The Tobin Times #74

Filed under: — Aprille @ 2:04 pm

Dear Tobin,

It’s been a mood-swingy month.  Your dad and I were talking about it last night, and I speculated that you are working on your adjustment to kindergarten.  This is the most challenging schedule you’ve ever had—up much earlier than you’d prefer, in school all day, activities most afternoons and/or evenings.  Maybe it’s a strain to keep it together during all those hours, and when you’re home in your safe haven, you really let your fury loose.

Your dad and I are a little confused by all this, because your personality has been so easy-going your whole life.  This is the first time we’ve seen you in such a challenging stage.  That’s not to say you’re not still fun and sweet, because you absolutely are.  But your usual demeanor has been punctuated by these screaming fits of rage that are hard for us to manage.

I chaperoned a trip with your class to the Children’s Museum a couple of weeks ago, and I could tell that you definitely know how to use good behavior in a school-type setting.  You did a great job, and you certainly weren’t one of the students who needed extra attention to be a good participant.  At home, your dad and I ask you to do what you’re supposed to do (brush your teeth) or stop doing what you’re not supposed to do (tipping back your chair at the dinner table), and it’s like we’re talking in Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice for all the response you give.  After a couple of reasonable requests, we start getting angry.  Then you lose it and freak out.

Mornings around here are tough these days.  You are the king of the morning grumps.  It wouldn’t hurt to get you to bed earlier, but I haven’t noticed a lot of difference between the mornings after high-sleep and lower-sleep nights.

In positive news:  you’ve done great with your latest sessions of swimming lessons.  We stayed in a hotel for a family wedding last weekend, and you rocked out in the pool.  I put water wings on you, but you stripped those off shortly after getting in, and you swam around and back-floated like a champ.  You’re also really enjoying Ninja Zone, a class that seems like mostly gymnastics.  It’s been fun for you to run and jump and flip around bars.  Callum and I are going to exhaust the retail options in the gym’s neighborhood, because he goes too crazy with desire to go in with you if we hang around in the waiting room.  I’ve been able to you watch you a fair amount, though, and you look like you’re having a great time.

As always, we’ve been busy-busy-busy, and I don’t see that changing before the holiday madness descends.  It would be nice to have a weekend at home with no commitments, but I have no idea when that will happen.  You’re not a kid who seems to need a lot of downtime, but I know I do, and I can be a better mom to you when I’m not stressed and overwhelmed.

The weather is right at the changing point now.  Earlier this month, you and Callum ran in the sprinkler and ate popsicles outside.  Now we’re getting into jacket weather, and we’ve had some cold and rainy days.  We had some fun on a rainy weekend recently, playing a game where we put pictures of animals into headbands and had to ask questions to figure out what they were, and we played several rounds of Exquisite Corpse.  That started as a literary game, but we do a version where we each draw the head of a monster, then fold the paper and pass it.  The next person draws the middle, then folds it and passes it, and another person draws the bottom.  We’ve come up with some pretty funny combinations, and you and Miles would play round after round if I didn’t finally make you stop.

You’re a pretty fun guy 90% of the time, my sweet Tobin.  If you have any ideas on how we can help you keep things under control during that remaining 10%, let me know.  I can’t imagine it’s fun for you to be so angry, and I want to help you get yourself sorted out.

We’re getting flu shots in an hour.  Give me strength.





The Callum Chronicle #33

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:04 pm

Hello, Cal-Pal,

Or should I say Cally?  You’ve been calling yourself that lately, though sometimes you’ll take it back and call yourself Callum-a-zoo instead.  Other times you’ll go purist and insist on just Callum.  A week or two ago, you were pretending not to know that I didn’t want you messing with Miles’s reading lamp.  I said you were being deliberately obtuse.  You said, “I’m not ‘tuse.  I’m Callum.”

You’ve been using diminutives in other situations too, like referring to the book Walter the Farting Dog as “Walty.”  It’s interesting to hear you play with language beyond base-level communication.  We chaperoned a trip with Tobin’s class to the Iowa Children’s Museum today, and another adult helper who’d been observing you told me, “He’s really smart.”  Now, I don’t think you’re a dummy, but since I don’t really hang out with any other toddlers, I don’t have much means of comparison.  In any case, I’m glad to know all those stupid videos you like haven’t shriveled your brain too much.

After a curiously cool August, we had a warm September and early October.  One day you really wanted to run through the sprinkler and eat popsicles outside.  It felt like a strange thing to do, but it was eighty-five degrees, so that’s what you did.  You crunched leaves under your feet and ran around in the cold spray until I dragged you inside for dinner.

We’ve been busy-busy-busy with your brothers’ activities, and as always, you’ve been a good sport about coming along.  I try to do special things with just you while I have the chance, though sometimes “special” just means picking out a doughnut on one of our thousand Hy-Vee runs.  Other times I get ambitious and take you to Tot Time at the gym and Toddler Story Time at the library.  You like that okay, especially the singing and dancing parts, but you’d rather use the play kitchen than sit still for a story.  Sometimes the stories are kind of boring.  You prefer more plot-driven fare, like the aforementioned Walty.

You seem to enjoy food preparation play quite a lot.  Not only do you love the play kitchen at the library, you use your own play kitchen almost every day.  That’s why our basement playroom is usually a disaster, because the play food is made up of hundreds of little plastic fruits, vegetables, cutlery, and pots and pans.  Still, you know what a kiwi is, though you’re not interested in trying a real one.

