The Loh Life is writer/performer Sandra Tsing Loh's weekly take on life, family, and pop culture in early 21st century Southern California.
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Freeway Fliers, Part Two: Poor Quality Time

Sandra Tsing Loh probably isn't going to Aspen this summer.

My writer friend Caitlin sends me an email. It reads:

“Subject: From Aspen Ideas Festival – Where is You?????????
“Hey girl, been looking for you at all the cocktail parties - are you holed up in your room? I have to admit, I've never had my own "plunge pool" before - have you used yours yet???

“Loved, loved, loved Eric Schmidt's dinner comments last night about the future of Google. Not for me the "choose your own live lobster" thing, though. Just had the paella, which allowed me to meet Warren Buffet. The thrill of it!!!!

“Oh, wait a minute. I am not at the Aspen Ideas Festival. I am on the splattered-with-squirrel-pee couch on my back porch. Where I apparently belong.”

To which I write back:

“Dear Squirrel-Pee Couchsitter,

“Of course, I was invited to Aspen this year, but I am far too busy writing my next TED talk. As you can see in the program, I did a mitzvah and sent my far-lesser-known friend Amy Chua in my place. Have you heard of the Tiger Mom? I love her. She’s just so incredibly talented, shy, and fat. That’s right - she has all her photos retouched. Few know that Amy Chua actually weighs 300 pounds and has a very short crew cut.”

Oh how we laugh. We are moms, and OUR summers are nothing close to the Aspen Ideas Festival. By this TIME in summer, it’s more like the Los Angeles Totally OUT of Ideas Festival. Except for one I had recently.

We parents pay money to send our kids to—say—art camp. Each day, the kids bring home ever more “art” that clutters up the car and kitchen.

My father’s garden has weeds. He wants me to pay a gardener to remove them.

My groundbreaking idea: Why not have the children pull the weeds? Instead of MAKING art, REMOVING weeds. Win win!

I arrive at Grandpa’s with five children—my two daughters and their three cousins. To their own disbelief, they bend over in the sun and begin to weed. This is awesome! I’m thinking. It’s this amazing new activity the kids are involved with called “chores.”

My chores include accompanying my father on the piano while he sings. He favors a Chinese songbook with numbers instead of music, as in:

3 5 5 3 2 1 2 3 5 3 2

“That song is lovely,” I say. “What does it mean?”

He says:

“The river ran blood when the Northerners killed all our families.”

My 11 year old spontaneously says how eager she is for school to start again.

“That was my master plan,” I say, feeling brilliant. So perhaps no Aspen for me THIS summer, but next year, I’m SURE they’ll call.