Thursday, December 31, 2015

Convincing the Children

Until about 9.75 years ago, I didn't have any parenting experience.  I've picked up a few skills along the way from on the job training.  When it comes to explaining things to the kids, I don't know if there is a common standard for communication that I should be adhering to.  In order to explain why we had decided to move to France, I opted to use a familiar tool:  PowerPoint.

The kids had no idea what was up.  I told them that we wanted to give them a PowerPoint presentation and asked them what characteristics they thought should be included in such a presentation. Without knowing the topic, they selected four items to include: a bagel, a ninja, an atomic bomb, and a shark.
Here is the presentation we gave to the kids.

Familiar Starting Point:  We started with a reference from Phineas and Ferb, a cartoon about two brothers who do interesting things together and are always there for each other. 

Premise:  Will and Alex have favorite things.

Premise:  We pulled in some of their Sunday School lessons to give them a spiritual point of reference and talk about how our family fits in with God's plan.

Premise:  Dad is uniquely skilled.  A satellite ninja even!

Advantage that we have:  Internet access helps us every day.
Problem: Not everyone in the world has internet access.
Solution: We pulled some parts of the website here.  They explain it succinctly.

How does this relate to me? Remember Tokyo?
Will knows that a long time ago he was born in Tokyo.  He has no memory of this as he was only there for about 10 days.  However, he also has no negative associations with the idea that he has lived abroad.  We talk sometimes about going back to Tokyo to visit and explore.  We wanted to provide an instance of something that we have done before that gives a positive anchor point for the next slide.

France - Here is a map of Europe.  Here is France.  The kids study Europe in school all the time.  They have some knowledge about it.  We wanted to inspire curiosity about the concept of being in Europe.

Reassurance: After Curiosity comes panic, or so we thought.  They didn't get to the panic during the PowerPoint presentation, so this slide wasn't quite needed yet.  However, we started to explain to them that their things and their comfort was not limited to living in Redondo Beach.

More Reassurance (and bribery): We wanted to let the kids know that we were looking out for their concerns and needs.  That while they wouldn't be able to visit France before moving there, that we would check it out for them.  We told them that they could finally design their bedroom from scratch.  Will could get a loft bed.  Then we moved quickly on to bribery, offering Will his own iPad and Alex a hand-held Nintendo DS.  We addressed language concerns for them, letting them know that there were places where they could speak English and that there was an international school that taught in English.

Humor:  After breaking this big news and causing many things for them to think about, we went for some humor to lighten the heavy news.  Back in May, Dan made crepes for my birthday.  They were fine crepes.  However, the kids had mixed reactions.  So, given that we were moving to the original land of crepes, we presented them with "The Crepes of Doom!"  With the reassurance that they did not have to actually eat them.

Advantage:  We had to include a shark in the presentation.  Turns out, there are no sharks in Toulouse.  It doesn't even touch an ocean.

Advantage: School Holidays.  There are lots of them.  This also gave us the opportunity to discuss how I would not be working while in France, that I was "retiring" for a bit.  So during those school holidays, they would not have to go to any camps.  Why is this an advantage?  You see, I am a terrible parent who forces her children to have fun.  Two spring breaks in a row, I signed the kids up for the local recreation camp.  They hang out and play on the playground at a rec center, play foosball, do arts and crafts. It's pretty low key.  However, on Wednesday of this camp, the kids do a field trip to Knott's Berry Farm Amusement Park.  Now, I've never actually been there.  But if I believe the kids, it's a terrible place.  So, advantage no break camps.  This is very important to the boys.

Back to Favorite Things:  We can take some things with us!  Also cementing the bribery of personal electronic devices in the kids' minds.

More Favorite Things:  Programming Classes since Will can't do Planet Bravo anymore during the summer.  Minecraft, because kids in France are into Minecraft too.

More Advantages:  Including the nuclear explosion.  Which, fortunately, is not a problem in Toulouse.

Some Disadvantages:  Because if I say only good things, and we encounter any bad things, the kids will be less likely to trust me in the future.  So, yes, there are some bad things, as there are in any situations that involve change.  Alex and pants?  You see, he was born in California.  He uses the word "Dude" and "Bro."  He's a California boy.  He only wears shorts, whatever the weather.  So, it's a bit colder climate.  He's going to have to wear pants.

Obligatory Question Slide:  Because PowerPoint.

Reaction: Resistance Initially Absent 
We thought that the kids would be more concerned and resistant at the initial news that we were leaving the country.  But they were actually excited.  One of the first questions they asked, "Can we go to Italy and have pizza and noodles?"  Yes.  Yes we can.  Then Will started asking the technical satellite questions, "With so many satellites, how do they keep from hitting each other?"  We also talked about getting a large wall map of Europe so we could plan trips across Europe during breaks and weekends.  And of course, we told them that, yes, we could go visit Lego World Headquarters.
After showing the kids the PowerPoint presentation, we decided to celebrate this wonderful new adventure and took them out for gelato.  Sugar is a positive association.

It wasn't until later that night, when he should have been sleeping, that Will wandered out of his room and asked, "Do we have to move to France with Dad?"  And, since it is our parental responsibility to be reassuring, we told him that yes, and we would do it as a family.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

"The only way out is through" aka "Be a warrior" #traveledition

I subscribe, more or less, to the tenant that one's body and mind are tools that be exercised by one's will.  I will, therefore, I become. When faced with a difficult situation, come up with a plan and push through.  Revisit the plan as required, of course.  In the past ten years or so, I've applied this strategy on a good numbers of occasions from working years long challenging programs, working night shifts, and evening losing weight.

I like sum up this strategy as "The only way out is through."  On joining the team here in Toulouse, a new co-worker summed it up in slightly different turn of phrase, "Be a warrior." Whatever you call it, I applied it to my recent arrival in Toulouse.  Traveling for 15 hours is a bit fatiguing, but here is what I accomplished immediately after arriving in Toulouse (1430) before hitting the sack at 10pm.

Productive arrival in Toulouse.
- Made it to my hotel without touching my phone or GPS for directions.
- Spent 30 minutes trying to find a parking space the stupid Fiat 500 El Grande would actually fit in.
- Acquired charging cable for iPhone (lost in the DTW Sky Club) 
- Acquired groceries (water, bread, cheese, yogurt) aka emergency rations
- Interfaced with the photo booth to generate acceptable identity photograph
- Acquired stored value metro card w/10 trips (required identity photo)
- Acquired bike share subscription to VélôToulouse (required stored value card)
- Acquired share bike and rode to Dardy to browse appliances
- Acquired scale (for cycling induced manorexia) and rode back to hotel
- Acquired another share bike and rode to the apartment to checkout the scene on a Saturday night. It's quite quiet. But discovered the rear entrance is now locked up... frown emoticon

- Walked to the Japanese restaurant a few blocks from the apartment. Learned that California Rolls are called inverted Maki here. Acquired beer, miso, and chirashi

- Acquired share bike, rode back to hotel, purchased batteries for scale
- Walked around Christmas market.

- Did a good job keeping myself awake. Time to hit some melatonin