31 December 2008

Big Gurl Talk

For some reason, Trinhity seemed full of one-liners today. I was feeding Tài Tài some lunch, and he gave the 'access denied' treatment to the sweet potato twice, then started fussing. I said, "So does that mean you're finished, Little Dude?" He fussed louder and clapped his hands, his sign for 'pick me up now, if you know what's good for you.'

Without looking up from her painting, Trinh said, "Daddy, I think that means "Yes."

Later, Huong asked her something. Trinh replied, "Well, Mommy, let me put it like this..."

Finally, she was making a band-aid for her dinosaur's tail out of masking tape because...well, because Daddy bit it, that's why. Don't ask. Then she started strapping her knee with masking tape, too. I asked why. She said, "I know it's not a real band-aid. I do this just to embarrass you."

One more from last Friday when Di Trang and John were here. Trinh & I had watched Kung Fu Panda a couple times; there's a funny scene in there where Poh (the panda) starts to wig out, and Shifu (the master) says "Focus...Focus...FOCUS!"

I used that on her once or twice at times when she was distracted. I explained that "focus" means "concentrate", and it means, "I need your attention...NOW." She made the connection, and it was working beautifully.

So there I was, chatting along with Di Trang while Trinh was nearby setting up an imaginary game with some of her toys. Trinh had apparently said something to me that I'd missed. She walked over, stood in front of me, took my face in both hands, and said, "Daddy...focus, Daddy...focus. I need your attention. Thank you."


27 December 2008

Tai Lung, the Dark Leprechaun

I broke down one day last week and got some fries and a Coke at McDonald's when I was on the run to somewhere. Aside from a sense of lethargy and guilt, that yielded a coupon for a one-night RedBox movie rental, which in turn led to another breakdown: Kung Fu Panda.

Trinh loved it. So did I, truth be told. She's been talking about it non-stop, and she's taken a shine to Tigress, the strong female fighter voiced by Angelina Jolie. Naturally, she's a little spooked by the villain, Tai Lung, a fearsome snow leopard "with darkness in his heart."

Separately, Trinh also got an exceptionally cool book for Christmas, the Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Magical Creatures. It's got the most sophisticated pop-ups I've ever seen, and it's quite readable. One of the creatures that took her fancy were the leprechauns, probably due in part to a recently-borrowed library book that we all fancied, Fiona's Luck.

Perhaps you've already figured out how these non-sequiters would collide, but I didn't see it coming: "Daddy, I want to see the part again where Tigress fights with Tai Lung...you know Tai Lung, the leprechaun with darkness in his heart. Can we watch that again? Pleeeease??"

25 December 2008

Mommy, where do you keep your rules?

Last week Trinhity asked Huong (in VN), "What part of your body do you keep your rules in?"

Huong was somewhat confused. She asked, "What do you mean?"

"I keep my rules in my heart," Trinh replied. "Do you?"

21 December 2008

O Holy Night

We were singing Christmas carols tonight during Trinh's bath. I was trying out a scat version of "Silver Bells" (because I can't remember most of the words), and she wanted to know if "Jingle Bells" were also "Silver Bells". A logical question, and we managed to work "Jingle Bell Rock" into the answer for kicks.

Somewhere along the way we managed some brief harmony on a final note. It rang out, thanks to the less-than-dreadful acoustics in our bathroom; we shared a spellbound moment and that special smile which always seem to accompany a particularly nice echo. If you've sung any a cappella, you know what I mean.

She wanted to do that again. I did too. So I launched into an explanation of "sounds" (ooo, ahh, eee) in contrast to "notes" with a smattering of examples from the various Christmas carols we've been singing. She doesn't seem to have perfect pitch, but her ear knows it when she hears it. This pleases me more than I can possibly articulate.

Her attention span was running short, so I wrapped up with a flourish: O Holy Night, with a nod to Mr. Tanner. Just after the minor fall (but before the major lift), she laid her head on my chest, wrapped her little arms around me and snuggled close.

Despite a congested head, dodgy throat and lack of a regular singing routine, I sorta got into it, somehow managing not to wake Tài Tài sleeping just down the hall. When I finished the last round of falling on our knees, she slowly pulled back and looked into my eyes.

"Daddy," she said, "I remember when you used to sing that song to put me to sleep. Now I'm a big girl, but it still makes me fall asleep. It makes me feel warm."

She might not remember moments like this years from now. But hallelujah, I will.

07 December 2008

Christmas Rain

Trinhity & I took a scenic route home through our neighborhood tonight at dusk to check out all the Christmas decorations. We saw inflatable Santas, inflatable snowmen, an enormous inflatable Mickey Mouse, an inflatable Pooh Bear...and, among other inflatables, an inordinate number of reindeer.

Completely unprompted by me she sighed and said, "Daddy, why is there so much rain at Christmas?"

