6/22/2016

The Tobin Times #58

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:40 am

Tobin, Tobin, Tobin,

I bet if I used the search tool on this website to look for the term “Jekyll/Hyde” I’d have more than one hit.  You’re not the first four-year-old to cause stress in this family, and you’re not the last.  It seems like every night, your dad and I end up struggling to control our tempers (or even sometimes losing them—sorry, kid; we’re not perfect).  I know it’s hard when it seems like everything we do is for Miles:  going to summer classes, taking him to playdates, piano lessons, watching Harry Potter movies.  We try to do things that are special for you, too, like tee-ball and pizza dinners.  I’m sure from your perspective, though, it seems like the things we do are never Tobin-focused.

You still don’t have to shout so much, though.  You shout a lot.  You can be uncooperative and disinclined to listen to polite requests, which inevitably leads to your dad and me yelling at you.  I hate that, he hates that, you hate that.  And yet, it keeps happening.  I don’t want to yell at you, Tobin, but I also want you to stop jumping on the couch.

Other times you’re so kind and sweet.  I always think of Miles as being more sensitive and you being more happy-go-lucky, but you have a real tender side as well.  We had a hang-out evening with some friends last night, and it involved a change of venue because the little girl in the family had been to the ER that morning.  She’s fine, but her mom understandably didn’t want to take her out to City Park on a hot, humid night and let her get jerked around by mid-century carnival rides.  I was explaining to you why we weren’t going to be able to do the rides that night, and you said, “Stop talking about that.  It makes me sad.”  I thought you meant missing out on the rides (which we’ll do another time soon, I promise), but it soon became clear that it upset you to think about your friend being unresponsive.  I’m proud that you care more about people than carnival rides.

Your tee-ball season has started off well.  You’re in a league of very-beginners, coached by your dad again because, again, no other parent volunteered to do it.  I was hoping your dad wouldn’t be a coach this time, because your practices are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Thursdays are especially tiring and busy days for me.  I was looking forward to him taking all you boys to your practices so I could have some decompression time.  But when no one else volunteered, I gave him the go-ahead to coach.  Even though I’m pretty tired (and often crabby) by the end of the night on Thursday, it’s better than not having a coach for you and your little tee-ball pals.  You had your first game last week, and you did a great job.  You had two excellent hits and did some good fielding too.  You’re pretty proud to be one of the Mercer White Sox.

You’ll start a couple of days a week at Kinderfarm next month, but as of now, we’ve been doing around the house and around town activities.  Your favorite thing to do is watch YouTube videos of people playing with toys or playing video games.  I have no idea why those are so interesting to you, but you would do it all day if I let you.  I do not let you.  We try to get out every day and do something, whether it’s a walk to the Flavor Ice stand or a trip downtown to the library or Natural History Museum.  We haven’t made it into the downtown fountain yet, but I know you will show Callum a great time once we get that done.  You two are water enthusiasts.

You had a playdate last week with a preschool friend.  That was pretty exciting for you, because Miles has done more playdates lately than you have.  You were so proud to have Grant come over.  You guys did a great job playing Legos and superheroes together.  I remarked to your dad that I think you and Miles have reached the stage where playdates make my life easier, not harder.  Before, when you required constant supervision, it was just additional childcare.  Now, you can play creatively and with only occasional check-ins and fudge pop distribution.

Even though night is still prime meltdown time for you, you love your bedtime stories.  Our usual pattern is that I get Callum to sleep while your dad reads you one or two stories, then he takes Cal and I read you another before lights out.  Last night, your dad and I were doing the hand-off when you came crawling—you were literally crawling on the floor; I don’t know why—in and begged your dad to keep reading to you.  I agreed to keep the baby for a while longer on the condition that it would be lights-out time when I got to you.  Your dad seemed skeptical that you would be able to handle this adjustment to routine, and it’s true that you fought me on it, but I held firm.

I think it’s important to follow through on commitments.  I want you to know that when I say something, I mean it, and that threats are not empty.  I’m certainly guilty of the occasional empty threat, but I figure as long as you have a solid understanding that I’m willing to make good on them, you’ll get the point.  The flip side of that is that I will keep my promises to you.  Miles and your dad are going to a Cedar Rapids Kernels game together later this week.   The last time you went, it was pretty boring for you, so they decided to go just the two of them.  I promised you we could eat at Arby’s for a special date.  I am not a huge Arby’s fan, but you are, so that’s what we’re doing.   In the spirit of a story from your newly rediscovered Robert Munsch collection, a promise is a promise.

I promise you’ll still get bedtime stories whether you’re Jekyll or Hyde.  Now will you please stop jumping on the couch?

Love,

Mommy

6/16/2016

Cooking up a plan

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:48 pm

T: I wish Mubby and Skitter lived in Iowa City, right next door to us. Then I could just go over there and say hi.
A: Yeah, that would be fun.
T: Only they would have a different house, and it might not have a balcony. (pause) Or cookie cutters.

6/10/2016

The Callum Chronicle #17

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:09 pm

My little Callum-puppy,

It’s been a month of learning and growing for you.  I just remarked to your dad that I’m impressed with how well you communicate.  You use a good mix of nonverbal (nodding, shaking your head, and ASL signs) and verbal methods.  Your vocabulary has increased a lot lately.  You now say a lot of your favorite foods (blueberry, strawberry, noodle), and you just started saying thank you.  It’s not quite in context yet—you usually say it as you hand something to me, probably because that’s when you’re accustomed to hearing me say it.  It’s very cute in any case.

You give really good hugs and kisses, and you like to punctuate your hugs with little pats on the back and shoulders of whoever is receiving the hug.  You can climb up big staircases, including the one that leads to the top bunk of your brothers’ bed.  You still don’t have much for self control.  Four times this week I’ve let you get out of my sight, only to find you in my bathroom drinking from a discarded Dixie cup that you filled with water you got by loosening the toilet pipes.  That is a huge problem on so many levels.  Just ask for water, Callum.  I know you’re proud of getting it yourself, but you can sign for it, and you make a great slurping nose with pursed lips that also communicates thirst clearly.  I would be happy to get you water by one of the many normal means we have available.

Every time you’ve done it, I’ve scolded you harshly, which makes you cry, but thus far it hasn’t made you stop trying to do it.  Now I’m just trying to remember to close the bathroom door.  That makes you stand outside the door and cry.  Sorry, dude.  It’s not worth rotting out the floor.

We’re finally over your disgusting bout of hand-foot-mouth disease.  I have to say, that is one of the most challenging illnesses a kid in our family has had.  I am so grateful, of course, that we haven’t had to deal with anything more serious, but dang that was nasty.  You were up multiple times per night for at least two weeks straight scratching your poor little arms and legs.  We went through a lot of Benadryl cream.  You developed a taste for Children’s Zyrtec, which the doctor recommended as a better itch reducer than Claritin.  Now you want to carry the bottle around all the time.

We went to a wedding on your dad’s side of the family last weekend, and I so appreciated your easy-going nature.  You were happy to let anyone play with you and carry you around, even people you don’t see very often.  You certainly have your moments of demanding mama, but you do great with sociability a lot of the time too.  You had a great time dancing at the wedding and playing out in the country at a gathering the next day.  You liked the dogs and cats and rope swing.

