The Tobin Times #70

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:17 pm

My sweet Tobin,

It’s summertime, and we’ve barely had a minute to relax and enjoy break.  We’ve been busy-busy-busy with all the activities you and your brother are doing.  You finished up your varied preschool career, and now you’re eligible for a whole new level of summer pastimes.  Around here anyway, it seems all the good camps and classes are for kindergartners and up, and now, that’s you.

Photo by Denny

You did two weeks of Safety Village, which is a class offered by the local school district that taught you all about many different safety topics.  Among other topics, you learned about poison avoidance, animal safety, stranger caution, fire safety, and (your favorite), traffic safety.  I bet everybody’s favorite was traffic safety, because you got to ride in little pedal cars all around a rather elaborate village on the school grounds.  When I first heard about the class, I assumed they set it up every summer and packed it away in a shed somewhere, but when we came to visit on the last day, it became clear that it’s a permanent situation.  They have brick buildings, street signs, working traffic lights, and even a railroad crossing arm that goes up and down.  You went with a friend who will also be a Lucas kindergartner, and you had a great time.

This week you started a paleontology class at Willowwind, where you did one semester of preschool and where we’ve been taking Miles for summer and after-school classes for years.  You seemed a little nervous at first, but you settled right in and now beg to go long before departure time.  For some reason it really tugged at me to see you and Miles walking up to the school together, your big-boy backpacks on.  I’ve mostly accepted the fact that Miles is a school-aged kid, but it hit home that you’re getting ready for that life stage.  If your success and flexibility throughout preschool is any indicator, you will do great.

We’ve had a lot of family togetherness with your dad’s side of the family lately, due to visits to Nana and Papa’s farm, a family reunion on the farm where Papa grew up, and a couple of visits to our house.  You had a blast at the family reunion.  It was a roastingly hot day, but there was a nice breeze, and Aunt Rainey thoughtfully provided a really high-class kiddie pool (complete with working filter).  You and Miles got to know some cousins you haven’t played with much, and I think you truly spent four hours in that pool.  You guys were pretty exhausted by the events, but childhood summers aren’t worth much if you don’t end a good number of days tired, messy-haired, and covered in sunscreen residue.

Our schedule is going to seriously slow down after the 4th of July.  We didn’t do it this way on purpose, but the classes you and Miles chose to take all fell in June.  We’ve also been spending a lot of time out at the ballfield (your dad more than I) watching and cheering you guys on as you play baseball.  Unfortunately, your last game of the season got rained out after just a couple of innings last night, but you got a good hit and made it around the bases.  I think you’ll miss baseball now that your games are over, but it will be really nice to have more around-the-neighborhood time.  We can take more evening walks to Heyn’s and see all your old park friends.

We went to a local teen production of The Little Mermaid last weekend, and you and Miles both seemed to enjoy it a lot.  It’s nice that you’re getting old enough that I can take you to things like that without too much worry about your behavior.  You’re an energetic kid, and while you’re almost always sweet, you do tend to get a little wiggly.  I was telling you and Miles how much fun I had with you at the play, and you said, “Yeah, but I got a little squirrely toward the end.”  You did, but just a bit, and we were sitting in the front row, so at least you weren’t kicking anyone in the seat in front of you.  You’re truly happiest outside doing wiggly things, but I’m glad you can appreciate some culture too.

Photo by Denny

Your current favorites:  Minecraft, playing ball with Papa, rotini with tomato sauce, Popsicles, The Famous Five series of books, demanding bedtime hugs from Callum (who now thinks it’s a game to resist them, which can send you into a spiral of despair), freestyle dancing, and telling jokes.  During the school year, we often listened to a radio station on the way to school that happened to air Nearly Impossible Trivia right during our commute.  You were sad that we wouldn’t be able to do that anymore, so I got the radio station’s app for my phone, and now we’ve been listening to the trivia questions in bed most mornings.  You also like the classic rock songs we hear as we wait for callers to phone in their guesses.  Your favorite is probably “867-5309,” though I was proud when we got out of the car the other day and you said, “Aw, man!  We got here right when David Bowie was playing!”

Photo by Gary Clarke

I’m looking forward to things calming down so we can have some relaxation this summer, my special Tobin.  You require a lot of energy, but you are kind, smart, and trustworthy, too.  I’m excited to get into the downtown fountain with you, because you are really good at splashing.








