Wednesday, December 17, 2008


My Mother's Daughter

I was looking for the satisfaction of retail therapy and decided I would take advantage of the 25 percent off everything sale Eddie Bauer was having. They were also offering free shipping on orders over $100, so I couldn't pass it up, besides I think I am the only mom in the school who doesn't have tall boots to wear with her skirts in winter. I used to think tall boots were a fashion statement I didn't need to make when I lived in California, but now that I live somewhere where the temperature regularly drops low enough that you can see your own breathe, I realize they actually serve a purpose! I went through the entire process of adding the boots to shopping cart, entering in my addresses and then . . . THEN . . . the site would not let me enter in two promotion codes at one time. WHAT? So much for that shopper's high I was after, now I was ticked. I sent an e-mail to customer service and turned off my computer in a huff. The next morning, I had a reply waiting for me, stating that if I went ahead and placed the order, then e-mailed customer service with my order number, they would refund the shipping charges. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I hope the boots fit. Now, the above story might seem normal, but I really started to worry about myself this morning.

Sam and I took Mina to school, ran a few errands and had about 20 minutes before the department store opened and we could shop for a new umbrella to replace the one that had just broken in a gust of wind. Sam doesn't like Starbucks. We went to Mr. Donuts on Monday. McDonald's is a bit of a walk from the station and we were umbrella-less on a rainy day. I suggested to Sam that we try a new place. Tully's coffee shop. We get to the counter and I ask about children's drinks. The cashier apologizes, but they don't have any special drinks for children. I say fine and order a short orange juice for Sam. She rings it up and the register displays the price of 390 yen. Four dollars for orange juice?!?!?! Mind you, it was "Valencia Blood Orange Juice," but Sam is three, like he cares! Instead of sucking it up, I told the lady, "I am sorry, but 390 yen is too much to pay for a child's drink, we will go somewhere else." As we walked out the door, I thought to myself, "Oh my god, it has happened, I have officially turned into my mother."

Sunday, December 14, 2008


faux pas

I can't sew. Preschools in Japan require an unbelievable number of little bags that should, if possible, be hand sewn by mom. Seriously. Mina has: a gear bag, a bag for indoor shoes, a bag for outdoor shoes, a bag for her PE clothes, a bag for her lunch box, a bag for her cup. Okay, so that is only six little bags, but it seems like a lot when you don't have a clue as to how to make them. I was in a panic about the bags Sam would be needing before he had even been accepted to the school. Every year the moms organize a bazaar at the preschool and sell all of these little bags. Different moms make them and all the proceeds go to UNICEF.

I put Sam in daycare, took the early train and was one of the first in line to enter the bazaar. My mission: to purchase a gear bag with a boy's design. The gear bags go quickly and I didn't even know if there would be one designed for boys available; I'd be happy with something neutral. I made a beeline for the table where the precious navy rectangles were laid out. There were two boyish designs! One, I loved. It had cross stitched red double decker buses all the way around, the design was simple, but it cost about $65.00. Ouch! The other had a helicopter, a quad, a boat and a bicycle sewn on by machine. They looked like patches. The lining didn't match and the back had a line of random ribbon with anchors sewn across it. I didn't really like it, but it was $45.00 and I figured Sam would prefer it. In spite of my fears of jinxing Sam chances by purchasing his gear bag before he had even had his interview, I bought the bag. I wasn't really happy with it, but it was better than anything I could make.

Fast forward, two months later. We are riding home on the train. Mina's friend's mom, making conversation, asks me if I have all of Sam's bags ready. I tell her that I bought a bag at the bazaar, but don't really like the design. She then proceeds to tell me that she made a boy's design gear bag for the bazaar, but she didn't see it on sale, maybe one of the bazaar committee members bought it. She worked so hard on it, it had four different vehicles on it, she was really happy with the way it turned out. Gulp. I glance down at her daughter's gear bag. It has those machine sewn, patch type designs on it. Brenda, you idiot! You can't go around telling the mothers you don't like something you bought at the bazaar - THE OTHER MOTHERS MAKE THE STUFF FOR THE BAZAAR!!!! AAAAARRRRGGHHHH! I am 100 percent certain that the bag I bought for Sam is the bag that was made by Mina's friend's mom. Now he can't use it. Now the second school bazaar, where they had really cute boy designs for a change that I didn't buy because I already had a bag I didn't like and didn't want to waste it or any more money, has come and gone. I will have one more chance to buy a gear bag. Sam may end up with flowers or kittens or ballerinas on his gear bag. The bag I bought didn't jinx Sam's entrance in to the school, but it is certainly cursed! I will donate the dreadful thing to the school bazaar next year. UNICEF loves me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Second Thoughts

A few weeks ago, Mina had to attend a health check at the local elementary school. Even though she will not be attending the school, the principal of our preschool advised us to go the health check because our elementary school does not have one. So, we took Mina out of preschool early and headed over the local elementary school. The campus is about a three minute walk from our house. On the way, we met up with some neighbors who were also heading to the health check. Mina was happy to see her friend, Natsumi, a playdate buddy since before either of them could walk. The two girls held hands as we worked our way through the different stations of the health check. The school building is very old, but it had a cheerful atmosphere. The halls were decorated colorfully with the children's artwork; every classroom surface displayed Japanese calligraphy or photo essays. The teachers were kind and helpful and the checks were completed efficiently. The mothers joked about the scent of cafeteria food lingering in the air and the really strange thing is that it is the same cafeteria smell as in the States! How can that be? I know the menus are different! As I laughed with the other mothers and Mina smiled with her longtime friend, I began to have second thoughts. Did we do the right thing, putting her into a private school? Is this school so bad? Maybe we made a mistake? When I think about her riding the train everyday, I often wonder if it is worth it. Plus, the little "outskirts of the big city" local school has only 52 first graders this year. That means two classes of twenty six children. The class size at Mina's school is shocking - 42 girls in one class. Then, I remember that the local school consistently has low test scores in comparison to other Yokohama schools. Then, I heard that when Mina's was in the classroom with the teacher during the interview portion of the check, they played a game of rock-scissors-paper where the teacher tells them what she is going to be and they have to figure out how to beat her. This is a game SAM plays in his little class! When we got home after the check, I decided to ask Mina. Where do you want to go to school, Mina? She chose her private school. Whew.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Thankful for Thanksgiving

If Christmas is approaching too quickly for you, allow me to take you back to Thanksgiving. I always battle with myself over whether or not I am going to do Thanksgiving. This year the decision was taken out of my hands when a friend invited himself over for Thanksgiving dinner. I decided to make it a party and invited another family. So, we had three crazy Americans, two bewildered Japanese husbands and four wild Indians (read children ages 3-7). I ordered a turkey from FBC, my first turkey ever! When I told my mom it weighed 8 pounds, she told me that I didn't have a turkey, I had a big chicken. What can I say? I was more concerned about it fitting into my Japanese oven than I was about having enough to feed everyone. I started to stress about the delivery of the turkey. I feared it wouldn't defrost in time. I started to fret over the fact that I planned to cheat with instant mashed potatoes (oh my gosh they taste so good, I never knew, please don't tell my mother). I started to worry that my guests would not like my stuffing, that the turkey wouldn't cook, that I would run out of drinks, or someone would find a hair in their piece of pie. Then, once I started to make the stuffing and the smell of butter, onions, celery and sage started to fill my home, I relaxed, smiled and was grateful my friend decided we needed to have Thanksgiving. My mom sent seasonal napkins, confetti and other festive decorations. I used my Aunt's china that I brought back from the States last Christmas. Broke out the only item I ever had in my non-existent hope chest - Lenox crystal wine glasses and filled them with cola because none of us are drinkers! My friend brought her Waterford serving utensils for her vegetables and we pretended we were sophisticated grown ups. Then we proceeded to laugh so hard and so much that the kids told us we were being too loud and had better settle down. It was great. It felt great. It tasted great. And I hope it will become a great tradition.

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