The Tobin Times #69

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:54 pm

My dear Tobin,

I was going through some documents yesterday, and I found your nearly-expired passport.  We got it when you were just 17 months old in preparation for the cruise we went on.  After a few disastrous attempts by the staff at CVS, we decided to take your passport photo at home.  We read up on the guidelines, got the framing and lighting set up, and noted that you were not supposed to smile.  I guess that must make it easier to do computerized facial recognition, because it seems like other official documents have that requirement as well.

Try as we might, we couldn’t get a picture of you not smiling.  We ended up just going with a smiling picture and hoping the folks at passport control would let it slide.  Now that it’s time to get an updated passport, you’re probably old enough to keep your face neutral.  Still, your default expression is smiling.  Whether the smile is big or small, you almost always have an upward turn to your lips, and that reflects your general life attitude as well.

You’re almost done with preschool, and you’re pretty excited to celebrate your preschool graduation later this week.  I am generally of the opinion that graduation ceremonies for minor academic transitions are stupid, but you’ve been through a lot in your preschool career, and I’m okay with marking that moment.  Though we were concerned at first with how your experience at Kinderfarm would be, you’ve ended up very happy (though this is not surprising given your generally positive attitude).  You’ve made some good friends, and we’ve promised to continue with playdates through the summer.  You love the baby animals that turned up in the spring, and you often say you wish you could stay longer when I pick you up at lunch time.  You’re definitely ready for the next level, including tougher academics and a longer school day.  You’re smart and energetic and sweet, and kindergarten is going to be lucky to have you.

You’ve been having fun with baseball this season, both as a player on your own team and as a spectator for Miles.  Though I usually stay home with Callum, I attended the other night, and it was fun watching you make friends with another little brother.  I am often amazed at how well you mesh with other kids.  Maybe part of that is your middle-kid status—you have plenty of experience in dealing with other kids, and though you sometimes get frustrated with your brothers’ idiosyncrasies, you never stay down for long.  There’s nothing that makes you happier than being included in Miles’s activities.  He had a playdate last weekend to play Minecraft with a friend, and they did a good job letting you take part sometimes.  You also did a good job not being too annoying.  You confessed to me that you sometimes annoy Miles on purpose, which you do well because you’re so good at reading people and knowing how to elicit specific reactions.  It’s a great power and a great responsibility, kid.

Though we’re currently in a cool and rainy spell, we had some beautiful days earlier in the month.  You’ve helped me get the garden in, as you always do.  You’re very excited for the Amish Deer Tongue lettuce (because doesn’t that sound appetizing?), as well as the peas, tomatoes, and popcorn you’ve helped me put in so far.  Because you have a summer birthday and therefore wouldn’t be able to celebrate with your preschool class, I asked your teacher whether you could bring in treats during this last month of school.  She agreed, and you were very proud to bring in popcorn from last fall’s harvest that you had helped plant.  You’re always up for outdoor fun, including our first sprinkler adventure of the season.  We need to get to work on our Summer Activity List, because I know it will include time in the downtown fountain and swimming at City Park.

You and Miles have proven yourselves responsible enough to play down in the (tiny dribble of a) creek together, so you’ve had fun splashing around.  You would probably do it for hours, though your time is usually limited by Miles’s patience.

You told me recently that even after Donald Trump is done being president, you still want to listen to classic rock radio.  I switched from NPR as my default listening after the election, because it was just too depressing a way to start my day.  We took up the classic rock station, and you’ve really gotten into some of the music.  You like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” quite a bit, and the last couple of nights before bed, you have been running around like a crazy man singing “867-5309” at the top of your lungs.  I’m not sure that really counts as classic rock, but I can’t deny that it’s a catchy song.

I’m looking forward to squeezing out lots of fun time with you this summer.  We kept your summer classes and camps pretty lightly scheduled (at least after June, which is going to be a bit crazy).  I knew when we decided to wait one more year on kindergarten that I needed to appreciate having more time with you for one extra year, and your sweet face has been a joy to me.

