The Tobin Times #43

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:43 pm

My sweet(ish) Tobin,

Not that these letters are ever on time anymore, but at least I have a good excuse this month.  Hoo boy, have we had a week.  You had your personal worst sickness of your whole life, one that your dad and I think is the worst one any kid in our family has ever had.  It was an all-out spew fest, both upper and lower.  You couldn’t keep anything down for the first day or so, not even water.  Fortunately it abated somewhat and I stopped being worried about dehydration, but it continued for about four and a half days altogether.  You were crabby and lethargic and generally miserable.  I’m so glad you’re doing better now, able to get back to school and your normal creative fun.

You’re really into imaginative play these days, especially with your Imaginext toys.  I think I’ve written before about how you like to watch videos of people playing with the toys, which is kind of weird, especially since it’s usually adults.  But you’ve used some of the plotlines from the videos as springboards for your own play, so I guess it’s not totally worthless.  You like to play with the Joker’s Funhouse, the space station, the Eagle Talon Castle, and all the dinosaurs.  Unlike your brother, who gets uptight about the Joker and Spiderman interacting because one of them is D.C. and one is Marvel (don’t ask me which, but he knows), you have no problem with crossover.  Your knights go into space, which sounds like just the kind of adventure a knight would enjoy, if he had the technological resources.  Mubby and Skitter are coming to see us this weekend, and Mubby has promised a couple of new Imaginext toys.  You are absolutely quivering with excitement.

The Imaginext toys are in your bedroom right now, because we had to clear out the basement due to a destruction/reconstruction project.  It’s handy for you to have them there, so maybe we’ll leave them.  You can just duck away and go have some playtime.  Sometimes Miles plays with you, but other times you’re happy to just sit there and make up stories for your action figures and dinosaurs.  Callum isn’t much of a playmate yet, but he does love to look at you.  You’re still a great brother to him, sweet and mostly gentle.  You love to hold him and talk to him in a sing-song voice.  I’m sure your name or some version of it will be among his first words.

One of your favorite things to do after I pick you up from school is suggest that we go on a lunch date to Panera.  I try to say yes to that once a week or so.  It’s not too far out of the way and it’s not too busy at 11:30, and you’re always happy to have a tub of cream cheese and a few bites of bagel. Other days we go to Hy-Vee and pick up a slice of pizza or beef and broccoli for you.  Other days we come home and eat leftovers or your usual favorites, pasta or waffles.  Breaking bread with you is a fun thing to do.

We’ll have to find out what time Panera starts serving their lunch menu, because your schedule is going to change a bit in the fall.  We’ve known for a while that Willowwind would likely be ending its half-day program, so we applied to the preschool program at Hoover Elementary.  We found out last week that you got into it, which is great news because it’s reasonably close to our house and has the best hours of any of the possibilities we considered.  Rather than 11:30, it ends at 11:00 every day.  That’s slightly less convenient, but it’s better than the programs that go through the lunch hour.  I like having lunch with you, and you’re only three.  It seems early to ship you off every day with a sack lunch when we could be eating together.  It’s also free, which is going to be a significant boon to our budget.  We haven’t visited it yet, but we’ve heard good things.  There’s a parents’-only visiting day next month, and unless we see something that’s truly alarming, that’s where you’ll be starting in August.

Unfortunately, Ho0ver is slated to close in the next few years, so once Callum is old enough for preschool, we’re going to have to figure out something else once again.  So it goes.

I’m not going to tell you that every minute we’ve spent together lately has been perfect.  You’re truly, madly, deeply three.  That has led to some departure from your previously sweet and relaxed nature.  I think you’ve had more temper tantrums in the last couple of months than in the whole rest of your life up to that point.  Sometimes you just roar with rage.  The fact that you haven’t been feeling well probably doesn’t help matters, but it can be pretty hard to deal with you when you get absolutely irrational like that.  Sometimes you freak out so hard you pee your pants.  I think it’s just because you get so overwhelmed with emotion that you lose control of yourself, but it does feel suspiciously like an act of hostility.  It will pass, I think.  Miles went through it too (though not the peeing part—that’s new and fun).  We’ll get beyond it just in time to start round three with Cal.  So it goes.

We had a fun family get-together at the Honey Creek resort at Lake Rathbun a couple of weekends ago.  Our main purpose was to celebrate Aunt Dorothy’s 95th birthday.  She’s an aunt by marriage on your dad’s side, but I feel a special connection to her because she was friends with my grandmother, whom we refer to as Maw.  You never met Maw, but Dorothy is still lively and bright.  I hope she’s with us long enough that she can tell you stories about Maw.  You also had fun with Nana and Papa, Aunt Shannon and Uncle Mark, and lots of other family members.  The hotel was very nice, though unfortunately we had a couple of snafus that left me sleeping in a not-huge bed with you and Callum, and an alarm went off twice in our room during the night.  It was not the most restful sleep I’ve ever had.  We still had fun, though.  You and Miles had a blast at the indoor water park, and we had a fun walk by the lake with Papa.  You also enjoyed the fancy cookies Dorothy’s granddaughter made for the occasion.


