Sunday, August 17, 2014


It's now the late middle of August, and so far this month has been awesome.  Instead of cheaping out and doing another bullet-point post, I am going to try and do a few honest ones all in one mega-post.  To me, it's better than trying to do a bunch of separate posts because then the blog timeline gets all screwed up and I get vertigo.  Since a lot has happened and I have a lot to share, here's a table of contents so that you can skip to relevant sections and find your way back later should you need to grab a beverage (or do some work) and come back later:

1. Anh's birthday ribs and blue cake
2. Toscanini quick visit
3. Lake Tahoe family trip
4. Sir Paul McCartney closes down Candlestick
5. Vansen walking all over the place
6. Rundown of Vansen's first words

1. Anh's birthday ribs and blue cake

Anh's birthday is July 2, but since he and Patty were off gallivanting in southern Europe around that time, on the second honeymoon (???), we finally got together sometime in late July (or was it early Aug?  kind of a blur).  35!  I have a little brother who is 35 years old, jeez.  Liz and Huelan made a chocolate cake with Dodger Blue-ish icing, and I smoked a few racks of ribs.  Vansen's even got his first taste of baby backs, which you can see had him gnawing at the bone for more.

2. Toscanini quick visit

Shortly after that, Gerardo and Loni stopped by on their way down from Seattle with their kids Francisco and Marco.  Fun loving kids!  Loni was outstanding with all the kids and Huelan was sorry to see them leave after spending just one night.  Vansen got along great with Francisco, who was sport enough to let Vansen tackle him repeatedly.  A little Zachary's pizza, and the kids went to bed while Gerardo and I partook ofa few bourbon nightcaps on the deck.

Liz missed them because on Friday night, she got on a flight to Vegas right after work for Vern's bachelorette party.  So a great weekend was had by all.

More Toscanini Visit Pics

3. Lake Tahoe family trip

                                                   (Photo credit: Sophia Lee)

For more than three decades, Liz's family has spent some portion of their summer in the same neighborhood in North Lake Tahoe called Agate Bay.  It's a short walk from the lake, a community pool, and pee-wee golf.

We set up the trip in a kind of unusual way.  We had the house from Saturday to Saturday, and since Liz was in Vegas for the first weekend and I had both kids, Laurie and Sophia picked up Huelan on Saturday morning for the trip, which she was super excited about and helped me out tremendously.  Liz came back on Sunday evening and she packed up her gear that night so that she and Vansen could hit the road Monday morning.  I finally joined them Wednesday morning.

I did have Vansen for one day & night when it was night just us boys. We hit up Little Farm in Berkeley and went for some soft tofu at PyongChang. The kid can eat, and I'll not talking about the goats. 

So, if you're doing the math, I had two nights all alone in the house all by myself.  This is not a common occurrence.  So what was I going to do?  The possibilities were endless.  Play golf?  Pub crawl? Projects around the house?  Nothing nearly so exciting- I worked a few extra hours since I was going to be gone the rest of the week, did some laundry and packed, and watched movie on Netflix.  Two things I did that I am kind of proud of- checked out a new "restaurant" and finally stopped in at the bar at the bottom of the hill, Monaghan's on the Hill, which has outstanding happy-hour specials and was hoppin at 4:30 on a Tuesday.  And it's within stumbling distance (if you want to burn about 1500 calories stumbling up the hill).

The reason I put quotes around "restaurant" is because it's more of a storefront.  Not fast food, they make everything to order.  But everything they make is fried.  Here's one picture of the menu and another of the clientele.

The Chinese proprietors spoke barely enough English to take my order.  Since everything is fried to order, there's a 15min-or-so wait.  There entire time that I was there, every customer who came in was black.  So here's a serious question- based on those two observations, does it make me racist to believe that this is going to be the best fried catfish this side of NOLA?  Or does it just make me prejudiced?  Or does it make me racist to think that that might make me racist?  Keep in mind that the best seafood I've had in NOLA was at a fish market run by Vietnamese whose clientele was almost all black.  I'll suffer your judgement in the comments section. My verdict on the food: top notch, if you're looking for deep fried foods with a slice of bread and a side of fried rice.  I had the catfish and wings, though I heard a lot of people order the prawns and I love oysters, so I might have to make another visit before I submit my judge's card.

Other than those brief variances from the usual, it was pretty tame.  I watched World War Z and finished the Cosmos series, neither of which Liz would be down to watch with me for different reasons.

