thaoie Posts

Biggest milestone: kindergarten! The best part is getting to attend with his 2 cousins AND it’s a Vietnamese/English immersion program thru 6th grade. Seven full years of homework in two languages. Not only is it a HUGE challenge for him but also for us. We’ll need to assist him with all his studies. Plus is that it will also reinforce our understanding of Vietnamese. Hoping all our efforts will be well worth it in the end.

Nolan has definitely started becoming more opinionated and independent. Started off the school year wearing sweat pants everyday. Comfort was definitely key. It then evolved into preferring to dress himself and you can guess how that turned out. Against mommy’s wishes he tucks his jeans into his socks and tucks his shirt into his pants. Loves to wear turtlenecks and ripped jeans. The love of turtlenecks has his dad and I dubbing him “Steve Jobs”. Nolan wore his black turtleneck at least once a week to school. If we got around to doing laundry mid-week he’d totally sneak in a 2nd wear. Crazy silly kid! We really hope it’s just a short-lived phase and won’t continue into 1st grade.

Overall he’s done great in school (excels in math), is a wonderful big brother, developed a LOVE for Pokemon and is mostly a great son that doesn’t give us too much heartache/headaches (yet). Since he’s great overall (and the oldest) we set the bar pretty high and sometimes have to remind ourselves to take a step back so that we’re not so tough on him. Let him be a kid while he’s still a kid. It won’t be too long until he’s a teen that won’t be as openly silly or crazy with us so we’ll soak up and enjoy every second of it. So proud of our little guy and love watching him grow and learn and lead the way for his siblings.

Summer adventures in Tulum, Sequoia and the beaches before hitting Kindergarten with Quinn and Lorelai.

October is always so festive. Nolan chose Batman for his Halloween costume.

New year, new ride. Last year he received a bike for Christmas; this year a power wheels racer.

Spring time adventures around town at museums, parks, beaches and the aquarium.

More spring fun at Easter mass, the flower fields in Carlsbad and strawberry picking at Tanaka Farms. See the bottom right photo with his denim jeans tucked into his socks??!!

He’s so silly now. Could not get him to stand still for a decent photo. Mostly Fort Night inspired moves.

His shirt says it all. That is all we ever hear from his mouth nowadays–everything POKEMON!
My big guy is 6!


Happy birthday to our little big guy!! What a huge year in progress. There’s so much to say so to make it easier, here’s a quick bullet point re-cap of his progress and current status.

  • Began public special education pre-school
  • Started sitting up, but in his own special way (what you would call a “w” position; still needs to be watched because he will fall back without realizing the danger)
  • While lying down will kick his legs to rotate his body to be in a position of his liking
  • Does not crawl, stand or walk
  • Eye contact is more deliberate when he would previously just space out
  • Better on bigger, more solid snacks but still mostly eating pureed foods
  • Non-verbal
    • whines or cries for attention when in need or unhappy
    • laughs and smiles when happy
  • Favorite things:
    • nursery rhymes either in just music format or accompanied by video
    • books–flipping thru them but especially to chew on
    • bubbles–watching them and reaching out to touch and pop them
    • people watching

Mentally we can see that he’s advanced greatly, but still at around a 9 month old child’s age. So don’t be offended if he doesn’t acknowledge you or say hello back if you greet him–his mental capacity is just not all there yet. We’re not even 100% sure if he deliberately responds to his own name.

Being non-verbal along with the advancement brings about more whining and temper tantrums. He can’t tell us what he wants or what is making him unhappy so he will whine until he gets what he wants and it will go into full blown temper tantrum if we don’t figure it out quickly enough. Keeping him on a set schedule helps us predict his needs and wants easier so that we can prevent the number of outbursts in a week. It’s not often, but they do happen and when they do we’re all just stressed to get the little guy back to status quo so that everyone’s happy again.

I admit that our lives are a lot more structured and decisions made around events to attend and travel are highly dependent on meeting Brandon’s needs. I don’t like to say that it holds us back, we just have to find other avenues to enjoy our time together. It’s definitely more stressful so most times we decide to just stay home to make it “easier” on everyone or split up. Tough for mommy and daddy time since its hard to trust anyone to properly care for Brandon. And many people are understandably scared to step in to watch over and care for a special needs child. No one knows him as intimately as we do so if we do go somewhere, its just for a couple hours when we know its the easiest hours to watch him.

Toughest thing for me is that he’s still growing–not up to par with an average 4 year old, but still growing nonetheless. He’s heavier to carry with his dead weight and whether its in/out of bed, wheelchair, highchair, car seat and baths; its just definitely getting harder with every passing year. We’re still in search of the best bath chair or mechanism for me to bathe him since it’s all on daddy now to do so.

Even with all the tough things we’ve had to do to adapt to Brandon’s needs, the very best thing about him is that he is true and genuine. If you ever get to experience his smile and especially his laugh in real life, it is the very best thing in the world. It is 1,000% genuine and will reverberate all the happy feels into your very soul.

Spent his birthday at California Adventure.
Enjoying the awesome music and lights at the end of the eventful night.
These photos accurately show exactly how Brandon feels about each of his siblings.


It’s amazing how much a child grows in a year, especially in the first couple years of life. From these photos alone you see a baby just barely standing at a year old to finally walking at 18 months and now a silly pigtail’ed girl running the show at home. Harlow’s personality shines so much brighter and stronger compared to her brothers. We were so used to having such chill boys and then she came along and totally switched things up. When she’s unhappy, she’ll definitely let you know. When she doesn’t like or want something, you had better get it as far away from her as possible or else you’re in for it. And of course when she’s happy, you’ll get the best smiles and giggles out of her that make up for all the crazy things she’s ever done. We’re so looking forward to awesome terrible two tantrums and more side-eyeing from this little one. Check out all the ones we captured below!!

