The Tobin Times #51

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:53 pm

My sweet Tobin,

What an imaginative little guy you are.  Every day it seems like you want to pretend to be something new.  Sometimes you’re a wolf puppy, ready to snuggle with your wolf mommy in your den (aka your bed in fort mode, with a blanket draped over the edge of the top bunk).  Sometimes you’re a mommy to your baby doll, Aleks.  Sometimes you’re a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, sometimes you’re Harry Potter, sometimes you’re a Black Bot Boy.

Speaking of Harry Potter, we just finished reading the first book in the series together with Miles.  You’re probably a bit young, but you’re pretty brave, and there’s no way you’d let Miles access to something without demanding it for yourself.  Now that the weather is colder, we’ve been driving to school more often.  I miss walking on Pretty Valley with you, but the drive gives us a few minutes to talk about Harry Potter.  You tell me about your favorite parts and ask me questions.  For a while there you were pronouncing Voldemort as “Wal-Mart,” which was pretty hilarious.  Several times I’ve gotten so involved in our conversation that I’ve missed the turn to get to school.

School seems to be going great.  We had your first parent-teacher conference a couple of weeks ago, and your teacher says you’re doing very well in both the academic and social arenas.  She said you’ve gotten to be good friends with two other boys, Gavin and Landon.  She also said you’re already doing kindergarten level work, which doesn’t help our conundrum about whether to send you to real kindergarten in the fall. I think your dad wants to send you, but I’m more inclined to wait another year.  We think of you as an aggressive kid, but your soccer experience this fall showed us that you’re actually more intimidated by bigger kids than we thought you’d be.  You’re on the physically small side anyway, and you could potentially be in class with kids who are a whole year older than you.  Also, down the road, I don’t know that I want you to be one of the last of your friends to get a drivers license.  I worry about you getting driven around by yahoos.  I can’t guarantee that you won’t be a yahoo when you’re 16, but at least I know you’ll be a smart yahoo.

On the other hand, I don’t want you getting turned off by school because it’s too easy, which I’ve heard can happen if a kid is old for his class.  We try to do a lot of brain-stimulating stuff at home, so I hope that could potentially offset any classroom boredom.  It’s a pickle.  I just don’t know.

Selfishly, I wouldn’t mind keeping you in half-day preschool for another year, just so I get more time with you.  You’re not going to be a little guy forever, and I don’t want to throw away that time together.  You’re a good shopping buddy.  We have our haunts:  Hy-Vee, Panera, Costco.  You’re a friend to everyone you meet.

One of the biggest points of pride for me has been your new membership in Family Folk Machine.  We had our fall concerts over the last couple of weeks, and I couldn’t have been happier as I watched and listened to you sing your solos and join in with the choir on the group songs.  You know all the words to all the songs, though sometimes you do your own variations.  You were brave and sang loud and clear.  You were the littlest FFM member this fall, and I know you’re just going to get better.  Your only issue right now is that you want a different colored shirt.  You’ve been wearing Miles’s old red one that he outgrew, and I don’t know if it’s the color that bothers you or you just want to strike out on your own.  Either way, I think it’s fine to get you a new one.  Too bad you didn’t mention it until after this season’s order had gone out.

Photo by Gary Clarke

We’ve had our challenges this month, especially with you listening when your dad and I ask you to do things you don’t want to do (e.g., get ready for school, get ready for bed).  Our system is that you get two “nice asks”—that is, the initial request and one polite reminder.  After that, we find ourselves yelling.  We don’t like to yell at you.  I hate being angry and I just want our days to run smoothly.  But for some reason the two nice asks often don’t sink in.  It’s always the worst at the end of the day, when everyone else is tired and you seem to find new reserves of energy for running in circles with no pants on.

And yet, once you finally snuggle into bed and we’ve read our stories and turned off the light, you’re old cold in just a few minutes.  I can pull my arm out from under your head and gracelessly plop you into a zone of the bed where you’re unlikely to fall out, all without disturbing your sleep.  You’re an all-or-nothing kind of guy, little Tobes.  You wear me out, but you’re still my special little guy.

