The Tobin Times #56

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:48 pm

Dear Tobin,

Sometimes it’s hard being the middle brother.  You’ve been struggling lately with not being quite to the same level as Miles—he gets to do some things you can’t do yet, and it’s tough.  When you’re feeling grumpy that Miles gets to do special, creative homework projects, you can’t seem to remember all the activities you and I do when we’re home together.  Miles is jealous that you’ll get to go to Tot Time this summer while he’s at his summer class, but you just wish you were taking computer programming too.

You’re not the baby, either, and your dad and I expect a certain level of behavior and self-control from you.  That can be tough too.  When we ask you to pick up the socks that you always, always leave in the middle of the living room, you sigh deeply and say “Why do I have to do everything around here?”

You got a beginners’ chemistry set recently, and you were not very interested in the suggested experiments.  You preferred to mix the ingredients together willy-nilly.  This kind of chafed my first-born brain.  I was worried the mixtures you made wouldn’t do anything exciting, and you’d lose your interest in science and the whole thing would have been a waste.  Everybody knows that vinegar and baking soda do cool stuff when you mix them together; couldn’t we stick to something with known results?  No, you insisted on dumping in half a bottle of vegetable oil.

Honestly, the vinegar + baking soda + vegetable oil turned out a lot cooler than the prescribed experiment I managed to talk you into doing (growing squishy crystals).  The oil kept the baking soda and vinegar physically separated for a while, so you got to watch the baking soda slowly make its way through the oil layer.  When it hit the vinegar below, it bubbled up through the oil again and looked pretty awesome indeed.

You are a seriously spunky kid.  Sometimes your energy can be hard to harness, but other times you get some impressive things done.  Your dad picked up a used bike for you, and largely due to your experience on the Strider bike, you can now officially ride a two-wheeler, no training wheels at all.  You still need some help stopping and starting, but it’s pretty cool watching such a little guy tool down the path like it’s no big deal.  I worry for your physical safety, but I admire your emotional resilience.  Your have your moments of tearful frustration, but you’re not a moper.  You pick yourself up and move along.  I hope you learn to use the brakes someday, both literal (on your bike) and figurative (on your energy levels as you run laps around the house at bedtime), but I’m also glad you live a life of excitement.

When I manage to get a hold of you, you still love snuggles and hugs.  One good thing about the coming summer humidity is that your curls will be back in their full glory.  Feeling your fluffy little head against my cheek as I cuddle you to sleep at night is one of my favorite things.  You’ve even taken an interest in showers lately, not coincidentally because Miles shifted from baths to showers.  Your bedtime curls are often damp, whether from shower water or sweat.

You’re very imaginative, which manifests itself in great drawings and stories, but also in some questionable tales you present as fact.  I always send you to the bathroom one last time before lights-out, because your dad and I decided that we’re not going to buy Pull-ups anymore.  Ninety percent of the time you do great, but the other night, I’m pretty sure you didn’t tell the truth about that final bathroom trip.  The whole event seemed suspiciously quiet to me, but when I asked you if you really went, you swore that you did and that you just hadn’t flushed.  That night you had an accident.  The next morning your dad and I debriefed the incident, and he said he saw you walk past the bathroom but not go in.  Suspicious.  I’m not sure why you would lie about that.  Maybe it’s just about asserting independence and control over your own body.  I hope you figured out that there are better options.

Your current favorites:  playing computer and video games of all sorts with Miles (Minecraft, Mario, King’s Quest), riding your bike to Heyn’s for ice cream, swinging on the monkey bars, our botany walks home from school (you know all about the various flowering plants of the neighborhood and the difference between deciduous trees and conifers), and playing with friends.  You make friends where ever you go, and I’m not worried one bit about you feeling lonely in this world.  We went to Dubuque last weekend to see cousins Max and Foster in The Music Man, and before the show, we had some hangout time with extended family.  You jumped right into the the Capture the Flag game like you’d been playing for years.  Sometimes I think you’re more socially adept than I am.

Stay brave and smiling and sweet, my little Tobin.  Some of the best things happen when you ditch the instructions and get a little willy-nilly.




A lack of education

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:49 pm

Tobin, Callum and I were sitting at the table having bedtime snack while Miles was in the shower. 

A:  I’m going to go try to get Tobin out of the sh—I mean Miles.  What is wrong with my brain?

T:  Maybe you never went to preschool.



The Callum Chronicle #15

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:07 pm

Hi, Mr. Toddler.

You are an adventure baby for sure now.  I can’t remember the last time you crawled, except vertically.  Your favorite destinations these days are the grown-up chairs in the living room and the top bunk.  You’re still not so great at getting down, which makes the bunk bed problematic.  You’re pretty proud of yourself when you do big-boy things, though.  You always have to look back to make sure someone saw your most recent limits-stretching accomplishment.

I started making a list, and you have ten words that you say pretty consistently now:  mama, dada, bubba (that one’s new), ca-cuh (cracker), Do (Tobin), ah done, uh-oh, up, out, and apple.  You definitely understand a whole lot more than that, too.  You know how to both shake and nod your head now, and you answer questions with better-than-random accuracy.  You’ve become a very good nonverbal communicator, using signs and other gestures like waving and blowing kisses.  You can identify different body parts, though you get your nose and your teeth confused sometimes.

Recently, Tobin filled up the whole living room with stuffed animals and gave them all names.  You got especially interested in two of them, a funny monster and a rabbit.  I tested you this morning and you got them both right.  You were able to go find “Mr. Grumpy” and “Carrot Eater” on the first try.

Well, this picture just reminded me that you also say hat.  I guess you know eleven words.

Like your brothers, you had lots of fun on our vacation.  You put in some good beach and pool time.  You were a little nervous about the ocean at first, but it wasn’t long before you charged right in.  You also became a fan of Key lime pie, which I can’t say is a surprise.  It’s delicious.  You did a good job on our flights, overall.  You got a little loud toward the end of our flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Chicago, but you didn’t scream and cry or anything.  You just got bored and were not interested in staying in your seat.  I wasn’t either, but we got through it.  You liked the Chinese food at O’Hare.

You’re lying next to me now, trying to breathe through your stuffy nose.  We’ve had one cold after another this winter/spring, and I think a new one has descended on the household.  You, your dad, Tobin and I are all stuffed up.  One of the hardest things about sharing germs the way we do is that being sick ruins your sleep, which therefore ruins my sleep, just when I need sleep the most so I can better take care of you.  Your dad has been putting in extra hours with you at night so I can get some rest, and I dearly appreciate it.  It does seem like maybe you’re getting the hang of breathing out of your mouth, which is good because it’s basically the only way you’ve been able to get any oxygen for the last six months.

You’re so cute, though.  I can’t believe what a sweetheart you are.  You’re friendly and outgoing, and you love to wave at friends and strangers alike.  You tolerate being held by a wide variety of people, and I haven’t met anyone yet who can resist picking you up when you stretch your arms out.  I have to run a little screening process to keep it to people we know.