03 December 2008


We were so proud of Trinhity during our stay in Cancun. Before the trip, we talked to her about the fact that we were going to visit Mexico. We told her that in Mexico, the people there speak Spanish. So of course, we spent a lot of time teaching her some key Spanish phrases. She was a hit with the staff at the resort. She greeted everyone... EVERYONE.. with an enthusiastic ¡Hola! complete with waves and smiles. She also mastered the usage of adios and buenos dias. By the end of the trip, she was remembering to say gracias as well.
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02 December 2008


That is the number of library books that we currently have checked out. There was a time when Trinhity would ask us to read the same book over & over again. No more. Now, she asks for a "new" book. She usually asks for a "new" book several times a day. We've found that having 15-20 library books will get us through a week. How cool is that?

What's bizarre is that the Mama, while checking out the week's supply of stories, has heard on more than one occasion, a parent scolding a child for asking to check out too many library books. Too many appears to be roughly 5. Now why in the world would you discourage your child from reading??

La Petite Penguin

Here you can see our little Happy Feet in all her penguin glory. We wish you could see her dance her Happy Feet stomping dance in this costume, it's just way too precious. Perhaps we'll have the video edited and posted sometime before she hits kindergarten, but don't hold your breath.

Mama made her a little penguin beanie and beak as well but Trinh decided that she didn't want to wear them.

This year, Mama went trick-or-treating with the princess; Daddy stayed home with the Little Dude. Unlike Trinhity, Taison keeps a schedule and is usually asleep by 7PM. No Halloween for Little Dude this year.

Trick-or-treating was not as eventful this year as it was last year since Trinhity's little neighborhood friends did not get home until later in the evening. Trinh was a bit heartbroken and kept stopping by their house. She adores her friends but has a tough time understanding that since the girls are older (6 & 8) they may have other friends and interests. She has always played well with older children and has not really bonded to any children her age. It will be interesting to see how her friendships develop as she goes through preschool.

On a side note, we've been trying to steer her away from her Happy Feet obsession. Why? Well, some aspect of the movie aren't exactly age appropriate, even if we really enjoy them. It is a bit disconcerting to hear your 3 year old belt out:
"Uh, Uh, Baby it don't work. You say your prayers but you don't care...."

"Can anybody...find me...somebody to...LOVE..."

"You don't have to be BEAUTIFUL.... OWWW... "

"WEEELLLLL, since my baby left me...."

Umm, yeah. Earth, Wind & Fire; Prince; Queen; P!nk; and Elvis. Great stuff. Not exactly geared for toddlers, though.

Cancun #2: Sad Faces

This little drama started at one of the resort's pools where Trinh was chasing away the birds who were trying to eat our tortilla chips. I think they also wanted my mojito, but I wasn't sharing.
She successfully scared off all the birds. This was as she watched them fly away.
Then she came over to Mama and said, "Mommy, all the birds are gone. I'm sad. Is this a sad face?"
"And how about this one? Is this an even sadder face??"


We arrived in Cancun midday on Friday. By the time we got our bags, found the bus, got to the resort, checked in, met up with everyone, got settled in our room...it was already dark.

So the next morning, we went exploring and discovered that we were mere steps from a gorgeous beach. AHHH....

But wait a minute...what's wrong with this picture?

No, it's not the pelicans.

It's the palm trees. And her hair.

It was extremely windy that first day. Poor princess found herself caught in a sandstorm!

Well, OK, so we didn't hit the beach much those first few days. But we had the pools, right?

Technically, yes. There were three gorgeous pools within a minute of our suite. Unfortunately, the water was FREEZING! It didn't bother the kids much, but as a parent it's hard to watch your child's lips turn blue after only 10 minutes in the water. Not so good.

To make matters worse, Trinh had a terrible breakout of eczema on her face & neck. She's a tough little girl, though; as Mama was putting on suncreen, Trinh said very matter of factly, "Mama, that stings. Owie."

That's all. No tears, no drama. The eczema patches had developed minor lacerations, so we couldn't really put suncreen on the princess. Ouch!

Instead, we did lots of coloring and hanging out by the pool. In the shade.

Believe it or not, we had a few days that we had to drag Trinh out into the sunshine. Why??

Well, our hotel room had a TV. See, our house does not have a TV. Ong Bà's house has a TV, but no cable. Princess was glued to the TV when we were in our room. It was the first time she'd ever seen Dora the Explorer. First time for us, too.

Ah, the wonders of cable television for the (self-)deprived. [sigh]

This is Princess having lunch. What is she eating? Seaweed, of course. We brought a week's supply of seaweed -- along with three bags of diapers, of course. Those two necessities took up half of a suitcase!

