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 #66

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

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 #65

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

 

1/23/2017

The Tobin Times #64

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

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 #62

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

 

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

9/13/2016

The Callum Chronicle #20

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:01 am

My sweet Callum,

You have had an explosion of language lately.  It’s so cute to hear you say all your words—not all of them are traditional, but you say so many consistent things in perfect context that we know just what you mean.  One of the best phrases is “thank you,” which you say now every time someone gives you something.  It’s not just an immediate Pavlovian response either.  A few minutes ago I gave you a cracker, and after eating it, you realized you hadn’t thanked me.  You got my attention and said, “Tankyoo.”

You have new words for your brothers, too:  Mamou and Toto.  You’ve known and loved them as people for a long time, and now you can talk about them all the better.  I’ve even gotten you to say Cal a couple of times (no mooing).  The other day we were sitting at the table and I was leafing through a Food & Wine magazine.  I turned to a page with a photo of penne pasta, and you looked at it and said, “Mamou!”  I thought that was pretty smart:  you recognized the food and wanted to let me know that you’d spied Miles’s favorite.

You like penne too, but I think your favorite food is pizza.  We went out for dinner last night and ordered with the plan to have lots of leftovers, because tonight is going to be busy, and I wanted a quick and easy dinner.  Little did we know that ordering a small thin-crust pepperoni, a small thick-crust multi-topping, and a bowl of pasta (for Mamou) would leave only two measly slices left over.  This was thanks largely to you, since you got through more of the pepperoni than we expected.  We’re having sandwiches tonight.

You’re adventurous and friendly, quick to shout “hi” to passersby, human or otherwise.  We went to Wilson’s Orchard earlier this week, and there was a friendly cat whom you loved petting.  You also really like Stella, the big St. Bernard at Kinderfarm.  Now you take umbrage when neighborhood cats won’t come let you pet them when we’re out for walks in the stroller.

You’ve been enjoying the outdoors on these nice fall days.  We hung around at Miles’s school playground today after pickup for an impromptu playdate, and even though you didn’t have any shoes on because I wasn’t expecting to take you out of the stroller, you loved it.  You cried when I stuck you back in, because apparently walking barefoot on wood chips is a-okay with you.  You love music and dancing, even the silly little songs I sing to pass the minutes and hours of our days.  Most of the time you request “more, more!” even if it’s nothing more than “wiping off your little buns” to the tune of “London Bridge.”  You do a good job making me feel like an accomplished song parodyist.

The whole family has been suffering from allergies this year, particularly in the last week or so.  The weather has cooled off enough that we’ve had the windows open, which is great for breezes but not so great for allergens.  I give you children’s Zyrtec every night before bed, which helps a lot, but we’re been going through lots of Kleenex regardless.  You finally cut the canine teeth that had been hovering under the surface of your gums for what felt like months, so that’s helped.  You’ve been sleeping well, all cuddled up to me.  I love having you next to me, even though you can be a bit of a bed hog.

You love doing dangerous things like climbing up to the top bunk of your brothers’ bed and trying to slide out with no help.  You want to climb step stools and jump on the futon and mess around with video game controllers.  Just now, I told Miles to come downstairs and practice piano.  You were perfectly happy playing with Play-Doh, but as soon as you heard me say the word piano, you ran over and took up a spot on the piano bench so Miles couldn’t practice.  You are a stinker, but you’re awfully cute.

You have developed a strong bond with Skittergramps lately.  You love talking with him and Mubby via Skype, and whenever we pass the computer (“pupu”), you ask for Giga (Skitter).  I usually tell you that I’ll check to see if he’s online.  You get so disappointed if he’s not.  You actually shook your little fists with rage when he wasn’t there to talk to you the other day.

As usual, you go wherever the gang goes.  Tonight you’re coming to a PTO meeting with me, which may or may not be a disaster.  They’re serving pizza since it’s the first meeting of the school year, so maybe that will keep you busy for a while.  Tobin’s soccer season is starting this week too, so I’m sure I’ll find myself running around the park trying to keep you managed.  We went to Tot Time last week and plan to go again, because now you’re old enough to really enjoy it.  Life is getting more and more fun now that you’re becoming an active participant.  Tankyoo very much for being my little guy.

