8/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #31

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:42 pm

Dear Cal-Pal,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are something.  Yes you are.

Love,

Mommy

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8/9/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #115

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:50 pm

Dear Miles,

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

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

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

Love,

Mom

 

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7/24/2017

The Tobin Times #71

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:19 pm

Hey there, summertime sunshine boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Gary Clarke

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

 

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6/9/2017

The Callum Chronicle #29

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:07 pm

Dear Callum,

You are napping right now, which is the only reason I’m allowed to do this.  If you were awake, you wouldn’t like it that I’m using the keyboard.  Your anthem these days is “I do it!”  There’s not a task in the world that you don’t think you do better than anyone else.  You want to brush your teeth by yourself, turn on and off the bath water by yourself, buckle into your car seat by yourself, turn book pages by yourself.  Everything takes twice as long and can be very frustrating.  I’ve learned from experience, though, that taking the extra time to let you buckle your car seat is a lot less maddening than yanking the clips out of your hand and doing it for you.  Two minutes of letting you struggle and eventually get it done can seem like forever when we’re running late to take Tobin to his summer class, but the ten-minute drive seems even more like forever if you’re screaming the whole time, broken-hearted about not having buckled your own seat belt.

We do our best to plan ahead and build some extra time into our tasks.  It’s the only way anyone gets anything done without crying around here.

Photo by Denny

You’re definitely, absolutely two.  I know by now that this stage doesn’t last as long as it seems (and that three brings its challenges, too, so I shouldn’t get too excited about the passage of time).  Your growth and development has brought good things, too.  You are talking more and more all the time.  Your sentences are getting more complex, and I get such a kick out of listening to you form them, slowly and deliberately.  The other day you said to me, “I want…a drink…of water…from Tobin’s…water cup.”  Each little section of the sentence was so important to you, and I could almost see the little gears turning in your head as you sorted out how to communicate your message.

You’ve been in a real Mommy-centric stage lately, though I can say with optimism that you’ve been a little more receptive to your dad in recent days.  Some of it has to do with tiredness.  On days that you don’t nap, you get a case of the five o’clock beasties, and you refuse to let your dad hold you or play with you.  That’s right when I need some freedom to cook dinner and regroup my brain a little bit, but you will not have it.  On days that you do nap, things usually go a little better.

You’ve been enjoying summertime and all the treats and outdoor play opportunities it brings.  Your brothers’ schedules have been so busy for the last couple of months (and will be for a few more weeks) that we haven’t done as many family adventures as I like to do in the summer, but we have July and August for that.  In the meantime, you’ve been mostly a good sport about being carted around to their activities.  We’ve worked in a few Flavor Ice and park outings, and we’ll certainly have more of that soon.  You haven’t been in the downtown fountain yet, and that’s a summer rite of passage you definitely need to complete.

We’ve spent some good time with both sets of grandparents lately, and you loved all the outside time you had at the farm.  We’re going to a family reunion at another farm this weekend, and if it’s not outrageously hot, I hope you can do a lot of running around.

You have a sweet smile and a good sense of routine.  You’ve mostly been sleeping well (even though you’re a bed hog) and are crazy about cinnamon toast.  It’s a good thing Costco sells the bread you like in two-loaf packs, because we’ve been going through a lot of it.  You used to eat the crusts, too, until you saw that Tobin doesn’t.

We had lunch with my cousin Debi and her family last weekend, and she asked what your personality is like.  You look so much like Miles that it’s easy to assume you are the same kind of guy, but you really have your own style.  You have some of Miles’s serious nature, but not the timidity he expressed as a toddler.  With Miles, we never worried about him jumping into the creek or climbing too high at the playground.  You’re very brave, probably because you see your brothers doing adventurous things and want to be part of the fun.  You’re one who would jump right into a lake if you thought there was a fish in there you could squeeze.  You love petting dogs and taking off your shoes at the grocery store.  Any button you see is a button you want to push.  You see a big world before you and you want to do everything it has to offer.  You even want to do the things it’s not specifically offering.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You probably shouldn’t do it while you’re wearing Skitter’s reading glasses, though.  Toddlers fall down often enough when they can see where they’re going.

Love,

Mommy

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6/8/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #113

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:15 pm

My dear Miles,

Here we go, off on another summer of fun and adventure.  You’ve finished third grade, and I’m quite sure that it’s been your favorite school year so far.  You were absolutely crazy about your teacher, Miss Lampe, and justifiably so—now and then a person gets a teacher who truly cares and works particularly hard to challenge and engage his or her students and Miss Lampe was one of them.

I was waiting with excitement to welcome you home on your last day of school, ready to celebrate and enjoy the beginnings of summer.  As I saw you approaching down the block, I could see you were wiping away tears.  My mama bear hackles raised (do bears have hackles?  This may be a mixed metaphor) and I immediately started down my mental list of possible issues:  did you get hurt?  Was someone mean to you?  Did you lose something important?

You didn’t want to talk about it, but we sat together for a while on the front stoop, and eventually you told me that you wanted to stay in third grade.  While I was relieved that you weren’t dealing with bullying or any other serious issue, I felt so sad for your tender little heart.  I know you loved third grade so much, and it will be hard for any school year to top this one.  You recovered, though, and you’ve been enjoying several other great things you have going on.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Baseball continues to be a big factor in your life.  Mubby and Skittergramps came to your game last night, and Skitter is sure that your baseball skills have improved a lot since he last played with you.  Your coach and teammates have done a great job supporting you and helping you grow as a player.  I’m really glad you’re having fun, and I’m very proud that you were willing to try something totally new to you.  Last night you stole two bases and brought a runner home, so I can tell your confidence is growing.

Photo by Denny

We’ve had good times with Nana and Papa recently, including a trip out to the farm.  It was kind of a crummy weather day when we were there, but that didn’t stop you from climbing around on the hay bales and taking a tractor ride with Papa.  It’s a good thing I got you some rubber boots to wear in the creek, because they came in handy on a muddy farm, too.

 

Family Folk Machine performed at Arts Fest last weekend, and you got to perform your original song.  The picture here shows you with your songwriting partner, Lynn, who also became a good friend to you during this session.  I don’t know if you grasp how cool it is that you had the opportunity to perform your composition on the Main Stage at Arts Fest—it’s a chance not many people have.  We’re so fortunate to live in a community that gives us these many and varied possibilities.   When I was looking into summer camps and classes for you, I could have easily filled your entire summer with different activities you would have loved.  There are computer programming classes, film classes, outdoor camps, sports workshops, creative writing classes, cooking classes, and just about anything else you could imagine.  As it happens, the ones you wanted to take the most happen to all fall in June.  Along with baseball, our June calendar is pretty full.  You decided on Minecraft Designers, Film, and Animation.

On our few precious unscheduled nights, we’ve been watching movies together, eating popcorn from last fall’s garden harvest, and enjoying the minimal peace and quiet a person can squeeze out in a home that also contains a Tobin and a Callum.  We have a lot more on our summer activity list, but we have to get through our crazy June before we can get started on things like trips to the Splash Pad and signing up for the library’s summer reading program.

We got some really excellent news in the mail on the same day as Arts Fest.  We were pessimistic about you getting into ELP for the coming school year because you missed a section on the first of the two qualifying tests, which brought your final score down significantly.  However, you did so well on the second of the tests that it made up the difference, and you qualified.  You were so, so excited, and I’m so happy for you.  I know that it’s going to be hard for you to leave third grade behind, but this will be a great boost to your fourth grade year.

Enjoy your summer, my sweet boy.  I’m so proud of all you’ve done and all you continue to do.

Love,

Mom

 

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5/22/2017

The Tobin Times #69

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:54 pm

My dear Tobin,

I was going through some documents yesterday, and I found your nearly-expired passport.  We got it when you were just 17 months old in preparation for the cruise we went on.  After a few disastrous attempts by the staff at CVS, we decided to take your passport photo at home.  We read up on the guidelines, got the framing and lighting set up, and noted that you were not supposed to smile.  I guess that must make it easier to do computerized facial recognition, because it seems like other official documents have that requirement as well.

Try as we might, we couldn’t get a picture of you not smiling.  We ended up just going with a smiling picture and hoping the folks at passport control would let it slide.  Now that it’s time to get an updated passport, you’re probably old enough to keep your face neutral.  Still, your default expression is smiling.  Whether the smile is big or small, you almost always have an upward turn to your lips, and that reflects your general life attitude as well.

You’re almost done with preschool, and you’re pretty excited to celebrate your preschool graduation later this week.  I am generally of the opinion that graduation ceremonies for minor academic transitions are stupid, but you’ve been through a lot in your preschool career, and I’m okay with marking that moment.  Though we were concerned at first with how your experience at Kinderfarm would be, you’ve ended up very happy (though this is not surprising given your generally positive attitude).  You’ve made some good friends, and we’ve promised to continue with playdates through the summer.  You love the baby animals that turned up in the spring, and you often say you wish you could stay longer when I pick you up at lunch time.  You’re definitely ready for the next level, including tougher academics and a longer school day.  You’re smart and energetic and sweet, and kindergarten is going to be lucky to have you.

