The Tobin Times #49

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:45 pm

My little Tobin,

I am the worst mom in the world.

Who ever heard of a four-year-old with a cavity that goes all the way into the nerve in the root of his tooth?  Well, one of them lives at my house.  I was shocked when your dentist mentioned it.  We brush your teeth, and you’re not a huge consumer of sweets.  I’d be lying if I said you never had treats, but you usually choose water or milk over juice, and you only have candy on special occasions.  You don’t even put M&Ms on your frozen yogurt.  Just as we were leaving, he mentioned gummy vitamins, and it dawned on me so abruptly that if I were a cartoon, a lightbulb would have pinged to life above my head.  You always take gummy vitamins right before bed.  We must not have done a good enough job getting the goop out of your molars more than once.

I have no idea why it didn’t occur to me that gummy vites before bed is dumb-dumb-dumb.  I feel just terrible that you had to have a fairly big-deal dental procedure at your age.  We’ve switched both vitamin type and administration time, and we’re going to be extra careful from now on to get your teeth thoroughly brushed.  You were very brave at your appointment, and you thought it was cool to miss school.  You watched The Lion King on the couch and ate a lot of fudge pops.  Don’t worry, we brushed your teeth afterward.

Photo by Denny

It seems like we’ve been busy all the time lately.  We took our annual family trip to the apple orchard and had a good time harvesting fruit and enjoying a beautiful day.  It was a popular morning to go out, and we saw your friend Jack from school.  Jack is one you mention playing with a lot, which makes sense because he was your classmate last year at Willowwind.  So far your transition to Hoover has been good.  You seem to like your teachers and classmates, and we’ve got a good morning routine going.  I’ve been walking with you and Callum to Hoover, and in order to avoid the noise and traffic of First Avenue, we’ve been taking Upland, a parallel street.  It’s a nice, quiet street with lots of interesting yards, and the very first day we took it, you decided to call it Pretty Valley.

We have a few checkpoints along Pretty Valley, like the house with the decorative windmill, the one with the lawn dinosaur, and the one with all the flowers.  When we make it to school, you line up with your friends and head into your classroom with zero trouble.  When I come to pick you up, you’re usually doing big soccer kicks and running around with your friends.  I’m so glad it’s been a good fit for you.  You’ll only be there this year, since it’s just for three- and four-year-olds.  We have to decide this year whether you’ll start kindergarten in the fall or whether we should find somewhere for one more year of preschool.  It’s all a lot to consider, and you’ll read more about it in future Tobin Times letters, I’m sure.

You joined your first soccer team, the Hammers.  Your first game is tonight, and we’re all so excited to watch you.  Due to a coach shortage, your dad made a last-minute volunteer effort and is one of your team’s coaches.  He doesn’t know a lot about soccer, but neither do the players, so it’s okay.  Mostly it’s just fun for you to do something that’s special just for you.  So far, all your activities have been tag-alongs with Miles, and while you’ve enjoyed many of them (see below), it’s cool that soccer is just for you.

One of the very positive tag-along activities is Family Folk Machine.  You’re so proud to be a part of it now that you’re old enough to join.  We’ve been singing a lot of the songs as we progress through our day.  A few neighbors got serenaded with “City of New Orleans” as we headed toward Pretty Valley this morning.  You and Miles both wrote verses to “I’m a Little Airplane,” which hopefully will turn into solos for you at the concert.  We’ve been practicing, as the timing is a bit tricky.

Photo by Beth Clarke

You continue to be a good helper, especially in the cooking and gardening arenas.  When we were in Ames recently, you helped Skittergramps with popcorn harvesting and some light opossum trapping.  You are always ready to help with dinner, and I try to let you as often as is reasonable.  Your other current favorites:  beef and broccoli (minus the beef), hot chocolate with whipped cream, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys and videos, riding your Strider bike, playing with friends, and generally being a wild man.

We’ve been having a rough time at bedtime lately.  You’ve been having a hard time settling down and completing your bedtime tasks.  We’ve done everything we can think of–no sugary snacks after dinner, a calming routine, stories and cuddles.  And yet, you’d rather run around with a metal hanger in your hand.  Maybe we need to sign you up for a few more soccer teams to help you burn off your energy.

I think once you learn to harness your massive enthusiasm for life, you’re going to be unstoppable.  In the meantime, I’m going to improve my parenting to the degree that you still have teeth when you’re ten.  Let’s both work on it, okay?

