Better Than Ever

Friday, November 18, 2011:

Mommy reaching for some chocolates…
Lily: “Mom! You CAN’T have dessert if you haven’t eaten your dinner! See? I ate MMMYY dinner, so now I can have dessert. *holds up caramel popcorn and sesame cracker*”
Mommy: “Um.. well, I admit you’re right…”
Lily: “Good job, Mommy. Now go eat your dinner…”

Hm. How do I break it to her that mommies get to do whatever they want and don’t have to follow their own rules without making her feel she can completely trump my rules? :P

Sunday, November 20, 2011:

*watching Spiderman cartoon for the first time with Daddy*
Lily: “Who’s that?!!”
Daddy: “That’s a bad Spiderman, not the real Spiderman.”
Lily: “Who is that mean lady?!”
Daddy: “Well, she just looks mean, she’s not really mean.”
Lily: “>.< She should be nice!.... Who's that?!!"
Daddy: "That's er, Stan Lee, who is making an appearance in the cartoon because he's an egomaniac."
Lily: "EAGLE?! He's an EAGLE?!!"

Daddy: “Take another big girl bite, please.”
Lily: “*picks up forkful* Is this a big girl bite?”
Daddy: “Hmm….”
Lily: “Well, let’s just call it a big girl bite, kay?”

Monday, November 21, 2011:

Lily: “Mother? Oh, mother?”
Mommy: “Yes, daughter?”
Lily: “No, call me ‘Big Girl.’”
Mommy: “Oh, I mean.. Yes, Big Girl?”
Lily: “You are the BEESSTT mommy in the wwhoollllee wide world!!”
Mommy: “Aww, thank you so much, honey.”
Lily: “No, call me ‘Big Girl.’”

Happy 40th, Hubby

This is written dedicated to my husband, who turns 40 on November, 11, 2011 (11-11-11). To my sweet husband, this is the way we recognize that you love us…

- that whenever you lay a hand on me, it is only with the gentlest touch.

- that you re-arranged your entire life to fit into the keyhole of our happiness.

- that when you look at our daughter, I can see the whole world in your eyes.

- that although you are entirely European, you learn to cook authentic Vietnamese food from scratch.

- that you value love over money.

- that you find behind a parent as the most enjoyable and most rewarding job you’ve ever had.

- that you would give up all the riches in the world just so you can be with your family.

- that we’ve created a life together.

- that we’ve gone from have nothing to our name to building a home and a house together.

- that you’ve supported me through school.

- that you’ve watched me cry and sob and still love me through it all.

- that you can say “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” and still you try to understand.

- that you understand I’m not always like you, and yet you love me anyway

- that you are kind to our cat, Tink.

- that you sacrifice the very core of who you have been just to be with us.

- that you teach me how to be a better parent; how to be more like you.

- that you recognize my weaknesses and still think they are my strengths.

- that you support me in whatever you decision, whatever road I choose to take.

- that you say you would follow me to the ends of the earth, as long as we’re doing it together.

- that you find being in our pajamas and in the same room without saying a word as enjoyable as I do.

- that you proposed to me by giving me a plant.

- that you sacrificed having a small wedding in favor of a big extravagant one because you thought it would make me happy.

- that our daughter calls you her best friend.

- that our cat believes you’re her best friend, too.

- that you are most definitely my very best friend.

- that you make me orange julius even when you’re feeling lazy.

- that you don’t mind that I don’t cook.

- that you’ve learned to speak “Helenese” even when it’s not the most comfortable for you.

- that everything you’ve invested is in us; you have no “Plan B.”

- that you start your sentences with, “When we’re old and gray…”

- that you believe spending time with Lily is infinitely more valuable than playing video games.

- that you remind me to be gentle with her.

- that you tell us we’re both beautiful.

- that you’re not afraid to show you feelings, even when they show how vulnerable you are.

- that you’re a man through and through and through.

- that you have strong arms to hold me steady.

- that you aren’t afraid to express how happy you are to see me happy.

- that you wish you could undo all the hurt that I’ve been through.

- that you would readily sacrifice your life and your freedom to protect us.

- that you’re a father every single man would and should look up to.

- that although you’re not gregarious, you make events and play dates for Lily because she is.

- that you do chores around the house.

- that you love your mom.

- that you believe how important my culture is in our family.

- that you don’t let me make excuses for sometimes wanting to be “less than” what I am capable of.

- that you are my biggest fan in everything I do.

- that you believe in me more than I sometimes believe in myself.

