2/24/2017

The Tobin Times #65

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:39 pm

My sweet Tobin,

You’re officially five-and-a-half now, and you’re brimming with all the spunk and adventure that’s been stewing in you all along.  We’ve had some unseasonably warm days, and you’ve been using them to great advantage.  I can hardly keep you inside.  All you want to do is play in the creek, run around in the yard, pump on the swings, and shoot hoops.

You are a fun and friendly guy, and I admire your ability to make friends where ever you go.  We were at an event at Miles’s school a couple of weeks ago, and you dived right in and played with all the kids.  At the end, I came up to tell you it was time to go, and you were in the middle of scheduling a play date with a new friend you’d made.  Today when I picked you up from school, I didn’t see your good buddy Chase.  I asked if he wasn’t at school today, and you said he wasn’t, nor was your other good friend Scarlett.  You just shrugged and rattled off the names of a few other friends you played with.  As a mother who has trouble in social situations sometimes, it is such a relief to me that you do so well with other kids.  Miles had a play date yesterday, and at one point she wanted to play outside, but he thought it was too cold.  You pulled on your coat and headed out with her.  Of all the things I have to worry about in this world (they abound), you having friends is not among them.

Your basketball season has been a lot of fun, and you were especially happy to have Mubby and Skittergramps attend a game this week.  You played so well—you hustled in your typically high-energy way, you defended, you assisted, and you even made a basket.  Your team has gotten a lot better, and I know your dad is really proud to be your coach.  I wish I’d been able to watch more, but keeping Callum from running onto the court is a lot of work.  I saw more than I got to the other time I attended your game, because Mubby took Callum part of the time.  I definitely saw your sweaty curls and red cheeks flushed with exhaustion and happiness.

The recent warm weather has given us all a boost, though it’s tinged with the despairing fact that it may well be a product of climate change.  Every day it seems like there’s more disheartening news both from our state and national capitals.  As a pretty privileged family, it’s easy to feel insulated from the blows that many of our neighbors and fellow Americans are feeling, but one of these days it will be us.  I don’t know if it will be due to cuts to the public education system, threats to our natural resources, or just the deepening gloom that comes from reading scary news day after day.  It’s taken a toll on me, I know.  I’m sure I’ve been crabbier than usual, and part of that is the usual gloom that comes with winter.  We’re heading to Nashville in a couple of weeks, and a trip is always a good pick-Mom-up.  You’re excited to listen to audiobooks in the car and play baseball and basketball with your cousin.  I’m excited to shop at Publix.  I love Publix.

I also love you, more than Publix, even.  I was thinking recently about crying out of joy, which is kind of a funny thing to do, but I do it at pretty much every wedding I attend.  That’s usually just a watery eye and sniffle kind of thing, but I absolutely remember a time about six years ago when I sobbed for joy.  I was pregnant with you, and without getting too graphic here, I had reason to fear that I might be having a miscarriage.  We went to the hospital, and the medical staff hooked me up to the ultrasound machine.  I had steeled myself for bad news, trying to be stoic and accepting.  The blurry picture came onto the monitor.  I have a great respect for ultrasound technicians, because I have no idea how they can make any sense out of those blobs.  But even I could tell that the fluttering little pulse on that screen was a heartbeat, and it meant that you were okay.  That moment was the purest sob-for-joy I’ve ever felt.

Medical situations are often vulnerable ones for the patient, and I’m a person who works hard to keep calm and preserve her dignity.  At that moment, I didn’t worry about my dignity at all.  It’s a good thing they stock those rooms with Kleenexes.  I would have gotten tears and snot all over your dad’s shirt, otherwise.

You are my heartbeat, my little Tobin:  a burst of sunshine and warmth unrelated to fossil fuel abuse.  Let’s jump into spring together.

Love,

Mommy

 

2/23/2017

I’ve been pork-an on the railroad

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:21 pm

I frequently make a Thai-inspired dish that doesn’t have a name because I made it up, but we refer to it as pork and noodles.  Tonight we were eating Mexican-style carnitas-type pork, and Callum was really enjoying it.

C:  More pork-an-noodles!

D:  It’s not pork and noodles.  It’s just pork.

C:  More pork-an!

He ate several more helpings of pork-an before dinner was out.

2/21/2017

Hot stuff

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:04 pm

Tobin and I enjoy listening to “Nearly Impossible Trivia” on the radio while we drive to school. Today’s question: 33% of women say a man wearing this makes him look uncool.

A: What do you think the answer is?
T: A too-hot sweater?

