The Tobin Times #76

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:13 pm

Dear Tobin,

The major themes of this month in your life have been Star Wars and reading.  Not surprisingly, in a world rife with product tie-ins, you’ve had a chance to combine those interests as well.

I think you got the Star Wars bug from a school friend with whom you had a play date.  Ever since you got home from his house that afternoon, you’ve been wanting to play with light sabers, watch the movies, and discuss details of the Star Wars universe.  I’m afraid I’m not much help in those conversations, since it’s been years (decades) since I’ve seen most of those movies.  I also admit that when we’ve been watching them lately, my attention has drifted.  I like science fiction pretty well, but Star Wars has never grabbed me by the brain like it has many others.  Still, I’m glad you’re enjoying it, and I’ll do my best to keep up.

The other major accomplishment of the month, reading, has been a big deal.  You’re making big strides in both sight words and sounding words out.  We definitely can’t spell words as a method of hiding information from you anymore.  You love being on the big people’s team, so this development has made you very happy.

Speaking of being on the big people’s team, thanks to a blabby kindergartner, we had to have a frank Santa Claus conversation.  Now, we’re not huge Santa people.  We do the cookies and milk on Christmas Eve and give the line that he brought you kids a few gifts, but on a scale of one to ten on Santafication (not sanctification), I’d put us at about a three.  We’ve never taken you guys to the mall and made you sit on a stranger’s lap, because I never liked doing that as a kid, and the mall sucks all the holiday spirit out of me.  We try to keep the gifts from Santa modest, after I read an eye-opening article about how kids compare notes, and it must feel pretty awful for some kids to think Santa was way more generous to their peers from more financially stable families.  We’ve never used Santa or that Elf on a Shelf tomfoolery to bribe/threaten you into good behavior.

So anyway, I’ve made it a practice to not to flat-out lie to you kids.  When you point-blank asked me if Santa was real, I pulled out the explanation I had been planning to use on Miles (though he never actually asked; I assume he’s figured it out, but I’m scared to delve too deeply).  There are two parts to Santa:  the little people’s side, when you think Santa brings the presents, and the big people’s side, when it’s our job to make Christmas really fun for little kids.  I tried to present it in a conspiratorial and giddy fashion, and it must have worked, because you are thoroughly invested in being part of the grownup team and making it wonderful for Callum.  You wanted to help wrap gifts in the special Santa paper, help write the recipient’s initials in the swirly Santa handwriting, and you’d love stay up late to stuff stockings with me on Christmas Eve.  When you suggested that, I reminded you that you are still getting a stocking and Santa gifts too, so you’d better maintain the surprise.  You were okay with that.

We’ve been doing lots of other things in preparation for the holidays, including making gingerbread people cookies.  You enjoyed decorating them more than eating them, but the rest of the family liked them.  You brought a retelling of the Gingerbread Man story home from the school library, and Callum loved listening to it with you.  When you had to return it, you were worried he would be sad, so we ordered one for him as a special gift just from you.  You eased the pain by bringing home a different version of the same story the next week.

All of this makes it sound like you are a one hundred percent loving, patient, and caring brother.  This would be false.  Much as I try not to lie to you kids, I don’t want to lie to posterity in this blog either.  You and Callum and Miles all have plenty of moments of impatience and hostility.  Sometimes you forget that arguing with a toddler is utterly futile, and you get so mad when he won’t accept your explanations or admit that you’re right.  Still, I think you have a profoundly kind heart, and once you get through the struggles of being a growing kid, your brotherly relationships will stabilize.  Your general behavior has improved somewhat.  Just a month or two I was about ready to sell you to a traveling circus.  Now things have been going better.  You’re still outrageously high-energy—I told your dad at dinner last night that once Callum is ready to stop using his high chair, we should strap you into it, because your high chair days were the last time you sat through an entire meal.  You just can’t keep your energy under control.

That level of energy can be exhausting for your dad and me, but with it comes the sunshine.  Your default expression is a smile, and you bounce back easily from all the little torments of life.  I wish you would listen better when we ask you to perform basic tasks, though.  Maybe those Elf on a Shelf people have a point.

Merry Christmas and happy six years and four months, my little Tobes.




The Greatest Love of All

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:04 am

Callum is in a very “I do it all by myself” stage, including reciting our bedtime ritual.

A: I love you, my little sweetheart. Night ni—

T: I say it. Night night, sleep tight, don’t let bedbugs bite. That’s right!

A: I love you.

T: I love MYSELF.


