Sunday, January 27, 2008

Perfectly Picturesque Pumpkin Picking

Among the treasure trove of half-written-and-as-yet-unpublished posts was this one from October regarding pumpkin picking with the boys.

One of the benefits of living in this area in the autumn is the abundance of farms where pumpkin picking opportunities are plentiful and the kettle corn is crunchy. Although we've never yet carved a pumpkin with the children, we've had a great time doing everything else up to that final, dirty deed.

While we had gone pumpkin picking last year, it didn't really click with Helios what the whole activity was about, and Hesperos was bundled up like a little human burrito. This year, though, Helios was all about Halloween, picking pumpkins, and the wagon rides. (Side story: While traipsing through the fields, Helios astounded us as he shared his memories of last Halloween, trick-or-treating with Hesperos dressed up like a pumpkin, in their double stroller. Talk about a good memory! It was a reminder to us parents to not try and pull a fast one over him...Helios is apparently old enough to now keep us accountable!)

Even better than the hay rides were the opportunities to imagine what life would be like as a farm animal. Helios got confused a few times which way he was supposed to look through the cardboard cutouts, as well as a little bewildered about why his little brother's head was poking out of a cow's body. But, all types of animal-corpus angst was forgotten once the boys were safely seated in their trusty, not-so-rusty Red Flyer two-seater wagon that carried them in seated comfort across the pumpkin patch, allowing them to gaze across the fields with lordly authority as they munched on kettle corn.

After picking the perfect pumpkins (and after Helios tried sitting on one, before jumping up and exclaiming "the pumpkin was poking me!" while Mommy tried to stifle laughter and vaguely adult commentary), we loaded pumpkins and children into the handy-dandy nearby wheelbarrow and carted them home. Uncarved, the pumpkins enjoyed a place of decorative prominence on our front doorstep before entering our compost bin to become mulch for our spring gardening attempts.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

They Were So Little Once, Part II (Helios' First Few Weeks in the World)

At an early age, Helios exhibited one of the worst family traits from both his mother's and father's families: He was late. Not just a little bit late either, mind you. He was born about 10 days late. Ten days overdue is a long time from Mommy's perspective. Mommy was hot, large, and turgid...and relishing the idea of being in an air-conditioned hospital room several pounds lighter of a child. Eventually, the doctor decided that Helios had slumbered enough in comfort so it was time to come out. With a lot of work from Mommy and some medical intervention, Helios was finally born at a whopping 9 lbs. 9 oz. - he clearly didn't need those extra 10 days baking in the oven. (The labor was a little stressful for him and he'd sucked on his index finger in utero, which is why there's a little blood blister showing.)

Other than the predictable comments about how "adorable" Helios was (how many people ever say, "gee, your kid looks like a ogre's hairy left foot!"?), the most common exclamation heard was, "my, he's so alert for a baby!" And that is true for sure. Whereas Mommy had spent the final weeks of pregnancy expecting the first few weeks to nap whenever Helios napped, she was bitterly disappointed. Helios was awake all...the...time (except at night when he started sleeping 6-8 hours at a stretch by the time he was 3-4 weeks old - so there was some relief).

Why was Helios always so alert? Well, it could've been part of the self-perpetuating cycle engendered by Mommy's frequent caffeine consumption. (Baby doesn't nap = Mommy doesn't nap = Mommy is tired = Mommy drinks iced tea to stay awake = milk for baby has caffeine in it = baby doesn't nap = ... = Mommy drinks more caffeine.) But, we think it's more likely that he had an energetic interest in everything.

Soon after coming home, Helios received his first manicure, which he accepted with intrigued silence. In the car, Helios would never sleep (as Grandma Jane and Grandpa Mel predicted he would); instead, he sat awake staring quietly at the fuzzy lights ... except for the other times when he'd scream bloody murder at suffering the indignity of being placed in a car seat.

Even awake during nap attempts, Helios would stay awake to stare at Daddy with a solemn, wide-eyed stare, fascinated by the significantly larger person next to him (who wouldn't nurse him). If Helios had been verbal at just a week or two old, Mommy is pretty sure he would've said or thought in this picture, "who the hell are you, big man?" (with his best Stewie Griffin voice).

Among his favorite interests were sitting with Grandma Jane (shown here emanating the grandmotherly glow that is especially strong when holding the very first grandchild) who cooed at him endlessly, and playing in his kicker/bouncer, which would fascinate him endlessly. Hesperos played in the same kicker but did so disinterestedly. Not so for Helios, who would make the toy bounce with high-impact enthusiasm, skinny legs kicking as adeptly as when Helios was inside Mommy's tummy working on tenderizing the muscle on the inside of her left ribs.

