Ching Ming

Spring has sprung! Spent a week in Boston visiting my folks post-thaw. I happened to arrive the day after Ching Ming. The next day, we went to pay our respects to my grandfather and great-grandmother.

I do it out of tradition, but really I believe that visiting a grave is for the living, not the dead. It’s a time to remember.

Things I remembered about my great-grandmother:

  • She was gentle.
  • She helped take care of me and my sister for years while my parents worked.
  • She had stylish glasses.
  • She was frugal.
  • She unknowingly stole ice cream from the Scooper Bowl every year, stocking her freezer with “free ice cream from the park” for when my sister and I visited.

In retrospect, I feel bad that I wouldn’t eat some of that ice cream because I was picky. I’m pretty sure she ate the ones I rejected, to avoid wasting food, whether she enjoyed them or not.

Things I remembered about my grandfather:

  • He always greeted us with “hola”.
  • He would study every new toy we showed him to see how it worked.
  • He liked to drink Chinese tea and read the newspaper.
  • He had a yellow canary that he found in the parking lot at work. I can still whistle its song.
  • The time he took me to Boston Common when we first moved to the US. I was afraid to cross the street and he said (in Chinese), “Don’t be afraid, if a car comes I’ll stop it with my foot!” I truly believed that he could.

Dad told us a little more about my grandfather’s (adopted) father on the way back. It wasn’t clear to me where he was born, but he grew up in Peru, and spent most of his life there. According to Dad, he had a Peruvian wife and family in addition to my great-grandmother and grandfather back in Hong Kong.

When he got old, he moved to Hong Kong and lived out the rest of his years with my great-grandmother. Dad says he spoke more Spanish than Chinese. I seem to recall from past stories that he either suffered from dementia or a brain injury. I don’t remember which, and even though I’ve met him, I don’t remember because I was too young.

I learn a little more about my family’s history each time I visit. How much more is there?

30×30 Day 11

Today I ate more than I should have, even though I wasn’t hungry, because when Dad makes food with the intention of sharing, I have two choices:

1. I can share with him, and we’re all happy for a multitude of reasons.

2. I can reject his bid, forego the happiness above, and leave him to eat way more than he should.

My waistline is glad I only visit once in a while.

I’m glad to be visiting.

30×30 Day 10

I did the dishes today. It’s not exactly a rare occurrence, but when I’m staying with my parents I actually have to fight for the privilege.

I even wore dish gloves without them asking, so they wouldn’t worry about me ending up with dishpan hands.

I’m not even kidding, I have no chance of washing the dishes here otherwise.

30×30 Day 8

Today I went the mall with Penny, Paige, sis, and Dad. While sis and Dad shopped, I wandered the kid’s section of Macy’s with Penny, answering her many questions.

There were a LOT of things out of place. Penny pointed at a onesie with a hanger on the floor.

“Look, it’s on the floor,” she said, and proceeded to step over it.

“Why don’t we hang it up?” I asked.

“Because someone else left it there,” she replied.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t help make it better.”


5 minutes later, the entire section looked tons better.

One day at a time, one teaching moment at a time.

30×30 Day 7

Today I went to the supermarket with Penny and sis. While sis shopped, I wandered the store with Penny, answering her many questions.

Whenever we encountered something that was out of place, or on the floor, she’d stop and comment on it. I’d ask, “Should we put it where it belongs?” “Yes,” she’d reply, and proceed to make the store a better place.

I do this myself on a regular basis, but I hope that doing this with Penny has a lasting impact, far beyond the items she items she touched today, and far beyond the walls of the store we wandered together.

30×30 Day 6

Flew into Boston today to visit my folks. Interacting with Penny is my way of contributing to the world. It takes a lot to be mindful of how you act and react with a little one.

My sister picked me up from the airport and told me on the way to the house that Penny had been getting frustrated playing Osmo. She gets frustrated when she doesn’t know the answer to something right away, and I found myself thinking about how to teach and instill grit.

