10/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #33

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:04 pm

Hello, Cal-Pal,

Or should I say Cally?  You’ve been calling yourself that lately, though sometimes you’ll take it back and call yourself Callum-a-zoo instead.  Other times you’ll go purist and insist on just Callum.  A week or two ago, you were pretending not to know that I didn’t want you messing with Miles’s reading lamp.  I said you were being deliberately obtuse.  You said, “I’m not ‘tuse.  I’m Callum.”

You’ve been using diminutives in other situations too, like referring to the book Walter the Farting Dog as “Walty.”  It’s interesting to hear you play with language beyond base-level communication.  We chaperoned a trip with Tobin’s class to the Iowa Children’s Museum today, and another adult helper who’d been observing you told me, “He’s really smart.”  Now, I don’t think you’re a dummy, but since I don’t really hang out with any other toddlers, I don’t have much means of comparison.  In any case, I’m glad to know all those stupid videos you like haven’t shriveled your brain too much.

After a curiously cool August, we had a warm September and early October.  One day you really wanted to run through the sprinkler and eat popsicles outside.  It felt like a strange thing to do, but it was eighty-five degrees, so that’s what you did.  You crunched leaves under your feet and ran around in the cold spray until I dragged you inside for dinner.

We’ve been busy-busy-busy with your brothers’ activities, and as always, you’ve been a good sport about coming along.  I try to do special things with just you while I have the chance, though sometimes “special” just means picking out a doughnut on one of our thousand Hy-Vee runs.  Other times I get ambitious and take you to Tot Time at the gym and Toddler Story Time at the library.  You like that okay, especially the singing and dancing parts, but you’d rather use the play kitchen than sit still for a story.  Sometimes the stories are kind of boring.  You prefer more plot-driven fare, like the aforementioned Walty.

You seem to enjoy food preparation play quite a lot.  Not only do you love the play kitchen at the library, you use your own play kitchen almost every day.  That’s why our basement playroom is usually a disaster, because the play food is made up of hundreds of little plastic fruits, vegetables, cutlery, and pots and pans.  Still, you know what a kiwi is, though you’re not interested in trying a real one.

You’re becoming more independent in a lot of ways.  You can get your own sandals on and off, probably thanks to the extra practice you got via this extended sandal season.  You don’t always get them on the right feet—I set them out for you while I was getting organized to run errands, and when I checked, they were on the wrong feet.  I helped you take them off and set them out for you again, and when I checked back, you’d put them on the wrong feet again.  When I let you know that things had gone awry, you said, “But I ran out of legs!”

Despite a promising start, you have shown zero further interest in using a toilet.  Actually, that’s not true.  You love flushing toilets, whether they need it or not, but you have no interest in the earlier steps in the process.  Your flushing habit can be wasteful, but since your brothers have the bad habit of forgetting to flush, it can also be kind of helpful.  I need to use that as an incentive to get you to at least give it an honest try.

We had a fun visit to Mubby and Skitter’s house last weekend.  Unfortunately it was cool and rainy most of the time, so you didn’t get to use the sandbox nearly as much as you’d hoped.  You still got to take baths, though, which for some reason are way more fun at their house than at ours (I suspect the reason is the squirt guns Mubby lets you use).  You had fun playing with the parking ramp and other toys, and you decided to keep the piano that plays Beethoven in the closet.  You are not a big Beethoven fan.

Your current favorites:  Caillou, YouTube stars Ryan and Genevieve and their stage-parenty parents who make toys videos that exploit feature them, skipping naps, dancing, pepperoni pizza, cinnamon toast in a bowl, and climbing things.  You are awfully brave.

I can hardly believe that you’re closer to three than two now.  Two is still a baby, right?  But three is such a big boy.  A small consolation is the fact that you’re a little guy physically.  You can still fit into a lot of 24-month-sized clothes, and I noticed the shorts you were wearing the other day were actually for the average 18-monther.  Even if you’re getting older and more adventurous and verbose every day, at least it’s still easy to snuggle you up into my arms.

Love,

Mommy

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10/9/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #117

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:10 pm

Dear Miles,

I am not a biblical scholar by any means, but I recall a certain legend of Cain and Abel, brothers who had trouble getting along.  I wonder if they were anything like you and Tobin, who at the moment are the best of friends.  You guys are playing Minecraft together on this no-school Monday, and while I wish you were playing some kind of imaginative game, you’re cooperating and speaking kindly to one another.  I don’t know if you’re being patient or Tobin is being less annoying than usual, but I love it when you form an alliance.

I’m shaky on the details, but if I had to guess, I’d say Cain was the little brother who knew exactly what would irritate his big brother.  And sometimes his big brother would fly off the handle for what seemed to his parents to be no reason at all, or a really small reason.  And maybe that was because Cain picked and picked at Abel, or maybe because Abel was a touch too sensitive and unwilling to try reasonable discussion.  Actually, as I spin this out, it’s sounding more like a Trump/Kim Jong Un relationship.  I hope things never get that far with you two.

I know I’ve used the Jekyll/Hyde metaphor here before, and maybe that’s the best of any of them.  You can be so smart, witty, and rational.  Other times you scream and stomp and throw fits when things don’t go your way.  You can get frustrated to the point of rage by things like a challenging piano assignment or your dad daring to question your answers on your homework.  You’ve always had brooding quality to you, and I have a feeling it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

In better news, you’ve crossed the threshold into the rewarding side of running.  After the first couple of practices of Let Me Run, I thought it was going to be a total disaster.  I abhorred running when I was a kid, mostly because I never learned to do it in a sensible, structured way.  I invented my own program when I wanted to get in better shape as an adult (which I later discovered was pretty much the same as Couch to 5k), and I think Let Me Run follows a similar program.  You’re really proud that you made your goal of running a 13 minute mile—in fact, we did it together last weekend in only 11.5 minutes.  I know you can get it down even more, which will be great when you run the 5k that culminates your Let Me Run season.

Running is great because, if you power through the early stages, you can see very tangible progress.  Nothing is a better motivator than progress, and I’m so happy that you’ve gotten to that point.  You’ve always been one to enjoy things that are easy and avoid things that are difficult, so I’m glad that we can now point to this and remind you that you’ve succeeded at things that at first seemed insurmountable.

You’ll probably find that all very annoying.

In many ways, you’re still the same little guy who came to my house on a cold day in January of 2008.  You have a lot more hair now, but you still scream more than I’d prefer (though at least it’s not every day at five p.m. anymore).  When we were eating ice cream after piano the other day, you held your pinky up.  You’ve done it whenever you eat or drink ever since you were too small to chew on anything but your parents.  I’ve started going back through old pictures and tagging “pinky” on the applicable ones.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Your dad tells me that I do it too, and so does your Skittergramps.  We can’t help it.  It’s just what feels right.

You tell me that you want to be a writer.  You’re certainly verbose—your teachers are always having to give you extra paper to finish your stories.  You also say that you prefer typing to handwriting, which I can understand.  You’ve never given up “caveman fingers,” which is what your dad calls your fist-based pencil grip.  I never worried about it too much, figuring that if you learn to type, that will get your written communication mostly covered.  It’s a funny juxtaposition, though:  your pinky extended like the Queen at high tea and your pencil sitting like a dagger in your palm.  Your hands are little Jekylls and Hydes too, I guess.

I love both sides of you, though one is more fun to hang out with than the other.  Maybe great stories come of great emotions, and you’re just building up a store of inspiration.

Just don’t kill anybody along the way, okay?  Those delicate hands were made for typing, not stabbing.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

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9/22/2017

The Tobin Times #73

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:50 am

Hey, there, kindergartner.

