Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:06 pm

Tobin came out wearing one of Denny’s bedroom slippers and one of his gloves.

T:  I’m part man, part person!


Time traveling side dish

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:24 pm

Earlier, Miles walked in from school and asked what smelled so good.  It was vegetable beef soup in the crock pot.  Denny was trying to get him to have some at dinner, but he refused.

D:  Well, excuse me for wanting you to try something that you said smelled good.

M:  I thought it was cornbread.

D:  Mommy hadn’t even started the cornbread then.

M:  I was smelling the history…of cornbread…in the future.


Monthly Miles Memo #82

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:30 pm

My dear Miles,

At our choir rehearsal on Saturday, one of the adult members mentioned to you how much you’ve grown.  She didn’t mean in height (although I was looking at shots from an earlier concert, and you did look pretty tiny).  She meant in terms of your confidence, poise, and bravery.  When we first started, you wouldn’t leave my side for a moment at rehearsals or concerts.  Now you’re happy to run off during breaks and play with your friends (mostly a cadre of Minecraft-loving boys), and you sang a sweet and clear solo in our concert yesterday.

I hope that kind of confidence is emerging in school, too.  We had your first parent-teacher conference of first grade a week or two ago, and your teacher used the phrase “deer in the headlights” to describe you early in the year.  She did say that you’ve opened up more, but our biggest concern for your school success is your confidence level and your willingness to take risks.

We mostly like your school, and the diversity of the student body is largely a very good thing.  The downside is that due to a variety of issues in students’ lives, the teachers need to spend a lot of time and energy on basic classroom management.  I suppose that’s a concern in many schools.  Still, I’m not completely comfortable with the emphasis the staff put on rule-following and obedience.  I can see both sides of it.  Obviously, keeping a classroom under control is a prerequisite for a learning-friendly environment.  On the other hand, I don’t often see you getting rewarded for critical thinking, creativity, or kindness toward others.  I see you getting rewarded for being quiet in the hallways and not disrupting class.  Again, these are clearly good skills.  I just hope you’re getting enough of what you need to help you improve—challenges and support for risk-taking and encouragement to branch out—rather than what you’re already good at.

Photo by Denny

You’ve taken on some new interests lately.  You still like Wild Kratts, but it’s no longer the first thing you want to do when you get home from school.  Recently you’ve been more excited about the Magic Treehouse book series and accompanying website.  You could absolutely read the books on your own, but for the time being, you like your dad or me to read them to you.  I think your dad read to you for over an hour last night.  I do wish you’d challenge yourself, but it’s pretty sweet for you guys to have that special activity to share, too.

Tobin and I had a rough day today.  He’s not feeling his best and he’s been pretty tough to deal with.  But after you got home from school, you were so kind and helpful to him.  You guys got an educational computer game going, and you included him so well.  Now you two are playing school.  He calls you “Mr. Miles,” and no one is more excited than you when he raises his hand to ask for a bathroom break.  There will be more on the potty training in his next Tobin Times, but for now, I want to focus on you.  You’ve been a great support and champion for him as he develops, and as I get more tired and uncomfortable in Little Potato’s pregnancy, I appreciate it all the more.

You and Tobin went to a big sibling class at the hospital a while back in preparation for Little Potato’s arrival.  When you arrived, the teacher had a slideshow ready to go, and the first slide was of a big cat cub.  It was clearly posed in a studio situation, lounging on a branch against a white background.  The teacher asked what kind of animal it was.  You looked closely and said, “It has retractable claws, so it’s not a cheetah…”  I suggested that it might be a lion cub.  You looked again and said, “No, because lions don’t climb.”  We never did figure out exactly what it was.  I still think it was a lion cub who was posed by someone who didn’t know a fake tree was an inaccurate place for it to be.

In any case, I was impressed by your application of knowledge, as was the teacher.  She also appreciated that you knew what an umbilical cord was.

Photo by Denny

Your Leonardo da Vinci Halloween costume was a big hit, especially since we pinned print-outs of the Mona Lisa and da Vinci’s flying machine plans to your cape.  You had fun at your class party, and once again, you were proud and helpful to your little Spider-man brother who wanted to do everything with you.  You also did a good job going around the neighborhood.  Our pantry is still full of treats, even with your dad and me doing our best to help.

