The Tobin Times #58

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:40 am

Tobin, Tobin, Tobin,

I bet if I used the search tool on this website to look for the term “Jekyll/Hyde” I’d have more than one hit.  You’re not the first four-year-old to cause stress in this family, and you’re not the last.  It seems like every night, your dad and I end up struggling to control our tempers (or even sometimes losing them—sorry, kid; we’re not perfect).  I know it’s hard when it seems like everything we do is for Miles:  going to summer classes, taking him to playdates, piano lessons, watching Harry Potter movies.  We try to do things that are special for you, too, like tee-ball and pizza dinners.  I’m sure from your perspective, though, it seems like the things we do are never Tobin-focused.

You still don’t have to shout so much, though.  You shout a lot.  You can be uncooperative and disinclined to listen to polite requests, which inevitably leads to your dad and me yelling at you.  I hate that, he hates that, you hate that.  And yet, it keeps happening.  I don’t want to yell at you, Tobin, but I also want you to stop jumping on the couch.

Other times you’re so kind and sweet.  I always think of Miles as being more sensitive and you being more happy-go-lucky, but you have a real tender side as well.  We had a hang-out evening with some friends last night, and it involved a change of venue because the little girl in the family had been to the ER that morning.  She’s fine, but her mom understandably didn’t want to take her out to City Park on a hot, humid night and let her get jerked around by mid-century carnival rides.  I was explaining to you why we weren’t going to be able to do the rides that night, and you said, “Stop talking about that.  It makes me sad.”  I thought you meant missing out on the rides (which we’ll do another time soon, I promise), but it soon became clear that it upset you to think about your friend being unresponsive.  I’m proud that you care more about people than carnival rides.

Your tee-ball season has started off well.  You’re in a league of very-beginners, coached by your dad again because, again, no other parent volunteered to do it.  I was hoping your dad wouldn’t be a coach this time, because your practices are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Thursdays are especially tiring and busy days for me.  I was looking forward to him taking all you boys to your practices so I could have some decompression time.  But when no one else volunteered, I gave him the go-ahead to coach.  Even though I’m pretty tired (and often crabby) by the end of the night on Thursday, it’s better than not having a coach for you and your little tee-ball pals.  You had your first game last week, and you did a great job.  You had two excellent hits and did some good fielding too.  You’re pretty proud to be one of the Mercer White Sox.

You’ll start a couple of days a week at Kinderfarm next month, but as of now, we’ve been doing around the house and around town activities.  Your favorite thing to do is watch YouTube videos of people playing with toys or playing video games.  I have no idea why those are so interesting to you, but you would do it all day if I let you.  I do not let you.  We try to get out every day and do something, whether it’s a walk to the Flavor Ice stand or a trip downtown to the library or Natural History Museum.  We haven’t made it into the downtown fountain yet, but I know you will show Callum a great time once we get that done.  You two are water enthusiasts.

You had a playdate last week with a preschool friend.  That was pretty exciting for you, because Miles has done more playdates lately than you have.  You were so proud to have Grant come over.  You guys did a great job playing Legos and superheroes together.  I remarked to your dad that I think you and Miles have reached the stage where playdates make my life easier, not harder.  Before, when you required constant supervision, it was just additional childcare.  Now, you can play creatively and with only occasional check-ins and fudge pop distribution.

Even though night is still prime meltdown time for you, you love your bedtime stories.  Our usual pattern is that I get Callum to sleep while your dad reads you one or two stories, then he takes Cal and I read you another before lights out.  Last night, your dad and I were doing the hand-off when you came crawling—you were literally crawling on the floor; I don’t know why—in and begged your dad to keep reading to you.  I agreed to keep the baby for a while longer on the condition that it would be lights-out time when I got to you.  Your dad seemed skeptical that you would be able to handle this adjustment to routine, and it’s true that you fought me on it, but I held firm.

I think it’s important to follow through on commitments.  I want you to know that when I say something, I mean it, and that threats are not empty.  I’m certainly guilty of the occasional empty threat, but I figure as long as you have a solid understanding that I’m willing to make good on them, you’ll get the point.  The flip side of that is that I will keep my promises to you.  Miles and your dad are going to a Cedar Rapids Kernels game together later this week.   The last time you went, it was pretty boring for you, so they decided to go just the two of them.  I promised you we could eat at Arby’s for a special date.  I am not a huge Arby’s fan, but you are, so that’s what we’re doing.   In the spirit of a story from your newly rediscovered Robert Munsch collection, a promise is a promise.

