Dear Js,

I wanted to write a quick letter to you this time, because we’ll be leaving for KL in a few days. I wanna share the most recent home things first, before we’re sucked into the Chaos over there. So unlike my usual long rambling letters, this one will be short and sweet (I hope).

I had a difficult but happy day today. Mama lost her passport so she had to go to SF to get it same-day rush-made. Meanwhile, it’s a Friday, so that meant I had to take a day off work to take care of you two.

Mama left early in the morning and I took over Mom’s daily routine. I gave you breakfast, did some work. Then gave you lunch and did some work while I stuffed my face and packed your snack boxes. Then I rushed you to get dressed. J – you picked your own clothes today. And your sister’s clothes – you really wanted her to wear that dress. It was cold so mama made sure I bundled you up. Then I stuffed Kimi into her house and shot to school. 30 seconds from home, you reminded me to bring your backpack. So I drove back and picked up your backpack and away we went. I dropped you off. You didn’t want me to leave. So j and I played with you for a little — you made a game of placing animals over the corresponding letters of an alphabet puzzle. J gave you one and you said, “It’s a baby gorilla awww.” J asked for help to put it on the G. I watch to see if you knew what G was — and you did. Then we hugged and kissed and said goodbye to J.

I took your red balance bike out from the trunk and strapped your helmet on. Mama told me about a community park in the middle of a lot of townhouses. She said there was a playground, and toys scattered all over the place — the parents leave their toys out for everyone to share. “Follow the bike path and you’ll see it,” she said.

I couldn’t resist taking you up this “bike slide.” I know mama wouldn’t have, so I felt that it was my duty as a dad.

Then we kept looking for the fabled park of abundant toys.

And just when we were about to give up hope, we found it:

j the pilot

j the pilot

Meanwhile, mama said she spent the day in the city at a cafe with a giant cup of Chai latte. She was happy to get back to her coding exercises that she was doing before, j, you started pre-school and you wouldn’t let her leave. She had a breakthrough that day. She attacked a problem that had stopped her cold the last time she was at it. She said this time she decided to grit it out and beat it. And she did. Turned out it was a bug not in something she wrote, but in the supplied tutorial code. This was a big deal for her because she feels her brain evaporating away and calcifying with you kids. And on top of that, she has always doubted her abilities (“Impostor Syndrome“). You should’ve seen how happy she was. Seriously, it was a breakthrough. She knows all these things and has all these skills that she doesn’t want to go back to. I’m proud of her.

Then she said, “It’s amazing what a little time away from you kids does. It makes them more tolerable.” YUP. I know it. Every day, I can’t wait to go to work. But being at work makes me miss you kids enough to come home, only to be reminded how much I look forward to go to work. And so on.

I fixed it!. It’s always a nice satisfying feeling after you fix something. It’s cold now so we turned up the heat. Mama noticed that your kids’ room stays icy cold, and found out that the floor heating duct had fallen of the floor vent. You could see the crawl space through the hole in the floor. So last Saturday, I suited up for the job. I was going to enter the crawl space for the first time. I didn’t know what surprises or skeletons awaited me below.

One thing I was thankful for is that I grabbed a respirator a few months back when there was a deal. I slapped on new filters on it and I felt invincible against the dust demon below.

Sad dad. I was down all week. I’ve been slipping in and out of being depressed. One of the thoughts that came was, “You have to let your dreams die before they kill your children. It’s not about time. It’s about energy. Kids take away your energy.

But then you peed in potty tonight, j! We’ve been trying to get you to go regularly but it’s been difficult. Tonight, you said you wanted to close the door. Then J shouted to tell us, “j peeed in the potty!” We ran to congratulate you and you were so proud of yourself. Bursting with giggles and laughter. That made me happy. Simple as that. Peeing in the potty. Geez. Then you said, “Now can I have candy?” We promised you that WEEKS ago

Curious convos
We’ve been trying to talk you guys into the changes we’ll be experiencing in the coming weeks, so you’ll feel comfortable there. Mama has been working on it more than me.
Me: “We’re going to sleep in a new place next week.”
j: “I’m sad that I won’t have my Hello Kitty bed.”
Me: (Fuck I hate my brother for dragging us all the way there)

New developments

J – you and mama went for your first movie date. It was The Good Dinosaur. You met up with your 2 friends at the theater, then went for pizza later. Mama said you had a lot of fun and your friends adore you. They had to sit next to you with you in the middle. Meanwhile, I was home with you j. You woke up from your nap and screamed when you saw me, “No! I don’t want you! I want mama!” You went like that for almost one hour, non stop.

So… mama inflicted herself with the Botulinum toxin, right between her brows. And I didn’t stop her. She wanted to soften her furrow lines. They have been getting deeper and she worried they’ll get even deeper with the sun and frowning in Malaysia. So she got it from the dermatologist. She’s an adult and she can make her own decisions but I looked it up out of curiosity. “When locally administered the toxin may spread from the injection site to other areas of the body, causing symptoms similar to those of botulism.” Dont’ worry, I’ll be keeping a close eye on her. The doctor told her to frown a lot in the next few days, because it binds to the muscles. Then over the next couple of months to years, the goal is to re-train those muscles to relax… chill out. Some studies have shown that it helps depression, because being unable to frown means you can’t be as sad. Similar to how smiling can make you feel happy. What I like about her dermatologist is that she has a light touch — mama will still keep her lines, just softer. You wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking.