It’s gotten hot out now, and my plan was to take you and your brothers to the splash pad, but now I’m thinking it might be too hot for that.  Maybe we’ll get out to Twilight Swim at the City Park pool soon.  You’re big enough now to have a lot of fun in the baby pool,  I bet.  In the meantime, you’ve been enjoying your share of ice cream and other cooling treats.  Yesterday, during our weekly trip to Dairy Queen before Miles’s piano lesson, I thought you would lose your mind if I didn’t let you hold my ice cream cone.  Before, you’d always been happy to get spoonfuls from my cone, but I think the time has come when I’m going to have to get you one of your own.

On the last day of school for Miles and Tobin, we celebrated with a trip to Heyn’s.  Everyone on the east side of Iowa City stole our idea, because the line was huge.  I left the stroller outside and held you while we waited in line, and it about killed you to be so close to the ice cream without getting any.  “I-kee, I-kee” you said over and over, pointing at the glass case where you just knew the ice cream is stored.  We did get to the front of the line eventually, and you got plenty of bites.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Your current favorites:  playing with grownup things (my phone, chopsticks, other people’s shoes, keys) and ignoring all your toys, pizza and peanut butter toast crusts, going outside, climbing up and down stairs, pour water into your high chair tray, twisting around to find the owls on your changing pad cover right when I’m trying to change your diaper, dancing, eating garden strawberries, and giving sweet kisses.  Last night you accidentally bonked Tobin on the head with your Zyrtec bottle, and you kissed him right on his owie.

You’re a great little guy, Callum.  Thanks for your patience this summer as we run around to all your brothers’ activities.  I’ll make sure you get some good ice cream out of the deal.

Love,

Mommy

6/8/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #101

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:25 pm

My dear Miles,

So quickly, your second grade year is over.  You ended the year happy and confident, with some new interests (baseball, the board game Clue) and plenty of goals for the summer.  We worked on a list, and you’ve already accomplished a lot of them.  We still need to do some trips to the Splash Pad and the pool, but the summer is young, and there’s hot weather in the forecast.

You’re taking a few classes, the first of which you started this week.  You’ll have two weeks of computer programming, then a week of chess, then a few weeks of break before you begin Crime Scene Investigators.  It’s fun to take you to Willowwind again.  That place always feels like an old friend.  Tobin is looking forward to joining you there next summer when he’s eligible for camps and classes.

You decided to continue piano lessons through the summer, which is nice because it lends some structure to our less-occupied weeks.  You truly enjoy it, too.  Your current project is a song from the game King’s Quest IV:  The Perils of Rosella.  That’s a computer game I played as a kid, and we found a version online that you can now play.  You love it as much as I did, and upon your request, I captured the audio of the song that Rosella plays on the organ in the haunted house after she gets the sheet music from one of the ghosts.  Your awesome teacher, Tara, transcribed the music, and we’re working on helping you learn it.  You’ve nailed the first half, and now you just need to get confident with the second half of the song.  I’m sure it won’t take you long, since I often hear the strains of the spooky song coming up from the basement, even outside your normal practice time.  I credit Tara with keeping piano fun for you, because you don’t seem to dread practicing the way I did as a kid.  She does a great job finding a balance between challenging you and not overwhelming you.

You really loved your second grade teacher, Mr. Turnquist.  He had a cool approach to homework.  You had math worksheets a few times a week, but you also had weekly creative projects.  They were technically optional, but since you’re Miles, you did every single one.  The last one might have been the best.  You had to think of an invention, draw and describe it on a poster, and then make a model of it.  You said that most of your classmates did things like time-traveling cars and other fantastical inventions, but you took a different approach.  I suggested that you think of a problem, then base your invention on a way of solving that problem.  The problem you came up with is the fact that you’re always dropping Cheerios on the floor, and your dad and I get irritated when we step on them.

To solve the problem, you invented Cheerio Duck.  It’s a robotic duck that scans the floor with cameras in its eyes and munches any Cheerios it sees.  You even planned for a trap door in the duck’s belly for Cheerio removal.  I thought that was a practical and original idea.  Now, every morning when you drop Cheerios, you call out “Cheerio Duck!”  Sadly, your prototype isn’t a working model.  Tobin has even taken to yelling “Laundry Duck!” in the hopes that a robot duck will come pick up the socks he always leaves on the floor.  Maybe that can be your next invention.

We’ve been busy over the last several weekends, with our Family Folk Machine concert, a trip to Ames, and a family wedding in Albia.  You did a great job at the concert.  For the first time, you not only sang a solo but also did a spoken introduction to a song.  You worked every night for a week leading up to the concert so you’d have your blurb memorized.  On the day of the show, I offered you a cheat sheet with the text, but you declined.  And, of course, you nailed it.

Harry Potter remains your favorite topic of just about everything:  reading, movies, discussion.  The final book is broken into two movies, and you’ve reached the point in the book that the first movie covers.  We’re doing to have to rent that soon.  You had a play date with another Harry Potter-loving friend yesterday, and the two of you were throwing spells and hexes at each other all over the Ped Mall.

Photo by Gary Clarke

I’m just now getting used to your face with those big adult teeth in it, and next week, we have an appointment with an orthodontist.  I don’t know what she’ll recommend, exactly—it might not be braces just yet.  You seem to want them, though I’m not sure why.  I’ve tried to explain to you that while they’re good in the long-term, braces are sort of a hassle, but you still like the idea.  That may change the first time you have them tightened.  I remember that painful process well.  We’ll see what she says.  You may try to use it as a negotiation point for getting more ice cream.

One of the goals I’ve set for you for the summer is to eat a piece of pizza.  It seems like a low-threshold food for you to explore, and it would make things a lot easier at birthday parties and other pizza-centric events.  There’s also a cool arcade/pizza joint in town that would be a great family dinner destination, but we have never been there because there’s nothing you will agree to eat.  Pizza, Miles.  Pizza is your friend.

You have a lot of summer left in front of you, my sweet boy.  Let’s do all kinds of fun things and invent a duck to clean up all our messes.

Love,

Mom

5/27/2016

A firm opinion

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:19 pm

T:  Can I have more goldfish?
A:  Okay, but you have to let me clean out your ears afterward.
T:  That’s a sturdy trick!  (pause)  What does sturdy mean?

5/24/2016

The Tobin Times #57

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:56 pm

My little sunshine boy Tobin,

We’re almost done with the school year.  Tomorrow is the last day, and while I think you’re looking forward to summer break, you’re going to miss your friends and teachers at Hoover.  You had a great year.  You made some good friends, learned a lot (you’re doing some reading, partly thanks to Miles’s tutelage), and proved once again that you’re flexible and resilient.  Though I’m sure you would have done great in kindergarten, one more year of preschool will be good for you too.  Kinderfarm will give you a whole new skillset in the outdoorsy realm, and I’m sure you’ll keep up the academics as well.  Lucas Elementary will have to brace itself for you once you start kindergarten the following school year.

