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19 Things I Haven’t Told You About Me and My Family

Since the start of this blog, in September 2012, I’ve shared a lot of things about me and my family, including the time I got bitten by a lion.

Still, there are many more things I haven’t revealed yet, like the fact that I also once kissed a giraffe on the head.

I like this giraffe.
I like this giraffe.

Today, then, I’ve assembled a list of 19 things that I haven’t told you about me and my family. I hope you enjoy this personal peek into the past and present. (And in a comment below the post, I’d love to hear something fun or interesting about you and your family!)

1. My sister was adopted from Korea. My father served in the Korean War, and this was the inspiration for my parents to adopt a little girl from Korea when she was 3. I was 5 at the time, so I grew up with this “multicultural” influence, which no doubt helped open my eyes to the wider world.

My sister, my brother, and me.
My sister, my brother, and me.

2. My grandparents were bilingual. My mother’s parents were born in the U.S., but their parents came from Finland, so my grandparents could speak Finnish and English. In fact, my mother was bilingual as a child, too, but didn’t continue to use Finnish as an adult. The only Finnish I know are a few swear words. (See “I Spoke Both Finnish and English”: I Interview My Mother on Her Bilingual Childhood.)

3. I cry when I read aloud books. My kids and students make fun of me, but I can’t help it—and, to tell the truth, I don’t want to help it. I want to feel something when I read a story. Still, when I come to a moving scene, and my voice starts cracking and my eyes well with tears, I sometimes have to consciously tell myself, “Okay, Adam, keep it together.”

4. My kids and I are kind of crazy. The truth is, I’m still a playful child at heart and I love to do silly things with my kids. My wife, who’s a lot more reserved, just shakes her head when the three of us are romping madly about our little house.

Another strange and ordinary day.
Another strange and ordinary day.

5. My wife is very talented at crafts. Before our kids were born, she had a small candle-making business that was pretty successful. Eventually, I started making candles, too, and we had a lot of fun together. Lately, I’ve been looking back at that time because I think some of our happiest moments as a couple have involved opportunities where we can be creative together. With our kids getting a bit older, I’m pondering a new opportunity to team up creatively.

6. I can’t live without my pillow. I’ve had the same thin, drool-stained pillow for years and I can’t sleep well without it. In fact, I stuff it into our suitcase on every trip we take, even on our recent trip to the U.S. The funny thing is, my wife and my kids don’t even sleep with a pillow! They’re barbarians!

7. We live near wild boar. Our house sits below some small mountains, which are fun to hike, but it’s true that wild boar roam the forests. I haven’t seen one yet, but when my kids attended our local preschool, wild boar would sometimes come onto the grounds at night and dig up the garden.

Waltzing through the woods.
Waltzing through the woods.

8. I see animals outside my window. I don’t have much of a view out the window of my office here at home: just a low wall made of cement blocks, a brown fence on top of that, and then the wall of the house next door. But for some reason animals are constantly peeking in at me from the cement wall and fence. Insects and birds are typical visitors, but I regularly see blue-tailed lizards, too, and even a weasel every now and then.

9. My kids are fast runners. My wife and I were both fast in younger days, so Lulu and Roy seem to have inherited speedy legs. Lulu, in fact, is faster than all the boys in her grade, too. Being fast as a child is kind of a funny thing, because although it’s hardly important, children who are fast (and I bet this is true everywhere in the world) are somehow admired by their peers.

10. I love picking blueberries. I have fond memories of picking blueberries with my mother when I was little, and I’ve been able to recreate that experience for my own kids. Every summer, since they were very small, we visit a blueberry patch in the countryside and spend the day picking blueberries.

Picking blueberries is one of life's little joys.
Picking blueberries is one of life’s little joys.

11. My first experience learning another language was a failure. I studied French for many years, starting in fifth grade, but never really made much progress. In fact, my strongest memory of French in elementary school was the time I sat down on a sharpened pencil point that a classmate held under me like a spear.

12. When I was 19, I dropped out of college. My freshman year of college was a fiasco. I was a film major, with visions of directing movies, but I had no discipline at all and the school (the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut) wasn’t a good fit for me. Thinking I would transfer to another school, but not sure where to go, I spent the next year living in a trailer park with a friend and working at night, making donuts from midnight to six o’clock in the morning.

13. I tried painting with a hamster. After I transferred to a new college (Sarah Lawrence College in New York), I took a painting class and I had the idea of putting the image of a cage on the canvas and then applying paint to the bottom of a hamster’s feet. I planned to let it run around, making little footprints over the cage. I’m not sure what this was meant to symbolize—“freedom from oppression”?—but I had trouble getting the hamster to cooperate (he bit me) and so I never did finish the painting.

14. I did a lot of foolish things in my youth. I was troubled and reckless through my teens and twenties and did some very stupid things that I now regret. (Much worse than painting with a hamster.) I won’t list them all here, but honestly, I think I’m lucky I even survived that time. Above all, I wasted so much opportunity and potential, and I feel like I’ve been trying to catch up ever since.

15. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Czech Republic. I taught English and American Literature at the University of West Bohemia in the city of Plzen. I loved the two years I spent there, and my Czech got pretty good, too. In fact, that was the first time I had any success at learning another language.

A rabbit-bear?
A rabbit-bear?

16. I’m not attached to possessions. If our house went up in flames, and everything turned to ash, the only things that would stir a real sense of loss would be family photos, memorable items from my children’s lives, and the digital records of my writing. (And my pillow, I guess.) One of those “memorable items” is a little stuffed creature that my daughter sewed for me by hand, for Father’s Day, when she was 7.

17. I finished my first novel not long ago. I had wanted to write a novel for years, but could never sustain the motivation to complete such a large writing project. This time, though, I was determined to see it through to the very end. The result might not be everyone’s cup of tea—it’s a wild comic romp, in the spirit of Roald Dahl—but I’m really pleased with it. It’s the book I wanted to write.

18. I sometimes laugh at the wrong times. I see humor in almost everything—my radar for the absurdities of life is always turning—and so I laugh a lot. Sometimes, though, things strike me as absurd and funny and I laugh…but others around me don’t see the humor. In fact, I even inadvertently offend people, who think I’m laughing at them, when I’m really laughing at the situation itself.

19. I have deep, deep faith in the mystery of life. It’s true, I have plenty of day-to-day worries and fears, but the deepest part of me—the part that I try to hold in mind as continuously as I can—has nothing but trust for life, death, and this whole miracle of existence.

How about you? Now it’s your turn! Tell me something about you and your family!


27 Responses

  1. I really like that ‘getting to know you’ feel of this post. It’s something I’ve thought of doing on my blog. Here are some random facts about my family, travel and languages:

    1. Our son, who is currently five months old, would be eligible to play football (soccer) for Wales, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (…due to the places myself, my wife and our parents were born).
    2. I spent two years teaching English to students at a university in Lille (France) after graduating. One of my aunts had done this exact same job after she’d graduated from a different university 35 years previously.
    3. In my office, I have a set of Russian dolls of French presidents that sits on shelf next to an origami crane and a small chimpanzee teddy.

    1. Jonathan, thanks—I enjoyed this peek into your world! I don’t have any Russian dolls on the shelves next to my desk, but I do have a teddy bear, a paper crane, and a plastic piggy bank that looks just like a baby’s head!

    1. Olena, I know my kids love each other dearly, and they can be good playmates, but they squabble a lot, too, like nutty squirrels!

  2. What a great list! I was nodding over the pillow, as for years I had a favorite pillow as a child and tween. I was devastated when my mother declared it unhygienic and chucked it out while I was at school!

    One thing I don’t share too much (for obvious reasons) is that I can touch the tip of my nose with my tongue very easily. Most people are stretching to get to their nostrils! Must be why I like to talk so much.

  3. Great post Adam! Stuff like this really helps your readers to connect with you and identify with you as a person. From doing stupid stuff in younger days to still sleeping with a pillow, I can relate, and I don’t regret anything. It all adds to the foundation of character! And what is this about a novel? Any plans to advertise it?

    1. Matt, thanks! I hope all is well!

      As for my novel, I do plan to share it at some point—perhaps next year. It’s a fun read, I think, and something parents and children can enjoy together. In fact, I read it aloud to my kids not long ago and they really liked it. I was thrilled!

  4. Fun reading! We, too, live near wild boar, in our small (230-ish inhabitants) village in France in the forest. I started learning French at age 12 but had no idea what a huge role it would end up playing in my life. Today, my roommate from my junior year abroad is coming for a visit – I haven’t seen her in 15 years! And finally, I’d love for us to move to the US at least for a year but at the same time I’m afraid the kids might get behind in the French school system if we did.

    1. Alisa, I hope you had fun with your old roommate! Reunions like these, after years have passed, are really special moments.

      And I wish I had started studying Japanese at a much younger age. If only I had had a crystal ball back then!

  5. Adam, this list is one of the greatest ideas. I think it’s very healthy and human too.

    First of all, I would like very much to read your book. So, we all are waiting when it’s going to be published. 🙂

    And second, thank you for mentioning the bond between you and your wife. I have the same feeling about my marriage. When we do creative stuff together with my husband or interesting activities, it feels like we are finally closer to each other. Any tips about activities for parents? Or would that be too awkward for your website?

    Weird facts about me:
    1. Around 5 years old: during a cold winter I wanted to see how cold a metal strut was outside our house. And I had to try it with my tongue. Of course, the upper layer of my tongue remained on the freezing metal and I covered in blood my new coat.

    2. Around 7 years old: I had to take out the garbage but wasn’t allowed to play in the snow. So, I lied to my mother that a boy pushed me and I fell in the snow and hit my head very strong. I told her a lot of symptoms and she called the doctor. For a while I was taking medications, just to avoid the punishment.

    3. The date of 4th of October is very important for me. It is when I moved to Greece from Moldova, 13 years ago. But for the second consecutive year I have a car accident on this very day. If next year is going to happen again, I will lock myself in a closet for the next years during the 4th of October.

    4. I just love to eat seeds. All kind of them. So far, the melon’s seeds are the most delicious. So I can eat an apple and a pear without throwing anything. Even the tail is disappearing.

    5. Before I go to bed I have to clean the kitchen. I hate to wake up and begin the day with dirty dishes.

    6. My son will be 3 years old in February. But we allowed him to handle a knife very early. Last week he managed to cut a branch with his saw, which is about 30 cm long. And his first meal was fish soup at 3 months old.

    7. I taught my husband to eat salads and drink tea. He hated to lose time to make a salad and thought that tea is only for sick people. So now, he calls me the ‘queen of salad’, because they are really delicious. I hope to maintain the title for many years. 🙂

    1. Tatiana, I’m happy you enjoyed this post. And thank you for your interest in my book. Hopefully, I’ll put it out next year.

      Thanks, too, for sharing these facts about your life! It was fun to learn more about you and your family, though that little accident with your tongue sounds very painful! (And next year on October 4, I hope you’ll stay home!)

      Best wishes to you, Queen of Salad! :mrgreen:

  6. I will confess; I have been receiving your newsletters since I found out that I was pregnant, and I have been really paying much attention to them… Let’s blame it on the lack of sleep.

    Now that my son is almost 4 months old and he starts interacting a bit more with me, I also started to feel that he is listening to me, I feel the urge to figure it out how this language situation is going to work for us. (I speak Spanish to him and my husband Spanglish. We speak English between us and we live in Canada.)

    Reading about you and your family is a great start!

    Adam, you totally remind me of my own dad, this goofy, funny and funky guy. 😉

    Looking forward to keep reading…

    1. Raquel, congratulations on the birth of your first child! I hope my work will continue to be interesting and useful to you. (As well as goofy, funny, and funky.)

      If you haven’t already come across it, I have a page of links for new parents that might be of special interest…

      Posts for New Parents

      Thanks for your cute comment, Raquel! Best wishes on your bilingual journey!

  7. That’s great! Thank you for sharing! We actually share with you # 3, 4, 18 and 19. I can also add the fact that I’ve become very sensitive since my daughter was born. In fact we are in Germany at the moment and we communicate here in English. My daughter is 5 and my eyes filled with tears when she manages to understand people here in English! I think it’s been the best part of the trip!

    1. Macarena, I understand your feelings. Watching our kids grow before our eyes is a moving experience. I hope you and your family have a fun, English-filled time in Germany!

  8. Hi Adam,

    It’s been a while since I’ve written but the bilingual journey is going well!

    Something interesting I’d like to share is that I play the guitar and sing and so I have used this passion for music to boost my minority language (English). However, a lot of the music I ‘push’ onto my kids (which they love) is classic pop/rock from the 60s, 70s. So my 9-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy are now keen fans of the Beatles. 🙂

    Now, I’ve also set up a karaoke system on the TV with microphone and speakers so when the kids fancy it, they can sing (in English of course).

    If language is a door, then music is the key!


    1. Glenn, your success is music to my ears! While I don’t play guitar, I do play a lot of older music at home and in the car so my kids have also grown up singing along to the Beatles, the Bee Gees, Abba, etc. It’s pretty funny!

      It was good to hear from you, Glenn, and I’m glad things are going well for you and your kids! :mrgreen:

      1. Thanks Adam, and I’d just like to say that your website is easily the best for bilingualism (combining academic and practical) and has been my main source of inspiration over the years! Keep up the good work!


        1. Glenn, your positive feedback means a lot to me! To tell the truth, maintaining all this online activity can get pretty tiring, but kind comments like yours give me a fresh burst of energy to carry on as best I can. So thank you!

  9. Hi Adam,

    I stumbled across your blog a few months ago but have only now found the time to read it thoroughly. I’ve found it interesting and captivating.

    I grew up bilingual myself, in Italy, since my mom was German and my dad Italian. They both spoke Italian to my elder brother and me and to each other, but all members of our family (including our dog Yuri and my live-in maternal grandmother) were bilingual, of course to different degrees, due to the fact that Oma (=grandma) refused to learn to speak Italian properly.

    As a 6-year-old, I remember my mom suddenly starting speaking German to me. I understood everything, but replied in Italian, because it was too tiring to figure out the correct grammar structures. She finally gave up.

    It was then me, aged 15 and learning German at high school, who suggested to my mom the two of us only spoke German to each other when we were together, which we did until shortly before she died.

    I eventually graduated as a conference interpreter, worked mainly as a technical translator, and have been a language teacher most of my life.

    1. Jessica, thank you for your kind words. I’m happy to know that you’re enjoying my blog.

      You’ve led a very interesting multilingual life and I would be glad to share your story with this audience more widely, if you might be interested in contributing a guest post to this site. If so, please feel free to email me directly to discuss this idea in more detail.

      I wish you all the best with your work and with everything else in your life! :mrgreen:

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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