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.


This morning, as I was about to exit a mall with my friends, I saw my grandpa at the door. My friends continued on, and I stayed to talk to him. I explained to him the convenience store Monopoly piece in my hand. I don’t think he actually asked what it was, but it seemed like the natural thing to do since he’d always examine whatever toy I was clutching when I visited him as a kid.

We walked out to the parking lot, where I gave him a big hug. I realized after waking up that I’ve never actually hugged him; we weren’t a hugging family. He complimented me on my Chinese. I had tried really hard to come up with the words to explain the game piece. I told him that without my grandparents, I really didn’t have a reason to maintain my Chinese. Everyone else understands English.

As we went back inside, I asked if it was okay for him to be in pictures. (I asked because I wasn’t sure if he’d be breaking some visiting from the afterlife rules by doing so.) Sure, he said, he’d already done that today. I fumbled with my phone and took a bunch of selfies with him.

Turns out he can’t be in pictures. When I flipped through the shots, we’d been replaced in each of them with pairs of items. Pocky sticks next to Glico sticks. A box of something next to a box of something else. Picture after picture.

I was a little disappointed, but tremendously amused, particularly by the Pocky.

Alarm! Literally, my alarm. I woke up amused.

Paddy Eels

Back in Boston visiting my family again. Time for more village childhood stories.

In this episode, we talk about rice. Specifically, we talk about Dad working in rice paddies as a 7 year old. They would germinate seeds, flood the fields, and plant the seedlings in neatly spaced clumps.

After the harvest*, Dad would go into the now-dry fields to dig for eels. He’d bring a bucket and his little sister, and together they’d search for smooth** round holes in the ground. When they found one, Dad would start digging while his sister watched for the eel to escape from the another opening. They’d catch a bucketful, then bring it home to grandma to braise. Feast!

* Mom said that in Shanghai they had one harvest a year, but in Canton where it was warmer they’d have two.

* Unsmooth holes had snakes in them so Dad only dared dig the smoothest ones.

Larger Than Life

I saw my great-grandmother in a dream this morning. I was worried about her, so I went to her apartment, searching. I’m often searching for her in my dreams. Sometimes I don’t find her.

This time, she showed up as I left the apartment. We shared a long hug. No words were exchanged. No words are ever needed.

I remember thinking she felt bigger than she’d been in real life when I hugged her. She’s always larger than life in my dreams.

Today I feel grateful. Grateful to have had her in my life, and grateful to continue to feel her presence, brainwaves or “visits” or whatever.

Understanding Mindfulness

I finished reading Mindfulness in Plain English today. Here’s a distilled version of my notes from the second half of the book.

Mindfulness and Concentration are two different things. You concentrate to still your mind so that you may be mindful of what’s happening.

Mindfulness can be on anything. You can be mindful of the fact that your mind has wandered, and use that to bring your focus back.

Mindfulness allows you to observe the universe within yourself. You can use it to examine how you feel, what your body is doing, how you are reacting to something.

Meditate with love, compassion, appreciation, and good intentions for everyone. Including your enemies. If your enemies are happy and at peace they have no reason to be your or anyone’s enemy.

– – –

How much meditation have I done? Not a lot. But I’ve learned a lot from this book. Even being aware of the fact that I can step back to examine how I feel has been enough to prompt me to do it. I’m probably not experiencing it the same way someone more practiced would, but I’ve still found it a useful exercise.

The same goes for things like looking at things from others’ perspectives. If someone’s being an asshole, what is making them feel so angry or unhappy? That is a sad existence, and when I consider that I feel compassion for them. Works great for road rage.

It’s funny, because that’s how Mom has always operated. I never understood how she could do it, but as I went through this book a lot of what I read sounded very much like some of the life lessons she’s tried to teach me over the years. Once again, Mom is always right.

Toward the end of the book, I came across new-to-me word: equanimity. “Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.” This really struck a chord with me. My equivalent word is imperturbable, and I’ve long striven and failed to be imperturbable in the face of anger and negativity from others.

I still don’t really know what I’m doing and there is more to learn than I’ll ever know. But for my interest, my curiosity, and my equanimity, it’s time to get mindful.