Saturday, November 28, 2009

Annie, Clarabel / Potayto, Potahto

Anyone who isn't familiar with Thomas the Tank Engine may be a bit lost on this post so here's some background. Thomas the Tank Engine, when he's not schlepping cargo throughout the Island of Sodor, has two coaches he pulls: Annie and Clarabel. They are effectively identical coaches. According to one toy site, "They were given to Thomas as a reward for proving himself to be a Really Useful Engine. Annie carries passengers and is always pulled by Thomas facing him. Clarabel carries both passengers and luggage, and always travels behind Annie."

Got that? The only way to tell between Annie and Clarabel is their position in relation to Thomas. (Women's studies majors, take note and use this as a basis for your next thesis statement - there's something here about train-oriented misogyny present in early 20th century British children's literature with a compare and contrast in the leadership styles of Winston Churchill and Sir Toppham Hatt under George VI and Elizabeth II.)

So today, when the boys were engaged in passionate debate over who should have Annie AND Clarabel, my thought, as Mommy and Chief Moderator on Duty, was to divide the two virtually identical and interchangeable trains between the two boys, giving one to Helios and the other to Hesperos.

Nuthin' doin'. The boys could handle having only one coach a piece. What they couldn't agree on is who should have which coach. Both demanded Annie. No matter that in a blind touch test or with the names obscured, they couldn't tell the difference between the two.

So how to affect a compromise and some relative peace and quiet so I could write this post and gain some sanity this cloudy Saturday?

I revealed to them the secret that Sir Toppham Hatt didn't want anyone to know but entrusted to me, which I in turn was sharing with them.

Clarabel is Annie's double, her identical twin, in disguise. Underneath the 'Clarabel' in white cursive is the word 'Annie.' So they're really two Annies, but one is in hiding.

Now they argue about who has the secret Annie and who has the visible Annie. Of course.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Good Golly, Ms. Molly!

While the boys have a life that is replete with trains, planes, and automobiles of all kinds, they do not have any pets. From time to time, Mommy and Daddy thoughtfully ponder whether it is time to get one but always arguments arise to put off that fateful decision. First, the milestone was when both boys were potty trained, but that time passed long ago with barely a hint of pet ownership planning. Now, in spite of all the benefits Mommy and Daddy know go with pet ownership (teaching responsibility, care of animals, reducing risk of allergies later in life, etc.), we still manage to find just as many reasons to not have one (mess, cost, mess, responsibility, mess, and did we mention mess?). Many pets have been considered: fish, frogs, dogs, cats. Presently we're considering an ecoaquarium that requires effectively no maintenance except some food pellets every few days. We'll see. That sounds like a lot of commitment.

Fortunately, the boys still get in some animal time thanks to Aunt Elspeth who owns a little Scotty dog, Ms. Molly. Ms. Molly has been an honorary part of our family for approximately two years, since Aunt Heather acquired her in a sordid backroom deal involving Craigslist and a hastily scheduled road trip some 40 miles away to arrange for pickup. Now, whenever Aunt Elspeth travels (whether to visit the parents for the holidays or to backpack through South America with her bearded gentleman friend, Nord), Ms. Molly stays with us.

All in all, we think Ms. Molly has a good time. Certainly, the boys enjoy playing with her. They both jockey to be the ones to feed her, beg to take her on walks, and rush to be the first to let her out and back in for outdoor breaks. In a nod to the "shortest child chases the chicken" role that some children have on farms, Hesperos regularly leverages his short, stocky stature to terrorize the only creature in the house smaller than he is. Luckily, Ms. Molly is young but should her fur turn grey, it'll be difficult to ascertain whether it's fear of a burly 3-year-old or old age that's done it to her.

Eventually, we'll probably get a pet of our very own (i.e. hermit crab, painted rock, or lady bug) for the boys to care for full-time. In the meanwhile, we enjoy part-time responsibility for Ms. Molly if for no other reason than because it reminds us of the care-free days when we were just an aunt an uncle, before parenthood: all the fun, none of the responsibility, and the convenience of handing the lifeform back whenever it starts to misbehave.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Slug Hunting and Pooh Sticks

Daddy's company picnic this past summer offered all of the usual fare: barbecue at a park, huge sheet cakes from CostCo, drawings for a variety of items branded with the corporate logo, and an inflatable bouncy for the children. It also featured a few not so common attributes such as an employee with an uncanny resemblance to the mayor in the cinematic version of The Wizard of Oz who also served as a comedian slash magician. This gent will probably not be giving up his day job any time soon (but possibly could consider it if he could throw in a couple lions or two and if Siegfried and Roy would take him on.

