Tag Archives: ben

london calling (the third)

I’m taking my son to London this summer!

Of course I have been to London twice before: once in 2006 when I went and explored it on my own and once in 2010 when Paul and I went on our “honeymoon” (and spent a day at the Tower):

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This is me at the White Tower in 2010.  Paul and I had not yet learned to take selfies.

This is the first time Ben will go to London though.  He’s been to Paris and Verona and Venice, to Basel and Zurich, but the closest he’s been to the British Isles is either visiting Victoria or the British pavilion at Disneyworld (both are equally fake-English – I actually felt quite at home in a fake Tudor cottage sweet shop in EPCOT)

I had been holding off on the UK because it’s easy to visit.  I like my world traveling to be more exploring and challenging.  Visiting Britain (or any of the British Isles) doesn’t require any language or cultural effort.  It’s actually comforting for me to visit Britain because it’s so much like home: growing up with an English parent, in a former colony, in a borough that boasted two separate tea rooms and an invisible “Tweed Curtain” separating it from the rest of Victoria, means that I totally get shows like Very British Problems.  I may have gone all-in on my mother’s family heritage of Brooklyn Jewish, but I also have British citizenship by descent, and I grew up in a country that was still governed by the British constitution until I was four.

But now, we’re going to Eurocamp!  A handful of us will be representing Brooklyn – and the USA based B-PSA groups – at the camp in Newbury.  And on the way back, we’re going to stop in London, see the city, stay at Pax Lodge,  and see two of Ben’s three namesakes: Big Ben and the Tate Museum (Unfortunately, while there is a PAUL chain of patisseries, there is no major “Boothe” attraction to check off Ben’s full name).

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PAUL cubed.

We’ll go swimming at the ponds on Hampstead Heath.  We’ll ride the Eye.  We will go to the Museum of the City of London, and to the Tower and the Bridge; we’ll go to the War Rooms.  I will drag my son with me to shop at Camden Market  (Actually, I may leave him in the hostel room for that.) We will see what we can in the two and a half days we have, from Saturday afternoon to Tuesday morning.  It isn’t a lot of time, but I’m still excited to have it.

So we’re going to London.  And it’s a Mama-Ben adventure, like our trip to Switzerland, because Paul doesn’t have the days off to go with us.  I still look forward to it, even if I have to miss my husband (and Ben has to miss his father).  It will be a great adventure.  And while Ben is not as excited about it as I am, at least, after listening to Neverwhere, and getting over his suspicion of China Mieville to read Un Lun Dun, he’s somewhat interested in visiting the city that has inspired many, many fantasy versions of itself.  Or he could just be interested in riding the London Eye.  Who knows what goes on in the brain of an almost ten year old?

 

 

The author my son and husband BOTH dislike

Image result for perdido street stationOne of my favorite fantasy series is China Mieville’s “New Crobuzon” trilogy: Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council.  This is the steampunk and magic laced world with a corrupt capitalist government, where social, racial and cultural differences are exploited for the political and fiscal gain of the corrupt upper echelons of the city (a familiar story).  The city of New Crobuzon itself is an alternate existence of London, dense with neighborhoods that spiral out over time from a central point on its Thames, the Gross Tar.  Each neighborhood has a history, each neighborhood has its races and cultures, each one is distinct.  New Crobuzon, as a world, is as much about urban history and urban geography and urban sociology as it is a fantasy realm.

I love cities.  I love the stories of cities, how they grow, how neighborhoods are built and change over time.  Therefore, I threw myself wholeheartedly into Perdido Street Station.  I saw, in my imagination, the descriptions of each neighborhood, from the scientific quarter of Brock Marsh, to the abandoned projects of Dog Fenn.  I understood the backstories of how neighborhoods came to be occupied by specific immigrant groups.  I especially loved reading about some neighborhoods went from mansions to slums and back again, keeping tenements as museums to past poverty in their midst (we have one of those!).  And I especially appreciated that, as in all great cities, New Crobuzon grew along its trains, its El, the trains the commuters still take each day, the million ordinary people of a fantasy world, traveling to and from work in a universe full of monsters and magic, between their version of the Outer Boroughs and their white-collar jobs.

Paul was not as much a fan of this concept.  He’s fine with world building – he has slugged through King’s Dark Tower series, which I don’t have patience for – but not an urban studies textbook disguised as a steampunk fantasy.   His response was that Mieville spent too much time city building and writing a Lonely Planet: New Crobuzon and not enough time actually developing characters or plot.  I pointed out that the character development is great in New Crobuzon, it’s just that each character also has to function as a representation of their class, race and culture almost as much as they are a separate being in their own right.  Each character has to also either exemplify their people, or illustrate their community through their outcast or outsider status.  Nothing tells us about a people and their culture like those they choose to exile among them.