Photo by Denny

Love,

Mommy

8/23/2016

The Tobin Times #60

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:20 pm

My sweet, stubborn, lovable, maddening little Tobin,

You’re five years old now.  You’re straddling that line between big kid and little kid, and that can be a hard position to occupy.  You have such social and emotional awareness sometimes—you know just when to chime in with a flattering word or an expression of love.  I don’t mean to imply that you’re being manipulative (though you probably sometimes are).  You just seem to understand that people need to hear things sometimes, and you know that words have power.

That has its downside as well.  You’ve developed some attitude problems.  When your dad and I ask you to do something you don’t want to do (say, eat neatly with a fork), you let out a very put-upon “Seriously?”  You’ve been using words to express yourself since before your curls grew in, and you have no qualms about employing them to whatever effect you decide is necessary.

Photo by Denny

Your summer session at Kinderfarm went well, and I think you’re excited about going back in September after a couple of weeks of break.  We had Miles’s back-to-school event last night, and some of your neighborhood contemporaries are starting kindergarten.  I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about that.  You are definitely academically ready for school.  You’ve really taken an interest in math recently, solving problems in your head and telling us how you figured them out.  At times like that, I regret declining to enroll you in kindergarten.  Then other times you scream at us in rage, yank toys out of Callum’s hands, and insist on performing an act one more time after I tell you not to do it.  At times like that, I think another year of maturing would be good for you.

In any case, you like Kinderfarm, and you’re getting a lot of opportunities there for learning that you won’t have in kindergarten.  You’ll get to physical things that suit your temperament, like caring for animals, boating, horseback riding, and wintertime sledding and skating.  Kindergarten is good, but it’s a lot of hard work sitting in chairs.  You’ll do well to use your body and have fun for another year before the serious challenges begin.  Also, I’ll get to put off helping two kids with homework in the evenings for one more year.

We had a fun and low-key birthday celebration for you at Mubby and Skitter’s house.  You got some good toys and a cool Incredible Hulk ice cream cake.  This morning you opened your presents from us first thing (little Legos, a new wallet with a promise of your own library card to put in it, a personalized Odd Squad t-shirt, and a two-wheel scooter).  We’re having dinner at Mekong (your choice) and will sing and blow out candles on your almond cake (also your choice) this evening.

This morning I had an appointment with the nurse-midwife who delivered you (just a check-up—no more siblings for you, I promise).  She could hardly believe that you joined us five whole years ago, and it was fun to remember what was in retrospect my easiest birth.  Birth is never easy, but you were my least complicated delivery.  You came on out, looked around, and settled right in.

Despite your occasional behavior challenges, you still have those qualities.  Miles loves to tell the story of when you were playing tee-ball and had made it to second base.  You were waiting for your teammate to hit the ball so you could run to third, but that sometimes takes a while in preschool-league tee-ball.  While you were hanging out on second, you made friends with the kid from the other team who was fielding.  I admire your easy conversational style and ability to get along with other kids (so long as they’re not your brothers).

Photo by Denny

Actually you get along with your brothers pretty well most of the time.  Sometimes it’s hard.  Sometimes it’s sweet.

Your current favorites:  Odd Squad and Cyberchase, pepperoni pizza, having your own wallet and filling it with your cash and cards, jumping around on furniture like a crazy man, looking at the fish in the seafood section at the Co-op, and running running running dancing dancing dancing never stopping.

Your dad was out of town for a few days late last week and early this week.  We spent most of that time at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house, but we spent Thursday night here at home.  It was the first time I’d put three kids to bed as the only grownup in the house.  You and Miles did a great job.  He read stories to you and cuddled you while I put Callum to bed.  When I went in to check on you guys after I got Callum down, you were both on the bottom bunk.  When I checked on you the next morning, you were both in the top bunk.  I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I’m very glad you have each other.

I don’t think there’s a cage out there that could hold you, my Tobin.  You’re so sweet and so salty.  You’re exhausting and frustrating and cuddly and indomitable.  Even your hair is fantastically unmanageable.  You’re a rascal, and rascals usually come out on top.

