11/23/2016

The Tobin Times #62

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:44 pm

Hello, sunshine-face.

It’s fall for real now, which means less outside playtime and more running around in circles in the basement.  I’ve been doing that because we’re waiting for my treadmill to be repaired, and you’re doing it because you think it’s fun.  We’ve smacked into each other more than once as we dodge the rocking horse and Exersaucer.  I think you’re figuring out how to time your movements so as not to interfere with mine as I come around a corner.  It will all be safer once the treadmill gets repaired.  I wonder if you’ll keep running around while I run in place.  That would be pretty good entertainment for me.

Your typically cheerful disposition has remained so, despite a general feeling of bummed-out from the adults in the house.  We’ve been going through a rough time in terms of national politics.  We try to strike a balance between honesty about our concerns and not freaking you out.  I know I’ve been stressed out and short-tempered more than usual, and I’m sorry for that.  You’re so kind and empathetic, you know just when I need a little extra love.  I know it’s not your job to take care of me, so I don’t depend on you for my happiness, but I do like it when you come say some sweet words to me and give me extra cuddles.  You’re my joy as well as a primary source of my exhaustion.

We had your parent-teacher conference at preschool last week.  I was a little nervous going in, because we weren’t completely happy with how things had been going. I think part of the problem is that you truly would have been academically ready for kindergarten.  I hope it wasn’t a mistake holding you back.  I think it’s sometimes frustrating for you to be in a class with littler kids who aren’t ready to do the things you’re doing.  Combined with your naturally competitive nature (which isn’t helped by how hard you work to keep up with Miles), you can sometimes clash with others in your preschool environment.  You often want to talk about Pokémon Go or go collect chicken feathers while your teacher wants you to be doing some other task.  She isn’t happy about you doing your own thing, which isn’t my favorite approach to teaching—I’d rather she sought out resources to help you explore your interests instead of getting frustrated with you for not caring about the same activities as the younger kids. But you have gotten more and more settled into your current school, including making some good friends, so I think we’ll keep you there.  We’ll work on challenging you at home and working on your social skills as well.  This won’t be the last time in your life when you’ll not be interested in what’s happening in school, and it’s important to learn how to handle those feelings respectfully.

You’ve gotten super excited about math lately.  You found a set of addition worksheets that your dad printed out for Miles when he was in first grade, and with just a little help to get you going, you completed them all and demanded more.  You call it your homework and spend all kinds of time counting and figuring.  You haven’t been pursuing reading as strongly as you did last month, but you definitely know all your letters and sounds.  You have gotten to that stage where you want to write all by yourself, but you need almost every word spelled out for you.  That can be pretty time-consuming, but it’s good letter practice, and I love seeing you commit your ideas to paper.

I got frustrated with you this morning, because I had gone downstairs for just a couple of minutes to put laundry in the washer in preparation for our Thanksgiving travels.  You ran to the basement door and yelled, “MOM!  Callum’s playing in the toilet water and he’s getting it everywhere!”  I yelled back, “Well, stop him!”  I quietly hoped that at least it was a flushed toilet (sometimes you and Miles forget to do that), finished up the laundry as quickly as I could, and dashed upstairs.  I found Callum splashing around in the toilet (yes, flushed, thank goodness) with you standing there saying, “Stop!  Stop!”

Apparently I needed to be more specific.

I got mad at Miles, too, because he had just been sitting in his bed reading, oblivious to the whole debacle.  Sometimes I forget that you guys are just little kids, but other times I think:  shouldn’t you, little though you may be, have a bit more sense?

We’re all works in progress, I guess.  You work on having more sense and I’ll work on keeping myself under control when things get outrageous.

Your current favorites:  Pokémon Go and Yo-Kai (both of which are Japanese shows/toys/concepts about little creatures with various powers, though you assure me they’re very different), pepperoni pizza, rearranging furniture into tenuous “houses” for yourself and Callum, putting a blanket over the entrance to your bed to make a fort and reading bedtime stories in there by flashlight, setting goals (usually attainable, e.g., “My goal is to wear my pajamas all day”), and trying to one-up Miles.