You’re becoming more independent in a lot of ways.  You can get your own sandals on and off, probably thanks to the extra practice you got via this extended sandal season.  You don’t always get them on the right feet—I set them out for you while I was getting organized to run errands, and when I checked, they were on the wrong feet.  I helped you take them off and set them out for you again, and when I checked back, you’d put them on the wrong feet again.  When I let you know that things had gone awry, you said, “But I ran out of legs!”

Despite a promising start, you have shown zero further interest in using a toilet.  Actually, that’s not true.  You love flushing toilets, whether they need it or not, but you have no interest in the earlier steps in the process.  Your flushing habit can be wasteful, but since your brothers have the bad habit of forgetting to flush, it can also be kind of helpful.  I need to use that as an incentive to get you to at least give it an honest try.

We had a fun visit to Mubby and Skitter’s house last weekend.  Unfortunately it was cool and rainy most of the time, so you didn’t get to use the sandbox nearly as much as you’d hoped.  You still got to take baths, though, which for some reason are way more fun at their house than at ours (I suspect the reason is the squirt guns Mubby lets you use).  You had fun playing with the parking ramp and other toys, and you decided to keep the piano that plays Beethoven in the closet.  You are not a big Beethoven fan.

Your current favorites:  Caillou, YouTube stars Ryan and Genevieve and their stage-parenty parents who make toys videos that exploit feature them, skipping naps, dancing, pepperoni pizza, cinnamon toast in a bowl, and climbing things.  You are awfully brave.

I can hardly believe that you’re closer to three than two now.  Two is still a baby, right?  But three is such a big boy.  A small consolation is the fact that you’re a little guy physically.  You can still fit into a lot of 24-month-sized clothes, and I noticed the shorts you were wearing the other day were actually for the average 18-monther.  Even if you’re getting older and more adventurous and verbose every day, at least it’s still easy to snuggle you up into my arms.






Monthly Miles Memo #117

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:10 pm

Dear Miles,

I am not a biblical scholar by any means, but I recall a certain legend of Cain and Abel, brothers who had trouble getting along.  I wonder if they were anything like you and Tobin, who at the moment are the best of friends.  You guys are playing Minecraft together on this no-school Monday, and while I wish you were playing some kind of imaginative game, you’re cooperating and speaking kindly to one another.  I don’t know if you’re being patient or Tobin is being less annoying than usual, but I love it when you form an alliance.

I’m shaky on the details, but if I had to guess, I’d say Cain was the little brother who knew exactly what would irritate his big brother.  And sometimes his big brother would fly off the handle for what seemed to his parents to be no reason at all, or a really small reason.  And maybe that was because Cain picked and picked at Abel, or maybe because Abel was a touch too sensitive and unwilling to try reasonable discussion.  Actually, as I spin this out, it’s sounding more like a Trump/Kim Jong Un relationship.  I hope things never get that far with you two.

I know I’ve used the Jekyll/Hyde metaphor here before, and maybe that’s the best of any of them.  You can be so smart, witty, and rational.  Other times you scream and stomp and throw fits when things don’t go your way.  You can get frustrated to the point of rage by things like a challenging piano assignment or your dad daring to question your answers on your homework.  You’ve always had brooding quality to you, and I have a feeling it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

In better news, you’ve crossed the threshold into the rewarding side of running.  After the first couple of practices of Let Me Run, I thought it was going to be a total disaster.  I abhorred running when I was a kid, mostly because I never learned to do it in a sensible, structured way.  I invented my own program when I wanted to get in better shape as an adult (which I later discovered was pretty much the same as Couch to 5k), and I think Let Me Run follows a similar program.  You’re really proud that you made your goal of running a 13 minute mile—in fact, we did it together last weekend in only 11.5 minutes.  I know you can get it down even more, which will be great when you run the 5k that culminates your Let Me Run season.

Running is great because, if you power through the early stages, you can see very tangible progress.  Nothing is a better motivator than progress, and I’m so happy that you’ve gotten to that point.  You’ve always been one to enjoy things that are easy and avoid things that are difficult, so I’m glad that we can now point to this and remind you that you’ve succeeded at things that at first seemed insurmountable.

You’ll probably find that all very annoying.

In many ways, you’re still the same little guy who came to my house on a cold day in January of 2008.  You have a lot more hair now, but you still scream more than I’d prefer (though at least it’s not every day at five p.m. anymore).  When we were eating ice cream after piano the other day, you held your pinky up.  You’ve done it whenever you eat or drink ever since you were too small to chew on anything but your parents.  I’ve started going back through old pictures and tagging “pinky” on the applicable ones.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Your dad tells me that I do it too, and so does your Skittergramps.  We can’t help it.  It’s just what feels right.

You tell me that you want to be a writer.  You’re certainly verbose—your teachers are always having to give you extra paper to finish your stories.  You also say that you prefer typing to handwriting, which I can understand.  You’ve never given up “caveman fingers,” which is what your dad calls your fist-based pencil grip.  I never worried about it too much, figuring that if you learn to type, that will get your written communication mostly covered.  It’s a funny juxtaposition, though:  your pinky extended like the Queen at high tea and your pencil sitting like a dagger in your palm.  Your hands are little Jekylls and Hydes too, I guess.

I love both sides of you, though one is more fun to hang out with than the other.  Maybe great stories come of great emotions, and you’re just building up a store of inspiration.

Just don’t kill anybody along the way, okay?  Those delicate hands were made for typing, not stabbing.







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