Photo by Denny






The Callum Chronicle #8

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:01 pm

My little Cal-Pal,

Well, look who’s eight months.  Actually you’ve been eight months old for over a week, but the thing about having three children who are in an increasing number of evening activities means I have less and less time to sit down and write these things.  That’s yet another reason we’re done having kids.  If we had a fourth, the poor baby would barely get any documentation.  Also, you guys would have to draw straws to figure out who could go to college.

I’m doing my best to keep up with you.  The increasing quality of cell phone cameras helps.  I remember those leisurely days of Miles’s first year, which actually weren’t leisurely at all in terms of stress level.  I spent a lot of time looking at websites about what developmental milestone my baby should be reaching by whatever month and being worried about whether Miles was right on schedule (spoiler alert:  he was, mostly).  I also had more time to stage photo shoots with the DSLR when the light was coming into the bedroom just right.  Nowadays I’m much more likely to snap a quick shot of you with my phone.  The other side of that is that when you accomplish a milestone, I may or may not have a chance to look on the chart on the website, and when I do, I think, “Oh, okay, yeah, that’s about right.”  I’m certainly more busy, but I’m also way less freaked out.

That’s pretty much you.  You’re busy—we sometimes struggle to keep up with all the tasks we have to complete, but we usually get things done.  You’re also not very freaked out.  You do your thing with aplomb.

The biggest news of the month is that you have teeth.  You’ve gotten the two bottom center and two top center incisors, and you’re doing pretty well with them.  You haven’t bitten me much, and you’re fully enjoying the world of chewing.  You like to chew on magazines, other people’s fingers, toys, shoes, Dixie cups, the spoons I use to give you your food, and towels.  The one thing you won’t chew is poofs, those little snack things most babies like so much.  I keep trying to give them to you, but you just pick them up and play with them.  If one happens to end up in your mouth, you gag and hate it so much that I end up fishing it out.  I noticed that the main ingredient is rice, which is our lead suspect in what may have caused those puking incidents a couple of months ago.  I was hoping you’d outgrow that, but maybe rice just doesn’t sit well with you.

You still spit up more than I would expect a baby your age to.  Since I stopped giving you rice cereal, you haven’t had any of those big, heaving vomit sessions (thank goodness; those were nasty).  Still, you don’t hold your stomach contents very well.  I hope you get over that soon, because I’m tired of always smelling vaguely of rotten milk.

You’ve made big progress in the locomotion arena.  While you don’t yet meet the textbook definition of crawling, you’re an accomplished roller and scootcher.  For a while there you were doing this funny thing where you’d lie on your back and push off from your heels.  It looked really cute, but you got a rug burn on the back of your neck.  Now you usually prefer to do a more traditional tummy-down scootch, pulling yourself on your forearms and pushing off with your toes.  We’re going to have to get you some shoes soon, because it won’t be long before you’re ready to do some walking.

Speaking of walking, now that Tobin is back in preschool in the mornings, we’ve been able to resume our long morning walks.  Technically I’m the only one walking, since you ride in the stroller, but it’s a much more pleasurable form of exercise than running on the treadmill.  You usually either look at the scenery contentedly or sleep, both of which are a nice way to spend an hour or so together in the morning.

You are pretty accustomed to being hauled around.  You still have a very sweet, calm personality, which is very useful, because getting done all the things we need to get done would be a whole lot harder if you were being a jerk.  You still get crabby in the evenings, which is hard because that’s exactly when I need to be helping your brothers with homework and piano practice and bedtime prep.  Normally you’re fine with anyone holding you, but you consistently reject your dad at those times.  I know you love him.  You always get a huge, excited grin on your face when you see him through the window walking toward our house from the bus stop.  You definitely know your brothers, too.  They can both make you smile and laugh more than anyone.  Sometimes Tobin gets a little too rough with you, by my estimation, and I tell him to cool it.  “But he likes it!” Tobin says, and I have to admit, you’re never as upset about Tobin’s squeezes and man-handles as I am.

I recently had the opportunity to take a part-time job.  The place looking to hire me was willing to be very flexible, including letting me bring you to the office because we don’t have any child care lined up.  It was tempting—I do plan to have some kind of employment again one day, and the extra income would have been nice.  I hemmed and hawed about it for a while, but in the end, I decided it just wasn’t worth the stress it would bring to our family.  I really like being able to dedicate my mornings to you, and I don’t feel like I have the kind of free time during the afternoons to do the remote work I would have needed to.  In the end I declined, and I feel good about that for the time being.  Money will come, a job will come, but you’re not going to be my little guy for very long.

Thanks for all you do for me, sweet Callum.  May you have a respite from teething, a respite from snotty noses, and an anti-respite from being your friendly, funny, laid-back self.





Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:52 pm

T:  What did the lemon say to the triceratops?

A:  What?