You’re excited to become a double big brother, and I have zero doubt that you’ll do well.  One of your favorite things to do lately is text, especially with Uncle Tyler when he sends us pictures of baby Aleks.  You coo over how cute his is, and then you demand my phone so you can reply.  You really enjoy the speech-to-text feature on the phone, especially when it gets the words wrong.  It’s pretty hilarious sometimes.  You wanted to text your dad that Tobin had a potty-palooza (code from a book about potty-training for a poop in the toilet), and the phone changed it to “party pollution.”  We decided that such an event would pollute a party pretty thoroughly, so it made sense in a way.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You’ve finished swimming lessons for the year, and you enjoyed them so much we had to promise that we’ll go swimming as a family soon.  You improved a lot.  You gained confidence and can swim a few yards doing a couple of different strokes.  You’re still a little tense in your back float and reluctant to relax and lean completely back, but you’ve definitely improved over the course of this fall’s lessons.  We’ll get back to that once the winter is done.

I know I’ve told you this many times before, Miles, but I’m so proud of you.  You’re in a really good stage right now, and I’m relishing it.  Thank you for being such a kind and thoughtful boy.  I’m so glad I’m your mom.




A grave injustice

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:24 pm

I was picking a sticky bit of something off Tobin’s head, and a few hairs came out with it.

T:  (in outrage) What did you do to my curls?


Key to the city

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:39 pm

We were talking about a trip we took to the Florida Keys and speculating about what might happen if we did it again.

T:  Would we drive to the airport?

A:  Yes, and then we’d fly to Miami, and then we’d rent a car and drive to the Keys.

T:  Your ami?


The Tobin Times #38

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:28 pm

Dear Tobin,

As we brainstormed baby names, your dad and I were talking about how we didn’t specifically plan to give you the nickname Tobes.  I had envisioned calling you Toby, which I still sometimes do.  But somehow, the nickname that stuck the best was Tobes.  I don’t know why.  It just suits you.  You’re a Toblerone, a Tobalicious, sometimes a Toby or a Tobester, but you’re most often a Tobes.

We have had a wild month.  We’ve been traveling all around, visiting family and attending events.  You’ve seemed extra sleepy lately, taking many more spontaneous naps than usual.  I don’t know if it’s all the activity or just a developmental stage, but after being napless for months, you’re back on them now and then.  Last night, it wasn’t even bedtime quite yet.  Your brother was reading you a story in the big chair, and from the other room, your dad and I heard him say, “Tobin, are you awake?”  You didn’t answer, so we went in to check on you, and there you were, snoozing with your head on your brother’s shoulder.  Your dad put you in bed fully clothed, and you slept a full night’s sleep.

My big plan for next weekend is a potty training boot camp.  You haven’t been too cooperative so far.  You’ll sit on the potty now and then, but it’s never your idea, and you almost never get anything out.  Starting this weekend, we’re going to be done with diapers.  The Three-Day Potty Training method specifies no bottoms at all in the house (they say for three months, but that doesn’t really seem realistic).  We’ll try it for the weekend anyway, and hopefully you’ll get the hang of it.  I don’t plan to let you back into diapers, but maybe after the weekend is over we’ll put you in big-boy underpants.  I’ll need to check on the status of our cleaning products.  You do seem interested in earning the stickers that go with the potty-themed book Nana got you.  I hope those remain motivating.

Your current favorite thing to do is play game after game of Trouble and Dinosaur Train Pop ‘n Race, which is basically Trouble with dinosaur illustrations.  You don’t seem to care a lot who wins.  You just like popping the die dome and moving your little pegs around.  We don’t play a cutthroat version (ie, nobody gets sent back home when another piece lands in the same spot).  Maybe we should switch to that, because just moving in circles around the board is pretty boring.  You also enjoy jumping back and forth between the couch and the futon downstairs, wearing your Spider-man costume to pick your brother up from school, and talking about Dr. Dreadful (still).  The next time I write your monthly letter and I don’t mention Dr. Dreadful, it will either be because you finally forgot about the blasted thing, or I’ve become so used to hearing about it that it’s no longer discussion-worthy.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You and your brother are both really into the show Wild Kratts right now, and you’ve both taken to spouting various animal facts.  You drew perhaps your best artwork yet today, a couple of squid.  You like the episodes about bats and platypuses a lot.  Thanks to Netflix, you can easily watch them between games of Trouble.

Photo by Denny

I took you to a doctor’s appointment last week for your annual check-up.  You’re at the 48th percentile for both height and weight, so I guess I have official confirmation that you’re not a little chub-chub anymore.  Your grocery store girlfriend commented the other day that you seem to look a lot older all of a sudden.  You’re thinning out, and your cheeks are less squishy.  We were counting birthdays last night, and you told me you’d be four on your next one.  I did my usual exaggerated sorrow response, bemoaning the loss of mah bay-bay.  You said, “You’re just kidding.  You like me being four.”  I had to admit that you were right.  I can’t imagine loving you any less, ever, even when you’re a weird teenager.