Happy birthday, my rascally love.  I’m so glad you’re mine.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Love,

Mommy

8/9/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #103

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:32 pm

Dear Miles,

Like every summer before it, this summer has gone fast.  It’s hard to believe that we’re almost at the end of it.  We have a few more fun things planned before school starts, but you’re now in your last two weeks of summer break.  I think we’ve gotten just about everything on our summer activity list done, including some good sprinkler, fountain, and pool time.  We’ve eaten a lot of frozen treats, though that’s getting harder now that Callum is actively demanding his share.

You helped me make one of your favorite ice cream flavors, mint chip, with mint leaves from our garden.  When you were a little kid you used to help me cook a lot, but your interest in that has waned lately.  It made me happy that you were excited to do a cooking project.  It was fairly involved:  we had to pick the mint leaves, muddle them (you enjoyed that part), steep them in hot cream, add egg yolks and other ingredients, chill it, freeze the mixture, and drizzle in the chocolate.  It was a lot of steps with a lot of waiting in between, but you kept your commitment and turned out a really good treat.  The whole family enjoyed it, especially Callum.

Your summer classes have been over for a while, so you’ve mostly been hanging around the house.  We try to get out for some kind of adventure every day.  Yesterday we went downtown and had fun in the fountain.  You’re not usually one to get soaking wet, especially if you’re not wearing a swimsuit.  Initially just Tobin and Callum went in the fountain with the promise that they’d just stick their toes in and get a little bit sprinkled.  You were playing on the nearby playground.  After a while, though, you came over, and somewhat uncharacteristically, you jumped in and started splashing like crazy.  All three of you got so wet that we couldn’t managed to sit in an air-conditioned restaurant for lunch. We got take-out and had a picnic on the Ped Mall, then you guys hit the fountain again.  I didn’t have any towels or extra clothes for you, since the whole fountain thing was a spur-of-the-moment decision.  Your car seats were all soaking wet by the time we got home, but nobody complained.

Your dad gave in and installed Pokemon Go on his phone, so the last couple of nights, you guys have been running around capturing little cartoon creatures.  I don’t pretend to understand the whole thing, but everyone in the universe seems to like it, so it must be pretty great.  I know you’ve caught a few here in our neighborhood.  I hope it doesn’t make you range too far.

You’ve been a reading maniac lately.  You got the new Harry Potter book (actually the script for the play The Cursed Child).  You read it in just a couple of days and really enjoyed it.  You have an older friend you made during one of your Willowwind classes, and he’s also a big Harry Potter fan.  You two have been instant messaging about it almost every day.  You’re also still into board games, especially Monopoly Jr. and Clue.  The last time we were at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house, you and Aunt Suzy played about forty games of Clue.  You were pretty well-matched, too.  She didn’t let you win, and you didn’t lose every time.  You have this other game called Scrabble Twist in which you try to make words from random sets of letters.  We’ve done two-player challenges a few times, and I can still beat you most of the time, but not always.  You’re creeping up on me, little guy.

I’m looking forward to visiting your school in a couple of weeks for the back-to-school night.  They’ve been doing a lot of construction work, which will continue through the next school year.  You’re going to be in a temporary building, which sounds like a bummer, but rumor has it that it’s actually nicer than the main building.  It will have air conditioning, for one thing.  I remember how hard it was to concentrate in a boiling-hot school as a kid, and I’m glad those days are over for you.  It also has lockers, which is pretty exciting for a kid who’s been stuck with cubbies his whole life so far.

Thanks for having such a fun summer with me, Miles.  You’ve been a lot of help—you’ve maintained a mostly good attitude in the face of some challenges presented by your brothers, and they both adore you so much.  It won’t be long before you’re a trustworthy babysitter.  In the meantime, though, we’ll just get you to the third grade.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

7/12/2016

The Callum Chronicle #18

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:38 pm

Dear Callum,

You’re one and a half, little fellow!  You’ve been so busy lately, running around all over the place, climbing anything you can, and saying all kinds of new words.  You even invented your own ASL-esque sign:  you grab your wrist and spread your other hand.  It means hot.  You mostly use it to describe food, but you also do it when we go out in hot weather.  For a while you were describing any extreme temperature as hot.  You grabbed a fistful of ice cream and yelled “‘ot!”  I think you’ve got it mostly sorted out now, though.

