Saturday, December 31, 2005


Until recently, my scrapbooks have sat on our shelves due to a drop in creativity on my part, as well as my energies put to other pursuits, like transforming my bedroom from blue to shades of brown, red and orange. Yesterday, we realized we'd been spending too much money on redecorating, so out came the scrapbooks!

Sometimes I get a burst of inspiration for my scrapbooks, so I have to take advantage of it. I did four pages and finished 4 others that I had started but not completed. Then today I did 2 more from scratch and completed 2 others. I'm ready to give myself some sort of medal. Actually, I'm just really happy. For me scrapbooking combines a lot of my talents and interests - photos, writing, creating, and a desire to preserve all things nostalgic. So I'm a satisfied Gina right now.

Menace to society

We received a notice in the mail last week from our friendly management company. It listed out several resolutions they are puting into effect for the coming year. Some of them meant improvement, such as the replacement of bushes throughout the complex (though I can't see anything wrong with the current ones). However, one spells the end of fun times for our little folks here in Kentish.

There have, it says, been reports of people riding bicycles throughout the complex at "high speeds", particularly into the car park. Therefore, from now on there will be no riding of bicycles within the premises. All bicycles must be walked to the front entrance.

So gone are the days of our children riding races around the fountain, because even though no one has actually been injured or even had to step aside to avoid our kids, it seems the mere thought of people biking in an open space is abhorrent and dangerous. We'll have to venture out to find other open spaces to ride in until a notice is posted there . . .

The amusing part about this notice was the last line which read, (specifically regarding the bike riding) "with your cooperation we can stamp out this menace!" I've never been a menace to society before. I feel like a reckless American outlaw.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Joy to the world!

Merry Christmas!

No, we're not just pretending it's winter. These are from our trip to China. It's so cute to see our kids bundled up!

Emma, Megan and Lucy on the only day it was warm enough to play outside

Me freezing at the dirt market

Ethan and Jackson together again

Megan and Emma enjoying the swing

Merry Christmas to me

Merry Christmas! I have to say that it didn't phase me to wake up this year on Christmas morning to a full on lightning storm. Last year it was so surreal to have 80 degree weather on Christmas.

The weather cleared up later and it was quite beautiful, but I was unable to enjoy it. Within about 20 seconds of standing up in the morning I had an awful stomach ache which lasted until about an hour before I went to bed in the evening. I get this kind of stomach ache often after my body has settled down from periods of high stress. It' s like an ulcer, but it isn't one (I've been to the doctor for it). My body just overproduces acid or something. I've described it as like something is exploding in me, someone's taking a blowtorch to the inside of my stomach, or like someone is stabbing me in the gut. Sometimes I can find a way to lay down that alleviates it. Being upright is torture. No amount of Tums like medicine helps either.

Hopefully by now I've aroused a full chorus of pity, but let me say that I'm ok today. Erik was gracious enough to take care of the kids who were mostly occupied by new toys. He even made a fabulous looking salad for our potluck dinner with friends. He took the kids there while I laid on the couch, ate saltines and drank a diet coke (when I have this pain I can't actually feel if I'm hungry or not so that's about all I ate yesterday) and watched Cinderella Man. Not the best Christmas I've spent, but it doesn't alter what happened to us when Christ came to earth.

Friday, December 23, 2005

New pictures

In case you haven't looked recently, I posted some new pictures at our website. We had some good friends leave this week (one of the hazards of having expat friends overseas - they get transferred often!) and we had one last big swimming blast with them and others from our group. There's actually a picture of me, finally. Please make no judgments on my new haircut based on this picture - I hadn't washed it, and it was raining that day. :)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Traces of control

There have been moments this week that remind me of the tight hold Singapore has on its systems and people.

The first came on Tuesday when I was out to lunch with some friends. I ordered the set lunch, which had a choice of appetizer, main dish and drinks. The drink choices were some kind of barley wheat drink, and ice lemon tea. I don't like either of them. At first I asked the server if I could get something else. Of course the answer was "no" because there just isn't life outside the box.
Our ensuing conversation went like this:
Me: That's fine. I'll just have water then. I don't want either of them.
Her: (deer in the headlights look) But you need to pick one of them.
Me: No, it's fine. I don't want either one. I'll just have water.
Her: Can you please just pick one?! (bordering on panic)
Me: How about this - don't worry about it. Just keep the drinks, I'll just have water.
Her: But you still have to pay the $9.99 . . .
Me: That's ok (I feel like I'm talking a cat out of a tree)

The second thing happened a friend of mine. She went to one of the Christian bookstores here to buy the book Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias. This is not a controversial book. Ravi Zacharias is a theologically sound man. However, when she asked about it, they sheepishly admitted that this book is not allowed in Singapore. What?! There is no explanation.

