Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flowers in the window

Click photo and play song while reading post.

Every parent feels their child is special. And it is true. Our children are better than the above-average children of Lake Wobegon.

There's the seed of life in each child that was given to us, that was given to them, and that (with luck and hope) will be given to our grandchildren.

It is with no surprise then, that when we feel our child has been treated unfairly, without care, or with a tougher hand than needed, we are outraged, frustrated, and vigilant.

For those who have been following on my blog, Noodle has had a rough transition to the new school year.

Week 6, and minor improvements have been made, with some behavior modification at home, and hopefully at school. I got a rewards chart for Noodle to fill out, and to see her progress in a visual way, about how good she has been behaving not only at school, but also at home. I believe it has helped, and she is happier in the afternoon, peppier (if that is a word) in the morning, and no longer on RED during school.

But, do you know who makes the worst parents of school-age students? Teachers.

Yes, teachers, who think they know it all, come into their parent/teacher (or would it be teacher/teacher) conferences with their bag of educational lingo in tow, and their child psychology notes tucked beneath their arms. During these stand offs, the two generals fling empty jargon at each other while the other deflects it with theoretical education prattle.

I am one of those parents. I've seen the studies, done the research, know my spiel.

And so, I write notes. I write notes that tell the teacher it is unfair to isolate my gifted child from the other children because she is talking excessively or fidgeting too much. I say it with the kindness of ten thousand acolytes. But, what I mean is that my child is bored with your slow-paced teaching style and wants something else to do.

I write suggestions on moving my gifted child to the front of the class near the teacher, hinting that it will help my child focus (as other teachers have done, and had her become classroom helper since she always finished first). But, the teacher responds that my child needs to be alone at times to focus on her work.

So yes, the Noodle and I forge on, practicing at home, brushing up on her skills. Showing off her prowess to write neatly, think clearly, do addition and subtraction, and even brush her teeth.

As a teacher and a father, I've sometimes been too angry at a child. Mine, and others. But, I've always kept in mind that these are young people who are forming ideas about what life is all about, and I've never isolated a child by their self in order to keep my own cool. Sure, I've asked a teenager to leave the room before, but not for days.

I truly believe setting a classroom environment where one child is set apart can create low self-esteem, feelings of depression, and an unwillingness to learn. It also ostracizes the child from the other children who are potentially their friends, and this in turn can create that much dreaded clique formation. Plus, child are vicious and can make fun of each other in cruel ways.

So am I overreacting when I feel that this teacher may be treating my child differently? I'm sure there are other children in that class who act up. Yet, when I visited I only saw one desk aside, and that was Noodle's. It made my heart drop, my anger swell, and my "bad-teacher-radar" go off. Sure, tough teachers are needed. I'm a tough teacher. But patient and understanding teachers are important.

I've seen studies that suggest children of minorities, especially Asians because of their stereotype of high-performance, are treated differently in schools. For example, if children who don't meet the teacher's preconceived notion of what that child should do, the teacher is often harder on that child.

I do wonder if any of you have faced that type of high expectation frustration?

Either way, the note was sent in, and the teacher wrote back that she will be more sensitive to the needs of Noodle. I hope so. Otherwise, she's an aphid on my flower, and I shall send swarms of ladybugs to destroy her aphid colony.

You know, there are times when you water too much? And you just hope that the flower won't drown.

Of course, there is a new fear on the horizon. Seems the Noodle told her mommy, "I'm allergic to toes."