As usual, your month has largely consisted of tagging along to your brothers’ activities.  You handle it well, though, and a lot of times you score a treat (ice cream, play time at the playground near Tobin’s tee-ball field).  You love Justin Roberts now, like your brothers before you, and you like to point to the computer or stereo speakers and ask for “popeye” (“Pop Fly,” one of his best songs and videos). I hope he plays a concert somewhere near us soon, because I know you’d love it.

We had the unusual opportunity of having you as our only kid in the house for most of last week.  Your big brothers spent time at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house, and that meant it was like the old days on Friendship Street.  I can hardly remember, but it seemed so quiet.  It was way easier to stay on top of messes and generally keep things organized.  One time I even got bored.  It was the weirdest thing.  I ended up taking you to HyVee even though we didn’t need anything, and we just strolled around with the grocery cart while you ate one of the free bakery cookies.  I didn’t feel too bad about that, since every other time I’ve gone to HyVee I’ve bought something I didn’t need.  You definitely know where the cookies are, and even if we start our shopping trip with you clean, you’re a little crumb-covered urchin by the end.

I think you missed your brothers a lot, because you got very excited when we Skyped with them.  I know they missed you too, because the first thing Miles did upon his return was rush to you and snuggle you up.  When we decided to have you, my thoughts were mostly about how having a third child would affect my life—how old your dad and I would be when you graduated from high school, how we’d have to find money for a third college education (not to mention preschool), whether we’d be too old and decrepit to keep up with you.  I didn’t really think about how having a baby around would affect your brothers, but I think it’s been really good for them.  Miles especially just dotes on you.  You try to say his name, even though it comes out more as “aisle.”  I know the three of you are going to be life-long friends.  That’s an important gift I can give you, so even long after I’m gone, you’ll have each other.

I don’t plan to be gone for a long time, though, and part of that strategy involves daily exercise.  This summer, Miles and Tobin have been around to help keep you occupied during my basement treadmill runs, but Tobin has been complaining about the responsibility.  Today I decided to give them the day off, and I took you downstairs and let them keep playing upstairs.  You were not so excited about this plan.  You did okay playing for some of the time, but for a good chunk of the session you stood by the protective fence and yelled at me.  You got your leg stuck in there at one point.  I hope you get over that attitude by the time they go to school in the fall.

Your initial personality seems to be holding thus far:  you’re still mostly pleasant, easygoing, and sweet.  You’re generous with the hugs and kisses these days, not only with your family members, but with your doll and stuffed animals.  You make a cradling motion when we talk about taking care of babies.  Your brothers can make you laugh more easily than anyone.  Miles has this toothbrushing dance he does for you that has made for some messes in the hallway, but you love it so much I can’t bear to tell him to stop.  Maybe he could do the moves while not actually brushing his teeth.

We went blueberry picking at a farm outside of town last week, and you ate so many blueberries (ripe and unripe) that I thought you were going to pull a Violet Beauregard.  They had been your favorite food for weeks, but now you don’t seem quite as enthusiastic about them.  Maybe you got overloaded.  I made you a blueberry cake for your half-birthday and you liked that pretty well, but the cream cheese frosting probably helped.

Your current favorites:  ice cream, barbecue chips (“bips”), anything your brothers are doing, climbing the furniture, reading books (especially Jamberry, Dr. Seuss’s ABCs, and the picture book with photos of Tobin in it), Justin Roberts music, splash-splash baths, faking that you’re ready to get out of the bathtub and then laughing and saying “naw-naw” when I reach for you.

You’re silly and fun, and I’ve really enjoyed watching you develop and grow this summer.  It was very special having almost a week with just you.  You’re a wonderful little guy, and I know you’ve got a lot more to share with us.