Last weekend, you and Miles stayed at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house for the first time without your dad and me.  He and I went to Minneapolis for a brief babymoon.  You had lots of fun.  Mubby kept you beyond busy, with excursions and crafts and apple-bobbing.  When we got home, you asked me why we went to “that apple place.”  It took me several guesses (I assumed you meant either the orchard where we picked apples last month or the orchard activity center to which Mubby and Skitter took you) to figure out you meant Minneapolis.

Other recent events include a trip to Nana and Papa’s farm along with a visit to the Covered Bridge Festival.  You got to pet a baby lamb, which Papa plucked right out of its pen, much its mother’s irritation.  You played out by a creek, rode in a tractor, jumped over and over into a corn pit, and ate a lot of junky vendor food.

Photo by Denny

We also had fun at my cousin Debi’s wedding.  It all took place outside in her big new backyard, and you had a great time riding around on scooters with cousin Josh and popping the giant bubbles Miles blew.

We have more busy times coming up:  next week you have your last swim lesson, Big Sibling class at the hospital, some time with your favorite babysitter Olivia while your dad and I go to Miles’s school conference, and of course Halloween.  You may need a few more naps this week, but at least it will be nice to be home for the weekend.

Pants-free weekend, that is.  This could prove to be interesting.

I will still love you if you pee on the floor.
I will still love you when you turn four.
I will still love you, with or sans clothes.
I will still love you.  You’re my little Tobes.

Photo by Denny




Enumerating reality

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:12 pm

I was packing for a weekend trip, and I was getting stressed out because I couldn’t find some things I wanted to pack.  I let Tobin play with a bag of my old makeup, knowing I’d be giving him a bath shortly after anyway, so it was okay if he got messy.  He really took it to the next level, though, getting makeup all over his clothes and smearing it thickly on his face.  He noticed my frustration.

T:  Why are you upset, Mommy?

A:  I’m just feeling stressed out.  I have a lot of problems right now.

T:  One, I’m a mess.  Two, you can’t find your pants.


Monthly Miles Memo #81

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:03 pm

My sweet Miles,

Last night, part of your homework was to write your “words to know” in your favorite color.  Those aren’t words that are part of your weekly spelling list.  They’re just words you should recognize and be able to read consistently.  I read the words to you, figuring I could hand you the list if you got frustrated.  No need:  you wrote those words with your red marker quickly, confidently, and accurately.

Photo by Denny

I was telling your dad just last night how much your reading has taken off, even since just last spring.  You finish your nightly reading easily now, often to Tobin, which he loves.  You have great inflection and enthusiasm, and he laughs and laughs when you do funny voices.  I’m looking forward to your parent/teacher conference next month to learn more about what goes on with you in school.

You’ve also maintained a great attitude about piano lessons.  You look forward to them every Thursday, and you love to play “Everything Is Awesome,” the first song you learned.  You’ve moved on to new songs, but still, every time you sit down at the piano, that’s the one you want to play.  It’s also fun that there’s a duet part, so you and I often play together.

Photo by Gary Clarke

I love witnessing your excitement about your upcoming new little brother.  You’ve felt him kick a few times now, and you’re very interested in learning about his weekly developments.  You know all about umbilical cords.  You took my explanation of why I’ve given up all alcohol and most coffee very seriously.  Whenever I drink anything slightly unusual (e.g., hot chocolate), you ask with great urgency, “Will that hurt Little Potato?”   The other day, we read that Little Potato can now open his eyes and see strong light changes.  You got a flashlight and shined it on my abdomen, and lo and behold, he kicked.  He also kicked when you hit a strong C-chord while practicing piano.  That was cool, but now it’s hard to get you to practice playing with both hands, because you always want a hand on my tummy in case the sound gets him moving.

We’re headed out of town this afternoon, first to Ames and then on to Winterset for the Covered Bridge Festival.  The Ames stop is to see Uncle Larry and Aunt Lily, who came all the way from California.  We’ll also see Aunt Suzy and Uncle Joe, as well as Mubby and Skittergramps.  Then we’ll head on to southwest Iowa to hit the festival with Nana, Papa, and hopefully Uncle Michael.

