The Tobin Times #56

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:48 pm

Dear Tobin,

Sometimes it’s hard being the middle brother.  You’ve been struggling lately with not being quite to the same level as Miles—he gets to do some things you can’t do yet, and it’s tough.  When you’re feeling grumpy that Miles gets to do special, creative homework projects, you can’t seem to remember all the activities you and I do when we’re home together.  Miles is jealous that you’ll get to go to Tot Time this summer while he’s at his summer class, but you just wish you were taking computer programming too.

You’re not the baby, either, and your dad and I expect a certain level of behavior and self-control from you.  That can be tough too.  When we ask you to pick up the socks that you always, always leave in the middle of the living room, you sigh deeply and say “Why do I have to do everything around here?”

You got a beginners’ chemistry set recently, and you were not very interested in the suggested experiments.  You preferred to mix the ingredients together willy-nilly.  This kind of chafed my first-born brain.  I was worried the mixtures you made wouldn’t do anything exciting, and you’d lose your interest in science and the whole thing would have been a waste.  Everybody knows that vinegar and baking soda do cool stuff when you mix them together; couldn’t we stick to something with known results?  No, you insisted on dumping in half a bottle of vegetable oil.

Honestly, the vinegar + baking soda + vegetable oil turned out a lot cooler than the prescribed experiment I managed to talk you into doing (growing squishy crystals).  The oil kept the baking soda and vinegar physically separated for a while, so you got to watch the baking soda slowly make its way through the oil layer.  When it hit the vinegar below, it bubbled up through the oil again and looked pretty awesome indeed.

You are a seriously spunky kid.  Sometimes your energy can be hard to harness, but other times you get some impressive things done.  Your dad picked up a used bike for you, and largely due to your experience on the Strider bike, you can now officially ride a two-wheeler, no training wheels at all.  You still need some help stopping and starting, but it’s pretty cool watching such a little guy tool down the path like it’s no big deal.  I worry for your physical safety, but I admire your emotional resilience.  Your have your moments of tearful frustration, but you’re not a moper.  You pick yourself up and move along.  I hope you learn to use the brakes someday, both literal (on your bike) and figurative (on your energy levels as you run laps around the house at bedtime), but I’m also glad you live a life of excitement.

When I manage to get a hold of you, you still love snuggles and hugs.  One good thing about the coming summer humidity is that your curls will be back in their full glory.  Feeling your fluffy little head against my cheek as I cuddle you to sleep at night is one of my favorite things.  You’ve even taken an interest in showers lately, not coincidentally because Miles shifted from baths to showers.  Your bedtime curls are often damp, whether from shower water or sweat.

You’re very imaginative, which manifests itself in great drawings and stories, but also in some questionable tales you present as fact.  I always send you to the bathroom one last time before lights-out, because your dad and I decided that we’re not going to buy Pull-ups anymore.  Ninety percent of the time you do great, but the other night, I’m pretty sure you didn’t tell the truth about that final bathroom trip.  The whole event seemed suspiciously quiet to me, but when I asked you if you really went, you swore that you did and that you just hadn’t flushed.  That night you had an accident.  The next morning your dad and I debriefed the incident, and he said he saw you walk past the bathroom but not go in.  Suspicious.  I’m not sure why you would lie about that.  Maybe it’s just about asserting independence and control over your own body.  I hope you figured out that there are better options.

Your current favorites:  playing computer and video games of all sorts with Miles (Minecraft, Mario, King’s Quest), riding your bike to Heyn’s for ice cream, swinging on the monkey bars, our botany walks home from school (you know all about the various flowering plants of the neighborhood and the difference between deciduous trees and conifers), and playing with friends.  You make friends where ever you go, and I’m not worried one bit about you feeling lonely in this world.  We went to Dubuque last weekend to see cousins Max and Foster in The Music Man, and before the show, we had some hangout time with extended family.  You jumped right into the the Capture the Flag game like you’d been playing for years.  Sometimes I think you’re more socially adept than I am.

Stay brave and smiling and sweet, my little Tobin.  Some of the best things happen when you ditch the instructions and get a little willy-nilly.




A lack of education

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:49 pm

Tobin, Callum and I were sitting at the table having bedtime snack while Miles was in the shower. 