For those of you who have read the Cancun entry on Taison's blog, you know that we had a really rough week. Taison was teething and up screaming half of the night. Both kids were completely off of their normal schedules. Trinhity still naps, normally around 1PM; during our vacation, she was taking her naps as late as 3-4PM. That meant she was waking up about the time that Taison needed to be fed, bathed, and put to bed.

We spent a lot of time in our hotel room. Good thing our hotel room was spacious. Well, that was our opinion.

One morning Mama called Ong, and Trinh wanted to talk with him. She told him that our "beach house" in Cancun was really, really small. Hmmm.

Trinh has always associated beaches with the beach house rentals we've gotten in Galveston. They were never so nice as the Moon Palace Grand Resort. I mean, our room had a jacuzzi for two and an in-room booze bar. Nice, eh? Yeah, the kiddos liked it.

The jacuzzi, I mean. None of us really touched the booze.

Anyway, apparently the nice resort, white sand, and that crystal blue water all were lost on our child. She just thought the room was small. Hah.

So it wasn't exactly the most relaxing week. Frankly, it's a ton of work to vacation with two munchkins. We knew that going in, but it didn't make things easier. But Mama did get to sneak away for a few hours and spend two days at the spa. There was no cooking, cleaning, or laundry to do, and Daddy didn't have to wear a tie.

This was our view every morning as we breakfasted at the nearby restaurant.
As with all vacations, the weather was perfect on the last two days. The kids napped on schedule, and we were able to spend some time playing on the beach in the early evening.

Our family on Thanksgiving day 2008 in Cancun, Mexico:

Despite the exhaustion associated with parenting, we have much, much for which to be thankful...

For instance, Daddy has always secretly wanted to be a pirate. Now he is!

We did catch a spectacular sunset on our last night in Cancun, a perfect end to a not-entirely-ideal vacation.
And who are these pretty people with the big smiles and sun-kissed skin?
[L-R] Cousin Trevor, Brittany, Uncle Scott, Aunt Tina, Cousin Rachel, Sammy, Amy & Cousin Jeff
[front center] Gloria, the penguin

Thank you Uncle Scott & Aunt Tina for sharing your vacation with us!!

27 November 2008

I Saw a Little Turkey

Finally, some video....

Be patient, the Boogie Wonderland video is still WIP....

26 November 2008

People Have Troubles

Earlier this week Trinhity was playing near a fancy column in the foyer of a restaurant. She had climbed up on the marble platform and was pretending that the bulbous base was her crystal ball.

She told me to wait at the bottom of the wheelchair ramp while she went to check her crystal ball. I obliged. She ran down the incline a minute or so later wearing a terribly grave look.

"Daddy," she said, "people have troubles. First some people had troubles, but now the whole world has troubles! Lots of troubles! Big troubles! What are we going to do?"

Intuitive little bugger, that one. Boy, if that ain't the question, eh?

What, indeed, are we going to do?

21 November 2008

18 November 2008

Babies Don't Worry About Babies

This morning on the way to school, Trinhity complained that her tummy was hurting. She was acting normal otherwise, so I wasn't too worried. I did ask if she was worried about it.

She gave me a funny look, then said, "No, Daddy. Only big people worry. Big people have to worry about their babies. Babies don't worry about babies!"

I chuckled and agreed with her, so she continued: "...but Trinh is a big sister, so Trinh has to worry about her baby brother. Do you worry about Baby Tai?"

I nodded. She asked, "Daddy, why do big people worry so much?"

Great question, kiddo. Great question.

17 November 2008

Daddy and The Merbabies

Mama-san got a book from the library for Trinh called The Merbaby. I love it.


Briefly, here's the story: a young man dreams of being captain of his own sailing ship, but he's stuck on a fishing boat with his greedy, workaholic brother. He loves the sea but doesn't really enjoy fishing. One day they wander into mermaid territory, and he only narrowly saves their ship from being lured into the rocks by the mermaid's song. The next day, he finds a merbaby in the net with the fish they've caught.

He thinks about putting her back into the sea, but he sees sharks circling. His brother is keen to keep her; they'll turn her into a freak show and get rich. The young man can't sleep that night. Finally, he resolves to take her back to her family, dangerous though it might be to approach the merfolk.

The merpeople are stunned -- they never thought a land-person would be so kind. They lavish him with riches from sunken ships and declare him a friend of the merfolk forevermore.

So much the tale. But I've left out the parts that really get to me: when he plucks the baby from the net, she puts her tiny hand to his cheek; he feels her small arms cling to his neck; her little fingers wrap around his pinky; he gives her a gentle kiss before handing her back to her mother.

I read this story to Trinhity again tonight at bedtime, and it finally hit me why it hits home for me: it's my story.

See, I spent most of my life as a fisherman. The fishing part was fine and good, but I've loved its context most: the water, the trees, the slippery stones, the feel of a well-loaded fly rod, the stories, the music of rivers. It's really not about fishing. It's about the pursuit of present grace.

