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what do you know?

I don’t know where my oldest gets his athletic prowess. I guess we lucked out.

He started gymnastics at our park district when he was three years old because I did not like the idea of sitting in the sun, the rain, or the cold for ball games. When he was seven, he was asked to join the newly-formed Boys Team  and he started his “career” in competitive gymnastics. It did sound impressive when I told people that he went to the State Championship. I am not one of those pushy and hyper-critical parents. I am amazed by the gymnastic moves my oldest can do, with ease, and most of the time, with grace. But I will be completely honest: there will be no Olympic medals in the future. He is good, could definitely do better, but not that good.

We attend his meets and hold our breath and watch, ready to comfort him or to cheer him on. It is getting harder and harder to sit in the audience since every event now involves the risk of him falling off or falling down. I don’t think I will be able to watch without having a heart attack as they start doing more and more dangerous “tricks”.

How do parents of Olympic athletes quiet their hearts when it is happening? What happens if something wrong happens to your child’s routine? How do you stop the ache in your heart, fortify it, and find the right words to comfort your heart-broken child? I used to wonder about that.

As my oldest reached the higher level in gymnastics, the routines became harder. Because he grew in height without packing on the pounds, his muscle strength (or lack of) does not allow him to perform as well as before. This became very obvious when he attended his first competition this past season.  Less then half way into his floor event, he fell, sat heavily on his bottom, not once, but twice. I could hear the gasps from the audience even in the noisy gymnasium. I will be brutally honest with you: it was painful to watch. I wanted to turn my head and close my eyes. NOT because I was embarrassed, please believe me when I say this, but because the urge to go to him right away and hug him was so strong that I physically felt ill. I had to sit on my hands to prevent them from flying to my mouth or chest and bite my lips so I didn’t break down and cry.

But he got up and finished his routine. He was not frazzled. Much to my surprise, when he exited the floor, he was neither in tears nor pouting; he walked back to where his team was sitting and fist-bumped his coaches.

THAT was one of the proudest moments I have had as a parent.

He has learned to fail. Or rather, he has learned the ability to not get bogged down by an accident or a mistake and forge ahead. He has learned the ability to remain calm and focus on what is ahead. An ability that I am sorely lacking.

Several days later when I was sure it was safe to touch upon the subject, I asked him with a frankness bordering on admiration,

“What was going through your mind when you fell and sat on the floor? How were you able to get up and continue with the routine? How did you find the strength to be so brave?” I was truly amazed by this young person’s (“My own son!”) will power to remain poised under such duress.

“Well, it’s nothing really. The coach has always told us to NOT think about what has happened and just focus on what’s next in the routine. We just need to focus and finish the routine. I don’t notice the audience when I am doing the routines. I just focus.”

Focus. Grace under fire. I believe these are the things that make athletes such special people. Any athletes, no matter the rankings or the scores. They don’t become broken-hearted by a single setback. They just do it again, and again, and again.

At his second meet when my son once again did not place and I once again agonized over what the right things to say to console and encourage him, he bounded to the bench where I was sitting in just one stride, plopped down, and before I could say, “I am sorry honey…”, declared with a smile, “I have achieved my three goals today.”

“I was telling everybody this. I have three goals for this meet and I reached all three of them:

1. I had fun
2. I did better than last time
3. I was not physically or emotionally scarred permanently.”

I laughed and slapped him on his back.

THAT was another one of the proudest moments I have had as a parent.

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My mom and dad called last Friday. Actually my mom did. Mom’s always the one that calls. And she always calls around 9 pm when it is the absolutely most friggin’ chaotic in the house. And she always pleads innocence saying she cannot figure out the time difference. And she always asks, “Have you eaten yet?” even after I tell her “It is 9 pm here. Ma!”

“It is cold there now, right? It is freezing here.” My mom says. Every single time during the winter. Did I tell you that they live in Taiwan? A sub-tropical island? The temperature in Taipei was supposed to reach 69 °F that day (as opposed to 36 °F here in Chicago and actually considered to be warm since it is finally above friggin’ freezing…)

“Ma. Sigh. You do know that the weather there has nothing to do with the weather here, right?” I could not bite my tongue and just let this one go.

