Monday, June 29, 2009

O, Canada 2 or The Many Faces of Boo 3

Benjamin cozies up to the natives.
Canada. For most of my life, I didn't know much about it. I knew that Celine Dion, Jason Priestly, and Sarah MacLachlan came from Canada. I knew that hockey was a big deal in Canada. I knew that there was a maple leaf on the Canadian flag, and that Canadian peeps said wacky things like "aboot" instead of "about" and "sore-ee" instead of "sorry." Oh, and I knew that Canada was north of America. Eh?
But then Canada began to figure more prominently in my life. My good friends Deb and George are from Canada, as are most of the guys in our volleyball crew. Vince has extended family in Canada. He also loves snowboarding in Whistler, and he takes frequent business trips to Vancouver and Toronto. Then there was my state of mind after the 2004 elec-- Nevermind. I digress. I decided that it was time for me to experience Canada firsthand, and so Benjamin and I tagged along with Vince on his most recent business trip to Vancouver.
After a quick check-in at the airport, it took us over an hour to get through security. Over an hour. With a TODDLER. By the time we reached the gate, Benjamin was behaving like a strung-out little junkie baby who'd had too much sugar and not enough sleep. One moment he was laughing and the next moment, bawling. On the plus side, the mood swings wore him out so much that he konked out for a good part of the flight.
We arrived in Vancouver early enough in the day to settle into our hotel and then take a leisurely stroll to Yaletown Park, where we met up with Vince's second cousin Andrea, her husband Ron, and their son Lukas. We had a great time catching up with Ron and Andrea, and Benjamin had a great time rubbing bark chips into his mohawk.
The next morning, we drove to Whistler - location of Vince's bachelor party, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, and home to the most expensive Mongolian barbeque in the world. The bill was enough to give us vapors, so we forced Benjamin to eat all the scraps that fell on the table.
As we were walked back to the car after strolling around the Village, Vince said, "We should go see some outside nature stuff. Benjamin's too sheltered: he's spent his entire life in Playa Vista." Before I could ask him what exactly "outside nature stuff" was, Vince had dragged us into some woods where were nearly run over by dirtbikes. Turns out those "woods" were an area designated for bikers to practice stunts. He then took us down to a little stream beneath the main roadway to show Benjamin more outside nature stuff.

That night, Benjamin slept like a baby. At least, he slept like how I imagine most babies his age sleep, which meant that we enjoyed a single 10-hour stretch of uninterrupted slumber. Maybe all that outside nature stuff did him well. Or maybe he was just exhausted from the crazy mood swings he experienced while in the car.
Believe it or not, the above pictures were taken sequentially within a ten-minute span of time. I know what you're thinking, and yes, it sure does look like Benjamin's just as crazy as his mommy.
On Sunday, we met Vince's extended family for a picnic on Kitsilano Beach. Vince's Dad's cousin Auntie Gladys and her husband Robert were there, as were Vince's second cousin Darren, his wife Neema, and their daughter Savannah. Ron, Andrea, and Lukas also made it out. The three little third cousins seemed to get along really well, and when Benjamin felt the need to relieve himself in front of everyone, Lukas and Savannah didn't even hold it against him.
On Monday, Vince had to go to work so Benjamin and I were on our own. We spent a good chunk of the day at the Vancouver Aquarium. Benjamin seemed to enjoy looking at the different exhibits, but what really piqued his interest were these two Aquarium employees.
Perhaps it was their matching red shirts, or maybe the entrancing "swoosh! swoosh!" sound their brooms made, but whatever the reason for their appeal, Benjamin was completely enamored of them. The moment he saw them, he ran over as quickly as his chubby legs would take him, and just... stared. Luckily, they didn't mind their little stalker, and one of them even blew him a kiss as she walked away.
That evening, Benjamin and I met up with Vince and some of his colleagues for dinner in a nice restaurant. Luckily, most people don't eat dinner at 5:30 pm, so the restaurant was relatively empty, which meant that the Boo was free to roam around while hollering at the top of his little lungs. Luckily, two of Vince's colleagues, Jeff and Kyle, were more than happy to help keep an eye on the little terror.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Tuesday was the day we were to return to LA. Before heading to the airport, we visited Neema and Savannah at their home in North Vancouver. Benjamin and Savannah seemed to get along really well, and they played together on their own quite contentedly. Note to self: the next time we're in Vancouver, I should just dump Benjamin off at Neema's place.

All in all, our trip was a lot of fun. It was wonderful to catch up with family and to watch Benjamin react to a new and unfamiliar environment. Hopefully, it's a little more familiar to him now, because I really hope to return in the not-too-distant future. Vancouver totally rocked, and give you three reasons why...

