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…

Ring Ring, Hello?

Niecey Poo, asking to FaceTime with me a month ago: Auntie Viv.
Niecey Poo, asking to FaceTime with me two weeks ago: Auntie Viv. iPad.
Niecey Poo, asking to FaceTime with me today: Call Auntie Viv.

Aaron says she’ll probably be calling me directly two weeks from now.


Today on Facetime, niecey poo exclaimed, “Monkey!! Hoo hoo hoo…” banged on the iPad, then jumped up and down.

Where did she even learn all that?

It was teh most adorablest thing evars.

Boston 2017.1

It’s been about half a year since my last trip to Boston. Time to visit the folks!

Landed at Logan Thursday evening. My parents came to pick me up, and when we got to the house, Mom handed me a bowl of soup. I dutifully drank it. Then she handed me a duck foot. I dutifully ate it. Nourishment achieved, Mom proceeded to prepare the rest of dinner.

After dinner, Mom and I somehow got on the topic of devices and TV. She reminisced about the first radio they had in Hong Kong. It got its signal from a cable. Next came a radio that received broadcast signals. Then a single channel black and white cable-but-not-like-Comcast TV. Again, that got replaced by a TV that could receive broadcast signals… and colors!

She talked about how TVB came on the market first. As a result, they got all the good broadcast tower locations and had the best signal, which drew more ad dollars and allowed them to produce better shows. The other stations didn’t stand a chance. To this day, TVB is a powerhouse.

Dad has joined a golf club to help ease the boredom of retirement. He loves golf, but really he wants to work again. He hates having nothing to do.

They stocked the house with heavy cream for my coffee and my favorite flavors of Häagen-Dazs. So sweet.

On Saturday, we all went to see the circus. The Ringling Brothers are doing their last ever tour, and we all got to see the circus before it went away forever. It was exactly as I expected, but cheesier. There was tightrope walking, juggling, a human cannonball, strongmen, bikes, trampolines… and a couple acts with camels and tigers. Those animals did not look happy to be there. Circus, check! Happy we went. (Thanks Mike for putting this last hurrah tour on my radar!)

On Sunday, Grandma came over to “supervise” joong production. Mostly we made joong and she came by periodically to tell Mom she was doing it wrong. Everything turned out great; I’m really glad this tradition is being passed down the generations. I should do this more often so I don’t forget how.

A post shared by Viv (@soopahvivvy) on

Grandma herself is doing okay for her age. She’s definitely a lot weaker physically. Stairs are hard, even single steps. And she forgets to turn the faucet off all the time.

There’s a Chinese tradition of paying respects to dead relatives every spring called Ching Ming, and even though I visited a little late, my folks waited for me to go.

We visited my great-grandmother’s grave on Saturday. Usually, I spend that time remembering her, but this time I felt a true sense of gratitude for having had her in my life. Thanks great-grandma for taking care of me and sis when we were young, and for always being such a steady loving presence.

We visited my grandfather’s grave a few days later. I’ll always remember how he used to study my toys to figure out how they worked; I see a lot of that in myself. I’d long known that he knew acupuncture and practiced on himself, but Mom told me this week that he actually studied it in school. In his final years at the nursing home, Mom would smuggle him disposable needles. Mom the needle smuggler, hah!

I got to see sis and Penny every day. Every day! What a treat! Penny is growing and learning SO FAST. She has so many words now, and learns new ones every day, always listening and repeating what you teach her. Most of her words are in English, with a few in fairly well intoned Cantonese, learned from Mom (“Poh Poh”). She cracked me up one day with “Harajuku”. If you make a kids show with it, she will learn it.

On day 4 she learned how to say “Auntie Viv”, and my heart melted.

Like most babies these days she loves her video, be it on TV, tablet, or phone. Anything with an Apple logo on it is an “iPad”. It’s a both a blessing and a curse. She learns so much from these videos and it buys her parents much needed time, but she totally tunes out the rest of the world when she watches.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, she is hilarious when you take her to the store. She observes EVERYTHING, and notices details most adult would never see. She loves it, and we love it. Shopping with Penny is the bee’s knees.

