Monthly Miles Memo #120

Filed under: — Aprille @ 3:02 pm

My Miles,

For this, your 120th Monthly Miles Memo, the tenth-anniversary edition, I’ve been looking back over past ones.  I can’t re-post every moment I documented in text and photos, but here are some salient paragraphs from each year with in-retrospect annotations:

From Monthly Miles Memo #1:  As exhausting as it is, though, I secretly love those minutes after you’ve eaten, as you lie on my shoulder and I try to coax a burp out of you. As the sun comes up and brightens the snow, as you snuggle in all warm and soft against me, as your daddy snores quietly next to us, I think, “This is what my life was always supposed to be.” [You don’t snuggle me very much anymore.  I have to trick you into it, but sometimes you take pity on me and lean in for a hug.  You probably still need it, even if you won’t admit it, so I’m glad we’ve worked out a mutually-beneficial strategy.  I still feel like being your mom is what my life was supposed to be.  I can hardly remember a time when your and your brothers’ well-being wasn’t the highest priority in my brain.]

From Monthly Miles Memo #12:  I don’t know why a shoulder blade should feel so miraculous to me. For one thing, I don’t believe in miracles. I believe in science. Second, I see shoulder blades every day. I have a set, your dad has a set; they’re really not exotic. But something about seeing that perfect wedge of bone move under your muscles and skin made me marvel at what a fantastic working machine you are.  [You’ve gotten much more private, only changing your clothes behind a closed door, so I haven’t seen your shoulder blades for more than a brief after-shower glance in some time.  I clearly remember marveling at your perfect working body, though.]

From Monthly Miles Memo #24:  Two years ago today, I met a tiny boy, too new for the world, but strong and tenacious.  Your eyes were swollen shut, so you couldn’t see my face, but I didn’t worry about that too much since you had never seen me anyway.  We talked and sang to you a lot, the same songs we sang to you in utero, and you really seemed to recognize them.  I don’t know if those early experiences with singing and music shaped your current personality or if it’s just a coincidence, but you are absolutely crazy about music these days.  You always want to listen to the iPod or hear your dad and me sing, and you dance with great enthusiasm.  You recognize tempo and mood changes, and during a slow bridge, you close your eyes and sway like Stevie Wonder, singing “Oooooh” with the backing vocalists. [This one is definitely still true.  Music has been a recurring theme through your life, and it remains so.  Mubby and Skitter gave you an electric keyboard for your birthday, and you’ve been playing it a lot.  You sing, you compose, you play in Orff club.  I’m glad music is a joy for you.]

From Monthly Miles Memo #36:  I know you’ll continue to grow more independent, and I do want that for you.  I’m glad you aren’t as scared of things as you used to be, that you can go down twirly slides and tool around swimming pools and pack your own penguin backpack for Poto Weeko.  But know that if the slide is too hot, if the pool is too deep, or if your backpack is too heavy, I’ll be there to help you out. (Though most of the time you want to do it “all by myself.”)  [Callum is in that “all by myself” stage now, and I admit I’m looking forward to getting past it.  But the confidence/competence disconnect is part of growing up, and you’re making good progress in that area.  Sometimes we still struggle with it, like your reluctance to let your dad or me review your homework.  You want agency over it and resist input.  On the other hand, if I didn’t pack your suitcase for you, you’d probably spend vacations in the same clothes you wore onto the plane.  It’s a process.]

From Monthly Miles Memo #48:  It’s not easy for me to let go of you.  I’m not planning on doing it in any serious way for quite some time (and maybe not even then.  You know about the excellent university just across town, right?).  The night your brother was born was the first night in your whole life that I spent away from you, and I was more scared about that than I was of giving birth (and let me tell you, giving birth is no picnic).  You did fine, though.  As far as major challenges go, getting a sibling has been the one you’ve handled the best.  [Well…some days this goes better than others.  I’m not sure how to communicate the importance of empathy to you.  Sometimes it seems like you have a hard time understanding Tobin’s feelings and frustrations.  He was struggling with loneliness and jealousy when you moved out of the bunkbed into your own room with a new bed, and I couldn’t get you to see his perspective at all.  Other times you and your brothers are best friends.]

From Monthly Miles Memo #60:  The general personality you’ve developed continues.  You’re still a bit shy and reluctant to talk to people you don’t know well, and good lord can you be moody.  Too much stimulation with too little down time wears you out, as does being off your routine.  But I’ve also seen tremendous improvement in your confidence, ability to articulate your feelings, and ability to reason through tough situations.  You’re growing up, little Miles. [You’re still moody, for sure.  You still have trouble when you get off routine.  You’re still shy sometimes.  I guess these are basic personality traits that are unlikely to change, but I applaud your growth and progress.  You do great performing in front of groups, and you’ve developed some very good friendships.]