Sometimes you fight it, other times you just sit back and scratch your head.

Friday, December 16, 2005

In the Presence of Greatness

The other day Ethan came into the kitchen and started to pour himself a cup of water. I thought, "I love that my son can not only pour himself his own drink, but his drink of choice is water" so I said, "Ethan, I'm so proud of you. You're turning out even better than I imagined!"
He replied, "You mean, when I was in your tummy you thought I'd be great, but now that I'm out I'm even greater?" Exactly.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Death by Gingerbread

Today was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, all due to the intense and relentless desire of our son to make a gingerbread house. We made one once, in the U.S., before we knew that you could preserve your sanity and use a kit. I vowed that I would never again make one from stratch. I would have used a kit here, but IKEA ran out before we got one, and the other places are too expensive.

And so here I am, so exhausted, frustrated, and stressed that I resorted to taking a few old potatoes and hurling them at my shower wall as hard as possible. I need more potatoes.

I thought that it might be hard to make a gingerbread house here because of the high humidity. That was the least of our issues. I thought it would help to use a box inside for reinforcement. Yeah, that wasn't much help. I could list out the problems, but let's say that in the end, we have a gingerbread house precariously held together with not just frosting but also tape, glue, staples, nails, and sewing pins. It is a house that any inspector would instantly condemn. I'm afraid to let the kids decorate it because I know the second someone touches it, it will collapse. So it will remain undecorated. In fact, when I get around to it, I'm pitching it. I'd like to pitch it against my shower wall too, but I still have to clean up the potatoes. And the nails might scratch the enamel.

Ethan has been informed that we are never ever going to attempt to make another gingerbread house from scratch. I think seeing the crazed look on my face convinced him not to argue. I told him that maybe we could just paint a box brown and decorate that. He said maybe we could just eat the decorations. Hey, even better! The biggest bummer is that I was at a Christmas luncheon on Thursday and part of the dessert was these really cute little figures made of sugar - trees and people. I asked everyone at our table to give me theirs so I have a virtual sugar forest and village. They will be homeless this Christmas.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cat Lady

There's a woman across the street who often approaches people with pleas for money to feed her cat. I've been one of the approached. The first time she wanted me to buy something for her so she could use the money to feed her cat. The second time she tried the woman in front of me in line for the ATM, then me. She didn't ask me to buy anything that time - just a flat out, "Give me money feed my cat?"

Now, call me insensitive, but if you're reduced to begging to feed a cat, wouldn't the humility of doing so override the desire to own the cat? Why not give the cat to someone who could feed it regularly? I don't know - maybe there's a whole history with the cat here that I'm unaware of. She does seem a bit unstable though.

Anyway, that was just one of many odd things that happened yesterday. If I have time tomorrow I'll share them.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fun in the Middle Kingdom

We're back and defrosting from our trip to the big country of the east. This morning I looked in my closet, saw only shorts and t-shirts and thought, "Great, I'm going to be cold." Then I remembered that I live on the equator.

There's too much to tell because I hate long posts, so I'll just tell you one story that made me want to scream, "I love China!"

I got my deal of the week at a place called Golden Five Star. Picture a huge one story building with a thousand stalls selling things ranging from bathroom faucets to purses to bicycles. We went there to have some pictures reframed, but I found a curtain store that had this gorgeous silk material. You have to understand that usually these places don't have any material that you might possibly want in your home. But this was exactly what I was looking for. I thought it might cost up to 60 yuan per meter (about $7.50 US) but when I asked her, she said, "10 yuan" ($1.25 US). I ordered 10 meters. It's now draped over the curtains in my bedroom. Pictures to come, once my bedroom transformation is complete (that's what happens when you buy a new bed).