Penny is the bee’s knees. Seriously, so amazing. And active. In sis’s words, she can’t be contained. The other day we had to go watch her so my sister could shower, and when we got home both Mom and Dad went crashed early because they were exhausted. I think it’s awesome how much she loves climbing on everything and exploring her world, nonstop.

Penny Boo, active and goofy and curious:

Random encounter with an elementary school age kid riding down the street on his bike, dribbling a basketball, as he passed by my parents’ house:

Me: Hey.
Kid: Potatoes!
Me: Potatoes?
Kid: Yeah.

I proceeded to go inside, where Dad was sitting in a chair talking into his phone:

Dad: Hey Siri.
Dad: Hi Sire-ee.
Dad: Hey Siri it’s me.
Dad: Hey. Siri.

Really enjoyed this trip. A++++++++++!!!!! Would go again!

Boston, Aaron Edition

Penny turned 1 earlier this month. We had a birthday party for her last Sunday. I flew to Boston to attend… and Aaron came too!

It was Aaron’s first visit to Boston, so we squeezed in a ton of sightseeing alongside a good dose of noms.

Our flight arrived around 10:30 PM Saturday. My parents picked us up from the airport armed with fresh chow fun and some bao from the local Chinese bakery, then dropped us off at our Airbnb in downtown. Thanks Mom and Dad!

We had planned to stroll through Boston Common Sunday morning, but it was raining pretty hard so we just went to the Dunkies down the street and hung out until it was party time. We walked a few blocks to Grandma’s apartment where my parents picked us up. Off to Casa de Penelope!

Penny’s birthday party: Food, people, babies, football. More food, more people, more babies. There were kids gorging themselves on candies and a toddler peeing on the floor. Potty training accident.

After the party, Aaron and I took the T to dinner at Craigie on Main, where we had the tasting menu. Phytoplankton pasta! Distinctively tasty.

It cleared up on Monday, so we walked the Freedom Trail. I was pretty excited to finally do it; it’s one of those tourist things the locals never experience. There were churches and churches and the Old North Church, from which the two lanterns were hung. There was also the Old South Meeting House, which is now part historical site, part entrance to a T station. Weird. We passed through Faneuil Hall, toured the USS Constitution, and finished at the Bunker Hill Monument, which we climbed up. I love climbing tall things.

We stopped at Mike’s Pastries along the way for cannoli. Of course we did.

After the Freedom Trail, we went to Harvard Square. We strolled through campus, then had a snack at Tom’s BaoBao and Shake Shack. I would love to have a place like BaoBao here in the Bay Area. Shake Shack, on the other hand, was meh; its style is somewhere between In-N-Out and Five Guys.

Next, we headed for MIT and made a beeline to the Harvard Bridge, because why wouldn’t we visit a bridge measured in Smoots? After that we paid a visit to the Great Dome and finished with ice cream at Toscanini’s. Tosci’s totally lived up to the hype.

After a quick rest, we met up with Grandma and my parents for dinner in Chinatown. Grandma was pleased.

The next day, we grabbed our Dunkies and headed for the State House, which was closed the day before because of Columbus Day. I love visiting old government buildings. Everything is so unnecessarily big. Also, they have a lot of committees for things. I know because there’s an office for each committee in there, and we walked past a lot of them.

After the State House, we strolled down the Comm Ave Mall to the Boston Public Library, which completed renovation earlier this year. It’s now bright and airy and modern and nothing like the prison it resembled when I was in high school.

From there, we headed down Newbury Street. I picked up a shirt from Johnny Cupcakes and we stopped for ice cream at Emack & Bolio’s. The ice cream shop was too small to maintain nicely and the ice cream itself was meh, especially after Tosci’s the day before.

With ice cream in our bellies we spent a few hours at the MIT Museum, home of robots and holograms and student projects and a super interesting exhibit of Arthur Ganson kinetic sculptures. I totally want to build some!