In other family news, we had a great time at Cousin Debi’s wedding last weekend.  The weather was chilly, but you didn’t let that stop you.  You had lots of fun riding around on scooters and blowing enormous bubbles.  You had on a cute outfit, but you never really got a chance to take off your jacket.  I knew how cute you looked, though.

Photo by Denny

You remain front-toothless, and my dream came true of having your first grade picture with a big gap in your smile.  You’re excited about an upcoming school event:  the annual visiting author.  This year, the featured author is Peter Brown, and you’ve been enthusiastically telling us about the books he’s written that you’ve been reading.  We ordered a couple of the books, and I look forward to hearing you read them to me.  I’m anticipating a very dramatic reading of You Will Be My Friend!

Photo by Gary Clarke

Your current favorites: Wild Kratts, designing and drawing inventions, pasta, French fries, improving your upper body strength on the playground, swimming, Minecraft.

Photo by Gary Clarke

We’re going to have a fun month coming up, my dear.  We’ve got more adventures on the horizon, plus of course there’s all the fun of putting together your Leonardo daVinci costume and the ensuing Halloween festivities. Then, before we know it, it’ll be Thanksgiving and Christmas and two very important family birthdays, one of which is yours.  I can’t deal with the thought of you being seven, so I’ll just postpone dealing with that for a while.

You’re a good kid, Miles.  Thanks for hanging out with me.




The Tobin Times #37

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:52 am

My special Tobin,

Your dad and I think you’ve been on a growth spurt lately.  You’ve been eating a lot, including many healthy foods.  You had a salad for lunch with spinach, peas, bell peppers, pineapple, and strawberries.  You’ve also fallen into the habit of taking naps, which I thought we were long past.  That means falling asleep later, which means your brother often falls asleep on the bottom bunk waiting for you to fall asleep.  He prefers to sleep in the top bunk, where we typically move after you’ve fallen asleep on the bottom.  You, however, sleep better when he’s down on the bottom with you.

Photo by Denny

When you’re by yourself on the bottom, you usually need me or your dad to come snuggle you at some point during the night.  That doesn’t usually happen with your Bubby’s with you, but sometimes it does, and that’s a double-whammy.  It’s getting pretty hard for me to wedge myself between you and extract myself when you’ve fallen back asleep.  We really need to get you out of that habit before Little Potato shows up.

You’re excelling in other areas, though.  You’ve been doing great in your swimming lessons.  The course catalog indicated that three was the minimum age to sign up, so I was surprised when the person at the registration desk told me you were too young.  It turns out the minimum is actually three and a half, but they gave us special permission because I said you were comfortable in the water.  That you are—if anything, you’re a little too brave, quick to dunk your head and jump off the side of the pool.  Your just-turned-three status hasn’t hurt you any in swim lessons, though.  Your teacher, Randi, says you’ve been doing well and improving from lesson to lesson.  I just signed you up for another session, so we hope you can continue your progress.  You look really cute flailing around with your kickboard.

Photo by Denny

Construction vehicles remain your favorite things to climb on, talk about (except maybe Doctor Dreadful’s Alien Autopsy, but more on that later), and look at.  There’s some reworking happening at the park across the street, and you love it when your dad takes you down there after hours so you can check out the enormous excavator.  He also took you to an event last weekend at the Children’s Museum called “Move it!  Dig it!  Do it!”  You got to explore in a lot of different big vehicles, like a skid loader, a cement truck, an ambulance, and a fire truck.

Photo by Denny

You were playing nicely with Play-Doh just now, so I thought I could sit down to write this.  Now I see you’re licking the Play-Doh, and you won’t listen to any of my admonishments to stop licking it.  Gross, but I’m pretty sure it’s non-toxic.

You remain funny, articulate, and expressive.  You do great gestures and eyebrow work.  You’ve taken to miming certain words or concepts, not because you don’t know how to say them, but just (I think) as an opportunity to be creative.  For example, when you talk about Dr. Dreadful (again, more on that later) and the fact that you might be too young for it, instead of saying the word young you’ll slowly lower your hand toward the floor, elevator-style, to indicate shortness.

Your current favorites:  cashews, Wild Kratts, pepperoni pizza, veggies and ranch dressing, listening to your brother read to you, taking showers and baths, getting candy from vending machines.

Your current un-favorites:  using the potty (I don’t even know, man), Dr. Dreadful’s Alien Autopsy.

