View From Down There: The Back and The Buggy

kid toddler photog seriesWhen you Google the terms “kid photography,” do not be surprised when you see a bunch of images of kids and not photographs by kids: a kid-kid photographer, who takes photographs. I keep track of my children’s development by Googling all sorts of shit yet Google did not tell me what age children know how to take selfies, choose filters, and change shutter speed. All things that my toddler and not-in-preschool preschooler know how to do when they jack my iPhone and leave little kid photog gems. Using kids’ unedited imagination, feel free to see and add your own mini photog’s #viewfromdownthere to show the world through their eyes.

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The grocery store with two kids under the age of four can be absolute horror if you don’t plan your time or aisle routes well. I truly despise grocery marketing tactics when they place brightly-colored sleeves of candy at toddler eye level so I, the already flustered mom with two kids under the age of four, would have to deal with toddler meltdowns. My tried and true strategy has been The Back and The Buggy: one kid in the Ergo carrier, one in the shopping cart.

kid grocery cart pic kid photog grocery shopping~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Here’s where you can view the rest of the series: Kid Photog Series

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How do you run errands effortlessly without alcohol?

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View From Down There: Wake Up, Mama!

kid toddler photog seriesWhen you Google the terms “kid photography,” do not be surprised when you see a bunch of images of kids and not photographs by kids: a kid-kid photographer, who takes photographs. I keep track of my children’s development by Googling all sorts of shit yet Google did not tell me what age children know how to take selfies, choose filters, and change shutter speed. All things that my toddler and not-in-preschool preschooler know how to do when they jack my iPhone and leave little kid photog gems. Using kids’ unedited imagination, feel free to see and add your own mini photog’s #viewfromdownthere to show the world through their eyes.

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Ask GH: I am not a morning person. If I’m not getting up for work then I’m not getting up. No one needs to be up (without pay) so goddamn early in the morning, kids included. My kids are semi-morning people. They will get up but usually let me sleep a little longer. Humnoy will find his Lego blocks and build a Transformer/spaceship/Transformer-spaceship and let me be. My little girl is my little girl for a reason. Lanoy loves to sleep and enjoys the crook of my armpit right along her Mama and we are happy. There are some mornings where blissful sleep drift away like a dream through wide-shut eyes of a 3.5-year-old photog. This is his way of asking for cereal:

kid photog wake up mama1kid photog wake up mamakid photog wake up mamakid photog wake up mama 2 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s where you can view the rest of the series: Kid Photog Series

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Who wakes up first in your house?

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Guest Blaog: Standing Out, Fitting In

*Ever since I came across the term “bLAOgger” from Little Laos on the Prairie, I probably overused it enough times to warrant a creative commons issue. Thanks to Chanida, who has been kind enough to bless my overuse of it, I have done just that: I write to share our culture in America, stories from the motherland, and our families’ histories. To add to that, I started a Guest Blaog series with all the experiences in modern-day Lao culture, parenting, and lifestyle. Happy blaogging!*

If you would like to be a guest bLAOgger, please contact theek@thelaotiancommotion.com

-Theek
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“Standing out, fitting in”

I’m Melissa, from southern California, and I blog at the Land in Between on life, health, and raising a family abroad.  A couple years ago, my husband and I moved to Southeast Asia to work.  We wanted to give our kids a different kind of experience in life outside of the typical American life. Our most recent move brought us to Northern Laos.

