Friday, June 30, 2006

This Is Your Brain on Fatherhood.

So apparently, a team of behavioral scientists at Randolph-Macon College have done some research involving multiple sets of male deer mice that seems to indicate that exposure to children creates fundamental chemical changes to your brain. For one thing, this seems to provide the first scientific support of the age-old t-shirt slogan "INSANITY IS HEREDITARY--YOU GET IT FROM YOUR KIDS." (Is there anything t-shirts can't teach us?)

More importantly, it highlights the fact that daddyhood is more than just flinging chromosomes in the general direction of a fertile egg: The researchers found that deer mice placed in close proximity to infant mice--even unrelated ones--experience surges of oxytocin, the so-called "cuddle hormone," and begin to exhibit nurturing behavior. (It's not clear whether this extended to buying the foster mice thousands of dollars of Thomas the Tank Engine toys.)

Even mice of a closely related species known for their anxiety in the presence of babies (nicknamed by the researchers the "Deadbeat Dad" mice) were found to have higher levels of oxytocin after continued infant exposure over a period of four days. Just like that Adam Sandler movie with the kid. Or that Hugh Grant movie with the kid. Or that Tom Selleck-Ted Danson-Steve Guttenberg movie with the kid. (Is there anything big-budget Hollywood comedies can't teach us?)

I have to admit that I never imagined being a father when I was young(er), although I guess I always assumed that it'd happen, somewhere along the line. When it did, it was later than I'd expected--pushed back by things that, at the time, seemed like bigger priorities.

But now that I'm a dad, it's hard for me to imagine anything that could possibly be more important. Maybe it's just the oxytocin talking, but I look at my son (hey! there he is in the upper corner of this website!) and I think, I want to move mountains for this kid. I want to give this child the world, teach him whatever I can teach him, raise him to be everything he can be, share the rest of my life with him, for as long as I'm still around...

It's such a powerful surge of emotion, it's not at all surprising that there's a chemical basis for it.

And it took a bunch of deer mice to show us the way.

Is there anything deer mice can't teach us?

APA Parenting Meme (Con't)

This is from guest Rice Daddy: Mister Zen

1. I am:
Chinese and Native Hawaiian

2. My kids are:
Chinese, Filipino, and Hawaiian

3. I first realized I was APA when:
I figured out how wealthy my first haole friend was.

4. People think my name is:
Jeff Yang; Connie Chung.

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
New Year's in Hawai'i, all-night pool and poké parties, and multifamily road trips!

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
actually, it's all good. All the problems give us something to talk about.

7. My child's first word in English was:
Zito. Just kidding. It was 'Vida Blue'.

8. My child's first non-English word was:
Wikiwiki. (Shut up!--LOL, that's mixing Hawaiian and hip-hop for you.)

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
Pau. ("Are you pau with your dinner?" "Yes, I'm pau." "No you're not. Eat your rice!")

10. One thing I love about being an APA parent is:
My kids are always the cutest ones on the playground!

11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent is:
People tend to assume you're another drone from some big Asian borg.

12. The best thing about being part of an APA family is:
We roll deep, and our parties never leave anyone hungry. Plus with leftovers, you don't have to buy food for a week or two.

13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is:
we don't always treat difference that well.

14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means:
Fighting for the dim sum bill with the tenacity of a tiger, the strength of an oxen, and the wiles of a monkey.

--Poppa Large

Thursday, June 29, 2006

MetroDad's APA Parenting Meme

1. I am:
A proud motherf*cking Korean-American man!

2. My kid is:
At the age of 21 months, already showing the wild stubborness and independent streak that has plagued my family for generations.

3. I first realized I was APA when:
When I showed up at kindergarten with a lunchbox filled with kim bop and everyone else was eating these weird things called "PB & J" sandwiches.

4. I am often confused for:
Some Hong Kong actor whom I've never heard of and can't remember.

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
Cooking shabu shabu and sukiyaki together on Sunday afternoons.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
For a complete list, please contact my therapist and submit a self-addressed stamped envelope for processing. Warning: Documents and files are extremely large.

7. My child's first word in English was:
Quack Quack!

8. My child's first non-English word was:
Ko ("nose" in Korean)

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
Fangul! ("F*ck" in Italian)

10. One thing I love about being an APA parent is:
Teaching my daughter to be proud of her background, culture and heritage.

11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent is:
The fear that my daughter may someday face fears and prejudices from which I cannot protect her.

12. The best thing about being part of an APA family is:
Everybody understands where you get your weird tendencies and idiosyncracies (like eating bologna and kimchi sandwiches, screaming at the television, or suddenly having an uncontrollable urge to sing karaoke.)

13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is:
Dealing with relatives who no longer speak with one another. Koreans are stubburn as elephants and can hold grudges for life.