But what really made me want to scream, "I love China" was seeing all our great friends there. We stayed with a family who has kids the same age as ours, and live in the same complex as our closest friends there. The fact that it was freezing outside was fine with us because all we really wanted to do was be with all of them. We love Singapore, but being back there was like being home again. I feel like breaking out the Cheers theme song when I think about it.

I know what you're thinking, "I bet it wasn't really that cold. They're just cold wimps now." But really - it dropped down into the teens while we were there, with really strong winds. Our friends there were complaining right along with us. Ethan kept asking when it would snow. Unfortunately it never did. Cold without snow is so pointless.

So we had a great time, but I think we'll save our next vacation time to go somewhere warmer. Actually, we're thinking of going to the island where they filmed South Pacific. That's fodder for another post though.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Quotable Ethan

Here's a sentiment from Ethan with which I wholeheartedly agree.
"If chocolate was good for you and didn't have any sugar in it, then I would eat chocolate every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and for a snack. And I would drink chocolate milk for a drink."

Amen to that my son. So much for having children who grow up not really desiring sugar. I swear I don't let them each that much, but they've inherited their mother's cravings. At least he's aware that it's not that good for him.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Easing me back into the culture

I had to pull my Chinese out prematurely this morning. I went to the Chinese embassy to get my rush visas done. I was already running a little later than I hoped, so when the guard met me and informed me that I couldn't go in, I was a bit perturbed. I asked him where I could park, but he just gave me a blank stare.
"Fujin you mei you car park?" Is there a carpark nearby?
"Mei you. Ni yingai qu 70 meters nei bian." There isn't one. You need to go 70 meters that way.
"Wo yinggai zai nar park?" Where can I park?
"Wo bu zhi dao." I don't know.
Wow. That was incredibly helpful. I drove in to turn around and was told by an official looking embassy person that I could park up there. I parked, got out, realized I had amazingly and beyond all conceiveable stupidity forgot our passports, and then saw the same guard coming up to tell me that no in fact I could not park there.

Ok, I have to insert a little PR hint for the Chinese embassy: If you want people to come, you might want to provide a place to park. Either that or inform them of the need to taxi.

We rushed home and hopped in a taxi on the way back. I decided that since the driver was listening to a Chinese radio station, I should try out my hua yu, as Mandarin is called here. We had a nice conversation - one of the first where a taxi driver here actually compliments my speaking rather than criticizing me for not being fluent.

Back at the embassy, I tried to go to the same place, but my guard nemesis redirected me again "70 meters" away. Sure enough, he knew what he was talking about. We got the number 390. Not good when they're on 355 and there's only one window. I quickly realized though that old habits of the mainland die hard because many people either hadn't taken a number or just weren't bothering to follow them. Neither was the woman behind the counter at all phased that when she rang for 358 four separate groups of people showed up at her counter. Finally, I decided to stop being the obedient queuer and went up between numbers.

All this is preparing me for our trip tomorrow. I hope I'll have more of the pleasant hua yu conversations and less of the frustrating stuff.

The Price of Stupidity

Few feelings are as uncomfortable as the one I had when, last Friday, I casually asked my husband, "Hey, did you ever get our visas to go to China?" The look on his face made it apparent that the answer was no.

Never fear - one day turn around to the rescue. This does create some inconvenience for me today, as I have to go to the embassy between 9-12 to drop off our passports, and pick them up between 3-4. The more frustrating thing is the amount of money we will have to shell out to get them this fast. That, my friends, is called the price of stupidity. Call it the price of carelessness if you want to be more gracious, but we might as well have just flushed that money down the toilet.

But all that to say we're very excited to go to China! I looked at the weather today and I'm thrilled to see that it will only be dipping down into the mid-40's there this week. I was imagining something more like the 20's. So we won't freeze, but I fear it won't snow. I was really hoping it would snow for my kids' sake. We even bought some rain boots at Mustafa on the off chance it might. It rarely snows in this part of China so the chances were never really that good.

And finally, I'll close with a Megan quote from yesterday. We were driving to Picket and Rail, the infamous store where we got our wrong color bed, to exchange our mirror. Once we mounted it we realized that it has a fun house quality to it. Turns out all the mirrors there possess that quality so we got one that does it a little less. But the point of my story: driving there, Megan was chewing gum. Suddenly she cried and said, "My gum fell out of my mouth and it went . . . . somewhere." She was really distraught so we had a hard time holding back the chuckles. Maybe you had to be there.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Speaking the language

Last week at the doctor's office, I was proud of my ability to speak in a way that would be understood by the women behind the counter. What I said was, "Can I top up my cash card in the car park?" For you non-Singlish speakers, that translates to "Can I put more money on that little card that sticks in the doo-hickey on my dashboard and allows me to pay for parking automatically down in the parking lot?"

