Literary forms

Filed under: — Aprille @ 11:51 am

Miles and Tobin and I were reading Jack and the Beanstalk.

A:  Look at that.  The goose is as big as Jack, and he’s carrying it.  How is he managing that?

M:  Hey, dude, ever heard of fiction?


The Tobin Times #46

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:22 pm

Dear Tobin,

“He always has a lot of energy, doesn’t he?” said the West Music employee today as you speed-walked through the store (you’re pretty good about not running if I remind you, but you’ll push walking to the very edge of its definition).  You do indeed have a lot of energy, and it’s been challenging this summer to keep coming up with ways to channel it.  The poorly-lit picture below is from a date we had at the Java House (aka Jabba the House) while Miles had a playdate with a friend.

Because a sugary beverage always helps, right?  You’ve been in a hot chocolate phase lately for some reason, despite the hot and muggy weather, so hot chocolate with fancy whipped cream and sprinkles was a good distraction for you.  You desperately want to do everything Miles does, but this was a big-kids-only playdate, and I didn’t want you to feel like you got totally left out.  It was fun having some special time with you anyway.  You’re a good conversationalist.

Our days lately have consisted of running errands, doing projects, taking showers, watching Scooby Doo , and reading books from the Tacky the Penguin series.  You love everything water—I only get to shower by myself on weekends nowadays when your dad can distract you.  Often you want to take a shower with me followed immediately by a bath after I get out, which is fine because it keeps you busy while I get ready.  You also love swimming, and you’re doing well in your swimming lessons.  We had a brief and unexpected trip out of town earlier this week for a funeral, and you about lost your mind when we only got to go swimming at the hotel pool once.  The injustice!

The funeral was for your dad’s surrogate grandmother, Ellen Carl.  She was his uncle Paul’s mother, so not a blood relative, but she was a frequent figure in his youth.  I didn’t know her as well as your dad did, of course, but in the twelve years or so that I’ve been attending family gatherings, I’d grown quite fond of her too.  What I admired most about her was that she just did what she needed to do—no fuss, no big deal, but she always got things done.  She biked and walked where she needed to go and did it on her own schedule.  She was a nurse, and then when she reached an age when most people think about reducing hours or retiring, she continued her education to become a Physician’s Assistant.  She was also a divorced person in a time when a lot of women didn’t feel they had the right to leave a bad marriage.  I’m no great fan of divorce in general, but knowing Ellen, I’m sure she carefully weighed the situation and did what she needed to do.  She didn’t let societal expectations keep her down.

That’s something I see in you, Tobin, and I hope you can take inspiration from Ellen’s story.  You’re a lot more dramatic than she was, but that may mellow as you age.  I took you to the nursery in the church because you were having a hard time being quiet during the service.  At one point you were playing with a baby doll, and I asked you what your baby’s name was.  “New Ellen,” you told me.  That’s you all over, Tobes.  In your best moments, you’re observant and thoughtful and heart-swellingly sweet.  Not every moment is your best (c.f. bedtime as documented below), but you’re still pretty cool to have around.

You love outside time, including a recent playground playdate with your friend Ben.  You and Miles and often Callum go to our neighborhood park pretty much every night with pleasant weather, and that’s always the highlight of your day.  You’ve been having fun riding your Strider bike and supporting Miles in his efforts toward biking without training wheels.  You always come in with super-compressed, sweaty curls mashed into your skull by your helmet.

As happens to all of us, but to some of us more than others, you get pretty emotional and difficult when you’re tired.  The topic of last night’s meltdown was the fact that we only stayed in the hotel one night.  Never mind that we’ll be spending two nights in that very hotel later this summer for a family reunion.  Never mind that in just a couple of weeks we’re going on vacation, which will mean a whole week in hotels.  Logic doesn’t work on you when you’re worn out and grumpy.  Then you’re obnoxious to Miles (who, in a “can’t live with him, can’t live without him” conundrum, insists on lying in bed with you until you fall asleep).  Fortunately, a good night’s sleep always resets your brain, and by morning you’re ready to be a nice person again:  a “New Tobin,” perhaps.

Enjoy the rest of your sprinkly summer, my little Tobin.  You make me good-tired.





Alternate methods

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:59 pm

The kids do the library’s summer reading program, which involves coloring in stars on a sheet that represent time spent reading.  Also of note:  Ms. Kathy is one of their favorite librarians.

T:  Last year in the summer reading program, you had to pee on the star and then color it in.

A:  Oh yeah?

T:  Ms. Kathy told me that.


Summer project #3: Fake tie-dye

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:09 pm

As the third child, Callum has a lot of hand-me-down clothes that are getting pretty raggedy.  That includes a lot of perfectly serviceable 100% cotton onesies that are stained with the various horrors that come out of children.

The solution?  A kid-friendly fake tie-dye project.

You just take some Sharpies…

section off an area of the fabric with a rubber band over a cup and draw a design.

Then you dribble rubbing alcohol onto it.  The alcohol breaks down the dyes in the marker and makes the colors run together interestingly.

