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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5/10/2017

The Callum Chronicle #28

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:47 pm

Dear Callum,

Even if I hadn’t been physically present at your birth, I’d be able to guess right away that you’re two.  Terrible is too strong a word, because you have plenty of sweetness in you, but you’re also becoming more and more opinionated.  For some reason, you are often of the opinion that we are not, in fact, running late to go get Tobin from school, and it’s the perfect time to throw a tantrum that makes changing your diaper and getting you strapped into your car seat really difficult.

Your dad and I have tried to explain to you over and over that if you wanted, you could use the potty like your big brothers, and then you wouldn’t need diapers at all.  You are not interested in that line of logic.  You’re interested in the potty, sure.  You like to open and close the lid, and you plunked a whole new roll of toilet paper in there a while back.  You’re interested in watching other people use the potty, which the others in the family tolerate to varying degrees.  We haven’t pushed it too hard yet, but there will be a day in our future when diapers are no longer a Subscribe & Save item in my Amazon cart.

Your napping has been erratic lately, which may be contributing to your fluctuating moods.  You decided somewhat abruptly that you were done nursing, which was okay with me since I was feeling ready to be done too.  You’ve done very well going to bed at night with no nursing, just lying in bed and relaxing, but naps are a different story.  I think the lack of total darkness in the room combined with the fact that you know fun stuff is happening elsewhere in the house make you less cooperative.  You just get up and leave the room.  On days when I really need you to take a nap, because we have a long evening ahead of us and I can only emotionally afford six tantrums and not twelve, we go for a drive.  That usually knocks you out, and so far I’ve been able to get you into bed without waking you up.  I’ve seen some interesting neighborhoods that I don’t usually pass through as well.

You are currently obsessed with the number 5, and you can’t quite tell the difference between the number 5 and the letter S.  If I’m wearing a shirt with writing on it, you immediately want to search it for 5’s (actually S’s, but we don’t quibble over that).  You really like my Nevertheless, She Persisted shirt for all those bendy letters.  We just got home from taking Tobin to get a haircut, and you were in heaven among all the “Buy one, get one 50% off” signs on the products.

You seem to fixate on things sometimes, like an elephant in a video you saw.  For some reason, you really didn’t like it.  Your brothers get a kick out of asking you a series of questions:

M&T:  Do you like the puppy?
C:  Yeeeessss.
M&T:  Do you like the horsey?
C:  Yeeeessss.
M&T:  Do you like the elephant?
C:  Not so good.

You still bring up the elephant pretty frequently.  You are not a fan.  I hope the elephants don’t freak you out if we go to the St. Louis Zoo during our trip there this summer.  Elephants are very interesting creatures, and I’d hate to see you banish them from your life.

You’re going to have so much fun this summer with your brothers home more.  They’re your favorite people in the world, and if you can manage not to annoy them now and then, I know you’ll have a great time together.  The problem is that a lot (though not all) of our summer activities are going to require trips in the car.  You can get your legs into a kicking position in no time with your brothers next to you in the back seat.  Your dad thinks a minivan is the answer.  I’m not so sure—I love the gas mileage and maneuverability of our car, and one of these years you’ll learn that life is easier if you’re not inciting back seat riots.  We’ll probably need a bigger vehicle as you kids’ legs get longer, but I’m not ready yet.

Your current favorites:  “Daddy Finger, Daddy Finger, Where Are You?” and all the thousand variations available on YouTube, Asian foods of many sorts, Sandra Boynton books, wearing hats, playing with water, and playing outside.  You’ve had miserable allergies this month, and we’ve had some success keeping the symptoms under control with a combination of medicine, frequent hair-washing, and keeping you inside.  I know we can’t keep you locked up all summer, but it’s tough when your poor little eyes get so red and itchy.  We may try to get you into an allergist before the next allergy season starts.

You’re frustrating and funny and adorable and very much two.  You still need mommy cuddles when you wake up every morning, and as long as that’s the case, you’re still my baby, right?  I enjoy your ever-widening vocabulary, because it lets me better understand what’s on your mind, but I also like the fact that you still think kisses cure all injuries.  Last night you bonked your head (not too hard), and you said, “Need kiss…on brain.”

