A firm opinion

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:19 pm

T:  Can I have more goldfish?
A:  Okay, but you have to let me clean out your ears afterward.
T:  That’s a sturdy trick!  (pause)  What does sturdy mean?


The Tobin Times #57

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:56 pm

My little sunshine boy Tobin,

We’re almost done with the school year.  Tomorrow is the last day, and while I think you’re looking forward to summer break, you’re going to miss your friends and teachers at Hoover.  You had a great year.  You made some good friends, learned a lot (you’re doing some reading, partly thanks to Miles’s tutelage), and proved once again that you’re flexible and resilient.  Though I’m sure you would have done great in kindergarten, one more year of preschool will be good for you too.  Kinderfarm will give you a whole new skillset in the outdoorsy realm, and I’m sure you’ll keep up the academics as well.  Lucas Elementary will have to brace itself for you once you start kindergarten the following school year.

You’ve told me that you want to take a semester off from Family Folk Machine, though now I’m not so sure you’ll stick to that plan.  You did such a good job at our concert last weekend.  It was a very long day, starting in the morning with sound check and continuing on until past four o’clock.  Last time you fell asleep right there on the stage during the last song, and I thought you were in danger of doing the same thing this time around.  You did great, though.  I saw you working hard on maintaining your focus.  I couldn’t see you because you were standing in front of me, but our director Jean tells me that you really rocked out on the song “People Have the Power.”  Nana and Papa were there in the audience to cheer you on, and they too were impressed with your great behavior and participation.

Another reason I suspect you’ll want to re-up in the fall is all your good choir friends.  You may or may not have a crush on a couple of them, too.  I’ll support you whichever way you want to go.  Sometimes rehearsals can be a little long and tedious for you, but I also think it’s good to expose you to people who are working together on an artistic endeavor.  For the most part you rise to the occasion and do great.

A couple of weeks ago we attended Wild Kratts Live, the tickets to which you and Miles got as Christmas presents.  Wild Kratts is one of your favorite TV shows, a PBS joint about two brother wildlife experts who go on semi-fantastical adventures in the interest of conservation and education.  For the live show, the actual Kratt brothers were there.  They put on a pretty fun event.  At one point you leaned over Miles to say to me, “I’m really enjoying this!”  You made me promise that if Wild Kratts Live has another tour that stops near us, we have to go.

Whenever we attend a theatrical event, I think to myself that we need to do it more often.  It can be pretty expensive, which is why I sometimes balk at getting tickets for things I’m not sure you’re going to love, but I should really just buck up and do it more often.  Maybe we could skip some of the toys and do more tickets for Christmas and birthdays.  When I was a kid, Mubby used to take me to performances pretty often.  Sometimes I found the actual show pretty boring, but there’s something magical about being part of the whole process.  We attended your cousin Max’s school performance of The Music Man, and I’ll be honest with you, the pit orchestra was not the strongest part of the show.  To be fair, they were middle schoolers, and I admire that their teachers had the ambition to put on such a challenging play.  Max and Foster were both excellent.  The orchestra probably needed a little more rehearsal.  Nonetheless, when the lights went down and the overture started playing, I got chills.  I hope you grow to love those moments too.

I’m excited to have more time with you this summer, Tobin.  You’re a lot of fun to have around.  I’m sure we’ll do all kinds of exciting things.  We haven’t sat down to make our summer activity list yet, but you’re already signed up for tee-ball in the first half of the summer and two mornings a week of Kinderfarm in the second half.  Other than that, I’m sure we’ll be hitting the splash pad, the movies, the library, the downtown fountain, the frozen yogurt shop, and the Natural History Museum.  You’re definitely old enough to enjoy the summer reading program, so we’ll have to see what the prizes are this time around.

I’ll probably go crazy if we sit around the house too much, so I thank you in advance for going on adventures with me.  We don’t have any specific vacation plans, though I’d like to make a Saint Louis trip if we can get it done over a long weekend.

Your current favorites:  pepperoni pizza, waffles, Spider-Man books and videos, taking walks, playing at the playground in the evening with your neighborhood friends, helping with dinner preparation and setting the table, dancing, and doing whatever Miles does.  You’re not a copy-cat, though.  Even though Miles gives you a lot of good ideas, you put your own spin on things.  I know it can be frustrating to be a little guy and just not able to do everything your big brother does, and we’ve certainly dealt with some tears and grumpiness.  You get mad that you can’t write in cursive, that you can’t play Clue without significant help, that you can’t learn computer programming on the Khan Academy website.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Still, you find your own way to get things done.  I can always count on you for a smile, a hug, and a dance party.  Keep on gettin’ down, my Tobin, even if you’re the only one facing that direction.







