Pluses and minuses

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:11 pm

I was buckling Tobin into his car seat.

T:  Don’t you just love Callum’s hugs?
A:  I do.  You know who else’s hugs I love?  Yours.

Then I leaned down and gave him a big hug.

T:  You know what I don’t like?
A:  What?
T:  Eating hair.



Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:18 pm

A:  I like your hairstyle, Tobin.

T:  I made it kind of flat.

A:  What did you use, water?

T:  No…

A:  What did you use?

T:  Spit.

A:  …


The Tobin Times #53

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:07 pm

Dear Tobin,

What a drab, dull winter we’ve been having.  We haven’t had much of the right kind of snow for building snowpeople or snowballs.  It’s been too cold to play outside but not quite cold enough to cancel school.  We’re all counting down the days till spring break and our Florida Keys trip.  You’ve managed to keep a cheerful face through most of it, though.  You are a spirited and energetic guy, which means you sometimes suffer when you don’t get chances to run around outside, but it also keeps you buoyant through bleak days.

We keep our chins up with lunch dates, time at the Sycamore Mall indoor play area, and family movie nights.  Last night was The Goonies, which you were kind of grumpy about at first, since you wanted to watch The Incredibles again.  But after I showed you the trailer, you thought it looked pretty good, and both you and Miles ended up loving it.

Your biggest area of expertise right now is animals.  You like to watch Wild Kratts while Callum naps in the afternoons, and it’s educational mission has certainly been successful with you.  You can name all sorts of varieties of animals I’ve never heard of, and you know all about which ones are predators and which ones are prey, and which habitats they all live in.  Your dad was leafing through National Geographic yesterday, and you looked over his shoulder.  “Is that a spotted [something]?”  I forget what the animal was, and I can’t go check right now because Callum is napping next to me and I don’t want to wake him up.  But it most certainly was the spotted whatever.

You got a wild animals calendar for Christmas, and of course you want to be just like Miles and cross off days as you complete them.  Unfortunately, you haven’t grasped the left-to-right, top-to-bottom way we visually depict time in the western world.  It’s a hard concept to explain, and you are not one to accept “That’s just the way it is” as an answer.  In your mind, right-to-left and back-to-front makes just as much sense.  Anyone relying on your calendar would think February was already over.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  February’s the worst.

We just measured you yesterday, and you’ve grown several inches in the last year.  You’re still one of the smaller kids in your class, though, and I don’t think you’ll end up a bruiser.  That’s okay.  Little guys don’t play football.  You’re a little bullet of energy and sometimes recklessness, so anything that holds you back is a good thing.

You’re a great shopping buddy.  Your HyVee girlfriend is back from an extended post-surgical leave, so you were happy (but strangely shy) to see her again.  We went to Costco the other day, and you talked me into buying cookies despite my plan not to, since I’m avoiding sugar.  You decided to hide the cookie package from me to help me not eat them.  You hid under your bed, about two inches in.  I found them pretty fast, but I’m not going to tell you that, because you were so proud of how supportive you were being of my healthy lifestyle goals.

Of course, at dinner last night, you said, “You should have sugar, mom.  It’s really good.”

Your current favorites:  peanut butter toast, cereal (Raisin Nut Bran with the raisins and almonds picked out or Honey Nut Cheerios) and milk, icy orange juice, pepperoni pizza, running around your room like a wildman while I try to read Harry Potter to you and Miles, Minecraft, taking off your socks, and singing crazy songs to make Callum laugh.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You still fit perfectly into my lap, and I’m always happy to have you there.  Sometimes it gets a little crowded when two or more kids are trying to scramble onto me, but you and your brothers are pretty good squishers if I must get squished.  You are hilarious and sunshiny and indomitable.  You are my Tobin and I love you.

You might be slightly insane, but I still love you.




The Callum Chronicle #12

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:26 pm

Happy birthday, special Callum!