Sometimes I have to share your ice cream so it doesn’t fall on the floor.  That’s okay.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

7/11/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #102

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:13 pm

Dear Miles,

Happy eight-and-a-half!  The summer is progressing well, and so are you.  You’ve been doing all kinds of fun things:  you just started your final week of Willowwind classes, which this time is Crime Scene Investigators.  You brought home a grid with lots of fingerprints on it today, and you told me all about the different fingerprint patterns.  You had fun with both Computer Programming and Chess for Beginners as well.  In Chess, you made a new friend named Andrew.  He’s older than you (going into sixth grade), and you think he’s pretty much the coolest guy ever.  You’ve exchanged instant messages with him a few times, and you want to check the computer every fifteen minutes to see if he’s replied.

You and Tobin have been getting along well lately.  You still have your moments of conflict, but you spend a lot of time doing high-quality playing together.  This morning you were playing daycare, whatever that means.  I do know that it involved you reading Tobin a story in your play tent, so I’m all for it.  You and Tobin spent most of last week at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house, and from what they reported, you guys got along really well almost the whole time.  Tobin idolizes you to the extreme, and even though I know he can get pesty sometimes, you are usually very kind to him.  Nearly every morning, I go in to check on you guys in your bunk beds, and he’s found his way up to the top bunk during the night.  I’m sure you’d rather have your own space, but you never complain.  Sometimes I don’t think you notice, because he goes up there after you’re asleep and leaves before you wake up.  You’re a heavy sleeper. As usual, you’re loving and really helpful with Callum.  I can trust you to keep him safe while we watching Tobin’s tee-ball games.  If he gets into a borderline situation, you just grab him under his little armpits and haul him to safety.  You’re nuts about him, and you’re always talking about how cute he is.  You like all babies a lot.  We watched an internet video last night with a cute laughing baby in it, and I think you cracked up harder than anyone.  You’re going to be a great dad some day.

When we went to Ames to drop you off at Mubby and Skitter’s, we made a side trip to Des Moines for a friend’s party.  James and Jessica did an incredible job—there were games and activities galore, including a fortune teller and a dunk tank.  After we’d been there for a while and you’d had some snacks and checked out some activities, you came up to me and said, “This is the BEST PARTY.  They have the best food and the best games.  This is awesome.”  It made me think about how much you’ve grown from the little guy who never would have let go of my leg at an event like that.  I’m so proud of how you’ve developed and gotten braver and able to let go of your anxiety and just enjoy the party.  It didn’t hurt that the party was, in fact, pretty awesome.

Your time at Mubby and Skitter’s was pretty great too.  When I was a kid, I used to spend part of a week at Grammy and Pop-Pop’s ever summer with my cousins, and I’m so glad you’re getting the chance to do something similar.  I can’t believe all the fun things you guys did:  an Iowa Cubs game, swimming, camping out in the back yard, trapping raccoons, Perfect Games, fishing, and probably more that I can’t remember.  I know Mubby kept you busy.  I bet she’s tired.

I’m glad Mubby and Skitter took you fishing, and I’m even more glad that you caught two fish.  You expressed an interest in fishing when we were in the Florida Keys, but we couldn’t find any rental fishing equipment.  I admit I was relieved when we couldn’t find any, because I was sure it would be a total waste of time, money, and effort.  I didn’t think you and Tobin would have the patience to do all the sitting around involved in fishing.  I guess you proved me wrong.  You’ve given me a detailed description on the right way to cast a line and reel in a fish.  It’s a good skill to have, and I’m so grateful you got to have that experience with your grandparents.

We’re nearly halfway through the summer now, which is hard to believe.  Our summer activity list is getting lots of checkmarks as we progress through all the things we hoped to accomplish.  We took a trip to the movies, because our neighborhood theater was showing one of my all-time favorites:  the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  I was slightly worried that you guys wouldn’t like it.  Sometimes a person places too much attachment on one’s own favorites, and I would have been really bummed if you weren’t into it.  Luckily, you got into it.  The Nestlé Crunch bars that we ate at the exact moment that Charlie opened his winning Wonka Bar helped.

I’m looking forward to crossing of the final items on our summer list, Miles.  This is one of the months I want to keep as a mental bookmark for the inevitable days and stages when things are harder.  Let’s remember:  the summer of ’16 was a whole lot of fun.

