Friday, February 29, 2008

Boys and Their Bears

Some children suck their thumbs, some have pacifiers, some have a favorite bottle or sippy cup or blanket. Our boys have never had any of these habits ... but lately, they've both been all about the bears.

It started with Hesperos, the baby, and Helios followed shortly afterward (no doubt partially motivated by the attention we gave Hesperos). During a recent closet-cleaning event, Mommy found, still in its original Build-a-Bear cardboard box, the stuffed bear that Hesperos was given by Aunt Sully, Uncle Elmo, and cousins Oscar, Rose, and Jasmine on the day he was born.

Soft and squishy, the unnamed bear plays Brahm's lullaby at breakneck speed and is now Hesperos' favorite pillow. Every night and nap time, Hesperos rushes into his room, grabs his bear off his mattress, and hugs it bottom side up (apparently the bear's bare bottom is an excellent baby chin resting place). When Hesperos lies down on his mattress, he scrunches the bear into about 1/3 of its size so it can fit entirely under Hesperos' chin and cheeks. Between lying-down-time and falling-asleep-time, there may be some drooling and ear gnawing, demonstrating that the bear serves the multiple functions of friend, pillow, and tasty nighttime snack. (If we can't figure out how to wash that bear soon, it'll also add a fourth function to its repertory, that of germ-infested repository of bacteria.)

On those rare mornings when Hesperos awakens before Mommy and Daddy, he climbs off his mattress, bear in hand, and waddles through the upstairs, on his mission to awaken others. If unsuccessful, his second ambition is to get in some cuddling time. Most of these mornings begin with a slightly slimy, quite drool-damp bear being tossed onto Mommy's and Daddy's bed (often hitting one of us in the face, an unwelcome good morning present), followed by entreating hands and some baby-like whimpers that seem to mean "you already have the bear, now get me, too!"

Helios isn't as much of a ham (at least not in this one instance). His bear attraction is relegated strictly to classic Pooh, the stuffed toy Mommy and Daddy got for him even before he was born. Pooh is ultra-soft and furry ... and, although he doesn't play a lullaby, comes replete with stories, songs, and friends.

Bedtime with Helios now involves being tucked in with night-nights (he says night-night to all of his family members which, given the number, results in a War-and-Peace style epic every evening). After saying 'good night' to everyone, he gets treated to Mommy singing him the "Winnie the Pooh" song with Pooh bouncing on Helios' belly. Helios chortles and chuckles a bit, followed by the normal requests for "again, again, AGAIN!" Once Mommy has sang herself into croaks, Helios finally goes to sleep. But, as soon as he wakes up in the morning, he's ready to hop into the car to listen to the CD of Winnie-the-Pooh (and Tigger, and Rabbit, and ...) music. We listen to Pooh music so much that the last couple of nights, Mommy has dreamed of the Hundred Akre Wood and started humming "Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh, chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff, he's Winnie the Pooh..." immediately after awakening.

Oh, well. At least it's a change from trains.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Tale of the Terrifying Tube

Santa Claus surprised the boys this year with a couple of gifts handmade by some Swedish elves and made available for pickup at the local Ikea store. One of those gifts is a six-foot-long, light blue, nylon slinky tube through which children and people not suffering from claustrophobia can slither through.

A new purpose to this toy was discovered, however, when Aunt Elspeth's super-skinny boyfriend, Gonzo, demonstrated how he could sheathe himself entirely within the tube and then lurk in wait for hapless children to walk by. All this, of course, to scare them into using their diapers (even if they're not wearing diapers any more).

Daddy, thus inspired by Boyfriend Gonzo, adopted the practice of cramming himself in the tube and trying to scare the children, even taking it to the point of wearing the tube and chasing them around the house like some creepy worm from a horrific Tim Burton movie. But, it delights the children (although Mommy suspects that some psychological care will be needed at some not-to-distant point in the future).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What Do the Boys Like to Watch?

Like all well-intentioned parents, we try to minimize the amount of time the kids are in front of the boob tube, as well as protect them from the Internet. But, there are times (like when painting, handling hot things on the stove, or wrapping gifts) when the temptation of having an electronic babysitter is too great for a parent to resist.

