Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Flashback Friday - Superhero Style

Thursday, June 30, 2011 0

So here are all five of the Cruz kids along with a neighborhood friend.  From left to right is Sharold Guay, Darby, Lee, Alan, Beanie and yours truly.  This is while we were living in the Hewitt Farms Navy Housing off of Little Creek Road in Norfolk, Virginia.  My best guess is 1976.

In Beanie's hot little hands are two toys - action figures of Captain America and Thor.  Not really action figures because you couldn't move any of their appendages.  More like small statues.  Still a lot of fun back then though.  

Those heroes were popular with us way back when and they're still popular today.  CJ and I try to watch all of the new superhero movies.  Two big thumbs up for the latest X-men movie.  It's very cool that CJ and I get to enjoy some of the same things that I liked when I was his age.

By the way, we don't have a rug hanging on the wall in our house.  Have a "super" Independence Day.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Miami Vacation - Part 1

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 1
For me, a vacation ending is akin to having to eat a huge casserole of okra, popping a massive zit in the hyper-sensitive nose/upper lip area or running into a sliding glass door in front of a large group of people.  So no surprise that I'm writing this in a slightly depressed post-vacation stupor.  But like the great Dr. Seuss said, "Don't cry because it's over...smile because it happened."  Lots to smile about over the last couple of days with my brothers and sister and their kids while vacationing in southern Florida.

Before I forget, all you military folks need to check out the Armed Forces Vacation Club at www.afvclub.com.  We used them for this vacation and it was simply awesome.  We stayed in a really nice vacation resort in Weston, Florida (near Fort Lauderdale).  Can't beat the price.  One unit was about 1500 square feet, two bedrooms, two kitchens, two living rooms and two bathrooms.  For a whole week, the unit cost $350.  We reserved two units for about a total of 3000 square feet, 4 bedrooms and room to sleep 16.  The Armed Forces Vacation Club has locations all over the world.  Check it out.  We're definitely going to use them again.

Without further ado, the summer antics of the Cruz family:

The pose at Fort Lauderdale beach.  This is right before my sister Darby saw a shark.  She had everyone hopping out of the water.  We even warned the lifeguard who proceeded to tell us that big tarpon like to cruise around the area and people sometimes confuse them for sharks.  I don't care what the local experts say, if my sister says she saw a shark, then it was a dang shark.  Fortunately, we didn't need to speed dial Roy Scheider or Richard Dreyfuss for their great white expertise.  No limbs were lost that day.  We did see a couple of brown butt whales though.

There are some fishing fools in my family.  Guilty!  Any good Cruz vacation will contain massive amounts of ripping lips of some largemouth bass.  Lee, we missed you bro.

My nieces have definitely caught the fishing bug.  That's Ariel on the left.  Or Ning Ning.  Or Ning the Merciless.  Or Ariel Assault.  Jena is on the right showing off the first catch of the trip.  Here's how much they love fishing.  They were getting up at zero dark thirty with me on most mornings to go fishing.  And were happy to do so.  I had a ball with them.  You can't put a price on the fish catching smile.  I was elated that they out-fished me on that day.

Jena showing off the big catch of the day.  Nice.  Notice her sporting the Bass Pro Shops gear.  Like I said, she loves fishing.

I caught this Mayan Cichlid on a spinnerbait.  These guys love nightcrawlers too.  Jena and Ariel were catching these guys all week long.

I caught this bass on a topwater Hula Popper.  Love the topwater.  I was disappointed that we didn't catch any Peacock Bass during the trip.  My brother Lee and I have vowed to take a trip to the Amazon to catch Peacock Bass.  Lock it in.  Championship.

Umm.  One morning, we had a visitor while fishing.  He didn't get too close but it's kinda spooky that the gators are out there.  Goes to show you how much the girls love fishing.  They still wanted to go after seeing this guy.  I won't even mention the snake.  No limbs lost this day either.

A nice bass caught by the fish whisperer.

One of my fears is that one day, I'll end up on the website, "People of Walmart."  Actually, I ain't skurd.  I love me some Wally World.  They've got live nightcrawler worms in the fishing section.  It would've been a different fishing experience for the girls without this great bait.   I'm feeling slightly more than redneck-ish because we hit Walmart three days in a row.  Notice the huge Extreme Big Gulp soda mug.  We used that thing as a worm cooler for our fishing.  Worked like a champ, although I highly recommend washing the thing before drinking out of it after a fishing trip.

Here's proof that we did other stuff besides fishing.  Nice picture.  The water was incredible at Fort Lauderdale.  We were thinking about heading to South Beach but decided against it in part because I forgot to pack my banana hammock.