DSC_43052014-06-25 Standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett DSC_43412014-06-25 Standing out fitting in by Melissa CrossettWhen we moved to Southeast Asia with our light hair and skin and little blonde girls, we knew we’d stand out.  But, we didn’t want to settle for forever being the outsiders.  We hoped to live and work in Asia for more than just a few months, so we did everything we could to fit in and become part of the local culture. Obviously, we’ll always stand out, but it’s been a fun and sometimes comical journey learning to fit in to Asian life.
3 DSC_47082014-06-25 Standing out fitting in by Melissa CrossettWhat we’ve found to be the most important in fitting in, is to just get out there, be vulnerable and show ourselves friendly.  When we first moved to Laos, and our house was a mess  we didn’t have a real kitchen or a very functional bathroom, we made it a point to get out and meet our neighbors.  We were surprised with how welcoming and friendly they were to us, even though we must have seemed strange to them.  We’ve gotten to meet other great friends through our job at a eco-tourism company.  We’ve worked daily with a group of Lao women, and it didn’t take long to build close friendships with them.4 DSC_72192014-06-25 Standing out fitting in by Melissa CrossettHowever, even after being here eight months and having had experiences in other Asian countries, we still end up in some situations that remind us that we have a ways to go in fitting in.  Case in point…One of the ladies I’ve gotten to know quite well through work just loves our girls and has been so sweet to our family.  She invited us to come over to her house one day, so we made plans to head over in the afternoon.  First of all, I couldn’t get a hold of her to find her house, so had to call another friend to meet us and lead us there.  We weren’t sure what to expect as far as how long we’d stay, if we’d eat or not, etc.., but thought it would be fun to get to know her family and see where she lived.5 2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett-9When we showed up at around 4pm, our friend, “M”, was in the outhouse taking a dip shower.  For a minute, I wondered if she had forgotten about our planned visit.  Maybe she just didn’t expect us to be on time.  She was excited to see us, though, and invited us up onto her balcony.6 2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett-10We sat and chatted for a while, met her daughter and some other relatives.  She got busy preparing some food, but like I said, we didn’t really know what to expect so we just sat back and let things happen.  Eventually, she came out with some sliced apples, cucumbers and bowls of steamed rice (not sticky rice, which is the daily staple in Northern Laos).  She seemed nervous about what to do and what to feed us.  We weren’t sure why, because after living there for over seven months, she’s seen us eat plenty of Lao food (and enjoy it!) and we can also communicate pretty easily using our mix of Thai and Lao languages.7 2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa CrossettNo one else was eating, but she kept encouraging us to eat.  At five o’clock, it was a bit early for a typical dinner, so we assumed it was maybe a special snack for us.  We thanked her, and began to eat the plain rice, not sure what else to do.  Her daughter took off on the motorbike and returned shortly with a can of sweetened condensed milk to pour over the girls’ bowls of rice!  Normally, I don’t feed my kids stuff like that, but I certainly didn’t want to add to M’s anxiety about what to feed us, so just sat back and watched as the girls downed the sweet, gooey concoction.  I felt bad that she seemed so worried about what to feed us, so started talking to her about it and joking around that we don’t need special treatment, and that we love Lao food.  Her sister-in-law eventually showed up and suggested that we like to eat omelets, so off she went to prepare another dish for us.8 2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett-11Eventually, “snack time” ended, and the girls went off with M’s daughters to go play with the kitties and ducklings, one of the highlights of their day.  Our girls have loved the interaction they get with nature here in Northern Laos, and eventually, I hope to get some of our own animals and grow some gardens.9 2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett-12After finishing her dip shower out in the open yard, Granny (who we learned is over 100 years old!) sat nearby enjoying watching the girls play.10 2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett-7I sat and chatted with the other ladies until their husbands arrived back from a day at the river, bringing a bucket full of small assorted fish.11 2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett-3Eventually M disappeared into her kitchen again and I wasn’t sure what was going on.  Just as it was getting dark, she came out with a complete Lao dinner for us and all the relatives.  She had made sticky rice, bamboo shoot soup, fish stew, fried river weed, and some spicy roasted birds they picked up at the market.12 2014-06-25 standing out fitting in by Melissa Crossett-5Everyone seemed relaxed and happy that we could all enjoy this meal together.  The finale was a rough (to us) Lao delicacy… honey bee larvae in the comb.  It had a warm, mushy texture and was a bit tough to choke down, but in the end, proved that we could really be part of the group.

We had a great time with M and her family and were glad we made it past the somewhat awkward “falang” (foreigner) snack time to enjoying a home cooked Lao meal with the family.  Although we’ve tried our best to learn the language, set aside some of our foreign ways, and jump into local life, we still have a lot to learn!

