We all saw it coming

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:09 pm

Tobin had been playing downstairs.  He came up.

T:  Mommy, I have to go poop.

A:  Then go poop.

T:  Okay.  (He pulled down his pants and walked down the hall with his pants and underpants around his ankles.)  I came upstairs because it’s a little more predictable.


It fell flat

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:23 am

M:  What do you call a table with no legs?

A&D:  What?

M:  An education table.

A&D:  [blank stare]

M:  Get it?  Zero legs?  Zero is a number?  And education…like math?

A&D:  [laughing in confusion and absurdity]

M:  Why does no one get my jokes?


Unrelated (?)

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:16 pm

Tobin was looking over my shoulder as I scrolled through Facebook. A video of President Obama came up. “Is that [children’s author] Mary Pope Osborne? Does ‘porcupine’ mean ‘fabulous’?”

What’s cooler than being cool?

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:15 pm

At HyVee, Tobin was looking at the case of bagged ice.
T: I-C-E.
A: What do you think that spells?

Iron it

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:15 pm

After we finished a walk this humid afternoon…

T: Your hair looks…wrinkled.

The Tobin Times #48

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:10 pm

My sweet, sparkling Tobin,

You’re four, you’re truly four!  After what felt like an excruciatingly long wait, your birthday finally came around.  We celebrated first with Nana and Papa at the family reunion, then at Mubby and Skitter’s house, then with an immediate family party on your real birthday, and then with a friends party in the back yard.  Your dad and I are still recovering.

You’ll start preschool at Hoover next week.  Every time we drive by (which is often as it’s near the intersection of a couple of main thoroughfares in our area), you yell, “Hi, Hoover!”  We went to visit your classroom and meet your teacher; we accomplished one of those goals.  The room is bright and cheerful and should be a fun place to play and learn.  The teacher is MIA.  Well, not exactly—with all the shuffling around in the district, she made a last-minute switch to a kindergarten teaching position.  They’re hoping to hire someone soon.  Luckily, you’re the kind of kid who can handle a little unpredictability.  You don’t seem nervous at all.

You’ve been a little grumpy the last few days having your brother back at school, but you’ve also been enjoyed being the Boss Brother.  You take very good care of Callum when I need you to entertain him for a couple of minutes.   You take joy in helping him discover new foods.  I had to drag both of you with me to a doctor’s appointment this morning, and you very kindly let him play (and even chew on) one of the Batman toys you brought.

We’ve had a tiring but fun summer together.  We spent a lot of time at the library, had our share of Flavor Ice and frozen yogurt, played with digger toys in the dirt, and all kinds of other things.  It’s been a mild summer, mostly, so we’ve gotten to be outside a lot.

You asked me the other day, “Can I jump out of an airplane with a parachute?”  I shouldn’t have been surprised that you asked.  You enjoy a good adventure, and your dad is engaged in a never-ending battle with you over jumping from the couch to the futon and back.  My answer to you:  “Not today.”  I hope never, because that sounds truly awful to me, but trying to force people from doing what they want hardly ever works.

You’ve grown so much this year, both physically and intellectually.  In the family portraits we took last fall, your shorts looked comically like those capri pants European men wear.  Why those guys wear their swim trunks so tiny and their shorts so long is a mystery to me.  In any case, those shorts hit you right in the above-the-knee sweet spot now.  You can write your name, know all the letters of the alphabet (thanks largely to many, many games of Alphabet Go Fish this summer), and have a great imagination.  You can play for a long time with your Imaginext characters and playsets, coming up with adventures for Batman, the Joker, the space characters, and the knights.

Photo by Gary Clarke

I am most proud, though, of your kindness.  Last night, I was getting tired and grumpy as I often do as I scramble to get dinner ready.  Something happened and a shoe fell off the trunk and landed on my foot, which hurt.  I yelped about it briefly, then got over it and continued making dinner.  Later, after dinner, as your dad was getting you ready to go outside and play, you asked me, “Is your foot feeling better?”  I had completely forgotten about it, but you didn’t, and you wanted to check in with me.  That’s the kind of kid you are.  You often ask me how I slept the previous night or how I’m feeling.

Your friend Ben’s dad mentioned the same thing the other night—how you have the unusual characteristic of often checking on how Ben is doing.  It’s not something a lot of kids do, and let me tell you, there is nothing that makes a mommy’s heart warmer than hearing that her little guy is caring toward others.  There’s a lot of self-centeredness among our fellow human beings, and that’s not necessarily bad.  Kids especially are naturally oblivious to the issues of others, and it takes some effort for most of us to snap out of our own perspectives and feel empathy and sympathy.  You seem to have a head start in that arena.