14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means:
Breaking stereotypes, boundaries and limitations.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I'm Poppa Large, Big Dad on the West Coast

1. I am:

Chinese American, second gen.

2. My kid is:

To invoke Marlon Brando from Sayanora: "Half-yeller and half-yeller" (more specifically, 3rd gen Chinese American on my side and fifth gen Japanese American on her mom's).

3. I first realized I was APA when:

I learned the term my first year at UC Berkeley (where the campus community probably coined it...or at least, acted like it did).

4. I am often confused for:

Being Japanese...I think because of my facial hair. That and my Mandarin sucks.

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:

Big feasts around holidays.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:

Dysfunctional relations.

7. My child's first word in English was:

Da-dum (we think that means "daddy").

8. My child's first non-English word was:

Ma! (as in "mas" as in "more").

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:

Currently, it's "awah" (aqua).

10. One thing I love about being an APA parent is:

Waiting to see if my daugther's generation feels more comfortable in their skin than when I was growing up.

11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent is:

Worrying about whether she's only going to date white guys.

12. The best thing about being part of an APA family is:

You never have to worry about buying an American car.

13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is:

See #6.

14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means:

A lifetime of feeling self-conscious. Unless you're in Hawaii. Or certain parts of California.

I'm tagging Soccer Dad and Daddy Zen.

--Poppa Large

Soccer Dad: Mo Kin Stef

Cute but controversial clip of North Korean 3-year-old Mo Kin killing it on the xylophone. How do you think she got that good?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

If your ears are bleeding or if your head has exploded, I'm sorry.

Chopsticks, reinvented by... IKEA?

A tool at the heart of the Asian- Pacific- American experience: chopsticks.

Do you remember learning how to use them? Do you remember teaching a childhood buddy how to use them? How about teaching a co-worker?

What improvements could one think to make on this most elegant of kitchen tools? Fork, tongs, and skewers condensed down into a diptych of forms so simple that they are barely even objects? Who would attempt such a daunting reinvention?

Well, IKEA, that's who!

I picked up a package of these SMAL chopsticks this weekend. OK, so they look a little like, um, marital aids. But, hey, these little fun nubbly bumps are perfect for picking up those slippery bits of pork adobo. And you gotta love those great IKEA colors, which just drain out all the serious this- is- a- history- of- my- people pretensions that come with fancy chopsticks.

These are chopsticks for the modern APA family, no doubt. And I turn over the package and find they were designed by one Amelia Chong. You go, Asian-Pacific-IKEA-Designer girl!

The APA Parenting Meme

Mombloggers and dadbloggers who happen to be Asian Pacific American (APA) have been sharing their unique experiences at the intersection of race, culture, family and parenting with the blogosphere for a while now.  We [we being Eliaday of the Kimchi Mamas and daddy in a strange land of the Rice Daddies] thought an APA Parenting Meme would be a fun way to open up dialogue and get ideas flowing (for those of us afflicted with writer's block or blog fatigue).  We're not experts, and in no way are we trying to be definitive or essentialist—we just hope that these questions will get us started talking about experiences we have in common as APA parents, things we don't talk about and share enough.  We're posting our answers to this meme on both our solo and group blogs and tagging 3 of our blogging brothas and sistas to represent and then tag some more.  The questions are short, but, like everything, are open to interpretation—as is this meme, so hapas, transracial adoptees, non-Asians who married in, immigrants to 6th-generation, parents of teens or folks still planning their first, you're all game.

I'm tagging MetroDad, Poppa Large, and Lumpyhead's Mom.

1. I am:
Japanese-Jewish-American; hapa yonsei; multiracial Asian American; all of the above; depends...

2. My kids are:
Filipina-Japanese-Jewish-American; multiethnic Asian American; whatever they wanna be

3. I first realized I was APA when:
We had to do projects on family history and cultural background in elementary school

4. People think my name is:
Justin Spielberg; Mr. [wife’s surname that they mispronounce anyway]; Jose (“You mean you don’t speak Spanish? But you look...”)

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
Family mealtime and gatherings around food

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
Our unique blend of Japanese shame and Jewish guilt

7. My child's first word in English was:
Waldo (our dog)

8. My child's first non-English word was:
Hola (as in, “Hola! I’m Dora, and this is my friend Boots!")

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
Baliktad ("backwards" in Tagalog)

10. One thing I love about being an APA parent is:
Looking forward to teaching my daughter to stand up for what she believes in

11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent is:
Dealing with the effects of others’ stereotypes and ignorance on my daughter

12. The best thing about being part of an APA family is:
The importance and strength of the family bond

13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is:
Standing up to prejudice and ignorance within one’s own family

14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means:
Knowing where you’ve been so that you know where you’re going

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Being away from home...

