High standards for Jeeves

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:55 pm

T:  What’s a butler?

A:  It’s a person whose job it is to help you with your life’s small problems.

T:  Like…someone who could help you get out of a secret prison?


The Tobin Times #42

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:48 pm

My sweet Tobin,

Happy 42 months!  I guess that makes you three and a half.  We have your first school conference tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to hearing what your teachers have to say about you.  I feel like things are going well, from the brief conversations I’ve had with your teachers at pick-up.  You have been having fun with your friends, and you have learned all kinds of good songs.

Unfortunately, we’re probably going to have to switch you to a new school in the fall.  Willowwind is probably cutting their half-day preschool program, and I don’t want to send you all day.  You’re still so little in my eyes.  I know a lot of kids your age go all day, but since I’m not working now, it seems silly to pay twice what we’re paying now just so we can spend more time apart.  You wear me out, but I truly enjoy your company.  It won’t be long before I have to send you to kindergarten.  No need to rush it.

I had a strange conversation with the director of one preschool we’re considering.  We were setting up a time for a visit (which hasn’t occurred yet), and I asked about the option of sending you 5 days a week.  Despite not saying anything about it on her website, on the phone she told me she only allows girls to do that.  Three days a week are intended for 4- and 5-year-olds, so kids who attend 5 days also spend time with 2- and 3-year-olds twice a week.  Apparently the director thinks girls are inherently gentler or something, because she said she worries about boys knocking over the 2-year-olds in their rough play.

I thought that was a weird policy to have, and she was not receptive to the idea of meeting you and making a decision based on you specifically.  You can be a bit rambunctious at times, but you are truly a kind boy.  The only issues you’ve had so far at Willowwind have involved girls being aggressive toward you.  The way you treat baby Callum is proof to me that you understand the level of gentleness little ones need.  That conversation was a turn-off, but we’ve only heard good things about that preschool otherwise.  Several people we know have kids who’ve gone there and they’ve loved it, so who knows.  We’ll see what kind of impression we get when we visit.  There are other options around town, too.

You are super into Imaginext toys right now.  You love to make the dinosaurs and ogre and little characters battle.  When you’re not playing with the toys, you’re either watching or begging to watch videos of people playing with the toys.  It’s an industry I never knew existed until you got interested it it—adults playing with toys and narrating little stories about it.  You can only see their hands.  There are hours and hours and hours of them on YouTube.  We try to discourage you from watching them too much, but you seriously love them.

You had your first school Valentine’s day party a couple of weeks ago.  Because Miles hand-made his Valentines, of course you had to too.  You did a good job gluing sparkly hearts and ribbons onto the cards for your friends, and you got lots of nice ones in return.  Your teacher had very nice things to say about you in her card.  I was  proud to read that you’re a good friend to your classmates.  I wasn’t really surprised—you and Miles have your squalls, but you’ve also learned a lot about how to play with others in your relationship with him.


It can be frustrating to be a little guy sometimes, and you get pretty grumpy now and then.  It seems like you’ve had a nonstop cold all winter, and that hasn’t helped.  You do a good job staying cheerful most of the time, but things can get a little ugly when you’re tired.  You also have a hard time listening.  Today you picked something up off the coffee table and threw it on the floor.  I asked you not to throw things.  You then blithely picked up a marker and tossed it onto the floor too.  That’s the kind of thing that drives me crazy.  I understand doing foolish things sometimes, but to specifically and rudely ignore directives like that is maddening.  It’s probably just part of being three.  I remember your brother behaving like that too.  I’m working hard to be consistent with rules and not back down when you test them.  All the books say kids appreciate boundaries and structure, so I’m going with that, though you sure don’t act like you appreciate it.

Most of the time, you’re silly and affectionate and fun.  You like trying out new vocabulary words, even when they don’t make sense.  This morning you used the word retail totally out of context.  You like to dance and sing and pretend to read Miles’s chapter books.  You like to help me cook and set the table, and your favorite thing is to bring the stepstool over to whatever I’m doing in the kitchen and climb up.  You give frequent and sincere compliments, especially when I cook your favorite dinners.  Today you told me you liked my shirt.  Yesterday you told me my ponytail looked goofy.

Sometimes you like to wear sneakers over your footie pajamas.  Who looks goofy now?

Aw, I’m just kidding.  You’re the cutest and you know it.

I love you, my sweetheart.



Called on a technicality

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:15 pm

Tobin has had an on-and-off runny nose for months, and he’s acquired a taste for it.