As expected, your twelfth month has led to some exciting new opportunities.  You’ve now had a “cocktail” (the Mubby special:  shaved ice and orange juice), ice cream, cake, a variety of bread products, and even a bite of Tobin’s cookie at Hy-Vee today.  You still like healthy food, too.  You ate lots of vegetables at dinner last night, and all the great citrus available this time of year has been really popular with you too.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Some people believe a kid’s personality at one year is a good indicator of the general temperament that will continue through his or her entire life.  I’d have to look back at any notes I made about your brothers’ personalities to know if that’s held true for them.  As for you, I’d describe your current personality as sweet, calm, curious, and easy-going.  At least you’re easy-going when there’s someone around to entertain you.  You’ve been clingy to me during our mornings at home together for the last couple of months.  I haven’t been able to run on the treadmill because you just stand against the safety fence and scream.  All my exercise lately has been walking on the treadmill with you strapped to my chest.  It’s a good workout, sure, but you always fall asleep, and sometimes I want you to skip morning nap to better serve the day’s schedule.  Then, when I’m done exercising, you stand with your head in the shower, crying continuously until I get out.  You’re always soaking wet by then, and on these cold days, that’s not a very happy situation either.

At recent holiday gatherings, though, you’ve shown no such grumpiness.  I don’t know that I’m the one you specifically want; you just can’t stand not to have someone adoring you.  I guess that’s what life with two doting big brothers does to a person.  All through the various family parties, you were happy to have anyone hold you and play with you.

You might (might) have taken a step on your own this weekend, but it would be an exaggeration to call it walking.  You have, however, taken an interest in walking while holding someone’s hands.  You’re still not very steady on your feet, though you’re pretty good at standing unassisted in one place.  Miles loves to walk with you, and it’s nice for him to do it since you two are closer to the same height.  He doesn’t have to bed over as much as your dad and I do.  I don’t know if it’s the age difference or the birthday proximity or just the way you guys are, but you and Miles have a really special relationship.  You love big brother Tobin too, but Miles has taken such delight in having you around.  You’re really lucky to have each other.

It seems like we’ve been dealing with one illness after another since about Halloween.  Luckily most of them haven’t been serious, just runny noses and coughs.  I pulled an enormous, rock-hard booger out of your nose this morning, so hopefully having that out of your skull will help your respiration.  It’s been hard to get a good night’s sleep, because you get pretty thrashy when you’re not feeling your best.  You can also be a bit of a bed hog.

I don’t mind, though.  Your warm little body next to mine is just what I need on these cold nights, even if you sometimes smack me in the face with your flailing fists.

You’re getting better and better at “big boy” things, like playing on the equipment in the middle of Sycamore Mall (or whatever it’s called now).  You and Tobin and I have lunch dates at Panera once a week or so, and we usually take some time afterward to go play.  You think everything is a climbing toy, and you would scramble up onto the play picnic table and twirl around the center pole if I’d let you.  You think it’s pretty neat to be able to do the same things Tobin does.  Unfortunately, that play area has plastic fruit just like the library, and you sure find those things attractive.  Not wanting a repeat of the Vomiting Horrors of ’15, I try really hard to keep them out of your mouth.

I saw the birth story I wrote about my experience giving birth to you, and I couldn’t bring myself to read it.  It’s a less painful memory as time goes on, but it’s still a little too fresh to relive.  I have to remind myself what a wonderful outcome I got—I’m so grateful for modern medicine, because who knows whether either of us would have survived the ordeal without the expertise of the skilled surgeons who took care of us.  I’m also very glad that it happened with my last baby and not my first, because I have zero desire to ever do that again.

But I am so, so happy to have you.  Your smile and laugh are why I do everything I do.  You invented a new game just yesterday.  After one of our treadmill walks, I partially unstrap you and lay you down on your back on the bed.  Yesterday, as I leaned over you to finish unstrapping myself, you grabbed the shoulder straps and gave a tug.  That pulled my face down to yours.  I kissed your fat little cheeks and neck, and you laughed and laughed.  I leaned back up, and you pulled me back down:  more kisses, more laughter.  We repeated this again and again.  I needed it.  I was sad about David Bowie dying and a dreamed I’d just had about a deceased friend.  There’s nothing that perks a mommy up like her sweet little son inventing a game that gets him more kisses.

It’s been a blur of a year with you, my little love, and I’m so glad to have had it.  I’ll kiss you until you won’t let me anymore, and then I’ll blow you kisses until you yank me back.  If you don’t yank me back, then watch out, because I’ll be the one yanking.  This is all predicated on you using a Baby Bjorn forever.  We might have to look into the next size up.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Love forever and ever,



Monthly Miles Memo #96

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:54 pm

Happy, happy birthday, my dear Miles.