You wear me out, Tobin, but you build me up too.  I hope I can do the same for you.  I’ll work on giving you what you need and trying to form you into a reasonable person.  You keep telling me you love me a million trillion quadrillion and I think we’ll be okay, because that’s how much I love you too.

Love,

Mommy

 

11/10/2016

The Callum Chronicle #22

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:34 pm

My sweet Callum,

You’re the only one in the family who’s not sad and angry right now, because you don’t pay attention to current events.  I don’t want to swamp your monthly letter in negativity, and I don’t feel capable of discussing the U.S. election right now in hopeful terms.  Right now I’ll focus on something beautiful in our world:  you.

Not surprisingly, Halloween was a big hit with you.  You added a key word to your vocabulary:  Kit Kat.  You’ve been asking for them every day, and lucky for you, your brothers brought in a huge candy haul featuring many Kit Kat bars.  Since I don’t let you have more than one a day (or two if you really earned it and/or I really need to keep you occupied in your high chair for a few minutes), that six-pound bag is going to last quite a while.  I used a bunch of candy in a batch of monster cookies for Miles’s school and for our Family Folk Machine concert, but I left the Kit Kats for you.

Your dad took Miles and Tobin out trick-or-treating, and you went with them.  I told him to feel free to bring you home if you weren’t tolerating the adventure well, and you could help me hand out candy to the neighborhood kids.  You didn’t come back until the big boys had filled their buckets, though, because you loved it as much as they did.  You wore Miles’s old Max costume (from Where the Wild Things Are), and you fit right in when we went to school to help with his class party.  The big kids treated you so sweetly and you had a great time.

You’re learning lots of words lately and are starting to combine words into phrases.  You asked for water (“awa”) the other day, so I filled a cup for you.  You shook your head no, then walked over to the windowsill and said “awa pan.”  It took some gesturing, but I figured out that you meant you wanted to water the plants.  You love watering the plants.  Mostly I only let you do it with an empty watering can, because otherwise they’d drown.

You’ve also been crazy for reading books lately.  Many times a day, you do this cute little backward scootch into someone’s lap with a book in your hands.  You can fill in the blanks in many of them, especially Dr. Seuss’s ABCs.  You don’t really like the “camel on the ceiling” part, or at least you don’t think the picture looks right.  When we get to that part, you always have to grab the book from me and turn it around so the camel is facing the right direction.  You also really like Leslie Patricelli’s Yummy, Yucky.  You can tell us that eggs are “mummy” and earwax is “ucky.”  When we get to the part about cookies/coffee, you agree that the cookies are yummy, but you say the coffee is “‘ot.”  I like your attitude.  Coffee is not yucky at all.  It’s necessary.

We’ve been taking a lot of walks lately, because my treadmill is broken and that’s the only way for me to get any exercise these days.  Luckily it’s been a warm couple of weeks.  You sometimes get antsy in the stroller for our long walks around the neighborhood, but mostly you seem to relax and enjoy it.  You like it when we see dogs and squirrels.  You also like playing with toys, especially the Imaginext Batman toys.  I heard you doing a pretty good imitation of the Joker’s laugh from the big boys’ bedroom.

You love copying your brothers’ activities, but you’re not quite up to the level of responsibility required for everything they do.  You want to write on paper like they do, but you can’t help yourself from chewing the erasers off all our pencils.  I don’t know where the appeal lies in that, but you can’t get enough.  You also do a good job coloring with markers, but if I don’t keep a close eye on you, you write on the furniture (or worse, chew the felt tip off and look like you have a mouth full of tooth rot).  Fortunately, most of our markers are washable and non-toxic.

You give wonderful hugs with tender little pats and gentle cheek touches.  You still love a good game of peekaboo and  sharing a bath with Tobin.  Your current favorite food is dried cranberries (and Kit Kats), you like going on the swings at the park (especially when Miles pushes you), and you’ve been sleeping pretty darn well.

Your sweet face is helping to hold us up in difficult times, my darling little boy.  We’re going to work hard to build a better world for you.