You’ve told me that you want to take a semester off from Family Folk Machine, though now I’m not so sure you’ll stick to that plan.  You did such a good job at our concert last weekend.  It was a very long day, starting in the morning with sound check and continuing on until past four o’clock.  Last time you fell asleep right there on the stage during the last song, and I thought you were in danger of doing the same thing this time around.  You did great, though.  I saw you working hard on maintaining your focus.  I couldn’t see you because you were standing in front of me, but our director Jean tells me that you really rocked out on the song “People Have the Power.”  Nana and Papa were there in the audience to cheer you on, and they too were impressed with your great behavior and participation.

Another reason I suspect you’ll want to re-up in the fall is all your good choir friends.  You may or may not have a crush on a couple of them, too.  I’ll support you whichever way you want to go.  Sometimes rehearsals can be a little long and tedious for you, but I also think it’s good to expose you to people who are working together on an artistic endeavor.  For the most part you rise to the occasion and do great.

A couple of weeks ago we attended Wild Kratts Live, the tickets to which you and Miles got as Christmas presents.  Wild Kratts is one of your favorite TV shows, a PBS joint about two brother wildlife experts who go on semi-fantastical adventures in the interest of conservation and education.  For the live show, the actual Kratt brothers were there.  They put on a pretty fun event.  At one point you leaned over Miles to say to me, “I’m really enjoying this!”  You made me promise that if Wild Kratts Live has another tour that stops near us, we have to go.

Whenever we attend a theatrical event, I think to myself that we need to do it more often.  It can be pretty expensive, which is why I sometimes balk at getting tickets for things I’m not sure you’re going to love, but I should really just buck up and do it more often.  Maybe we could skip some of the toys and do more tickets for Christmas and birthdays.  When I was a kid, Mubby used to take me to performances pretty often.  Sometimes I found the actual show pretty boring, but there’s something magical about being part of the whole process.  We attended your cousin Max’s school performance of The Music Man, and I’ll be honest with you, the pit orchestra was not the strongest part of the show.  To be fair, they were middle schoolers, and I admire that their teachers had the ambition to put on such a challenging play.  Max and Foster were both excellent.  The orchestra probably needed a little more rehearsal.  Nonetheless, when the lights went down and the overture started playing, I got chills.  I hope you grow to love those moments too.

I’m excited to have more time with you this summer, Tobin.  You’re a lot of fun to have around.  I’m sure we’ll do all kinds of exciting things.  We haven’t sat down to make our summer activity list yet, but you’re already signed up for tee-ball in the first half of the summer and two mornings a week of Kinderfarm in the second half.  Other than that, I’m sure we’ll be hitting the splash pad, the movies, the library, the downtown fountain, the frozen yogurt shop, and the Natural History Museum.  You’re definitely old enough to enjoy the summer reading program, so we’ll have to see what the prizes are this time around.

I’ll probably go crazy if we sit around the house too much, so I thank you in advance for going on adventures with me.  We don’t have any specific vacation plans, though I’d like to make a Saint Louis trip if we can get it done over a long weekend.

Your current favorites:  pepperoni pizza, waffles, Spider-Man books and videos, taking walks, playing at the playground in the evening with your neighborhood friends, helping with dinner preparation and setting the table, dancing, and doing whatever Miles does.  You’re not a copy-cat, though.  Even though Miles gives you a lot of good ideas, you put your own spin on things.  I know it can be frustrating to be a little guy and just not able to do everything your big brother does, and we’ve certainly dealt with some tears and grumpiness.  You get mad that you can’t write in cursive, that you can’t play Clue without significant help, that you can’t learn computer programming on the Khan Academy website.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Still, you find your own way to get things done.  I can always count on you for a smile, a hug, and a dance party.  Keep on gettin’ down, my Tobin, even if you’re the only one facing that direction.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

 

5/23/2016

Full of suggestions

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:22 pm

We’re trying to discourage the kids from being sanctimonious tattle-tales.

T: (to Miles) You need to tie your shoes.
A: Yes, he does, but you’re not his dad.
T: Neither are you.

5/12/2016

The Callum Chronicle #16

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:13 pm

Oh, my little Callum.

We’re going through a rough patch right now with your health.  I don’t know what’s wrong with your tiny immune system, but it seems like you’ve been sick more than you’ve been healthy for your whole little life.  Right now is particularly bad.  You came down with a bad rash all over your arms, legs, and face.  It’s very itchy and has made it almost impossible for you to sleep.  This, of course, makes it almost impossible for your dad and me to sleep.  Your dad, knowing how useless I am if I don’t get enough sleep, was up very nearly the whole night with you last night.  He tried to get you to sleep at the usual time, but after a while he came and woke me up and said he wanted to take you to the emergency room.  You were thrashing and scratching and crying, and neither of us could do a thing to calm you down.

You guys spent a couple of hours in the ER while I stayed home with your brothers.  He told me to try to sleep, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to while you were anywhere but safe at home.  Complicating my crummy personality when I don’t get enough sleep, I am a Princess and the Pea when it comes to sleeping circumstances.  I can’t sleep unless things are perfect.  When you’re not with me, things are definitely not perfect.

After a few thousand years, your dad called to update me.  He said, “Well, the good news is that he’s not that sick.”  He didn’t have to tell me the bad news:  there’s nothing we can do to help you.  Apparently it’s just some kind of virus or allergic reaction, and we just have to let it run its course.  We figured out this morning that Benadryl cream seems to help more than oral Benadryl, so we’ll try that tonight and hope for the best.  You’ve been pretty cheerful when it’s not the middle of the night, but you look disgusting (or as disgusting as the cutest baby in the universe can look).  We’re supposed to go to Miles’s school for a music demonstration tomorrow, and he really wants us to go, but you look like you fell in a vat of poison ivy.  I guess if you’re acting okay, we’ll be brave and show up.

You’ve been saying a lot of words lately.  It seems like every day or two you add a new one.  A favorite lately has been “do[g],” which you shout whenever we see one when we’re out on our daily walks.  The other day we passed by a house that had a cartoony little dog sign on the lawn chastising dog owners for letting their pets poop there.  You saw the sign and said “do[g].”  I thought that was pretty smart.  It only looked a little like a dog.  It was two-dimensional, about four inches high, in profile, and a line drawing.  It was a pretty long mental leap for you to realize that such a thing represented a living creature.

You also love to look at and identify squirrels, which sounds more like cull, but it’s consistent.  We also have a new game of shaking our fists at rabbits in the yard.  Fortunately, the fence Tobin and I built seems to be keeping them out of the garden, but it’s still fun to share in our outrage.

You’re brave and sweet and love trying to keep up with your brothers.  They’re pretty great about helping you on the playground and around the house.  Miles carries you around even when you’d do fine walking on your own.  You just smile and let him.  Except when you can’t sleep because you’re so uncomfortable, you’re a very relaxed and go-with-the-flow guy.  You’re going to love having more time with your brothers this summer.  We probably won’t be able to take as many long walks together, but we’ve got all kinds of things planned.

