Monday, December 31, 2012

The Smiths' 2012

Mostly in pictures, I offer you our year in review.

We hosted our annual, fun Super Bowl gathering with the Mitas-Boohers.

pizza picnic

We enjoyed great spring time visits from Mimi and Ashley and Caleb.

lala w/her mimi

ash, tobin & evan

lauren & caleb

Tobin went to his first Tar Heels basketball game--a NCAA tournament game, no less. (Not pictured: we celebrated Kentucky's national title!)

carolina boys

We spent a lovely Easter break in Louisville.

the smiths, easter 2012

Tobin graduated from Kindergarten.

kindergarten graduation

The kids and I had an amazing week with Mimi and Granpa (and Ashley too!) in Florida.

3 babies on a slide

We celebrated Tobin's sixth birthday with our first trip to the North Carolina zoo and cake.

zoo! birthday! giraffes! zebras!

he was pleased.

Tobin lost his training wheels.

big big brother biker

Evan learned to use the potty.

meanwhile, in other family news...

Lauren turned one!

swinging in her birthday dress

Evan turned three!

it's a bird! it's a plane!

This summer, we took an Epic Road Trip, visiting family and friends in Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin.

the cottage crew

Tobin started first grade.

big boy, big school

Lauren started walking.

sunday walk

Tobin lost his first and second teeth.

welcome, tooth fairy!

tooth fairy affidavit

We were lucky to host Mimi and Granpa as well as Ashley this fall.

mimi & granpa w/grandkids (sept. 2012)

leaves are funny!

We had a fabulous Halloween.

punkins with pumpkins

Thanksgiving was cozy in Kentucky.

grandma & lauren

Our very merry Christmases were spent with family in Georgia and Kentucky.

impromptu family photo: merry christmas!

We are grateful for all that we have, especially sweet memories of Nana and Grandmother, who we bid farewell this year.

four generations


Sending you and yours love and light in 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Evan at 42 months

42 months

Yesterday we woke up to a pretty snow at Grandma's house in Kentucky. Evan was immediately fascinated and ready to go play. We've had a couple mild winters in a row in North Carolina so it seems like the last time we had a good snow was three years ago when I was still carrying baby Ev around in the Ergo.

sleet or chinstrap?

During breakfast Evan was telling Grandma, Sarah and Dan that he was going to make a snowman and throw snowballs. Tobin chimed in and told Evan that he was going to throw snowballs at him. Evan said, "Yes, you will throw snowballs and you will miss me, Tobin!" Indeed, both boys threw a lot of snowballs but Evan threw more simply because he stayed outside the longest of all the kids and technically outlasted even the adults because Matt, Sarah and Dan had to come in to have lunch and get ready to depart for an early afternoon movie. Evan helped build three snowmen and a snow fort and still wasn't ready to come in. Here's hoping North Carolina treats us to at least one snow this winter so Evan can further hone his snow enthusiasm.

snow enthusiast

The snow was the continuation of a fun Christmas for our family and especially for Evan. He loves spending time and playing with our extended family. He didn't quite understand Santa, maybe in part because we don't make a huge deal about him. Still, we do talk Santa up somewhat since Tobin is at an age when it's fun for him. Evan wanted nothing to do with Santa at the mall. When asked what he wanted Santa to bring him, he usually wouldn't answer but would tell us that he wanted a Perplexus like Tobin's. Well, Santa didn't have a firm request from Evan so he got him a Star Wars action figure set. At first Evan squealed with delight to have his own "Dark Mater" but then decided "that's not good" because he really wanted Perplexus. Ashley and Donnie bailed us out and gave him a Perplexus so he was back to being happy, except when he was frustrated by said puzzle. (As it happens, in this picture Evan is playing with Tobin's and vice versa.)

perplexed by perplexus

Of course he's also been enjoying his Star Wars figures and new Lego sets, spending lots of time playing with Tobin, Daddy or just by himself.

darth vader v. luke skywalker

Evan is increasingly independent in life and in play. Most recently, he decided that he wanted to take a bath "second"--i.e., not with Lauren. So our progression on bath night goes: Lauren, Evan and then Tobin, who bathes himself while we get the younger two in their pajamas. While at first it seemed inconvenient to bathe them all separately, we realized that it might actually be quicker because there's less splashing and playing and we can at least conserve water by letting them use the same water with the occasional warm up. It's a new routine, initiated at Evan's insistence. His independent play finds him entertaining himself like he did for most of the afternoon today. I was in the den reading and watching football while Tobin chatted me up and Lauren insisted on snuggling and/or nursing at what seemed like 30-minute intervals. It occurred to me that I hadn't seen Evan in a while but he was happily in the living room, absorbed in a game on his LeapPad. And while he likes quiet play, he was later happy to lead the post-dinner dance party in the kitchen, much to everyone's delight. He remains the life of our party--whether holiday, snow day or everyday.