It hasn't even been a week...since I saw my little Pogi and I'm really missing him. I've been in the armpit of Texas--Killeen to be exact. No offense to anyone who lives here, but coming from the hustle and bustle of the DC metro area, this town downright sucks! The only thing keeping this place running is the Army. Which, by the way, is the reason I'm here until the end of the month. I've been here for a little under 2 weeks, and thankfully, I was able to fly home for Father's Day last weekend. There was no way I was going to miss my first Father's Day with my son. It was amazing, by the way, to celebrate my very first Father's Day!

My last trip I had to take for work was last month to Seattle. Since we had never been there, I decided to take the family with me. Let me tell you, 3 weeks was a long time for Pogi to be away from home! It wasn't too bad while we were there, but the adjustment period when we got home was like bringing him home from the hospital right after he was born!

So being that I'd be in Killeen for 3 weeks, we decided to make it a solo trip. Besides, there's nothing for them to do if they came with me. But being away for that first week was tough for me. I had never been away from our Pogi that long. To make things even tougher, when I came home for Father's Day weekend, it took awhile for him to recognize me! I was only gone for a week!

So, my Father's Day present was the new 17" MacBook Pro. Now, I'm able to see our little Pogi everyday, and he can see me through iChat. I'm loving it! It's great to come back to the hotel, logon and see him smiling at me as if I was there in the same room. Technology these gotta love it!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Soccer Dad: Go Spain!

Switzerland 2, Korea 0 :(

And so Korea's run in the World Cup ends, and so does the madness at the empty Korean grocery store. The unofficial South Bay Korean WC party was filled at lunch time today for its decisive game vs. Switzerland. The atmosphere was what soccer fans hoped for: loud and INTO IT. Lots more families and kids. More drummers. Face paint. Dancers. Even Poppa Large made the scene, so hopefully he'll post some pics (does that guy ever NOT have a camera?)

Alas, it was a good run for the Red Devils but disappointing too. At times it felt like watching a continuous loop of reactive playing: "From the defense, clear the ball to the wing man, wing man does fancy step over moves, plays it back to midfield, send ball into the center where it's headed/cleared out. Repeat." They had a few good chances--mostly on free kicks and set plays--but were stymied. I selfishly thought that Korea HAD to score a goal to give all these people who were wasting man hours on a Friday afternoon something to shout about.

But that's the yin and yang of the cup. The Swiss triumph and Koreans lose. That's OK. They'll get theirs vs. Spain in the quarterfinals. Fabregas! Torres! Puyol! Xavi!

Pilseung Espana!


Odd Bits

Gee, Think They're Marketing to Us?:

So I was listening to the XM radio that came with our new car the other day [um, I never mentioned the accident that totalled the station wagon the week before our big trip, right in the middle of the kitchen remodel, making us move up our car-buying schedule from in-a-couple-months to TOMORROW since la dra.'s Jetta wouldn't be able to take all our luggage, the baby, and the dog down to my parents' before our flight? sorry! The Pumpkin and I were fine, btw], tuned into the channel that I think is supposed to be "classic alternative" but really just plays stuff from the early '90s. And this station promo runs, cracking my ass up:

"The music that made you cool then, just like the diaper bag and PTA meetings don't now."


Failure to Communicate:

Puka wrote on Wednesday about how a cashier at the supermarket heard her Korean-Japanese-American toddler babbling and asked if she was...wait for it...speaking Chinese.


I've written here about the whole annoying twin thing before. Puka's story reminded my wife and me of the time, 8 years ago in Rhode Island, that we saw a pair of white parents eating in a restaurant with their TRA Asian toddler daughter, and the waitress asked them, "What do you feed her?" Not like she's taking her order, mind you, but like she's ascertaining the genetic predisposition of Asians to eat rice over bagels (this was a deli). For her part, the kid was happily chomping on tomatoes.

So, anybody got stories?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Homegoing: Travel Safety in the Motherland?

So, staying on this travel/carseat tip we're on, I have a question for you, dear globetrotting readers.

We're planning a big trip to the Philippines in January, the first for both me (after 8 years of marriage to my lovely came-to-the-U.S.-at-age-one wife) and The Pumpkin, who will be just over 2 years old. We'll be with my parents-in-law and my sister-in-law's family, the only part of la dra.'s huge extended family in the States, and we'll be spending almost all our time with said huge extended family in the provinces.

In starting to plan the trip, la dra. was remembering how she and her mom took our nephew, now ten, back with them when he was about the age The Pumpkin will be on this trip. Not being her own kid, and motherhood still just an idea and years away at that, my wife, she is horrified to admit, was not thinking like a parent. She can't really remember how he was on the plane (except for when he mimicked a nearby coughing passenger), and her enduring memories are of how he almost got bitten by a goat he was teasing and how he subsisted on a diet of mangos (fine) and, because of the water quality, Coke (not so fine). Contemplating a similar trip with our babygirl, with all of our anxieties and the precautions they engender, she's really quite amazed that they survived that earlier trip unscathed.

