’t, but Thursdays are especially challenging.  That’s the day we need to pick your brother up at 2:00 instead of the usual 3:00, and if you’re going to have enough time for a nap and then a buffer to wake up and adjust to your life before I throw you in the car or the stroller, I pretty much have to get you down by noon.  Today, that did not happen.  You’re lying on my shoulder in bed right now, watchingCaillouwhile I write this.  The days you don’t nap often lead to tough evenings, but you generally go to sleep easily those nights.

Our trip was pretty much perfect.  The drive from Miami to Marathon Key was tough, after a long day of flying, but we made it.  Your dad and I were tired and hungry when we arrived, and you probably were too.  Still, we stopped by the beach to get our toes wet before we walked to a restaurant near our condo.  Nobody would have guessed that you’d been up since 5 a.m. and traveling all day by your behavior there.  You and Miles both went nuts for the ocean.  You probably didn’t remember your first visit to the ocean last year, so it was really exciting for you.  You guys ran in the sand, splashed in the gentle surf, and got a lot wetter than we’d planned considering we were headed straight to dinner.

One of my favorite parts of our trip was the several morning walks we took together.  You and I are usually the first ones up in the family on days when sleeping in is possible, and we took advantage of those early hours by exploring the beach at sunrise.  You loved the beach and the nice warm swimming pool, but your favorite water feature on the trip was the foot-wash station between the two.  That was another time when you got wetter than we expected, because a spigot that’s shin-high on a grownup is tummy-high on you.

You are currently very into kissing on the lips.  On our vacation, you mouth-kissed a little terrier of some kind, a dolphin, and me (not necessarily in that order).  The dolphin kiss happened at Theater of the Sea, a smaller-scale Sea World type of place.  We went with your cousin Clif and his family, who were also vacationing in Florida at the time.  Another fun thing we did was host my cousin Erin and her family, including cute little Gwyn.  They came to our condo and had fun at the beach and pool with us.  I don’t think you kissed Gwyn on the lips, for which the adults were grateful.

We were actually all healthy the whole time, praise the kind folks at Purell.  After all the colds and worse we’ve had this winter, it was wonderful to spend a truly happy and relaxed week together.  When I asked you what your favorite part of our vacation was, you said, “The little cookie packs.”  Yes, they were good.

You were happy to get home, though.  When you woke up yesterday morning and I reminded you that we were home in Iowa City, you smiled and said, “Yay,” in a sleepy little voice.  You were excited to get back to your dragon, dinosaur, and ogre toys, and of course the books we didn’t pack.  It’s been fun watching you rediscover your old favorites.

Thanks for being my travel buddy, Tobes.  I’m happy to see a sunrise for you no matter where we are.

Love,

Mommy

3/26/2014

Safety dance

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:09 pm

Miles and Tobin were sitting next to each other on an airplane.  Tobin leaned over to me.

T:  Mommy, Bubby taughted me how to fasten my seatbelt!  (patting Miles on the shoulder) You’re a good friend.

3/12/2014

Squishy

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:45 am

T:  Oh, marshmallows.

A:  You’re my marshmallow.

T:  No I’m not.

A:  You’re not?  What are you, then?

T:  I’m a sweet chub.

3/11/2014

Monthly Miles Memo #74

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:04 pm

Dear Miles,

This morning, I witnessed something I’d never seen you do before:  you were by yourself in Tobin’s room, sitting in the recliner, reading a book.

You’ve always been a fan of stories, and you’ve never had any trouble with your reading schoolwork.  You can sound out words, write sentences, and point out all the sight words you know.  But for some reason you’ve had a kind of block when it comes to just sitting down and reading.  I think it’s your perfectionism at work.  You worry you won’t be able to do it right, so you don’t want to try at all.  Have we gotten past that?  I hope so.  I often emphasize to you that knowing how to read doesn’t mean knowing every single word in the world, that your dad and I still find words we don’t know when we’re reading.  It brought such a smile to my face to see you sitting there, open book in your lap, your lips moving a little as you read for the sheer pleasure of reading.  I think your library card is going to get a workout this spring and summer.