I think if we can survive this half-year, Tobes, our family will be under control.  Of course, Callum can’t walk yet.  That will create a whole new set of challenges.  But I’ll save speculation about that for his letter.  This one’s for you, my little firecracker.  May your frustrations ease away; may your health be good; may you never stop thinking it’s funny to stuff something in the back of your pants and pretend it’s a tail.

Even when you drive me crazy, I love you more than I knew I could.




Tight lips unsink chips

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:26 pm

A:  I’m so happy you didn’t have to throw up last night, Tobin.

T:  That’s ’cause I keeped my mouth closed.


The Callum Chronicle #2

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:37 pm

Dear Callum,

You’ve now completed your second month with us, and already you’re becoming less like an amorphous blob and more like an actual person.  You’ve become a smile master, especially for your brothers.  Just this morning, Miles was talking to you before school, and he got so excited because of the big smiles you gave him.

You have your grumpy moments, but mostly you’re a pretty chill guy.  You, like most babies, are a morning person so far.  You will usually sit quietly and happily in your seat while your dad and I scramble around to get your big brothers ready for school in the morning.  You don’t like to nap anywhere but your car seat, which is okay for the time being, but you’ll need to learn to nap elsewhere before you outgrow it.

We faced your two biggest struggles so far:  your first cold and your first immunizations.  They were both kind of awful, though the cold was worse.  We’re still dealing with the dregs of it, in fact.  If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be up at 5 a.m. sucking snot out of a baby’s head with a crazy tube contraption, I don’t know if I would have believed it.  Overall you’ve been a good sleeper, though this cold has not been great for your sleep patterns.  The shots weren’t so bad during the actual injections—you cried for a moment and then calmed down.  But I could tell you felt crummy, because the whole rest of the day you spent either sleeping or crying.  Fortunately you seem to have recovered from that, and I’m glad you’re on your way to being a well-vaccinated individual.

We went to visit Mubby and Skittergramps, which was your first road trip.  I don’t know if you had fun or not, but I did.  It was good to see them and spend some time with Joe and Suzy as well.  This weekend we have a trip coming up, and we’ll see Nana and Papa and other family members.  It will mean your first hotel stay, which is an important milestone in any baby’s life, at least any baby who lives with me.

I suppose it happens with all babies who are later in birth order, but we’ve been dragging you around to all kinds of things.  This morning you went to Tobin’s school to watch his music program.  Later you went to pick up Miles and then to his piano lesson, after which we went out for ice cream.  I’m sorry you didn’t get any.  Maybe you can have a taste before the summer is over.  Through all of it, you were very calm, sleeping peacefully or just watching the action.  As long as you have a full tummy and are well-burped, you seem happy to be along for the ride.  I hope that pattern continues, because you have a lot of rides ahead of you.

Photo by Gary Clarke

I was chatting with another mom of three at Tobin’s school, and we were talking about the sweetness that comes with knowing a particular baby is your last baby.  I admitted to her that I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw away my positive pregnancy test, since I know it’s the last one I’ll ever have (unless something truly unexpected happens).  She said she felt the same way and kept her last one, too.  That made me feel slightly less crazy.

It’s just that babies don’t last, you know?  I’ll never have my own sweet little two-month-old again.  I’m probably going to say this every month of your life.  I’m often tired and sometimes frustrated, not necessarily with you but with the strain that comes with being a stay-at-home parent to three kids.  This summer may be a challenge.  But you’re growing so fast, and you’ve already changed from the little squirt we brought home from the hospital.  You can focus your eyes and chew your fingers with your little gummy jaws.  You recognize familiar faces and have really loud toots.  I don’t even really mind waking up in the night to feed you, because that’s a special thing that only I can do.  When you cozy your little head up to me, it makes me so happy you joined us.

Photo by Denny




Monthly Miles Memo #86

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:18 pm

My dear Miles,

The other night, we were in a predicament:  Tobin had taken a nap, which meant that you were likely to fall asleep first at bedtime.  To anyone not familiar with our bedtime routine, it goes like this:  you, Tobin, and I crowd into the bottom bunk together, and we stay there until Tobin falls asleep.  Then you and I extract ourselves and go up to the top bunk, where I cuddle with you.  After that, I go into the master bedroom, where I sleep for a couple of blissful hours by myself until your dad is ready for bed, at which time he brings Callum to me.  For the time being, while Callum is still nursing frequently at night, your dad has been sleeping in the bottom bunk with Tobin.  It’s a double bed, so it’s not quite as ridiculous as it sounds.