T:  Want to go to the food court?  … Get it?  Because a lemon is a FOOD?

Monthly Miles Memo #92

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:00 pm

Dear Miles,

You’re a second-grader now, which is still technically a “little kid” in school organization terms, but your dad and I agree that it was at about your current age when we started forming a lot of concrete memories.  We remember our teachers, our school friends, losing teeth, all the things you’re dealing with now.

You got the second grade teacher you really hoped you’d get—Mr. Turnquist, aka “Mr. T.”  He has a reputation for being great with kids like you, kids who benefit from a little mental stretching and opportunities to try new approaches.  I hope he challenges you and lets you run a little wild (figuratively).  You like school and like to succeed, and I want you to get more comfortable moving beyond what you already do well. You’ve gotten excited about Khan Academy, a website that offers video tutorials and interactive tasks to teach a variety of skills.  You’re kind of stuck on the easiest levels, though, which you can always ace.

This is a theme throughout several aspects of your life.  You still only eat about six different foods (pasta, with or without tomato sauce; waffles/pancakes; cornbread; assorted fruits; Wheat Thins; Honey Nut Cheerios).  I guess you eat a few other things, but it almost seems like a phobia.  I don’t think it’s logical.  You know that the worst possible outcome of trying a new food is having an unpleasant sensation in your mouth for two seconds, which is really not a very big risk.  Yet for some reason, you just can’t make yourself do it.  I don’t fight you on it very much, because I want you to remember family mealtimes as a pleasant experience, not a battleground.  It still bums me out, though, because culinary culture is such an important part of life.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You get so upset about things so easily.  The other day, I was reading Tobin a book, and you wanted to listen too.  You crowded up against Tobin, which got him upset.  I wanted you guys to work it out on your own, so I suggested that one of you could come sit on the other side of me where there was more room.  I told you I’d count to ten, and if you guys hadn’t sorted it out by the time I got to ten, I wasn’t going to read the story.  You got up and moved to the other side, and just as I was praising you for finding a peaceful solution, you got up in a huff and stormed away, saying you didn’t want to hear the story anyway.  What are you going to be like when you’re a moody teenager, praytell?

There are plenty of good moments, too.  You’re still a wonderful big brother to Callum, and most of the time to Tobin as well.  You love to tell stories about the funny things Callum does, like when he scootched his way under your bed when we had our backs turned.  You’re a reading whiz, and now that you’ve read just about every Calvin & Hobbes collection the library has to offer, you’ve gotten excited about Fox Trot too.  Probably twenty-five percent of the conversations you have start with “In Encyclopedia Brown…,” “In Calvin & Hobbes…,” or “In Fox Trot….”  I’m glad you enjoy reading so much, but honestly, I’d rather hear about what you did in school.  I suggested that for every anecdote you tell from a book, you should follow up with telling us something about your own life.  You didn’t like that idea.

You’ve gotten very accomplished at bike riding.  You still prefer to stay within certain boundaries on the path behind our house, but you can accelerate, brake, and turn with no problem.  I’m sure you’d be perfectly competent at going longer distances over less familiar area, but you don’t seem to want to try that.  The good news is that I never worry about you doing anything reckless and endangering yourself.  Self-preservation is a good trait in reasonable doses.

Photo by Denny

You were part of a parade for the first time not too long ago, for the Albia Restoration Days.  You rode on a float commandeered by one of the myriad Beary aunts or uncles, and you had fun throwing candy to observers and wearing sparkly accouterments.  It’s fun to have so many family members on your dad’s side.  There are always cousins running around, and it helps you learn to have fun and get along with people who don’t always share your perspective.

Photo by Denny

Two big things in your world right now are Super Mario Brothers-related.  First, you finally completed a long and challenging piano piece, the Super Mario Brothers themesong.  You’ve been slogging away at that for months, a chunk at a time, and now you’ve learned the whole thing.  I’m so proud of how you persevered despite it not being easy right away.  Second, you got a Wii-U game that you’ve been waiting on for over a year:  Super Mario Maker.  It’s a game I would have loved as a kid:  you get to design custom levels in various Super Mario styles and then play them.  You and your dad and Tobin have been doing a lot of that this weekend.  You had been counting down the days on the calendar you made in school last year, and I bet it’s going to be pretty hard to wait until the weekends (or Wii-kends, as we call them) to play.  I haven’t tried it yet, because I never have two hands free, but I want to some time.  I’d also really like to play some of the levels you invented.  You have an interesting brain, and I bet it’s coming up with some great stuff.

Photo by Denny

Have fun as your second grade year progresses, Mr. Miles.  I hope you have good memories of these days.




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