A:  I’m going to go try to get Tobin out of the sh—I mean Miles.  What is wrong with my brain?

T:  Maybe you never went to preschool.



The Callum Chronicle #15

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:07 pm

Hi, Mr. Toddler.

You are an adventure baby for sure now.  I can’t remember the last time you crawled, except vertically.  Your favorite destinations these days are the grown-up chairs in the living room and the top bunk.  You’re still not so great at getting down, which makes the bunk bed problematic.  You’re pretty proud of yourself when you do big-boy things, though.  You always have to look back to make sure someone saw your most recent limits-stretching accomplishment.

I started making a list, and you have ten words that you say pretty consistently now:  mama, dada, bubba (that one’s new), ca-cuh (cracker), Do (Tobin), ah done, uh-oh, up, out, and apple.  You definitely understand a whole lot more than that, too.  You know how to both shake and nod your head now, and you answer questions with better-than-random accuracy.  You’ve become a very good nonverbal communicator, using signs and other gestures like waving and blowing kisses.  You can identify different body parts, though you get your nose and your teeth confused sometimes.

Recently, Tobin filled up the whole living room with stuffed animals and gave them all names.  You got especially interested in two of them, a funny monster and a rabbit.  I tested you this morning and you got them both right.  You were able to go find “Mr. Grumpy” and “Carrot Eater” on the first try.

Well, this picture just reminded me that you also say hat.  I guess you know eleven words.

Like your brothers, you had lots of fun on our vacation.  You put in some good beach and pool time.  You were a little nervous about the ocean at first, but it wasn’t long before you charged right in.  You also became a fan of Key lime pie, which I can’t say is a surprise.  It’s delicious.  You did a good job on our flights, overall.  You got a little loud toward the end of our flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Chicago, but you didn’t scream and cry or anything.  You just got bored and were not interested in staying in your seat.  I wasn’t either, but we got through it.  You liked the Chinese food at O’Hare.

You’re lying next to me now, trying to breathe through your stuffy nose.  We’ve had one cold after another this winter/spring, and I think a new one has descended on the household.  You, your dad, Tobin and I are all stuffed up.  One of the hardest things about sharing germs the way we do is that being sick ruins your sleep, which therefore ruins my sleep, just when I need sleep the most so I can better take care of you.  Your dad has been putting in extra hours with you at night so I can get some rest, and I dearly appreciate it.  It does seem like maybe you’re getting the hang of breathing out of your mouth, which is good because it’s basically the only way you’ve been able to get any oxygen for the last six months.

You’re so cute, though.  I can’t believe what a sweetheart you are.  You’re friendly and outgoing, and you love to wave at friends and strangers alike.  You tolerate being held by a wide variety of people, and I haven’t met anyone yet who can resist picking you up when you stretch your arms out.  I have to run a little screening process to keep it to people we know.

You’re popular at Family Folk Machine.  The big kids vie for your attention, and you’ve made a habit lately of toddling up to me while I’m singing.  It should probably be annoying, but I can’t help scooping you up and cuddling you.  You’re one of the Family Folk Machine gang.  I should order you a shirt.

Your current favorites:  water from your special cup (you request it by saying “aaah”), water from other people’s water bottles, blurples on your thighs, string cheese, stir-fry, ice cream, the free cookies at Hy-Vee while we shop, and playing outside.  Today you went down the big twirly slide on Tobin’s lap several times.  We had to come home from the playground because you wouldn’t stop trying to get in the creek.  That’s not totally out of the realm of possibility, but let’s at least wait until it’s eighty degrees or higher.

You’re a lot of fun, little Callum.  We’re going to have a good summer together.  Just wait till your brothers let you share some Flavor Ice.  It’s going to blow your mind.  You’re probably going to try to jump into the arms of the friendly Flavor Ice proprietress.




Monthly Miles Memo #99

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:16 pm

Dear Miles,

I mentioned to you that you just turned ninety-nine months old, and you immediately started planning a celebration for your one hundred month birthday.  It involves a trip to Panda Express.  That’s all the detail I’ve gotten out of you so far, but we could probably rustle up some cake or something, too.

