Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Creatures of Habit 7 or Do Squeeze the Charmin!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, my Dad is obsessed with Charmin. Each time he visits the States, he'll bring a large, empty suitcase to fill with rolls and rolls of the soft goodness to use once he returns to China. Somehow, the details of his toilet tissue proclivities caught the attention of Virginia Wilcox, an ad rep for Charmin all the way in the Big Apple. She sent me this email:

Hi Lily,

I read in your blog that your family loves Charmin! I work with Charmin bathroom tissue and I wanted to send you an email about Charmin Ultra Soft's partnership with HGTV's designer Frank Fontana. I would love to send you a free kit that has a demo of how much you can save by using Charmin Ultra Soft instead of the leading value brand, as well as fun decorating tips from Frank Fontana of HGTV’s “Design on a Dime.”

Charmin Ultra Soft is designed with absorbent cushions that allow you to use less versus other leading brands. Charmin Ultra Soft is so soft and absorbent that you can use seven sheets of Charmin Ultra Soft versus 28 sheets of the leading value brand. Please let me know if you're interested; I would be happy to send you a kit! Enjoy your day!

Yours, Virginia for Charmin

Unlike my father, I wasn't a Charmin user; I was a longtime Target-brand toilet tissue devotee. However, I wasn't about to turn down an offer of free TP. So, I replied, "Heck, yeah!" and several weeks later, a package arrived on my doorstep.
Inside the package was a pretty blue box from Charmin and a scented flameless candle thingy from Febreze. I really wanted to like the candle, but it just made my home smell like a chic-chic department store instead of the sweaty toddler romper room that it is. The Charmin box, however, came in quite handy. It was the perfect height for Boo to sit on, so for about a month as we worked our way through our existing stash of Target-brand TP, he used it as additional seating in his playroom.
Fast forward one month later after all the Target TP has been used up. I opened the package to find four rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft, two sample stacks of toilet tissue (one of Charmin, one of another brand), and a removable flash drive. I found the presence of the flash drive to be rather odd. It was positioned between the two pillowy soft mounds of toilet paper, which instantly made me think that I was supposed to stick it in my-- Nevermind.
I have to be honest with you - I wasn't expecting to like the Charmin toilet paper. It's more expensive than other brands, and I didn't have any complaints about the current brand I was using, so why would I switch? Also, how different can one little square of TP be from the next, anyway? The answer: VERY DIFFERENT. When I used Charmin for the first time, I was shocked by how apparent this was. At the risk of sounding like I work for Charmin, the stuff is pretty awesome. Not only is it softer than Target TP, but it's thicker, and that additional weight means that I can use less of it, which means that I don't have to buy it as much, which means that I can spend that money on other things like gummy bears and salt'n'vineager chips and pickles and ice cream and-- Sorry, those were the hormones talking. Anyway, suffice it to say, I'm a Charmin convert now.

The only downside to my newfound love of Charmin is that I am now a toilet paper snob. I'll bet you didn't realize it was even possible to be snobby about what you wipe your *ss with, huh? Well, it is, and I am. Whenever I have to use a public restroom or even a friend's bathroom where a non-Charmin brand is provided, a feeling of bitter disappointment washes over me. "Why, oh, why, must I be forced to touch my delicate areas with this sandpaper?" It's not enough to make me carry an emergency stash of Charmin in my purse, but it is enough to make me stop making fun of my Dad. After all these years of laughing at his Charmin-filled, China-bound suitcases, I finally understand!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Floor Exercises 2

Fatigue overtook me the other day, so it was time once again to engage in some floor exercises.

As usual, the Boo came over to investigate once he saw me laying there at Boo-level.

In a matter of moments, he grew bored and was on to better things. It seems that sitting on an an already-prone and inert Mommy isn't as fun to as wearing out an exasperated, red-faced and hopping mad Mommy. I suppose the thrill is in the chase.

My apologies, by the way, for the recent lapse in updates, as well as for the brevity of this post. I've been cursed with all manner of technological woe in the last week, namely a fried motherboard and a Blackberry that spontaneously started typing in tongues. According to my pal Jen, Mercury is in "serious retrograde." I have no idea what that means, but it sounds serious. Thankfully, my amazing friend Deb has loaned me her extra laptop to use until we can replace our old computer. All I had to do in return was promise to give her Benjamin, but as you can tell from this post, that's probably a good thing right now!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Boo's New Smile

