12/10/2017

The Callum Chronicle #35

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:16 pm

Dear Callum,

Can you believe you’ve lived at our house almost three years now?  Your birthday is coming up next month, and I’ve been pressing you to decide what kind of birthday cake you want.  Since you and Miles have birthdays on consecutive days, I usually make each of you a small cake so we’re not swimming in cake leftovers at a time of year when we should be reducing, not increasing, our junk food intake.  You’ve been changing your mind every time I ask you.  Today you said raspberry cake with chocolate frosting.  That sounds all right.  I don’t want to work too hard on finding the perfect recipe, because you may well change your mind again.

The biggest theme of the month in your life has been “I do it all by myself.”  I remember your brothers going through that stage again, and I’ve had to remind myself that it’s a normal part of development.  It can be hard when we need to get somewhere on time or accomplish a task with any degree of finesse.  You’ve been really interested in making your own cinnamon toast lately, and you don’t yet have the hand-eye coordination to spread butter or sprinkle cinnamon with any kind of evenness.  Usually you do it (your favorite part is using the toaster, of course), then I try to sneakily redistribute the toast toppings a little bit as you’re fastening yourself into your high chair.  You won’t accept any help on that either.

We’ve had very little forward motion on the potty training front.  Miles is really anxious to move into “your” room—the quotes are because you’ve never slept there once in your entire life, but it’s where we store your clothes and change your diapers.  Miles wants to wait until you’re potty trained to take over the room, because he doesn’t want us going into his room to change your diapers.  I can understand that, but his position might change if you don’t make some progress soon.

That transition will also mean having you sleep in the bunk bed room with Tobin.  Tobin hates sleeping alone, so I think you’ll have to go in there if the whole room shift is going to be a success.  You sleep through the night pretty consistently now, unless you’re sick or something, so it will probably work.  I’ll miss having you in bed with me, though.  I was recently listening to a podcast, and the speaker was talking about how during a difficult time in her life, her personal trainer asked her to come up with ten things that made her happy.  The best she could come up with was imitation crab.

That was a sad state of affairs, and I’m pleased to report that Gabrielle Union is doing much better now.  I decided to make my own list, and it was much easier for me to come up with ten happiness-inducers in my life, none of which were real or imitation seafood (though I do get a thrill out of having real crab legs for my birthday).  One of the very top things on my list was how I feel when I look at you sleeping next to me.

The last year has been hard.  For years, one of my favorite moments of each day is when I’m in my pajamas, face washed, skin moisturized, teeth brushed, and I cozy into my bed.  I often get a wiggly little thrill at the simple sensory joy of that moment.  For the last year, I haven’t had that.  I’ve gone to bed and felt sad and scared.  You may not remember what happened a little over a year ago, but I do.  I’m deeply worried about our country’s future.  I remain seriously concerned about how our least fortunate people will survive in a culture of self-centeredness and greed.  I’m also angry on a much smaller but frequently-experienced level that this turn of events has stolen my bedtime happiness wiggle.

But maybe things are looking up.  I hope we’re on the threshold of a sea change in the way we hold people accountable for their behavior, regardless of political affiliation.  I’m sorry to see progressive politicians go, but there’s no room for hypocrisy if we’re serious about demanding respectful attitudes and behaviors from our leaders.

You’re not even three yet.  You don’t know about sexual harassment or police brutality or injustice.  But I hope you become someone who fights those things, and seeing your little chest rise and fall in the spot next to me in bed is helping me find my happiness wiggle again.

You insist that you’re not a little boy anymore, that you’re a big boy.  That may be true, and you’re probably ready to go sleep in the bunk bed room.  I’ll find my happiness in the other nine items on my list, and I bet I can find a good one to add, too.

