The height of the matter

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:04 am

Miles was bouncing around on my bathroom scale, making the numbers go crazy.

M:  It goes all the way up 100!

A:  It actually goes to 300.

M:  People can weigh 300?

A:  Yep.

M:  How tall do you have to be to weigh 300?!


Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:03 am

Tobin typically sleeps in our bed, between Denny and me.  Denny hurt his back the other day and has been sleeping in another, more comfortable bed for the last couple of nights.  That meant Tobin had an unusual escape route.  At 1:30 a.m., I woke up with a start and realized Tobin wasn’t next to me.  I heard his feet pattering down the hall and his little voice saying…

T:  Go make coffee!


The Tobin Times #24

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:38 pm

My sweet baby big boy,

Yesterday, I took you for your two-year physical, and I had a bit of a surprise:  I can officially no longer call you my Chub-Chub.  I had a feeling this day was coming, just by looking at you, but you are now officially at about the 50th percentile for height and the 35th percentile for weight.  You’re stretching out to be long and lean.  I tried to tell your brother that, and he got all huffy and insisted that you’re still cute and chubby.  You’re still cute, anyway.  I guess, technically speaking, you’re kind of a little dude, but you are definitely getting bigger.  You don’t feel so small when you hog up a large percentage of the bed and kick me in the kidneys.  You’re getting to be a great sleeper, so I bet it won’t be long before your brother’s dream of sharing a bunk bed can come true.  I told you that you were becoming a big boy, and you said, “I’m not big.  Miles big.  I’m LITTLE.”

The doctor called you “Mr. Vocabulary,” which is a fitting nickname.  You continue to surprise people, family included, with your articulate nature.  You have a good memory, too.  You can finish sentences in stories that you can’t have heard more than a couple of times.  The other day, we were looking at a puzzle-map of the U.S., and you correctly identified Mount Rushmore, the Alamo (where you think Beanie lives), and Iowa.  I asked you to find Nebraska, where Uncle Tyler and Aunt Oxana live.  You guessed Nevada, which may have been pure luck, but may also have been because you found the NE in the beginning of the word.  People reading this who don’t know you probably think I’m flattering myself and you…but they don’t know you, do they?

We had a fun, low-key family birthday party last night, complete with your windmill cake, presents, balloons, and candles.  You got to spend time with Mubby, Skitter, Aunt Suzy, and Uncle Joe and have some birthday fun with them, too.  You loved your birthday presents, many of which were John Deere themed, along with a really cool Strider bike from Nana and Papa.  You liked your cake, especially the marzipan, but your favorite part was ice cream “with black stripes” (aka chocolate syrup).

Photo by Beth Clarke

Your favorite pastimes right now are playing tee-ball in the back yard, digging up carrots from the garden, throwing and catching balls, and making Jenga block towers (then knocking them over and yelling, “I’m so mad!” in mock-rage).  You like to watch Curious George videos and read Curious George stories.   You love to bring assorted household objects with you in the car.  It would be hard to explain to anyone who asked why there’s a doll, a plastic zebra, a toothbrush, a water bottle, and a Magna-doodle under your seat in the car, but you always want to bring whatever you happen to be holding, and you always forget about it three minutes into the trip.

You are tough and resilient.  You have so many bonks and bruises, mostly from flinging yourself all over the place, but you usually either don’t cry at all or only cry for a minute.  All it takes is a hug and a kiss to send you on your way, most of the time.  You desperately want to go to school like your brother, and something tells me that when that day arrives in a year or so, the only tears shed will be mine.

We took a mini-vacation to Chicago earlier this month, and you had so much fun.  You loved playing in fountains, jumping on hotel beds, eating pizza, and visiting museums.  You even offered to share your pretzels with Sue the T-Rex at the Field Museum, holding one up and saying, “Here, Sue.”  We took the El (though our route was entirely underground) a few times, and when the train was approaching but still out of sight, you listened hard and said, “It sounds like a storm.”  You keep asking to go back, so I bet we’ll be making that three-hour drive a few more times while you guys are young.  It’s such a great city, and close enough that we’d be foolish not to take advantage of it.

I was looking through old pictures to make a mosaic of your first two years, and it was so easy to find ones of you smiling.  Since the day you were born, you’ve been so good-natured and delightful.  I won’t lie and say you don’t get upset and frustrated sometimes—you don’t have a clear concept yet of taking turns, and you frequently misuse the phrase, “I had it first.”  Still, those episodes are brief and pretty infrequent.  Even when you’re tired and I’ve been hauling you around doing non-toddler-specific tasks, you just chat and smile right through it.  You often tell me you like my dress (even when I’m not wearing a dress).  The other day, I had just towel-dried my hair so it was sticking up all crazy, and you said, “Your hair looking nice, Mommy.”