I am happy to say that your brain was not accessible for kissing or anything else.  It was right there in your skull-helmet.  Let’s keep it that way.

Love,

Mommy

5/9/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #112

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:48 am

Dear Miles,

We’re wrapping up your third grade year, and I think you’d agree that it’s been a good one.  You love your teacher, Miss Lampe.  You’ve shown great social growth through some nice new friendships.  You continue to do very good academic work.  You’ve kept busy with your extracurriculars and really branched out by trying baseball.  You’ve done some fun creative stuff, like your writing class, and all the original comics I find littering the house.  You briefly freaked out in the shower the other night because you thought blue stuff was coming out of the shower wall, but it was marker that had smudged onto your hand from your comic creations.

Perhaps your biggest achievement of the month was the concert debut of your first fully-realized original song.  Family Folk Machine performed your co-composition, “How Can It Be Both?”, in our spring concert.  I was so proud of you, and there’s something really special about seeing your name in the program not just as a participant, but as a songwriter.  You performed that as well as our other songs with great aplomb, and of course you had a very supportive cheering section in the audience.

Photo by Gary Clarke

The annual Lucas Elementary Team Spelling Bee happened earlier this month, and your weeks of studying paid off in a repeat win.  Your friend Gabe’s teams won the spelling bee two years in a row as well, so your new life goal is to break his record with a third consecutive win.  I hope you don’t hog up too much triumph from your schoolmates—it wouldn’t be the worst thing if you shared the glory.  On the other hand, you’ve had your share of defeats (see baseball, below), so it’s nice that spelling can be an area of success for you.  You’re not just coasting on talent, either.  You’re a naturally good speller, but you also worked really hard to learn those tricky words.  It’s a good way to establish effective study skills.  Cramming doesn’t work when you have a list of hundreds of words to learn.  You worked on it slowly, with plenty of repetition, and those words really bored their way into your brain.  The look on your face when the emcee announced the winner was a wonderful thing to witness.

Baseball is not something that comes as easily to you as spelling, and unlike academics, I’m not much help in supporting success in that arena.  Your dad has been patient and helpful, and your coach and teammates seem like nice people.  It’s tough, though, since you’re joining in with kids who have been playing baseball or tee-ball for years, and this is your very first time on a team.  But even if you lose every game and strike out at every at-bat, I’ll still be very proud of you for trying something new and challenging.  You chose to go to the PTO meeting last night instead of your baseball game, which indicates to me that maybe it’s not something you’ll care to do in the long term.  In any case, I’m glad you tried.  There’s a new running club starting at school next fall, and that might be a good athletic endeavor for you.

As usual in life, the month has not been without challenges.  Though it seems impossibly early, I’m beginning to see some surly pre-teen behavior in you.  You’ve always tended a bit toward the gloomy, but you’ve been doing these super-irritating grunts and “ehs” in response to questions lately.  It’s become a bad habit, and your dad and I have both talked to you about the importance of answering questions with an approach that indicates something other than “talking to you is the most boring thing in the world.”  I’m sure I did crap like that when I was young, and I’m not proud of it.  I don’t know if it’s something I can change in you, but at least now you apologize when you catch yourself doing it.

You still have plenty of sweet little boy in you, though.  You and your brothers have some wonderful moments together, and I love watching you and Callum hug each other when he comes in for his final goodnight at bedtime.  I went to a party last week that extended past bedtime, and your dad reported back that there was some serious giggling going on from the bunkbed room while he was putting Callum to bed.  He also mentioned frequently overhearing the word “tushie.”

I know you’re looking forward to summer break, and I’m looking forward to having you around more.  We’ve been so busy lately that I’ve barely seen you.  We’ll have to get to work on our summer activity list.  I know you’re not too mature for frozen yogurt, trips to the library, and running through the sprinkler.

Love,

Mom

4/22/2017

The Tobin Times #68

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:40 pm

Dear Tobin,

We took a two-goal walk this morning.  The first goal was to go to HyVee and get some carrot seeds (the Co-op was out of the Seed Savers kind we wanted) and gardening gloves.  The second goal was to pick up litter along our path, because it’s Earth Day today, and you’re taking it very seriously.  You keep turning off lights in rooms where people are using them.  I’ve tried to explain to you that we have moved almost exclusively to LED bulbs in our house, so they use very little energy, but you’re still being kind of obsessive about it.  Still, the path looks nicer now that you tidied it up, and the ducks in the creek will surely appreciate not getting caught up in the big plastic bag you found.

