Sunday, January 25, 2009

Boys Will Be Boys 2

Last weekend was Benjamin's buddy Brayden's birthday bash. (Now say that three times fast.) Brayden's doting parents Caroline and David rented out the great room of our neighborhood clubhouse and turned it into a veritable playground for kids and adults alike. In addition to the usual party accoutrements like balloons and streamers, there was an impressive buffet of pan-Asian cuisine, a mini playground for the tots, and an Xbox Rock Band game set up in front of the big-screen TV. It was uh-MAZING, and both Vince and I couldn't help but be impressed by the lavish spread. With Benjamin's own birthday approaching, we were tempted to shield his eyes from the decadence.

As we waited for the guest of honor to make his grand arrival, a funny thing happened: people began giving Benjamin with their birthday greetings. One woman approached him with outstretched arms and asked, "Is this the birthday boy?" When I told her that no, this was not the birthday boy, she seemed confused, and then suspicious. I assured her that the baby in my arms, was indeed my baby, and his name was Benjamin. This exchange repeated itself numerous times before Brayden's arrival, and then once he was present, people exclaimed that they looked like brothers, if not twins. I'm inclined to agree!

As if often the case at meals out, Vince and I had to take turns eating. Ever the gentleman, Vince let me eat first, and then I looked after Benjamin while he went to fill his plate. When ten minutes passed and he hadn't returned, I began to wonder where he was. With Benjamin on my hip, I did a quick pass through the room, and came upon this scene:

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Vince stayed there with his butt glued to the seat for a good half hour, and in the end, I had to drag him away from the game. I guess it's true what they say: boys will be boys. I guess I shouldn't be too hard on my husband, because sometimes I find it hard to act my age, too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Girls, Girls, Girls!

I love my new job as a stay-at-home mom, but I miss the camaraderie I enjoyed at my old one. Lucky for me, one of the perks of my new job is that I have the freedom to take extended lunch breaks when I want to - or rather, when my boss (Benjamin) allows me to.
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One of the interesting things about my old job is that I worked in a department that was almost entirely made up of women. Even more interesting is the fact that we all got along. Sure, we had our less-than-peachy moments, but for the most part, we were one big, happy sorority-- I mean, family. And even though I've flown the coop, I always feel welcome back to the nest. As a new mom whose parents live on the other side of the world (cue violins), it's a comforting thing to have this group of caring women in my life. I consider them to be my second family.
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One day last week, we stopped by the office for a visit. As luck would have it, there was a lunch meeting scheduled for that day, so not only did we get to see friends, but we got a meal to boot. Score! The only way the visit could have been improved is if cocktails were served, but alas, the company isn't quite that cool. Still, it was nice to be able to eat a meal in peace while my friends took turns playing with Benjamin. As I chowed down on chicken, salad, bread, blueberry pie, cherry pie, and yet more bread, I realized how lucky we were to know these fabulous ladies.

As we left, I started thinking about the other women who have become a part of Benjamin's life. There's Auntie Deb, AKA Auntie Poppins. If you live on the Westside and a glass in your cupboard suddenly cracks, it's probably because she just greeted Benjamin with one of her ear-piercing shrieks of delight.
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Auntie Yvonne has also been known to emit a similar Boo-induced squeal. She and Auntie Deb routinely fight over who gets to babysit Benjamin when Vince and I need a break, and they often end up babysitting together.

And lest you think that Benjamin hangs out with only older women, let's not forget about Lucy. Lucy's Benjamin's oldest friend. They met when he was just four weeks old.

There's Berry, who lives just around the corner from us. The other day, she and Boo reenacted that famous scene from Romeo and Juliet. I captured the moment on film, much to the chagrin of Berry's Dad Keith who had just gotten out of bed - and had the hair to prove it!
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Finally, there's Gemma, Benjamin's gal pal from our Friday class. Last week, Gemma surprised Benjamin with a flying tackle followed by a exuberant hug. Benjamin didn't know what to make of it, so he just lay there with a pained look on his face. Silly boy! One day he'll look back and realize how lucky he was!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Boolander

Benjamin ponders whether or not there more to life than being ridiculously good-looking.

Every mother thinks that her baby is the cutest baby in the world, and I am no exception. Actually, scratch that: When Benjamin was born, I thought he was incredibly bizarre-looking. It took a good six weeks for his mug to really grow on me. I think it was because he'd put on some weight and stopped looking like a shriveled old man. In any case, my little boy had become the most beautiful thing in the universe to me, and I decided that it was time for me to pimp his good looks in the name of the almighty dollar.

