The Eng Dynasty Visits Katsucon

By Angela

This past weekend was pretty special. Historically, for me, it has always been special this time of year—for the past 21 years, to be exact. Why? This is the time of year that Katsucon happens. This weekend was particularly special because I got to take Zelda.

The Eng Dynasty at Katsucon!

What’s Katsucon? Well, it’s an anime con. If you’re not familiar with anime cons, the basic definition is that it’s a convention-type gathering that celebrates anime, manga, video games, and Japanese culture. They are held almost on a monthly basis in the US, and Katsucon is held early in the year outside of DC.

Katsucon, however, is more than just an anime con to me. When I attended my first Katsucon—Katsucon 2—it was 1996 and I was 15 years old. Anime was this quiet, weird thing at the fringes of American culture, almost underground. Back then it was called “Japanimation,” and it was hard to access. VHS tapes with two episodes on them ran 30 bucks; films were about the same, higher if subtitled. My friend from middle school, Emily, opened this world up to me and several other friends at a sleepover when I was about 13. The series we watched was called Ranma ½, and I had never seen anything like it. Then the SciFi (now SyFy) channel began airing anime films on Saturday morning: Robot Carnival, Akira, Lily C.A.T., and a few others. I found anime absolutely breathtaking. I even remember getting amped on the Sailor Moon premiere on Saturday morning cartoons when I was 14.

Yours truly as Sailor Mars (the one furthest to the right) at Katsucon 3 in 1997.

The funny thing about anime back then was that it was so underground and so on the fringes of popular culture that it also seemed to gravitate an audience of people who were somewhat on the fringes of society as well: outcasts, loners, weirdos, losers. I can’t speak for my friends, but I definitely lump myself in with more than one of those categories. But when I went to my first anime con at 15, it was like I’d found the mother ship. A huge group of people with oddball sensibilities that loved anime? That made costumes and dressed like anime characters (cosplay)? It was like I’d landed in an alternate world, and it was one I never wanted to leave.

21 years later, and a lot has changed about anime and anime cons. Cosplay is now a profession, not a bunch of duct tape and pieced together patterns. Anime is readily available on the Internet, and if you want a DVD or Blu-Ray, entire box sets are cheaper than one VHS tape cost. Anime cons are huge. The first Katsucon I attended had less than a thousand people. The one from this past weekend had 20,000. Somewhere in between 1995 and 2017 anime took on a life form of its own, and it continues to evolve. It’s bittersweet, really. What a bunch of misfits came together to quietly celebrate is now a huge event. Today, going to a con for me is more about seeing the friends I’ve made over the years than celebrating anime. Heck, I probably couldn’t even name a popular anime right now.

Steve and I wondering what the hell all these new manga titles are.

So why was this weekend special? After the rather lengthy exposition (sorry), it’s a pretty big deal for me to say that I took Zelda to her first anime con. Matt and I went for Saturday afternoon, just to walk around, see friends, and gawk at the costumes (seriously, the stuff they make these days is impressive as hell). Zelda met some old friends, a couple of which go back to that first con in ’96. She was a little shy, but gave them all smiles. She also got to see Emily (who also still goes to anime cons), her wife, and another friend from middle school I haven’t seen in a long time but was also present at that legendary sleepover many moons ago. Plenty of people waved and smiled at her, and I stopped every Zelda-related cosplayer I saw so Zelda could get a picture with them.

Zelda with Tingle and Midna.
Zelda trying to grab Link’s bow.

At one point Zelda got a little overwhelmed, so we sat in a corner and had a snack. When we resumed, we met up with another old friend and walked around the dealer’s room together, reminiscing about the old days and how tiny the dealer’s rooms used to be. More than once I remarked I felt like a dinosaur. We left around Zelda’s dinner time, and I was sad to leave. I only see these people once a year, twice if I’m lucky. I miss them fiercely, because we not only celebrated anime as a bunch of misfits, but we now are a part of the old guard that remembers what anime was like in those pre-Internet days, before it blew up and became a part of the popular culture zeitgeist.

I’m glad I got to take Zelda, even if she won’t remember it. It meant a lot for her to be there, to meet old friends, and to experience it for a little bit. I’m hoping next year she’ll give me permission to make her a Zelda costume.

“What a Le”: An Eng Nickname Primer

By Angela

Back in June, when writing about Father’s Day, Matt mentioned he had a family tradition of developing a sort of in-family language. He’s extended this tradition to me, so now we’ve got our own in-family language. A quick (and updated) vocabulary lesson:

“Hey how much?” – It’s time to make a bottle. How many ounces?

“Are you going to boob her?” – Are you going to breastfeed?

“Here comes the sadness”- We’re about to dump water over your head in the bathtub

Are you ty-ty? – Are you tired?

Not as good as “Frogurt.”