Love,

Mommy

11/6/2016

Monthly Miles Memo #106

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:50 pm

Dear Miles,

It’s been a busy month of various festivities.  We’ve had friend parties, school parties, a couple of different trick-or-treating opportunities, and your first piano recital.  Life isn’t slowing down any time soon with our upcoming choir concerts, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas and your birthday soon after.

You short-term lucked out with a beautiful night for trick-or-treating.  We were talking with a friend at your dad’s office (which held a fun trick-or-treating event), and he and I reminisced about all the awful nights we remembered slogging around our neighborhoods in the rain, or worse, freezing rain.  It seems like every Halloween of your life has been a warm night, and it certainly seems like some kind of climate change is at work.  That’s why I say your luck was short-term.  It might be good for wandering the late-October streets now, but we’ll see how that works out for the next generation.  I can’t remember the last time we made it to November without a freeze.  My very temperature-sensitive Thai basil is still growing like it’s in the tropics of Southeast Asia.  There’s a bell pepper in the garden I keep not picking because I think it’s going to fully ripen.  What a world, what a world.

In less bleak news, you had a lot of fun in your Odd Todd costume.  Only a handful of people knew who you were, but that made it extra special whens someone recognized you.  I can tell I put a lot of hours into trimming felt strips and hot-gluing them onto your blazer and pants, because when I got out felt for you guys to do another art project, Callum saw it and said, “Odd Todd!”  You looked great and really relished the role.  You got to wear the costume several times for various Halloween festivities as well as costume-optional piano recital.  I was so proud of you as you played.  We did a dress rehearsal at home to make sure you had the flexibility required to play your piece while wearing your forty-pound jacket (an exaggeration, but there was a lot of felt and glue on there).  You did fantastically, and most importantly, you were very proud of yourself.  You’re Tara’s featured student for November and December, and in the text accompanying your photo, you said that you look forward to learning really tough songs that sound really cool.

That made me very happy to hear, because I’ve always been afraid that you’ll only want to do things that come easily to you.  Maybe piano playing does come easily, but it’s a realm with many opportunities for challenges and growth, and I’m thrilled that you’re willing to push yourself.

You’ve been following the election pretty closely.  You’ve been a Hillary fan since the start, so you’re very invested in her success.  I know there are many Republicans among your loved ones, so your dad and I do our best to describe various views without demonizing people.  More than anything I want you to understand that the future of our nation is not about Democrats versus Republicans—it’s not team sports.  It’s about making thoughtful, informed choices about the world we want to help create.  I’m so heartened by the many prominent Republicans who have denounced Donald Trump.  While I try to be respectful of views different from mine, I can’t in good faith say anything kind about that guy.

The other night, Tobin was worried that Donald Trump would move to our neighborhood.  I’m not sure where he got that idea, since anybody who wears a three-piece suit while campaigning at the Iowa State Fair is clearly not too invested in our state.  You reassured him that since our friends and neighbors Jane and Linda live across the street, Trump wouldn’t want to live here.  That kind of concrete reasoning reassured Tobin and made me smile.

We’ve been working hard at Family Folk Machine to get ready for our concerts next week and the following.  As usual, you are nailing your solos in rehearsal, and I’m sure you’ll do just as well when performance time comes.  You seem to have no stage fright, and I hope that quality stays with you.  It’s funny—you can be so oversensitive when Tobin does anything even slightly annoying, but tasks that would intimidate many adults (singing and playing piano before an audience, choosing an esoteric Halloween costume) don’t faze you at all.  You can be inflexible and upset when things don’t follow your idea of how they ought to go, but you can play a mean game of chess.  You even beat your dad when you guys played on a recent Dad/Miles Java House date.  Your brain doesn’t always work the way a typical person’s might, but it’s still one of the loveliest brains I know.

I’ve been enjoying this eerily warm fall with you, taking time almost every day after school to play outside.  You don’t need me to push you on the swings anymore, but I still like sitting on one next to you.  I like walking to pick you up from school and lingering, dawdling, and chatting on the walk home.  We’ll be bundling up soon enough, so for now, let’s keep crunching leaves and taking turns pushing Callum in the baby swing.  You’re a great brother and a great kid.

Love,

Mommy

 

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