year of the dragon…out with some old…in with some new

Hello! It feels good to be back! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and I can’t wait to start reading blogs again.

I am going to start this year with my New Year Resolutions. I didn’t do any last year…mostly because I didn’t allow myself enough planning to think of them before the new year. I have learned that I am a person who needs goals and the start of a new year is a great and easy time stamp to measure against. My 2012 New Year Resolutions (in no particular order):

1. Prioritize God in my life.

2. Start living a “Kind Life”; which includes:

   a. Cut out refined sugars from my diet

   b. Move towards a vegan lifestyle, with a start on the anti-inflammation diet

3. Start moving again (aka: start running and doing yoga again).

4. Re-take up guitar (and singing).

5.  Start writing my blog at least once a week.

I feel that a lot of my daily life goals will be enhanced when I achieve #1 and #2. I have done a lot of research and it appears that people become more pleasant when they do. I pray that it helps me to be more patient, kinder, and well balanced so that I can be a better person.

And because I am on my work computer, I am limited with the photos I can attach so I am attaching one from the 2011 Holiday Card That Wasn’t:

our family has grown by two feet

I keep telling myself that when things settle down, I’ll be a better ___________. I usually fill that blank space with words like: mom, wife, friend, sister, blogger, photographer, exerciser, or employee. Lately, however, I have come to the conclusion that things will never [ever] settle down so if I keep waiting for that to happen, I’ll never be a better anything!

So in my quest to be a better __________, I have added items to my “To Do” list, closing my eyes and just keeping my fingers crossed. Childish…or genius? Fortunately for me, I am far more forgiving when it comes to not completing my checklist than I was before I got married and then had kids. Heck, I’m lucky, if I remember what’s on the list.

Quick side note regarding completing “To Do” lists: Before I met my husband, I always thought that the list was non-negotiable. However, one of a few times I left a “Honey Do List” for him and left for the weekend, I came back to find that “To Do” lists are in fact, optional. He only did a few things on the list. I thought I just needed to be clearer as to when things needed to be completed, but that also has not appeared to work. We are still working on this…almost seven years later.

Since the last time I wrote, we have two adorable and joyous feet to our household. Aria Duab Ntxoo Yang was born on April 20th weighing in at 7 lbs. and 7 ounces and measuring 19” (though I think they did this incorrectly since by one month she was already 21.5”).

One day I’ll post her birth story, but for now, let’s say, her early days were challenging beyond my imagination only because Roan’s were idyllic. And this time around, we had the undivided assistance of Grandma and Grandpa Vang. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would have been had we not moved closer to family. I never could have imagined, back then just how Aria could have ever become such a good little sleeper as she is today based off of those early weeks nor how happy she has become. She keeps us busy though with her unending skin issues. Let’s just say, we’ve been to the ER four times (to her credit, one time it was for me only) in three months and the urgent care doctor remembers who we are. That’s not even to add in the countless times we’ve been to our own clinic and to Aria’s dermatologist…yes, she has her own specialist at the early age of two months.

Another household move (we are still unpacking) and finally finding a daycare for Aria brings us just about to date.

Roan started aftercare with Discovery Club on Tuesday. He officially starts kindergarten next Monday. I just realized that I have nothing special planned for him. I haven’t even thought about it. In fact, I’m still swimming in half open boxes and can’t find where anything is. I found myself riddled with guilt when I went to the Nate Berkus Show Website and saw that he had tips for starting a tradition for the first day of school. My justification is that I don’t believe Nate (yes…we are on a first name basis) has a child. If he did, he wouldn’t have time to think if tips for the first day, none-the-less, blog about it.

Another thing I find myself riddled with guilt over is how I completely missed the millions of photo opportunities for my beautiful little Aria in her first four months of life, especially the first two weeks. How can I call myself a Mamarazzi? Every time, I see a photograph of a creamy, furry, naked little newborn all contorted up…I find my heart dropping and face shifting into a frown. I can only slightly recall just how my little newborn’s skinny little legs used to form the shape of a heart when I lay her down to change her diaper. Or how her little arms would fall over her little eyes and face after she finished nursing and I lay her on her side.

Back to not living up to my own standards. I am so tired of being so forgetful. In the last three days, I have had to return to my home every single day because I forgot something at home. Since I can’t blame my memory loss from my sleepless nights on having a nursing infant, I’m going to blame it on the overall stress that comes with being a _________. Fill the blank in with one of the words from the first paragraph.