You’ve been having fun with baseball this season, both as a player on your own team and as a spectator for Miles.  Though I usually stay home with Callum, I attended the other night, and it was fun watching you make friends with another little brother.  I am often amazed at how well you mesh with other kids.  Maybe part of that is your middle-kid status—you have plenty of experience in dealing with other kids, and though you sometimes get frustrated with your brothers’ idiosyncrasies, you never stay down for long.  There’s nothing that makes you happier than being included in Miles’s activities.  He had a playdate last weekend to play Minecraft with a friend, and they did a good job letting you take part sometimes.  You also did a good job not being too annoying.  You confessed to me that you sometimes annoy Miles on purpose, which you do well because you’re so good at reading people and knowing how to elicit specific reactions.  It’s a great power and a great responsibility, kid.

Though we’re currently in a cool and rainy spell, we had some beautiful days earlier in the month.  You’ve helped me get the garden in, as you always do.  You’re very excited for the Amish Deer Tongue lettuce (because doesn’t that sound appetizing?), as well as the peas, tomatoes, and popcorn you’ve helped me put in so far.  Because you have a summer birthday and therefore wouldn’t be able to celebrate with your preschool class, I asked your teacher whether you could bring in treats during this last month of school.  She agreed, and you were very proud to bring in popcorn from last fall’s harvest that you had helped plant.  You’re always up for outdoor fun, including our first sprinkler adventure of the season.  We need to get to work on our Summer Activity List, because I know it will include time in the downtown fountain and swimming at City Park.

You and Miles have proven yourselves responsible enough to play down in the (tiny dribble of a) creek together, so you’ve had fun splashing around.  You would probably do it for hours, though your time is usually limited by Miles’s patience.

You told me recently that even after Donald Trump is done being president, you still want to listen to classic rock radio.  I switched from NPR as my default listening after the election, because it was just too depressing a way to start my day.  We took up the classic rock station, and you’ve really gotten into some of the music.  You like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” quite a bit, and the last couple of nights before bed, you have been running around like a crazy man singing “867-5309” at the top of your lungs.  I’m not sure that really counts as classic rock, but I can’t deny that it’s a catchy song.

I’m looking forward to squeezing out lots of fun time with you this summer.  We kept your summer classes and camps pretty lightly scheduled (at least after June, which is going to be a bit crazy).  I knew when we decided to wait one more year on kindergarten that I needed to appreciate having more time with you for one extra year, and your sweet face has been a joy to me.

I personally don’t care if you smile in every passport photo you take for the rest of your life.  I have the feeling that if the people at passport control meet you for thirty seconds, they’ll understand too.

Love,

Mommy

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5/9/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #112

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:48 am

Dear Miles,

We’re wrapping up your third grade year, and I think you’d agree that it’s been a good one.  You love your teacher, Miss Lampe.  You’ve shown great social growth through some nice new friendships.  You continue to do very good academic work.  You’ve kept busy with your extracurriculars and really branched out by trying baseball.  You’ve done some fun creative stuff, like your writing class, and all the original comics I find littering the house.  You briefly freaked out in the shower the other night because you thought blue stuff was coming out of the shower wall, but it was marker that had smudged onto your hand from your comic creations.

Perhaps your biggest achievement of the month was the concert debut of your first fully-realized original song.  Family Folk Machine performed your co-composition, “How Can It Be Both?”, in our spring concert.  I was so proud of you, and there’s something really special about seeing your name in the program not just as a participant, but as a songwriter.  You performed that as well as our other songs with great aplomb, and of course you had a very supportive cheering section in the audience.

Photo by Gary Clarke

The annual Lucas Elementary Team Spelling Bee happened earlier this month, and your weeks of studying paid off in a repeat win.  Your friend Gabe’s teams won the spelling bee two years in a row as well, so your new life goal is to break his record with a third consecutive win.  I hope you don’t hog up too much triumph from your schoolmates—it wouldn’t be the worst thing if you shared the glory.  On the other hand, you’ve had your share of defeats (see baseball, below), so it’s nice that spelling can be an area of success for you.  You’re not just coasting on talent, either.  You’re a naturally good speller, but you also worked really hard to learn those tricky words.  It’s a good way to establish effective study skills.  Cramming doesn’t work when you have a list of hundreds of words to learn.  You worked on it slowly, with plenty of repetition, and those words really bored their way into your brain.  The look on your face when the emcee announced the winner was a wonderful thing to witness.

Baseball is not something that comes as easily to you as spelling, and unlike academics, I’m not much help in supporting success in that arena.  Your dad has been patient and helpful, and your coach and teammates seem like nice people.  It’s tough, though, since you’re joining in with kids who have been playing baseball or tee-ball for years, and this is your very first time on a team.  But even if you lose every game and strike out at every at-bat, I’ll still be very proud of you for trying something new and challenging.  You chose to go to the PTO meeting last night instead of your baseball game, which indicates to me that maybe it’s not something you’ll care to do in the long term.  In any case, I’m glad you tried.  There’s a new running club starting at school next fall, and that might be a good athletic endeavor for you.

As usual in life, the month has not been without challenges.  Though it seems impossibly early, I’m beginning to see some surly pre-teen behavior in you.  You’ve always tended a bit toward the gloomy, but you’ve been doing these super-irritating grunts and “ehs” in response to questions lately.  It’s become a bad habit, and your dad and I have both talked to you about the importance of answering questions with an approach that indicates something other than “talking to you is the most boring thing in the world.”  I’m sure I did crap like that when I was young, and I’m not proud of it.  I don’t know if it’s something I can change in you, but at least now you apologize when you catch yourself doing it.

You still have plenty of sweet little boy in you, though.  You and your brothers have some wonderful moments together, and I love watching you and Callum hug each other when he comes in for his final goodnight at bedtime.  I went to a party last week that extended past bedtime, and your dad reported back that there was some serious giggling going on from the bunkbed room while he was putting Callum to bed.  He also mentioned frequently overhearing the word “tushie.”

I know you’re looking forward to summer break, and I’m looking forward to having you around more.  We’ve been so busy lately that I’ve barely seen you.  We’ll have to get to work on our summer activity list.  I know you’re not too mature for frozen yogurt, trips to the library, and running through the sprinkler.

Love,

Mom

4/7/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #111

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:28 pm

Dear Miles,

We have a ritual each morning:  we check TimeHop, which, for those who don’t know or Future Us who have forgotten about popular apps from the two-thousand-teens, is a tool that shows social media posts from a given day for years in the past.  That is, today we looked at posts I made on April 7, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.  You really enjoy doing this with me each morning at breakfast, because there’s almost always a cute picture of you and/or your brothers or funny things someone said.  Every now and then I even have a good quip.  This morning, you got a kick out of what I wrote eight years ago:  “Miles just handed me The Collected Works of Eudora Welty as if I ought to read it to him.”

Seven years ago today, I wrote, “Getting ready to do an Elluminate session, then off to Willowwind for a pre-preschool visit.”  Elluminate is a video conference technology that I haven’t thought about in approximately seven years.  Visiting Willowwind to see if it was a good choice for you, however, seems so recent.  It was a disastrous visit, as I recall.  For some reason, you were in a brief but painful stage of being absolutely freaked out by anyone who wasn’t close family.  I think you brought your beloved nanny Beanie to tears because you suddenly turned on her.  When we visited Willowwind, you cried the whole time and refused to let go of my leg.

Photo by Denny

Fortunately, that stage passed quickly.  You and Beanie became great friends again (in fact, even these days you text regularly), and once you were in a better frame of mind, you liked Willowwind a lot.  This particular TimeHop memory stood out to me because you’ve been doing so many new things lately, and you’ve grown so much in the last seven years.  You’re still shy and nervous sometimes, but more and more I’m seeing you be brave and take risks.

One of these new adventures was the songwriting workshop we did in Family Folk Machine.  During one of the first workshops, we were to divide into groups.  You were sitting next to me, so it was natural that we’d be in a group together.  In that group activity, we brainstormed ideas borne of the story circles we’d done at a previous meeting.  We wrote down our ideas, and the facilitators grouped them into like categories.  From those categories, we were to pick the topic that most resonated with us, and that would be the group we’d be in to write our songs.  You chose the Nature group, and I was more interested in Peace and Protest.  I made sure it was okay with you that we be in separate groups, and you said it was.  You ended up being the only kid in your group, and you wrote the lyrics to your very own song.  You were so, so proud when we rehearsed it at choir practice, and I agree that there’s something magical about seeing your by-line on the printed score.  It’s going to be a great moment when we sing it in concert later this month.