My daughter was born into the water. I scooped her up and put her to her mother's breast. A pair of tiny hands had entered my life. Sometimes they press against my cheeks, and the little arms encircle my neck. I never tire of those hands, the arms, her eyes, that smile. They are an expression of grace.

Of course, putting her back was never a real consideration, and the crass brother doesn't appear in my story. The mermaid's song does, however: I have heard it, and my hands are upon the oars.

This is where my tale diverges: rather than resolving merely to take the child home, I seem determined to discover her world for myself. This was not my choice.

No, it was destiny -- and it was marriage, not parenthood, that established my path. My beloved wife held keys to a door that I never knew existed; she knew the way, and she guided me gently. For this I shall be ever grateful.

I know not how to confess the depth of these joys -- and my debt -- in her language. I wonder if she knows. She must. But she may not.

The wisdom of her soul and those tiny hands have led me into childhood: my own childhood, in a sense both real and terribly ironic. I have tumbled into the waters and become lost.

This year a second pair of tiny hands entered my life. If anything, these hands reach even more deeply inside of me. Sometimes I see in them my own. Sometimes this scares me. And yet, my own hands remain on the oars. I want to go where these hands will lead.

Again, I wonder if my beloved wife knows of these things. She must. But she may not.

These years of fishing have, in a mysterious way, brought me to a certain present grace. It is not quiet, restful or poetic. It is chaotic, a tearing asunder, a pathos-filled stretch between wretched extremes of emotional and physical work and weariness.

A sad chasm has opened. I reach across, but my arms do not seem long enough. I grieve.

We stand not in the same river into which we stepped. And yet the water flows, a soft music reminding me that this too shall pass. And that this too, even this, is grace.

My hands are at the oars. I shall pull for all I am worth. Always and forever.

16 November 2008

School Pictures

In her brilliant book Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott grieves that no matter how wonderful a mother she might somehow become to her son, he'll still have to endure seventh grade.

She might just as well have been talking about the annual humiliation inflicted upon our beloved children by the Powers That Be: school pictures.

Wouldn't you think that modern digital photography would mean that stuff like this wouldn't happen any more?

Frankly, we're of the opinion that if we wanted good pictures of our kid, we'd take them ourselves. But ya know, you just gotta have school pictures. It's ceremonial.

They're offering retakes. We're taking them up on the deal. Yes, that way she can have not one but TWO incriminating pictures on her record...

15 November 2008

Fire on the Mountain!

Trinh & I had dinner tonight at a local noodle shop, just the two of us. Our casual conversation drifted from the birthday party we'd just left to the waiter's goofy hair, the food, the untold thousands of birds in the parking lot, and plans for tomorrow.

At one point I said, "Ngày mai Trinh muốn đi lửa với Mommy Daddy, huh?"

What I meant was, "Tomorrow do you want to go to church with us?"

Her response was a mix of surprise and confusion. She jerked her head up from her noodles, fixed me with a strange look, and said loudly, "FIRE! FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN!"

My turn to be perplexed. I sputtered, "What do you mean, fire? Why fire on the mountain? What on earth are you talking about?!?"

She gave me a level look, the kind reserved for idiots and the linguistically challenged. She said, "Daddy, what are YOU talking about? You said "fire". Why did you say that?"

"I did? When did I say fire?"

She replied, "Daddy, you said "lửa". "Lửa" means fire! Fire on the mountain!"

Ah, the travails of being the not-so-fluent parent of a radically bi-lingual child. The word I had meant to say was "lễ", not "lửa". "Lễ" is "church". "Lửa" means "fire".

I know, I know, if you're a VN speaker reading this, you're like, "Man, how can you mix up those two words?" Well...it happens, OK?

I'm not sure where the "on the mountain" part came from, but my guess is that she's been watching news about the fires in California at Nhà Ông Bà.

Back to the story: fully aware that the waiter kid with the goofy hair who was sitting at the next table doing his homework was listening, I stammered, "Well, dear, I meant to say "church". How do you say "church"?"

The "must I explain everything to you" look came back to her face. "Daddy," she replied, "you can say "nhà thờ" for "church". Don't say "lửa". That means FIRE!!!"

At this point, the waiter kid pretty much lost it. As usual, I couldn't decide whether I was terribly proud or thoroughly humiliated.

Both, I suppose. As usual.

13 November 2008

Earning Trust by Reduction

Last night Trinhity got her second 'nursemaid's elbow', a partial dislocation of her right elbow.

More technically, it's an "interposition of the annular ligament into the radial humerus joint", which essentially means that a ligament has slipped out of where it should be and ends up where it shouldn't. It's common for young kids, but that doesn't stop it from being painful.

I thought I blogged about the first one, but I can't find it. It was completely my fault, and I felt like dirt about it. Still do. She was 2, maybe 2.5 when it happened. We were at Starbucks, and I was swinging her by her arms. She was laughing -- and then she was crying. She held her arm and refused to move it.

