The Tobin Times #50

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:23 pm

My dear Tobin,

Fifty months, huh?  That sounds momentous.  You’ve been momentous lately, too.  Earlier today, you were being so helpful.  You kept an eye on Callum and played with him while I worked on dinner.  You made a special spot for him on the bed (“with a blanket feature,” you added, as if to entice him) and snuggled him and made him laugh.  Then, not two hours later, you were being an absolute jerk to Miles and fairly unpleasant to me too.  Such is life with a four-year-old.

It’s nice that it’s no longer my first time parenting a four-year-old, because I remember when your brother went through the same stage.  I was afraid he was going to be a terrible person forever, that he’d never have any friends, that he’d never find love, that he’d have to work in finance or something.  But he’s turned things around and is actually pretty cool most of the time now.  I have faith that the same will become of you.

Photo by Denny

Look at that little face.  How could you be anything but perfect?

You completed your first season of soccer headed in mostly the right direction.  You had fun and may have learned a little bit about soccer.  You were very proud to have a team shirt and get a medal at the end.  A friend of mine recently wrote a very convincing diatribe in favor of participation trophies, and I have to agree.  One thing I dislike about sports culture is the focus on winning above all else; even teamwork is only valued insofar as it facilitates triumph.  The “participation trophy” as a symbol recognizes the inherent importance of being a member of a team, of making friends, of working toward a common goal (occasionally kicking it into one’s own team’s goal).  I like your medal and I’m glad you’re proud to have it.

Photo by Gary Clarke

We’ve been doing some fun fall adventuring around town and beyond.  The annual Oktoberfest has a kids’ version called Sodafest, and they really did a stellar job this year of organizing fun, free activities.  You decorated a pumpkin, rode about a thousand laps on the obstacle course, went down the big slide many, many times, and didn’t actually consume any soda.  You’re not into carbonation.

You’ve gotten the hang of being a member of Family Folk Machine, too.  I’ll be honest—when you agreed to do a solo in our concert, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go.  In fact, for most of the rehearsals, you were pretty timid.  Our director even had to assign you a solo buddy to support you vocally.  But now I doubt you really need the buddy.  You’ve gotten the rhythm and the words down perfectly, and while you do a bit more shouting than singing, you really rock the mic.

Miles is deeply invested in the Black Bot Boys, a band he has formed and recruited you to join.  It’s mostly a Halloween thing for him, though he did record the song and we hope to put a video together.  You’re a backing vocalist, and he wants you to dress up as a fellow rock star for trick-or-treating.  You’re not sure you want to indulge him.  You have a pretty awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume we’ve been working on, and as of right now you plan to use that for all your Halloween events.  I hope you change your mind and agree to be a Black Bot Boy for trick-or-treating, because you guys would be pretty cute together.

The fall days are waning, and the end of our walks is surely near.  That’s a bummer.  We’ve had some really sweet walks to school together through Pretty Valley, and I’ll also miss our afternoon adventures to the park or other parts of the neighborhood.  This must happen every year, and every winter we figure out a way to survive.  One thing we have to look forward to is our spring break trip to the Florida Keys.  Tonight at dinner you suggested a pie and cake party (with cocktails) while we’re there.  I like that idea.  In fact, I like it so much we might just have to make a winter day of it.

I love you, sweet Tobes.  Have a good fiftieth month, and we’ll see if the Black Bot Boys become a YouTube sensation.




Always the editor

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:26 pm

Tobin was eating one of his favorite dishes, beef and broccoli from the Hy-Vee Chinese station, which he gets once a week or so.

A: How’s your food today?
T: You didn’t have to say “today.”



The Callum Chronicle #9

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:39 pm

My little Cal-Pal,

You had your inside-out day yesterday:  the day that marked the point when you’d been in the outside world longer than you were inside me.  Things have certain changed, and mostly in a good way.  Unfortunately, your dad and I are too tired to appreciate many of them, because you’re in the midst of what the Internet tells me is the dreaded nine-month sleep regression.  I don’t know what your deal is, because you had been a good sleeper until just recently.  Now you wake up seven or more times per night, and I consider it a “good” night when I can quickly get you back to sleep after each wake-up.  Sometimes, like last night, I can’t, and I have to pull in your dad for backup.