Dr. Dreadful’s Alien Autopsy is a game/activity Miles got a year or two ago.  It mostly involves mixing together various ingredients to make candy that looks like alien guts.  You found the box downstairs a while ago, and it intrigued you.  The instructions were missing, so I looked online to see if I could find them.  Easily enough, I found a website dedicated to the product line.  A video auto-played, and it was full of mad scientist style cackling and lightning bolts and spooky music.  You hated it, freaked out, and refused to do any of the candy-making activities.

And yet, ever since, you’ve been talking about it nearly nonstop.  Every day we have about ten conversations on the topic.  “Why is Dr. Dreadful for big kids?  Why not for [elevator hand] kids?”  “Is that candy disgusting…or gross?”  “Why didn’t I want to eat that candy?”  I think Dr. Dreadful has replaced the big kid in the park with the Nintendo 3DS as your emotionally challenging obsession.  I don’t think hiding the Dr. Dreadful Alien Autopsy kit will get it out of your mind, either.  We met that kid in the park once and you talked about him for months.  There may be a lot more Dr. Dreadful discussion in our future.

Photo by Denny

You were the first one in the family besides me to feel Little Potato kick.  We were snuggling up in bed one morning and your leg was against my midsection.  Little Potato chose that moment to do some serious leg work, and it was pretty fun for you to feel it.  Now, when we talk about it, you mime frantic kicking.  It looks a lot like what you do in the swimming pool.

You have such a curious little brain, a strong little heart, and a wiggly little body.  You are hard to contain in all these respects, but you are almost always fun to have around.  I love how resilient you are, how the little setbacks of life don’t faze you (as long as nobody tries to mess with your strategies for getting in and out of the car).  You’re a fun guy, Tobin.  I’m fond of you.




It sort of feels like that

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:38 pm

For the first time, Tobin asked a question about the mechanics of how Little Potato is going to enter the world.  I gave a simplified explanation.

T:  Is he attached to a rocket or what?


He doesn’t realize he isn’t helping his case

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:44 pm

A:  Tobin, did you hit your brother?

T:  About a hundred times.


An eternal question

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:12 am

M:  Why isn’t pink called “red-ette”?

Love is blind

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:02 am

Miles took an online colorblindness test (he passed) while also watching one of these videos he’s obsessed with where a woman opens Kinder Surprise Eggs and shows the contents.

M:  I think this one is going to be Shrek.  If not, I’m fairy tale blind.


Monthly Miles Memo #80

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:19 pm

Dear Miles,

After a couple of weeks of ease-in, you’re a full-fledged first grader now.  That means homework every night, more responsibility in keeping track of your personal effects, and a new activity:  piano lessons.  You haven’t actually had a lesson yet, because your teacher had to cancel last week’s due to family illness.  Today will be your true start, and you’re excited.  We picked up your materials last week, and we found out that you’d be learning the song “Everything Is Awesome,” the theme to The Lego Movie.  You’d never seen that movie, so we rented it yesterday, and now you’re really psyched about the song.  You’ve been singing it for the last 18 hours.  I hope piano lessons are a positive experience for you.  We really like your teacher, whom we know from choir, and she comes highly recommended by friends.

You’ve also started swimming lessons.  We meant to get that done over the summer, but we never got registered, so we signed both you and Tobin up for the fall session.  The pool is indoor, so no biggie.  You’re working on your skills, including back floats and the beginnings of the crawl (Crall?) stroke.

Photo by Denny

We had a fun adventure last weekend, when we went to Des Moines to spend time with Nana and Papa and help them celebrate their 40th anniversary.  You enjoyed a trip to the zoo (the playground more than the animals, specifically the climbing wall), playing soccer with Papa, and swimming in the hotel pool.  Your dad and I both noticed how pleasant you were to be around.  You kept a good attitude during sometimes challenging circumstances, you were sweet and cooperative, and we were very proud of your behavior.  You also drew a very flattering portrait of Nana.

Photo by Denny

Art and art history continue to be your favorite topics.  You love drawing portraits, and you made a little picture last night that I think is my favorite one you’ve ever done.  It has really nice movement and interesting use of negative space.  You were excited to tell me that you used a technique you learned about in one of your art books, about drawing a basic skeleton first and then fleshing it out.  Last night you and your dad and Tobes went to the library, and you came back with an armful of books about Leonardo daVinci.  I had always imagined that our first family trip to Europe would be to Spain, but we may need to take you to Florence and Milan to get a glimpse of Leonardo’s world.

We don’t have your school portraits back yet, but I was happy when you lost your second top front tooth so we’ll get that archetypal first grade gap-toothed picture.  You lost a bunch of teeth in a short period of time, but I think you’re on a hiatus now.  You still think you’re going to buy a piranha with your tooth fairy cash.  I’m not sure you fully understand what goes into the care and feeding of a piranha.  You’re going to have to lose a lot more teeth before it because anywhere near practical anyway.