You are into it.  You love school (even though you hate waking up early).  You love seeing Miles in the lunch room.  You love math boxes and P.E. and buying milk in the cafeteria.  You chose to buy hot lunch today—I’m not exactly sure why, because you’re not a big cheeseburger eater typically.  I think it was because some of your friends do, and you consider it a part of fully integrating into the kindergarten lifestyle.  You groaned in disappointment when you realized it was Labor Day and you didn’t have school.  You tell me all about your school friends:  Kit and Kaden are your best friends, and there are a couple of troublemakers whom I won’t name.  You’ve earned some prizes for good behavior, and you were so excited when you got to be helper.

You remain a whirlwind of energy.  I enrolled you in a Ninja Zone class that starts in a couple of weeks.  From the video on the gym’s website, it looks like it will be a cross between gymnastics and martial arts.  You’re super-excited about it.  I suggested to your friend Chase’s mom that he sign up for the same class, and she said that was fine, but for some reason he doesn’t want to.  I was afraid that might dissuade you, but it hasn’t at all.  You’re so good at fitting into situations and making friends, you can’t wait to kick and tumble and jump whether Chase is there or not.

We’ve had an unusual September heat wave lately, and you’ve even had early release from school the last couple of days.  Your school is fully air conditioned now, so it doesn’t make much difference to you, but not everywhere in the district is.  They make a district-wide decision, so you get some extra break time.  You’d probably be just as happy staying at school, but I’m happy to have you home early.

The heat has cut into your outside play time, which may be why you’ve been running laps around the house like a maniac in the evening lately.  Last night your dad and I were sitting in the basement, and you guys were upstairs.  It sounded like a herd of bison was trotting around the floor above us.  I hope Ninja Zone plus your continuing swim lessons help you burn off some of that energy.

It seems like the whole world is experiencing a lot of natural disasters lately.  Our beloved Florida Keys have gotten pummeled, as did a lot of other areas in the Caribbean.  An earthquake in the Mexico City area caused a lot of destruction and death.  We’re lucky that, for the time being, all we’re suffering from is abnormally high temperatures.  We  may find our vacation plans require adjustment, but unlike a lot of people, our home is still intact and all our family members are safe.  It’s scary, and I truly hope your generation is more forward-thinking that those who came before you in terms of our impact on the Earth’s systems.

You’ve been a really good big brother to Callum lately.  He has gotten excited about taking showers with you, and you indulge him quite nicely.  It might even conserve some water, assuming I can drag him out in a reasonable time.   I’ve overheard you telling Callum about how when he’s in kindergarten, you’ll walk him to school.  He thinks you’re pretty great.  He’s been calling you Toby lately, which is my dream come true, because I always wanted to call you that, and it never caught on.  Tobes is a good nickname too, but I thought a cuddly little Toby would be fun to have around.  At least Callum agrees with me.

Despite the summery temperatures, we’ve started in on some of our fall traditions, like apple-picking and making pumpkin bars.  We’ve started work on Halloween costumes (you’ve chosen to be Bowser from the Super Mario Brothers universe), and I know you’re going to be super-psyched to be a part of your own class Halloween party.  In the past, I’ve brought you along to school when I volunteered with Miles’s class, but now I’m going to have to find ways to check in on both of your classrooms.  I’ll have a little Batman tagging along, and I bet you’re going to be proud to show him off to your friends.

Have a great month, my little force of nature.  You’re a marvel.

Love,

Mommy

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9/13/2017

The Callum Chronicle #32

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:50 am

Dear Callum,

It came to me in a moment of panic last night that I hadn’t written your Callum Chronicle yet for this month.  It’s not the latest I’ve ever been, but it’s also not the timeliest.  With three kids to manage, the schedules of whom are getting more complicated all the time, I have to be pretty mentally organized to keep on top of things.  Sorry for letting this one slip.  I promise I haven’t forgotten you.  In fact, you’re on my mind almost all the time, since we’ve been spending our days together, just the two of us.

You do miss your brothers now that they’re back in school, but you get excited for Mommy/Callum time too.  We’ve been doing some fun stuff together, and we’ve got a pretty good routine worked out.  You often like to sleep in, which sometimes I let you do and other times I don’t, depending on how busy the evening is going to be.  You’ve gotten to the point of not taking a nap every day, but you are pretty crabby come six p.m. if you decline to nap.  Therefore, if I know we have activities at night, I try to wake you up early to increase the odds of you napping and improving your evening personality.  The worst case scenario is that I wake you up early, drive around for an hour trying to get you to sleep at naptime (that’s the most reliable way to get you down these days), you still don’t fall asleep, and them we’re both crabby.  I did choose to wake you up early today, because your dad has a meeting and the big boys have swimming lessons tonight.  We’ll see how it goes.

I took you with me to vote yesterday in the school board election.  There was another important issue on the ballot, a bond proposal that will fund improvements on all our local schools.  There was a vocal opposition to the bond, but it had a lot of support, too.  I’m happy to report that the bond passed with a supermajority.  I’m really proud to live in a community that is willing to pay extra to support our teachers and students.  We’re also really happy that our neighbor Ruthina Malone, a former Lucas parent and all-around stellar person, won a spot on the school board.  You went with your dad to “help” him vote last night too, and I hope your earliest memories of your childhood are of voting, just like mine are.  It didn’t hurt that you got to play on the best playground in the area afterward both times.

You are getting more articulate and hilarious every day.  You are learning to explain yourself well in complex and interesting ways.  You are also getting very opinionated about how things ought to be, what belongs to whom, and the ways things can be categorized.  You can be very particular about having your “crapple” (cranapple) juice in your purple cup, but you also get a subversive thrill out of drinking the dregs Miles leaves out in his own cups.

We’ve had a warm and mild fall so far, unlike the weather-related problems that are causing great suffering elsewhere in the country and the world.  I’m so worried about the people who live full-time in the Florida Keys.  It’s our favorite family vacation spot, but many people who own businesses and homes there are having a terrible time.  Hurricane Irma just passed through, and I’m nervous to even look at pictures.  Apparently our usual destination, Marathon Key, was one of the hardest hit.  We’ve already paid for our condo rental for spring break; I have no idea whether we’ll be able to go or not.  I’m giving the owner some time to figure out the level of destruction.  I’d love to go back and support the rebuilding of their local economy, but I also know six months might not be long enough to let the locals get back into shape.  This is coming right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, which triggered massive rainfall that has caused a lot of trouble in Houston, as well as wildfires in the west.  It’s a scary world, and I hope it’s not too late to make changes that will help regulate these climate-related disasters.

I may have to visit your children in their condo on Mars.  Start saving now!

Your current favorites:  Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter books, climbing outrageously high on playground structures intended for bigger kids, grapes, waffles, inserting yourself into whatever your brothers are doing, and avoiding bedtime by prolonging the goodnight snuggles you give your dad.  “We’re so cozy!” you say, as you interrupt the book he was reading to Tobin and get under the covers with them.

We’ve started to introduce the potty idea a little more aggressively.  Every night before your bath, you do a great job sitting on it, but you haven’t fill it except for the isolated incident a month or two ago.  You act like you’re trying to pee, but then you give up and head to the tub, where you pee into the water about 75% of time.  We’re working on it.  Maybe it’s time to get out some bribes.  On the other hand, you’re younger than either of your brothers when they potty trained, so maybe we should just celebrate the small successes for the time being.

I love you, my sweet Callum.  Your smile is so heart-warming, even when it’s accompanied by a naughty side-eye.  I love the way your chubby little cheeks jiggle as you run.  I love your tender arms when they wrap around me, and I love that you still believe my kisses heal all your wounds.  Sometimes you want me to kiss your eyeballs on particularly itchy allergy nights.  That never works, but I always try.

A lot of what we do only sometimes works, but we always try.