Have I mentioned also how tired I am of being sick? I am not a sick person so this comes really hard on me. I had strep throat twice in one month and now I have another virus that has rendered me tired and cranky.

Another side note: I ignorantly took the penicillin shot the first time around thinking I’d rather have a little shot than take a pill three times a day since my memory sucks. I should have known that it wasn’t a “little” shot when after the doctor asked me which option I wanted, she had a surprised look on her face and a “Oh!” came out of her mouth. Needless to say, I tried the pills the second time around. The sad thing is that I can’t even recall if I ever finished the pills, but I can’t find them anymore, so I must have.

Our new place is very large and a pretty cool home in a fantastic neighborhood. I guess the grass is greener on the other side because now that we are living in the place, I find that I can’t seem to feel comfortable in it. Maybe that will change when we are finally out of boxes and the rooms are functioning as they should be? Or maybe, when I have confirmed for sure that there are no mice  in the place with us—we found quite a bit of mice droppings in the home, but have made no confirmation that living mice are dwelling in the unit as of current.  However, I keep seeing shadows or reflections of little moving things all over the house only to find that it is my imagination, but it freaks me out. I lay awake at night listening for moving little paws. I wash and wash my dishes and I forbid Roan from applying the five second rule to dropped food items. In fact, Blanket (Roan’s lovie), also gets tossed in the wash as soon as he touches the ground also. Luckily, we have an in unit washer and dryer, even if it’s circa 1980.

Good Lord! From reading this post so far, you would think I have been in hell these past months. However, things are far from that. I am grateful and happy every day because I look into the eyes of the most perfect little children that have ever graced this Earth and I know that I have the support and love of the best people I have ever known and am undeserving of being related to or having adopted as family over the years. I also have a wonderful job and a great boss who has been so understanding through it all. It really is time to kick the pregnancy brain and the pity party and start being a better ______ again. This time, I fill that space with two little letters, which I will emphasize in caps: “ME”!

first funeral

I told myself that I would take a silhouette photo of myself each month during my next (and last) pregnancy. However, I was so sick in my first trimester and didn’t really show at all until I was about 5.5 months pregnant that I could find the energy nor the reason to do it. Now, I am seven months pregnant and just entered my last trimester and I feel like a whale. I’m just plain lazy now. I have no motivation.

Like clockwork, the heartburn, middle-of-the-night and mother-of-all leg cramps, getting up to go pee every couple of hours (especially in the middle of the night), rolling out of bed, inability to aptly reach down and pull my dress socks up…well, you get the picture…symptoms are full force. I’m sure it’s my age. After all, it has been five years since I was last pregnant and I was a lot more out of shape this time around than when I was pregnant with Roan.

I can’t help but worry how this little girl is going to be. My pregnancy with Roan was so idyllic; in the sense that I never really had much of the symptoms mentioned above. I could feel him active inside of me and sure, it wasn’t always 100% comfortable, but I loved being pregnant! I had glowing and perfect skin. My allergies were non-existent. My hair was shiny and thick. People were so nice to me!

Anyways, Roan was such a mild child. He was just the best little baby any mother could be blessed with. He hardly ever cried. In fact, Choua used to taunt him to make sure that he knew how to cry and so that we could recognize his cry. Almost from the beginning, he slept 5-6 hours straight at night and after nursing him, he would fall right back asleep. He even took three naps well after his first year.  He would watch intently as older children played, just sitting on my lap. He was never picky and so anyone could hold and watch him. There was no separation anxiety, whatsoever. So much so that I actually worried that maybe he didn’t know we were his parents.

We were often afraid to have another one since we would joke that “God gave us a ‘good one’ because he knew our marriage would not survive a needy one”. I am hoping it is just my age, but if her time “en utero” is any indication of how she’ll be on the outside, I worry.

On the school front, Roan is thriving and enjoying school. Work—they actually call it work at his school—that he enjoys doing daily include: binomial cube, sandpaper letters, polishing, banana, rods and counting beads.  He also enjoys the reading corner and has been bringing home a lot of art that he is drawing. His favorite subjects to draw include: his baby sister and him, planet Earth, and Optimus Prime in both the truck and robot forms.

He also has been telling me that he has several girlfriends in his class. I am not sure that he just labels them as that because they are girls and he is the only boy in his class from 3:30p until the school closes at 5:30p or if he really understands the concept. He will often refer to the boys as his boy friends too.

