4/22/2017

The Tobin Times #67

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:40 pm

Dear Tobin,

We took a two-goal walk this morning.  The first goal was to go to HyVee and get some carrot seeds (the Co-op was out of the Seed Savers kind we wanted) and gardening gloves.  The second goal was to pick up litter along our path, because it’s Earth Day today, and you’re taking it very seriously.  You keep turning off lights in rooms where people are using them.  I’ve tried to explain to you that we have moved almost exclusively to LED bulbs in our house, so they use very little energy, but you’re still being kind of obsessive about it.  Still, the path looks nicer now that you tidied it up, and the ducks in the creek will surely appreciate not getting caught up in the big plastic bag you found.

Photo by Denny

As we walked, we enjoyed the vibrant fuchsia colors on the trees.  That seems to be a shade of pink you can see, unlike the pink of the hyacinths I told you to sniff.  “There aren’t any pink ones,” you told me.  Under the fuchsia blossoms, you told me that there are sunny people and moony people.  The sunny people, according to you, are colorful, while the moony people are black and white.  I’m not sure if you made that up or if you heard it somewhere, but I can agree with your assessment that you are both sunny and colorful.

Sometimes we wish you’d tone it down a bit.  If there’s someone running around the house with a kazoo in his mouth and a ukulele under his arm, shouting all the way, it’s probably you.  Your personality is as vivacious as your hair.  The only thing that can flatten it is when you flip upside down onto a chair and watch videos while balanced on your head.  I used to do that as a kid too.  Your dad doesn’t believe that it’s comfortable, but I get it.

We’re heading into your final month of preschool, and you absolutely ready to move forward.  We went to kindergarten roundup last week, and you’re so comfortable and self-assured that I didn’t worry about you at all.  It’s nice not to be one of the parents of the tearful, nervous kids.  I remember being almost as stressed-out as Miles was when he first got rounded up.  Now, we’re well-familiar with the school, the staff, and all the procedures.  You probably wouldn’t have even turned around to wave goodbye to me as you headed off to the kids’ portion of the event if the teacher hadn’t told you to.

You can be a lot to manage sometimes.  You decided to sing with Family Folk Machine this session, and while I’m very happy that you wanted to, you have a hard time staying focused during rehearsals.  It doesn’t help that you have friends there who are also prone to getting riled up, and a lot of mutual riling goes on.  You still have a hard time sitting through a whole movie.  But, like everyone, with these challenges come strengths, and I love how easily you make friends and adapt to new situations.  You truly are a sunny little fellow, and you brighten every room you enter.

We’re going to have some good fun this summer, including a trip to St. Louis to meet up with your cousins.  We had such a good time when we went before, you’re excited to show cousins Aleks and Vera the sights.  This time you have set the Botanical Gardens as high priority (I’m not sure why, but you really want to visit).  You’ve got a couple of summer classes lined up, and you’re looking forward to our usual summer destinations, like the library, the downtown fountain, the Flavor Ice stand, the Natural History Museum, and the swimming pool.

My little spring lamb, you are so fluffy and exciting.  You can be a stinker.  In fact, you’re being a stinker right this moment by using an air pump to squirt Callum with air when he clearly doesn’t like it, and I’ve asked you not to several times.  Nobody knows better than you exactly what to say to irritate Miles.  And yet, we always forgive you.  We’re all going to miss you when you start all-day school next fall.  Let’s try to be patient with each other, and I’ll try to smile as much as you do.

Love,

Mommy

4/11/2017

The Callum Chronicle #27

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:44 am

My dear Callum,

Your little brain is working so hard lately.  Your latest discovery is the fact that the letter S and the number 5 look a lot alike.  I was wearing a shirt with writing on it that included a couple of S’s, and you poked them and said, “Mommy five shirt.”  It took me a while to figure out what you meant, but you were specific enough that we got it sorted out.  We talked about how that was actually the letter S, and now that’s your favorite letter.  The last couple of bedtimes, you’ve insisted on holding the magnetic S that usually resides on the magnet board in your room.  Some kids cuddle teddy bears, but you prefer a hard little magnet.  We had dinner the other night in Solon, a nearby town, and out the restaurant window you could see the huge letters of the SOLON monument the town erected for their sesquicentennial some years ago.  You got so excited about “big S-5!” that we had to go explore the area.  That was fun until you ate some dirt and I had to take you back to the restaurant to wash your mouth.