Love,

Mommy

 

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9/8/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #116

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:47 pm

Dear Miles,

Fourth grade is underway, and you’re doing well.  You still miss your third grade teacher, Miss Lampe—we were at your school open house last night, and when you saw her in the hallway, you absolutely lit up.  She’ll be one of those whom you remember fondly your whole life.  I think your teacher this year is good too, though.  So far you have no complaints, except for the “not Miss Lampe” factor that would apply to any teacher in the school minus one.  To congratulate your class on good behavior thus far, your teacher is hosting a taco salad bar event at lunch on Monday.  I don’t think you’ve ever eaten a taco salad in your life.  Maybe a little peer pressure will get you to try something.  I volunteered to bring tortilla chips, so at least you’ll get some calories even if you won’t eat anything else.

We rounded out the summer with some good Labor Day weekend activities.  We started with a Friday night trip to a Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball game.  Callum had a hard time sitting still, so I spent most of the game wandering around the stadium and grounds with him, but you enjoyed the whole thing.  You even got a game ball, which two players autographed for you.  Their handwriting was too messy for us to discern their names, but you found the whole experience pretty thrilling anyway.  Even more special was the fact that the whole trip was due to your raffle win of Kernels ticket’s at last spring’s school carnival.  The stadium is small enough that even the cheap seats were good seats, and the fireworks afterward really capped things off.

We also did our family’s annual trip to the apple orchard.  Some apple orchards really try to make it a theme park, with tons of kids activities and plenty of opportunities to spend money.  Wilson’s is much more about the apples, which is fine with me, since I love produce but hate crowds.  We went on Honeycrisp Weekend, which is the most crowded time of all to go, but we arrived right at opening time, and it wasn’t too bad.  I would generally prefer to go on an uncrowded weeknight, but when we did that last year, they weren’t serving the fresh, hot apple cider doughnuts.  That was pretty disappointing, so this year we braved the crowds.  We got through the doughnuts pretty swiftly and did some good apple-picking.  You and Tobin scrambled around the trees and did a fairly good job discerning which apples were good choices.  I’ve only found one worm so far (better than half a worm, of course).

We had our not-exactly-annual backyard a few weeks ago, before school started.  It was a glorious night, weather-wise, and I think you had fun.  It’s our answer to the problem of having two kids with January birthdays, which is about the worst time in the world for a party.  We just have one big one in the summer and call it good.  It was nice to see that you’re not the only kid around your age with unkempt hair.  I gave you your own hairbrush as an unbirthday present, with the caveat that if you don’t want to get a haircut, you need to brush your hair every day.  So far you’ve been doing pretty well.  We haven’t gotten school pictures back yet, though.

Your mental state, overall, seems mostly good these days.  We’ve had a few incidents lately where you go directly to screaming at Tobin rather than giving him any calm indication that you don’t like what he’s doing.  We’re working on ways to help you learn to manage your emotions.  Part of the problem is that you really don’t have much privacy.  We’re planning to convert the baby room into your room soon.  I asked you if you’d rather have it now, before Callum’s potty-trained, and still have me go in there to change his diapers, or whether you’d rather wait until it can be 100% yours.  You said you’d rather wait.  I don’t know if you’ll stick to that position.

[Redacted:  a whole paragraph about DACA and privilege and how stress about getting your own room is a lot harder to sympathize with than stress about whether you’ll be deported.  Your problems are your problems, and I shouldn’t minimize them.  But still, be kind to your classmates who are living in very real fear right now.]

I know you’ll be kind.  Tobin’s personal mission is to annoy you, and you only blow up at him now and then.  A teacher in one of your summer classes told me that you’re always nice to everyone, and that made me feel prouder than anything else you might have learned.  You still have some growing to do, but so do we all.  You’ve only lost your lunch bag twice so far, so that’s progress.

Have a good month, my fluffy-haired boy.  I’m doing my best to only cuddle you in the house so your friends don’t find out your mom loves you.

I do, though.

Love,

Mom

 

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8/25/2017

The Tobin Times #72

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:36 am

My sweet Tobin,

Happy birthday, my big boy!  What a birthday this has been—not only did you complete another year, you got to experience a near-total solar eclipse, and you started kindergarten.  I’m not sure which will be more memorable when you look back on your life, but they were both pretty impressive for me.  It was cloudy on your birthday/eclipse day, so the pinhole method I had planned on using to view the eclipse didn’t work.  Luckily, we were able to borrow some eclipse glasses and saw a pretty spectacular cosmic event.

The peak of the eclipse only lasted a couple of minutes, but you are up and running nearly every minute of every day.  The first day of school, you were up and ready to go plenty early.  You got a little quiet as the moment of entering the school building approached, but you shed no tears and followed the teacher right in.  I asked you later whether you liked Kinderfarm (preschool) or kindergarten better, and you said, “Definitely kindergarten.”  I asked you why, and you said, “At Kinderfarm, we only learned babyish stuff.  Actually, in kindergarten, we sort of learn babyish stuff too.”  I imagine you’ll find new challenges as you get further into the school year, but in any case, I’m glad you like it.  You’ve gotten to be good friends with Kit, a kid from our neighborhood, and you’ve been spending recesses collecting cicada shells with him.  You decided you wanted to buy milk from the cafeteria instead of having a juice box in your lunch, so I put money in your lunch account.  You handled it just fine.  Today you decided to go back to a juice box.  It’s a testament to your flexibility and bravery that you were willing to try a new task on the second day of school.  Way to go, Tobes.

We didn’t get every single item on our summer activity list completed, but we’re darn close.  The biggest problem was that the summer ended on a cool streak, so we didn’t get a chance to do Twilight Swim at the City Park pool.  You did get to go  swimming, though, at nicer pools than the one at City Park.  You went twice in Ames and once in Albia, and we did a good amount of running around in fountains and sprinklers.  We still need to make granola cups, but they’re half ready and we can finish those up after school today.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You love Callum’s hugs.  It’s become a bit of a power struggle—sometimes you try too hard and he denies you, and that really bums you out.  But this morning, as you were about to leave for school, he gave you the sweetest, most spontaneous goodbye hug.  Your huge smile told the story.  Yesterday, out of nowhere, you decided you wanted to buy some Paw Patrol toys for Callum.  Those are little figures that I think have a show associated with them, though Callum has never seen it because it’s on some channel we don’t get.  Callum likes them, though, because he sees them on YouTube toy videos.  You wanted to go out to a store to buy them, but we compromised on an Amazon purchase.  You very proudly handed me money from your wallet, because you wanted to make absolutely sure it was a gift really from you to Callum.  After you made your purchase, you leaned into me and said, “I can’t wait to see his face when he opens it.”

You and Miles usually get along well too, especially now that you each have Minecraft accounts and can play those games together.  When I pry you away from screen time and make you use your brains in other ways, you do a good job of coming up with creative activities.  You certainly squabble sometimes, but you’re also best friends and playmates.  It was hard to think of birthday presents for you this year, because you’re just not into toys anymore.  Your favorite gift (besides the Minecraft account) was your Batman bathrobe, aka a “dressing gown.”  You’ve greatly increased the number of showers you take because you get a chance to wear it.

I’ve known since the day you were born that you would be a source of sunshine in my life.  You’ve always been such a cheerful and go-with-the-flow kind of guy.  I didn’t worry a bit as you started kindergarten, though I admit to feeling a tug as you lined up outside the doors like a big kid.  I miss having lunch with you every day, since that has been a part of our life together since your lunch was nothing but breastmilk.  You graduated to mashed foods—I have a great video of your enthusiastic response to blueberries.  In recent years it’s been pizza and pasta and peanut butter toast, and now it’s a lunch in an insulated bag.  You were so excited to tell me that you saw Miles in the school lunch room.  Fortuitously, kindergartners and fourth graders have lunch at the same time.  I bet it was pretty cool for both of you.

I am not a big believer in astrology, but if anybody is well-suited to his sign, it’s you.  You are a little lion, from your fantastic mane to your loyalty to your pack.  You can also roar when the occasion presents itself.You’re brave, sunny, and always ready to scramble to the next adventure.  It would take a serious cosmic event to eclipse you.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You are a joy to behold, my beautiful little cub.  Congratulations on six trips around the sun.