We’re almost done with Ramona the Brave now, and I’ve told you that you can decide what’s next.  We could get another Ramona book, or there are a couple of others I bought for you recently:  Roald Dahl’s The Witches (one of my childhood favorites) and of course the immortal Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  I don’t know what you’ll choose, but we’ll certainly be ready for one of them by the time we go on our upcoming vacation to the Florida Keys.

You’re going to miss a couple of days of school for that trip, which I feel bad about, but we saved so much on airfare by adjusting our schedule by a few days that it was hard not to justify it.  You’re doing great in school anyway.  We had your spring conference a week or two ago, and we were so proud when your teachers told us about your progress.  You’re doing great academically—both your math and language skills are excellent.  I was most happy to hear that you’ve gotten a lot more comfortable in the school environment.  Your teachers say you’re a good friend to your classmates, play well with them, and do a good job participating in class activities.  You read aloud in front of your class and contribute ideas to discussions.  You have work to do in a few areas, such as personal organization (remembering to turn in your work), but you’re well on your way to a really successful school career.

I’ve been enjoying doing some volunteering with your school.  I’m working on your school yearbook, and I’ve been coming to your classroom occasionally to help with projects and events.  I love that you’re still happy to see me (and Tobin) when we show up.

You do great work at home, too.  Not only have you been doing more reading, you also are exercising your math skills.  You get a thrill out of playing games on a math website you use at school, but at home you sneak ahead and doing higher grade levels.  You have the second grade math games pretty well mastered.  You even have tried sixth grade math.  You need help with some of it—it’s basically pre-algebra, and you don’t have quite all the arithmetic you’d need to solve some of the problems.  But you have surprised me with your ability to think creatively and solve some of the problems on your own.

You also make very complex sculptures with your magnet toys.  Your dad says he had nothing to do with this one.  He was playing with Tobin, and you said, “Hey Dad, look what I made.”

We’ve managed to get outside a bit more lately, both to play in the snow and to enjoy the first truly spring-like day of the year.  We took advantage of a snow day that was actually pretty warm to do some unusual playground playing.  You got a kick out of going down the slide and making a big pile of snow at the bottom.  I’m hoping the truly bitter days of winter are past us now, though you did have a late start to school once last week.  You’ve missed so much school this year, from full-on cancellations to multiple late starts.  Hopefully that was the last.  In any case, the warm beaches of the Florida Keys are pretty appealing.

You have a Countdown to the Beach calendar in your room, which I may have mentioned before, because you’ve been excited about it for a while now.  Every day, you cross off a square, and now we’re getting really close.  You have a plan:  you want me to wake you up on our departure day with enough time to draw a circle around that day.  I’ll do my best, but we’re going to have to get up pretty early.  I’m anticipating a lot of moaning and gnashing of teeth on that travel day.  I bought some of those packs of mini Oreos you like.  I hope they work.

You and Tobin have been having a lot of fun together lately, and I’m optimistic that it will continue during our trip.  It might be better if you don’t sit next to each other on the plane, though.  Even sweet boys like you have their limits.

It’s been mostly a pleasure to be your mommy this month, Miles.  Thank you for the privilege.

Love,

Mommy

2/26/2014

Filet o’ Fish

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:00 pm

Tobin and I were looking at a picture of a shark in a magazine.

T:  What’s that shark’s name?

A:  I don’t know.  What do you think its name should be?

T:  Maybe…Beryl.

A:  Beryl?

T:  Yeah, Beryl.  Or Sandwich.

2/25/2014

The Tobin Times #30

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:05 pm

My sweet Tobin,

What’s new with you, little guy?  You’re officially two and a half now.  You love broccoli.  You have only very minimal interest in peeing on the potty.  You are crazy about reading books and can “read” many of your favorites aloud.  You would spend all day at kindergarten with your brother if it were allowed.

I did send in an application for you to go to Willowwind for preschool.  The application is technically for next fall, but you’ll turn 3 (the minimum entrance age) on August 21.  That’s cutting it pretty close, so I think we’re more likely to defer your start date until January.  You’re more likely to be potty trained when you’re about 3.5, and besides, I kind of want to keep you with me a while longer.