Reason #1: Canadians are really nice!
It seemed that most everyone we came across was really chipper and really polite. Also, there was this wonderful sense of openness amongst strangers that I wasn't used to. It just helped us feel right at home. In fact, I felt so at home that I let a complete stranger cuddle with Benjamin at the beach (see picture, above right). Kidding! That's no a stranger; that's Uncle Ron.
Reason #2: Canadians LOVE their coffee!

One of the first things I noticed in Vancouver is that there is a Starbucks on every corner. I'm not exaggerating: there's a Starbucks on every corner. And as you can see in the above picture, there are sometimes not one, but two Starbucks (Starbuckses? Starbii?) on a single corner. What you can't see is that just a block behind me there is another Starbucks, and two blocks beyond this corner there's yet another Starbucks. Maybe all that caffeine is what's making Canadians so happy.

...and finally....

Reason #3: Canadians are down with tats!!
There are a lot of tattooed people in this city! And for the most part, the tattoos weren't sloppy or unkempt; they were quality ink jobs on "normal" (or at least normal-looking) people - people that looked like they might have corporate jobs, retirement accounts, spouses, kids, or patio furniture. Only a few of them looked like they might be musicians. Even cooler than the high PCT (per capita tat) was the fact that being prominently tattooed didn't seem to carry the same negative social baggage that does in other places. I mean, any country with a chain bookstore that includes a children's section designated for tattoos has got to be pretty relaxed on the topic, right?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tiny Dancer

Check out Benjamin's slick moves!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Deb's Bridal Weekend Extravaganza, or O, Canada!

Getting ready to hit the spa: bridesmaid Giselle who flew in from Canada (Deb's cousin); bridesmaid Rolyn also from Canada (childhood friend); Laurie from LA (dear friend and Rolyn's cousin); Deb (bride-to-be); Lara from Sacramento (friend and cousin of fiance George. Or was it George's cousin Darvin?), friend Grace from Detroit (fiance George's cousin), maid-of-honor Jeni from LA (not related to anyone else in this picture), matron-of-honor Moi (also not related to anyone else), bridesmaid Cat from Canada (fiance George's cousin Darvin's cousin - right?), and bridesmaid Lisa from San Francisco with baby Calina (George's cousin Darvin's wife). Whew!My best friend Deb is getting married. Her wedding is in mid-August, but we decided to have her bachelorette party and bridal shower in June. That may seem a bit premature, but let me explain: Deb's closest childhood friend Rolyn won't be able to make it to the wedding because she's pregnant and her due date is in mid-August, so since Deb desperately wanted Rolyn to be a part of some of her pre-wedding soirees, she planned to her bachelorette party and bridal shower during the last week when Rolyn - who lives in Calgary, BC - would be able to safely travel by air, and that turned out to be the first weekend in June. Comprende?

On Saturday morning, ten of us (six bridesmaids, three friends, and one bride-to-be) piled into our cars are drove to the Glen Ivy Spa and Resort in Corona. We had each signed up for different treatments throughout the day, but first we enjoyed one treatment together: "Club Mud."

The way Club Mud works is that you slather red clay all over every inch of exposed flesh, go into a steam room a bunch of other muddy peeps until the mud dries to a crust, and then scrub your muddy shell off under a warm shower - a warm public shower. I have to say that I did not enjoy Club Mud. Not to get too graphic, but it just felt like I was taking a bath in feces - feces that was working its way into parts of my anatomy that I wouldn't easily be able to scrub clean in a public place without risk of being arrested for indecency. The pedicure I got later was heavenly, though. It was so heavenly that I actually fell asleep! When I awoke, I felt conflicted: the Cheap Asian in me felt like I had just wasted X amount of dollars snoozing through an expensive pedicure, while the exhausted mommy in me was grateful for the twenty minutes of shut-eye!

After a languid day at the spa, we drove home to get gussied up for a girl's night out. We headed to the Standard Hotel in downtown LA where we had dinner and then went to the rooftop club. Check us out - we clean up nice, huh? Deb, especially, was ravishing. But then again, the girl is always ravishing. Even when she answers her door sporting sweats, unwashed hair, and no makeup, she looks like a hot reality show star, albeit one with brains.

Sunday was Deb's bridal shower, which co-MOH Jeni graciously hosted in her apartment complex's event room. We played several games and gave away prizes which followed one central theme: "WWDW?" ("What Would Debbie Wear?") Some of the WWDW?-themed prizes were a sexy cowboy hat, a headband with pigtails on it, and slingback socks. Bet you didn't even know those existed!

