Memo to Emmy: 72 Months


You're 6! Six. Whole. Years. Old.

Old enough to finally lose your first tooth. With the help of extremely passive aggressive wiggling by Daddy. He initially claimed you wiggled it out yourself with the floss. I came to find out later he actually "helped" by "holding your hand" which was "holding the floss" which means too many quotation marks to actually keep track of.

The Tooth Fairy was very generous. $5 and a My Little Pony plastic figure. And she even let you keep the bloody tooth. Nguyen Nguyen situation.

Your other bottom baby tooth has stubbornly remained in your mouth, shark-like as the permanent tooth has already grown up behind it, wiggly but resolute in not coming out. Every night your dad has a showcase showdown with that tooth and it keeps winning. Probably my fault. At least half a dozen of my baby teeth had to be pulled out by Dr. To when I was a kid. Either they were genetically stubborn like everything else in my DNA, or my parents just had him pull a few out every couple months when we were down in San Jose shopping for Vietnamese food. Never underestimate how much Vietnamese parents love convenience!

At this ripe age, your EQ is off the charts. I know a lot of millennials and management-types who should take a crash course in Emerson-self awareness. Much like you always knew not to repeat bad language, you are intuitive about your friends' feelings, your sister's moods, and the emotions of people around you. 

You're naturally easygoing, curious, and just incredibly pleasant. Rarely do you lose it, and usually if you do, it's because you can't finish something or your sister is on your last nerve. You can do anything. As long as you're properly prepared. You don't like a sudden change or abrupt transition. In short, you are just like Daddy. Except I can still swoop you up and carry you around like a monkey with really long legs.

Your reading comprehension is pretty off the hook. Every night I read a few pages of a Ramona book to you and you read a few pages of an Ivy and Bean book to me. You're picking up some triple digit adding and subtracting and carrying the 1 type math skills thanks to Daddy. I mean, how do math teachers teach complex concepts? I can barely explain how to count backwards to subtract. 

I get to volunteer pretty regularly in your kindergarten class. It's fun to see you speak with confidence in front of the class. You're not the tender chicken nugget you were in preschool and I relish seeing you develop some savvy around your peers. 

You've had to deal with some mean girl stuff already. That's really crazy. But you innately know how to be your own person. You told me the difference between "good ignoring" and "bad ignoring," a concept you came up with yourself. 

You: Bad ignoring is when you ignore people and they're trying to tell you about their family. Good ignoring is when you ignore people if they're not being nice.

My mommy heart soars when you tell me stuff like that. The world is so mean and harsh sometimes and I want to protect you from everything but I know that's impossible and it would weaken you if I did. So when you spout little truths like that, it gives me consolation that you're going to make it, even without me holding your hand every step of the way. As much as I want to be there at the junior high dance holding your hand, or at senior prom, or in your college dorm. Who me? I'm Emmy's mom.

"What happens to a cup when it's been caught by the police? It gets handcupped!"

"What kind of house does a tree live in? A tree house!"

Emmy original jokes. Do you get your knack for laughs from me or your dad? I don't know. He came up with:

"Did you hear the story about the cookie? Eh, nevermind it's crummy." You told me that with perfect comic timing.

You are a terrific big sister. You can cheer up Odessa and stop one of her legendary crying fits in .7 seconds. At first I thought you were being uncharacteristically mean when you went up and starting mimicking her crying. But just as I was telling you not to do that to her, you said, "Mommy I'm making her stop crying," and you turned back to her and sure enough, Odessa started laughing at your wailing face and then she started making screeching noises and howling noises and laughing hysterically when you copied those too. You hacked her tantrum!

Aside from having to ask you a question 17 times because you're in your own La La world sometimes, you're a pretty flawless kid. How that blessing happened is unclear. Oh, maybe because we also have Odessa. Not so easy peasy.

Happy 6th birthday almost a month late. I want to smush you back down and stunt your growth but you won't drink my coffee so I will have to count the few days left that I remain taller than you. I am thankful every day that you're my daughter. Here's to at least 100 more birthdays!

