30 November 2011


I like Andrew Bird. A lot. I first heard his slightly flat and raspy gypsy + swing + funk fiddle work on an early Squirrel Nut Zippers album, and I loved it without knowing who he was. Later I discovered Armchair Apocrypha, and from there launched squarely backwards (chronologically) into the Bowl of Fire.

Somewhere in that discovery process I took a shine to the tune "50 Pieces" and, on a whim, played it for the kids. They immediately started dancing, and they LOVED this quirky line towards the end: "Hey, who's that old man in the overalls? His cows lick the ice from off the stable walls."

Makes no sense, right? And even less so couple with the refrain, which he sings just before it: "I thought perhaps we could sit down for tea; "Nein" was the cold reply from Frau Ecstasy." Love it, not that I understand it. But the cows? Huh?

I'm not sure what my somewhat eclectic musical tastes are doing to the kids. I've exposed them to loads of stuff that kids their age probably shouldn't hear, much less hear regularly. Here's the iPod playlist that we usually cycle through in the car:
  • The Sick Bed of CĂșchulainn by The Pogues 
  • The Rock Show by Blink 182 
  • TGIF by Katy Perry
  • Dynamite by Taio Cruz 
  • Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf 
  • Party All Night by the BEPs 
  • Raise Your Glass by P!nk 
  • Bad Romance by Lady Gaga 
  • Hey, Soul Sister by Train 
  • My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelly Clarkson 
  • Tubthumping by Chumbawamba 
  • Bang the Drum All Day by Todd Rundgren 
  • Gives You Hell by The All-American Rejects 
  • Hey There Delilah by the Plain White T's 
  • Waka Waka by Shakira 
  • 50 Pieces by Andrew Bird 
Both kids know more of the lyrics than they should, even some of Shane MacGowan's sloppy brogue. On the one side, I'm sure I'm somehow scaring them with exposure to adult themes and material and lyrics. But while simplistic and whitewashed kids music certainly has its place, it simply can't compare to Andrew Bird or the BEPs in terms of ear candy. How can you can learn to listen actively unless what you're hearing has enough complexity to challenge you?

There was that big Baby Einstein push to play Mozart for infants. But then when they've developed further, we're supposed to limit their exposure to 'safe' kids' songs and the Chipmunks? I played more Bach for them than Mozart (because Mozart annoys me after awhile -- I know, heresy) when they were kids, but it wasn't really part of a methodology. I was just cycling through the library and trying different stuff until I found pieces they seemed to like. Sigur Ros, the Gipsy Kings and David Pulkingham were big winners back then.

We're doing the same thing today: spinning through the radio and our library until we find stuff they like. Except now that they're older, it's even cooler since now we can deconstruct it. They can differentiate the piano from the electric guitar from the synthesizer in Bat Out of Hell, and they can rock the drums. They know 50 Pieces is violin, and that a violin is a fiddle. It's harder to tear the BEPs apart, but there's a lot going on in there. Solid stuff, really.

Anyway, this whole post got started because Tai has been singing the cow lyric from 50 Pieces around the house, but he's intentionally singing it wrong: "...his cows lick the icing off the stable walls."  He just likes it that way.  Peace, little dude.

Cup Holders

Wow, been a long time since we've posted. I'll try to do better. Here's one:
We were downstairs at our new beach house last week, and Tai was helping me prep the boat for my o'dark early fishing excursion the next morning. He exclaimed, "Daddy! Your kayak has cup holders!" So it does, son. So it does.

18 July 2011

99.9% Potty Trained!

Sometime in early May, Taison just stopped wearing diapers. By mid-May he was sleeping through the night and napping in his underwear. In late May, we took him on a +2hr flight to Colorado and didn't worry about carrying diapers with us. It's been fabulous!

I've heard that potty training boys is more difficult than potty training girls, but we've had the opposite experience here. It may have something to do with the fact that with the second child, I've been more relaxed and less psychotic about things. We didn't pressure him to use the potty or wear underwear. I do not have to remind him to go, he just goes when he needs to. We let things happen on his schedule. As a result, he kind of potty trained himself and we've had almost no accidents (ok, maybe we've had 3 accidents...).

So what about the .1%? He doesn't care to wipe himself when he does #2, we usually do it for him. When there isn't an adult around and he needs to do his thing, he will "wipe" and then tell me he did the #2. Usually, it's well... messy. But hey, he's 3.5. It's ok.

13 July 2011

Fly Tying with Daddy

As most of you probably know, the Daddy here has been obsessed with fly fishing since being just a few years older than my kids are now.  This obsession extends to tying my own flies, and the kids routinely crawl into my lap while I'm tying.  Trinhity likes to tie pink flies with long saddle feathers and lots of flash, but Taison is happy tying almost anything so long as it's yellow.  I suppose it's sorta silly, but I keep all the hideous flies they tie; I'm quietly stocking their flies into boxes, one for each.  Some of their flies would actually catch fish, but I don't have the heart to take any of them onto the water for fear I might lose one. 

I own this peculiarity.  Back off.

Anyway, I recently ordered some fly tying materials to replenish stocks which were running low:  shiny metal beads, 'coneheads' and 'barbells'.  I use that stuff mostly in my big saltwater flies for the coast, but also in 'bugger' patterns used for trout on the big Western rivers.  Last night as I was finally settling down to sort the new stuff (~20 dozen) into some stackable clear plastic threaded canister things, Taison wandered in and wanted to help. 

I was fairly skeptical at first that he'd be much actual help.  As he crawled into my lap, I was working very hard to subdue premonitions of spending an hour picking 3/32" gold beads out of the light tan shag carpet.  But he cheerfully snatched up his favorite pair of reverse-action tweezers and asked what I wanted him to do, and I couldn't say no.  Deep breath.

First I asked him to pull all the big beads out of a box that had commingled sizes.  He reached in with his tweezers, plucked one out and said, "Like this one, Daddy?"  He was right, and I told him so.  He blew through the box hunting those bigger beads.  He did it.  Quickly.  Without dropping any. 

I gave him another container with more commingled colors and asked him to pull out just the small black coneheads.  He did it.  Quickly.  Without dropping any.

Then I got brave and had him dig all the hooks out of yet another bin of random stuff and separate them into a different stack.  I'm fairly militant with the kids about messing with hooks, so this was risky.  But I watched him like a hawk, and he didn't drop any of those either.

Finally we sorted all the packages of new materials by shape, size and color.  He nailed that.  We opened the packages and dumped them into the appropriate canisters.  That was sorta tricky:  it involved removing the stiff paper from the small ziplocks, extracting the staple and putting it into the trash bin, opening the ziplock, and a careful pour into the bins.  I spilled two packages all over the table.  He opened almost as many....and didn't spill a single thing.

I was floored.  It was awesome.  My little dude has HANDS.  Love it.  Love him.

21 June 2011

Special Night @ the Pool

Quick note from Daddy about a special mark passed tonight. Tai has been tentative at the pool, more so than his sister was. But tonight he got the hang his kickboard for the first time....and then hit a stride and chased me across the pool! I couldn't go backwards fast enough. Awesome.

31 March 2011

Jet Leg

Mama-san & I got back the evening before last from a pleasant couple days in the south of France, and we're both feeling the jet lag today. Ironic that we had to fly 14 hours twice in order to get 10 hours of sleep per night for 3 consecutive nights only to come back and be unable to sleep.

Mama told Tai Tai that she was jet lagged and asked if he knew what that meant. He replied, "Is it when you hurt your foot?"

13 March 2011

The Waterline @ Metz, France

Daddy-oi here...greetings from Metz, France. I'm here on a work trip, and only for one night. I stumbled around town in a jet-lagged daze for an hour or two this evening and was greatly pleased and amused to discover that our son's name is even more intercultural than we'd thought.

"Taison" in French apparently translates directly to "Waterline". Not sure that's a fabulous sobriquet for our son, but water runs deep in our family, and it could be worse.

More superficially, he's popular here. There's a Rue Taison....

...a Taverne Taison...
From Taison @ Metz

...located naturally enough in Village Taison...

...which has its own history (haven't gotten it translated yet, feel free!)...

...and if that's not enough, there's even a College Taison!

Maybe this means we'll have to bring him back here someday...

24 February 2011


We went to Starbucks this morning after dropping Trinh off at school. Daddy has been away for the past few days and it was a rough night. I got a venti. I never order a venti. We sat outside with our coffee and milk (yes, he is allergic to milk, but we let him drink it sometimes because he loves it).

Tai: (sniff, sniff) What is that disgusting smell??
Mama: Oh, that's mulch. They mulched the flowerbeds.
Tai: (sniff, sniff) That STINKS!
(Tai takes a drink of his milk. Ponders.)
Tai: Will the mulch melt my milk??

