Off-White Humor

This was the year I was going to create a line of Asian greeting cards off of my mother’s recollection of profound (or profane) Chinese aphorisms. (Remember last year’s, “If a man had a conscience, a dog wouldn’t eat his s–t?”)

Unfortunately, there have been quality control issues. For starters, I was concerned the cards would be printed with lead ink. Then I discovered that my mother’s grasp of her native language is a bit rusty. “A thousand grains of rice create a thousand varieties of people,” she announced.

Her sister corrected her. “It’s ‘One grain of rice creates a thousand varieties of people,'” my Aunt said.

Mom’s errors of recall gave me pause as I thought of other “lost in translation” episodes. Earlier this year I told her I bought the CD, “Yo Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone” for my dad. Later she asked me, “What was the CD you bought Dad about ‘Yo Mama?'”

I unfairly pick on my mother when all of us trip over what we say versus what we mean. For the past two years, Paige has been going to speech therapy to improve her articulation. Words like “self,” Paige pronounced as “selth.” One day, her speech teacher sent me a note which read, “Paige is making good progress. Please help her work on her ‘F’ words at home.” Duly noted.

As for the Chinese greeting card line, it likely would have to be marketed as limited-edition cards because my mom hardly mutters Chinese aphorisms anymore. I take it as a sign of growing peace and healing for her… and for all of us.

There’s less time spent looking in the rearview mirror these days. Objects and issues are smaller than they appear. I still struggle with the notion that I know what should happen in my life and what God needs to do to make things just and fair in the world. That mindset usually produces enormous frustration and anxiety because I know what’s supposed to happen, and God isn’t following my directions. When I manage to set aside my arrogance and my expectations and work to relinquish my tight-fisted control, life is surprisingly full of serendipitous joy.

It’s crazy to admit this, but I love my heap of kids and our zany lives. I love our Thursday “backward dinner” nights, where we start our meal with dessert and then work our way back to entrées and vegetables.

I love the kids’ inventive stories of Mr. Mouse. Not sure how that one started, but maybe a year ago all four of them started telling me tales of Mr. Mouse sightings and adventures. Mr. Mouse goes to Daddy and Angela’s house on weekend visitations. Mr. Mouse traveled with us to Disney World, Legoland, Whistler, and Maui this year. Mr. Mouse’s cousin came for a visit. Mr. Mouse only eats steak and drinks root beer.

I think it’s healthy to encourage children’s imaginations and whimsy. At least, I thought that’s what I was doing until I went to retrieve the trash from under the kitchen sink the other week and found mouse droppings there. Now I wonder how many of us really did travel to see Mickey Mouse last spring…

When Paige isn’t singing It’s a Small World, she’s crooning Crocodile Rock or Jesus Loves the Little Children. One day, when she got to the lyrics about the different ethnicities, “Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight,” I had to stop her to ask, “What color are you, Paige?”

“I’m off-white,” my Asian/Caucasian daughter answered. Later, the kids wanted to know more about their heritage. I explained I was 100 percent Chinese, and Daddy was made up of many nationalities from Scottish to American Indian.

“We’re Indian?” they asked.

“Partly,” I answered. A few weeks ago, I heard Katie announce to several people that she was “half Chinese and half idiot.” Just for the record, I didn’t teach her that!

I’ve been blogging here without adhering to those Christmas letter protocols that require me to provide you an update on each child’s age, academic progress, and extracurricular activities. Somewhere along the line, having four kids became the extra-curricular activity so I need to say up front that in terms of encouraging musical skills, my kids sing along with the radio; and we’ve turned carrying groceries from the car to the house into an athletic event.

I’ve referred to their birth certificates and called the district and am pleased to report that Megan is 10, and she does attend school–the 5th grade to be exact. She’s passionate about her friends, books, and the computer.

Ryan and Paige, 6, started kindergarten. They have a great teacher, Mrs. Odman, who spends time not only helping them read and write, but talks to the children about the importance of making “good decisions” in life. The lessons are sinking in because Ryan came home and announced to me that “some girls got into trouble today because they were not making wise choices.”

I’m not sure if this meant his classmates were sniffing glue sticks or if they were simply talking during quiet time, but I’m hoping they grow wiser each day!

Paige chafes at rules and structure. It makes no sense to her that she’s supposed to draw letters instead of hearts and flowers. She brought home her alphabet book to show me her “letter A flower” and her “letter B flower.” The pages contained Paige’s alphabet with leafy stems and petals drawn on each letter.

Katie, the “half idiot,” is 4 and in preschool this year. She uses the functioning side of her brain to drive her siblings crazy.

Oh darn, constrained by paper size, so I’ll spare you stories about me, work, the Chicago marathon, or my dating life. Christmas greetings to all, and to all a good night!

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