Love you Em Em 


We Investigate: Daily Show Edition

Somehow the folks at The Daily Show heard about our latest investigation on the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program. Here's our original report:

Here's Jon Stewart's version. His had a couple more f-bombs. Scroll ahead to 6:25 if you want to see our part. 




Memo to Dessy: 35 Months


You're almost 3. In 4T clothes with a sassafrass 'tude that's equal parts vinegar and sweet. You are the umami of toddlers. Like a spicy Cheetoh. I have to keep snacking on you because if I stop, the burn sets in. You are relentless in your independence but you're also a snugglebug. Mostly with Daddy. I feel like I went through this same thing with Emmy but she wasn't quite as obstinate. You are both your daddy's girls at this age. He's understandably way more jungle-gymmy and fun and doesn't care quite as much when you wipe a ketchup mustache onto his pants. Mommy's also not as strong or tall or long armed Gumby, so I don't hold it against you.

However. You are just a little dragon baby at times.

Me: "Odessa, let's go brush your teeth."

You: "Uh uh."

Me: "Time to take a bath."

You: "Uh uh."

Me: "Odessa."

You: "Uh uh."

You're so funny though that it's just impossible to actually get mad. I have to just stifle my laughter and joy to pretend to teach you some sort of lesson. Mostly you've taught me to be a master distracter. "Oh I know! We're going to read the new library book for bedtime afteryoujustocmeoverhereandlet'sgopottyrealquickandletmeflossyourteethwhileyou'resitting


I am kind of proud of that new skill I've learned. Somehow I need to find a real world application for it. You and Emmy are suddenly mostly BFFs. That is thoroughly, thoroughly, easily one of my favorite milestones as a parent. To hear the two of you chattering and playing and Emmy explaining things and you asking why 17 times until she stops explaining or says "Because, Odessa, I already told you why." It's the most innocent, sweet interaction between two small human beings and I look for any chance I can eavesdrop while holding my breath and waiting to see what each of you says and does next. It is parenting nirvana for me.

(Thanks to Jay Tsai for great family pics.)


Emmy: "You listen to the big sister."

Odessa: "You listen to the little sister."
Emmy: "Big sisters teach the little sisters, OK?"
Odessa: ... (processing)


Maybe because I was an only child and don't remember anything about friendships and discovery at this age? Sibling interaction this pure is intoxicating. 

Some of your favorite phrases right now: "Nevah myyyynnd." It's a variation of nevermind that I have no idea where you heard it. Like you're literally from Odessa, Texas and you stepped into the barn after wrangling some mustangs when you say it with such a long drawl.
Meantime, we try to keep it a little #freshofftheboat with your Santa visit.
And you know how some dudes people are always walking around in bars quoting random movie lines and asking if you've ever seen that film? You are that dude in the form of a little tyke who quotes from your books. At first I thought you were being totally out of pocket when you would just say "Don't ask me any questions." Completely unprovoked. "Don't ask me annnnnny questions." I mean, that's just so rude!
Then I realized, after weeks of thinking I've raised such an inconsiderate and discourteous 2 year old, that you're quoting from "I Want My Hat Back," an awesome book White Grandma gave you. One of your favorites. And the line, for the record, is "Don't ask me any more questions." But that's OK. I sing the wrong words to songs all the time. Like my current fave, "Blank Space." Call all my Starbucks lovers, they'll tell you I'm insane!
Wait, that's not the line?
Someone is seriously starting a slight princess complex. We never had that with Emmy. In fact, you guys are about 2 years behind in finally seeing Frozen. Of course, you're now in love with Princess Elsa. I don't know. I don't want to be all Tiger Mom about it, and I guess I can't now, not after Asian Grandma and Grandpa gave you ELEVEN Disney princesses took three Asian immigrants two pairs of scissors and 27 minutes to free from the gigantic box.

