The Tobin Times #36

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:34 pm

My sweet little blondie boy,

I was looking at the family portrait Skittergramps took for us last fall, and I realized a shocking difference between then and now:  you didn’t have your curls yet.  I don’t know exactly when they appeared, but it had to have been within the last year, but your golden curls have come to define you.

You are springy and sproingy, a little wild, but undeniably tender and sweet.  You love to shoot hoops and play catch, but you also are quick to invent imaginary play games.  Yesterday you decided the arm of the couch was a stove, and we used a little pot and utensils to make pretend couscous.  Your favorite toys are diggers, excavators, dump trucks, and anything you can smash, dig, or put into them.  You love babies and do such a sweet job of singing the ABCs to my tummy.  We have a good relationship of mutual cuddling.

Photo by Gary Clarke

On your actual birthday last Thursday, I took you out to the big mall to have some lunch, play on the playground, ride the carousel, and cash in a gift card.  Your normal approach to eating a bagel with cream cheese is to stick the knife in the cream cheese and lick it directly off.  This time, though, with no prompting from me, you spread it carefully on the bagel.  You even ate most the the actual bagel rather than just licking off the cream cheese.  When I praised you for your advances in bagel/cream cheese consumption, you said, “I’m three now, so I can do that.”

Other things you can do:  you can demand that you get into the car not through the door closer to your car seat, but through your brother’s side.   You have to crawl over his seat into your own, and then you’ll deign to let me strap you in.  When it’s time to get out of the car, I absolutely must be the one to get you out.  Never mind that if your dad is there, he’s closer.  Never mind that my growing abdomen is making these tasks increasingly hard.  You know what you want and you have no qualms about communicating it.

Your brother went back to school last week, and you miss him.  You always hug him so tightly when he comes out of the building at the end of the school day that I’m afraid you’ll knock him over.  It has been nice havingmore mommy/Tobin time, though.  We’ve been working in the garden, playing in the dirt with your digging toys, hanging out with your girlfriend the Hy-Vee employee, and reading books.  You also like to watch videos, of course, and your current favorite is an animated version of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

Photo by Denny

You also like to watch Potty Power, though that has yet to translate into any success in the actual potty-using realm.  It would be really nice to have you potty-trained before Little Potato arrives, both because it would mean not having two kids in diapers at once, and also because you’d be preschool eligible.  In my dream world, you’d start preschool before the baby is born, so you can get accustomed to a routine and we can space out the major life changes.  But planning can only take a person so far, as hard as that is for me to admit.

We’re both feeling pretty sleepy and cuddly right now.  We had a rough night due to your first true bunk bed mishap.  About 3:30 a.m., I heard you crying hard, so I rushed in to check on you.  I got to the room just in time to see you thunk out of bed, banging your head on the bedframe on the way down.  I’m not even sure you truly woke up.  It might have been a night terror that got too much gravity involved.  You fell back asleep just moments later in my arms.  I stayed with you in bed for the rest of the night so I could check you periodically for breathing.  You slept fine.  You breathed fine.  I did well in the breathing department too, though not so much in the sleeping.

I lamented my tired state to you just now, saying I didn’t feel like exercising, but you said, “You can do it, Mommy!”  I think your enthusiasm has less to do with concern for my physical fitness and more to do with eating barbecue chips and watching Curious George.  I appreciate your support, anyway.

You’ve taken a recent interest in the song parody I dedicated to you when you were tiny, “Baby, I Need You, Tobin” (to the tune of The Four Tops’ classic “Baby, I Need Your Lovin’”).  You like to sing it and have me sing it to you.  I have a USB microphone, and you brought it to me the other day wanting to sing into it.  I wasn’t in the mood to start a music project at that moment, so I tried to put you off by saying we couldn’t do it without the right USB cable.  You took off for downstairs, and thirty seconds later, you reemerged with exactly the right USB cable in your hand.  I was pretty impressed.  For one thing, we as a family own a lot of USB cables.  For another, I didn’t even know you knew what the words “USB cable” mean.   Of course we recorded the song.  I couldn’t let that kind of achievement go unrewarded.

That’s you, Tobin.  Your sizzling little brain surprises me all the time, with all the ideas and words and creativity that spiral out of you like your curls coming out of your hair follicles.  But please, please try to be careful.  We love your brain and we wish you’d stop banging it into things.  I will hold you and kiss you every time you bonk yourself, but I’d rather do it just because you’re so sweet.

I’m so privileged to have been your mommy for the third year.  Thank you for all the wonderful things you bring to our family. You’re my sugarbug always.

Photo by Denny

I love you more than you can know.



What goes in

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:19 pm

Tobin invented a joke.

T:  What did the fresh banana say to the decomposing banana?

A:  What?

T:  The fresh banana will stay here, and the decomposing banana will go in his butt.


Borrowed body parts

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:24 am

Miles was wondering whether he’d need glasses when he got older.

A:  Well, your dad got glasses when he was a teenager, so maybe.  But maybe you’ll end up with my eyes and not need any.