And so, here's the thing that's prompted this post: carseats. They didn't have one for our nephew back then, and being years pre-baby, it didn't even cross my wife's mind at the time. So on every overcrowded jeepney and in every rental car packed with relatives, he sat on her lap. Now, thinking about taking our Pumpkin on a similar trip, our first instinct is, of course, "Duh! Of course we're taking the carseat." [I lug our Britax Roundabout in a bulky backpack thingy, by the way—lots of fun navigating airports with that thing in back and a top-heavy luggage cart in front, I'll tell you. That, of course, is because we've always taken the stroller with us. Maybe, by that age, we'll have to switch to a more portable umbrella stroller? Or take P.L. and F-Bomb's advice and go for the Go Go Kidz? Or maybe just have the relatives take turns passing her around?]

But then, other thoughts creep in. [Don't go gettin' all smackdown on me, CityMama, we're still gonna take one, just hear me out, okay?] First, the issue of logistical practicality. Can't exactly put a Britax in a jeepney, yeah? Okay, we'll probably be renting the biggest van they can find on the island, but still.... Of course, weighed against the potential for a crash with one of those jeepneys [I'm told that traffic signals and laws are seen more as suggestions—kinda like when we lived in Rhode Island]—again, duh.

But here's the trickier one, in which the subtle nuances of culture come into play. Will us, bringing and insisting on using our fancy European carseat, be seen as just another signal that we're self-important, stuck-up Americans? Again, this is not something that would make us not take it, it's just something we hadn't thought about before. And, again, fitting in vs. our baby flying out of a car? Yeah—duh.

So, after all that, here's the question: What have been your experiences in other countries (ancestral homelands or otherwise) with vehicle safety and the use (or not) of carseats? Especially in places where practice, whether due to law or custom, is different from here? [Anybody actually know the situation in the Phils.?]

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Rabbit Dragon and Princess Pony In The House

Hi, this is Larry, I'm your newest Rice Daddy, but in a way I'm one of the oldest. I've been a dad since before the true millennium. My son was born in early 2000, before the Chinese new year. That makes him a Rabbit Dragon. Rabbit Dragon just finished kindergarten last week, but it seems like yesterday he was still toddling around in diapers, screaming "CHAP STICK! CHAP STICK!!!"

I have a little girl too, a princess born in the year of the pony. Princess Pony just showed me her 'Rock Star looks' last night, which she learned from her older friend in preschool. Straight out of the Madonna school of Vogue, three-and-a-half going on sixteen.

My wife C and I met in college and have been inseparable since (I'm waiting for her to tell me what her blog name should be -that should tell you how it works in my family). It's odd that we're both Chinese. Before I met her, I could not conceive of dating someone with a similar background to the one I was busy rebelling against. Since we met, I could not conceive of meeting anyone else who could know me so well.

The years, they go quickly, but some weeks drag on, know what I mean?

I keep a blog at thisislarry, and if you're interested in Eichlers, navel gazing about product design, or custom handbags, check me out there. The good stuff will be here though. Trust me.

So, wow. Me, a Rice Daddy. Thanks to Daddy In A Strange Land for inviting me to step up from the comments page to the big leagues. Hopefully I can provide a little perspective from the the near future, so that those of you with babies can get a head start on freaking out over pre-school dance recitals, baby teeth not falling out, and whatnot.

The spandex team outfit is in the mail, right guys?

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Mile-High Club

Seven lessons learned from traveling on a plane with Owen:

1. An eighteen-month-old needs his/her her own seat on the plane, even if the child spends more time on your lap or in the aisles during the flight, leaving you understandably pissed that you spent almost $800 on an unoccupied seat. In coach.

2. Benadryl may not knock out your kid. In fact, it may produce the opposite effect, and your kid may spend hours shrieking and kicking the back of the seat in front of him/her. Test out the effects of Benadryl at home before you depart for the airport. An added bonus: It's fun and educational to drug your kids.

3. Get the Go Go Kidz attachment for your toddler's car seat. It transforms the car seat into another piece of rolling luggage. (Rolling, screaming, red-faced, occasionally stinky luggage, that is.)

4. Request bulkhead seats. Otherwise, the elderly couple sitting in the row directly in front of your kicking, cranky kid may pummel you and your child before you can disembark. This is especially true if your adorable toddler decides to fiddle with the phone mounted in the headrest of the seat in front of him/her for four fucking hours.

5. Another reason to get bulkhead seats: Proximity to the airplane lavatories, with which you will become (way too) intimately familiar.

