The sweatsuit

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:55 am

I was picking things up in the living room today, and my hand landed on a little hooded sweatshirt.  I grabbed it and stepped toward the Goodwill bag, since it’s getting too small for Callum, but at the last moment, I couldn’t toss it in.

That sweatshirt came from a little sweatsuit set my friend Ruby sent shortly after Miles’s birth in 2008.  Those were difficult days.  I went into the beginnings of Miles overconfident, I think.  I loved babies and was excited to be having one.  I’d done plenty of babysitting, and having a little brother six years younger than I, I’d been pretty involved in the daily care of a baby too.  The pregnancy was easy—no morning sickness, minimal discomfort.  Then my water suddenly and dramatically broke at 35 weeks’ gestation.  I remember standing in the bathroom saying, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do.”  I could hear the words coming out of my mouth, and I didn’t even know how to stop saying them and move onto whatever the next step was.

Fortunately, the birth went relatively well (I thought it was hard until I had Callum, but that’s another story), and Miles came out of it with only a few short-term complications.  I remained knocked off-kilter for some time, though.  We didn’t have a name, we didn’t have any baby clothes, we only had about half the supplies we needed.  Those early days involved a lot of scrambling.  Denny did most of the physical running around and accumulation of items while I sat around and held Miles and thought, “I don’t know what to do.”  My milk was slow to come in, and since he was small and struggling with bilirubins, the hospital staff was putting a lot of pressure on me to feed him.  I felt like the one thing I knew I was supposed to do, I couldn’t.  We were lucky to be at one of the few hospitals in the U.S. that’s part of the Mother’s Milk Bank system, and Miles got donor milk while I got my breastfeeding situation sorted out.

Up until that time in my life, I’d pretty much always known what to do.  I’d gone to school, gone to college (because it’s what you do), continued on to graduate school (because I liked college and didn’t have any better ideas), transitioned easily into a full-time job that came as an extension of work I’d done in graduate school.  I met Denny, bought a house, got married, got pregnant easily.  There had never been much question about what to do.

We stayed in the hospital for a while, and after they released us, we had to keep going in for doctor’s appointments to check his bilirubin levels.  He ended up being readmitted to the hospital and placed under lights, which did the trick.  I know intellectually (as I did then) that his problems were really very small, and being on the floor of the Children’s Hospital and hearing the little kids with cystic fibrosis getting their lungs thumped did help me put things into perspective.  Still, it was by far the hardest thing I’d ever done.  Everything was a question.  I was never, ever the smartest or most knowledgeable person in the room.  All these medical things people were doing went completely against my instincts:  why does the baby have to be in that box for so long?  Why can I only hold him ten minutes an hour?  Why do people keep stabbing him with needles?  Things that made perfect sense to his medical team made sense only to my rational brain, which was suppressed anyway due to stress and lack of sleep.  My reptile brain just wanted to rip him out of there and run (I didn’t, of course).

When we got home from the hospital, we had to move into full-on primary care mode.  Miles had a doctor’s appointment to do a final check on his bilirubin levels and weight gain, and I was getting myself and him ready to go out.  Denny was out on an errand, and the task of brushing my teeth and managing Miles at the same time seemed overwhelming.  “I don’t know what to do,” I thought.  I put him on his changing table and opened his clothing drawers, which were still pretty empty since we hadn’t accumulated many baby clothes yet.

I found the sweatsuit from Ruby.  “I can put this sweatsuit on him,” I thought.  I did.  It was a discrete, concrete task. It  helped us toward our goal.  It let me move on to the next concrete task, which was probably figuring out how to get him into his car seat.

I can’t say every day has been easier since those first days of my motherhood, but the trend is definitely toward a general easing.  With my next two babies, I don’t think I’ve felt nearly as many moments of paralysis.  I’m not very sentimental about objects, usually, and the Goodwill bags are always overflowing.  But there are a handful of things I can’t manage to give away, and that little sweatsuit is one of them.   All three of my babies have worn it, but it probably won’t still be stylish by the time I have grandchildren.  I still can’t manage to get rid of that one, though.  I guess I know what to do.




