I’m a Korean mother, and I can’t help it.

When I was growing up, I never experienced a summer of complete freedom. My mother believed in the power of math workbooks as fervently as she believed in the power of the Bible. Every day I would have to labor away doing the prescribed five pages of what she called “Daily Math.” Ugh. I hated it with every fiber of my being. My friends were spending their days at the swimming pool, at summer camp, or just loafing around watching tv. How Korean of my mother, I thought, to ruin my summer by making me do math!

I vowed to myself that if I ever had children of my own, I would let them enjoy their summers unencumbered by scholastic assignments. When I finally did have children, I remembered that vow. I signed those kids up for all kinds of fun summer camps and activities. I’d pull into the parking lot to pick them up, basking in the glow of virtue you feel whenever you do a kind turn for someone.

“Oh, thank you, beloved mother,” I could practically hear them say, “Thank you for letting us go to this magical place where we could work on God’s eyes rather than algebra problems!”

“Thank you, sweetest and kindest of mothers, for letting us frolic with our friends getting bronzed in the golden sun, rather than making us hunch over a math workbook at the kitchen table all day growing as pale as grubs…”

But no. Every day, three slump-shouldered, resentful grouches would climb into the car and inform me that they didn’t want to do “Summer Playground” or “World Cup Soccer Camp” or anything really, other than hang out at home. “Don’t sign us up for any more camps!” was the message I heard loud and clear, and I was actually ok with that.

So this summer the kids basically became feral. I would come home from work to see them sprawled in exaggerated poses of relaxation as if they were posing as allegorical statues of Indolence, Sloth, and Torpor. I bore it for as long as I could, but as it turns out, I’m way more Korean than I thought I was. Their sleepy eyes, uncombed hair, and languid movements began to offend me. I literally couldn’t help myself. I started leaving them lists of things to accomplish by the time I got back from work. Nothing too onerous, mind you! The tasks were on the order of: “Load dishwasher,” “Do one load of laundry,” or “Put shoes away in the mudroom.” But every once in a while I’d slip in a small directive that might require slightly more effort:

  • Brainstorm ways to alleviate the refugee crisis.
  • Come up with an action plan to reunify the two Koreas.
  • Find a cure for cancer.

The other day I overheard my son talking to his younger sister.

“Now when Mom asks me what I’ve been doing all day, I can honestly tell her I really have been working on a cure for cancer!”

Apparently the kid has connected his computer to a massive global project out of Stanford University, which harnesses the collective power of volunteers’ computers to crunch numbers. I can’t really understand the science of it all. (Despite my mother’s attempts to stack the deck with “Daily Math,” all those workbooks did nothing but send me reeling straight into the torrid embrace of Russian Literature). But here’s what the website has to say:

“Help Stanford University scientists studying Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and many cancers by simply running a piece of software on your computer. The problems we are trying to solve require so many calculations, we ask people to donate their unused computer power to crunch some numbers.”

You can check it out for yourself here:


and here:


As far as I can tell, the boy has discovered a way to plug into an astonishing feat of alchemy by which supreme laziness is transformed into something rather enterprising…It’s genius, really, and it makes this Korean mother so proud!

Related post: Amadeus and my own preternaturally precocious offspring.

Goodbye, Ned

One day early this summer, my daughter visited me in my office. I showed her the spider that had taken up residence in the corner of my window. We were about to leave for vacation, and we worried that he might be swept away by the cleaner while I was gone. Hoping to avert such a disaster, my daughter made this sign for the spider, whom she named Ned.

We had big plans for Ned. When we got back, we were going to make some spider-sized furniture and maybe hang some pictures to make him feel more at home.

Alas, when we returned, Ned and his cobweb were nowhere to be seen. When my daughter found out, she gave me this look:

I left the sign where it was, hoping he might find his way back home…Every morning when I get to work, I’ve been checking to see if he’s come back, but there’s never any sign of him.

Today I finally accepted the fact that, like this beautiful, too-short summer, Ned is gone for good.

We miss you, Ned. It was nice knowing you.

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Queen Anne’s Lace

This is my “garden” at this time of the year:

The Weedaretum in all its glory.

The Weed-oretum in all its glory.

Clearly, I have long surrendered to the malevolent forces of summer in Virginia.

My kids always ask me why there aren’t any flowers in my garden in the summer. Here’s my answer:

This. This is what happens when you venture outdoors in mid-July in Virginia.

Why put yourself through the misery of being poached alive in the heavy, sticky, humid air when instead you can swan around enjoying landscapes from the the air-conditioned comfort of your very own chariot of fire?

My sweet pimped out ride. See that Albemarle County Schools magnet on the gas cap? Custom, Baby.

My sweet pimped out ride. See that Albemarle County Schools magnet on the gas cap? Custom, Baby. I’m thinking about having flames painted along the sides next…

This is the best time of the year to enjoy the weedy splendor of roadside displays espied from my car windows. My favorite? Queen Anne’s Lace – the essence of summer.

Even better in combination with its constant companion, the cornflower:

Bad picture...Didn't want to get out of the car to take it!

Bad picture…Didn’t want to get out of the car to take it!

Strewn by the invisible, artful hand of a master gardener, these lovely weeds are all the flowers I need to get me through the summer.

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