Enjoying the beach with the boys.  It's moments like this that make the sand up the crack and the uncontrollable beach water nasal drip bearable. 

It's Super Ceej!

The pool at the resort was ginormous.  Very friendly hospitality crew too.  They'd go around handing out free popsicles for  the kids, had Wii games going on, bingo, water volleyball and other activities.  The most fun had in the pool though was the Cruz clan playing "Water Ninja." 

Jake first learned to swim in Miami from his Latin swim instructor that kept calling him Yacob.  Yacob seemed to have forgotten all of his swimming lessons while we were in Korea.  Fortunately, his aquatic skills have recently returned.  

CJ sporting the slicked back look.

The pool even had this nice waterfall.  Waterfalls are good for two things - jumping over in a barrel and serving as background for the pose.


Rachel Ray hit this empanada place for one of her shows.  We love it.

Some of the Cruz girls getting ready to chow down on some 'nadas.  

Only thing wrong with this picture is it needs about twice as much of the green chimichurri stuff.  We hit those empanadas, and we hit them hard.

Jake and Joel showing some cousin love.

I hadn't had this caprese pizza in years.  This is my favorite pizza in the world.  And yes, taking pictures of food is a Filipino thing - just like the rice cooker in the kitchen and the framed picture of the Last Supper hanging in the dining room of your Filipino friend's house.

We're not enjoying this food at all.

Eating together is such a happy event when the family gets together.

Jake lost one of his front teeth just days prior to this picture.  During the vacation, he lost the other front tooth.  He turned into a Jake-O-Lantern!

Alan, Danita, Jena and Joel - the Suffolk Cruz's.

Carol living on the wild side!  Don't do it!

That'll leave a mark.

The Honky Tonk Cruzers at the Riverfront in Fort Lauderdale.

Jake chilling with Uncle Awesome.


I photo-shopped some of the bird poop out of this picture.  Seemed like the right thing to do for my lovely bride.


Before this picture, I took Alan and Brandon to the Bass Pro Shop and Tate's Comic Shop as a diversionary tactic so Carol, Danita and Darby could set up for the surprise graduation party.  This picture captures us springing the surprise.  Darby even had the graduation theme music cued up.  Alan recently finished his degree from Liberty University and Brandon graduated from High School a few weeks ago.  

Congrats to Alan and Brandon!  Brandon will be joining the Army Reserve soon.  Boot camp!  That's Alan doing his Rodney Dangerfield "Back to School" impersonation.



Speaking of Rodney Dangerfield, he didn't get any respect but this pork shoulder surely did.   My brother Beanie cooked up this mouth watering lechon.  Amazingly, it was fat free.

To further escalate our pork intake for the evening, Beanie also made some delicious pork chops, complete with chorizo.  Add in some plantains, rice and beans for the south Florida flair and you've got a heck of a meal.

Gotta have a mojito while in Miami.  Darb says the steak sandwich at the Biltmore Hotel is incredible.
Well, since it's getting late and I haven't even mentioned Taboo, Zaboomafoo, Four Eyes, the other fishing expedition, the deck hand, Rick Flair and some other juicy morsels, I need to say, to be continued...

Hope you're having a great summer too.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day

Friday, June 17, 2011 2
With Father's Day upon his, here's a look back to last June in Busan.  Last year in Korea, I was invited to be part of a panel interview to help commemorate Father's Day on the English radio channel in Busan, eFM 90.5.  It was fun talking about the boys, parenthood and being a military dad.  The radio show is called "Let's Talk Busan" and is hosted by Jeff Lebow.  Jeff, who had read my blog of the family's exploits in Korea, caught me off guard and asked me about "the pose" and about "Thong Man."  You can read more about Thong Man by clicking on this link:


As far as "the pose", it's simply a fun thing the boys and I do to capture good memories.  We have pictures of us doing the pose in Hong Kong, Australia, Thailand, Seoul and many other places.  And so Jeff suggested that we all do the pose to remember our Father's Day radio interview:



The pose in St. Louis

The first documented account of the pose.  Here are the Cruz boys with my Dad in Norfolk, Virginia.  I'm maybe 6 years old.

This is the most recent pose picture, taken immediately after I introduced Ceej to the manly art of grass cutting.  Although there was a lot of sweating and I chopped the heck out of a PVC cap in the front yard, we didn't  lose a single toe.

And so Happy Father's Day to all you Dads out there - in Korea, in Tennessee, or wherever the heck you might be.  Hug on them kids and enjoy this classic gem of a video.  This is definitely how I roll...