Tough actin' Tinactin!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Philippines is a Nation full of Uncle Toms

While we were in the Philippines earlier this month, we were told to keep our 20 month old daughter out of the pool until after the wedding in which she'd serve as a flower girl.
I asked, "Why?"
"Soo dat she weel not git too dark!"
"What the hell is wrong with being dark?"
Then my ignorant mother chimed in, "Oh, don't worry, she'll be able to recover in the fall and winter."
How dare they impose such backward, third-world thinking on our young daughter!?! What kind of impact does this have on a whole nation, when its population of brown people are bombarded with such self-loathing messages from cradle to grave?
Every time I go to the Philippines, I am blown away by Filipinos' shame at their brownness, as evidenced by the vast expanse of whitening products at Mercury Drug and Watsons. And it's no longer enough just to be white, now Ponds has a new product that promises a "pinkish white glow". These companies are making a killing off of our people's self-loathing.
This is going to seem harsh, but it needs to be said: the Philippines will continue to be a filthy, backwards third world country with little to take pride in unless our people stop being ashamed of what we are: BROWN. Aspiring for whiteness consumes economic and emotional resources that would be much better focused on improving health, sanitation, infrastructure, fighting the abuse/trafficking of women, improving science and math education, OFWs and the social impact on their children, etc.

Until we stop being a bunch of Uncle Toms, we will lack the cultural self-esteem necessary to elevate our people to greatness. Speaking of which, check out this other photo: a chicken and ribs joint in Iloilo City, Philippines... For a bunch of people who don't want to be "itim" (black) , we seem to like soul food staples quite a bit.
It's worth noting that some of those whitening products contain mercury and/or lead. I'm not sure of the effects of mercury poisoning, but I do know that lead poisoning can lead to serious mental impairment. I guess that would explain why many Filipinos lack the mental capacity to vote for anyone other than their favorite actors and pop singers. And we thought American politics was entertaining!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Since Nine-Eleven

Simultaneously posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk.

It rained heavily the night before the Tuesday the planes hit the World Trade Center towers. My wife and I got into a huge argument. I don't remember exactly what we argued about. Only that we had argued about it before and that the absurdity of the argument was that it didn't have anything directly to do with either her or me. Despite this, we argued passionately about it.

The next morning was cool and sunny. We decided that arguing about absurd topics that had no direct impact on our lives was just plain absurd and very draining. We decided to leave the house together and take the train downtown. I was on my way to work and she was on her way to Borders in the Trade Center. She was going to spend the morning reading and we were going to meet for lunch.

We were running late and felt the ground shake outside the subway station on Delancey. There was a loud Boom! We thought something had happened on the bridge. We were near the Williamsburg. Then someone pointed at one of the towers of the World Trade. We saw smoke. At the time we were told it was a Cesna. Aaliyah had died the summer before. We walked on.

We turned around on the edge of Chinatown. By the court house where Chinatown becomes City Hall and the Financial District. By the time we walked back home, the first Tower fell. We watched the second Tower fall on TV. My wife cried. I was in denial. It was just the drama of smoke from the fire clouding up the television camera.

I don't remember the Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. I remember the pillar of smoke rising from the site where the World Trade stood. And I remember the wind brought it up through the Lower Eastside. My wife and I shut the windows but could not escape the smell. Burning tar mixed with the uneasy sweetness I remember from a field trip to a crematorium that I took in high school. The name of the class was "Death and Dying."

That Saturday, my wife told me she was pregnant. We had spoke about children but actually having one seemed so far away. We took a week to sit on the situation, to decide what we were going to do. The following 9/11, I took the day off. It was windy and overcast. My wife and I wandered around town the entire day, pushing our eldest in his stroller. We sat at the Chelsea Market and had coffee before turning back for home.

Last year I attended a workshop at the New York Historical Society called Objects & Memory. It got me thinking about "artifacts" and the memorabilia we keep close to us and the souvenirs that don't mean as much.

Since 9/11/2001, I haven't given the day much thought. Disgusted by the bickering over the memorial, the xenophobia, and the unpunished attacks on friends in the Muslim community. It was life as usual September 11, 2003. It wasn't until last year that I was reminded of the significance of the event. I told myself that I would not let all the negative things about the aftermath of 9/11 dissuade me from memorializing all the positive things that day took away and celebrating the positive things that have occurred since.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

From Ma to You*

*Simultaneously posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk.

Forty-something years old and my mother still knows which buttons to push to upset me.