I promise you’ll still get bedtime stories whether you’re Jekyll or Hyde.  Now will you please stop jumping on the couch?




Cooking up a plan

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:48 pm

T: I wish Mubby and Skitter lived in Iowa City, right next door to us. Then I could just go over there and say hi.
A: Yeah, that would be fun.
T: Only they would have a different house, and it might not have a balcony. (pause) Or cookie cutters.


The Callum Chronicle #17

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:09 pm

My little Callum-puppy,

It’s been a month of learning and growing for you.  I just remarked to your dad that I’m impressed with how well you communicate.  You use a good mix of nonverbal (nodding, shaking your head, and ASL signs) and verbal methods.  Your vocabulary has increased a lot lately.  You now say a lot of your favorite foods (blueberry, strawberry, noodle), and you just started saying thank you.  It’s not quite in context yet—you usually say it as you hand something to me, probably because that’s when you’re accustomed to hearing me say it.  It’s very cute in any case.

You give really good hugs and kisses, and you like to punctuate your hugs with little pats on the back and shoulders of whoever is receiving the hug.  You can climb up big staircases, including the one that leads to the top bunk of your brothers’ bed.  You still don’t have much for self control.  Four times this week I’ve let you get out of my sight, only to find you in my bathroom drinking from a discarded Dixie cup that you filled with water you got by loosening the toilet pipes.  That is a huge problem on so many levels.  Just ask for water, Callum.  I know you’re proud of getting it yourself, but you can sign for it, and you make a great slurping nose with pursed lips that also communicates thirst clearly.  I would be happy to get you water by one of the many normal means we have available.

Every time you’ve done it, I’ve scolded you harshly, which makes you cry, but thus far it hasn’t made you stop trying to do it.  Now I’m just trying to remember to close the bathroom door.  That makes you stand outside the door and cry.  Sorry, dude.  It’s not worth rotting out the floor.

We’re finally over your disgusting bout of hand-foot-mouth disease.  I have to say, that is one of the most challenging illnesses a kid in our family has had.  I am so grateful, of course, that we haven’t had to deal with anything more serious, but dang that was nasty.  You were up multiple times per night for at least two weeks straight scratching your poor little arms and legs.  We went through a lot of Benadryl cream.  You developed a taste for Children’s Zyrtec, which the doctor recommended as a better itch reducer than Claritin.  Now you want to carry the bottle around all the time.

We went to a wedding on your dad’s side of the family last weekend, and I so appreciated your easy-going nature.  You were happy to let anyone play with you and carry you around, even people you don’t see very often.  You certainly have your moments of demanding mama, but you do great with sociability a lot of the time too.  You had a great time dancing at the wedding and playing out in the country at a gathering the next day.  You liked the dogs and cats and rope swing.

It’s gotten hot out now, and my plan was to take you and your brothers to the splash pad, but now I’m thinking it might be too hot for that.  Maybe we’ll get out to Twilight Swim at the City Park pool soon.  You’re big enough now to have a lot of fun in the baby pool,  I bet.  In the meantime, you’ve been enjoying your share of ice cream and other cooling treats.  Yesterday, during our weekly trip to Dairy Queen before Miles’s piano lesson, I thought you would lose your mind if I didn’t let you hold my ice cream cone.  Before, you’d always been happy to get spoonfuls from my cone, but I think the time has come when I’m going to have to get you one of your own.

On the last day of school for Miles and Tobin, we celebrated with a trip to Heyn’s.  Everyone on the east side of Iowa City stole our idea, because the line was huge.  I left the stroller outside and held you while we waited in line, and it about killed you to be so close to the ice cream without getting any.  “I-kee, I-kee” you said over and over, pointing at the glass case where you just knew the ice cream is stored.  We did get to the front of the line eventually, and you got plenty of bites.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Your current favorites:  playing with grownup things (my phone, chopsticks, other people’s shoes, keys) and ignoring all your toys, pizza and peanut butter toast crusts, going outside, climbing up and down stairs, pour water into your high chair tray, twisting around to find the owls on your changing pad cover right when I’m trying to change your diaper, dancing, eating garden strawberries, and giving sweet kisses.  Last night you accidentally bonked Tobin on the head with your Zyrtec bottle, and you kissed him right on his owie.

You’re a great little guy, Callum.  Thanks for your patience this summer as we run around to all your brothers’ activities.  I’ll make sure you get some good ice cream out of the deal.