I just love you so much and you're so talkative and bright and spicy and tough. Like I never worry about you. You just have this "I got this" attitude and it's so hard to put into words but it's endearing and prompts endless head shaking from me. I just want you to like me and you make me work so hard for it. You LOVE your grandmas. You are just enamored with both of them. As you should be. It's like you're the neighbor's little dog that barks and tries to bite me but you're so, so cute like the $120 million Grumpy Cat and finally when I win you over it's so worth it to get the hug and have you say, "I love you too Mommy." Or when you grab me around the neck and give me that wet smackaroo on the cheek.
You're so unexpected and unpredictable and we're all addicted.

Love you,



Memo to Emmy: 66 Months

Goodness Girlfriend,

You are 5.5 already? Solid 30 plus days as an official kindergartener and wow you're a legit big girl. I have the same worries as the other Silicon Valley Tiger Parents. Are you being challenged? Have you learned the Theory of Relativity yet? Why don't you eat your whole lunch because studies show nourishment improves learning?

And yet I also have this odd peace about the fact you're Doing It. You're in kindergarten and you're learning how to be a person on your own, how to open your container at snack time, how to make friends and read them fairy books at recess, how to play tag, how to figure out what it means to be out of the watchful eye of your mom, dad, or Asian Grandma for several hours a day. Those are all Major Things.

You had a big first day. Your teacher noticed you were reading aloud to yourself and asked you to come and read her note to the whole class. Public speaking on day one and you nailed it! 

So far, so good. You told us a kid was pointing a pencil at you and shooting it like a gun. To which you said, "Stop that, please." And he did. So, that's a relief. I mean, that's the craziest thing about growing up. I'm not everywhere at all times with you. I can't tell people to not be jerks and to make sure you get a spot in line and that you're treated fairly and nicely and that you get all the best things the world has to offer. That's really annoying. I want to be a hovercraft and ensure you never get knocked down or stuck in the bad seat on the bus.

But that's not possible. You have to experience the ups and downs of life to distinguish between them and to develop a strong character and to learn what's worth working hard for and what matters to you. I can't be the boss of you and the protector of you forever. Kindergarten is like the first teensiest tiniest step toward that. And I can't say I love it. Because I want to freeze you at every stage in life. It all goes by so lightning quickly.

You're already growing your two bottom front teeth but your stubborn baby teeth are hanging on for dear life so it's shark week in your mouth. You're an awesome artist and apparently that's what you want to be when you grow up according to the "Special Person of the Week" poster you had to fill out for homework. Every Tiger Mom's worst nightmare, an artist. 

You're writing in full sentences and you're reading at a crazy level. You always want to pick chapter books to read to me at night and you don't even mind when I'm a bad mommy and I read my People magazine while you're pounding through your heavy duty stories. 

It's your spirit. So easygoing and fun. Even-keeled and pleasant. The only time you really lose your S is when your sister tries to horn in on some exclusive thing you're doing--drawing, reading with Mommy, watching The Littlest Pet Shop (which you've convinced her is "very scary" so she leaves the room when you're watching.) I can't say I blame you. She's a total Ruiner. A Gleeful Unabashed Ruiner. A GUR. She's the embodiment of a pesky little sister at times and she relishes it. You have a bit of an edge that's coming out--you'll get in an elbow here or there, which is not the worst thing in the world because I want to see that you have some defense mechanisms and I also want Odessa to know she can't always get away with felony pestering.

I secretly love that you're a lefty and that you're so different from me. You're so intuitive and sensitive and empathetic. Your EQ is definitely higher than mine. You're patient and sweet, but sometimes really shy about certain things. Like you don't want to sing in class. Other kids are singing random songs like "Timber" when the teacher asks if anyone wants to sing a song, but for some reason you're anti. "I don't want to do it. I like dancing better than singing." I just don't know exactly why you're super outgoing sometimes and other times, you are deadset against something. 

One of your preschool teachers called you "tender" and that's something we worried about when you headed off into big kindergarten with 26 other kids in your class. But turns out, you're thriving. You have your backpack and your assignments and when I volunteer in class you seem like you're holding your own. That's all I can ask for--that you do you and so far Emerson, you're totally doing it.

I love you my Big Girl. 


Memo to Dessy: 31 Months


Or more like OH-DESSY!

