Thursday, July 31, 2014


He's been watching us tend to the deck garden all spring and summer, so naturally as soon as we let him roam free on the deck he went to the watering can, put it up to the spigot, and tried to turn it on. 

He spills most of the water dragging the can to the pots, but he manages to have enough to get some into the soil. Drought be damned. 

He can pretty much stand in one place until he gets bored of standing, and I've heard reports of several un-assisted steps, but I have seen for myself anything that would qualify as walking. So far the interest just hasn't been there, partly because he's so quick and efficient with his crawl and tripod gait. But I think it's just a matter of days...

Thursday, July 17, 2014


From the stories I hear, Liz used to mercilessly tickle Tommy when they were young.  Then, unexpectedly, Tommy got bigger than Liz and the tables turned.

I suspect that we're seeing that begin to play out here.  Along with a little regression on Liz's part.

Lindsay Wildlife

There's a place in Walnut Creek that is part animal hospital, interactive learning center, and museum called the Lindsay Wildlife Museum.  They are the largest raptor hospital in the country, treating over 5000 injured birds a year.  Some of them are not able to be released back into the wild for various reasons, so they have a permanent home at the museum, where they regularly bathe and exercise  them.  The day they were there, they had out a couple of different kinds of hawks, turkey vultures, a great grey owl (that was huge and awesome) and barn owls (Huelan's favorite-their faces were snow-white and heart-shaped).  And she got to pet a gopher snake and a guinea pig.  My favorite was the live bee hive, which they had sandwiched in between two sheets of plexiglass with a tunnel that led to the outside.

I thought that she had a pretty good time.  She even caught a feather that was just floating through the air. But the next day she told me the museum was boring.

Friday, July 11, 2014


The kids have birthdays very close to six months apart- Huelan's is Dec 27 and Vansen's is July 3. Perhaps more significantly though, their birthdays are both very close to major holidays. The effect is that they both have birthday parties that last over a week long. 

Though we had a big blowout for Vansen the weekend before his birthday, this year, on his actual birthday, Vansen got to celebrate with a full-on street parade. We invited ourselves to celebrate with the Reichards in Benecia (the one time capitol of California!) where they have an old-timey 4th of July parade down Main St. (on July 3). 

Going to downtown Benecia is like stepping into 1954- the kitschy, Back to the Future parts (complete with a DeLorean!), not the bad segregation and McCarthyism parts.  There were community floats, classic cars, and a Boy Scouts color guard, but the highlight had to be Stella's preschool "float." Vivien pulled a wagon with three preschoolers in it, and when they came by our spot, they wrangled Huelan and Liz to join them. Not that it was difficult to get Huelan into the action- she sprinted into the thick of the parade, enthusiastically patriotic,waiving her mini-flag and grinning ear to ear. Huelan. In a parade. She was unstoppable.

When we caught up to Liz and Viv at the end of the route, however, everyone was wiped out. But a couple of corn dogs and masubis perked them up a bit. 

The next day, Independence Day proper, the Lee clan come to the house for some smoked tri tip. Laurie made some kind of deliciously magical berry trifle for dessert. And Vansen finally got his cake, and we got the obligatorily adorable frosting face photos. 

I recall that we were in a much more reflective mood when Huelan turned one; as we're finding with a lot of things, the second time around affords a little less time for reflection. Nevertheless, One is definitely a milestone, and as always, it feels like it's gone by super quickly.  Though that feeling is kind of confused with the sense that he's been with us for much longer than a year. All of a sudden he's one, but at the same time, it doesn't seem possible that just 12 months ago he wasn't part of our family. I guess it's all part of the weird warping of time and perception that happens as we grow older ourselves.  

Some pics from the long weekend: Pics here

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Party Time

Boy, kids like pinatas.  Though most of them couldn't put a solid swing on it, the few who managed to make solid contact did some damage.  Candy rained down multiple times, as the pinata fought hard to hang on to its contents through several different hackers, and every time it brought on a swarm of frenzied kids diving and jockeying to fill  their hands with the sweet, sweet loot.  And we only had one kid got grilled with the bat, so that's a success.

We celebrated Vansen's birthday a few days early, staking out a large spot at one of the local parks on a sunny Saturday.  We're of the opinion that good food & drink are crucial ingredients to a successful gathering, mainly because that's the best way to get the Ly Family & Friends to show up.  We did our best with trays of rotisserie chicken and a whole suckling pig, and you all certainly held up your end of the bargain.  It was great to see share Vansen's first birthday with so many people, and to have soooooo many of those people be little kids.  The littlest kid award goes to Finley, at just three weeks, though if the timing were slightly differently it may have gone to Boris/Natasha, the Zatulovsky baby, who was already tardy as of partytime.  Both mamas are champs!

Besides, who are we kidding?  A one-year old can't even appreciate his own party.  These parties are for the grownups, so that we can catch up with one another on a sunny day and enjoy some food and drink while the kids run around and wear themselves out.  Even if the conversation topics occasionally drift to potty training and pre-schools, getting in some grown up stories and laughs helps us strengthen our sometimes tenuous tether to the outside world.

Here are some pics from the party and the latter half of June, including Nhuanh's 30th (!) birthday at Lake Merritt and Vansen's first haircut.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


There was a time when being on the other side of the country, attending a big meeting, or doing some mentoring was glamorous. That time has passed. Though I still managed to make the best of being in DC for the week, I left my heart in Oakland, and it's easy to see why. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fathers Day

I like my holidays low key, so we decided to go with a hike and a picnic to celebrate Fathers Day this year. There are about 25 miles of hiking trails whose the trail head is less than a block from our house. It's taken us two years, but we finally walked across the street and started exploring them this week. 

