Thursday, August 27, 2009

Here We Go Again

Vince and I always knew we wanted to have more than one kid and had discussed having them fairly close together. Even so, when that telltale second line showed up on the pregnancy test, we were still in shock. There was joy, of course, but also shock. Raw, numbing shock. We were going to do this again?? The sleepless nights, the poopy diapers, the marathon nursing sessions? Again??

Benjamin, on the other hand, showed no such uncertainty. We handed him the positive preggo stick, explained that he was going to be a big brother, and watched him do an ecstatic little happy dance. If Benjamin can be that jubilant about being usurped, then I'm going to join in the jubilation, too! Margaritas for all! Oh, wait... I can't drink anymore.
Many people have asked me if this pregnancy feels any different from my last one, and the answer is YES. There are two main differences. The first one is that my belly started showing far sooner than it did when I was pregnant with Benjamin. I mean, the pregnancy test turned positive and the top button of my jeans popped off. I've heard that this is common for second pregnancies since your body gets all stretched out by the first one. It's like my belly is the rear end of an old pair of jeans that are fresh from the dryer - the denim may be nice and taut, but once you put them on, they get all saggy and droopy in the rear again. And such is the case with my belly - the second that bun was in the oven, my poor, stretched-out skin just didn't have enough elasticity left in it to hold my guts in.

The second difference is that I feel much more tired with this pregnancy than I did with my first one. Pregnancy is a tiring thing in and of itself, but it's more exhausting when you have to deal with one of these all day long:
Not that I'm complaining. Ok, well maybe just a little. But as I learned from my last pregnancy, complaining is a pregnant woman's right. Right, Vince?
Last week, we went in for my first trimester screening where they take blood, medical history, and a whole bunch of measurements on a high-powered ultrasound machine. Much to our surprise, the ultrasound technician was able to tell us what sex the baby was as well.

A girl! We're having a girl! She was very careful to add the disclaimer that since I was so early (11 weeks at the time), there was chance for error, but she seemed confident in her call. To be honest, we really didn't have a preference, but there is something exciting about adding a little girl to our brood. A little girl to dress up in cute outfits. A little girl who will wear pigtails and hairbows and ruffles. A little girl who might dance in a recital while wearing a tutu. A little girl whom Benjamin will look after and protect from bullies at school. A little girl who will enjoy giggling on the phone with her friends into the wee hours. A little girl who will make her parents proud by telling them she's going to the library to study late at night when she's really going to secretly rendezvouz with her 27-year-old boyfriend.
Oh, sh*t.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Boy Who Cried "Poop"

It's been about a year since we began practicing Elimination Communication, and what an interesting journey it's been. There have been ups and downs, but at the end of the day, it's all about the COMMUNICATION and not the-- Yeah, yeah, you get it. And as far as the communication is concerned, he's getting pretty good about letting me know when he needs to go. Sometimes, he uses hand signs to alert me. Sometimes, he uses sounds. Sometimes, he uses telepathy. And sometimes, he does this:
The boy strips. Strips! And guess what? It works! Benjamin knows that the moment Mommy hears the telltale sound of Velcro being pried apart, she'll come a-running to whisk him off to the potty. Once he's on the potty, Benjamin will usually proceed to do his business with no further incident; however, he's realized that even if he doesn't really need to go, ripping off his pants will result in facetime with Mommy. So what has he started to do? You guessed it: the boy now takes his pants off to get my attention. It feels like I'm back in college.
Now that I've grown wise to his devious ways, I'm suspicious each time he tries to get my attention. Don't get me wrong: when I hear him dropping trou, I'll still check to make sure that he doesn't really need to use the toilet. But if I've experienced several false alarms in a row, THEN I'll ignore him. Unfortunately, three false alarms doesn't always mean that the fourth will be one, too.

Yes, that is a pants-less Boo staring sheepishly at the wall on which he just urinated. As you can probably guess, this accident was preceded by three false alarms, all of which summoned me to his side. So when he finally sincerely tried to tell me that he needed to use the toilet, I ignored him. Hence the pee-stained wall.
And it gets worse.