M:  But I already have my eyes!


Monthly Miles Memo #79

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:59 pm

My special Miles,

You have a new favorite person.  He’s small (relative to you), cute, and likes pictures of pigs.  His name is Baby Aleks, and he’s your very first first cousin.  That is, he’s Uncle Tyler and Aunt Oxana’s son, and you love him like crazy.  We got to go meet him for the first time at his home in Lincoln a couple of weeks ago, and you took every single opportunity you could to hold him.  You invented a game called “Touch the pig,” which involved you holding up a picture of a pig and telling him to touch it.  He did it enough times that you’re sure it wasn’t coincidence.  Sometimes you sigh about how much you miss him and speculate about how much he surely misses you.

Photo by Gary Clarke

I knew you were excited to meet him, but I was surprised by just how enthusiastic yet gentle and loving you were.  That’s even more evidence of what a good double-big brother you’re going to be.  Our Lincoln trip also involved a trip to the surprisingly large and fun Natural History Museum.  You liked the dinosaurs, the interactive computer-based activities, and the identify-a-smell challenge.  We agreed that the “chocolate” smelled terrible, like stinky feet.

Photo by Denny

You’re enjoying a couple of weeks off before school restarts.  We got to spend some time with Nana, Papa, and other extended family on a recent trip to Des Moines and Albia, as well as when Nana and Papa stopped by our house for a quick overnight.  Now we’re at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house for “mini-vacation,” which involves a lot of sweets and late bedtimes.  You’ve also had fun building and decorating a cardboard tunnel, splashing in the little pool, and playing in the sandbox.

We had a fun trip to Dubuque to see cousin Maxwell’s performance of Shrek:  The Musical.  We spent the night, and the next day the whole gang of us went to the Mississippi River Museum.  You and Max and Meredith and Tobin had a great time exploring that place.  There was an enormous tank with sharks and other sea creatures, and opportunity to touch a real snake (you declined), and a cool wiggly river raft simulator.  Your favorite part was the mock-up of a wood-fueled riverboat.  You got to put logs into a pretend furnace and watch them glow as if on fire.  You did that about forty times.

Photo by Denny

Another thing you’re currently obsessed with is making prank videos to publish on YouTube.  We stumbled upon one in which a guy faked dropping his wife’s Nintendo 3DS into their swimming pool, and you got it into your head that you needed to make prank videos too, and that you’d get a million subscribers.  We’ve only made one so far, and I think your dad is our only subscriber, but maybe our following will grow as you perfect your craft.

You’re all done with summer school now.  This seems like a short summer, considering how late you got out of school in the spring due to so many snow/cold days and the fact that school starts on the 19th of August this year.  We got school supplies, which was kind of fun, although you don’t get much flexibility in color or style of your items.  I remember finding it fun to choose exciting folders and pen colors, but your school supply list had very specific requirements.

Photo by Denny

First grade will be starting soon.  We have the Popsicles with the Principal event coming up next week, when you’ll drop off your school supplies, have a treat, and find out who your teacher will be next year.  I’ve heard good things about all the first grade teachers, but there’s one you’re a little nervous you might get.  The description I’ve heard of her is that she’s “tough but fair,” which sounds fine to me.  You heard a rumor that she yanks kids’ wiggly teeth out of their heads, and you’re terrified that you’ll be her victim.  I’ve tried to reassure you that if you get put into her class, I’ll talk to her and tell her she should keep her hands out of your mouth (which is probably a moot point, as that sounds like the kind of story like I heard about Mr. Tosten, the supposed dangler of children out the second-storey window by their ankles).  Odds are that you’ll get one of the other two teachers anyway, but even if you end up with her, I’m sure you’ll do fine.  One of our Hy-Vee friends has a son who thinks she’s the best teacher ever.

Photo by Denny

You’ve lost yet another tooth, and two more are wiggly.  This last one got a special boost from Tobin, who bonked it and hastened its departure from your mouth.  You were a little freaked out by the blood, but you got over it, and the tooth fairy visited the top bunk for the first time.

Your reading and writing skills have grown over the summer.  You read enough to earn the special Wii U game your dad offered up as a prize.  You’ve also been doing lots of spontaneous reading and writing.  You’ve written me notes, and I see you reading signs in your environment and books over people’s shoulders.  You’re excited about the Magic Treehouse series right now, along with the Laurence Anholt artist series.  Mubby and Skittergramps bought you a Laurence Ahnolt book that our library doesn’t have, and you got just as excited for that as you did for Super Mario 3D World.  Leonardo da Vinci is your personal hero.

Photo by Denny

The next time I check in here, you will have been a first grader for a couple of weeks already.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you learn over the next year and what you get excited about.  I hope you make great new friends and keep in touch with old ones.  I hope you eat something in your packed lunches besides grapes and Wheat Thins.

I’m not placing any bets on that last one.

But I still love you.





Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:01 pm

Tobin chose fried rice with egg and vegetables to go with his Hy-Vee Chinese Express beef and broccoli.  After he finished all the broccoli…

A:  Do you want some of your rice?

T:  (poking at it)  This rice is kind of…um…complicated.


The Tobin Times #35

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:08 pm

Dear Tobin,

Here we are, in your last month as a two-year-old.  You’re becoming a big boy in a lot of ways.  One of the biggest developments of the month is that you and your brother got bunk beds.  You’ve done great in them so far.  Your brother technically has the top bunk, but the bottom holds a full-sized mattress.  About half the time, he ends up sleeping down there with you.  We don’t do it that way on purpose.  It happens when we’re all cuddling down there, with the plan that he and I will go up to the top bunk after you fall asleep.  But you are quite a champion at fighting sleep, and a good amount of the time, he falls asleep before you do.

That’s okay.  You seem to like having him down there with you, and I like it too.  You haven’t wanted to get into bed with your dad and me since you got the bunk bed.  You do wander into our room fairly often and want me to join you in your bed, but I assume you’ll get over that.  It’s a step in the right direction, and at least I don’t have to sleep with you draped all over me anymore.

I sort of miss you, though.  It didn’t bother me much when we took some recent trips and stayed in hotels, and you shared a bed with me.  Our trips have been due to some fun family events.  We saw Shrek:  The Musical twice in two weeks, because two of our family members were in the casts.  The first was Uncle Mark, who absolutely killed it at the Des Moines Playhouse.  He played Lord Farquaad, and he balanced the sight gags with great singing and theatrical panache. You were especially excited to meet the actor who played Shrek after the show.  You gave him a high five, and you said his hand felt slobbery.

We followed that event with some time in Des Moines with family and friends.  You especially enjoyed new cousin Charlie.  You just adore babies, and we’re really looking forward to meeting cousin Aleks next weekend.  I’m sure we’ll have large numbers of pictures documenting the time we spend in Lincoln.  I love how gentle and caring you are with babies.  It makes me feel confident that you’ll be a great big brother in January.

Photo by Denny

One thing I hope you accomplish before January:  potty training.  We got out Miles’s old Potty Power DVD.  You love watching it and singing along with the songs, though you haven’t done a whole lot in terms of actual potty usage yet.  You sat on the potty last night, which seemed promising, but nothing emerged.  You threw an enormous fit this morning because you wanted to eat the chocolate eggs my friend gave us to use as bribes.  I stuck to my convictions, though.  No excretin’, no egg-eatin’.  We’ve got six months or so to work on it, though I’d appreciate it if you got the hang of it sooner.  You can’t go to preschool until you’re potty trained, and it would be nice for you to be adjusted to school before the baby arrives.

Our second Shrek featured cousin Maxwell, who was a stellar Humpty Dumpty.  You had a little trouble sitting through it both times, but you definitely had fun with Max and Meredith.  They came and swam with us at the hotel, and then we all went out for brunch and to the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque.  That was a very cool place, and you enjoyed the interactive exhibits.  You also really, really liked Max’s Nintendo 3DS.  You’d seen a big kid playing one in the park some months ago, and the concept has never left your brain.  Max was very generous about letting you watch and even try it out.  You’re too little to have one of your own, but you sure disagree with that sentiment.  I think it’s fair that kids who can’t use the potty can’t have 3DSes.  It’s a wee bit pricey to use as a reward, though.

A more appropriate reward for true mastery might be another construction toy.  Your obsession with them, as well as their real-life counterparts, burns on.  I hope there’s a lot of road construction of the non-delay-causing type on our way to Lincoln, because you get really excited about excavators and back-hoes and dump trucks.  You still love to sit out in our front dirt pile and dig.  You have memorized several digger books from the library.

We did some redecorating in the living room over the last few weeks, and you wanted to help so much.  Unfortunately, most of your helping involved touching freshly-painted walls, so I ended up taking you and your brother out on a lot of errands so your dad could get work done.  That worked out okay.  You helped me pick out some new curtains, and you got to try mango juice at Costco.

You’re tired now, because you’ve been moving away from naps.  This can make for some long afternoons, especially because you’ve picked up the very annoying habit of saying, “But, Mo-o-o-o-o-m” whenever you don’t like how something is going.  Sometimes you even say it when you have nothing to complain about, presumably because you like making so many syllables out of one word.

You’re also in the middle of a stage I remember your brother going through, though I don’t remember at exactly what age.  It’s the stage in which you strictly assign tasks to certain people (usually me), and nobody else may complete them.  The biggest one right now is getting you out of your car seat.  Never mind that you sit behind the driver’s side, so it’s more convenient for your dad to take you out when we’re all getting out of the car at the same time.  Never mind that I’m often carrying a bag of library books and soggy clothes from a fountain adventure.  No—nobody can get you out of your seat but Mommy.  In general I prefer not to negotiate with terrorists, but I tell myself I’m picking battles by letting you have this one.

