Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm half the fan I used to be

Well, I'm not as devastated by last night's Cavs loss as I thought I'd be.

Maybe it's due to some sort of self-preservation mechanism, but I've become a bit numb to these things, you see. Don't get me wrong - I still love my teams. I still want them to win, and I was still swearing up a storm during the final seconds of those heart-stopping playoffs games. But my recovery from the losses was much quicker than I expected. And the intensity of my emotions is much duller.

Admittedly, I'm probably less than half the Cleveland sports fan I used to be. I have vivid memories of the big heartbreaking Cleveland sports moments.

But then something happened to me. I became a mother.

Now, I know plenty of moms who are still rabid sports fans, but for me, the combination of more chaos and deeper sleep deprivation in my life meant something had to give. The first thing to go? My fantasy sports teams. Next up? My coordination of various sports pools*. Following that, I scaled back on mere *participation* in sports pools (with the exception of my March Madness pool with Vic, but that's only because the winner gets a Hassle-Free Fun Day and what mom in her right mind would miss out on the possibility of that?)

It's healthier this way, I think. I don't want my boys to ride the same Cleveland sports fan rollercoaster Vic and I have ridden most of our lives. It may be too late for Nico, I'm afraid. He was in bed when the game started so he didn't get to see any of it. He pounded his fist and stomped his feet when I told him about the outcome of yesterday's game. "SHUCKS!" he cried. "SHUUUUUCKS!" (He hasn't discovered stronger words to use - yet.)

Nolan, I have a feeling, will be much mellower. He's only a year and a half, but he seems naturally mild-mannered. Even though we may have started him down the wrong path by dressing him in Cleveland sports team infant outfits, he seems to take it all in stride.

I still care about Cleveland sports, but I will no longer let team losses sink me into a deep funk. In fact, this morning, I told Vic, "Well, the good news is I can move on to other things and think about having a fun summer."

*Note: This year was an exception.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day = no heartbreakers

For Mothers' Day, Nico gave me three gifts he made in school:
  • a big, red (my favorite color) construction paper card
    The front said, "Happy Mothers day!!" in giant letters with a balloon drawn next to the words. The inside had instructions: "Draw a pitchure, and I'll draw a pitchure!" Then there was the personal message, written in pencil:
    Dear Mommy,
    Happy Mothers day!
    Hope you have a speacteaculer day.
    Hope your not sick too!
  • a beaded keychain
    Nico threaded beads of my favorite color (red) and his favorite colors (blue and black) for this project.
  • a letter
    Nico wrote a message to me in pencil that read:
    To: Mom
    From: Nico
    Dear Mommy,
    Happy Mother's Day!
    I love you because yore my S.P.S.S. [Super Pretty Super Star]. You are the best mom in the world because yore beautiful.

    Next to his signature was a picture of a heart, with a line bissecting it with "Mommy" on on the left half and "Nico" on the right. On one side of the page, he had another interactive area where I was told "(Do it yorself)" and "Draw yourself" next to his "(Do it myself) and "Draw myself". The idea, I guess, was to have a self-portrait of me next to a self-portrait of him. Then there was a picture of a big broken heart with my name and his name on the ripped heart, with a slash through it. I take it to mean "no broken hearts allowed". This makes sense. Whenever Nico is pleased with me, he declares, "You're my superstar!" When he's upset with me, he whispers in my ear, "You're my heartbreaker."
On the back of the letter, Nico drew a heart within a heart within a heart - with at least a dozen layers - labeled "Humungus Heart". He also included a short customer satisfaction survey, which I found interesting, considering what Vic does for a living. It had one simple question: "Do you like it?" with checkboxes for Yes and No.

I checked Yes.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cheers to Chinese School

Today was the last day of Nico's first year of Chinese School. It was a wonderful experience! Nico enjoyed it and was thrilled to have won a second-place trophy in the word-phrase contest two weeks ago.

At first, I wasn't sure if Nico was going to enjoy Chinese School. This past fall, he and I enrolled in a Chinese as a Second Language (CSL) class at the Chinese Academy of Cleveland, a Saturday morning program at Shaker Middle School. For this particular class, a parent must attend the class alongside the child. I was hoping Vic would want to accompany Nico, but it ended up being me.