The Callum Chronicle #35

Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:16 pm

Dear Callum,

Can you believe you’ve lived at our house almost three years now?  Your birthday is coming up next month, and I’ve been pressing you to decide what kind of birthday cake you want.  Since you and Miles have birthdays on consecutive days, I usually make each of you a small cake so we’re not swimming in cake leftovers at a time of year when we should be reducing, not increasing, our junk food intake.  You’ve been changing your mind every time I ask you.  Today you said raspberry cake with chocolate frosting.  That sounds all right.  I don’t want to work too hard on finding the perfect recipe, because you may well change your mind again.

The biggest theme of the month in your life has been “I do it all by myself.”  I remember your brothers going through that stage again, and I’ve had to remind myself that it’s a normal part of development.  It can be hard when we need to get somewhere on time or accomplish a task with any degree of finesse.  You’ve been really interested in making your own cinnamon toast lately, and you don’t yet have the hand-eye coordination to spread butter or sprinkle cinnamon with any kind of evenness.  Usually you do it (your favorite part is using the toaster, of course), then I try to sneakily redistribute the toast toppings a little bit as you’re fastening yourself into your high chair.  You won’t accept any help on that either.

We’ve had very little forward motion on the potty training front.  Miles is really anxious to move into “your” room—the quotes are because you’ve never slept there once in your entire life, but it’s where we store your clothes and change your diapers.  Miles wants to wait until you’re potty trained to take over the room, because he doesn’t want us going into his room to change your diapers.  I can understand that, but his position might change if you don’t make some progress soon.

That transition will also mean having you sleep in the bunk bed room with Tobin.  Tobin hates sleeping alone, so I think you’ll have to go in there if the whole room shift is going to be a success.  You sleep through the night pretty consistently now, unless you’re sick or something, so it will probably work.  I’ll miss having you in bed with me, though.  I was recently listening to a podcast, and the speaker was talking about how during a difficult time in her life, her personal trainer asked her to come up with ten things that made her happy.  The best she could come up with was imitation crab.

That was a sad state of affairs, and I’m pleased to report that Gabrielle Union is doing much better now.  I decided to make my own list, and it was much easier for me to come up with ten happiness-inducers in my life, none of which were real or imitation seafood (though I do get a thrill out of having real crab legs for my birthday).  One of the very top things on my list was how I feel when I look at you sleeping next to me.

The last year has been hard.  For years, one of my favorite moments of each day is when I’m in my pajamas, face washed, skin moisturized, teeth brushed, and I cozy into my bed.  I often get a wiggly little thrill at the simple sensory joy of that moment.  For the last year, I haven’t had that.  I’ve gone to bed and felt sad and scared.  You may not remember what happened a little over a year ago, but I do.  I’m deeply worried about our country’s future.  I remain seriously concerned about how our least fortunate people will survive in a culture of self-centeredness and greed.  I’m also angry on a much smaller but frequently-experienced level that this turn of events has stolen my bedtime happiness wiggle.

But maybe things are looking up.  I hope we’re on the threshold of a sea change in the way we hold people accountable for their behavior, regardless of political affiliation.  I’m sorry to see progressive politicians go, but there’s no room for hypocrisy if we’re serious about demanding respectful attitudes and behaviors from our leaders.

You’re not even three yet.  You don’t know about sexual harassment or police brutality or injustice.  But I hope you become someone who fights those things, and seeing your little chest rise and fall in the spot next to me in bed is helping me find my happiness wiggle again.

You insist that you’re not a little boy anymore, that you’re a big boy.  That may be true, and you’re probably ready to go sleep in the bunk bed room.  I’ll find my happiness in the other nine items on my list, and I bet I can find a good one to add, too.

Maybe it will be the way you say “What are we going?”, which means both “What are we doing?” and “Where are we going?”  Maybe it will be the way you dance when your favorite songs come on.  Maybe it will be the joy I saw on your face when we turned on the lights on the Christmas tree.  Maybe it will be the plastic salads you make me from your toy kitchen set.  Maybe it’s the way you’re a big blob of cinnamon sugar on what sometimes feels like a barren, dry toast landscape.

The toast is actually pretty good.  We use that tasty bread from Costco.  It’s even better when you manage not to sit on the loaf in the grocery cart.

I love you, you little stinker.