You also surprised me by sticking to your plan of going out for baseball.  You developed a sudden interest in it last spring, but by the time you told me you wanted to play, the sign-up deadline had passed.  I thought there was a good chance you’d lose interest or lose your bravery by the time this season came, especially since it would be your first time playing a team sport, when most of your teammates had surely played for years.

But no—sign-up time came around for this season, and you still wanted to play, so I registered you.  You’ve only had two practices so far due to the rainy couple of weeks we’ve had, but your dad tells me you’re doing just fine.  I’m so proud of you for striking out on your own (no pun intended) and trying something challenging.  I’m excited to see you play in a game.  I have been to many professional baseball games in my life (due to having been switched at birth with the sports-loving child my parents were supposed to bring home), and I have never once looked forward to the prospect.  It’s amazing what having a kid can do to one’s perspective.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Yet another boundary-stretching activity for you was this year’s school carnival.  I had already volunteered to work one of the games, so you asked if you could just go around with your friends instead of sticking with your dad or me.  I gave you ten dollars’ worth of tickets and set you loose.  We met up again toward the end of the night, when you and Tobin were both freaking out with delight about the fact that you won cakes in the cake walk.  You won yours when you were with your friends, and Tobin won his with your dad.  If I’d been there, I might have declined one of the cakes like I did last year when our family won two.  You haven’t let me forget that, so you were mighty pleased that this year you guys were able to right past wrongs.

The carnival happened to fall on April Fool’s Day, so you and Tobin used some of your sugared-up post-carnival energy to play some pranks around the house.  I don’t know if the fake dude at the computer is supposed to be you or if I was supposed to think an intruder had come in, put on your coat, and started checking his email.

We had a great trip to Nashville last month, and you and your brothers mostly kept it together.  The bed situation in our rental house was a lot like ours here—bunk bed with a single on top and double below.  At home, you always want the top bunk to yourself, but Tobin scrambles up to join you nine nights out of ten.  In Nashville, the top mattress wasn’t very comfortable, so you slept on the larger bottom bunk with Tobin.  Ever since we’ve been home, you’ve been doing your before-bed reading in the top bunk and then at lights-out time, you’ve been coming down and sleeping in the bottom bunk (except for the night Tobin was sick and you were afraid he’d barf on you).

I don’t know what changed, but you guys are pretty cute together.  Sleeping children are so forgivable.

We’re not entirely without challenges.  Sometimes you get huffy when your dad and I ask you to do even the easiest tasks around the house.  Sometimes you’re too harsh with Tobin.  You still won’t eat any vegetables.

You do a good job brushing your teeth, though.  The dentist agrees.

Love,

Mom

3/22/2017

The Tobin Times #67

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:48 pm

My dear Tobin,

A miracle has occurred:  you and your brothers spent 18 hours in a car together with almost no fighting.

We just got back from our spring break trip to Nashville.  I thought it was an eight-hour drive, but door-to-door (we stayed south of the city to be closer to Tyler and Oxana’s house), it was about nine each way.  We broke it into two-day drives, spending the night in the St. Louis area each time, but it was still a whole lot of car time.  You guys did such a good job.  I think you sometimes have it the hardest—you’re old enough to be frustrated that you can’t do everything Miles does, but you’re still young enough that it’s hard to let all of Callum’s pestiness slide.  Still, I was very proud of your behavior.  We listened to Justin Roberts’ Lemonade album over and over, as well as an audiobook (Bruce Coville’s My Teacher Is an Alien).  You got scared a couple of times and needed to turn off the audiobook, so we switched back to music, but mostly you enjoyed it a lot.  You mentioned a suspicion that your teacher might be an alien too.

Photo by Denny

Once we arrived in the Nashville area, you and your cousin Aleks became immediate best friends.  You hugged every time you saw each other, you held hands when we walked outside, and you couldn’t wait for him to come over to our rental house each day.  I’m sure he’s missing you as much as you’re missing him right now.

We did a lot of fun stuff, including almost daily cocktail hour.  Aleks really enjoyed the cherry lemonade cocktails, as did the rest of the kids (except Vera, who’s too little).  We did a lot of cheers-ing, including the Russian version, “За здоровье!”

Photo by Gary Clarke

Another of your favorite activities was a visit to the Monkey’s Treehouse, a fun little play center with a big climbing structure and various areas to encourage imaginative play.  Your favorite was the play kitchen and restaurant, and you served up some delicious dishes while wearing a jaunty chef’s hat.  You didn’t get lice, either (bonus).  The weather ended up being unseasonably cool, so we didn’t do some of the outdoorsy things we’d hoped to.  The last time we visited in July, we took a trip downtown that included seeing some of the famous honky tonk sites as well as enjoying the great splash pad in Cumberland Park.  I was hoping to do some of that again, and I also dreamed of taking a day trip to Mammoth Caves National Park.  Unfortunately, on the forty-degree days we had there, spending a lot of time outdoors wasn’t the best way to keep our family members happy.

Still, we managed to do a lot.  Uncle Tyler even took us on a private tour of the Vanderbilt University football facilities.  Running around on that big field was a pretty great experience for you.  The very best part was spending time with our extended family and letting you and your cousins get to know each other.  We’re hoping to find a time to meet them in St. Louis for more adventures.

Now that we’re back to reality, we’ve found ourselves in that race to the end of the school year that always happens after spring break.  You’re  excited to play baseball, which will start next week.  It’s going to keep our family very busy for the next couple of months, as  you and Miles are playing on the same nights but at different times.  We’re going to be spending three nights a week camped out at the baseball diamonds at City Park.  I don’t even know how I’m going to manage dinner.  I was told that I would be less stressed as my kids get older, but I’m not sure that’s true.  Your dad and I might have to do some tag-teaming.

Photo by Denny

You’re ready for kindergarten and feel quite fancy about the fact that you’ll be taking kindergarten-level summer classes.  By this time next month you will have completed Kindergarten Round-Up at your future elementary school, though with all the times you’ve been there for Miles’s events, it will hardly seem like a transition at all.

Along with that, your personality is such that I’m not the slightest bit worried about how you will handle kindergarten.  You collect friends like Callum collects crumbs in his sleeves.  Your bright smile and cheerful demeanor are magnetic, and I’m really going to miss you when you start spending more time and school and less time with me.  I was vaguely aware that my children would probably grow up (and I’m glad that you’re healthy and strong), but that doesn’t mean I have to like the daily reality of having less of you.  You’re not a peach one hundred percent of the time—you have your crabby moods and tantrums now and then, especially when you’re tired—but you’re still one of my all-time tops.

Your current favorites:  Wild Kratts, pepperoni pizza (this seems like it’s going to be a life-long affection), Geronimo Stilton books at bedtime, playing outside, and a new Lego project you’ve been working on very hard.  Having attempted to help you and Miles put together Lego creations, I can attest that it takes a lot of precision and concentration.

Summer is coming soon, my little heart.  We need to get to work on our summer activity list, because you can bet your cardboard hat that we’re going to have fun.

Love,

Mommy

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3/10/2017

The Callum Chronicle #26

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:21 pm

Hello, adventure boy.

Your dad and I were talking about how nice it is that your big brothers are old enough that we can send them out to the back yard or the park right behind our house to play on their own.  We firmly agreed that you’re not ready for that yet.

You have been a crazy, energetic guy lately.  In a way it seems like you’ve taken a step backward in trustworthiness, in part because your growing physical and mental skills have made you brave enough to try many stupid, dangerous things.  I used to be able to leave you in a room for a few minutes while I did something nearby, but that didn’t work out so well yesterday.  I was downstairs helping Miles practice piano, and when I came back up to check on you, you were nowhere to be found (and Tobin was no help).  The door leading to the garage was open, so I went into the garage and started shouting your name.  You didn’t respond, and I didn’t hear any tell-tale scrapes or footsteps.  I was about ready to freak out when I saw that the porch door was open.  You had grabbed a baseball bat and were heading outside.  I’m so glad I caught you before you escaped.  I am going to work really hard to remember to lock the door to the garage from now on.

This morning, you wanted to “play coffee,” which regular readers will remember is when you sit up on the counter and pour water from my coffee carafe into the coffee maker and pretty much everywhere else.  It’s not too destructive a game, so I let you play it pretty often.  You wanted to do it this morning, and I had a few emails to respond to, so I got you safely positioned with a chair right up to the counter so you wouldn’t fall.  I double-checked that the door was locked, got some water for you to pour, and left the room for five minutes.  When I came back, you were pouring my (previously unused) coffee grounds directly into the water reservoir of the coffee maker.  You got probably a quarter pound out of the bag and all over everything.

I got angry.  You got sad.  It wasn’t a great moment for either of us.  I hope we both learned something.

