Welcome Renley Jade

Or should I call you Mankey? Born in the year of the monkey, you are more like the Pokemon Go character Mankey. Described as "very aggressive and short-tempered... When angry, Mankey begins shaking and its breathing turns rough. Its rage peaks quickly, preventing its victim from being able to flee. If Mankey loses sight of its colony, its loneliness causes it to become infuriated... if one becomes enraged, the whole colony rampages for no reason."

I hate to label you at this tender age of 4 weeks but lady you are one heckuva yeller and screamer. It's next level crying. Like, babies cry. I get that. But you don't feel that's sufficient. You're like Emeril. BAM. Kicking it up a notch. Always. For the first two weeks Daddy was convinced you hated his guts. You would yell and scream directly into his face when you were tired/hungry/just plain messing around. Then he'd hand you to me and you'd instantly, I mean like a light switch turning off INSTANTLY, chill. 

I admit, it was deliciously satisfying. I've never had a baby that loved me like that. Emmy and Odessa were equal opportunity lovers and haters and in fact, they were such Daddy's girls for years that I was accustomed to being the Backseat Parent.

Then Week Three rolled around and I got a taste of your medicine. No mother left behind. You raged on me and suddenly I couldn't sit on Smug Mountain any longer. The tables had turned. Suddenly, and for a solid two days, I could not comfort you, and you would only calm down when I handed you off to Daddy or Asian Grandma. 

Not cool RenRen.

Speaking of your name, here are some of the runners up to Renley: Huxley, Spencer, Finley, Harvey, Rooney, Radley. Pretty much all nixed by Daddy. He really hated Huxley/Hux and Spencer, even with the promised nickname of Penny. His first choice was Camille. Beautiful name, but on the rise in popularity according to the Social Security index. Renley is about as popular as Odessa, somewhere in the 3000's. Emerson is in the 200's. Daddy's other choices were pretty...nature-y. Summer, Sierra, Sienna, Clover... followed by Larkin, Marquette (? Don't get me started) and many others I've tried to mentally block to avoid re-traumatizing myself. 

Third babies are hard to name if you don't have some sort of theme like the Kardashians. We didn't want a name that started with E or O, or a name that ended in N or A, so that cut out a lot of choices. Ren actually has a Confucian meaning, "a virtue denoting the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when being altruistic." It's also a family name and a variant on a name from Game of Thrones. Nevermind that he was a gay king killed off by a shadow. Let's blaze a new path Renley Jade! Strong woman with strong lungs who betters the world with her indefatigable spirit, shining intelligence and charismatic spirit.

Early signs show the strong lungs part is definitely true. Refer to photo above.

Everyone thinks you look like Emmy from the mouth down. That is to say, you have the same chicken nugget chin and little pursed lips hiding your bottom lip. But you have hair like Odessa and more of her eyes. Your personality though, very distinct. The screaming and yelling for one. You also have a look of skepticism and concern. It's most apparent right before you fall asleep, when you're gazing into the eyes of your adult sherpa. The way you fall asleep is a serious, cliff hanger, hold our breaths process. You don't just close your eyes and nod off. You close them and then a few seconds later your lids pop right back open, eyes wide with questions about what just happened and where am I and what's going on and oh yes...zzz. Repeat about 10-15 times before you actually stay asleep. It's like a big sleep battle with yourself, punctuated by slightly accusatory stares and occasional feral cat screams before you finally succumb. It's comical and endearing, and I don't remember our other babies doing that. 

Staying asleep is a whole 'nother ordeal. Especialy during the day. You fight your naps and can't stay asleep for longer than 20 minutes when we put you into the pack n play OR rocker OR swing. We literally have three different sleep areas downstairs for you, Queen Renley. It's a newborn Airbnb up in here. The swing was our surefire sleep elixir. It hypnotized Emmy and Odessa and allowed them to get good deep daytime naps. You, not so much.

We've even tried weighing you down with two cups of rice in a baggie. Some Asian magic trick. Effectiveness has been spotty.

Hopefully you outgrow this or I'm going to be all caught up on every HGTV Fixer Upper episode ever filmed. I'm already wanting to move to Waco after watching 18 renovations. 

But you're also just #babiesbeingbabies. So far in 5 weeks you've slept through the night once, a fluke, but I'll take it. A handful of really rough wide awake for an hour and a half at 2 or 3. But for the past 5 nights you're pretty consistently down at 9 or 10PM after the "Snack and Snooze" last feeding of the night, up at 4AM, and back down until about 7AM. Keep up this pattern RenRen, we can make this work.