The emerging springtime has given us more opportunities to play outside, and boy is it hard to keep you out of the creek behind our house.  You’re still unsteady enough that I’m reluctant to let you play down there unless I’m physically restraining you, and that’s a pretty tiring process.  It doesn’t help that Tobin is pretty adept at creek-splashing, and it drives you crazy not to do everything he does.  We have a summer coming up that might be a little frustrating for everyone, but there are some activities we all can do.  The library has free movies on Monday afternoons, and the big boys are trustworthy enough that I can take you to another room to play if you get too squirrelly.  You have not yet mastered the art of sitting still through a movie, whether at home or in a theater.  That’s not too big a problem most of the time, but I feel bad when you get disruptive and people have paid good money to see a show.  That’s another reason the library is a good choice.

We’ll have the fountain for hot days and the playground for medium days and frozen yogurt for pretty much any day we’re downtown.  I hope we can get out to the Friday Night Concert Series now and then, as well as the various downtown festivals that happen throughout the summer.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Our trip to Nashville was lots of fun, and you kept up with the big boys just fine.  You’re still small enough that the specifics of a destination don’t matter a whole lot to you.  Anywhere you can have playtime and plenty of cocktail hours is okay by you.  You didn’t nap most of our trip, because there was always something fun going on, and you slept great every night.  Since we’ve been home, you’re back to napping a few times a week.  That has its pluses and minuses, since a nap makes you a more pleasant person in the evening, but it also makes it harder to get you to sleep at night.  You’re in a transition stage in many ways, and transitions can be tough.  I do have to give you credit, though:  the eight-hour drive was a lot better this time than last time.  It’s nice that you’re old enough now to be distracted by music, toys, and stories.  You’re also in a front-facing car seat this time, which has to be a lot more interesting for you because you can watch the landscape.

Photo by Denny

You still require a lot of attention and energy, but that comes with the territory and I’m mostly happy to do it.  Sometimes life gets a bit overwhelming, especially with your brothers’ crazy activity schedule that leaves very little time for relaxation and reflection.  That’s one reason I sometimes can’t resist putting you down for nap, even though I know there will be hell to pay at bedtime.  At least at bedtime, your dad is around to contribute to the hell payment plan.

You love to play with your toy kitchen and all the food toys.  You’re also very into Play-Doh right now, although you prefer to rip it into little shreds rather than form anything representative.  You like pouring water (or juice, if anyone was foolish enough to leave a cup of juice within  your reach) from one cup to another, and I’ve more than once heard you yell “Big uh-oh!”  That’s when I gather up the towels and hope it was nothing too sticky.  I’ve cut back on letting you “play coffee” after you dumped about half a pound of organic, fair trade certified ground coffee directly into the water reservoir of my coffee maker.

Next year, Tobin will go to school full-time, and it will be just the two of us most of the time.  Something tells me I’ll find it exhausting, but when that stage is over, I’ll miss it.  As I said to your dad the other night, when I picked you up and smothered you with kisses after a couple of hours away from you, “I need a break…until I get one.”

You’re delicious, and I love watching you learn and grow, even when you do gross things like eat dirt (or Play-Doh).  I guess that’s what a little scientist has to do:  test the world and figure out what’s an S and what’s a 5, what’s tasty and what gets you hauled into a bathroom for a mouth-rinse.

Love,

Mommy

4/7/2017

Monthly Miles Memo #111

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:28 pm

Dear Miles,

We have a ritual each morning:  we check TimeHop, which, for those who don’t know or Future Us who have forgotten about popular apps from the two-thousand-teens, is a tool that shows social media posts from a given day for years in the past.  That is, today we looked at posts I made on April 7, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.  You really enjoy doing this with me each morning at breakfast, because there’s almost always a cute picture of you and/or your brothers or funny things someone said.  Every now and then I even have a good quip.  This morning, you got a kick out of what I wrote eight years ago:  “Miles just handed me The Collected Works of Eudora Welty as if I ought to read it to him.”

