Happy Hmong American Day!

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I hope that one day, we not only get a day, or a month, or an entry in a history book for our contributions to the US during the Vietnam War, but that we are appreciated as individuals and our contributions to society as a whole.

I wanted to post a poem that I had written back in 2007 that I feel encompasses what it means to be Hmong American.

Enjoy!

Lost Spirit Aflutter

“From a high mountain, across a vast ocean,
Into a deep valley, my spirit has flown with me,”
My grandmother continues, “But when you fall, it will leave.
It will go back to the land of ancestors.”

I listen to my grandmother as she lays in her bed,
A single flickering light illuminates the room with an orange glow
As she has my hand embraced tightly,
intertwined into hers, and a tear rolls down her cheek.

“My young child, your grandma has lost her soul.”
In most cases, with ua neeb ritual a shaman
Would get onto his spiritual horse, and ride into the land of ancestors,
Offering a pig’s heart to exchange for her heart

But in a Christian household, where Shamanism is pagan worship,
Where bamboos do not line the roof from threshold to alter;
A spirit line drawn to guide our ancestors;
How will the spirit know where to go?

There are no paper money boats to sail the offerings
Into the land that is cold and long forgotten.
There are no halved bull horns to clang or bells to ring
To call my grandmother’s spirit back.


It’s A Face!

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FACE
I want to take a moment right now, a deep breath, a pause, a side step from the chaos in our little whirlwind of a world, to talk about Ami. It is so very rare when we can just sit down for a moment and just bask in our fortunes in life. A warm bed, a hot meal, and loving arms.

As some of you may know Ami was diagnosed Autistic not more than 7 months ago. And since then it has been relentless tests, therapies, evaluations, daily regiments, and constant attention to ensure that we, as parents, are doing what we can to help her with speech, fine and gross motor skills, self-care, and a multitude of other social skills, such as something as basic as going out to eat at a restaurant.

All of these things, have finally led up to Ami being more confident than ever. She can maintain eye contact a little bit more. She can hug just a little bit tighter. She can recite commonly used questions with just a little less prompting. Each milestone and accomplishment is just that much sweeter every day.

And so today, during one of our many times that we try to get her to focus on a particular task, we took out our dry erase board to allow Ami to practice her fine motor skills of drawing and writing.

We are encouraging her more and more everyday to acknowledge that mistakes happen, they can be fixed, and then you can continue to get better at it with practice. Typically, we have to place our hand over her’s because she is a perfectionist and doesn’t like to make mistakes. But not today!

Today, she drew her big circle, then three little dots, one pair for eyes, another for a nose. A nice curved line for a smile, two half circles for ears, an intentional squiggle for shaggy hair, and the word “FACE” all by herself.

The proudest I’ve seen her be in awhile.

Taking the photo was a little weird because we made her lay down next to it, but she was the one who struck the pose.

She’s our little diva!


[Poem] A Young Night

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A Young Night
As you lie me down to sleep,
I rest my weary head.
The demons have come to rest,
beside me in my bed.

Tidal waves of slumber approach,
I close my eyes to sleep.
And as I slip into a slumber,
there, the monsters creep.

Here I go, I must escape from those
who lurk and haunt
For they have come to take me–
It is I for whom they want!

I jump, I leap, I spin and soar,
I run with all my might.
They rub their hands with anticipation,
It is but a young night.

I stop and turn, confront them there.
My soul they cannot take.
They cannot break me, no they can’t,
I do not waver. I do not shake.

I banish the demons with a wave of my hand.
I make them go away!
They are gone, never to return.
Tonight, I keep the demons at bay.

Happy National Poetry Month!


Meanwhile in GTA: San Fierro…

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What sounds like a main story arc from Grand Theft Auto, on Wednesday, Leland Yee, a CA State Senator, has been arrested on corruption charges.  These charges that he stands to face during trial include laundering illegal firearms, taking bribes and drug trafficking.​

Yee has notoriously has been known in the past for introducing bills into the State Senate that would effective ban “violent video games” as well as banning illegal firearms.

Yee was released on bail for $500k and is standing trial.



My Daughter Says… #1

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I wanted to start a serial of conversations that my daughter and I have because she is largely low-verbal, there are some days that she has creative speech.

Here was a quick exchange between Ami and I on my way to dropping her off to preschool.

Ami: Can I listen to Alphabet song?
Me: You can listen to it later.
Ami: I’ve got an idea.
Me: What’s your idea, sweetie?
Ami: You play Alphabet song.

For those who may not know, my daughter is autistic. She was non-verbal up until about 3.5 years old, where before that, she only had 2 or 3 words to communicate to us what she wanted such as “apple”, “water”, and “sandwich”. Which is not to say she didn’t talk. Her enunciation was beautiful, though scripted, known as echolalia.

Everyday she is growing her vocabulary and I enjoy our conversations, though they do come off a little sassy, she is such an interesting person, I appreciate the little glimpses she allows to see every now-and-then.


My Daughter, the Genius Reader

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When I was younger, I had an aunt who would show their child flashcards of letters and numbers while they were a newborn child. Eventually, it grew from letters and numbers to words and then to sentences. By the age of 5, he was enrolled in 2nd grade, reading whole books, playing the piano very well, and could hold conversations with grown ups. It left an impression on me, to say the least.

So, fast forward a little over a decade later and I had my own child that I was showing flash cards to. Every day I would show her the same cards three times before putting them away. I did this for months. She never repeated them after me, however. So I started showing her American Sign Language. First the alphabet, then numbers, then simple words such as “more”, “eat”, “mommy”, and so on.

Still nothing. But I kept on. I started to read books to her. I started reading her Dune.

And then one day, at around 1.5 years of age, I took out my iPad and wrote the letter “A.” I showed her my screen and said, “What letter is this, Ami?” She said, “Aaah.”

Thinking it was a fluke, I wrote the letter “B” and asked her the same question. “Buuuh.”

I did this over and over until I got to the end of the alphabet. Not having the ability to enunciate the actually letter names, she had pronounced the sounds of each letter. I did this three more times until she finally hit the iPad out of my hand and crawled away.

From there, she started to continue to self-teach herself how to read. Eventually writing whole words on the keyboard from “apple” to “elephant” without me ever teaching her those words.

How did this happen? We’re not sure. We just thought that she was a little ahead of her peers in this regard, but her ability to read full sentences with great comprehension skills would continue on.

And through all of our reading, we came across a term that doctor’s use to describe her genius at reading–hyperlexia. If you were to say dyslexia is the neurological reading disorder of inability to process letters and symbols, hyperlexia is the neurological opposite having the ability to decode words.

At the age of 3, struggling to communicate with our daughter, my husband took out a pad and pen and wrote down a sentence, “I want a peanut butter sandwich,” in turn, Ami read and then walked to the kitchen wanting to eat. We continued this for more simple tasks. And then spelling out songs, and then other requests such as wanting ice cream or to play baseball.

Eventually, we would take her to her pediatrician for a yearly check-up to then be referred to see a specialist. These groups of specialists would begin to diagnosis our daughter as Autistic and to seek therapy so that she could get rehabilitated.

We are still in the process of getting treatment for our autistic daughter, but being able to know that there are ways for us to help create context for Ami, even through what seems to be an odd way to go about it, we continue to strive to provide her the help and guidance she needs to succeed.

Our daughter, the genius reader.