This isn’t to say your E.Q. is 100% yet.  You still do a lot of the typical little kid things, like goofing around when your dad and I have asked you multiple times to put on your shoes.  You can torture your brother like no one else.  I guess that’s the flip side of being aware of others’ feelings:  you can use that knowledge to your own advantage when it comes to pushing his buttons.  Sometimes you are, as I like to say, a little guano.

Photo by Denny

You’re still my number one source of laughter and funny quotes.  Your brain comes up with observations that seem perfectly logical to you (like how the best way to stop smoking is to take off one’s mouth).  You love the stories your dad tells you about “Tobin Crall, the Friendship Street detective, with a keen mind and a sharp eye.”  You laugh and laugh when he tells them to you, including a few that have risen to the top as favorites and you request to hear over and over.

Your other favorites:  Scooby Doo, pepperoni pizza, SnaPeas, Batman, Pokemon, checking on the garden’s developments with me, helping grownups with all kinds of tasks (dinner preparation, sidewalk sweeping, fish-feeding…pretty much everything except cleaning up your toys).

Photo by Denny

Here’s to a wonderful year of being four, my sweet Tobin.  My life is so much better because you’re in it.




Obvious answers

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:20 am

T: Why do some people smoke?
A: They probably started when they were young, and by the time they realized it was a bad idea, it was really hard for them to stop. The best way not to smoke is to never start in the first place.
T: No, the best way not to smoke is to take off your mouth.
A: …


The Callum Chronicle #7

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:25 am

Hey there, sunshine-face.

Happy seven months to you.  Your dad has mentioned several times how much fun the second half of the first year of a baby’s life is, and you’re enmeshed in that now.  It’s so much fun to watch you as your level of interaction grows.  We’ve seen evidence of you understanding quite a few words—notably, “Come see Mommy,” which always elicits smiles and leg wiggles in anticipation of me picking you up.  You also gave a big smile this morning when I mentioned “Mubby and Skitter,” and you almost definitely know your brothers’ names.  I had to take you to a PTO meeting last night due to a scheduling snafu, and when you got crabby, I took you out to the hallway.  The school display case has a pamphlet with Miles’s picture on it, and when I grabbed one and showed it to you, you immediately smiled in recognition.  Then you ate the pamphlet.

We just got back from a weekend family reunion with the Beary side of the family, and we’re heading off later today to spend several days in Ames with Mubby and Skittergramps.  You are already suffering from your own version of Attention Deficit Disorder—that’s what I call it when a kid gets accustomed to the constant cuddles and indulgences of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and gets grumpy when his mom can’t provide that level of input on her own back at home.  I hold you a lot—we use the wrap, we co-sleep, and you spend lots of time just chilling out on my hip.  But I can’t do it all the time and still accomplish the various tasks that need to get done, so sometimes you have to deal with it.  Sorry.

Your dad sent me an interesting article not long ago that talked about the phenomenon of children becoming intensely attached to a stuffed animal or other security item.  According to the researchers in the article, that behavior is not a normal part of child development, as I’d assumed, but rather a coping mechanism kids use to deal with the trauma of having to sleep alone.  I had noticed that neither of your brothers ever got particularly attached to a specific toy—they like their stuffed animals, but there was never one that they absolutely needed.  Maybe that’s because we’ve always slept with our kids when they’re little, so they’ve felt secure without needing special sleep toys.  In any case, I really like having you next to me.  You’re a pretty good sleeper most of the time, and even when you’re sick or teething (which we’ve been dealing with lately), it’s certainly easier to attend to your needs when you’re right next to me rather than going to a different room.  Plus you’re just so sweet and cuddly.  I love seeing your big blue eyes shining up at me as we drowsily adjust to the morning.