You had your first serious bout of school anxiety the other night.  Overall, you’re doing great—your teacher has given you very good feedback on your behavior, and you’re doing well on your academic tasks, too.  But you came into a situation that really threw you.  Every day, you write on your weekly reflections sheet.  Apparently a lot of students have had trouble keeping track of their sheets, and your teacher said that anyone who lost a sheet would have to miss recess.  On Tuesday night, you broke down in tears because you never got a sheet on Monday and you were afraid to tell the teacher because of the potential consequences.  Your dad and I asked what you did on Monday and Tuesday during the designated time to write on the sheet, and you said you filled in your daily reflection on old worksheets.  I checked them out, and your story held up.  There was an entry on the Monday that had previously been blank due to Labor Day, and the Tuesday blank had two entries in it.

Photo by Denny

I felt so sad for you that you’d been stressing out about it for days.  When your dad and I asked why you didn’t just ask your teacher for the sheet on Monday when you realized you didn’t have it, you said you didn’t think she’d believe you and that she’d think you were just trying to shirk consequences.

I told you a story about something that happened to me in first grade.  I remember it so clearly, because it worried me as much as this reflections worksheet was worrying you.  In my first grade math workbook, there was a page that showed all the different coins, their names, and their values.  That was a data set I had trouble remembering, so I often flipped to that page for reference.  Sometimes I had a hard time finding the right page, so one day I decided to just rip it out so I could keep it handy.

Now, I wasn’t the tidiest of students.  I was always envious of those kids whose desks were organized, with their Lisa Frank pencil boxes and Trapper Keepers that always cleanly shut and sat squarely in their desks, as opposed to the bulging messes I was forever shoving into mine.  You’d think I would have had the self-awareness to realizing ripping out a valuable piece of paper would be a bad idea, but I guess my six-year-old self didn’t think it through.

Of course, I lost the reference page.  I lived the rest of the school year in terror that we’d be assigned that page and I wouldn’t have it.  I don’t know why I didn’t think to just confess, but at the time, it seemed impossible.  That’s why I understand how you felt, Miles.  Your dad and I tried to impress upon you that being honest with your teacher—that you never got the page on Monday, and you were afraid to ask for one now—was the best way to handle the situation.  You didn’t seem convinced, and you were sure you’d have to miss recess.  You don’t even like recess all that much, but the idea of being punished just crushed you.  When I was a first-grader, I couldn’t see past my own fear of having broken the rules and the punishment that was sure to befall me.  We both cried the other night as we talked about our situations.  I didn’t just cry because I was sad that you were sad.  I cried because I knew exactly how you felt, and it’s awful.

It turned out fine for both of us.  You and your dad talked to your teacher before school yesterday, and she replaced your reflections sheet, and you didn’t have to miss recess.  For me, the school year ended with the teacher never assigning the coin reference page.  I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to tell us about your problem, though.  I don’t think I had told anyone the story of the coin reference page until two nights ago with you.  I want you to understand that admitting mistakes is better than living in constant fear of not being perfect.  I want you to always, always know that your dad and I are in your court.

You’re a great kid, Miles.  You’re easy to love most of the time, and even when it’s not easy, I still love you.  I bet your teacher’s pretty fond of you, too.





The Tobin Times #36

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:34 pm

My sweet little blondie boy,

I was looking at the family portrait Skittergramps took for us last fall, and I realized a shocking difference between then and now:  you didn’t have your curls yet.  I don’t know exactly when they appeared, but it had to have been within the last year, but your golden curls have come to define you.

You are springy and sproingy, a little wild, but undeniably tender and sweet.  You love to shoot hoops and play catch, but you also are quick to invent imaginary play games.  Yesterday you decided the arm of the couch was a stove, and we used a little pot and utensils to make pretend couscous.  Your favorite toys are diggers, excavators, dump trucks, and anything you can smash, dig, or put into them.  You love babies and do such a sweet job of singing the ABCs to my tummy.  We have a good relationship of mutual cuddling.

Photo by Gary Clarke

On your actual birthday last Thursday, I took you out to the big mall to have some lunch, play on the playground, ride the carousel, and cash in a gift card.  Your normal approach to eating a bagel with cream cheese is to stick the knife in the cream cheese and lick it directly off.  This time, though, with no prompting from me, you spread it carefully on the bagel.  You even ate most the the actual bagel rather than just licking off the cream cheese.  When I praised you for your advances in bagel/cream cheese consumption, you said, “I’m three now, so I can do that.”