This has been a tough winter, and there’s no end in sight.  It’s so disheartening to look at the extended forecast and not see any highs over 17F.  We’ve only been able to really play outside once lately, on an unusually balmy and snowy afternoon.  It was perfect snowman snow, wet and heavy, and we got a pretty good anthropomorphic snow figure built before you took off for the park.  You couldn’t go very fast, since the snow was about up to your thighs, so it wasn’t too hard to catch you.

Of course, you got tired and wanted me to carry you.  It’s pretty hard to trudge through high, heavy snow with a toddler in one’s arms.  That was a good workout for me.  Once we got to the park, you and your brother had so much fun.  You went down the slides, swung on the swings, made snow angels, and threw snowballs.  Then we came home and had hot chocolate with marshmallows.  That’s what winter is supposed to be, not this Polar Vortex nonsense.

It’s a good thing we have our vacation to the Florida Keys coming up.  You’ve seen videos of yourself playing in the ocean, but it’s been long enough and you’re little enough that I hope you get another healthy dose of ocean glee.  If nothing else, it will be great to feel some warm sunshine on our skin and wear only one layer.  I’m a little nervous for the 4+ hour flight, since you can get awfully squirmy.  We got you your own seat this time, so maybe that will be more comfortable for everyone.  I’m planning on bringing lots of snacks and loading up the iPhone with stuff you’ll like.

You’ve been really sweet and affectionate lately.  The other day you were sitting on my lap,  and you turned around and wrapped your arms around me and said, “I love you soooo much.”  You’re generous with hugs and kisses, and you’re quick to comfort anyone who needs a little love.  Your tantrums seem to be diminishing a bit.  Could we possibly be sliding out of the period of disequilibrium that has haunted you (us) for the last half year?

Like every other kid in the nation, pretty much, you’re wild about Disney’s Frozen.  You can sing along with “Let it Go” almost as well as your brother.  You want to watch clips from the movie all the time, which isn’t so bad, but right now you’re obsessed with this fan video of a girl belting out “Let it Go.”  She’s making a good effort, but she really can’t hit the high notes, and could we please find a different video to watch over and over?  Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Word Girl are better.  You like those too.

Given our house-bound situation this winter, you and your dad have invented several active games to help you burn off some of your energy.  You play “race,” which is as simple as it sounds:  you say, “On your mark, get set, GO” and race down the hallway.  Your problem is that you always want to be looking over your shoulder to see if your dad is going to catch up, and one of these times I know you’re going to run into a wall.  Please, spring, please.  We need some serious park time.

You also like to play a modified version of tee-ball with a bath poof and your Jake and the Neverland Pirates foam sword.  Nobody’s lost an eye yet.

We’ll celebrate your next month birthday on the beach, little guy.  You can run and splash and be semi-nude all day if you want.  That sounds pretty great to me, too.  I’ll bring the sunscreen and you bring the smiles, okay?  We’ll be sure to take a lot of pictures.

Photo by Denny

I love you, Chub-chub.

Mommy

2/11/2014

Royalty

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:51 pm

Tobin recently suffered from a diaper rash, which is a lot better now.  I commented on it during a diaper change.  Later that night, at the dinner table…

T:  (sounding genuinely puzzled) What am I?

A:  Uh…Tobin?

T:  No.

A:  My little sweetheart?

T:  Am I…the Butt King?

And it’s true, that’s just what I had declared him.

Broad definition

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:49 pm

T:  My favorite animal.

A:  What’s your favorite animal?

T:  Um…a sheep.

A:  Oh, those are cute.

T:  I also like robots.  They’re even bigger.  (pause)  My favorite animal is ME!