You’re popular at Family Folk Machine.  The big kids vie for your attention, and you’ve made a habit lately of toddling up to me while I’m singing.  It should probably be annoying, but I can’t help scooping you up and cuddling you.  You’re one of the Family Folk Machine gang.  I should order you a shirt.

Your current favorites:  water from your special cup (you request it by saying “aaah”), water from other people’s water bottles, blurples on your thighs, string cheese, stir-fry, ice cream, the free cookies at Hy-Vee while we shop, and playing outside.  Today you went down the big twirly slide on Tobin’s lap several times.  We had to come home from the playground because you wouldn’t stop trying to get in the creek.  That’s not totally out of the realm of possibility, but let’s at least wait until it’s eighty degrees or higher.

You’re a lot of fun, little Callum.  We’re going to have a good summer together.  Just wait till your brothers let you share some Flavor Ice.  It’s going to blow your mind.  You’re probably going to try to jump into the arms of the friendly Flavor Ice proprietress.




Monthly Miles Memo #99

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:16 pm

Dear Miles,

I mentioned to you that you just turned ninety-nine months old, and you immediately started planning a celebration for your one hundred month birthday.  It involves a trip to Panda Express.  That’s all the detail I’ve gotten out of you so far, but we could probably rustle up some cake or something, too.

It’s hard to believe that next month at this time, I’ll be writing your one hundredth Monthly Miles Memo.  When I started writing them back in 2008, my goal was to document your first year.  After your first year completed, the idea of not writing them anymore made me sad, so I just kept going.  Now, here we are, eight-plus years and ninety-nine memos later.  I have less spare time than I used to, but I still don’t see any reason to stop writing them.  You’re not going to stop growing and learning and being interesting any time soon, so why should I stop reflecting on you?

We completed our Florida Keys trip a few weeks ago, and you might have had the most fun of anyone (except possibly me).  You are a confident and trustworthy swimmer, and you snorkeled around the pool until we had to drag you out.  I still made you wear water wings in the ocean, not that you really needed them.  You even did some ocean snorkeling with your cousin Clif at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.  The water was very calm there, which made it less intimidating, and you got so excited when you saw the ocean life.  I could even hear you squealing with excitement while my head was underwater next to you.

It’s nice that you’re big enough now that you’re not a major source of stress while traveling.  You did well on our flights and car rides by reading or playing with your dad’s iPad.  You liked the Chinese food at O’Hare, but not as much as you liked the chocolate croissants at Leigh Ann’s Coffee House, one of our favorite Key Colony Beach spots.  This gives me hope that you’ll survive in Europe with me some day.  They have Chinese food and chocolate croissants there.  I know, I’ve had them.

Photo by Denny

Now we’re home, though, and back to our usual rhythms.  The school year is wrapping up.  This is the first time I can remember, ever, that you’ll be out before Memorial Day.  Classes must have started somewhat early this year, and you didn’t have any snow days to make up.  It’ll be nice to have some relaxing days at home before the summer schedule begins.  You’re looking forward to your summer classes, though:  computer programming, chess, and Crime Scene Investigators.  I’m not going to be much help in any of those areas.  I hope you keep up with piano lessons over the summer so at least I can be of help with something.

Photo by Gary Clarke

This school year has gone really well.  You’ve hit it off with your teacher, Mr. Turnquist, and he’s gotten you excited about things I didn’t expect.  For one thing, you suddenly have an interest in baseball.  You balked at the idea of joining a team, but you’re psyched to go to a Cedar Rapids Kernels game next week.   Mr. Turnquist is very sportsy, and I was dubious at first whether that would be a good fit for you.  But he’s also very supportive of creative efforts, and every week you have an optional homework assignment that allows you to do something to expand your creative side.  You haven’t missed a single optional assignment.  Every week I think maybe that one won’t intrigue you and we can take the week off, but every week you come home excited with the new possibilities.

You are still a major Harry Potter head; in fact, this week’s optional homework assignment was to design a Navajo-style rug on a graph paper-like grid.  You wanted to write Expelliarmus (a Harry Potter spell) into the design, but it was way too long, so you settled for the word Potter.  I tried to gently persuade you to go with a more abstract design in keeping with the Navajo aesthetic, but that idea did not fly.

We finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in combination.  You read some to yourself, I read some aloud, and your dad read some aloud.  It got kind of confusing since we each read different chunks.  You’ve been reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince entirely to yourself so far.  I got it on my Kindle, which you’ve found a lot easier to manage than the huge 800-page hardback book.  So far you’re handling it well.  There’s already been a significant character death, but it didn’t seem to trouble you too much.  There are more coming, though.  The final battle with Voldemort is looming, and not everybody makes it.  I hope it’s not too tough on you.

Your current favorites:  Minecraft, Family Folk Machine (especially the song “O Mary, Don’t You Weep”), pasta with butter and parmesan, cran-apple juice, giving yourself weird hairstyles, and biking along the path behind our house.  You also seem to be gaining interest in pushing yourself physically.  You’ve been showing off various daring (for you) jumps and other playground tricks.  I suggested a long weekend in St. Louis this summer for a family mini-vacation, and the first thing you did was request a trip to the City Museum so you could scramble all through the tubes and other structures.

I’m really impressed with the amount of bravery and interest in pushing yourself that you’ve shown lately, Miles.  You’ve even started taking showers, despite your fear of getting water in your eyes.  You wore goggles the first couple of times, but now you don’t even want those.

Mostly I think you just like going to bed with wet hair because it makes it look so crazy in the morning.  I admit I kind of admire that too.  Life is short.  Have weird hair.




The Tobin Times #55

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:38 pm

My special Tobin,

We’ve had quite a month.  The biggest event was, of course, our spring break trip to the Florida Keys.  We went back to our favorite spot:  Key Colony Beach on Marathon Key.  It was truly a wonderful trip.  We didn’t actually do very much—we got together with a couple of different sets of cousins, so that was fun, but mostly we just rotated between the ocean, the pool, and the condo.

Because it wouldn’t be a month with a vowel in it without you giving me a near heart attack, you did try to go into the pool with no water wings once.  You’ve been improving in your swimming lessons, but you’re still not quite ready to be in over your head with no flotation device.  I was standing on the edge of the pool, Callum in my arms, and you and Miles got in.  You just walked right in past the shallow zone.  Luckily Miles was able to haul you back, so I didn’t have to either set Callum down to go in for you or drag him in too.

After that, I was a lot more careful to make sure you had your water wings on at all water-adjacent times.  You jumped off the edge of the pool over and over, shouting “One, two, two and a half, three!” each time.  Some fellow condo dwellers got a real kick out of you and said, “Hey, there’s Two-and-a-Half” when they saw you around the complex.