However, the other day, I gave him a Dove chocolate as I was driving him to school. Normally, he would have eaten it up in a matter of seconds. However, I noticed that he still had it in his hand when we were walking up to the school. I told him he couldn’t have it at school and he said he wouldn’t. He was saving it for Laila. He must really love her because he doesn’t even save chocolate for me!

I have another story about Laila, but that will have to wait for another time since this post is getting quite long.

The last thing I want to talk about this time refers to the title of the post. A few weeks ago, Roan was asking a lot about getting fish as pets. He’s not always the most responsible four year old so I didn’t want to buy any, but his uncles have a tank full of baby Betas. After one day with his uncles over winter break he asked so nicely to take some home. I reluctantly agreed only after telling him that he had to feed them. At first, he even kept up his end of the deal, asking every day to feed the fish. However, a couple of days later, we noticed the water was getting really nasty and one little one was already floating at the top of the container.

Choua decided to change the water. Shortly after he did, all of the fish died. By then, of course, the novelty of having pets had worn off on Roan.  He wasn’t feeding them anymore. Roan didn’t notice, so I took it as an opportunity to teach him a life lesson or so. We had a little funeral for the fish and talked about responsibility and consequences. Oddly enough, he hasn’t asked for more fish. I guess it really was just too much for him and hopefully he realized it.

Included are a few photos from the funeral. He was trying very hard to look very sad. As we flushed the fish down the toilet, he hugged me and sadly said, “Mama…I am so sad.”

so much to consider

As I sit here writing, I find myself a tad bit uncomfortable. The waist of my paints are slightly taught on my slowly, but surely, growing belly. As most of you already know, I am expecting my second child in mid to late April. By now, I am 15.5 weeks along and still experiencing a little bit of morning sickness also. However, no complaining from me on this as I know that it is a sure sign that the baby is healthily growing.

At almost four months, I have gained 5 pounds and lost 11 and then regained three more pounds; for a net loss of 3 pounds.  I also informed my new boss of 2.5 weeks that I am expecting. How nerve-wracking was that? She was understandable, at least in front of me.

Since my last entry, several things have changed in my life. I find that if I wait longer, I have more to report out and remember. I learned that I am not a very good stay at home mom. At least, I never got into a good groove of being one. Though other encouraging SAHM’s have told me that it takes several months before they got into a routine that was rewarding for them. If worse comes to worst, I guess I could also blame it on the morning sickness.

I also was finally offered two jobs in a matter of a couple of days after three months of interviewing with them. After some consideration, I opted to take the lower paying job. In retrospect, I am feeling good about the decision—to decline a six figure job filled with travel for a local, yet very flexible job that pays a little less. Either would have been great positions for me, regardless.

Enough about me, then again, this could very well be about me, but after some struggle we finally decided where to send Roan for preschool. I have to say that the St. Paul early childhood (SPPS) options are confusing and often not very working parents friendly. Since we were late to register—as we did not know in time for the deadline—that we were going to move to St. Paul, we were put on a waiting list for the three programs that we hoped Roan could attend. 

I was informed that the chances of us getting into any of them would be close to 0%. Therefore, I had also registered Roan to attend an amazing private school also, Cornerstone Montessori School as we played the waiting game with the SPPS. We heard back from Cornerstone that Roan had been excepted to the school and were excited. However, since both of us were unemployed at the time, tuition costs were heavy on our minds.

At around the same time, I also heard back from the SPPS that Roan would get into a preschool program. However, it would be one in which we would have to provide transportation to and from the program, which only lasted 2.5 hours a day. In these programs, there was no option of after-care either. This was a bit inconvenient for us since we were still hoping that both of us would have jobs soon enough.

We did not do much research on the program choices we were given, but they did not appear on our top 10, therefore, the decision to have Roan attend Cornerstone was clear to us, even though it costs almost $1K each month to send him there for school and after-care and it was a bit of a drive for us from Summit Hill to the Roosevelt Homes area of East St. Paul each day.

Roan thrived at a traditional school. However, we had done some research into Montessori and really hoped that it would be an even better fit for him to learn. As he was new to the Montessori methodology, he was a bit bored in the beginning. (My disclaimer is that Montessori methodology includes a child centered program and each teacher, or guide as they like to be referred to, introduces each activity to each child—that’s a lot of “each”es. A child cannot proceed to do the activity until he/she is presented the materials. It takes several weeks to introduce each child to each activity, which may have caused him to feel like he was not being allowed to play with certain things.)