Aside from the weird sounding questions, Matt’s got a habit of naming those nearest and dearest to him, and they tend to catch on fast. Think Sawyer from Lost, only a bit more abstract. The cat is not Gozer, she’s Kee (short for Kitty), Shrimp Toast, Puddin’Cup. The dog is rarely Torrance, she’s Boo-Boo, T-Dawg, Butterbutt. Those are just examples. In many cases, the names evolve and become offshoots of one another. And no, I do not get the cute names.

Zelda, however, does. Before she was born, Matt started calling her Z-Gram, the semi-official title for policy directives issued by Elmo Zumwalt, an American naval officer in the Vietnam War era. Several friends have heard us call her this, and one who was familiar with naval history even had a laugh about it. Our last trip back to Suffolk, her 6 year-old cousin used the term and I thought I was going to keel over from the adorable.

Little Crabcake.

For awhile we called her “La,” which was a direct reference to the sounds she used to make when she was crying: “La, La, La, La.” We also called her “Little Crabcake,” because I got her footie PJs with crabs on them. We don’t really use them anymore, though.

An early one that stuck was “Plumpo,” which eventually evolved to “Plumpy.”  Offshoots include Plum, Baby Plump, and Little Plump. I try not to use this one in mixed company too much, but one time I referred to her as Plumpy in front of my brother. He asked, “Who’s Plumpy?” and I probably turned fifty shades of red. This one is slowly getting phased out in favor of “Poopy.” I’ve got to remember not to use that one in front of anyone else!

A more recent one is “Qua-Le” and its offshoot “Wah-Le.” This sort of comes from her daycare provider. She speaks another language, so sometimes she holds out her hands for Zelda I hear her say, “Cha-Le.” I don’t know what it means, but I assume its some form of “come here.” Matt latched on to the “Le” (pronounced “lay”) part of the phrase, and started calling Zelda “Le.” He still does, but only in certain contexts. I’ve noticed he mostly uses it when she’s showing signs of being tired, and makes comments like, “Aww Le. What a Le.” Qua-Le and Wah-Le came about from one of Matt’s made-up songs that goes something like, “Qua-Le, Wah-Le, a doot-doot-doot, a deet-deet-deet.” Now, when he texts me and asks how she’s doing, it’s always “How’s that Qua-Le?”

I guess it all sounds kind of silly, but I love having our own language and making up our own songs. Sooner or later Zelda’s going to catch on, and it’s all going to change. I distinctly remember my mom calling me Stinkpot when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure I must have told her to stop at some point. Got to enjoy it while we can.

Year One

By Angela

So, here we are. One year. Just . . . Wow.

We couldn’t have a full day together—work and all—but I did get off a little early and we went for a meal at our favorite Mexican joint. Zelda ate a generous helping of refried beans and rice. The servers all sang Happy Birthday and presented her with a birthday sopapilla. It was all very low-key and fun. This weekend we’ll travel back to Suffolk to celebrate with family.

Birthday Sopapilla!

I could write about all kinds of sappy things, like what being a mother means to me, how having a daughter has changed me, and the joy of raising a tiny human. However, I think a lot of that would be a lot of pre-packaged, canned sentiment. The truth is, having a daughter HAS changed me. But not in the glossy magazine mommy-blog type way.


Behold, the list of things I do/think now that I didn’t before having a baby:

1. I sing a lot more. Every day, even. If you know me, you know how wonderful my singing ability is. Luckily Zelda doesn’t know any better.

2. Poop doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve faced projectile poop, scrubbed it off walls, witnessed ones that stretched from head to toe, and tossed out many ruined onesies.

A blowout for the ages.

3. I’m having trouble enjoying horror now. I’m an avid Stephen King fan, but for some reason I haven’t been able to read him lately. I read his most recent collection of short stories on my metro rides shortly after returning to work, and one featured a car wreck in which a number of children were killed. I haven’t been able to pick up a King book since, even books I’ve already read.

4. I miss disposable income. I also miss impulsively going to movies, concerts, and restaurants. Some days I miss it more than others. I miss naps the most, though.

5. I’m perpetually tired. I didn’t know it was possible to be this tired and survive. And this is just with one kid. 8pm is a perfectly acceptable bedtime.

Matt and Torrance at 3 AM, shortly after bringing Zelda home.

6. Early into parenthood, I remember fetching Zelda at about 2 AM. While I was nursing her, Matt said, “Why are you starting vacantly into space?” Remembering an old Rugrats episode, I answered, “Because I’ve lost control of my life.” Sometimes I think that will be my state of mind forever.

7. There is no better sound in the world than your child laughing.

8. I’m more sympathetic to children who cry in public and the mothers that have to deal with it.

9. I really wish that there was a better mechanism for pumping breastmilk. The one available now makes me feel like a cow.

10. I love being a mother and would not trade it for the world.
Here’s to many more birthdays, and many more memories.

My Valentine’s Day in 2016. it was perfect.