That's poop. In the closet. The poo has been pixelated for your own protection. The other thing you can't see in this picture is that the closet is right next to the restroom that Benjamin most frequently uses. Truth be told, I did hear him banging on the restroom door right before I discovered the dookie. But in my defense, this was after the aforementioned three false alarms. So what's an exhausted, frustrated Mommy to do? Ignore her child. And what's the child to do? Find the next closest place in which to drop a deuce.

When I told Vince what had happened, his reply (after howling with laughter) was, "Did you rub his nose in it and tell him, 'No"?" I told him that I did no such thing because (a) Benjamin is not a dog, and (b) he seemed to feel pretty bad about it on his own. I mean, doesn't he look pretty sad and ashamed?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Best Friend's Wedding

Clockwise from top left: the gorgeous bride Deb; George and Deb after the ceremony; Deb post-makeup and on her way to getting dressed in her wedding gown; Deb with her Maid-of-Honor Jeni and her Matron-of-Honor moi; George's Mom and Deb's Mom

My best friend Deb got married on Saturday. Most women my age have long since ceased to use the term "best friend." They may refer to certain women as "girlfriends" or "close friends," but the term "best friend" is frequently seen as a juvenile sobriquet from adolescence. I, too, used to deride the usage of that term, but that was pre-Deb. It's hard to name all the reasons why I consider Deb to be my best friend. Like many good friends, Deb and I have much in common. We share a love of singing and a penchant for dressing ostentatiously. We love watching cheesy teen romance flicks and think that the instant cappucino sold by the pound at Costco is delish. We see nothing wrong with putting clothing on a dog or shamelessly trying to play matchmaker with single friends. But aside from what we share, there are many things that are so wonderfully, singularly, Deb that make Deb my best friend.

Oh, dear, I'm becoming verklempt. I'll come back to this later.

So as I was saying, Deb's wedding was on Saturday, and in typical Deb fashion, it was a spectacular affair to remember. We kicked the day off with hair and makeup for the bridesmaids and moms. At 8:00 am, we met at the MAC Cosmetics corporate office, where Deb had prepared a training room with breakfast, music, and - as a special touch - directors' chairs with a headshot of each of us pinned to it. For the next three hours, it was a mad dash to get us ready, but not to fear - Deb had hired the best and brightest MAC artists to transform each of us.

The bride herself underwent her transformation then, too, and the result was breathtaking - she looked radiant, beautiful, and happy as all get out!
After hair and makeup, we jumped into our gowns and hightailed it to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. There, we met up with the rest of the wedding party, including the kids. Like the grownups, they were dressed to the nines in adorable formal outfits. Benjamin sported a bowtie, white dress shirt, black velvet suspenders, black knickers, white knee-highs, and patent leather dress shoes. I was worried that he'd balk at having to wear such fussy clothing, but on the contrary, he seemed to love it - a little too much. After preening in the mirror at home, he fairly pranced around the cathedral, and then tried to jump into the baptismal font, which I'm pretty sure is frowned upon.

The flower girls were just as daintily attired as the Boo. Deb had four of them, the younger two of which I sewed dresses for. It was my first time working with organza, a pretty tricky fabric to sew. After a fair bit of cursing, I managed to turn out two adorable little green satin and organza dresses with chocolate colored bows, one for Ciena and the other for little Calina.

Father Antonio performed the ceremony, which was beautiful. I got no pictures of it because I was standing at the altar right next to Deb. Even if I hadn't been standing up there, I probably wouldn't have been able to shoot anything decent through all my tears. Suffice it to say, it was a lovely service that touched even my agnostic heart.

After the ceremony, we took a most unusual mode of transport to get to the reception. No, it wasn't a limo, a stretch Humvee, or a convertible. It was an English-style double decker bus with an open roof. Of course, most of us jumped right up on top to enjoy the LA skyline while clinging on for dear life as we drove down the freeway to CBS Studios in Studio City. We arrived windblown, exhilarated, and ready to party with the new couple.

And party we did. Deb and George had selected the famous "New York Street" set for their reception. In keeping with the high-fashion, Hollywood theme of the day, there was a red carpet at the entrance on which wedding guests could pose for pictures. Once seated, we enjoyed a delicious Chinese buffet dinner beneath a cascade of paper lanterns. An open bar kept the grown-ups happy, while a self-serve candy bar kept the kiddies awake well past their bedtimes.