You do this funny face when you’re asking for something you know you might not get, like a popsicle or YET ANOTHER pinch of marzipan.  You look up with this big, closed-mouth smile and your eyes half shut and say, “I have a pop-see-cull?”  Even your pronunciation gets affected.  You make me laugh so much that you usually end up with the treat.  Luckily, you like fruits and vegetables a lot too.  I had to share a good portion of my salad with you yesterday.

You terrify me when you want to jump off the arms of the couch.  You make your daddy smile when you jump and squeal and yell “Daddy!” when he comes home from work.  You annoy your brother, but you get a lot of unsolicited hugs from him, too.  He’s so proud to show you off to his school friends.

I’m pretty proud of you too, little heart.  The sound of your little feet padding down the hall is the sweetest thing I hear most days.  Without you, our family would run desperately short on smiles and laughter.  I’m so glad you joined us.

Trying to explain why I couldn’t hold you and push a grocery cart at the same time, I said, “You’re enormous.”  You replied, “I’m not enormous.  I’m Tobin.”

Yes, you’re Tobin, one hundred percent.  You ooze Tobinity with your words, your smile, your laugh, your creativity, your joy.  You’re Tobin and you’re mine.




Tobin’s peach windmill birthday cake

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:54 pm

We celebrated Tobin’s second birthday today (his true birthday, yesterday, was the first day of school, so we separated the madness).  There is video and a full Tobin Times coming once I get them organized, but for now, here’s a shot of his cake and a couple of him after having put on his brother’s socks and shoes.  The windmill is because he loves them.  Whenever we see one (or best of all, a whole wind farm) from the car, he gets so excited.  The motif on the cake was Miles’s idea.  I made the turbine out of marzipan, which is also Tobin’s new favorite food.  I kept feeding him little pinches of it so I could work on the cake without him hounding me, and he developed a new love.

The cake was slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Summer Peach Cake.  It was really good–dense and moist.  It was also so simple and unfussy that I don’t even have to look up the original recipe to write it here.  I remember exactly what it called for an exactly what I did.  It would have been tasty with some sort of crumb topping, but birthday cakes require frosting, so cream cheese frosting it was.

Peach Cake

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
8 oz sour cream, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 large or 5 small peaches, peeled and chopped into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces, including any juices that accumulate
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare a 9×13 pan with oil+flour spray and a parchment sling.  Add more oil+flour spray on top of the parchment.

Toss the peach pieces with 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon; set aside.  Cream 1 cup of sugar and butter with a mixer for 3-5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until well-incorporated, then add sour cream and vanilla.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  With the mixer on a low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in several additions.   Stop mixer and fold peach pieces and juices into the batter.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a wooden pick comes out dry.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


Monthly Miles Memo #67

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:47 pm

My dear Miles,

I think your brain has been really busy lately.  You’ve had an explosion in your reading skills and confidence.  Last night you pulled me into your room, jumping up and down with pride and excitement,  to show me what you’d written on your whiteboard.  With zero help, you sounded out the chorus to Harry Belafonte’s classic “Banana Boat Song” (a perennial favorite in our house).

Kum ind meE
wot too go hom

I was pretty impressed, especially with the word “dalight.”  Nice job, kid.

You are getting excited for kindergarten, especially for school supply shopping.  We have a Target trip planned for this week so you can get all your pencils and markers and notebooks and crayons.  You would rather sit and play computer games than just about anything.  You still love to sing, and you’re looking forward to Family Folk Machine starting up next week.  One of your best preschool friends is joining, and that’s another reason you’re excited.

And yet, your life does not cast pure sunshine on the world one hundred percent of the time.  We just took a mini-vacation to Chicago, and I swear you spent more time whining and grumping than enjoying all the fun things the city has to offer.  We went to the amazing fountain in Millennium Park, but when I managed to drag your feet into the one inch of water at the base, you cried and refused to play because you said it was too cold (it wasn’t really very cold).  You wouldn’t smile for any pictures, you freaked out when your brother got anywhere near you, and you were generally kind of a jerk.

And yet, you  say you had a great time in Chicago.  I asked you last night where we should go on our next vacation, because I always like to have one in the works, and you immediately said we should go back to Chicago.  You loved the fold-out couch bed you slept on in our hotel (oh, the glamor).  You enjoyed Shedd Aquarium (until you decided you were ready to go, at which point no one else was allowed to look at anything).  You loved the Egyptian exhibit at the Field Museum.