Dad Life Video

Monday, June 13, 2011

Philippine Independence Day

Monday, June 13, 2011 2

A little history for you.

Yesterday was Independence Day in the Philippines.  It was initially celebrated on the 4th of July.

Between 1941 and 1946, during World War II Japanese occupation, the Philippines remained a US territory. When General Douglas McArthur landed in Leyte, some of the Japanese continued to fight until the official surrender of the Empire of Japan on 2 September, 1945. The Philippines gained complete independence on July 4, 1946 via the Treaty of Manila. The treaty provided for the recognition of the independence of the Republic of the Philippines and the relinquishment of American sovereignty over the Philippine Islands.

Former President Diosdado Macapagal later moved Independence Day to June 12th, the date on which the Malolos Republic declared independence from Spain in 1898. Filipino-American Friendship Day was created in its place and it coincides with the United States' Independence Day on July 4. (from Wikipedia)

I need to do a better job of teaching the boys about their heritage.  I'm thinking this is also a good reason for a June celebration.  We need to cook up some good Filipino food and have a party at the house next year!

Lumpia (eggrolls)

Pancit (noodles)

CJ, Jake and a duck at Grandma and Grandpa's house in the Philippines in 2008.  What a memorable trip that was.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mustachio's First Video

Sunday, June 12, 2011 0
Peek into the life of Mustachio...if you dare.




Saturday, June 11, 2011

Graduation - One Year Ago...

Saturday, June 11, 2011 1
Congratulations to my nephew Brandon who recently graduated from high school and was sworn into the US Army Reserves.  As the youth of America don caps and gowns all over the country and seniors rake in the graduation gifts of cold hard cash from friends and family, I'm reminded of one year ago, when the family was in Busan, Korea at the Busan Foreign School Graduation Ceremony.



The Principal (and good friend), Mr. Scott Jolly with opening remarks.

CJ and his friend, Tevin, trotting to the stage to accept their leadership awards for the 5th grade.  These guys were pretty tight.

Here's Jake receiving the Student of the Year award for Pre-Kindergarten.  Umm, I think he was a little happy.  Now that's a smile.

Jake is in the middle of the picture high-fiving his teacher, Ms. Amber Newton.  Couldn't have asked for a better teacher.

Carol presented some awards from the PTA to some deserving students.  She also received a plaque of appreciation from the school for her efforts throughout the year.  I was proud to say that I was the husband of the PTA President.

I was very honored to give the commencement speech.  As with most things, Carol gave me some good advice on the content of the speech.  Here's the speech itself:


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Mr. and Mrs. Haddon, Principal Jolly, faculty and staff, parents, students, and most importantly, the 2010 graduating class of Busan Foreign School, I am very honored to be speaking to you on this special occasion.

I have to admit that when I was in your seat during my own high school graduation 23 years ago, I really wasn’t paying attention to the guest speaker.  I honestly don’t even remember who the speaker was.  Like many of you, my mind was somewhere else – the future, college, what do I want to do with my life? – those kind of heavy thoughts.

Well, in an effort to stay somewhat current, I’d like to share with you some of the heavy thoughts that are on people’s minds right now.  Please raise your hands if you have a Facebook account.

So here are some of the different status comments from some of my own Facebook friends from the last couple of days.  Maybe you can relate to some of these comments:

So... am I the only one that has absolutely no idea what to do now that we're done with school...?

dude i woke up this morning all happy alone in my house, and now im like, now what?


Only 6 days of school left and then I leave BFS forever...sad

Trying to find a job is the hardest thing I have EVER done in my life! I think getting the degree was the easy part...they don't tell you about the "REAL WORLD"... PRAYERS ARE NEEDED

So some of you might be feeling this same apprehension, excitement and anxiety.  And that’s normal.  The future can be a very daunting thing.

With the future in mind, I’d like to pass on to you one thing that I think is extremely important as you begin your new adventure of college, a new job or even living in a new country.  And that thing is FOCUS.  Focus is one of the key things that will get you to where you want to be.

Being a Navy brat and growing up next to a military jet base, I knew in high school what I wanted to do with my life – I wanted to fly jets for the Navy.  There were many days in high school where I would doze off in class, only to be woken up by the thundering sound of the Navy jets flying overhead.