Have you ever experienced standing out, but wanting to fit in?  Would you eat bee larvae to prove yourself?
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Date Night Idea: Pamper Partying

Being away from family really means that my husband and I can’t get up and go do something on a whim. I would have to run background checks, call references or worse, pay someone to watch my kids. Thankfully, GH’s parents are in town from North Carolina for a Seattle vacation and we got to do a date night. Our last night out was in March and I over stressed, over worried and we overspent. Not this time, no sirree.

The best date night highlight was GH’s thoughtful idea from our kid-free days in college. The original time we did it was when I brought him in to my favorite spot and the gals loved how he came and gave zero fucks. One shotgun wedding and two kids later, GH decided date night would be a throwback for a couple pedicure. Major sex points there, amirite? He was there for the calf massage and I was there to soften my mom hooves. This wasn’t even the best part of the night. We really dug into our former and current selves for the rest of the night because the best date nights are both fun and functional.

Pedicures done, we just stepped outside in our freshly de-scaled heels to see what we would do next. Nothing planned, nothing reserved, just spontaneous togetherness and shit. An important thing that I should mention is the unofficially agreed upon requirement that all date nights will, now and forever and always, involve alcohol. We try, we really do but parenthood and aging has caught up to us. It was so adult of us to be one-and-done after one drink. Each. E A C H! We were practically falling out our bar stools laughing while people watching after a margarita for me and an IPA for him. Who am I and who removed my binge drinking card?

Our current adulting roles then took us to run important domestic errands at Target afterward. You ever been to Target 1) drunk 2) without kids? It’s a world I had never imagined could exist in my lowly life. This magic has inspired me to unofficially hereby decree that all future Target trips require alcohol, period. Kids there or not. The -Noys will clear out the Dollar Spot cuz Mama won’t give a fuuuuuuuuu.

unique date night idea

Date Night: Couple Pedicure

What did you do on your last
date?

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Lao-American Community’s Latest Police Brutality Victim: A Sleeping Baby

SWAT Team throw a grenade on sleeping baby

19-month-old Bounkham (“Bou Bou”) Phonesavanh was sleeping peacefully with his family the night he was the newest survivor of police brutality. The family of six relocated to Atlanta home that belonged to the toddler’s family on his father’s side. Bou Bou’s father is a Laotian refugee, who escaped a war raging his home and community in Laos to wake up to similar events in his American home with his own family.

Atlanta SWAT enforcement raided the home in search of “a small amount of drugs.” The family drives a minivan with stick figure decals featuring their family with four children (girls aged 7, 5 and 3; Bou Bou 19 months) and a yard full of kids toys. With clear indication of children in and near the house, they broke down the door and attacked the father with no sign of the real suspect, the nephew, who did not even live there. An officer threw the father to the ground and tossed a flashbang grenade, which extremely emits light and sound that it temporarily blinds and deafens. This grenade bounced and landed right on top of their toddler son’s chest and blew a hole, which the mother refuses to look because doctors said his ribs are exposed.

Police brutality among communities of color continue to be a huge problem in this country all for the war on drugs. Militarized local enforcement affects civilian trust and safety with people paying with their lives. Fortunately, Baby Bou Bou and his family are in the process of recovery but not before the Phonesavanh family are working with ACLU to take legal action against routine police brutality against marginalized groups:

I know that too many local cops have stockpiled weapons that were made for soldiers to take to war. And as is usually the case with aggressive policing, I know that people of color and poor people are more likely to be targeted. I know these things because of the American Civil Liberties Union’s new report, and because I’m working with them to push for restraints on the use of SWAT. – Alecia Phonesavanh, mom to Bou Bou

From Huffington Post: Learn more about the Phonesavanh family’s advocacy efforts here and how you can get involved with helping baby Bou Bou recover here.