You’re doing all the things babies your age do–rolling over, trying to scootch around (without much distance covered yet), grabbing at everything, and doing a lot of babbling.  One thing you’re not very advanced at yet is eating solid foods.  We gave you rice cereal mixed with breastmilk on your six-month birthday, and that seemed to go fine.  Then I gave you some applesauce, which was also fine.  When I gave you bananas mixed with rice cereal and water, you liked it, but two hours later you started violently vomiting.  It was horrible, much more intense than typical spit-up.  I decided that bananas weren’t a good choice for you.  Then, a bit later, I gave you pureed peas with rice cereal and water, and the same thing happened.  Maybe it’s the rice cereal that’s the problem, though that’s surprising since it seemed okay the first time.  I really don’t know.  For the time being, we’re giving your digestive system a rest and sticking to breastmilk and occasional applesauce.  I’m going to try to find some of the squash your brothers liked when they were your age.  You’d better believe I’m going to give it to you straight-up:  no rice cereal.  I’m also going to give it to you at lunch, not at dinner, because two hours after dinner is not a very convenient time to deal with a miserable, heaving baby.

You’ve been having fun lately in the baby backpack, which your dad uses to take you on trips to the park.  Sometimes you fall asleep, but usually you  enjoy your perch.  There’s nothing more fun than hanging out with the big kids.  Your brothers adore you, and sometimes they fight over who gets to play with you.  I’m going to miss having them around once school starts, because I’ve gotten some very productive exercise sessions in due to their help in entertaining you.  On the other hand, we’ll get to start taking morning walks together again, as long as the fall weather stays nice.  I’ve missed doing that.  Your brothers do not have the patience to take a long walk unless there are doughnuts at the end, which is counterproductive to my fitness goals.  We’ll be good walking buddies again soon.

Though we recognize that there may be parental delusion involved, your dad and I are both sure that you’re an exceptionally cute baby.  Everyone wants to take credit for you:  Papa is sure there’s a Crall ancestor out there who looked just like you, and I heard “Isn’t he such a Beary?” last weekend.  I personally see resemblance to your Clarke cousins.  In any case, the genes seem to have meshed together well to make you.  Not only are you cute, we really appreciate your personality.  You’re still so calm and good-natured, happy to be held by anyone who wants to hold you (for now, anyway).  The only time you fuss is when you’re hungry or tired, and those issues are pretty easy to address.  You don’t have any teeth through the gums yet, but every day I check, because I can see them under the surface.  You’ve been doing a lot of chewing lately, too.  I know that by this time next month, you’ll have a couple of teeth, and my time with my last gummy baby will be over.  That does make me feel tender, but I’m also so happy to be getting to know you.  You have completed our family, my sweet love, and I am so grateful for you.




Monthly Miles Memo #91

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:24 pm

Dear Miles,

Summer break is almost over, and I was just thinking about what a big summer it’s been for you.  You’ve made huge progress in two of the biggest challenges in a kid’s life:  swimming and bike-riding.  We went to the public pool the other night, and at first you didn’t want to leave the baby pool.  That got a little awkward, since you were clearly the biggest kid in there, and you had to sink down to your belly to get any kind of water coverage.  Finally we convinced you to hit the big pool, and once you got used to it, you took off like an eel.  You were swimming with your head underwater, making real distance as you kicked and moved your arms.  I’d always found it annoying that our municipal pools don’t allow water wings, but this time it worked out well.  You swam so much with the help of the water wings while we were in Nashville that you got absolutely comfortable in the water, and then when you found yourself unencumbered, you took off.  You’d done similar things before at your swimming lessons, but this was the first time I’d seen you do 100% legit swimming.  Nice work, kid.

Your biking is going just as well.  You can zoom long distances down the path, doing full 180-degree turns, managing the sidewalk as well as the grass.  I’m so proud that you faced your fears, took some risks, and saw rewards this summer.  You’ve done the same thing with piano.  You tried your most challenging musical piece to date:  the Super Mario Brothers theme song.  You’ve been at it for the whole summer, doing small chunks at a time, sometimes frustrated to tears but always willing to get back to it (after a break).  You’re going to have the whole song in your repertoire before the summer is out, I know it.

You’ve had some fun adventures this summer, the biggest of which was our trip to Nashville.  You were a trooper in the car, definitely the least stressful person in the back seat.  It helps so much that not only can you read, you love to read.  We checked out a big stack of library books, borrowed a bunch of Calvin and Hobbes collections from Uncle Mark, and got some audiobooks on CD.  You handled it just great.  Calvin and Hobbes is a big interest for you right now.  I’m happy you’re excited about it, and I love hearing you laugh as you read quietly in your room.  However, it gets a little exhausting feigning fascination when you want to recount yet another Calvin and Hobbes plotline to me.  You yell “Mom!” like your hair is on fire, and when I rush to find out what you need, you invariably say, “In Calvin and Hobbes…”  I sigh and stand there as long as I can handle, smiling and nodding.  I reiterate:  I’m thrilled that you love to read.  I’m thrilled that Calvin and Hobbes has captured your attention, because that’s good stuff.  So I will smile and nod some more.