I’ve noticed lately that when your dad or I scolds you for something, you make a face in which you close your eyes tightly.  Last week, I was running on the treadmill while you played downstairs.  You started heading toward the back of the TV where you are most definitely not allowed to mess around.  There are all kinds of cords and video game components and stuff you shouldn’t touch back there.  Before I even said anything, you stopped, looked at me, and made your eyes-closed “punishment face.”  I’m glad to know you’re starting to think through the consequences of your actions.

You give us plenty of non-frustrating moments, too.  Your language skills are really growing, and you make us laugh all the time.  You love to pick up objects and use them as a microphone to sing “Single Ladies.”  You like to play your ukulele along with all kind of different music.  You made Miles’s day yesterday when you requested his favorite pop song, “Stitches.”  You even knew a lot of the words.  You’ve also really gotten into the music and videos of Justin Roberts.  He’s been a family favorite since before we had kids, and I hope he makes a tour stop around here some time soon so you can see him in person.  His videos have been a welcome respite from Elmo (or worse, Barney).

We’re heading out tomorrow for a family trip to Nashville.  It will be fun to see you interact with your cousins, and it will be interesting to see you in the context of not being the smallest person in the room.  I hope the long drive won’t be too hard on you.  Last time we made the trip, I think you cried for a pretty solid two-hour chunk.  Hopefully this time you’ll be a little more easily entertained.  We can listen to music and read books, and we’ll be sure to make time for pit stops so you can run around.  At least we’re not in the middle of potty training.  That could be a disaster.  We’ll start that one of these months, but for the time being, you’re a lot more interested in toilets in theory than in practice.

Well, in typical practice, anyway.  You were very interested in the practice of putting an entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet.

Your current favorites:  reading stories (especially If You Give a Dog a Donut, Jamberry, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, and Goodnight Moon), jumping and dancing, playing outside, taking baths, eating a wide variety of foods (including your babysitter Olivia’s lunch), and giving really sweet hugs.  You like to eat, but it hasn’t really shown up in your body too much.  At your last doctor’s appointment, you were in the twentieth percentile for weight and fortieth for height.  You’re kind of a little guy, but you’re a pretty wonderful little guy.

You’re a lot of person jammed into one small body.  It’s not easy to keep up with you, but you’re a great incentive to keep healthy enough that I can love you for a long, long time.  You make me scream and you make me smile, but I’m always glad you’re mine.

Love,

Mommy

3/9/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #110

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:21 pm

Dear Miles,

As I was thinking about what I should write for this month, the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” came into my mind.  Then I thought I should search this site, because I feel like I’ve written that phrase in relation to you more than once.

The results:  two hits, neither of which was about you.  Sorry to malign you with my shoddy memory.  In any case, we’ve been seeing a wide variety of behaviors and attitudes in you lately.  When you were very small, your dad and I read about “periods of disequilibrium,” which are fairly predictable stages kids go through when they’re harder on the adults in their lives.  It probably has to do with growth and learning to manage the new things your brain and body are doing, and I’m sure it’s not easy for you either.  We were trying to remember how it worked, and we recalled that usually the first half of a kid’s year is easier and the second half is harder.  That made us puzzled, because you’re just a couple of months into your ninth year, so we should be in the smooth sailing section.

I looked it up again, and apparently after a certain amount of time, it stops being a twice-a-year cycle.  The graph showed the entire ninth year in a trough.  Oh boy.

I’m not saying you’re a terrible kid, not at all.  In fact, I often catch you being really sweet.  But you’ve settled into some negative attitudes and unwillingness to compromise, and it can be challenging to handle.  I’m an emotional sponge myself, so I can be having a perfectly good day, and then you come in all crabby and rude, and I find myself sinking into a bad mood with you.  That’s no fun, and there’s enough negativity in our world right now anyway.  I want the times with my family to be the bright spots in my day, not the force that drags us down.  When your dad asks what you did in school, you respond with a noncommittal shrug and the word “stuff.”  Fortunately your teacher is really good about using her class website to update us on what’s going on.  If I can ask you specific questions based on what she posted, I sometimes get better answers.

We had your school conference, and your teacher seems to think you’re about the best kid ever.  Either you save your best behavior for her or she’s much less emotionally spongy than I am.  She even used the phrase “happy go lucky” to describe you.  That was a moment when I wondered if we’d shown up for the wrong kid’s appointment.  But I’m glad you’re happy at school, and you’re certainly excelling academically.  You have also shown a lot of social growth this year.  You’ve developed some really nice friendships.  We went to a school event a few weeks ago, and even though we saw some kids from your class sitting at a table, you seemed reluctant to go join them.  One of them beckoned you over, and once you got that welcome, you were happy to go hang out.

I understand how that feels.  I feel shy and awkward a lot of the time too.  It’s good to be friends with people who are more outgoing, because they’ll help pull you out of your head and invite you to have a seat with them.  Your dad just had a big birthday, and we made a special card for him that listed forty things we love about him.  One of the items I chose is that he’s always friendly and welcoming to everyone.  It’s a quality I admire in him and wish I could do better, so I want to help you find it in yourself and develop it.

Photo by Gary Clarke

We signed you up for baseball for the summer, your very first time doing a team sport ever.  When you were little, we asked you if you wanted to play soccer and tee-ball like so many kids do, but you always said no.  Once Tobin got involved, you became more interested, and having a big sports fan for a teacher last year also got you excited about baseball.  I hope it goes okay.  You’ll be in a league where kids pitch, which might be a bit intense, and I bet most of them will have significant playing experience.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m proud of you for trying in any case.

We’re gearing up for our trip to Nashville, and I hope you and your brothers can handle the long drive without maiming one another.  You’re really excited to see your little cousin Aleks and meet Vera for the first time.  He wants to play baseball with you, so maybe you and  your dad and Skittergramps can sneak in some spring training before the official Little League season begins.  Unfortunately the Nashville area seems poised for a cool snap, so it won’t be much of a fun-in-the-sun trip.  Still, I’m sure we’ll manage to have a good time.  I even bought a box of junky fruit snacks, which are contraband around here.  Don’t let me forget your toothbrush.

I know it can be hard to be a kid, and it can be hard to be the oldest sibling.  We’re figuring out how to be parents to a nine-year-old, and we’re doing our best.  Let’s see if you can bring some of that happy-go-lucky guy your teacher sees home sometimes.

Love,

Mom

2/24/2017

The Tobin Times #66

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:39 pm

My sweet Tobin,

You’re officially five-and-a-half now, and you’re brimming with all the spunk and adventure that’s been stewing in you all along.  We’ve had some unseasonably warm days, and you’ve been using them to great advantage.  I can hardly keep you inside.  All you want to do is play in the creek, run around in the yard, pump on the swings, and shoot hoops.

You are a fun and friendly guy, and I admire your ability to make friends where ever you go.  We were at an event at Miles’s school a couple of weeks ago, and you dived right in and played with all the kids.  At the end, I came up to tell you it was time to go, and you were in the middle of scheduling a play date with a new friend you’d made.  Today when I picked you up from school, I didn’t see your good buddy Chase.  I asked if he wasn’t at school today, and you said he wasn’t, nor was your other good friend Scarlett.  You just shrugged and rattled off the names of a few other friends you played with.  As a mother who has trouble in social situations sometimes, it is such a relief to me that you do so well with other kids.  Miles had a play date yesterday, and at one point she wanted to play outside, but he thought it was too cold.  You pulled on your coat and headed out with her.  Of all the things I have to worry about in this world (they abound), you having friends is not among them.

Your basketball season has been a lot of fun, and you were especially happy to have Mubby and Skittergramps attend a game this week.  You played so well—you hustled in your typically high-energy way, you defended, you assisted, and you even made a basket.  Your team has gotten a lot better, and I know your dad is really proud to be your coach.  I wish I’d been able to watch more, but keeping Callum from running onto the court is a lot of work.  I saw more than I got to the other time I attended your game, because Mubby took Callum part of the time.  I definitely saw your sweaty curls and red cheeks flushed with exhaustion and happiness.

The recent warm weather has given us all a boost, though it’s tinged with the despairing fact that it may well be a product of climate change.  Every day it seems like there’s more disheartening news both from our state and national capitals.  As a pretty privileged family, it’s easy to feel insulated from the blows that many of our neighbors and fellow Americans are feeling, but one of these days it will be us.  I don’t know if it will be due to cuts to the public education system, threats to our natural resources, or just the deepening gloom that comes from reading scary news day after day.  It’s taken a toll on me, I know.  I’m sure I’ve been crabbier than usual, and part of that is the usual gloom that comes with winter.  We’re heading to Nashville in a couple of weeks, and a trip is always a good pick-Mom-up.  You’re excited to listen to audiobooks in the car and play baseball and basketball with your cousin.  I’m excited to shop at Publix.  I love Publix.

