Saturday, May 31, 2014


Put a compass point on my house and trace a circle with a radius of 5 miles and I do not like to go outside that line.  Therefore Virginia is like a foreign country to me.  Land of Republicans, guns, drive through liquor stores and cheaper gas - I let stereotyping take me far.  Despite it's more conservative reputation, VA actually provides much more in disability services than MD.   My VA Rett friends have gotten home/car modifications and childcare in the form of nurses showing up at their doorstep (although I know funding is drying up and so these things are harder to get).  So I know I can be wrong about VA.  What gives, MD?  Plus, my most, most liberal friend does live in the heart of VA.  So maybe I'm totally wrong.

In the past week, I've been to Virginia four times.   Traversing the Beltway during rush hour is not something that I'm used to.  I'm not even really used to driving a car.  It's been a little bit out of my comfort zone.

The last time I went to VA was yesterday.  My pal, Vickey, bought her dream house and I went to get the full tour.  I mostly admired the curtains her mom made for her.  I think I might need to hire her mom to make some curtains for me.  Vickey has a toddler and the curtains in his room have blackout fabric sewn into the backing of the curtain.  It occurred to me that I could do that for Edda so she won't wake up so early in the summer.  Of course, I could have thought of it 10 years ago when I had Edda.  Or even 12 years ago when I had Vince.  I'm a little behind on my to-do list.

Above:  Charlotte, the dog, getting a post-muddy-walk bath in the brand new sink in the brand new kitchen in the brand new house.
Below: Goat eating the vegetation on a patch of forest in Vickey's community - they are using goats instead of herbicide.

Casual Meals with Edda, Vincent & Doris

Rena thinks I have been cooking meals for so long.  So, she decided to invite Jeremy's folks to have meals together over the weekend.  Too bad, we don't know that Jeremy is out of town.

Eventually, we had a curry-chicken yesterday and today we had pizza without Vincent.  The food was pretty simple but, it made time for us to talk quietly together.

May be, it should happen more often as time goes by, I think.  I like boating and fishing a lot.  But, for various reasons, these activities remain a remote dream for me, especially with closed ones.  Hopefully, I can still make up some lost time with ???

Tomorrow, I have to head back to Oak Ridge, TN and start working though Rena's elbow still requires attention.  Hopefully, she can manage herself.  I will head back to Washington DC four days later to be with Rena again during next weekend.  I will keep coming back until her elbow heals.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Edda's concert

Yesterday, I went to Edda's 4th grade choral concert.  There were perfomances during the school day for the other grades and in the evening for parents.   Edda (and I) skipped the evening performance - Edda's teacher would have had to come in during the evening (she was happy to do it and offered it kindly) - but something about being surrounded by ten thousand excited parents with iPhones and iPads aloft would have been too much for me (although maybe not, it's always hard to predict).

Anyways, during the day, I could touch base with all the staff that works with Edda everyday.  I don't go into school very often and Edda's been at the same school since kindergarden, so I like to head in when I have occasion to do so.  I asked all of them if they were working this summer and none of them are, they are all taking a well-deserved break. "Two weeks left!" - like a mantra.

Always beforehand, with these things, I fully expect to feel sad.  And I do.  But Edda's teachers and aides were all so clearly happy and excited for Edda and rushed up to me when I was walking down the hall towards the classroom. They told me that Edda was so happy all morning for the performance and that she was excited that I was coming to watch.  It's hard to feel so melancholy among other people's excitement.  So I was really that odd mix of happy and sad at the same time.  Bittersweet?  I don't like that that word starts with bitter.  Sweetbitter?  Not that either.  Someday I will find the right word.

There is something odd about a choral concert for a kid who can't talk.  There were some instrumental sections - that was Edda's part - Ms. Z helped her hold castanets and shake them with the beat and Edda was happy and pleased.  She does love a good song.

Fourth grade!  Time goes by so quickly.  I remember when Edda was little like this guy (he's being held by one of Edda's former teachers):

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Right after Dave left, Denise (au pair #3) came to visit us for a few days.  Ah, Denise! It was so nice to see her.  We went to the zoo, a yoga class, got our nails done and a few lunches.  What would I do without the kind, caring people who take care of Edda? I would stress out a lot more.  I enjoy being a stand-in mom to these girls.  Denise is starting the process of getting a motorcycle licence.  I told Denise sternly to not get a motorcycle.  It's the motherly thing to do.  I think she might have listened.  Maybe not, I can only try.