In Nashville, you had a blast in the pool (of course) and playing with cousin Aleks.  You also enjoyed the science museum, the zoo (even when the tortoises got a little aggressive for your taste), the splash pad, and Antique Archaeology.

Antique Archaeology is a store run by the people on the show American Pickers, the partner store to their shop in Iowa.  You and your dad like to watch the show together, so it was pretty fun and special for to go to the Nashville location.  You even got a t-shirt that displayed the Iowa/Nashville connection.  You didn’t buy any antiques.

You’ve had fun with friends this summer, at birthday parties and playdates.  You’ve spent a lot of time playing with your brothers, most of the time really nicely. We just spent the weekend with your dad’s side of the family, and you handled interactions with a variety of people mostly well.  That’s an area where you need to grow—flexibility, adaptability to different people, and adjusting to situations outside your comfort zone.  I think you’re making progress.

It will be good for you to get back to school, though.  You are ready for new challenges, even if it means getting up early.  We’ve got your back-to-school night coming up, when you’ll find out who your teacher is and visit your new classroom.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to go to that, since Tobin’s is a the same time in a different place, and your dad and I are going to have to divide and conquer to manage that night’s commitments.  But I’m not worried about you.  You’re an old pro at Lucas Elementary now, and your second grade year is going to be great.  I’ve heard good things about all the teachers, so no matter whom you get, I know you’ll have an excellent year.  If it’s anything like this summer, you have a lot of learning and growth ahead of you.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the year brings.




The Tobin Times #47

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:43 pm

My sweet, adventurous Tobin,

We made it!  After some long days of driving, a great time in Nashville, and more long driving days to get home, our vacation has come and gone.  You’ve been asking to go back and making plans for the next time we visit.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You and Miles spent as much time as possible in hotel pools, hitting the water on both transition nights near St. Louis and every day in Brentwood.  You were your typical brave self, helping Miles push his boundaries and doing some really good run-and-jumps off the edge of the pool.  Of course you also had a lot of fun doing other things, like our trips to the zoo, the science museum, and spending time with family.  You always have a blast with Mubby and Skitter, and this time you got to add cousin Aleks to the mix.  You got a kick out of helping him walk, though he doesn’t want a lot of help these days.

We’ve recently discovered a splash pad here in Iowa City, which isn’t quite as fancy as the one in Nashville, but we’re hoping to spend some time there on an upcoming hot day.

You came down with a mysterious (and fortunately short-lived) fever the other day.  We were meeting some friends at the library, and you were fine as we got organized and loaded up the car.  Then, as we stepped up to the children’s room desk to get your prize for completing the summer reading program, you started looking woozy.  The librarian even noted that you weren’t looking so good.  I grabbed a lined wastebasket and kept it near you.  You fell asleep in my arms and stayed there for a while, and you remained off your game for the rest of the night.  No puke ever emerged, so that’s good, and a dose of ibuprofen did the trick of helping you cool off.  You’ve seemed fine ever since.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You were proud and excited when I told you this is your last month of being three.  That’s hard to believe, but in other ways you seem very big.  We’ve gotten a start on planning your birthday party, which will also be a half-birthday party for Miles, who got out-scheduled by Callum’s birth.  It will be your first time inviting school friends to a party, so that’s pretty exciting for you.  You made some good friends at Willowwind last year, and I hope we can stay in touch with them as you move on to Hoover next month.  It’s funny to think that we’ll be seeing some of those same kids at junior high band concerts and other activities in ten or so years.

Photo by Denny

You’re just as funny and precocious as ever.  You are expressive and silly and very, very adept with words.  Last night I told Miles to be careful, because he’s been accidentally shutting your dad and me in the car door lately.  As I strapped you into your car seat, you said, gravely, “I love you.  I would never hurt you.”  I laughed, leaned down and kissed you, and you said, “I’m keeping that forehead kiss.”

One of your favorite things right now is to play Alphabet Go Fish, a game your old friend Beanie gave you.  It’s really helped you learn your letters—I think you know all of them now, and your dad has gotten you started sounding out some words.  You’re full of joy and enthusiasm for the things that go right.  Today, the electricity went out for about an hour and a half.  It stressed you and Miles out, because lunch without access to the fridge, microwave, or toaster is a dire meal indeed.  When the power came back, you squealed with happiness and shouted, “We did it!”  I don’t know if you guys were sending electricity-request vibes to the universe or what, but you were quite sure that your efforts solved the problem somehow.