Love,

Mommy

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8/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #31

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:42 pm

Dear Cal-Pal,

You have a lot to say.  Your dad and I have been remarking lately on how your language skills have exploded in recent weeks.  The other day, you were looking for some Play-Doh you’d gotten out.

“Maybe I take—maybe I took it downstairs.”

Aw, baby’s first irregular preterite.  Another development that may or may not be related is an increasing understanding of the difference between real and pretend.  You like to set up false structures so you can contrast them with true ones.  For example, if you’re eating a strawberry, you might say, “It green?  Noooooooo.   It lellow?  Nooooooo.  It red!”  I think that’s something we’ve all done to quiz you, and you’ve picked it up and now use it on us.  You even did it when I remarked on the color of your diaper contents.  “It red?  Noooooo.  It green!”

You still had a hard time with it, though, when we were playing a game in the car tonight.  Miles suggested a round of “A, My Name Is…” and we took turns.  Tobin had G, and he said, “G, my name is George.”  You said to him, “You not George.  You Tobin.”

Your big brothers spend a week at Mubby and Skitter’s house, and for probably the first time in your life, we spent a whole week doing things that were just for you.  We went to toddler story time at the library, to the splash pad, to a kids’ music class, and restaurants your brothers don’t like.  You’re very versatile.  It was really fun to see you enjoying life with other kids your size instead of watching you be frustrated because you can’t keep up with your brothers.  You missed them a lot, and I understand that they missed you too.  You asked many times, “Where Miles and Tobin?”  You asked it so much that soon you were able to answer your own question.  “Maybe they’re in Ames.”  We Skyped with them every day, and you reached out to give hugs through the computer screen.  Things are certainly louder with them back, since they tend to rile each other and you up, but you’re happy to have them.

Though no one specifically taught you, you’ve learned a lot of letters and numbers from the ABC blocks and an alphabet puzzle we have.  You still enjoy your old favorite, S-5 (which we always have to visit when we go to Solon), but you know a lot of others, too.  We got a new book from the library Summer Reading Program called Hug.  You looked at it, pointed to the first letter, and said, “What is that, H?”  You don’t know every single letter yet, but you know a lot more than I expected you to.  Third kids probably don’t get as much focused academic instruction from their parents as kids earlier in the order, but you’re certainly sharp and able to gather information from your surroundings.  Your dad has been working with Tobin a lot on putting letters together to form words, and I bet you’re soaking it in while it looks like you’re just making plastic salads in your toy kitchen.

You’re smart, yes, but because I try to be honest in these letters, I have to describe what happened at Costco the other day.  I think you had your first truly ridiculous tantrum.  You’ve been upset plenty of times, sometimes just because you have to be more than three feet away from me so I can make dinner.  This was the first time, though, that you seemed angry just for the sake of being angry with no understandable reason.  You see, we were eating lunch in the Costco food court.  Their pizza slices are huge, so our usual strategy is to order two slices, have each of them cut in half, and share them among the pizza eaters in our group (you, me, and Tobin).  I got us our food, Miles and Tobin went to get their drinks (an Okiishi, of course—a delicious mix of Sprite and lemonade named after our illustrious friend Chris).  We sat down to enjoy some pre-shopping lunch, and you absolutely lost it.  You see, I committed a terrible crime:  I separated the two halves of the pizza on the plate.  Worse yet, I started to eat my half.  “I want them together!” you screamed.

I tried to reason with you, to soothe you, to hug you, to offer you bites and drinks of both water and Okiishi.  We were getting a lot of stares.  I decided I just needed to let the tantrum run its course, so I held you safely on my lap and ate my pizza.  I finished my half, and you still hadn’t eaten any of yours.  You started yelling that you wanted a hot dog.  Tobin suggested that I get you a hot dog.  I told him I didn’t want to stand in line again, which was true, but the whole truth was that I didn’t want to reward your tantrum.  You love pizza, and there was no reason you shouldn’t just eat your pizza.  You expressed very clearly that you did NOT want the pizza, so I figured I’d find you something to eat when we got home.  The lady at the next table, who was not being judgey, just trying to help, offered to stand in line for me.  I declined.   You were finally calming down, and I thought we were moving forward, so I took a bite of your pizza.  Big mistake.  That set off a whole new round of freak-out.  However, it did get you interested enough in the pizza that you were willing to eat it.  In fact you refused to let go of the last bites, the toughest part of the crust, which you gnawed on as we did our shopping.

In the old days, when I heard little kids crying in public, I thought, “Oh, that poor kid.”  Now I think, “Oh, those poor parents.”

I’m happy to say that so far you’ve just had the one tantrum.  I’m sure there are more coming, but they don’t define your personality for the time being.  You’re still brave and fun, and I’ve really enjoyed watching you engage your imagination.  You made a cool Lego camera the other day and had fun pretending to take pictures of your brothers.  They were good sports about saying cheese.

Your current favorites:  Walter the Farting Dog, peanut butter Lara Bars, your new Magnadoodle, Arthur (the kids’ show, not the Dudley Moore movie), making pretend Okiishis in the bathtub, and playing with/tormenting your brothers.

Despite the ramping-up of allergy season, you’ve been sleeping pretty well.  I think we’ve got a good regimen figured out of internal and external treatments, so your skin and nose and eyes are all doing okay.  You did have itchy eyes a couple of nights ago, and you very pathetically asked me, “You have any eye lotion?”  I didn’t, so I had to do my best to treat you by kissing your eye.  You wanted me to kiss your actual eyeball, which I don’t think I did, but it was dark so I can’t swear to that.

I love your little brain, growing so fast like the rest of you.  Sleep tight, my funny baby.

Update:  Minutes after I posted this, tired but basically satisfied with how you’re turning out, I heard a strange noise.  You see, I’d been writing this from the big chair, which is directly across the hall from the bathroom.  While I can’t see directly into the tub from the big chair, I can hear, so I felt confident that you were doing fine in your bath because you were chattering away to your rubber ducks.  The noise I heard:  a large splash not followed by the tell-tale smack of water hitting water.  I looked in and saw that you were cheerfully dumping big cupfuls of water onto the bathroom rug.  Judging by the level of saturation, you must have done it more than ten times.

Come on, dude.  That topic is specifically covered in No No, Yes Yes by Leslie Patricelli.   Also, did I mention that we’re having a party tomorrow and are frantically cleaning the house?

You are something.  Yes you are.

Love,

Mommy

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8/9/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #115

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:50 pm

Dear Miles,

Summer’s almost done.  By the next time I write you a memo, you’ll be a full-fledged fourth-grader.  That’s hard to imagine.  I very clearly remember my fourth-grade year.  I had a strict, old-fashioned teacher who was inconsistent in her punishments and tended toward teacher’s petism.  That worked okay for me, as I was a teacher’s pet kind of kid, but I remember feeling righteous outrage when she treated some kids unfairly.  I doubt Miss Thunderbuns is reading this, as she seemed ancient back in the ’80s when she was my teacher, but if she is, I hope she has mellowed and is not currently yelling at squirrels in front of her nursing home.

We don’t know yet who your teacher will be, but you will probably do fine.  You had a really great third grade experience, with a teacher you adored and a lot of academic and social development.  I hope fourth grade can be good as well.  I’m sure you’ll be making some very clear memories, just as I did at your age.

We’ve been scrambling to finish up our summer activity list.  We’ve done well so far—I think we only have one box left to check off, and we have enough time to get it done.  We’ve gone to movies, played in the sprinkler, made homemade popsicles, gone to the Natural History Museum, done the library’s Summer Reading Program, and a whole lot more.  You probably would have been happy spending the entire summer playing Minecraft (or watching YouTube videos of other people playing Minecraft, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but I watch a lot of YouTube videos about eyebrow grooming, so I guess I shouldn’t judge).