Photo by Gary Clarke






The Callum Chronicle #10

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:22 pm

My sweet Callum,

My last little crustacean has worn the lobster costume.  You tolerated it pretty well, much as you do everything.  I hauled you and Tobin along to Miles’s school so I could take yearbook photos and help out with his class Halloween party.  All the big kids fawned over you, of course, and you were very well behaved as I assembled plates of snacks.  You were crawling around on a rug at one point, and I looked down and saw a thin stream of red coming out of your mouth.  I felt a swell of panic, sure that you’d swallowed a staple or something and perforated your mouth (or worse).  Luckily, the sniff test revealed that what you’d really swallowed was an M&M.  I’d been planning on holding you off of refined sugar and chocolate until you were at least a year old, but being the little guy who gets dragged around to big brothers’ events has its privileges.  You’ve also taken advantage of your big brothers’ carelessness in putting their Halloween treat bucket out of your reach.  I’m not encouraging such behavior, mind you, but I sort of admire your resourcefulness.

You’ve been eating all kinds of new foods lately, not just contraband.  You love all the meats I’ve given you so far—little bites of chicken and shredded beef and pork.  You also like little veggie bites, small chunks of fruit, and SnaPeas.  You would rather eat Miles’s Honey Nut Cheerios off the floor than the special low-sugar, honey-free cinnamon O’s cereal I got you.  Babies definitely aren’t supposed to have honey.  I hope the fine folks at General Mills use pasteurized honey.  I also hope Miles learns to eat without dropping 20% of them onto the floor.

You’re big enough now to sit in the big-kid section of the car cart at Hy-Vee, which is pretty special.  You’ll be really, really happy when I let you have one of the free cookies from the bakery.  It’s kind of torturous for you now to be so close to Tobin while he’s eating one.

We’ve all been sick to varying degrees over the last couple of weeks.  You had it first, I think, which manifested itself in some pretty crummy nights.  I’m glad your dad is always such a good sport about helping with nighttime duty, because I’m worthless if I don’t get a reasonable amount of sleep.  That’s even more the case when I’m sick, which I’ve been for a while now.  I’m almost better, and you seem a lot better too.  We’ve both had good nights again lately, which is a huge life-improver for everyone.

You’re super accomplished at pulling up against furniture now.  You’ll stand any time you have the chance, and you often let go with one hand and just use the other for balance.  You’ve also gotten interested in exploring the kitchen cabinets.  That’s a pretty good hobby, since it keeps you busy for a while as I prepare dinner.  So far I haven’t tripped over you while carrying anything hot.  I’ll do my very best to continue that streak.

You and your dad have been coming to Family Folk Machine rehearsals lately.  It’s nice because the kids there like to play with you, which makes it a little less stressful for him, and if you start getting truly inconsolable, I can hold you while I sing.  A terrible thing happened last weekend, though. Your dad motioned for me to come help him, because you’d pooped and he needed help finding the spare diaper in my purse.  It didn’t seem like too big a deal, but I followed him into the men’s room just to see if he needed some backup.

Oh boy.  It’s a good thing Tobin was dressed in layers, because after a few highly challenging minutes in the Senior Center men’s room that involved a bath in the sink and an unsalvageable onesie in the garbage can, you were wearing his shirt.  I hope the fellows who used the room between that night and the next janitorial service were old enough that their noses didn’t work anymore.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You still haven’t said any really obvious words, though you do blurt out quite a few “mamas.”  I don’t think they’re specifically directed to me, but I’m glad you are physically capable of saying it.  I’m continuing my training efforts, since I’m holding out hope that you’ll be my one baby who says “mama” for his first word.  You definitely understand some words.  I took you and Tobin to the playground yesterday, and I asked you, “Do you want to go on the swings?”  You laughed and wiggled and very clearly indicated that you knew a good time was ahead.  You and Tobin had a lot of fun swinging together.

Nobody loves you more than your brothers, Callum.  Miles rewrote the lyrics to the song “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal” so that rather than being about a mule named Sal, it’s about a baby named Cal.  They love helping you try new foods, playing with you in blanket forts, and making you laugh.

Photo by Denny

Okay, fine, if anybody loves you more than they do, it’s I.  I wouldn’t want to wrestle them for the title, though.




Monthly Miles Memo #94

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:29 pm

Dearest Miles,

Well, hello, my little rock star.  Your dad was bemoaning your Halloween costume choice—not because it wasn’t cool, just because it seems like your first “big kid” costume.  You were the lead singer of the band the Black Bot Boys, which is mostly you with some help from Tobin.  We recorded your song and shot a video for it, which is steadily accumulating views on YouTube.  It has almost 200 now.  Mubby and Skitter tell us that about fifty of those views are from them playing it for cousin Aleks.  They were caring for him for a couple of days last week, and apparently it was the only cure for the diaper change blues.