A few months ago, my friend Julie had sent out an email notifying a bunch of us Playa Vista SAHMs about a casting call for Graco Baby Products. The company was looking for mommy and baby models, so on a whim, I sent in a few snaps. To my surprise, we were asked to come in for a casting call, and a few days after that, I received a phone call letting me know that we had booked the job. Hooray! The only downside was that I was asked to let Benjamin's mohawk grow out. Guess it's not really in line with the Graco look, but no problem - anything for money!
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After scrambling around setting up a special bank account in Benjamin's name, getting him a work permit, and working out a shooting schedule with the photographers which fit with his naps, we were ready for our close-up. As we arrived to the set in Malibu, I couldn't help but feel apprehensive. Would the photogs freak out over my tattoos? Would I be the only model until 5'9" there? Would Benjamin behave? How would I keep him awake and happy for four straight hours? This was my first time on a modelling set, and I had no idea what to expect. Benjamin, on the other hand, was completely relaxed. In fact, he was maybe a little too relaxed; he had no qualms about dropping trou and relieving himself in full view of everyone. The shame!

The four hours on set positively flew by. After nearly a year of letting myself go, it was a treat to get fussed over by the hair and makeup wizards. Benjamin had a great time making friends, too. He and fellow baby model Jack had fun playing with the toys and trucks. Benjamin also made a friend in wardrobe gal extraordinaire Tatiana. When it was his time to shine, Benjamin had no problems hamming it up for the camera.

All in all, our baby modelling experience was a lot of fun. I guess I really had nothing to be apprehensive about. Because it was a baby modelling photo shoot, I was not the only model under 5'9" there. My worries about my tattoos were eased by the photographers, who assured me that they could digitally clean me up. And as for keeping Benjamin happy, there were special people on set to do just that. They're called Baby Wranglers. Baby Wranglers!!! It's a stay-at-home-mom's dream come true. The second I started looking peaked, one of these wonderful women would appear at my side. "Do you need a break? Why don't you let me take him for a bit so you can get something to eat?" It was unreal. At the end of the shoot, I asked one of them if she would come home with me, and she laughed. I think she thought I was joking.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It Does a Body Good

These past few months, we've been on a campaign to fatten Benjamin up. In addition to his regular nursings and meals, he gets to enjoy rich, fatty snacks like cheese, yogurt, and french fries. Even his milk gets a splash of half-and-half in it. Lucky baby! Like any baby, he'll sometimes do things with his food that he shouldn't be doing: smear it on the table, flatten it with his spoon, feed it to the pug, use it as a hair product... You get the picture. This less-than-ideal dining behavior is usually restricted to his solid food, but recently, he's decided that beverages deserve the same treatment. Now we've reached a whole new level of messiness.

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I would find this more amusing if that milk coming out of his mouth was just regular milk. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say that that milk isn't the kind of milk you can buy at the store. So behind my laughter at how cute he is, trust me - there are tears.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Isn't it Bro-mantic?

So much in a person's life changes in a mere decade. There were the crazy days of youth spent meeting new people and taking big risks. Then there was the stage when you start taking those first wee steps towards settling down. Maybe you start driving a four-door sedan. Maybe you realize that it's impossible to be productive at work the next day if you've spent the previous night bar crawling. Maybe you even meet The One. On your first date, you put on your cutest outfit, ring his doorbell, pretend you don't notice the noxious black smoke coming out of his kitchen, and choke down the steak-turned-hockey puck that he so lovingly prepared for you. Fast forward several years, one wedding, and one baby later. You forget what it's like to function socially, because you're too busy trying to just keep up with the tiny dictator that has taken over your world. Many of your single friends run screaming from the smelly chaos that is now your life. To cope, you find safety in numbers: You start making new friends who have recently been taken hostage by tiny dictators of their own. And that's exactly what we did.

Benjamin and I met Julie and Nolan while walking around the neighborhood. It was a match made in playdate heaven: Nolan and Benjamin are just a few months apart, and Julie and I are both Asian women with short hair and excellent taste in jeans. Not wanting them to feel left out, we introduced our hubbies to one another, too. At first, they seemed to have little in common, but once they revealed their mutual affinity for video games, it was on. Game on.

One afternoon several weeks ago, Vince asked, "Can Shawn come over and play?" That night, as I tidied up dinner dishes, they got busy slaying bad guys in their favorite new video game. From the bits of their conversation I overheard, it seemed like a pretty violent affair: "Why don't you go down there and chainsaw that guy?" "Save me! I'm dying!" "Where are you?! I have like only 22 pellets left!" "I'M HIT! I'M HIT!! AAAHHHHHHH, #@$%!!!" "What, you died AGAIN?"

