Entries in Bloggity (630)


Merry Christmas 2017

2017 has been a rough year in many ways, culminating for us with the North Bay fires that decimated a big part of Santa Rosa and leveled my in-laws' home of 42 years. SO, we decided to go with serious Christmas cheer for this year's holiday card, with a nod to our Santa Rosa history. The cheerleading outfits on Emmy and me are from my high school and Odessa is wearing my junior high songleading uniform. We had to modify the purple and gold to match the maroon and gold theme, added a few clothespins in the back and voila! My very own cheer squad. Renley had a little baby uniform we found super cheap online, and The Good Doc is wearing some sort of Navy uniform pants and a giant cheer sweater from a thrift shop. We spare no expense. 

Once again Kiet Do worked his incredible magic and brought it to life. Entire shoot, done in under 40 minutes because when you have a fifth wheel named Renley, things turn into a pumpkin real quick.

And besides, we have it down to a science. Everyone takes a few really great shots, and then it's The Good Doctor's turn. We have to build in extra special time for him because, well, he's extra special.

No people or animals were harmed in the shooting of this card. As it says on the back, "Wishing you holiday cheer and a spirited new year!"

 PS Faces have been blurred to protect the innocent.


Memo to Renley: 10 Months



Are you seriously going to do lateral rolls to get around? Four rolls this way to grab a toy. Four rolls that way to get back. I didn't realize this was your preferred mode of transportation at 10-ish months. We were always so certain your big sisters would skip crawling and go straight to walking because they were good at standing. Your little legs are solid as tree trunks so we thought that about you too.


But nope. You refuse to even go from a sitting position to a crawling position. You lean 95% of the way forward on one knee and two hands. Then you get stuck. And sit back down. Eventually you wind up flat on your back, and rolling to get around. Or you just yell and command someone to pick you up for transport. It's so effective and probably the reason you'll skip crawling and walking and go straight to being carried by shirtless men in a litter. Or women. Or trans pan non gender specific people. It's all possible at this point.


You are by far the best eater of the three babies thus far. That's saying a lot in a family of incredible kid eaters. You have 4 teeth on top and two on the bottom and you aren't afraid to use them. You bit Daddy's chest so hard one day he actually yelled out loud. It takes a lot to get that man to yell out loud outside of an amazing/horrible basketball play on TV. That instantly startled you into crying. Then two days later, you chomped down crazy hard on my left shoulder. Weeks later I still have a mark! I too yelled. Then you were quickly carried off by Daddy who was all too familiar with the power of your bite force quotient.


Back to the food though. You pretty much skipped the baby food stage. Yeah a few pureed fruits and green beans but you're way more interested in chewing cooked foods and eating everything we're eating. Salmon, rice, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, turkey burgers, tomato soup, chow mein, lobster ravioli, steak, the Burger King croissandwich I had to grab the other day, peanut butter (yes, babies are supposed to eat that around 9 months now instead of 1 year to help with allergies apaprently), every kind of vegetable soup Asian Grandma makes. Carbs, protein, and cups and cups of water. It makes it super fun to feed you and easy too because you're eating what we're eating. No need to pack a bunch of jars of pre-made anything. 


You love to be carried around so you can point at things. You yell and shriek louder than any baby I remember raising. You are very vocal when it comes to eating or drinking, slamming your hands down to scatter any food onto the ground that doesn't meet muster. Romeo would have loved you.


You're down to 5 ounces of breastmilk a night now, your last bottle before bed. The transition to formula was mentally tough for me. Maybe because you're the last baby, maybe because Emmy was on formula for one month, Odessa none, and you started at 9.75 months because my freezer stores dwindled. Lots of weird mom guilt that I could quell intellectually but it still strangles emotionally.


Napping is killer. I can barely put you down for your naps. You just won't let me. There's fussing and wiggling and arguing. Luckily you're much better for Dada and Asian Grandma, who do the bulk of putting you down. I like to think it's because you just looooooove me so much you don't want the party to end. 


You're so easygoing and fun-loving otherwise, a happy camper for all things family. 


What a lucky break we got, adding you and getting to celebrate the miracle of a life one more time. My sweet Renley baby. Now just stop biting people and we're good.


Love you,


Memo to Renley: 7 Months

Little Ren Ren

AKA Renbok or RenBAH or Renbakeedoh as you're often called by Odessa.

What happened to memos 2-6? See memos 2-6 for Emerson or Odessa. Sorry 3rd baby. Let's just look on the bright side, which is, you've made it this far!

What a delicious little chubby dumpling you've become. Always quick with a smile and a little tongue poking out of the corner of your mouth for anyone who calls out to you. You're still battling that baby bald spot on the back of your head but it's getting a little more manageable. Definitely a party in the back with some really long hair and some sadly broken strands that can't quite cover that one square inch of scalp.

Nothing a little baby Rogaine won't cure. Kidding. We only use all natural grapefruit skins like Asian Grandma and Asian Grandpa used on me when I was a baby. What I need to find out is what Janelle Wang's parents used. Hands down, best hair game in the television business. 

But back to you little Ren baby. Your 6 month milestone was huge for you. We dismantled the crib, put you in your own room, and killed the pacifier. All on the same day, nevermind that looking back, it appeared you were about to sprout two bottom teeth and you seemed just a little bit stuffed up. It was time. We did this to Emerson. 6 month baby coming of age event. Like a baby bat mitzvah if you will. A seismeses-anera.