Therefore, I should not have been surprised when Ben flat out refused to engage with the children’s version of New Crobuzon: Un Lun Dun.  We’re attempting to read this right now as the nightly bedtime story, and I’m just not getting anywhere with it. There’s a lot of eye rolling, especially when I have to explain the English language:

Image result for un lun dunME: Binja!  Get it?  Bin…ja?  They’re bin ninjas?
BEN: They’re garbage cans with legs and nunchuks
ME: English people call a trash can a bin.
BEN: *eye roll*

I also love Un Lun Dun.  It’s not the flip side of London that Kraken is, but it is a travelogue through a London’s dreams, a city built of London’s cast offs, both material and thought, a city of random buildings and people, traditions and creatures.  There’s ghosts and monsters, creatures of all  shapes and sizes.  There’s houses made from M.O.I.L. – Mildly Obsolete In London – which means typewriters and cassette tapes.  There’s even a November Tree, a tree made of solid light from Guy Fawkes fireworks.  And my favorite part of Un Lun Dun is how it flips the heroine’s journey around, changing how we think of destiny in these kind of children’s stories.  Perhaps it is time that the world gets saved by the “funny one”, not by the chosen one.

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The ab-city, with its houses and dwellings made of everything, in every shape.

Ben, however, is not nearly as charmed and interested in visualizing the ab-city.  I therefore blame Paul for this.  My husband is less into world building that I am.  I want all my books to come with an expansive geography.  I own a copy of the Dictionary of Imaginary Places.  I love maps, I love places, I love cities,  and I love imaginary worlds that come complete with entire sociological histories..  Paul, however, would like his books to be less of an atlas of a mythological land and more of an actual plot and character driven tome.  I suspect our son has taken after his father because attempts to pull Ben into the fantasy books with the best, most memorable and detailed worlds have been met with resistance.  According to Ben, Narnia is boring.  Earthsea was really boring.  (Middle-Earth we are still working on).

I’ll keep working on this.  I want my son to have that sense of expansive imagination, to be able to imagine other worlds, with their own history and mythology, their own rules of physics and magic.  We’re going to flip into Neverwhere on audiobook over the  break.  I’ve got twenty-plus hours to fill with Gaiman and Tolkein and Lewis…and we are going to get through the rest of Un Lun Dun if it kills me.  I just have to figure out how to get my son excited about exploring these imaginary worlds with his mama.

 

51 weeks later

Often, a co-worker will ask me, “How old is Ben now? Eight months?”

“One year,” I reply.

“ALREADY?”

Yes, one year ago, I was waddling around the office, ready to go on leave. I left on Friday the 13th, and Ben was born the next Tuesday.

Now Ben is 51 weeks old (as of today) and almost toddling. He walked around our apartment today holding on to me with only ONE hand. His gait is a little unsteady, but he is basically a tiny toddler…and I am so proud of him.

And me? I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight, which is still 20lbs heavier than I was in 2004, but feels SO much better. Most of the clothes I put away during pregnancy are back out and in rotation.

51 weeks feels like a lifetime, looking back.

atl -> phl

I’m somewhere above North Carolina right now, flying enroute to Philadelphia from Atlanta. I’ve been staying at the Gwynett Holiday Inn, in the eastern Atlanta suburbs, for two nights. I was back in Georgia so that I could spend yesterday in a day-long meeting at a partner agency down the street from the hotel, in the strip-malls-and-office-parks suburb of Lawrenceville.

Of course, this whole Atlanta trip means that I am not in LA today helping pack & prepare for MR BEN’S EAST COAST TOUR 2009. Paul and I originally planned to fly to Philadelphia on a red-eye tonight: a trip that was booked months ago. We’re spending Easter weekend with his family, and then flying up to Toronto to visit my sister, Ben’s Aunt Monica, and her husband, Uncle Jonathan. But when I found out I was going to be flying into Atlanta on Wednesday, and not flying back until Friday morning, I realized there was no point going all the way back to L.A. I may as well go straight to Philadelphia and await my men there.

So now I’m planning to hide out in a hotel in Philly today – one with wi-fi so I can work – and then I will get a good night’s sleep before heading to PHL again in the morning. This is strangely familiar: a year and a half ago, I flew out to Philadelphia on my own, from Victoria via Seattle, and Paul joined me a couple days later. I spent a couple days relearning American history and then spent a couple more with my husband and his family. This will be the second time I have met my husband in Philadelphia Airport after a few days separation.

(Of course, this trip, we have Mr. Ben with us. Last trip was how we got Mr. Ben.)

I also can’t wait to see my men – especially my tiny one. I miss Ben so much when I am away from him. I find myself looking longingly when I see babies his size, and having to hold back tears when I think too much about mine. I just want to pick him up and kiss his now-chubby little cheeks and hear him chortle. I can’t wait to see his big gappy, toothy grin (now with seven teeth! and more coming in!) and have him look at me and say, “Mama!” Missing Ben is like having part of me missing. These four business trips in the last six weeks have been hard.

Fortunately, it is less than 24h before I see my men. Less than 24h…and then I have eight solid days with my tiny family. I’m so ready for vacation…as soon as I finish this workday.

like mother, like son

Ben is already 2 1/2 feet tall. That’s 30 inches. Which is the 95th percentile for height.

Maybe he will get a basketball scholarship so we won’t have to worry about paying for college.

Now, I give you…A VERY TALL BABY!

From 09-03-29 Ben Photos

baby adorableness update!

Why yes, Ben IS an awfully adorable baby! Even if I do say so myself:

I took Ben and his Pack’n’Play outside yesterday and let him practice standing in the sunshine. It was a little cool outside, so I put his hood up:

Also, Ben would like us all to know that trying to crawl is SERIOUS BUSINESS:

adorable baby photos

From 09-03-13 Ben Download
From 09-03-13 Ben Download