After Santa gave Vince a subscription to XBox Live for Christmas, their game-playing horizons expanded even more. They could now physically be in their own homes, but still virtually hang out together. In fact, that's how they spent the passing of midnight on New Year's Eve while the rest of us were peacefully sleeping. Don't worry - Vince assured me that no kisses were exchanged at the stroke of twelve.

Nolan and Benjamin's friendship has been flourishing as well. When Nolan took a shine to Benjamin's new wheels, Benjamin was more than happy to swap rides for a bit. Nolan seemed pretty excited to test drive Benjamin's car, but I think that he got the bum deal, because Benjamin got to eat all of the snacks that were left in Nolan's drink holder.

As I watched the boys play, I couldn't help but laugh to myself. It seemed ironic that the babies were the ones checking out cars while their fathers preferred playing video games!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Who Says an Art Degree is Useless?

About halfway through my studies at UCLA, I changed majors from English to Art. My parents were less than thrilled. I was always a good student with lots of "potential," so I could understand their disappointment. Also, my little brother was fulfilling every Chinese parent's dream by majoring in engineering at a reknowned university on a full-ride scholarship. And I'm sure that it didn't help that my parents were paying sky-high out-of-state tuition. So even though they supported my decision to follow my heart, I'm sure they were worried I would be unable to make a living as an artist, and this was infuriating to me. So the second I graduated, I rolled up my sleeves and proved everyone.... right. Studying art so soured me on working as an artist that as soon I received my diploma, I hefted my enlarger into a dumpster and didn't touch a paintbrush again. Until yesterday.

We had been using our dining room as a playroom for the Tiny Dictator, but it had a half-assed look to it. There were toys in the room, but the bare walls and lack of decor made the area look like an afterthought. The room was in dire need of some color and fun.

Inspired by an article I clipped from ReadyMade Magazine, I decided to transform Benjamin's playroom into a mod orange grove. Doing the painting was surprisingly easy; the hard bit was making that first mark on the wall. After that, it was a piece of cake and a lot of fun.

As you can see, the process was fairly straightforward. No stencils were necessary, and the entire project was completed in the course of one day.

I'm not sure that Benjamin noticed that his playroom was any different, but that didn't matter to me. I was too busy gloating over the fact that I was finally able to put my art degree to use!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It Takes Talent

In an effort to streamline operations in my kitchen, I purchased a fancy soap dispenser yesterday. A normal bottle of dish detergent requires that I pick up said bottle, flip open the cap, invert the bottle, squeeze it, place it back on the counter, and then replace the cap. With the new soap dispenser, all I do is press the top and VOILA!- I'd have dish detergent in a flash. I reckoned that this would save me precious milliseconds at the sink.

Unfortunately, the dispenser I purchased had a faulty dispenser mechanism thingy. Instead of getting back in my car and driving back to the store to exchange the dispenser, I decided that I would save myself precious minutes by fixing it at home. And to save myself precious seconds walking to the toolbox to get a pair of pliers, I decided to use a butter knife to pry open the plastic hinge on the dispenser top. Did I mention that the dispenser was as slippery as a greased pig since I'd already filled it with soap? Yeeeeah, not my smartest moment. So instead of opening up the plastic hinge, the knife slipped and opened up a cut on my thumb, which required two stitches to close up, and that took up two precious hours of my time.

On the bright side, I was able to use part of those two hours to finish a chapter in the book I'm reading. Guess I should attempt household repairs with slippery knives more often.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

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Can you believe 2008 is over already? It felt like it went by in the blink of an eye. I mean, wasn't it just the other day that I was waddling around with swollen ankles, a huge belly, and no baby? Wasn't it just the other day that I was discovering diapers, postpartum depression, sleepless nights, and other such joys of motherhood? Wasn't it just the other day that I was threatening to take Vince's Xbox away if he couldn't keep his game-playing to under eight hours a day? Wait, that really was just the other day. Moving right along...
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We kicked off the new year by treating ourselves to hot drinks at the neighborhood Coffee Bean. Benjamin was tired from a long night of partying and stayed in the car to catch some shut-eye. From the looks of it, our poor barista could've used some, too.

Later in the morning, we met up with neighbor pals Julie, Shawn, and Nolan at our favorite dim sum place. Yes, that really is champagne you see sitting on the table. No, we didn't order that off of a dim sum cart: Shawn brought the champagne from home. Along with the wine glasses. In his own cooler. It may be possible that someone else likes to hit the sauce even more than I do.

And on that note, Happy New Year!