I'm not so uptight about the sleep deprivation this third time around. I know how quickly every stage passes and suddenly you're graduating from college and moving to New York. The interrupted sleep makes for crazy vivid dreams though. Like the one where I was mountain climbing with our meteorologist Jeff Ranieri and we had to run from from a black viper. Only the viper was also able to jump up super high like a Jack Russell terrier. And it kept jumping after me before biting me in the hand. I tried repeatedly to trap it with a Tupperware container and various colanders only to have it escape through a hole each time. Yeah, #randomsauce.

Next post: Noisy Nelly. You are so loud at night. To the casual observer, watching a video of you on mute, you'd look like a baby sort of moving around in her swaddle. Unmuted, you sound like a WWE wrestler lifting another WWE wrestler right before slamming him on the ground. It's like you're digging ditches in your crib for the world's tallest skyscraper. Or you're literally trying to move a mountain. The grunting, the huffing, the groaning and moaning. So. Loud.


Complimenting a Pregnant Woman

On the way to a shoot in Santa Cruz the other day, my photog Felipe gave me one of the best compliments I've received this entire pregnancy.

Him: You know I keep forgetting you're pregant, except for when I see you.

Me: ...Thanks! ...That's a compliment right? ...You mean...I'm demanding as ever...

(And yes, even with all those dot dot dots, I still talk faster than the regular person)

Him: Yeah, no it's totally like, you're just as efficient.

And THAT is how you compliment a pregnant working lady/woman/future transgender person who is able to carry a child.

Not to sound like an ingrate, which is something I actually would take great umbrage with if you were to say I were an ingrateful person because I actually make an effort to be forever conscious of the many many things I am grateful for all the time, but every time someone asks me how I'm doing, I wince a little.

It's totally NOT a normal reaction and I recognize that. People are being kind, courteous, polite. But as the lady walking around with the kids' size soccer ball belly and extra 35+ pounds, every time you ask me, "How are you feeling?" it's a reminder that you're seeing Pregnant Vicky and not just Vicky Vicky.

It's all the extra considerations for Pregnant Vicky, like no, no you go ahead and get in the line in the diner first, or no, no we'll flatten ourselves against the hallway so your enormity can pass peacefully, or no, no we don't expect the same from you because, well OBVIOUSLY, you're pregnant so you can't POSSIBLY be the same person who works at the same level.

I'm sure it's a neurosis of mine, but it's also a very real change in the way people view you, treat you, talk to you, consider you. I have never wanted special pregnancy treatment, at work or anywhere else. Except yeah I have no problem asking you to please pick up the phone I just dropped that rolled two feet under my desk. I mean, retrieving that would be like, impossible. But otherwise, if we normally work together and we don't normally talk about my kids or family, I prefer it stay that way.

Not out of antisocial meanness, but because it perturbs me to think you think I'm radically different now that I'm cultivating a small person.

And yet, I am totally guilty of doing this to other pregnant women. You get excited for them, they're carrying a life, it's a crazy physical transformation that results in the creation of ANOTHER HUMAN. It's totally natural to recognize that and notice it and comment on it and ask how someone is doing when they're pregnant. 

But when it's directed toward me, I cringe inside. When I'm at work, I just want to be Work Vicky, the same Vicky you knew 35+ pounds ago, before the flip flops and ever present giant black wrap sweater. 

And the question that I'm getting so much lately, "WHEN are you DUE?" Because when you're 5'2" and normally 105lbs, even if you're still 6 weeks away from giving birth, you look like you could pop at any second. Constantly being reminded that you look that way is less fun.

It's why I'm always so relieved when I go to an interview and my subject says absolutely nothing about my condition. When they don't ask if it's a boy or girl, or if it's my first, or how many more months do I have to go. When they just sit down, answer my questions, and we go our separate ways. It's like a nice moment of normalcy that I have rarely had in the last few months as my belly swells to proportions that make me question whether I will ever fit into 98% of my closet again. 

The Good Doctor says I will, and that with both previous pregnancies I would always ask in the third trimester: Will I always wear giant granny underwear from now on?

Answer TBD.


Memo to Odessa: 42 Months

So we sort of skipped like 7 months of memos. Odessa, if we're already this lazy with a second child, I'm not really sure what we'd do with a third one. Despite your promises that you'd "feed the baby and read to the baby and put the baby to sleep" but "not change the baby's diaper," I'm not convinced you really want to be a middle sister. Although you do seem to love the idea of being both a big sister ANDDDD a little sister.