Photo by Gary Clarke

You and Tobin spent a whole week at Mubby and Skitter’s house, which you loved and Mubby and Skitter survived.  They insist they loved it too, but I can imagine it was pretty exhausting for people who aren’t used to having little kids around.  You did some really fun things, including camping in the back yard, fishing, mini-golfing, and going to an arcade.  You started with a full week as your goal, but I secretly expected that we might need to come get you around Thursday.  That was not the case.  We Skyped every day, and every day you both assured me that you were doing great and were in no hurry to come home.  I missed you, but I was glad you were having so much fun.

I think you’re ready for a little more structure in your life, though.  Ever since you came back, you’ve been a little surly.  We had a very rough time a couple of days ago.  It wasn’t just you; it was a variety of factors, including a bad night’s sleep for me, which always brings out my worst qualities.  We all did some yelling and crying, but we got it together.  I apologized to you, and I hope you accepted it.  I’m an adult, and it’s my job to keep my emotions under control, even when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.  On the other hand, I hope you got the message that you can’t keep pushing people and expect them to absorb it with no repercussions.  It wasn’t a shining day for any of us, but we’re all doing a lot better now.  It’s hard to be a mom sometimes, and I know it’s hard to be a kid too.

Photo by Gary Clarke

There will be more moments like that as you grow.  Surliness has always been a part of you, and as the double-digit age approaches, I fear we’ll see it more and more.  I’m sure I displayed it at your age, and I remember getting reprimanded for it (though I always kept it in line when Miss Thunderbuns was looking).  It’s hard to know when to just roll my eyes and ignore your attitudes and when to tell you to check it.  A lot of it has to with what else is going on with me, and that’s not fair, but that’s how it goes.  You take things very personally when you manage to pay attention at all.

Your current favorites:  Minecraft, blowing bubbles with gum, pasta, resisting hair grooming (unless it’s bedtime, when you manage to extend the bedtime routine by giving yourself elaborate hairstyles in the bathroom mirror), Peanuts and Big Nate books, and Pokémon Go.  You and Tobin have mostly gotten along really well this summer.  It’s nice that I’ve been able to trust you to play together while I need to do Callum-centric things.  You read an entire chapter book out loud to Tobin, and you are his greatest hero.  He’s going to love being in the same school as you next year, so I hope you handle that honorably.

Happy month birthday, my dear.  Best of luck as you start your fourth grade adventure.   I’ll be the one outside the school on the first day jumping up and down in anticipation of getting you back.

Love,

Mom

 

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8/1/2017

Not in public anyway

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:48 pm

Aprille (pointing at Callum): You’re the cutest.
Callum (pointing at Aprille): You’re the nudist.

7/29/2017

His true character

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:04 am

Tobin: Don’t put your finger in your mouth.

Denny: My hands are clean. I washed them when I came inside.

Tobin: Riiiiiiiight.

Aprille: Why would he lie about that?

Tobin: You don’t know him as well as me.

7/27/2017

Chimichurri sauce

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:13 pm

Chimichurri sauce

This sauce from Argentina is great on beef, chicken, fish, or even grilled vegetables.  I got some on my corn-on-the-cob tonight and it was delicious.  It gives you pretty strong breath, though.

  • 1/2 cup Italian flatleaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 1/2 of a medium shallot
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • a shake of crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil

Combine all except oil in a food processor and process until well-chopped but not a paste.  Drizzle in olive oil until it’s about the consistency of pesto sauce.  Enjoy.

 

7/24/2017

The Tobin Times #71

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:19 pm

Hey there, summertime sunshine boy.

The days before kindergarten are dwindling, and we’ve been keeping occupied filling them up with fun togetherness.  After a very busy June, we’ve scaled back on the scheduled activities this month and have been doing more sleeping in, having mini-adventures, and eschewing pants.

You’ve got a birthday coming up, but I’ll save most of your birthday-related updates for next month.  For now I’ll focus on what makes you five.  You’re teetering on the cusp between little boy and big boy.  You still love bedtime cuddles (and you’re so proud of the fact that Callum is now back to hugging you at bedtime, because you figured out a reverse psychology trick to entice him:  “I bet you can’t sneak up behind me and give me a big hug!”).  Your dad reads to you from a chapter book every night, and you’ve  gotten good at sounding out short words with our ABC blocks.

I’m having a hard time figuring out what to get you for your birthday, because your play isn’t really toy-based anymore.  You and Miles like to play imagination games together, but we’ve got plenty of props for those lying around the house already.  You can’t read well enough yet to get excited about books.  You like doing cooking projects with me, so maybe I’ll get you something related to that.  In fact, there are two cooking projects on our summer activity list that we still need to do.

We’ve made a lot of progress on that list, including trips to the downtown fountain, doing the library’s Summer Reading Program, and eating a lot of frozen treats.  We still have a few left to complete.  I think the two you’re most excited about are the Natural History Museum and Molly’s Cupcakes, which are conveniently located near each other for a combined trip.  I can always count on you for an enthusiastic “YEAH!” when I suggest an adventure.  Whoever invented the phrase joie de vivre must have known a kid like you.

We haven’t traveled much this summer, though we did take a long weekend in St. Louis to see the sights and spend time with Mubby, Skitter, Tyler, Oxana, Aleks, and Vera.  You and Aleks immediately reignited your friendship, and it was fun watching you guys hang out together.  As firstborns tend to be, Aleks is a little cautious, and I think you helped him find his inner adventurer.

Next week you’re going to spend some time at Mubby and Skitter’s house, which is always fun for you, because Mubby comes up with an intense docket of activities and treats.  Sometimes I forget that my needs are not the same as your needs, and just because I crumble up inside if I don’t have a decent amount of quiet time doesn’t mean that’s what works for you.  I’m the mom, so when I’m in charge, you have to live on my schedule.  But Mubby (also a second-born, come to think of it) shares your preference for the action-packed, so you should have a great time.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Your current favorites:  The Famous Five book series, playing outside (even when it’s too hot for most people), Minecraft, competing with Miles over every little thing, and filling any available silence with chatter.  It sometimes drives your dad and me nuts—by dinnertime, he and I are both tired from the day and ready for some peace and quiet.  You do not value those qualities in a dinnertime.  You want to talk-talk-talk, sing if there’s nothing to talk about, and shriek if there’s nothing to sing about.

You are untameable, indefatigable, and mostly unsinkable.  I keep thinking about things we should do together and having to catch myself, because my time with you is going to go down considerably soon.  Since you only ever went to preschool part time, we’ve always had a lot of time together, and it’s going to be a shock to have to wait until three in the afternoon to get my Tobin fix.

Your freckles, your smile, your curls, your laugh:  you are sensory overload in an almost six-year-old body, and you’re one of the very best adventures I’ve ever taken.

Love,

Mommy

 

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7/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #30

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:20 pm

Hey, Callum, you’re two and a half!

You’ve been talking a lot, in complex sentences.  It’s so much fun to get a clearer glimpse of what’s on your mind.  Yesterday we had a family movie night, and we watched The Parent Trap (1961).  You were really interested in the family relationships in the movie and how they compared to your own life.  When Hayley Mills v. 1 was with her mother, you said, “That’s her mom.”  Then you pointed at me and said, “That’s my mom.”  Later, when Hayley Mills v. 2 was with her father, you repeated the pattern with your dad.  I know it’s one of the basic concepts of the human experience, but I enjoyed observing you take in information, analyze it, and apply it to your life.

Summer is here, which brings all the joys and frustrations of having your brothers home more.  They have finished all their summer classes, so there’s been a whole lot of togetherness around here.  At the end of the month, they’re going to spend several days at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house, and it will be interesting to see how you do without them.  You definitely consider them an important part of your world.  You’re usually the first kid up in the morning, and after you’ve been crabby for a while and cuddled on my lap (heaven forbid I need to do anything like make coffee or unload the dishwasher), you always want to go check on “the brothers.”