We iced it, took her home, surfed hard and figured out that it was probably a pulled elbow, then took her to the doctor. She hated that. But he agreed with our diagnosis and performed a slick rotate-and-bend trick that took a whopping 2 seconds, fixed it. We asked him to instruct us on how to do it. He kindly agreed.

Last night while the Mama-san was out taking a walk and I was feeding Tai his dinner of porridge and provolone (mmm!), Trinh was swimming her way across the hardwoods to the dinner table. I didn't see it, but she apparently slipped and rolled her body weight over her right arm.

Her sudden cry was unexpected and uncharacteristic, so I rushed out and swept her up. I hauled her back to the kitchen and proceeded to try to stuff porridge into the little dude with one hand while peppering her with a string of questions about what hurt, how it happened, range of movement, etc.

When he was sated and I'd sorta wiped his face, I took them both back out to where it happened and attempted to re-enact the fall according to her instructions. "No, Daddy," she mussed through her tears, "that's not how a penguin swims!"

It would have been roaring farce if not for the tragedy.

I called the Mama-san; she rushed home. We agreed on the diagnosis, and I surfed again quickly to brush up the fix, a technique called "reduction". I was moderately confident.

At first she didn't want me to touch it, but she relented quickly when I presented the alternative: a trip to the emergency room. I performed the maneuver quickly and felt the ligament snap (cringe) back into place like a rubber band.

She continued to fuss, and I wasn't sure it was fixed. I rushed the mancub upstairs for his bath, and Trinh & Mama stayed downstairs to snuggle and read books. Somewhere along the way she put her arm up into the air and said, "Look, Mama, it's fixed!"

Hallelujah. Seeing those little arms waving for her goodnight hug last night brought tears to my eyes. I don't remember a sweeter hug.

The semantics are ironic, no? Perhaps they could be taken as an axiom for the always tenuous but compensatory way in which trust and joy arise from hardship and sorrow: "By way of reduction was a new level of trust earned."

07 November 2008

God Bless the Mama-san

God bless the Mama-san. But by heaven, I do declare that she's hereby banned from operating large electrical household devices.

It's been a rough week here. All four of us are down with varying degrees of a cold / flu bug, replete with nasty coughs, runny noses, aches and pains, sore throats, and Daddy almost got laryngitis when he really, really needed his voice to deliver a couple of demonstrations at work.

Mama's had the worst of it. See, she's not sleeping much. And when the Mama don't sleep, ain't nuthin' right in our household. But we've seen a couple new twists this week.

For instance, just today, she wore her pants backwards for, oh, about 6.5 hours.

But last night took the cake. Somewhere just shy of midnight, Daddy went to swap the laundry from the washer into the dryer. About a third the way down, it was clear that something had gotten loose in the wash. It wasn't clear what. About a third up from the bottom, he found it: a diaper.

Perhaps you aren't intimately in touch with modern diaper science. Let us illustrate this: you know those silica desiccant packages you get with your shoes? The ones that say, "Danger! DO NOT CONSUME!"

When it gets wet, each of those silica pellets absorbs a considerable amount of water. Imagine an enormous number of them stuffed into a flexible fabric-esque wrapper girded with velcro.

Now imagine what happens when you accidentally leave one in the wash. The diaper....er, grows. It gets enormous. And somewhere in the spin cycle, it might rupture.

[all together now] "Ewwwwwww......"

Yes, that's right. I spent about 30 minutes in the middle of the night trying valiantly to shake those sticky little gelantinous particles off our beloved children's clothes. Then clean them out of the washer. Then flush the washer to make sure they were gone. Then re-wash the load and pray pray pray that the washer plumbing wasn't somehow backed up or something would stain.

I'm pleased to report success. I'm also pleased to report that the news was broken to the Mama-san at a point in her day where it evoked laughter and a sardonic sense of resignation rather than just tears and misery.

But that doesn't change the new laws around our house: until she gets more sleep, the Mama-san is not to operate any large appliances without supervision.

Poor Mama-san....

31 October 2008

TGR Exotics - Pumpkin Scaring

On the weekend before Halloween, Trinhity & Daddy had a date: we attended a special evening dinner + tour of TGR Exotics, the exotic animal farm where we've taken the munchkins for the Pumpkin Patch excursion.

That's a coatimundi, a Latin American raccoon.

CREDITS: we owe *huge* props to the Mama-san for enabling our lovely evening together. Thank you, Mama. Sincerely.

So about the evening: they served BBQ catered by Goode Company, which Daddy enjoyed immensely. Gwen, one of the owners, then took a relatively small group on a nighttime tour of the farm.

We saw binturongs (a SE Asian bearcat) and sloths, got licked by a friendly tamandua (an anteater)...

