Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Past Lives

Last weekend, Vince and I took Benjamin on a walk through nearby Venice Beach. Ah, Venice! Home to eccentrics, rollerbladers, tourists, fortune tellers, artists, tattooed freaks, mouthpieces for all manner of socio-political causes, and memories. Yes, indeed, yours truly used to be one of those eccentrics. Actually, I started out as a tourist, but as LA became my home, I became at varying times a Venice Beach rollerblader, artist, and tattooed freak, too.

We had fun on our little walk. I showed Benjamin a tattoo shop where I'd had some work done. We strolled by world-famous Muscle Beach, as well as my favorite hot dog stand. Eventually, we meandered through the canals where Vince told Benjamin about how Daddy proposed to Mommy on a bridge in a very different Venice on the other side of the world.

I'm no longer much of a rollerblader, but the tattoos are still there. They've always garnered the occasional strange look or comment, but it's never really bothered me. Since I've become a mother, however, the looks and comments have become more pointed, and I'd be lying if I said that that didn't bother me just a little bit.

My tattoos tell a story of who I was, and that in turn reveals a bit of who I am. Are there times when not having tattoos would be more convenient, times when a sense of propriety forces them into hiding? Sure. But for the most part, my ink is there for the world to see, and that world includes my son. He'll grow up seeing me be myself, and maybe that will show him that it's ok for him to be himself. In the meantime, he seems to think it's pretty cool that his mommy comes with pictures.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Miley Who?

Never one to miss an opportunity to grab some attention, Benjamin turned his six-month pediatrician visit into a chance to channel Miley Cyrus in her infamous Vanity Fair photo shoot. Fine, I'll cop to doing a little post-shoot retouching to achieve those same sultry results. Benjamin, however, would like you know that being a model is hard work. It took a bazillion tries to get that one workable shot. Most of the failed shots were attributed to wardrobe malfunctions. We can't give it all away, now can we?

Hopefully he won't wake up tomorrow and tell me he's not getting out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.

Naked cavorting aside, we were excited to find out that it was time to introduce solids into Benjamin's diet. Solids and cereal and mush, oh my! From what we've been told, the introduction of solids will be the beginning of sound sleeping (woohoo!) and the end of sweet-smelling poop (ugh). We decided to start that evening with rice cereal mixed with some good ol' fashioned milk from Mommy.

video

We were able to shovel in about a tablespoon's worth of rice cereal before giving up, not so much because Benjamin was done eating, but because our sweet baby had turned into a rabid, foaming dog who couldn't keep his paws out of his bowl.

Altogether, I'd say this first meal was a success. Our dining room floor (and Benjamin's poop) will never be the same again!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Courvoisier 3

This past week, Benjamin's continued to display his growing fondness of the fairer sex. A quick lunch at the local crepe place presented a shot at love when Benjamin met Ava, Andrea's daughter. It didn't matter that Ava was older than Benjamin, either. One look and he was smitten.

The pint-sized paramour also got busy at my recent reunion with some high school friends. Below on the left, he makes eyes at Isabella, who in turn seems to be looking askance at his onesie. You can't see it, but the front reads "Boob Man." Nice one, Benjamin. Below on the right, you can see Benjamin living up to the onesie as he embraces Sydney. Oh, well... At least he came with a warning label!

L to R: Katherine, Isabella, Benjamin, and Stacy; Jen, Katherine, Isabella, me, B, Dylan, Stacy, Sydney, and Nataline; Sydney and Benjamin

Even Mommy's friends aren't safe from Benjamin's wiles. At a concert in the park yesterday, he tried to shake his money-maker for my neighbor Justine.

Unfortunately, I got no such love when it was just the two of us. Check out that look on his face! What am I - chopped liver?

Well, a little Photoshopping can turn that frown upside down. There, that's better!
.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Benjamin's First Trip to the Playground

Last weekend we took Benjamin for his first visit to the neighborhood playground. We figured that since he could now sit up, there was no reason he couldn't do so on a slide or a jungle gym. We did get odd looks from some of the other parents there. I suppose it was because their kids were old enough to get on and off of the park equipment themselves, whereas we had to strategically position Benjamin's floppy little baby body in a manner that would allow him to stay propped upright. Even so, he seemed to have a good time.

We were especially excited to see if he'd like the swings. Vince plopped him into a rubber seat and gave him a gentle push. Benjamin began to sway to and fro, a gentle breeze ruffling his mohawk. Suddenly, he ducked his head down towards his knees. Was he getting airsick? Had we overestimated his ability to sit upright? Was he suffering from swing-induced narcolepsy? Was he scared and crying? Alarmed, I dropped to my knees to get a better view of him.

