I had started this post at Thanksgiving, but never got around to finishing it. It’s been a busy two months since Milo’s second birthday. Work, holidays, travel. Then unfortunately, there was a sad turn of events entering into the new year. Ben’s sister died unexpectedly on January 2nd. She was a beautiful and talented woman, and charitable and fierce in her work as a lawyer. This sudden loss has been very hard on the family. No parent should have to outlive their child and Ben’s parents have shown nothing but strength. We are thinking dearly of her son and husband, who have an insurmountable void to fill.

The past week or so has been a blur. We left Milo with Chippy and traveled to Minnesota during record-setting low temperatures. Days were filled with meetings, trips to the airport, logistics. All the close family flew in, and travel through the worst storm was far from easy. We shared great memories around the dinner table.  The remembrance was somber and beautiful. But there honestly wasn’t time to sit and think.

Now that’s all over, the reality sinks in. I’ve read somewhere that it doesn’t get easier, just different. But as everyone tries to settle back into their lives, sometimes at those quiet times, it gets harder. I want to offer some distraction and I find myself coming back to this post.

It started with Thanksgiving dinner. I asked Milo what makes him happy. He responded, with no cue cards, “Fire makes Milo happy. Tata Cookie makes Milo happy.” It was such an honest and true answer. Even a two-year old feels thankful for family.


Milo and his Tata Cookie

I’m really telling myself when I say it’s important to love your family. I know I do, but there have been times when they drive me crazy. I think we should make a movie of my family, except they wouldn’t be able to cast someone who can cry as much as me. But lately, it’d make for a very sappy and boring story: family goes on holiday and gets along.

This Christmas was possibly the most relaxing trip we’ve taken with Milo yet. Ben’s parents very recently moved to Santa Cruz to kick back and retire. But first, they scrubbed and slaved away to get their guest house ready for our stay. And paradise it was: 70 degrees, sunshine, the sound and freshness of the ocean. Thanks to them, we got a day to ourselves. We went to Berkeley, stumbled across in the best game store ever, peeled ourselves away to meet my cousin’s newborn, then topped it off with sizzling Korean food. But we didn’t need to venture far: some afternoons everyone happily hung out in the backyard, mostly watching Milo dig with every possible tool he could find. It was simply perfect, and we’re excited to have easy access to a weekend of Vitamin D and Nana and Grandpa.


At the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Back home in Maryland, it was a full house. Our poor parents were considering moving, but we keep invading. My family was incredibly accommodating (after taking note from my meltdown in Europe). Everyone was flexible with no real agenda, and Milo slept (clutch). My mom welcomed the chaos of 13 of us in her home and cooked feasts, daily. We played tennis in our backyard and games at the kitchen table while the kids had more than enough toys (though Milo always wanted what Yohan had). The Bui White Elephant gift exchange gets rowdier and more backstabbing each year, yet the cousins are as sweet as ever. One framed a bunch of family photos with the quote, “Family. We may not have it all together but together we have it all.” That gift was obviously stolen. We visited the new Air and Space museum which is now a must-do every time we fly in/out of Dulles, and after 11 years, we finally took Ben to Washington D.C. We look forward to the next reunion.

Xmas 2013

Trying to get the kids alone for a photo

A toast to family by the Bui’s that can drink

I’m thankful for Chippy. She understands me the best out of anyone in my family, and has certainly has taken her fair share of beatings (yellings, really) and listened to me hours on hours. We made the wise decision to not bring Milo to Minnesota, but it was only possible because of Tata Chippy. Of course, we leave and Milo sleeps all night.

My parents have always taught me family comes first, and I’m so thankful to have found Ben who feels the same way. I’m usually censored to write about him, but well, too bad! Ben is the most giving, selfless, and patient person I have ever met. Thanks to him, Chippy and I can live together (hey, we have our battles). He will do anything for family and is often more accepting of mine than I am. He teaches me to be calm, and as patient as he is, over and over again.

And I am thankful for my dear Milo. At times he can be emotional, frustrating, and clingy to me ONLY. But he brings us pure joy, especially when we need it most. Milo tried to cheer up Ben by offering all sorts of things, like hugs or a tissue for boogers. He even said, “Daddy take Milo’s hand, go into office, and work. That makes Daddy happy.” We couldn’t help but laugh.

I’ll end this with a video, because sometimes you just need a good belly laugh.

More photos from our holiday trip here:


One comment

  1. A lovely post, Annie, despite the extremely sad news. It’s so great how important family is to you, and Milo is lucky to have such a loving environment around him all the time.

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