Hoppy Thanksgiving

Once upon a time, Mama and Papa Kim came to the United States in search of fulfilling the American Dream. Back then, Thanksgiving only meant that we stayed at home for two extra days during a weekend when nothing was open. There didn’t seem to be a point of celebrating a group of people who successfully survived a year in a new land when they had done so themselves.

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“What’s so great about crossing the ocean blue? We did it too.” – Mama and Papa Kim

Before my mother discovered she was actually great at making turkey or my father realized just how weird cheese is, we really didn’t do much on Thanksgiving. Well there was this one time. I had just been introduced to mac and cheese and was convinced our local Denny’s was the place to go, so I dragged everyone there only to find out that their claim to fame was not very good pancakes and even less good eggs. We were the only family that was there because we had no idea what Thanksgiving about – everybody else was just there because they were too lazy to cook. Turns out it was the Sizzler’s across the street that had mac and cheese. My palette was clearly very refined for a five year old.

But one day, Mama Kim had an epiphany about the holiday and somehow over the course of one Thanksgiving to the next, she got very Ina Garten on us and pulled out all the stops so that we could be like real white people, eating mashed potatoes, preserving cranberries, and buying Cool Whip for pumpkin pie. And like real white people, she stayed true to all of her recipes, using the same ones year after year once we got into the swing of How Thanksgiving Works. The only thing she switched up annually was her stuffing, which she perused the Internet frequently in search of something new. This year, she tasked me with finding the recipe, and she decided to do something with jalapenos and cheese. I think she was trying to kill my dad.

Mama Kim: “Hi, I am at the store right now and I am buying all of the ingredients. The stuffing recipe though, is asking for a large beer. How big is a large beer, and how am I supposed to know how much to put in?”
Me: “A…large beer? I’ve never heard of that. I don’t even remember seeing that on the recipe I gave you. Does it say what brand? Or mention another unit, like ounce or cup?”
Mama Kim: “No, it just says a ‘large beer,’ but nothing spec-”
Me: “OH MY GOD, are you talking about a lager beer!?”
Mama Kim: “I still don’t know what that is.”

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“Add one cup of a large beer. Small beer will not work.”

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Different Strokes for Different Folks

At one point last year, our family found ourselves spread across five cities in four different countries, making us pros at utilizing group chats to keep us on the same page about life – which usually translated to updates about work and bills. Sometimes relationships. But mostly work and bills. Because you know, my siblings and I wanted to show our parents we were real adults. Real adults that would rather answer 25 questions about our professions than one question about getting married.

All time zones considered, we kept up with staying in touch as best as we could. Each one of us would contribute every once in a while so that the others would be aware of what was happening in our everyday lives.

My dad: “I just landed at the airport. Traveling this week for work.” *Insert commentary about his flight*
My mom: “Came back from lunch with your grandparents!” *Insert 10 pictures of a 45-minute meal*
Me: “Awful weekend at work.” *Insert rant about hotel guests who can’t believe we no longer serve the guava juice they had during their last stay seven years ago*
My sister: “It is so hot here.” *Nothing further to insert*

Everyone's combined contributions

Everyone’s combined contributions

On more than one occasion, however, my brother would be missing from action. Too often we would sign off for the day and ask each other where he was, as if we could actually know when we were anywhere from 250-6000 miles away from the next person.

Yep, pretty much

Yep, pretty much

After teetering on the brink of filing a missing persons report (“Hello, where are you?” “Has anyone seen him?” “WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME ANYONE TALKED TO HIM!?”), we would finally get a response days later. Sometimes weeks. This usually came after a menacing message from my father about the importance of timely communication and the poor reputation of unreliability my brother was building for himself, thus resulting in a Great American Novel of a text message. All of a sudden, I knew EVERYTHING about my brother. What classes he was taking, how often he was working, when his bowels were moving – more than I’d ever wanted to know.

Apparently, I was not the only one who felt this way.

My dad: “Thank you for getting back to us. Good to hear you are doing well. However, you should know that with the number of keystrokes you used to produce that text message, it would have been more efficient to just send an email.”

Sharing Is Caring

Growing up, trophies for places other than first and ribbons for participation were acknowledged but otherwise overlooked. When my sports team earned a 3rd place trophy, the only reason it was kept was because the cost of the thing was built into the enrollment fee. When I received a finisher’s ribbon for completing a 50-yard race of butterfly, it meant only two things –

  1. My arms and legs were working fine as my pediatrician predicted, and
  2. I was not fat, as my pediatrician was concerned about.