Full of suggestions

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:22 pm

We’re trying to discourage the kids from being sanctimonious tattle-tales.

T: (to Miles) You need to tie your shoes.
A: Yes, he does, but you’re not his dad.
T: Neither are you.


The Callum Chronicle #16

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:13 pm

Oh, my little Callum.

We’re going through a rough patch right now with your health.  I don’t know what’s wrong with your tiny immune system, but it seems like you’ve been sick more than you’ve been healthy for your whole little life.  Right now is particularly bad.  You came down with a bad rash all over your arms, legs, and face.  It’s very itchy and has made it almost impossible for you to sleep.  This, of course, makes it almost impossible for your dad and me to sleep.  Your dad, knowing how useless I am if I don’t get enough sleep, was up very nearly the whole night with you last night.  He tried to get you to sleep at the usual time, but after a while he came and woke me up and said he wanted to take you to the emergency room.  You were thrashing and scratching and crying, and neither of us could do a thing to calm you down.

You guys spent a couple of hours in the ER while I stayed home with your brothers.  He told me to try to sleep, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to while you were anywhere but safe at home.  Complicating my crummy personality when I don’t get enough sleep, I am a Princess and the Pea when it comes to sleeping circumstances.  I can’t sleep unless things are perfect.  When you’re not with me, things are definitely not perfect.

After a few thousand years, your dad called to update me.  He said, “Well, the good news is that he’s not that sick.”  He didn’t have to tell me the bad news:  there’s nothing we can do to help you.  Apparently it’s just some kind of virus or allergic reaction, and we just have to let it run its course.  We figured out this morning that Benadryl cream seems to help more than oral Benadryl, so we’ll try that tonight and hope for the best.  You’ve been pretty cheerful when it’s not the middle of the night, but you look disgusting (or as disgusting as the cutest baby in the universe can look).  We’re supposed to go to Miles’s school for a music demonstration tomorrow, and he really wants us to go, but you look like you fell in a vat of poison ivy.  I guess if you’re acting okay, we’ll be brave and show up.

You’ve been saying a lot of words lately.  It seems like every day or two you add a new one.  A favorite lately has been “do[g],” which you shout whenever we see one when we’re out on our daily walks.  The other day we passed by a house that had a cartoony little dog sign on the lawn chastising dog owners for letting their pets poop there.  You saw the sign and said “do[g].”  I thought that was pretty smart.  It only looked a little like a dog.  It was two-dimensional, about four inches high, in profile, and a line drawing.  It was a pretty long mental leap for you to realize that such a thing represented a living creature.

You also love to look at and identify squirrels, which sounds more like cull, but it’s consistent.  We also have a new game of shaking our fists at rabbits in the yard.  Fortunately, the fence Tobin and I built seems to be keeping them out of the garden, but it’s still fun to share in our outrage.

You’re brave and sweet and love trying to keep up with your brothers.  They’re pretty great about helping you on the playground and around the house.  Miles carries you around even when you’d do fine walking on your own.  You just smile and let him.  Except when you can’t sleep because you’re so uncomfortable, you’re a very relaxed and go-with-the-flow guy.  You’re going to love having more time with your brothers this summer.  We probably won’t be able to take as many long walks together, but we’ve got all kinds of things planned.

I truly hope you can get some good sleep tonight, my sweet little boy.  It’s such an awful feeling to sit there with you crying in my arms, completely unable to console you.  Last night I really wanted to give your dad a chance to sleep, since he’d been up with you for so long, but I just couldn’t handle it.  I had tried every trick I could think of, bouncing and rocking and singing and nursing and cuddling and cold compresses and baking soda and hydrocortisone and ibuprofen and everything.  When your dad heard me crying louder than you, he came and rescued us.

He’s a really good husband and father.  Good job picking him, Cal.  We’ve got a heckuva support system.

Your current favorites:  spending time outside (though spring allergens may be one of the causes of our current turmoil), string cheese, Honey Nut Cheerios, the books Jamberry and Goodnight Moon, stacking rings, and giving really fantastic hugs and kisses.