A few photos from the zoo.  Memorial Day at the National Zoo.  It was hot.  The parking lot was full and cars were being directed away - but with Edda we managed a spot right near the front entrance.

Running through the cooling sprinklers.

Hello prairie dog!

Jeremy and Edda watching the sea lion (?) otter (?) walrus (?) manatee (?).  I dunno.  Oh!  And we did see the baby panda.  He was a small bundle of fur high up in a tree.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I'm a bit overextended these days.  Lots of stuff going on (nothing bad, all good) - but I just have to keep it from overwhelming me.  I have to remember to take care of myself first.  You know, oxygen mask on yourself and then the people around you. Which, for me, means to get more sleep.  Hopefully starting tonight.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dave: the smartest guy in the world.

Dave, our good pal from grad school, came all the way from San Diego to visit us.  He was in town for a conference on Wed-Friday and spent a good part of the weekend with us.  Dave is not only the smartest guy I know (although I did see him struggle to figure out the tip on the dinner bill.  no matter.  he's still the smartest guy ever.), but he's also one of the funniest.  We dug up 20 year old jokes and laughed and laughed.

Dave went with us on our first date (this was wayyy before anyone had cell phones).  Our class at Caltech had a tradition of going out to cheap second-run movies on Thursday nights.  We had a friend who was trying to set Jeremy and me up, so he sent word around that on this one particular Thursday night, no one was to show up at the meeting place - in that way, Jeremy and I would head to the movie alone.  Everyone got the message - except Dave.  So he was there on our first date.

It was a beautful weekend for ice cream and a walk.

And a neighborly fire pit.

Complete with sparklers.

The next morning, Dave showed us his famous Grandma Devine's pancake recipe.  Vince modified it by pouring it over a strip of bacon.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Mom had surgery on her broken elbow today.  Mom broke her arm less than 48 hours into their vacation to Turkey.  She also managed to knock loose her two front teeth.  After a stop in the ER in Istanbul, Mom and Dad both headed back to DC.

So now there are screws or plates or braces in her elbow.  I brought some flowers, ice cream and a SpongeBob balloon.  Everything is better with a little ice cream.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Black tie.

My advisor from Caltech, Frances Arnold, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame last night at the USPTO.  When she first posted about the honor on Facebook a few months ago, I promptly said that I would go because the ceremony was in the lobby of my office building.  I thought it was going to be an afternoon ceremony with cookies.  I haven't been to the physical office in over eight months.  I could go in, go to the ceremony and pick up a ream of paper and a few boxes of toner.  Then three weeks ago, I found out that it was going to be a black tie affair.  Yipes.  Engineers and black tie events are not really suppose to overlap.

Jeremy rented a tux from Men's Wearhouse.  I rented a dress from Rent the Runway.  It was a lot of fun - we rode the Metro, showed off a little at Jeremy's office (where we told everyone we were going to prom) and posed for pictures in Farragut Square.

We look pretty good, huh?

I enjoyed the ceremony more than I thought I would.  I met a number of Frances's family and friends and they were an interesting bunch.  It turns out that France's older brother was working at AMD when Jeremy joined in 1997 and was Jeremy's boss's boss for a few months.

I sat next to Edith Flanigen - she invented the field of zeolites at Union Carbide.  She started working there in 1950s.  Doesn't the name Union Carbide just conjure up a company full of white, male scientists?  I asked her if it was hard being a woman chemist at Union Carbide in the 50s and she simply said, no that she didn't think it was that hard.    She said that once she was asked to make coffee and she just looked at the man and said, "I don't do that." and that was it.  Go, Edith.

Next to Edith at our table was Helen Free.  She invented this little thing called glucose test strips.  She also had six children.

At the end of the evening, they introduced all the past inductees.  They included the people who invented the MRI, Post-It notes and implantable defibrillator.  I know it's a little dorky, but it was like being at the nerd prom, the Oscars of engineering.  I was swooning a little bit.  Who knew all these people could be in one room at the same time!  With me!

Finally, a tricky trick - some of these photos are taken with the fancy camera, some are taken with a phone.  Can you tell which one is which?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

School orchestra performance.

Vince's school orchestra performance of the Pink Panther.  He's the forehead right to the left of the conductor.  He put a lot of gel in his hair, if that helps.

And the most popular song of the year:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Double camping weekend.