From Monthly Miles Memo #72:  That’s how you are:  you want to do things right, and you want to do them on your own schedule.  You don’t like shortcuts, and sometimes it drives your dad and me kind of crazy when we need to get out the door or put you to bed.  As you and your friends were getting bundled up to go out for recess, your teacher suggested that you emulate firefighters:  jump quickly into your snowpants and boots.  That analogy must not have resonated with you very much.  Perhaps you’re better suited to a career in art restoration or computer programming. [Yep, you’re still pokey, all right.  You almost missed the PTO meeting last night because you couldn’t manage to get off the couch and get your shoes on, and the kids’ activities at PTO are just about your favorite event of the month.  You certainly lack a sense of urgency.  That contributes to your strengths, too.  Unlike your brothers, you’ve never had trouble sitting still through a movie.  You can focus like no other kid I’ve ever met.]

From Monthly Miles Memo #84:  Your current favorites:  the song “Red River Valley,” which you first learned about in a Magic Tree House book.  You and your dad found a recording of it, and I thought it sounded like something you could play on the piano.  I transcribed it as well as I could, and you have had so much fun playing it.  Your piano teacher has been helping you with it, and I think she thought it was cool that you brought in your own music.  That’s also the song you love to sing to Callum the most, but you change the line “the cowboy who loves you so true” to “the brother who loves you so true.” [You still get satisfaction from creating.  Your favorite thing in the last year or so is to write comics, which usually star yourself and your friend Jacob.  You say you want to be a writer, and that would be pretty cool.  You still hold your pencil with caveman grip, but your keyboarding skills are improving.]


From Monthly Miles Memo #96:  Sometimes your dad and I shake our heads and wonder how a kid who’s so smart can be so oblivious.  Subtleties often don’t register with you.  You have a rather literal mind.  I asked you to find something (shoes, maybe) and told you they were by the front door.  You went and looked for them and came back empty-handed.  Having known you for eight years, rather than believe they weren’t there, I went to check.  They were about four feet away from the front door, next to the credenza.  I don’t think you were being a turd.  I think it truly didn’t occur to you to look anywhere except immediately next to the front door. [Yep, still an issue.]

From Monthly Miles memo #108:  This has been a big year for you, my dear Miles.  You are continuing to grow academically and socially, and it makes me so happy to know you’re developing good friendships.  Two of your school friends, your fellow members of Authors’ Club, jumped at my suggestion that they join you in an after-school creative writing class.  That will begin in a couple of weeks, and I hope it’s fun and educational.  We’re lucky to live in a community that has something to offer kids with all kinds of different interests.  Even though you’ve never shown much enthusiasm about joining a sports team (with the possible exception of baseball, which we’ll try to get done this spring), you’ve been able to join after-school and weekend activities that help you explore your areas of interest.  You have shown a recent spark for running on my treadmill, so maybe there’s track or cross-country in your future. [After a slow start, you really jumped into extracurricular activities this year.  As I previously mentioned, you joined Orff Club, as well as Let Me Run, baseball, Family Folk Machine, and piano.  You continued with swimming lessons and various enrichment clubs and classes, including Minecraft programming, filmmaking, and creative writing.  I’m happy to see you exploring your interests and building friendships with other kids who share them.]

And now, here we are:  Monthly Miles Memo #120, tenth anniversary edition.  This is already getting very long, so I’ll wrap things up with your current favorites and some final thoughts.

Your current favorites:  linguine with homemade tomato sauce, the beef and rice noodle concoctions you make at HuHot, Panda Express orange chicken, and anything chocolate.  You love reading and writing, especially comics and mystery/suspense.  We’ve been reading John Bellairs books together, a favorite author from my childhood, and it’s been lots of fun enjoying them with you.  You love the meta-Minecraft games of Murder Mystery and Bed Wars.  You’ve been playing your new electric keyboard as much as you can.  You love your new private room, with a custom sign on the door that says, “Miles’s room.  Ya gotta knock!”  You love irony and taking offense over small things.  You appreciate how a good blow-dry smooths out your glorious mane.  You are sometimes prickly, sometimes silly, so smart and so oblivious at the same time.  You’re a little boy and a “tween” (such a strange word).  You still like Harry Potter, and I hope you always do, or at least until I’ve gotten organized enough to take you on a trip to Harry Potter World.  You have not confessed any more-than-friendship interest in anyone, but you’re very private, so I probably won’t know until your wedding day.  You find racism, homophobia, and other baseless hate outrageous.

I’m aware of the danger of losing oneself in motherhood.  I hear women talk about that, how they get depressed because they give up their careers and interests and only focus on their kids.  Sometimes I get frustrated by the demands of life, but I never feel like I don’t know who I am.  You and your brothers (but first you, because you were the baby who made me a mother) haven’t taken anything away from who I am.  You’ve helped me find new parts of myself.  Sometimes I see my own traits, good and bad, in you.  I try to use those insights to help you through your struggles.  Sometimes, because what we hate in others is what we hate in ourselves, those similarities between us are what make me the most angry.  But I wouldn’t care if I didn’t love you, Miles.  I love you so much I wish there were a different word for it that’s stronger than love. 

If you didn’t know that yet, now you do.




The Callum Chronicle #36

Filed under: — Aprille @ 10:26 am

Happy third birthday, my sweet Callum.