“But it is really cold here. I bet it feels colder here.” My mom is a “last-worder” too: that’s probably where I got it. Between my husband and myself, my kids are doomed both nature- and nurture-wise. “Do you want to talk to your dad? Oh wait. Your dad wants to talk to you. Actually, he asked me to call you.”

Pleasantly surprised since my dad never wanted to talk to me on the phone, not that he loves me less but because he’s a man, I screamed, “Ba!” (The Chinese word for “Dad”) when my mom handed him the receiver. At 80, my dad is hard of hearing nowadays.

“Have you eaten yet?” He said, without a beat.

Sigh. “Yes. I have.”

“Is it snowing in Chicago because it is really cold here.”

Sigh. “Actually it is warmer today because it is above freezing.”

“Really? That’s something.”

“So… what’s going on? What are you doing today?” I know better than to expect my 80-year-old father to tell me something exciting in his plan for the day.

“Nothing. Just watching TV…. You haven’t called home for a long time. Is your husband still out of the country?”

“Yeah. He’s in Spain this time.”

“That’s what I thought when you didn’t call home for a long time. You must be very busy with the kids then.”

As if on cue, my oldest came to stand by my side and whispered loudly, “Mom. Mom. Mom!”

I glared at him and pressed my point finger to my lips. Ignoring my gesture, he continued,

“Mom! My gum hurts because my tooth here,” he proceeded to open his mouth with both hands so I could see better, “See? It is coming out. My tooth! My gum hurts!”

I turned my back towards him. He did not give up and came around to the other side, “So I need to go see a dentist…”

“Dad. Hold on. Just a sec.” I switched to English to deal with the dental crisis that was not, “Can’t you see I am on the phone with my parents? We’ll talk about this later.”

As if he did not hear what I just said, he switched to a brand new subject, “Mom, we need to pick up my new glasses!”

“I will. Tomorrow! I need to bring you with when we pick up your glasses…” I gritted my teeth.

All this time, Mr. Monk was on the floor pouring sugar into a bowl so he could make crystals according to the science book that he got last November. He never showed interest in the darn book until I was on the phone. Now he was next to me as well,

“Mom. What is a saucer?… Is it this?” He pulled out the biggest pot to show me, making a loud clattering noise.

“NO! That is NOT a saucer. And why do you need a saucer NOW for god’s sake?!” I raised my voice.

Seriously. They were quietly reading at the kitchen table before the phone rang. It just seems that EVERY TIME when I am on the phone, all of a sudden they have urgent information to share, questions to ask, emergencies to deal with. The sky is falling! We need your attention NOW!

I could hear my dad on the other side of the phone line: “It sounds like your children need you. I just want to hear you voice. We’ll talk later.”

“No. Dad!” He hung up before I could protest further. I frantically tried to dial my parents’ phone number. I am not making this up: in order to call my folks, I need to dial 22 friggin’ numbers. That’s right. 22. After the third try, the call finally went through.

“Mom. Is dad there? Could I talk to him?”

“He hung up on you, didn’t he? That man. He always does that. I told him to give me the phone and he said you were busy! Here he is.”

“Dad. You didn’t have to hang up!”

“But you are busy. You should go tend to the children.”

Exasperated now. “No. They can wait. They are not babies any more. They need to learn to be respectful!”

Of course, all this was said in Chinese so my children did not get any benefits from this lecture which explained why at this exact moment, at the same time, my oldest decided to play on a laptop that ran out of power and was struggling to get the power cord out from behind a desk at the risk of toppling everything that was sitting on the desk, and my youngest decided to pour sugar solution (sugar:water 6:1) from a sauce pot into a shallow saucer.

I watched all of it unfold in slow motion, and I could feel myself boiling. I did not even bother to cover the receiver as I exploded.

“WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I AM TALKING TO MY PARENTS? HOW OFTEN DO I GET TO TALK TO THEM? I AM ONLY ON THE PHONE FOR FIVE MINUTES! DID ANYBODY BLEED? IS ANYBODY DYING? NO? THEN DON’T INTERRUPT ME! NOTHING IS THAT URGENT! Go to your rooms NOW! No. Don’t touch anything. Leave that on the floor. Just GO TO YOUR ROOM!”

Switching to Chinese, “I am back. Dad, what were you saying?” I was expecting him to give me another lecture about being more lady-like.

“Whoa. You sounded just like my mother when we were little.” My dad commented.