Maybe it will be the way you say “What are we going?”, which means both “What are we doing?” and “Where are we going?”  Maybe it will be the way you dance when your favorite songs come on.  Maybe it will be the joy I saw on your face when we turned on the lights on the Christmas tree.  Maybe it will be the plastic salads you make me from your toy kitchen set.  Maybe it’s the way you’re a big blob of cinnamon sugar on what sometimes feels like a barren, dry toast landscape.

The toast is actually pretty good.  We use that tasty bread from Costco.  It’s even better when you manage not to sit on the loaf in the grocery cart.

I love you, you little stinker.

Mommy

 

12/8/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #119

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:39 am

Dear Miles,

The busy time of year is upon us (though it seems like it’s always a busy time of year).  It’s the time when I have to think of Christmas and birthday presents for a kid who only wants to play Minecraft and doesn’t have a lot of interest in merchandise.  I’ve been trying to get you experience-based gifts—theater tickets, coupons for Mom/Miles dates to the Java House for hot chocolate and board games, movie passes.  Your dad and I have some good ideas cooked up for your birthday, but we’ll talk about that more next month.

You’ve finally boarded the slime train, so that’s…sciencey, I guess.  I’ve known about the fad for some time, but you only recently got interested in it.  You made a batch of slime last weekend, and you were excited to take it to school.  You have sworn to me that your teacher is totally okay with it.  I’m skeptical, but she also lets her lizard Francisco roam around the classroom, so I guess she’s pretty relaxed.

I was at school doing some volunteer work the other day, and I talked to you third-grade teacher, Miss Lampe.  She relayed to me that you told your current teacher that Miss Lampe was your favorite teacher ever, and your current teacher is in third place.  Miss Lampe assured me that your current teacher was laughing as she told it, but I hope you weren’t too rude.  You’re going to need to brush up on your tact if you want to rise above the level of third-favorite student.

School seems to be going pretty well overall.  One thing that is slightly concerning to your dad and me is that you have decided you’re bad at math.  The thing is, you’re definitely not bad at math.  The only reason you don’t get perfect scores on your homework and tests is carelessness or incompleteness.  You understand all the concepts, but when an answer asks you to explain your reasoning, you write “I tried.”  I realize it’s hard to verbalize how one comes to a mathematical conclusion, but being able to explain things is a skill that goes beyond math, and I want you to exercise it.  You also seem perfectly satisfied with getting scores in the 80% range when you understand 100% of the content.  This is a tricky matter.  I don’t want you to put so much pressure on yourself for perfection that your happiness seriously suffers, but a little more internal motivation might be a good thing.

You’re in a stage where you’re developing an identity.  You tell us that you’re the class goofball (your teacher confirms this), which is a little surprising considering you’ve always been a fairly serious kid.  I’m glad you’re cultivating humor, but much like your insensitive teacher ranking, you need to work on time-and-place appropriateness.  A kid with a dry wit is a lot more pleasant to have in the classroom than a kid who yells “chicken nuggets” instead of a correct answer.

That reminds me, we need to get your teacher a generous gift card.  Teachers work hard.

We had our Family Folk Machine fall concert, and as usual, you nailed it.  One thing that made me particularly proud:  our friend Lynn organized the group gift to our director, and she didn’t want to be the one to present it.  She suggested that you do it, and you were fine with the idea.  I gave you a few ideas about what you might say but didn’t dictate anything specific.  You did a lovely job with your impromptu speech, thanking Jean and her assistant director kindly and clearly.  Side note:  isn’t it funny how different life experiences are challenging to different people?  Lynn sings beautiful solos in the choir, but saying a few words about our director is tricky for her.  You did wonderfully with the public speaking (and singing solos), but the idea of joining a group of kids on the playground can paralyze you.  I’m not criticizing—I have my own hangups that are a lot like yours.  Our brains are strange organs.

Your current favorites:  linguine with homemade tomato sauce, Minecraft, haircut evasion, sleeping in, writing and drawing comics and stories, and hanging out with your friend Jacob.