Monthly Miles Memo #73

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:12 pm

My dear Miles,

Man, we’ve had a rough month.  Our whole family has been sick, on and off but mostly on, for pretty much the whole winter.  But your dad and I have noticed that despite all the challenges, you have been a really great guy.  You’ve been loving and mostly patient with your brother, cooperative when we need you to do things, and you’re even getting pretty good at keeping track of your mittens.  This has been not only a sick winter but a terribly, bitterly cold one.  You’ve had school cancellations and late-starts at least once a week for months, it seems.  Getting thrown off schedule makes everything confusing for our family, but you’ve handled it very well, overall.

There have been challenging moments, but most of the time you’ve done a great job.  In order to celebrate that, we had a Miles Appreciation Day the other week.  It involved doing some of your favorite things:  a morning trip to Daylight Donuts, and later a movie (Frozen, your current favorite), of course with popcorn and Sprite.

We read your first chapter book together recently, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Pest. I loved the Ramona books when I was a kid, so it was a lot of fun for me to read it with you.  I was surprised by how many scenes and details I remembered from reading it when I was your age.  Beverly Cleary is very talented at capturing and not belittling the emotions of being a kid.  It can be frustrating to be small, but a lot of things are elating, too (like getting recognition from a beloved teacher).  It’s different fare than what you’re used to, with no mad scientists or witches or dragons, but it only took one chapter for you to get hooked.  We’ve ordered another Ramona book for you with a bookstore gift card you got for Christmas, and I’m excited to keep reading with you.

Ramona the Pest was a present from your friend James, with whom you shared a small birthday party in January. He’s a new school friend, and you and he and some other friends from your class had fun at the Natural History Museum.  It was kind of a low turnout, due to crummy weather (story of our lives lately), but the kids who were there had fun.  You even had a cake decorated with the image of the Natural History Museum mascot, the giant sloth.

One of your favorite hobbies right now is making shadow puppets.  You read a Curious George book in which George did that, and now you’re always wanting to set up flashlights or position lamps to create a spotlight.  Then you twist your fingers into crazy positions, which fortunately you don’t ask anyone to guess.  I think there’s a dog in your repertoire, and probably a rabbit, too.  There are also a bunch I don’t recognize at all.

You’re a master builder of Lego, K’nex, and Lincoln Log sculptures.  We have a family rule:  if you didn’t build it, you don’t break it.  Not everyone does a great job of adhering to that rule, and that can be hard on you sometimes.  You don’t really embrace the ephemeral nature of block structures:  you want to keep them forever, and as much as we try to keep Tobin from destroying them, it doesn’t always work.  We end up taking a lot of pictures of them.

Photo by Denny

You had a dentist appointment recently, and your dad told me the hygienist said one of your teeth was a tiny bit loose.  He qualified it by saying the dentist said it could still be a while, but it won’t be forever.  Who knows whether you’ll lose a tooth as a kindergartner like Ramona, but you’ll have a window in your mouth one of these months.  I remember when you were a baby and I felt that first tiny tooth poking out of your gums.  I cried, and your dad thought I was weird.  I was happy you were developing well, of course, but it was such a big step out of babyhood.  I don’t know if I’ll cry or not when you lose your first tooth, but it will probably be that very same one that choked me up when you were just a little guy.

A couple of days ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep due to a snoring situation in my bedroom.  I decided to crawl into bed with you, and you were so cuddly and warm.  It was a really blissful hour until Tobin realized I was gone and demanded my presence again.  I don’t think you even knew I was there, as you’re a log-like sleeper these days, but I was happy in any case.

Photo by Denny

I’ve started doing some work from home part-time, and I’m volunteering at your school, and of course there the usual chores of life that pull me away from where I wish I could be.  Life is busy, and I’m happy to be busy with you, but there’s something really great about sneaking an hour out of the night just to be quiet with you.

I’ll keep you warm, little Miles.  I love you forever.

Mommy

 

1/29/2014

Cutting remarks

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:44 pm

The boys have a toy sword they both like to play with a lot.  Tobin was having a hard time sharing it with Miles, who wished he had it.  Tobin was prowling around the living room with it in his hands.

T:  What shall I cut?

M:  How about you cut down your interest in that sword?

Nobody knows

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:04 pm

Tobin was standing on the hearth and bouncing up and down.