D: Tobin, don’t lick your snot.
A: Snot is not food!
T: No, it’s a drink.


A syllable is a terrible thing to waste or use superfluously

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:01 pm

The boys were arguing about the pronunciation of the word “education.”

M:  Edu-ma-cation.

T:  Edu-nal-cational.

M:  Edu-ma-cation.

T:  Edu-nal-cational.

M:  …I feel like we’re both wrong.


The Callum Chronicle #1

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:37 pm

“Nothing worthwhile is easy, Ellen.  You know that.”  –Clark W. Griswold, while putting dirty dishes into the cabinet.

My wide-eyed, hungry, snuggly, brand-new Callum,

Here we are, the first of the last.  This is the last one-month letter I will write to my baby.  Even if your dad and I hadn’t already decided that three would be our stopping point, your entrance into the world would have solidified the deal.  I’ve documented your birth story elsewhere, so I won’t go into gruesome detail here, but I will mention that it was the most difficult ordeal of my life to date.

But that wasn’t your fault.  At least you didn’t do it on purpose.  We’ll see if refusing to put your head in the correct position remains an issue in your life.  I can imagine it messing up school pictures and possibly dental care, but otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be much for lasting consequences.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Now we’re home together.  I’m still restricted from doing a lot, but I’ve managed to heal up pretty well.  I’m not going to lie:  the early weeks were rough.  I was a mess physically and emotionally.  I hadn’t realized how much of my self-concept was tied up in being “good” at giving birth.  I know, I know, ending up with a caesarian isn’t a comment on my value as a human being, but it still shook my perceived identity as a mother and a person.  I hated feeling so physically weak and out of control of my body.  I couldn’t take care of you as well as I wanted, nor of your brothers.  I didn’t recognize my scarred-up abdomen that wouldn’t even let me sit up in bed if I was late on my narcotic pain relievers.

Luckily, we have great friends and family who helped us.  Most notable among them is your dad, who never once balked at doing more than 50% of the work to support our whole family.  We’re working on finding a balance now that things have calmed down, and I think we’re getting close.  It’s hard in the ways I knew it would be:    the low-sleep nights and readjusting to breastfeeding and trying to find the energy reserves to give your brothers what they need.  It’s also hard in new ways.  As your dad knows well from having been married to me for nearly 10 years, I have a hard time with sudden changes of plan.  I don’t mean to be histrionic here, but I went into your birth confident, and I came out deeply shaken.

Photo by Denny

You, on the other hand, came out just fine.  Despite some scary moments that led us into the operating room, you rocked your APGARs and cried that gorgeous cry.  From behind the “you don’t really want to see your own intestines outside your body” curtain, I needed so much to hear that cry.  Thank you for doing it so robustly.  I couldn’t see you at that moment, but your dad tells me you peed twice for extra punctuation.

Amid all the difficulties surrounding your arrival, I’ve never doubted the miraculousness of you.  I can honestly say that all my struggles have been with myself.  You are a treasure.  We spend a lot of time gazing at each other.  I study your tiny, curved eyebrows and intricate little ears.  You look up at my eyes and hold the stare for a long time.  Your cheeks are getting chubby and your lips make sucking motions in your sleep.  You have a birthmark on your left leg.  If I got out a magnifying glass, I could see the tiny fingerprints on your tiny fingers.  I had to trim one of your fingernails last night, and while of course I didn’t want you to scratch yourself, I felt a twinge of regret at having to throw a part of you away.  Note:  I did not feel that way about your umbilical stump, which I was happy to toss in the trash.

Your brothers love you insanely.  They always want to hold you and talk to you and marvel about how you like to look at them.  I’m sure they’re very entertaining.  You’ve got two guys who are going to look out for you for the rest of your days.  They’ll each teach you different things, based on their own areas of expertise and personalities.  You’ll teach us things only you know, too.  It’s hard to gauge your personality so far.  You are happiest in someone’s arms, though you sometimes need a break from stimulation and like to just hang out in your swing.  You like art, especially the Wee Gallery canvases on your walls and our Chris Vance series.  You are tolerant of noise, which isn’t surprising, since you’ve been hearing your brothers hollering since the day your inner ear bones clicked into place.

We are past the hardest part now, my love.  I feel better every day—I even forgot to take my ibuprofen the other night, and it was no big deal.  You’re getting used to this world.  You eat well, sleep pretty well, and are even starting to smile.  I love the fact that I’m the one you smile at the most.  You’re not going to need me forever, but I’m pretty sure I’m always going to need you.