You’re a wonderfully weird little guy, Miles.  This might be the last month I can reasonably call you “little,” since it’s your last month before you enter the double digits.  I can hardly believe that I’ve been looking into your big blue eyes for almost a decade now, but I’ll comment on that more next month on your big 1-0.

I’m going to hug you with all my might while you’re still my little boy.  I’m not saying I’m going to stop once you’re ten, but it’s a good excuse for the time being.

Love,

Mom

12/2/2017

December 2 is the funniest day

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:25 pm

I had Tobin-quote gold on my Timehop today from multiple years.  I am aggregating them here.

 

12/2/16:

T, genuinely perplexed:  Who would touch BUNS?

12/2/16:

T:  This pancake is warm, warmer than lava.

A:  What?!  I’m surprised it didn’t melt your plate.

T:  I’m surprised it didn’t kill me.

12/2/15:

T:  What’s the difference between Tuesday and Thursday?

M:  They’re different days of the week.

T:  So they both don’t know karate?

M:  Tobin, exactly what planet are you from?

T:  Earff.

12/2/15:

A:  What did you have for snack today?

T:  Animal crackers.  Other kids had apples.

A:  Why didn’t you have apples?  You like apples.

T:  I don’t like Hoover apples.

A:  Not as good as Honeycrisps, huh?

T:  No.

A:  What do Hoover apples taste like?

T:  Like two monsters stuffed on spikes.

 

11/21/2017

The Tobin Times #75

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:06 pm

Dear Tobin,

Last month I wrote about how you were driving us crazy, how you were presenting such frustrating behavior that we were about to lose our minds.  I’d be lying if I said that had completely disappeared, since we’ve had some challenging moments, but I do think you’re finding a better way.  Maybe it’s adjusting to kindergarten, maybe it’s the increased restrictions we’ve put on your screentime, or maybe it was just a phase, and you’re on your way out of it.  Regardless, I’m very happy to have had more frequent glimpses of the sunshine-face who joined our family over six years ago.

Your dad and I went to your first parent-teacher conferences of your elementary school career, and they truly couldn’t have gone better.  Your teachers had nothing but praise for your skills both academic and social.  I was proud to know you’ve become good friends with many of your classmates, and you are kind and friendly to everyone (except your brothers).  You brought home a paper turkey craft, with each tail feather labeled with something you’re thankful to have in your life.  Each feather showed a different friend’s name.  You and Miles are planning an elaborate group playdate that involves a snowball fight, and once we have snow on the ground, you’re going to have a hard time choosing which friends to invite.

Your teachers told me that one thing they appreciate about you is your sense of humor.  One teacher said it’s so refreshing to have someone laugh at her jokes.  It reminded me of the time I was a Spanish TA for beginner students, and one semester I happened to get a Mexican American kid in my class.  He understood Spanish well but wanted to improve his reading and writing, since his education had all been in the U.S.  I had become accustomed to my jokes (in Spanish) all disappearing into the ether, but I kept making them if only to entertain myself.  All of a sudden, when I made a joke, I heard laughter.  It was simultaneously refreshing and disconcerting to know that someone was actually listening.  I know you keep your teachers on their toes that way too.

Your teachers seem to be doing a good job finding appropriate challenges for you while keeping you part of the regular team, too.  You and your friend Kit, who is in another kindergarten class and also has strong math skills, have a special time on Wednesdays when you play math-based games together.  You have been enjoying that, and ever since you learned to play Top It (the card game we used to call War), we’ve been playing it a lot.

You’re also learning to read, much to Miles’s consternation.  He’d gotten used to being the only literate kid in the family, but our old trick of spelling out words with him doesn’t work to keep secrets from you anymore.  You certainly feel proud of yourself, though.  You might do well to not blurt things out, though, because sometimes it’s valuable to keep things secret from Callum, our last remaining non-reader.