You’ve been very much two in a lot of ways lately.  You’ve gotten territorial about toys and attention, grabbing things away from people and getting mad when anyone else sits too close to me.  You’ve been very clingy to me in general, and I hope you get over that soon, because it would be super nice to run downstairs to switch laundry without having to bring you with me.  Going down the stairs holding your hand isn’t so bad, but you like to take the stairs two at a time when you go up, and that means either going really slowly or risking one of us popping a shoulder out of socket.  I’m also slightly terrified about how things are going to work out when I go out of town for a few days in August.  I know you’ll be surrounded by people who love you, but the first night I even spent away from either of your brothers was when Tobin and you were born.  They were both older than you are now, so I hope you handle it okay.

You love eating lots of different foods, especially now that summer is bringing so much good produce.  A week or two ago, you took a weirdly-scheduled nap and ended up sleeping through lunch.  I had to wake you up so we could go to Miles’s piano lesson, and while I did manage to stuff a piece of cheese into you before we left, you really hadn’t had much to eat.  As we often do, we went to the Coralville Co-Op while Miles was at his lesson.  We really lucked out—some kind of traveling convention of Co-ops was in town, so our store pulled out all the stops in terms of samples.  As we wandered around the store, you snacked on bread and butter, peaches, cookies, and cheesecake.  You even stuck your finger into our tub of freshly-ground peanut butter before I got the lid on.  It was pretty much the best day of your life.

You want to do everything yourself, and “I do it!” has been a common refrain around here.  You want to turn your own bath water on and off.  You want to turn doorknobs and click your own car seat buckle.  You would prefer not to sit in your high chair, but when you have no choice, you definitely don’t want the tray clipped on.  You would much prefer to just scootch up to the table like a big boy.  You scraped your knees a pretty long time ago, and even though you have only the faintest trace of pink left, you still want band-aids every time you remember.  Sometimes that’s in the middle of the night.

Your current favorites:  cinnamon toast, the Finger Family song, taking baths, not leaving my side.

Most of the time, you are a sweet, funny, and joyful boy.  I’m so happy we have you, and even when you kick me in the kidneys, I’m still glad you’re my little cuddle buddy.

Love,

Mommy

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7/8/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #114

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:53 pm

Dear Miles,

The two words that come to mind when I think about your life lately are hungry and sleepy.  That makes it sound like you’re suffering in some way, and I really don’t think you are, beyond the usual laments that come with having two little brothers.  You’re just growing so fast that all you want to do are sleep and eat.  This is not to say you’ve widened your food vocabulary—you’re still mostly into pasta, hot dogs, and stir fry.  Actually, I take that back.  I finally found organic bing cherries at the store, and along with the delicious peaches that are coming into season, at least you’re eating fruit.  In the meantime, it’s a good thing pasta is cheap, because you go through about three pounds a week.

We’re now in the less-busy segment of our summer, when baseball and your summer classes are done, and we’re living a little more free-form.  You had a good end to your baseball season.  You grew a lot your baseball skills, and you made some good friends and had a great coach.  I’m so proud that you stretched your boundaries and tried a new activity.

I took you and Tobin to a local teen performance of The Little Mermaid a couple of weeks ago, and we all had a good time.  The cast was excellent—there are some very talented kids in this area, and it’s great that they have the opportunity to be part of a production like that.  It’s exactly the sort of thing I was involved with in my youth, and I once again did the silliest thing:  when the lights in the house went down and the pit orchestra played the overture, I teared up.  That particular set of sensory experiences brings up so many memories for me:  the anticipation, the nervousness, the thrill, and the camaraderie of being in the cast of a play.

Baseball is not my thing.  I don’t like playing it, I don’t like watching it (unless someone I love is playing), and the only thing I truly enjoy about the experience is concession stand food.  But after watching you be a part of the Cardinals, I think  I get it.  Being on a baseball team is like being a castmember.  You learn to count on your team-/castmates, you share highs and lows and successes and failures, you deal with egos and anxiety.  I don’t know if you’ll ever want to try out for a play, but if you want to play more baseball, I will understand why.

I think our busy June contributed to your sleepiness, though.  Now that you have more free time, you’ve been spending a good amount of it in bed.  Sometimes I need to run errands, so I leave you notes on your door explaining where I am if you wake up and I’m gone.  It’s nice that you’re old enough to be home alone for short periods, and it’s nice that you can read a note I leave you.  Still, a lot of times you’re still asleep by the time I get home.

We had a fun long weekend in St. Louis with Mubby, Skittergramps, Tyler, Oxana, Aleks, and Vera.  We revisited two of your favorite destinations:  the St. Louis Zoo (where you got to see your splashy old friends the penguins) and the City Museum.  We also spend a lot of time at a park with a kid-friendly fountain.  Even last summer, you were reluctant to do adventurous things like play in water.  When I took you kids to the library last summer, Tobin always wanted to play in the downtown fountain afterward, and you were always happy to sit on a bench and read a book.  I don’t know if it was the hot St. Louis weather or the squirt toys Mubby brought, but this time you jumped right in and played with the locals.

It was a quick trip but an enjoyable one.  You and your brothers mostly got along in the car, even.

You’ve gotten braver in other ways, too.  In most of your summer classes, you already knew at least one other kid in your group.  The third class you took, an animation class offered by our local independent cinema, was totally new to you.  You’d never taken a class anywhere but Willowwind, and you didn’t know anyone else taking the animation class, but you did so well.  You said it was the best class you took all summer.  The first day when you got home, you immediately downloaded the stop motion software and made your own videos the rest of the afternoon.  We’re using some of the other skills you gained by making an original short film, King Tiger.  We still have some work to do on it, so I’ll wait to post a link to that until next month.

I guess you deserve a rest.  Growing, physically and mentally, takes a lot out of a kid.  Congratulations on all your growth, my special boy.

Love,

Mom

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7/5/2017

Selective deafness

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:30 pm

Callum wanted his juice in a blue cup just like Miles.

A:  Here you go, Callum.  I found a blue cup.  Lucky boy!

T:  It’s just like Miles!

M:  It’s not JUST like mine.  It probably has different fingerprints on it.  And it’s scientifically impossible for it to be exactly the same.

T:  I’m not really listening to you.

6/22/2017

The Tobin Times #70

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:17 pm

My sweet Tobin,

It’s summertime, and we’ve barely had a minute to relax and enjoy break.  We’ve been busy-busy-busy with all the activities you and your brother are doing.  You finished up your varied preschool career, and now you’re eligible for a whole new level of summer pastimes.  Around here anyway, it seems all the good camps and classes are for kindergartners and up, and now, that’s you.

Photo by Denny

You did two weeks of Safety Village, which is a class offered by the local school district that taught you all about many different safety topics.  Among other topics, you learned about poison avoidance, animal safety, stranger caution, fire safety, and (your favorite), traffic safety.  I bet everybody’s favorite was traffic safety, because you got to ride in little pedal cars all around a rather elaborate village on the school grounds.  When I first heard about the class, I assumed they set it up every summer and packed it away in a shed somewhere, but when we came to visit on the last day, it became clear that it’s a permanent situation.  They have brick buildings, street signs, working traffic lights, and even a railroad crossing arm that goes up and down.  You went with a friend who will also be a Lucas kindergartner, and you had a great time.

This week you started a paleontology class at Willowwind, where you did one semester of preschool and where we’ve been taking Miles for summer and after-school classes for years.  You seemed a little nervous at first, but you settled right in and now beg to go long before departure time.  For some reason it really tugged at me to see you and Miles walking up to the school together, your big-boy backpacks on.  I’ve mostly accepted the fact that Miles is a school-aged kid, but it hit home that you’re getting ready for that life stage.  If your success and flexibility throughout preschool is any indicator, you will do great.