Love,

Mommy

6/10/2016

The Callum Chronicle #17

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:09 pm

My little Callum-puppy,

It’s been a month of learning and growing for you.  I just remarked to your dad that I’m impressed with how well you communicate.  You use a good mix of nonverbal (nodding, shaking your head, and ASL signs) and verbal methods.  Your vocabulary has increased a lot lately.  You now say a lot of your favorite foods (blueberry, strawberry, noodle), and you just started saying thank you.  It’s not quite in context yet—you usually say it as you hand something to me, probably because that’s when you’re accustomed to hearing me say it.  It’s very cute in any case.

You give really good hugs and kisses, and you like to punctuate your hugs with little pats on the back and shoulders of whoever is receiving the hug.  You can climb up big staircases, including the one that leads to the top bunk of your brothers’ bed.  You still don’t have much for self control.  Four times this week I’ve let you get out of my sight, only to find you in my bathroom drinking from a discarded Dixie cup that you filled with water you got by loosening the toilet pipes.  That is a huge problem on so many levels.  Just ask for water, Callum.  I know you’re proud of getting it yourself, but you can sign for it, and you make a great slurping nose with pursed lips that also communicates thirst clearly.  I would be happy to get you water by one of the many normal means we have available.

Every time you’ve done it, I’ve scolded you harshly, which makes you cry, but thus far it hasn’t made you stop trying to do it.  Now I’m just trying to remember to close the bathroom door.  That makes you stand outside the door and cry.  Sorry, dude.  It’s not worth rotting out the floor.

We’re finally over your disgusting bout of hand-foot-mouth disease.  I have to say, that is one of the most challenging illnesses a kid in our family has had.  I am so grateful, of course, that we haven’t had to deal with anything more serious, but dang that was nasty.  You were up multiple times per night for at least two weeks straight scratching your poor little arms and legs.  We went through a lot of Benadryl cream.  You developed a taste for Children’s Zyrtec, which the doctor recommended as a better itch reducer than Claritin.  Now you want to carry the bottle around all the time.

We went to a wedding on your dad’s side of the family last weekend, and I so appreciated your easy-going nature.  You were happy to let anyone play with you and carry you around, even people you don’t see very often.  You certainly have your moments of demanding mama, but you do great with sociability a lot of the time too.  You had a great time dancing at the wedding and playing out in the country at a gathering the next day.  You liked the dogs and cats and rope swing.

It’s gotten hot out now, and my plan was to take you and your brothers to the splash pad, but now I’m thinking it might be too hot for that.  Maybe we’ll get out to Twilight Swim at the City Park pool soon.  You’re big enough now to have a lot of fun in the baby pool,  I bet.  In the meantime, you’ve been enjoying your share of ice cream and other cooling treats.  Yesterday, during our weekly trip to Dairy Queen before Miles’s piano lesson, I thought you would lose your mind if I didn’t let you hold my ice cream cone.  Before, you’d always been happy to get spoonfuls from my cone, but I think the time has come when I’m going to have to get you one of your own.

On the last day of school for Miles and Tobin, we celebrated with a trip to Heyn’s.  Everyone on the east side of Iowa City stole our idea, because the line was huge.  I left the stroller outside and held you while we waited in line, and it about killed you to be so close to the ice cream without getting any.  “I-kee, I-kee” you said over and over, pointing at the glass case where you just knew the ice cream is stored.  We did get to the front of the line eventually, and you got plenty of bites.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Your current favorites:  playing with grownup things (my phone, chopsticks, other people’s shoes, keys) and ignoring all your toys, pizza and peanut butter toast crusts, going outside, climbing up and down stairs, pour water into your high chair tray, twisting around to find the owls on your changing pad cover right when I’m trying to change your diaper, dancing, eating garden strawberries, and giving sweet kisses.  Last night you accidentally bonked Tobin on the head with your Zyrtec bottle, and you kissed him right on his owie.

You’re a great little guy, Callum.  Thanks for your patience this summer as we run around to all your brothers’ activities.  I’ll make sure you get some good ice cream out of the deal.

