Tag Archives: grandma

Memories Trapped In A $5 Bill


When my grandmother passed away a little over 10 years ago, all the grandkids received a classic, Chinese red envelope with a $5 bill in it.  Since then, I have just kept it in the center console of my car, and I had changed cars a couple times since then.  It just transferred from car-to-car.  Untouched.


I don’t always remember that the envelope is there, but I stumble across it every now and again when I am rooting through my center console looking for change to buy a Snickers bar from the vending machine at work.  Or when I am looking for hand sanitizer that fell to the bottom of the console.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have thought about breaking that $5 bill, but I couldn’t do it.  If it was going to be spent, it had to be worth it, because it came from my grandma.


I was never very close to my grandma only because there was a language barrier.  I never learned how to speak Chinese, and she had a limited English vocabulary, but she definitely loved me dearly.  I remember living with her for a summer during college.  I wasn’t and never have been a party kid or adult, so I was there most nights during the week, went to my parents’ on the weekends, and stayed in my room most evenings when I was there.  I remember she would make fried rice, especially for me, with Chinese sausage.  Definitely better than restaurant fried rice.


I could use a bowl now.


She always said I was a handsome boy.  She would say at times my hair was “very pitty” (very pretty).  Then the times I had shaved my head, she would say, “Charlie’s BALD!”  At least that’s what she would say to my parents before I was able to see them.  Then when my parents did see me, they would say, “Oh, grandma said you were bald.  You’re not bald! Whew!”  Then the time my cousin, Jessica, cut her hair before moving to Spain I heard, “Oh she cut her hair like Charlie.”  I don’t know if I have a picture of that, like a “Who Wore It Best?”  Maybe I’ll find one.


Besides cooking for me and complimenting me, my grandma, from what I did know of her, was pretty cool.  She loved to gamble.  If the dinner party didn’t have any gambling-cards or Mahjong-it was a boring party.  When I was a kid, she would go to Chinatown in Downtown and play Mahjong with her friends.  One of my aunts would drive her to her friend’s in this shady, rundown townhouse in downtown, then some time in the afternoon or evening my mom and I would go pick her up and take her home.  A couple of times, I would be the runner to ring the doorbell and get her.  Being a shy little Asian kid walking up to the front door and having some weird old man answer the door was, clearly, something to remember.


Whenever Hustler casino opened, which was in the general area of her house, some of the family gossip was that she wanted to go.  I was thinking, “Ummm, grandma might…not…like…it…there.”  I don’t think that deterred her.  The only thing that did was the location – I don’t think anyone wanted to drive her there.


Today, I had to break my $5 because I was a dumb-dumb-dad and forgot my wallet at home.  My youngest wanted to get something from the store with her own money, but I forgot to include tax.  Luckily, I did have my $5.  I really only needed some, so I put the rest back into the envelope.  Then put it right back into my center console.  Hopefully, saving the day for my daughter is a justifiable reason.


It would have been cool if my kids could have met their great-grandma, my grandma.  They have a great-grandma in my wife’s grandma, and I am thankful that they have the opportunity for that relationship.  They are also very close to their grandparents, both my parents and my wife’s.  But I would have loved to see her be a great-grandmother.  I’ll always have this to remember her by.

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5 Things That Prove I Have Daughters


I am outnumbered. We thought we would have one boy. We kind of hoped for it, but we didn’t really care that much. We just wanted our kids to be healthy. Happy and healthy. Well, healthy-50% of our wishes coming true isn’t bad. My dad wanted a boy to carry on the Smith name, but I have so many “cousins” in professional sports carrying on the Smith name I am off the hook (see because everyone has the last name Smith).

No we’re not going to try to a boy.

That is already out of the question, so no need to ask. The plan was always to stop at two. My wife hated being pregnant and cringes at the thought of being pregnant again. We’re happy with our girls. My wife tells me I am happy with three girls running my life, so I must be happy, right? Right. No, really. I’m happy.

So here are the five proofs I have that I have daughters running the show.

1. It’s a brave pink world.
The grandparents are happy with girls too as well as the one great grandma that the girls have. They all love spoiling the girls with clothes and toys. My mother-in-law, in particular, likes having two girls she can dress up in dresses, both American/Western world and Indian dresses like saris or lehngas, since her daughter didn’t like wearing dresses. We thought we had a clone in Zoey not wanting to wear dresses. Before she was two, most of the time Tasha and I dressed Zoey in pants or shorts. She didn’t have many skirts or dresses. Well, she had them, but we didn’t put them on her, and she wasn’t really asking to wear them. So at Christmas time, my mother in law had a Christmas dress she wanted Zoey to wear, and she kept trying to put it on her but Zoey refused. She was kicking and screaming and she ran away as grandma just barely put the dress over her head.