Being successful in such endeavors had several benefits –

  • Fulfilling expectations for personal enrichment and growth,
  • Assuring that my parents’ time and money were not completely wasted, and
  • Making my parents look at least okay when comparing their kids with their friends’

Recently, however, Mama Kim has started to become more involved in the B+ kind of moments in my and my siblings’ lives. It used to be about informing the parentals about just the topic sentence, but for once we were starting to be asked about the filler “fluff.” This sudden 100-degree change (let’s be realistic – it wasn’t like the three of us were screwing up so much we needed all 180) had us slightly alarmed, but we attributed it to the fact that we had all flown the coop in a short period of time and she was making an effort to keep us close.

My mom (to my sister): Hi! How has your vacation in Australia been?
My sister: Pretty good. We’re leaving Sydney early to go to the Maldives.
My mom: Oh, really? How come? What time did you wake up? When is your flight? How are you getting to the airport? Do you have a hotel booked in the Maldives already since you’re getting there early? What is Sydney like? Is it a direct flight? Will there be a meal served on the flight? What is the food like in Australia? Did you only eat Western food? What language is spoken in the Maldives?
My sister: We are leaving in 15 minutes. I have to go now, bye!

Keeping open the lines of communication

Keeping open the lines of communication

As I consoled my mother and tried to convince her that my sister had been in a rush and wasn’t ignoring her, I tried to empathize and asked her if maybe playing 20 Questions was not the most effective form of communication.

“We are family! Family is supposed to share all of the details in each other’s lives, even if it is not important! Just think, if we only talked about the important events in our lives, your brother would never have anything to say to us!!!

One of a Kind, With Three In Mind

As the eldest of three children I’ve always been an advocate against having an odd number of children. Here’s why.

  1. Disneyland. Space Mountain only has seats in rows of 2. Meaning someone has to either sit solo, or with a weirdo.
  2. Ski lifts. While these are designed to seat up to 4 people sometimes, I’ve seen pairs of siblings zip down the mountain with no regard for the progress of the last sister (um, or brother).

I’m not saying that either of the above have happened to me SPECIFICALLY, but I may or may not have had personal experience in witnessing these scenarios with my own two eyes. On top of all of this comes the problem of a lack of identity. At work, I’ve managed teams of up to 1,100 employees, so to keep track of three offspring doesn’t seem to be too much to ask, but sometimes, maybe it is.

My dad: “One of you, please get me the TV remote. Hello? Um, um…JENDY! The remote!”

None of us is named Jendy. I’m Sandy. My sister is Jamie. And my brother is Dennis. Our dog’s name is Soba.

Now that our family of five is spread across three continents, staying in touch is a combination of messaging, emails, and FaceTime. After a few weeks of limited communication due to everyone’s work and travel plus the time differences, an alert popped up on my phone, notifying me of a new message from my dad.

My dad: “Happy birthday.”
Me: “Wrong kid.”

Some time passed before I get another message.

My dad: “You are <insert my correct birthday here>? So sorry…”

Life goes on.

Life goes on.

 

iStudy for iPads

Growing up, there were a few things that I was petrified of saying to my parents.

“Mom and Dad, I got in a car accident.”
“Mom and Dad, I got a B this semester in math.”
“Mom and Dad, I started seeing someone.”

And then there were those things I would never, EVER say to them.

“Mom and Dad, what if I didn’t go to college?”

Oh, no. No, no, no. As the offspring of immigrants, we knew from day one that first comes college, then comes love, then comes marriage and the rest of that K-I-S-S-I-N-G song. “Not going” was simply “not applicable.”

Is there ever such a thing as "too much" homework?

How come parents don’t believe in a thing called “too much homework”?

My younger sister Jamie and I both had a pretty clear idea of either where we wanted to go or what we wanted to study by the end of high school, so the college application process for us was relatively painless. Our brother, on the other hand, was as undecided as it could get.

“I’m a great coach and tutor, so maybe I want to be a teacher. But I know I’m also good with people, so maybe I should go into hotel management like you, Sandy. I really like my psychology class that I’m taking now, though, do you think I should major in psych? I have an interest in photography too, suppose I studied art?”