Photo by Denny

As we walked, we enjoyed the vibrant fuchsia colors on the trees.  That seems to be a shade of pink you can see, unlike the pink of the hyacinths I told you to sniff.  “There aren’t any pink ones,” you told me.  Under the fuchsia blossoms, you told me that there are sunny people and moony people.  The sunny people, according to you, are colorful, while the moony people are black and white.  I’m not sure if you made that up or if you heard it somewhere, but I can agree with your assessment that you are both sunny and colorful.

Sometimes we wish you’d tone it down a bit.  If there’s someone running around the house with a kazoo in his mouth and a ukulele under his arm, shouting all the way, it’s probably you.  Your personality is as vivacious as your hair.  The only thing that can flatten it is when you flip upside down onto a chair and watch videos while balanced on your head.  I used to do that as a kid too.  Your dad doesn’t believe that it’s comfortable, but I get it.

We’re heading into your final month of preschool, and you absolutely ready to move forward.  We went to kindergarten roundup last week, and you’re so comfortable and self-assured that I didn’t worry about you at all.  It’s nice not to be one of the parents of the tearful, nervous kids.  I remember being almost as stressed-out as Miles was when he first got rounded up.  Now, we’re well-familiar with the school, the staff, and all the procedures.  You probably wouldn’t have even turned around to wave goodbye to me as you headed off to the kids’ portion of the event if the teacher hadn’t told you to.

You can be a lot to manage sometimes.  You decided to sing with Family Folk Machine this session, and while I’m very happy that you wanted to, you have a hard time staying focused during rehearsals.  It doesn’t help that you have friends there who are also prone to getting riled up, and a lot of mutual riling goes on.  You still have a hard time sitting through a whole movie.  But, like everyone, with these challenges come strengths, and I love how easily you make friends and adapt to new situations.  You truly are a sunny little fellow, and you brighten every room you enter.

We’re going to have some good fun this summer, including a trip to St. Louis to meet up with your cousins.  We had such a good time when we went before, you’re excited to show cousins Aleks and Vera the sights.  This time you have set the Botanical Gardens as high priority (I’m not sure why, but you really want to visit).  You’ve got a couple of summer classes lined up, and you’re looking forward to our usual summer destinations, like the library, the downtown fountain, the Flavor Ice stand, the Natural History Museum, and the swimming pool.

My little spring lamb, you are so fluffy and exciting.  You can be a stinker.  In fact, you’re being a stinker right this moment by using an air pump to squirt Callum with air when he clearly doesn’t like it, and I’ve asked you not to several times.  Nobody knows better than you exactly what to say to irritate Miles.  And yet, we always forgive you.  We’re all going to miss you when you start all-day school next fall.  Let’s try to be patient with each other, and I’ll try to smile as much as you do.

Love,

Mommy

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4/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #27

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:44 am

My dear Callum,

Your little brain is working so hard lately.  Your latest discovery is the fact that the letter S and the number 5 look a lot alike.  I was wearing a shirt with writing on it that included a couple of S’s, and you poked them and said, “Mommy five shirt.”  It took me a while to figure out what you meant, but you were specific enough that we got it sorted out.  We talked about how that was actually the letter S, and now that’s your favorite letter.  The last couple of bedtimes, you’ve insisted on holding the magnetic S that usually resides on the magnet board in your room.  Some kids cuddle teddy bears, but you prefer a hard little magnet.  We had dinner the other night in Solon, a nearby town, and out the restaurant window you could see the huge letters of the SOLON monument the town erected for their sesquicentennial some years ago.  You got so excited about “big S-5!” that we had to go explore the area.  That was fun until you ate some dirt and I had to take you back to the restaurant to wash your mouth.