I also love you, more than Publix, even.  I was thinking recently about crying out of joy, which is kind of a funny thing to do, but I do it at pretty much every wedding I attend.  That’s usually just a watery eye and sniffle kind of thing, but I absolutely remember a time about six years ago when I sobbed for joy.  I was pregnant with you, and without getting too graphic here, I had reason to fear that I might be having a miscarriage.  We went to the hospital, and the medical staff hooked me up to the ultrasound machine.  I had steeled myself for bad news, trying to be stoic and accepting.  The blurry picture came onto the monitor.  I have a great respect for ultrasound technicians, because I have no idea how they can make any sense out of those blobs.  But even I could tell that the fluttering little pulse on that screen was a heartbeat, and it meant that you were okay.  That moment was the purest sob-for-joy I’ve ever felt.

Medical situations are often vulnerable ones for the patient, and I’m a person who works hard to keep calm and preserve her dignity.  At that moment, I didn’t worry about my dignity at all.  It’s a good thing they stock those rooms with Kleenexes.  I would have gotten tears and snot all over your dad’s shirt, otherwise.

You are my heartbeat, my little Tobin:  a burst of sunshine and warmth unrelated to fossil fuel abuse.  Let’s jump into spring together.

Love,

Mommy

 

Save

1/23/2017

The Tobin Times #65

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:39 pm

Dear Tobey-tobes,

Winter is tough for a wiggly young person such as yourself.  You’re an energetic guy, and we do our best to help you get your energy out with dance parties (recent hits:  “Billie Jean,” “Uptown Funk,” “All About that Bass”), and you just started basketball.  Your dad is your coach, and have been so excited to get started.  You’ve only had one practice so far, but you really enjoy wearing special shoes and athletic shorts.  You’re looking forward to working on skills beyond dribbling.  Your dad told me that after practice last week, you said to him, “I liked playing basketball, but I also liked having time with you.”  Things like that make it worth being on my own with the other guys on basketball practice nights.

You are such a kind little boy.  I can always count on you to share a treat with Callum, or to give me a hug or a kind word.  You’re quick to defend your special people:  I was telling you that one of Donald Trump’s worst qualities is that he throws a tantrum every time he gets a little bit upset.  Callum was overtired one day and throwing a fit over something small, and I said, “Callum, stop being a Trump.”  You got so offended.  You hugged him and said, “Callum’s not like Trump.  He’s a good boy.”  That’s especially impressive considering that Callum loves to grab big handfuls of your hair.  Your curls are pretty irresistible.

You’re doing fine at KinderFarm, though I think you’ll be happy when it’s time for kindergarten.  We have kindergarten registration coming up in the beginning of March, and you’re excited to go to the same school as Miles.  You really want to walk home from school with him, just the two of you.  I know you guys could handle it—you have a good sense of direction, and Miles has been doing it for months now.  Still, I like walking up the hill to get you, especially on nice days.

You’ll definitely be ready academically.  You’ve been doing some good early reading, and you’re really motivated to continue learning math.  This is largely because you have your own account on Prodigy, an online math game Miles introduced you to.  You’ve been practicing a lot of skills and really, really want a pro account.  We’ll see if you’re still interested when your birthday rolls around.

Photo by Gary Clarke

We’re going to Ames for a quick weekend visit, mostly because your dad is going out of town and I am not equipped to handle three squirmy little boys on my own.  You and Miles really aren’t too taxing anymore, though your dad and I were just talking about how it will be nice when you can read for pleasure.  Now, when we want Miles to do something constructive that doesn’t involve screen time, we can send him off to read one of his many books.  Your skills are growing, but you’re not quite at the stage yet where you can just pick up a book and stay happy for an extended time.  It will happen, I know, but for the time being, you’re still happiest with a video game or one of those weird YouTube videos of other people playing videos games.  What on earth is the appeal of those?

Another of your current obsessions is these two young women who are conjoined twins.  We don’t know them or anything, but we’ve been watching a documentary about them, and you can’t get enough.  In their particular physical situation, they have what looks mostly like a single body with two necks and heads.  Each girl controls an arm and a leg, which can make things like swinging a bat and driving complicated.  They have to work hard to coordinate their actions.  But as we watched a couple of nights ago, we noticed that they seemed to work in perfect synch in unconscious ways.  For example, when one girl gasped, both her hands went simultaneously and instantly to her face.  How did her sister know that she wanted to put her hands on her face?  We talked a little bit about how their bodies must have some kind of communication that goes beyond the voluntary tasks their brains command.  It’s all very interesting, and it gives us opportunities to talk about how they’re two separate people, actual individuals and we should think of them as such, even if they seem very different from the people we know.

This may be an obscure approach, but I try every day to remind you that people (especially women, but all people) are more than things that should be easily dismissed or objectified.  It’s something I have to remind myself too.  It’s easy to slip into an “us versus them” mentality, and I admit there are times I don’t think I can possibly find common ground with certain factions of the population.  But having kids forces a person to be better, because I want you to know that I’m trying and I expect the same of you.  I need to model being better, and you help push me there.

You’ve been enjoying games lately, including Uno, Go Fish, and Harry Potter Trivia.  You’d think a trivia game would be hard for someone with only rudimentary reading skills, but you have such a great imagination it doesn’t even matter.  When it’s your turn to ask me a question, you dutifully take a card out of the box and “read” me a multiple choice question.  For some reason my answer is always wrong.  I guess that’s what happens when your brain is in charge.

Last weekend I was in a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Richard III, which a group of concerned citizens put on as a fundraiser for the ACLU and an alternative activity for inauguration day.  It was a really fun adventure for me, since I love being involved with theater but just don’t have the time to commit to time-intensive projects right now.  I was afraid that you kids would be totally bored, but it turned out that two of your friends were also there, so you played with my phone while I shrieked and hollered as Lady Anne.  We talked about the play beforehand, and you had a hard time understanding why my character would agree to marry someone who killed her husband and father-in-law.  To be honest, I still don’t completely get it.  I understand that women’s power was very tenuous in those days, and the opportunity to be a queen might be impossible to decline.  Still, I went from cursing Richard to hell to accepting his proposal within one scene.  We both agreed that it was a pretty weird thing to do.

Because he kills just about anyone who is inconvenient to him, Richard later kills Anne.  We talked about that ahead of time too.  The afternoon of the reading, you said to me, “I think I know the answer to this, but…they’re not really going to kill you, are they?”  Sweet, sweet boy.  I assure you that I would never purposely volunteer for a project that resulted in anyone’s death.

Thank you for being a bright spot in my days, my beautiful Tobin.  Winter is hard, and the winter of 2017 is particularly hard, but you are a shining beam of love-light that goes straight into my brain-heart.  Even though I know it’s my brain that manages most of what happens in my body, I feel like there has to be something in all my cells and yours that makes you mine.  When you fall asleep at night with your curly little head on my arm, our cells mash into each other inextricably.

In case you didn’t know, I love you.

Mommy

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1/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #24

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:06 pm

Happy birthday, my little Cal-Pal!

I knew it would happen, but I’m afraid the day has come:  I’ve run out of babies.  In fact, one of the reasons we decided to have a third child was to put off the inevitable babylessness.  And now, here we are.  A two-year-old really isn’t a baby anymore.  You’re talking more and more, you’re pretty steady in your running and climbing, and you are becoming very interested in expressing your opinions.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You’re developing a good sense of humor, too.  You’ll burst out laughing if someone in the family says something that tickles you.  You love music, and you can fill in the blanks of so many songs that I sing to you.  One of our favorites is “Bushel and a Peck,” and you especially like the verse with the chickens.  It’s pretty cute to hear you say, “Chickens!  Dickens!”  You’ve also picked up the Oompa Loompa songs, and you toddle around the house singing “Loompa, loompa!”  Another recent favorite is “Walk the Dinosaur” by Was (Not Was).  You point at my phone and say “acka lacka boom” to request it.

You haven’t napped well the last couple of days, which is why this birthday letter is several days late.  In a fit of desperation and exhaustion, I turned on Elmo’s World.  Naturally, since Elmo’s last name is ToddlerCrack, you love it.  Your favorite part is when he talks to babies.

Photo by Denny

Since you’re young yet, I wasn’t sure if you would grasp the concept of birthdays.  We celebrated Miles’s the day before yours, as we’ll do for many years to come.  I thought for sure that when we sang the birthday song to you, you’d say “Miles” in the name portion.  You didn’t, though.  When I look back at the video I made of your family birthday celebration, you’re clearly saying “Callum” and pointing to yourself as we sing.  That represents a pretty big mental leap, yet more evidence that you’re becoming a regular person.

After a long hiatus, I finally got my treadmill fixed.  I was afraid you wouldn’t respond well to having me lock myself behind the gate and watching me run, but you’ve been doing great.  You play with your toys, mostly the food and the play kitchen, and just hang out nicely.  That’s wonderful, because I really need exercise for my mental health, and it kind of negates the feel-good endorphins if there’s a crying baby rattling the bars of the cage.