Well, both girls have come around to see things Grandma’s way. There is rarely a day either Zoey or Haley want to wear pants or shorts. Even if it is cold (about 3 days out of the year here in Southern California), they want to wear dresses and we make them wear leggings underneath. Grandma is also happy that she has someone to pass her jewelry down to. My girls love wearing bracelets, and Grandma was begging us to let Zoey get her ears pierced. She did when she was about two and a half and they fell out after a couple of weeks at school one day and the hole closed. We waited to do it again until just recently, and they have come out twice since. No wonder my wife doesn’t pierce her ears. What a pain in the ass.

Oh, and all these dresses are pink, or just about all of them. I do the laundry, and most weeks there is an entire load of laundry that is all pink or pink-adjacent to wash. Zoey even has a pink room. A book series that the girls love is Pinkalicious. It’s a good series and there are some other colors like Purplicious, Goldilicious, and Silverlicious, but the root is pink. Nature versus nurture: do girls like pink because they are girls? Or do they like pink because that is what grandparents, aunts, and friends buy them? There are exceptions to the rule but it makes me wonder a little (This book answers a lot of that question-Bringing Up Girls).

And what do you need to go along with the pink dresses and jewelry? A perfectly good manicure and pedicure to complete it. Grandma watches the girls regularly once a week, and during most visits the girls request/insist to have their nails painted. Haley doesn’t like to sit and wait to get her nails painted, but she wants them done. She also doesn’t want to wait for them to dry. That’s always fun. There are also the times that the girls are doing whatever they are doing, some time goes by where they are not screaming either at us or at each other, so I go searching through the house to see what is going on. That’s when I find Haley sitting on the floor of our bathroom on a hand towel painting her nails on her own. It has happened only a couple of times, and to be a good dad as well as minimize any further damage of nail polish on the carpet, I painted Haley’s nails. That has only happened once, but I was caught in the act. I was trying to hurry as much as possible to limit the number of witnesses. No such luck.

Got caught giving a manicure to Haley
Got caught giving a manicure to Haley

2. “The hits of the 80s, 90s, and today!”
This is the tag line of most of the bland, vanilla pop radio stations that play the widest variety of hits even though they only really play songs of 10 artists just different songs by those artists in a different order. Pop music is the bane of my existence. I do have the guilty pleasure song here and there-Michelle Branch, Sara Bareilles, other music that sounds exactly the same, maybe Adele-but that is not the primary style I listen to. I’m definitely not so hipster or snobbish to only be into music that no one has heard of or I have to be first on the scene with a band. However, I am a music snob and think all of my music is the best.

But I don’t get to listen to my own music much around the house or in the car when the kids are around. I do get to listen to my own music when I’m driving to work or at work, but if the girls are around it is either Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, maybe Pink (not Pink Floyd), or one of the songs from Frozen. Just pick a song and the girls probably know it and sing along, which is actually kind of cute. Read my post “I Wish I Could Just Shake It Off” and that will tell you about my life with kids’ music.

Again, I wonder if this is a nature versus nurture thing. I guess it’s a nurture: I used to listen to country growing up, because that’s what my parents listened to. And kids eventually develop their own taste in music, but is that also nurtured by what their friends listen too…? I don’t know the answer, but I am sure a One Direction or Taylor Swift concert is in my future in a couple of years.

3. “I’m sorry you didn’t see your mom this morning, but she had to go to work so she could pick you up on time.”
Somewhere along the road of life, I learned that I am responsible for my own actions and choices. I could play the victim, but that doesn’t do me any good nor help me in any way. I also have the luxury of being an adult with the ability to understand that certain things just happen and there is nothing I can do about that. You know, logic and reason come into play at times in life. Now, before I get in trouble, I am not saying women are illogical and unreasonable, I am saying my little girls are. Did I get in trouble just for bringing it up? Then forget I said anything and keep reading. What makes things worse is I don’t have empathy. I’m working on it.

Tasha gets up pretty early to try and get to work early to try and get home at a decent time to pick up the girls from school. Sometimes she leaves before the girls wake up, but it actually is a little worse if they see her. Actually, Zoey is getting better about letting Tasha go if she wakes up early enough. Haley isn’t. She’s clinging to her if she sees Tasha. Zoey is a fire needing to be put out if she wakes up and Tasha is gone. The trouble comes when Zoey wants to see her.

ZOEY: I want to see Mommy!
Me: You can’t see Mommy. She already left for work.
ZOEY: {stomping her feet and sobbing} I want to see Mommy now!
Me: She’s gone. What do you want me to do?
ZOEY: Make her come back!
Me: Sorry, but she can’t otherwise she’ll be late for work.

