Before I can begin describing how I know Sumaya I have to start with her uncle, Muhammad.

Muhammad and I go way back…as in UCI-we-took-a-class-together-and-got-into-an-accident-while-on-a trip-to-a-museum-where-we-saw-the-strangest-exhibit (Paul McCarthy, by the way)-and-sometimes-skipped-class-for-jamba-juice back. That is just a snippet of my friendship with Muhammad and that was about 14 years ago. I was there when he married his beautiful and talented wife, Suzy – she makes the absolute best meals and desserts that are to die for – and I have known his family for ages. I remember his nieces and nephews as kids who attended his graduation. That is how far back we go so when his younger sister, Hanaa, asked me to take photos of her two-year-old daughter, I was more than excited because I was not only photographing her, but the entire family!

Sumaya is a (somewhat) shy girl – perhaps because I had a camera and she has only seen me a handful of times – but the minute she sees any of her family members, especially her grandparents, she immediately lights up and is running towards them at full speed. I loved how she laughed and giggled while Hanaa’s father swung Sumaya around and I loved how Sumaya insisted that everyone be in the picture…minus her. She would drag each person in only to run off laughing. I especially love Sumaya’s fiery red hair, which she takes after Hanaa’s father, and is the only member so far to have that feature. Sumaya made me smile with the amount of energy she had, her interest and intrigue at the things surrounding her (like the trains), and her love for Curious George. I already know she is going to have a bright future because she is surrounded by such amazing people.

Although the main focus was Sumaya turning two, each individual family had their own mini-session and I was glad to catch up with each family. When I say this group is amazing, I am not kidding. Whenever Muhammad spoke about his sisters, brother-in-laws, and nieces and nephews, I would just be stunned. This is a family of educators, doctors, moms who make raising three or more kids look easy, boys who at a young age beat Muhammad at chess, and simply nice and giving people. I am amazed whenever Muhammad talks about his nephews and the day after our portrait session, one of them headed off to Taiwan to compete in a Science fair! That is how amazingly bright they are and I witnessed it first hand as they gathered and talked about programming. Yes, programming. They just do it for fun.

Thank you for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to photograph your daughter, Hanaa, and as always, it was great seeing your family! I look forward to seeing all of you soon and hearing about college acceptances and that trip to Taiwan!

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This update is late…intentionally, though. I wanted to include all the things that Emi and I were able to do since I had three weeks off from work. We definitely had an adventurous time and I wanted to fill her days with interesting things to do, see, and experience. I had a lot of fun – and hope she did as well – and it was much more exhausting than teaching, but well worth it!

Amy’s Playground: I like that Amy’s Playground is toddler friendly. There is enough for Emi to do – ride the vehicles, go in the jumper, crawl through a tunnel, and play on rocking horse- like things. As we visit Amy’s Playground more, Emi has become more comfortable with the play area and is willing to venture a bit further without me…but she still likes my participation. I love it, though. I love peeking from the other side of the tunnel which makes her laugh, hold her hand while she jumps and slides down – on her own now! – and take videos of her as she rocks back and forth.

LA Zoo: This time around the zoo was decorated for the holidays. I was excited to show Emi the reindeer, but what she actually liked the most were the decorations. For some reason she was drawn towards the cutout penguins and danced next to them. It was pretty funny since she liked the fake, cartoon animal more than checking out the real animals at the zoo. We swung by the petting zoo and the elephants (One was actually out and drinking water!), but for some reason, Emi took little interest this time around. Perhaps next time.

Caterpillar Kids Play: Nico had his birthday party here and it is quite similar to Amy’s Playground. One noticeable difference is they have a slide in their facility. Emi took interest in it and I placed her on it. She absolutely loved it and wanted to go on it over and over again! It was a fast slide and when she reached the bottom, she even bounced a few before coming to a complete stop. However, that didn’t stop Emi and now she loves going down the slide. Because of this, I brought our slide back into the house and now she wants to go down it throughout the day.

Zimmer Children’s Museum: The trip to the museum started off on the wrong foot. Emi (mentioned below) is a creature of habit and of familiarity. Since this place was completely new, Emi cried…hard. Luckily the museum has a bus and fire truck and that interested her. It took a while, but eventually she noticed all the fun and cool things around her. They have a magnetic board with letters, a Scrabble like board on the bus to place letters, Emi-sized shopping carts with a fake grocery store, water tables, a ball pit, an ambulance, and puzzles. Emi actually liked it in the end and hopefully we can visit the museum in the near future.