Not too long after the first teeth started sprouting in Benjamin's mouth last year, we noticed that the two front ones seemed a little... odd. Rather than smooth chiclets, they resembled curved crescents. When I pointed this out to Boo's pediatrician, she said that it might have something to do with his blood disorder and instructed me to take him to a pediatric dentist. After a cursory look inside his mouth, the dentist told me Benjamin's teeth were "normal," said there was no such correlation between Benjamin's blood condition and the state of his teeth, and sent us on our way. Within months, the chipping had become much more pronounced, and I decided it was time for a second opinion. Enter the wonderful Dr. Walden Yu, referred to us by a neighbor.
Dr. Yu examined the Boo's tiny mouth and informed us that his two front teeth weren't just chipped; they had cavities. Cavities!! He went on to confirm what our pediatrician had suspected all those months ago: that Benjamin's dental woes were, indeed, related to his spherocytosis. In a nutshell, kids who don't get enough oxygen often form imperfect enamel. After silently cursing Vince's genes, I scheduled an appointment to come back in two weeks and have the cavities filled.
Vince took the morning off of work to accompany us to the dentist. He was there not only for moral support, but also to help hold the Boo down so Dr. Yu could work on those two teeth. Luckily, there were DVD players installed above each chair to help distract his little patients. I selected "Beauty and the Beast" for Benjamin to watch and prayed that he wouldn't been too freaked out.

He was. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre could have been playing for all the good that DVD player did. I guess nothing can distract a toddler from the fact that he is being held against his will while someone is drilling inside of his mouth. As you can see in the video, Benjamin had gotten so worked up that he'd managed to kick off one shoe and one sock during the procedure. The other thing you can see is that Vince was smiling. I know that he hates musicals, so that leaves just one conclusion: I married a sadist.

Half an hour of drilling and filling later, Benjamin emerged plus two perfect front teeth and minus one pint of sweat. You can't tell from the picture, but there was a dinner plate-sized wet mark on the front of Vince's shirt where Benjamin's head had been restrained- er, resting comfortably during the procedure.

I have to admit that we were pretty shocked by the cosmetic change in Benjamin's smile. We'd grown to love his crooked little crescent-shaped teeth, and it was odd to see them replaced by perfect pearly whites. Then again, we do live in Los Angeles, home of Hollywood and Dr. 90210. So, as they say, when in Rome...
But I draw the line at Botox. No Botox for Benjamin - at least not until he's ten.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Benjamin's First Family Vacation

Benjamin has been on a couple of trips already. There was the trip to Atlanta when he was six months old for his uncle's wedding. And then there was the more recent trip to Vancouver in which we tagged along on one of Daddy's business trips. This past weekend, however, we took Benjamin on his first bona-fide vacation to sunny San Diego. Making it even more fun was the fact that we were going away with another family - close buds and neighbors Shawn, Julie, and Nolan.
.We left LA on Friday morning and drove to Carlsbad for our first stop - Legoland. There was much for the kids to enjoy - a water park that offered them some cool relief from the scorching heat and dozens upon dozens of displays, all meticulously crafted from Legos.

More than the intricate exhibits or the cooling water fountains, Benjamin seemed to enjoy running around the open walkways the most. Seeing him savor such a simple task with such relish brought a smile to my face.
After two hours at Legoland, we were ready for dinner. We stopped at nearby Encinatas for a quick dinner of Mexican food before driving to our hotel in San Diego's Gaslamp District.

On the agenda for Saturday was a trip to the San Diego Zoo. As we pulled into the parking lot, Vince murmured, "The San Diego Zoo. This is where you belong, Benjamin." I found this to be a rather odd and mildly offensive thing to say, and I told Julie and Shawn as much when I relayed the story to them. Almost immediately, the three of them started singing in unison: "You belong in the zoo - the San Diego Zoo." What the--??! Upon seeing my look of shock, Shawn offered by way of explanation that they were singing a jingle from an 80s-era ad campaign which apparently didn't make it to Georgia where I was living at the time.

Once inside, we made a beeline for the petting zoo. Benjamin wasted no time making friends with a small goat who was approximately his size. Although there were many other goats in the petting zoo, for some reason, the Boo kept returning to that particular goat. I was almost worried that he would try to carry him out with us when it was time to leave.
We hit up a few more attractions and left the zoo shortly before lunchtime to return to the hotel for naptime. While the boys slept, Julie and I took a stroll around nearby Horton Plaza and then stopped by the grocery store to pick up lunch. As I thumbed through some magazines at the newstand, I came across this:

A picture from the Graco Baby Products photo shoot that Benjamin and I did back in January! Though I had already seen another one of our ads in print, it was more exciting this time. The first time, a friend had told me that she had seen us and then sent us the magazine in the mail. It's somehow more thrilling to be unexpectedly greeted by your own picture while casually thumbing through a magazine. Of course, I purchased that issue, and had there been more on the newsstand, I would have purchased several more!
After the boys woke from their naps, we returned to the zoo where we saw more creatures than we could keep track of. Sea otters and vultures and deer-like whatchamacallits, oh, my!
But of the countless animals we saw, the elephants were the most majestic.
Halfway through the afternoon, we realized that we were pretty far from the entrance and getting pretty exhausted. By "we" I mean "the parents," because the two little guys seemed far from exhausted. On the contrary, they were full of energy.