- that whenever I say, “I don’t know if I can do it…” you laugh because that’s the silliest thing you’ve ever heard.

- that I fit into your arms so seamlessly.

- that we’ve been together for over 12 years, and still I seem to learn something new about you all the time.

- that you work so hard to shift your way of thinking to understand the way I think.

- that you help make this house into a home.

- that you know me so well, you listen even when you’re not listening.

- that you’re not just a “Uh huh, yes, ma’am” kinda guy; that you believe I deserve an equal partner.

- that we share the same artistic flare on photography, design, and everything in between.

- that I don’t have to be afraid of telling you my “scary” feelings.

- that you respect my struggles even when you don’t understand them.

- that you never put me down for my feelings.

- that you can get just as angry and frustrated as I can get.

- that you taught our Lily astronomy, math, grammar, photosynthesis, and how the planet works.

- that even when I gained 36 pounds during my pregnancy, you still thought I was the most beautiful creature on earth.

- that you get excited when I have a good meal.

- that you give without ever saying you’re giving; it just comes naturally.

- that I truly believe you can, do, and will love Lily forever, unconditionally.

- that you let me watch HGTV House Hunters even when it annoys the heck out of you.

- that more often than not, you sacrifice your own needs for ours.

- that you are constantly mentally, emotionally, verbally, and physically there for Lily; whether it is with hugs and kisses, or teaching her morals and values, or telling her you love her to bits and pieces.

- that you are happy to see me when I come home from work every night.

- that you think whatever I end up doing, I will be a rock star at it.

- that you’ve always believed in my abilities and capabilities and potential, even when I didn’t.

- that although you’d rather be home playing on the computer, you are rarely home playing on the computer when there is time instead for family time or Lily time.

- that you sometimes still tell me, “You look very pretty today.”

- that you quit your biggest vice for us.

- that you get me my snacks when you go shopping, even when I don’t ask you to

- that you went vegetarian with us so we can all be healthier together.

- that you taught me the value of staying connected with politics and policies; that you taught me the importance of staying aware.

- that you look at us with love.

The way you love us is amazing. The way you are is amazing. I am thankful for every year of your 40 years, because it has led you to me. Thank you for finding me, thank you for saving me. In more ways than you or anyone would ever know. I love you, hubby, and happy birthday. :)

Breakfast Conversation

During breakfast…
Lily: “I’m a good helper, huh?”
Mommy: “Yes you are, baby.”
Lily: “I’m not a baby! I’m Super Girl Helper Princess Lily Hula Dancer Honeycomb Eater!”
Mommy: “Heh. Yes, yes you are.”
Lily: “Mommy, I talk a lot, huh?”
Mommy: “Yes, you do. Are you eating your breakfast?”
Lily: “Uh huh! Mom, I will be mean to ALL THE BAD GUYS!!”
Mommy: “Yeah?”
Lily: “Yeah. Mom, a long long long time ago, I took pictures of trees with Nana.”
Mommy: “I know, baby. That was fun, huh?”
Lily: “Yeah. Mom, what does soggy mean?”
Mommy: “It means your cereal is getting soft.”
Lily: “Oh. Mom, look, my boo boo is all gone!!!”
Mommy: “I’m glad, baby. Are you eating?”
Lily: “Uh huh. Mom, what do you call me when I talk a lot?”
Mommy: “A chatterbox, baby.”
Lily: “Yes. I am a chatterbox. I talk a lot, huh?”

Lily’s First Day of School

Our Lily started PRESCHOOL today! OH MY WORD, time flies. I cannot express the emotions that were all over the house the past week, and specifically today. There was a lot of bouncing up and down, a lot of excitement, a lot of “YAY!! PRESCHOOL!!”, and a lot of anticipation. And we’re not even talking about how Lily reacted yet! Just kidding…

Miss Lily has been excited about preschool ever since we started looking for preschools about a year ago. She was so excited that we actually got ready BEFORE we needed to. First time ever that she listened the first time when I asked her, “Okay time to get ready!” She finished her breakfast in record time, she got her shoes on in record time, and she pranced around the house in her little backpack a good 10 minutes before we had to leave. She waited by the door and asked me to “open the door, Mommmmyyy!!” before it was time to go.

I took the day off from work today in order to accompany Lily and her daddy to her first day of preschool. We took the bus because this is how Daddy and Lily will be going to preschool and home on other school days, so the three of us ventured out in the late morning to wait for the bus at the bus stop across the street. It was very exciting.