We’ve had a lovely fall, with lots of gorgeous days for playing outside.  Now that we’ve changed back to Central Standard Time, it’s too dark to play outside after dinner, and with you not getting out of school until 3:45, there’s barely any time after school.  Still, you’ve taken good advantage of weekends.  We went out to Nana and Papa’s farm a couple of weeks ago, and you had pretty much the best day ever.  You jumped across hay bales, rode with Papa on the 4-wheeler, and played around with Nash.  Uncle Michael very generously gave you several Lego sets, so you and Tobin and your dad have spent recent dark evenings downstairs working on those.  Callum hasn’t choked on any yet, so you guys must be doing a good job of keeping them out of his reach.

You’ve got parent-teacher conferences coming up in a few days, and I’m looking forward to hearing your teacher’s perspective on how things are going.  You don’t seem to have any particularly close friends in school this year, though from what I can tell you get along with everyone.  You mention various friends you play with at recess, but they change all the time.  I hope you have the social support you need.

I guess that’s one benefit of having two brothers.  You’ll have lifelong friends who will be around whether you want them to be or not.  I wish Uncle Tyler’s schedule were more flexible, because it would be so much fun to do things like go on vacation together with his family.  I hope you and your brothers remain close as adults.  That’s something that hadn’t really occurred to me when I was first thinking about having children.  Not only do I have you guys for now, I have given you each other for the future.  Don’t squander it.  Family is important.

You’re actually a great brother.  Tobin can get on your nerves, but mostly you’re very kind to him.  You’re pretty much Callum’s favorite person in the world.  There are times when I can’t even calm him down, but a few silly noises and faces from you get him laughing.

One fairly big step you’ve taken lately is wearing lace-up shoes.  We figured you couldn’t wear Velcro forever, so we took the plunge.  Most of the time when I pick you up from school, your shoes are untied.  You can tie them, and we encourage you to double-tie them, but the laces are kind of a slippery synthetic material, and they seem to come undone pretty easily.  You also are still getting the hang of tying them, so your bows and knots aren’t quite as tight as one might hope.  But I guess that’s how it goes, and you’ll never get better if you don’t work on it.  You’re working on it.

As I mentioned above, your school schedule changed this year to a 3:45 dismissal.  It’s 4:00 by the time we get home, and I usually have to dive into making dinner or other evening preparations.  It makes me feel like I don’t have hardly any time with you.  In an effort to address that, we went on a Mommy-and-Miles date to the Java House last Saturday.  You seemed into it when I mentioned the idea, and as we were getting ready to go, you asked, “Wait, Callum’s not coming?”  I understand that having a baby in the family means he’s pretty much always attached to me, but he’s big enough now that he can hang out with your dad for a while.  When I told you that it was just the two of us, you got a huge smile.  We got some snacks and beverages and played a couple of board games (Monopoly Jr. and Guess Who), and it was really nice to have some special time with you.

Our choir concert is coming up, and you’re going to nail it.  You’ve got a couple of really nice solos, and you’ve been having a lot of fun.  One thing was kind of funny—our director, Jean, asked you to say a few words to introduce a song.  You got a panic-stricken look on your face and refused.  I was surprised, because you can belt a solo into a mic in front of an audience (or an unsuspecting person who asked you for a trick to go with your treat) with no problem, but two sentences of extemporaneous speaking freaked you out.

Photo by Denny

So it goes.  You’ll keep learning and growing, just like you’ve done so much already.  Most of your pants are too short, and you’ve read so many books the school librarian can barely keep up with you.  I’m really happy with how you’re turning out.  The challenges will fade, and I suppose new ones will emerge, but we’ll deal with them.  You’ve taught me again and again that you’re a smart and interesting person, and I love getting to know you.





Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:55 pm

Tobin has been into bathroom humor lately, which we’re trying to discourage by minimizing our response to it.

T:  Close your eyes, or I’ll poop on your head!

D:  That’s not funny.  Please don’t say that.

M:  Do you even have to go poop?

…at which point we totally blew our attempt not to laugh.


Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:53 pm

Tobin was giving me instructions on caring for his doll, Aleks, while he went out to do some things with his dad.

T: He can have applesauce, blueberries, yogurt, and…wait, are you a mommy or a daddy?
A: Most of the time, a mommy.
T: Okay, good. You can nurse him, then.

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