Multi-berry Pie with Almond Crumb Topping

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:55 pm

I made this yesterday and it was a hit.  I hope to make it again next year with the early summer berry bounty.

Adapted from this recipe.

  • 1 pie crust (I used a half recipe of my favorite crust)
  • About 5 cups assorted berries—I used about 3 cups blueberries and 1 cup each of blackberries and raspberries
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • About 3/4 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 (7-ounce) container almond paste
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • a generous pinch of kosher salt

Gently wash berries and set aside, reserving 1 cup blueberries.

In a large, heavy saucepan, whisk together cornstarch and sugar.  Add berries (except reserved blueberries) and cook over medium heat until thick and saucy, about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in reserved blueberries, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

To make topping, break almond paste into smallish (1/2 inch) pieces.  Add to the bowl of a food processor, along with flour, butter, and salt.  Process until clumps begin to form.  Refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Preheat oven to 400F.  While the oven is preheating, put a rimmed metal baking sheet in the oven.  Roll out pie crust and line an 8- or 9-inch glass pie dish with the crust.  Pour cooled berry mixture into crust and sprinkle crumb topping on top.  Put pie dish directly on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes, until topping is nicely browned.  You may need to cover the outer rim of the pie to keep it from over-browning.

Cool thoroughly unless you want to eat it like a gooey crumble, which wouldn’t be the worst thing.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.



The Callum Chronicle #29

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:07 pm

Dear Callum,

You are napping right now, which is the only reason I’m allowed to do this.  If you were awake, you wouldn’t like it that I’m using the keyboard.  Your anthem these days is “I do it!”  There’s not a task in the world that you don’t think you do better than anyone else.  You want to brush your teeth by yourself, turn on and off the bath water by yourself, buckle into your car seat by yourself, turn book pages by yourself.  Everything takes twice as long and can be very frustrating.  I’ve learned from experience, though, that taking the extra time to let you buckle your car seat is a lot less maddening than yanking the clips out of your hand and doing it for you.  Two minutes of letting you struggle and eventually get it done can seem like forever when we’re running late to take Tobin to his summer class, but the ten-minute drive seems even more like forever if you’re screaming the whole time, broken-hearted about not having buckled your own seat belt.

We do our best to plan ahead and build some extra time into our tasks.  It’s the only way anyone gets anything done without crying around here.

Photo by Denny

You’re definitely, absolutely two.  I know by now that this stage doesn’t last as long as it seems (and that three brings its challenges, too, so I shouldn’t get too excited about the passage of time).  Your growth and development has brought good things, too.  You are talking more and more all the time.  Your sentences are getting more complex, and I get such a kick out of listening to you form them, slowly and deliberately.  The other day you said to me, “I want…a drink…of water…from Tobin’s…water cup.”  Each little section of the sentence was so important to you, and I could almost see the little gears turning in your head as you sorted out how to communicate your message.

You’ve been in a real Mommy-centric stage lately, though I can say with optimism that you’ve been a little more receptive to your dad in recent days.  Some of it has to do with tiredness.  On days that you don’t nap, you get a case of the five o’clock beasties, and you refuse to let your dad hold you or play with you.  That’s right when I need some freedom to cook dinner and regroup my brain a little bit, but you will not have it.  On days that you do nap, things usually go a little better.

You’ve been enjoying summertime and all the treats and outdoor play opportunities it brings.  Your brothers’ schedules have been so busy for the last couple of months (and will be for a few more weeks) that we haven’t done as many family adventures as I like to do in the summer, but we have July and August for that.  In the meantime, you’ve been mostly a good sport about being carted around to their activities.  We’ve worked in a few Flavor Ice and park outings, and we’ll certainly have more of that soon.  You haven’t been in the downtown fountain yet, and that’s a summer rite of passage you definitely need to complete.

We’ve spent some good time with both sets of grandparents lately, and you loved all the outside time you had at the farm.  We’re going to a family reunion at another farm this weekend, and if it’s not outrageously hot, I hope you can do a lot of running around.

You have a sweet smile and a good sense of routine.  You’ve mostly been sleeping well (even though you’re a bed hog) and are crazy about cinnamon toast.  It’s a good thing Costco sells the bread you like in two-loaf packs, because we’ve been going through a lot of it.  You used to eat the crusts, too, until you saw that Tobin doesn’t.