At these times, we take advantage of playlists on YouTube where we've found many of the clips and skits we loved in childhood that we've been able to share with the kids in an on-demand way. We've also found a few new things, entirely at random. So what are the kids' favorites?
  1. Sesame Street: "Orange Sings Carmen"

  2. Sesame Street: "Manahmana"

  3. Song: "The Rhino Song"

  4. Muppet Show: "Never Smile at a Crocodile"

  5. Book: "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom"

The order of favorites changes somewhat, but that off-key operatic orange has been top-listed for several weeks now. Looking for a few puppet or animated classics (operatic or otherwise) to enjoy? You can find the full list of favorites online.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Power of Personal Magnetism

This past week, Mommy had the experience of being the one to drop off and pick up the boys from preschool every day (a job that normally falls to Daddy by virtue of their preschool being closer to his employer). This afforded Mommy the rare opportunity to watch the boys in action, interacting with their teachers and classmates, and their reactions to the daily activities. What Mommy wasn't prepared for was the sheer adulation that greeted the boys upon their arrival.

When we walked into Helios' room, one little girl (remembered dimly from a birthday party as Anna) rushed up to me and said haltingly, "are you Helios' mommy?" After I said yes, she replied with, "oh, wait right there! I've been coloring pictures for him all morning!" (All 45 minutes of it?) So while Picasso-in-training rushes off to collect her offerings to my son's pyre, a little boy comes up and says, "I made this clay truck for Helios. Will you take it home for him?" Sure, why not? Meanwhile, Helios is hanging up his jacket only to be besieged with adoring fans pestering their preschool Messiah with requests: "Helios, come play puzzles with me!" "No, Helios, come over here and let's jump!" "Ohhh, Heeeeeelios! I'm painting over here!" "He's my best friend! He comes with me!"

Apparently, my son is something of a demigod to this clamoring clan of kidlets. I speculate that some time around Easter, they'll sacrilegiously greet him with some palm fronds and a white ass.

A few doors down, Hesperos was getting some star treatment of his own. Whereas he initially clutched onto me with a surprising grip (not just due to strength but also because he's a known Daddy's boy so rarely does he plaster himself to my body), Hesperos managed to somehow with bizarre homing acuity use my body as a launch pad. He flew the short distance to the closest, prettiest, and bustiest preschool teacher, wearing a little smirk on his plump cheeks. While she held him, the other rug rats gathered around her shins. Their arms were raised beseechingly, like they were hungry zombies caught in quicksand, making little baby grunts and whimpers. When the teacher lowered Hesperos to the floor, they encircled him with their pudgy arms, enfolding him in the 2-year-old equivalent of a group hug, every child patting the back of the other. (Some day, when these children are in adult self-help groups, they'll already have some of the requisite skills learned from these early days.)

Where do my sons come by this powerful magnetism? While I have some charm, it's definitely well-hidden under a polished layer of off-putting sardonic humor ... and to even experience that humor, you'd need to get past my very large bubble (whatever you do, please don't hug me). Daddy has charm of his own, but he's not a big-toothed Tony Robbins who's going to win friends and influence people through the sheer force of his charisma. Yet our sons are adored, beloved, cosseted, revered by others through the beauty of their personalities.

We don't know what it is that they have...but we hope it lasts at least long enough until those children have some "toys" of substance to offer up to Helios and Hesperos (I'm thinking Lamborghinis, ear drum destroying stereo systems, extra homes off the ocean, etc.).

Monday, February 4, 2008

From the Archives...

Today Mommy was helping Aunt Elspeth put together a project of photographs and family information for Grandma Joan's upcoming birthday. She asked, reasonably enough, if there was a picture of all four of us together (there's not) or a picture of just Mommy with the kids (negative, cap'n). However, Mommy was able to share with her this one snapshot, found in the archives of late 2006.

This could be Mommy's favorite picture to date of the family. First of all, Mommy is absent, which is a wonderful thing since she's extremely camera averse. Second, all three of the highly photogenic life forms in the photo are staring at the camera for once, and at the same time. This is rare onto itself, although in Helios' case, that result was gained only by placating him with an oatmeal cookie. Third, this picture is from the time when Hesperos didn't know how to walk yet, meaning that he couldn't get into things. Anyone who's spent time with Mr. Sneaky recently would know how truly wonderful a thing that is.

Fourth, and finally, this picture was taken the night we got new carpet installed in the master bedroom, meaning that it gave Mommy a free ride from vacuuming for about a week. (Hey, Mommy is very practical!)