I truly hope you can get some good sleep tonight, my sweet little boy.  It’s such an awful feeling to sit there with you crying in my arms, completely unable to console you.  Last night I really wanted to give your dad a chance to sleep, since he’d been up with you for so long, but I just couldn’t handle it.  I had tried every trick I could think of, bouncing and rocking and singing and nursing and cuddling and cold compresses and baking soda and hydrocortisone and ibuprofen and everything.  When your dad heard me crying louder than you, he came and rescued us.

He’s a really good husband and father.  Good job picking him, Cal.  We’ve got a heckuva support system.

Your current favorites:  spending time outside (though spring allergens may be one of the causes of our current turmoil), string cheese, Honey Nut Cheerios, the books Jamberry and Goodnight Moon, stacking rings, and giving really fantastic hugs and kisses.

Now please, let’s get some sleep tonight, little Callum.  I’ll do my best to help you feel good, and you just relax.

Love,

Mommy

5/10/2016

Latin roots

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:39 pm

M:  What’s a Mexican restaurant’s favorite spell?

Everybody else:  What?

M:  Petrificus tortillas.

5/9/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #100

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:05 pm

My dearest Miles,

It’s been one hundred months (and a couple of days, because this is my life) since my sweet baby boy was born.  This is the one hundredth one of these memos I’ve written.  I remember being so curious during your early weeks and months about the kind of person you’d become.  Let me tell you, I had no idea you’d be the best sleeper in the house.  Nowadays we have to pry you out of bed in the mornings, and when you sleep in on weekends, you often don’t get up until 9:30 or later.  My little premie baby was up every couple of hours for a long time.  Back then, I knew a lot less about babies than I do now, and I didn’t understand that it was perfectly normal.  People kept asking how you were sleeping, and I felt like a failure because the answer was “not so great.”  Actually the real answer should have been “exactly like a breastfed baby is supposed to sleep for optimum brain development,” but I didn’t know that then.  I just knew that letting you cry, the couple of times we did it, felt so completely awful that we abandoned the plan.

It turned out okay.  Even though you didn’t sleep through the night until you were two, you now sleep through all kinds of distractions.  You can sleep through Tobin having a night terror, Callum screaming about his allergies or his growing molars, a thunderstorm, and probably an air raid, though I hope we don’t have to test that.

You are a really great big brother, especially to Callum.  You love Tobin plenty too, but he’s old enough to get on your nerves, often on purpose.  Little siblings are really good at knowing exactly what will drive their big siblings crazy, and Tobin is adept at that.  You two have fun together, and you really are best friends, but there’s some frenemy tension going on as well.  You’re focused, a perfectionist, and a lover of predictability.  Tobin is none of those.

Callum, however, gets nothing but love from you.  He can sit on you, pull your hair, tear your homework, and puke on your shoes, and you still are so sweet to him.  The age difference between you helps, since you’re old enough to understand his mostly-innocent motivations, and he’s young enough to be very forgivable.  He loves going to pick you up from school, and on weekend mornings, when you finally wake up, he thinks that joining you in the top bunk is about the coolest thing ever.

This month held a pretty fantastic event:  the annual Lucas Elementary Team Spelling Bee.  You competed last year and did well, but your ultimate dream was to be on the winning team.  We worked hard studying the long, challenging word list.  We drilled the tough words over and over, and you got really good at the whole “state the word, spell the word, restate the word” format.  We talked about strategies for interacting with your teammates, about being a leader when you knew you were right, but being kind and helpful about it at the same time.

You and your teammates made it through the first round, then the second round, and finally it was down to two teams in the ultimate spell-off.  I smiled when I heard two of the words on which we’d worked particularly hard:  giraffe and exercise.  The spell-off was written, so we didn’t know how you and the other finalist team did until the judges evaluated your work.

The judges announced the winners:  Team H.  I don’t know if you didn’t remember that you were team H or if it just took a moment to sink in, but you sat expressionless for a bit.  Then it hit you.  I can’t remember a time when you were happier.  You shrieked, you jumped, you pumped the air.  You congratulated your teammates and shared in their joy.  You worked hard and you earned your victory.

I hope I wasn’t too obnoxious in the audience.  As a fellow spelling nerd, I was pretty thrilled for you.  You were so excited you almost forgot to have a cookie afterward.  I don’t know if your name is engraved on the school plaque yet, but you’re very proud that you’ll be immortalized on your school walls.  I hope Lucas is still around in twenty years or more and you can take your own kids to see it.

You only have a couple more weeks of school before summer break begins.  You’re signed up for a few classes and you’ll have some relaxing time too.  We’re starting to work on our list of summer wish-list activities.  So far most of yours are food related.  You want to go to Hu Hot Mongolian Grill, Flavor Ice, Panda Express, and McDonald’s.  We’re also looking forward to pool and splash pad time, some sprinkler use in the back yard, and maybe a long weekend in St. Louis.  We’re still working on sorting out the details on that one.

Do you think I’ll still be writing your memos in another 100 months, Miles?  Will you find it embarrassing when you’re sixteen and ask me to stop?  Will I listen to you or ignore your protests?  Can you really be half way to sixteen?

Let’s give it another hundred months and find out.

I love you one hundred months, one hundred lifetimes, one hundred percent.

Love,

Mommy

 

4/25/2016

The Tobin Times #56

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:48 pm

Dear Tobin,

Sometimes it’s hard being the middle brother.  You’ve been struggling lately with not being quite to the same level as Miles—he gets to do some things you can’t do yet, and it’s tough.  When you’re feeling grumpy that Miles gets to do special, creative homework projects, you can’t seem to remember all the activities you and I do when we’re home together.  Miles is jealous that you’ll get to go to Tot Time this summer while he’s at his summer class, but you just wish you were taking computer programming too.

You’re not the baby, either, and your dad and I expect a certain level of behavior and self-control from you.  That can be tough too.  When we ask you to pick up the socks that you always, always leave in the middle of the living room, you sigh deeply and say “Why do I have to do everything around here?”

You got a beginners’ chemistry set recently, and you were not very interested in the suggested experiments.  You preferred to mix the ingredients together willy-nilly.  This kind of chafed my first-born brain.  I was worried the mixtures you made wouldn’t do anything exciting, and you’d lose your interest in science and the whole thing would have been a waste.  Everybody knows that vinegar and baking soda do cool stuff when you mix them together; couldn’t we stick to something with known results?  No, you insisted on dumping in half a bottle of vegetable oil.

Honestly, the vinegar + baking soda + vegetable oil turned out a lot cooler than the prescribed experiment I managed to talk you into doing (growing squishy crystals).  The oil kept the baking soda and vinegar physically separated for a while, so you got to watch the baking soda slowly make its way through the oil layer.  When it hit the vinegar below, it bubbled up through the oil again and looked pretty awesome indeed.

You are a seriously spunky kid.  Sometimes your energy can be hard to harness, but other times you get some impressive things done.  Your dad picked up a used bike for you, and largely due to your experience on the Strider bike, you can now officially ride a two-wheeler, no training wheels at all.  You still need some help stopping and starting, but it’s pretty cool watching such a little guy tool down the path like it’s no big deal.  I worry for your physical safety, but I admire your emotional resilience.  Your have your moments of tearful frustration, but you’re not a moper.  You pick yourself up and move along.  I hope you learn to use the brakes someday, both literal (on your bike) and figurative (on your energy levels as you run laps around the house at bedtime), but I’m also glad you live a life of excitement.