11 February 2011


Boy meets girl.
Boy and girl fall in love.

Girl makes unreasonable demands on Boy and uses guilt and love to torment Boy for all eternity. Boy is trapped and will spend the rest of his life trying to please Girl by moving mountains and building palaces of diamonds for Girl.

It is good that he learns these life lessons at an early age.

09 February 2011

Old Man

Daddy: "Come here Tai Tai, I need to change your diaper."

Tai: "Get away from me old man!!"

Of course, Mama & Trinh laughs.

[Not sure where he got the "old man" from but we think it may be from the Cars movie. Lightening McQueen calls Doc Hudson "old man".]

Trinh is a Bad Girl

Tai: "Mommy! Trinh Trinh BROKE my track!!"

Mama: "No Tai Tai, Trinh didn't break it."

Tai: "Yes she did!! Sometimes, Trinh Trinh is a BAD GUR-RL!"

[Tai says girl with two syllables. It's really cute. And no, Trinh did not break his train track!]

07 February 2011

Mommy's Story

Every now and then, I ask him to tell me a story. Usually he just laughs or tells me a short (very short) version of a story that I've told him. Well, on January 5, during lunch, I got the following:
One day, Mommy looked outside the window. And there was no food.
Then Mommy climbed a tree.
Mommy saw a caterpillar.... and another caterpillar... and another caterpillar.
And a lizard jumped on Mommy. And Mommy said "AGH!!"
Then Mommy saw a blueberry. Then Mommy ate the blueberry.
Earlier that day, we were outside and a lizard did jump on my arm and made me scream. A few minutes later, he plucked some blue colored berries from a bush in our yard and asked if he could eat them. I told him they were not blueberries and could not be eaten.

I am not sure where the inspiration for the rest of his story lies... but the story is awfully sweet. He repeated it a couple of times for us with only a few minor variations.

Lovestory Lyrics

Trinhity, in anticipation of the Daddy Daughter Dance has been singing Taylor Swift's Lovestory. She has been requesting to have it played on repeat for days on end now. Taison doesn't mind the song. It's got a nice beat to it and he likes to dance so it's been good. He usually doesn't sing along with his sister, so I was surprised when she was singing in the car and got stuck on a part and he filled in the missing piece.

Trinh: "...my daddy said stay away from Juliet,
and you were standing... umm... you were standing... (mumble mumble)..."

Taison: "Staircase"

Candy Cane

Mommy!! Look, I drew a candy cane!
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The Push Up Challenge

Kain takes the Clark push up challenge.... :-)
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Backyard camping

Only in Houston....
...could we go camping in the backyard in December.
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Balloon Cockroach

Sometimes, Taison gets these ideas in his head and there is no budging him. He insisted on having a balloon cockroach. Yeah. Right. Mama can make balloon dogs, turtles, fish, swords, and sticks. But a cockroach? After several creative & feeble attempts Mama came up with something that met Taison's approval. The above is a cockroach on a stick!!
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A tiny sample from his car collection....
...at least a dozen reside in Mama's purse.
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My THREE party

Taison has been waiting for "his THREE" party for some time now. You see, Ong Ba was away on vacation for a couple of weeks and we couldn't have a party without them! As Taison says, "Mommy and Daddy and Trinh Trinh and Ong and Ba Ba are my best friends." And we must share our birthdays with our best friends. :-)

He was very adamant about the cake. He wanted a car cake. He wanted a white car cake with tires. And the cake had to be both chocolate and white cake. And there had to be TWO signs... one of them had to be a STOP sign and the other a DO NOT ENTER. Mama couldn't find the signs, but improvised....
The flame job was a last minute add-on... painted on the cake with chop-sticks. Really. We are not kidding. Mama does everything with chopsticks.
Trinhity wanted her little brother to have balloons... so there were balloons. And of course, there were presents.
Taison was very, VERY excited about the presents!! He was so excited about his presents (cars, trucks, a bike, books, and a Thomas the Train Mega-Block set) that he didn't even eat any cake. He didn't have any of his birthday cake until the next day!

On his actual birthday, January 25, we offered to take him to Chuck E Cheese. We hate Chuck E Cheese. We've only been there once, for a cousin's birthday party. But the place is advertised as the "place where a kid can be a kid". We thought he'd enjoy the bad pizza and video games.

