Quiz Time! The Kids vs. The Adults Version

The kids began the quiz by lobbing us this softball:

1. What’s the difference between an ionic and a covalent bond?

We are graduates of some of the finest institutions of higher education in the world, yet none of us could come up with an answer for this one.

Answer: A covalent bond consists of pairs of electrons shared by two atoms, while an ionic bond consists of pairs of oppositely charged electrons.

The English Literature, Russian Literature, and Political Theory majors called foul, “No fair! Annabelle (our MIT-trained engineer sister) isn’t here!

“But that’s a question your average 7th grader would be able to answer,” those mean, mean kids countered.

We demanded questions with real-life applications. Here’s what they came up with:

2. Name the #1 subscribed to channel on YouTube.

The expression on our faces as we fruitlessly pondered the question…

Answer: PewDiePie

The expression on our faces when we learned the correct answer:

3. When on Instagram, what’s the maximum number of photos one should post in one day?

Answer: One. Anything beyond that is self-indulgent. Thus Spake the Fifteen-Year-Old, so it must be true.

4. Describe how to delete an application on your preferred OS.

Answer: I can’t actually remember the real answer now, but it sounded like how adults talk in those old Charlie Brown specials, “Mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah.”

5. On Facebook, which status would your friends most likely care about?

a) A self-righteous rant about society

b) An Ed Sheeran song lyric

c) A Richard Dawkins quote

d) Passive agressive note about someone on one’s friends list

e) None of the above. 

6. Which password is most effective?

a) 12345

b) paqdA937

c) paqdA93

d) i6I-496BaxYqwcTx9

We all guessed d), but my son informed us that the correct answer would be c), because it’s hard for people to memorize more than 7 digits/characters.

8. Name one YouTube personality.

The kids were confident that we wouldn’t be able to come up with one. Embarrassingly, my sister and I immediately rattled off the names Michelle Phan and pixiwoo. My husband ventured, “Mozart?”

The kids were almost right.

8. How large is a full-grown panda?

Guess who came up with that question?

a) 6′

b) 5.5′

c) 5′

9. What is a 404 error?

Answer: When the file you are trying to access when surfing the web is unavailable.

10. Which internet community is responsible for hacking Club Penguin?

a) Twitter

b) 4chan

c) Reddit

11. What is ulzzang?

Answer: Korean for “best face.” This is the phenomenon in which people (usually young Korean women) use photoshop, editing tools, apps like Candy Camera, and a lot of makeup to make themselves look cutesy and anime-like to present themselves on social media.

12. Which program would you use to open a file that ends in .ogg?

a) iTunes

b) Microsoft Word

c) Microsoft Powerpoint

d) Photoshop

Let’s just say it was not the adults’ finest hour.

Next: Quiz Time! The Sisters vs. The Kids Version

Quiz Time! The Restaurant Etiquette Version

My sister and I decided to do a Restaurant Etiquette Edition of Quiz Time, a game we like to play with the kids from time to time…

Round 1: We presented the kids with an assortment of cutlery and asked them to set the table for a meal that would include soup, salad, steak, and dessert.

Round 2: Where should one tuck one’s napkin?

A) Here?

B) On one’s lap?

Round 3: Bread and butter arrives at the table. Should one

A) Spread the whole piece of bread before eating?

B) Break off a piece, butter, eat, repeat?

Round 4: The soup course. When finishing up a bowl of soup, should one tilt the bowl

A) Away from oneself?

B) Towards oneself?

Round 5: When leaving the table to go to the bathroom during the meal, should the napkin be left

A) On the chair

B) On the table?

Round 6: The salad course. Should one

A) Cut up the entire salad before eating

B) Eat one piece at a time?

Round 7: The meat course. Should one

A) Cut a piece of meat with the fork and knife and bring the fork straight to the mouth?

B) Cut a piece of meat with the fork, switch hands, turning fork tines up to eat?

Round 8: The cell phone rings. Should one

A) Ignore the call

B) Pick up and politely say, “I’m having dinner right now, I’ll call you back later!”