That too reminds me of my teaching and learning experiences.  I used to get so frustrated with my students when I would spend five minutes on a circumlocution to try to get them to understand a word without telling them the English equivalent.  I got so frustrated when people would blurt out the English word, because translation at that level is represents very superficial learning.  I spent all that time on circumlocution because it was course policy, but also because I have a very clear memory of Mrs. Mickelson, my high school Spanish teacher, doing something similar.  The class had learned the meaning “to make” of the verb hacer, and she was holding up a picture of a man at an airport and saying “¿Qué hace?”  Everybody was trying to figure out what he was making—he wasn’t cooking or knitting or anything obvious like that.  Finally, after more prompting, it dawned on me that hacer also means “to do.”  I’m not sure why she never told us that, as it’s a more common usage than “to make,” but I remember everything about the experience.  That’s the most concrete example I have of the tenet that people need to figure things out for themselves.

What I’m getting at, Tobin, is that I think you may be figuring things out for yourself.  Your dad and I have tried in every way we can think of to communicate with you—from calm discussion (always the starting point) to trying to get to the bottom of the causes of your rudeness to yelling (almost always the ending point, because options A and B rarely get anywhere).  Maybe what you need is just to figure things out for yourself.  Telling you to stop dancing around like a maniac and sit down and eat your dinner is like telling you that hacer means “to do.”  It’s not a worthless thing to do, and I don’t see us not trying to correct your behavior in the short term.  But you’re going to have to figure out that tormenting your brothers makes them angry at you, which leads to slammed doors and pinched fingers and tears.  I think you’re getting there, or at least you’re headed there.

I’m very glad that school is going so well and that you feel secure enough in our love that you can let your guard down at home.  I’m glad you laugh at jokes and are thankful for your many friends.  I’m thankful for your bright smiles and the fact that you’ve been giving them to me more often.

By the way, what the man in the picture was doing was esperando un avión.  Esperar can mean both “to wait for” and “to hope.”  We’ll do both, because you’re worth it.

Love,

Mommy

 

11/9/2017

The Callum Chronicle #34

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:22 pm

Dear Callum,

You’re creeping steadily toward three, and I’m trying to relish these last months of babyhood.  I know that you’re on your way to being long and lean like your brothers, so last I caught on video one of my favorite parts of your baby-fatted little self.  It won’t be long before my jowls start flapping like that when I run, and I ask you kindly to not document it.  It’s much cuter on you.  Your baby days are running out—and some would argue that they’re already over.

That has good aspects and bad.  Tobin and Miles are very excited for you to stop sleeping with your dad and me, because Tobin wants you in the bunk bed with him, and Miles wants his own room.  He’s going to get “your” room, where you never sleep, but it’s where we change your diapers and keep your clothes.  You’ve shown very little interest in potty training so far, though.  For the time being, you’re still sleeping in our bed and pooping in your pants.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Much like your brothers around this age, you’re still in a big Mommy phase.  I guess it’s because we spend so much time together.  Not only is it just the two of us during the school day, I often end up hanging out with you while one or both of your brothers is doing some activity.  You have almost entirely given up naps now, so we have a couple more togetherness hours every day.  It can be pretty exhausting, but you also do a good job playing with your dad when he gets home at night.  Sometimes you try to throw him out of bed, though.

You’ve been driving Tobin crazy lately.  You’re very grabby, and he finds it outrageously unfair that you get in less trouble than he does for snatching things away.  We definitely tell you not to do it, but a lot of what you do is just regular toddler stuff, sorting out ownership and internal rules.  That can spur some serious frustration in Tobin, so we’re trying to be even-handed in rule enforcement, but it can be hard on everyone.  You’re still very much a team, though.  He’s proud to show you off to his friends at school, just like Miles was proud to show him off when he was a little guy.