We’ve had a lot of family togetherness with your dad’s side of the family lately, due to visits to Nana and Papa’s farm, a family reunion on the farm where Papa grew up, and a couple of visits to our house.  You had a blast at the family reunion.  It was a roastingly hot day, but there was a nice breeze, and Aunt Rainey thoughtfully provided a really high-class kiddie pool (complete with working filter).  You and Miles got to know some cousins you haven’t played with much, and I think you truly spent four hours in that pool.  You guys were pretty exhausted by the events, but childhood summers aren’t worth much if you don’t end a good number of days tired, messy-haired, and covered in sunscreen residue.

Our schedule is going to seriously slow down after the 4th of July.  We didn’t do it this way on purpose, but the classes you and Miles chose to take all fell in June.  We’ve also been spending a lot of time out at the ballfield (your dad more than I) watching and cheering you guys on as you play baseball.  Unfortunately, your last game of the season got rained out after just a couple of innings last night, but you got a good hit and made it around the bases.  I think you’ll miss baseball now that your games are over, but it will be really nice to have more around-the-neighborhood time.  We can take more evening walks to Heyn’s and see all your old park friends.

We went to a local teen production of The Little Mermaid last weekend, and you and Miles both seemed to enjoy it a lot.  It’s nice that you’re getting old enough that I can take you to things like that without too much worry about your behavior.  You’re an energetic kid, and while you’re almost always sweet, you do tend to get a little wiggly.  I was telling you and Miles how much fun I had with you at the play, and you said, “Yeah, but I got a little squirrely toward the end.”  You did, but just a bit, and we were sitting in the front row, so at least you weren’t kicking anyone in the seat in front of you.  You’re truly happiest outside doing wiggly things, but I’m glad you can appreciate some culture too.

Photo by Denny

Your current favorites:  Minecraft, playing ball with Papa, rotini with tomato sauce, Popsicles, The Famous Five series of books, demanding bedtime hugs from Callum (who now thinks it’s a game to resist them, which can send you into a spiral of despair), freestyle dancing, and telling jokes.  During the school year, we often listened to a radio station on the way to school that happened to air Nearly Impossible Trivia right during our commute.  You were sad that we wouldn’t be able to do that anymore, so I got the radio station’s app for my phone, and now we’ve been listening to the trivia questions in bed most mornings.  You also like the classic rock songs we hear as we wait for callers to phone in their guesses.  Your favorite is probably “867-5309,” though I was proud when we got out of the car the other day and you said, “Aw, man!  We got here right when David Bowie was playing!”

Photo by Gary Clarke

I’m looking forward to things calming down so we can have some relaxation this summer, my special Tobin.  You require a lot of energy, but you are kind, smart, and trustworthy, too.  I’m excited to get into the downtown fountain with you, because you are really good at splashing.

Love,

Mommy

 

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6/21/2017

Multi-berry Pie with Almond Crumb Topping

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:55 pm

I made this yesterday and it was a hit.  I hope to make it again next year with the early summer berry bounty.

Adapted from this recipe.

  • 1 pie crust (I used a half recipe of my favorite crust)
  • About 5 cups assorted berries—I used about 3 cups blueberries and 1 cup each of blackberries and raspberries
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • About 3/4 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 (7-ounce) container almond paste
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • a generous pinch of kosher salt

Gently wash berries and set aside, reserving 1 cup blueberries.

In a large, heavy saucepan, whisk together cornstarch and sugar.  Add berries (except reserved blueberries) and cook over medium heat until thick and saucy, about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in reserved blueberries, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

To make topping, break almond paste into smallish (1/2 inch) pieces.  Add to the bowl of a food processor, along with flour, butter, and salt.  Process until clumps begin to form.  Refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Preheat oven to 400F.  While the oven is preheating, put a rimmed metal baking sheet in the oven.  Roll out pie crust and line an 8- or 9-inch glass pie dish with the crust.  Pour cooled berry mixture into crust and sprinkle crumb topping on top.  Put pie dish directly on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes, until topping is nicely browned.  You may need to cover the outer rim of the pie to keep it from over-browning.

Cool thoroughly unless you want to eat it like a gooey crumble, which wouldn’t be the worst thing.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

 

6/9/2017

The Callum Chronicle #29

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:07 pm

Dear Callum,

You are napping right now, which is the only reason I’m allowed to do this.  If you were awake, you wouldn’t like it that I’m using the keyboard.  Your anthem these days is “I do it!”  There’s not a task in the world that you don’t think you do better than anyone else.  You want to brush your teeth by yourself, turn on and off the bath water by yourself, buckle into your car seat by yourself, turn book pages by yourself.  Everything takes twice as long and can be very frustrating.  I’ve learned from experience, though, that taking the extra time to let you buckle your car seat is a lot less maddening than yanking the clips out of your hand and doing it for you.  Two minutes of letting you struggle and eventually get it done can seem like forever when we’re running late to take Tobin to his summer class, but the ten-minute drive seems even more like forever if you’re screaming the whole time, broken-hearted about not having buckled your own seat belt.

We do our best to plan ahead and build some extra time into our tasks.  It’s the only way anyone gets anything done without crying around here.

Photo by Denny

You’re definitely, absolutely two.  I know by now that this stage doesn’t last as long as it seems (and that three brings its challenges, too, so I shouldn’t get too excited about the passage of time).  Your growth and development has brought good things, too.  You are talking more and more all the time.  Your sentences are getting more complex, and I get such a kick out of listening to you form them, slowly and deliberately.  The other day you said to me, “I want…a drink…of water…from Tobin’s…water cup.”  Each little section of the sentence was so important to you, and I could almost see the little gears turning in your head as you sorted out how to communicate your message.

You’ve been in a real Mommy-centric stage lately, though I can say with optimism that you’ve been a little more receptive to your dad in recent days.  Some of it has to do with tiredness.  On days that you don’t nap, you get a case of the five o’clock beasties, and you refuse to let your dad hold you or play with you.  That’s right when I need some freedom to cook dinner and regroup my brain a little bit, but you will not have it.  On days that you do nap, things usually go a little better.

You’ve been enjoying summertime and all the treats and outdoor play opportunities it brings.  Your brothers’ schedules have been so busy for the last couple of months (and will be for a few more weeks) that we haven’t done as many family adventures as I like to do in the summer, but we have July and August for that.  In the meantime, you’ve been mostly a good sport about being carted around to their activities.  We’ve worked in a few Flavor Ice and park outings, and we’ll certainly have more of that soon.  You haven’t been in the downtown fountain yet, and that’s a summer rite of passage you definitely need to complete.

We’ve spent some good time with both sets of grandparents lately, and you loved all the outside time you had at the farm.  We’re going to a family reunion at another farm this weekend, and if it’s not outrageously hot, I hope you can do a lot of running around.

You have a sweet smile and a good sense of routine.  You’ve mostly been sleeping well (even though you’re a bed hog) and are crazy about cinnamon toast.  It’s a good thing Costco sells the bread you like in two-loaf packs, because we’ve been going through a lot of it.  You used to eat the crusts, too, until you saw that Tobin doesn’t.

We had lunch with my cousin Debi and her family last weekend, and she asked what your personality is like.  You look so much like Miles that it’s easy to assume you are the same kind of guy, but you really have your own style.  You have some of Miles’s serious nature, but not the timidity he expressed as a toddler.  With Miles, we never worried about him jumping into the creek or climbing too high at the playground.  You’re very brave, probably because you see your brothers doing adventurous things and want to be part of the fun.  You’re one who would jump right into a lake if you thought there was a fish in there you could squeeze.  You love petting dogs and taking off your shoes at the grocery store.  Any button you see is a button you want to push.  You see a big world before you and you want to do everything it has to offer.  You even want to do the things it’s not specifically offering.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You probably shouldn’t do it while you’re wearing Skitter’s reading glasses, though.  Toddlers fall down often enough when they can see where they’re going.

