Mask Up for the Kids

As the school year reopening in the fall approaches, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends all students, teachers and staff to mask up. Without masking up, we are leaving children who are under twelve highly vulnerable.

Although adults faced serious illness and high risk of death from COVID-19, almost 500 children died, 240,000 hospitalized, and over 4,000 developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome. The rise of the Delta variant puts our kids in even more danger.

Even though our family members who are eligible for vaccines have been vaccinated, we are continuing to mask up when we have to go indoors. We still have three kids who are not eligible to be vaccinated and we need to protect them.

If you are eligible for vaccines, but refused to be vaccinated, that’s your choice. Our children, however, have no choice at this time. I hope that everyone—whether you are vaccinated or not—will mask up for the kids. They do not deserve to get infected.

One Lie and Two Truths

I picked up Đán at the end of his summer-school day. As he hopped into the minivan, he said, “I love you, daddy.” I replied, “I love you, too.” He said, “I am surprised that you didn’t say ‘No, you don’t.’” I responded, “Of course, I know you love me. You don’t have an option.”

As I drove home he started telling me a game he played in the classroom. He had to write down one lie and two truths. He wrote, “I have a cat,” which is a lie. Then he wrote, “My brother Đạo hates me,” which is his opinion, not the truth. Then he wrote, “I hate myself,” which is also not the truth.

His teacher got worried and sent him to the principal’s office. The principal told him that she was concerned about our family; therefore, she will call me or my wife to talk about our loathsome family members. He apologized that he got us in trouble. He thought he was being comedic because I kept telling him that being a comedian makes tons of money.

I was laughing the whole way home, but I am not looking forward to the call from the principal. I am just going to pass it on to my wife.

Summer Spending Spree

As a financial worrier, I am concerned about our summer spending spree, particularly on our kids. Xuân is continuing his academic tutoring for three days a week. Đán is taking private tutoring for reading and writing twice a week. Đạo is attending a writing workshop twice a week.

For sports, we already sent Đán and Xuân to a week-long figure skating camp. Đán will start the NHL/NHLPA Learn to Play program this Saturday. Yesterday, I signed up Đạo and Xuân for private ice skating lessons. I also am taking group ice skating lessons myself.

To offset these expenses, I am taking on freelance projects. I am currently working on only one website and the pace is slow as I am waiting for my client to do its part. My advising service for Vietnamese diacritics is going well. I have clients all over the world asking me to review their typefaces. I am really happy about those gigs.

As I am paying for all of these tutoring services and private lessons, I am thinking of offering my own services on web design, typography, and graphic design. Anyone interested?

Một ngày của tôi và Đạo

Hôm qua Đạo chích ngừa COVID lần thứ hai. Tuy vẫn còn sợ kim nhưng Đạo chịu để anh dược sĩ trẻ người Việt chích. Đạo chỉ cần nắm lấy tay tôi để lấy thêm can đảm.

Để phòng ngừa tác động thứ yếu, hai cha con rủ nhau đi trượt băng. Đạo chỉ tôi cách quay hai chân. Tôi dễ bị say sóng nên quay hai vòng là chóng cả mặt. Rồi hai cha con cùng nhau học cách nhảy lật nửa (half-flip jump). Gần ba tiếng đồng hồ, chúng tôi tập có kết quả tốt.

Sau giờ trượt băng, hai cha con dắt nhau đi nhà hàng Nhật. Đạo giống tôi ở chỗ là đi đâu cũng mang theo quyển sách. Trong lúc chờ đồ ăn mạnh ai nấy đọc. Lúc đồ ăn mang ra, hai cha con vừa ăn vừa tâm sự. Tôi hỏi thăm nó về thằng bạn của nó.

Hôm thứ ba vừa rồi nó đến nhà thằng bạn chơi. Từ lúc đại dịch đến bây giờ tụi nó mới có dịp chơi chung với nhau. Lúc đến đoán Đạo về, tôi cũng xã giao với mẹ thằng bạn của nó. Tình cờ biết được rằng hai vợ chồng đã ly thân. Ông chồng đã dọn ra khỏi nhà. Chỉ còn lại bà vợ với bốn đứa con (ba trai một gái) trong căn nhà lớn. Cuối tuần thì mấy đứa con qua ở với ba.