You run hot on other emotions, too.  Sometimes you just stand and scream with rage.  Not usually, though.  Usually you’re a pretty jolly guy.  Your poor little body is all scratched up right now, because mosquitoes find you delicious, even through bug spray.  You can’t resist scratching, and it shows all over your arms, legs, back, and neck.  This is not keeping you inside, though.  We happened to spend all day inside today, and I can tell it’s not your natural habitat.  You love to be out running, jumping, splashing, and creating havoc.


Even though I do my best to cherish you and your brothers at every age, I admit I’m looking forward to you being four.  Four is easier than three, I think.  You’ll be at a new school, making new friends and adapting to a new environment.  I’m excited to see how you grow and develop over the next year, especially as you mature and stop screaming so much.

You actually don’t scream all that much.  It’s just that when you do, it’s really loud.  Everything about you is full-volume, little Tobin.  You’re a lot of kid, from your stinky feet your crazy, fluffy hair.  I love you and I’m so glad you spent your third year with me.




The Callum Chronicle #6

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:30 pm

My sweet Callum,

Holy crap, it’s your half-birthday!  I am having a hard time fathoming that my last baby is a full six months old.  The major milestone of the half year is the okay to eat solid-ish food.  I was planning to wait until after we get back from vacation for that, just to reduce the variables in our lives, but your brothers were so excited about helping to feed you rice cereal that we decided to give it a go last night.  I was expected the same kind of bizarre faces and gagging noises your brothers made when we first fed it to them, but you just took it all in with your usual aplomb.  You smiled and enjoyed it.  For the rest of the evening and all the next day, you made big, new, smacking noises and motions with your mouth.  I think rice cereal was a hit.

Besides the food, other major hits with you include spending time outside, the song “I Love You a Bushel and a Peck,” anything your brothers do, and playing in your Exersaucer.  You like cuddle time, too, but unless you’re really hungry or tired, the Exersaucer is a place you’re happy to play for a good chunk of time.  You’ve started to get interested in toys.  That’s nice because your dexterity has improved to the point where you can actually play with them some, and now and then that will keep you happy for a while.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Your personality is just as it has been:  sweet, calm, and relaxed most of the time.  Honestly, most days you’re my least stressful child.  That can’t last, I know, and I understand that turning into a frustrating person is a natural part of the human development continuum.  I’m enjoying your chill, sweet baby stage while it lasts.

You love all kinds of people, and you’re not shy about smiling at all the friendly faces you see.  We had some recent fun with Nana and Papa as well as other family members, and you got to show off your charming personality to them.  I was afraid that you’d given a lot of people on that side of the family a false impression, because at the previous gathering, you were in a truly awful mood.  But this time was much more reflective of your usual attitude, and lots of people got to enjoy you.

You handled the Fourth of July fireworks better than I expected.  I was sure you’d either sleep through the whole thing or be terrified by all the loud noises, but you just sat quietly in my lap and watched the lights.  We were out way past bedtime, but you never would have known it by your behavior.  Once the show was over and we loaded you into your stroller for the walk back to the car, you conked out immediately.  We should do that every night.

You can roll over front-to-back and almost back-to-front, give hugs (which always end with you grabbing handfuls of hair), laugh big laughs and smile big smiles.  You know your family by sight and by voice, and you’re getting pretty consistent with responding to your name, too.  It doesn’t hurt that Miles says “Hi, Callum!” in a loud sing-songy voice about fifteen times a day.  There’s nothing like a big brother in your face to get a point across.

You’re so much fun these days, sweet Callum.  Please, please, please sleep a lot of the way to Nashville.  If we can make it nine hours in a car, we can do most anything.



Monthly Miles Memo #90

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:52 pm

My dearest Miles,

You’re seven and a half now.  This seems like a time when you’re straddling the little boy/big boy divide.  You still like a lot of little boy things, like the rides at City Park, cuddling at bedtime, and a diet made almost exclusively of carbohydrates (with a few hotdogs and orange chicken thrown in there).  You’re moving onto a lot of big boy things too, though:  Calvin and Hobbes comics, Encyclopedia Brown books, and riding a two-wheeler.