When we got there, Lily read the welcome sign on the board outside the door, and promptly posed for me. What a sweetheart.

We walked in and we found her cubbyhole, where we set her stuff down. She was super excited to have a cubbyhole.

Lily is only at school on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours each time. It is a slow transition, and we’re totally super excited about it. We gave her a hug and kiss, and she returned some excited side hugs to us as she was anxious to get going and start playing. She introduced herself to the other kids, and said hi to her two teachers, Ms. Lindsay and Ms. Amber. She fit perfectly in, and just said goodbye to us. We didn’t linger. We hung out around the grounds since we didn’t have a car to get anywhere. On regular school days, Dave/Daddy will be going upstairs to the gym that is also on the facility during the time Lily is in preschool. Today, we just hung out and read books while waiting for her school to end.

When we said goodbye to her, as we were walking away, I started crying. Dave had to comfort me while holding back tears himself. I can’t believe how fast she’s grown, and now she is in SCHOOL. And how well she did without us. How perfectly confident and capable she is. She’s her own little person, and I am so proud, and so heartbroken. Some days, it’s like she doesn’t even need us anymore. Dave and I joke sometimes that it feels like we’re just here to reach the stuff that are on high shelves for her. Heh.

When she saw us at the door when we picked her up, she ran to us, and first thing that came out of her mouth was, “I don’t want to go yet!!!” She absolutely loved it. She ate all her snacks, and followed directions. The teachers said she did fantastic. She can’t wait to go back.

We hopped back onto the bus and on our first stop, we decided to go to the mall and had some late lunch there, since she was only able to have a snack during preschool. She was starving! She was super excited and said she wanted to go back to school “right now!!”

The Vacation Post

During July, 2011, we went on vacation to Southern California for 2.5 weeks. For the first 6 days, we were at Disneyland. Next 7 days, we stayed at Uncle Larry’s vacation home in Palm Springs. Last 4 days of our trip, we stayed in Monterey Park with my side of the extended family. Because over time, we tend to forget the little details of our lives, I wanted to make sure I capture these in writing so that we can look back and reflect on how it all went a little more clearly. Here are the most memorable things of our trip, in no particular order other than in the three different parts of our trip.


  • The Little Mermaid ride in California Adventure Park NINE times. Yes, nine times. It was, needless to say, Lily’s favorite ride.
  • Getting soaked on Grizzly River Run.
  • The colors water show at the end of the night on Jaeden’s birthday.
  • Eating lunch at that Chinese place in California Adventure Park. CHINESE FOOD in theme parks, woohoo!
  • Going on Space Mountain twice in a row with the “adults” after the kids were in bed.
  • Getting soaked on Splash Mountain.
  • Seeing the fireworks from the top of Splash Mountain.
  • Rushing through the park late at night with no kids in tow.
  • Lily’s face when she saw all the princesses in the princess parade.
  • “Who…?! What…?! Where…?! Why…?! Whaatt..??!!” Lily when she didn’t know which question to ask first out of excitement.
  • Going on the merry-go-round three times. Can we spell, N-A-U-S-E-A?
  • Lily covering her eyes during Pirates of the Caribbean and the Muppet Show.
  • Actually waiting in line to see the Michael Jackson show. L-A-M-E. He saved the world through pelvic thrusts.
  • Lily’s face when she saw the “CASTLE.” “Can we go inside, can we go inside?!”
  • Lily’s confusion when there was no “inside” to the castle other than the Sleeping Beauty walk through.
  • Getting my scalp sunburned.
  • Shopping for a bag with Dave that is neutral yet girly at the same time, and has to have a zipper or can close. We ended up getting a black backpack with the Disneyland logo on it. :P
  • Buying identical pink Disney crocs for Lily and Kennedy.
  • Buying the Little Mermaid figurine set for Lily.
  • Seeing the Aladdin Show with Lily and singing right along.
  • The awesome ride that is The Tower of Terror.
  • Pee dances with two toddler girls.
  • Lily waking up every morning declaring, “Okay, I’m done with this bed! I want MY bed at home!”
  • Regularly braiding Lily’s hair everyday to keep it up and out of her face.
  • Lily taking our picture while going on Mickey’s Fun (Ferris) Wheel.
  • Pausing for snack breaks in between rides and in line-ups.
  • Three hotel rooms side by side, with Nana in the middle.
  • Getting blisters while walking in wet shoes after getting soaked on Splash Mountain with Dave, Dan, and Kami.
  • Lily’s face when we went “inside” the castle (aka: Sleeping Beauty walk-through).
  • Seeing an old ex-best-friend after 15 years after a huge fall-out because she happens to be working at Disneyland that same week.
  • Having her avoid speaking or acknowledging us only to mistakenly give Dan and Kami a survey instead because she didn’t know they were part of our group.
  • Going swimming everyday at the hotel swimming pool and hot tub.
  • Lily slipping off the edge and falling into the hot tub, almost drowning. THAT WAS THE SCARIEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE.
  • Saving Lily from drowning by jumping in fully clothed, after the grown woman RIGHT next to her did nothing but nonchalantly stare. I wanted to kick that woman.
  • Lily and Kennedy going in and out in and out in and out of the “big pool” and the “hot pool.”
  • Dave’s laptop FRIED and he lost his hard drive, along with everything in it.
  • Kids eat free at IHOP every night after 5pm! Three times at IHOP that week. I’m done for at least 3 years.
  • The introduction of the summer orange milkshake on our last dinner at Disneyland at Denny’s. Wow, that’s yummy.
  • Having walkie talkies throughout the park.
  • First time getting nauseous on the Teacup ride. I think it is the beginning of old age or something?
  • “Can we fast pass this?”
  • Realizing there’s a malfunction in my favorite bathing suit bottom, and thus successfully mooning everyone while at the pool.
  • Two little girls toddling along without a single complaint for 6 days.
  • “The kids are heightened. HEIGHTENED.”
  • Seeing the fireworks from our hotel balcony across the street from Disneyland.
  • Over 12 hours of Disneyland for the adults minus Nana.
  • Misters are the best thing ever invented.
  • The horrible mistake from that left Sylv and Reilly stranded without a room for the first night, thus sleeping with us instead.
  • Being on the phone with for almost an hour demanding a full refund.
  • Lily’s first try at shooting during the Toy Story Mania ride.
  • Lily being scared in the Haunted Mansion ride.
  • Last day of Disneyland: “Okay, I think we’re disneylanded out.”