Other things you can do:  you can demand that you get into the car not through the door closer to your car seat, but through your brother’s side.   You have to crawl over his seat into your own, and then you’ll deign to let me strap you in.  When it’s time to get out of the car, I absolutely must be the one to get you out.  Never mind that if your dad is there, he’s closer.  Never mind that my growing abdomen is making these tasks increasingly hard.  You know what you want and you have no qualms about communicating it.

Your brother went back to school last week, and you miss him.  You always hug him so tightly when he comes out of the building at the end of the school day that I’m afraid you’ll knock him over.  It has been nice havingmore mommy/Tobin time, though.  We’ve been working in the garden, playing in the dirt with your digging toys, hanging out with your girlfriend the Hy-Vee employee, and reading books.  You also like to watch videos, of course, and your current favorite is an animated version of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

Photo by Denny

You also like to watch Potty Power, though that has yet to translate into any success in the actual potty-using realm.  It would be really nice to have you potty-trained before Little Potato arrives, both because it would mean not having two kids in diapers at once, and also because you’d be preschool eligible.  In my dream world, you’d start preschool before the baby is born, so you can get accustomed to a routine and we can space out the major life changes.  But planning can only take a person so far, as hard as that is for me to admit.

We’re both feeling pretty sleepy and cuddly right now.  We had a rough night due to your first true bunk bed mishap.  About 3:30 a.m., I heard you crying hard, so I rushed in to check on you.  I got to the room just in time to see you thunk out of bed, banging your head on the bedframe on the way down.  I’m not even sure you truly woke up.  It might have been a night terror that got too much gravity involved.  You fell back asleep just moments later in my arms.  I stayed with you in bed for the rest of the night so I could check you periodically for breathing.  You slept fine.  You breathed fine.  I did well in the breathing department too, though not so much in the sleeping.

I lamented my tired state to you just now, saying I didn’t feel like exercising, but you said, “You can do it, Mommy!”  I think your enthusiasm has less to do with concern for my physical fitness and more to do with eating barbecue chips and watching Curious George.  I appreciate your support, anyway.

You’ve taken a recent interest in the song parody I dedicated to you when you were tiny, “Baby, I Need You, Tobin” (to the tune of The Four Tops’ classic “Baby, I Need Your Lovin’”).  You like to sing it and have me sing it to you.  I have a USB microphone, and you brought it to me the other day wanting to sing into it.  I wasn’t in the mood to start a music project at that moment, so I tried to put you off by saying we couldn’t do it without the right USB cable.  You took off for downstairs, and thirty seconds later, you reemerged with exactly the right USB cable in your hand.  I was pretty impressed.  For one thing, we as a family own a lot of USB cables.  For another, I didn’t even know you knew what the words “USB cable” mean.   Of course we recorded the song.  I couldn’t let that kind of achievement go unrewarded.

That’s you, Tobin.  Your sizzling little brain surprises me all the time, with all the ideas and words and creativity that spiral out of you like your curls coming out of your hair follicles.  But please, please try to be careful.  We love your brain and we wish you’d stop banging it into things.  I will hold you and kiss you every time you bonk yourself, but I’d rather do it just because you’re so sweet.

I’m so privileged to have been your mommy for the third year.  Thank you for all the wonderful things you bring to our family. You’re my sugarbug always.

Photo by Denny

I love you more than you can know.



What goes in

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:19 pm

Tobin invented a joke.

T:  What did the fresh banana say to the decomposing banana?

A:  What?

T:  The fresh banana will stay here, and the decomposing banana will go in his butt.


Borrowed body parts

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:24 am

Miles was wondering whether he’d need glasses when he got older.

A:  Well, your dad got glasses when he was a teenager, so maybe.  But maybe you’ll end up with my eyes and not need any.

M:  But I already have my eyes!


Monthly Miles Memo #79

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:59 pm

My special Miles,

You have a new favorite person.  He’s small (relative to you), cute, and likes pictures of pigs.  His name is Baby Aleks, and he’s your very first first cousin.  That is, he’s Uncle Tyler and Aunt Oxana’s son, and you love him like crazy.  We got to go meet him for the first time at his home in Lincoln a couple of weeks ago, and you took every single opportunity you could to hold him.  You invented a game called “Touch the pig,” which involved you holding up a picture of a pig and telling him to touch it.  He did it enough times that you’re sure it wasn’t coincidence.  Sometimes you sigh about how much you miss him and speculate about how much he surely misses you.