6. Do not attempt to change your child's diaper in an airplane lavatory immediately after another passenger has taken a huge crap. (I know this sounds obvious, but we learned this the hard way.)

7. Don't bother packing any reading materials. Leave the laptop at home. Don't bother watching the in-flight movie. Your hands will be full during the flight. And if they aren't, the other passengers probably hate your guts.

The Feel-Good Story of the Week

In the world of elite athletics, there are more than a fair share of Asians who have risen to the top of their sports and gained worldwide recognition. In baseball, there's Ichiro and Hideki Matsui. In football, there's Hines Ward. And, of course, in women's golf, there's Michelle Wie, Se Ri Pak, and a host of South Korean women who seemingly are at the top of the leaderboard every single week.

However, I have to say that my new favorite Asian athlete is none other than Tadd Fujikawa.

What's that, you say? You've never heard of him? Well, pull up a chair and listen up, my friends.

Young Mr. Fujikawa is a 15-year-old Hawaiian high-school golfer who just recently became the youngest golfer to EVER qualify for the U.S Open. Unlike Michelle Wie (who, at 16, already has the physical stature to take on the world's top women golfers), Fujikawa is about 5 feet tall and weighs about 135 pounds soaking wet.

Although he missed the cut, Fujikawa charmed golf fans everywhere this week with his easy-going personality, his smile and his profound love of the game. However, the more interesting part of his story took place 15 years ago at the time of his birth.

You see, Tadd Fujikawa was born more than 3.5 months premature and, at his birth, weighed only 1 pound, 15 ounces! He was given less than a 50% chance of surviving and spent most of his early days in the premature ward of his local hospital. To this day, he has always struggled with his size but has more than made up for his diminutive stature with a heart as big as the Pacific.

You can't be around the kid without noticing his enthusiasm and his enormous heart. In a world filled with jaded professional athletes, it's truly nice to see a young kid swing for the fences with an enormous smile on his face. At least for a week, Tadd brought some joy back into the world of professional sports and helped us remember what it was like to be young again.

So here's to you, Tadd Fujikawa! You're my feel-good story of the week.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day Fellas

Last Father's Day, my wife was not happy. Thanks to my daughter deciding to come 3 weeks early, I got my first Father's Day and my wife had to wait nearly a year before her first Mother's Day. Not fair, claimed my wife. She had carried the child for 9 months and endured 28 hours of labor, yet I was the one who got the day of recognition.

While my wife can't complain this year, she did have a point. As a first time father, I didn't truly appreciate fatherhood last year. While I had changed some diapers, suffered through some sleepness nights, and fed my baby girl, that wasn't much of a record. I was a father in title only. A year later, and having avoided doing serious damage to my child, I can look back with a mixture of relief, pride, and satisfaction.

"Being" a father is more in the "doing" than in the "being." Happy Father's Day Rice-Daddies, and dad, thanks for all you've done for me.

Father's Day

So I was talking to Seattle Post-Intelligencer family reporter Paul Nyhan, who blogs as "Working Dad," as he neared deadline on his Father's Day weekend feature on why dadbloggers blog. [Rice Daddies got a nice shout-out in his introductory litany of blogs with "dad" or "daddy" in the title and in the sidebar list of a sampling of dadblogs, as did our own MetroDad.] He had been asking his essential question to a lot of bloggers, and asked me if I agreed with his composite answer:

"Dads blog because they are curious, isolated and trying to connect with others who are grasping at an idea of fatherhood that is far from models set by their parents and seems to change by the month."

As I've written here and elsewhere, I definitely do what I do because I'm trying to break out of the physical and sociocultural isolation I'm in as a progressive Asian American SAHD in Central Cali suburbia, trying to make connections and both foster and participate in a virtual community with other parents who are reading, writing and sharing their experiences, their triumphs, their challenges. But the other part of the equation that Nyhan's interviewees kept bringing up, the whole thing about not having role models.... I feel lucky, and almost out of place, to say that I can't relate.

I grew up in LA (that's LA-LA, not some suburb) raised by two public school teachers. My mom, born in Tule Lake right before the camps closed to Cali- and Arizona-born Nisei parents, grew up and went to school in a racially diverse Crenshaw district, and went to the local Cal State to become a high school typing and business teacher. My dad, born in LA and raised in the Fairfax district, was the son of a Massachusetts-born Jewish son of immigrants and an LA-born woman whose mother was part of a well-off Scotch-Irish-American Protestant family but whose father not only shared her husband's parents' background but was actually the younger brother of her husband's mother. (Confused? Yes, that means they were first cousins, though one was raised in a Jewish family environment and one was decidely not.) My mom's parents and my dad's dad, for various reasons, didn't go to college, though my dad's mom did go but had to drop out, and both of them had the example of other relatives who were able to go. Out of high school, my dad did a stint at a community college before ditching pre-med plans and continuing at Cal State to become a high school social studies teacher (he and his friends like to joke that the draft made their career choice for them). My parents had mutual friends in college and ended up teaching at the same East LA high school.