Round 9: The bill arrives. We presented each contestant with a restaurant bill of $100 and had them calculate a tip for good service.

Round 10: What should be done with silverware when done with dinner?

A) Put side by side at an angle at the top of the plate?

B) Cross over the plate.

Round 11: Where should one leave the napkin at the end of the meal?

A) On the seat

B) On the table


Round 1: After a demonstration

…the kids were able to do it properly:

Round 2: B

Round 3: B

Round 4: A, but perhaps not with this unpleasant expression on one’s face:

Round 5: A

Round 6: B

Round 7: A trick question if ever there was one. The kids have seen their English father do A, and their mother and every other American do B. A & B for the win!

Round 8: A, for heaven’s sake. A! Better still, silence the ringer before sitting down for dinner.

Round 9: We’d prefer to go out to dinner with the 20% tipper.

Round 10: A

Round 11: B this time!

Tomorrow – the Quiz Time the kids made up for US.

Birthday Cakes in Shangri-La

My kids are always happy to make the two and a half hour drive to Arlington, where my parents and sister live. If a month goes by without a visit, they start complaining, “We haven’t been to Arlington in ages! We really need to go for a visit soon.”

For them, going to Arlington is a little bit like getting sprung from hard labor straight into Shangri-La. Upon their arrival their Auntie plies them with their favorite Hershey’s Cookies’n’Creme candy bars. Occasionally, their mean mother manages to steal them away before they’re gobbled up at one sitting so that she can parsimoniously dole them out square by square over a week or so. They bask like cats luxuriating in a patch of sunlight in the glow of lavish praise for doing nothing more than existing on this planet. Freed from all responsibilities and chores, they laze all day long in my parents’ basement with absolute impunity, binge-watching the TV that their parents so cruelly deprived them of when they got rid of TV in their own home. Periodically, they emerge from the basement to feast, not on Hot Pockets, cheese quesadillas, or frozen Trader Joe entrees, but on food grown in the backyard and magically transformed into delicious, memorable meals three times a day. Once in a while, my sister likes to blow their minds with fabulous desserts that are the stuff of their wildest dreams. This time around, she whipped up these two decadent, no-bake birthday cakes she found on Pinterest…

The first birthday cake was for the kids:

1. Coat a tray with a layer of hot fudge sauce.

2. Add a layer of ice cream sandwiches.

3. Add a layer of whipped cream.

4. Sprinkle crushed candy bar over this layer. Cookies’n’Creme, naturally.

5. Add another layer of ice cream bars and whipped cream.

6. Crushed Heath Bar next.

7. Add one last layer of ice cream bars and cover everything with whipped cream.

8. Decorate side with crushed cookie. This was actually the hardest part. My sister and I were literally throwing cookie crumbs at the cake. We made a huge mess, which my mother silently, stoically swept up as we continued the final touches…

9. Mini M&Ms on top!

My dad’s diabetic, so he got his very own cake.

1. Cut up a roundish watermelon.

2. Remove all of the rind and shape the watermelon into a round cake.

3. Frost with sugar free whipped cream and decorate with fresh berries.

4. Voilà!

Love and Noogies

My siblings and I surprised my dad for his 80th birthday this weekend by showing up en masse.

Fifteen people, three generations, one very crowded living room:

This is what happens when Korean people gather:

We had dinner at Peking Gourmet, where we’ve celebrated so many happy events over the years. These cherished traditions connect our present to our past, and cement our family bonds:

The avuncular Noogie is one of the age-old rituals which must be observed without fail.

Of course, one mustn’t slavishly follow tradition. After all, every tradition has to begin somewhere…

Noogie photos courtesy of my brother, the Noogie King.

Related Posts:

It’s Called Love

Christmas in July

Pink Noodle Soup

My son used to subsist on nothing but air and a few Cheerios pulled from a baggie I would tote around with me wherever we went in the hope that I could ply him with a few every now and then. Food was of absolutely no interest to him. At times, he would get so skinny he was practically transparent. When he was a toddler, his pants would sometimes fall down to his ankles as he walked. I’m not exaggerating when I say that as an anxious first-time mother, I would sometimes weep over my child’s unwillingness to eat. Just when I had finally resigned myself to the fact that he would waste away on his meager Cheerios diet, he underwent a dramatic transformation. Suddenly, he began to devour astonishing quantities of food, the weirder and more exotic the food, the better.