Usually we agree to call Tasha, they talk, and the world continues to spin. It is definitely not a very pretty scene either, especially if I haven’t eaten my breakfast yet or if Zoey hasn’t gone pee after waking up. My empathy and compassion fuel tank is definitely low when my stomach is empty. I only know this because Tasha has told me not to talk to the girls until I have eaten, otherwise I automatically start using my mean-dad voice, which triggers rebellion, which feedback loops to my disdain, which loops back to their defiance. Hmm, I guess I’m not that much different than the children.

4. The Voice and Look of Doom
It seems to be universally known that guys have a “I’m-talking-to-a-girl” voice. I do, apparently, put on a particular tone of voice when my wife calls me at work, and she makes fun of me for it. I have heard some girls do it too, so don’t think you are off the hook, ladies. Guys just usually get more heat about it from their buddies than girls do. Or maybe girls do give girlfriends grief about it, I just, obviously, wouldn’t know about it not being one of the girls.

Well, I have the opposite effect on my daughters. When I am mad, or just slightly agitated because there are too many toys on the floor, my tone of voice changes, and a simple request of, “Please pick up your toys before going to bed,” sends my kids running for the hills for Mommy. As mentioned above, if it is breakfast time and I haven’t eaten yet and Tasha already left for work, The Voice of Doom is more pronounced. If the girls sit in protest to whatever I have asked, I will ask again a little more frustrated having to ask again, which increases the tone of The Voice and The Look starts to come out of its’ cave a little. The more times I have to ask, the more The Voice starts to spike, and the more The Look and The Voice travel together up the side of a volcano that’s about to erupt.

Then it happens.

I’ve asked them to get dressed or brush teeth or eat food or drink milk five times in the last five minutes and everyone is now on time out! I should also be on time out. Everyone is crying, I’m screaming and slamming a door or two, then I try and breathe. It takes some time, but The Voice and The Look of Doom crawl back to their cave. I apologize to my kids for being a monster, and we walk to school like nothing happened.

The Voice is alive but needs to hibernate more.

5. “Huggies!”
No, this isn’t an endorsement or product placement, but if you need to buy some click this (Huggies). This is about hugs, like the physical contact kind. I don’t know about you, but physical touch didn’t happen a lot for me. Not like I was isolated and stuffed in a closet or anything, but when I was a kid, sometimes even now, I would have to greet my parents with a kiss. LIke I would have to. If I didn’t, I was in trouble. This also applied to relatives at family events. I have been in trouble because I didn’t tackle my grandma from behind and greet her with a kiss because she walked past me at a family dinner. Maybe because I was a boy, hugging wasn’t a thing. Or maybe I was indirectly taught hugging was only for family and relatives. Either way, when I got to school, my friends didn’t run up and hug each other.

I see Zoey do this with her friends all the time. There is nothing wrong with it, but I certainly notice it as different than how I would greet my friends when I was her age. I don’t think I hugged any of my peers until I was in junior high, and if I did, I hugged girls. And if I hugged girls, I considered that a lucky day because I had (have) no game (that’s for another day). Now that I think about it, I am just weird. I think it definitely had something to do with what I was taught about physical contact. Anyway, Zoey’s in kindergarten now, and she has been doing this since she was four in preschool. When I would drop her off, there would be a small pack of girls who would run up and start to give her hugs. She would smile but still kind of cower and cringe. I guess that was like the adult version of, “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.” In her case, “Don’t talk to me until I’ve put my lunch pail away in my cubby.”

I’m glad Zoey and Haley have friends. Haley has her friend Paige. After dropping Haley off at preschool I sometimes see her holding hands with Paige on the playground, another move I didn’t do with my buddies. Now I might. Just kidding, but only because when I do my wife doesn’t like it. Just kidding again. At Haley’s birthday party, Haley and Paige were in friendship heaven. They were running around scream-laughing, holding hands, and just having a blast together.

Then the next week at school they didn’t want to be friends anymore.

Then the next day they were friends.

Then they weren’t.

Guys don’t do that. We just “hug it out bitch.”

There was a period of time I thought I would be single forever, never able to get a girl. I was going to be a grumpy old man who hated people. I am still a grumpy old man who hates people, but I have three amazing girls, two of which run to the door for hugs when they hear my car pull into the garage. Then one who cooks, or “cooks” In ‘N Out or pizza, dinner.

I’m very happy and thankful to have these girls in my life.

What proofs do you have that you have daughters? Or sons? Or both? Or that you, too, have crazy, awesome kids? Leave a comment and share your stories!

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