So…I don’t know what to do about you.  You have a big change coming up, starting kindergarten at a new school.  I know your brain and body are both growing really fast, and it has to be frustrating to be a kid with so little control over his world.  You have so much love in you.  You can be so sweet and kind to Tobin, and without our nightly stories and cuddles, you would melt into irreparable despair.  I hope you develop empathy one of these years, because right now the missing link seems to be the fact that your behavior influences others.  I’ve told you so many times that when you have a bad attitude, it puts me in a bad mood and makes me not want to be nice.  Your dad frequently tells you that our family is a team, and to succeed, we all need to work together.  As of yet, it’s not computing with you.

But sociopathy is a hallmark of youth, right?  I hope you grow out of this.  You have so many great things to offer, and your teachers tell us you’re a wonderful human being while you’re at school.  I guess you just feel so loved and confident at home that you can unleash all your rudeness and know it’s not going to undo our family.  This is what I get for giving you all that unconditional love.  Oof.

One of your big accomplishments of the summer was swimming lessons.  Your goal was to dunk your head all the way underwater, which you sort of did at your last lesson, and did for real at our hotel pool in Chicago.  As we gazed into the Caribbean Reef exhibit at Shedd, I told you about how when you’ve practiced swimming a lot and are really good at swimming with your head underwater, we can go snorkeling together and see fish like that.  You got excited about that idea, so I hope it’s a good motivator.

It’s hard to believe that we won’t be having lunch together most days starting in just a little over a week.  It’s been our ritual for so long to sit at the dining room table and eat our lunches.  It started with you in the baby sling, and I often dribbled sauce on your head as I tried to navigate the fork to my mouth.  Then you moved to the high chair, eating your purees and later your little finger foods.  Then Tobin came along and you took a regular chair, and you ate many, many noodles and pancakes.  It’s going to be lonely at the lunch table without you.  Geez, when Tobin joins you at Lucas Elementary in three short years, I might have to be a volunteer lunch lady so I don’t eat crying soup every day.

It’s been a good summer, mostly.  We’ve eaten a lot of Flavor Ice (once with your old friend Beanie).  We’ve listened to a lot of cicadas and tended a lot of garden plants.  We’ve painted pictures, read books, visited museums and the library. Most of it was fun.

The world needs grumpy people, I suppose.  Morrissey has made a good career for himself, and Louis Black, and that Picasso fellow seemed to have a pretty bad attitude.  Just remember, my little curmudgeon, all the joy you take in the world when you have the right perspective on it.  There are many successes in front of you, whiteboards full of more words than you can dream.  But there are challenges, too, and you can get past them if you persevere and don’t demand perfection of yourself and others.  A little flexibility helps a lot.

But, as I know you know, I love you no matter what.





Check your sources

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:12 pm

Tobin was coloring with a grey marker and murmuring to himself.

T:  Cherry marker.

A:  Cherry marker?  That marker is grey.

T:  Cherry marker.

A:  What do you mean, cherry marker?

T:  Cherry marker-ita.

My go-to flavor combo at the shaved ice stand is cherry-margarita (non-alcoholic), which he has heard me order many times.  I guess he just got confused on the etymology. 


Shrimp in Garlic Mojo

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:31 pm

This is a Rick Bayless recipe I found in this month’s Food and Wine and lightly adapted.  We had it with saffron rice, corn on the cob, and pinot grigio.

Shrimp in Garlic Mojo

Note:  Next time I’ll halve the mojo recipe.  This made much more than we needed.  It’s in the freezer now.  If the garlic oil was good and hot and I’m storing the leftovers in the freezer, I won’t get botulism, right?  Also, next time I’ll use 2 chipotles, because it could have used more spice.

1.5 cups extra virgin olive oil
cloves from 2 heads garlic, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup lime juice
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, seeded and minced

2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails still on (I used half shrimp and half chicken for the shellfishaphobic in my life)
cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

Preheat oven to 325F.  In a small, oven-safe saucepan, combine olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt.  Place in oven and cook for about 30 minutes, or until just beginning to brown.  Add lime juice and cook for another 15 minutes until well-softened and golden.

Remove from oven and add chipotle pepper and a bit more salt and pepper, to taste.  Mash it all up until the solids are pretty much a paste.  Allow to cool slightly.

In a big skillet (I used cast iron; you may want nonstick if you don’t have a well-seasoned cast iron), add 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil.  Cook your protein until it’s done, then spoon more of the garlic mojo before serving, including plenty of the pulp.

Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges if desired.  Serve with more of the mojo for dipping/drizzling.


Delayed confession

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:26 pm

Background:  This morning Tobin asked for an early bath, so Denny helped him do that.  As Denny was preparing Tobin, Tobin peed on the bathroom rug.  Just now, more than twelve hours later, Tobin and I were cuddling and had this exchange.

A:  Are you Mommy’s little boy?

T:  …

A:  Or are you Daddy’s little boy?

T:  …

A:  So whose little boy are you?

T:  I pee on rug.  I a stinker!

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