Let’s soak up these quiet mornings we have together as you melt into my shoulder.  I don’t want to forget the shudders and sighs you make in your sleep or the smell of your fuzzy little head.  You are my last baby, my special Callum, my greatest reward.

Photo by Gary Clarke




Monthly Miles Memo #85

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:35 pm

Dear Miles,

This month, you have blossomed into a full-on bookworm.  It’s the Magic Tree House series that gets you the most excited.  You started out on that series by having your dad or me read to you, then you graduated into reading some of the chapters on your own, and now you can read the books entirely by yourself.  You could have done that a long time ago, actually, but this is the month when you gained the confidence to do it and thrill of reading for its own sake.

You read six (6) Magic Tree House books in one week, and you probably would have read more if you hadn’t run out of the stack you got from the school library and the public library.  Your dad and I are glad you can read them to yourself now, partly because it’s a great activity for you, and partly because they’re awfully formulaic (no offense, bestselling author Mary Pope Osborne.  To tell the truth I’m mostly just jealous).  I shouldn’t criticize—I read a lot of stupid series in my youth too (I’m looking at you, Baby-Sitters Club).  You’re going to finish the series one of these weeks, and from there we’ll see what catches your interest.  I hear the Encyclopedia Brown books are good.  Maybe one of my librarian friends can suggest something that will keep you hooked for a while.

You like to read up in your bunk, sometimes wearing weird costumes.  In fact you like to wear weird costumes a lot of the time.  You didn’t tell me what the poofy paper hat represents, and I forgot to ask.  Maybe between the hat and the cape, you’re some kind of superhero chef.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You wore the Batman costume to welcome your baby brother home last month.  Yesterday you wore your bear hat to play with your friend Niamh, who was wearing a wolf hat.  I had to hide the Leonardo da Vinci wig and beard because they were shedding everywhere.  Otherwise you’d probably still be wearing those, too.

I’m very proud of the hard work you’ve been doing at piano.  You still do a great job practicing and stretching your abilities.  I’m nervous about taking over transportation duties this week, especially on Thursdays, which is piano lesson day.  Your dad has been taking advantage of his flexible work schedule to handle all the school drop-offs, pick-ups, and extracurricular management, but those days are ending tomorrow.  It wouldn’t be too big an issue, except I’m not supposed to lift over 15 pounds for another couple of weeks.  That’s going to make it impossible to lift Callum plus his car seat in and out of the car.  We’re going to have to sort out some kind of method in which I lift him in and out while leaving the car seat installed, settle him into a carrier, and get you and Tobin ushered into your destinations without anybody getting hit by a car.  These next weeks are going to be a challenge.  I am really ready for spring, when we’ll be able to walk to school at least.  Piano lessons will still require hauling you guys in and out of the car, plus I expect the after-piano trip to McDonald’s for ice cream is non-negotiable.  In any case, removing icy parking lots and sidewalks from the equation will make things easier.

I’m happy to say you still love baby Callum a lot, and you do a great job talking to him and otherwise entertaining him when your dad and I need to put him down for a minute.  He’s starting to smile, and we got some good smiles out of him this morning while he watched you and listened to you talk to him.  I’m sure Miles or some other word that represents you will be part of his very early vocabulary.

Sometimes on school mornings, we have a hard time getting you out the door on time because you just want to sit and chat with Callum.  That’s one of our biggest frustrations with you right now.  It can be very hard to keep you on task in order to get done all the things you need to get done in the morning.  We’ll tell you to go get your gear on, and we’ll come back five minutes later to find you sitting dreamily next to your coat and mittens, one shoe halfway on and the other shoe on the floor beside you.  It’s funny, because you’re focused to the point of obliviousness when you’re busy with a task, but when the tasks are time-sensitive and not high-priority for you, you lose all motivation.


Photo by Gary Clarke

We have your spring parent/teacher conference in a couple of weeks, and we’re looking forward to hearing what your teacher has to say about your work in school.  You seem to be doing well based on the work you bring home, but as usual, your academics are not my primary concern.  I hope you’re interacting well with your classmates, taking chances, and pushing yourself and your abilities.  I hope the confidence you’ve gained in your reading is bleeding into other areas of your school life.  I hope you’re as patient and kind with your school friends as you (usually) are with your brothers.  I hope you get your snowpants and coat on in time to have at least a little recess.

Have a good month, sweetheart.  Maybe by this time next month we’ll have some pictures of you frolicking among the daffodils.



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