But let me tell you, you’re not getting any of those chocolate eggs without a legit pee or poop on the potty.  This much I swear.

Photo by Denny

We may have to hide the chocolate eggs from your dad, although I suppose he does a good enough job on the potty that he’s earned some.  Easter eggs are hard to come by in July, though, and I don’t want to squander them.

Your current favorites:  the “Wipe Your Bottom” song from Potty Power, excavator videos (still), broccoli (still), grabbing things triumphantly from your brother, playing outside and in the dirt, and sleeping in your Special Tobin Cave.

My current favorites:  your blond curls that get so fluffy in humid weather, when you kiss my tummy and say hi to Little Potato, your giant smile.  You are the sweetest, little Tobin.

Photo by Denny




A tangled web

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:37 am

We were staying at a hotel.  Tobin semi-woke up at about 6 a.m., crying and touching his head.  He fell back asleep without telling me what the problem was.  A couple of hours later, he woke up for real.  The first thing he did was touch his head.  Then he said, with relief in his voice:

T:  My curls are okay!


Monthly Miles Memo #78

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:10 pm

My dear Miles,

As always, the summer is going fast.  You’ve been doing a good job in your summer classes:  Math Wizards, Amazing Animals, Clay Creations, and Ratta-tat-tat.  Next week you start your final class, a three-week affair called Math and Reading Challenge.

You still claim not to like reading, but I’ve noticed that whenever you see a sign or other opportunity to decipher words, you go for it.  You’re working toward earning a new Wii U game by reading books above and beyond the library’s summer reading program requirements, and I have no doubt you’ll succeed.

You’ve recently declared that your future profession is an artist.  I think that’s because we’ve been reading a really cool series of books lately.  They’re Laurence Anholt’s artist series, and each one is a reasonably accurate view of a famous artist told through the lens of his/her friendship with a child.  We’ve learned some interesting things:  da Vinci was not only an artist and scientist but also a musician, and you had fun reading some backward writing like da Vinci did in his journals.  Matisse was jolly and lively, even when age and infirmity confined him to his bed.  Van Gogh was clearly mentally ill.  Degas was kind of a jerk.

You’ve been drawing portraits of everyone in the family lately.  You’ve come a long way from the stick figures you used to draw.  Now people have nostrils and fingers and multi-layered ears.  Tobin has nice curly hair.

Your other current obsession is Minecraft.  You play on my phone sometimes, but you also learned that you can check out iPads at the library, and you love playing on the bigger screen.  I don’t think your dad wants you to know that he has Minecraft on his iPad.

I was a little nervous about telling you that I was pregnant with your future brother-to-be, but you have been nothing but excited.  We were eating dinner in a restaurant when we told you kids, and you just got into the best mood.  “These are the best French fries ever!” you said.  When you were on a break from summer school, you sometimes watched Sesame Street with Tobin in the morning, and whenever a baby was on the screen you got a huge smile on your face.  I know you’re going to be a great brother this time around too.

Your only complaint was when we found out it’s a boy.  You’ve come around to the idea now, I think, on the condition that we name the baby Fred.  I personally like the name, but I don’t think your dad does.  Maybe he’d let you name his iPad Fred.

With an eye toward the future, we just got bunk beds for you and Tobin.  You guys were so excited to pick them out at the store, and to choose new sheets, and to get them all set up.  When the delivery truck came today and the workers got the beds assembled, I thought you guys were both going to explode with the thrill of it all.  You have reserved the top bunk (with red sheets, your current favorite color) and Tobin seems happy to take the bottom, but you’ve both decided you’d probably like to visit the other for some cuddles.

You two torture each other a fair amount, but you’re wonderful to each other a lot of the time too.  We went to Tot Time a week or two ago, and I was so impressed by how caring and concerned you were about Tobin.  You helped him find a trike to ride, and you made sure he got into the bouncy house safely, and you watched out for him around all the other kids.  Tobin honestly doesn’t need much protection, but nonetheless, I’m glad you’re the kind of guy who keeps an eye out for your little brother.  Tobin and Little Potato are both lucky to have you.

You visited a pet store with your Amazing Animals class, and you got the idea that you want to buy a piranha.  That surprised me, since when the store employee asked who was brave enough to feed the piranha, you kept your hands glued to your sides and looked around nervously.  But I guess you got braver in absentia, because you’ve been talking about it a lot.  Unfortunately, it costs $150, not including tank and other accessories.  You suggested you could use your tooth fairy money, and I said it cost a lot more than the $1.25 you found under your pillow.  You followed up with Plan B, which involved me chipping in some.  I mostly am just hoping you lose interest.

We’re on a hiatus from choir right now, after a big finish to our season at the Englert theater.  You did superbly, especially on your “Mama Don’t Allow” vocal and maraca solo.  I’m so proud of you, and I love that we have Family Folk Machine as a special activity to do together.  You’ve gotten much more brave and are having fun with your choir friends, too.