At best, I tolerate my parents. My relationships with each has its own conditions. I say this not because I do not love and respect my parents.

I love and respect my parents very much. Especially now, being a parent myself, I appreciate the sacrifices they made to present me with the choices I had in my high school and college years (those formative years when I acknowledged an identity separate from my parents).

I say this because it is true. It is more my mother than my father. My father is pretty much a benign presence in my life. We have little to say to each other and speak only occasionally and sometimes dispense with direct communication entirely; preferring instead to use my sister as a conduit.

My mother on the other hand is aggressive and controlling. While I am sure she has the best intentions, those intentions regardless how sweet are soured by the force with which she drives them down my throat. And it is not enough that you nod in agreement but you must be in complete agreement in method as well as manner. I joke that my mother and I can't spend more than two hours in the same room before we start arguing.

And still I tell my children they are lucky to have three sets of living grandparents (my parents are divorced and both remarried).

I agree with Dr. Ensor (as quoted by Allison Stacy) when she says grandparents provide grandchildren with "love, a sense of their roots and the wisdom of a senior's life experience — all of which can contribute to a happier, healthier life." I am one of those the author points out who asks, "I wish I'd asked my grandparents about that before they died."

However, all the positives that grandparents bring to the lives of my nuclear family (mommy, babies, and me) come at an emotional cost. My mother and I disagree over a number of life and parenting topics. My father and I disagree also but he is not as an aggressive a personality as my mother. My mother is the one that really makes me pay in Tylenol and antacids.

We disagree on a number of life and parenting issues. I insist she is playing favorites with my children. She insists she isn't. She insists I am denying my children a good education by not moving into the suburbs. I insist that the city diverse in culture is a perfect place to raise children. I insist her germ phobia is detrimental to my children and self destructive for her. She insists that she is not germ phobic and that I am dirty and careless with the health and welfare of my children. And so on.

Perhaps it really is as simple as a generation gap. Perhaps we are too much alike and I am too much like my father in all the wrong ways. Perhaps this conflict is inevitable like children rebelling and hating school. Regardless of what the causes are, prolonged interactions with my mother make both her and me miserable.

Dr. Spock (Yes, the Dr. Spock of 40's child development fame), provides a whole section on grandparent-parent-child relationships on his company's web site. Just skimming the advice given, you can correctly conclude that it is not disrespectful to say, No, to your children's grandparents - In fact you have a duty to! And it is important to set boundaries from the beginning.

Just as an interesting Did you know? I found this article by Paul W. Schenk, Psy.D. on how to "Teach Your Parents to Stop Nagging." Though intended for teenagers, I find much of the advice still applicable in my relationship with my parents despite the decades that have passed.

And wonder how well I will fill my mother's role in the lives of my children and their children? Will I be a hoped for poor replacement? Or will I fill the role completely much to the chagrin of my children?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Get a Rice Baby for that new Rice Daddy

photo from

Here's a thoughtful gift for that new rice daddy in your life.

From a second-hand description someone forwarded me, maybe from trendwatching, (the original site's in Japanese):

"Yosimiya is selling bags of rice printed with a newborn's photo, name and date of birth. The bags are shaped to resemble a swaddled baby. But the key feature is that the bags contain the baby's exact weight in rice. Holding the bag will therefore feel like holding the baby. Bags of rice with baby's photos printed on them aren't new in Japan, by Yosimiya is the first to make them to order, creating bags that match the baby's size and weight."


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

LPGA - Language Police

Okay, I haven't been to the blog for a while, but I'm shocked not to see any comment on the LPGA's (women's professional golf tour) looming decision to enforce an "English proficiency test" for all tour members. Players that can't pass the test will be "suspended" from the tour! This conjures up ethnic studies images of S.I. Hayakawa and the English Only movement. My favorite line is when the LPGA commissioner claims she is shocked by the negative reaction, saying, " We thought this was pro-international." Who needs globalization when you can have hegemony? Arguments are made that it would help with American sponsors (ever think of getting some Korean sponsors?)