At the very least: How do we make something frustrating fun, or at least make it doable, to get to the point where things start clicking and become fun?

So that was my contribution today. I played Osmo with Penny and tried different things with her when she got stuck. Eventually, “I’ll do half, and you do half,” helped break complex problems into ones she understood, and we breezed through a few at the end.

Tomorrow, more Osmo!

Paigey Boo

Niece number two has arrived! And I have just returned from a week in Boston to visit everyone.

World, meet Paigey Boo. She’s one month old, weighs a bazillion baby pounds, and loves to eat, sleep, poop, repeat.

Penny Boo is now three years old. Her English skills have exploded since my last visit, she can secretly understand more Chinese than she admits to, and she asks why I’m “talking like that” when I speak Spanish. She bargains logically, has decided pinky promises are fun, and has thus far managed to keep every one she’s made. Her imagination runs wild, but when the adults get too ridiculous she puts the brakes on and tells them, “It’s just pretend.” She has a fascinating fascination with bugs, and instead of asking for kids shows spent the week asking me to show her videos of cockroaches.

I’m not even kidding. She watched this entire video about cockroach live births without squirming.

The last time I visited, Penny asked to have a sleepover.

Penny: Want to have sleepover.
Sis: Really? But Mommy and Daddy won’t come.
Penny: Bye Mommy. *hugs Mommy* Bye Daddy. *hugs Daddy*

My Mom shut that down right quick.

This time, she asked again.

Penny: Mommy, can I have a sleepover with Auntie Viv?

And so began a night of me getting whacked in the head repeatedly by the most restless kid ever, and my sister and brother in law’s best night of sleep in three years. They woke up at noon.

Here’s us with our international breakfast: French toast and Chinese buns.

Before I left, a couple folks asked about the foliage when I told them about my trip. Foliage is one of those things you don’t notice when you grow up with it, but it seems I’ve finally been gone long enough to notice it. My goodness, it’s beautiful.

That pretty much sums up my trip: family, foliage… and work. I got zero exercise, which is totally unlike me, and bothered me enough that I had a dream about running. Running! I hate running. And yet, there I was, getting my supple leopard on in my sleep.

Winter is coming. The next time I visit everything will be different all over again.

O! With Dad!

Finally saw Cirque du Soleil’s O. With my Dad, no less! He was in Las Vegas for a few days with a couple golfing buddies, and was worried that he’d be bored in the evenings when his buddies were off gambling.

“I’d rather see a show,” he said.

Vegas is a short flight from where I live so off I went, for dinner and a show with Dad.

I flew in Thursday afternoon. Dad came by after golfing and we walked to dinner. He marveled at how much the Strip had grown since his last visit over 20 years ago. He also couldn’t believe how much people loved alcohol these days.

We arrived at the Bellagio at the top of the hour and he got to watch the water show. We continued inside for a buffet dinner. Crab legs and caviar! We didn’t really care for the caviar mini waffles, but Dad laughed as he ate it because it felt ridiculous and fancy.

After dinner, we strolled through the lobby to admire the Chihuly flowers, then through the current incarnation of the conservatory. Breathtaking! I could tell Dad thought so too, and I was happy to be sharing the experience with him.

Back outside for a walk. The temperature was perfect. We rounded the corner to the fountain just as another show was about to start. The sun had set during dinner, and this time the show was beautifully lit.

Then it was showtime. Finally, O!

I’d known to expect water, but never would I have imagined O’s swimming pool / stage. One minute someone’s diving into the pool from 60 feet in the air, the next minute a clown is running across it, as if walking on water. A technical marvel, the O theatre.

Friday morning, I had dim sum with Dad and his friends before heading to the airport. It was nice to meet them, after having heard about them for years.

This was probably the most expensive ~24 hour trip I’ve ever taken. But how often do I get to spend time like that with my Dad? Worth every penny.

Boston 2017.2

Another visit with the folks in the books. Dad is bored in retirement, Mom seems to have found a volunteering/walking/cooking groove, Grandma is sick of being old, Sis has her hands full with little Penny, and Penny is super active and learning every moment.