  • Swimming every single day.
  • The make-shift bed for Lily on the floor next to our bed; and she thought it was the coolest thing ever.
  • 110 degree dry heat
  • Lily hating the car ride to Palm Springs because she declared, “I don’t like this car seat! I want OURS at home!”
  • Stepping out into the weather at Palm Springs for the first time and Lily exclaiming, “It is a little bit hot here. MOMMYYYYY PICK ME UP!!”
  • Game nights with the adults after the kids were in bed.
  • Blue finger nails and toe nails from Auntie Kami for the girls.
  • Alonetime in the pool with Dave during one of the nights. :)
  • Lily and Kennedy fighting like sisters. :) “MOM SHE’S LOOKING AT ME!!!”
  • Walmart trips. Many Walmart trips.
  • Finally being able to cook our own meals after eating out 3 times a day for 6 days a week.
  • Soak City on the Monday before we left: everyone got sunburned except the kids.
  • Kami and I switching places supervising the girls while they went down the water park slide at Soak City; and effectively switching getting soaked by the giant water reservoir that tipped over every few minutes.
  • The Lazy River at Soak City, and floating along it over and over and over and over again.
  • No vegetarian foods at Soak City, thereby pigging out on… fries.
  • Dave having a “superhero” sunburn mask on after Soak City because he was wearing his sunglasses while everything else on his body got burned lobster red.
  • Editing photos while on vacation. Aww!
  • Finishing the book “The Forgotten Garden” finally, after having started it 6 months ago!
  • Ants in the kitchen. Lots of ‘em.
  • Whipped cream cheese. I will never go back.
  • Kix for breakfast every morning, and Chex Mix for snacks every evening.
  • Being “cold” in the evening in the house (due to air conditioning) while it is over 100 degrees outside.
  • Using Lily’s padded underwear as a cushion for her car seat so it doesn’t hurt her thighs.
  • Lily getting used to floating on her own in the pool with a donut ring on!
  • Hot tub at night. Weird concept for such hot weather but it felt ssoooo nice.
  • Towels and wet bathing suits drying overnight while hung over the rails by the pool.
  • Interesting margarita mixes for all the adults except myself, after the kids have gone to bed.
  • Silence after 9pm, when every adult is doing their own thing in the same room after the kids are asleep.
  • Bought not one, but two brand new laptops after Dave’s fried one. One for me, one for him, as per our tradition.
  • Slow internet at the house.
  • Shopping at Target again. I miss Target!
  • New bathing suit for Lily and me, woohoo!
  • Braiding Lily’s hair every single morning.