The result:  new life for stained onesies and an hour spent reasonably educationally with the kids.

When you’re done, it’s a good idea to iron the fabric and/or put it in a hot dryer for a while to set the color.


Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:36 pm

Callum and I went into Tobin’s room as he was waking up this morning.  We were cuddling on the bed and Callum was being smiley and sweet to me.

T:  Why is he so…into you?


The Callum Chronicle #5

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:12 pm

My snuggly Callum,

You are a dream baby.  You are all smiles and laughs and cute tricks, like rolling over (tummy to back only, so far) and making kiss noises.  I haven’t gotten you to actually kiss me when I press my cheek onto your mouth, but you make the noise pretty consistently.  You often get crabby in the evening, but since that’s the time when your dad takes you and your brothers to give me a break, it’s like it’s not even happening.  Magic.

Your big brother Miles wrote you a song:  “Callum-a-zoo, I love you. / Sometimes you toot / and you’re cute like a newt. / Callum-a-zoo, I love you. / You’re…so…cute.”  We found some music notation software and wrote it out, and he was so proud to show and play it for his piano teacher.  You love it, too.  You usually smile and sometimes laugh when he sings it to you, even if you were crying before.

Your brothers have been wonderful to have around so far this summer break.  I’ve been able to run on the treadmill with few interruptions because they keep you so well entertained.  Sometimes nothing will work but a Mommy snuggle, but that’s okay.  I’m still working on getting back in shape anyway, so getting a little break isn’t the worst.

We’ve had a rough couple of nights because you’ve had a cough and stuffy nose.  Nobody else in the family seems to have it (yet), so I’m confused about how you picked it up.  Maybe it was those stacking toys at the library.  I tried to keep you from putting them in your mouth, but there’s no way to prevent you from touching things and then putting your hands in your mouth.  I guess it’s all contributing to a robust immune system down the road, but it’s pretty hard to deal with this cold at the moment.  You’ve been such a good sleeper lately, I hope this doesn’t derail you.  Coughing oneself awake is the worst, and your little cough is so sad.  I hope you get over that soon.

Right now your dad is fake-sneezing for your entertainment.  The things we do.


Knowing you’re my last baby, combined with the fact that you’re usually so sweet and easy-going, has made me really enjoy you.  I remember being in a hurry for your brothers to hit various milestones:  I couldn’t wait for them to roll over and start solids and crawl and walk.  But it’s different with you.  Maybe it’s because I know the toddler years are what’s coming next, but I am just cherishing your squishy little funny baby time.

We’re starting our little rituals.  Every time I change your diaper, I lean down and smile at you and say, “Who loves you, Callum?”  Then I pause and wait for you to answer, which you don’tI continue:  “MAMA loves you.”  Miles’s first word was dada, and Tobin’s was bubby (brother), so I figure I’m due.  You haven’t answered yet, but one of these times you’ll surprise me, and I will gloat and gloat.

But it’s okay if you don’t talk for a while.  I like your grunts and coos and kiss noises.


You’re learning to recognize your name, and it’s cute to see you look up abruptly when you hear it.  I hope you like it, because I think you’re going to be correcting people on it all your life.  I didn’t think it was a particularly weird name when your dad and I chose it—maybe not the most common name ever, but certainly one I’d heard.  A lot of people seem confused by it, though.  There’s a nurse at your doctor’s office who thinks it rhymes with Gollum, and other people think it’s Caleb.

But don’t you worry.  I know who you are, my little Cal-pal, my Callum-a-zoo.  I love getting to know you and watch you grow.

Check this space in one month to see all the crazy things that come with being six months old…but for now I’ll keep loving on my little sub-half-year boy.




He’s got the blues

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:15 pm

Tobin admires his brother’s piano-playing song-writing skills, and he likes to try his hand at it as well.

T:  (mournfully) I have one song, and it’s not very good.

A:  Oh, honey, I’m sure it’s good.  Just keep practicing and you’ll get good at it.

T:  It’s not good because it’s all bad words.

A:  …Oh yeah?

T:  (mashing piano keys) He said, ‘Buuutttthead.’  He said, ‘Poopypants.’  He said ‘Baby poopy faaaaaaaaace.’  (pause)  See?  Not very good.

Monthly Miles Memo #89

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:19 pm

My dear Miles,

You’re officially done with first grade.  I never doubted that you could do it, but I’m proud anyway.  Below you’ll see pictures of your first and last days of school.  You’ve grown a bit, I think.  You have different teeth missing and new ones in some places.  I don’t know if you remembered your first day pose and purposely emulated it on your last day, or that still just happens to be your favorite way to stand.

First grade was a good year for you.  Your reading really took off this year, and you’re literate by anyone’s definition.  You like playing outside, especially when there are friends at the playground, but you’re just as happy inside with a book (or a game on pbskids.org or Wii).  We’ve gotten all signed up for the summer reading program, and you had completed the first stage not even a week after we started.  Since it’s supposed to stretch over eight weeks, and there are only three prize levels, we may need to pace you a little.