Love,

Mommy

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6/8/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #113

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:15 pm

My dear Miles,

Here we go, off on another summer of fun and adventure.  You’ve finished third grade, and I’m quite sure that it’s been your favorite school year so far.  You were absolutely crazy about your teacher, Miss Lampe, and justifiably so—now and then a person gets a teacher who truly cares and works particularly hard to challenge and engage his or her students and Miss Lampe was one of them.

I was waiting with excitement to welcome you home on your last day of school, ready to celebrate and enjoy the beginnings of summer.  As I saw you approaching down the block, I could see you were wiping away tears.  My mama bear hackles raised (do bears have hackles?  This may be a mixed metaphor) and I immediately started down my mental list of possible issues:  did you get hurt?  Was someone mean to you?  Did you lose something important?

You didn’t want to talk about it, but we sat together for a while on the front stoop, and eventually you told me that you wanted to stay in third grade.  While I was relieved that you weren’t dealing with bullying or any other serious issue, I felt so sad for your tender little heart.  I know you loved third grade so much, and it will be hard for any school year to top this one.  You recovered, though, and you’ve been enjoying several other great things you have going on.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Baseball continues to be a big factor in your life.  Mubby and Skittergramps came to your game last night, and Skitter is sure that your baseball skills have improved a lot since he last played with you.  Your coach and teammates have done a great job supporting you and helping you grow as a player.  I’m really glad you’re having fun, and I’m very proud that you were willing to try something totally new to you.  Last night you stole two bases and brought a runner home, so I can tell your confidence is growing.

Photo by Denny

We’ve had good times with Nana and Papa recently, including a trip out to the farm.  It was kind of a crummy weather day when we were there, but that didn’t stop you from climbing around on the hay bales and taking a tractor ride with Papa.  It’s a good thing I got you some rubber boots to wear in the creek, because they came in handy on a muddy farm, too.

 

Family Folk Machine performed at Arts Fest last weekend, and you got to perform your original song.  The picture here shows you with your songwriting partner, Lynn, who also became a good friend to you during this session.  I don’t know if you grasp how cool it is that you had the opportunity to perform your composition on the Main Stage at Arts Fest—it’s a chance not many people have.  We’re so fortunate to live in a community that gives us these many and varied possibilities.   When I was looking into summer camps and classes for you, I could have easily filled your entire summer with different activities you would have loved.  There are computer programming classes, film classes, outdoor camps, sports workshops, creative writing classes, cooking classes, and just about anything else you could imagine.  As it happens, the ones you wanted to take the most happen to all fall in June.  Along with baseball, our June calendar is pretty full.  You decided on Minecraft Designers, Film, and Animation.

On our few precious unscheduled nights, we’ve been watching movies together, eating popcorn from last fall’s garden harvest, and enjoying the minimal peace and quiet a person can squeeze out in a home that also contains a Tobin and a Callum.  We have a lot more on our summer activity list, but we have to get through our crazy June before we can get started on things like trips to the Splash Pad and signing up for the library’s summer reading program.

We got some really excellent news in the mail on the same day as Arts Fest.  We were pessimistic about you getting into ELP for the coming school year because you missed a section on the first of the two qualifying tests, which brought your final score down significantly.  However, you did so well on the second of the tests that it made up the difference, and you qualified.  You were so, so excited, and I’m so happy for you.  I know that it’s going to be hard for you to leave third grade behind, but this will be a great boost to your fourth grade year.

Enjoy your summer, my sweet boy.  I’m so proud of all you’ve done and all you continue to do.

Love,

Mom

 

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5/22/2017

The Tobin Times #69

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:54 pm

My dear Tobin,

I was going through some documents yesterday, and I found your nearly-expired passport.  We got it when you were just 17 months old in preparation for the cruise we went on.  After a few disastrous attempts by the staff at CVS, we decided to take your passport photo at home.  We read up on the guidelines, got the framing and lighting set up, and noted that you were not supposed to smile.  I guess that must make it easier to do computerized facial recognition, because it seems like other official documents have that requirement as well.

Try as we might, we couldn’t get a picture of you not smiling.  We ended up just going with a smiling picture and hoping the folks at passport control would let it slide.  Now that it’s time to get an updated passport, you’re probably old enough to keep your face neutral.  Still, your default expression is smiling.  Whether the smile is big or small, you almost always have an upward turn to your lips, and that reflects your general life attitude as well.

You’re almost done with preschool, and you’re pretty excited to celebrate your preschool graduation later this week.  I am generally of the opinion that graduation ceremonies for minor academic transitions are stupid, but you’ve been through a lot in your preschool career, and I’m okay with marking that moment.  Though we were concerned at first with how your experience at Kinderfarm would be, you’ve ended up very happy (though this is not surprising given your generally positive attitude).  You’ve made some good friends, and we’ve promised to continue with playdates through the summer.  You love the baby animals that turned up in the spring, and you often say you wish you could stay longer when I pick you up at lunch time.  You’re definitely ready for the next level, including tougher academics and a longer school day.  You’re smart and energetic and sweet, and kindergarten is going to be lucky to have you.

You’ve been having fun with baseball this season, both as a player on your own team and as a spectator for Miles.  Though I usually stay home with Callum, I attended the other night, and it was fun watching you make friends with another little brother.  I am often amazed at how well you mesh with other kids.  Maybe part of that is your middle-kid status—you have plenty of experience in dealing with other kids, and though you sometimes get frustrated with your brothers’ idiosyncrasies, you never stay down for long.  There’s nothing that makes you happier than being included in Miles’s activities.  He had a playdate last weekend to play Minecraft with a friend, and they did a good job letting you take part sometimes.  You also did a good job not being too annoying.  You confessed to me that you sometimes annoy Miles on purpose, which you do well because you’re so good at reading people and knowing how to elicit specific reactions.  It’s a great power and a great responsibility, kid.

Though we’re currently in a cool and rainy spell, we had some beautiful days earlier in the month.  You’ve helped me get the garden in, as you always do.  You’re very excited for the Amish Deer Tongue lettuce (because doesn’t that sound appetizing?), as well as the peas, tomatoes, and popcorn you’ve helped me put in so far.  Because you have a summer birthday and therefore wouldn’t be able to celebrate with your preschool class, I asked your teacher whether you could bring in treats during this last month of school.  She agreed, and you were very proud to bring in popcorn from last fall’s harvest that you had helped plant.  You’re always up for outdoor fun, including our first sprinkler adventure of the season.  We need to get to work on our Summer Activity List, because I know it will include time in the downtown fountain and swimming at City Park.

You and Miles have proven yourselves responsible enough to play down in the (tiny dribble of a) creek together, so you’ve had fun splashing around.  You would probably do it for hours, though your time is usually limited by Miles’s patience.

You told me recently that even after Donald Trump is done being president, you still want to listen to classic rock radio.  I switched from NPR as my default listening after the election, because it was just too depressing a way to start my day.  We took up the classic rock station, and you’ve really gotten into some of the music.  You like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” quite a bit, and the last couple of nights before bed, you have been running around like a crazy man singing “867-5309” at the top of your lungs.  I’m not sure that really counts as classic rock, but I can’t deny that it’s a catchy song.

I’m looking forward to squeezing out lots of fun time with you this summer.  We kept your summer classes and camps pretty lightly scheduled (at least after June, which is going to be a bit crazy).  I knew when we decided to wait one more year on kindergarten that I needed to appreciate having more time with you for one extra year, and your sweet face has been a joy to me.

I personally don’t care if you smile in every passport photo you take for the rest of your life.  I have the feeling that if the people at passport control meet you for thirty seconds, they’ll understand too.

Love,

Mommy

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