Seven years ago today, I wrote, “Getting ready to do an Elluminate session, then off to Willowwind for a pre-preschool visit.”  Elluminate is a video conference technology that I haven’t thought about in approximately seven years.  Visiting Willowwind to see if it was a good choice for you, however, seems so recent.  It was a disastrous visit, as I recall.  For some reason, you were in a brief but painful stage of being absolutely freaked out by anyone who wasn’t close family.  I think you brought your beloved nanny Beanie to tears because you suddenly turned on her.  When we visited Willowwind, you cried the whole time and refused to let go of my leg.

Photo by Denny

Fortunately, that stage passed quickly.  You and Beanie became great friends again (in fact, even these days you text regularly), and once you were in a better frame of mind, you liked Willowwind a lot.  This particular TimeHop memory stood out to me because you’ve been doing so many new things lately, and you’ve grown so much in the last seven years.  You’re still shy and nervous sometimes, but more and more I’m seeing you be brave and take risks.

One of these new adventures was the songwriting workshop we did in Family Folk Machine.  During one of the first workshops, we were to divide into groups.  You were sitting next to me, so it was natural that we’d be in a group together.  In that group activity, we brainstormed ideas borne of the story circles we’d done at a previous meeting.  We wrote down our ideas, and the facilitators grouped them into like categories.  From those categories, we were to pick the topic that most resonated with us, and that would be the group we’d be in to write our songs.  You chose the Nature group, and I was more interested in Peace and Protest.  I made sure it was okay with you that we be in separate groups, and you said it was.  You ended up being the only kid in your group, and you wrote the lyrics to your very own song.  You were so, so proud when we rehearsed it at choir practice, and I agree that there’s something magical about seeing your by-line on the printed score.  It’s going to be a great moment when we sing it in concert later this month.

You also surprised me by sticking to your plan of going out for baseball.  You developed a sudden interest in it last spring, but by the time you told me you wanted to play, the sign-up deadline had passed.  I thought there was a good chance you’d lose interest or lose your bravery by the time this season came, especially since it would be your first time playing a team sport, when most of your teammates had surely played for years.

But no—sign-up time came around for this season, and you still wanted to play, so I registered you.  You’ve only had two practices so far due to the rainy couple of weeks we’ve had, but your dad tells me you’re doing just fine.  I’m so proud of you for striking out on your own (no pun intended) and trying something challenging.  I’m excited to see you play in a game.  I have been to many professional baseball games in my life (due to having been switched at birth with the sports-loving child my parents were supposed to bring home), and I have never once looked forward to the prospect.  It’s amazing what having a kid can do to one’s perspective.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Yet another boundary-stretching activity for you was this year’s school carnival.  I had already volunteered to work one of the games, so you asked if you could just go around with your friends instead of sticking with your dad or me.  I gave you ten dollars’ worth of tickets and set you loose.  We met up again toward the end of the night, when you and Tobin were both freaking out with delight about the fact that you won cakes in the cake walk.  You won yours when you were with your friends, and Tobin won his with your dad.  If I’d been there, I might have declined one of the cakes like I did last year when our family won two.  You haven’t let me forget that, so you were mighty pleased that this year you guys were able to right past wrongs.

The carnival happened to fall on April Fool’s Day, so you and Tobin used some of your sugared-up post-carnival energy to play some pranks around the house.  I don’t know if the fake dude at the computer is supposed to be you or if I was supposed to think an intruder had come in, put on your coat, and started checking his email.

We had a great trip to Nashville last month, and you and your brothers mostly kept it together.  The bed situation in our rental house was a lot like ours here—bunk bed with a single on top and double below.  At home, you always want the top bunk to yourself, but Tobin scrambles up to join you nine nights out of ten.  In Nashville, the top mattress wasn’t very comfortable, so you slept on the larger bottom bunk with Tobin.  Ever since we’ve been home, you’ve been doing your before-bed reading in the top bunk and then at lights-out time, you’ve been coming down and sleeping in the bottom bunk (except for the night Tobin was sick and you were afraid he’d barf on you).

I don’t know what changed, but you guys are pretty cute together.  Sleeping children are so forgivable.

We’re not entirely without challenges.  Sometimes you get huffy when your dad and I ask you to do even the easiest tasks around the house.  Sometimes you’re too harsh with Tobin.  You still won’t eat any vegetables.

You do a good job brushing your teeth, though.  The dentist agrees.

Love,

Mom

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