Occasionally, though, Helios would forgo playtime in lieu of helping Mommy get some work done (which she, true to form, tried to do even while on maternity leave). In this picture, Helios is doing his best "Kilroy Was Here" impression.

Things really aren't too different now. Whenever Mommy tries to work, Helios is at her side trying to play with the computer. He still adores Grandma Jane and enjoys riding in the car (generally talking up a storm to himself or Hesperos, his favorite listening companion, and rarely snoozing). But, thankfully, one thing has changed. While he still protests strenuously and begs for "one more minute!" to play, at least he now naps.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

They Were So Little Once, Part I (Hesperos Coming Home)

While organizing photos of the boys, I came across a few of Hesperos when we brought him home. As many know, Hesperos was an NICU baby, spending the first 10-14 days of his little life in first an incubator, then on respiratory assistance, then on monitoring for breathing difficulties. During those first few days, he was unable to muster enough strength to nurse so he went from his good-sized 8 lb. 8 oz. birth weight to a much smaller 6 lb. 3 oz. size when he came home. In spite of the 3 lb. 5 oz. weight loss, Hesperos was still the largest baby in the NICU, where we had the experience to see first-hand babies with true problems.

The upside to the NICU experience was the extended hospital stay. While no special treat for Mommy (the food really is as bad as everyone says), it afforded opportunities for Helios to take plenty of high-speed rides in the wheelchair, powered by the Daddy engine.

The day Hesperos came home was a happy one, although Helios was a little bewildered by Mommy's slightly smaller stomach and this new little mewling thing which he'd only been able to see for a few moments after Hesperos' birth (children not being allowed into the NICU). Helios spent a lot of his time running to and around Hesperos' bassinet, where he would climb up to look over the edge at the baby sleeping within.

The bassinet had a built-in recording device and we taught Helios how to say "I love you, Hesperos" and record it. So, when Helios was away at daycare, Mommy could push the playback button on the bassinet and Hesperos could hear his brother's voice say "I love you, Hesperos." However, Helios couldn't say Hesperos' real name, so he called him "Poohaf" for the first several months.

Now, Hesperos is, at only 16 months, only 6 or 7 pounds smaller than older brother Helios, and, except for the occasional ear infection or experience with pneumonia, he's as healthy as can be. Helios is certainly no longer bewildered by his little brother and none of us treat Hesperos like a delicate flower. Certainly, to watch the two of them cavort around and rough-house (just tonight, Hesperos would take a running start and then barrel into Helios, knocking them both over into a pile on the floor where they'd laugh themselves silly), you'd be hard-pressed to imagine Hesperos ever being a tiny baby.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Life from Helios' POV

Obviously, Mommy and Daddy have taken it upon themselves to document the boys' lives through photographs. Not only does this make the memories last longer, but it increases the probability that we'll have real and significant blackmail material when they become famous later on. (Hey, don't be critical about this approach! Have you checked the state of Social Security recently or the stock market? We need to ensure our retirement comfort some how and blackmail may be the ticket!)

Helios, imitating Mommy and Daddy, has become quite a photography fiend himself. There's a children's play camera (with a creepy Chucky-like laugh) at Grandma Jane's that Helios played with during his summer visit...and loved. He loved it so much that about three months ago, when he remembered it, he got on the phone and asked her to send it to him (she did) and then proceeded to ask for it 6-10 times a day afterward until it got here. ("Daddy, when is Grandma Jane sending my camera?" "Mommy, where's my camera?" "Why don't I have a camera!!!?!!!")

But, Helios is now a couple of months older now and his photographic tastes have matured. While he still likes the play camera, he often hops up and down begging to play with the "real camera," specifically Daddy's. While we're understandably hesitant to allow him to touch and play with something so expensive (not to mention something so indispensable to our plan for retirement prosperity), occasionally we let him take a photo or two. This may make you wonder, "what does life look like from Helios' point of view? What does Helios feel is important to photograph?" Maybe you're even wondering, "how good is Helios as a photographer?"

All very important questions, which is why we're providing you with this exclusive opportunity to view some of Helios' fine photographic work, including a very rare picture of Mommy (let me assure you, it is very rare to find a picture of Mommy...especially one of Mommy about 10 minutes after having been at the gym), shown at left.

Also provided here is a photo Helios took of Hesperos (shown above), and a snapshot of the "nummy-nummy" (with belly pats) seasonal best candy canes (also above).

Finally, last but not least, we provide to you an example of some of Helios' finest interpretative work called "What My Belly Would See If It Could See and Looked Up at My Face." At right you will see Helios' self-photograph...although perhaps not from the best vantage point (digitally edited to ensure nothing unsightly was visible in the nose area).