enthused ev

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tobin at 79 months

79 months

Tobin lost his second tooth a couple weeks ago. The tooth was perilously loose and the permanent tooth was about halfway in. Matt and I would try to get him to let us he but he insisted on pulling it himself. One Friday night after pizza and a movie, Tobin was enjoying a piece of peppermint bark and suddenly exclaimed "My tooth, it's gone!" We search all around for his tiny tooth and never found it so we assume he swallowed it. He was disheartened at the prospect of not having a tooth to place under his pillow but Matt smartly assured him that the tooth fairy would accept a note:

tooth fairy affidavit

So the tale of Tobin's truly lost tooth makes for a fun memory and even better story. He loves telling it. He also loves telling jokes, some are ones he's heard before but most are originals. My favorite of his jokes is "What kind of robot am I? A Nibot!"

perplexus pro

We are currently in Georgia with my side of the family, celebrating Christmas. We are so grateful to be here and that's enhanced by the kids' excitement about being with their grandparents, aunts and uncles. Of course, there's much discussion of Santa and Baby Jesus. This morning the five of us were all in bed together as we tried to wait until 7:00 before we started the process of waking the rest of the household and we talked about how it was Jesus's birthday tomorrow. Tobin declared we should direct our "Happy Birthday!" to the sky because that's where Jesus lived. (Evan noted that Jesus wasn't just in the sky but in an airplane!) Santa elicits a mixture of excitement and questions from Tobin. I was a bit hesitant to take him to visit the mall Santa for fear he would question how Santa was already in Durham but instead he responded enthusiastically: "I knew Santa was real! Well, actually I knew that last year since Ashley and Donnie heard his footsteps and 'ho ho ho.'" Then the next day, he was explaining that he just couldn't figure out how Santa could be real. I tried my best to evade and explain with something fairly incoherent about magic, mystery and superpowers. I finished by saying that we'll just have to see if Santa eats our cookies and leaves a present. All of this is a reminder of how he's this wonderful mixture of emerging maturity and seriousness mixed with curiosity and innocence. For instance, he can tell you vultures are birds of prey but he still colors them pink and purple.

pink & purple vultures

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lauren at 18 months

18 months

Lauren loves standing on chairs these days. Depending on how chaotic things are at a given moment, I sometimes let her eat her breakfast like this or color a picture.

proud artist

She's ever independent these days. Trips to the grocery store or mall are a tad more challenging as her tolerance for sitting the shopping car or stroller is increasingly short-lived. I get this. I mean she has two big brothers to keep up with and she loves to run.

I let her explore when I can but since she doesn't really like to hold our hands when walking, sometimes I have to just let her protest her stroller confinement, which usually passes quickly enough ending with her sulking and adorably sucking her thumb. She is prone to tantrums these days when she doesn't get what she wants--whether it's playing with my cell phone or staying outside on the porch to throw the rocks in Tobin's "collection" or staying up instead of going to bed. While frustrating for both of us, there are amusing aspects to these mini dramas. When she's still at the point of resisting comfort, she'll sometimes assume the yoga position of downward dog and yell/cry. (She also will fling herself backwards onto the floor, which is less charming.) When she cries and is finally willing to be comforted, she'll point and say "eyes" and then press her eyes toward my face so I can kiss away her tears.

baby girl

So Lauren's world is so very exciting--sometimes not in the best ways--lately. But for the most part, she's handling growing up well. She's gone down to one nap this past month. I made the change after several weeks of afternoon nap resistance coupled with more night waking. While I usually dread changes in routine, this one's gone really well for all of us. We're less rushed during the day since we only have to plan around the one nap and I don't have to shorten the afternoon nap on days I have to pick Tobin up from school. Her night wakings remain a little iffy but she does a good job staying awake in the morning until her midday nap and most days sleeps two to three hours. Then she's just fine until bedtime, which I've tried to push a little earlier but ends up being close to 8pm. One of her favorite afternoon/evening activities is reading with Dad.

reading w/daddy

As she talks more and more, she particularly identifying animals in books. Sometimes she says the name of the animal but more often, she prefers to bark like a dog, quack like a duck or howl like a wolf.

howling w/daddy

Friday, November 30, 2012

Evan at 41 months

41 months

Ev is a planner. He's planning to be Wolverine next Halloween, conveniently wearing Tobin's  hand-me-down costume. He's particularly interested in Wolverine's "scratchers," claws made of flimsy plastic and somehow still floating around the house. There's one in the van that Ev likes to wear for a minute and then he yells at me "I don't want this, Mom!" and I have to reach back from the driver's seat and take it, lest he keep yelling.


