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things you don’t think about until you are a parent

We have been watching the Winter Olympics. I didn’t plan to. But what’s not to love really? Finally something on prime time that does not involve dead bodies, sexual predators, or its own mythologies.

Naturally I gravitated towards Ice Dancing and Figure Skating. (No, I don’t really want to engage in a debate about how Ice Dancing does not count as a sport and should not even be included in the Olympics. Thank you very much).

Last Sunday though, we caught a glimpse of the Super-Combined and the boys and I were hooked. We don’t ski. Skiing has never entered my mind as a recreational option despite our proximity to some relatively inexpensive hills in Wisconsin. The word “skiing” conjures up images of Vail and the fancy schmancy aura surrounding “Skiing resorts” in my psyche. Memories of seeing people refusing to do away with their lift tickets still hanging on their zipper pulls long after their last skiing trip without any hope of ever going back again this season.

What was shown on TV was exhilarating. The commentators were talking about Bode Miller as this Comeback Kid. Everybody loves a good comeback story. So we held our breath as he rushed downhill. The camera at one point cut to his mother, I assume, with her hand to her mouth watching her son intently, perhaps with a bit comprehension. The camera zoomed in further to try to catch an emotional moment. Everybody loves a good human interest perspective in the games of sports.

With his eyes still on the screen, my oldest commented,

“You know, when I or [my brother] go to the Olympics? You have to remember that you are always on camera. So you have to remember to look good all the time. Don’t let the camera catch you tweeting or Facebooking! That’s the lesson we should learn here.”


Our job goal as far as our kids are concerned as parents is to never embarrass them. I am sure with me as a mother THIS is constantly on his mind. Later when one of the athletes crashed on the snowy course and thus dashed his dream for any medal, for yet another human interest angle, the camera mercilessly zoomed in on the father who buried his face in his hands, leaned his forehead against the fence, visibly shaking.

My preteen reached across the sofa, grabbed both of my hands, and besought me,

“Promise me. You will never do that! Don’t cry like that if we lose. Promise me!”

I simply laughed. For sure, this is a promise I will not be able to keep…



I also learned that athletes for Winter Sports live on the wild-er side, and they either have no mental filters because they are so adorably honest, or they are simply really really high, like “high”, when they are on the high mountains…

Read this quote from Norway silver medalist Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset as reported in Sports Illustrated… and tell me if it is not one of the best…

“My name is Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset. I skied the second lap and I f—– up today. I think I have seen too much porn in the last 14 days. I have the room next to Petter Northhug and every day there is noise in there. So I think that is the reason I f—– up. By the way, Tiger Woods is a really good man.”

(Sports Illustrated Writer’s note: By far the craziest quote released by the VANOC information desk over the past 13 days.)


Or this quote from Graham Watanabe, a snowboarder from the U.S.

“It’s feeling a lot more like this is my first Olympics. Try to imagine Pegasus mating with a unicorn and the creature that they birth. I somehow tame it and ride it into the sky in the clouds and sunshine and rainbows. That’s what it feels like.”



Update: Naptime Writing had written in a post “Lessons from the Olympics” which has a list of the things she learned about human nature from this Olympics that was observant, profound, hilarious at the same time. Knowing my readers, I just want to emphasize hilarious. I was grateful that she commented on the “fake flesh-colored” costumes worn by the skaters to make them look like they are wearing skimpy outfits when actually they are not. So it’s not just me.

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January 9, 2010

in no manual for parenting

These shoes CANNOT be for my child, can they?


This post was supposed to be written last summer, but I got sidetracked. Or it could be that I simply did not want to deal with reality.

Up till this summer, I still ordered shoes for my oldest from Lands’ End, BOYS department. I buy almost everything online not wanting to go shopping with my boys in tow, ever, yes, including shoes for everybody even myself. Lands’ End only makes shoes for BOYS up till Size 7. Anything larger falls under MEN’s department. My boy was wearing Size 7 then. He never complained about them being too small. I never gave it any thought either because I wear size 8.5, and of course, his feet were smaller than mine. Right?

We went into the sporting goods store with my husband one night. At the sight of the bargain-bin sneakers, my husband suggested that we get new shoes for our son. He asked one store employee to measure my son’s feet.

“What size are you wearing?” He asked.

“Size 7.” I answered since the other two did not seem to have any clue.

“Yah… Let me see.” The man took one look at my son’s feet and shook his head in disagreement. He proceeded with the metal instrument. ”Size 9. He is a size 9!” He said it with too much glee, if you ask me.

“No. It can’t be! He is still wearing size 7 shoes. Look at these!” I picked up the shoes from the floor and shoved them in his direction.

“No, ma’am. He is a size 9. And in fact, I’d recommend that you buy him shoes in Size 9.5 to give his toes more wiggle room.”

I sat down on the bench in the middle of the aisle. Dejected. Surprised by how emotional I was feeling towards this. THIS.

Still clueless, My husband chuckled. “A size 9. Whoa!” He slapped my son on his still-bony shoulder. Turning towards me, “I think you are scaring the guy!” He whispered loudly.

I bet he was indeed scared: He walked away quickly when I burst into tears.

My son’s feet, upon their release from BOYS’ shoes, have been growing quickly. He is now wearing size 10.5.

BUT he is still one of my two grade school kids. At least until this June. And he is still about a head shorter than I am. Probably not for long now, I know even though I am not sure I am ready. When the day comes I hope I won’t be caught off guard like my shoe store revelation.

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November 27, 2009

in random

I have been thinking about my parents a lot lately, especially yesterday. Thanksgiving does that to you, I guess.

In all honesty, I try not to think about them because when I do, the sense of guilt soon becomes too overwhelming: I have been lost to them since 1993 when I came to the U.S. for graduate school. The originally temporary stint abroad that was supposed to last only two years became the reality of me and them separated by the Pacific Ocean. And, oh, yeah, the land mass from here to the West Coast. Tenuously connected through phone calls, calculated according to a 14-hour time zone difference.

I sometimes wonder whether my father had regretted telling me, “Don’t come home for the summer. Travel around the U.S. You will be home less than a year anyway.” THAT was the summer I met my husband…

Sometimes I get upset at myself on behalf of my parents. Then I turn towards my own children and warn them, abruptly,

“When you grow up, if you move to a different continent, I am going to be really, really, really mad at you!” My teeth gnashing.

I’d walk away and hide myself in the bathroom, work myself into tears, remember this is probably how my parents feel, then become even more upset and turn into a hysterical mess.


I did not realize my father is left-handed until this March when we visited my parents. They noticed that Mr. Monk was writing with his left hand.

“He’s left-handed? I guess it is ok nowadays to write with your left hand. Your father is left-handed too.” My mother said over the phone when I was back in the U.S.

“No. He is NOT!” I defended myself, against an accusation of inattentiveness that was not there.

“Oh yes he is. He is supposed to be left-handed. He writes with his right hand, indeed. But, you have never noticed? he uses scissors and knives with his left hand.”

Of course I have never noticed it. I left home when I was twenty-four. I was too young, too educated, too busy to live my life to notice my parents. As I get older and know better, however, I am not there to catch up.

Ever since that exchange, I often try to remember my father opening a letter with a pair of scissors (He does not believe in letter openers) or dissecting a pork shoulder roast (his favorite) with a cleaver. I imagine him using his left hand.

I don’t know how to explain to my husband or my boss that I really need to fly home because I need to see my father use his left hand…

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Towards a Discussion of Religious Pluralism with a First Grader. Gingerly.

November 20, 2009 no manual for parenting

Scene 1
On our way home in the car, the 11 year-old lodged an official complaint against his younger brother for embarassing him in school: He talks about God too much. He said things like, “God created everything” in daily, random conversations, without prompting. On top of that, he also sometimes sports a British accent, according [...]


“My parents were awesome” – The antithesis of People of Walmart

October 21, 2009 this i believe

Ever since I was alerted of the existence of the website People of Walmart, I admit, I have been fascinated by the humanity found there.  The bizarre.  The weird.  The blunt un-self-consiousness.  The unrelenting in-your-face humaness.  As demonstrated not just in the people whose pictures have been stealthily taken and exhibited, but also in the amateur [...]

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