Needless to say, the above conversation was just about what to study. We hadn’t even yet reached the point of where to study. Eventually we made it there, and soon it became the anticipated waiting game for acceptance (and unfortunately, rejection) letters. When the time came to select a campus, Jamie felt it would be helpful to offer some insight into how she ended up at the school that she did.

My sister: “I chose the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for the free education and the chance to serve my country.”
My brother: “Yes, but the University of Arizona will give me a free iPad if I go there.”

Priorities made in 'Murrica.

Keeping it real, only in ‘Murrica.

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That

When my sister expressed an interest a few years ago in attending the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the rest of us weren’t sure how to process this information. Not because we thought she was crazy, but because all we heard was, “Aakboir42onvbjfl cviornkb 309bkke.” It wasn’t until she returned home for the first time after enrolling that we really begin to see just how different a military school was from a “normal” university.

We listened in horror as she relayed tales of what essentially translated to just a lot of marching and a whole lot more of yelling. We leaned in as she told us about having to turn corners in the hallways at 90 degree angles, eating meals while being able to look forward only, and memorizing the day’s meals for recitation to her superiors. I’m pretty sure we just call this “hazing” as civilians.

To top it all off, we also learned that failure to meet the academy’s expectations would result in, um, coaching opportunities that included staying on patrol duty longer or keeping doors to one’s dorm open later.

My sister: “I had a classmate who played a prank on one of the kids in my class.”
My dad: “Did anything happen to her?”
My sister: “Oh yeah. She was required to stay in uniform until 2200 for three weeks.”
Me, my dad, and my brother (in unison): “Ohhh.”

Only 2008

Timeless. We were literally TIMELESS.

My mom: “What do you mean, ‘until 2200’? But it’s only 2008 right now!”

One Bag of Rice

Any participating member of society has heard at some point of the misery the male species has suffered at the hands of their female counterparts when out shopping. Let us not forget, however, of another demographic that remains equally afflicted – if not more – from obligatory participation in retail therapy yet has no voice to champion their cause: children whose parents bring them along for this “pastime.”

As a child, my siblings and I would be frequently taken to the Asian mecca of western suburbia, 99 Ranch Market, under the ruse that my mother only needed “one bag of rice.” 3 pounds of Fuji apples, a 6-pack of udon noodles, a package of pork balls, several sheets of fish cake, enough garlic to ward off Dracula, and multiple bunches of scallions later, we would emerge.

This looks like a cartoon, but it is actually a photograph.

This looks like a cartoon, but it is actually a photograph.

“One bag of rice.” Please.

So when my younger brother Dennis and Jamie sister returned with what looked like every fiber of their core sucked from their beings after a trip to the outlet stores with my mother, I knew exactly what happened.

My sister: “Mom said we were going to two stores, J. Crew and Banana Republic. Two. Stores. Do you KNOW where we ended up going to? J. Crew and Banana Republic, AND THEN to Tumi, Armani Exchange, Gap, Vans, and Nike.”
My mom: “Well J. Crew was closed, so it didn’t count in the quota!”
My sister: “Do you KNOW what Dennis and I did at Gap!? We waited in line. So that Mom wouldn’t have to. And do you KNOW what she bought!? One pair of pants. ONE.”

Looks like shopping with our mother in 2013 is exactly like it was in 1993.

How Deep Is Your Love

Young love.

Those are the words that cross my mind when I listen to my brother discuss his romantic dates at Chipotle, stay up to an ungodly hour texting, or ask for permission to go to Disneyland. For the parentals, however, this is a new and unorthodox form of courtship that in conjunction with the cultural differences, is helped even less by the generation gap. Both my brother and my father learned of this harsh reality recently when they managed to be in the same vicinity at the same time.

So I wasn't a graphic design major in college. This was the best I could do.

So I wasn’t a graphic design major in college. This was the best I could do. I call this piece “Young Love.”

My dad: What’s that on your neck?
My brother: A bruise.
My dad: What happened?
My brother: I fell while dancing (my brofus is big on b-boy dancing).
My dad: Oh. Well it doesn’t look like a bruise. It looks like someone…pinched your neck or something.

30 MINUTES LATER

My dad (to nobody in particular): Oh. I think I know what that is.

As my sister rehashed this encounter to me, she mused, “In retrospect, I’m not sure if he figured it out, but I’m guessing he did because he just never talked about it again.”