You did a good job on our travels, despite a brief spell of motion sickness on our way back to the airport on the very last day.  Otherwise, it was all smooth.  An iPad with Minecraft can keep you entertained for a long time.  You and your dad and Miles did a lot of iPad checkers, too, during our middle-of-the-day resting hours.

Despite our attempts to keep you out of the peak sun hours, you did get a slight sunburn on your cheeks on our first day.  The cloud cover tricked us, and you ended up a little pink.  It seems to have healed up, though, and your freckles are showing through.

We decided on Kinderfarm as your destination for next year.  You’ll start mid-summer with a two-mornings-per-week schedule, and a friend from your class this year will also be attending during that session.  She’ll be heading off to kindergarten in the fall, but I’m hoping that having a friend there will help you get started, and you’ll make an easy transition into the fall schedule even after she leaves.  I’m not too concerned, really.  You loved Kinderfarm when we visited, describing it as “awesome.”  You make friends easily and do a good job transitioning to new situations, so I’m sure it will be great.

You still get frustrated sometimes, and you’ve been pulling the “That’s not fair” argument.  Your dad and I have been trying to emphasize the “life isn’t fair” perspective (it’s amazing how easily one slips into the parent tropes), and I’ve reminded you that in the grand scheme, being a middle class white male American is very much not fair and very much to your advantage.  That’s hard for you to see sometimes, especially when Miles gets to do something you don’t.  Maybe that will get easier once Callum starts wanting to do things you’re allowed to do but he isn’t.  Then we’ll have his wrath to deal with.  Please help.

Mostly, though, you maintain your sunny attitude.  Your bad moods never last long.  You’re not a moper, thank goodness.  You can be in tears one moment and trotting down the hallway singing the next.  You still like to snuggle and have assured me that you’ll do all your education locally so you can always be my cuddly little guy.  I won’t hold you to that, but I admit I won’t be disappointed if it’s the case.

You’re smart and spunky and hilarious.  You’ve been saying zinger after zinger lately, and it’s all I can do to get them written down before you say another one.  You’re open-hearted and kind, and I’m lucky to have a little guy like you.




Recent Tobinismos

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:59 pm

We’ve been talking about the signs of spring. Tobin is getting very excited about it.

T: That tree has buds on it!
A: It sure does. That must mean spring is coming.
T: Those are kind of a private area for trees.
A: Oh?
T: Because it rhymes with (whispering) butts.

The topic of crushes has come up in our house due to the Harry Potter/Cho Chang tension.

Tobin: I have a crush on [redacted].
Aprille: Oh yeah? I have a crush on your dad.
Tobin: You DO? Does he KNOW?

Tobin: Why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day?
Denny: Because St. Patrick was from Ireland, and it’s really green there. The Emerald Isle. They say he drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Tobin: (after puzzling for a moment) How did he get them in his car?
Denny: …
Tobin: You said he DROVE them.

We’re waiting on Miles to get moving so we can go out for breakfast.
A: Is Miles up yet?
T: Yes, but I’m sorry to say, only figuratively.


The Callum Chronicle #14

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:34 pm

Dear Callum,

Yesterday I was at Miles’s school taking photos for the yearbook, and a group of fifth-grade girls started cooing over you.  That’s nothing new—you’re very coo-worthy.  But you enjoyed the attention as usual, and as usual, you were pretty well behaved as I carted you around the school getting my work done.  The girls asked what your name is, and when I told them, their eyes grew wide and they got sly, approving smiles on their faces.  Apparently there’s some teen heartthrob named Callum.  We didn’t realize that when we named you, but you make my heart throb, so I guess it’s okay.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You made my entire body throb with exhaustion over the last couple of weeks, because you’ve been sick yet again.  I don’t know if it’s all the germs your brothers bring home from school, or your bad habit of putting communal toys in your mouth in public play areas, or the fact that you were a c-section birth and didn’t get exposed to all the helpful bacteria you were supposed to.  Maybe it’s a combination of all those, but it seems like you’ve been sick as much as you’ve been healthy in your short life.  Fortunately you’ve never had anything seriously wrong.  You’ve never even been on antibiotics, save for the course you got shortly after birth for some reason or another.

You had a goopy eye situation, and I took you to the clinic to have it looked at.  The PA there said that he could prescribe you antibiotic eyedrops, but that they weren’t really necessary and the infection would clear up on its own.  I decided to keep dribbling breastmilk into your eyes and wait it out.  That seemed to do the trick, because your eyes look great now.  You also had a very stuffy nose, which made sleeping difficult for you (and me and your dad).  Your dad spent many hours semi-sleeping with you in the recliner, which helped you a little by keeping your head elevated.  Thankfully, you’re breathing much better now.  You still have a phlegmy cough, but your spirits are back up, and at least your nose is working.

The weather has been all over the place here, with snow and 70-degree temperatures in the same 30-day period.  It’s been great getting out side more often.  I really miss our morning walks, so I’ve enjoyed doing a couple of those again.  You seem happy outside most of the time.  In just a few days we’re heading to the beach, and you’ll get to experience your first time splashing in the ocean and playing the sand.  I let you walk around outside barefoot a little bit yesterday, and you seemed surprised by the sensation.  Sand is going to be even weirder, trust me.  Just remember not to eat it.

You’re still in a clingy stage and you’re still pretty mama-centric, but you’ve been doing some good branching out too.  Your vocabulary includes “Dada” and “Doh” (Tobin), and you love to look out the window for your dad as he approaches from the bus stop in the afternoon.  I can’t even hold you up to that window any other time, because you immediately crane your neck to find your dad, saying “Dada” over and over.  I don’t like to torture you, so I try to limit that position to when your dad is actually on his way.

You also say “Doh” when we’re outside Tobin’s school, and he’s someone who’s really special to you.  You love Miles too, but you haven’t mastered his name yet.  Don’t worry; it took him a while to get it too.  You haven’t made any consistent attempt at saying “Callum” yet either.  Maybe you’re self-conscious about the teen heartthrob comparison.

Your current favorites:  blueberries, crusts from Tobin’s peanut butter toast, drinking out of your cup with a straw, any kind of music or rhythmic sound (the slightest suggestion of music still makes you dance), and walking long distances.  You’re really a walking champ now, and you barely crawl at all.  You really, really wanted to help make your dad’s birthday cupcakes the other day.  You climbed up onto the stepstool Tobin had gotten out, and Tobin did a very good job keeping you from tumbling to your doom.  You did a pretty good job on the cupcake last night, too.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You have a great face full of wonderful expressions.  You’re funny and silly and usually in a good mood.  You’re a delight in so many ways, and I can’t wait for you to be my little beach boy.




Monthly Miles Memo #98

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:29 pm

Hey there, Mr. Miles,

We’ve known since you were just a few months old that your personality tends toward the shy and sensitive.  New things are difficult for you, and you’re easily overwhelmed.  That’s why I was so happy and proud when you did two things recently that showed great growth in that area.