The Tobin Times #45

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:27 pm

Dear Tobin,

Summer is almost here.  You are such a fun and active little guy, you’re just loving all the opportunities to be outside.  Sometimes you have more energy for outdoorsiness than I do, but your dad picks up the slack.  You guys go out to the playground just about every pleasant evening, and you’ve made all kinds of neighborhood friends.  You’ve been helping me garden a lot too.  You’re even up for helping with outdoor chores now and then.

Photo by Beth Clarke

You’re almost done with your first year (slightly over half-year, actually) of preschool.  We’re going to miss Willowwind for sure, but not enough to send you there all day, since they’re cutting their half-day program.  It just doesn’t make sense for our family, since we don’t need the child-care hours.  Our purpose for sending you to preschool was to help you learn about the structure of school, following rules, responding appropriately to authority figures, and to make new friends.  You’ve done all of those very well, and I’m sure you’ll do great at the Hoover half-day preschool too.

Photo by Denny

You have so much energy and interest in a wide variety of activities.  Last weekend, we stayed home, but we did a lot of different things with different combinations of family members.  I was thinking over all the things we did, and I realized that you took part in every single outing and adventure.

1.  You and Callum and I went to Daylight Donuts to pick up some breakfast for the gang while Miles and your dad slept in.

2.  You and Miles and I went to the Farmers Market while your dad and Callum stayed home.

3.  You and I gardened while the other guys stayed inside.

4.  You and Miles and your dad went to the playground while Callum and I stayed in.

I think there was more, but I can’t remember it all right now.  Regardless, my point is that you love to be on the go, in the middle of the action.  I think you’re big enough to really enjoy the fun things summer will bring, so we’ll have a good time.  You having swimming lessons coming up, and trips to the Flavor Ice stand and the frozen yogurt shop, and library and museum visits, and probably a lot of other things.

A couple of days ago, as we were walking home from school, you suggested that we have a picnic because you’d never been on one.  That can’t be right, though I can’t think of a specific picnic you’ve been on, so you may well be correct.  We gathered up some food and a blanket and headed out to the park.

You’re good for me, Tobin.  I can get very comfortable in routines, and if I didn’t have someone around to keep me primed for new experiences, I could probably do the same things every day.  I admit my initial response to your picnic idea was to think, “Ugh, that sounds like a lot of work just to eat the same things sitting on the ground that we’d eat at our nice table.”  But I like to say yes when the request is reasonable, so we did it.  You ate more fruit than usual, and we saw some nice birds.

This is not to say there’s not value in routines.  We have some favorites, like going to Panera for lunch once a week or so.  You’re one of the best lunch buddies I could have.  Usually when people ask me if I miss working, my response is that I miss going out to lunch with coworkers.  That’s true—sometimes I wish I could eat Indian food with grownups.  But you often have funny things to say, and I like sharing my lunches with you.  I don’t get a lot of lamb vindaloo these days, but bagels are pretty good too.  I do wish you’d realize you need the bathroom at a time other than right when I set the food on our table, but mostly we have a pretty good thing going.

Your current favorites:  Scooby Doo on Netflix, Legos, cinnamon crunch bagels with hazelnut cream cheese (aka the dessertiest lunch ever), playdates with friends (especially Ben, Hazel, and Jensen), helping in the garden, and putting on your own shoes.  You are up to probably 65% in getting them on the right feet, even.

Have a great month, my little adventure boy.  I promise I’ll push myself to say yes to your crazy ideas as much as I safely can.




Airtight logic

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:40 am

Note:  Alice May is a ghostly character from an episode of Scooby Doo that Tobin likes.

T:  Alice May is  girl ghost.

M:  There’s no such thing as girl ghosts.

T:  Yes there is.

M:  There’s such a thing as ghosts, but not girl ghosts.

T:  All girl ghosts are Alice May.

M:  There’s no such thing as girl ghosts!

T:  There’s such a thing as woodpeckers.

M:  …uh, yes.

T:  Then there’s such a thing as girl ghost woodpeckers!