My grandmother had 14 children. I have never met her, and my dad has not told me much about his mother, that is, he has never really reminisced about his childhood. When I was around, I was too young to ask these questions; now that I am old enough, I am not around enough.

Not sure whether this was something I should defend myself against, I defended my grandmother instead. “Well. There were so many of you. If she did not yell like that, she probably could not keep all of you in check.”

“That’s what I said. You sounded just like my mother.” He chuckled.  “That really reminds me of when I was a kid. We lived on a farm so she could yell like that without disturbing the neighbors.”

Maybe I was just imagining things, but he sounded like he had tears in his eyes when he said again, so quietly this time as if he weren’t talking to me,

“Wow. This really brings back childhood memories.”

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Laugh all you want. But my one favorite song, if I have to pick, is seriously Bohemian Rhapsody. I am a walking cliche, I know. I can listen to it over and over again all day long. Thanks to the invention of the Internet (Thank you, Al Gore! <– This is a repetitive trope here), I can now watch and listen to all different renditions of this song.

On this Thanksgiving, I AM THANKFUL FOR YOUTUBE, despite the existence of Charlie the Unicorn

My favorite has been the performance in 2003 by UC Men’s Octet. Yup. Bohemian Rhapsody a cappella. How awesome is that? (You can see the video of this oldie but still goodie at the end of this post).

Now the Muppet Studio just posted on YouTube on November 23, yup, that’s yesterday, the HD version of the Muppets gang doing Bohemian Rhapsody. How awesome is THAT?!

Note to Self: Need to find a different word than “awesome” to describe things that excite me lest I be mistaken for a high school gal… On the other hand, it may be a sign of my ultimate Americanness... Awesome.

I had to do a Stop the Presses! thing and bring this to you right away, my imaginary friends. Enjoy.

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“Wisconsin Tourism Federation changes name to avoid acronym” ’nuff said…

October 1, 2009 random

Tweet “The folks at the Wisconsin Tourism Federation, a 30-year-old tourism lobbying coalition based in Sun Prairie, couldn’t possibly have predicted how the Internet would change the lingo. While its abbreviation, WTF, was fairly innocuous a few decades ago, it means something entirely different these days…” News article here. Apparently the alarm was first sounded […]

5 comments

In honor of International Bacon Day: Bacon Flavored Lip Balm!

September 7, 2009 a picture is worth a thousand words

Tweet I know I am late to the party. But here is my motto as a good wife and good mother: Family First, and Bacon Second… September 6, 2009 was the Second International Bacon Day.  And of course, in case you, like I, wondered, there is a blog dedicated to this much celebrated holiday. How […]

“They’re Made Out of Meat” by Terry Bisson – One of the best short stories found on the Interweb

September 7, 2009 random

Tweet Here is how the story begins… “They’re made out of meat.” “Meat?” “Meat. They’re made out of meat.” “Meat?” “There’s no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.” … … … Please […]

As a 1930s wife, I am…

September 1, 2009 random

Tweet 22 As a 1930s wife, I am Very Poor (Failure) Take the test! Sheesh! You think you can do better?  Take the test yourself!

Announcing my new project: Bacon-flavored Vodka…

August 30, 2009 marketing at work

Tweet Apparently Pork-flavored Vodka is gaining some traction now in the Northeast, originated from Seattle, more specifically, the Seattle-based Black Rock Spirits.  According to this online article, Bacon-Flavored Vodka: What’s Next? Eggs Bourbon? , BAKON, the vodka with an oink in it, is getting some dedicated followers because people just love bacon. Thanks to the […]

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People in Germany need to have more sex. Or keep their clunkers. According to the Economist. Well, kind of.

August 14, 2009 imho is just a polite way to say I know you don't give a hoot what I think but I'm going to say it anyway

Tweet People in Germany really need to start having more sex. Otherwise they are really going to need Death Panel for Grandmas, you know, when there are no more young people to take care of the old people.   That was my first thought when I saw this chart. On second thought, sex does not […]

1 comment

I finally saw it with my own eyes! Sound machine inside public toilet to mask the embarrassing noise…

April 2, 2009 through the looking glass

Tweet I have heard about this along time ago: Japanese women often flush the toilet as soon as they enter the stall to mask the embarrassing noise people naturally make when in the bathroom. This act of civility turned out to waste a lot of water resource. At first, they tried sound machines with music, […]