Mama was happy she found a drive-thru oil change place close to home. In and out in minutes and you don’t even have to get out of the car! She also said you beat her at Go Fish that morning.

This week in pictures

We agreed to look after your class rabbit over the Thanksgiving break. His name is Peter the Rabbit.

In the beginning, I thought what a soft, fluffy, vulnerable rabbit. We gotta take care that we don’t kill him or let Kimi kill him. But as time went by, it became clear to me that Peter is a gangster rabbit. He doesn’t give a fuck.

He chewed through 120V live wires, table legs, walls… and see what mama wrote:

Mama: He tries to eat kimi’s food and she just watches with worry lol.
Me: I told you that bunny is a gangster
Mama: He also jumped on the couch and snuggled down in her spot/corner where I fold the blanket. Kimi just looked with despair hahah.
Me: Did it the “digdigdigdigidgdigdigdig-FLOP” ?
Mama: Not even. He hopped taking his time. HOP onto the side table. HOP onto the armrest. HOP HOP HOP to the other corner of the couch. BIG HOP onto Kimi’s spot. PLOP and stare down.

And he doesn’t respond to any negative stimuli. I tried chasing it away with loud noises, claps, shouting, gentle nudges and kicks… nothing made it budge. Even a kick! I tapped it with my foot and it just sat there. This is supposed to be a rabbit! From what I understand, a rabbit is a nervous animal that perks its ears up when grass rustles and darts away from smells in the wind. But not this one apparently. They bred it to have the opposite of all the traits a normal rabbit is supposed to have. Normal bunny: run away from loud noises. Peter: run toward loud noises. He even runs between my feet while I’m walking! WTF?!

But I can’t deny that he is cute and soft. Mama commented while holding Peter, “They must make good therapy pets.” I said are you kidding? His pooping all over the place stresses me out! But okay, so he’s soft and fuzzy. But even so, I quickly got tired of his anti-authority attitude and his constant pooping all over the place. They did “potty-train” him and he does go in his box most of the time. But rabbits poop all the time. So any time he’s out of his box is a chance he’ll leave behind his tiny round presents. As annoying as Kimi is, I’ll still take a dog over a rabbit any day. It was a good experience for you kids but I’m glad Peter is gone.

Kimi: "Are you dog? Do you dog?"

Kimi: “Are you dog? Do you dog?”

Look at this bastard. You can't let him out and take your eyes off him

Look at this bastard. You can’t let him out and take your eyes off him

What a cute poop machine

What a cute poop machine

Couch party with Peter the Pooper

Couch party with Peter the Pooper

Helping mama cook Thanksgiving dinner. We had our old neighbor and one of your old friends over

Helping mama cook Thanksgiving dinner. We had our old neighbor and one of your old friends over

Chess pals

Chess pals

I set up an indoor camera today, so we can keep an eye on the inside of our house while we’re away:

This 3rd-person camera view is strangely interesting – since I’m used to watching videos taken from the 1st person:

You were watching the camera stream of yourselves

You were watching the camera stream of yourselves

There was a slight delay, maybe that's what made it interesting

There was a slight delay, maybe that’s what made it interesting

I said if you want to see yourself go look at a mirror, but this perspective  was more fun somehow

I said if you want to see yourself go look at a mirror, but this perspective was more fun somehow

You took turns doing tricks to see what they looked like on camera

You took turns doing tricks to see what they looked like on camera



Interesting things
JJ Abrams on the Mystery Box in storytelling. Regret minimization framework. Simpsons art guidelines. More Simpsons Guidebooks. Kayak rescue (the spot). Ancient Japanese robots. Airplane replica made with paper.

Have you ever tried really hard to make something beautiful, only to be disappointed with what you ended up with? That’s actually a good thing. You know why? Because it means you have good taste. If you have bad taste, you wouldn’t know the difference, you wouldn’t feel bad, and you couldn’t get better. But because you have good taste, you can tell what’s bad, and you know you can get better.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
— Ira Glass

Mama’s packing list for me:

Please make sure to pack planned outfits for the following events:
* Temple blessing followed immediately by lunch – E said business casual for hot weather
* Malacca banquet dinner (this is about 6-7 hours after the lunch) – formal, jacket required per your mom
* KL church wedding immediately followed by banquet lunch – formal, jacket requires, white dress shirt, please do ask J about tie color, I know he is wearing red but idk if that’s only for the wedding party
* Xmas eve dinner @ T and K’s house – casual but nice
* Some karaoke, post xmas event @ Jo and M’s on the 26th – casual but nice
* Do pack swimming stuff as we will be going to the water park at Lego Land

** With all this rain I’d pack an extra pair of dress pants just in case, same with shoes and dress socks

BLeeehchhhghghh do you see why I’m not looking forward to this? Much to mama’s relief, I have started packing. I had put it off for as long as I could because thinking about it made me angry.

Oh well. Enough sulking. See you in Malaysia!



P.S. I’m stressed about the trip. Take the plane ride for example. 20 hours on the plane with you 2 with no escape. I pray that you never say, “Daddy… I want to get out.” We also have tricky challenges like a 1-hour layover. We’ll have to get off 1 plane and run you 2 kids + carseats + our carry-ons to the other plan in 1 hour. I hope we get lucky and the terminals are close. And I’m also stressed about my 2 most precious kids in the scary world I grew up in. A world of snatch thieves, kidnappings and machete murders.