I've said it before - just because someone speaks English doesn't mean they speak your English. This morning in the furniture store I caught myself adopting a slight Singaporean accent so that I could be understood by the sales man (imagine combining a Chinese accent with an Indian one and you're about right). But I draw the line at this: In Coffee Bean this morning, Erik went to the counter and said, "Could I have a serviette?" (a napkin). I said, "I can't believe you said serviette." His response, "Hey, you gotta be understood." I know, but that word gives me the creeps.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hair woes

I don't know any man who has ever cried over a haircut. Maybe I just don't know the right men, but I do know women who have cried over a haircut, including myself. And now, my daughter.

I really thought that she shouldn't have to cry over a haircut until she's at least a teenager, but our little girl does have quite a sensitive heart. Couple that with a strong desire to be exactly like her friend Faith, and you get a child who was not happy with the haircut mommy gave her.

In all fairness, it's not a bad haircut. I'll admit it's shorter than I had planned, but it doesn't look bad. Just short. Partly that's because it curls when it's dry, and partly because I'm not a professional hairdresser (leaning more heavily toward the latter). But she took one look at it in the mirror and burst into tears, insisting that she didn't want it that way, like somehow I could change it.

I gave her all the reasons for it, which to me are quite valid. For one thing, brushing her long hair every day was torture for both of us, especially since you can't find spray in conditioner here (or at least I can't - if someone has a tip on that I'd appreciate it). And because she won't let me put it up in pony tails or anything, she has heat rash on her neck all the time from that thick hair laying on it. That's what finally made me decide that shorter would be better.

But none of these pragmatic reasons mattered to Megan. All she could see was that she was no longer like Faith. After a short time though, she decided that she likes it, and it looks cute. I think she'd look cute if we shaved her, but you won't see any posts about me doing that.

Pictures and more pictures

I just posted pictures of our trip to Bintan, as well as the Deeparaya celebration, on our website. I don't like to take up space with so many pictures here.

Island hopping

Within a quick plane or ferry ride in any direction of Singapore there are a thousand islands available for vacation. We finally took the opportunity to visit one of them from Friday to Saturday with some friends of ours.

Our island of choice was Bintan, Indonesia. Even though it was less than an hour by ferry, and we were there for less than 48 hours, we had to bring along passports and visas. The trouble is well worth it though for the fun that you can have.

We stayed at the Bintan Lagoon Resort. I don't know how it ranks compared to other places on the island (which is quite a large island, at least compared to Singapore) but we thought it was beautiful! We had first floor ocean view rooms. We realized we don't often stay in hotels with our kids because Ethan kept wondering where the kitchen, washing machine, and other ammenities were. On Saturday when we looked at villas you can rent, he was all ready to move in to our "new home." We've got to get out more.

Friday morning we pulled in around 9 a.m. The guys took the kids swimming (they have three boys who are 7, 5, and 3) while Wendy and I rested. After lunch Wendy and I got reflexology massages while the guys read and the kids watched a movie. Later that afternoon we girls took the kids to the other pool and the guys - well, I don't know what they did actually.

Saturday morning Erik and Steve went golfing (getting on the ferry there were baggage carts full of just golf clubs) and we took the kids to the beach, and then swimming. Since we are in the tropical rainforest climate we did have to endure a torrential rainstorm, but that was mercifully during lunch and video arcade time. We had to check out of our rooms a little early so we wandered around on the beach during low tide. The kids were wiped by the time we got back on the ferry.

A good time was had by all. The kids want to know when we get to go back! Pictures to come.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I realized yesterday while watching The Incredibles (or in our case, "Los Increibles" as it says on the disk) that I have Elastigirl's haircut. Sort of. I have the potential to look like Elastigirl because my hair is cut the same way. I'm just not a cartoon character so it doesn't poof up as much as hers.