Not only was Vince gone camping this weekend, Jeremy was too!  He went with his friend, Ben.  Jeremy ate a lot better than Vince - listen to this:  for dinner, Jeremy had rockfish coated with blue corn meal fried in bacon fat, cous cous and a green salad and for breakfast the next day, he had a salmon and asapargus omlet.  Jeremy certainly ate better while camping than I did at home.

Vince has a funny way of packing for a camping trip.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A village.

So many people are part of Edda's day.  Many of them, I don't even know their names.   These folks are Edda's afternoon bus driver and aide.  Thursday was the last day for them to drive Edda home.  The powers that be assigned them to another route (strangely 3-4 weeks before the end of the school year).  Thank you for driving Edda home everyday!

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Vince is "grubmaster" for his scout campout this weekend.  Means he's in charge of procuring the food for about 5 boys: two breakfasts, one lunch and one dinner.

Here's the list.  Do you see the bacon?  Oh yes, and the Oreos!!!

Be still my organic, whole wheat, free-range, cage-free, artisanal and quinoa loving heart.  We have: Wonder bread, instant ramen cup-o-noodles, Campbell's double noodle chicken soup, and the crazy peanut butter with the jelly in one striped jar.  Buried underneath all this classic processed food goodness are the unforgettable Kraft American cheese slices.  It's going to be a great culinary weekend.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Catching up.

Catching up with the things I've put off all term.  I hand sewed Vince's merit badges on his scout sash.  I find hand sewing a form of meditation.  If I had more time, I'd pick up needlework as a hobby.  I also spent some time looking for a marriage equality merit badge online - no luck.  Vince is going to advance in rank tonight, to Tenderfoot.  Which means that I'll have to rip off a patch I just sewed on to put the new one on.  That's how much I like sewing patches onto cloth.

Jeremy bought a new back up hard drive for the household IT infrastructure.  He was a sweetie and bought the DeskStar which is the descendant of the hard drive I used to make at IBM in the late 90s. Ah, the fond memories of a well-running manufacturing line.  I hope to someday make something again.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sundays on the C&O

Most Sunday mornings at sunrise, you can find me on the C & O canal getting ready to do my weekend run.  The trail is pretty empty, as you'd expect - execpt for about 25-30 Korean runners.  For a long time I wondered why Koreans liked running at 6 am on Sundays.

Then, one weekend, I saw this sign:

A cute little aid station!

So now the mystery was answered.  A Korean running club.  A few months passed and I kept waving happily to my early morning running pals.  Then, one morning, near my parked car, I saw a whole table full of Korean delicacies.  A pot of rice, dumplings, and who knows what else.  I could see the steam rising from the food.

Then I became intensely interested in wondering if I could pass myself off as a member of the Korean Marathon Club.  I didn't take any of the food - but every few weeks, the food would magically appear again in the parking lot and I would look longingly at it as I drove away.

This weekend, I ran into a guy setting up the little aid station.  Here's Harrison, the president of the Korean Marathon Club.  Finisher of 53 marathons and on his morning 20 mile trail run.  He's made me an honorary member of the club.  I get to eat all the goodies!  I'm so excited.  The little aid station has ice cold water, gatorade and cute little Korean granola bars.  I missed the big buffet table this past Sunday, but I'll be on the lookout for it.  I have to text Harrison as I want to pay dues, but the website, of course, is all in Korean.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day y'all.  Jeremy made me cinnamon buns.  Just follow the recipe in the Joy of Cooking and everyone will be amazed.  I prefer the one with nuts - I'm not a fan of frosting.  But some people in the family are allergic to nuts, so they were limited to the ones with only frosting.  I'm sure they were disappointed.

Vince holding my unnaturally colored flowers:

Every once in a while, you get a photo of Edda that just, kind of, maybe, shows a glimpse of what she would look like without Rett Syndrome.  You gotta make sure there is no arm brace, no wheelchair, no bib and no one really holding her.  I can't decide if this is one of them.  She's still clenching her teeth a little tightly, but it's close.  She looks like such a grown-up!

Bette's birthday always coincides with Mother's Day.  So we sung her the birthday song and gave her a lot of soap/bath products.

Since it was Mother's Day, we insisted that the children sit at the table.  Usually, they sit at the island or drift in and out during the meal.  It's a tight squeeze, but we did it.

Cinnamon buns demolished!

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Interesting Conversation @ Bojo's

Bojo is a local fast food restaurant.  One day, I ordered a senior coffee with two pieces of fried chickens and sat there enjoying my meal and browsing the internet.  There was a high school girl working there part time also having her meal there.  Evidently, Bojo offers free meals for their workers.  She had a lot on her plate, one could imagine.