...and chased by a very affectionate African Crested Porcupine.

Petunia, the porcupine, is really a family pet, and she's very sweet. Several people on the tour were petting her (one direction only, mind you), and Trinh was very brave -- she wanted to pet her too!

We entered the enclosure together. Petunia's pretty social, and all this excitement had her riled up. Before I had a chance to get Trinh settled, Petunia started chasing her! I have to admit: it's downright disconcerting to be chased by a bundle of quivering quills, affectionate or not. We didn't stay long with her, but it was memorable.

Trinh says that her favorite animals were the kangaroos...although I think this is really a wallaroo:

My hands-down favorite was Sindu, their Bengal Tiger. They've had her since she was 5 weeks old, so she's almost part of the family...a 500lb lap cat. It's the closest I've ever been to a big cat. I was...in awe.

I also couldn't shake that poem by Blake, and I wanted desperately to share it with Trinh -- but I couldn't quite remember the whole thing, and I wasn't ready to attempt to explain "fearful symmetry" to a 3 year old.

All things in due time. I hope someday she'll be ready for Dreamtigers, too.

After the tour, Gwen and her husband Troy brought out two of their other favorite pets, a Black and White Ruffled Lemur...

and Mango, a capuchin...

Last but not least, we spent a few minutes playing a new game: Pumpkin Scaring!

Many thanks to Gwen and Troy for a truly lovely evening. You've got a special place -- thanks for sharing it. We'll be back again if you'll have us!

Rules of the House

Tonight at dinner, Trinh & Mommy were discussing rules. Trinh announced that when we get old, we will be permitted to live with her -- but since it'll be her house, we'll have to follow her rules.

Rule #1: we're going to have a TV.
Rule #2: someone always has to help you go potty.
Rule #3: you never have to eat vegetables in your fried rice.

We suspect there will be more rules. Stay tuned.

26 October 2008

Gloria Lives in Antarctica!

[Daddy here]
It's a strange affliction, particularly for a mountain boy from a landlocked state. You see, I've always harboured a secret passion for sea shanties.

I collect them. It's only a modest collection; relatively speaking, there really aren't that many. I'm not sure my wife even knows. She probably wouldn't mind, at least so long as I don't force her to listen.

Me, I like to sing them. Loudly. Usually when I'm alone in the house.

Occasionally I sing them for the kids, but I leave out the bawdy verses. These being sailor's songs, that severely limits the number of available verses. In fact, it kills most of my repertoire.

Trinh & I were pretending to be pirates during the bath tonight, so I started belting out "South Australia." She joined in, which pleased me immensely. [Tangent: she also knows most of the words to John Kanakanaka, which I'm sure will do irreparable harm to her reputation in 7th grade.]

However, it took me a few moments to realize (I was singing loudly, you see) that she wasn't singing "South Australia", but instead was singing the refrain of "Gloria."

No, not the Van Morrison version. No, she was singing the "Gloria" song popularized by Laura Branigan in the '80s. Yes, she knows that one, too.

Thing is, I think she's onto something. Here's a mystery that should keep a musicologist awake for a few nights: could a mainstream hit from 1983 (that's actually a cover of an Italian song) be loosely patterned after a sea shanty from the 1880s? Behold:

"...in South Austral-i-a I was born [heave away, haul away]"
"...singing Glor-i-a [Gloria! Gloria!]"

See what I mean? It's there, I'm telling you. Granted I'd never have noticed were it not for Trinh's singing tonight, but I was astounded at how easily the two songs mash-up.

Anyway, back to the bath: Trinh has a stuffed duck that she imagines to be a penguin. It's named "Gloria" after the character in Happy Feet. We talk about Gloria a lot

When I stopped to take a breath, Trinhity looked up and said, "Daddy, that's silly. Gloria doesn't live in South Australia -- she lives in Antarctica!"

24 October 2008

Big Gurl Blues

Yesterday at Nhà Ông Bà, Tài Tài was playing with one of his toys, and Trinh Trinh wanted to play with it too. Mama & Ông both told her, "No, that's Tài Tài's toy!"

She was sad and wandered off to mope.

Later, since she was still bummed, Mama pulled her into her lap for a snuggle. She asked, "Trinh, will you tell Mommy what's the matter?"

With a heavy sigh she said, "Mommy, sometimes it's hard to be a big girl. Sometimes you just want to be a baby."

Awww, poor thing. And just wait until 7th grade...

23 October 2008

Penguins and Mermaids

"Daddy," said Trinh at breakfast this morning, "I have a question. Who do you think swims faster: mermaids, penguins...or Trinh?"