This particular hike was a short one- a little more than and mile if you include the part of the path that we doubled because  I took us down a wrong fork. But it was great to get out and just cruise around among the trees. There's even a large picnic area with a fire pit we hope to make use of before summer's out. 

Ba Gia

Means old lady in Vietnamese. Our sister joined those ranks today, celebrating her 30th year with a Ly Family Taco bbq at Lake Merrit. A twist on Dad's legendary maridade, Anh and I rolled out both BBQs lakeside and threw down some meat and some fixins Bi chose - pate, quayle eggs, pickled everything- into some corn tortillas. Oakland fusion. 

You can tell from these pics that it went from sunny to breezy to downright cold in about 2.5 hours. Even the weather wanted to be Oakland fusion. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I have no idea how people are able to get those perfectly posed professional photos of their kids.  Their kids are not like our kids.  Getting one kid to look at the camera and deliver a natural-looking smile is a near impossible task for us.  Getting both kids to do it simultaneously without at least one parent trying to adjust a dresses or collar or wipe some drool is something I just can't even imagine.

We had the photographer for an hour, at the park across the street from our house.  I even baited Huelan with a tadpole catching session immediately after the photo shoot if she would cooperate.  That's a biiiiig incentive.  That wasn't fully effective.  I'm admittedly overly critical with these sorts of things, so while we did end up with a few pretty good ones, immediately after the shoot I was pretty frustrated.  I've taken enough pictures to know what it feels like to potentially have some great shots, and this did not feel like that. At least we got one of the four of us that will work, which honestly was more of a relief than anything. It was the first time we'd brought in a pro photographer and I was hoping for some magic.  Oh well. Huelan wins this round, but I want a rematch.

Here's a pic of her after she scooped up some tadpoles.  She even managed to snag a baby frog. Strictly catch-and-release. At least we had one good smile out of her that day!


Another 13 weeks comes to a close and the ballet/tap class is back at it- the session end recital.  They've added a few things to their repertoire, which admittedly wasn't vast to begin with, but their increased comfort is evident.  I would prefer her have a tough-ass, french speaking ballet instructor who speaks with a Russian accent and walks with a cane, but Huelan and the other girls seem to like Ms. Ariel quite well.

This time we brought Vansen, who was pretty enthralled by the whole thing, and Sophia, who has a few days between the end of school and the beginning of tennis.  Seeing all the girls dressed up and wearing extra-wide grins in front of their parents and grandparents is just as cute as you would imagine. For 10 girls, there are about 45 cameras in the audience.  We had three.  Maybe four.  The fawning families and the beaming girls made for an outstanding show, and what they lacked in precision and grace was well compensated for with enthusiasm. I love the leap she does in the middle of the first embedded video- reminds me of Sister Mary Catherine Gallagher from SNL.

One of the funny things is that for their last number, the teacher just said eff it and had all the girls sing "Let It Go" and run around in circles while she cleaned up and got ready for the next class.

There are nine videos.  I'm embedding a couple and will leave links to the rest.

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Video 5

Video 6

Video 7

Video 8

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Last weekend I hooked up a hammock on the deck. 

Not much else got done. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Our First Camping Trip

Patty and I had one of our firsts this weekend and camping was a lot of fun.  We drove about 3 hours south off the 101 to the Arroyo Seco Campgrounds. I reserved the "group site" which was really cool since it's isolated from the rest of the grounds and it was awesome.  Patty and I stocked up on a load of new camping gear and hope to camp more often with family and friends.

One of the highlights was our hike down to the Gorge.  We swam and hung out on the rocks for a little sun bathing.

Check out the pictures.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Memorial Day

My brother changed his FB profile pic to this one.  It's what my dad's flagpole used to look like, not just on Memorial Day, but everyday.

Long Weekend

Everyone loves a long weekend.  Somehow, it seems like long weekends are the only opportunities that we have enough time to get anything done around the house.  Of course that's not really true, but it seems like with all the hustle and bustle and more hustle of getting through a regular week/everyday, a long weekend provides such a welcome breather.

We did a pretty decent job this weekend of both Maxing and Relaxing.  We had a few peeps over for some pulled pork (14lbs worth went in tummies and doggie bags) to celebrate Mel's Birthday, Part II: Chill Edition. Sunday was mostly dedicated to sleep and recuperation, then a nice sunny Monday running through the sprinklers with Laurie and Sophia while I cleaned the garage top to bottom.  No fewer than 40 spiders lost their lives that afternoon.

Great to feel like a lot was accomplished while still getting our recharge on.

Some pics here:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Flyin Part 2

This pic makes it look like I'm wearing a toupe. It's a decent look I'm considering it...

So two weeks ago Huelan and I took a long weekend and flew down to SoCal for Jonathan's graduation from Cal St. Fullerton. Contrary to the stories I've heard, he said it was pretty easy to knock out in four years, no summer school or anything. We're super proud of him, and he even managed to lock down a job at Yamaha in the Motorsports division, just 5 miles from home!

Given the hot weather, even by OC standards, my mom prohibited Huelan from going to the ceremony. She heard that some kids and senior citizens fainted the day before, so we got nixed. So we took the morning and went to the beach and shared a milkshake at In-N-Out. Not a bad consolation.  

More pics from that weekend here: