Here’s to you, dad!

Mother’s Day was a month ago. In commemoration, I wrote a post about my mom! When my family celebrated, I showed my mom the post. My dad reacted:

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Well, dad, here you go!

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My dad isn’t really a sentimental person. He’s not one for huge, dramatic emotional displays or sweeping acts of grandeur. Instead, he’s very down-to-earth.

Yes, my dad is a practical guy. He’s not like those dads who pamper their daughters. My sister and I aren’t about to receive a pink convertible on our birthdays, or that $4,000 Gucci purse, or that super-cute necklace from Tiffany’s.

And I prefer it that way. After all, what kind of person would I be if I was spoiled like that? No, with my dad, it’s the little things that count. He has his own little ways of showing his love to my sister and I– not in material gifts, but in what he does. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate those things more and more.

And what are those things?

Well, the list could go on to infinity. For brevity’s sake, I’m just going to list a few.

1. He feeds us.

Ok, I know it sounds silly. But now that I’m cooking for myself, I’ve realized what a pain cooking can be! My dad is the main chef of my family, and he’ll often put in the extra time to cook our favorites or grill that steak to perfection.

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2. He trained us in sports.

My dad, an avid tennis fan, taught me and my sister tennis in elementary school.

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Unfortunately for him, I didn’t always want to learn.

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I disliked tennis all the way into high school, which was when I joined the tennis team. Tennis was definitely one of the defining experiences of my high school years– I made friends, later made varsity, and even ended up joining the boy’s team for a season. If my dad hadn’t taught me tennis, I would have missed out on all of those experiences!

3. He takes us places.

I remember one of my high school friends saying,

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…to which I reacted,

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My parents love to travel, and my dad usually takes the helm for planning family trips. Before I even hit middle school my dad was taking us on hikes at places like Yosemite, the Smoky Mountains, and Mount Tremblant. Acadia National Park in Maine is still one of my all-time favorite places.

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Although my dad is a pretty careful planner, he isn’t afraid of a little spontaneity.

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It’s thanks to these trips, and my dad, that my sister and I now have a healthy sense of adventure!

4. He gives us words of wisdom.

Lots of dads like to quote stale platitudes and old idioms to inspire their kids. Not my dad. He makes up his own!

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Though sometimes, his self-made words of wisdom don’t make sense.

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Well, you have to give him credit for originality!

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5. He drives us.

My sister and I did lots of sports and activities in grade school, forcing my dad to drive us everywhere.

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6. …so he taught us how to drive.

To get out of driving duty, he taught both of us how to drive himself. This turned out to be a more arduous task than he probably initially expected.

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So I failed my driver’s test once. Whatever. It was because of the parallel parking part anyway! At least I have my license now– thanks to my dad’s lessons!

7. He tutored us.

My parents grew up in Vietnam, where the academic competition is fierce. As a result, they’ve always wanted us to be at the top of our class. Before kindergarten, I remember my dad teaching me long division and multiplication.

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As a result, I did end up having an edge over the other kids in my first years of elementary school. (Math remains my worst subject, though!) My dad still did his best to help as we reached higher grades– though by the time I hit Calculus 2, this became a bit trickier.

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My dad’s an engineer, so he’s studied way further into mathematics than I have. Still, when you’re faced with integrals and derivatives for the first time in 20 years, there’s bound to be some memory lag. But he always does his best to help us, then and now!

8. He pushes us to success.

My dad has an arguably crazier past than my mom. He grew in a farming village in Central Vietnam, where his family grew rice. He often tells us about building houses from mud and bamboo, or picking leeches off his legs after tending the fields, or how he never ate phở (the famous Vietnamese beef broth soup) until he reached the US. When he finally escaped from the war (as one of the boat people of Vietnam, no less) he lived in a refugee camp in Indonesia for a year before finally securing passage to America. He arrived in the USA– as he famously likes to tell us– with nothing but a garbage bag of clothes and 50 bucks in his pocket.

My dad, like my mom, had to work his way up to success. I remember when I was in elementary school, my teacher assigned us a list of questions to ask our parents. One of them was

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to which my dad answered promptly,

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And so, growing up, my sister and I have always been urged to work our way to success as well. Which is why I credit my dad with my hearty work ethic today.

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My dad pushes us, sure, but he would also do anything for our success. Thanks to his support, I was able to do tennis and National Honor Society and vocal ensemble and track and all the other activities I did back then. Because of him, I’m able to go to college without being strapped with debt. My father was not only able to survive the tough times, but also prevent the tough times from happening to his kids.

Yeah, I’m very lucky that my dad is… well, my dad!

So dad, here’s one for you as well! My sister and I know that you’re always looking out for our best interests. You’ve dealt with our girl drama for so many years, and for that, we can’t thank you enough. So, on this Father’s Day, it’s only apt for us to say:

You’re the best father we’ve ever had!

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You know what we mean.

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Here’s to you, mom!

Mother’s Day was last Sunday. Therefore, for the last month, we’ve been bombarded with Mother’s Day ads for flowers, candies, gifts, cards, buy this! Treat your mom to that! Etc., etc., etc. Our TVs have been filled with Mother’s Day commercials. The ones that remind you of all your mom has done for you. How she made your favorite food as a kid. Or how she would tuck you in at night. Or how she would always come to your aid when you are hurt or down.

What these commercials don’t show, however, is that there’s more than one way of showing love. Take my mom, for example. She did all these things, don’t get me wrong– she made me my mac ‘n’ cheese, read me bedtime stories, and gave me those Hello Kitty band-aids– but she’s also not that softy, gentle maternal figure we paint out moms to be. Naw, my mom is tough. She’s here to make sure I grow up properly.

And she does this in her own way, using methods often annoyed me as a kid. But I’ve realized that, in all she says and does, my mom is always looking out for her daughters. To her, it’s a given that she wants the best for us.

So I’ve compiled this too-short list (because no list would be long enough, yeah?) of five things my mom has done for me and my sister. Here goes!

1. She looks out for our safety.

Every parent fears their kid getting attacked or injured or kidnapped. My mom is no exception.

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Even as my sister and I have hit legal adulthood and lived on our own, she still worries.

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My mom has some serious protective-mother-bear-mode! But really, she just wants us to be safe. 

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2. She keeps things in perspective.

Back in high school, I dislocated my shoulder during swimming class. After a panicked call to my mom, I was taken to the ER.

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Fair enough. She had a point. I was am a huge crybaby.

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And no parent wants to see their child cry, right? Instead, my mom keeps me and my sister grounded. She wants us to be able to face whatever life throws at us!

3. She makes sure we stay healthy.

Every time my mom calls, she asks, without fail:

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And nowadays, since I’m on Weight Watchers:

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My mom is also a pharmacist. As a result, she knows a lot about health and medicine.

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My mom knows her drugs, yo.

My mom has to deal with patients every day. She’s seen how poor health can affect a person. She often tells us,

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…right before proceeding to slather us in sunblock.

post 128 image 10Dude, when I’m old, I’m going to have SUPER-SMOOTH SKIN! Didn’t help me with the freckles though.

4. She wants us to succeed.

My parents grew up in a very different society from my own. Where my mom comes from, kids’ grades weren’t based on the percentage correct they got on a test, but rather how well they did compared to the other students. Vietnam isn’t the richest country. Back in her day, education was the only avenue to climb your way to success. Liking your job was secondary to achieving financial stability.

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And the truth is, I really admire my mom for the way she took control of her own education. She wasn’t content as a dentist,  housewife, or a lab technician, all three of which were options for her. She went back to university and got her pharmacy degree, despite having one kid and being pregnant with another. (Me!) She clawed her way up through guts and hard work. And she wants and pushes her kids to be able to do the same.

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She’s expecting great things from me and my sister. Sure, the pressure’s been on even before we entered kindergarten. But at the same time, it’s nice to know that your mom believes– and expects– that you’ll grow up, become independent, and succeed.

5. She absolutely and unequivocally loves her kids.

My mom is a tough cookie. She’s blunt. She’s a tiger mother. But, without a doubt, she loves me and my sister.

She wants to share with us what she enjoys.

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She takes care of us when we need it.

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And ultimately, she’ll do whatever it takes for my sister and I to be happy.