We’ve got exciting times coming up, with trips and family events and theatrical productions to see.  I know you’ll do a great job despite the stresses, and it will be fun to have some school-free time before first grade starts.  You’ve lost two teeth now, and you have at least two more wigglers.  One of them is one of your top front teeth, and I hope you lose that before school pictures.  There’s nothing like that classic first grade picture with a big gappy smile.

You’re good at other facial expressions too, though.




Sound the alarms

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:02 pm

T:  I don’t want to alarm you.  I don’t want to alarm you.  I don’t want to alarm you.  (pause)  We’re going outside to pick up sticks.

I’m not sure whether the two sentiments were related or not.


Park adventures

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:07 am

Freshly in from playing outside:

T:  I’m chemically treated!

Apparently he walked through the neighbors’ recently-sprayed lawn.  Fortunately, it had rained hard between the spraying and the walking, so hopefully his chemical treatment was minimal.

Another day, also freshly in from playing outside:

T:  I touched something long and lean.

A:  Was it…the monkey bars?

T:  No.  (pause)  I don’t know what it was called.

M:  It was a worm.


Cruciferous heart

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:20 am

Last night before bed…

A:  I love you more than ice cream.

T:  I love you more than broccoli.

If you know my crazy, veggie-loving Tobin, you know what a high compliment that is.



The Tobin Times #34

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:51 pm

My dearest Tobin,

You’re almost three.  You wear me out.

Your life lately has been all about excavators.  You and a friend (Ben, the Family Folk Machine director’s son) played with diggers and other construction toys together, and you absolutely had to have an excavator like his.  Since Miles had recently gotten a pretty big present, your dad and I decided it would be okay for you to have something special too.  Amazingly, your enthusiasm for it has barely waned since the first day you got it.  You love to dig dirt in the front yard with it and take it to the playground to scoop wood chips.  When you’re not outside, you’re begging to videos about excavators.  I let you sometimes, but man, those things are boring.  One exception is a cool stop-motion photography construction toy dance choreographed by Debbie Allen.

Photo by Denny

Miles is taking summer classes at Willowwind now, and you really enjoy going downstairs to the preschool area to see where you’ll be going.  I’m guessing you won’t be ready right away in the fall.  After all, you turn three right as school is starting, and while you’d probably love it, I’m not sure you’d be quite ready.  Plus there’s the ever-looming potty-training requirement.  You haven’t made any progress in that arena.  I’m not forcing it, hoping it will work like it did with Miles and you’ll just decide one day that you’re ready.  If you haven’t had a few more successes by the end of summer, though, I may have to start encouraging you a little more strongly.  Miles found the DVD Potty Power today, which was a key element in his transition.  Maybe it will be useful for you too.

Photo by Denny

I bet you’d take to the idea of peeing outside.  You love the outdoors.  We spent a lot of time playing outside yesterday, and you got so filthy the bathtub was caked with dirt after the water drained.  You and your dad and Miles are out at the park right now.  You brought your excavator.

Water has been a big part of your life lately too.  You love helping me water the garden, and the sprinkler has been popular as well.  You have no trepidation about sticking your face right into the spray.  The same thing happens when we go to the fountain downtown.  I hope we have some nice days coming up soon so we can do that again.

You love trips downtown, especially when they involve the library, the playground near the library, frozen yogurt, and the fountain.  The nice thing about summer is that we can rotate among those destinations easily.  We’ll probably need to include the Natural History Museum some time soon, too.

You were in rare form last night.  Up at the beginning of this letter, when I wrote “You wear me out,” it was mostly referring to times like that.  Yesterday was a no-nap day, which is always borderline disastrous.  You’re in a tough stage regarding naps.  A lot of times you’re not sleepy at a reasonable nap time.  Later in the afternoon, when you get tired, I can get you down.  The problem is that then you sleep until far too late, and once it’s bedtime, you’re ready to party.  I think you and your dad have a whole secret life together downstairs that you enjoy while I’m putting Miles to bed and you want nothing to do with sleeping.  So anyway, some days we just skip nap, and that comes at the cost of your personality.

You were truly outrageous last night, Tobin.  Everything was a tragedy in your eyes.  The major source of trauma was the fact that you picked an old scab, and it didn’t bleed.  Can you imagine the horror?  “I WANT TO BLEED!” you howled.  You wigged out about that on and off for much of the evening.

It’s been a bloody summer so far.  You and your brother have both had some scrapes.  You seem not to mind (and sometimes revel in) minor injuries.  You wipe out, stand up, and keep going.  Only later, when I’ve finally gotten you inside, do I realize that you actually scraped your knees and palms.  This has happened more than once.  You’ve gotten well-acquainted with Band-Aids, between all the tumbles and knocking off scabs from previous injuries.

You’ve had a couple of big head thunks lately, which of course worries us.  You haven’t shown any signs of concussion, fortunately.  After a few minutes of crying, you’re on your way.  Your forehead is multi-colored.