It’s not all sunshine, of course.  You’ve really embraced the word no, and you even like to make it more emphatic by yelling “NO WAY!”  That was your opinion on the topic of whether we should put on your shoes and coat to go pick up Tobin this morning.  I imagine it’s hard not be in charge of very much, so I can see why you’d want to express your opinions.  You don’t often have much say in our family’s activities.  I’m going to have to start letting you make more choices about things like clothes.  I bet you might like an Elmo shirt.

You are a makeup enthusiast, and you’re getting strong enough to get the lids even off the things I think I’ve closed tightly.  You’ll smear lipstick on your face and say, “Cute!”  You still love to read, and your current favorite books are Curious George and the Pizza, Curious George Visits the Library, and No No, Yes YesNo No, Yes Yes was a first-birthday gift to Miles from Grammy and Pop-Pop, so even though you never got to meet them, it makes me happy that their gift has become special to you.  You’re on board with not pulling on cats’ tails, but you’re not so sure about the no-smearing-lipstick suggestion.

Your other current favorites:  the fried eggs and toast your dad makes, swiping unfinished juice out of your brothers’ cups, climbing on tables, pilfering dangerous objects off counters (e.g., scissors, knives), singing, dancing, and lotion.  You’re so much fun, even though you’re exhausting.  I love having a lap full of little Callum in the morning, even though it’s sometimes hard to pack Miles’s lunch and get Tobin ready for school when you refuse to be anywhere but in my arms.  I like the game we play at the table, where you lead us in different rhythms, tempos, and volumes of table-tapping, and we all try to copy you.  You love to be in charge.  Littlest brothers never think they’re in charge, but they pretty much always are.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You don’t like to wear pants very much.  Maybe some Elmo pants would be a better idea.

Enjoy your toddler life, my little Callum.  I’m so glad we’re together.

Love,

Mommy

 

1/10/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #108

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:24 pm

Happy birthday, Miles!

You turned nine last weekend, and while we kept our celebration pretty low-key (immediate family only), I think you had a good time.  Friday night I cooked your favorite dinner, linguine with homemade tomato sauce.  Tobin was so excited to help you celebrate that he took part in decorating the dining room, so when you woke up Saturday morning, you saw your presents, balloons, and your sparkly number nine.

As your birthday comes so closely after Christmas, it was hard to find good birthday presents for you.  We kept it simple, and you may see an unbirthday present or two once Tobin’s birthday comes in August.  You seemed to enjoy your gifts, though, especially the Pokécoins your dad got you.  I’m looking forward to helping you cash in your certificate for a Mom/Miles Java House date with snacks and games.

It seems like all you want to do anymore is play Prodigy, a web-based math game that you learned about in school and have continued to use at home.  I think your favorite Christmas present was a paid membership, which apparently grants you some sort of further opportunities in the game.  Pretty much every day, you and your friend Chloé chat via text and/or Facetime while you play Prodigy simultaneously.

Your friendship with Chloé is a fairly recent development, though you’ve known her for a while in school.  In the last month or so, you two have really started hanging out a lot, mostly virtually, but you also trekked all the way to her house after school the other day for an impromptu playdate.  We really need to get you a phone of some sort—friends recommend the Gizmo, which apparently allows you to do some rudimentary phone and text functions but without full functionality.  It would have been a whole lot easier if you could have just called me to ask me if it was okay to go over to Chloé’s rather than have the both of you walk here, then walk all the way back to her house.  She lives on the opposite side of the school, so it was a bit of a haul on a very cold day.  Neither of you seemed to mind, though.  Curious.

We did some fun stuff over break, including spending lots of time with lots of different family members and friends.  You slept in almost every morning.  You’re the latest sleeper in the family, and you really took advantage of the flexible schedule of vacation.  You also have the strange habit of sleeping fully clothed.  You own pajamas, including two new pairs you got for Christmas, but you still prefer to sleep in your jeans most nights.  It doesn’t seem very comfortable to me, but you insist it’s the way to go.

One fun thing we did in Ames was go ice skating.  Fortunately the ice rink had those little scootcher walker thingies, because you would have wiped out even more if you hadn’t had one.  You maintained a good attitude, though, and you brushed yourself off every time and got back up.  I was proud of your tenacity, even if your little newborn colt legs looked awfully spindly on those skates.

Photo by Beth Clarke

You’ve had a huge appetite lately, and we’re going to have to measure you soon, because I bet you’ve grown a lot in the last year.  Your diet isn’t much more diverse than it ever has been, but I’m happy that you’ve become such a fan of homemade tomato sauce.  Unfortunately last summer’s tomato harvest was pretty meager, so our freezer stash isn’t very big.  I’m afraid we’ll be through it by March if you keep eating at your current rate.

This has been a big year for you, my dear Miles.  You are continuing to grow academically and socially, and it makes me so happy to know you’re developing good friendships.  Two of your school friends, your fellow members of Authors’ Club, jumped at my suggestion that they join you in an after-school creative writing class.  That will begin in a couple of weeks, and I hope it’s fun and educational.  We’re lucky to live in a community that has something to offer kids with all kinds of different interests.  Even though you’ve never shown much enthusiasm about joining a sports team (with the possible exception of baseball, which we’ll try to get done this spring), you’ve been able to join after-school and weekend activities that help you explore your areas of interest.  You have shown a recent spark for running on my treadmill, so maybe there’s track or cross-country in your future.

Photo by Denny

I hope this year is a great one for you, my blue-eyed son.  Congratulations on all the new things you’ve tried this year, all the ways you’ve grown.  I love your witty commentary and wild hair.  As much as I want you to be my baby forever, I’m pretty excited to get to know the person you’re becoming.

Love,

Mom

12/11/2016

The Callum Chronicle #23

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:08 pm

Hello, little Callum,

You have one more month of being one, and it’s a chilly month indeed.  After a warm and gentle fall, winter has arrived.  We bundled up a couple of times to walk to school in 20-degree weather, but you’re not very good at keeping mittens on, so I’m afraid we’re back to driving.  You’re a pretty good sport about all the hauling around of you that we do, but I don’t want to torture you.

We got a Christmas tree last weekend, and we decided you’re old enough now to handle having it in a more accessible location.  Last year we put it back in a corner, all closed in by the hearth and the couch, but this year it’s out in full glory.  There aren’t a lot of ornaments left below the two feet level, but that’s okay.  When I have the time and inclination, I put them back, and ten minutes later they’re off again.

Your personality is really beginning to emerge.  Most of the time you’re easy-going and sweet, though I’ve seen a few glimpses of the Terrible Twos on the horizon.  For example, you love to play on the outdoor toys at Kinderfarm, but now that it’s colder, I don’t want to linger outside.  You’re very adept at “snake,” the passive resistance tool you use to make yourself difficult to hold.  I thought Miles invented it, because he did it too as a toddler, but I guess it’s part of little kid DNA.  You also do it when I want to change your diaper, which is getting more challenging all the time.  I don’t know if you’re quite ready for potty training, but we’ll get there eventually.  In the meantime, I’m getting pretty strong and nimble as I wrangle you.

Photo by Denny

Your favorite hobby these days is listening to books.  You’ve amassed quite a library on the table by the big chair, and you love it when your dad or I reads to you.  You can fill in the blanks of so many books now.  You really like How Do Dinosaurs Make Cookies, Jamberry, a couple of Dr. Seuss books we have, and Goodnight Moon (which is not my favorite but is like crack to kids for some reason).

You’ve been putting different words together really well lately.  You say “yellow coat,” though it sounds more like “lellow coat.”  Last night we watched the movie Home Alone for a family movie night, and I had forgotten about the plot point regarding John Candy’s polka band.  When you saw that big group of guys in their yellow satin jackets, you said “lellow coat” about fourteen times.

You love family movie night mostly for the popcorn.  The mere mention of the word will send you to the cabinet to drag out the popcorn popper.  When we were at Mubby and Skitter’s house for Thanksgiving, you spied Skitter’s popper on a high shelf and immediately knew what it was for.  You can bet you got some popcorn after that display of genius.

Photo by Denny

Another recent interest of yours is identifying the ownership of various objects.  That made me think about how early the concept of ownership comes into our consciousness in this society.  You know exactly what belongs to whom—your dad always uses a certain type of water glass, and when you see one, you say, “Daddy awa.”  You got irritated when your dad corrected you when you said, “Toto shirt,” because it was in fact Miles’s.  To your credit, Tobin does have a very similar one.  Though your own name is still the one you say the least, I have gotten a few “Cals” out of you.  Sometimes you call yourself Cacco.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Your current favorites:  French fries, Kit-Kat bars, lollipops (which you can say really well), reading books, playing with your brothers, the Imaginext Joker’s Laugh Factory (which you call “Haha,” because that’s the sound it makes), and chatting with Mubby and Skitter online (“Online?” you ask whenever you see an open pupu, aka computer).