In any case, this post is about you, not an imaginary third baby. There's nothing imagined about you. You're a solid, confident, commandeering little person. How someone so small talks so much and is so stubborn and yet heart-melting at the same time, with alternately frowny fishy hands-on-hippy attitude that instantly flashes into contagious giggles. You have this distinctive voice and laugh and cadence to your speech that is uniquely Odessa. Like you smoke cigars at night after we read to you. Croaky, throaty, Lauren Bacall if she were a 3 year old Marvin with sass. And you are not shy about laughing at your own jokes and playing in your own world.

You've taken over the guest room. Your wooden blocks and Duplo farmhouse bricks are everywhere. But you can seriously build. Doll beds, bird houses, crocodiles, trains, bridges, people, even a zipline. The imagination is Trumptastic. You tell these amazing stories about what everything is and what it does and who lives where and what they do there. I so enjoy that it's your world and I'm just living in it.

You definitely didn't get any architectural skills from me. When I'm upstairs "helping," you really just want me to watch you build build and watch you nae nae. Which thrills me because building stuff gives me panic attacks. Like I just don't come up with things in configurations. I put a square block on another square block and then hives break out. #sonotanengineer 

However, I may have passed other traits onto you. Bossy isn't the right word, but it's true you make your opinions known, sharply and unequivocally. "Don't touch that, it's mine" is your first reaction, threat level red, to any strangers, large or small, who get too close to something you're fond of. But as soon as we remind you, "Hey Odessa, you can share x with X," you're completely magnanimous like of course you're going to share, it's the greatest thing to share, who said you don't share! And your evil staredown transforms into a sharing is caring helper smile. You're like the T. Rex from Jurassic World. Adapting and clever with short little arms.

You had to wait forever to go back to pre-school, a good 3 weeks after Emmy started 1st grade. Those weeks = torture. You couldn't wait to get back to classes, if only to play by yourself with the ponies. I've watched you a couple times out in the wild. I have seen you talk earnestly and convincingly to a gang of three boys who then turned around and decided to do something else at the playground. Your teachers are the best, they did an awesome job with Emmy, and it seems every student that comes out of that school is a great little bon bon, well socialized and just a happy camper.

But one thing your dad and I can't quite figure out is why all the teachers are so vague in describing what you do and what you're like all day. They have always told us the same things about you and Emmy. "She's wonderful. She's such a good girl. She's a delight. She's a joy." It's like a Jedi mind trick. I swear they are purposefully broad and general because they know we are Silicon Valley parents and if they give us too much detail about our kids, we will spiral out of control. Specifics are like the gateway drug. Tell a tiger parent an observation about his/her 3 year old and suffer a lifetime of addiction and rehab in the form of probing questions, Kumon worksheets, and more assessments. The demands never cease! Hence the "Your daughter is great. She's doing great. Her? Great!"

Heaven forbid anyone recycle a single scrap of your art. Even if it's on scratch paper and you haven't seen it for months. If those crafts float anywhere near a bin in your line of sight--you will protest #artlivesmatter. We can only trash that stuff at night and even then, we know it's at our own risk.

You're majorly into smartphone photography. If only I looked good when someone 3 feet tall shot up at me, I'd have so many awesome portraits. Who doesn't love looking like a giant with a double chin? But hey, you're already better at taking pictures than Daddy so I can't complain. We joke that a photo of me with you and Emmy that I didn't take myself is like a blue diamond. 

Speaking of blue diamonds. Blue is your favorite color. You love to pretend you're a dog and Emmy's a cat. You give the best kisses and hugs. You have a grumpy streak. I see so much of who I think I would be as a kid in you and so much of who your dad is in your sister. Genetics is bananas. (Are? Plural or singular?) I love your wily ways and how you use Dubsmash as a verb, as in "Let's Dubsmash that Mommy." Indeed, we have a lot of fun ahead of us lil Odessa.

Love you my darling,

Mama and Papa

PS You pretty much only go by Odessa now. You don't seem to like Dessy. "I don't like Dessy. I'm Odessa."


Saigon to Silicon Valley

ICYMI ("In Case You Missed It" for those of you who don't speak socialmediese): 

Thought I'd post the series we aired on NBC Bay Area in April and May.

Photographer Mark Villarreal traveled with my family and me to Eugene, Oregon and his incredible videography and editing helped us tell the story of how we were sponsored to the United States. The generosity of the Ware family, Holt International Children's Services, and many others we may never get to thank in person allowed us to get our footing in a new country, and begin new lives in the greatest country in the world.

Let me know what you think in the comments section. And if you're an immigrant--share some of your story too! 

From Saigon to SV Part 1

From Saigon to SV Part 2

From Saigon to SV Part 3

This is the "From Saigon to SV" slideshow and preview report. This one actually aired first--as a preview with a little bit from each of the series.





Thank you Mayor Maya Sanchez, for leaving a comment on my website to the 1.5 year old blog post I wrote entitled "Miscarriages."