But, most of these entertainments were for adults and didn't keep Helios and Hesperos entertained for long. So, the four of us went to create our own entertainment at the wetlands at which the event was held.

For starters, we absconded with the top halves of several hamburger buns. Ostensibly to feed the ducks, the fact is Mommy and the boys prefer the top halves and we figured we might need a smackerel on our long journey around the park. Privately, Mommy suspects that no one noticed the difference - for those distressed by there being bottom bun halves only, there was beer to comfort.

After feeding the ducks and the resulting Mother Theresa-like rush of benevolence mixed with self-satisfaction at having done a good deed, we walked through the woods where we were beset by slugs. Dozens of slugs, hundreds of slugs! We could not take a step without worrying what living slime might be beneath our shoes. So, the shorter ones in our impromptu troupe (i.e. the children) took it upon themselves to go slug hunting, staring at the ground intently and letting us all know where it was safe to step. To the best of our knowledge, there were no slug fatalities that day as a result of our walk. If you suspect otherwise, it's only fair to tell you that Mommy was wearing flip-flops which have no discernible sole pattern and the boys' shoes have since been donated to Goodwill. Good luck pinning it on us!

Our adventure concluded with a game of Pooh sticks played at the stream. The boys having never played before, it took a tiny bit of explaining. Then, Hesperos' natural competitiveness took over and he decided to win by flinging himself over the bridge's edge to push his stick (also the biggest stick) through. Helios did a little stomping and fitting about how Hesperos wasn't playing fair -- but we all know that Hesperos' casual interpretation of the rules is probably what will make him a corporate success story some day when he's prestigious enough to go only by his initials.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Helios' First Day of School

The first of September dawned bright and busy with Helios' first day of school as a kindergartner. He had previously visited his school the Wednesday before and inspected the room, dropped off his school supplies, and introduced himself to the teacher. This 30-minute experience afforded Helios the opportunity to demonstrate full worldliness and mastery of his environment by the time the Big First Day arrived.

With barely a passing glance, he skipped merrily to his classroom, happy with his (nearly empty) backpack that contained only his beloved German Shepherd beanie baby, Durdle. Upon arriving, we did the important tasks: found Helios' cubby and stored his backpack; checked out the bathroom and ensured the toilet could flush (checked repeatedly); found his flower name tag (to help the teacher remember him - as if she could forget!); and introduced himself to the fish. After that, he explained very solemnly to the teacher that he knows how to read - and that he will help the teacher teach the other kids, if she wants.

The prime activity of the first day (half-days only for the first week) included the creation of a hand-print folded into the American Sign Language gesture for "I love you," which Helios shows proudly here.

No tears, but a little insecure whimpering, and a lot of excitement as Helios' elementary school experience begins.

Soccer x 2

Let me take you back to fall 2007, where days dawned cloudy and full of rain, and the soccer games still started too early for Saturdays. Helios was just starting out in his first year of soccer as a jumpy 3-year-old who liked to run around the court in the same way a cat likes to chase spiders. Hesperos was his older brother's biggest fan, barely a year old, half walking, half stumbling after the soccer balls that he clutched to his chest with all his eager might.

Now in 2009, Hesperos is a stocky 3-year-old, still capering after his older brother but almost fully the same size and able to play soccer in his own right. He's still a little rough on the rules and enjoys carrying the ball -- his natural competitiveness results in him hiding it from his teammates as well as the opposing players. But, according to Daddy, who knows such things, Hesperos has a possible future ahead of his as a forward since he's quite good at running as fast as possible...and happens to kick the ball ahead of him as he goes, a 3-foot tall little blur on the indoor soccer field.

Early September brought a return of soccer season for both boys. Delightfully, each happened to be in a team whose t-shirt color is blue (light blue and dark blue) which minimizes the likelihood of quarreling over who gets to wear what shirt and whose team is best. (Yes, it's all about the color of the jersey.) Both boys are in teams coached by Daddy (resulting in very long Saturdays at the gym) but there's no sense of divided loyalties in this family. Due to the age difference between the boys, there's no risk they'll ever play against each other.