On Monday, I met up with Deb and the lovely ladies who were still in town. We enjoyed lunch in Playa Vista followed by shopping in Manhattan Beach. All in all, it was a great way to wrap up the busy weekend. And you know what? Even though Deb is my closest friend in the universe, I still managed to learn a few new things about her. For one thing, she doesn't like sweet potato fries. For another thing, she has some amazing, amazing girlfriends. And finally, I learned that Deb still manages to look awesome even when covered in feces - I mean, mud.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hardcore Sewing

I've never been one to do things halfway. When something piques my interest - a new hobby, a genre of literature, a nice bottle of cabernet - I'm not content to just kinda/sorta/maaaaybe try it out. I like to do things all the way. I have to master that hobby. I have to read a dozen books in that particular genre. I have to empty that bottle of wine. Come to think of it, the wine-downing often accompanies the mastering of the hobbies, and maybe that's why, in the process of mastering my latest hobby (sewing), I somehow managed to sew through my finger. Yes, through my finger. With my sewing machine.

It was late, and I was sipping my favorite red while working on a dress for my friend Jen's daughter when it happened. My first thought was, "Did I just sew through my finger?" My second thought was, "Why, yes, I think I did," which was quickly followed by my third throught: "Wow, I'm HARDCORE." A few seconds later, the adrenaline had worn off, and my finger started to hurt like a you-know-what, and at that point, my only thought was, "Holy Scheiße! HO. LY. SCHEIßE!" Only not in German.
Thankfully, I didn't bleed on the dress I was sewing, and even if I did, I don't think it would have mattered, because the fabric was - get this - white with red spots. Ha! As you can probably gather, the dress pictured above is not the dress I was working on. It was a very similar dress to this one, which was a gift for my friend Hugo's daughter Dani. I'm only picturing Dani's dress as a point of reference for you, and also to act as a clumsy segueway to something completely unrelated.

How absolutely adorable is Benjamin in that dress? Now, before you starting thinking I'm some crazy woman who cross-dresses her son, let me just say that the only reason he's wearing that dress is because I wanted to - no - NEEDED to put it on him to check the fit. And fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Benjamin really seemed to enjoy wearing the dress. In fact, he actually threw a screaming tantrum when I took it off of him to wrap up for Dani. I guess I'm going to have to make him a dress of his own, but he'd better learn how to sit in one if I do. I mean, look at how he's sitting in the last picture on the left - legs akimbo, skirt hiked up. No son of mine is going to sit like that in a dress!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Terrible (-y Confused) Twos or The Many Faces of Boo 2

Benjamin has always been a happy, easy-going baby with a toothy grin and ready hug for everyone he meets. I'd heard of the "terrible twos," but I figured I had until his second birthday before I had to deal with them. Right? Wrong. Oh, so wrong.

The terrible twos don't start at age two. They start the second year of life when a toddler is on his way to turning two. For Benjamin, they started at about 14 months. At first, it was just a bit of surliness when he didn't get his way. He'd pout, posture, and whine, but that was about it. As soon as he started walking, though, the full-on foot stomping, toy-throwing, vein-bulging, back-arching, ear-piercing tantrums began. And they didn't always happen at home. He seemed to save the particularly gruesome ones for when we were out in public. It appears that Benjamin enjoys having an audience for his theatrics. I wonder where he got that from?

The cheerful, laughing baby is still there; he just takes turns showing himself with a tantrum-throwing toddler. It's almost like I'm a mother to two toddlers. Or maybe just one with multiple personalities.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lileeloo Designs

My original reason for learning how to sew was to advance my Boo Beastie empire. In the process, I learned my way around a fabric store. I'd go in for just notions, but pass by bolts and bolts of fabric. They called out to me with their textures and colors, so I'd pause to finger a swatch of delicate silk or examine an interesting print. One day as I was draping a gorgeous green swath of of jersey knit Tencel over my arm, I thought to myself, "This would make a fabulous dress." And that's how my newest project was born.
Photo credit: Brian Bobila

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I started making clothes. After all, I've always loved fashion. Some of my style choices have been less than successful. The time I paired a ruched ballroom skirt with a ratty green t-shirt jumps to mind. Then there are my go-to outfits that are in such heavy rotation I can no longer tell if they look good or bad. For example, my "uniform" of t-shirt, hat, and skinny jeans tucked into boots - what my hubby refers to as "that pirate outfit." Either way, fashion has always been my passion (ugh - did I really just say that?), and thus, no one was really surprised when I started Lileeloo Designs.