Ev also likes to yell before his nap time sometimes. Usually, he'll stick with singing/chatting for a few minutes before he falls asleep but occasionally he has something so urgent to tell me that he'll yell until I come back in. One day, I tucked him in and then took Lauren to our room to change her diaper and put her down for her nap. By the time I'd finished with the diaper, Ev was screaming to the point of crying so I went back in, trying to remain calm--instead of giving in to the urge to say what was running through my head: "What in the world could be the matter, son!?!"--and gently asked him what was wrong. He sniffled and said, "Where's Dad?" I replied, "He's at work, buddy." Ev said, "When I wake up, he'll be here? He'll get Tobin?" I assured him, "Yep, he'll get home after your nap and he's picking Tobin up, so T will be home too." Evan simply sighed, "Oh, okay." I left him again and he quietly settled in for a two-hour nap. Once again, I've learned the same lesson with him: Stay calm. His outbursts, while very passionate, are usually short-lived and fairly easily solved. Also, once it was over I had to admit it was kinda funny that essentially all he really needed to know was what was going to happen next. So now I make a point of telling him what's going to happen after his nap, and he seems to like that. (Also, rest assured I am struck with grateful wonder that my almost three and a half year old still naps so consistently!)

like brother like brother

Lately, when Tobin gets home from school, he and Evan immediately start a game of indoor "football." They call it football but it doesn't include a football (those have been banned from inside for obvious reasons) but instead a ball-like object (lately, an Angry Bird stuffed animal). It always include tackling. Lots of it. Part of me is amused and heartened that they obviously love this physical interaction so much. The other part is exasperated by the inevitable tears that follow. I know I'm not consistent in regulating this activity. Sometimes they'll go for quite a while before any tears. But once there is crying, I tell them "no tackling" and then when they don't stop tackling I take away their "ball" and again remind them to stop tackling because they of course don't really need the ball to continue their game. One afternoon this week, we headed outside to let them discharge their energy in a less dangerous way. As I helped Evan put on his hoodie and shoes, I talked to him about how we weren't going to play football outside, just run and kick the soccer ball. Tears welled up in his eyes and he pleaded, "I need to play football with Tobin!" The poor little guy was so disappointed that he wasn't going to get to tackle his brother in the grass. But I continued to explain that there would only be soccer and that if he didn't want to play soccer, he would need to stay inside with me while Daddy took Lauren and Tobin outside. He relented and was happy playing soccer until he apparently needed a more exciting activity: climbing the five-foot support wall on our neighbor's townhome. Ever my adventurer, Evan's favorite adventures involve his big brother. I love the picture above because it's taken on Thanksgiving day during a football break and Ev is so obviously imitating Tobin's hand gestures.

duplo tackle circle

As you'll note above, Tobin's influence on Evan is evident in his pretend play. Those are Duplo people wearing miniature NFL helmets. Here, they're encircling a single player and tackling him. (I'm concerned the player has no helmet and is considerably outnumbered.) Tobin plays with the helmets and Duplos like this too, but his play is a bit more complicated; he runs games with scoring updates and exciting finishes. But Evan mimics that play in his own way too. He matches helmets and tells us the Panthers are playing the Seahawks and then asks who we think will win. His very good at identifying the teams by their helmets and will watch SportsCenter and correctly note, "Oh, the Falcons played the Saints? The Falcons scored a touchdown?" So it appears Matt and I have passed on our interest in football to Tobin, and Tobin has passed that on to Evan. We love it--apart from the tackling injuries.