Big Bear: We took Emi tubing. Did she like it? I am actually not sure, but it felt deathly scary the first time going down since it felt like we were traveling ten million miles per second! Since I wasn’t able to see her face when we went down the runs, I can only assume that she thought it was okay. We went down four times together and the last two times my dad hooked his tube to our tube. According to him, Emi looked around and liked it, but usually when Emi likes something she says, “Again.” As for sledding – okay, we didn’t really sled but just pushed her on the sled in the somewhat little snow around our cabin – Emi did like that. She laughed and kept on wanting us to push her again. I would ride with her and then Taro would ride with her. I think she liked riding with Taro more since he didn’t hold on to her as tightly and she could wave her arms around. Emi kept on saying, “Last time!” but didn’t really mean it. We definitely will take her sledding again!

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Disneyland: Oh, this trip to Disneyland was so hard. I braved going to Disneyland by myself and equate it up there to flying to Japan with Emi. Disneyland was super crowded and we had to wait an hour – yes! an hour! – for Dumbo. I don’t even know how I was able to carry Emi, my backpack, and my camera, and not go absolutely bonkers. I am still surprised that somehow Emi waited that long, but in the end, it was worth it. She loved it and she loved going on It’s a Small World. Thankfully we jumped on to the ride during the parade and got on quickly. I loved that it was decorated for the holidays. The best part of our visit to Disneyland was that Emi actually wanted to go on the carousel. We tried before and she freaked out when we tried to put her on the horse. This time I just plopped her down and was even able to ride with her! (Oh what a difference a little time makes!) Emi and I were able to go on three rides and watch a show (and part of the parade as we waited for It’s a Small World). Will I go to Disneyland again? Yes, but not alone…unless it is less crowded and Emi walks more. Emi seems to always want to be carried when I am around so my arms were extremely sore the next day. It’s okay, though. I loved seeing her point to the wooden blocks that the characters were standing on during the parade and singing along to the the Christmas songs during It’s a Small World.

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Kidspace Museum: I took Emi for the “Snow Days” but was thoroughly disappointed by it. Regardless, she went on the slide a million times and is not afraid to go on it by herself. Afterwards we swung by the park and she was able to go on the swings. Before heading home I decided to check out the gigantic white tent which was housing three of the Rose Parade floats. We walked through the viewing area, but it was pretty crowded (probably since it was December 31st) and a bit difficult to see. However, Emi liked seeing the giant pirate ship (one of the floats), the decorated fire truck, the horses on another float, and getting a sticker. This was her first Rose Parade experience and hopefully we can one day take her to the parade itself!

Kellogg Farm at Cal Poly Pomona: We came here for Dylan’s 2nd birthday and was able to visit Danny’s Petting Zoo. Emi absolutely loved walking around the bumpy grass field and took particular interest in the miniature horse (She liked looking at it from a distance, but did not want the horse to be right next to her.) and the bunnies. Emi loved touching the bunnies’ ears and gently petting them. Emi tried giving them carrots, but they apparently were full since the kids were all feeding them! It was so sweet watching Emi try to feed the bunnies, but she must have smelled like food because the sheep and goat could not help but sniff her!

Besides going to different places, Emi and I enjoyed breakfast together every single morning. Some days – okay, most days- we would go out to eat. My cue from Emi was, “Go eat?” Emi loves having Hong Kong style breakfasts and I will definitely miss our weekday breakfasts, but will take Emi on my days off. This morning routine has become so much fun that I will definitely appreciate it during the weekends and during vacation.

My three weeks off was absolutely fantastic and it made me appreciate the time spent with Emi. I was able to see Emi grow and it was definitely nice reading books together, taking naps together, going to look at Christmas lights, hanging out, and just being silly together. So what more did I learn about Emi during my time off and within the past two months? Emi is a creature of habit. Her naps are, for the most part, always at the same time. She likes to eat cereal from a particular bowl at my parents’ house. She likes to take a bath in this pink bath tub, but unfortunately, she is too big for that tub. She was too big for it a while ago, but when I tried to put her in the regular tub, Emi nearly had a meltdown. So I tried again and because she had to take a bath in a regular, foreign tub in Big Bear, she was fine at home! If anything, Emi realized she could have more toys in the big tub and splash around freely. So yes, Emi has graduated to the big tub. (If you haven’t been to our house, the tub sinks in and is very low, hence why we didn’t give Emi a bath in it when she was younger.)