When I manage to get a hold of you, you still love snuggles and hugs.  One good thing about the coming summer humidity is that your curls will be back in their full glory.  Feeling your fluffy little head against my cheek as I cuddle you to sleep at night is one of my favorite things.  You’ve even taken an interest in showers lately, not coincidentally because Miles shifted from baths to showers.  Your bedtime curls are often damp, whether from shower water or sweat.

You’re very imaginative, which manifests itself in great drawings and stories, but also in some questionable tales you present as fact.  I always send you to the bathroom one last time before lights-out, because your dad and I decided that we’re not going to buy Pull-ups anymore.  Ninety percent of the time you do great, but the other night, I’m pretty sure you didn’t tell the truth about that final bathroom trip.  The whole event seemed suspiciously quiet to me, but when I asked you if you really went, you swore that you did and that you just hadn’t flushed.  That night you had an accident.  The next morning your dad and I debriefed the incident, and he said he saw you walk past the bathroom but not go in.  Suspicious.  I’m not sure why you would lie about that.  Maybe it’s just about asserting independence and control over your own body.  I hope you figured out that there are better options.

Your current favorites:  playing computer and video games of all sorts with Miles (Minecraft, Mario, King’s Quest), riding your bike to Heyn’s for ice cream, swinging on the monkey bars, our botany walks home from school (you know all about the various flowering plants of the neighborhood and the difference between deciduous trees and conifers), and playing with friends.  You make friends where ever you go, and I’m not worried one bit about you feeling lonely in this world.  We went to Dubuque last weekend to see cousins Max and Foster in The Music Man, and before the show, we had some hangout time with extended family.  You jumped right into the the Capture the Flag game like you’d been playing for years.  Sometimes I think you’re more socially adept than I am.

Stay brave and smiling and sweet, my little Tobin.  Some of the best things happen when you ditch the instructions and get a little willy-nilly.

Love,

Mommy

4/13/2016

A lack of education

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:49 pm

Tobin, Callum and I were sitting at the table having bedtime snack while Miles was in the shower. 

A:  I’m going to go try to get Tobin out of the sh—I mean Miles.  What is wrong with my brain?

T:  Maybe you never went to preschool.

 

4/12/2016

The Callum Chronicle #15

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:07 pm

Hi, Mr. Toddler.

You are an adventure baby for sure now.  I can’t remember the last time you crawled, except vertically.  Your favorite destinations these days are the grown-up chairs in the living room and the top bunk.  You’re still not so great at getting down, which makes the bunk bed problematic.  You’re pretty proud of yourself when you do big-boy things, though.  You always have to look back to make sure someone saw your most recent limits-stretching accomplishment.

I started making a list, and you have ten words that you say pretty consistently now:  mama, dada, bubba (that one’s new), ca-cuh (cracker), Do (Tobin), ah done, uh-oh, up, out, and apple.  You definitely understand a whole lot more than that, too.  You know how to both shake and nod your head now, and you answer questions with better-than-random accuracy.  You’ve become a very good nonverbal communicator, using signs and other gestures like waving and blowing kisses.  You can identify different body parts, though you get your nose and your teeth confused sometimes.

Recently, Tobin filled up the whole living room with stuffed animals and gave them all names.  You got especially interested in two of them, a funny monster and a rabbit.  I tested you this morning and you got them both right.  You were able to go find “Mr. Grumpy” and “Carrot Eater” on the first try.

Well, this picture just reminded me that you also say hat.  I guess you know eleven words.

Like your brothers, you had lots of fun on our vacation.  You put in some good beach and pool time.  You were a little nervous about the ocean at first, but it wasn’t long before you charged right in.  You also became a fan of Key lime pie, which I can’t say is a surprise.  It’s delicious.  You did a good job on our flights, overall.  You got a little loud toward the end of our flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Chicago, but you didn’t scream and cry or anything.  You just got bored and were not interested in staying in your seat.  I wasn’t either, but we got through it.  You liked the Chinese food at O’Hare.

You’re lying next to me now, trying to breathe through your stuffy nose.  We’ve had one cold after another this winter/spring, and I think a new one has descended on the household.  You, your dad, Tobin and I are all stuffed up.  One of the hardest things about sharing germs the way we do is that being sick ruins your sleep, which therefore ruins my sleep, just when I need sleep the most so I can better take care of you.  Your dad has been putting in extra hours with you at night so I can get some rest, and I dearly appreciate it.  It does seem like maybe you’re getting the hang of breathing out of your mouth, which is good because it’s basically the only way you’ve been able to get any oxygen for the last six months.

You’re so cute, though.  I can’t believe what a sweetheart you are.  You’re friendly and outgoing, and you love to wave at friends and strangers alike.  You tolerate being held by a wide variety of people, and I haven’t met anyone yet who can resist picking you up when you stretch your arms out.  I have to run a little screening process to keep it to people we know.

You’re popular at Family Folk Machine.  The big kids vie for your attention, and you’ve made a habit lately of toddling up to me while I’m singing.  It should probably be annoying, but I can’t help scooping you up and cuddling you.  You’re one of the Family Folk Machine gang.  I should order you a shirt.

Your current favorites:  water from your special cup (you request it by saying “aaah”), water from other people’s water bottles, blurples on your thighs, string cheese, stir-fry, ice cream, the free cookies at Hy-Vee while we shop, and playing outside.  Today you went down the big twirly slide on Tobin’s lap several times.  We had to come home from the playground because you wouldn’t stop trying to get in the creek.  That’s not totally out of the realm of possibility, but let’s at least wait until it’s eighty degrees or higher.

You’re a lot of fun, little Callum.  We’re going to have a good summer together.  Just wait till your brothers let you share some Flavor Ice.  It’s going to blow your mind.  You’re probably going to try to jump into the arms of the friendly Flavor Ice proprietress.

Love,

Mommy

4/8/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #99

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:16 pm

Dear Miles,

I mentioned to you that you just turned ninety-nine months old, and you immediately started planning a celebration for your one hundred month birthday.  It involves a trip to Panda Express.  That’s all the detail I’ve gotten out of you so far, but we could probably rustle up some cake or something, too.

It’s hard to believe that next month at this time, I’ll be writing your one hundredth Monthly Miles Memo.  When I started writing them back in 2008, my goal was to document your first year.  After your first year completed, the idea of not writing them anymore made me sad, so I just kept going.  Now, here we are, eight-plus years and ninety-nine memos later.  I have less spare time than I used to, but I still don’t see any reason to stop writing them.  You’re not going to stop growing and learning and being interesting any time soon, so why should I stop reflecting on you?

We completed our Florida Keys trip a few weeks ago, and you might have had the most fun of anyone (except possibly me).  You are a confident and trustworthy swimmer, and you snorkeled around the pool until we had to drag you out.  I still made you wear water wings in the ocean, not that you really needed them.  You even did some ocean snorkeling with your cousin Clif at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.  The water was very calm there, which made it less intimidating, and you got so excited when you saw the ocean life.  I could even hear you squealing with excitement while my head was underwater next to you.