One little kiddie did not make it past his bedtime. The poor Boo was so tuckered out from his busy day filled with laughter, tears, and preening that he was passed out by 8:00 pm. Luckily, we had his blanket, stroller, and trusty sidekick Mr. Monkey handy, so Benjamin had no problems sleeping through the revelry around him.
The next afternoon, Deb and George had a picnic in nearby Chase Burton Park for out-of-towners, family, and close friends. With the madness of the wedding behind us, we were able to relax and enjoy the beautiful day. To our amusement, Benjamin found himself a new best friend, groomsman Zaldy, AKA "Uncle Z." It's too bad Z lives so far away; he would have made an excellent manny!
So back to the topic of Deb and why she's my best friend. Lest I get verklempt again while writing it all out, I'll just let the toast I gave to her during the reception explain it all. It was a bit emotional and a tad on the long-winded side. But then again, so are we.
And Deb, once again, CONGRATULATIONS!!!
The first time I met Deb was at Santa Monica Beach. I'd been playing volleyball with a group of friends, including George. This petite girl in a big grey sweatshirt pushing a bike came up to me. She introduced herself as George's girlfriend Deb, and we started to chat. It was apparent that we had a lot in common. We both had pugs. We were both singers. We both had moved here from far-away places. And we were both extremely talkative. We exchanged info, but this being LA - and me being a cynic - I figured, "I'll probably never hear from her again."
A few days later, I got an email from Deb. It was a very "Deb" email, and if you've ever emailed Deb, you know what I'm talking about. It was filled with emoticons, exclamation points interspersed with question marks, these weird animated happy faces, and entire passages that were inexplicably ALL IN CAPS. Her emails make me laugh, because they are just so Deb: exuberant and lively. And in person, she is a force. She'll greet you with that amazing smile, tell you how fabulous you look, ask how your significant other, child, latest hobby, or pet is doing, and then give you a hug that feels like it came from a linebacker. The funny thing is that even if you're not in the best of moods, her enthusiasm has a way of working its way into you so that suddenly you're smiling, too. Yes, Deb is one of those rare individuals who has the power to light up a room just by being in it.
Her incredible zest for life is the reason why she is able to fit more into her schedule than is humanly possible. Deb is the hardest-working person I know. It's difficult to remember all the things she does, but I'll try. She sings at weddings and other engagements. She cantors. She is a recording artist who has released multiple albums just in the past few years. She performs with a local rock band. She is in the process of developing a television show. Oh, and she has a full-time job. It's a good thing that she has to fly to Canada to see her family, because if it weren't for that fact, I doubt the girl would ever take more than one day off in a row.
But even in the midst of her bajillion responsibilities, Deb makes time for her loved ones. She may neglect to eat, sleep, or get her oil changed, but she never neglects her friends or family. This devotion is why she's played such a large role in my son Benjamin's life. In the months after his birth, I was sleep-deprived, depressed and incapable of taking care of myself. Enter Deb. She'd magically show up at my door when I needed her like a hip, young Mary Poppins. Within moments of arriving, she'd take Benjamin off my hands and shoo me to bed. To make me feel better about accepting her help, she'd assure me that she'd work on her laptop while I slept. But she never did - when I'd wake up, it would be apparent that Deb had been cleaning my house. Everything would be tidy, the kitchen would be sparkly, and the shoes in the entryway would be lined up like little soldiers. I used to tell her that she was like the creepy guy from Sleeping with the Enemy because the perfectly-lined up shoes would be a dead giveaway that she had been in my house. Anyway, I can't count how many times she did this for me, and she never wanted anything in return. I'd ask to treat her to a meal to say thanks, but she'd get annoyed, saying that I'm family and it's not a big deal and she'd had fun hanging out with Benjamine. Sometimes she'd even try to convince me that I was the one doing her a favor. No, she was the one helping me. She was a lifesaver in those dark days, and since then, she's become like a second mother to my son.
It seems like fate that someone this selfless and giving would wind up with a person as caring and kind as George is. And they complement one another perfectly. George is grounded, and Deb can be... hyper. When Deb gets really excited, her voice will climb to decibels not audible to human ears, and George will say, "BON!" and do his trademark (make gesture). These two balance each other out. Deb may be flying into the outer reaches, but George is in the control tower making sure her that she makes it back down to Earth.
Guys, I feel blessed to have known you and seen you through so many different stages, both in your lives as individuals, and in your life together as a couple. You make each other laugh, sometimes you make each other cry, but you always bring out the best in one another. And the love and happiness you share is inspiring enough for this cynic to say with 100% certainty that you always were meant to be together. I'm so excited for the new life that begins for you tonight, and the adventures that you will enjoy together as husband and wife. Congratulations!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Terrible (-y Confused) Twos 2