I think it started when I would wrap you up in one of your novelty hooded towels after a bath.  I’d get you all snuggled up and hold you in front of the mirror and marvel over what a cute little racoon you were.  I started doing it when you were a baby, when you probably didn’t even recognize yourself in the mirror.  Somehow that habit translated to non-bath times, and even now, whenever I get the two of us in front of a reflection, you squeeze in for a big hug.

Last night, as you stood on the chair by the dining room table admiring your sparkly number three, you caught your reflection in the windows that face out to the back yard.  I’m glad I was standing there next to you, because you jumped into my arms and admired what a cute big boy you are.  I can’t deny it.

This has been a busy month.  Of course we had the holidays, which bustled with activity.  We had family parties and friend gatherings and, during their winter break from school, a lot more time with your brothers.  This was mostly positive—you guys had some good play time together, but also some squabbles.  I admit it’s nice to enjoy the peace and quiet with you now that they’re back at school.

You’ve been very cuddly and loving lately, at least to me.  You give great, squeezy hugs, and sometimes you mash your face so hard against mine you knock some sinus sludge loose.  You love to “help” in the kitchen, which I try to let you do.  It can be frustrating because it makes everything take about three times longer, plus we have to manage the inherent dangers of kitchen work, but you really love it.  Your dad noticed that our last water bill was noticeably high, and I think that’s because I often let you stand at the kitchen sink and mess around with the faucet while I’m cooking.  It seems like a low-threat way to keep you occupied (though you sometimes get over-enthusiastic about the sprayer), but maybe it’s not a good financial decision.

We’ve been suffering through a cold snap lately, so you haven’t gotten as much outdoor time as you would prefer.  We’ve gone outside on a couple of the less-frigid days, and you find the snow medium-interesting.  You haven’t really caught on to snow balls or snow angels or any of the more hands-on snow activities, but you like how weird the yard looks.

We’ve been making some shifts in how the bedrooms are set up, and I’ve been trying to get closets and drawers cleaned out.  You helped me sort baby clothes yesterday for Goodwill.  I’m keeping a few of my favorites, but mostly, after they’ve been worn by their third kid, the clothes are pretty stained and beaten up.  I hope the fine folks at Goodwill can find some use for them.  You were happy to let the baby clothes go, because you’re very sure you’re a big boy who needs big boy clothes.  In fact, you correct me if I call you a little boy.  This is just a language preference, though.  We had one attempt at having you sleep in the bunk bed with Tobin, and we had to abort that mission before it even started.  You’re still happiest cuddled next to me.

You’ve been having a lot of fun doing art projects lately, from painting to Play-Doh to coloring.  You were hanging out with me at your brothers’ school yesterday while I did some office volunteer work, and a staffmember kindly brought you a coloring book and crayons.  They must have been Rose-Art and not Crayola, because you were not impressed with the color depth.  You prefer the intensity of markers.  You still did some nice coloring, and you sat still for almost the whole time I was working.

I cannot say the same for our recent trip to the movies.  The big boys were getting antsy at home, so I took the lot of you to a matinee of Coco.  I only ever take you to movies that are A) obviously geared toward children, B) free or reduced price, and/or C) well past their opening date.  You never stay in your seat for long, so I don’t feel so bad when you need a lot of trips in out and of your seat if the only other people in the theater are families (who presumably understand what toddlers are like) who didn’t pay too much for the experience.  You did like the popcorn quite a bit, though.  You even ate some off the floor before I could stop you.  You haven’t shown any evidence of dysentery yet.  My fingers are crossed.

I was thinking about how I would characterize your personality, and at first I thought I’d say you are on the serious end of the spectrum.  On the other hand, I think your sense of humor has been developing lately.  Some things just tickle you, and you have a great chortle.  You saw a silly picture of Miles on my phone, and you laughed and laughed.  I even caught you laughing in your sleep the other morning.  You do seem to be on the more calm and thoughtful side, but you’re also brave.  With two big brothers as role models, you always think you can scale any height, cut with any knife, and scoop any quantity of chocolate-covered pretzels out of the bulk foods bins at the store.  You can sometimes entertain yourself for a while.  You honestly do better during my daily exercise when it’s just the two of us.  You play with toys, have a snack, or try to jump with a jump rope.  When the big boys were here, you’d get into arguments over who was playing with what.  Without competition, you do pretty well.

Your current favorites:  hard-boiled eggs (“card-boiled eggs”), eaten whole like an apple; Peppa Pig, both in storybook and video form; playing drums with Lincoln Logs as drumsticks; organizing the toothbrushes and lotion bottles on the bathroom counter; playing with water and anything else in the kitchen; climbing onto things you shouldn’t; and making enormous messes of all kinds.

Your messes often happen at the dining room table, which is our main cookie-decorating and art-making station.  The reflection in the window isn’t clear enough to show the crumbs on your face or the paint smeared all over your shirt, but we don’t need sharp definition to see your sweet little body cuddled against mine.  Sometimes you share your mess.  I’m just glad you still want to share your love.

May your next year be full of adventure, learning, and non-staining markers.

I love you so much, Callum.





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