Tôi hỏi Đạo có để ý bạn của nó buồn không khi cha mẹ chia tay. Nó không thấy bạn có thay đổi vì cả, vẫn vui vẻ bình thường. Chắc con nít còn vô tư chưa hiểu chuyện hoặc tuy cha mẹ không sống với nhau nữa nhưng họ vẫn sắp xếp để không ảnh hưởng đến con cái.

Tôi không biết gì về gia đình của họ nhưng trường hợp cũng tương tự như gia đình tôi (hai vợ chồng bốn đứa con). Dĩ nhiên vợ chồng nào cũng có vấn đề cả nhưng bước tới đoạn đường chia tay sau khi đã có bốn đứa con là một quyết định không nhỏ.

Tôi định hỏi Đạo nếu như gia đình của chúng ta rơi vào hoàn cảnh như thế thì sao. Nhưng rồi tôi không muốn nó phải suy nghĩ nhiều. Tuy trong cuộc hôn nhân này tôi không thể tự quyết định nhưng tôi sẽ dùng hết khả năng và quyền hạn của mình để điều đó không bao giờ xảy ra.

One-Week Skating Camp

Đán, Xuân, and their cousin Khôi just wrapped up their five-day Sky High Skating Development Camp at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex. Based on the program’s description, I signed my boys up to develop their skills based thier levels. For example, I wanted Xuân to work on his backwards and Đán to work on his freestyles. I expected the coaches to test each individual skater and then grouped them together based on their level.

Unfortunately, there was one coach for eight kids in different levels. The coach was a seventeen-year-old girl who could skate, but didn’t have the experience to teach. She showed a few techniques for all the kids regardless of their levels. For example, the waltz jump is for freestyle level; therefore, Đán could do it, but Xuân and Khôi couldn’t. They need to learn the bunny hop first before they could even try to do the waltz jump. They ended up skating just for fun most of the time.

It was not the coach’s fault. She had the tough job of overseeing eight kids for four hour straight each day. In fact, she was very patience and cool with them. The kids had fun, but I was hoping they had developed some solid skills as well. The program was over promised, but under delivered.

Introducing Tinigui & Lilgui

The summer is here and the kids need some activities to do. Next week, Đạo will start taking a virtual writing workshop run by my dear blogger friend Ms. Nguyễn. I am impressed with the course description and the email she sent out to the kids. I am sure the kids will learn so much from this workshop. My hope is that they will find writing fun and fulfilling so that they will continue to write.

In the spirit of writing, my wife asked me to create a blog for each kid to write. In the past few days, I created two new blogs using WordPress.com for my sons. Playing off Visualgui, I named Đạo’s blog Tinigui and Đán’s blog Lilgui.

My goal is to encourage them to write. Đạo can use his blog to post his writing assignments from the workshop and write anything he wants. Same goes for Đán. They can write a few sentences or a few paragraphs. They don’t have to worry about grammar and structure. They just have to write on a daily basis.

They have the complete freedom to write what is on their minds just like what I am doing on my own blog. I hope they will use this space to hone their writing skills. I have been blogging for almost 20 years and I still love getting my words out of my head everyday. I hope they’ll find writing as liberating as I had.

Sinh hoạt liên đoàn

Thứ bảy vừa rồi hai cha con (tôi và Đán) đi cắm trại trong hướng đạo liên đoàn Hùng Vương. Các trưởng và phụ huynh đều rất tận tình với đám Cub Scouts. Nào là bày ra những trò chơi thú vị. Nào là nấu nướng những món ăn rất ngon. Nào là ca hát sinh hoạt rất vui.

Lần này đi cắm trại ngoài rừng không điện cũng không iPad nên đám nhỏ tự chơi với nhau. Đến 10 giờ đêm, tụi nó mệt rã người chui vào lều ngủ. Còn các người lớn thì tụ họp uống chút bia bàn chuyện tương lai trong hướng đạo. Với troop leader và scoutmaster mới nên mọi chuyện thay đổi rất nhiều. Các trưởng yêu cầu cha mẹ tiếp tay để giúp liên đoàn.