Nowadays, it’s so much fun to go out to eat with my budding epicure, because he’s so much more adventurous than the rest of us. Yesterday we tried Thai Cuisine and Noodle House here in Charlottesville for the first time and while I ordered my usual boring old standby – Pad See Ew, he ordered one of the Chef’s Specials, Yen Ta Fo, or Pink Noodle Soup. I couldn’t wait to see what it looked like, and when it arrived at our table, it didn’t disappoint. We both couldn’t resist whipping out our phones to take pictures.

“I know I’m being so basic, but I can’t help myself,” my son said. “It’s going on my Instagram and I’m going to be made fun of for it, but I don’t even care.”

“Me too,” I said, busily snapping away, “This is really shameful what we’re doing and we look ridiculous, but I mean, come on! Look at it! It’s PINK!”

You can choose between wide rice noodles or bean noodles, and it comes with barbecued pork, squid rings, fish balls, some cracker like things, bok choy, green onion, and cilantro. The pink tint comes from tomato sauce added to the broth. It’s deliciously sour in a subtle, unexpected way. There were a few transparent stringy things he fished out of his bowl that he couldn’t identify, even after tasting it.

“Jellyfish?” I guessed, “Or some kind of vegetable, maybe?”

“I have no idea what it is,” he said, “But it tastes really good.”

Why not?

A few weeks ago, I made it my mission to get my parents down to Charlottesville for a visit. I had to be crafty. They’re not ones to travel just for the heck of it. I had to either come up with a reason why I desperately needed their help, or to lure them here on the pretext that their grandchildren wanted them to attend some major performance.

As it turned out, all last week my children were involved in putting together the musical “Jonah and the Whale” that was to be performed at church during the worship service on Sunday. BINGO!

My oldest son helped paint the whale. We shall not dwell on the fact that in the process, he left a permanent grey splotchy outline of the whale’s tail on the wall of the Sunday School classroom against which it had been propped. My second son helped create some of the other props and was one of the three “whalers,” who had to maneuver the great cardboard beast into the sanctuary and back out again. He was hidden behind it the whole time.

More promising was the fact that my daughter was performing in the play, would be visible, and had a speaking part.

After two weeks of tricky and heated negotiations that made the recent Iran nuclear deal look like a cakewalk, I finally managed to convince my parents to come. Not for the weeklong visit that I had optimistically proposed. That would be too long for my dad to be away from his beloved garden. Not even for the three days that would have allowed them to travel back with my husband and daughter, who happened to be going to Maryland on Monday and could have easily dropped them off in Arlington en route. No. The best I could wrangle out of the deal was for me to drive up on Friday after work and bring them down on Saturday. They wanted to leave on Sunday after the service so that my dad could fulfill a longstanding appointment he had on Monday. This would mean a five hour drive for me on Sunday, and ten hours of total driving time over the weekend, but I took the deal and felt lucky to have managed it on those terms.

“So, do you have a big part, T?” I hopefully, anxiously asked my daughter in the week leading up to the performance.

“I have one line,” she replied.

My heart sank a little.

“What’s the line?”

“Why. not.” she said, emphasizing each word with cruel banality.

“OK, listen, kid. Not to put too much pressure on you or anything, but Grandma and Grandpa are traveling 5 hours just to hear you say those two words. You better milk them for all their worth! Could you maybe fall to your knees as you say ‘Why not?!?!‘ Maybe you could shake your fists at the sky and squeeze out a few tears while you do it?”

She stared at me and remained maddeningly silent.

When I arrived at my parents’ house on Friday night, I felt compelled to confess to them that they were traveling all the way to Charlottesville to listen to my daughter say, “Why not?” They seemed to take this news in stride with their sphinx-like smiles, but I still felt uneasy.

We drove down on Saturday and met up with my husband and kids at Peter Chang’s China Grill for lunch. Peter Chang is the elusive, famous chef for whose cuisine dedicated foodies cross state lines to eat. He’s been written about in publications such as The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and Bon Appétit. Bubble pancakes were the answer. Bubble pancakes would make the trip to Charlottesville worth it!

You can’t get bubble pancakes in Arlington!

“Is this the same Peter Chang, who just opened up a new restaurant right near our house?” my mother asked.

Why, yes. Yes, it is.

The big day finally arrived. Everyone who participated in the play in some way had made a tie dye shirt to wear as their costume. My mother crowed with delight and clapped her hands as each of her grandchildren filed past her to be admired..

I went up to change into my own shirt.

“I don’t think I can wear my shirt. It’s so ugly, it’s embarrassing,” I said sheepishly.

“Yes, it is.” my mother replied.

I went up to change.

We went to church and settled ourselves in the pew.

The musical was beautifully executed. The singers performed the catchy numbers with enthusiasm and true musicality. The acting was heartfelt and genuine.

My daughter at long last delivered her line: “Why not?

I turned to look at my mom and we both started shaking with laughter. She had to clap her hand over her mouth so as not to yelp out loud. Tears streamed from our eyes and we shook the pew with our silent laughter for a good five minutes.

If you were to ask me if those ten hours of driving were worth it for those five minutes of laughter, I’d answer: Absolutely…Why not?


It was a gorgeous morning on Thursday…I hated to go inside.

At lunch time I took a walk around Grounds, (not “campus”!) to check up on the restoration work going on at the Rotunda. The Rotunda is Thomas Jefferson’s temple of learning, the crowning glory of his “Academical Village,” Enlightenment ideals realized in stone.

A short walk away from the bustling construction site is another busy worksite. The lavender hedges in front of Alderman Library are in full bloom and abuzz with big fat bees:

At the end of the day I met up with this kid, who actually consented to take a photo with his embarrassing mother to commemorate these days of commuting together to work/school…

I’d call that a pretty good day.

Now on to the weekend!

I Am Deeply Embarrassing

My fifteen year old is participating in an all-day Chinese immersion program, which is being held at the university where I work. This means we get to commute in and back home together. Everything’s gone swimmingly these first couple of days on our commute into school/work in the trusty minivan. Our conversations have been filled with warmth, laughter, and mutual understanding. But as if by magic, the moment we step out of that enchanted vehicle, I suddenly metamorphose into the most embarrassing creature that ever crawled on the surface of this planet.

I swear I’ve tried to follow the rules. OBVIOUSLY, there is no physical contact. I mean, of course I have my faults, but at least I understand the basic rules of engagement. I walk a little distance away from my son, with my eyes focused straight ahead. It might be possible for strangers to see us and assume that we were not together. Despite our similar features and coloring, it might not even be entirely obvious to the casual observer that it was I, who spent 20 hours in labor bringing this boy into the world.

On Monday, there was a parents’ meeting scheduled for 8 am. It happened to be taking place in the auditorium that’s located on the floor right below my office. My boss walked in and noticed me and the other parents and students milling around. When he asked what was going on, I explained to him that the organizers hadn’t shown up for the information meeting that was supposed to have started fifteen minutes ago. I sincerely believed that I was uttering these words in a subdued, reasonable tone of voice. It appears, however, that in fact, I was shrieking loudly, raucously, and in an utterly mortifying fashion.

The entire time I was speaking with my director, my son stared at his iPod, thumbing away with furious intensity, all while muttering under his breath:

Stop. Mom. You don’t have to do this. You’re talking so loudly. Why are you doing this? 

This morning I told him that he could walk to class and make his way back to my office on his own in the future, but that I would drop him off and pick him up today, just to make sure he knew where to go.

He heaved an exasperated sigh and said, “You don’t have to walk me. I can go by myself. I know exactly where I’m going.”

So, where are you going?” I asked.

Your office is in Cabell,” he replied with brisk alacrity.

I had to break it to him. It’s what we repugnant monsters are programmed to do:

You‘re going to Cabell. My office is in Minor.

I walked the boy to class.