The bike thing is pretty major.  You’ve been tooling around on your training wheels for a while, but your dad decided it was time for you to learn to ride without them.  I wasn’t sure how you’d do, since you tend to be apprehensive and risk-averse.  I was afraid you’d take one spill and refuse to try again.  You proved me wrong.  With your dad and Tobin cheering you on, I saw you coast confidently down the path.  You can even start and stop with no help now too.  That’s pretty awesome, Miles, and it makes me look forward to the day when we can rent bikes together on vacation and zip around some exotic locale.

Photo by Denny

You still do things that baffle me, though.  Yesterday you cried at Target because the Nintendo Wii-U demo setup didn’t have the game you wanted (which, by the way, we have at home).  You had a weird mini-freakout when there was no more corn when we had dinner at some friends’ house last weekend, and you refused to share your dad’s ear.  You do great in your swimming lessons, dunking your head underwater no problem and doing some good swim strokes, but you freak out at the idea of taking a shower.  Everything in your seems heightened.  I’m not sure the best way to help you with that, because your life is doing to be a series of difficult moments if you don’t get your responses under control.  Maybe that will sort itself out as you get older.

You’re always coming up with good ideas or trying out projects you hear about elsewhere.  You’ve done backward writing (a la Leonardo da Vinci), fiber arts (you took a class and made a tote bag and a tie-dyed shirt), and you’re getting really good at playing the Super Mario Brothers theme on the piano.  You’ve played it so much even Callum recognizes it.  After your piano lesson today, you were lingering at the piano while your teacher came out to talk to me about your progress.  You played the tell-tale first bars of the theme—da da da duh da DUM, DUM!—and Tara looked down at Callum and said, “I swear he just perked up when he heard that.”

You are still pretty much the best big brother in the world (at least to Callum).  You can make him laugh whenever you want with your silly faces and noises, and you’re always right there to help when I ask you to.  I admit I haven’t been at my best lately.  All this week, nobody has had any summer activities, so I’ve been home full-time with all three of you.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, and sometimes I’m not as patient as I should be.  But I can always count on you to keep Callum safe and happy if I need to, say, go to the bathroom.

Photo by Gary Clarke

We’re gearing up for the big summer vacation:  a road trip to Nashville.  I’m dreading the road part of the trip, but once we get there, we’re going to have a great time.  You can’t wait to see your little cousin Aleks, and I know you’re going to be just as great a big cousin to him as you are a big brother.  You’re so excited to help him walk.  I hope you can keep up with him.  From what I’ve seen, he’s a high-energy little fellow.  We’ll get to see Mubby and Skittergramps, too, which is always fun.  I hope you get to do a lot of swimming in the pool, jumping on the bed, and reading in a quiet corner.

I’ll still cuddle you if you need it, sweetheart.  I’ll try to remember that even when your tears make no sense to me, they’re serious to you.  And if you want to ride your bike, I’ll cheer you on louder than anyone and make sure your helmet is on tight.




Summer project #3: Pineapple popsicles

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:58 pm

I read a recipe online for pineapple popsicles, and the kids were interested in trying to make them.  The recipe I found included coconut milk, which I’m sure would be delicious if you’re a coconut fan.  I am only lukewarm on coconut—I like it in curries but not a whole lot else. I guess there’s that multi-syllabic Canadian dessert bar.  What’s that called again?

Anyway, I saw pineapples on sale two for a dollar at my grocery store.  Two for a dollar, for real.  We eat a lot of fresh pineapple, but I usually spring for the pre-skinned and pre-cored kind.  This time I decided to provide the kids a little culinary education and bought the whole deals.

This is what a pineapple looks like, in case you didn’t know.  We ended up using 3/4 of a pineapple for one batch of 5 popsicles.  I think we could have gotten 6 popsicles out of the 3/4 pineapple, but I couldn’t find one of our popsicle molds, so we made 5.  I ate the unfrozen pineapple sludge with a spoon and I’m not even sorry.

Tobin helped me whiz the chunks around in the food processor.

We had about half a cup of French vanilla ice cream hogging up space in the freezer, so I nuked that for ten seconds and threw it in the food processor.  We whizzed that some more, then poured it into our popsicle molds.

And into the freezer they went.

This is how they turned out.  They were good.  The kids ate them for breakfast this morning.





Literary forms

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:51 am

Miles and Tobin and I were reading Jack and the Beanstalk.

A:  Look at that.  The goose is as big as Jack, and he’s carrying it.  How is he managing that?

M:  Hey, dude, ever heard of fiction?