Benjamin's face was visible through the leg holes of the baby swing, and his eyes were busily watching the shadows shift as he moved through the air. In fact, he was so riveted that he didn't even notice I was crouched there anxiously gazing up at him. I breathed a sigh of relief and fondly watched my balled-up baby continue to swing back and forth like a chubby pendulum. Or a Popple. Or a turtle. Which reminds me... I need to get back to my knitting!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pugsitting

In the past month, Benjamin has grown strong enough to be able to sit up and look around for brief periods of time. Guess what he usually looks for? Oliver. The pug has become the object of Benjamin's affection, often to the point where he'll even ignore me - his own mother! - when Oliver is in sight.

Unfortunately, Benjamin's newfound pug love doesn't extend to all pugs. I discovered recently that Benjamin is absolutely terrified of my friend Deb's pug, Kevin. This was a source of great consternation to me, because Kevin and Oliver are identical in all respects except for one: Oliver is fawn-colored, and Kevin is black. Then I realized that Benjamin was probably hurt because he thought that Oliver was trying to avoid him by cloaking himself in a clever disguise.

Hurt feelings aside, Benjamin's pug obsession has one very big benefit: pugsitting. No, I don't actually leave Benjamin and a list of emergency numbers at home with Oliver while I go out drinking with friends. What I do do, however, is leave Benjamin in a place where he can see Oliver and be sufficiently distracted enough to let me accomplish certain tasks that would be otherwise impossible. These tasks include fixing myself breakfast, reading the paper, cooking dinner, and - of course - working on my blog.
.
I'm not sure if it's Oliver's hog-like snorting sounds, his curly tail, or his ginormous shiny eyeballs that Benjamin finds so entrancing. But who cares? The hubby hasn't had an excuse to bring home Panda Express in nearly three weeks.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sweeney Lil'

Emboldened by my success at trimming Benjamin's mohawk, I decided there was no reason I shouldn't be able to give my husband a haircut, too, and save us a few bucks to boot. So on Thursday night, I set up shop in our kitchen and eagerly waited for Vince to return from work. The look on his face when he walked in the door was priceless. I mean, what man doesn't dream of coming home to find his wife waiting for him with a gleaming pair of scissors in one hand, a big plastic tarp in the other, and an ear-to-ear grin on her face?

Before you start thinking I've gone completely mad, I'll have you know that I do have experience cutting hair. I cut my brother's hair for a brief while when we were growing up and would have continued to do so were it not for a little matter involving a slip of the scissors and some injured ear cartilage. This time, the only blood loss resulted from my accidentally snipping my own knuckles, but Vince escaped unscathed. Even so, the cheap bastard didn't even tip me! Let's see who gets hurt next time, buddy!!
.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Benjamin's 15 Seconds of Fame

When I first started watching Good Day LA and the Fox 11 Morning News over a decade ago, I'd muse, "Wouldn't it be cool if someday my own baby got chosen to be in their 'Babyface' segment?" Well, I got my wish, and it's just as cool as I'd imagined it would be!

video

So what if the clip was only about 15 seconds long? Let's look at the bright side: he still has roughly 14 minutes and 45 seconds of fame left!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Courvoisier II

We established in a previous post that Benjamin is becoming quite a ladies' man. Being a lady myself (and yes, I just typed that with a straight face), I've learned there is a difference between a ladies' man and a straight-up gigolo. That difference starts with the hands, or more specifically, where the hands are. If you're a ladies' man, the hands won't be on the ladies, and this is why I fear that Benjamin may be on the fast train to Gigoloville.

The first sign of trouble appeared at a recent playdate. After months of gentlemanly behavior, Benjamin made a pass at his longtime love Lucy. As I extricated his fingers from her hair, I berated myself for allowing him to watch all that trash TV with me. But then I thought, "Benjamin and Lucy are best buds," and I wrote off his grabby hands as a function of their familiarity.

What happened a week later in Atlanta at my brother's wedding disproved that theory. In keeping with Chinese tradition, I had placed Benjamin on the bridal bed next to baby Chloe, whom he met just moments before. Suddenly, Benjamin was grabbing at Chloe! Apparently it didn't matter how well he knew the girl - his hands had a life of their own. Then again, they were on a bed. I couldn't blame him, so instead, I blamed his circumstances.

Then came his third incident of bad boy behavior, which really threw me for a loop. This time, we were visiting Sydney, the new daughter of friends Kelly and Mike. Benjamin and Sydney were virtual strangers, and they were on the floor - not on a bed - so I figured there would be no hanky-panky. WRONG! I caught Benjamin trying to grab Sydney's hair.