2/10/2017

The Callum Chronicle #25

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:11 pm

Dear Callum,

You’ve had a lot to say lately.  Your interests are becoming more broad, and you’re getting better and better at verbally expressing yourself.  You still say a lot of NO, but you also say funny things like “Mama, where are you?” and before I have a chance to answer (because I’m rarely more than twenty feet away from you), you reply to yourself, “Coming, just minute.”  You know all kinds of things I didn’t realize you knew, too.  Today I took you to Miles’s school to pick something up, and while we were there, you very clearly stated the name of the school.  I don’t think I had mentioned it by name before we got there.

Now that you’re over two, we’ve gotten more relaxed about screen time.  I still don’t let you sit for hours on end in front of a show, but I’ve let you have some stretches of Elmo or Wild Kratts here and there.  Unfortunately, the magical power of YouTube suggested videos led you to Barney and Friends, which is about the most annoyingly insipid show ever created for children.  You can somehow sense how much I hate it and therefore request it regularly.

I think you must be growing a lot physically, too.  Earlier this week, two nights in a row you woke up crying in pain.  The first time, you said your feet hurt, and that night was particularly bad because you woke up at 1, 2, and 3 a.m.  The next night you said your back hurt.  I’ve given you a dose of ibuprofen before bed the last couple of nights, which has either helped or at least not hurt, because you’ve been sleeping well again.  Dr. Google says it might be growing pains.  I remember getting those in my legs when I was young, but never my feet or back.  Maybe you were just having a hard time communicating your specific issues.

You love reading stories before bed.  Right now your favorites are a few you got from Mubby and Skitter for either your birthday or Christmas.  You got a couple of Elmo books as well as one called I Want my Mommy.  That one resonates, because you’re in the same mommy-centric stage both your brothers went through at this age.  Mostly you only get clingy to me when you’re tired or otherwise crabby, though.  Most of the time you’re pretty friendly and flexible.  We’ve got a couple of events coming up that will require babysitters, and I’m not too concerned.  You’ve always done a good job with sitters, and the fact that you’ll have your big brothers with you makes a big difference, too.

You’re in a very curious and adventurous stage, and those qualities combined with your increasing physical prowess can make for some tricky situations.  A while ago I caught you standing in the three-inch space between the edge of your dad’s computer desk and the keyboard.  I try to take pictures of the crazy things you do, but that time, I prioritized your safety over posterity.  You’re welcome.

You love to play with grown-up things, like plungers (I didn’t even realize we owned two plungers until you squirmed into the back of the bathroom closet and dragged them out).  You also currently love to play “coffee,” which means sitting on the kitchen counter and pouring water from my coffee pot into the coffee maker.  It makes a big mess, but it’s an activity that really keeps you engaged and has a low chance of disaster (as long as I remember to unplug the coffee maker).  It’s been a good way to keep you out of the scissors and glue lately while your brothers work on Valentines for their classmates.

You’ve been really excited about painting lately, which is also a huge mess, but I’m not too fussy about those things.  I do wish you’d paint on paper, though.  You seem to consider the paper I put out for you as more of a brush-rest than a medium.  You’d rather rub your paint-covered hands on your hair and face than create anything your dad could hang on his cubicle wall.

You love baths, too, but I try not to do that too often because your skin gets so dry.  Part of our bedtime ritual every night is a thorough lotioning of your back and legs.  You would squirt the lotion everywhere if I let you, but usually I can appease you with a “leetle bit,” which you say in a very cute, high voice.  That means just a tiny dab of lotion, which you smear on your shirt or somewhere else where it won’t do any good.

Your current favorites:  chocolate hearts that were supposed to go in Valentines but mostly go in your mouth, fruit snacks, the “Oompa Loompa” and “I Want it Now” songs from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie, grapes, bedtime stories (the previously mentioned ones as well as How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight and I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More), playing basketball, talking a lot about the potty but declining all suggestions to use it, and applying makeup from my stash of stuff I don’t care about.  You have a knack for doing that when we’re running late to get somewhere.

We had a beautiful day last week and were finally able to get outside to play.  It felt great to do that, and I know there are more days like that ahead of us.  Especially now that your naps have gotten shorter (and sometimes you skip them entirely), it’s good to have opportunities to get out of the house in the afternoon.  That will mean more mud in the short term, and probably more baths, and probably more lotion.  You had a doctor appointment a couple of weeks ago, and I learned that you’re on the small side, just twentieth percentile for weight and fortieth for weight.  You seem so big to me, running and talking and so clearly expressing humor and preferences and many of the things people with grown-up brains and bodies do.  How can such a small boy make things so exciting and exhausting?

You might need to make me an extra pot of coffee.

That’s okay.  I love coffee and I love you.