I never really heard the story of how they got together (beyond joking retellings of how my mom almost ran my dad over during a teachers' strike, while he was on the picket line and she was crossing it), and if the whole interracial thing had ever caused familial tensions in the beginning (pre-me, I guess), it was never explicitly talked about. I grew up thinking that my family was "normal," if I was even thinking in those terms at all. I grew up in a house in which my mom stayed home but my dad, who was no longer in the classroom and was home not long after school let out each day, still did all the cooking. I still vividly remember the daily routine of my dad sending me upstairs to wake my mom from her afternoon nap to tell her that dinner would be ready in 10 minutes. It was only much, much later that I realized how much of our family "norm"—mom "retiring" from teaching when I was born, dad doing all the cooking, why I was an only child, etc.—was shaped by my mom's health (she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis before I was born) and my dad's concern for it and for her. To me, it was just normal, as was growing up in an interracial family. I was surrounded by family from both sides (we were only ten or so minutes away from both sets of grandparents, still living in the houses in which my parents grew up), and, important in hindsight, surrounded by friends of my parents and their children who were Japanese American, Asian American, interracial and multiracial, people of color. I don't know how much any of this was by design or by accident, whether where we lived or who we surrounded ourselves with were conscious decisions (as they are things that I think about often for my own family and daughter) or just the way things happened because of who my parents were and are. All I know is that all of it, put together, shaped who I was and who I was to become.

If dadbloggers blog because they're trying to make sense of modern fatherhood without "non-traditional" personal role models, or if they're trying to create a role for themselves in opposition to how they were raised by their own fathers, then I guess I never really understood how lucky, or unusual, my environment was. Being a teacher, my dad was home early every afternoon, home on weekends, and summers meant long family adventures together, on the road in our green VW camper-van. Family celebrations seemed to revolve around our house, with my dad cooking and both sides of the family coming together there. Dad was the one who peppered his daily language with Japanese-American catchphrases for things like "bathroom." Dad was the one who cooked almost every meal, who exposed me to PBS cooking shows and the idea that food (even for a picky kid like me) was about more than mere sustenance. And he was the one who put a steaming electric cooker full of white rice on the table more nights than not, who taught me his recipe for teriyaki chicken, who made "okazu" for dinner at least once a week—yes, my white dad who grew up with none of those things, except that never really dawned on me growing up.

This is not to say that we didn't, or don't still, have our arguments, our misunderstandings, even fundamental disagreements or the occasional blow-out (usually my fault). I don't think that he'd call himself the perfect father or say that we had the perfect relationship, but here's what I think his most important, unspoken lesson to me has been. Family is the most important thing, and you do whatever you have to for family, for their happiness and security, their health and safety. And if you take that for granted, if that's just part of who you are as a father and a husband and a son, then no matter what, you try. You try, and you don't give up. If that means you take on family chores or roles that you didn't count on before because your partner physically can't or shouldn't do it, you try. If that means that you check on both your aging, stubborn mother and mother-in-law daily to make sure they're physically okay, you try. If that means that family members having a hard time end up living with you for a while, you try. If that means your not-quite-grown child is having trouble in school but still wants to stay 3,000 miles away from you and your help, you try. And if that means that you have to defend and explain why your mixed-race child is so "into" all this race and identity and social justice stuff to your own aging father, who doesn't get it and doesn't realize his own prejudices, even if you don't always agree with everything your child says or thinks, you try. You "pick your spots," as he always said to me growing up (and which I hated), and you try.

Even now, I don't really know what my father makes of me writing this blog, of publicly positioning myself as an "Asian American dad," and as for the "stay-at-home" part, he doesn't push, but I'm sure he's wondering when I'm "going back to work." But I do know that whatever he thinks of it, he still reads this blog, because it's mine, and because he's my dad, and that's just what you do. When I see my daughter squeal in delight when "ba-ba" (she can't pronounce "grandpa" yet) comes through the door.... All I know is, whatever reasons I blog about fatherhood, not having a role model? That's not one of them.

Thanks, Dad.

Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What's in a (sur)name?

Am I the only one surprised to learn that over 80% of American women still take their husband's surname when they get married? Provided, I've lived in the Bay Area for the last 16 years, which is about as unconventional a region as you can find when it comes to matrimonial practices. However, I always found taking your husband's name to seem like such antiquated practice - sure, it harkens back to "tradition" but so did foot-binding and drowning witches.