We’ll be cozy together now that winter is here.  I hope you’ll still cuddle me when you’re two, but just in case, I’ll squeeze you a little extra this month.

Love,

Mommy

 

12/8/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #107

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:57 pm

Dear Miles,

Well, would you look at who’s almost done being eight?

This morning I found a container of frozen pork and onions that I put away when I was pregnant with you.  The inside was a freezer-burned mess, and I’m pretty sure from the struggles I’ve had finding lids to fit containers, that particular line of plastic food holder has been discontinued.  The date was clearly written in Sharpie, though:  12/17/07, almost exactly nine years ago, almost exactly nine years and one month since you joined us and changed everything.  I’ll wait till next month to get nostalgic about your lifetime with your dad and me, the evolutions and revolutions that have formed our family.  For now, let’s think about what you’ve been doing this month.

Photo by Gary Clarke

We had our Family Folk Machine fall concerts, and you did your usual bang-up job.  I was thinking about how when we first started, you wouldn’t stand with the other kids and would only participate if you were pressed directly against my body.  You’re a confident member now, singing solos and hanging out with your friends during kids’ break time.  Your class had a presidential race, and it was optional to run.  Running meant giving two speeches to your class.  You said you were definitely going to run.  I told you that no matter what the outcome, I was very proud that you were willing to take a risk and be brave.  You said that giving a speech was no big deal.  I credit Family Folk Machine with helping you gain that confidence before a crowd.

Last week, you ran to me at pickup time and announced, thrilled, that you were class vice president.  Fourteen of your classmates ran for president, and you got second-to-the-most number of votes (I guess they don’t use the electoral college at Lucas Elementary, or you would have been president).  You agreed that your classmate Oumou will make a good president, and you’re looking forward to helping her and taking over her job should she be absent.  Your campaign slogan was “Crall:  He’s no baby.”  You explained that it’s a pun, like you don’t have to crawl like a baby.  I’m not sure your classmates all got it, since one of them came up to me after school and told me your slogan was “Carl:  He’s no baby.”  In any case, enough of them appreciated you to get you a job.  Way to go, little Joe Biden.

We had a nice Thanksgiving break filled with the usual travel, family, and food.  You ate a lot of corn.  It’s a good thing you’re an Iowan, because there’s always corn available around here.  Food remains a challenging issue for you.  You are very reluctant to try anything new, even if there’s ample evidence that it’s good.  Pizza, for example.  Everybody likes pizza, right?  You agreed to try a piece of Tobin’s favorite kind if we took off the pepperoni, and you were a pretty good sport about it.  You said you liked the cheese and sauce but not the crust.  It’s true that you don’t like bread or bread products (not counting pasta, which will save us on some future trip to Italy).  You manage to get enough calories to survive, though sometimes I wonder how.  Honey Nut Cheerios make up a good percentage of your diet.  I manage to shove fruit into you every day, always apple slices with lunch and almost always some other fruit at dinner.

In other areas, you’re very open to exploration.  You took a 3D printing class after school this fall, and you made a really cool Pokeball.  You know what that is, though I don’t.  Pokémon Go is another obsession, and you and you dad and Tobin spend a lot of time and energy (including all the physical walking you have to do to reach certain goals) on that game.  You also stretched your boundaries in your most recent round of swim lessons.  Last night you passed the test required to dive into the deep end:  swimming the whole length of the pool using the forward crawl (Crall).  You even did a dive off the side.  You said you belly flopped your first couple of tries, but then you got it done.  I’m pretty happy about that.  Confidence in the water is a huge factor in experiencing so many joys in life.  We’re going to be snorkel buddies for sure.

You now have just a week and a half left of school before winter break.  I haven’t figured out what all we’re going to do to fill our days, but it will be easier than last year since Callum’s a little bigger.  We’ll probably rent some movies and make some popcorn—our garden harvest is surely ready to pop.  I’ll try to find time to wrap Christmas presents without you seeing.  We’ll probably go to Costco and buy giant vats of laundry detergent and olive oil and paper towels and eat lunch in their little food court.  Maybe we’ll go to the library and meet your dad downtown after work to take advantage of the students’ absence.  I want to try the new Zombie Burger.  They have fries.  You’ll like it.

Your hair is getting a little outrageous again, but the low humidity of winter air is making it slightly less enormous than it was before your last haircut.  You’re wearing a hat in our family holiday card picture, so the world will never know (unless you have to do any class executive branch publicity photos).

Your current favorites:  Prodigy math games, which you play online against your school friends and help Tobin to play; Goosebumps books; Panda Express’s orange chicken; piano lessons; and Pokémon Go.

Eight’s been good to us, mostly.  You’re a cool kid, and you’re learning and growing all the time.  One of these years, you’ll eat my delicious Thai pork with mushrooms, peppers, and noodles.

Love,

Mommy

11/23/2016

The Tobin Times #63

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:44 pm

Hello, sunshine-face.

It’s fall for real now, which means less outside playtime and more running around in circles in the basement.  I’ve been doing that because we’re waiting for my treadmill to be repaired, and you’re doing it because you think it’s fun.  We’ve smacked into each other more than once as we dodge the rocking horse and Exersaucer.  I think you’re figuring out how to time your movements so as not to interfere with mine as I come around a corner.  It will all be safer once the treadmill gets repaired.  I wonder if you’ll keep running around while I run in place.  That would be pretty good entertainment for me.

Your typically cheerful disposition has remained so, despite a general feeling of bummed-out from the adults in the house.  We’ve been going through a rough time in terms of national politics.  We try to strike a balance between honesty about our concerns and not freaking you out.  I know I’ve been stressed out and short-tempered more than usual, and I’m sorry for that.  You’re so kind and empathetic, you know just when I need a little extra love.  I know it’s not your job to take care of me, so I don’t depend on you for my happiness, but I do like it when you come say some sweet words to me and give me extra cuddles.  You’re my joy as well as a primary source of my exhaustion.

We had your parent-teacher conference at preschool last week.  I was a little nervous going in, because we weren’t completely happy with how things had been going. I think part of the problem is that you truly would have been academically ready for kindergarten.  I hope it wasn’t a mistake holding you back.  I think it’s sometimes frustrating for you to be in a class with littler kids who aren’t ready to do the things you’re doing.  Combined with your naturally competitive nature (which isn’t helped by how hard you work to keep up with Miles), you can sometimes clash with others in your preschool environment.  You often want to talk about Pokémon Go or go collect chicken feathers while your teacher wants you to be doing some other task.  She isn’t happy about you doing your own thing, which isn’t my favorite approach to teaching—I’d rather she sought out resources to help you explore your interests instead of getting frustrated with you for not caring about the same activities as the younger kids. But you have gotten more and more settled into your current school, including making some good friends, so I think we’ll keep you there.  We’ll work on challenging you at home and working on your social skills as well.  This won’t be the last time in your life when you’ll not be interested in what’s happening in school, and it’s important to learn how to handle those feelings respectfully.

You’ve gotten super excited about math lately.  You found a set of addition worksheets that your dad printed out for Miles when he was in first grade, and with just a little help to get you going, you completed them all and demanded more.  You call it your homework and spend all kinds of time counting and figuring.  You haven’t been pursuing reading as strongly as you did last month, but you definitely know all your letters and sounds.  You have gotten to that stage where you want to write all by yourself, but you need almost every word spelled out for you.  That can be pretty time-consuming, but it’s good letter practice, and I love seeing you commit your ideas to paper.

I got frustrated with you this morning, because I had gone downstairs for just a couple of minutes to put laundry in the washer in preparation for our Thanksgiving travels.  You ran to the basement door and yelled, “MOM!  Callum’s playing in the toilet water and he’s getting it everywhere!”  I yelled back, “Well, stop him!”  I quietly hoped that at least it was a flushed toilet (sometimes you and Miles forget to do that), finished up the laundry as quickly as I could, and dashed upstairs.  I found Callum splashing around in the toilet (yes, flushed, thank goodness) with you standing there saying, “Stop!  Stop!”

Apparently I needed to be more specific.

I got mad at Miles, too, because he had just been sitting in his bed reading, oblivious to the whole debacle.  Sometimes I forget that you guys are just little kids, but other times I think:  shouldn’t you, little though you may be, have a bit more sense?

We’re all works in progress, I guess.  You work on having more sense and I’ll work on keeping myself under control when things get outrageous.

Your current favorites:  Pokémon Go and Yo-Kai (both of which are Japanese shows/toys/concepts about little creatures with various powers, though you assure me they’re very different), pepperoni pizza, rearranging furniture into tenuous “houses” for yourself and Callum, putting a blanket over the entrance to your bed to make a fort and reading bedtime stories in there by flashlight, setting goals (usually attainable, e.g., “My goal is to wear my pajamas all day”), and trying to one-up Miles.