It’s nice that you’re big enough now that you’re not a major source of stress while traveling.  You did well on our flights and car rides by reading or playing with your dad’s iPad.  You liked the Chinese food at O’Hare, but not as much as you liked the chocolate croissants at Leigh Ann’s Coffee House, one of our favorite Key Colony Beach spots.  This gives me hope that you’ll survive in Europe with me some day.  They have Chinese food and chocolate croissants there.  I know, I’ve had them.

Photo by Denny

Now we’re home, though, and back to our usual rhythms.  The school year is wrapping up.  This is the first time I can remember, ever, that you’ll be out before Memorial Day.  Classes must have started somewhat early this year, and you didn’t have any snow days to make up.  It’ll be nice to have some relaxing days at home before the summer schedule begins.  You’re looking forward to your summer classes, though:  computer programming, chess, and Crime Scene Investigators.  I’m not going to be much help in any of those areas.  I hope you keep up with piano lessons over the summer so at least I can be of help with something.

Photo by Gary Clarke

This school year has gone really well.  You’ve hit it off with your teacher, Mr. Turnquist, and he’s gotten you excited about things I didn’t expect.  For one thing, you suddenly have an interest in baseball.  You balked at the idea of joining a team, but you’re psyched to go to a Cedar Rapids Kernels game next week.   Mr. Turnquist is very sportsy, and I was dubious at first whether that would be a good fit for you.  But he’s also very supportive of creative efforts, and every week you have an optional homework assignment that allows you to do something to expand your creative side.  You haven’t missed a single optional assignment.  Every week I think maybe that one won’t intrigue you and we can take the week off, but every week you come home excited with the new possibilities.

You are still a major Harry Potter head; in fact, this week’s optional homework assignment was to design a Navajo-style rug on a graph paper-like grid.  You wanted to write Expelliarmus (a Harry Potter spell) into the design, but it was way too long, so you settled for the word Potter.  I tried to gently persuade you to go with a more abstract design in keeping with the Navajo aesthetic, but that idea did not fly.

We finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in combination.  You read some to yourself, I read some aloud, and your dad read some aloud.  It got kind of confusing since we each read different chunks.  You’ve been reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince entirely to yourself so far.  I got it on my Kindle, which you’ve found a lot easier to manage than the huge 800-page hardback book.  So far you’re handling it well.  There’s already been a significant character death, but it didn’t seem to trouble you too much.  There are more coming, though.  The final battle with Voldemort is looming, and not everybody makes it.  I hope it’s not too tough on you.

Your current favorites:  Minecraft, Family Folk Machine (especially the song “O Mary, Don’t You Weep”), pasta with butter and parmesan, cran-apple juice, giving yourself weird hairstyles, and biking along the path behind our house.  You also seem to be gaining interest in pushing yourself physically.  You’ve been showing off various daring (for you) jumps and other playground tricks.  I suggested a long weekend in St. Louis this summer for a family mini-vacation, and the first thing you did was request a trip to the City Museum so you could scramble all through the tubes and other structures.

I’m really impressed with the amount of bravery and interest in pushing yourself that you’ve shown lately, Miles.  You’ve even started taking showers, despite your fear of getting water in your eyes.  You wore goggles the first couple of times, but now you don’t even want those.

Mostly I think you just like going to bed with wet hair because it makes it look so crazy in the morning.  I admit I kind of admire that too.  Life is short.  Have weird hair.

Love,

Mommy

3/25/2016

The Tobin Times #55

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:38 pm

My special Tobin,

We’ve had quite a month.  The biggest event was, of course, our spring break trip to the Florida Keys.  We went back to our favorite spot:  Key Colony Beach on Marathon Key.  It was truly a wonderful trip.  We didn’t actually do very much—we got together with a couple of different sets of cousins, so that was fun, but mostly we just rotated between the ocean, the pool, and the condo.

Because it wouldn’t be a month with a vowel in it without you giving me a near heart attack, you did try to go into the pool with no water wings once.  You’ve been improving in your swimming lessons, but you’re still not quite ready to be in over your head with no flotation device.  I was standing on the edge of the pool, Callum in my arms, and you and Miles got in.  You just walked right in past the shallow zone.  Luckily Miles was able to haul you back, so I didn’t have to either set Callum down to go in for you or drag him in too.

After that, I was a lot more careful to make sure you had your water wings on at all water-adjacent times.  You jumped off the edge of the pool over and over, shouting “One, two, two and a half, three!” each time.  Some fellow condo dwellers got a real kick out of you and said, “Hey, there’s Two-and-a-Half” when they saw you around the complex.

You did a good job on our travels, despite a brief spell of motion sickness on our way back to the airport on the very last day.  Otherwise, it was all smooth.  An iPad with Minecraft can keep you entertained for a long time.  You and your dad and Miles did a lot of iPad checkers, too, during our middle-of-the-day resting hours.

Despite our attempts to keep you out of the peak sun hours, you did get a slight sunburn on your cheeks on our first day.  The cloud cover tricked us, and you ended up a little pink.  It seems to have healed up, though, and your freckles are showing through.

We decided on Kinderfarm as your destination for next year.  You’ll start mid-summer with a two-mornings-per-week schedule, and a friend from your class this year will also be attending during that session.  She’ll be heading off to kindergarten in the fall, but I’m hoping that having a friend there will help you get started, and you’ll make an easy transition into the fall schedule even after she leaves.  I’m not too concerned, really.  You loved Kinderfarm when we visited, describing it as “awesome.”  You make friends easily and do a good job transitioning to new situations, so I’m sure it will be great.

You still get frustrated sometimes, and you’ve been pulling the “That’s not fair” argument.  Your dad and I have been trying to emphasize the “life isn’t fair” perspective (it’s amazing how easily one slips into the parent tropes), and I’ve reminded you that in the grand scheme, being a middle class white male American is very much not fair and very much to your advantage.  That’s hard for you to see sometimes, especially when Miles gets to do something you don’t.  Maybe that will get easier once Callum starts wanting to do things you’re allowed to do but he isn’t.  Then we’ll have his wrath to deal with.  Please help.

Mostly, though, you maintain your sunny attitude.  Your bad moods never last long.  You’re not a moper, thank goodness.  You can be in tears one moment and trotting down the hallway singing the next.  You still like to snuggle and have assured me that you’ll do all your education locally so you can always be my cuddly little guy.  I won’t hold you to that, but I admit I won’t be disappointed if it’s the case.

You’re smart and spunky and hilarious.  You’ve been saying zinger after zinger lately, and it’s all I can do to get them written down before you say another one.  You’re open-hearted and kind, and I’m lucky to have a little guy like you.

Love,

Mommy

3/21/2016

Recent Tobinismos

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:59 pm

We’ve been talking about the signs of spring. Tobin is getting very excited about it.

T: That tree has buds on it!
A: It sure does. That must mean spring is coming.
T: Those are kind of a private area for trees.
A: Oh?
T: Because it rhymes with (whispering) butts.

The topic of crushes has come up in our house due to the Harry Potter/Cho Chang tension.