You’ll be starting some summer classes at Willowwind next week, which will reduce your unstructured time somewhat.  That will be a nice change of pace.  Although you and Tobin get along well most of the time, a little separation might help you reduce your squabbles.  The one this morning was over paper.  You wanted to write your own comic book (which turned out pretty cool in the end), and Tobin was freaking out because you wanted to do it on his notepad and he didn’t want to share it.

Rather than, say, looking in the desk drawer to find an identical notepad, or going downstairs and getting some paper out of the printer, you and Tobin both refused to cede any ground.  I had to stop mid-treadmill workout to go play referee.  We talked about finding alternative solutions to problems rather than being stubborn and freaking out.  I have no idea if it worked or not.  We’ll check in on that concept some time soon, I’m sure.

We’re into the summer activity season, including our usual favorites like the Farmers’ Market and Arts Fest.  We’ve also gotten a good start on the list of things you wanted to do this summer.  We’ve been to the library’s Monday Matinee, to the Natural History Museum (for about ten minutes, because you were so disappointed that the interactive displays weren’t working), to Molly’s Cupcakes, and we just did our first Watery Wednesday.  This is an idea I came up with because Wednesday is one of the few days of the week we don’t have anything scheduled, so it seemed like a good time for splashing around outside.  You also had your first swimming lesson yesterday, which went pretty well.  Your problem is the same as it was last year:  you can’t seem to relax while you float on your back.   It drives your dad crazy as we sit in the watching area.  You can’t hear him, but he’s always saying, “Relax, Miles!  Pull your stomach up!”

Much like your attitude toward piano lessons, you’ve kept a positive outlook on swimming, too.  I’m glad about that.  One of the worst things that could happen to you is a fear of failure so crippling that you won’t try new things.  You have a touch of that in you (and I have more than a touch in me, so I sympathize), but I’m really happy that it hasn’t stopped you in the piano and swimming endeavors.

At Arts Fest last weekend, the weirdest thing happened.  There was a caricature artist, and you got really interested in it.  The line was too long when you first saw it, but you watched for a while, and you really wanted to have your caricature drawn.  Your dad and I talked about it, and even though it was really more expensive than what it was worth, we decided to support a local artist and let you go ahead and do it.  We hung around for a while, had some lemonade, and eventually the line was shorter.  We told you you could do it.

At that moment you had some kind of panic, a meltdown.  You suddenly said you were too scared to do it.  Too scared?  Too scared to sit on a stool with us right next to you?  I have no idea what was going on, and you couldn’t explain it.  We waited  a while longer, and I thought you might come around, but you never did.  That single event wasn’t a big deal—like I said, it was foolishly expensive anyway, and I didn’t mind not buying the picture.  But your response worries me.  I don’t want you to live your life freaked out about small things, and equally importantly, I don’t understand what was going on in your head.  I want to help you learn to be brave, but I don’t know how to address this.

In talking about it, I told you that you didn’t have to do the caricature, but I wanted you to set a goal for the summer of doing something reasonable but scary.  You haven’t committed to anything yet.  I think riding your bike without training wheels might be a good one, though you’re resistant to that idea too.  We’ll see what you end up doing and how far you get with it.

Maybe you’ll be able to relax and let your stomach float up.





Summer project #2: Splort balls

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:07 pm

We’ve made these before, but our last batch was looking pretty sad, so we made some new ones.  They’re a super easy alternative to water balloons that take about 10% of the time to make and with no annoying latex crumbs all over your yard when they’re done.  Plus they’re reusable.  I think I got the idea for these on some Pinteresty website before Pinterest was invented.

You take some inexpensive kitchen sponges…

(please ignore surrounding evidence of life in my house)

cut them into strips and stack them up however you please…

put rubber bands around their middles and fluff them out a bit…

and you’re all set.  Just dunk them in a bucket or bowl of water and throw them at whoever doesn’t mind getting wet.

And that, friends, is what we call Splort Balls.




Summer project: Gummy Legos

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:49 pm

It’s summer.  We need something to keep us busy.  The kids like junk food and playing with Legos, so when I saw this video with instructions for making gummy Legos, I figured it would be a good activity.

You take half a cup cold water, mix in 1/4 cup corn syrup until well dissolved, then put it into a pot on the stove.  Add 2 packets of unflavored gelatin and one whole pack of your favorite flavor.  Stir with no heat until pretty darn much completely dissolved.  Turn on the heat to medium-low until fully liquified, then pour into molds.  We bought Lego molds on Amazon.

The only serious improvement I made on the instructions in the video was to throw them in the freezer for 10-20 minutes, then in the fridge for another 10-15.  That got them firmed up just fine and was a lot better for impatient kids than the 5 hours at room temperature the video recommends.  To be fair, his did turn out more clear and perfect than ours, but the kids didn’t mind.

We made red ones first.

Then we added some blue.

We made both bricks and people.

Despite the weird face, the kids liked eating them.  I think they enjoyed playing with them more, though.  They were just sticky enough to be stackable and mostly hold their position, but they weren’t hugely messy.  I’d call this project a win.

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