Anyway, as you can gather, it’s all a delicate dance.  If you fall asleep before Tobin, I have to try to wake you up to get you to the top bunk.  A lot of times that doesn’t work.  Either I simply can’t wake you up without doing something drastic that would wake Tobin up too, or I half-wake you up, which sends you into a state of frightened panic.  I don’t want to do that to you, so I usually just leave you in the bottom bunk with Tobin.  Then, when your dad comes to bed, he has to go up to the top bunk.  However, partway through the night, either you or Tobin usually wakes up and is dissatisfied with the situation.  You want to go up, which means your dad has to come down, or else Tobin wants to come in with me.  I don’t like that because I’m worried about him squashing or otherwise disturbing the baby.

This will all get a lot less complicated when your dad gets back to bed with me.  That does assume, of course, that Tobin will be okay with sleeping alone.  Surely before his high school graduation he’ll sort it out.  Anyway, in the meantime, it’s bad news when Tobin takes a nap, because it sends the previous paragraph’s chain of events into motion.  So when he took that unexpected nap the other day, I suggested that you go up to your bunk by yourself while I waited for Tobin to fall asleep.  That way I figured you might fall asleep on your own in the ideal bunk. or I could come cuddle you a little later than usual.

You are generally not okay with that idea, so I sweetened it by suggesting that you could read a book with a flashlight under your blanket.  You went for that.  You took a brand-new book up and started reading.  When I got Tobin to sleep, I climbed up to check on you.  You were still awake.

“Did you get a lot of reading done?” I asked.

“I finished my book.  A long time ago.”

This is all to set up the fact that you are a crazy fast reader.  You easily blow through a chapter book a day, and you could probably do more if we weren’t worried about you exhausting your supply.  You are either finished or almost finished with the Magic Treehouse series, so we’re trying to find some new chapter books to challenge you.  At your school conference, your teacher was showing us some of your test scores.  Apparently at this stage in a first grader’s development, he or she ought to be able to read 33 words per minute.  You scored 137.  Yes.

But, as usual, I wasn’t worried about your academic progress.  You’ll be doing ELP testing, which I hope goes better than it did last year.  You didn’t do so well on the verbal section last time, though you clearly are not deficient in that area.  What I suspect happened is that the testing environment threw you.  Rather than sitting down for a written test, a teacher you didn’t know gave it to you verbally.  You have a habit of clamming up when you’re nervous, and I’m guessing that’s what happened.  I don’t know whether the test will be the same this time around or not.  Frankly, it’s not a big deal to me whether you qualify for ELP or not.  I think it would be good for you—I don’t think your teacher has the resources to offer much more than the basics to the students in your class.  On the other hand, you’re kind of easily overwhelmed, so maybe you’re not ready for that kind of thing yet.  We’ll just have to see how it all works out.

Your school’s Fun Night was last week, and it was a totally different experience for you than last year.  Last year, you got overwhelmed by the crowd and noise and threw a crying fit.  This year, you zeroed in on the games you wanted to play, ignored the stuff that didn’t interest you, and had a great time.  You even won a book in the Book Walk.  You’re done with it already, of course.  You and Tobin had fun decorating cakes to donate to the cake walks.

You are still a sweet brother to Callum and mostly a sweet brother to Tobin.  You might have a different opinion, but it doesn’t seem like Callum has had too big an impact on your daily life.  You may have to wait a little longer to get what you need from your dad and me, but overall, you still do what you need to do.  You do your homework, play your games, practice piano, and read your books.

You still love to play piano.  I am often tired by the time piano-practicing time comes in the evening, and sometimes I’m not as patient as I should be.  I’ve been trying to catch myself when I get impatient—I know you know what a quarter note is, and I know you’re taking liberties with the rhythms because you’ve already mastered the traditional way and are just entertaining yourself.  Mostly, I want piano to continue to be a joy for you, and me being crabby at practice time isn’t going to help that.  You’re learning to play a simplified version of Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy.”  It’s the hardest song you’ve ever attempted, and you’re still getting started, but I know you’re going to work hard and master it.

Your current favorites:  pasta (of course), Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips, apples, popcorn, the Magic Tree House books, playing Imaginext toys with Tobin (especially the Joker’s Funhouse, a special gift from Mubby), cooing at Callum, and adding things to your Christmas and birthday lists.  You like drawing and writing and playing Wii with your friend James.  You made a really nice card for your dad’s birthday last weekend, and you helped Tobin make one too.

Have a good month, sweet Miles.  I’m glad you’re getting braver about the crowds at school, trying hard piano songs, and being alone in your bunk.  I look forward to seeing what the next month brings.


















Toupée touché

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:25 pm

T:  That is the worst wig I’ve ever seen.

D:  What wig?

T:  (pointing at Denny’s head) The one on your hair!

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