T:  What’s happening with this house?  It seems like it’s shaking.  Or…a skeleton!  (pause)  Why am I doing this?

1/27/2014

The best medicine

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:32 pm

I’m sick, and Tobin has been doing a good job being sweet to me.  I was resting on the couch, and he came to check on me.

T:  Are you feeling your best?

A:  No, I’m not.

T:  Do you need some love?

And then he gave me a very nice snuggle.

1/23/2014

Pattern recognition

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:14 pm

Tobin was being rude and messing with a drawing Miles was working on.  Miles got mad at him and Tobin ended up in tears.  I picked him up to try to calm him down, but apparently I wasn’t being as soothing as he thought I ought to be, and I guess I missed an important line.

T:  Is Mommy here?

1/22/2014

Needed: 1 biology lesson

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:45 pm

M:  If it’s husband and husband, how do they have kids?

A:  Sometimes they adopt kids.

M:  Well, at least if it’s wife and wife, it’s easy.

The Tobin Times #29

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:17 pm

My not-so-little Chub-Chub,

We measured you and your brother the other night, and you have grown over four inches since last January.  You’re almost to the three-feet mark.  I have nearly a yard of Tobin.  It’s probably because you do such a good job eating healthy food.  Last night we had black bean soup for dinner, and you requested (and finished) three bowls full.  You’re also big on broccoli, asparagus, and salads from the Hy-Vee salad bar.  I hope you hold onto these preferences, though it seems like a lot of kids fall into a picky stage in late toddlerhood.  For the time being, I’ll keep filling you with fruits and vegetables and hope the vitamins accumulate in case of future deficiencies.

You’re in a big “I can do it” stage, whether it’s putting on your coat or making coffee.  I always have to budget extra time for everything, because nothing takes the amount of time it would take if you let me help you.  Your favorite thing ever is to go into your brother’s kindergarten classroom and act like one of the big kids.  You love the drinking fountains and tables and toys they have there.  These cold days have been tough on you, because you really love playing outside.  After school, you and your brother love to scramble around on the snow pile outside.  I let you as long as I can stand it, which hasn’t been very long lately.  We’re in what the media are calling an “Arctic Vortex,” the second of the month.  I’m not sure what that means exactly, but we’ve had some really cold days.

You’re also probably about ready to give up naps.  I am not ready for you to give up naps.  In fact, you’re napping right now as I write this, and without my mid-day break, I’m not sure when I’ll get things like this done.  But napping doesn’t last forever, and the upside of dropping naps is easier bedtime.

Our current bedtime routine involves you, your dad, and your brother all crowded into Miles’s bed.  Your dad reads you guys stories, but I don’t know if you’ve ever lay quietly through the whole set.  You’re always standing on the bed, running out of the room to go find me, messing around with the lamp, or fiddling with the curtains.  Once the stories are over, I take your dad’s place in Miles’s bed and cuddle with you guys until you fall asleep.  On the days you skip your nap, it happens pretty fast.  Other days…who knew lying in a bed could be such a frustrating experience?  I swear, that curtain rod is going to come crashing down on our heads one of these days.

Photo by Denny

We’ve made it through the holiday insanity now, which extends into your brother’s birthday.  I ordered you an un-birthday present, but due to the Polar Vortex gumming up the UPS delivery schedule, it didn’t arrive until several days after Miles’s birthday.  Fortunately, you’re more interested in the opening process than the contents, and Miles was generous about letting you help him rip off wrapping paper.  I’ve saved the present for another time—perhaps an upcoming trip.

Your favorite thing right now are your Jake and the Neverland (or Wonderland, as you say) Pirates toys.  You have a sword that you wave around a lot, and little characters and a map you like to play with.  I even got you some Jake underpants, which you were initially excited about (and had a little bit of success and a couple of accidents in).  You sort of lost enthusiasm for those, and it’s been so cold I don’t want you running around pantsless, so I’m biding my time on that.  We’ll keep working on it.

Your other major hobby is dragging the bathroom stool around and using it to reach things you’re not supposed to get.  We even caught you trying to haul it down the basement stairs, which fortunately didn’t turn out as badly as it could have.  I have to admire your problem-solving skills.