I personally don’t care if you smile in every passport photo you take for the rest of your life.  I have the feeling that if the people at passport control meet you for thirty seconds, they’ll understand too.






The Callum Chronicle #28

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:47 pm

Dear Callum,

Even if I hadn’t been physically present at your birth, I’d be able to guess right away that you’re two.  Terrible is too strong a word, because you have plenty of sweetness in you, but you’re also becoming more and more opinionated.  For some reason, you are often of the opinion that we are not, in fact, running late to go get Tobin from school, and it’s the perfect time to throw a tantrum that makes changing your diaper and getting you strapped into your car seat really difficult.

Your dad and I have tried to explain to you over and over that if you wanted, you could use the potty like your big brothers, and then you wouldn’t need diapers at all.  You are not interested in that line of logic.  You’re interested in the potty, sure.  You like to open and close the lid, and you plunked a whole new roll of toilet paper in there a while back.  You’re interested in watching other people use the potty, which the others in the family tolerate to varying degrees.  We haven’t pushed it too hard yet, but there will be a day in our future when diapers are no longer a Subscribe & Save item in my Amazon cart.

Your napping has been erratic lately, which may be contributing to your fluctuating moods.  You decided somewhat abruptly that you were done nursing, which was okay with me since I was feeling ready to be done too.  You’ve done very well going to bed at night with no nursing, just lying in bed and relaxing, but naps are a different story.  I think the lack of total darkness in the room combined with the fact that you know fun stuff is happening elsewhere in the house make you less cooperative.  You just get up and leave the room.  On days when I really need you to take a nap, because we have a long evening ahead of us and I can only emotionally afford six tantrums and not twelve, we go for a drive.  That usually knocks you out, and so far I’ve been able to get you into bed without waking you up.  I’ve seen some interesting neighborhoods that I don’t usually pass through as well.

You are currently obsessed with the number 5, and you can’t quite tell the difference between the number 5 and the letter S.  If I’m wearing a shirt with writing on it, you immediately want to search it for 5’s (actually S’s, but we don’t quibble over that).  You really like my Nevertheless, She Persisted shirt for all those bendy letters.  We just got home from taking Tobin to get a haircut, and you were in heaven among all the “Buy one, get one 50% off” signs on the products.

You seem to fixate on things sometimes, like an elephant in a video you saw.  For some reason, you really didn’t like it.  Your brothers get a kick out of asking you a series of questions:

M&T:  Do you like the puppy?
C:  Yeeeessss.
M&T:  Do you like the horsey?
C:  Yeeeessss.
M&T:  Do you like the elephant?
C:  Not so good.

You still bring up the elephant pretty frequently.  You are not a fan.  I hope the elephants don’t freak you out if we go to the St. Louis Zoo during our trip there this summer.  Elephants are very interesting creatures, and I’d hate to see you banish them from your life.

You’re going to have so much fun this summer with your brothers home more.  They’re your favorite people in the world, and if you can manage not to annoy them now and then, I know you’ll have a great time together.  The problem is that a lot (though not all) of our summer activities are going to require trips in the car.  You can get your legs into a kicking position in no time with your brothers next to you in the back seat.  Your dad thinks a minivan is the answer.  I’m not so sure—I love the gas mileage and maneuverability of our car, and one of these years you’ll learn that life is easier if you’re not inciting back seat riots.  We’ll probably need a bigger vehicle as you kids’ legs get longer, but I’m not ready yet.

Your current favorites:  “Daddy Finger, Daddy Finger, Where Are You?” and all the thousand variations available on YouTube, Asian foods of many sorts, Sandra Boynton books, wearing hats, playing with water, and playing outside.  You’ve had miserable allergies this month, and we’ve had some success keeping the symptoms under control with a combination of medicine, frequent hair-washing, and keeping you inside.  I know we can’t keep you locked up all summer, but it’s tough when your poor little eyes get so red and itchy.  We may try to get you into an allergist before the next allergy season starts.