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So, mother, mẹ, mom: This one’s for you! I know you read my blog (you tell me proudly, all the time, that you somehow navigated the internet again to read every single post) and I know you were in Canada wishing your own mom a Happy Mother’s Day, so I waited until you got home today to release this post. And now, I want to take this chance to say: Mom, my sister and I are grateful for all you’ve done for us. You’re our one and only Zumba-dancing, tofu-cooking, glasses-losing mother. And we love you bunches for it!

My cousins

My cousins share an interesting relationship.

This relationship is best summarized by the phrase, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”

Because my cousins and I are as different as night and day. Black and white. Apples and oranges. Link and Ganondorf.

Now that I’m done hurling cliches, let me show you what I mean. Here are my cousins:

Put us all in a room together, and it’s bound to be chaos. My cousins and I have a history of harassing each other, since day 1…

…all the way to the present day.

Sometimes I wonder how we’ve managed to coexist this long.

Then, however, I remember that they’re my cousins. They’re the ones you grow up with. Your first friends as kids. They’re the only ones who can truly understand the ins and outs of your crazy family. We’ve suffered some trials and tribulations over the years:

And so my cousins and I are all friends. Even though we’re getting older– going to college, getting jobs, not being able to see each other as often– when we do get together, everything’s the same. My favorite family gatherings are always the ones with my cousins. My family may be huge, and loud, and crazy, and chaotic, but I can’t imagine it any other way.

Although I could do with a little less harassment.


My family.

Immigrated from Vietnam.

Therefore, English is their second language. (I was born and raised here in America, however.)

My relatives, then, speak fluent, but perhaps not perfect, English. Occasionally this results in hilarity. Take, for example, how my uncle tried to abbreviate “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:”

…though anyone who’s taken a math class knows that “twinkle to the third power” would result in “Twinkle Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Hmm.

Similarly, “Ode to Joy” became

…and my cousins and I laughed the entire night.

My favorites, though, are some movie DVDs we have laying around. My sister and I left it up to our dear ol’ family to label them, with some comical results. For instance, we’ll often find movies labeled “CF,” or “chick flick.” As my dad phrased it, a “warning label to let me know not to watch it.”

Alternatively, you can drop all plurals with us:

Just one Ring. Just one tower.

Enjoy some “dairy” with Bridget Jones…

…Or perhaps search for a “spork” with the Star Trek crew.

Spock is nowhere to be found, but now we have a multi-function utensil!

This one definitely is my favorite, though. Feast your eyes on this wonderfully fobby label:

Though all are minor errors, our parents’ English is no doubt a source of endless entertainment for my cousins and I. Perhaps we shouldn’t poke so much fun at our aunts and uncles, but the temptation is irresistible. And it goes both ways: just as I make fun of my family’s English, my family will tease me for my poor Vietnamese. (Which, by the way, is absolutely terrible and has much more cause to be made fun of than my family’s English. Cheers!)

Family car rides

The more people in a group, the harder it is to get around.

I’ve experienced it plenty of times. Large groups of friends hanging out inevitably lose each other on the way. Ever try to navigate 40+ people into cars and to the beach? I have.

Even in smaller groups, my family finds ways to be late. A standard car only holds five people. Not too bad, right? Shouldn’t it be easy to get the show on the road?

Ha! Please. Whenever my family tries to go places, it looks like this:

Not that my mom’s the only guilty one. Just today, my dear old grandmother cried,

My poor dad has to put up with all this. He’ll pull halfway into the driveway, engine running, waiting impatiently for everyone to file in. But he is no less guilty. Shortly after my grandmother stopped the car, he suddenly asked,

We’ve all done it before. I’ve done the same. When I was in elementary school my family would visit relatives every other weekend or so. Here’s just a couple of the things I forgot to pack:

Other things on my list? Cell phones, contact solution, bras, deodorant, shampoo, and all sorts of necessities that are easily forgotten. I’ve become way better over the years, thank goodness. Once in a while, though, I’ll experience the “Oh crap! My skin is dry and I forgot my lotion!” panic attack.

And to this day, my mother reminds me every time to “Mang quần xi-líp”– bring my underwear.