So now you can have a little mental picture of what I look like these days.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Happy Deeparaya

Even though Deepavali is an Indian holiday and Hari Raya is the end of Ramadan for the Muslims, last Saturday night our nearby community center hosted a Deeparaya celebration for both holidays. Our neighbors (also Americans) invited us to join them.

Upon entering, it was clear that we were the only white faces present and that this fact was of great interest to others. We were led to the second row of seats marked "reserved." My friend Karen and I discovered then, much to our dismay, that the advertised "buffet" was going to happen after the celebration, which began at 8 p.m. I'm at "eat around 6" kind of girl, so I wasn't thrilled by the thought of eating at 10 p.m. Her husband ran out and nabbed some peanuts for us.

The evening was quite entertaining. It had the community center feeling, where it seemed like the event planners were making some of it up as they went along, and the range of quality of the performers was pretty big. One girl sang twice in the traditional Indian voice, with her typed out lyrics held a few inches from her face. Another guy sang a few songs in Malay. He had a great, soothing voice - almost lounge singer like but not in a bad way. I told Erik the first song sounded like how I imagine a James Bond theme song would be in Malay. You could tell he was loving being on stage.

They had a few dances - some traditional Malay, some Indian. The Indian dances were performed by a girl who looks to be only about 10 but has been professionally dancing this traditional kind of dance since she was 7 (started learning at 4). It was fascinating to watch, especially because she had amazing facial expressions and the largest eyes I have ever seen outside of a cartoon character.

One of the most entertaining parts though was the parade of children age 4-9 competing in a costume contest. So beautiful! Pictures and hopefully video of the Indian dancer soon to come.

We were treated almost like honored guests after the celebration. They led us to the front of the buffet line (which mercifully started at 9:20) and several people came over and asked how we liked it. I'm glad we went - it gave me a glimpse into the Indian and Malay cultures that I would probably never just run into on the street.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

In case you're wondering where Santa Claus is during the year - apparently not always at the North Pole.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Goggles . . .

Because you never know when bath time is going to get a little crazy

New local pictures

Today we took a quick trip to the bookstore. On the way I snapped some pictures of some of the temples and buildings that are near our house. I didn't want to take up space here with all of them, so take a gander at our website.


Yesterday a man was about to get in the pool when we went out to swim. He was wearing a nice, normal red and blue swimsuit. Once he got in though, I saw that he'd left his suit behind. Underneath he was wearing a white string bikini. This was disturbing to me. A Speedo is one thing, but this was too much. Ew.

When he was done swimming, he seemed like he was lingering in the pool. My friend and I moved over to the kiddie pool and turned our backs to him so he could get out in privacy, though I don't know why he thought that was important. It's not like we couldn't see what he was wearing when he was in the pool.

Proving my point

This life as a musical thing has escalated to the point of being almost ridiculous. Megan is at this moment singing an apology to Ethan for accidently doing something to him, to the tune of the alphabet song. Imagine this, "I'm sorry, you're ok, I'm sorry, you're ok." Can you hear it? I hope to catch a video clip to put on here soon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Heavenly Man

Last night I started reading a book called The Heavenly Man, the story of Brother Yun, an incredible Christian brother in China. Within the first 20 pages I think I'd said, "Wow" or gotten chills all over my body more than a dozen times. The miracles which have marked his life, the total faith he has in God, the ways he hears from Him, are beyond imagination. I was humbled and awe-struck. When I stopped reading after about an hour and a half, my only response was to get on my knees before God in praise and confession. Oh to be used like this man! I know it cannot happen unless I surrender myself as he has.

If you haven't read this book (I imagine many have never heard of it) you should hunt it down. I guarantee it'll put some things in perspective.

Monday, November 07, 2005

My Life as a Musical

The Happy Hour is in full gear here tonight as Megan is singing herself to sleep. She does that if she's had a nap in the afternoon, because then she isn't tired. The tune of choice is "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea."

This is not limited to bedtime. Megan sings her way through life, like she's in a musical and everything must be sung, instead of said. Even mundane things like, "It's time to eat our toast." She puts it all to the tune of Jesus Loves Me or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or some variation thereof. I like it. It adds a little fun to life.