You wear me out, Tobin, but you build me up too.  I hope I can do the same for you.  I’ll work on giving you what you need and trying to form you into a reasonable person.  You keep telling me you love me a million trillion quadrillion and I think we’ll be okay, because that’s how much I love you too.

Love,

Mommy

 

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10/14/2016

The Callum Chronicle #21

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:12 pm

Dear Callum,

The will has emerged.  You’re still a nice little guy overall, but you’ve discovered the strength of your body and are learning to use it to enact your brain’s desires.  We switched you to a forward-facing car seat earlier this week, because you’ve been falling asleep on our drives to Kinderfarm, which ruins your afternoon nap.  I figured you’d be less likely to fall asleep sitting up and facing forward, and so far it’s been working pretty well.  At least if I see you starting to doze off in the rearview mirror, I can grab your ankle and wiggle it around to wake you up.  You get excited when I tell you it’s time to get into your big-boy car seat.  You call it khaki and you love it.

The downside is that if you happen not to be in the mood to get into it, it’s a lot harder to force you in than it used to be.  Today you really wanted to stay and play at Kinderfarm.  As I tried to put you in the car, you grabbed onto the door and wouldn’t let go.  Then when I finally managed to get you in, you arched your back and tried to climb out of your seat.  You probably could have done that with your rear-facing seat too, but for some reason, this new configuration has brought out the physical side of your protests.

Photo by Gary Clarke

We hadn’t switched you to that seat yet during our recent trip to St. Louis, which is good because you had a good nap in the car on the 4.5-hour drive.  You had a fever our first night there, but that didn’t stop you from having fun.  You especially loved the ramps at the City Museum and the fish at the zoo.  You also had a great time bopping along to live music we stumbled upon at a Mexican restaurant near our rental property.  You love to laugh at your big brothers, and they love to entertain you (most of the time).

We’re almost done with Tobin’s soccer season, which will bum you out because you love the playground at the park adjacent to his practice field.  It’s hard for me, because I really want to watch Tobin play during his games, but you mostly just want to go on the slides.  You recognize the word soccer and immediately reply with “‘lide!” when you hear it.  I try to divide my time between watching Tobin while he plays and taking you to the slide when he’s sitting out.  It won’t be long before you’re out there kicking the ball around, though hopefully you’ll have a little more focus than you do now.

I got out the Max from Where the Wild Things Are that Miles wore when he was your age, and I hope you have fun wearing it this year.  So far you haven’t wanted to keep the hat on, but maybe when you get the whole suit with the fluffy tail, you’ll see the value of the entire ensemble.  You’re probably going to want to go out trick-or-treating with your big brothers, though for the time being I strictly limit your candy consumption, as much for choking-prevention as anything.  You do a good job with the occasional Dum-dum lolly (which you ask for by name), but I don’t want you to know about the existence of Snickers yet.  When Miles was your age, Halloween was the first time he had any candy.  We had to convince him to try Smarties by telling him they tasted like children’s Claritin.  You require no such persuasion, since you’ve been pilfering your brothers’ parade spoils for months now.

It’s definitely candy season, so we’ve been working on brushing your teeth more consistently too.  Your brothers’ dentist said it was okay to put regular fluoridated toothpaste on your toothbrush, even if you can’t effectively spit and rinse, as long as it was only a tiny dab.  You love that, since it means using the same toothpaste as Miles and Tobin.  The tough part is getting you to let go of the toothbrush when we’re done.  Most of the time I’m too distracted with other bedtime tasks to get it away from you before you dash off to your next activity, and the brush ends up in the bottom of the Lego bucket or something.  So hygienic, I’m sure.

Your current favorites:  pepperoni pizza, chicken, rice, grapes, your board books (especially The Very Hungry Caterpillar, due to the presence of ice cream, This Little Chick, and Cat the Cat, What’s Your Sound?), saying bye and/or night-night to everyone in the family before bed, baths, saying thank you to the bakery employees at Hy-Vee after your free cookie, trying out new words, and dumping out all the toys your dad and I try to put away.  I think this drives your dad especially nuts, since he likes to tidy things up in a very organized fashion, and you have very little respect for that position.

The house is in chaos most of the time.  That’s the way it goes.

The cooler days are coming, my little guy.  Your big brothers have been requesting hot chocolate, and while I can still satisfy you with marshmallows for now, I know it won’t be long before you notice that they have something you don’t and you’re dumping cocoa all over your tray.

Photo by Denny

Let’s keep sliding together.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

 

10/13/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #105

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:57 pm

Dear Miles,

As we press on through fall, you’ve stayed busy and mostly happy.  You love your teacher (Miss Lampe), you seem to have some good friends (notably Esmé and Andrew), and you’re excited for Halloween coming up.  I’ve been working hard on your costume, Odd Todd from the show Odd Squad.  Only a small subset of the population is going to understand it, but you don’t seem to care a bit.  It is a great gift to not care what others think, and I hope you can maintain that attitude.

You’re home sick from school today, suffering from one of the brief but intense fevers that have been ailing the short guys at our house over the last month.  All three of you guys had it a couple of weeks ago, and then Callum got it again during our first day and night on our mini-vacation.  We were confused by that—did he not actually have the same thing as you and Tobin during the first go-round?  It seems there’s another, similar bug, and it’s your turn for that one.  I know you don’t like missing school, and you especially don’t like missing your after-school 3D printing class, but you were definitely not feeling well today.

We desperately needed some supplies, including more children’s ibuprofen for your fever and aches, so you stayed home by yourself for the first time while the little guys and I ran to Hy-Vee.  You were all set up to text me if you had any problems, but everything was fine.  You said after we got back that you had forgotten we were gone.  I worried about you the whole time, of course, and checked my phone every three minutes.  It’s my job.

Though the weather may warm up again this weekend, we’ve had a dip into fall temperatures the last couple of days.  It’s time for the hooded sweatshirts and sleeping in something more substantial than a t-shirt and underpants.  You and Tobin had hot chocolate (with marshmallows AND whipped cream, because why not?) after our chilly walk home from school yesterday.  I’ll be sad when it gets too cold to walk, because we’ve enjoyed our walks home.  Often you stay at the school playground and get some play time in with your friend Hazel.  I’m happy with your new school schedule this year.  Last year, it was hard to have time to do any playing after school, but now that you’re done at 2:55, we can have some hangout time and still get home in time for you to practice piano and for me to get dinner going.

Despite Cal’s brief illness, we had a really good time on our trip to St. Louis.  We went to the City Museum, and it was one of the most interesting and unusual places I’ve ever been.  Every section was something completely different:  we started in simulated caves with rocks and ladders and tanks of fish.  Then we went to a more spacious area with ramps and half-pipes and swinging ropes, on which you and Tobin worked up quite a sweat.  Then you went down some slides (though you decided to skip the 10-story one, and I can’t say I blame you).  Then we went to the outside area, which had ball pits and real gutted airplanes to explore and miles of walkways.  I don’t think we saw everything, but we used up everyone’s energy, and I’m sure we’ll be back some day.

We did some other very fun things too, including the Science Museum and the zoo.  The first thing you wanted to see was the penguins, but they weren’t conveniently placed to see right away.  We went through and saw many different animals, including two rhinos who almost got into a fight, though they kept it verbal.  Finally, as we wound our way back to the exit, we came to the penguin cove.  You were so excited, and you loved seeing the many variety of penguins swimming and hopping around in their well-chilled habitat.  As you stood up against the glass watching them, one did a jump out of the water and landed with a big splash all over you.  You thought it was hilarious and a perfect way to end the day.

Our other favorite destination was Clementine’s Ice Cream, a cute little artisanal shop a short walk from our rented townhouse.  We went there twice, once on our own and once after having dinner with some friends.  You tried something new that I wasn’t sure you’d go for—coconut chocolate fudge vegan ice “cream.”  You liked it so much you got it both times. You also liked the fact that Lafayette Park, also very near our townhouse, had a lot of PokeStops.  I don’t know exactly what those are, but Pokémon Go occupies about 40% of your brain right now, and I guess PokeStops are good.

You’ve finally agreed to get a haircut, not because you believed your dad and me when we said your hair was getting ridiculous, but because it’s grown longer than Odd Todd’s and you want verisimilitude.  That’s my Miles.  You don’t care about anyone’s opinion, but you care about the truth.

By this time next month, we’ll have a president-elect.  I can only dearly hope that the nation continues its current trajectory of seeing Donald Trump for the bigoted, lying, cheating, sexual predator he is.  We talked a little bit about Trump’s recently surfaced comments bragging about sexually assaulting women.  I try to frequently reiterate in an age-appropriate way that you must never, ever touch someone who doesn’t want to be touched.  I don’t think Donald Trump’s parents ever told him that.  I don’t know if you care about my opinion, but since you care so much about the truth, I think you’ll believe me.

I love you, my dear Miles.  Keep your compass pointed truthward,

Love,

Mommy

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