Now please, let’s get some sleep tonight, little Callum.  I’ll do my best to help you feel good, and you just relax.




Latin roots

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:39 pm

M:  What’s a Mexican restaurant’s favorite spell?

Everybody else:  What?

M:  Petrificus tortillas.


Monthly Miles Memo #100

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:05 pm

My dearest Miles,

It’s been one hundred months (and a couple of days, because this is my life) since my sweet baby boy was born.  This is the one hundredth one of these memos I’ve written.  I remember being so curious during your early weeks and months about the kind of person you’d become.  Let me tell you, I had no idea you’d be the best sleeper in the house.  Nowadays we have to pry you out of bed in the mornings, and when you sleep in on weekends, you often don’t get up until 9:30 or later.  My little premie baby was up every couple of hours for a long time.  Back then, I knew a lot less about babies than I do now, and I didn’t understand that it was perfectly normal.  People kept asking how you were sleeping, and I felt like a failure because the answer was “not so great.”  Actually the real answer should have been “exactly like a breastfed baby is supposed to sleep for optimum brain development,” but I didn’t know that then.  I just knew that letting you cry, the couple of times we did it, felt so completely awful that we abandoned the plan.

It turned out okay.  Even though you didn’t sleep through the night until you were two, you now sleep through all kinds of distractions.  You can sleep through Tobin having a night terror, Callum screaming about his allergies or his growing molars, a thunderstorm, and probably an air raid, though I hope we don’t have to test that.

You are a really great big brother, especially to Callum.  You love Tobin plenty too, but he’s old enough to get on your nerves, often on purpose.  Little siblings are really good at knowing exactly what will drive their big siblings crazy, and Tobin is adept at that.  You two have fun together, and you really are best friends, but there’s some frenemy tension going on as well.  You’re focused, a perfectionist, and a lover of predictability.  Tobin is none of those.

Callum, however, gets nothing but love from you.  He can sit on you, pull your hair, tear your homework, and puke on your shoes, and you still are so sweet to him.  The age difference between you helps, since you’re old enough to understand his mostly-innocent motivations, and he’s young enough to be very forgivable.  He loves going to pick you up from school, and on weekend mornings, when you finally wake up, he thinks that joining you in the top bunk is about the coolest thing ever.

This month held a pretty fantastic event:  the annual Lucas Elementary Team Spelling Bee.  You competed last year and did well, but your ultimate dream was to be on the winning team.  We worked hard studying the long, challenging word list.  We drilled the tough words over and over, and you got really good at the whole “state the word, spell the word, restate the word” format.  We talked about strategies for interacting with your teammates, about being a leader when you knew you were right, but being kind and helpful about it at the same time.

You and your teammates made it through the first round, then the second round, and finally it was down to two teams in the ultimate spell-off.  I smiled when I heard two of the words on which we’d worked particularly hard:  giraffe and exercise.  The spell-off was written, so we didn’t know how you and the other finalist team did until the judges evaluated your work.

The judges announced the winners:  Team H.  I don’t know if you didn’t remember that you were team H or if it just took a moment to sink in, but you sat expressionless for a bit.  Then it hit you.  I can’t remember a time when you were happier.  You shrieked, you jumped, you pumped the air.  You congratulated your teammates and shared in their joy.  You worked hard and you earned your victory.

I hope I wasn’t too obnoxious in the audience.  As a fellow spelling nerd, I was pretty thrilled for you.  You were so excited you almost forgot to have a cookie afterward.  I don’t know if your name is engraved on the school plaque yet, but you’re very proud that you’ll be immortalized on your school walls.  I hope Lucas is still around in twenty years or more and you can take your own kids to see it.

You only have a couple more weeks of school before summer break begins.  You’re signed up for a few classes and you’ll have some relaxing time too.  We’re starting to work on our list of summer wish-list activities.  So far most of yours are food related.  You want to go to Hu Hot Mongolian Grill, Flavor Ice, Panda Express, and McDonald’s.  We’re also looking forward to pool and splash pad time, some sprinkler use in the back yard, and maybe a long weekend in St. Louis.  We’re still working on sorting out the details on that one.

Do you think I’ll still be writing your memos in another 100 months, Miles?  Will you find it embarrassing when you’re sixteen and ask me to stop?  Will I listen to you or ignore your protests?  Can you really be half way to sixteen?

Let’s give it another hundred months and find out.

I love you one hundred months, one hundred lifetimes, one hundred percent.




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