Another pastime you enjoy lately is playing with the Imaginext castle and accoutrements, like the ogre and dragon.  You can spend a long time carrying the dragon around and flapping its wings, and hiding the guys in the castle crevices.  You have a great imagination and really have fun playing pretend.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Current favorites:  Curious George, both books and videos; excavators and other construction toys; broccoli (still); cheese pizza from Hy-Vee; pretty much the entire staff of  First Avenue Hy-Vee; your Rooster t-shirt; playing outside and in the water; eating strawberries straight from the garden.

I love you, my little Tobin.  I love being around you when we’re both well-rested.  And even when you’re being a jerk, I’d still take a head thunk for you.




You and me, baby, we ain’t nothing but mammals

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:40 pm

M:  In people’s families it’s usually mom/dad, mom/mom, or dad/dad.  (pause)  Same with hippos.


Monthly Miles Memo #77

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:38 pm

My dear Miles,

Kindergarten is done.  You rocked it, for real.  I am so very proud of you for all you accomplished this year.  You can read, which is no small task.  You claim not to like to read, but you certainly seem to take pleasure in being able to read signs, informational blurbs on the video games you play, and food labels.  Often at dinner, you show off your reading skills by reminding us that you know how to spell “organic ketchup.”  You are still a high achiever in math as well.  You’re taking a summer class at Willowwind called “Math Wizards,” which from what I can tell mostly involves solving little puzzles on worksheets.  You seem to like it well enough, especially since your good friend James is in it.

Photo by Denny

The last day of school was lots of fun.  Mubby and Skittergramps came to join your dad and Tobin and me, and we all went to school and had a picnic lunch with you.  Then we watched you sing songs about your growth and accomplishments with your friends (yes, I cried a little), and we watched a slideshow of the various activities you’ve done in school this year.  We had ice cream sundaes, for which I donated a bunch of ice cream that never got used.  I guess we’ll be having ice cream sundaes at home this summer.

Photo by Gary Clarke

The day after your final day as a kindergartner, we had a mini choir concert.  It was only half an hour long, but I think it’s the best you’ve ever done.  You had four solos (if you count the two verses we sang together in one song as two).  You were just so brave, and your voice was strong and clear.  I was looking at your dad in the audience, and he was tearing up, which made me tear up, which was inconvenient because I needed to sing.  Why do you have to be so darn sweet, Miles?

Photo by Gary Clarke

You’ve been, for the most part, pretty pleasant to be around lately.  You do get into uncooperative moods sometimes, and we’ve been hearing “Not fair!” in a whiny tone all too often.  I don’t think you really know what it means, because you just say it when you don’t like a situation, whether it has anything to do with fairness or not.  You’re still stubborn, and you still refuse to admit you’re anything but 100% right, ever.  This can cause conflict with friends sometimes.  I hope that as you continue to grow socially, you are able to laugh off perceived slights and disagreements.  We’ll work on it.

You still hate repeating yourself and answering questions to which you think the asker already knows the answer.  I agree; it’s annoying.  But sometimes you just have to suck it up and tell your brother for the fourteenth time what’s in your cup.

It’s probably apple juice.  You love apple juice.

Your current favorites, besides apple juice:  cinnamon graham crackers, Hebrew National hot dogs (with organic ketchup), the cuisine of Noodles & Company and Z’Marik’s, watching videos of other people playing Wii games, actually playing Wii games (especially Mario 3D World and Mario Kart), and drawing and writing in your sketch book.  You learned how to draw a stylized pigeon at school, and boy have you drawn a lot of pigeons.  You made a book called Pigeon Wants a Puppy.  The pigeon had to read five books to earn a puppy.  The puppy was smaller than the pigeon.

Your dad has to drag you outside to the park in the evenings, because you’d rather be sitting in front of a screen.  Once you get out, though, you usually have fun.  It’s good for you to play with the other neighborhood kids and use your leg muscles a bit.

I think we’re going to have a good summer, Miles.  Your classes are only in the mornings, so we’ll have plenty of time to explore various playgrounds, go to the library, and cement the ingredients of a Superman Flavor Ice into the Flavor Ice lady’s brain.  We haven’t been to the Natural History Museum yet this summer, so we ought to do that too.  We should do some swimming and playing in the downtown fountain.  I hear the movie theater is doing discount kids’ movies.  Yes, we will definitely have some fun.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Every night, you and your brother and I start out in your bed together, and every night, as soon as we turn off the light, Tobin says, “I’m leaving.” He jumps out of bed, says, “Bye, Bubby,” and heads downstairs to play with your dad for a while.  Then you say, “Well, I guess it’s just you and me.”  I cuddle up to you and enjoy that alone time while I wait for you to fall asleep.

I know that what I really should do is convince Tobin to stay in bed, but the truth is, I don’t get much time with “just you and me” anymore.  That’s probably not going to change any time soon, so I send him on his way and cherish those minutes as you fidget, toss off your blanket, pull your blanket back on, kick your legs around, roll over, funch, and eventually fall asleep.

I love you, my sweet Miles.  I’m so proud of you.