We’ve just finished up the last of your birthday celebrations.  It’s been quite a year, and I’m so proud of you.  Skittergramps mentioned recently that you really seem to be growing up.  You’re in better control of your emotions and behavior (not that Tobin doesn’t still sometimes frustrate you—he does—but you seem to be handling it better).  Adding a family member was a definite test, and you have surpassed all my hopes of your performance as a double big brother.

You take every opportunity you can to care for Callum.  You celebrate his accomplishments, have conversations with him in which you pretend to understand him and answer him, and play with him so well.  You sewed him a Christmas stocking, and you were so proud to hang it on the mantle with yours and Tobin’s.  You really, really want his first word to be Miles, and while I’m still holding out for mama, your name wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Y0ur second semester of second grade has started, and everything seems to be going well.  You have a flair for the academic.  Most school subjects seem pretty easy for you, and I hope you’re being challenged enough.  You’re always coming up with activities at home that extend your school work, especially ones that have to do with writing.  Notes you’ve written litter our house.  There’s an information sheet for Miles’s Magic Club on the basement door, pointing the reader to the sign-up sheet in the bunk-bed room.  You got a diary for your birthday, which was your number-one request.  You’ve been writing in it every day, and you closely guard the key location.  Tobin is determined to find it.  He can’t read, but he loves to torture you by threatening to read it.  I hope you realize the emptiness of his threats and don’t let them bother you too much.

Sometimes your dad and I shake our heads and wonder how a kid who’s so smart can be so oblivious.  Subtleties often don’t register with you.  You have a rather literal mind.  I asked you to find something (shoes, maybe) and told you they were by the front door.  You went and looked for them and came back empty-handed.  Having known you for eight years, rather than believe they weren’t there, I went to check.  They were about four feet away from the front door, next to the credenza.  I don’t think you were being a turd.  I think it truly didn’t occur to you to look anywhere except immediately next to the front door.

We’ll talk more about metaphor and flexibility of thought as we continue to read together.

Harry Potter has been the biggest new character to enter our lives this year.  You sometimes read aloud to me from the books, which are a challenge but still within reach for you.  Most of the time, though, we cuddle together in bed and I read to you.  We’re starting to get into the darker, longer, more mature books now.  Some people have suggested that the later books are better suited to older kids and that we might do well to take a several-year break.  That might be the case, but there’s no way you are going to stop.  It’s going to raise some difficult questions, especially involving the death of some beloved characters.  I hope it’s all worth it.

You seem to be blossoming in terms of personality.  Shyness and fearfulness were big parts of your makeup for a long time, and I don’t think that will ever change completely, I can see that you’re getting braver.  Our Family Folk Machine experiences have been a big help in that arena.  You can sing a solo with more aplomb than a lot of the grownups in the choir.  You also really brought it to a recent New Year’s Eve party talent show.  We did a Harry Potter-themed dance to the song “Uptown Funk.”  I couldn’t really see what you were doing, since I was dancing too, but your dad tells me you let loose in a way you hadn’t in our home rehearsals.  When you need to get it done, you get it done, my dear.

We’re in kind of a sweet spot right now in terms of bed time.  After we read our Harry Potter chapter, you still like me to lie in your bed with you, ideally until you fall asleep, but it’s no longer a source of tears if I need to leave sooner.  You give me a hug, tell me you love me too, and go to sleep on your own.

You’re not going to want me to cuddle you to sleep forever.  Sometimes I really want to go sleep in my own bed or read or watch a tv show or something, but mostly I appreciate the chance to feel your bony little butt against my legs.  Despite having the long arms and legs of colt, you can still fit into size 4T underpants.  I bought you some size 6 pairs for your birthday.  I think they suit you pretty well.

I love you so much, Miles.  Thank you for the privilege of being your mom.  I wouldn’t be the same without you, and I never want to be.  Even though in my heart you’ll always be that 6-and-a-half pound baby I brought home from the hospital, you’re growing into a pretty great kid.

Next thing we know, you’ll be shaving.




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