You’re still full of funny expressions and surprising words.  Yesterday I put you on the changing table to change your diaper, and you said, very matter-of-fact-ly, “A baby goat is called a kid.”  Today, also on the changing table (the changing table seems to be where you do your best conversing), you said, “Excellent shot, I say so myself.”  You were holding your brother’s suction-cup dart gun at the time.  It wasn’t loaded.

The concept of family has really been on your radar lately.  There’s this game on my phone you like to watch me play that involves rescuing a butterfly from a spider.  You named the butterfly Orangey.  When the butterfly gets too close to the spider, it trembles, and when you saw it do that, you said, “Is Orangey scared? Does he want to be with his family?”

You’ve been really into puzzles lately, and your preferred way of doing them is for your dad or me to crouch on all fours, then you climb under the person’s torso and do the puzzle from there.  You call it Daddy (or Mommy) Cave.  I guess, like poor Orangey, you just want to be protected by your family.  It’s not too bad on the carpet downstairs, but the other day you wanted to do four puzzles on the hardwood floor upstairs.  Nobody told me being your mom would require kneepads.  When we finished a puzzle with a picture of  a lion with a fluffy mane, you said, “That lion has unusual hair.”

Your hair is a bit unusual too.  It could probably use a trim, but I can’t bring myself to cut off your little blond curls just yet.  Earlier today, you ate an ice cream sandwich and made a mid-level mess on yourself.  You came up to me, sticky hands outstretched, and said, “I look awful.”  You didn’t look awful, sweetheart.  You often look unorthodox, but you’ve never looked awful to me.  Sometimes I have to pluck you up from your nap without taking the time to put you in fresh clothes or wash your face in order to get to school on time to pick up Miles.  Now and then I half-heartedly wonder if the other parents thing I’m raising a little urchin.  But I don’t wonder it hard enough to make much effort to change you.  Anybody who squats down by you and hears what you have to say will know that there’s more to you than grubby cheeks and weird hair.

I love you, my special Tobin.  Have a good month.

Love,

Mommy

1/19/2014

A kind invitation

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:23 pm

Tobin mostly sleeps with Denny and me.  I was the first one awake this morning, and I was trying to sneak out of bed without disturbing anyone.  Tobin woke up and caught me trying to escape.

T:  Come join the cuddle party!

I did, of course.

1/10/2014

Preemptive strike

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:56 pm

This afternoon, I was talking to Miles in his room.  When I came back to the living room, I saw that Tobin had moved the bathroom stool over to a cabinet and was staring at a bunch of stuff he wasn’t supposed to touch.  When he saw me, he said…

T:  I’m just doing nothing!

Monthly Miles Memo #72

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:15 pm

My dearest Miles,

I think you’ve grown.  So many of your pants are too short.  I was about to buy you some new pants when your dad told me to stop, you’ve got lots of pants.  I’m not sure if he realizes how tall you’ve gotten, though.  You’ve finished your school lunch every day this week, which is unusual for you.

Photo by Denny

My tentative diagnosis:  you’re six.  Six!  This birthday spread itself over quite a span.  First we had a birthday celebration as part of a late-Christmas gathering with Mubby and Skittergramps.  Then we had our immediately family party with decorations, presents, and a special birthday sundae.  You were supposed to take treats to school on your true birthday, but the Arctic Vortex came through and cancelled school for two days.  The Arctic Vortex is all anybody’s talking about these days, but I have the feeling we’re going to re-read this in ten years and not even remember what it was.  Anyway, your teachers adjusted the treat schedule, and you ended up bringing your cake (complete with decorative robot rings) yesterday.


Photo by Denny

I came to your class to help manage the treat situation, and it was so much fun watching you in school.  Your classmates seem like a really sweet bunch, and they enjoyed the cake a lot.  One task everyone completed was to color a special birthday picture for you, which was a cupcake with a variegated cupcake holder bottom.  You did one too, and you were so methodical about coloring in the bottom in a specific pattern.  It was a slow process:  open the yellow marker, color in one stripe.  Put the lid back on the yellow marker.  Open the black marker, color in the next stripe.  Put the lid on the black marker.  Repeat.  You got about two-thirds of the way through the cupcake picture before your teacher called the class to the carpet, and it stressed you out that you weren’t done.