You're already 2 and a half and a month! You're wearing 3T and sometimes 4T clothing. You're a giantess. You're taller than almost everyone in your class except for a couple super giant kids, one of whom has a dad who is 6' 10." Sorry Odessa. Mommy had to stop somewhere.

Yes, school. You had your first day of preschool and you transferred about 87 My Little Ponies from a basket to a table, squished some homemade Play-Doh, tricycled around like a champ, and called it a day. Next up, actually dropping you off and leaving. Your classroom teachers are prepared for a bunch of cryers; they even have extra grown ups designated as "huggers" to patrol and comfort those of you who have only ever been left in the company of your parents and grandparents. You're gonna need a hugger for sure. 

You are quite...verbal. Talkative. Chatty. NONSTOP TALKER. I have no idea where you get it from. Me? No way.   You really like to narrate everything you're doing. "I eating banana." "I drawing." And you want us to always "Look Mommy LOOK!"

You've developed such a knack for repeating anything and everything that you shouldn't. We're not terribly foul-mouthed around you but even the slightest biting remark or inapproprate verbiage that slips out is immediately adopted and spit back out. You're a taunter. A two year old taunter. You hear us telling Emmy to calm down and next thing we hear is, "Just relax Emmy. Just relax." So uppity for a little sister.

You don't seem to see yourself that way though. When Emmy excitedly yelled about wanting pasta for dinner, this was your response: "You can't have pasta Emmy." Emmy: "?" You: "I eat your pasta. I eat it. I EAT IT." Followed by your chuckling at your own joke.

I don't know how or why but you have a wicked sense of humor for a toddler. Poop-based jokes are your specialty. When you poop, you like to tell us "I hold it, I eat it" and then laugh hysterically at your own genius. One of my favorite recent memories: putting you to bed at night and singing "Skidamarink a-dink, a-dink, Skidamarink a-doo." But instead of saying "I love you" I said, "I love...poo." You could NOT get enough, dissolving into giggles. Every single time. "Again Mommy again!" 

But God forbid we help you. Everything must be done yourself. "I do it myself" is your motto. You remind me of the "worry about yourself" kid.

Your hair got so crazy hobo that we finally gave you your first haircut.

Now, depending on what you're doing, you sometimes remind me of Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men." 

Except he had a better attitude.

In Vietnamese there's a phrase "tinh bo" which loosely translates to "expressionless" or "unfazed" or "ignoring your sister and continuing to innocently watch a cartoon despite the fact you just dropped a nuclear bomb and initiated a world war."  You will bite, hit, kick, swat or exact some sort of physical retribution on Emmy--often completely unprovoked and undeserved--and then when she's wailing bloody murder, you're calm as the Dalai Lama in lotus pose. No reaction, no emotion, no remorse. You have been in more time outs as a 2 year old than Emmy ever has in 5 and a half years. In fact, I think Emmy has been in exactly ONE timeout. I know you're not supposed to ever compare your children or do these five things (of which I have done every single one) but Odessa, you are something else for sure.

Extremes. You can be such a bundt face, kicking me right in the jaw because I dared suggest we go brush your teeth, and then minutes later you are a total love. You tell Asian Grandma "I very love you." And you tell Daddy "You are my besssssst brudder." 

You've never met a puzzle you don't love. Wooden blocks, cardboard, hologram. You can do the Melissa and Doug United States of America puzzle by yourself. You have better knowledge of American geography than anyone on your immigrant family side. And the way you say "Oklahoma" is ridiculously cute. "Ohh kla HO ma."

Your Vietnamese is definitely strong with word recognition and understanding. But you rarely use it. Only in a Vietglish kind of way. Like when you said "I didn't cắn Daddy," after you very much did cắn him.

You're just insufferable with all the typical terribles of a two. It's all first-time experiences with you because you are so different from Emmy in so many ways. But it makes us love each of you even more because you're sisters, you're ours, and you're nothing alike.

I love you little Dragon Baby. Just stop trying to overpower me when you don't want to do something. It's exhausting! And you're freakin' strong. And don't repeat that.