My bed arrived today. We've worked out a solution for the old bed, but the new bed has a slight problem in that it's not really the right color. It's walnut, but we had asked for a lighter shade that shows the grain of the wood and isn't as red. We didn't get that. I went back to the store and begged the man for the display model which was exactly what I wanted. He wouldn't give, but he did order up another bed specifying my desires this time. With any luck in about three days time I'll have the right color.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Mystery solved

What leads a three year old to sing herself to sleep by the Hokey Pokey? I'm told by my friend Liz that it's because that afternoon when she watched them, she sang it for them. I confirmed this with the kids. It seems that Liz did all the singing though and my kids just watched, which I think was quite brave of her. Doing the hokey pokey feels a little goofy in groups but by yourself can feel downright awkward.

So, mystery solved. In other news, our new bed arrives tomorrow and we're having a bit of a time trying to get our landlady to take her old one back. We're told she had no storage space for it. Our response is, "Neither do we!" So we're hoping our real estate woman can work some magic for us.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Blast from the Past

You may remember the elevator dressing incident of November 18, 2004. If not, please read it in the November archives. It's got to be the funniest thing that's happened to me here.

Well, yesterday in the elevator I ran into the perpetrator. I think he recognized me by the embarassed look on his face. Interestingly, it seems he is either a Christian or just happened to be wearing a shirt with a blatant Christian message (I think it had John 14:6 on it). That's the first time I've seen him in nearly a year, which seems odd. Maybe he's been hiding from me.

Last night, in an unrelated event, I heard Megan singing herself to sleep with the Hokey Pokey. This is a bit of a blast from the past because I don't remember the last time we sang that song together. I think it might have been last fall some time when my friend Karen was teaching them music for homeschool. I have no idea what triggered that, but it sure cracked me up.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Another link

For awhile, our settings were such that pictures we posted went onto our website instead of our blog. Erik switched it this morning, but for a few pictures of our neighborhood, hit this link.

Checking out Ethan's stash

It was like being the states, with the loads of decorations everywhere! It looked like it was a requirement or something.


Mrs. Incredible

Ethan got the hang of it quickly

Some people had their maids give out the candy

Trick or treating with friends

from left: Ryan, Kirsten, Ethan, Avery and Megan

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

I'm not much for celebrating Halloween. It's a take it or leave it holiday for me. The thought of making my kids wear costumes when they don't really like dressing up, letting them see lots of stuff that's scary, and teaching them to take hoards of candy from perfect strangers isn't really part of my development plan for them.

But this year we were invited to a party in a part of Singapore called the Woodlands. It's where the American school is located so there are loads of expats there. We were told it's something you have to experience at least once. My kids have found costumes they did want to wear of their own will, so we gave it a shot.

Ethan was Batman and Megan was either Mrs. Incredible or Violet Incredible - she looks more like Mrs. Incredible with her red hair. I tried to convince her that she would like to wear the fairy princess costume we already owned, but she insisted on the Incredibles so I ran over to the Deepavali tent today and bought her a cheap one. She loved it. She was quite proud (pictures to prove it coming soon).

We had pizza at our friend's house and headed out. It wasn't bad at first, with more of the younger kids out. By 7 p.m. (we started at 6) the older kids were out without their manners (forgot those at home I guess) and our kids were getting bowled over. Ethan started asking how many more houses we had to go to, which was my first clue that it was time to go. Erik was going to come pick us up, but it was nearly impossible to drive in. I had to call a taxi. He hadn't heard of Halloween so it all seemed quite bizarre to him. He asked, "Can everyone go to any house?"
"Can!" I replied (how very Singaporean of me).

I asked Ethan if he had fun. He said no, then qualified it with, "It was fun until the end." Erik and I already sorted through the candy, threw away the worthless stuff, and kept a few choice goodies for ourselves. Did our parents do that to ours?

Sunday, October 30, 2005


I'm sorry I haven't written much lately. It's not that I have been too busy, but that I've been busy doing nothing of interest I guess. Until Friday.

Erik and I recently came into some gift money, so we thought we would spend it on some last things for the apartment - a small console and a large mirror. Since our furniture is Asian style, we went on a tip from a friend to an area that specializes in that.

We thought when she said, "Dempsey Road" that it would be like a strip mall. Instead, it was a collection of one story stores clumped together ecclectically out in a wooded area. It was a bit of a walk to get from the entrance to the back stores. It felt a lot like wandering a camp where the cabins had been converted to furniture, carpet and idol stores (you get a lot of stores that sell primarily idols here).

