Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Observations on America: The Metro Dad

I've been meaning to post this one for awhile ... but finding time between unpacking (almost done) and start of school (pretty much done) has been tricky.  So, one month later, here's my next observation on my new-yet-my-own country.

I was walking south from Farragut North metro station on 17th St NW one morning about a month ago, and noticed three dads (one in a suit, one in business casual, one very casual) pushing toddlers in strollers.  As we four waited to cross the street, the three dads looked at each other with a knowing smile - seemed to me like all of them were "in the know" as a metro-commuting dad.  In many other countries, seeing a dad take charge of getting the kids to daycare and home again would be unthinkable, but on my metro commute I see at least one such pair every day.

Articles on the working mother have abounded the last six months or so, from Anne Marie Slaughter to Sheryl Sandberg and many women in between.  I've commented to friends that not many have addressed the dads who - in America, at least - increasingly put forth their fair share for child care.  And I wonder why more fathers aren't writing about grueling work hours that prohibit them from spending more time with their kids.   In our family right now, Greg has the much more reliable schedule, for which I'm quite thankful so that at least one parent can be home by 6 or 6:30 for dinner time.  Greg isn't a "Metro Dad," but giving credit where credit is due, three cheers for supportive husbands who help keep the home front working, so some of us ladies don't have these acute internal debate about working or not. 

Monday, August 26, 2013


Wm came home from his first day in a great mood.  His only complaint was that he didn't ride the bus home and was the only kid in his class to walk home.  So, he says he wants to change to be a bus rider home, too.  Which is fine - no big deal, if that's what it takes to make him happy!

He of course didn't want to say much about school, but what I did learn:

  1. At some point in the morning, the kids go to the class computer to select their lunch choice.  Options are: (1) Bring from home, (2) and (3) the two hot lunch choices, and (4) peanut butter & jelly sandwich from cafeteria if you don't like options (2) and (3)
  2. His teacher has two cats, and one cat always sneaks over to eat the other cat's food
  3. The cat that doesn't eat as much likes to unroll the toilet paper roll
  4. At recess a teacher blows a whistle three times when it is time to line up
  5. If he finishes his work early, then he can go to the reading corner. But today he didn't finish any of his work early. 
  6. He colors a worksheet with how his behavior was.  Today was a green day.  If he has a big tantrum, it will be red. There's also yellow and orange in between. But, he hopes he'll only have green days (me, too!)
His teacher came out with all the "walkers" today (ie, just him, since he's the only one in his class who walks) and took a few minutes to chat with me.  I had a much better impression than Friday! Yay!  She said he was actually talkative in class and participated, which is more than I expected.  

I'll still be home tomorrow and Wednesday, but if things continue like today, I can go to work not worrying about Wm and school.  *phew*

Friday, August 23, 2013

The last major transition of the move

School starts on Monday.  While in the long run this will be wonderful (finally in a routine, meet regular friends, etc etc), in the immediate future, this means change.  Again.

While we had been talking with Wm about this for a while, this afternoon's back to school night really made it hit home, obviously.  We walked into the school with our neighbor, whose son will also be in first grade.  The walk to school was fine - and he didn't flip out when we entered the building, which surprised me, because usually loud crowds of people moving in many different directions really unsettle him.  BUT, then he found out he was in a different classroom than either of the two boys he has met already.  And he declared he was not going to school.

So, the next 30 minutes we spent sitting in the hallway outside of the four first grade classrooms.  Honestly, I didn't know what to do - I knew Monday would be really bad if he didn't see the classroom today, but I didn't want to force him and make things worse, so there we sat.  Eventually, I managed to convince him to walk over to the door of the class and look in the room.

That's, honestly, when I was a bit annoyed with his new teacher.  I am kind of disappointed to start off the year that way, so I'm hoping it's just a one time thing.  I had already explained to the teacher that Wm was new to the school and having a hard time coming over.  I had already left him in the hallway for a few minutes so I could do the necessary admin things in the classroom (sign up on the email list, sign up for parent teacher conferences, etc).  So, I was hoping that when we finally made it over to the doorway, the teacher would welcome him in.

Instead, she kept talking about her summer beach vacation with a parent from last year for a full five minutes.  I could feel Wm starting to slip away and get nervous again, so I finally interrupted.  I really didn't like doing that - especially in front of Wm, since we are working really hard with him to teach him not to interrupt.  But, it was open house night.  And, as great as North Carolina might have been for the teacher and this parent from last year, I had to make sure we (and by "we" - I mean me, the teacher and Wm) didn't have a disaster on our hands come Monday.  I was polite (I think!), but I still felt a bit like a pushy parent.  *sigh*

In any case, Wm at least managed to say hello to his teacher and listen to her when she said she would be meeting the bus at the front of the school on Monday.  He walked with me to the cafeteria and listened when the cafeteria lady nicely explained how to buy lunch if he wanted to do that.  He even walked into a super hectic cafeteria to get a juice box and cookie -- though when I tried to talk to a few parents, that was the end for him.  We had to get home - and get home fast.

So, I didn't manage to sign up for the PTA, buy him a new school t-shirt, or figure out what kind of school supplies he needs.  Luckily, I took next Monday - Wednesday off from work, so fingers crossed I can scramble on the first day to finish things up.  I have no idea what to expect Monday afternoon, but fingers crossed it is not a disaster. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Meeting, 17 years later

The world is a small, small place.  I think this quite frequently, as was reminded of this two days ago, when, in Tokyo, I met a woman I first met in November 1996 and haven't seen since.

I'm not usually the kind of person that remembers such one time meetings.  I'm only OK with names and faces - not great, but not terrible.  I often find myself wishing I were better, honestly.  Two days ago, I met an embassy colleague's wife, who is also a foreign service officer, and we found out we both went to Wellesley, she in the class above me.  Since we lived in different dorms (me in Caz, her in Tower and Stone-D) and majored in different things (me Japanese, her French), we hadn't thought we had met.  Yet her uncommon name and face were very familiar to me, so I kept mulling over where we might have and when.

As I lay half-awake in a jet lag induced stupor, too tired to get out of bed, yet too awake to fall back asleep, I remembered: she hosted me when I was a prospective student.  Or maybe her roommate was technically my hostess, but I spent most of the evening with her.  I remember attending her LDS bible study and fellowship afterward -- her roommate was involved in some kind of art or music performing group at MIT and was spending that evening at a rehearsal off campus.  I had flown all the way to Boston from Austin to visit Wellesley (and not MIT), so despite not being LDS, I tagged along at her invitation just to meet students and see what the school was all about.

It was a very pleasent evening - the bible study itself not too long, and though usually only about half of the students stayed for dinner at Schneider (the old campus center), that evening everyone did to talk to me about what they liked and didn't like about the school.  Between taht evening's fellowship and then visiting two classes the next morning (chemistry and Japanese) -- and subsequently being accepted in April -- the rest is history.  Ra, Ra, Wellesley, Ra.

This woman has no recollection of that evening.  Of course, for her, it was just one regular weekly meeting of her bible study group.  For me, though, it impacted my college choice.  Even stranger, we both ended up in the foreign service and crossing paths again at the embassy in Tokyo, half way around the world from Lake Waban, Tower Court, and Schneider.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tokyo, Hisashiburi!

On Friday, I found out I was headed to Tokyo on Sunday for work.  I had known the possibility existed for about three weeks, but lots of factors contributed to the iffiness of actually going - in any case, I did manage to get a plane reservation, hotel reservation, new shoes,* and 14 hours later, Voila! Tokyo!

After I arrived and settled into my hotel room (read: took a much appreciated shower and finally touched up my roots ... self-dying my hair is fine, but finding time - between setting up our house and playing with three boys, while also working a bit more than expected - had been impossible.  I threw the dye kit in my suitcase at the last minute) first order of business was finding dinner.

The airplane food (United) was HORRIBLE.  I don't remember the last time I hadn't been able to eat food put in front of me just to have some nourishment, but the lunch on the flight was not edible.  The "turkey sandwich" snack wasn't too great either, but after 10 hours of no food I did manage to chew and swallow that cardboard.  And the "omlette" served just before landing was similarly digested for fear of fainting from low blood sugar.  Note to self: buy snacks for plane ride home.

So, by 8PM Tokyo time, I was starving and wanting to stretch my legs.  I figured I'd wander out and around a bit, even though my hotel is not in an area I'm very familiar with.  After passing numerous curry houses, coffee houses, "family restaurants," a few Italian options, and one tonkatsu place, I ended up settling on soba.  I was woried anything much heavier on an empty stomach a bit confused by travel might end up making me sick ... so hiyashi kitsune soba it was. YUM. I choose well.

As I was finishing up, three American college students wandered into the little mom-and-pop place. They couldn't read the menu on the wall, and spoke no Japanese - and the "mom" (of the mom-and-pop duo) spoke no English - so I hung around a bit.  After a minute of confusion, they finally just pointed to the one picture on the wall which had three different kinds of cold soba, and just said "three." The "mom" laughed, but relayed their order to the "pop."  Amused, I wanted a bit longer until their order came -- they whipped out smart phones, documented their adventure for Facebook, and dug in.  My evening entertainment over, I headed back up to th ehotel, with a pit stop at a convenience store for dessert (tonight: chocolate-mint-drink).

Too bad this trip is so short.  I missed Tokyo :)

*New shoes required because my super comfy navy pumps finally died after 12 years and multiple re-soles. Then the drycleaner didn't have my black suit ready in time.  But I couldn't bring my navy suit and black heals, so Saturday I made an emergency stop in at DSW to get shoes to go with my clean suit...