reading at breakfast

Although he is a ball of enthusiastic energy a good deal of the time, Evan increasingly curls up with a book by himself. He's not reading the words yet but he's content to look through books for quite a while without asking us to read to him. When we do read to him, he has so many questions on each page that it can take quite a while to get through the even the shortest book. He loves to tell us what's happening in a familiar book and is really good at identifying letters . . . when he's in the mood to do so. Tobin always seemed so eager to please when we'd ask him to tell us which letters he see or to count. Evan sometimes just insists "No, I don't want to!" and then asks a question that is more interesting to him. So I am making an effort to follow his lead and enjoy the adventure that is helping him navigate his own very particular world. He reminds me that there are many exciting things about everyday life. He also makes me laugh, even in some of life's more stressful moments. One morning a few weeks ago, Lauren was sick with a cold and had a coughing fit such that she threw up her morning milk all over herself and me. I drew a bath to clean her up and Evan joined her because he always takes a bath with his sister! So once I had them happy in the bath, I walked just a few steps away into my room to quickly change my clothes. I heard a big splash and thud and, already feeling uneasy leaving them alone in the tub for just a minute, I rushed in half-clothed to check on them. They were fine. But Evan, without missing a beat, saw me in just my bra and panties and quipped, "Oh Mom, you going to play volleyball?" And suddenly a very stressful sequence of events transformed into the most hilarious moment in my entire life, courtesy of the incomparable Evan Reid.

classic ev

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tobin at 78 months

78 months

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, Tobin went on a bit of a creative tear. Right after our pancake breakfast, he gathered paper, pens, crayons and tape and made a board game, Thanksgiving decorations and a book entitled Designs. It included pictures he and Evan had drawn with accompanying Tobin-penned captions. He worked on these things prettily steadily through the morning and even after lunch. Mid-afternoon, he plopped down next to me on the couch to watch football and said, "I think I'll take a break from inventing things for a while."

making a book

Over the last couple months, Tobin has really taken to writing. While he's been writing letters and words for a couple years now, he's seemed hesitant to write anything without asking us how to spell almost every word. His kindergarten teacher last year even noted that he seemed to struggle a bit with writing answers to simple reading comprehension questions; she speculated it might be fine motor issue. With that in the back of our minds, Matt and I gently encouraged Tobin to sound out and spell words he wanted to write down, instead of automatically spelling them for him. But at some point in the last few months, he stopped asking us to spell so many words and just writes down whatever he wants. The result is adorable prose replete with creative misspellings. He takes pride in being able to spell certain words correctly, especially most of his classmates' diverse names. He noted that his friend Lorenzo's name would sound just like Lauren's if you left off the "-zo" but "it would be spelled different."

curled up cozy

So it's special to see Tobin enjoying writing in addition to reading these days. He's reading chapter books when he gets a chance and is on volume 3 of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. Matt and I are trying to figure out what chapter books we can introduce him to. He enjoys The Magic Tree House series at school. I think we're looking forward to him reading things like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Harry Potter, but figure those might still be a few years down the road.

logging his reading

Tobin received his first public school report card at the end of October. Unsurprisingly, he got especially high marks in reading and math. His teacher also commended him particularly for following directions and participating in class activities. Tobin continues to enjoy working on his reading log each night. A couple weeks ago, he brought home a new reading log form which required him to answer a simple comprehension question each night. He never asks me for help in answering those questions, so I try to remember to sneak a peek every once in a while at his answers. I noticed just tonight he has likes to abbreviate "because" as "'cuz" (yes, with an apostrophe). He told me that he likes to do homework and wishes he had more--especially math! He reports that he even asked his assistant teacher if he could have more but she said that most of the homework was for the second and third graders in his class. I told him that he does a great job reading and keeping his log and that soon enough he would have more homework, but for now maybe he could just enjoy having extra playtime at home? This seemed okay with him.

homework complete

Tobin's Thanksgiving week started out a little rough as he woke up Monday morning throwing up, with what turned out to be strep throat. Fortunately, we were able to get him to the doctor that afternoon and get some antibiotics. He didn't miss a beat from that point on and was his usual positive traveler self on the road trip to Kentucky. While there he helped Grandma decorate for Thanksgiving with some of the signs he had made at home and wrote the names on our family place cards at the table. He enjoyed playing Monopoly and Yahtzee as well as the game Catch Phrase with a larger group of family. I think the object of the game is to describe a word without using rhyming or parts of the word. I didn't play but I remember hearing Tobin describe "a state that's really, really far south and it was created by volcanoes." Hawaii!

dear david bazan

Tobin made a card to send to David Bazan, one of Matt's favorite musicians who Matt saw at a show last week. You'll note above he included a quiz and a pilgrim on the front. He then enclosed a sweet note inside plus drawings of a turkey and Star Wars. I'm going to get him started on our Christmas cards soon! (Well, if we sent Christmas cards . . . but there's at least a possibility I'll post something Christmassy by Tobin on Flickr.)

dear david bazan, page 2