20 October 2008

Pumpkin Patch #1: the Teaser

We took the munchkins to the pumpkin patch at TGR Exotics again this year. We've already been back for a second go!
This is a teaser from the first visit...more to come!
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A Fix For All That Ails Ya

Daddy had a rotten day a week or two back, can't even remember why now. But in an only slightly-Mommy-instigated effort to un-grumpy the Daddy Monster, Trinh whipped up "Daddy's Favorite" lunch: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I admit to enjoying the odd PB&J 'wich, but I can say without qualm that this was easily the best one I've ever had. EVER.

But the sandwich wasn't the best part of this gift. No, that would be the 'gift card' she wrote for me. It's hard to see in those shots -- let's take a closer look...

Ah, yes. As she explained, "That's Trinh Trinh (on the right) and Tai Tai (on the left), and there's a heart for "I love you". And Tai Tai doesn't really have that much hair, but I just went (universal sign for 'scribble, scribble, scribble')."

That there's a fix for all that ails me.

16 October 2008

Why Daddy Likes Fishing

Trinhity's still on her Happy Feet kick, still pretending to be a penguin. In fact, she *will* be a penguin for Halloween -- stay tuned for those pix, they'll rock.

Today at breakfast, completely out of the blue, she asked me, "Daddy, do you like to go fishing for trout?" I hadn't been aware that she knew the word "trout" as a distinct sub-species of fish.

You might have expected otherwise given my life-long obsession with fly fishing, but I've actually been hyper-sensitive about over-playing my hand. I would dearly love for the kids to fish, but I'm trying hard not to foist my passions onto them unbidden.

So I forced down the rising flood of excitement at my daughter voicing the word "trout" and said casually, "Yes, dear, I do."

"I know why you like fishing, Daddy! It's because you're a penguin like me! You're the Daddy penguin and I'm your little cưng cưng ("beloved child", more or less) penguin. And penguins eat fish! Penguins eat fish without cooking them....like sushi!"

Uh, yeah...er, ummm...

Yesterday as we were all getting ready in the morning, Trinhity picked out a cute outfit: a green tank top with flowers and jean capris with little white bows. She put it on herself; we congratulated her on being a big guuurl and said that she looked very cute. She was pleased.

Then Huong asked, "Does Mommy look cute too?" She had just finished nursing the Mancub and was changing clothes herself, wasn't exactly put together.

Trinh paused, looked her up and down, then said, "Uh, yeah...er, Mommy...umm, ah...well, your pants look nice..."

Where do they learn these nuanced sensitivities? Remarkable....

08 October 2008


Trinh intended this to be a 'gift card' for her friends across the street, Camila & Sofia, but Daddy loved it and stole a virtual copy.

She wrote "TtHB" across the top. That's "T for Trinhity and little t for Tai Tai and H for Mommy and B for Daddy!", she explained. The little person is Tai Tai, since he doesn't have much hair. How sweet is this?

29 September 2008

Thank You for the LadyBug

Trinhity has had a subscription to BabyBug Magazine for some time now. BabyBug is great -- it's the magazine equivalent of a boardbook and is targeted to children 0-2yrs. She loves it. We used to check them out at the library and she loved them so much that we got her a subscription.

Well, shortly after her 3rd birthday, she started receiving LadyBug Magazine. This is the next level up, and she loves it as well.

Problem is...we don't know who gave her the subscription! We suspect that the perpetrators might be among the regular readers of this blog. Was it you?

Fess up, now! We'd like to say thanks. But should you wish to remain anonymous, then enjoy the warm, happy feeling of sincere gratitude....uh, expressed to you in a very public and entirely impersonal way.

But hey, it could be worse. When we feel a warm, happy feeling these days, it's usually because a diaper leaked...

The United States of Antarctica

Three things in Trinhity's current repertoire converged tonight at dinner:
  • Penguins (from Happy Feet)
  • The Pledge of Allegiance (from school)
  • World Geography (partially courtesy of a World Map puzzle gifted to us from The Neighbors We Love, partially because Daddy's obsessed with geography)
So obsessed, in fact, that today I bought her a World Map placemat for the dinner table. She immediately found Antarctica, because that's where the penguins live. Also because her plates and bowls were covering up the rest of the map.

Then she launched into the Pledge: "I pledge allegiance...to the flag...of the United States of Antarctica..."

The Boogie Wonderland Rhumba

Trinhity's been obsessed with Happy Feet lately, and Daddy made the mistake (?) of breaking down and buying the soundtrack. It gets played CONSTANTLY.

Honestly, we mostly dig it. I mean, they've got penguins singing old Queen songs -- ya gotta admit, that rocks. Trinhity's favorite tune is a disco number: Boogie Wonderland.

She's been tap dancing almost non-stop for weeks now. Here's a little taste in a fancy new slideshow format that will be almost entirely unlike the video I'm hoping to post soon...