February 2018 to May 2018

May 2018 to July 2018

July 2018 to August 2018

August 2018 to September 2018

September 2018 to October 2018

October 2018 to November 2018

November 2018 to January 2019

January 2019
Just mommy and daughter day at Disneyland on her birthday. I’d have to say the highlight of the trip was meeting Minnie. She couldn’t wait in line and ran up to her while other people were taking photos. I don’t think I’ll ever forget her excitement. That moment will forever be ingrained in my memory bank.

Favorite ride: Dumbo! Did not want to get off. Carousel comes in at a close second.
Favorite gift: light up balloon.

Happy Birthday to our Harlow! It’s so cliche to say, but we love you more than you’ll EVER know.


Being a mom for 5 years was both an eternity and a blink of an eye. You’ve all probably heard the saying “the days are long but the years are short”. Of course we constantly yearn for more quality time with our kids. We could always work less, put down that phone for just 10 minutes, stop watching that show and watch them explore. With 3 kids now its even tougher. Reflecting back on the last 5 years I’ll definitely make an effort to be more present. Good news is I’ve already started those first steps of being more present by limiting the number of photography gigs I pick up. It’s probably 3x as less as compared to 3 years ago. I’ve come a long way to really putting my family as well as my sanity/health first.

As for Nolan, my dear boy is as inquisitive, talkative and silly as ever. He’s just so excited about the world and can’t wait to tell me every single little thought he has every single second of the day. You can see where I’m headed there so you can only guess the amount of energy and patience we have lately to keep up with his million mile a second brain waves. All in all, we’ve been SUPER DUPER blessed that God made him our son. He’s generally pretty well behaved, not at all crazy/wild, very protective of his siblings and I think pretty thoughtful. Couldn’t have asked for a better role model for Brandon and Harlow. Happiest of birthdays to the kid who made us parents. We will forever cherish you, love you, support you–even if you do start getting wild later in life and push us away. We’ll be right here like we always have since day 0.

A chronological photo recap from the time he turned 4 up until 5.

Summertime fun.

Our do-it-yourself wedding anniversary family photos.

He had so much fun chasing this chicken. Even spectators were laughing at his fun. You think this is him chasing “chicks” in the future?!?

On top of the world gazing at Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

October traditions at local pumpkin patches.

We always have so much fun at Rancho Las Lomas on Halloween. Might be the last year we go since both Nolan and Brandon are in school.

All dressed up for family holiday photos.

December traditions with a visit to Santa and Disneyland.

One day he’s going to be totally self conscious and not be this openly silly with us. For now I will enjoy it all!

Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

New Years Eve celebrations. I love all his poses!!

Nolan is enamored with space. Had a great time at the Griffith Observatory.

Traditional Valentine’s Day photos.

Lunar New Year festivities

Adventures in San Francisco at the Color Factory and Union Square.

Nolan gathered about 100 eggs for Easter.

Chillin’ at Venice Beach for Memorial Day.

Quality time at Disneyland on his birthday. Fun fact: he shares a birthday with my sister, Julie.


Happiest of birthdays to our big little man!! We can’t believe he’s already 3 and starting school soon—waaaahhhh!!! At 3 Brandon qualifies for public special education pre-school and he’s slated to begin in about a month. We’re happy but also super anxious. Happy that he’ll be in a new structured environment that will hopefully help him make more gains than just being in 1:1 therapy sessions. So very anxious because he’s never actually been anywhere without parental supervision. He’s very rarely in anyone else’s care so you can see we have major trust issues sending him off to strangers a few hours a day let alone to my parents for an hour. It’s not like he can come home and communicate to us that someone did this or that to him or explain a situation that made him unhappy. Of all the kids we understandably worry about him the most.

Over the last year Brandon has made small advances that are HUGE in our eyes. His mental and physical level is still very much an infant of 6-8 months. He’s starting to army crawl a lot better, become very voiceful when he is unhappy, can’t yet sit up on his own and actually a lot better with eye contact. We think he’s starting to recognize us as well as Nolan and Harlow as familiar voices and faces in his life. For the longest time he would be very bothered by Harlow’s presence/noises, but he has started to tolerate her so much better in the last month. I would like to think he actually has an affinity for her now–kind of like a love/hate relationship typical of any siblings. Brandon is strictly on pureed foods still and cannot feed himself or hold his own bottle. At least his gagging and vomiting has reduced greatly compared to the previous year and can now chew on the soft puff snacks so much better. We’re very hopeful that he will make a ton of progress this coming year and are very excited to see him build relationships with his teachers and classmates.

Thanks for keeping up with Brandon and for reading this far already! We hope you enjoy a photo recap of his 2nd year of life below.

Trip to Legoland.

Annual Easter photo with the scary bunny.

Exploring LA.

Seven Magic Mountains outside of Las Vegas.

Tulip fields in Oregon.

4th of July 2017

Annual cousins bonfire day in Huntington Beach.

Quick trip to Yosemite and Sonora.

Pumpkin patch fun in Irvine.

Halloween at Rancho Las Lomas. This was the highlight of Brandon’s year getting to be the King of the Iron Throne.

Annual holiday trip to Disneyland.

Holiday festivities with the family.

Celebrating the new year.

Visit to the Griffith Observatory. Nolan pushing Brandon around to look at the exhibits.

Valentine’s Day fun that resulted in a pretty great image of the 3 siblings.

Celebrating the Lunar new year the day before his 3rd birthday.