This was the first Halloween when you really got it—you got the knack of saying “trick or treat” when approaching a treat-giver.  Fortunately no one asked you for a trick, because you didn’t have anything in your arsenal besides your cuteness.  Only one person found it necessary to question whether a boy could be a witch, which is better than when Tobin was a witch a few years ago, but still higher than the number of people who I think should be concerned about gender norms for fictional creatures.  We trick or treated at your dad’s office, where you got lots of candy and attention, and then for a little while around the neighborhood that evening.  You and Tobin got cold and tired pretty quickly, and you had a hard time understanding that you didn’t need to go inside every house when the door opened.  Mostly, though, it was a very fun day.

The balmy days of early fall are over, and we’re firmly entrenched in coat season now.  We enjoyed the last warm days, spending a good amount of time outside and finishing up our gardening tasks.  You helped me pick the final tomatoes and plant garlic, though you got pretty mad at me when I took out the tomato cages and wouldn’t let you be outside when I tilled up the area for the garlic.  You stood by the window and screamed while Tobin told me, “Callum is literally dying!”  Tobin and I had to have a talk about the proper use of the word “literally,” because really you were just mad that I wanted to protect your eyes from flying rocks.

You love to be outside, and I think it’s hard on you to be trapped inside on these chilly days.  We always seem to be doing something, whether running errands or waiting around during your brothers’ activities, so we’re not actually stuck in the house.  Still, you are always up for adventure.  We’re going to have to get to Tot Time soon so you can run around freely.

The holiday insanity is on its way, and I think you’re going to have so much fun this year.  You’re going to love playing with cousins and working on homemade gifts and wrapping presents (considering your love of Scotch tape).  I doubt you’ll be through your Halloween candy before all the Thanksgiving and Christmas treats start descending, but that way you might not miss the Snickers and Twix bars your dad and I have swiped.

Your current favorites:  bar code scanners in stores, Paw Patrol toy videos (that is, YouTube videos of people playing with Paw Patrol toys, not the actual show), Curious George’s Halloween Boo-Fest (and, more importantly, using the remote to turn it on and off), taking showers and baths alone or with Miles or Tobin, your play kitchen, pizza, and grapes.  You got out Miles’s old kid-friendly tool set last night, and you got very interested in the hand-cranked drill and putting balsa wood in your mouth.

A few nights ago, your dad came to bed and felt around in your usual spot.  He couldn’t find you, so he reached over and jostled me a little and said, “Where’s the baby?”  You had cuddled up so tightly against me that it was like we were one.  It was almost like those days nearly three years ago, when you did that heat-seeking newborn thing.  A while later, though, you scooted away from me and sprawled out in the bed.  I hope your dad enjoyed the extra space while he had it.

No matter which room you sleep it, little Callum, you will always have a place next to me—literally and figuratively.

Love,

Mommy

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11/8/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #118

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:40 pm

My dear Miles,

I don’t know if you and your brothers orchestrate it this way on purpose, consciously or unconsciously, but the three of you have a way of coordinating your behavior so that at least one of you is usually in a reasonable stage.  Maybe it’s a form of one-upsmanship, when one of you is behaving really frustratingly, at least one other relishes playing the “good kid” who can exchange knowing glances with his stressed-out parents.  I put “good kid” in quotes because I know that all three of you boys are truly good kids, but you all go through stages when you can be pretty difficult to manage.  I don’t know if I would have said so a month ago, but lately, you’ve been a pretty rational and sweet guy to have around.  I can only think of one outrageous screaming fit you’ve had recently, over a disputed outcome in a game of Clue.  Mubby is probably still traumatized from that.  Still, that was an aberration.  Mostly you’ve been mature and funny and kind.

Your most intense hobby lately has been drawing comics.  You and your friend Jacob are co-authors on a comic strip called “Broken TV Screen,” and at those times when I make you stop playing Minecraft, you are usually happy to go write some.  I can’t say that I get all of them, especially because every single strip ends with a broken TV screen, which is usually a non-sequitur.  Still, you seem to enjoy it, and Jacob has become a good friend.