Here's where the spoiled part comes in: Erik and I had to keep telling ourselves that the prices we saw on the furniture were not in kuai (Chinese money) but Sing dollars. We are so accustomed to being able to buy this kind of furniture at rock bottom prices that it was hard to believe anyone would pay that much for something. We couldn't bring ourselves to think about buying any of it, especially when I asked a man if a mirror could be smaller, and he said sure, because he has them custom made in China and sent here. We're kicking ourselves now for not buying more while we lived there.

We walked away with nothing, paralyzed by our cheapness, and also not finding anything that we wanted enough to take it home.

As a post note, in the afternoon yesterday I went to Novena Square, which is just a typical shopping mall close to our house. At a fun store called Picket and Rail, I found a large mirror that was exactly what I had been imagining, and a bed. Yes, a bed. We don't have a formal bed right now - just the bottom metal frame with a box spring and two mattresses on top (long story) and I saw one that I just loved. Everything in the store was on sale "less 20%" as they say here, and the prices were already really low. In fact, I'll be really local and tell you that we got both the large mirror (80x130 cm) and the bed for about $400 US. Now that felt like shopping in Asia.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Evil Skier

Confession time: Many of the movies I've watched in the past 6 years I didn't see in a movie theater or rent from Blockbuster. They were purchased at rock bottom prices from what appeared to be legitimate stores but who are we kidding? I could give you a lot of reasoning and justification, but that's not the point of my story. The point is that there are many amusing things about watching them. Often they are taped in a theater, so you find yourself wanting to say, "Down in front" to no effect, since you can see someone's head in front of the camera. And you get the studio audience feeling, listening to the laughter in the theater. One personal favorite experience of mine was after watching The Truman Show with some friends. Halfway through the credits, the movie cut to a shot of a dead fish on plate right in the middle of someone's dining room table. It was like they taped over some home video.

But my all time favorite, recurring snafu of late is "evil skier" credits. I guess some people were too lazy to stay and tape the credits, so they've selected the credits from some random movie to slap on anything. The cast, in order of appearance, is a bunch of skiers, the second being "evil skier." We've seen these credits on everything from Princess Diaries 2 to Bourne Supremacy.

Today the kids watched the end of the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There was a moment of black after the end of the movie, and I knew it was coming. "Evil skier credits!" I cried. Sure enough, the familiar music started (a bit like the Bear in the Big Blue House theme) and up scrolled evil skier. Erik and I laughed heartily. See, you just don't get this experience with regular, full priced movies.

Seasonal Confusion

I went to the market today to buy some pot roast supplies, but there was no one there. Instead there was a big sign that proclaimed, "Spring Cleaning! October 24th." Hello? October 24th people. Last time I checked we were north of the equator. Maybe no one's explained that the "spring" part of spring cleaning refers to a season rather than a ritual.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Talking in my sleep

Since I was a senior in high school, I periodically freak out my current roommate by waking up and trying communicate with her (or him, as the case has been for the past 8 years). The first time I did it, I wandered into my parent's room and tried to tell my mom that my marching band squad was missing. Not many days later when she tried to wake me up for church I told her I couldn't get up because it was National Pecan Day and I hate pecans.

What's happening here is that I'm a light sleeper. I dream a lot. Very vivid dreams. So vivid that sometimes I wake up, still thinking that my dream is reality, and try to involve the nearest person in that reality. So I know exactly what I'm saying, and I really believe what I'm saying, and I think the person with me is an imbecile for not understanding me. Later, when I wake up again, I realize that the night talker has struck again.

Erik has been subjected to this numerous times. He says I adopt this staccato voice that makes it obvious to him that he shouldn't try to understand but just get me to shut up and go back to sleep without making me so angry that I hit him. The way for him to avoid this is to try not to smirk at me. That's always my clue that I'm doing "that thing again" and I get embarassed and want to slap him into next week for laughing at me.

I tell you all this to give you context for telling you that Ethan has also become a night talker. Several times in the last few weeks he's woken up crying, and when we go to comfort him and ask him what's wrong, he says things like, "I don't want one!" or "I'm just . . . I'm just . . . " with the same voice I use. Last night he walked out into the living room and just stood there until we picked him up and took him back to his room. I think this is an argument for the nature side of nature/nurture.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Land of Make Believe

The world of make believe is alive and well in my house these days. It gives me great joy, because there was a time in Ethan's life when I feared that he had not a creative bone in his body. This was evidenced when his friend Ellee played with him for the first time (both age 3 then) and she said, "Let's take the baby to the doctor!" to which Ethan responded, "What doctor?"