  • Having to go ignorantly eat at a “Tofu House” (thinking it was all vegetarian) only to realize too late that it was a Korean restaurant with little vegetarian alternatives. This was right before we checked into our hotel room.
  • Realizing after we checked in that Happy Family ALL-VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT was literally right next door, along with Lee’s Sandwiches, which sells vegetarian Vietnamese sandwiches. What a waste of a meal a Tofu House.
  • Discovering Happy Family restaurant. Yum. Both places.
  • Showing up at Brigitte’s house and seeing so many cousins and aunties and uncles.
  • Finally meeting Brenna!
  • Finally having Brigitte meet Dave and Lily!
  • Lily playing possessively with Brenna’s toys. :P
  • Lily being shy with all the aunties when they acted like mother hens and literally started poking and hugging her and yabbering away in Vietnamese, which she doesn’t understand. Heh.
  • Breakfast every morning at Lee’s Sandwiches. Yuuummmmm.
  • Being just the three of us again after two weeks with extended family felt weird and oddly quiet.
  • Lily meeting my cousins’ kids, her cousins, and playing with them one by one as she met them.
  • Eating AWESOME vegetarian meals every single day for every single meal after the mistake of Tofu House.
  • Bitter melon with fried/scrambled egg.
  • Vegetarian bun rieu. Mmmm. Lily and Dave loved it too!
  • Lily eating the best meals we’ve ever seen her eat. She was constantly hungry and ate so much every meal. She loved everything on her plate all the time.
  • Going to the beautiful Hacienda Buddhist temple, just the three of us.
  • The L.A. museum of natural history! First time for Lily seeing dinosaurs in person!
  • Being refused entry to the main praying hall because I was wearing a spaghetti strap dress.
  • Lily getting a free cookie in the snacking hall because the lady behind the counter declared she was so beautiful.
  • Ineffectively trying to explain religion (particularly Buddhism) to Lily.
  • First 5 minutes into the city of L.A., stopping to get gas and for potty break for Lily: had a homeless man and a homeless woman ask for spare change, telling us “Oh your daughter is so beautiful. Wow.” and looking at her creepily, me witnessing an extremely overweight lady steal a couple of bags of chips and corn nuts. Worse yet, we decided not to do anything about it because we were afraid she might have been armed and dangerous if we told on her and became “witnesses.”
  • Dinners with relatives every night. I’ve missed them.
  • CATHY’S WEDDING!! So fun, and so happy to see Lily getting along with all her little cousins.
  • Dancing Lily with dancing Ethan and dancing Eileen! They can boogie!
  • Itchy Dave right before his sunburned skin started peeling.
  • Ordering prints and products for photography clients while on vacation. Boo! Heh.
  • Beautiful Cathy and her hubby Alan having the coolest first dance ever.
  • Eating dinner after the wedding with some of the aunts and uncles and my DAD!!!
  • Lily finally giving hugs starting the day before we left, at Cathy’s wedding. She gave her Uncle John and Auntie Lally a hug.
  • Right before we said goodbye to everyone, she gave her Ngoai (my dad, her grandpa) some hugs, as well as my Little Aunt some hugs, and then played catch with her Auntie Brigitte, by which the prize was GIVING HUGS AND KISSES!


  • Lily saying, “Are we done with our vacation now? I want to stay longer.”
  • Almost losing Bubby at LAX airport right before our flight. Brief 5 minutes of panic while we freakishly scanned the waiting area for Bubby.
  • Eating Lee’s Sandwiches veggie sandwiches for lunch for the last time. :(
  • Lily and I coloring for most of the plane trip home.
  • Heavy heavy heavy suitcases and a super-husband who carried them all.
  • Arguing with the bus guy as to why Lily wasn’t registered to ride with us. I don’t care whose fault that is, but we’re going home, WITH Lily, on that bus, even if I had to drive it myself.
  • And we did! And I didn’t have to drive it! Ha!
  • Seeing Nana where she picked us up at the border store, and Lily exclaiming excitedly, “NNNAAANNAAAA!!!!!!!!!!”
  • During the car ride home, Lily asked me matter-of-factly, “So which of your aunties are we going to see tomorrow?”
  • Lily’s teary eyes when told that we weren’t going to be seeing them for a while because they don’t live in Canada with us.
  • Lily declaring that this was not good, and that all the aunties and cousins “should move up here with us. That would be nice.” :)
  • Sleeping in our own beds.