That’s how you are:  you want to do things right, and you want to do them on your own schedule.  You don’t like shortcuts, and sometimes it drives your dad and me kind of crazy when we need to get out the door or put you to bed.  As you and your friends were getting bundled up to go out for recess, your teacher suggested that you emulate firefighters:  jump quickly into your snowpants and boots.  That analogy must not have resonated with you very much.  Perhaps you’re better suited to a career in art restoration or computer programming.

Photo by Beth Clarke

One of your favorite things to do right now is make “germs,” which I believe you first learned to do at school.  It involves a lot of construction paper snipping and tape.  It’s a good thing I got a mega-pack of Scotch tape at Costco a while back, because between Christmas, your birthday, and your hobbies, we’ve been going through it.  Your germs are pretty cute, actually—anthropomorphic and colorful.  You still need a lot of reminders to wash your hands, but at least germs are on your radar.


Photo by Denny

You’ve been in a very sweet stage lately.  You’ve been more patient with your brother than he often deserves.  You do have a hard time sharing sometimes, especially your two favorite gifts:  a big Play-Doh cake-making kit and a balloon-animal-making kit.  Because he wants everything you have, Tobin can get grabby, and you can get frustrated.  I understand how you feel, and mostly you do a good job handling it.

It was a very big deal for you to be helper at school yesterday.  It’s a rotating honor that coincides with being in charge of bringing snack, so you’ve done it before, but celebrating a birthday also nets a person helper privileges.  One helper task I witnessed involved drawing a name from a hat.  You drew the name, glanced at it for only a moment, and began giving your friends clues as to who it was.  “It’s a boy…his name has seven letters…it starts with Or-Or-Or…” you said, grinning hugely the whole time.  That meant Orlando got to choose a prize.  Then, the teacher drew another name and gave it to you to read.  I didn’t think your smile could get any bigger, but as you said, “It’s a boy…his name has five letters…it starts with Mi-Mi-Mi…” it did, in fact.  I don’t know whether whether she chose your name by sheer luck or kind-hearted engineering, but either way, it capped off a great day in kindergarten.  You chose a sparkly bracelet.  You feel an item has to be really sparkly to qualify as treasure.  I blame Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

Now is the part of the Monthly Miles Memo (divisible by 12 varietal) where I get nostalgic about how it seems so recently that you were my tiny little one-hander baby (I could hold you in one hand, I mean—you’ve always had two hands).  I’m sitting here on the very same couch where I sat six years ago when we brought you home from the hospital.  We didn’t have hardly any baby equipment yet, as your early arrival caught us off guard.  Your dad had gone out to run an errand, and I was sitting there, exhausted from the difficult work and little sleep that go along with a baby’s early days.  I remember that moment so clearly:  I had vague hopes of sleeping, and you were sitting in your car seat because we didn’t have a bouncy seat or swing or anything.  I lay down on the couch, which was in such pristine condition back then, and didn’t get any sleep because I couldn’t stop hearing every tiny noise you made.

That hasn’t changed.  In the middle of the night last night, I heard you whimpering.  I woke your dad up, and he went into your room and comforted you, so all was well.  But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to close my ears to you for the rest of my life.  Even when you grow up and move away (which you still aren’t completely sure you’ll ever do, and you know it’s okay with me if you want to stick around), I’ll probably still wake up at night, sure I can hear you snoring.

The couch is pretty much destroyed.  Your pants are mostly too short.  You may never finish that cupcake coloring page.  But that’s the way things are, that’s the way you are, and that’s the way I love you.  We can buy a new couch (perhaps in a more resilient fabric this time), we can buy you new pants, and nobody ever flunked kindergarten for not finishing a picture.  You are six, you are sweet, and you are mine.


Photo by Denny

I love you so much.

Mommy

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