28 September 2008

Fried Rice, Hold the Veggies

Yesterday I had both kiddos at Chợ Viet Hoa, a big Asian grocery store here in Houston. Huong was getting her hair cut, and after 10 minutes of checking out the frogs and fish and crabs, Trinhity was hungry. She wanted cơm chiên, fried rice.

We headed to the deli and got a to-go pack, then sat down. About halfway through, she looked up and said, "Daddy, why does the cơm chiên have rau (vegetables)?"

I said, "Well, cơm chiên always has vegetables. It's just sorta how it is."

She thought for a moment, then replied, "Daddy, when I get big and have kids, I'm going to make them fried rice with NO vegetables!"

17 September 2008

Questions Adults Never Think to Ask

"Does a penguin's breath stink?"
-- Trinh, after breakfast on 17th September 2008, age 3.25 years

Sobering Retrospective: Galveston

Back in mid-August we posted some pictures (here, here, here, and here) of our most recent beach vacation to Galveston. It's a bit sobering to look back on these photos now, after Ike has wreaked so much destruction on the island.

We actually didn't stay on Galveston Island itself on our last trip; we stayed in Hunt's Treasure, a VRBO rental in the Treasure Island subdivision on Follett's Island, just across San Luis Pass from the southern tip of Galveston Island. This area was also very heavily hit by Ike.

We've heard from the owners -- their house survived, although their garage was washed away. But as this aerial photo shows, some of the surrounding houses didn't fare well:

Here's the source page for that photo, it's interesting: Post-Ike NOAA Image Index.

Enlarge the photo above, then scroll to the area almost in the very center, just below where the houses end. Now take a look at this picture of Trinhity...

The house behind her is still there, but barely. Where she's standing is now completely submerged. For contrast, here's a Google Map of what it looked like before Ike:

View Larger Map

Here's another one -- same area, different house in the background:

That's the house on the squared-off tip, and it looks like its seawall was breached. Can't be good.

Hard to tell from this shot, but there's a wooden dune walk-over behind Trinh. There's no trace of it whatsoever in the aerial photo above, and the dune itself seems to be gone.
These beach rentals in Galveston have been our vacation retreats for the last few years. In fact, we seriously considered buying one earlier this year -- thank goodness we didn't. But we do have fond memories of those trips....

Ike: Before & After

Found a couple more shots that I hadn't yet posted...

This was from the night before. We got some great sunsets outta the deal. Trinh's hiding, but it's a cute shot of Camilla & Sofia...

This was the stop sign at the entrance / exit of our neighborhood.

15 September 2008

Ikey Ikey (sing to the tune of Iko Iko)

My back fence and your back fence
Ikey Ikey uh-nay
Betcha we'll get no recompense
Ikey Ikey uh-nay...

Daddy here again. Well, we survived. The storm was...impressive. We didn't catch the brunt of it -- we were on the more gentle 'backside' of the eye, meaning less wind and rain. Still, this one was just about as serious as I need to see up-close-and-personal, and I don't envy the folks farther east.

We lost two small trees entirely, plus some large branches off our bigger trees. It shredded our fences, but most of those were nearly rotten anyway. Here's the aftermath:
Other folks got it much worse. This was only a few streets away...

The big news for our neighborhood is that four electrical poles went down: threes snapped in half, one snapped off at the ground. I've driven by it a couple times now, just marveling at the force required to snap a power pole in half...

Yes, he drove across the wires. No, he didn't die. Apparently, Darwin misses occasionally.

Thus, we might not have power for awhile, and my office might be closed for a week. On the flipside, I've discovered that the Nestle Toll House Cookie Factory has free wireless internet access. This could be a fattening week....

Fortunately, a cold front just moved in and dropped temperatures into the reasonable range, so it's not quite so uncomfortable without A/C or fans. But we do have running water, and we're fine on food. Grocery stores are opening again -- and now I know where to find cookies.

The neighborhood has been dramatically more neighborly than at any time since we've lived here. I mean, we're notoriously anti-social, but the last two days everyone has been hanging around outside, leaning on our rakes and comparing notes with folks, loaning tools, musing over when the lights will come on, and generally agreeing that it could've been much, much worse.

Last night the folks across the street grilled all the thawed meat in their freezer and threw a helluva street party. Taison has sensed the break from routine, and I'm convinced that Trinhity will want to do all of this again next weekend -- it's been non-stop fun and games for her.

She made a new friend, too...

Hell, I haven't gotten to climb trees and run around on the roof and play with so many manly tools myself in years. If I were 13, I'd be having the time of my life.

All told, not bad. Frankly, I'm quite pleased to have missed most of the media coverage of this thing. I've listened to the radio a couple times, and it's just out-of-touch and depressing. The silence has been enjoyable -- no power = no drone of air conditioners (or Tejano). I'll be mildly bummed to return to Situation Normal.

OK, that's the scoop. Back to my work e-mail...and my cookies. Thanks for the concern, all the best to you all....