Without Liz and the kids home, it felt the weirdest after dinner.  The weeknight program we've developed (I decline to say routine, which has a connotation of boring, or rote) is effective and efficient, and we rarely deviate from it more than 15 minutes.  Being in the house, but not implementing the program, was a little surreal.  Like the last day on the playa without the man- you kind of lose your bearings and don't really know where you are or what time it is.  The markers that indicate the night progressing all disappeared and I was left kind of floating untethered through the evening until I finally got into bed (too late) in an eerily quiet house. No one to clean up after, no one check on, no one tuck in.  Like people who live near Niagra Falls, the constant background noise and activity becomes second nature and it's totally internalized.  Without it, you just don't feel like yourself.

Back to the Tahoe trip.  The first few days they were there, they had to endure some freaky thunderstorms and rain.  Some parts of the Sierras saw torrents of rain and hail, so I guess they could have had it worse. But was it was, they were confined to the house for almost two solid days.  By the time I got there, the weather, though humid still, was really nice- perfect for horseshoe tossing in the yard, BBQing (I probably ate seven hot dogs, the large Costco ones), swimming, and of course pee-wee golf.  Huelan loved all the activities.  At the community pool, they have been doing the same kids games for decades.  The days we went were Bingo and something called the Penny Dive.  During the Penny Dive, the staff throws hundreds of pennies into the pool and the kids dive down to retrieve them.  Huelan calls it the Coin Festival. There are a few special coins, ones with holes drilled in them, that can be exchanged for an ice cream sundae at the snack bar.  Oh man, Huelan talked about that for days leading up to the Coin Festival.  Sadly, she didn't get a special coin, but she did manage to collect 23 pennies (which they kindly exchanged for a quarter), and, in a move that surprised no one, Grandma bought her a treat from the snack bar.

Here are a few thoughts on Little Kids and Money.  Little Kids don't know jack about Money.  Not that we're trying to teach her to be frugal (yet), just what the different coins mean and how many of these make up one of those.  Case in point- the arcade at the pee-wee golf course (growing up, we called it miniature golf, but I'll make this concession).  Her favorite game was the Candy Crane, which advertises that you can "Play Til You Win."  Which means you pay TWO QUARTERS, and you get to send the claw over to grab some candy, like so:

So for a half  of a dollar, she gets one mini-pack of Starburst (which consists of two pieces).  One time she "really won" and got a mini-pack of skittles and a roll of Sweeties.  Jackpot! We put five bucks in that machine and ended up with a handful of candy left over from last Halloween.  But she loved it, so what are you gonna do?  There was only one other "game" that came close to the Candy Crane in her heart.  I say "game" because it was really just the array of dispensers that spit out Chinese-made junk toys in little hard-shell plastic bubbles.  But, she'd put her (my) quarters in, crank that little silver dial, and I'll-be-darned if she didn't win every single time.  Can't argue with success.  Or that triumphant smile of hers.

Pics from Late July and Tahoe- I'll be adding some more as soon as I get them tidied up.

4. Sir Paul McCartney closes down Candlestick
I'll finish the remaining chapters of this mega-post later this week, but for now here is a teaser pic of from the concert and a Slo-Mo video of Vansen walking:

Ok I'm back, and I’m picking up the Paul McCartney thread.  Many people do not know that I really love the Beatles.  As a teen, I had most of their records and would play them on a plastic Aiwa stereo with little, tinny speakers.  Those records, along with a near-complete Led Zeppelin collection, melted in the garage shortly after I left for Cal. But long before all that vinyl went Dali, those tracks carved deep grooves in my musical identity.  

Robin Williams described Beatles music as, "Part of our genetic material." My dad, whose English was extremely limited when I was young, actually could approximate quite a few Beatles lyrics he heard in Viet Nam. Hearing him sing Besame Mucho, an early Beatles cover, was just awesome, and it still echos in my head occasionally now.

When Liz and I met, I was rocking this leather Beatles wallet.  It was vintage-y to begin with, but I had been tucking it in my back pocket for probably ten years, so it was well-broken in. This was the pic on it:

It was a billfold, and the half of it that faced the outside of the pocket was so worn that Ringo and Paul's faces were just about erased.  I had used superglue on it at least a dozen times at the seams, but it finally gave up the ghost probably about six years ago.