The only reason I’m not a totally useless member of society is that I go to sleep at 9:30 p.m.  That way I have at least a sporting chance of getting a decent number of total hours.

Photo by Denny

Apparently it’s because you’re in the middle of big mental and physical developments.  You certainly have a lot of new skills:  you can very adeptly scootch around army-man style, and you’re working on getting up onto all fours.  You can pull yourself into a sitting position and stay there very reliably.  You are eating all kinds of new foods—your favorites right now are strawberries, yogurt, and applesauce. You’ve also tried mashed carrots, squash, peas, and poofs.  I also let you sample little soft bits from your brothers’ popcorn snack, and you loved those.

You’re starting to get the hang of the ASL signs for “more” and “all done,” and you’ve shown evidence of understanding a good number of spoken words and phrases.  You were in the bathtub at Mubby and Skittergramps’s house after a particularly horrible diaper explosion, and I’d gotten you clean and given you some time to play.  I thought it was time to be getting you out, so I asked (and signed) if you were all done.  You looked at me and signed “more.”  I feel like it was our first real conversation.  You still haven’t said an obviously-directed “mama” or “dada,” but you’ve made the sounds.   Hopefully in the next few months I’ll be able to proudly report that you’ve said your first word, and I’m even more hopeful that it will be “mama.”  Miles’s first word was “dada,” and Tobin’s was “bubby” (brother), so it’s my turn.  Can you come through for me?

As usual, you are a good sport when we drag you all over town for your brothers’ activities.  You come along on lunch dates with Tobin and me and to Tobin’s soccer games.  You ride along to Coralville for Miles’s piano lessons and watch us eat our weekly Dairy Queen treat without getting a single bite.  Just three more months until you can have a taste of Blizzard too.  I know your brothers are going to fight about who gets to shove spoonfuls into your mouth.  I’ll have to watch that or you’ll jump a standard deviation on the weight charts for sure.

Photo by Denny

You’re still happiest outside, and I know it’s going to be hard on you when the weather turns and we can’t spend so much time in the yard, park, and neighborhood.  Our current pattern is to walk your brother to school at Hoover, then take a long walk through the area.  It’s a nice way to get some exercise, spend time with you, and enjoy the fall.  Lately we’ve seen deer wandering around the residential yards.  You don’t really notice, but I get a kick out of them as long as they stay away from motor vehicles.

You’re bright-eyed, alert, and cheerful from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  In the evening, you often get crabby when I’m busy helping your brothers with their evening tasks.  It’s hard to listen to you cry when I know that all it would take is a cuddle in my arms to calm you down.  I guess this is why third-born kids end up resilient:  sometimes you just have to wait.  But you never have to wait for long.  I’ve balanced you on my lap while I listen to Miles practice piano more than once, because hearing you cry is like rubbing sandpaper on my brainstem.  It makes it hard to play duets (or at least it makes them hard to play as written; you sometimes pound out your own accompaniments).  Your brothers are very patient with you, and for the time being, Miles thinks it’s funny when you interrupt his piano practice.

I’m looking forward to seeing your upcoming developments, sweetie pie.  I’ve loved having this fall with you, and we’ll be spending a lot of time this winter inside.  You’ll be exploring on your hands and knees all over the house, and I’ll do my best to keep the little toys and other floor crud out of your throat.

Keep enjoying the adventures we have together, my little chub-chub.  I look forward to seeing some wear on those little shoes.




Monthly Miles Memo #93

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:03 pm

My dear Miles,

I don’t know if it’s the specific spacing we chose for our kids or just because that’s how human personalities naturally ebb and flow, but it seems like one of you guys is always in a stage where you’re driving me crazy.  This month I am happy to report that it’s not you.  You’re doing very well, and for the most part you’ve been pleasant to have around.  You’re still a sensitive guy—which is kind of weird, because one of your challenge areas is reading other people’s nonverbal signals.  Your dad and I sometimes find ourselves getting angry with you because we’ve asked you many times to do something (say, get dressed for school).  The first couple of times we ask you nicely, but then we start getting frustrated because you seem to feel no sense of urgency.  The next couple of times we ask in a heightened tone, and often you still don’t get the message, which is when we find ourselves angry and yelling.  Neither of us likes to do that at all.  We are not a shouty people.

I’ve gone so far as to explicitly point out to you the nonverbal signal:  “Did you hear when Daddy’s tone changed?”  I hope it sinks in eventually.

But anyway, my point at the beginning of this was that you’ve been in a good stage lately, so I’ll focus on the positive.  Second grade has been going well.  You report working and playing with a variety of friends, and your schoolwork seems to be coming easily.  You continue to love to read, and you need to bring two books to your brother’s soccer practices, because you can blow through one easily before the fifty-minute practice ends.  Of course, if your friend Sitota is there, you’ll run and play with her instead of reading.  I’m happy that you enjoy both.  You have only a tiny glimmer of interest in playing soccer that quickly fades the moment I mention signing you up for a team.  You’re more of a sidelines kind of guy.

Photo by Denny

One area where you’re happy to be a star is in Family Folk Machine.  We helped make a video about composting, Brown Gold, and you were so proud that you’re featured both visually and vocally.  You also got really excited about composting and even listed it among your favorite family activities in a school assignment.  At rehearsal last night, you have your first chance to practice a solo you’ll be doing in our concert.  Technically it’s a trio, but Tobin and I are really just backing you up.  You sang loudly and clearly in front of the whole group, and you knew the words better than I did.

Your piano playing is going well too.  I was just marveling at how good you’ve gotten in only a year of lessons.  Most importantly, you really enjoy it.  I honestly hated piano lessons as a kid.  I enjoyed music and I liked being able to play, but practicing was such a drag, and most of the time I felt like my teacher generally disapproved of my rate of progress.  I don’t know if she actually did or I was just putting too much pressure on myself, but in any case, I don’t want you to feel that way.  Luckily your teacher really seems to get you, and she supports you working at a pace that keeps things low-pressure.  And yet, here you are, one year in and so accomplished.  I think I’m going to take a video of you tonight playing the Super Mario Brothers theme song, because it’s awesome and you’re awesome.  (Update:  here it is.)

The nights have been warm enough that you’ve still been able to get some good playground playing and biking time in, but that won’t last much longer.  Halloween is coming, and you are deeply invested in your costume idea.  You, along with your dad and Tobin, are going to be a band called the Black Bot Boys.  I wanted to be in it too, but you said it was for boys only.  You’re letting me be a roadie.  You’ve written your themesong, which has several verses and a chorus and a separate backing vocals part.  Anyone who asks you for a trick when you’re out trick or treating is going to get more than he or she expected.

A crucial part of the Black Bot Boys is hair styling.  You’ve decided that rock stars comb their hair straight down over their foreheads, because apparently you formed your impression of rock stars based on Justin Beiber in 2007.  We bought you hair gel and colored hair spray to complete the look.  You also have a plan for Tobin’s hair that’s slightly different.  I don’t know what your dad has in store.  I hope he lets you do something exciting.

Well, just as I was finishing this up, you and your dad and brothers came in from the park, and your dad was pretty unhappy with your attitude.  Maybe I wrote too soon.

Parenting is hard, Miles.  Everything that’s new for you as a kid growing up is new for me as a parent, too.  As a firstborn myself, I can commiserate with you.  But that doesn’t make it okay to have a rude attitude toward Tobin or to only think about yourself.  You’re so sensitive, and yet you sometimes seem oblivious to the hurt you cause others.  What am I going to do with you?

Photo by Denny

I’ll love you.  I’ll do my best.  I’ll try to focus on your many strengths and help you improve in your weaker areas.  I’ll be a roadie if I’m not allowed to be in your band.  I’ll shout sometimes even though I hate it, and I’ll try to explain to you how I’m feeling rather than waiting for you to intuit it.  I’ll fall asleep cuddling you, because even though you’re old enough to fall asleep on your own, I can’t imagine that I’m going to look back on my life and wish I’d spent less time cuddling my little boy while he’d still let me.



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