What has been the most difficult age with your children to date? What helped you overcome the challenges at that time? A wise friend once told me that most of the pain of raising children is physical when they’re younger and emotional once they’re older. The emotional pain of a mean classmate or an unkind friend makes for a difficult situation to walk your child through. I used to find myself reeling from my child’s pain days after my kid had already gotten over it! I now realize that I can be a sounding board to allow my children to vent and know that I can try to guide them, but that, generally, they can figure it out themselves.
What is your favorite family activity to do in Westport or the surrounding towns? We love hiking at the Saugatuck Falls Hiking area or at Devil’s Den. We moved here from Kansas, so the beach is a welcome change from being landlocked. We always enjoy swimming at high tide, looking for sea creatures at low tide, or just tossing a football or a frisbee and feeling the sunshine.
What was your most memorable family vacation and why? Two summers ago, our family spent 5 weeks in France and England. My husband and I have both spent time in France, so it was wonderful to see old friends and family. We rented a beautiful house for a week in a small town in Provence, walked through lavender fields, camped in the French Alps, visited beaches in Brittany, stopped in Paris, and visited some of our best friends in the English countryside. The pictures from the trip looked like we were living in a fairytale.
What is the best white lie you have told your kids? On an 18 hour roadtrip to Florida, I told my then 3 year old that the “kid police” would come and get him and take him to “kid jail” if he didn’t behave. I didn’t realize that it would turn into a fear of the police! Every time he would see a police car, he would say, “Mommy, are they coming to get me?” (On an unrelated note, can anyone recommend a good child therapist?)
What is your proudest mommy moment? I love these kids so much—it’s difficult to choose just one! I have proud moments all the time and for all different kinds of reasons. I love when they’re kind and encouraging each other (because a lot of the time, they’re bickering), I love when they teach themselves a new song to sing or to play on whatever instrument they’re playing, and I love hearing from their teachers about how they’re contributing to the class dynamic. And, once in a blue moon, the kindest strangers will approach us in a restaurant or on the plane to tell us how well-behaved our children have been—I think they expect something much worse when they see how the kids seriously outnumber the adults in our family!
What’s your favorite app right now- for you- and for your kids? I love doing the daily NY Times mini-crossword puzzle. I also love What’s App, as it allows me to communicate easily with my suppliers in India. For the kids? Netflix is their favorite—plus, it gives me about 23 minutes to fit in a phone call or do whatever needs to get done without being interrupted.
What’s your can’t live without beauty product? I love my Kuumba Made Egyptian Musk oil. It smells fresh and earthy. One of my best-kept secrets is the eyebrow pencil that I’ve been using for years: it’s a red Maybelline eyebrow pencil and, shockingly, the closest color match to my eyebrows is blond! I’ve even tried some fancy brands, but I always come back to this pencil.
What’s your favorite restaurant in town for a family dinner? A night out with friends? I love to cook, and I entertain a lot at home, so the kids think eating out is really special. When we take the kids out, it’s generally Lombardi’s in Georgetown for the calamari, caesar salad and pizza. It’s pretty low-key and around the corner from where we live. We also love Bar Taco, although it’s often hard to walk in and get a table for 7! For a night out, I love Barcelona, Kawa-Ni or The Whelk.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I am the youngest of 12 children. I have so many stories from my childhood that are “character building” (i.e., embarrassing)—the one that stands out in my mind is that one of my sisters went to cosmetology school when I was 9. She was trying to even out my shoulder-length hair, and somehow, it didn’t get even until it was above my ears. On top of that, the “perm” unit took place right before my fourth grade school picture, and I was one of her victims. I look like a retired secretary in that photo. (As if it weren’t bad enough, my dad also got a perm that year.) Also, most people think I’m Chinese—even Chinese people. My family is actually from Vietnam.
If you had 24 hours to do whatever you wanted – what would you do? If I could gather all the people I love from around the world and throw a really big party with lots of good food, music, singing and dancing— I would love that!
What is your most marked characteristic? My sense of humor. April Fool’s is my high holiday and no one is off limits: my husband, my children, my in-laws, my siblings, teachers, friends. In my book, if you have been pranked, you are loved.
What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty, honesty, intelligence, depth, and a down-to-earth sensibility. A sense of humor, obviously, is a must.
What is your greatest regret? I wish I had taught my children how to speak Vietnamese. We went to Vietnam last summer, and it would have made the trip so much easier if they could have communicated to their cousins in Vietnamese. We brought the card game UNO, which made interacting with each other much easier—the game required very little communication once everyone understood the rules.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms? I hate it when people give unsolicited advice! However, since you asked…..it is really difficult when you’re trying to live up to the idea of “having it all.” When I was a stay-at-home mom, I was always questioning whether I should be doing more or whether I was fully living up to my potential. Everything comes in time, and if you want to be doing something you’re not doing….go for it!!!! It’s never too late!
How did you end up where you are now in terms of your job, or whatever passion project it is you might be doing? My best friend, Eva, and I went on a three-week journey to India last year. A love of block printed textiles brought us to Jaipur, where we immediately sensed we had found something special. The appeal of collaborating with artisans to help preserve the centuries-old technique of hand block printing while creating something beautiful was the beginning of our newly launched company, Nani Pani.