And so I worked real hard in college and was commissioned as a Naval Officer after graduation from the Virginia Military Institute.  I was also fortunate enough to earn an aviation slot and so off to Navy flight school I went.  Flight school was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life.  Unfortunately, a lot of my buddies didn’t make it through flight training.  Some of them were hitting the nightclubs a little too much and not studying nearly enough.  Some were distracted by personal issues, money issues and other things.  Many people simply weren’t cut out for the training – whether it was the grueling physical demands, the academics or putting it all together in the airplane.  A lot of good people didn’t make it through.  And I was almost one of those people.  But if there’s one thing that I can point to that helped me to make it through this challenge – it was my FOCUS.  I always had my eye on the prize and I wasn’t gonna let anything get in the way of reaching my goal.  Instead of hitting the beach, I spent extra hours in the flight simulator.  Instead of watching TV, I was memorizing my emergency procedures and rehearsing my flights.  I was gonna do whatever it took to reach my goal.

I learned about focus early on from various role models, including my boxing coach in college.  When I was boxing, it was only when I was truly focused that I was able to achieve the highest levels in my sport. 

I’d like to share a story with you about focus.  My current boss grew up in Hawaii.  He tells me about a guy he knew in high school in Hawaii by the name of Barry.  Now, Barry loved to play basketball.  And he was pretty good too.  He worked hard at his game and had aspirations to be a professional basketball player.  The thing is, he was a decent player compared to the small crowd in Hawaii, but when he had tougher competition in college, he came to the realization that professional basketball was not in his future.  As much as Barry focused on his game, he knew it wasn’t gonna be a long term thing.

But that focus and determination that Barry had – it was an impressive thing.  You see, with the proper focus, you can do anything you set your mind to.  Nothing will get in your way.  Without focus, well, that’s where you can lose your way.

The reality is many of you will finish up college and go on to be presidents of companies, community leaders, raise families, make lots of money and do great things.  This will happen.  I have no doubt.  And your focus on your goals will be one of the common themes behind your success. 

The thing is, there will be distractions along the way – temptations that sidetrack you away from your goals – partying, girls (I should know, I married one), video games, TV shows, downright laziness and even homesickness – while none of these things are necessarily bad, if you allow them to become major distractions and you lose focus, then they become terrible things.  These are some of the same distractions that are the downfall of many professionals – famous actors with drug problems, professional athletes with domestic abuse issues, politicians with extra-marital affairs or corruption…pick up any newspaper and it’s on the front page - many high profile people losing focus.

With a strong focus on your goals though, nothing will stand in the way of what you want.  Let me get back to the story about Barry.

You see, as hard as Barry worked on basketball, it just wasn’t in his future.  But Barry was a focused person.  And after basketball didn’t work out for him, he used that incredible focus in another part of his life.  He got into politics.  And he did real well at that – and I mean really well.  Now, Barry wasn’t his real name.  That’s what people called him in high school.  But now, most people know him as Barack.  President Barack Obama.

Let me point out one other thing about focus.  You shouldn’t set your focus on small, easy goals.  You don’t need a lot of focus to achieve small things.  Don’t limit yourself.  Set your sights high and go for it.  Earlier, I mentioned my desire to fly.  I didn’t say I wanted to fly just propeller airplanes or helicopters.  I wanted to fly the best.  I wanted to fly jets.  And that’s what I went for and that’s what I got. 

During my boxing days, I didn’t compete for second or third place.  I aspired to be the very best – to be the national boxing champion for the entire country, and that’s what I achieved. 

I challenge each and every one of you to not settle for mediocrity.  Aspire to be the very best and use that focus of yours to get there.  Don’t settle for just “good enough.”  Go for it.  Knock the bottom out of everything that you do. 

That average stuff – that’s for the other schools.  That’s for the ISB graduates.  You come from the Busan Foreign School.  This is the place where students score perfect on the SAT.  This is the place where the students get accepted to the most elite colleges and universities in the world.  This is where the teachers challenge their students to do their very best.  I can’t tell you how proud I am to have my boys going to the Busan Foreign School.  As a Navy family, we move around a lot and have experience with many different schools.  Busan Foreign School is by far, the very best.

And so, Graduates of the class of 2010 – I’ll close by saying that you should be beaming with pride over this great school that’s now a part of your history.  Like Barry did, I challenge you to represent your school well.  Congratulations to each and every one of you on achieving this major milestone of graduation.  I wish you tremendous success in your personal and professional lives.  Stay focused and do great things.  Thank you so much for your time today.
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All in all, it was a very memorable day for the family.  The graduation ceremony capped off an outstanding school year.  We really can't say enough great things about Busan Foreign School.  For those new graduates and their families - congratulations to you all.  Enjoy this special occasion.  For the BFS faculty, students and family that are moving on to new adventures, to include the Jolly's, Allen's and other friends we've had the pleasure of spending time with, we wish you the very best on the future.  You've got friends in the Cruz's.
 
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