You had a piano recital recently, and you did a great job.  You seem to think that speed is the ultimate proof of mastery, so you played your song at a pace that emphasized speed over nuance.  You were uninterested in my opinions in that area.  Still, you definitely knew your song well.  I was most proud of the fact that, when you accidentally skipped a repeat, you thought on your feet (fingers?) and threw in an extra repeat of a different part to balance it out.  You didn’t get flustered or stop; you just moved smoothly through your new arrangement, and anyone who hadn’t heard you play it a hundred times would have never known.

You also lost your first tooth in about a year.  I don’t know why you went so long between tooth losses, but your dentist said you’re on the brink of losing a whole bunch of them.  You’ve gone to the orthodontist a couple of times to assess what your future might be in terms of tooth position management, but for now we’re in a holding pattern.  I think she wants you to lose and grow a few more teeth before she knows what she’ll need to do to straighten things out.

The biggest accomplishment of the month was the completion of your first 5k.  You, with the support of your dad as coach, have been training through your school’s new Let Me Run team.  When you first started, you hated it, but you saw how quickly a person can improve with a little perseverance.  Unlike your piano style, speed is not your priority while running.  Nonetheless, your 5k time was faster than I expected it to be, and you reached your goal of running the entire distance with no walk breaks.  Mubby, Tobin, Callum and I were lingering around the finish line while Skitter scouted the course for photo opportunities.  I kept an eye on the clock, and I wasn’t expecting to see you before the forty-five minute mark.  When someone (Mubby I think) said she thought she saw you and your dad coming around the bend for the finish, I glanced at the clock and thought she must be mistaken, because we were nowhere near forty-five minutes.  But when I looked, there you were, exhausted but happy and proud.  You declined your dad’s suggestion of a sprint to the finish, but you kept your steady pace and made it.

You managed to have enough energy to twirl your medal around at Family Folk Machine rehearsal later that day, so I guess you didn’t use up all your reserves.

Photo by Gary Clarke

While I don’t think anything is going to match your third grade experience, you seem to be doing well in fourth.  You had a cool Halloween costume (Herobrine, a Minecraft character), and you actually danced a little in the dancing portion of the school Halloween party.  We did some good trick-or-treating at your dad’s office and around the neighborhood, and you wanted to stay out a lot longer than Tobin and Callum.

Another cool thing your doing in school is a book drive to support the rebuilding of Stanley Switlik Elementary in Marathon, Florida.  It was badly damaged by Hurricane Irma, and you and your friends wanted to do something to help.  You’ve been gathering books and writing letters to the kids there.  Marathon Key just happens to be our usual vacation spot, and the owner of our rental condo assures us that it suffered minimal damage and will be ready for our visit this spring break.  He also wants to help us organize a trip the Stanley Switlik Elementary, where you can meet some of the kids you and your classmates are supporting.

It’s satisfying to have so much good news to write about this month, Miles.  The advantage of being honest in these monthly letters for all you kids is that I can look back on them and realize that every rough patch is temporary, and that you all go through them, and that you all have great months like this one.  I’m really glad you’re my funny, creative, smart little boy.

Love,

Mom

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10/23/2017

The Tobin Times #74

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:04 pm

Dear Tobin,

It’s been a mood-swingy month.  Your dad and I were talking about it last night, and I speculated that you are working on your adjustment to kindergarten.  This is the most challenging schedule you’ve ever had—up much earlier than you’d prefer, in school all day, activities most afternoons and/or evenings.  Maybe it’s a strain to keep it together during all those hours, and when you’re home in your safe haven, you really let your fury loose.

Your dad and I are a little confused by all this, because your personality has been so easy-going your whole life.  This is the first time we’ve seen you in such a challenging stage.  That’s not to say you’re not still fun and sweet, because you absolutely are.  But your usual demeanor has been punctuated by these screaming fits of rage that are hard for us to manage.