The first time we went to your school carnival, when you were in kindergarten, it was a borderline disaster.  The crowds and noises and general chaos sent you into a panic.  You broke down into tears and refused to try any of the games.  That made me annoyed in part because we’d spent the money on the tickets and also because I was afraid you would never get to enjoy a lot of fun things in life due to fear and inflexibility.  Your dad ended up taking you to play on the playground, and when the night was nearly over, I coaxed you in and you tried a couple of very low-stakes games.  Last year was a little better, but it was still about an equal ratio of fun to pain.

This year was a completely different story.  You anticipated the carnival for weeks before it arrived.  Your teacher gave you a map of where each game would be in the school (a smart move on his part:  if we’d had a chance to explain to you what to expect in detail in the past, it might have gone better).  You picked out the games you were most looking forward to playing.

The night came, and it was a huge success.  You were proud of the fancy cake we designed together for the cake auction.  You burned through your tickets so fast I had to buy another batch.  You had fun on the simple, cerebral, and rough-and-tumble games alike.  You were thrilled when you won (especially the cake walk), but you kept a good attitude when you lost.  It was exactly how a carnival night is supposed to be.

I know you had a blast, but I don’t think you know how much it meant to me to see you have a blast.  Some day you’ll have a kid who has his/her own struggles, and some day you’ll know the surge of joy a parent feels when that kid triumphs.  It might not seem like a big deal—having fun at a carnival night is pretty much the default for many kids—but it’s a big accomplishment for you.  Congratulations on your cake, but congratulations on a lot more, too.

Photo by Gary Clarke

The second achievement was at Family Folk Machine yesterday.  You’ve been doing solos in our concerts for years now, and stage fright doesn’t seem to be an issue for you.  One thing you’ve never done, though, is had the guts to volunteer for the solo yourself.  In the past, it’s always been something we’ve talked about privately, then I’d email or talk to our director on your behalf.  I don’t know why it’s harder for you to raise your hand when she asks who’d like to do a solo than it is to actually sing the solo in front of hundreds of people, but that’s your way.

Yesterday, during kids’ rehearsal time, I was sitting around chatting with another parent.  I was half paying attention when Jean asked who’d like to do a solo, and I didn’t see you volunteer.  I hadn’t had a chance to talk to you or her about it, so I  mentally shrugged and figured you just wouldn’t do a solo this time around.  But you must have volunteered without me noticing, because a few minutes later, I saw you confidently walk up to the mic and sing a verse from one of the kids’ songs.  I could tell from the huge smile you shot across the room to me that you were proud of yourself.

This is not to say that every day is full of growth and accomplishment.  Sometimes you still have trouble with your ongoing issues:  flexibility and nuance are tough areas for you.  Sometimes you get an idea of how something ought to go, and if things turn out differently, you can’t move past it.  The other night, your dad asked you to help clean up the basement before you played any Wii.  You decided to pick up the alphabet blocks.  A few of them were missing (much more likely due to Callum than you), and even though your dad tried to explain to you that it was okay, you wigged out.  He told me later that you were ready to tear up the house looking for the blocks.  You just couldn’t handle the idea of the block box not being full and not completing your task.  I wish you were that goal-oriented about getting your shoes and jacket on in the morning.

On the other hand, you did something good the other day.  You and Tobin were playing chess, which is a new hobby of yours.  You’re a much more advanced chess player than Tobin—you’re still a novice, but he’s an ultra-novice—and playing with him can be a frustrating experience.  I overheard an interaction not go well.  He wasn’t listening to your instructions, and I could tell you were on the verge of losing it.

Instead of freaking out, you got up, went to your room, and cooled off.  I’m so glad you found a coping mechanism.  I get overwhelmed too sometimes, and time alone is the only thing that will get me back into the right mental space.  After you had some time to yourself, you were able to get under control and rejoin the family.  I’m especially proud that you did this all on your own, without it descending into yelling on anyone’s part.

Well, geez.  Now that I look back on it, it’s been a big month, hasn’t it?  Eight seems to be suiting you well.

We leave for our spring break in the Florida Keys this weekend, and I’m looking forward to a relaxed, low-stress week with you and the rest of my guys.  There’s nothing better to me than the beach with my babies.  We’ll be sure to take lots of pictures, eat lots of popsicles, and read a whole chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix every night, even if it’s twenty-four pages and it’s getting to be past bedtime.  We get a little wild on vacation.

Photo by Gary Clarke




The Tobin Times #54

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:43 pm

My little Tobes,

You’re four-and-a-half, little guy!  We celebrated with brownies for everyone at home and a special lunch date for you, Callum and me after school yesterday.  Our lunch dates are one of the biggest reasons I’m glad we’re holding off for another year before you start kindergarten.  We’ll still have lunch together during weekends and breaks, but I’m not quite ready for you to be a lunch-box kid yet.  Yesterday we went to Panda Express, where you got your favorite broccoli beef.  You used to be a big broccoli eater, but lately you’ve been ever-so-kindly sharing most of your broccoli with me and focusing on the beef and rice.  It’s okay.  You still like lots of other healthy and interesting things.

You’re funny and witty and curious.  The other day, your dad and I were urging you to get ready for school.  We’d gotten you over to the area where your coat and shoes were, but instead of putting them on, you whined, “But I want to do more math.”  It reminded me of a fond memory from long before your birth, at the wedding reception in Norway of our friends Kaspar and Sabine.  Reminiscing about Kaspar’s youth, his gruff, sea-faring Norwegian father said, “Ah we raising a nehrd?” Nerds rule, though, and Kaspar turned out fine.  If you’re going to be a nerd, you’ll be one of the very best kind:  the sparkly-eyed, quick-to-smile type.  Think Neil deGrasse Tyson, not Urkel.

You were “Star of the Week” at your school, and that was pretty cool for you.  You got to decorate a poster just like Miles did when he was Star of the Week for his class.  You said your favorite foods are pasta and bagels (though you seem to see bagels as more of a cream cheese vehicle than an actual foodstuff) and your hobbies are Minecraft, cooking, computers, and snuggling Callum.  You also did a lot of hard work making hand-made Valentines for each of your classmates and teachers.  Of your three teachers, there are two whom you like a lot, and one you’re not so crazy about.  We doled out the work of making Valentines over several days so as not to overwhelm you, and on the last day, you’d finished all the cards except one.  “Okay,” I said.  “You just have to make Ms. [redacted]’s card now and you’ll be all done.”

“I need to take a break,” you said.

I convinced you to press on, and you got the cards done.  You did a good job writing everyone’s names (with help, but you did it) and signing your own.  You haven’t quite embraced the left-to-right requirements of English.  Sometimes if you can’t fit a whole word on a line, you just write the remaining letters where ever there’s room.  It makes perfect sense to you, but it can be a little hard to follow.  You’re working on it.