I already know some Mandarin from going to Chinese School myself when I was a kid, and from taking Chinese in college. With language, though, if you don't use it, you lose it. So I've forgotten a lot, especially reading and writing.

Growing up, my parents mainly spoke a Taiwanese dialect at home; they spoke Mandarin to each other when they didn't want me and my sister to understand what they were saying. Of course, that was a great way to motivate us to learn Mandarin!

For me, there wasn't a choice about going to Chinese School. My parents insisted, and both of them took active roles in running the school. My mom taught a Chinese culture class and at one point, my dad was the principal. So for years, while most of my friends watched Saturday morning cartoons in their pajamas, my sister and I sat through Chinese language and culture classes.

Today's Chinese School is a much more sophisticated operation than the one I remembered from my childhood. Like mine, Nico's school is run by a cadre of dedicated, energetic parent volunteers. But Nico's school has a board of directors, a PTA and a pedagogy committee! My Chinese School only had one curriculum track. Nico's has two, the CSL program and one that is more intensive, comparable to the one I went through.

I didn't think Nico and I were up for an intensive language program, so I registered us for the CSL program. I wasn't sure what to expect from it, but right from the start, I was impressed. Nico's class was rather diverse, with a mix of students from different backgrounds. His teacher was very kind and affectionate toward the students. She engaged them with songs, games and crafts. In just the first three classes, Nico and his classmates could sing two Chinese songs and read and write numerals 1 to 10.

Another great feature of Nico's school? Their snack break is fantastic! This is what happens at Snack Time: After the first hour of class, the bell rings and all the students rush from their classrooms into the cafeteria, where a glorious array of snacks is spread across two lunch tables. The snacks are a mix of Asian hot dishes (e.g. curry chicken, bean thread noodles and fried rice) and American packaged snacks (e.g. pretzels, M&Ms and Capri Sun juice pouches). The students earn coupons during class time they can use to purchase their snacks (or they can just pay with money). I loved that week after week, Nico would use his coupons toward an eclectic Asian American mix of foods (e.g. tea eggs and Cheetos). It might seem like a simple food choice to some, but it's a powerful metaphor to me.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Don't hate the player, hate the game

Wow, I really hit a nerve when I shared the results of my March Madness pool last night.

I know I was majorly late in reporting the results, but I had no idea I would upset anyone in doing so. Last night, I emailed everyone in the pool a gentle reminder: "Hey, you forgot to congratulate the winner of the "March Madness 2009: In It to Win It" pool. Let's not forget our manners! (Yes, I realize I'm superlate with the trash-talking. What can I say? I've been busy.)"

My friend (and former boss), Bob, replied to all: "Seriously. This crosses a line even for you, Lisa. Trash talking a month late is definitely out of bounds. It's like putting your MVP award for little league on your college application." Bob, I should mention, is the director of undergraduate admission at a major university.

So I checked in with Bob, via IM, to see what was up and why he was being so cranky:

me: way to put an admission-related smackdown on my trash-talking
Bob: you deserved at least that much
me: come on
i didn't have a chance to say anything sooner
Bob: W [Editor's note: This is Bob's shorthand for "whatever"]
me: don't hate
Bob: if you truly believe in the trash you're talking, you make the chance
wow, you should sell that to someone

After my exchange with Bob, a few other friends chimed into the email thread. To all of them, I say, "
Don't hate the player, hate the game." As Urban Dictionary explains, "Do not fault the successful participant in a flawed system; try instead to discern and rebuke that aspect of its organization which allows or encourages the behavior that has provoked your displeasure."

It's lonely at the top. Everyone wants to bring you down.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

March Madness (in May)

So I realize I'm quite late in reporting this, but with NBA playoffs taking place now, I'm in a basketball mood again. And I realized that I had not shared the the results of my March Madness pool.

This year, my friends Bob and Jonathan coerced me into running the pool once again, despite the fact that I'm the one who is married with children. (What do you do when you want something to get done now and done right? Ask Mom!)

Anyhow, I ran the pool via Facebook, which turned out to be pretty easy. In the past, I collected paper brackets and there were always stragglers who tried to turn in picks after the first round started. With Facebook? No muss, no fuss.

Check out who won the pool.