The Tobin Times #46

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:22 pm

Dear Tobin,

“He always has a lot of energy, doesn’t he?” said the West Music employee today as you speed-walked through the store (you’re pretty good about not running if I remind you, but you’ll push walking to the very edge of its definition).  You do indeed have a lot of energy, and it’s been challenging this summer to keep coming up with ways to channel it.  The poorly-lit picture below is from a date we had at the Java House (aka Jabba the House) while Miles had a playdate with a friend.

Because a sugary beverage always helps, right?  You’ve been in a hot chocolate phase lately for some reason, despite the hot and muggy weather, so hot chocolate with fancy whipped cream and sprinkles was a good distraction for you.  You desperately want to do everything Miles does, but this was a big-kids-only playdate, and I didn’t want you to feel like you got totally left out.  It was fun having some special time with you anyway.  You’re a good conversationalist.

Our days lately have consisted of running errands, doing projects, taking showers, watching Scooby Doo , and reading books from the Tacky the Penguin series.  You love everything water—I only get to shower by myself on weekends nowadays when your dad can distract you.  Often you want to take a shower with me followed immediately by a bath after I get out, which is fine because it keeps you busy while I get ready.  You also love swimming, and you’re doing well in your swimming lessons.  We had a brief and unexpected trip out of town earlier this week for a funeral, and you about lost your mind when we only got to go swimming at the hotel pool once.  The injustice!

The funeral was for your dad’s surrogate grandmother, Ellen Carl.  She was his uncle Paul’s mother, so not a blood relative, but she was a frequent figure in his youth.  I didn’t know her as well as your dad did, of course, but in the twelve years or so that I’ve been attending family gatherings, I’d grown quite fond of her too.  What I admired most about her was that she just did what she needed to do—no fuss, no big deal, but she always got things done.  She biked and walked where she needed to go and did it on her own schedule.  She was a nurse, and then when she reached an age when most people think about reducing hours or retiring, she continued her education to become a Physician’s Assistant.  She was also a divorced person in a time when a lot of women didn’t feel they had the right to leave a bad marriage.  I’m no great fan of divorce in general, but knowing Ellen, I’m sure she carefully weighed the situation and did what she needed to do.  She didn’t let societal expectations keep her down.

That’s something I see in you, Tobin, and I hope you can take inspiration from Ellen’s story.  You’re a lot more dramatic than she was, but that may mellow as you age.  I took you to the nursery in the church because you were having a hard time being quiet during the service.  At one point you were playing with a baby doll, and I asked you what your baby’s name was.  “New Ellen,” you told me.  That’s you all over, Tobes.  In your best moments, you’re observant and thoughtful and heart-swellingly sweet.  Not every moment is your best (c.f. bedtime as documented below), but you’re still pretty cool to have around.

You love outside time, including a recent playground playdate with your friend Ben.  You and Miles and often Callum go to our neighborhood park pretty much every night with pleasant weather, and that’s always the highlight of your day.  You’ve been having fun riding your Strider bike and supporting Miles in his efforts toward biking without training wheels.  You always come in with super-compressed, sweaty curls mashed into your skull by your helmet.

As happens to all of us, but to some of us more than others, you get pretty emotional and difficult when you’re tired.  The topic of last night’s meltdown was the fact that we only stayed in the hotel one night.  Never mind that we’ll be spending two nights in that very hotel later this summer for a family reunion.  Never mind that in just a couple of weeks we’re going on vacation, which will mean a whole week in hotels.  Logic doesn’t work on you when you’re worn out and grumpy.  Then you’re obnoxious to Miles (who, in a “can’t live with him, can’t live without him” conundrum, insists on lying in bed with you until you fall asleep).  Fortunately, a good night’s sleep always resets your brain, and by morning you’re ready to be a nice person again:  a “New Tobin,” perhaps.

Enjoy the rest of your sprinkly summer, my little Tobin.  You make me good-tired.





Alternate methods

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:59 pm

The kids do the library’s summer reading program, which involves coloring in stars on a sheet that represent time spent reading.  Also of note:  Ms. Kathy is one of their favorite librarians.

T:  Last year in the summer reading program, you had to pee on the star and then color it in.

A:  Oh yeah?

T:  Ms. Kathy told me that.


Summer project #3: Fake tie-dye

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:09 pm

As the third child, Callum has a lot of hand-me-down clothes that are getting pretty raggedy.  That includes a lot of perfectly serviceable 100% cotton onesies that are stained with the various horrors that come out of children.

The solution?  A kid-friendly fake tie-dye project.