The Callum Chronicle #4

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:14 pm

My squishy  Callum,

You are an on-the-go baby.  This isn’t really by your choice.  With two big brothers who always need to be taken somewhere or picked up from somewhere, you get dragged along.  You have no regular nap time (and may never), because it seems like there’s never an hour when I can put you down without interruption.  You take catnaps on my lap or in the car, and that’s all fine with me because you’ve been doing a very good job sleeping at night.  You’re always a good sport about being dragged to all the places your brothers need to go.  You are a popular guy at West Music, where we hang out while Miles takes piano lessons.  You and Tobin went to Miles’s school yesterday to help his class do some gardening, and you didn’t squawk a bit.  All the kids wanted to hold you, but I made them stick to talking to you.

I think you’re probably ready for a size-up in diapers, because you’ve leaked a few times lately.  I buy the super-jumbo-sized laundry detergent because I do so much laundry, and this morning I used the last dregs of our old super-jumbo-sized container on the poo-stained sheets.  When I went down today to check on the sheets in the dryer, I saw that the brand new detergent container had fallen onto the floor.  The lid came off and half of the detergent went down the drain, which is fortunately located right near where it fell.

What I’m saying is no more leaking diapers, okay?  I need to make the remaining half of the detergent last a while.

You’re just big enough to stay in the exersaucer for a few minutes at a time, which is useful for when I want to make dinner or shriek in horror at the laundry detergent situation.  You’re not quite strong enough to balance in it by yourself yet, so you get grumpy if you have to lean against the sides for too long.  You do enjoy the little farm animals and noise-making dealies on the rim, though.

You’re starting to become interested in a variety of toys, which is nice, because sometimes handing you a toy will keep your attention for a few minutes.  You’ve also done my very favorite thing that babies around your age do:  discovering your feet.  The weather has fluctuated lately, so you’ve had a chance to explore them both nude and covered.  Baby feet are pretty wonderful things, so I’m glad you have the chance to enjoy them.

You’ve also started sucking on your fingers pretty fervently.  I hope that’s just because they’re right there and have a nice flavor, because a thumb-sucking habit is not something I want to have to break.  You don’t do it as you doze off to sleep, so I guess that’s a good sign.

I was gone for a while the other night getting my hair cut, and you had one of your frequent evening melt-downs.  I feel so bad for your dad when that happens, because usually you two get along great.  In fact, tonight when he got home from work, you immediately snapped out of the slightly crabby mood you’d been in and started smiling and laughing at him.  But the witching hour witches you pretty seriously some nights, and you were angry and frustrated by the time I got home.  Usually I can calm you down immediately, but that night you maintained your freak-out for quite a while.  I don’t know if that’s because I looked different with a new cut and color or because I smelled different, all coated in salon products I don’t usually use.  Maybe you were just plain tired and mad.  You did eventually chill, so I guess you’ve accepted that superficial changes don’t alter my ability to care for you.

I wish it had been that simple a few weeks ago when we went to Des Moines for a special surprise birthday party for Nana.  Normally you’re such a sweet and calm-natured kid, but that night you wigged out and simply could not be re-wigged.  I feel bad because it was your first time seeing a lot of those family members, and they got a very out-of-character impression of you.  We just spent time with Aunt Oxana, Uncle Tyler, and cousin Aleks, and Tyler kept commenting on how calm and pleasant you are.  Of course, he’s the dad of an extremely curious and energetic almost-toddler, so anyone who mostly sits still probably creates quite a contrast.

You may yet explode out and become a wildman.  It’s hard to tell just yet.  I got my picture of you in the same little hooded baby outfit your brothers wore at this age, and looking at the three of you, it’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t know their personalities.  We’re getting to know you, sweet Callum, but you still have a lot to do in your growth and development.  For now we’re enjoying your smiles, giggles, and tolerant nature.  You made one of your first attempts to communicate with me today (besides crying and smiling).  We were at West Music waiting for your brother to finish his piano lesson, and I was holding you on my lap.  You’re normally fine in that position, but today you kept shifting yourself over so you were cradled in my arms.  That’s not something you ordinarily go for during regular hang-out times, because you like to look around.  It took a few times of you doing it, but then I realized—duh—you wanted milk and you were assuming the position.  I thought it was pretty cool that instead of crying, you found a way to tell me what you wanted while maintaining your mood.

Happy four months, my little guy.  We’ve got a fun summer coming up, and with your brothers around, I bet there will be even fewer traditional naps.  But life is for experiencing, and I love experiencing it with you.