Not only did I read your comment with amazement and curiosity and a heightened sense of how small the world is, I re-read that post about my fourth miscarriage and remembered so many of the feelings that I completely forgot. Probably a good thing I'm not a person who dwells. That was a pretty sad time.

Thank you for inspiring me to respond to your comment on my blog -- nearly 4 months since my last post. I have been ridiculously not proficient and lame. One thing investigative reporting absolutely kills is my blogbido--any desire to be open with the public. Everything is held thisclose to the vest and all my bandwidth is pretty much used up thinking about my stories and juggling long term projects about bad people who do bad things. It's the complete opposite of what inspired this blog -- the wonderment of new life and babies and sharing the experience of parenthood with the world. But twatever, I'll get over it and figure out a way to jot down my thoughts without getting fired. I hope. I mean yeezus, people are getting fired for everything these days.

But really Maya, wow. The comment was so thorough and detailed and candid...and out of nowhere. Like here's me, doo da doo, just put the girls to bed and checking my blog stats for the first time in weeks and suddenly I'm knee deep in this really intense comment from a fellow USF Don saying, "I remember thinking you were a doll but why the heck did you get so lucky in the game of life?! Now don't get me wrong, I never wished you ill, you were nothing but kind... It was just one of those situations where you just knew you'd never have as "perfect" a life as Vicky."

Snapalappa-dingdong!? (Pronounced SNAP-uh-lap-uh-ding-dong)

First, I was kind? That's a relief. Because I mostly don't use that adjective to describe myself. Like ever. 

Second, "As perfect a life as Vicky?"

You thought in college I was going to have some perfect kind of life? You saw me eating my snacks in class with God knows what kind of outfit on with my sunny yellow back pack and thought that to yourself? It's just so crazy but awesome but mind blowing all at once. Like in 2015, someone can easily randomly find me, scroll through my blog, and write me a very personal note that makes me stop in my tracks. Plus anyone who says they're trolling me is just funny. 

A few things went through my mind. 

Yes, I have a freaking crazy fortunate life. Fa realz. Like if I complain in any serious manner, you can shut me down. Immediately. Too many things have gone right in my life. Starting with my parents' decision to get on a boat and come to this country, followed by the incredible kindness of strangers who helped us start our lives here, followed by a host of positive turns including my education, the mentors who took me under their wings, the family I married into, and the gift of two curious, hilarious, pure-hearted daughters. The list is, as you know, ridiculously long. 

But I appreciate so much what you wrote. Not because it's a back patting, but because I also want to remind people THE INTERNET IS NOT REAL. It is CURATED. Especially the social media stuff. People share what makes them look their Sunday best. They paint better than real pictures of their lives. They humblebrag the bejesus out of their accomplishments. There would be a lot less misery and envy if people had any clue how lame some other people really are. I'm thinking of 17 millennials at this moment who look uh-meezing online. In real life? Shallow, fragile, self-centered ninnies.

It's exactly why I wanted to write an unvarnished blog with insights and vulnerabilities and to talk about some of the really crappy things we go through. Like miscarriages. We are bound by our humanity, and to be human is to feel a range of emotions, including sadness and hopelessness and self-pity and jealous rage. Ahem.

I binge-watched some Real Housewives of Orange County on a recent flight cross country--thank you Virgin America for the unexpected free upgrade to business class it was UH-meezing--and one of the housewives says during the show open "No one's life is perfect, but mine is pretty close" and I thought to myself, I'm not a gazillionaire with no worries in the world and $10K gold sinks but I can dolphinitely relate. 

So I'm writing to say you saw something or predicted something way back in our good ole days at USF that is mostly very true. That I'm beyond grateful for. And that I try not to curate. I try to reveal what I can about the frustrations of working in a back-stabbing, highly competitive industry that's not really woman-friendly beyond a certain age. I try not to sugar coat the boring and repetitive parts of parenthood. I try to expose all the less than perfect parts of my life and all of our lives because that's our common ground. That's how we get through things. I've been through plenty of financial ups and downs and family dramas and personal screw ups and whenever it's my story to tell, I try to tell it. 

So many people, now you included, Maya, have written me emails or posted comments that just show me how small our world is and that at every turn, there is generally goodness in your fellow human being. Thank you for your incredibly well-written and kind note. You moved me and you re-energized the part of my soul that started this blogging exercise in the first place. When we can relate and connect and share, we learn and grow and feel less alone. 

Congratulations on your success and more importantly, on finding happiness. May it be deep and sustaining.

That's my wish for everyone. Except millennials. May you rot in your pools of smug ignorance.