Friday, April 13, 2007

When I Was Just a Kid...Tobi Layton

When I Was Just a Kid....

Tobi Layton

Tobi Raney Layton remembers an incident where she got into trouble by her mom, Deb, and dad, Ken Raney (but note that they took a photo of her committing the crime.) This was her crime--eating butter from the tub--but she also counted it as her childhood indulgence. (Her mom, Deb Raney, supplied this photo.)

Tobi is the daughter of author Deborah, and illustrator/artist/children's book author, Ken Raney. Growing up with three siblings, Tobi has plenty of stories. Her mom just grinned when I asked if Tobi would allow me to interview her for this column the day after Deb's own interview in the Chat 'n' Chew Cafe', since the two of them co-author a column over at

Tobi consented, and here are some of her childhood memories:
Childhood Ambition:

Like many kids, I had pretty flighty ambitions. My earliest dream was to be an Olympic Gymnast. Once I hit 5'2" (8 inches ago), I gave up on that one.

In high school, I job shadowed an architect, but decided duct work and plumbing wasn't my speed, so I decided to focus on interior decorating. I soon figured out from countless decorating magazines that there are more ugly styles of decorating than ones that I find aesthetically pleasing. Since I'm pretty stubborn and opinionated, I figured that I probably wouldn't be very successful at trying to decorate other people's homes to their weird tastes.

So, I turned my interests toward a passion I had really been nursing all along - children. I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for at least part of my life, but I also dreamed of being a child psychologist or teacher. The summer before my senior year, God started hinting at my true calling. I taught swimming lessons and received several comments from parents about how good I was with their little water babies. At the same time, I realized that psychology would take years of schooling, and then involve being somewhat detached from my charges - something I don't think I'm emotionally capable of.


My senior year, I enrolled as a student aide for my old kindergarten teacher. When I walked into her classroom that first day of school, I knew instantly that I wanted to teach. Nine years later, I'm doing just that and loving it.

So, what was her first job ? (industrious, ambitious kid!)

My First Job: Babysitting; teaching 3-5 yr olds to swim (or, rather, blow bubbles and splash without crying.)

Childhood indulgence: I remember getting in trouble as a toddler for eating from the butter tub! (See photo above.)

Favorite Outfit as a child:
Definitely NOT the "perfectly good" red corduroy hand-me-down pants that went with NOTHING. My mom made me wear them at least once a week!

I did love my button shirt that Grammy made for me. (See photo below.)

[Crystal editor's note: Tobi claims she looks "dorky" here. But aren't all fifth graders a bit self-conscious about their looks? Now she teaches this age level of students. And obviously the creativity gene that we thought came from both of her parents, was also passed on to her by "Grammy" who made this really cool shirt! ]

Fondest Memory (then): The one afternoon that my brothers and I played "horse" for the entire afternoon without once arguing (and I was just as bossy as usual!). I remember being so happy that Tarl didn't think the game was babyish, even though the horse was a piano bench with paper smiley face and rope tail taped to the ends.

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen: Talking to boys.
[Crystal editor note: I think she got over that one!]

Proudest Moment (then):
I was pretty proud of my stellar Tae-Kwon-Do moves as a 6th grader, even though my whole family joked that for me to survive an assault, my attacker would have to attack from the proper side of my body and at an appropriate speed. But one day I was sparring a male classmate, who happened to be a big jock. I pulled a sweeping spin kick and dropped him flat on his back. I can still remember the look on his face!

Proudest Moment (now ): Giving birth to my son.

(Layton Family Mistletoe Christmas Kiss below)

Favorite Childhood Holiday: Christmas
My favorite Christmas traditions included our annual Christmas light tour in Wichita and our snowflake cutting party. My dad, an artist, could cut a mean snowflake, and I tried to recreate a few of his designs in college. I laminated my "baby Jesus in a manger" and "old fashioned candlestick" masterpieces and put them up in my classroom every December. My mom ended up writing an article about these snowflake parties, and then in college I came up with an extended version of this tradition.

Childhood Hero:
Though I would never dream of admitting it to her,[Crystal editor's note: Shhhh! Don't breathe a word to Deb!] my mom was always my hero. Her very presence annoyed me to death as a teenager, but I subconsciously wanted to be just like her. I respected her decision to stay at home and raise my siblings, and I always compared other mothers to her. Of course, my friends' moms were all MUCH cooler than her at the time, but I knew she made the best decisions for her family and had a strong devotion to God.

Favorite Childhood Book: Miss Suzy - about a squirrel who keeps a tidy home in an oak tree and then is forced to relocate to a dilapidated doll house with a bunch of toy soldier slobs. She performs a total makeover and straightens that place - and those boys - right up! I have always loved makeovers of any type.

Your favorite list of Children's Books: Miss Suzy (of course), Little House on the Prairie series, Nancy Drew mysteries

Favorite Childhood Pastime: I know I'm a total dork, but I went through a phase where I spent hours at a time decorating a little tree root home for imaginary creatures. I strung leaf curtains on dental floss and collected acorn cap dishes. What can I say? I had a Miss Suzy complex!

Favorite Childhood Movie: Princess Bride

Tavia, Tobi and Deb Raney

Childhood Prince Charming: Kris White was my childhood crush - but I threw up all over him during 3rd grade story time, which sort of ruined my chances. I DID get to play his fiance' in the musical my senior year, but by then I was inches taller than him (especially in dance heels!) and holding out for next year's college guys.

As a Child I Never Expected that as an Adult I Would: Be almost exactly like my mother! Mom wrote an article on me as a kid drawing her face on a pillow for a personal punching bag. Who knew I'd grow up to admire her and be proud to be like her.

...And that mother is so proud of Tobi, too. This is from Deb Raney's blog on Tobi when they launched their co-authored articles on marriage at :

Deb Raney: My daughter, Tobi Layton, and I write a column each month on, a great Web magazine devoted to faith, family and community. My husband and I share an August anniversary with Tobi and her husband, Ryan.
Each month, Tobi and I explore various aspects of marriage as viewed from the perspectives of a young married woman (Tobi) and an, I mean long married woman (me). We've had such fun writing together, though I'm not sure our husbands are quite so thrilled, since they are featured prominently every month. ;) Each column contains several discussion questions that would be great conversation starters for your next date with your spouse.

Then, Tobi kicks in again with a bit of humble pie:
Apparently, I was a total brat as a child. None of my coaches or teachers ever realized it, since I saved it for family, but I had a major sass-mouth. My parents blame it on my stubbornness and independence. I think I was just too intelligent for my own (and their own) good. (Big smile!)
Fortunately, my 16-month-old seems to get his temperament from my husband, Ryan, not me. However, my mother has prayed that I will pay for my raising, which has me very scared of the baby I'm due to have in October!

[Crystal editor's note: Ah, the curse of the mother on the child who gave her white hair and knuckles...(it's all goooooood, don't worry.) I pray many blessings on you all, and for a safe and healthy delivery of another cutie Layton baby. God bless! See all of the Raneys and Laytons above.]

Tobi Layton grew up to be a fifth grade teacher and freelance writer in southeast Missouri. Married for five years to Ryan Layton, a high school biology teacher, they are involved with the high school and junior high youth groups at their church in Missouri.
Things are never dull, and Tobi has plenty of stories piling up to use in her column with mom, Deb Raney. Here are their marriage links to their column.

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