I am happy to report that Roan is learning so much and is even more independent now. I tended to tend to his every need, as he is my only child, but now he tells me, “Mama, I want to do it by myself,” or “I need privacy,” which is code for “I want to finish and then I will tell you when I am done.”

We also love the school because they have free classes for parents of students there. The classes are so enlightening. We see the practicality of teaching the Montessori way and wished that we had had the opportunity to learn in the same way, growing up. The school is also just beautiful! It’s brand-spanking new and the classrooms are large and serene.

One reason we hesitated to send Roan here, initially is that we were afraid that he would no longer have the opportunity to receive his speech therapy. However, the SPPS has a program that will send a therapist out to your child’s private school to ensure that that need is still being met as well. Roan gets speech therapy once a week at Cornerstone through the SPPS. We are so grateful for this and have seen the programs work together to make such a difference in Roan. It’s also wonderful to hear the therapist rave about how wonderful Cornerstone is.

I wanted to let as many people as possible know, however, that even though we pay full tuition, Cornerstone is an amazing opportunity for any child and they have scholarships available to families. Oftentimes, children who meet certain family income standards attend for free. We love the quality of the program and the mix of socio-economic and cultural students at Roan’s school.  I especially encourage all Hmong parents to look into the program and the school since Roan is the only Hmong child at Cornerstone.

In addition, the school has applied for charter status and hopefully, in 2011, will be free for St. Paul residents. With another child on the way, we hope to have him continue on at Cornerstone in 2011. As for now, we still wait for that waiting line to shrink over in the SPPS, especially at JJ Hill so he can attend kindergarten there. I know, why the rage about Cornerstone if we don’t plan to have him attend in 2010? Because we really do love and believe it is the best school for Roan. However, we need a break from daycare expenses. Did I mention that we have an infant on the way also?

And finally, since a post is no fun without a photo, here is one with my Peach:


back online…summary of what we hope is the last move for at least one year!



We spent our last days in Chicagoland enjoying selfish days in ideal weather. We were able to spend some time at the beach (above and below), both on the North Shore and at Michigan Dunes.

DSC_2474We learned that with such a fearless little swimmer, if we armed him with a life jacket, he was able to feel more independent and we were able to feel more peace, since neither of us are particularly strong swimmers. I still can’t believe summer is officially over.

DSC_2517We also tried out some new restaurants…well new to us anyways. This one (the name escapes me now) was on the river and very good. It was featured on Groupon so we had a nice discount for food. Roan enjoyed the yummy pancakes…

DSC_2515…and the trendy outdoor lounge area.

Choua and I enjoyed our dishes as well, but we really enjoyed scenery.

DSC_2511Until Roan and Choua found what we believe was a baby rat, stuck  in a work tube. Roan was so sweet. He excitedly pulled me over to go see the baby animal. I did not have the warm reaction that he was looking for when I finally realized what it was.

Then it was time for the actual move. Our fourth in just seven months–this is where the photos stopped as I didn’t want to have such a backlog of processing to do when we finally got our computer set up and online again.

We packed up and with the much appreciated help from relatives were able to move another two more times when we got up to the Twin Cities. We stayed with Choua’s parents for one month and now we are in our semi-permanent rental. Have I mentioned how much I hate moving?

We are so blessed though to have such a wonderful support system back here and such an amazing little boy. The transition was hard for him, heartbreakingly so for me at times. However, I think the worst is over. Dressing up as Spiderman always helps Roan to find his normalcy.

DSC_2491BTW, he told me that he wanted to be Spiderman again this year for Halloween, but he wanted me to get him some Spiderman hands. This is fine with me since the costume finally fits him perfectly. Now I just have to order him some hands.

Some general updates for now, Choua is working (Thank God!), I think I am getting close to getting a new job, and Roan started a new class at a warm and wonderful Montessori. We are still trying to fully get Roan back into his own bed as he often climbed into our bed with us when we were all sharing a room at his grandparent’s home and also trying to get him stop and use the restroom to avoid the semi-accidents he’s been having. There is just too much love and fun for him here with most of his loved ones here. Since we’ve been back and aside from all of the moving, even more changes are in store for us. That’s for another post.

Good-bye Chicagoland! We’ll miss all of our friends and our time down there. Below is our livingroom from our Oak Park.


is it selfish?