You’re high-energy and irrepressible.  You can be a little on the wild side sometimes, especially at night.  I don’t know why you get a surge every evening before bed, but for some reason, that’s the moment you pick to run laps up and down the hallway.  You also like to curl your toes around the boards under the top bunk and dangle, or turn around so your head is at the foot of the bed and you can kick Miles while I attempt to read Harry Potter out loud.  I think Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a little boring to you, but Miles would never let us quit now.  I’m hoping you don’t pay too close of attention so the deaths in the upcoming books aren’t too traumatic.

Your parent-teacher conference is tomorrow, and I’ve promised you boys that we can have dinner at Noodles & Company if your teachers have good things to say about your progress.  You warned me that you’re “kind of good, kind of bad” at school.  That’s the same thing you said last time, and when I asked you what you do that’s bad, you said you sometimes get out more than one toy.  Fortunately your teacher didn’t seem to think this was the first sign of a descent into delinquency.  If so, and she looked around our house, she’d be sure you were doomed.

Your current favorites:  vanilla ice cream cones, Wild Kratts, Minecraft, Berenstain Bears books at bedtime, coming in to see Callum the moment he wakes up in the morning or from a nap, writing words, and pepperoni pizza.  You also seem to enjoy haircuts, though I’m glad to report that you never let the hairstylist take all your curls.

I’m so happy you’re mine, sweet Tobin.  We’re counting down the days until our Florida Keys trip, and I hope you’ll take more early morning walks on the beach with me.  I can’t wait to see the sunshine bouncing of your hair and the water reflecting in your eyes.

Photo by Denny




Oven barbecue chicken in quick brine

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:08 pm

This is a favorite around our house.  Inspiration taken from The Pioneer Woman and Michael Ruhlman.

Several hours before you want to start cooking, make the quick brine.  In a small saucepan, combine

  • 15 ounces water
  • 3 ounces salt (type doesn’t matter)
  • a couple of big spoonfuls of brown sugar.

Bring it to a boil and make sure the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Remove from heat and stir in

  • 15 ounces ice.

When all the ice is dissolved, pour solution into a gallon-sized ziplock bag and add your chicken parts.  I like to use a pack of thighs (4) and a pack of legs (5).  Let the chicken soak in the brine for 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 400F.  When your chicken is done brining, dry it thoroughly and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Spread a little peanut oil or other oil that can tolerate heat all over a half sheet pan.  Place the chicken skin-side down on the pan.  Roast for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and brush the top with your favorite barbecue sauce.  Carefully, using a spatula, slide under the chicken and flip it.  Coat the skin side with sauce.  Return to oven for 7 minutes.

Remove from oven and coat the skin side with more sauce.  Using an instant-read thermometer, check the chicken’s temperature.  If it has reached 170F for dark meat or 165F for light meat, turn on the broiler and let the sauce bubble and char a little bit.  If it needs more time, return it to the oven to reach temperature before you do the broiling.

Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.



The Callum Chronicle #13

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:42 pm

My sweet Callum-a-zoo,

Happy thirteen months, sweetie!  It’s been a really big month for you.  At your one-year well-child checkup, I was mildly concerned, because one of the developmental questions was whether you could say a word or two.  You hadn’t said any yet, and while I wasn’t super worried, your speech (or lack thereof) was on my radar.

As is so often the case, my worrying was unfounded.  About a week after your appointment, you took off, literally and figuratively.  You can walk short-to-medium distances now—we stopped counting at 14 steps, but I bet you can do even more.  You save your best walking for your brothers.  You squeal as you walk toward either one of them, your arms up in the air.  You love to collapse into a big hug at the end.  They’re about as proud of you as you are of yourself.

Best of all, you said your first consistent word:  mama.  I’ve been waiting eight years for a baby to have mama as his first word, and my last baby came through for me.  I suspect that your dad knew how much it would mean to me and coached you in that area, but I’m not complaining.

You also say up when you want to be picked up, buh for brother, Do for Tobin, and Muh for Miles.  You say ah duh and do the ASL sign for “all done” when you’re finished eating or doing anything else.  I’m not completely sure whether you’ve said dada yet or not, but it’ll come.  You definitely get excited when I hold you up to the window so you can see him walking home from the bus stop.  You have fully embraced the “pew pew stinky feet” game, and you always prompt me with an ooooooh for the second foot (“Oooooh, so niiiiice”).

You’re active and full of mischief these days.  You love to explore the bathroom, unraveling toilet paper and upending garbage cans.  Today we went out for lunch, and you were playing with some crayons.  Time after time, you held one up near your mouth, looked at me, and waited for me to tell you not to eat it.  I don’t think it ever went into your mouth, so I guess you’re getting the point.  You even did some coloring.  Tobin was pretty thrilled about that.

You’re a great eater for the time being.  You are now at the stage where you can eat pretty much whatever your dad and I have at meals, minus anything really spicy.  You’ve enjoyed pork chops, green beans, oranges, rice, bread, crackers, apples, chicken, pizza, and all kinds of other things.  Your brothers love to share ice cream with you.  You’ve also gotten really good at drinking from a straw.  I bought you a special cup that has a toddler-friendly straw built into it, and you grab onto that thing and suck like a little Hoover.  It’s a good skill to have.

I was re-reading your very first Callum Chronicle yesterday.  We’ve certainly come a long way since those challenging first weeks.  Now we just deal with the daily struggles of life with three smart, energetic, emotional, sometimes frustrating boys.  Our days of having an infant are done, and while I miss your tiny little self, this last month has been really great.  Watching you clear these developmental hurdles is so rewarding.  I love watching you smile and laugh and communicate in all the ways you know.  One of my favorite of your quirks is the way you dance to any music you hear, or even anything rhythmic.  I often pump breastmilk to donate to babies in need, and the sounds of the pump are enough to get you moving.  You dance when anyone is singing under his or her breath, at Family Folk Machine rehearsals, and when Miles practices piano.  I love that you feel so much joy you just have to wiggle it out.

Spring is coming, my little love, and you’re going to tear the playground up.  Before that, though, you’ll get to experience your first plane trip and first dip in the ocean.  That’s still a ways out, but you can bet it’s going to be well-documented.  I went through boxes of your brothers’ old clothes last night, and I’m looking forward to putting your chubby little legs into some shorts and watching you toddle on the sand.

We’ll stay bundled up for the time being, though, because there’s an Arctic blast headed our way.  I’ll keep you warm if you keep me warm.



Defying expectations

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:22 pm

Tobin was checking out the Valentine’s Day treats he got at school.

T:  I like Smarties as much as the next kid, but…I love them.