But this doesn't mean that the two brothers won't meet on the field every now and then. And afterward, there's always time for a more-or-less amicable play on the tire swing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Exploits of Crafty McGee

In our home, we have a little imp who is responsible for many of the events a less knowledgeable person might blame on forgetfulness, spirits from the afterlife, or your spouse. Crafty McGee, as the name suggests, is sneaky and sly -- and disarmingly charming. He rarely gets caught, and when we come close to catching him, he shows off a bright smile that would fool a lesser person.

Crafty McGee is most often seen in Hesperos. In fact, we're pretty sure Hesperos is always Crafty McGee even though evidence is difficult to collect and the suspected culprits always provide an alibi for the other. Recent examples of Crafty McGee's presence in our home:

  • A slice of fresh banana bread, left outside unattended, missing. Children look amazingly content and chipmunk-cheeked.

  • The removal of all the teabags from the drawer which were then lined in spooky perfect rows and columns on the floor.
  • A bathtub filled to the brim with the foamiest of bubbles that oddly made the children's hair silkier, shinier, and more manageable (but not their temperaments). Mommy's shampoo bottle is empty. Worried that Crafty McGee might follow instruction to rinse and repeat, shampoo is now relocated to the highest shelf in the bathroom resulting in Mommy having to do the "I'm-so-cold-and-wet" dance to get it whenever needed.

  • Socks regularly missing from Mommy's drawer. Innocent-faced protestations came with added information that "Mommy socks make good gloves."

  • Nearly full iced tea glasses that empty quicker than one might think. Following a recent visit to a water treatment plant where we learned about the water cycle, it's been suggested that iced tea evaporates quickly.

When Mommy was growing up, Grandpa Wil would put select foods in an extra refrigerator stored in the laundry room locked with a padlock. Supposedly this is where Grandpa Wil's parents' prescription medications were kept for child safety, but Mommy and several of her siblings know without question that it contained many delights: chocolate, liverwurst (delight is a relative term), soda, beer, ice cream, and more. Mommy often mocked Grandpa Wil and his killjoy over-protection of the family edible assets.

With the knowledge gained by motherhood, Mommy now knows that Grandpa Wil must've had a Crafty McGee or two (or more) of his own.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Glorious Stubbornness

Tonight after dinner, the entire fam schlepped ourselves over to an office supply store to purchase a replacement printer. Located right next door to the pet store, we promised the children that if they were well-behaved in the store (no running around, no touching things that weren't theirs), we would take them for a quick trip to view the snakes and fish.

For Helios, this worked pretty well. There was some mild spiritedness, particularly around the large paperclip bins which were apparently beyond tempting. But, other than approaching the cute female sales clerk and sharing with her every detail of his new Transformer toy in excruciating detail, he was fairly good. (In our opinion, the sales clerk did a remarkable job of feigning interest in boy toys, leading Mommy to believe that she will be, if she's not already, a superlative girlfriend.)

For Hesperos? It. Was. Utter. Disaster. He ran laps around the store, he pulled reams of stationery off the racks and tried to build houses, he refused to hold hands, and he plucked red/white/blue tinsel off the very unseasonable flag table display.

So, when Daddy and Helios merrily sauntered off to the pet store, Hesperos and Mommy went to the car where he screamed. And howled. And screamed. There are souls in the seventh circle of hell who probably felt like they got off easy, based on the tortured wails issuing from Hesperos' body. Demonstrating his mighty lung power, Hesperos stopped his ululations only to wipe his nose with his shirt and glare at Mommy peevishly to ensure she paid attention to him.

Once, Mommy reached into the back seat of the car to wipe Hesperos' nose with a tissue. "No!" he shouted. "My nose!" He covered his nose protectively with both hands. "This is MY NOSE, Mommy! You can't have it!"

Calmly, Mommy explained to Hesperos that she doesn't want his nose. She just wants to wipe it.

"No, Mommy! It is MY nose yucky." ("Nose yucky" being mucous, in case you didn't infer that.)

He glared. Mommy sighed with resignation and moved in for the stealthy wipe. He dodged, Mommy swerved. He blocked with his arm, Mommy swooped around it. He ducked, Mommy honed in. (He's locked into a car seat, so Mommy has a bit of an advantage.) SUCCESS! Nose wiped!

Now, the unholy sounds of three-year-old rage were unleashed from a previously unknown repository of vocal might. Unimpressed, Mommy stared at him in quiet amusement while he bellowed. Realizing he was not succeeding in getting Mommy's goat, he ups the ante and shoves one index finger into each nostril and delivers toddler rage served cold on platter. Glaring at Mommy, he shouts, "You're not getting my nose yucky EVER AGAIN MOMMY!"