A question of degree

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:35 am

T:  Ogres are pretty nice…but not really nice.


Neither nor

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:06 am

I was getting Tobin out of bed, and he wanted to linger.

A:  Are you ready to have some breakfast?

T:  I don’t want any.

A:  Well, I’m hungry.  I’m going to eat breakfast.

T:  Me neither.  (pause)  Do you know what “me neither” means?


The Tobin Times #33

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:15 pm

Dear Tobin,

Hy-Vee has car-shaped shopping carts, and you love them.  We always have to get one when we go grocery shopping.  The other day, the only one available had a broken seatbelt.  I said to you, “Will I be able to trust you not to stand up or do anything foolish?”  You assured me that I could, and you did a pretty good job.  You only stood up while we were at a complete stop.

We had a similar conversation a couple of hours ago.  We’d been out watering the garden, and you got excited about shoveling dirt.  Your shoveling technique involves digging up a shovelful, then throwing it up into the air.  I think your goal is to throw it over your shoulder, but your aim is not so great, and most of it went directly onto your head or down the back of your shirt.  You needed a bath.

Your dad gave you a bath, and when you were done, he got you all wrapped up in a towel.  As usual, he brought you out to me, and you said in a tiny little voice, “Do you want to hold the tiny baby?”  I held you and cooed at you and told you what a cute baby you are.  Then we got involved watching a video.  A while later, I tried to put a diaper and clothes on you, but you were really happy being nude.  It’s warm today, so I decided to let you.  They say it’s a good potty training technique, too, because kids are reluctant to pee without a diaper there to soak it up.

Photo by Denny

Now for the conversation:  you wanted to cuddle in my bed.  I like cuddling in bed with you, and since you hadn’t had a nap, I thought we might just get so comfy you’d fall asleep.  We talked about it.  “Can I trust you to tell me if you need to go potty?  You won’t pee in the bed, right?”  You agreed.  We got into bed.

We snuggled for a while, but it became clear that you weren’t going to fall asleep.  After some time, you asked to get some clothes on.  I went and grabbed you the same onesie and diaper I had tried to put on you earlier.  I pulled back the blanket to get you dressed…and found you were lying in a puddle of pee.

The bedding is in the wash.  You seemed sad and contrite.  So it goes.

This event, however, was not the most exciting thing to happen to us lately.  We are so, so excited that you have a new cousin.  Uncle Tyler and Aunt Oxana welcomed Aleksandr Dean Clarke into the world a couple of days ago, and we’re really looking forward to getting out to Lincoln to meet him.  He’s extremely cute in the pictures Skittergramps has sent.

Photo by Denny

We had fun with previously existing cousins last night, too.  We had a bit of a family reunion, and you had so much fun.  You and your little cousin Josh became good buddies.  You guys ran around the yard together, talking about blowing bubbles.  You laughed and rolled balls back and forth and only occasionally struggled with sharing toys.  You had fun with Meredith and the other kids, too, and you ate a lot of mint chip ice cream.  I was happy to see my cousins and meet some new additions as well.

Photo by Denny

Your favorite thing to do these days is be outside.  Unfortunately we’re in the middle of the annual gnat infestation, which doesn’t seem to bother you too much, but it makes it hard for me to stand being outside.  You love to play with water, whether from the hose, puddled in crevices at the Fossil Gorge, or in the Rubbermaid tub in the back yard.  I also recently set up a little sand station for you to play with, and that’s been a big hit as well.  You were a good helper to me planting carrots and lettuce in the garden, and I hope you enjoy eating the garden carrots as much as you did last year.

Another fun back yard thing we did a few nights ago was to go out meteor-hunting.  There was a big meteor shower predicted, and we lucked out and got a mild, clear night.  We gathered up blankets and stuffed animals and a microscope (your idea) and headed out to the park.  We didn’t see anything of interest, except a kind of spooky owl perched on a nearby power line.  I thought we were out too early, since the shower was supposed to peak around 1-3 a.m., and we only managed to stay until about 10 p.m.  But, hearing reports from friends, I think there wasn’t much to see even at the later hours.  You still had a blast, though. You thought it was so cool to be outside after dark.  The next night, you asked to go see shooting stars again.  I hope we get some good skies for the Perseids shower in August so maybe you can actually see some.

Your current favorites:  bashing a broom on the floor, pretending that you’re chopping ice (like the guys in the beginning of Frozen); the plastic slice of cake at the library play kitchen that you call your “cream bun” (a Britishism you learned from Bob the Builder); saying “No fair” about anything that doesn’t go your way; baths; pizza; broccoli.

You still believe in the curative power of kissies.  You bit your tongue in the dining area of Hy-Vee while eating some beef and broccoli.  You stuck it out for a kiss.  You got it.  I mean, what am I going to do, not kiss my kid’s owie?  You make me do the weirdest things, Tobin.  I also feigned reinserting a booger into your nose after you got really upset that I took it out.  I also forgave you about ten seconds after you peed in my bed.

