thaoie Posts

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.


Happy 1st birthday to our precious Harlow!! Since she was just a few months old I was already planning out her birthday party. Many of you close to me know that I absolutely love Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Not only because she doesn’t judge a book by it’s cover (seeing beauty within), but also for her love of reading. The idea spiraled from Belle which I thought was already done enough, especially with the release of the movie, into the idea of books as party favors into the “Reading Rainbow” as many of us oldies grew up with. Check out the in-home (in our dining room) photoshoot we set up for her. It’s my first time shooting indoors like this since my forte is natural, outdoor settings but this idea clicked for me. Knowing that January had generally rainy weather I opted to try it plus I had the ease of a controlled environment that I could work on at my own pace. It may have lacked the natural light that I love to have in my images but in the end I was satisfied enough with how it turned out and hope she will cherish these images for many, many years. I had a fun time pulling it altogether. It was winged in bits and pieces so it is all the more satisfying seeing it all come together like this.

Her dress is made from a king-sized vintage pillowcase that I purchased on eBay. I had a local seamstress replicate a dress that I had seen online.
vintage rainbow dress

Laser cut cake topper from Happily Ever Etched. Cake from Bite Sized Catering. I spray painted the gray legs of our IKEA high chair to match the gold decor.
happily ever etched laser cut cake topper

Gigantic confetti and “one” balloon from Oh Shiny Paper Co (Etsy). Bar cart from World Market. LED light box, H marquee, gold cake stand and mini succulents from Target.
oh shiny paper co confetti balloon

Waterfall rainbow backdrop made of 150 yards of tulle (25 yards of each color).
rainbow tulle waterfall

rainbow themed first birthday photoshoot

It’s like what everyone says: “every kid is different”. We were used to the boy thing so Harlow was a pleasant surprise. Much feistier than her brothers and very demanding/impatient. She gets “hangry” like any other female I know and very grumpy when sleepy like every other Vu girl in my family. She may be feisty but she’s scared of some of the oddest things: some animated cartoon animals, animated animal toys (yes, even a Fingerling while it’s awake) and gigantic balloons (after it shrinks to a certain size she’s ok with it).

What opened our eyes the most was her growing relationship with Nolan. With Brandon being developmentally delayed Nolan had never gotten a chance to have a sibling to play and interact with. We as parents never got to experience the joys of seeing siblings playing so well together. I never understood why my mom always said “It brings me so much joy to see you and your siblings hanging out and getting along.” I do now!! For the last few years it’s always been Nolan in his own world and Brandon in his own. Now that Harlow is crawling around the house and getting into everything Nolan is so interested in playing and interacting with her–showing her the world that he knows. He puts aside his toys so he can spend time “hanging out” with her. Nolan has a playmate!! It warms our hearts so much b/c he is gung-ho all-in about keeping her occupied for us so we can cook, clean or do laundry. He’ll get her the pacifier, a toy, a blanket, a snack or just play with her each and every time we ask AND he’s happy to do it. Nolan would say “we’re a team, we’re a family, we help each other”.

Yes, deciding on having a 3rd kid on top of Brandon’s developmental delay was a tough adjustment, but it was by far the best thing we could have done for our family. Our hope is for Brandon to progress far enough to enjoy the company of his siblings as they do with each other now. Imagine it: feisty little Harlow out in the world advocating for big brother Brandon and keeping big brother Nolan in line and on his toes.

We had an awesome, fun-filled first year watching Harlow grow and showing her the world. We hope you do as well reliving it thru our eyes with a short picture story recap below.

The obligatory monthly growth photo collage. She’s wearing Baby Bling Bows.
baby bling bows on 12 months of baby girl

At a month old she visited the “love” wall in Culver City for Valentine’s Day.
love wall culver city

With the scary Easter Bunny at Crystal Court South Coast Plaza.
easter bunny scp

Vegas, baby, Vegas!!
las vegas

Flew to Portlandia to do some site seeing at the tulip fields, Multnomah Falls and the Grotto.
portland tulip fields
portland multonomah falls the grotto

4th of July

Summer time adventures at the Terramor Water Park, Huntington Beach, DTLA and the OC Zoo.

Baptized at Christ Cathedral.

Explored a cute mining town in Sonora.

First national park visit to Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park Glacier Point

Pumpkin Patchin’ thru October at Johnson Bros and Tanaka Farms.
pumpkin patch OC

Transformed into a unicorn for Halloween festivities at Rancho Las Lomas.
baby unicorn costume

Traveled to the desert for the lantern lights festival.
lights fest

Checked Disneyland off the bucket list.
disney california adventure

Paid Santa a visit at Crystal Court South Coast Plaza.
santa crystal court scp

First Christmas with the fambam.

Rang in 2018 with the cousins.
2018 new year


I can’t believe my sweet Brandon is turning 2. His condition has kept him so purely innocent making every laugh, every smile, every little bit of progress he makes that much more joyous to see. Sure, his condition is in plain sight a handicap but it has taught us so many priceless life lessons that no money can buy, no textbook or professor can teach. We are better people because him and we want to thank God and Brandon for that.  We truly can’t wait to see what this next year has in store for him. Happiest of birthdays my darling!!

(if you’d like to read more detail on his condition and our thoughts on it you can catch it at the bottom of the blog post after the images)

Recap of the last year with Brandon. Video is strictly from cellphone footage.

LACMA Rain Room for Daddy’s birthday.

Photos with his cousins and grandpa.

Visiting with the Easter bunny.

Trying some ice cream at the beach.

Announcement that he’ll be a big brother to a little sister.

Trip to Japan. If he wasn’t in the stroller, he’d be forward facing in the carrier. Rob was a champ carrying him like that because he is not a light kid to be putting that kind of stress on your back but it had to be done.

Visited a cat cafe. We would be out all day so having the tablet with Little Baby Bum videos to entertain him was a lifesaver. Probably the most challenging thing was the food situation (Brandon still only eats pureed foods). We only packed enough baby food for half the trip. There was plenty of luggage allowance to pack for the entire trip but were there enough adult hands to push a stroller and roll an extra suitcase of food around for 2 weeks? NO. So we were constantly in search of Japanese baby food.

At the infamous Fushimi-Inari Shrine in Kyoto. A ton of steps means its not very stroller friendly so we only got to see a small portion of it.

Napping in a beautiful part of Kyoto and at the awesome Osaka Aquarium with the whale shark.

Annual holiday family photo session.

Annual visit to Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch. Always a ton of fun!

Wore his brother’s hand-me-down chicken costume from 2 years prior.

Holidays at Disneyland is a must.

Keeping with tradition we visited Santa at the Crystal Court.

Christmas Eve with mommy’s family featured again with grandparents and cousins.

Became a big brother to Harlow.

Valentine’s Day shenanigans.

Turning 2!!! And sitting better on my own.

Shortly after Brandon’s 1st birthday we found out from the neurologist that he has hypotonic cerebral palsy which explains exactly why at a year old he had yet to babble, sit, crawl or walk. Basically, Brandon seems to constantly be in a relaxed state because his cerebellum was damaged before birth. They describe it as a “rag doll” look so you’ll see that he has trouble sitting up straight and lack hand and leg coordination. Cognitively he is also behind and estimated to be at about a 6-7 month old and still eats pureed foods since his tongue and mouth control has yet to develop that far. His eye sight was also affected so at just 14 months old he already started wearing glasses.

For me, the gravity of the effect his condition would have on the rest of our lives did not totally hit until 6 months after his diagnosis. For the first 6 months I just thought he’d always eventually “catch-up” to all the other kids his age, but in reality he will progress at a snail’s pace and one day stop progressing altogether. Where will he stop? We won’t know until we get there because every case is unique, every child different in how this mystery illness affects them. Because his progress is so slow every little bit of progress he makes puts us in awe and has us jumping for joy. Now with a year of physical and occupational therapy gone by he has yet to get himself into a sitting position but when put there, can sit on his own for a few minutes; still doesn’t babble or crawl or walk. The professionals can’t give us an estimated age of when he ever will do these things because again, each case is so different. Brandon’s still light enough for me to carry but there will come a day when he will be too heavy for me so it will be his dad who carries him everywhere–his own personal Hodor if you will (Game of Thrones reference).

I’m not going to lie, every child I see his age (or younger even) I yearn for him to be doing the exact same thing: walk unsteadily up/down the aisles at the store, sit in a shopping cart, sip from a straw, say “mama” a million times to get my attention, crawl around the house getting into mischief, self feed a snack, wave hi/bye, hold his own bottle, sit unassisted on the carousel ride, flip pages of a book, use a spoon, blow out his birthday candle, share bath time with a sibling. Yes, we currently give 3 separate baths right now!! It’s kind of funny thinking back to when he was born 2 years ago I remember saying to myself in reassurance that “it’s only 2 baths for probably 6 months, then they can start bathing together.” Two years later I am thinking the same thing that in 6 months maybe he can start bathing with his brother, heck maybe we’ll go from 3 baths down to 1!! So like any mother, I have hopes and dreams for my child, but mine for Brandon are the most basic things that many of us take for granted on a daily basis.

I bet people wonder this all the time and can’t get themselves to ask us but knowing his condition, why did we choose to have a 3rd kid and why so soon? Remember that I got pregnant shortly after we got his diagnosis so the gravity of it didn’t quite hit me yet plus we’ve always wanted 3 or 4 kids AND I’m not getting any younger so we had to have kids now or never. Even with knowing Brandon’s diagnosis as we know it today, we’d still would have wanted a 3rd child. We accepted his condition pretty quickly, didn’t let the weight of it linger or drown us into depression and self pity, but instead took action to get him the help he needed right away. It does hold us back at times but we find ways to keep on doing what we would despite his condition (like travel to Japan with 2 kids and while I was pregnant). God also blessed us with Nolan who in our eyes stands to lose out on the most because our priority and focus is constantly on Brandon. He has been nothing but patient, sweet and loving with his baby brother. Gets him to laugh like no one else can, retrieves his pacifier when he’s crying; reads him books at bedtime, relinquishes tablet screen time for him. I don’t think any typical 3 year old would be able to stand thru the jealousy that would easily manifest from a situation like this–let alone now having to share time with 2 other siblings. Nolan has nothing but love for both his siblings–truly been a Godsend!

Our ultimate goal is that Brandon can be as independent as possible when he comes of age. Even if he can’t walk at least be able to feed himself, communicate to a certain degree and be able to perform tasks that can enable him to hold a job someday. For now, we will keep at his 4 therapy sessions per week to give him the best chances of progressing as far as possible. If anyone has any experience, thoughts or advice to share we’d love to hear it! Thanks for listening!


Rob and I agreed that we would throw a one time grand party for each of our kids to mark their 1st birthday. It probably isn’t memorable or fun for them but we figured keeping them alive for a year is a huge achievement in itself. Totally open to throwing them large parties for their 16th, 18th or 21st birthdays but this is it for their childhood. Of course there’s the annual small family gathering (and photoshoot, of course) for each year that passes. For Brandon’s 1st birthday we had decided on hosting it at Zoomars nearly 6 months in advance. Why? For the value you’re paying, you get a lot out of it compared to other places. We had the place from 9AM to 5PM, got to serve alcohol, invite up to 250 guests and it included 20 pony rides, 20 train rides and 20 feed baskets. There was just plenty of things to do to keep everyone entertained and happy. All our guests offered positive feedback on the experience saying their kiddos enjoyed it all so much. A single family trip to Zoomars could be quite pricey but with a party package, in my opinion, makes it so worth it. We hope more of our friends will now host parties here for their children so we can in turn enjoy it since we were so focused on hosting duties. Check out all the details below!!