Monthly Miles Memo #119

Filed under: — Aprille @ 9:39 am

Dear Miles,

The busy time of year is upon us (though it seems like it’s always a busy time of year).  It’s the time when I have to think of Christmas and birthday presents for a kid who only wants to play Minecraft and doesn’t have a lot of interest in merchandise.  I’ve been trying to get you experience-based gifts—theater tickets, coupons for Mom/Miles dates to the Java House for hot chocolate and board games, movie passes.  Your dad and I have some good ideas cooked up for your birthday, but we’ll talk about that more next month.

You’ve finally boarded the slime train, so that’s…sciencey, I guess.  I’ve known about the fad for some time, but you only recently got interested in it.  You made a batch of slime last weekend, and you were excited to take it to school.  You have sworn to me that your teacher is totally okay with it.  I’m skeptical, but she also lets her lizard Francisco roam around the classroom, so I guess she’s pretty relaxed.

I was at school doing some volunteer work the other day, and I talked to you third-grade teacher, Miss Lampe.  She relayed to me that you told your current teacher that Miss Lampe was your favorite teacher ever, and your current teacher is in third place.  Miss Lampe assured me that your current teacher was laughing as she told it, but I hope you weren’t too rude.  You’re going to need to brush up on your tact if you want to rise above the level of third-favorite student.

School seems to be going pretty well overall.  One thing that is slightly concerning to your dad and me is that you have decided you’re bad at math.  The thing is, you’re definitely not bad at math.  The only reason you don’t get perfect scores on your homework and tests is carelessness or incompleteness.  You understand all the concepts, but when an answer asks you to explain your reasoning, you write “I tried.”  I realize it’s hard to verbalize how one comes to a mathematical conclusion, but being able to explain things is a skill that goes beyond math, and I want you to exercise it.  You also seem perfectly satisfied with getting scores in the 80% range when you understand 100% of the content.  This is a tricky matter.  I don’t want you to put so much pressure on yourself for perfection that your happiness seriously suffers, but a little more internal motivation might be a good thing.

You’re in a stage where you’re developing an identity.  You tell us that you’re the class goofball (your teacher confirms this), which is a little surprising considering you’ve always been a fairly serious kid.  I’m glad you’re cultivating humor, but much like your insensitive teacher ranking, you need to work on time-and-place appropriateness.  A kid with a dry wit is a lot more pleasant to have in the classroom than a kid who yells “chicken nuggets” instead of a correct answer.

That reminds me, we need to get your teacher a generous gift card.  Teachers work hard.

We had our Family Folk Machine fall concert, and as usual, you nailed it.  One thing that made me particularly proud:  our friend Lynn organized the group gift to our director, and she didn’t want to be the one to present it.  She suggested that you do it, and you were fine with the idea.  I gave you a few ideas about what you might say but didn’t dictate anything specific.  You did a lovely job with your impromptu speech, thanking Jean and her assistant director kindly and clearly.  Side note:  isn’t it funny how different life experiences are challenging to different people?  Lynn sings beautiful solos in the choir, but saying a few words about our director is tricky for her.  You did wonderfully with the public speaking (and singing solos), but the idea of joining a group of kids on the playground can paralyze you.  I’m not criticizing—I have my own hangups that are a lot like yours.  Our brains are strange organs.

Your current favorites:  linguine with homemade tomato sauce, Minecraft, haircut evasion, sleeping in, writing and drawing comics and stories, and hanging out with your friend Jacob.

You’re a wonderfully weird little guy, Miles.  This might be the last month I can reasonably call you “little,” since it’s your last month before you enter the double digits.  I can hardly believe that I’ve been looking into your big blue eyes for almost a decade now, but I’ll comment on that more next month on your big 1-0.

I’m going to hug you with all my might while you’re still my little boy.  I’m not saying I’m going to stop once you’re ten, but it’s a good excuse for the time being.




December 2 is the funniest day

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:25 pm

I had Tobin-quote gold on my Timehop today from multiple years.  I am aggregating them here.



T, genuinely perplexed:  Who would touch BUNS?


T:  This pancake is warm, warmer than lava.

A:  What?!  I’m surprised it didn’t melt your plate.

T:  I’m surprised it didn’t kill me.


T:  What’s the difference between Tuesday and Thursday?

M:  They’re different days of the week.

T:  So they both don’t know karate?

M:  Tobin, exactly what planet are you from?

T:  Earff.


A:  What did you have for snack today?

T:  Animal crackers.  Other kids had apples.

A:  Why didn’t you have apples?  You like apples.

T:  I don’t like Hoover apples.

A:  Not as good as Honeycrisps, huh?

T:  No.

A:  What do Hoover apples taste like?

T:  Like two monsters stuffed on spikes.


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