Tobin: I have a crush on [redacted].
Aprille: Oh yeah? I have a crush on your dad.
Tobin: You DO? Does he KNOW?

Tobin: Why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day?
Denny: Because St. Patrick was from Ireland, and it’s really green there. The Emerald Isle. They say he drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Tobin: (after puzzling for a moment) How did he get them in his car?
Denny: …
Tobin: You said he DROVE them.

We’re waiting on Miles to get moving so we can go out for breakfast.
A: Is Miles up yet?
T: Yes, but I’m sorry to say, only figuratively.

3/9/2016

The Callum Chronicle #14

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:34 pm

Dear Callum,

Yesterday I was at Miles’s school taking photos for the yearbook, and a group of fifth-grade girls started cooing over you.  That’s nothing new—you’re very coo-worthy.  But you enjoyed the attention as usual, and as usual, you were pretty well behaved as I carted you around the school getting my work done.  The girls asked what your name is, and when I told them, their eyes grew wide and they got sly, approving smiles on their faces.  Apparently there’s some teen heartthrob named Callum.  We didn’t realize that when we named you, but you make my heart throb, so I guess it’s okay.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You made my entire body throb with exhaustion over the last couple of weeks, because you’ve been sick yet again.  I don’t know if it’s all the germs your brothers bring home from school, or your bad habit of putting communal toys in your mouth in public play areas, or the fact that you were a c-section birth and didn’t get exposed to all the helpful bacteria you were supposed to.  Maybe it’s a combination of all those, but it seems like you’ve been sick as much as you’ve been healthy in your short life.  Fortunately you’ve never had anything seriously wrong.  You’ve never even been on antibiotics, save for the course you got shortly after birth for some reason or another.

You had a goopy eye situation, and I took you to the clinic to have it looked at.  The PA there said that he could prescribe you antibiotic eyedrops, but that they weren’t really necessary and the infection would clear up on its own.  I decided to keep dribbling breastmilk into your eyes and wait it out.  That seemed to do the trick, because your eyes look great now.  You also had a very stuffy nose, which made sleeping difficult for you (and me and your dad).  Your dad spent many hours semi-sleeping with you in the recliner, which helped you a little by keeping your head elevated.  Thankfully, you’re breathing much better now.  You still have a phlegmy cough, but your spirits are back up, and at least your nose is working.

The weather has been all over the place here, with snow and 70-degree temperatures in the same 30-day period.  It’s been great getting out side more often.  I really miss our morning walks, so I’ve enjoyed doing a couple of those again.  You seem happy outside most of the time.  In just a few days we’re heading to the beach, and you’ll get to experience your first time splashing in the ocean and playing the sand.  I let you walk around outside barefoot a little bit yesterday, and you seemed surprised by the sensation.  Sand is going to be even weirder, trust me.  Just remember not to eat it.

You’re still in a clingy stage and you’re still pretty mama-centric, but you’ve been doing some good branching out too.  Your vocabulary includes “Dada” and “Doh” (Tobin), and you love to look out the window for your dad as he approaches from the bus stop in the afternoon.  I can’t even hold you up to that window any other time, because you immediately crane your neck to find your dad, saying “Dada” over and over.  I don’t like to torture you, so I try to limit that position to when your dad is actually on his way.

You also say “Doh” when we’re outside Tobin’s school, and he’s someone who’s really special to you.  You love Miles too, but you haven’t mastered his name yet.  Don’t worry; it took him a while to get it too.  You haven’t made any consistent attempt at saying “Callum” yet either.  Maybe you’re self-conscious about the teen heartthrob comparison.

Your current favorites:  blueberries, crusts from Tobin’s peanut butter toast, drinking out of your cup with a straw, any kind of music or rhythmic sound (the slightest suggestion of music still makes you dance), and walking long distances.  You’re really a walking champ now, and you barely crawl at all.  You really, really wanted to help make your dad’s birthday cupcakes the other day.  You climbed up onto the stepstool Tobin had gotten out, and Tobin did a very good job keeping you from tumbling to your doom.  You did a pretty good job on the cupcake last night, too.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You have a great face full of wonderful expressions.  You’re funny and silly and usually in a good mood.  You’re a delight in so many ways, and I can’t wait for you to be my little beach boy.

Love,

Mommy

3/7/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #98

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:29 pm

Hey there, Mr. Miles,

We’ve known since you were just a few months old that your personality tends toward the shy and sensitive.  New things are difficult for you, and you’re easily overwhelmed.  That’s why I was so happy and proud when you did two things recently that showed great growth in that area.

The first time we went to your school carnival, when you were in kindergarten, it was a borderline disaster.  The crowds and noises and general chaos sent you into a panic.  You broke down into tears and refused to try any of the games.  That made me annoyed in part because we’d spent the money on the tickets and also because I was afraid you would never get to enjoy a lot of fun things in life due to fear and inflexibility.  Your dad ended up taking you to play on the playground, and when the night was nearly over, I coaxed you in and you tried a couple of very low-stakes games.  Last year was a little better, but it was still about an equal ratio of fun to pain.

This year was a completely different story.  You anticipated the carnival for weeks before it arrived.  Your teacher gave you a map of where each game would be in the school (a smart move on his part:  if we’d had a chance to explain to you what to expect in detail in the past, it might have gone better).  You picked out the games you were most looking forward to playing.

The night came, and it was a huge success.  You were proud of the fancy cake we designed together for the cake auction.  You burned through your tickets so fast I had to buy another batch.  You had fun on the simple, cerebral, and rough-and-tumble games alike.  You were thrilled when you won (especially the cake walk), but you kept a good attitude when you lost.  It was exactly how a carnival night is supposed to be.

I know you had a blast, but I don’t think you know how much it meant to me to see you have a blast.  Some day you’ll have a kid who has his/her own struggles, and some day you’ll know the surge of joy a parent feels when that kid triumphs.  It might not seem like a big deal—having fun at a carnival night is pretty much the default for many kids—but it’s a big accomplishment for you.  Congratulations on your cake, but congratulations on a lot more, too.

Photo by Gary Clarke

The second achievement was at Family Folk Machine yesterday.  You’ve been doing solos in our concerts for years now, and stage fright doesn’t seem to be an issue for you.  One thing you’ve never done, though, is had the guts to volunteer for the solo yourself.  In the past, it’s always been something we’ve talked about privately, then I’d email or talk to our director on your behalf.  I don’t know why it’s harder for you to raise your hand when she asks who’d like to do a solo than it is to actually sing the solo in front of hundreds of people, but that’s your way.

Yesterday, during kids’ rehearsal time, I was sitting around chatting with another parent.  I was half paying attention when Jean asked who’d like to do a solo, and I didn’t see you volunteer.  I hadn’t had a chance to talk to you or her about it, so I  mentally shrugged and figured you just wouldn’t do a solo this time around.  But you must have volunteered without me noticing, because a few minutes later, I saw you confidently walk up to the mic and sing a verse from one of the kids’ songs.  I could tell from the huge smile you shot across the room to me that you were proud of yourself.