The emerging springtime has given us more opportunities to play outside, and boy is it hard to keep you out of the creek behind our house.  You’re still unsteady enough that I’m reluctant to let you play down there unless I’m physically restraining you, and that’s a pretty tiring process.  It doesn’t help that Tobin is pretty adept at creek-splashing, and it drives you crazy not to do everything he does.  We have a summer coming up that might be a little frustrating for everyone, but there are some activities we all can do.  The library has free movies on Monday afternoons, and the big boys are trustworthy enough that I can take you to another room to play if you get too squirrelly.  You have not yet mastered the art of sitting still through a movie, whether at home or in a theater.  That’s not too big a problem most of the time, but I feel bad when you get disruptive and people have paid good money to see a show.  That’s another reason the library is a good choice.

We’ll have the fountain for hot days and the playground for medium days and frozen yogurt for pretty much any day we’re downtown.  I hope we can get out to the Friday Night Concert Series now and then, as well as the various downtown festivals that happen throughout the summer.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Our trip to Nashville was lots of fun, and you kept up with the big boys just fine.  You’re still small enough that the specifics of a destination don’t matter a whole lot to you.  Anywhere you can have playtime and plenty of cocktail hours is okay by you.  You didn’t nap most of our trip, because there was always something fun going on, and you slept great every night.  Since we’ve been home, you’re back to napping a few times a week.  That has its pluses and minuses, since a nap makes you a more pleasant person in the evening, but it also makes it harder to get you to sleep at night.  You’re in a transition stage in many ways, and transitions can be tough.  I do have to give you credit, though:  the eight-hour drive was a lot better this time than last time.  It’s nice that you’re old enough now to be distracted by music, toys, and stories.  You’re also in a front-facing car seat this time, which has to be a lot more interesting for you because you can watch the landscape.

Photo by Denny

You still require a lot of attention and energy, but that comes with the territory and I’m mostly happy to do it.  Sometimes life gets a bit overwhelming, especially with your brothers’ crazy activity schedule that leaves very little time for relaxation and reflection.  That’s one reason I sometimes can’t resist putting you down for nap, even though I know there will be hell to pay at bedtime.  At least at bedtime, your dad is around to contribute to the hell payment plan.

You love to play with your toy kitchen and all the food toys.  You’re also very into Play-Doh right now, although you prefer to rip it into little shreds rather than form anything representative.  You like pouring water (or juice, if anyone was foolish enough to leave a cup of juice within  your reach) from one cup to another, and I’ve more than once heard you yell “Big uh-oh!”  That’s when I gather up the towels and hope it was nothing too sticky.  I’ve cut back on letting you “play coffee” after you dumped about half a pound of organic, fair trade certified ground coffee directly into the water reservoir of my coffee maker.

Next year, Tobin will go to school full-time, and it will be just the two of us most of the time.  Something tells me I’ll find it exhausting, but when that stage is over, I’ll miss it.  As I said to your dad the other night, when I picked you up and smothered you with kisses after a couple of hours away from you, “I need a break…until I get one.”

You’re delicious, and I love watching you learn and grow, even when you do gross things like eat dirt (or Play-Doh).  I guess that’s what a little scientist has to do:  test the world and figure out what’s an S and what’s a 5, what’s tasty and what gets you hauled into a bathroom for a mouth-rinse.

Love,

Mommy

4/7/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #111

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:28 pm

Dear Miles,

We have a ritual each morning:  we check TimeHop, which, for those who don’t know or Future Us who have forgotten about popular apps from the two-thousand-teens, is a tool that shows social media posts from a given day for years in the past.  That is, today we looked at posts I made on April 7, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.  You really enjoy doing this with me each morning at breakfast, because there’s almost always a cute picture of you and/or your brothers or funny things someone said.  Every now and then I even have a good quip.  This morning, you got a kick out of what I wrote eight years ago:  “Miles just handed me The Collected Works of Eudora Welty as if I ought to read it to him.”

Seven years ago today, I wrote, “Getting ready to do an Elluminate session, then off to Willowwind for a pre-preschool visit.”  Elluminate is a video conference technology that I haven’t thought about in approximately seven years.  Visiting Willowwind to see if it was a good choice for you, however, seems so recent.  It was a disastrous visit, as I recall.  For some reason, you were in a brief but painful stage of being absolutely freaked out by anyone who wasn’t close family.  I think you brought your beloved nanny Beanie to tears because you suddenly turned on her.  When we visited Willowwind, you cried the whole time and refused to let go of my leg.