What was going on? I showered this child with love and attention, I tried not to be overindulgent, and I got drunk only twice a week so as not to pollute my milk. What had I done to create this Casanova? As I drowned my sorrows in a cup of decaf, I glanced up to see this scene unfolding before me:

So it seemed that I'd been misreading Benjamin's intentions all along. He wasn't trying to be frisky - just friendly. And I guess that means that the cynic inside me needs to take a backseat and let the mom in me do the driving.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

SuperBaby!

video

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SuperBaby! Why is he so super? Because at the tender age of five-and-a-half months he is able to stand on command! Ok, fine, he's not really standing. And I'll admit that I'm not sure that he really understands what I'm asking him to do. But details, details... It's close enough for me!

And I was also able to successfully snap some pics of his budding chompers!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Little Leon's All Grown Up

Me and Ree throughout the years: Hanging on our front stoop in Marshalltown, IA, circa 1978; at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, circa 1980; all dressed up in Lilburn, GA with friends Howard, Michelle, and Henry, August 1990; seeing me off to college at the Atlanta Airport, September 1994; back in Georgia for the winter holidays, December 1995; at a laundromat in Florence, Italy, August 2006; and the happy couple in Atlanta, GA, July 2008

There are moments in every big sister's life when she realizes her little brother isn't so little anymore. For me, the first moment was in the tenth grade when I woke up one morning to find that the Dungeons 'n' Dragons-playing runt I grew up with was suddenly a head taller than me. Another moment was when Leon told me about the first time he got drunk (I seem to recall there was lumber, an axe, a cab driver, and a forest in Germany involved). Yeah, all these moments were hints that my little brother was growing up, but the one that really clinched it was when he got married. Yup, my little brother now has a wife! A wife!! What is the world coming to?? Even more mind-boggling than the fact that he married is the fact that the woman he married is as lovely as Claire is. AND my son likes her. Leon, ya did good.

Given their international upbringings, Leon and Claire decided to have two wedding receptions on opposite sides of the globe: one in Georgia and the other in Singapore. Since we were not going to be able to go to the Singapore wedding, Vince, Benjamin, and I flew out at the end of July to attend the nuptials in Hotlanta. There we met Claire's parents, her sister Anne-Marie, and some of her extended family, all of whom were warm and friendly. My own parents spent most of the weekend good-naturedly fighting over who got to hold/kiss/burp their only grandchild. The only thing they didn't fight over was changing diapers. My dad prefers not to, which is convenient, because my mom loves doing it. What can I say? The woman's love knows no bounds.

In keeping with Chinese marriage customs, my mom had Benjamin and another baby, Chloe, roll across the bridal bed. This custom signifies that my brother and Claire will be fertile and produce children quickly. Ew! May the words "my brother" and "fertile" never appear in the same sentence again. Moving right along...

In case you're wondering, Benjamin did really well on the flight. The sum total of his crying totalled five minutes tops, but that wasn't good enough for the passenger seated in front of us on the flight back to LA. Benjamin had just started whimpering when I hear someone loudly declare, "Oh, you've GOT to be kidding me." I look up to see a woman with a shellacked bouffant glaring down at Benjamin. Just as I was about to make some remark that would include the words "rude" and "liver spots," I caught myself. That would be something that Old Lily would do, not New and Improved Mama Lily. So instead of verbally attacking the woman, I bit my tongue. Ok, I kicked the back of her seat a couple of times, too. Guess Leon isn't the only one who's all grown up!

So on that note, I'll close this post by saying one last thing: Leon, you've been my closest friend and a pain in my ass through our journey from Iowa to Georgia to Singapore to China to Italy and all the places in between. I am so excited for you and Claire as you move on to this next phase of your lives. I wish you two every happiness in the world, and I look forward to seeing what the future will bring you (especially if it includes cousins for Benjamin to play with - no pressure!). Congratulations, little brother!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

No Bowl Cut for MY Boy!

Benjamin may have inherited Vince's wavy hair, but he inherited my ability to grow hair at an dismaying speed. I say "dismaying" because getting your hair cut in this town can be pretty expensive, and Benjamin is already in need of a trim a mere three weeks since his first haircut. Being the cheap bastard that I am, I decided to take matters (and Benjamin's life) into my own hands: I cut his hair myself.

I think I deserve a medal for performing this task without removing anything (like ears, a nose, or an eyeball) but hair from Benjamin's head. I mean, take a look at how much this kid squirmed!