We'll see.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Vacation - Visiting Grandma & Grandpa

Earlier this month, we embarked on our bi-annual trip to visit Daddy's parents, Grandma Jane and Grandpa Mel. The day dawned early and not so bright (since morning for us hit around 4am in order to make it to the airport on time). After we got the car packed, we tried to gently nestle the kids in their seats hoping they'd sleep to the airport. No such luck.

For two excited little boys, every moment brought a new little thrill. There was the light rail train on the way to the airport (six of them), the bus ride to the airport, and, perhaps best of all, Helios got to try out his new booster seat (an upgrade from his car seat). By the way, both boys were made honorary TSA agents. This did nothing to help Mommy in getting her contraband water bottle through.

The first leg of the trip was uneventful and involved a little kicking back, some reading, a smidgeon of movie watching and, most importantly, a visit to the cockpit. When that ceased to amuse, there was plenty for Helios and Hesperos to look at - airplanes, Mount Hood, and the excitement of the beverage cart which brought almost any drink the children could imagine and many more they couldn't.

For the second leg, the two un-napped junior pilots did a little crashing and napping before we arrived at our final destination and took the shuttle to the hotel. If you're a little one, the hotel is the crowning delight of a vacation and this was never more true than during our stay at aLoft. Thanks to the techno-house music that played from the moment we passed by the waterfall, Helios was excitedly dancing from the time we walked in until we got into our room with the colorful throw pillows.

There was no family visiting on this, our first day of vacation, comprised as it was of 12 hours in airports. But there was still plenty to see and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Grab Your Robes and Mortar Boards, It's Graduation Time!

(If you are reading this via Facebook, scroll down to end of post and click on "View Original Post" to read this within the blog.)

In mere days will be the event that little boys and girls dream of from the time they're dropped off in daycare at six weeks old. It's the day when all those crafts, songs, and arduous physical activities finally pay off. It's preschool graduation.

Sadly, due to an ill-timed family vacation planned to visit the boys' grandparents in the northeast, Helios will miss his preschool graduation. However, thanks to the miracles of advance preparation and home video, we are still able to immortalize Helios singing his graduation song that he would've performed with his class.

Learned my letters, A-B-C, A-B-C
Learned my numbers, 1-2-3, 1-2-3
I can even write my name with ease
Aren't you very proud of me, proud of me?

Kindergarten here we come, here we come
Kindergarten here we come, here we come
So long preschool, it's been fun
Kindergarten here we come! Here we come!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why Advertising Works on Children

Along with "HIPPO" and "GIRAFFE," one of Helios' first spelled words was "TARGET" (that strip mall mini-Mecca where trains are sold). He also early on was able to recognize "STARBUCKS" (land of hot chocolate and scones) and "MCDONALD'S" (home of apple slices). Thanks to a few savvy marketers, he is now able to recognize "CLEAR" as well.

This past spring at the local mall, Clear Wireless introduced a promotional display. Wireless is boring enough to kids (and most adults) - even the Apple yuppie or some Intel factory bunnies can't make their products interesting to children. But Clear is smart. They slapped their logo on an inflatable "snow globe" with a cupcake inside and circulating sprinkles. If you've ever seen the chipmunk in Ice Age questing for its acorn, you have seen the wild, bug-eyed stare with which these two boys greeted this 7-foot high cupcake in a globe.

Once we got them to stop hugging the cupcake, we were able to get them to hug each other and take this picture. Don't mistake it for a sign of brotherly love - while those displays do occur, this was rather a flush of mad passion for sugary glutenous wonders manifested as a massive cupcake. The brother just happened to be there to receive some of the residual love.

It's Time

September 14th. Hardly a day to live in infamy but it was the last time I posted to this blog with an update on the children.

I was okay with tardiness as long as I could count the elapsed time on one hand. When the number of weeks exceeded five, I simply re-adjusted and moved to months. That gained me another 20 weeks. But as we're nearing eight months since last posting, the only other alternative is to move to increments of years and risk Google taking this blog down (or doing so myself). Since I've already abandoned making homemade cards and threw out the idea of a scrapbook before it even dared to show itself as an idea, my mommy-vanity demands that I return to blogging about childish things (or childish blogging, as you wish).

Time to get caught up.