Monthly Miles Memo #101

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:25 pm

My dear Miles,

So quickly, your second grade year is over.  You ended the year happy and confident, with some new interests (baseball, the board game Clue) and plenty of goals for the summer.  We worked on a list, and you’ve already accomplished a lot of them.  We still need to do some trips to the Splash Pad and the pool, but the summer is young, and there’s hot weather in the forecast.

You’re taking a few classes, the first of which you started this week.  You’ll have two weeks of computer programming, then a week of chess, then a few weeks of break before you begin Crime Scene Investigators.  It’s fun to take you to Willowwind again.  That place always feels like an old friend.  Tobin is looking forward to joining you there next summer when he’s eligible for camps and classes.

You decided to continue piano lessons through the summer, which is nice because it lends some structure to our less-occupied weeks.  You truly enjoy it, too.  Your current project is a song from the game King’s Quest IV:  The Perils of Rosella.  That’s a computer game I played as a kid, and we found a version online that you can now play.  You love it as much as I did, and upon your request, I captured the audio of the song that Rosella plays on the organ in the haunted house after she gets the sheet music from one of the ghosts.  Your awesome teacher, Tara, transcribed the music, and we’re working on helping you learn it.  You’ve nailed the first half, and now you just need to get confident with the second half of the song.  I’m sure it won’t take you long, since I often hear the strains of the spooky song coming up from the basement, even outside your normal practice time.  I credit Tara with keeping piano fun for you, because you don’t seem to dread practicing the way I did as a kid.  She does a great job finding a balance between challenging you and not overwhelming you.

You really loved your second grade teacher, Mr. Turnquist.  He had a cool approach to homework.  You had math worksheets a few times a week, but you also had weekly creative projects.  They were technically optional, but since you’re Miles, you did every single one.  The last one might have been the best.  You had to think of an invention, draw and describe it on a poster, and then make a model of it.  You said that most of your classmates did things like time-traveling cars and other fantastical inventions, but you took a different approach.  I suggested that you think of a problem, then base your invention on a way of solving that problem.  The problem you came up with is the fact that you’re always dropping Cheerios on the floor, and your dad and I get irritated when we step on them.

To solve the problem, you invented Cheerio Duck.  It’s a robotic duck that scans the floor with cameras in its eyes and munches any Cheerios it sees.  You even planned for a trap door in the duck’s belly for Cheerio removal.  I thought that was a practical and original idea.  Now, every morning when you drop Cheerios, you call out “Cheerio Duck!”  Sadly, your prototype isn’t a working model.  Tobin has even taken to yelling “Laundry Duck!” in the hopes that a robot duck will come pick up the socks he always leaves on the floor.  Maybe that can be your next invention.

We’ve been busy over the last several weekends, with our Family Folk Machine concert, a trip to Ames, and a family wedding in Albia.  You did a great job at the concert.  For the first time, you not only sang a solo but also did a spoken introduction to a song.  You worked every night for a week leading up to the concert so you’d have your blurb memorized.  On the day of the show, I offered you a cheat sheet with the text, but you declined.  And, of course, you nailed it.

Harry Potter remains your favorite topic of just about everything:  reading, movies, discussion.  The final book is broken into two movies, and you’ve reached the point in the book that the first movie covers.  We’re doing to have to rent that soon.  You had a play date with another Harry Potter-loving friend yesterday, and the two of you were throwing spells and hexes at each other all over the Ped Mall.

Photo by Gary Clarke

I’m just now getting used to your face with those big adult teeth in it, and next week, we have an appointment with an orthodontist.  I don’t know what she’ll recommend, exactly—it might not be braces just yet.  You seem to want them, though I’m not sure why.  I’ve tried to explain to you that while they’re good in the long-term, braces are sort of a hassle, but you still like the idea.  That may change the first time you have them tightened.  I remember that painful process well.  We’ll see what she says.  You may try to use it as a negotiation point for getting more ice cream.

One of the goals I’ve set for you for the summer is to eat a piece of pizza.  It seems like a low-threshold food for you to explore, and it would make things a lot easier at birthday parties and other pizza-centric events.  There’s also a cool arcade/pizza joint in town that would be a great family dinner destination, but we have never been there because there’s nothing you will agree to eat.  Pizza, Miles.  Pizza is your friend.

You have a lot of summer left in front of you, my sweet boy.  Let’s do all kinds of fun things and invent a duck to clean up all our messes.



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