It doesn't take a feminist historian to point out the practice is a remnant of both patriarchal societies where women effectively surrender their identities unto their husband and his family as well as an institution of marriage where the act was about consolidating familial power. Ironically, for a practice that once had real material import (however unequal), I can't imagine what the contemporary practical/material value is of the practice except that it might save a little money on stationery and filling out online forms could be a tad faster.

To be sure, I've met some women who just don't care (but their husbands do). Other women see it as a symbolic act (as the NPR story delves into) though it'd be unimaginable to most men to ever consider changing their surname. I have to say, the most rhetorically convincing - though some what cynical - explanation I've heard is that, "who cares? I'm just exchanging one man's surname (my father) for another man's (my husband)."

In the spirit of understanding other cultures, I'm genuinely interested to know:
1) What women out there have or plan to change their surname, and why?
2) What men expect, or at least, desire, for their wives to do the same...and why?
3) What do queer couples do?

Return of the La Leche Legion

I know Father's Day is coming up but I'm writing on the travails of motherhood today, specifically, the trials and tribulations known as breast-feeding. I wrote about this way back when, over the difficulties Sam and I had with the guilt-ridden, anxiety-inducing act of giving baby L some formula right after she came home because Sam's milk production hadn't kicked in yet. I think many women can relate - it f*cking sucks when you feel as if your choices are either 1) starvation or 2) feeding formula as if you were serving up rat poison in a bottle.

Thanks to the NY Times, here we go again. The latest medical wisdom is that breast-feeing is so important that one legislator wanted it printed on formula bottles that not breast-feeding represented a medical and developmental risk for your baby. Aiya!

What I find really astounding in much of the literature on the issue - including in this article itself - is that no one mentions something pretty simple...that being: of course breast-feeding is ideal. Very ideal. You should, if you can at all do it, breast-feed. Ok, we can agree on that principle. But if you have to resort to formula, especially in those early days where breast milk production is potentially low (not all women lactate like Holsteins, particularly in the first few days following giving birth), it's perfectly ok to supplement with formula. The pediatric practice our daughter goes to pretty much says the same thing.

Yet this debate always seems to take on an all-or-nothing quality and I find that rather odd. Is it that people are so afraid that formula use is a slippery slope that they won't even acknowledge times where formula use would be acceptable (such as, y'know, when the baby is starving?) I really don't get it.

Like I said, I'm a big advocate of breast-feeding - and it should be noted, so is my wife since she's actually the one who's done it. L was exclusively raised on breast milk for her first six months and continued to nurse through her first year and I think this was good for her health and development. But I'd seriously want to spare any parent the nightmare of avoiding formula 100% simply out of fear or guilt.

The other issue too - and this is something that the NYT piece acknowledges is that most American businesses are limited in the kind of support they lend to breast-feeding women:
    "urging women to breast-feed exclusively is a tall order in a country where more than 60 percent of mothers of very young children work, federal law requires large companies to provide only 12 weeks' unpaid maternity leave and lactation leave is unheard of. Only a third of large companies provide a private, secure area where women can express breast milk during the workday, and only 7 percent offer on-site or near-site child care, according to a 2005 national study of employers by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute.
As usual, public and business policy lags far, far behind medical wisdom (not the least of which is because it's probably a lot harder to squeeze money out of a mom breast-feeding than it is to pay for formula).

--Poppa Large

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rice Daddies Take Manhattan

So, to say things have been slow around here over the last month is a bit of an understatement—to those of you who both noticed and cared, thank you! [That means you, PeachBoy!] For my part, our kitchen remodel [which is finally done, BTW, and looks awesome] and our 5-places-in-two-weeks Back East Tour [about which there will be more forthcoming on d.i.s.l.] have conspired to keep my writing down to a handful of comments on other blogs. That, and the fact that The Pumpkin, at 19 months, is very much a little kid now, instead of a baby, and has entered her "mandatory audience participation" (read: Daddy, play with me! no computer! NOW!) phase of toddlerhood. [More on that, too, soon, I promise.]

But anyway, one highlight of our Northeast trip was getting to break down the blogosphere's fourth wall and meet up with parentbloggers I had previously known only virtually. In Boston the d.i.s.l. familia got to introduce Eliaday of the Kimchi Mamas to some potential playmates for Tae in their new hood, and then in D.C. (yes, we went everywhere), Lumpyhead's Mom took us on a tour of the Capitol before our combined families terrorized the childless patrons of a really good, really nice, really expensive restaurant (which, surprisingly, had high chairs for both The Pumpkin and Lumpyhead, not that our kid stayed in hers much)—check out LM's post for some cool pix and her always funny take on the visit.