Monthly Miles Memo #97

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:09 pm

Dear Miles,

Year eight is off, sometimes with a whizz-bang and sometimes with a slog.  That’s how February is.  We’ve had some tantalizingly nice days and a lot of predictably awful ones.  You told me that the other day you hid from the wind during recess in a hollow tree stump.  That sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Your school changed how it identifies students for ELP.  Now, instead of having to go to a room and take an oral test with a stranger, the ELP teacher came to your classroom, led some activities, and made recommendations based on her observations in conjunction with input from your classroom teacher.  Suddenly, you qualify.  I’m not surprised.  I knew that testing format was totally wrong for you—like the time you failed an eye exam not because you couldn’t see the letters on the chart, but because you panicked and clammed up in an uncomfortable situation.  Not that I wasn’t already, but it makes me even more concerned for an educational system based on testing.  I just hope you continue to enjoy school and find appropriate challenges.  I’m glad you’re now able to participate in ELP, because you love it so far.  After your first meeting, you came straight home and started working puzzles on a math website you learned about.

Piano is still going well.  You’ve really improved, and your latest piece is “Hedwig’s Theme,” aka the main theme from the Harry Potter movies.  You’ve done very well in the nuances.  We talked about how to form a story about what’s happening in the song and use dynamics to express those ideas.  Your teacher Tara said you did a really good job in your last lesson.

Tara is moving to a new house that will include a home music studio.  You’re a creature of routine, so I wasn’t 100% sure you’d like the idea of ending our weekly trips to West Music.  I told you it was your choice:  you could keep Tara as a teacher and go to her new house for lessons, or we could stick with West Music and get a different teacher.  You hesitated exactly zero seconds before telling me you want to keep Tara as a teacher.  That was even before I reassured you that her new house is close enough to Dairy Queen that we can continue our weekly ice cream dates.

I was 95% sure you’d pick Tara.  I just wanted to make sure it was your decision.

You’ve been resisting haircuts.  I’m not sure if you’re cultivating a particular style or emulating anyone, though we did watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last weekend, and your hero Harry is pretty shaggy in that one.  Your dad has been trying to talk you into getting it trimmed up.  It gets pretty wild, especially when you go to bed with wet hair after a bath or swimming lessons.  It’s your head, though, and I’m not going to make a fuss about something as transient as hair.

You just started a new session of swimming lessons, and the only time slot I could find that worked for both you and Tobin was 7:30-8:00 on Thursday nights.  That’s pretty late, but so far you’ve handled it fine.  I’m glad you’ll have some review under your belt before our spring break trip.  I haven’t gone to any of your lessons this session, because it seems like a potential disaster to bring Callum into the mix.  I’m looking forward to seeing your progress.

Photo by Denny

I definitely won’t sign you up for that kind of schedule during the next school year, because after a year of 8:45-3:45, the school board has decided to change the elementary bell schedule once again.  Next year you’ll start school at 7:55, which could be a serious challenge for a fan of sleeping in like you.  You’ll finish at 2:55, though, so I’m looking forward to having more time in the afternoon together again.  Nowadays, we don’t have time to do anything but go home and get dinner started.  Hopefully we’ll be able to do some of our old favorites again, like trips to the library and the Natural History Museum.

I’m none too psyched about dragging myself out of bed to get you ready for school that early either, but I’m hoping it will be worth it.  I’ve really missed you this year.  I’ve enjoyed our special Java House dates, but it’s not the same as having some actual time together every day where we’re not scrambling.

You’ve gotten really into Minecraft again, which we feared you never would after a traumatizing (seriously) situation in which a lot of your hard work got destroyed.  I don’t claim to understand it all, but it’s very popular with a lot of kids, so it provides a good entry point to conversation with other people you meet.

Your social development is an area I watch closely.  I coordinated childcare at your school on caucus night, and you seemed to fit right in with the other wiggly kids.  We still sometimes have to remind you about listening to people’s tone of voice and making smart choices based on nonverbal input, but maybe you’re not the worst in the world at it.  At school and at Family Folk Machine, I see you getting along with other kids and working through the complicated world of human relationships.

Photo by Gary Clarke

I love you, my sweet firstborn.  Next thing you know, it will be spring, and we’re going to have some serious fun together.




Pluses and minuses

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:11 pm

I was buckling Tobin into his car seat.

T:  Don’t you just love Callum’s hugs?
A:  I do.  You know who else’s hugs I love?  Yours.

Then I leaned down and gave him a big hug.

T:  You know what I don’t like?
A:  What?
T:  Eating hair.



Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:18 pm

A:  I like your hairstyle, Tobin.

T:  I made it kind of flat.

A:  What did you use, water?

T:  No…

A:  What did you use?

T:  Spit.

A:  …


The Tobin Times #53

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:07 pm

Dear Tobin,

What a drab, dull winter we’ve been having.  We haven’t had much of the right kind of snow for building snowpeople or snowballs.  It’s been too cold to play outside but not quite cold enough to cancel school.  We’re all counting down the days till spring break and our Florida Keys trip.  You’ve managed to keep a cheerful face through most of it, though.  You are a spirited and energetic guy, which means you sometimes suffer when you don’t get chances to run around outside, but it also keeps you buoyant through bleak days.

We keep our chins up with lunch dates, time at the Sycamore Mall indoor play area, and family movie nights.  Last night was The Goonies, which you were kind of grumpy about at first, since you wanted to watch The Incredibles again.  But after I showed you the trailer, you thought it looked pretty good, and both you and Miles ended up loving it.

Your biggest area of expertise right now is animals.  You like to watch Wild Kratts while Callum naps in the afternoons, and it’s educational mission has certainly been successful with you.  You can name all sorts of varieties of animals I’ve never heard of, and you know all about which ones are predators and which ones are prey, and which habitats they all live in.  Your dad was leafing through National Geographic yesterday, and you looked over his shoulder.  “Is that a spotted [something]?”  I forget what the animal was, and I can’t go check right now because Callum is napping next to me and I don’t want to wake him up.  But it most certainly was the spotted whatever.

You got a wild animals calendar for Christmas, and of course you want to be just like Miles and cross off days as you complete them.  Unfortunately, you haven’t grasped the left-to-right, top-to-bottom way we visually depict time in the western world.  It’s a hard concept to explain, and you are not one to accept “That’s just the way it is” as an answer.  In your mind, right-to-left and back-to-front makes just as much sense.  Anyone relying on your calendar would think February was already over.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  February’s the worst.

We just measured you yesterday, and you’ve grown several inches in the last year.  You’re still one of the smaller kids in your class, though, and I don’t think you’ll end up a bruiser.  That’s okay.  Little guys don’t play football.  You’re a little bullet of energy and sometimes recklessness, so anything that holds you back is a good thing.

You’re a great shopping buddy.  Your HyVee girlfriend is back from an extended post-surgical leave, so you were happy (but strangely shy) to see her again.  We went to Costco the other day, and you talked me into buying cookies despite my plan not to, since I’m avoiding sugar.  You decided to hide the cookie package from me to help me not eat them.  You hid under your bed, about two inches in.  I found them pretty fast, but I’m not going to tell you that, because you were so proud of how supportive you were being of my healthy lifestyle goals.

Of course, at dinner last night, you said, “You should have sugar, mom.  It’s really good.”