Tôi định đóng góp vào việc thiết kế lại trang web của liên đoàn nhưng đã có người khác xung phong rồi. Đội lân Hùng Vương bây giờ không ai lãnh đạo cả. Tôi nói tôi biết đánh một chút trống nên các trưởng giao phó cho tôi luôn. Hồi nhỏ, mẹ mua cho tôi cái trống bé tí. Không biết nghe trống múa lân ở đâu nhưng tôi đã thuộc lòng một số nhịp điệu cho đến bây giờ cũng không quên. Lúc vào trung học, tôi tình cờ đánh trống trong lúc các bạn tập múa lân. Không ngờ các bạn mời tôi tham gia và trở thành tay trống cho đội lân trong câu lạc bộ Việt của trường. Chúng tôi luyện tập mỗi ngày sau giờ học và đã trở thành đội lân đi múa trong cộng đồng vào những ngày tết. Giờ đây hy vọng sẽ đào tạo cho đội lân nhỏ để bọn chúng học hỏi được một chút về văn hóa truyền thống của người Việt.

Một anh trưởng trong nhóm muốn tôi dạy cho bọn nhỏ đọc vì anh ta thấy tôi lúc nào cũng lôi theo quyển sách trên tay. Trong lúc chờ đợi đám nhỏ sinh hoạt tôi thường ngồi đọc sách. Tôi mê đọc sách lắm nên tranh thủ giờ nào trống là đọc. Tôi thấy ý kiến của anh ấy cũng hay. Tôi rất muốn mấy đứa nhỏ học tiếng Việt. Lần về Việt Nam vừa rồi, tôi đã mua một số sách thiếu nhi hai thứ tiếng Việt và Anh. Mỗi tuần tôi sẽ chọn ra một quyển sách đọc cho chúng nó nghe rồi hỏi những câu hỏi về quyển sách. Hy vọng sẽ động viên tụi nó học tiếng mẹ đẻ của mình.

Breaking Up the Squad

In the past few months, I had been looking forward to our Tuesday nights’ ice skating lessons together. While Đạo and Xuân attended their classes, Đán and I just chilled out. When they were done with their classes, we would skate for 20 minutes in between before Đán and I took our classes. Then I would try to get them to practice every other day or on the weekend in public sessions.

Lately Đạo and Đán refused to go or they would go with a frowning face. I was disappointed and finally told them they didn’t have to go anymore. They had virtual school all day and all they wanted to do after school was to play games on their computers.

Đạo broke our trust once again by playing games or watching YouTube during class time. He didn’t pay attention in class. Not only he didn’t participate, but he also didn’t reply to his teachers when they called on him. We received complaints from his teachers that he didn’t put much effort into his assignments. When we brought up the issue, he didn’t give us the straight answer. He took our trust for granted. To make sure that he understood the consequences, I told him if his report for the final quarter were slipping and his teachers were complaining, he would have to spend his entire summer without any screen time.

Yesterday, I asked them to go ice skating before they took their test and they both refused. They have great potential, but their hearts aren’t in it. We give them the opportunity, but they don’t want to take it. We decided not to waste our money and effort anymore if they aren’t into it. It’s a shame because ice skating is a great sport and we had a great time, but they wouldn’t get anywhere without much practice, especially as we progress into higher levels. I will just have to go on my own or with Xuân. I am not sure how long Xuân will continue. I was hoping ice skating and rollerblading were activities that we could do together as a family. I am sad to see that the squad is broken up.

Friendship

When I started ice skating group lessons in December 2020, I took one class then I had to leave town for a while. I asked Đán to take over my place. He started in Beta with his group age. Since then, he continued to take group lessons with the same classmates. He befriended a girl named Reece.

Before their class began, they spent twenty minutes skating together in the rink and chatting. During class, he shaved the ice with his skates to make snowballs because he got bored. He gave them to her and she smashed them.