You’re frustrating and funny and adorable and very much two.  You still need mommy cuddles when you wake up every morning, and as long as that’s the case, you’re still my baby, right?  I enjoy your ever-widening vocabulary, because it lets me better understand what’s on your mind, but I also like the fact that you still think kisses cure all injuries.  Last night you bonked your head (not too hard), and you said, “Need kiss…on brain.”

I am happy to say that your brain was not accessible for kissing or anything else.  It was right there in your skull-helmet.  Let’s keep it that way.




Monthly Miles Memo #112

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:48 am

Dear Miles,

We’re wrapping up your third grade year, and I think you’d agree that it’s been a good one.  You love your teacher, Miss Lampe.  You’ve shown great social growth through some nice new friendships.  You continue to do very good academic work.  You’ve kept busy with your extracurriculars and really branched out by trying baseball.  You’ve done some fun creative stuff, like your writing class, and all the original comics I find littering the house.  You briefly freaked out in the shower the other night because you thought blue stuff was coming out of the shower wall, but it was marker that had smudged onto your hand from your comic creations.

Perhaps your biggest achievement of the month was the concert debut of your first fully-realized original song.  Family Folk Machine performed your co-composition, “How Can It Be Both?”, in our spring concert.  I was so proud of you, and there’s something really special about seeing your name in the program not just as a participant, but as a songwriter.  You performed that as well as our other songs with great aplomb, and of course you had a very supportive cheering section in the audience.

Photo by Gary Clarke

The annual Lucas Elementary Team Spelling Bee happened earlier this month, and your weeks of studying paid off in a repeat win.  Your friend Gabe’s teams won the spelling bee two years in a row as well, so your new life goal is to break his record with a third consecutive win.  I hope you don’t hog up too much triumph from your schoolmates—it wouldn’t be the worst thing if you shared the glory.  On the other hand, you’ve had your share of defeats (see baseball, below), so it’s nice that spelling can be an area of success for you.  You’re not just coasting on talent, either.  You’re a naturally good speller, but you also worked really hard to learn those tricky words.  It’s a good way to establish effective study skills.  Cramming doesn’t work when you have a list of hundreds of words to learn.  You worked on it slowly, with plenty of repetition, and those words really bored their way into your brain.  The look on your face when the emcee announced the winner was a wonderful thing to witness.

Baseball is not something that comes as easily to you as spelling, and unlike academics, I’m not much help in supporting success in that arena.  Your dad has been patient and helpful, and your coach and teammates seem like nice people.  It’s tough, though, since you’re joining in with kids who have been playing baseball or tee-ball for years, and this is your very first time on a team.  But even if you lose every game and strike out at every at-bat, I’ll still be very proud of you for trying something new and challenging.  You chose to go to the PTO meeting last night instead of your baseball game, which indicates to me that maybe it’s not something you’ll care to do in the long term.  In any case, I’m glad you tried.  There’s a new running club starting at school next fall, and that might be a good athletic endeavor for you.

As usual in life, the month has not been without challenges.  Though it seems impossibly early, I’m beginning to see some surly pre-teen behavior in you.  You’ve always tended a bit toward the gloomy, but you’ve been doing these super-irritating grunts and “ehs” in response to questions lately.  It’s become a bad habit, and your dad and I have both talked to you about the importance of answering questions with an approach that indicates something other than “talking to you is the most boring thing in the world.”  I’m sure I did crap like that when I was young, and I’m not proud of it.  I don’t know if it’s something I can change in you, but at least now you apologize when you catch yourself doing it.

You still have plenty of sweet little boy in you, though.  You and your brothers have some wonderful moments together, and I love watching you and Callum hug each other when he comes in for his final goodnight at bedtime.  I went to a party last week that extended past bedtime, and your dad reported back that there was some serious giggling going on from the bunkbed room while he was putting Callum to bed.  He also mentioned frequently overhearing the word “tushie.”

I know you’re looking forward to summer break, and I’m looking forward to having you around more.  We’ve been so busy lately that I’ve barely seen you.  We’ll have to get to work on our summer activity list.  I know you’re not too mature for frozen yogurt, trips to the library, and running through the sprinkler.



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