Your current favorites:  peanut butter toast, cereal (Raisin Nut Bran with the raisins and almonds picked out or Honey Nut Cheerios) and milk, icy orange juice, pepperoni pizza, running around your room like a wildman while I try to read Harry Potter to you and Miles, Minecraft, taking off your socks, and singing crazy songs to make Callum laugh.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You still fit perfectly into my lap, and I’m always happy to have you there.  Sometimes it gets a little crowded when two or more kids are trying to scramble onto me, but you and your brothers are pretty good squishers if I must get squished.  You are hilarious and sunshiny and indomitable.  You are my Tobin and I love you.

You might be slightly insane, but I still love you.




The Callum Chronicle #12

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:26 pm

Happy birthday, special Callum!

As expected, your twelfth month has led to some exciting new opportunities.  You’ve now had a “cocktail” (the Mubby special:  shaved ice and orange juice), ice cream, cake, a variety of bread products, and even a bite of Tobin’s cookie at Hy-Vee today.  You still like healthy food, too.  You ate lots of vegetables at dinner last night, and all the great citrus available this time of year has been really popular with you too.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Some people believe a kid’s personality at one year is a good indicator of the general temperament that will continue through his or her entire life.  I’d have to look back at any notes I made about your brothers’ personalities to know if that’s held true for them.  As for you, I’d describe your current personality as sweet, calm, curious, and easy-going.  At least you’re easy-going when there’s someone around to entertain you.  You’ve been clingy to me during our mornings at home together for the last couple of months.  I haven’t been able to run on the treadmill because you just stand against the safety fence and scream.  All my exercise lately has been walking on the treadmill with you strapped to my chest.  It’s a good workout, sure, but you always fall asleep, and sometimes I want you to skip morning nap to better serve the day’s schedule.  Then, when I’m done exercising, you stand with your head in the shower, crying continuously until I get out.  You’re always soaking wet by then, and on these cold days, that’s not a very happy situation either.

At recent holiday gatherings, though, you’ve shown no such grumpiness.  I don’t know that I’m the one you specifically want; you just can’t stand not to have someone adoring you.  I guess that’s what life with two doting big brothers does to a person.  All through the various family parties, you were happy to have anyone hold you and play with you.

You might (might) have taken a step on your own this weekend, but it would be an exaggeration to call it walking.  You have, however, taken an interest in walking while holding someone’s hands.  You’re still not very steady on your feet, though you’re pretty good at standing unassisted in one place.  Miles loves to walk with you, and it’s nice for him to do it since you two are closer to the same height.  He doesn’t have to bed over as much as your dad and I do.  I don’t know if it’s the age difference or the birthday proximity or just the way you guys are, but you and Miles have a really special relationship.  You love big brother Tobin too, but Miles has taken such delight in having you around.  You’re really lucky to have each other.

It seems like we’ve been dealing with one illness after another since about Halloween.  Luckily most of them haven’t been serious, just runny noses and coughs.  I pulled an enormous, rock-hard booger out of your nose this morning, so hopefully having that out of your skull will help your respiration.  It’s been hard to get a good night’s sleep, because you get pretty thrashy when you’re not feeling your best.  You can also be a bit of a bed hog.

I don’t mind, though.  Your warm little body next to mine is just what I need on these cold nights, even if you sometimes smack me in the face with your flailing fists.

You’re getting better and better at “big boy” things, like playing on the equipment in the middle of Sycamore Mall (or whatever it’s called now).  You and Tobin and I have lunch dates at Panera once a week or so, and we usually take some time afterward to go play.  You think everything is a climbing toy, and you would scramble up onto the play picnic table and twirl around the center pole if I’d let you.  You think it’s pretty neat to be able to do the same things Tobin does.  Unfortunately, that play area has plastic fruit just like the library, and you sure find those things attractive.  Not wanting a repeat of the Vomiting Horrors of ’15, I try really hard to keep them out of your mouth.

I saw the birth story I wrote about my experience giving birth to you, and I couldn’t bring myself to read it.  It’s a less painful memory as time goes on, but it’s still a little too fresh to relive.  I have to remind myself what a wonderful outcome I got—I’m so grateful for modern medicine, because who knows whether either of us would have survived the ordeal without the expertise of the skilled surgeons who took care of us.  I’m also very glad that it happened with my last baby and not my first, because I have zero desire to ever do that again.

But I am so, so happy to have you.  Your smile and laugh are why I do everything I do.  You invented a new game just yesterday.  After one of our treadmill walks, I partially unstrap you and lay you down on your back on the bed.  Yesterday, as I leaned over you to finish unstrapping myself, you grabbed the shoulder straps and gave a tug.  That pulled my face down to yours.  I kissed your fat little cheeks and neck, and you laughed and laughed.  I leaned back up, and you pulled me back down:  more kisses, more laughter.  We repeated this again and again.  I needed it.  I was sad about David Bowie dying and a dreamed I’d just had about a deceased friend.  There’s nothing that perks a mommy up like her sweet little son inventing a game that gets him more kisses.

It’s been a blur of a year with you, my little love, and I’m so glad to have had it.  I’ll kiss you until you won’t let me anymore, and then I’ll blow you kisses until you yank me back.  If you don’t yank me back, then watch out, because I’ll be the one yanking.  This is all predicated on you using a Baby Bjorn forever.  We might have to look into the next size up.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Love forever and ever,



Monthly Miles Memo #96

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:54 pm

Happy, happy birthday, my dear Miles.

We’ve just finished up the last of your birthday celebrations.  It’s been quite a year, and I’m so proud of you.  Skittergramps mentioned recently that you really seem to be growing up.  You’re in better control of your emotions and behavior (not that Tobin doesn’t still sometimes frustrate you—he does—but you seem to be handling it better).  Adding a family member was a definite test, and you have surpassed all my hopes of your performance as a double big brother.

You take every opportunity you can to care for Callum.  You celebrate his accomplishments, have conversations with him in which you pretend to understand him and answer him, and play with him so well.  You sewed him a Christmas stocking, and you were so proud to hang it on the mantle with yours and Tobin’s.  You really, really want his first word to be Miles, and while I’m still holding out for mama, your name wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Y0ur second semester of second grade has started, and everything seems to be going well.  You have a flair for the academic.  Most school subjects seem pretty easy for you, and I hope you’re being challenged enough.  You’re always coming up with activities at home that extend your school work, especially ones that have to do with writing.  Notes you’ve written litter our house.  There’s an information sheet for Miles’s Magic Club on the basement door, pointing the reader to the sign-up sheet in the bunk-bed room.  You got a diary for your birthday, which was your number-one request.  You’ve been writing in it every day, and you closely guard the key location.  Tobin is determined to find it.  He can’t read, but he loves to torture you by threatening to read it.  I hope you realize the emptiness of his threats and don’t let them bother you too much.