I’m excited to have a fun summer with you, Tobin.  You’ll be happy because Miles will be home more.  I’ll be happy because there are a lot of cool things we’ll be able to do.  We’re sure to have lots of adventures, and maybe (just maybe) you’ll do some consistent potty work.  You’re a pretty smart cookie, Tobes.  Think you can do it?

I’ll still love you no matter where you pee, though.




The power of personal style

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:11 pm

I trimmed Tobin’s hair today, and when Denny got home, Tobin was showing off his new style.

T:  (pointing dramatically at me) That girl did it!

D:  What girl is that?

T:  Aprille.  (pause, then running to me for a hug) And I love her so much!


Mexican Rice

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:22 pm

(The “Mexican” part here is in no way intended as a promise of authenticity.)

We had fajitas for dinner, and I neglected to pick up a flavored rice mix to go with it.  I usually get Near East brand, and Tobin loves it.  In order to not make him cry, I improvised a Mexican-inspired rice side.  He ate three plates of it.  I liked it too.

Mexican Rice

1 cup long-grain white rice
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups chicken or pork stock*
1 pinch saffron threads, crumbled
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
S&P to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium-to-large plan with a lid on medium.  Saute the rice grains until they’re opaque, coating well in the oil.  If they get a touch browned on the edges, that’s okay.  Add the stock and spices.  Stir briefly and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.  Adjust S&P before serving.

* I happened to have some pork stock in the freezer, so that’s what I used, and it was so good.  I guess it wasn’t technically stock; it was the de-fatted cooking liquid from the last time I cooked a pork shoulder.  I think I cooked it with onion, garlic, and orange juice, so those flavors informed the liquid a bit.


Monthly Miles Memo #76

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:40 pm

My sweet Miles,

I can hardly believe you’re almost done with kindergarten.  It doesn’t seem like a whole year ago that we walked up the hill to your future school for kindergarten round-up.  You were a bit nervous then, which isn’t surprising—new things are tough for you.  You get very attached to your routines, and shaking things up by changing schools is a pretty big shift.  But you have done absolutely fantastically.  I feel confident calling your kindergarten year a great success.  You’ve made good friends (especially James, who shares your love of Mario games on the Wii), really blossomed in your reading, and discovered an enthusiasm for math.  You told me you don’t like your Thursday early releases because you don’t get to do math boxes.  Of course, the fact that you can earn an hour of Thursday afternoon Wii time by reading two challenge books has influenced your opinion on that topic.

Photo by Denny

Your dad and I were talking today about how sometimes it’s frustrating how inflexible and unwilling to try new things you are.  He reminded me (and himself) that you’re not trying to be a jerk on purpose.  We think it’s more of an anxiety thing with you.  It stresses you out when things are unpredictable or vary from your expectations.  We’re working on finding ways to accommodate your preferences while also helping you face your fears.  I don’t want you to become reckless, sweetheart, but I don’t want you to be paralyzed with fear and miss out on all the exciting things in this world.  I see a lot of myself in you.  New things are tough for me too, and I get absorbed into routines.  But when I look back on my life, the things that have terrified me the most have been the best things I’ve ever done.  That includes having you, my little love.

Photo by Denny

We had our spring choir concert a couple of weeks ago, and Nana and Papa came to spend some time with us and hear our concert.  We had a lot of fun playing with them, although I think you may have worn Papa out.  It might also have been all the yard work your dad had him doing.  We also had some fun time in the park with Uncle Mark.  We met up with him downtown on the Ped Mall, and you climbed right onto the bench next to him and started chatting him up.  You told him all about your current favorite author, Meghan McCarthy, and the topics of the books she’s written.  You love her biographies, including the stories of Charles Atlas and daredevil pilot Betty Skelton.  One cool thing is that Meghan McCarthy visited your school, and you got your own autographed copy of Daredevil.  She even wrote your name in it and added a cool little illustration of a racecar (Ms. Skelton was also a racecar driver).

When you told Uncle Mark that Charles Atlas was “strong as an ox,” he told you that red oxen are the strongest.  I’m 80% sure he was making that up, but you have repeated it to me since then.

We had a nice little family Mothers Day celebration last weekend.  You made me a very sweet card at school, and you did a good job being sweet to me all day.  Your dad never got a great smile out of you for our annual Mothers Day picture, as you were more interested in being silly, but I was still glad to have you in the frame with me.

Our plans for the summer aren’t too ambitious.  You’ve got some summer classes to take at your old haunt, Willowwind.  James is going to take a couple of them with you, too, so that will be fun.  We’re definitely going to Lincoln at some time to see your yet-to-emerge little cousin.  Mostly I hope we’ll have a summer full of Flavor Ice, trips to the library and the Natural History Museum, swimming, and general chilling out.

I’m so proud of all you’ve accomplished this year, Miles.  You’re tall and smart and kind and responsible, and I know you’re going to rock first grade.  But for the time being, I want to enjoy a summer with you still being my little kindergartner.

I love you so much.



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