Many commentators note that international players have dominated the tour of late, winning 19 of the last 24 tournaments, particularly Asian players, especially from South Korea that boasts 45 players on tour. As an educator of English Language Learners, I'm fascinated by what this test will look like. Is it simply oral? Is there a written or reading portion? Will they have different versions so players won't just cheat or learn the answers like DMV test? What qualifies for proficiency? Will the vocabulary section be confined simply to golf nomenclature or encompass all sports cliches: "I was seeing the ball well today," "It's anyone's tournament." Or will it be to the level of including must-have Tiger-like idioms like, "I've been waiting for some putts to drop and for the ball to see the hole" or "the course was a monster today, made players make some difficult choices on the risk-reward scale, luckily I was able work my high fade right to left on the tough 17th dogleg?"

Monday, September 01, 2008

Asian American Males Fantasy

Okay, this is an article in which I can't believe the research. Stephen A. cites industry research states that only whites, to the tune of 93% of fantasy sports followers or ("general managers" as we like to be referred), participate in fantasy football, baseball, and that ilk which extends all the way to NASCAR and Ultimate Fighting.

The article pegs Asians at 1.1% What?? Okay, the 2006 census puts us at 4.9% of the population but the number is still too low. Every Asian American male (except Jason) I know participates in fantasy sports (especially fantasy football which is all I have time for because baseball and basketball should be more realistically thought of as second full-time jobs since they require more daily maintenance than a 17-year old.)

The intersection of free time at computers with high speed internet, copious statistical analysis, and virtually participation in sports are all calling cards for Asian American males. We have got to be as statistically overrepresented as we are in higher education. What's next, we don't gamble or play video games? Ask what the real guy (Asian not Jim Sturgess) from the "21" movie about MIT students cheating in gambling is actually doing now. That's right writing software for fantasy football. That's what I'm talking about!

Todd Palin - Alpha Male Rice Daddy?

Okay the dude, actually he likes to be referred to as "first dude," which does sound better than "first gentleman" of Alaska and husband of Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate. He is 1/4 Yu'pik Eskimo, that qualifies him to be "rice" enough. If he really is doing all that they say he is doing, he is a Daddy God.

First, they have 5 children. I have a hard time just fathoming that having my hands full with one and possibly two to be. From 19 to 4 months, his last when his wife was governor at age 44. Their youngest, Trig (they all have kind of cool names, one is "Track"), has Down's Syndrome. I can't imagine the challenge that must be with four kids already, although two are pretty much grown. Although with the 17 year old announcing she is pregnant, she is grown enough to provide Todd with a grandchild as well. He still has at least a 14 year old and 7 year old at home along with the 4 month old with Downs.

He is three-time champion of the Tesoro Iron Dog Snowmobile race which is the Iditorod course and then further to Anchorage. He trains at night and in the mornings when kids are asleep (do 4 mo year olds sleep through the night?) Unlike every other governor first "dude," he is blue collar. He works two jobs in fact. One at BP oil company and then summers as a commercial salmon fisher, making about $40 K for each job. He tried not to work at BP because of conflict of interest allegations that his wife was negotiating with BP. According to wikipedia, he went back to BP because his family "needed the money" but not as a supervisor but a processor, (I guess his wife makes somewhere around "$120 K" for being governor [according to stateline in 2007] but I'm not sure if this was before or after she voted to reduce her salary.)

His wife still breast pumps at night and acknowledges she doesn't sleep much, but I guess either does he if he is training and taking care of 5 kids. His wife famously returned to work 3 days after giving birth to Trig. With all the new responsibilities of running for vice-president along with governing the largest state in the union, I'm guessing more of the parenting load must be falling on Todd, this along with mentoring his daughter who is going through pregnancy and having her first child. He must have day care or grandparent help, but am I the only working parent curious how they can possibly manage all this or what their daily schedule must look like just logistically? Move over Duggars and Jon and Kate plus 8, you've got nothing on the Palins.