Photo by Denny

Fortunately, that stage passed quickly.  You and Beanie became great friends again (in fact, even these days you text regularly), and once you were in a better frame of mind, you liked Willowwind a lot.  This particular TimeHop memory stood out to me because you’ve been doing so many new things lately, and you’ve grown so much in the last seven years.  You’re still shy and nervous sometimes, but more and more I’m seeing you be brave and take risks.

One of these new adventures was the songwriting workshop we did in Family Folk Machine.  During one of the first workshops, we were to divide into groups.  You were sitting next to me, so it was natural that we’d be in a group together.  In that group activity, we brainstormed ideas borne of the story circles we’d done at a previous meeting.  We wrote down our ideas, and the facilitators grouped them into like categories.  From those categories, we were to pick the topic that most resonated with us, and that would be the group we’d be in to write our songs.  You chose the Nature group, and I was more interested in Peace and Protest.  I made sure it was okay with you that we be in separate groups, and you said it was.  You ended up being the only kid in your group, and you wrote the lyrics to your very own song.  You were so, so proud when we rehearsed it at choir practice, and I agree that there’s something magical about seeing your by-line on the printed score.  It’s going to be a great moment when we sing it in concert later this month.

You also surprised me by sticking to your plan of going out for baseball.  You developed a sudden interest in it last spring, but by the time you told me you wanted to play, the sign-up deadline had passed.  I thought there was a good chance you’d lose interest or lose your bravery by the time this season came, especially since it would be your first time playing a team sport, when most of your teammates had surely played for years.

But no—sign-up time came around for this season, and you still wanted to play, so I registered you.  You’ve only had two practices so far due to the rainy couple of weeks we’ve had, but your dad tells me you’re doing just fine.  I’m so proud of you for striking out on your own (no pun intended) and trying something challenging.  I’m excited to see you play in a game.  I have been to many professional baseball games in my life (due to having been switched at birth with the sports-loving child my parents were supposed to bring home), and I have never once looked forward to the prospect.  It’s amazing what having a kid can do to one’s perspective.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Yet another boundary-stretching activity for you was this year’s school carnival.  I had already volunteered to work one of the games, so you asked if you could just go around with your friends instead of sticking with your dad or me.  I gave you ten dollars’ worth of tickets and set you loose.  We met up again toward the end of the night, when you and Tobin were both freaking out with delight about the fact that you won cakes in the cake walk.  You won yours when you were with your friends, and Tobin won his with your dad.  If I’d been there, I might have declined one of the cakes like I did last year when our family won two.  You haven’t let me forget that, so you were mighty pleased that this year you guys were able to right past wrongs.

The carnival happened to fall on April Fool’s Day, so you and Tobin used some of your sugared-up post-carnival energy to play some pranks around the house.  I don’t know if the fake dude at the computer is supposed to be you or if I was supposed to think an intruder had come in, put on your coat, and started checking his email.

We had a great trip to Nashville last month, and you and your brothers mostly kept it together.  The bed situation in our rental house was a lot like ours here—bunk bed with a single on top and double below.  At home, you always want the top bunk to yourself, but Tobin scrambles up to join you nine nights out of ten.  In Nashville, the top mattress wasn’t very comfortable, so you slept on the larger bottom bunk with Tobin.  Ever since we’ve been home, you’ve been doing your before-bed reading in the top bunk and then at lights-out time, you’ve been coming down and sleeping in the bottom bunk (except for the night Tobin was sick and you were afraid he’d barf on you).

I don’t know what changed, but you guys are pretty cute together.  Sleeping children are so forgivable.

We’re not entirely without challenges.  Sometimes you get huffy when your dad and I ask you to do even the easiest tasks around the house.  Sometimes you’re too harsh with Tobin.  You still won’t eat any vegetables.

You do a good job brushing your teeth, though.  The dentist agrees.

Love,

Mom

3/22/2017

The Tobin Times #67

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:48 pm

My dear Tobin,

A miracle has occurred:  you and your brothers spent 18 hours in a car together with almost no fighting.