Luckily, that energy lasted much of the trek back to the front of the zoo, so they were happy to walk and even run much of time.

Benjamin, who was not yet as proficient at the act of running as Nolan was, tripped and fell, resulting in his very first skinned knee.

On Sunday morning, Vince and I had plans to meet up with some friends for brunch. We had some extra time before our date, so we took a stroll around Petco Stadium.

After working up an appetite running around the stands, we headed to the St. Tropez Cafe to dine with our buds Mike, Kelly, and Sydney. Sydney, who is a mere two months younger than Benjamin, developed quite a bond with Vince. In fact, when it came time for us to leave, she put up quite a fuss, reaching and calling for him while we walked away. Hopefully our own daughter-to-be will take to him this quickly when she arrives in February.

That afternoon, we reunited with Shawn, Julie, and Nolan for hands-on fun at the Science Center. Benjamin and Nolan enjoyed playing with the myriad exhibits, but the big hit (for Benjamin, anyway), was the oversized wooden xylophone in the Kid City section of the museum. Hmmmm. Maybe the Boo is destined to be a musician, and not a dancer.

That evening, we had dinner at a local tavern and then dessert at a Ghiradelli ice cream shop a few blocks away. Dinner was middling, but dessert was divine. We decided to relax his dietary rules and allow Benjamin to taste his first ice cream sundae, which he enjoyed wearing all over his face.

The next morning, we breakfasted at a local restaurant which deigned to proclaim to have the "best pancakes in the world." What their proclamation should have said is that they had the most fibrous pancakes in the world, for I found a gnarled white string cooked into one of mine. The waiter's excuse? "Oh, that must have come from a kitchen towel." Ah, naturally.
While I was trying not to think about how much of the kitchen towel I might have already ingested, Benjamin got busy moisturizing his face with creamer. Nolan must have found Benjamin's gooey cheek to be irresistible, because we caught him doing this:

Looks like Benjamin didn't mind the extra attention, either!
Once breakfast was over, we checked out of our hotel and headed back to Legoland. After a quick run through the the Sea Life Aquarium, we took the boys to Pirate Shores for some water park fun. Unfortunately, all that gushing, splashing, falling, roaring water proved to be too overwhelming for the little Boo, so we scooped him up and brought him over to the tamer, more toddler-friendly section.

That's better!
We spent the rest of the morning at Legoland and were back in our cars just in time to beat traffic and allow the boys to take their naps. I'll admit that I did a little snoozing on the drive home, too.

Poor Vince was the only one of us who didn't get to sleep in the car. Once we arrived at home, however, the weekend caught up with him, and he collapsed onto the floor, where he remained, immobile, for half an hour.
It's a miracle that no one collapsed sooner. We crammed a LOT into our weekend: two trips to Legoland, a full day at the Zoo, a walk around Petco Stadium, brunch with old friends, an afternoon at the Science Museum, plus dinners out every night. I'm exhausted just recounting it all, and I don't think we'll attempt another trip like this anytime soon. But just when I start to wonder why we wear ourselves out taking Benjamin to all these places he probably won't remember, I think of this:

And that makes it all worth it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Floor Exercises

Fatigue is very common in pregnancy. During my last pregnancy, I was so tired that I found myself falling asleep in work meetings or nodding off while typing emails. Fortunately, my former boss Cathy was very understanding and always willing to let me slip out for a break when I needed it. Unfortunately, my current boss Benjamin is not quite as understanding. He doesn't let me take breaks, and if I try to slip away, he'll follow me hollering and pounding down the door. As such, I've learned to take my breaks right there in the room with him - by just plopping down flat on the floor.
At first, all proceeds as usual with Benjamin amusing around the house, hardly aware that Mommy is sprawled out like a beached whale on the living room rug.
He contentedly plays in his playroom for a while before moving on to investigate the entryway and kitchen. And that's when he notices me.
A-HA! He looks all too pleased to have found me, and what's more, to discover that, for once, he's taller than I am. What better way to exercise his newfound vertical superiority than to...

...Sit on my head. A few moments later, Oliver joins him on the Mommy Couch, too.

Before long, Benjamin is bored with just sitting on me and takes off to stir up mischief elsewhere.

The mischief he stirs up involves getting himself stuck inside Oliver's toy basket, which requires that I abruptly end my break to rescue him.

Oh, well. It was nice while it lasted!