Photo by Gary Clarke

I knew you were excited to meet him, but I was surprised by just how enthusiastic yet gentle and loving you were.  That’s even more evidence of what a good double-big brother you’re going to be.  Our Lincoln trip also involved a trip to the surprisingly large and fun Natural History Museum.  You liked the dinosaurs, the interactive computer-based activities, and the identify-a-smell challenge.  We agreed that the “chocolate” smelled terrible, like stinky feet.

Photo by Denny

You’re enjoying a couple of weeks off before school restarts.  We got to spend some time with Nana, Papa, and other extended family on a recent trip to Des Moines and Albia, as well as when Nana and Papa stopped by our house for a quick overnight.  Now we’re at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house for “mini-vacation,” which involves a lot of sweets and late bedtimes.  You’ve also had fun building and decorating a cardboard tunnel, splashing in the little pool, and playing in the sandbox.

We had a fun trip to Dubuque to see cousin Maxwell’s performance of Shrek:  The Musical.  We spent the night, and the next day the whole gang of us went to the Mississippi River Museum.  You and Max and Meredith and Tobin had a great time exploring that place.  There was an enormous tank with sharks and other sea creatures, and opportunity to touch a real snake (you declined), and a cool wiggly river raft simulator.  Your favorite part was the mock-up of a wood-fueled riverboat.  You got to put logs into a pretend furnace and watch them glow as if on fire.  You did that about forty times.

Photo by Denny

Another thing you’re currently obsessed with is making prank videos to publish on YouTube.  We stumbled upon one in which a guy faked dropping his wife’s Nintendo 3DS into their swimming pool, and you got it into your head that you needed to make prank videos too, and that you’d get a million subscribers.  We’ve only made one so far, and I think your dad is our only subscriber, but maybe our following will grow as you perfect your craft.

You’re all done with summer school now.  This seems like a short summer, considering how late you got out of school in the spring due to so many snow/cold days and the fact that school starts on the 19th of August this year.  We got school supplies, which was kind of fun, although you don’t get much flexibility in color or style of your items.  I remember finding it fun to choose exciting folders and pen colors, but your school supply list had very specific requirements.

Photo by Denny

First grade will be starting soon.  We have the Popsicles with the Principal event coming up next week, when you’ll drop off your school supplies, have a treat, and find out who your teacher will be next year.  I’ve heard good things about all the first grade teachers, but there’s one you’re a little nervous you might get.  The description I’ve heard of her is that she’s “tough but fair,” which sounds fine to me.  You heard a rumor that she yanks kids’ wiggly teeth out of their heads, and you’re terrified that you’ll be her victim.  I’ve tried to reassure you that if you get put into her class, I’ll talk to her and tell her she should keep her hands out of your mouth (which is probably a moot point, as that sounds like the kind of story like I heard about Mr. Tosten, the supposed dangler of children out the second-storey window by their ankles).  Odds are that you’ll get one of the other two teachers anyway, but even if you end up with her, I’m sure you’ll do fine.  One of our Hy-Vee friends has a son who thinks she’s the best teacher ever.

Photo by Denny

You’ve lost yet another tooth, and two more are wiggly.  This last one got a special boost from Tobin, who bonked it and hastened its departure from your mouth.  You were a little freaked out by the blood, but you got over it, and the tooth fairy visited the top bunk for the first time.

Your reading and writing skills have grown over the summer.  You read enough to earn the special Wii U game your dad offered up as a prize.  You’ve also been doing lots of spontaneous reading and writing.  You’ve written me notes, and I see you reading signs in your environment and books over people’s shoulders.  You’re excited about the Magic Treehouse series right now, along with the Laurence Anholt artist series.  Mubby and Skittergramps bought you a Laurence Ahnolt book that our library doesn’t have, and you got just as excited for that as you did for Super Mario 3D World.  Leonardo da Vinci is your personal hero.

Photo by Denny

The next time I check in here, you will have been a first grader for a couple of weeks already.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you learn over the next year and what you get excited about.  I hope you make great new friends and keep in touch with old ones.  I hope you eat something in your packed lunches besides grapes and Wheat Thins.

I’m not placing any bets on that last one.

But I still love you.





Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:01 pm

Tobin chose fried rice with egg and vegetables to go with his Hy-Vee Chinese Express beef and broccoli.  After he finished all the broccoli…

A:  Do you want some of your rice?

T:  (poking at it)  This rice is kind of…um…complicated.


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



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