Dog Sitting Duty

A recent whirlwind of activity in our extended family had my father flying to South Korea and my mother being whisked off to Taiwan, so while the two of them were prancing through their respective motherlands, I returned home to care for their two pets: our dog Soba and my brother Dennis.

Pet #1: our mutt of a pooch Soba

Pet #1: our mutt of a pooch Soba

Upon my initial assessment of the living conditions of my 18-year-old hermano, I found that I could confidently report back to Mama and Papa Kim that the house was still very much livable and they had nothing to worry about in regards to the value of their home depreciating during their brief absence. The sink wasn’t overflowing, there was food in the refrigerator, and the house was otherwise still standing. As I started honing in on smaller details however, I realized that I was in the sequel of One and a Half Men, an earlier post about my dad and brother’s bachelor lifestyle sans Mama Kim.

First was his excellent choice in diet. When I came home, he was occupied with his new laptop in the living room, accompanied only by a single jar of Nutella. That’s it. No complex carbohydrates to accompany it, no spoon in sight, NOTHING.

Hello there, jar of Nutella creeping in the back

Hello there, jar of Nutella creeping in the back

I waved it off, figuring everybody knows about Nutella’s healing properties. As far as I was concerned, this was brilliant on my brother’s part while being home alone. A full jar of the stuff with no adult supervision? Well played. I moved onto the refrigerator, and as I was helping myself to some leftover spaghetti my mother had produced in mass quantities out of fear of my brother’s starvation, I froze at the sight of a large plastic glove lodged in the Tupperwared noodles.

Me: Um, hello sir. Are you aware that there is a plastic GLOVE in the spaghetti!?
My brother: Yes.
Me: Well, what is DOING in here?
My brother: Well (clears throat), by using the glove, I can scoop the noodles and then mix it together with the sauce without having to use utensils. It saves a lot of time, you know. You should try it!

I spy a glove in the midst of the spaghetti

A UFO: Unidentified Flimsy Object in the midst of the spaghetti

Whoever said technology is complicating modern times was obviously out of touch with the simple life hacks my brother had devised. As I pulled the pasta out from the microwave, Dennis was sweet enough to wish me, “Bon appetit!”

Hmm that’s weird, his enunciation must’ve been off because it came out sounding like, “By the way, I will not be doing the dishes for you.”

One and a Half Men

Growing up, my mom’s frequent trips to Taiwan usually meant a few things:

  1. Unsupervised TV for as long as my siblings and I wanted until our eyeballs fell out
  2. Contests with the aforementioned people to see who could go the longest without taking a shower before our dad noticed (I know, we were so gross)
  3. Candy with our packed dumpling lunches everyday because our father didn’t want our classmates to keel over from our ensuing garlic breath

In a recent return home to visit my dad and brother, I observed the details in the house that suggested they were trying to function as best and as normally as possible without our family matriarch present, as she was again visiting Taiwan, this time to celebrate our grandfather’s 80th birthday.

Peering over the kitchen table, I saw a series of back-and-forth handwritten messages between my dad and my brother as if the text message had never been invented.

My brother: Took the dog out for a walk. April 3
My dad: Fed the dog. April 3
My brother: Can I go to [our cousin] James’ house to play video games? I will be back by midnight. April 4
My dad: Yes. Don’t forget to walk the dog though. April 4
My brother: I walked the dog. See you later. April 4

On my first night back, my dad came to chat with me in my room, holding a wine bottle in his hand. Just as I was getting ready to tell myself how good it was to be home, I realized he’d only brought glassware for himself. Well all right then. While setting the bottle down, I saw that his drink ware of choice, however, was a mug.

Me: Why are you drinking wine out of a mug!?
My dad: Because then I don’t have to wash another glass. When your brother and I are home alone, we are very efficient.
Me: What are you talking about.
My dad: For example, we just keep using the same plate until it needs to be washed. And we feel very good about it.

As I listened to my father continue about the science of his eco-friendly approach to dishwashing, I used the opportunity to document his nightcap for posterity, and I think he sensed that this was likely to be blogged.

Mugs: for all of your tea, coffee, and wine needs

Mugs: for all of your tea, coffee, and wine needs

“Can I use another bottle of wine!? People know this bottle is only $1.99! Wait – just tell them it is $199!”