His sister, however had a different idea. She wanted to go to Redfish, which is a local seafood & sushi restaurant. The owners have a son who is in Trinhity's kindergarten class. The restaurant is amazing. If you come to Houston, this is the restaurant that we would most likely take you to. Why Redfish and not Chuch E Cheese? We aren't sure. Maybe because we know them? Maybe because we drive by the restaurant everyday on our way to school? Maybe because we like this place? Either way, we were very surprised when Taison announced he wanted to go to REDFISH for his birthday dinner!! She had been working on him for weeks.

So, instead of bad pizza, we had grilled grouper with bacon wrapped scallops and crab stuffed halibut for dinner. Taison had tempura shrimp in a special salsa & guacamole dip, fried catfish and french fries. Trinhity had rice & seaweed & french fries. And the owner treated Taison to his own slice of chocolate eruption (chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and chunks of cheese cake) cake with a candle on top. We wish we could have had a picture of his face when the cake came out. With his face covered in chocolate and a HUGE smile, he announced to everyone that "this is the best restaurant EVER!!" [Thanks Rolita, for the VIP treatment!]


On January 20, 2011, the most heinous of crimes was committed in our home.

Below is exhibit A:
Taison was bit. (Click on the photo for an enlargement) Taison was bit in the face by Trinhity!! The bruises lasted almost an entire week. We were livid. Trinhity had her favorite toys taken away. The reason for the crime? Taison was making too much noise and bothering Trinhity while she was trying to play music on the little keyboard. Our usually sweet daughter did something very much out of character. She was very much ashamed and begged us not to tell anyone. But well, we are blogging these photos anyway....
Here he is nursing his bruise with an ice-pack (frozen teething ring). The little guy was obviously distraught, hurt, and angry. When he recovered, he took the rest of his sister's toys and put them on top of his toy fridge. You see, we put her toys on top of the refrigerator. Lucky for her, he doesn't seem to hold a grudge.

Ong & Daddy's BDAY

The Pappas

Taison's Godfathers, Pappa Steve & Pappa Joel, spent New Years with our family this year. We are extremely blessed to have them in our lives!!
It took several attempts before we were able to get one nice shot with everyone. But we think there are some gems in the "misses"....
Taison helped Pappa Steve with his morning exercises. Taison is about 33lbs now. We wonder if Pappa Steve will be able to do this next year???

Vu Christmas

Uncle Trevor and Aunt Clara (Di Van) came down from Manchester, NH to spend the Christmas holiday with us.


Now that he is a big boy, he likes to perform "tricks". Here he is in deep concentration. The Clark tongue is always a part of "deep concentration".
We aren't sure what his trick was... but we think he was trying to launch himself from the top of the slide and land on the swing.

06 February 2011

Monkeying around


Big Sis's Christmas Program

Big Sis had a fancy Christmas program. The whole family went and we were pleasantly surprised that Taison sat, laughed, and clapped during the performance.

He brought his favorite stuffy, a mangy white kitten that his sister got from a garage sale for a quarter. He loves this thing. There were theater seats at the Centrum where the performance was being held. One of our friends taught Tai to launch his kitty from the folding seat. Let's just say he was the pre-show entertainment that morning.


We spent a week at Uncle Scott's & Aunt Tina's house in Peyton, Colorado. We took over their house and ate all of their food. They were fabulous hosts!!!
This was Taison's first time to Uncle Scott's house, but it has left quite an impression on our son. We have heard "I want to go to Uncle Scott's house!!" several times a week now, especially when he sees any big vehicles (four wheelers, fork lifts, construction trucks).
As you can see, Uncle Scott has lots of toys. BIG TOYS. Even Daddy loved the big toys.

When it was too cold & windy to play outside in the field, there were plenty of toys to play with inside the house. Cousin Rachel set up the video games for the little dude...
and when she wasn't looking, he got into her scrap booking stamps!!
But we suspect that next to the four wheeler, the two dogs Bandit & Buster were the highlight of the trip for Tai Tai.
We did manage to get out to Colorado Springs for a day and go to the Cave of the Winds. This is his "WOW, that was cool" face. We got suckered into buying a souvenir photo which we'll post as soon as we find the time to scan it....

We drove up to Denver to spend Thanksgiving with Grandma & Grandpa Clark.
Grandpa had a ton of Hot Wheels cars for Taison to play with while Grandma had lots of books. But we think his favorite plaything was the stationary bike.

We are planning a couple of trips back to Colorado in 2011 for Cousin Rachel's graduation in the Summer and Cousin Trevor's wedding in the Fall!!!