SWAT Team throw a grenade on sleeping baby

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Small Town Girl Probs: You Know Nothing About Breakup Etiquette, Jon Snow

How to not break up in a small town by @LaotianComotion
If I do not count my current husband, I have only had two ex-boyfriends with the official label. Like, boyfriend-girlfriend, Facebook-status official, and only three times have I been somewhat committed in such a relationship. Are exes and daters (I hate the word ‘lover’) mutually exclusive? In addition, these other ones were added to the body count but never a status-changer. No, I will not share my number. No, you do not get to make assumptions about me. No, you are not better than me because your body count is one and your husband is a lousy lay. This is just a little story about a small-town girl living in a prudey world and about the likelihood of running into an ex is more likely than anybody leaving the safe comforts of home.

I like to call my hometown Podunk-Bourg(eoisie), where it’s not small enough to have that old-timey flair nor is it large enough to be metro or cool at all. It’s a place where people think they are hotter shit than they really are is what I’m trying to say. A particular ex loved to always remind me for my sake, “Can’t turn a ho into a housewife.” A hometown full of exes, daters, flings, or whatever they’re called and I avoid visiting it like the STD pool the tri-town area that it is. Seriously, what do we call these people? Whatever you call them, I could not get away from them anytime I visited my folks. You especially don’t want to run into them after an awkward split-up: Shitty Wife was a Shitty Girlfriend too. No more awkward than Jon Snow’s reaction in Season 4, Episode 9 with Ygritte. You know you fucked up, right, Jon Snuh.

You know nothing about break-up etiquette, Jon Snow @LaotianComotion

My last official breakup with an Official Boyfriend was so unfriendly because GH became the man he is to me now. I left OB while we were trying to patch things up yet Gym Hottie did get his moniker for no reason at all. Get this: they have the same name and that just blew OB’s gasket and it was an unfriendly departure. Breakup meaning it was a lot of drunk calls to apologize and those apologies were never heard. One drunk run-in at a hometown bar and two years later, he somehow found out I was married and sent me a congratulatory text message and I was shocked. Why reach out now, you bastard? Why bring your petty small mind back into my life as I was 8 months pregnant? It took a good three years later to forget how awful a person that was. How a small baby  was the answer to change all of it. A now mundane, quiet life finally let me forget all about how shitty a partner I “was” when I look at my family, my husband, and my two kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a crazy ass ex-girlfriend and will stalk your ass on social media. Can’t turn a stalker into a housewife maybe.

What is proper break-up etiquette anyway?

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Kid Photog: A ‘View From Down There’ Photo Series

kid toddler photog series

When you Google the terms “kid photography,”  do not be surprised when you see a bunch of images of kids and not photographs by kids: a kid-kid photographer, who takes photographs. I keep track of my children’s development by Googling all sorts of shit yet Google did not tell me what age children know how to take selfies, choose filters, and change shutter speed. All things that my toddler and not-in-preschool preschooler know how to do when they jack my iPhone and leave little kid photog gems. Using kids’ unedited imagination, feel free to see and add your own mini photog’s #viewfromdownthere to show the world through their eyes.

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When I had the idea to document what my kid photogs are documenting, I mainly had all Humnoy shots. He would have all these interesting shots of his shoes on the wrong foot or peeping Tom on the neighbor’s balcony. One day, I was winding down as I do at the end of the day to inventory photos and found a low-key gem by the other -Noy.

I love this hilarious cèlfie because it has both GH, Lanoy, and me in one shot going on our normal family happenings: cooking food because we love to eat. Too much actually. Still accurate is how Hum is not in the shot because he goes off into his own world trashing the living room. She was in her usual spot on the floor near our feet scavenging and begging for food as I’m preparing it. It’s usually there or she’s laying down in the oven drawer like she would be in a bassinet.
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kid photog series kitchen celfie~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To see her other hilarious internet picture, check out my Love You Forever post.

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 Here’s where you can view the rest of the series: Kid Photog Series

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Do your kids know how to work a camera?