Mommy

2/7/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #109

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:29 pm

Dear Miles,

I’ve been feeling a lot of tension lately between two opposing desires:  for the next four years to go quickly and for you and your brothers to not grow up too fast.  It’s true that every year of your life seems to have gone faster than the one before it, and that makes me ache, but I also want to get through this difficult time for our nation.  Just this morning, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education.  She is a multi-million dollar donor to the Trump campaign with no degree in education, no experience as a teacher, and no time spent as a student or parent of a student in public schools.  She has spent her career working toward the goal of stripping public schools of resources and funneling them toward private schools.

You went to preschool at a local private secular school that also offers k-6 education.  It’s a wonderful school, and your dad and I struggled with the decision of whether to send you to our neighborhood public school or to cough up the funds to keep you in the private one.  Our neighborhood school faces challenges:  many of the kids enrolled are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and I was worried that such an environment might have a negative effect on you.  Would the teachers spend all their time and resources supporting the kids who need extra help and not be able to give you attention?  I could hardly blame them—it’s a big job to provide not only academic support but also all the other kinds of support teachers give their students, especially those who have higher needs.  You tend toward the tender and sensitive side.  Would bigger, tougher kids pick on you?

We decided to go the public school route, partly for financial reasons and partly because we both believe in the public school system.  I’m sure you would have had a great experience at the private school, and I’m glad it’s there for kids for whom it’s the right fit.  But our neighborhood school has been a mostly great environment for you.  My nervousness about “tough kids” was pretty dumb.  Almost to an individual, the kids I’ve met when I hang out at your school have been very sweet.  Nearly all your teachers have done a great job balancing their resources and helping you and your classmates in a way that’s sensitive and appropriate.

I wish I could promise that it will always be that way.  The future is uncertain for the public school system.  In separate-but-related issues, arts programs are being defunded at the state and possibly national level.  Artists-in-the-schools events are some of the only times a lot of these kids get to see cultural events.  And even people who find the arts superfluous (I don’t understand these people, but I recognize that they exist) should be deeply concerned about the impact of Ms. DeVos and those with whom her ideals align.  You’ll still have piano lessons and after-school enrichment classes and a choir to sing in, but my heart breaks for the kids who are going to get the shaft.  They’re our nation’s future too.

Sometimes the pessimism overwhelms me.  I’ll be honest, I’ve been having a hard time.  We have no beach vacation on the horizon (though I’ve wrestled your dad into a commitment to the Keys in 2018), which is the greatest therapy I have, and some days it just seems like we have to will the days to go by until we can make some electoral change.

Sorry, this is seeming more like a journal entry than a letter to you.  Here’s how you fit in.  We sang along at a rally last weekend opposing the Muslim ban.  You learned some good chants, like “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.”  I felt a little conflicted bringing you, because I personally find it distasteful to impose one’s political views on children.  I want you to learn and grow and make your own informed decisions, rather than just accepting what I foist on you.  I make a concerted effort not to badmouth Republicans, because there are good-hearted Republicans in your life, and I don’t want you to think in generalizations.  I know for a fact that some of them are also horrified by the direction this administration is going, and I applaud them for thinking outside the prescribed platforms.  Still, this is more than a political party issue.  This is a moral issue.  I want you to look back on my life, decades down the line, and remember that I took a stand and invited you to stand with me.

You’re a great kid.  We have your parent-teacher conferences next month, and I genuinely look forward to them, because your teachers always have such great things to say about you.  What parent doesn’t want to hear that her kid is kind, creative, and smart?  I also am prepared to hear that your desk is a  mess and that you can be disorganized.  I was the exact same way.  I don’t have a desk anymore, but the Arm’s Reach that Callum hasn’t slept in since he was a month old is piled high with clothes and personal electronics.  I’m not perfect; you’re not perfect.  Tidy people are a mystery to me anyway.

You seem to have made some good friends this year and deepened existing friendships.  You can be wonderful with your brothers, but you also need to watch your tone sometimes when you talk to them.  I know little brothers can be pesty, but Callum and Tobin love and idolize you so much, and it hurts me when you get rude and sarcastic with them (mostly Tobin, who is a smart cookie and knows exactly how to irritate you).

You never want to get a haircut.  You still sleep in jeans almost every night.  You will actually dry off from an evening shower and put a fresh pair of jeans on for sleeping, despite having access to plenty of pairs of sweatpants and pajamas.  You’ve made some good advancements in your ice skating, and I think we’re going to go again this weekend.

Your current favorites:  rotini with tomato sauce; the Prodigy computer game, the song “Stitches;” the book The Greenglass House, which your dad is reading to you and Tobin at bedtime; coming up with ideas for future Halloween costumes; and the Harry Potter Wii game you got for your birthday.

Keep up the solid work, my beautiful first-born boy.  You’re what make the days and years bearable.  You’ll brighten the future for us all.

Love,

Mom

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