It’s hard to believe that next month at this time, I’ll be writing your one hundredth Monthly Miles Memo.  When I started writing them back in 2008, my goal was to document your first year.  After your first year completed, the idea of not writing them anymore made me sad, so I just kept going.  Now, here we are, eight-plus years and ninety-nine memos later.  I have less spare time than I used to, but I still don’t see any reason to stop writing them.  You’re not going to stop growing and learning and being interesting any time soon, so why should I stop reflecting on you?

We completed our Florida Keys trip a few weeks ago, and you might have had the most fun of anyone (except possibly me).  You are a confident and trustworthy swimmer, and you snorkeled around the pool until we had to drag you out.  I still made you wear water wings in the ocean, not that you really needed them.  You even did some ocean snorkeling with your cousin Clif at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.  The water was very calm there, which made it less intimidating, and you got so excited when you saw the ocean life.  I could even hear you squealing with excitement while my head was underwater next to you.

It’s nice that you’re big enough now that you’re not a major source of stress while traveling.  You did well on our flights and car rides by reading or playing with your dad’s iPad.  You liked the Chinese food at O’Hare, but not as much as you liked the chocolate croissants at Leigh Ann’s Coffee House, one of our favorite Key Colony Beach spots.  This gives me hope that you’ll survive in Europe with me some day.  They have Chinese food and chocolate croissants there.  I know, I’ve had them.

Photo by Denny

Now we’re home, though, and back to our usual rhythms.  The school year is wrapping up.  This is the first time I can remember, ever, that you’ll be out before Memorial Day.  Classes must have started somewhat early this year, and you didn’t have any snow days to make up.  It’ll be nice to have some relaxing days at home before the summer schedule begins.  You’re looking forward to your summer classes, though:  computer programming, chess, and Crime Scene Investigators.  I’m not going to be much help in any of those areas.  I hope you keep up with piano lessons over the summer so at least I can be of help with something.

Photo by Gary Clarke

This school year has gone really well.  You’ve hit it off with your teacher, Mr. Turnquist, and he’s gotten you excited about things I didn’t expect.  For one thing, you suddenly have an interest in baseball.  You balked at the idea of joining a team, but you’re psyched to go to a Cedar Rapids Kernels game next week.   Mr. Turnquist is very sportsy, and I was dubious at first whether that would be a good fit for you.  But he’s also very supportive of creative efforts, and every week you have an optional homework assignment that allows you to do something to expand your creative side.  You haven’t missed a single optional assignment.  Every week I think maybe that one won’t intrigue you and we can take the week off, but every week you come home excited with the new possibilities.

You are still a major Harry Potter head; in fact, this week’s optional homework assignment was to design a Navajo-style rug on a graph paper-like grid.  You wanted to write Expelliarmus (a Harry Potter spell) into the design, but it was way too long, so you settled for the word Potter.  I tried to gently persuade you to go with a more abstract design in keeping with the Navajo aesthetic, but that idea did not fly.

We finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in combination.  You read some to yourself, I read some aloud, and your dad read some aloud.  It got kind of confusing since we each read different chunks.  You’ve been reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince entirely to yourself so far.  I got it on my Kindle, which you’ve found a lot easier to manage than the huge 800-page hardback book.  So far you’re handling it well.  There’s already been a significant character death, but it didn’t seem to trouble you too much.  There are more coming, though.  The final battle with Voldemort is looming, and not everybody makes it.  I hope it’s not too tough on you.

Your current favorites:  Minecraft, Family Folk Machine (especially the song “O Mary, Don’t You Weep”), pasta with butter and parmesan, cran-apple juice, giving yourself weird hairstyles, and biking along the path behind our house.  You also seem to be gaining interest in pushing yourself physically.  You’ve been showing off various daring (for you) jumps and other playground tricks.  I suggested a long weekend in St. Louis this summer for a family mini-vacation, and the first thing you did was request a trip to the City Museum so you could scramble all through the tubes and other structures.

I’m really impressed with the amount of bravery and interest in pushing yourself that you’ve shown lately, Miles.  You’ve even started taking showers, despite your fear of getting water in your eyes.  You wore goggles the first couple of times, but now you don’t even want those.

Mostly I think you just like going to bed with wet hair because it makes it look so crazy in the morning.  I admit I kind of admire that too.  Life is short.  Have weird hair.



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