Maybe it is, but I never want Roan to grow up. I am certain now, in my almost eight days DSC_2408 away from him that my life simply is not as much fun without him. Things I used to find pleasure in or thought I might, just aren’t.

This was the last picture I took of him before I watched him drive away with his cousins, Taylor and Ayden.

I’m counting down the days until I can hear that squeeky little voice in person again…just two more days…

Also, if he’d let me post a picture of him up, I would, but Happy Birthday, Choua! I meant to send you something, but I hope you understand. I’ll make it up to you.

Another thing I’ve learned recently is that absence makes me more patient and logical. …hmmmm…maybe I should take that job that is 70% travel?

duel of the pirates

There was one afternoon, last week, as I watched Roan playing that I could no longer resist staying in my photography slump. The moment was too lovely and the lighting was too perfect that I had to run and get my camera. DSC_2288You can tell by his expression in the first photo of how excited he is that Mommy is using her camera again.

Now I realize that to most people, every day life, is just every day life. However, as we move closer and closer to our final days in Chicagoland and as I realize that the quiet little boy that I brought home from the hospital just over four years ago, is no longer a baby, I feel that I just don’t have enough time.

If you know me, you know how much energy I have put into helping Roan with his speech. You would think I would be elated now that he does speak a lot more…and mostly, I am. However, like most kids his age, my little son asks me a lot of questions now. I find myself mortified each time words come out of his mouth.

 Either I am afraid that he’ll say something inappropriate or I’m afraid he’s going to ask a question that I haven’t thought up an appropriate answer for yet. I wish I was one of those witty Mom’s that has the perfect answer to every question her kid asks her. I feel serDSC_2294iously inadequate at answering my four year old’s questions. What am I going to do when he starts asking the hard questions?

I haven’t quite mastered WordPress yet so I don’t how to control where text goes so I apologize for the broken paragraphs. I really wanted to tell a story with the photos.

In an earlier blog, I talked about how I resorted to bribery to get my child to poop on the toilet consistently…which totally worked…  Well, Roan’s Dlaab (that’s Hmong for Uncle on mother’s side) Phil also gave him a late birthday present.  Shortly after that, Choua let Roan watch Pirates of the Caribbean and now he’s completely enamored by the series. Roan was so excited when Choua put the second boat together because now he can have duelling pirate ships.

DSC_2290DSC_2299He still builds ships out of his regular lego blocks, but it’s was such a joy to watch and play with him. He’s got this whole little pirate world going on in his head at all times.DSC_2287I mean all of the time. He’s Captain Roan, and Choua and I are First Mate Daddy and First Mate Mommy. Although, sometimes Choua is Captain Octopus a.k.a. Davey Jones and Roan is Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates Movies.

I’ll be sad when this phase is over for him.


This was not a prompted pout. This kid just naturally does it. I actually have to tell him to stop doing that. I think it’s funny.


For weeks now, I’ve been wanting to sneak into our new neighbors’ back yard. They have these signs up against their garage and they’ve been calling me to do a photo shoot. Unfortunately, I have had no time and uncooperative participants…ahem…Choua and Roan.

We are going to cut Roan’s hair as he gets really sweaty in the summer and he just got this new little suit…and I didn’t bring work home tonight…so I felt I had to take advantage of the moment. He unhappily obliged since I promised him that I would put his Lego pirate ship together for him, if he let me shoot a few photos of him. And yes, he did finally potty 10 times. He was so proud of himself…chanting…”Roan…Roan…Roan…” It was particularly cute, I thought.

I realized that I have not written about our new place yet. Coincidentally, it was built in 1927–same as the house we recently sold. It’s a two flat and we live on the second floor. It is full of character and squeaky floors.

I was thinking yesterday as I was walking from doing some work at Borders to meet the boys for dinner how wonderful living in this new city is. It’s got the right combination of city and suburb. We walk or bike everywhere. Roan loves it.

And although Choua was laid off, we are renting again and the stress of knowing that I am on the verge of quitting my job (for a move back closer to family) with no new job waiting for me, I haven’t been happier in years! It’s liberating to know that I don’t have to be responsible for the condition of our home and that we have free weekends to wander aimlessly on public transportation throughout Chicago. Although, it could also just be that I know we are only here temporarily.

The only sad thing is that Roan still asks for his room and going “home to our house with the red door“.

I am so grateful for the life and gifts from God. I just hope I can start being me again.