Love,

Mommy

5/9/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #100

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:05 pm

My dearest Miles,

It’s been one hundred months (and a couple of days, because this is my life) since my sweet baby boy was born.  This is the one hundredth one of these memos I’ve written.  I remember being so curious during your early weeks and months about the kind of person you’d become.  Let me tell you, I had no idea you’d be the best sleeper in the house.  Nowadays we have to pry you out of bed in the mornings, and when you sleep in on weekends, you often don’t get up until 9:30 or later.  My little premie baby was up every couple of hours for a long time.  Back then, I knew a lot less about babies than I do now, and I didn’t understand that it was perfectly normal.  People kept asking how you were sleeping, and I felt like a failure because the answer was “not so great.”  Actually the real answer should have been “exactly like a breastfed baby is supposed to sleep for optimum brain development,” but I didn’t know that then.  I just knew that letting you cry, the couple of times we did it, felt so completely awful that we abandoned the plan.

It turned out okay.  Even though you didn’t sleep through the night until you were two, you now sleep through all kinds of distractions.  You can sleep through Tobin having a night terror, Callum screaming about his allergies or his growing molars, a thunderstorm, and probably an air raid, though I hope we don’t have to test that.

You are a really great big brother, especially to Callum.  You love Tobin plenty too, but he’s old enough to get on your nerves, often on purpose.  Little siblings are really good at knowing exactly what will drive their big siblings crazy, and Tobin is adept at that.  You two have fun together, and you really are best friends, but there’s some frenemy tension going on as well.  You’re focused, a perfectionist, and a lover of predictability.  Tobin is none of those.

Callum, however, gets nothing but love from you.  He can sit on you, pull your hair, tear your homework, and puke on your shoes, and you still are so sweet to him.  The age difference between you helps, since you’re old enough to understand his mostly-innocent motivations, and he’s young enough to be very forgivable.  He loves going to pick you up from school, and on weekend mornings, when you finally wake up, he thinks that joining you in the top bunk is about the coolest thing ever.

This month held a pretty fantastic event:  the annual Lucas Elementary Team Spelling Bee.  You competed last year and did well, but your ultimate dream was to be on the winning team.  We worked hard studying the long, challenging word list.  We drilled the tough words over and over, and you got really good at the whole “state the word, spell the word, restate the word” format.  We talked about strategies for interacting with your teammates, about being a leader when you knew you were right, but being kind and helpful about it at the same time.

You and your teammates made it through the first round, then the second round, and finally it was down to two teams in the ultimate spell-off.  I smiled when I heard two of the words on which we’d worked particularly hard:  giraffe and exercise.  The spell-off was written, so we didn’t know how you and the other finalist team did until the judges evaluated your work.

The judges announced the winners:  Team H.  I don’t know if you didn’t remember that you were team H or if it just took a moment to sink in, but you sat expressionless for a bit.  Then it hit you.  I can’t remember a time when you were happier.  You shrieked, you jumped, you pumped the air.  You congratulated your teammates and shared in their joy.  You worked hard and you earned your victory.

I hope I wasn’t too obnoxious in the audience.  As a fellow spelling nerd, I was pretty thrilled for you.  You were so excited you almost forgot to have a cookie afterward.  I don’t know if your name is engraved on the school plaque yet, but you’re very proud that you’ll be immortalized on your school walls.  I hope Lucas is still around in twenty years or more and you can take your own kids to see it.

You only have a couple more weeks of school before summer break begins.  You’re signed up for a few classes and you’ll have some relaxing time too.  We’re starting to work on our list of summer wish-list activities.  So far most of yours are food related.  You want to go to Hu Hot Mongolian Grill, Flavor Ice, Panda Express, and McDonald’s.  We’re also looking forward to pool and splash pad time, some sprinkler use in the back yard, and maybe a long weekend in St. Louis.  We’re still working on sorting out the details on that one.

Do you think I’ll still be writing your memos in another 100 months, Miles?  Will you find it embarrassing when you’re sixteen and ask me to stop?  Will I listen to you or ignore your protests?  Can you really be half way to sixteen?

Let’s give it another hundred months and find out.

I love you one hundred months, one hundred lifetimes, one hundred percent.

Love,

Mommy

 

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