It was untenable. You were becoming too aware. Our noises were messing up your sleep, your noises had been messing up our sleep for 6 months. Actually 16 if you count the pregnancy. As with most moves in our household, this one was dramatic.

We agreed Daddy would begin the night by putting you down for bed. We anticipated some pushback.

Obviously you liked your paci and you wanted it. But it's never good to be too dependent on something Renley.

We're imbuing you with that lesson now. You're welcome.

As expected, you did not go quietly into the night. The crying. The wailing. The horrible sound of my baby unhappy. Daddy sat in the hallway reading on his phone and keeping an eye on the timer. It's a form of sleep training he did with Emmy too. Go back in every 5-10 minutes to pat the baby and calm her down without picking her back up. But I was not involved with Emmy's training because I correctly predicted I wouldn't be able to handle it. Odessa was just easy. She never needed the pacifier and we kicked her out around 3 months because she was such a light sleeper she preferred being her own room.

But you have always responded better to soothing from me, since your earliest days, so this time the agreement was that I would go in at the specified intervals to calm you down.

Me: Is it time yet? Daddy: No. Me: Is it time yet? Daddy: It's been 30 seconds. Me: Now? Daddy: 4 more minutes. 

It was annoying. 

Finally, after a bazillion rounds of these 5-10 minute intervals, I decided this was unacceptable.

You were crying. So. Loud. 

I had to take matters into my own hands and pick you up. Sacrilege! Sleep trainers will tell you first rule of Sleep Club, you do not talk about Sleep Club. Second rule, you do not pick up the baby!

But mother knows best. Right? As long as I'm writing this, yes. 

No sooner than I inch out in the hall as you're snuffling and quieting down (which is deeply primally maternally satisfying, of course) does your dad come into the hallway.

At this point it's like 10:30PM. Your sisters, God bless them, are sleeping through all the crying and wailing. But of course we don't want to wake them.

So a full on whisper fight ensues. Whisper yelling at the top of our whisper lungs. 

Him: [[ what are you doing???????!!!!!! ]]

Me: [[ she needs to eat ]]

Him: [[ no she doesn't. she just ate an hour ago ]]

Me: [[ i'm her mother ]]

Him: [[ confused by the relevance of my argument ]]

Me: [[ she can't keep crying like this ]]

Him: [[ you need to put her back down!!! ]]

Me: [[ no! ]]

All of this whisper shouting is happening as I'm trying to walk and rock you down the hallway toward our room so I can get to my chair and feed you. 

At this point, your father stretches to his full 6 feet 6 inches, Wonder Woman pose and BLOCKS ME FROM PASSING.

Which, naturally, ENRAGES me. 

Few things enrage me, but when the teapot gets hot, the water is boiling. Whatever that means.

Whisper fight continues.

Me: [[ i need to feed her! move!!! ]]

Him: [[ no. put her down. you're RUINING EVERYTHING. do you want to RUIN EVERYTHING? YOU'RE RUINING EVERYTHING ]] "Everything" being a reference to his carefully orchestrated plan for sleep training.

Me, still trying to find ways around Daddy: [[ she needs to eat ]]

Him, physically and verball not budging: [[ no ]] 

It was so aggravating, this ridiculous stand off. 

I hugged you tighter, and fired my final angry salvo in a sputtering whisper shout:

[[ she's MY baby!!! ]]

Still, he would not move. I turned around and quietly stomped back to your room and put you down. 

Then I went back into the hall and stormed past Daddy.

I later learned he was silently praying that you would soon fall asleep or it would have been Sleepocalypse in our home with me never letting go of that horrible night. 

Fortunately for everyone, you passed out three minutes later.

And ever since, you've been pretty good about falling asleep on your own without a pacifier or being overly rocked to bed. Good baby.

Among your other notable achievements to date: pooping in the toilet. Multiple times. Asian Grandma gets the gold star on this one. She's really the Poop Whisperer and she's started younger with each of you. You're also a good little eater of pureed veggies. You did not understand food the first 3 feedings but then it clicked and now you're a gobbler. You also love to slurp water from a spoon. Asian Grandparents have always been so obsessed with giving you girls water from day one because they think you're thirsty and that's how they do things in Vietnam. "Babies need water." You definitely like it. 

You're sitting and playing with toys, yowling, and laughing at everything your sisters do to entertain you.

It's so special. I love that they love you so much and that they haven't shown any signs of jealousy or inconvenience at your inclusion. Odessa doesn't love to have you drool on her stuffed animals so she's quick to do a toy switcheroo when you get your hands on something of hers, but otherwise they've taken to you seamlessly. They love to carry you like a sack of rice, grabbing you around your baby middle.

In your eyes, they can do no wrong.

We're savoring all the milestones with you in a way I didn't quite grasp before. With Emmy, everything was so new, so First Time. With Odessa, things were easy and she was easy. With you, even through the initial Hangry Mankey stages, I knew you'd be the last and I knew how quickly all of this would pass, that it never drained me of energy. So I made a point to inhale every bit of your babyness. And I'm still absorbing as much of you as I can with every kiss and sniff and hug. You make me laugh with your habit of burping in my face, often right into my mouth. Somehow you always turn to me when that gas bubble comes up. So endearing. 

You do love your mama and dada though. You always wiggle and call for us when you see us after a long day away. You are a funny little baby with an easy grin and you love to play with everyone. I love your spirit and we're thankful for you every day. And every night that you sleep through until morning. May there be an increasing number of those.

Love you Renroo,



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.