We had lunch with my cousin Debi and her family last weekend, and she asked what your personality is like.  You look so much like Miles that it’s easy to assume you are the same kind of guy, but you really have your own style.  You have some of Miles’s serious nature, but not the timidity he expressed as a toddler.  With Miles, we never worried about him jumping into the creek or climbing too high at the playground.  You’re very brave, probably because you see your brothers doing adventurous things and want to be part of the fun.  You’re one who would jump right into a lake if you thought there was a fish in there you could squeeze.  You love petting dogs and taking off your shoes at the grocery store.  Any button you see is a button you want to push.  You see a big world before you and you want to do everything it has to offer.  You even want to do the things it’s not specifically offering.

Photo by Gary Clarke

You probably shouldn’t do it while you’re wearing Skitter’s reading glasses, though.  Toddlers fall down often enough when they can see where they’re going.






Monthly Miles Memo #113

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:15 pm

My dear Miles,

Here we go, off on another summer of fun and adventure.  You’ve finished third grade, and I’m quite sure that it’s been your favorite school year so far.  You were absolutely crazy about your teacher, Miss Lampe, and justifiably so—now and then a person gets a teacher who truly cares and works particularly hard to challenge and engage his or her students and Miss Lampe was one of them.

I was waiting with excitement to welcome you home on your last day of school, ready to celebrate and enjoy the beginnings of summer.  As I saw you approaching down the block, I could see you were wiping away tears.  My mama bear hackles raised (do bears have hackles?  This may be a mixed metaphor) and I immediately started down my mental list of possible issues:  did you get hurt?  Was someone mean to you?  Did you lose something important?

You didn’t want to talk about it, but we sat together for a while on the front stoop, and eventually you told me that you wanted to stay in third grade.  While I was relieved that you weren’t dealing with bullying or any other serious issue, I felt so sad for your tender little heart.  I know you loved third grade so much, and it will be hard for any school year to top this one.  You recovered, though, and you’ve been enjoying several other great things you have going on.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Baseball continues to be a big factor in your life.  Mubby and Skittergramps came to your game last night, and Skitter is sure that your baseball skills have improved a lot since he last played with you.  Your coach and teammates have done a great job supporting you and helping you grow as a player.  I’m really glad you’re having fun, and I’m very proud that you were willing to try something totally new to you.  Last night you stole two bases and brought a runner home, so I can tell your confidence is growing.

Photo by Denny

We’ve had good times with Nana and Papa recently, including a trip out to the farm.  It was kind of a crummy weather day when we were there, but that didn’t stop you from climbing around on the hay bales and taking a tractor ride with Papa.  It’s a good thing I got you some rubber boots to wear in the creek, because they came in handy on a muddy farm, too.


Family Folk Machine performed at Arts Fest last weekend, and you got to perform your original song.  The picture here shows you with your songwriting partner, Lynn, who also became a good friend to you during this session.  I don’t know if you grasp how cool it is that you had the opportunity to perform your composition on the Main Stage at Arts Fest—it’s a chance not many people have.  We’re so fortunate to live in a community that gives us these many and varied possibilities.   When I was looking into summer camps and classes for you, I could have easily filled your entire summer with different activities you would have loved.  There are computer programming classes, film classes, outdoor camps, sports workshops, creative writing classes, cooking classes, and just about anything else you could imagine.  As it happens, the ones you wanted to take the most happen to all fall in June.  Along with baseball, our June calendar is pretty full.  You decided on Minecraft Designers, Film, and Animation.

On our few precious unscheduled nights, we’ve been watching movies together, eating popcorn from last fall’s garden harvest, and enjoying the minimal peace and quiet a person can squeeze out in a home that also contains a Tobin and a Callum.  We have a lot more on our summer activity list, but we have to get through our crazy June before we can get started on things like trips to the Splash Pad and signing up for the library’s summer reading program.

We got some really excellent news in the mail on the same day as Arts Fest.  We were pessimistic about you getting into ELP for the coming school year because you missed a section on the first of the two qualifying tests, which brought your final score down significantly.  However, you did so well on the second of the tests that it made up the difference, and you qualified.  You were so, so excited, and I’m so happy for you.  I know that it’s going to be hard for you to leave third grade behind, but this will be a great boost to your fourth grade year.

Enjoy your summer, my sweet boy.  I’m so proud of all you’ve done and all you continue to do.





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