I decided to call my new line "Lileeloo" as an homage to my maiden name. My first piece, crafted from the aforementioned green Tencel, was a convertible dress and shirt that I christened the Trip Top. Soon, scarves, purses, wraps, and more shirts followed, all of them versatile pieces constructed from lightweight, stretchy fabrics in a mostly neutral palette. My aim is to fill a void in the current fashion market - and also to reduce our living room to a heap of half-finished patterns and stretchy, neutral fabric scraps on a daily basis. Perhaps my next project should be to design myself a sewing space.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Trainspottying or Isn't It Bromantic 3

Tiny veteran of pokes, prods, exams, and sticks, Benjamin has shown us that he one tough little dude. Even so, I think that this last weekend may have proved to be one of his worst ever. Our troubles began on Saturday morning when he awoke looking paler than usual. By mid-morning, he had a high fever, was breathing shallowly, and had become very sluggish. Over the next 36 hours, he had the pleasure of visiting his pediatrician's office and two different hospitals where he ran the medical gauntlet. He endured having his temperature taken twice (down there), went though multiple blood draws, he got antibiotic shots in both legs, and had a catheter inserted. If that wasn't enough, he went through two hours worth of failed attempts to insert an IV line. Ouch! The good news is that one nurse was finally able to get one started, and so began our weekend stay at the Resort de Mattel Children's Hospital.

It's never fun staying in the hospital, but we do try to see the bright side of things. For one thing, we're lucky that we have access to such amazing medical resources and such caring, wonderful medical staff. The kindness and caring of the doctors and nurses we meet never fails to touch us. For another thing, our hospital stays only last a few days at a time. We've met kids who have racked up a far greater number of medical frequent flyer miles than we have, and our hearts go out to them and their families. Those guys are the real troopers.

Ironically, as trying as this medical stuff is for us, it gives us a chance to learn more about ourselves, both individually and as a family. This particular hospital stay opened my eyes, and I discovered quite a bit.

I have a pretty high tolerance for the unpleasant stuff Benjamin has to go through. Yes, it hurts me to see him crying and in pain, but what can you do? One time, I actually found myself in the odd position of having to comfort a nurse who was was so upset by the amount of pain Benjamin was in that she was crying. This time, however, I realized that there is only so much I can take. While we were waiting in the ER, something in me just snapped, and I started crying. Usually, I would have choked back the tears, but this time, I just let them flow, along with with about a gallon of snot. Sorry... Too much information?

After my meltdown in the ER, Vince took charge. He comforted Benjamin, and when he wasn't comforting Benjamin, he was comforting me. That first night, Vince was the one who stayed behind in the hospital so I could go home and get some rest. When I returned the next morning, he looked exhausted, but he still had his arms wrapped tenderly around the Boo and a smile still on his face. I asked him if he wanted to go home, but he continued to stick around for the rest of the day. I think that if he wasn't in such dire need of a shower, he would have stayed another night.

Whenever we stay in the hospital, our routines are put on hold. Benjamin's naps may not happen at the right times (if at all), we won't be able to go on long walks, and pottying goes on the back burner. Just as I expected, naps and walks went out the window this weekend, but Benjamin was the one who decided that he didn't want to give up the potty. Not to get into disgusting details, but he didn't go bong bong (Chinese for Numero Two) all day on Saturday. When I returned on Sunday morning, I thought that he would have gone for sure, but he hadn't. As soon as Benjamin saw me, he began making grunting noises along with what we call his "poo face." I put him on his travel potty, and to my surprise, he almost immediately went bong bong. He continued to go bong bong with alarming frequency throughout the rest of the day. I guess he'd been storing it up.

On Sunday morning on the way back to the hospital, I stopped by Shawn and Julie's to give them a copy of our house key. As soon as their front door opened, Nolan came barreling out. He gave me one of his big, toothy grins, but as soon as he saw that I had come alone, his grin vanished. He circled my car twice, looking for Benjamin, and when he didn't find him, he tried to open the doors. His little hands couldn't quite do it, so he grabbed one of mine and placed it on a door handle. He seemed very upset when I opened it, and there was no Benjamin sitting inside. Julie had to pick him up and explain to him that Benjamin wasn't coming. I knew that Benjamin and Nolan were buds, but this was the first time I realized that they actually could miss one another. I mean, this was behavior that I'd expect to see in their fathers after more than two consecutive evenings without Xbox Live.

Luckily, Nolan and Benjamin's baby bromance only had to wait until Monday. When they were reunited, they immediately broke into chubby smiles and began laughing and babbling excitedly. Who knows what they were saying to one another? Hopefully it didn't have anything to do with meat shields.