As they advanced into higher levels, she excelled in figure skating. He was only interested in speed for ice hockey. He could perform most of the skills, but he couldn’t do the ones that required figure skates. For months I begged him to switch to figure skates, but he refused. He put them on and skated around the rink twice and gave up. He was determined to go into hockey.

Last Tuesday, I accidentally put his right hockey skate and Đạo’s right hockey skate in the same bag. They both have the same hockey skates. When we found out, it was almost time for his lesson. I asked Đán to use Đạo’s figure skates instead and he agreed to give it another try. I laced him up and let him skate around a bit before class so he can get a bit comfortable in them. Reece joined him and showed him the jumps and spins she learned in private lessons. I talked to her mother and she informed me that Reece is taking both group and private lessons. No wonder she excelled so quickly.

Đán did well in class using the figure skates. His transition was much quicker than mine. He could do inside 3-turns, inside-outside edges, and lunges. The only thing he could do was the bunny hops, which required the toe picks from figure skates. After his class, I complimented him on how well he did and he told me he would like to continue with figure skate lessons. He wanted to do both figure and hockey.

Last night, I took him to the rink for the 8:30 PM public session, which was way less crowded than the 5 PM session, to learn the bunny hop. Using Coach Julia’s video, I showed him the technique and he could do the bunny hops in a few minutes. Then we spotted Reece and her mother skating as well. The two kids went off on their own. I chatted with her mother a bit. It was the second time we talked and she was very friendly.

Đán and Reece will have a test next week and that would be it. Since Đán expressed his interest in continuing figure skating lessons, I asked her if she would sign her daughter up for the next level. She told me that she won’t because they will spend six months in California. The kids continued to skate together and I practiced my inside 3-turns for the entire session. It was cute watching them skating and talking.

As we drove home, Đán said that Reece told him that she will be gone for a while; therefore, she won’t be taking anymore lessons. He asked me if he could talk to her over the phone or if he could text her. She is the only friend that he could talk to. My heart melted. He has just found a friend and now she won’t be around.

I am planning to ask her mother next week for her phone number so they can stay connected. I hope it won’t be too weird or too awkward.

Playgrounds

Out of our four kids, I haven’t hung out much with Vương, our youngest boy. He is not ready to skate yet. I tried to get him to rollerblade, but he refused. I tried to get him to ice skate twice and he didn’t even want to step into the rink. When I took his older brothers to skating, he stayed home with his mom and his grandma. Now that I am on vacation, I want to spend some time with him. My goal is to take him and Xuân to different playgrounds around our area. Here are the playgrounds that we have enjoyed.

Fairlington Park

We recently discovered the playground in Fairlington Park. It is located in Arlington, which is 25 minutes from our house. This park has a high bridge made of ropes and a long slide. Đạo, Đán, and Xuân can climb and slide themselves. Vương still needs my supervision. The smaller areas are better for him. He and Xuân like the sandbox. The park also has a nice trail for walking, biking, or rollerblading as well as an exercise area for adults.

Woodland Wonderland

This is a themed playground located in Walker Mill Regional Park in Maryland, which is about 40 minutes from us. It’s all about discovering nature. The playground is suitable for Vương (2.5 years old) and Xuân (5 years old). They enjoyed the slides. Xuân discovered an awesome skatepark separated from the playground by the basketball and tennis courts. I will definitely try out the skate park when my wife comes along to supervise Vương at the playground.

Clemyjonji Park

This playground is located inMcLean, which is about 25 minutes from our house. It is huge with different areas for different age groups. It also has a nice trail for walking or rollerblading. We visited this park quite often when Đạo and Đán were younger.

Chessie’s Big Backyard

This playground is located in Alexandria, which is about 25 minutes from our house. This playground is not huge, but good enough for Vương and Xuân to spend ours running around. There is also a walking trail in the woods. I haven’t ventured out there yet, but it looks like a fantastic place to be close to nature.

Chestnut Hills Park

This park is located in Arlington, which is about 25 minutes from our house. The playground is not that big, but it has a sizable sandbox and a water faucet for the kids to play with. It’s a nice place with gates to keep the kids from running into the street.