You just take some Sharpies…

section off an area of the fabric with a rubber band over a cup and draw a design.

Then you dribble rubbing alcohol onto it.  The alcohol breaks down the dyes in the marker and makes the colors run together interestingly.

The result:  new life for stained onesies and an hour spent reasonably educationally with the kids.

When you’re done, it’s a good idea to iron the fabric and/or put it in a hot dryer for a while to set the color.


Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:36 pm

Callum and I went into Tobin’s room as he was waking up this morning.  We were cuddling on the bed and Callum was being smiley and sweet to me.

T:  Why is he so…into you?


The Callum Chronicle #5

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:12 pm

My snuggly Callum,

You are a dream baby.  You are all smiles and laughs and cute tricks, like rolling over (tummy to back only, so far) and making kiss noises.  I haven’t gotten you to actually kiss me when I press my cheek onto your mouth, but you make the noise pretty consistently.  You often get crabby in the evening, but since that’s the time when your dad takes you and your brothers to give me a break, it’s like it’s not even happening.  Magic.

Your big brother Miles wrote you a song:  “Callum-a-zoo, I love you. / Sometimes you toot / and you’re cute like a newt. / Callum-a-zoo, I love you. / You’re…so…cute.”  We found some music notation software and wrote it out, and he was so proud to show and play it for his piano teacher.  You love it, too.  You usually smile and sometimes laugh when he sings it to you, even if you were crying before.

Your brothers have been wonderful to have around so far this summer break.  I’ve been able to run on the treadmill with few interruptions because they keep you so well entertained.  Sometimes nothing will work but a Mommy snuggle, but that’s okay.  I’m still working on getting back in shape anyway, so getting a little break isn’t the worst.

We’ve had a rough couple of nights because you’ve had a cough and stuffy nose.  Nobody else in the family seems to have it (yet), so I’m confused about how you picked it up.  Maybe it was those stacking toys at the library.  I tried to keep you from putting them in your mouth, but there’s no way to prevent you from touching things and then putting your hands in your mouth.  I guess it’s all contributing to a robust immune system down the road, but it’s pretty hard to deal with this cold at the moment.  You’ve been such a good sleeper lately, I hope this doesn’t derail you.  Coughing oneself awake is the worst, and your little cough is so sad.  I hope you get over that soon.

Right now your dad is fake-sneezing for your entertainment.  The things we do.


Knowing you’re my last baby, combined with the fact that you’re usually so sweet and easy-going, has made me really enjoy you.  I remember being in a hurry for your brothers to hit various milestones:  I couldn’t wait for them to roll over and start solids and crawl and walk.  But it’s different with you.  Maybe it’s because I know the toddler years are what’s coming next, but I am just cherishing your squishy little funny baby time.

We’re starting our little rituals.  Every time I change your diaper, I lean down and smile at you and say, “Who loves you, Callum?”  Then I pause and wait for you to answer, which you don’tI continue:  “MAMA loves you.”  Miles’s first word was dada, and Tobin’s was bubby (brother), so I figure I’m due.  You haven’t answered yet, but one of these times you’ll surprise me, and I will gloat and gloat.

But it’s okay if you don’t talk for a while.  I like your grunts and coos and kiss noises.


You’re learning to recognize your name, and it’s cute to see you look up abruptly when you hear it.  I hope you like it, because I think you’re going to be correcting people on it all your life.  I didn’t think it was a particularly weird name when your dad and I chose it—maybe not the most common name ever, but certainly one I’d heard.  A lot of people seem confused by it, though.  There’s a nurse at your doctor’s office who thinks it rhymes with Gollum, and other people think it’s Caleb.

But don’t you worry.  I know who you are, my little Cal-pal, my Callum-a-zoo.  I love getting to know you and watch you grow.

Check this space in one month to see all the crazy things that come with being six months old…but for now I’ll keep loving on my little sub-half-year boy.




He’s got the blues

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:15 pm

Tobin admires his brother’s piano-playing song-writing skills, and he likes to try his hand at it as well.

T:  (mournfully) I have one song, and it’s not very good.

A:  Oh, honey, I’m sure it’s good.  Just keep practicing and you’ll get good at it.

T:  It’s not good because it’s all bad words.

A:  …Oh yeah?

T:  (mashing piano keys) He said, ‘Buuutttthead.’  He said, ‘Poopypants.’  He said ‘Baby poopy faaaaaaaaace.’  (pause)  See?  Not very good.

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