Emi loves copying things – repeating words and phrases she hears, pretending to put on lotion on her face (my morning routine) and saying, “Cheek!” at night so I can put lotion on her cheeks (I did this when her cheeks were dry and now she wants me to do it every night.) – more so than before. I can only imagine that she will mimic even more behavior when she starts going to school. I feel like Emi is growing up so fast. All of a sudden she wanted to brush her own teeth! We now do four rounds of brushing, alternating between Emi brushing and me brushing so her teeth are (hopefully) nice and clean. Emi also seemed to grow overnight and can now reach far on to the dining room table, grab things from the counter top, and she was able to touch more than a handful of ornaments on the Christmas tree. Speaking of Christmas, she hated Santa Claus (our second attempt was far better than our first, but still not pleasant), but loved Christmas lights (Emi would say, “Lights! Whooooo!” and “No more lights” if a house didn’t have any.) and Christmas songs. Below is Emi’s Christmas Playlist (from multiple Sesame Street albums):

We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Emi was able to sing a majority of the lines!

O Christmas Tree – I loved that when Emi heard this song, she would point to the Christmas tree.

Medley: Deck The Halls/Jingle Bells – Emi really liked the jingle bells part.

Twelve Days of Christmas – Emi’s favorite part is definitely the six rubber duckies because she loves ducks! I loved that she would hold up her fingers to coincide with the number (up to five).

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Whenever Emi wanted me to sing this song she would point to her nose and say, “Nose.”

All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth – Whenever we sang this, we would hold up two fingers. It was hilarious.

Sleigh Ride

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow – Emi loved this because Count Von Count would…count! Emi loves numbers.

Emi continues to grow with her words and her vocabulary now includes the following: Who else?, Knock it off (She picked this up from my dad!), Finished or I’m finished, Dora (She has a puzzle with Dora on it), school bus (one of Emi’s favorite things), airplane, fire truck, police car, nightingale, quail, urial, shapes, kite, spoon, Right now, Go get it, zookeeper, necklace, Bashful, Dopey, Sleepy, and Sneezy (she has the Seven Dwarfs figurines), Achoo! (fake sneezing), shell, hungry, Time to eat, Go eat, strawberry, chipmunk, What’s this?, You’re welcome, red peppers, Grandpapa is here, ambulance, Right here, E-I-E-I-O, Show meme, snowman, Christmas tree, one English village, Look it, Come here, Good job coloring/brushing/singing/eating/sliding, tomato, soup, guinea pig, Disneyland, tomorrow, Give me a kiss, What’s that?, Who’s that?, How are you?, cricket, day, helicopter, motorcycle, So cute, pretty, Right there, There it is, and time to wake up (in Cantonese).

I have also made up songs and Emi knows them. Here is the song I sing when Emi brushes her teeth: Brush your teeth, 1, 2, 3…4,5,6,7,8. Lovely teeth that you have, brush and brush and brush brush brush. Start again, from the top, 1,2,3,4,5,6. 7,8 lovely teeth, that you have on top and bottom. The other song I made up was about rubber ducks: Rubber ducky, rubber ducky, how many duckies do you have? In addition to making up songs, Emi knows how to sing most of the songs on the CD from her last music class. She especially likes “Put Your Finger in the Air” (Emi will say, “Where’s your belly?” and the like.), “Little Duck Waltz,” “Go Very, Very Slowly” (Emi crawls around the living room and says, “Go very, very slowly like a turtle” and “Go very, very slowly like a snail.”), “Grant’s Farm,” “Chirri Bim,” and “Alice the Camel.”

These are just some of the things from the past two months and I really like forward to what 2014 has to offer. So far we are going to continue our music classes, take another session of Parent & Me Soccer, and we are going to try out Ballet/Tap Combo, which is also a Parent & Me class. It is going to be great and I really look forward to what Emi is going to do this year!

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My brother and Vivian talked about getting a second dog a while back. After a good amount of time passed, my mom mentioned one afternoon when I was picking up Emi that they found a dog, but were not sure if they would be able to get it. One, the dog is a Maltese Shih-tzu mix, a difficult dog to find. Two, perhaps the owner would show up. Three, they had to drive a good distance away to pick up the dog (Lancaster Animal Shelter). But everything fell into place and now Sophia is a part of our family.

I remember seeing Sofia for the first time and she was so small in comparison to Sandi (our family Miniature Poodle) and Haylee (my brother and Vivian’s first dog). But within the first three months Sofia gained two pounds and now is nicknamed So-Fay-Ah (“So fat” in Cantonese). Sofia is a really good dog and is definitely a sweet, fluffy lil’ one. Yes, it may be hard being surrounded by two other female dogs, but Sofia fits right in and is the perfect addition to our family.

Here are just some photos of our most recent addition.

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