After the museum, back to the North End, where we nommed at Pizzeria Regina, followed by a visit to Modern Pastry for more cannoli. Of course, more cannoli. If we’d had an extra day we’d have visited Maria’s Pastry Shop as well to complete the cannoli trifecta.

Strolled through the Greenway back to the apartment. I love the Greenway so much. The Central Artery was dark and dirty and loud and uninviting and I’m glad it’s gone.

Had an early dinner at O Ya with Pauline and Paul. Fancy sushi creations. After that, we went to my parents’ house and hung around watching Penny. The world revolves around Penny. She’s one lucky kiddo. I marveled at how much her dexterity and attention have developed since I saw her two months prior.

Got up at 5:30 AM the next morning and flew back to California.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but I made sure to take one of us doing that thing you have to do when you’re in Boston:

Getting Our Dunkies On

All Penny Boo, All The Time

I spent last week in Boston visiting Penny Boo, my little Niecey Poo. (And Mom and Dad and Sis and Grandma, but everyone’s all gaga over Penny all the time so I’m sure none of them would mind my phrasing.)

My last visit was in early April. Four months is several eons in baby time.

Penny started crawling in late April. She’s a pro at it now, motoring to and fro, climbing up and down the stairs (!), exploring every nook and cranny. She’s also figured out how to get off couches and beds, even ones that are taller than she is. She spins her crawl to point her butt to the edge, slides off feet first, and trusts that she’ll land. I’m not sure she actually looks at what’s below before sliding; she’d probably try the same thing from a table, a counter, her highchair if she wasn’t strapped in…

On the floor, she’s drawn to electrical sockets. Wherever she is, she likes to pull herself up to standing and climb anything within reach. She continues to try to eat everything she gets her hands on. Baby-proofing is no joke.

She’s active all the time. ALL THE TIME. Nonstop. Mom babysits her a couple days a week and comes home exhausted.

She recognizes people. My first three days with her she stared at me suspiciously for the first hour before going back to her regularly scheduled active all the time-ing. Toward the end of the week, she started to greet me with a smile. Huzzah!

She’s starting to show complex emotions. On my first day there, Mom thought it would be fun to hug me in front of Penny and make her jealous. Penny immediately reached for my Mom to hold her. Then she crawled looking for my Dad and reached for him to pick her up. As he did, she shot me a LOOK. I can’t even describe it, but my sister saw it too and we were both like, whoa. After that, I told Mom she wasn’t allowed to use me for her jealousy experiments anymore.

A few days later, sis had a busy morning and didn’t dote on Penny as much as usual. When they arrived at my parents’ house, Penny reached for my Dad and wouldn’t pay any attention to my sister. What was that?? What was going through her head? Sooooo curious.

There’s lots of mimicking. Shaking her head, clicking her tongue, making fart noises with her mouth, blowing raspberries on unsuspecting arms. She can’t quite grasp waving and clapping her hands yet, but she just started learning to point:

That Pointing in Pictures Thing

She’s already doing that thing where you point at the other person all nonchalant and stuff in pictures. So hip.

Overall, she’s amazingly active and curious about everything. When she gets excited about something new she flaps her arms and squeals and omigoshicantevenitistehmostadorablestthingevarrrs.


Happy Half Birthday Penny Boo!

Penny Boo is 6 months old today! I spent last week in Boston visiting her.

It took me a couple days to adjust to ~4 months of growth since my last visit, but once I wrapped my head around it I noticed her do something new every day. She learned to string together rolls, had her first taste of solid food (carrots), figured out how to pivot on her belly, became aware of the dog, started reaching for the dog, had her first taste of green beans.

I’m blown away by how much she learns and changes every day. I’ve long heard that babies are amazing, but never fully groked why. Now I do.

Also amazing(ly cute): Like many babies, she likes to grab people’s fingers and shove them into her mouth. But when she gets tired, she’ll grab your finger and throw her head onto your hand to nom. Like a zombie from The Walking Dead. A super adorable baby zombie.

Me and my little Niecey Poo:

Me and my little Niecey Poo.