We made our own signs and got balloon pets for all the kiddos to adopt. You can’t see it but each animal has a name tag on their collar. I thought it’d make for a great adopting experience with each one already named.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed balloon chicken pets
Many people wandering by the party area stopped to admire the balloon pets. I felt a teeny bit bad seeing so many children wanting one. Sadly they are reserved for Brandon’s guests.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
I saw these super cute puffy tissue animals on another blog and had to recreate them.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Cake and desserts were all made by my cousin, Jenny, of Intricakes. She’s so awesome at what she does–book her for your next event!
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Yep, we made that gigantic B ourselves.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Check out the detailing on those fondant animals! We painted the #1 candle to look like a cow.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed intricakes
Each kid received a tin pail that included farm animal figurines, stickers, an animal mask and a treat. We paid only $.30 for each tin pail at Target’s after Christmas sale. This may be a grand party but we’re always looking for ways to keep costs low.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Robert designed the farm theme that’s seen on the bottle wrapper, toy bag tag, drink sign and photobooth template.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
I already had these vintage soda crates in my own collection for decorating.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed dessert table
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed dessert table
We also made the gigantic #1.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Corner Bakery pasta + salad! Mr. Hot Bunz tacos!
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed corner bakery catering
Wiki Wiki Shave Ice was on hand to keep us cool with some of their yummy goodies. Fresh hot dogs and quesadillas also by Mr. Hot Bunz.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed wiki wiki shaved ice mr hot bunz
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Nolan and Lorelai on their much anticipated pony rides.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed pony riding
Feeding basket at the ready to treat the animals.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Guinea pegs to pet and feed.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Some shots from the photobooth.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed instant party pix photobooth
Only decent family photo we captured that day.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Singing “happy birthday”. Nolan blew out the candle for his little brother.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Tony brought out his nifty 360 camera. Use the joystick toggle or your mouse on the video to move around to see the entire scene. If on your phone, rotate your body up, down, left and right to see all around you or use your finger to rotate the video. It’s so cool!!

Cake smash it, Brando!!
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Here’s the 360 view of the cake smash moment.

At this point it is now around 2pm and Brandon has not napped since waking at 8AM. He is super tired!! At least he got in one photo with some of his older buddies before knocking out.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Cousins with their balloon pets and masks.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Super happy to see the kids playing with their newly adopted farm pets.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Got in a photo of the entire Dang clan on their way out.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed

We’d like to thank everyone who was able to make it out to celebrate with us and especially to our family who came early to help us set-up and stayed late to help us break-down and clean-up. We appreciate your time, all the wonderful gifts, but mostly for the beautiful memories made!


I’ve got the all the typical mommy guilt for baby #2. Brandon doesn’t get a single blog post until he turns 1. For comparison, Nolan had weekly updates–even a 2nd birthday blog post AFTER Brandon was born. Anyhow, I digress–can’t remember the exact date of the appearance of his first tooth. I just know it was in August around 6 months of age–at a year old he’s got 4 teeth.  He dresses in pj’s on most days where older bro dressed up like a little person every day of his life. Brandon gets all the hand me downs though I have tried to buy him a few new pieces of clothing for special appearances. The biggest guilt by far is that Brandon’s clocked in more television watching time than Nolan ever has; mind you it’s not like a TON but it’s significantly more than Nolan. Life just got a bit crazy and we needed an easy “babysitter” during those tough times. All I have to say is, I’m sorry my sweet Brando. It’s not that we love you any less. Life is just so much harder to juggle with 2 little ones to care for. We can’t give you the same undivided attention we gave your big bro but rest assured we love you just as much. We may seem a little more excited when Nolan reaches new milestones since he’s the very first to do pretty much EVERYTHING, but we are just as excited and proud when you reach those same ones. You add more love, more excitement and more craziness to our lives and we couldn’t be any happier. We can’t wait for you to sit, to crawl and walk so you can interact and play with Nolan more. You two already have such a strong brotherly connection and it completely melts our hearts for us to watch the moments you two share in a day. Your dad loves you, your big bro loves you–WE ALL LOVE YOU! Happy 1st birthday my sweet Brandon!! Can’t wait to celebrate at your big party this weekend.


Here’s a short video compilation of his first year of life. You’ll see that it is quite evident the bond Nolan and Brandon already share.

Brandon was so sick today! With a fever and cold it is quite arguably the worst birthday ever. We could not get him to smile or laugh for the camera, let alone enjoy his cake smash. Hoping he’ll be better for Sunday’s festivities. And if his first outfit looks familiar–it’s b/c it should! We thought it’d be neat to dress him in the same outfit Nolan did at his 1st birthday photoshoot.

brandon 1 year old birthday photoshoot
brandon 1 year old birthday photoshoot
brandon 1 year old birthday photoshoot
brandon 1st birthday
brandon 1st birthday
brandon 1st birthday cake smash

Let me address the elephant in the room: why is Brandon in a bumbo and not sitting on his own? He’s actually behind–unable to sit, crawl, stand or walk yet and is in physical therapy to help with that. He’s only recently started to do well rolling and playing on his belly. Our hope is to have him sitting in a couple months and perhaps walking by the time he turns 2. Thank you for your concerns and well wishes!!