The terrible twos strike again...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tiny Dancer 3, or Not ALL Television is Evil

I generally don't allow Benjamin to watch very much T.V. I'm not one of those hardcore anti-television parents for whom watching television is tantamount to smoking crack, but I do prefer that Benjamin occupy himself by doing things other than staring at the idiot box.

Look at what happens when Benjamin watches TV... My vibrant little boy becomes a total zombie. A cute, chubby little zombie, sure, but a zombie nonetheless.

Still, there are times when the television can be - dare I say it? - an absolute godsend. This afternoon, for example, I was in the kitchen desperately trying to put together a lasagna. I was simultaneously boiling pasta, frying ground beef, draining spinach, and mixing bechamel and marinara, which meant that Benjamin wasn't getting any of my attention. He was about to go into full meltdown mode, so to buy myself 15 minutes of time, I let him watch a bit of a Mandarin-English preschoolers' program called Ni Hao, Kailan (which, to you Chinese folks out there, should really be called Ni Hao Ke Pa, Kailan).

Toddler + Television = Zoned-out Child with Glassy Zombie Eyes. Pretty scary, huh? And to think that this was his response to an educational children's program designed to be interactive and engaging. It would stand to reason, then, that a primetime television program geared towards an adult audience would really zombify him. Right?
Not really.

That's Benjamin watching Mommy's guilty pleasure, So You Think You Can Dance. And instead of getting zero enrichment from this cheesy, primetime show, he actually does seem to be getting something out of it, though I'm not sure what exactly. A good laugh, perhaps? Some slick dance moves? I'll let the toddler girls on the playground be the judge of that.
So let this be a lesson to all of you moms out there: reality television is "better" for your children than educational programming.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bowen Beasties

It was recently my good friend and neighbor Julie's birthday. If you know anything about Julie, you know that she's a gal of impeccable style. I usually show up for playdates wearing ratty tank tops, shorts, and a hat under which to hide my unwashed tresses, while Julie is always manages to look effortlessly put-together. Her hair is tousled, her makeup is understated, and even her cuticles are groomed! So for her birthday, I thought it would be fitting to craft an homage to her flawless momness in the form of a Julie Beastie. And because I didn't want Julie Beastie to be lonely, I also made a Shawn Beastie.
Shawn Beastie was actually the easier of two Beasties for me to create. For one thing, I knew exactly what he'd be wearing. For another thing, the guy shaves his head, so I wouldn't even need to sew hair! The only tough part was figuring out how to create his trademark sun hat.

It only took about an hour's worth of cursing and sweating to finangle some canvas scraps into this teensy little chapeau. I was quite pleased with the results, especially with the way the brim could be tied up or left untied, depending on the weather and on Shawn Beastie's current disposition.

Deciding on Julie Beastie's ensemble was a tad more difficult. I mean, her namesake has too many cute outfits to choose from! Do I go with a bright sundress? A classy cardigan? A draped-front tank and shorts? In the end, I decided to approximate one of her trademark looks - two jersey-knit shirts layered over a nice pair of jeans. I even used an old pair of Seven jeans to make the tiny jeans that Julie Beastie is wearing.
Sidenote: If you think it's weird that my son appears in all three of the above images, you're not alone. When I was going through my pictures, I was struck by how Benjamin seemed to be attached to her. I mean, I made peace long ago with how I cease to exist when Auntie Julie is around, but the fact that it was impossible for me to find three pictures of Julie sans Boo is kind of ridiculous! I guess I should have created a tiny Benjamin Beastie as a part of Julie Beastie's trademark outfit! But I digress...

The Beasties seemed to go over well - at least I hope they did. I was tickled by the fact that Julie was wearing layered shirts and Shawn his trademark hat when Julie opened her gift. I was also tickled by the sight of a grown man happily clutching a rag doll.
Happy Birthday, Julie!