Photo by Beth Clarke




Monthly Miles Memo #88

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:54 pm

My dear Miles,

You have had quite a couple of weeks.  I think you’ve missed more school in the last two weeks than you’d missed the entire rest of the school year.  You had a bit of health trouble (all under control now), which was stressful for you.  I am really proud of how well you handled it, though.  You’ve maintained a good attitude about your medications and were always cooperative at doctor visits.  The only thing you were really worried about was missing an important chapter in the book your teacher is reading to you at school.

We had a fun experience last weekend recording the song “Brown Gold” with Family Folk Machine.  It was pretty cool to try new sound equipment, and we just got to hear the audio today.  You had a solo, and your little voice sounded so clear and sweet.  I’m proud of the bravery you’ve developed for singing, both in front of an audience and for a recording.  I’m also very proud of how well you handled yourself during the recording process.  It was a long process for a kid, but when things got tiring and frustrating, you moved past your own feelings and kept working hard for the good of the project.  It’s going to be turned into a video, so we’re both  excited to see the result.

Your new favorite thing in the entire world is the ice cream truck.  It had never shown up in our neighborhood too much before this season, but now we’ve seen it twice.  I remember the thrill I felt when I was a kid and an ice cream truck would go down my street.  Even though it’s the same kind of treats we have in our freezer (though I think the ice cream truck leans more toward the artificial colors and flavors than I generally select), there’s something really special about waving down the ice cream man for a treat on the front porch.  It must play to our predatory ancestry or something.  I hope our ancestors had tooth fairy money to spend on the treats they happened upon.

Speaking of the tooth fairy, you’ve lost another tooth after a long hiatus from tooth loss.  It happened while we were in the car on our way to Ames, and unlike just about everything else you kids have in the back seat, you didn’t drop it onto the floor or between the seat cushions.  You held it tightly until we got there, and sure enough, the Ames tooth fairy came through for you.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Our true purpose in going to Ames was to see Cousin Aleks and his parents, who are up from Nashville for a brief visit.  You had so much fun with the little guy, although he doesn’t like to sit still for too much cuddling these days.  You love all babies, I think.  Of course you’re still wonderful with Callum, and your dad told me you were having a ton of fun with a little one-year-old at the playground the other night.  This afternoon I told you an anecdote:  Tobin, Callum and I went to your school today to do some volunteering in your school garden, and when I told Callum “We’re going to school to see Miles,” he broke into a big smile and even laughed.  When I told you that, you were so psyched that he knew your name.  It might have been a coincidence, but he definitely responds to you.  I think you’re the family member who can make him laugh the most.

We’re going to Nashville in July for a week, and it looks like we’re going to drive.  I hope you can work your comedy stylings on him during that long haul.  I’m dreading it already, but not because of you.  You’ve done a great job on car trips lately, and though you probably won’t love sitting in the car for nine hours, I know I can trust you to handle it.

A major accomplishment this month was your participation in the Lucas Spelling Bee.  You were on a team with two second-graders, and you held your own.  First graders are the youngest allowed to participate, and I think you had a good time.  Your team didn’t win, which disappointed you, but you made a very respectable showing.  You’re looking forward to being in the spelling bee every year you’re a Lucas student.  Your dad was a judge, which was pretty cool.  He didn’t cheat for you, and you didn’t need him to.

School is going great, though you’re looking forward to upcoming summer break.  You’re taking a few fun summer school classes, but fewer than ever before.  We’re going to have a lot of time together, you and your brothers and I.  I’m going to have to make a big list of activities and adventures and art projects so we don’t go crazy.  I have a few in mind already, and I bet the Internet has more to offer.

For Mother’s Day, you and your dad and brothers took me out for some good food, got me a nice present, and did a reasonably good job of going a whole day without fighting.  You also made me a very special project in school in which you listed your top ten reasons for loving me.  You’re right about the laundry thing.  Oof.


I am so happy to have you for a son, Miles.  You’re a fantastic kid, and I will always find time to sing with you, give you cuddles, and read Batman books.











Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:12 am

I trimmed Tobin’s fingernails, which was overdue as they were getting pretty long.  Later, he went to scratch an itch.

T:  Why aren’t my fingernails working?

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