There's been a lot of writing lately in the blogosphere, especially the parentblogosphere, about "why we blog." Stuck in a physical place where I—as a lefty/progressive, early-30s Asian American SAHD—am most definitely out of place, blogging has opened up whole new possibilities for community and exchange that would otherwise not be possible. Since I've been reading parentblogs, it's amazing to find how many have turned out to be written by Asian Americans (or at least parents of Asian Americans), even if traditional "identity" issues aren't on the forefront of the writers' minds every day, or at all. Co-founding Rice Daddies, purposely organizing a group dad blog around a shared panethnic identity, was an amazing opportunity to connect with people, around issues and experiences we all care about, in ways that real life never would have afforded otherwise.

All of which is a roundabout way of getting at this: a highlight among highlights on our recent vacation was the opportunity to meet up with, chat with, and dine with two of my fellow Rice Daddies and their families—the inestimable MetroDad and his daughter Peanut, and the prolific Instant Yang, with his wife, Heather, and son, Hudson. La dra., The Pumpkin, our good college friend who was hosting us in CT, and I met up with the gang at a low-key, kid-friendly TriBeCa cafe (MD's recommendation), and, as they say, a good time was had by all. Peanut and Pumpkin, as they are only a month apart, proceeded to make friends by trying to take each other's stuff and give each other violent hugs. Joined by the elder Hudson, the Rice Kiddies used the mostly empty restaurant as their own private dancefloor, in between sharing (read: stealing) each other's snacks. The adults had a great time hanging out, talking about kids, writing, life, etc., and eating some good food. Only through blogging could I have been sitting there, enjoying a meal with the guy whose own blog inspired me to start mine, and getting writing advice from the guy whose magazine was required reading during my college days as a budding diversity activist, while our wives chatted and our toddlers played nearby. In a vacation full of good days, that was definitely one of them. I am happy and proud to be in the company in which I find myself, both here on Rice Daddies and in the larger de facto "Asian American parent blogosphere" that we are creating anew each day we write.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Soccer Dad: Seeing Red

A quick follow up on the last post. I pulled up to the Galleria around 5:40am and the parking lot was smashed! I could hear the noise going on inside from 100 yards. The viewing party had been moved from the deli to an abandoned grocery store in the shopping center, empty of everything except a dividing wall. Organizers set up two projection units in front of the walls and broadcast the Korean feed of the game. I'd venture that around 300-400 people were up in there. They were banging on Korean drums and percussion, a sound system blasted accelerated, amplified K-pop, and a few very enthusiastic cheerleaders rocked the mic, exhorting the gathered with “Dae Han Min Kuk” (“Korea”) and “Pilseung Korea!” (“Korea must win!” roughly translated). An opportunistic high tech company gave away stacks of Red Devils shirts and bang sticks. A Todai rep was giving away 2-for-1 coupons. It was off the hook.

Togo scored a nice goal and went into halftime with a lead. But when Korea came back from 0-1 to equalize on Chun-Soo Lee’s free kick, the place went berzerk. And when they went ahead on Ahn Jung-Hwan’s score—the permed hero of the 2002 cup who did the speed skating routine when he scored against the USA—I thought my ears would bleed.

What blew me away also was the diversity in age. There were moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents and a few infants—all wearing their Red Devil garb. I spoke with the chief cheerleader and a few younger cats after the game to get their take on this, like why does it take a sports event like the World Cup for first and second generation Koreans to unite? Nobody knew the answer; they just knew it was a profound moment to get everyone together, cheer on their boys and have a good time.

The organizers are predicting 2000 people for the next Korea game vs. France on Sunday. Yay Area Red Devil fans—get there at 11am if you want to experience World Cup madness. And bring your imos and halmonis.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Soccer Dad: Games Begin

An unexpected perk of those early morning wakeups is that Maceo has prepped me for the 2006 World Cup. The games begin at 6am and my eyes pop open around then, out of habit. I get him out of bed, change him and feed him, and turn on the game. Maceo gurgles in my lap, slapping at a mini soccer ball.

I've caught 6 out of 7 games of the opening weekend. We've watched a couple together. I've turned it into an educational opportunity, encouraging his espanol by flipping it to the local Univision channel. It's far more engaging than the vanilla ESPN/ABC coverage, and the whole "golgolgolgolgol" celebrations are super fun. And when soccer isn't on, it's usually some combination of soccer highlights, goofy kids, hot chicks, the Bee guy ("Chesperito") and older men with guts acting silly in red, white and green face paint.

I actually finagled a work-related project where I cover the local ethnic communities and their relationship to the World Cup. Translation: I go to tiny restaurants, pubs, delis and markets and watch games. Friday I was at a British pub to see Germany and Costa Rica. Tuesday I go see Korea play Togo at a Korean deli. In 2002, I got my Red Devils on here and it was a blast.

Can life get any better? Only 59 or so more games to go. Hey people, get caught up in a worldwide phenomenon! Dae Hae Min Kuk! (clap clap clap-clap-clap)