We just got back from our spring break trip to Nashville.  I thought it was an eight-hour drive, but door-to-door (we stayed south of the city to be closer to Tyler and Oxana’s house), it was about nine each way.  We broke it into two-day drives, spending the night in the St. Louis area each time, but it was still a whole lot of car time.  You guys did such a good job.  I think you sometimes have it the hardest—you’re old enough to be frustrated that you can’t do everything Miles does, but you’re still young enough that it’s hard to let all of Callum’s pestiness slide.  Still, I was very proud of your behavior.  We listened to Justin Roberts’ Lemonade album over and over, as well as an audiobook (Bruce Coville’s My Teacher Is an Alien).  You got scared a couple of times and needed to turn off the audiobook, so we switched back to music, but mostly you enjoyed it a lot.  You mentioned a suspicion that your teacher might be an alien too.

Photo by Denny

Once we arrived in the Nashville area, you and your cousin Aleks became immediate best friends.  You hugged every time you saw each other, you held hands when we walked outside, and you couldn’t wait for him to come over to our rental house each day.  I’m sure he’s missing you as much as you’re missing him right now.

We did a lot of fun stuff, including almost daily cocktail hour.  Aleks really enjoyed the cherry lemonade cocktails, as did the rest of the kids (except Vera, who’s too little).  We did a lot of cheers-ing, including the Russian version, “За здоровье!”

Photo by Gary Clarke

Another of your favorite activities was a visit to the Monkey’s Treehouse, a fun little play center with a big climbing structure and various areas to encourage imaginative play.  Your favorite was the play kitchen and restaurant, and you served up some delicious dishes while wearing a jaunty chef’s hat.  You didn’t get lice, either (bonus).  The weather ended up being unseasonably cool, so we didn’t do some of the outdoorsy things we’d hoped to.  The last time we visited in July, we took a trip downtown that included seeing some of the famous honky tonk sites as well as enjoying the great splash pad in Cumberland Park.  I was hoping to do some of that again, and I also dreamed of taking a day trip to Mammoth Caves National Park.  Unfortunately, on the forty-degree days we had there, spending a lot of time outdoors wasn’t the best way to keep our family members happy.

Still, we managed to do a lot.  Uncle Tyler even took us on a private tour of the Vanderbilt University football facilities.  Running around on that big field was a pretty great experience for you.  The very best part was spending time with our extended family and letting you and your cousins get to know each other.  We’re hoping to find a time to meet them in St. Louis for more adventures.

Now that we’re back to reality, we’ve found ourselves in that race to the end of the school year that always happens after spring break.  You’re  excited to play baseball, which will start next week.  It’s going to keep our family very busy for the next couple of months, as  you and Miles are playing on the same nights but at different times.  We’re going to be spending three nights a week camped out at the baseball diamonds at City Park.  I don’t even know how I’m going to manage dinner.  I was told that I would be less stressed as my kids get older, but I’m not sure that’s true.  Your dad and I might have to do some tag-teaming.

Photo by Denny

You’re ready for kindergarten and feel quite fancy about the fact that you’ll be taking kindergarten-level summer classes.  By this time next month you will have completed Kindergarten Round-Up at your future elementary school, though with all the times you’ve been there for Miles’s events, it will hardly seem like a transition at all.

Along with that, your personality is such that I’m not the slightest bit worried about how you will handle kindergarten.  You collect friends like Callum collects crumbs in his sleeves.  Your bright smile and cheerful demeanor are magnetic, and I’m really going to miss you when you start spending more time and school and less time with me.  I was vaguely aware that my children would probably grow up (and I’m glad that you’re healthy and strong), but that doesn’t mean I have to like the daily reality of having less of you.  You’re not a peach one hundred percent of the time—you have your crabby moods and tantrums now and then, especially when you’re tired—but you’re still one of my all-time tops.

Your current favorites:  Wild Kratts, pepperoni pizza (this seems like it’s going to be a life-long affection), Geronimo Stilton books at bedtime, playing outside, and a new Lego project you’ve been working on very hard.  Having attempted to help you and Miles put together Lego creations, I can attest that it takes a lot of precision and concentration.

Summer is coming soon, my little heart.  We need to get to work on our summer activity list, because you can bet your cardboard hat that we’re going to have fun.

Love,

Mommy

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