Day 0: Now I Can Play Golf

Dad: How is your hockey season going?
Me: Well, I don’t play anymore. I retired.
Dad: Oh… now you can play golf!

That’s the spirit, Dad. :)

Day 1: Auntie Viv Phone?

Penny: Mommy phone video?
Sis: My phone is out of batteries.
Penny (to me): Auntie Viv phone?

The next day, she asked for my phone again. When I told her I didn’t know where it was, she proceeded to search my pockets.

Day 2: Up Up Down Down…

Dad and I turned the basement inside out on Saturday searching for the 8-bit NES. I was looking for my Contra cartridge, but instead I found the Atari 7800, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, and Nintendo 64. That, and a tabletop pinball machine. I was super excited and purchased batteries for it right away, but alas, it doesn’t work anymore beyond a sickly extended start beep.

Look super cool though.

Day 3: Observation Point

When I’m in town I like to get Mom outside for some exercise.

Me: Let’s go see what it looks like from up there.
Mom: 300 yards is far.
Me: We just walked 100 yards from the car. *points at car*
Mom: Let’s not go, there could be bad people on the trail.
Me: It’s the weekend, there are lot of people out.
Mom: 300 yards means 600 total, plus car. What if we get hungry?
Me: We’ll be fine.
Mom: This is steep. What if I climb up but can’t get back down?
Me: I’ll show you how!

In the end, Mom did a great job scrambling up rocks to the top. We were rewarded with a view of Downtown Boston as well as many other landmarks in the surrounding areas. Afterward she went home and took a nap.

Day 4: Hockey Travels

I told Dad about my upcoming Thailand trip to cheer and not play hockey, and he asked me about the places I’ve visited with my teams. He worked for years as a traveling salesman, so he started naming random places he’s been.

Dad: Have you been to Wisconsin?
Me: Yup.
Dad: Green Bay?
Me: Yeah, I got to tour Lambeau Field!
Dad: How about Minnesota?
Me: Yah, I went to the Mall of America!
Dad: Have you been to Detroit?
Me: I saw a Red Wings game there!

Writing about this reminds me that I got to visit the Budweiser factory in St. Louis as well. Clydesdales!

Also Day 4: Paper Sons

Mom and I got to talking about immigration, and she told me stories of paper sons related to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Entire families in the US today are here through a paper son. Entire families remained split because their documents were sold to families wishing to send a paper son. Mom knows people on both sides of those stories. I had no idea this was even a thing.

Ultimately, it’s the classic immigrant story: Life is hard, and you do whatever you can to make it less hard.

Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6: Umami Monster

For an almost 2 year old, Penny has made it quite clear that she loves seafood. Her favorites: shrimp, lobster, and clams, as well as shumai and sushi. She asks for all of those by name, except lobster, which she calls “monster”.

Cheese is no slouch either: string cheese, Cheddar Bunnies, pizza, and Pirate’s Booty register high on her preferred foods list. This kid loves umami.

She’s willing to try just about anything. We gave her a pickled carrot. “Souwr!” Recoilscrunchyface. OMGSOCUTE.

Day 5: Bahn Gwai

Mom says when I was in elementary school she told me to behave and I told her, “I have to bahn gwai all day at school, I’m not doing it at home!”

Mom has used the phrase “bahn gwai” for as long as I can remember. Turns out she got it from me. It literally means “pretend behave”.

Day 5.5: Frogging

Dad recalled his frogging days as a kid. He’d catch a small frog by the side of the road, tie it to a string, and dangle it from a pole to fish for larger frogs. Larger frogs would leap to eat the small frog, and he’d fish them out and into a bucket. When he was done he’d release the small frog and take the large ones home for dinner.

Day 6: Narwhal

On the final full day of my visit, I taught Penny how to say “narwhal”. Success! I have done my duty as auntie.

Penny, whenever she sees herself in a selfie: Hiiiii…