Sometimes your dad and I shake our heads and wonder how a kid who’s so smart can be so oblivious.  Subtleties often don’t register with you.  You have a rather literal mind.  I asked you to find something (shoes, maybe) and told you they were by the front door.  You went and looked for them and came back empty-handed.  Having known you for eight years, rather than believe they weren’t there, I went to check.  They were about four feet away from the front door, next to the credenza.  I don’t think you were being a turd.  I think it truly didn’t occur to you to look anywhere except immediately next to the front door.

We’ll talk more about metaphor and flexibility of thought as we continue to read together.

Harry Potter has been the biggest new character to enter our lives this year.  You sometimes read aloud to me from the books, which are a challenge but still within reach for you.  Most of the time, though, we cuddle together in bed and I read to you.  We’re starting to get into the darker, longer, more mature books now.  Some people have suggested that the later books are better suited to older kids and that we might do well to take a several-year break.  That might be the case, but there’s no way you are going to stop.  It’s going to raise some difficult questions, especially involving the death of some beloved characters.  I hope it’s all worth it.

You seem to be blossoming in terms of personality.  Shyness and fearfulness were big parts of your makeup for a long time, and I don’t think that will ever change completely, I can see that you’re getting braver.  Our Family Folk Machine experiences have been a big help in that arena.  You can sing a solo with more aplomb than a lot of the grownups in the choir.  You also really brought it to a recent New Year’s Eve party talent show.  We did a Harry Potter-themed dance to the song “Uptown Funk.”  I couldn’t really see what you were doing, since I was dancing too, but your dad tells me you let loose in a way you hadn’t in our home rehearsals.  When you need to get it done, you get it done, my dear.

We’re in kind of a sweet spot right now in terms of bed time.  After we read our Harry Potter chapter, you still like me to lie in your bed with you, ideally until you fall asleep, but it’s no longer a source of tears if I need to leave sooner.  You give me a hug, tell me you love me too, and go to sleep on your own.

You’re not going to want me to cuddle you to sleep forever.  Sometimes I really want to go sleep in my own bed or read or watch a tv show or something, but mostly I appreciate the chance to feel your bony little butt against my legs.  Despite having the long arms and legs of colt, you can still fit into size 4T underpants.  I bought you some size 6 pairs for your birthday.  I think they suit you pretty well.

I love you so much, Miles.  Thank you for the privilege of being your mom.  I wouldn’t be the same without you, and I never want to be.  Even though in my heart you’ll always be that 6-and-a-half pound baby I brought home from the hospital, you’re growing into a pretty great kid.

Next thing we know, you’ll be shaving.





The Tobin Times #52

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:37 pm

My sweet Tobin,

This morning, the first Monday of winter break, I woke up and went in to check on you and Miles.  I had a brief moment of panic when I looked in your bed and couldn’t find you.  Had you gotten up without making any noise?  Were you lonely or scared?  Then I looked a bit higher, and there you were, cuddled up with Miles in the top bunk (twin sized, by the way).  You just don’t like to sleep alone.  I suggested that once Callum is bigger, maybe he could sleep in the bottom bunk with you.  You liked that idea.

You and Miles and I have been reading the Harry Potter series together before bed at night, and I’m afraid you’re missing half of it because you often fall asleep before we finish the chapter.  You’re an all-or-nothing guy at bedtime.  You get so hyper and wild and drive your dad and me crazy when we’re trying to get you to put on pajamas and brush your teeth, but as soon as you’re cozy in bed, you’re out cold.  I guess it takes a lot of energy to be a nut-ball.

You are so, so excited for Christmas.  I haven’t put any presents under the tree, because I’m afraid Callum would destroy them, but you’re still pretty tortured.  You helped me pick out the tree, and you’ve helped me wrap some gifts.  You’ve been begging every day for a week for me to tell you what your presents are, but I haven’t budged.  We’re having our family Christmas morning tomorrow before we head out to Paul and Jackie’s for the day and Mubby and Skitter’s later that night.  I went rather light on the toys when shopping for you, knowing between all the grandparents and other generous relatives, you’d probably get plenty.  I hope you remember that and don’t get grumpy when you unwrap books and clothes.

Though we haven’t decided 100%, we’re (by which I mean “I’m”) leaning strongly toward holding off on kindergarten.  I know you’d be academically ready, but you’re still a little guy, one of the smaller ones in your preschool class.  Because it seems like you’ve attended every other preschool in town, I think we might send you to Kinderfarm.  It’s one of those that people often mention when we chat with other parents, and I think you’d get a kick out of the animal care and gardening in combination with traditional preschool activities.  We’ll have to go visit it and maybe sign you up for a summer program.  It’s still a ways off, but time has a way of passing without my permission.

The truth is that I really like having lunch dates with you and spending time together in the afternoons.  I like going to grocery shopping with you and playing in your room with you and Callum.  All day at kindergarten seems like such a big load for a little kid.  Also, I try to take the long view on things like this.  I remember one time in the relatively recent past I was invited but not required to go to some event at my grandparents’ house.  My dad (you know him as Skitter) emphasized that I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want to.  I told him, “I doubt I’m going to look back on my life and think, ‘I’m sure glad I didn’t go see Grammy and Pop-Pop that time.'”  That’s how I’m thinking of this decision for you.  I doubt I’m going to look back on my life and think, “I’m sure glad I pushed Tobin off to kindergarten when I wasn’t sure he was ready and missed all those afternoons of sharing bagels and making forts and playing puppies in bed.”

Honestly, you’d be fine either way.  One thing your dad has pointed out is that if you go to kindergarten next year, you’ll overlap with Miles for a year in high school.  True, that might be kind of cool, but if you wait a year, you’ll overlap with Callum.  All these things seem so important right now, but I suppose they’ll work out one way or another.  I remember being pregnant with each of you boys and everything being so mysterious.  We didn’t know your names yet or what you’d look like or what your personalities would be.  I thought, “How funny that a year from now, we’ll be calling this baby by his name and it will seem totally normal.”  That’s how all fraught decisions are, I guess.  You stew and fret (or rather, I stew and fret)—hey, are the words fret and fraught related?—and then it ends up working out no matter which way you go.

You’re spunky and funny and good at making friends.  You told me that one of your teachers, Ms. Maria, said you’re a smart cookie.  You certainly are.  Our annual holiday letter was mostly funny things you said over the year.  The best one was about a black mamba in a lunch bag.

Keep up the high spirits, Tobes.  You just might find a toy or two under the tree tomorrow morning.




Process of elimination

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:33 am

Miles is his class’s “Star of the Week” this week, and all weekend he was so excited to go to school on Monday.  Unfortunately, late Sunday night, I heard the sounds of vomiting coming from the boys’ shared room.  Later, I recounted my thoughts on the topic to the boys.

A:  When I heard it, I thought, “I hope it’s Tobin.”  Not that I want you to be sick, of course.  I never want any of you to be sick.  I just knew how much Miles wanted to go to school.

T:  I hoped it was Miles.

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