The restaurant is very clean and has a lot of spaces which I enjoy the most, besides their fast food.  Since just two of us there and at odd hours (3:00 PM in the afternoon), she looked at me, a yellow-skinned, probably well-educated (?) old fellow. and guessing I work at Y12 complex (a part of Oak Ridge National Lab). We started to strike a conversation which, eventually, lasted more than 30 minutes.

Surprisingly, we covered a lot of topics.  Among many other things, we covered how to handle money, how to accumulate wealth for future growth, how to mange personal and co-worker's relationships, how to get into higher education, even how to pick future partner.  She is about 14 or 15.  And I was surprised she is interested in all these things early on, especially at her age.  One thing for sure, she is not coming from well-to-do middle-middle class family or above because those kids probably just bury themselves on iPhone, i..., etc.  They probably don't bother to work at minimum wage level.  Or just working in order to have better resume to get into some elite colleges.  I am sure she isn't going out to save the World but herself.  This makes her even more sweeter, I think.

Since I have no body voluntarily ask me about all these things almost forever, I didn't hold back to tell her all my point of views and experience.  But, of course, I did emphasize to her several times that all I said was just based on experience.  Some of them, may be entirely off the mark, even they are categorical wrong.

With my humble background carried an empty stomach all the time as a kid as well as with Rena's experience as a youngster attending one-classroom school, I hope our experience and knowledge can help to boost her upward mobility a bit.

After our conversation, she said thanks.  Sitting here at different time and place, I wish her all the best, whole heartily.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pulled pork.

Vince hosted his first dinner party tonight.  He needed to plan and cook a meal for one of his scouting badges and he picked tonight to pull it off.  He wanted to make pulled pork BBQ sandwiches.  He cooked pork in the slow cooker all day.  Then he made coleslaw with bacon for a side.  There was also brussel sprouts, roasted carrots and a salad.

Vince invited Seth and Christine (who are living in our basement during their home remodel).  We talked about all our junior high experiences.

Busy Mom, Especially This Year

Well, Mom and I are going to Turkey for a two-week land tour soon.  In June, she is going to Europe with her relatives to have a 12-day tours.  In August, we are going to have a family re-union in Pacific Northwest for 2 weeks (can't wait & look forward to it).  Then, she is planning a Russia trip with her big brother and sister.  During Thanksgiving and X'mas time, I guess she will be busy with her grand kids too.

We are also planning a trip to Machu Picchu, Peru in January or February time frame.

Besides her gardening work and a planned addition to our U Street (with her WA PE stamp, she got the BUILDING PERMITS fairly quick), I guess she is pretty busy with her other stuffs and that is good.

There are a lot of positions still available in my place and, I have no doubt, she could help us a lot.  But I discourage her to get into the work force again.  I believe, there is no sense for us to have two incomes once more. With no one notices the baton, any non-short-term investment return is virtually nil to us.  Instead, to enjoy today is the best.  It is even more self-evident, in light of one of our good friends has been diagnosed with cancer recently, that every one can only visit this World once, not twice.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Classes are over.

Classes are over!  After the last final, my nursing class went to a nearby restaurant to celebrate.  Here is a photo with me actually in it.  I handed over huge-ass camera to a waitress and she took the photo with everyone in it.  I'm posting the out-take, which I always like better than the "regular" one.

I love the feeling that you get when you are done with the last final.  The feeling of complete done-ness.  You never really get that as a grown-up that often.  As a grown-up, things are never done.  The house is never completely clean, there is always something lingering at work, the kids always need something.  But school?  School can be done done done.  And then you can celebrate and have a beer in the bright sunlight.

I took about 300 photos at this party.  It was the strangest thing - everyone, everyone clamored to have their photos taken.  This is so not my generation.  So many of my like-aged friends do not want to pose, do not want to acknowledge the camera.  I have cultivated my camera skills to be stealthy.  To not bother people as they do their thing.  I'm very good at taking photos on the sly.

The selfie / Facebook generation cannot resist having photo after photo taken of them.  I would take 20-30 photos of a single person and they would pose in all the possible pose-able positions.  Smiling, smirking, laughing!  I have not had an easier time getting 300 photos of any set of people.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Vince mowing the lawn.

He started drinking coffee too.  And just hanging out with his pals in Town Center without grown-ups and just letting us know where he is with a text.  When did this happen?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Evening walk

The weather was perfect for an evening dog walk.  Jeremy and I don't often do dog walks together after dinner.  The light changes so quickly at sunset.  So much spring goodness.

Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere at U Street

Since Mom went back in early April, she has been busying on her garden, with a lot of veggies and flowers planted.  She took several pictures and asks me to publish on our family blog.  They are looking very nice and, sorry to say, I miss them all.

Actually, flowers there are much prettier due to rich soil and fine weather.  Of course, Rena's love of working on top of dirt is part of it.  She is typically a farmer.  I am more like a city boy.  One just looks at her hands that would tell all the stories.  Her hands are just like sand paper :)

Monday, May 5, 2014


Patti owns a beautiful house in Chincoteague, VA and invited a bunch of neighborhood moms for a weekend at the beach.  Patti's kids are a bit older than mine.  Her son, Bryson, is the youngest of 4 kids.  Bryson is good friends with Vince, that's how I know Patti.  I have seen most of these women at parties at Patti's house, but I've never had the chance to really sit down and chat.

I learned a lot of neighborhood gossip and history. The weather was glorious.  And, as Patti will be the first to admit, the drive was a little bit long - 3.5 hours each way.   I drove 7 hours for less than 24 at the beach house which was hard for me to do, because I don't really like to drive.  But I got to know some women in the neighborhood better.

I can't believe I'm going to write the next sentence.  I had a final this morning at 10 am and I blew off studying this whole weekend to go to the beach.  I have never walked into a final any less prepared.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was my weekend run at sunrise at the nearby National Wildlife Refuge.  While everyone else was sleeping, I was running and watching the sunrise and seeing all the beautiful birds!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Beautiful but Contaminated Lake

The lake in front of my apartment is really tranquil and beautiful.  Lot of people are fishing and boating there. But, there are signs in the park to tell people not to eat fish caught there.  I guess it is beautiful but contaminated too.  Just too bad.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Second semester ending.

The term is ending.  Finals are next week and after the last class this week, there was an impromptu game of soccer with my classmates.  These kids (I am really now old enough to be their mother at a respectable age - no teenage motherhood necessary anymore) are my friends and they keep me young at heart.  I'm so lucky to be able to go to school a second time and really, really enjoy it this time.  I loved my time at MIT and I grew up so much there.  There, in the heart of Cambridge, I was stridently ambitious. But there was always this underlying nervousness and anxiety about what I was going to do with my life and if I was going to fulfill whatever promise I thought I had.

This time around, 20 years later, there is none of that anxiety, none of that nervousness.  I just am who I am, I'm not trying to prove anything.  I try and take pleasure in learning all the new material and meeting new people.   I'm going to love being a nurse, I think it's the right mix of hands-on work, science/medicine/chemistry and investing of emotional energy.  If my classmates are any indication, I'm going to really enjoy being with my colleagues.  I still don't know what I'm going to do with my life and I still wonder if I'm going to fulfill whatever promise I think I have, but it all seems so much less important these days.

An Interesting Observation by a Stranger

Last weekend, I pulled my car into a local garage for A/C maintenance.  Sitting in the customer's waiting room with me was an Afro-American man in his 50s.  Just two of us there for a long while.

Then, he started to tell me that the world isn't fair.  A lot of homeless people are neglected and their social assistance budgets have been cut dramatically.  In light of most homeless people have mental problems, that make them much more miserable and venerable too.  A lot of people, he said, on the surface, would like to help the poor.  But, actually, they make their careers out of poor people.  More poor people is better for them.  Perpetual poor is the best.

Then he began to tell me about his observation on the gun violence in our junior high and high schools.  He said once a kid starts some problems which most kids do. No spanking is allowed.  No other disciplinary actions can be taken and, above all, no one would like to spend the time to deal with the situations. Therefore, using medicine (drugs) to calm down problem kids is our common practice.  It is the easiest and least controversial way to deal with problems.  And it works instantaneously.  When those kids are young, it is okay.  But, when they grow up, by nature of growing-up, they refuse to take medicine any more.  Besides, no one can tell us for sure, what are the long effects of taking those medicines.  Then the withdraw symptoms affect them profoundly. Therefore, we see all those tragedies happened in our schools.

He thinks that physical punishment is better than medicines so long as it doesn't go too far.  Moderate spanking itself won't have lasting effects but medicine will, he argued.

Well, I think it is pretty interesting observation though I am far from 100% agreeing with him.  But, nevertheless, it is quite interesting.