I'm not a superfan- the kind that collect memorabilia and knows every tour stop, but the music just has a place in my heart. And So after having missed Paul last year at Outside Lands (I didn't even know he was playing), I was determined to go to this concert at Candlestick.  If either he or I was to die without me hearing and feeling those songs come out of his mouth and off his guitar live, I would consider that a great heartbreak. Bucketlist kind of stuff.

And I am glad to say that the show did not disappoint.  Even though I hear that he played the same set list as most of the other venues on this tour, even told many of the same jokes, that makes not one iota of difference.  Even though getting in and out of Candlestick was an epic cluster, I'd happily pay to do it again this weekend if I could.

Today is Monday, the concert was last Thursday.  I'm still kind of kind of floating on air, and that's no small feat.  I've been watching YouTube clips of the concert for days, and am actually watching footage from the entire Tokyo concert as I write this.  It's actually kind of nice that the setlist doesn't vary much because watching this vid takes me right back.  And I could use the memory nudge because I don't quite remember all of the discrete moments, but I do remember the big ones, and I definitely recall the excitement and near-euphoria,.  Also, it was the tightest Liz and I had hugged and danced and shouted lyrics in a long time (I smuggled in a liter box of wine).  We danced to a Beatles song the first time we were introduced as a married couple.  

It was a rockin, boppin, joyous concert, and though the old man's voice is showing some age, he can still rock that guitar and piano (and crowd) like a Beatle should, for nearly three hours. 72 years young! “When you've got a job to do, you got to do it well….” 

Here's her standing on the grass at Candlestick, cheering on the beginning of Hey Jude:

Taking another break now- will be back to tell you all about Vansen walking and climbing all over like he owns the place.

5.  Vansen gettin to steppin

The difference between him in this vid vs. the Slo-Mo vid higher up the post is significant, and they're only three days apart.  He's discovered that he likes being bipedal and he's not going back. Kids learning to walk look a lot like orangutans- with a lot of side to side sway (swag?) and wobbles. This vid documents his personal record (at the time) for upright distance, and he even throws in a little change of direction for style.  Points deducted for bumper-carring off the door, but he covered it up well.  

There's basically no going back from here.  We've been slowly raising things off the floor that we don't want him to get into, but now there's no place left for us to keep stuff. He's into all of the top drawers, and it didn't take him very long to figure out that he can push stuff around the house and stand on it in order to increase his reach.

He even discovered that instead of being put down for a nap against his will, he can just crawl down from my lap and stroll out of the room. We are officially In For It.

6. Rundown of Vansen's first words

He's been talking for a while now.  If memory serves us, we don't think he's quite as talkative as Huelan was at his age, which is pretty common for boys. Besides, Huelan is a chatterbox and we can't have two of those or we'd go nuts.  

We think his first word, officially, was, "Uh-oh."  And he used it properly- every time he'd drop something off of his highchair tray, it was, "Uh-oh," and a laugh.  He'd see us drop something, and it was, "Uh-oh."  This went on for weeks, before his second word, which was, "Da-Da."  He definitely called me Da-Da, but then that kind of went away, and he started calling everyone Ma-Ma.  We actually surmised that Ma-Ma wasn't a person, but rather it's what he says when he wants to get picked up.

Now, his favorite word is, "More," as in More Food.

This is also a gem:

I know that it's impossible to decipher the syllable soup that parents have with their kids, but let me assure you, he's saying, "Cheers."  He's 1/4 Irish.  We're so proud.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer Catchup

In the interest of catching up, here are a few bullet points from the last few weeks:

  • Greaves Family Reunion.  Liz's cousin Andrew organized a family reunion for the Greaves side (Liz's Mom's mom was a Greaves, who married a Sullivan.  The generation of Greaves that started this part of the family tree all females, so their names all changed as they married and what not, and there aren't actually a ton of Greaves left.).  84 people showed up to the Aguilar compound and we had a blast.  Here's the family group pic, courtesy of Eva (not pictured). That's about four generations worth.

  • The next weekend, we got the immediate family together again for Sophia'ls birthday down at Tom and Adrienne's place in sunny San Jose.  Sweet 16!!!  Swimming, tons of food, games, and family all made for a super birthday party.  Vansen's second time in a swimming pool (the first was last weekend at the reunion). I forgot my camera that day, but Eva took some pics that you can see here
  • This weekend is another whirlwind- we're headed up to Lake Tahoe (in stages, I'll explain later) for a week!  I'll catch up again after we're back.