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When You Miss A Breastfeeding Session or Two

I did what any breastfeeding mom going back to work would do: get an expensive breast pump with full intention of using that expensive breast pump. When Lanoy was 10 months old, I went to my first day back in a classroom. I asked the original teacher if there was a place I could pump during the planning and/or lunch to which she, of course, noted the nearby germ playground kindergarten bathroom or the classroom with the door locked. Few hours pass and before I know it, I am picking up crayon wrappers after the kids have left for home. I did not pump at all that day and my body hated me for it.

I got home, popped that girl on a tit, and pumped out the other side as she nursed and I got about enough milk for the village. This is my breasts’ way of getting really angry with me for messing up the flow of things. My body was all, ‘Bitch, where were you for your noon feeding? Oh, you were leading an art lesson? Okay” and decided to open the milk flood gates to rebuke career duties. The awful part was when an elementary schooler’s big head would bump into my chest for the side-hugs-only contact and I felt like I was going to fill the classroom with letdown and fore milk. Lest us not forget lunch; my boobs went go-go-gadget when it’s being nourished. I can feel my boobs swell up a notch with each bite of food next to ancient teachers, who probably did not understand my face of breast discomfort. Not a lot of teachers pumped that I knew of.

I then made the decision to not pump for my toddler. After a while, my body adjusted and my breasts weren’t so painful if I nursed Lanoy right before I walk out the door. They weren’t ‘so painful’ where I couldn’t not work so I kept trucking on. This went on for six months while I was teaching part-time this school year. It would totally be different if I was in a classroom full-time and eight hours a day. On a few occasions, I run a bit late to nurse my sleep-through-the-night toddler before leaving, come home after a full day, and the first thing thing I say to GH after he asks about my day is:

breastfeeding boobs on fire

*For some tips for pumping, go see How To Get More Milk With A Hand Pump

When do your boobs get on fiyah?

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The Topic of Breastfeeding in Public Just Got Hairier

@LaotianComotion: How to gymnurstics in public #laotiancommotion

@LaotianComotion says, "I don't care about #breastfeeding in public and you shouldn't either" #laotiancommotion
One of the rare times I was asked to move to another location to breastfeed was actually by my mom. We were at a Lao wedding and she gently suggested for me to go to the bathroom. First, I was like, “Mom, that’s disgusting; this is your grandbaby breathing in air poop particles.” She revealed a bit of embarrassment, if that’s even a thing for my mom, when she motioned to the table of skeezy Lao men behind us (i.e., my dad’s skeezy Lao friends). Second, I was like, “Wait, why would these Lao OGs, who were breastfed by their own mamas in Laos be skeeved?” and then I remembered: ‘Murica.

I find it hilarious how there are U.S. laws to protect the right for mothers to feed without harassment, lawsuits, or jail time. “Yes, we realized society has just recently shamed the natural act of feeding from your breasts so give us a bit to write up these laws so you can face public outcry with vague legal backing.” #Okay. In many other places in the world, there are no such laws that protect the right to bare lactating breasts in public. Why? Because it’s not a big deal. In Laos, I asked my friend Kelly from The Frog & The Moon, who is an American mom living in Laos, about the breastfeeding laws there and she said there were none. Well, of course not. Here in the United States, there are laws abound! I mean, that’s good to avoid jail food while hangry and all but how dumb. Breastfeeding laws are just dumb in theory.

According to National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), “forty-five states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.” Allow? You allow me to whip my own boob out because my child is hungry while everyone else is eating too? You allow me to respond to a crying child by sticking a breast in there? You allow me to police my own body parts? The following are the examples of breastfeeding in public laws here in Washington:

2001: Breastfeeding in public is not considered indecent exposure. (RCW 43.70, 9A.88.010)

2009: Breastfeeding mothers are protected under state anti-discrimination law, and can breastfeed their children in places of public accommodation such as restaurants, pools, theaters, government buildings, museums, libraries, busses, or parks. (RCW 49.60.030 and 49.60.215)

In almost 40 months of straight breastfeeding between and tandem of two kids, I really have taken the law in my own hands. Please note I have never had an in-real-life incident with harassment with breastfeeding in public. At least not to my face anyway. I have gotten a few head shakes, a lot of stares, and many more quick stare-then-look-aways. It really wouldn’t matter anyway because I actually have the law on my side-boob. Even if the law did not protect me, there are a number of ways of how to nurse in public the right way:

  • Wear a nursing cover.
  • Don’t wear a nursing cover.
  • Use a bottle.
  • Don’t use a bottle.
  • Perfect your bitchy resting face.
  • Don’t be a bitch.
  • Find a room.
  • Don’t find a room; never a restroom because airpoopparticles.
  • Go everywhere with your 6-foot husband, who’d crush anybody for looking at you sideways while breastfeeding the baby in public.
  • Go places without your significant other.
  • Grow long hair (my recent method).
  • Don’t grow long hair.
  • Don’t care what people think, say, do when you are responding to your hungry baby when out living your life in public.
  • Seriously, don’t give a shit.
I’ve actually done all those ways to be comfortable in public because I was a new mom surrounded by jaded society. It wasn’t until I learned one important thing: I’ve lived my life caring about others (my parents, my boyfriends, my friends) thought about me and my body and the only person who should be bothered is the person whose boobs are attached to. If you are modest about the amount of skin you are showing, you have that right. If you live in the bottom depths of Seven Hells and your baby gets too hot under a cover then ditch that thing. If you prefer a quiet spot in a lounge room with comfortable chairs, sit back and nurse. If you just do not give a shit, then go on not giving a shit because you aren’t doing anything wrong. Not only does the law say so, but you do too. I have done all those things because I do not prescribe to one radical be-all-end-all in breastfeeding and I have never had a single problem.
*For a list of your state’s breastfeeding laws, please go check out Breastfeeding State Laws
The one right way to nurse in public #breastfeeding @LaotianComotion

Law’s On Your Side Boob.

*You may share any images from my blog upon the condition you credit/link to thelaotiancommotion.com. I like when you share but love when you acknowledge the creator. Thank you; don’t be a dick.

Breastfeeders and non-breastfeeders: What do you care about breastfeeding in public? Do boobs bother you? Are you modest?

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The Melanin Problem Runs Deep

seattle laos
For what seems like a cumulative two months out of the year in Seattle, the sun is actually shining without wind, rain, or some sort of mini natural disaster. I love the area we live in but the weather sucks for this desert girl. My hometown is a tumbleweed womb and it is hot for about 11.79 months out of the year. It was always hot and, if anything, we would always get a gnarly car tan. (Y’know when your left forearm gets all dark from driving?) Both thankfully and regretfully, we do not live in my hometown so my half-White/Lao children are pretty vitamin-deprived. Raising a biracial family in the Pacific Northwest means the weather literally rains on my race parade.

Raising bi-cultural/racial kids has been rewarding and interesting because of the push-pull of which genes they have. For those remaining 10 months out of the year, there is no doubt they are their father’s children especially Humnoy. With both -Noys, they looked much like me when as babies and Lanoy still does resemble me quite a bit. Would people think they were Asian, let alone Laotian? I never connected how anybody would always get confused when I told them I was ‘Asian’ when they didn’t know what ‘Laotian’ was. I got great grades in school, had a weird name, and many more stereotypes of a good Asian but still never fit in the mold of “Asian.” Forget my almond-shaped eyes, dark hair, wide nose, and all the prominent ethnic features; it was because my foremost characteristic is my skin tone. Thankfully, my children get the melanin problem too.

Summer’s here and Lao roots be so strong, I tell ya. It may have taken a couple decades of unlearning and self-acceptance but my skin color is no longer my problem. When people are paying to artificially and unsuccessfully attempt to reach the same color range as I have been born with then it’s society’s problem. My children may still experience the same problems for their presumed traits rather than their unique traits, physical or otherwise, but I hope their only problem is not having the appropriate weather to bask in the melanin from their strong, deep Lao roots.


Mixed family melanin
rat tail by the pool

What physical trait did you hate and have since embraced?

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