7/21/2014

The Tobin Times #35

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:08 pm

Dear Tobin,

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

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

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

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

Photo by Denny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Denny

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

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

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

Photo by Denny

Love,

Mommy

7/14/2014

A tangled web

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:37 am

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

T:  My curls are okay!

7/10/2014

Monthly Miles Memo #78

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:10 pm

My dear Miles,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

7/2/2014

Sound the alarms

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:02 pm

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

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

6/27/2014

Park adventures

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:07 am

Freshly in from playing outside:

T:  I’m chemically treated!

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

Another day, also freshly in from playing outside:

T:  I touched something long and lean.

A:  Was it…the monkey bars?

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

M:  It was a worm.

6/26/2014

Cruciferous heart

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:20 am

Last night before bed…

A:  I love you more than ice cream.

T:  I love you more than broccoli.

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

 

6/24/2014

The Tobin Times #34

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:51 pm

My dearest Tobin,

You’re almost three.  You wear me out.

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

Photo by Denny

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

Photo by Denny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

Love,

Mommy

6/13/2014

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

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:40 pm

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

6/11/2014

Monthly Miles Memo #77

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:38 pm

My dear Miles,

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

Photo by Denny

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

A question of degree

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:35 am

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

6/10/2014

Neither nor

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:06 am

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

A:  Are you ready to have some breakfast?

T:  I don’t want any.

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

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

5/26/2014

The Tobin Times #33

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:15 pm

Dear Tobin,

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

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

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

Photo by Denny

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

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

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

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

Photo by Denny

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

Photo by Denny

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

5/23/2014

The power of personal style

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:11 pm

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

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

D:  What girl is that?

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

5/19/2014

Mexican Rice

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:22 pm

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

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

Mexican Rice

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

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

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

5/13/2014

Monthly Miles Memo #76

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:40 pm

My sweet Miles,

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

Photo by Denny

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

Photo by Denny

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

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

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

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

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

I love you so much.

Mommy

 

5/4/2014

Where it’s due

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:52 pm

Tobin has been into watching an old Masters of the Universe video on YouTube.  He likes to raise his sword in the air and act it out.

T:  I’m He-Man!

M:  I’m probably Skeletor.

T:  No, you’re the credits.

White cake with raspberry mascarpone cream and Swiss buttercream

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:13 am

I made this cake for Denny’s mom’s (aka Nana’s) birthday.  It’s just your basic white cake, but I did it using the Cook’s Illustrated technique of baking it in a half-sheet pan and cutting in into quarters for a 4-layer rectangular cake.  In this case I’m not 100% sure it was easier than splitting two rounds, because the cake was pretty delicate.  It works well with carrot cake, because that seems a little denser and heartier than delicate white cake.  I did have a couple of fall-aparty issues, but once everything was glued together with filling and buttercream, it was good.

The raspberry mascarpone filling I just kind of improvised.  I think it was about 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, melted, that I whipped up with a tub of softened mascarpone cheese.  That turned out pretty goopy, so I chilled it until it was firmer, and then I made some lightly sweetened whipped cream and folded them together.  Tada!  It could have used some lemon juice, but I didn’t have any lemons, so here we are.

The Swiss meringue buttercream was a new adventure for me.  I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe on the recommendation of a friend, and it was really good.  The only change I made was I used salted butter instead of unsalted.  I liked it, and the people who  ate it liked it, but I think next time I would use half salted and half unsalted.  I like a little salt kick with my sweet, but this was just a little too salty.

The texture was really good.  It was thick and dense and held piping very well, but it was also really easy to spread thinly.  I was a little nervous that the recipe wasn’t going to make enough, but I managed to make a really thin crumb coat.  An hour in the fridge chilled it to a very firm state, which made the remaining frosting go on like a dream.  I even had some left over.  If I had filled the cake with the frosting, I might not have had quite enough, but I like a different filling anyway.

Here’s the frosting recipe for my records and anyone else who might be interested.

Swiss Buttercream (aka Swiss meringue buttercream), via Smitten Kitchen

1 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg whites
26 tablespoons unsalted butter (or half salted, half unsalted), softened — that’s 3 sticks + 2 tbsp
1 tsp vanilla

Over a pot of simmering water, whisk the egg whites and sugar in a metal bowl, being sure not to touch the bottom of the bowl to the water.  When the egg mixture has reached 160F and you can’t feel any sugar granules between your fingers, put it in the standing mixer and mix it with the whisk attachment until it has doubled in volume and has reached room temperature, about 10 minutes.  I actually needed to let mine sit for a few minutes to cool, because it was well-whipped and I was afraid of overbeating it.

Add the vanilla and mix it up, then add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, until it’s all incorporated.  Put it on your cake.  It will be fine at room temperature for at least 24 hours.  Refrigerating it will make it really hard, so only do that for the crumb coat, and be sure to allow time for the cake to get back to room temperature before serving.

Note:  this is not a pure white frosting, due to the butter and the vanilla.  Clear vanilla would make a big difference, or you could use almond extract or another clear extract in place of vanilla.  It’s pretty white, but more of a natural white than a bleach white.

5/2/2014

If it was warm, he wouldn’t sing much more

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:43 pm

Tobin and I made a cake for Nana’s birthday, and Denny was asking us about it.

D:  What’s the filling?

A:  Raspberry mascarpone.

T:  Yeah, raspberry microphone!

4/30/2014

Orange/almond/chocolate mini cheesecakes

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:33 pm

Last night, Tobin really, really wanted to “make a treat with sugar and stirring.”  It was exactly bedtime, so it wasn’t going to happen, but I promised him we could today.  I honestly didn’t feel like it after last week’s baking adventures (did you know that when you make a cake for a school cake walk, your children require that you make a cake for them, too?).  But I believe in keeping promises unless the promised-to conveniently forgets to ask again.  He didn’t forget.

We whipped this together out of stuff we had at home.  Orange/almond/chocolate is my current flavor combination true love, and since I’m the tallest one at home right now, I chose the specifics.  Tobin approved because it contains both sugar and stirring.

Orange/almond/chocolate mini cheesecakes

1/2 package chocolate Bunny Grahams
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) salted butter, melted
1 package (8 oz) neufchatel cheese or cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract
juice of 1 clementine

Preheat oven to 350F.

Crunch up the choco- bunnies in a food processor until they’re rendered coarse crumbs.  Add the melted butter and pulse to combine.  Press into the bottoms of the depressions in a 24 mini muffin tin.  I used this mini-tart smasher I have, and it was very convenient, but you could use your fingers, too.

Clean out the food processor, and add the cheese, egg, and sugar.  Combine until smooth.  Add whipping cream, almond extract, and clementine juice and blend a bit more.

Fill muffin cups almost to the top.  Bake for 15 minutes or until just barely set.  Cool completely before eating.

The positive side

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:47 am

Tobin pulled out drawers in the kitchen and used them to climb up on the counter.  When I saw him…

A:  You are a stinker!

T:  I’m really nice, though.

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