I chaperoned a trip with your class to the Children’s Museum a couple of weeks ago, and I could tell that you definitely know how to use good behavior in a school-type setting.  You did a great job, and you certainly weren’t one of the students who needed extra attention to be a good participant.  At home, your dad and I ask you to do what you’re supposed to do (brush your teeth) or stop doing what you’re not supposed to do (tipping back your chair at the dinner table), and it’s like we’re talking in Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice for all the response you give.  After a couple of reasonable requests, we start getting angry.  Then you lose it and freak out.

Mornings around here are tough these days.  You are the king of the morning grumps.  It wouldn’t hurt to get you to bed earlier, but I haven’t noticed a lot of difference between the mornings after high-sleep and lower-sleep nights.

In positive news:  you’ve done great with your latest sessions of swimming lessons.  We stayed in a hotel for a family wedding last weekend, and you rocked out in the pool.  I put water wings on you, but you stripped those off shortly after getting in, and you swam around and back-floated like a champ.  You’re also really enjoying Ninja Zone, a class that seems like mostly gymnastics.  It’s been fun for you to run and jump and flip around bars.  Callum and I are going to exhaust the retail options in the gym’s neighborhood, because he goes too crazy with desire to go in with you if we hang around in the waiting room.  I’ve been able to you watch you a fair amount, though, and you look like you’re having a great time.

As always, we’ve been busy-busy-busy, and I don’t see that changing before the holiday madness descends.  It would be nice to have a weekend at home with no commitments, but I have no idea when that will happen.  You’re not a kid who seems to need a lot of downtime, but I know I do, and I can be a better mom to you when I’m not stressed and overwhelmed.

The weather is right at the changing point now.  Earlier this month, you and Callum ran in the sprinkler and ate popsicles outside.  Now we’re getting into jacket weather, and we’ve had some cold and rainy days.  We had some fun on a rainy weekend recently, playing a game where we put pictures of animals into headbands and had to ask questions to figure out what they were, and we played several rounds of Exquisite Corpse.  That started as a literary game, but we do a version where we each draw the head of a monster, then fold the paper and pass it.  The next person draws the middle, then folds it and passes it, and another person draws the bottom.  We’ve come up with some pretty funny combinations, and you and Miles would play round after round if I didn’t finally make you stop.

You’re a pretty fun guy 90% of the time, my sweet Tobin.  If you have any ideas on how we can help you keep things under control during that remaining 10%, let me know.  I can’t imagine it’s fun for you to be so angry, and I want to help you get yourself sorted out.

We’re getting flu shots in an hour.  Give me strength.

Love,

Mommy

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10/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #33

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:04 pm

Hello, Cal-Pal,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

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10/9/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #117

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:10 pm

Dear Miles,

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll probably find that all very annoying.

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

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9/22/2017

The Tobin Times #73

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:50 am

Hey, there, kindergartner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

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9/13/2017

The Callum Chronicle #32

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:50 am

Dear Callum,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

 

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9/8/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #116

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:47 pm

Dear Miles,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do, though.

Love,

Mom

 

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8/25/2017

The Tobin Times #72

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:36 am

My sweet Tobin,

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

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

Love,

Mommy

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8/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #31

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:42 pm

Dear Cal-Pal,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are something.  Yes you are.

Love,

Mommy

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8/9/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #115

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:50 pm

Dear Miles,

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

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

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

Love,

Mom

 

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8/1/2017

Not in public anyway

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:48 pm

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

7/29/2017

His true character

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:04 am

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

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

Tobin: Riiiiiiiight.

Aprille: Why would he lie about that?

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

7/27/2017

Chimichurri sauce

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:13 pm

Chimichurri sauce

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

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

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

 

7/24/2017

The Tobin Times #71

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:19 pm

Hey there, summertime sunshine boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

 

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7/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #30

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:20 pm

Hey, Callum, you’re two and a half!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

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