This is not to say that every day is full of growth and accomplishment.  Sometimes you still have trouble with your ongoing issues:  flexibility and nuance are tough areas for you.  Sometimes you get an idea of how something ought to go, and if things turn out differently, you can’t move past it.  The other night, your dad asked you to help clean up the basement before you played any Wii.  You decided to pick up the alphabet blocks.  A few of them were missing (much more likely due to Callum than you), and even though your dad tried to explain to you that it was okay, you wigged out.  He told me later that you were ready to tear up the house looking for the blocks.  You just couldn’t handle the idea of the block box not being full and not completing your task.  I wish you were that goal-oriented about getting your shoes and jacket on in the morning.

On the other hand, you did something good the other day.  You and Tobin were playing chess, which is a new hobby of yours.  You’re a much more advanced chess player than Tobin—you’re still a novice, but he’s an ultra-novice—and playing with him can be a frustrating experience.  I overheard an interaction not go well.  He wasn’t listening to your instructions, and I could tell you were on the verge of losing it.

Instead of freaking out, you got up, went to your room, and cooled off.  I’m so glad you found a coping mechanism.  I get overwhelmed too sometimes, and time alone is the only thing that will get me back into the right mental space.  After you had some time to yourself, you were able to get under control and rejoin the family.  I’m especially proud that you did this all on your own, without it descending into yelling on anyone’s part.

Well, geez.  Now that I look back on it, it’s been a big month, hasn’t it?  Eight seems to be suiting you well.

We leave for our spring break in the Florida Keys this weekend, and I’m looking forward to a relaxed, low-stress week with you and the rest of my guys.  There’s nothing better to me than the beach with my babies.  We’ll be sure to take lots of pictures, eat lots of popsicles, and read a whole chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix every night, even if it’s twenty-four pages and it’s getting to be past bedtime.  We get a little wild on vacation.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Love,

Mommy

2/24/2016

The Tobin Times #54

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:43 pm

My little Tobes,

You’re four-and-a-half, little guy!  We celebrated with brownies for everyone at home and a special lunch date for you, Callum and me after school yesterday.  Our lunch dates are one of the biggest reasons I’m glad we’re holding off for another year before you start kindergarten.  We’ll still have lunch together during weekends and breaks, but I’m not quite ready for you to be a lunch-box kid yet.  Yesterday we went to Panda Express, where you got your favorite broccoli beef.  You used to be a big broccoli eater, but lately you’ve been ever-so-kindly sharing most of your broccoli with me and focusing on the beef and rice.  It’s okay.  You still like lots of other healthy and interesting things.

You’re funny and witty and curious.  The other day, your dad and I were urging you to get ready for school.  We’d gotten you over to the area where your coat and shoes were, but instead of putting them on, you whined, “But I want to do more math.”  It reminded me of a fond memory from long before your birth, at the wedding reception in Norway of our friends Kaspar and Sabine.  Reminiscing about Kaspar’s youth, his gruff, sea-faring Norwegian father said, “Ah we raising a nehrd?” Nerds rule, though, and Kaspar turned out fine.  If you’re going to be a nerd, you’ll be one of the very best kind:  the sparkly-eyed, quick-to-smile type.  Think Neil deGrasse Tyson, not Urkel.

You were “Star of the Week” at your school, and that was pretty cool for you.  You got to decorate a poster just like Miles did when he was Star of the Week for his class.  You said your favorite foods are pasta and bagels (though you seem to see bagels as more of a cream cheese vehicle than an actual foodstuff) and your hobbies are Minecraft, cooking, computers, and snuggling Callum.  You also did a lot of hard work making hand-made Valentines for each of your classmates and teachers.  Of your three teachers, there are two whom you like a lot, and one you’re not so crazy about.  We doled out the work of making Valentines over several days so as not to overwhelm you, and on the last day, you’d finished all the cards except one.  “Okay,” I said.  “You just have to make Ms. [redacted]’s card now and you’ll be all done.”

“I need to take a break,” you said.

I convinced you to press on, and you got the cards done.  You did a good job writing everyone’s names (with help, but you did it) and signing your own.  You haven’t quite embraced the left-to-right requirements of English.  Sometimes if you can’t fit a whole word on a line, you just write the remaining letters where ever there’s room.  It makes perfect sense to you, but it can be a little hard to follow.  You’re working on it.

You’re high-energy and irrepressible.  You can be a little on the wild side sometimes, especially at night.  I don’t know why you get a surge every evening before bed, but for some reason, that’s the moment you pick to run laps up and down the hallway.  You also like to curl your toes around the boards under the top bunk and dangle, or turn around so your head is at the foot of the bed and you can kick Miles while I attempt to read Harry Potter out loud.  I think Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a little boring to you, but Miles would never let us quit now.  I’m hoping you don’t pay too close of attention so the deaths in the upcoming books aren’t too traumatic.

Your parent-teacher conference is tomorrow, and I’ve promised you boys that we can have dinner at Noodles & Company if your teachers have good things to say about your progress.  You warned me that you’re “kind of good, kind of bad” at school.  That’s the same thing you said last time, and when I asked you what you do that’s bad, you said you sometimes get out more than one toy.  Fortunately your teacher didn’t seem to think this was the first sign of a descent into delinquency.  If so, and she looked around our house, she’d be sure you were doomed.

Your current favorites:  vanilla ice cream cones, Wild Kratts, Minecraft, Berenstain Bears books at bedtime, coming in to see Callum the moment he wakes up in the morning or from a nap, writing words, and pepperoni pizza.  You also seem to enjoy haircuts, though I’m glad to report that you never let the hairstylist take all your curls.

I’m so happy you’re mine, sweet Tobin.  We’re counting down the days until our Florida Keys trip, and I hope you’ll take more early morning walks on the beach with me.  I can’t wait to see the sunshine bouncing of your hair and the water reflecting in your eyes.

Photo by Denny

Love,

Mommy

2/17/2016

Oven barbecue chicken in quick brine

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:08 pm

This is a favorite around our house.  Inspiration taken from The Pioneer Woman and Michael Ruhlman.

Several hours before you want to start cooking, make the quick brine.  In a small saucepan, combine

  • 15 ounces water
  • 3 ounces salt (type doesn’t matter)
  • a couple of big spoonfuls of brown sugar.

Bring it to a boil and make sure the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Remove from heat and stir in

  • 15 ounces ice.

When all the ice is dissolved, pour solution into a gallon-sized ziplock bag and add your chicken parts.  I like to use a pack of thighs (4) and a pack of legs (5).  Let the chicken soak in the brine for 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 400F.  When your chicken is done brining, dry it thoroughly and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Spread a little peanut oil or other oil that can tolerate heat all over a half sheet pan.  Place the chicken skin-side down on the pan.  Roast for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and brush the top with your favorite barbecue sauce.  Carefully, using a spatula, slide under the chicken and flip it.  Coat the skin side with sauce.  Return to oven for 7 minutes.

Remove from oven and coat the skin side with more sauce.  Using an instant-read thermometer, check the chicken’s temperature.  If it has reached 170F for dark meat or 165F for light meat, turn on the broiler and let the sauce bubble and char a little bit.  If it needs more time, return it to the oven to reach temperature before you do the broiling.

Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

 

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