But maybe due to Megan's influence, or just because it's a natural part of childhood, he's now a professional make believer. I am always being told by both my children that some ordinary object is something magical and different. Megan specializes in playing "Sweetie" where all of her stuffed animals are her children that she dotes on. They are usually crying and she has to comfort them. I don't know what that says about how she perceives our house. What cracks me up the most about it is that she'll rope Ethan into playing daddy, and she'll say things like, "Honey, it's time to go!" to him. So I guess I use that word a lot.

Ethan will tolerate Megan's games, but he tends toward other play. Right now he has a wonderful lego train going in his room, complete with a watering hole for the animals. The other day at a friend's house there was an elaborate game of war going on with all five kids (four boys and Megan, who was loving it). Ethan's games tend to involve building of some sort, or travel.

This reminds me of a quote I often hear, being a parent, "We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing." I hope my kids never grow old.

A new form of torture

I've discovered a new form of torture, particularly suited to people with high structure needs like me. Give a child the person's watch and let him lose it somewhere in the house. The watch will continue to beep once every hour - just enough for the person to hear it, but not long enough for them to find it. Now, not only are you succeeding in depriving them of their great need to know the time, but they are regularly reminded that the watch is still out there somewhere, taunting them.

I know that this form of torture is effective because it is currently being used on me. Fortunately, I have another watch I can use, but it doesn't have all my fun features like the date, the timer, my alarm. At first I thought I wouldn't be able to get up in the morning because my watch is my alarm, but I found a travel alarm that is actually more effective. I'd grown immune to the other one.

On another note, you should all know that the stuff in your eye when you wake up which you may call crusties or eye boogers, is called sleepy seeds. Ethan told me that, and Ethan is quite smart. Speaking of seeds, we have managed to grow two small plants in his bedroom. They're flower plants. We're not sure which ones are really growing - we planted three kinds and did our best to make sure they didn't get mixed up but they did. So we'll tell you what they are when they bloom.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Crazy Deepavali

Last night the kids and I had the pleasure to eat out with some old friends of mine from my single days in Mankato. Afterwards, we drove back down Serangoon Road, which is the main street of Little India. If I haven't mentioned it before, Little India on a Sunday is crazy. Buses of Indian men come from all over the country for their day off. They fill any available open space, talk, eat, shop, and generally enjoy each others' company.

Despite the rain, all those people were there, plus everyone else out celebrating Deepavali. The actual holiday isn't for a few more weeks, but it's kind of like the month before Christmas, when everyone's out shopping and getting excited for the big event. As a result, it was nearly impossible to drive down the road. I almost hit at least 3 men who just ran out in the road (it's a four lane, one way road) in front of me. Where I normally turn left to short cut to our road, I couldn't, because the road was just filled with people. Ethan's appropriate comment was, "What are all these people thinking?!" My thoughts exactly. But I did spy a "Deepavali bazaar" that looked quite fun. I might just brave it one of these nights when Erik is back.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The best part of my day

I have a good life. Every day I experience a thousand little joys like gifts from God, reminders of His tender love for me. But one experience I treasure every day and it is this: at night, before I go to bed, I creep into the rooms of my children and watch them sleep for a minute. Sometimes I lay down next to them and kiss them or hold their hands. On ocassion I even pick them up for a minute. But Megan will sometimes wake up just a little - just enough to realize I'm there - and will wrap her little arms around my neck, maybe even stroke my hair or my back. If I could bottle the joy of those moments and sell it, I'd be the richest person on earth.

Theology according to Ethan

I've had a few interesting conversations with my son about spiritual things lately. Here's his take on the enemy:

"Mommy, when I sin, it's because Satan's on the throne in my life."
"Well, actually honey, when you belong to Jesus, Satan doesn't have that place in your life. So when you sin, it's really you on the throne. But it's because you're believing a lie. Satan lies to us. Like when you hit someone, you're listening to the lie that to get what you want you have to be unkind."
"And mommy, when Megan hit me, it was because Megan was on the throne. And Satan told me to hit her back and be on my throne and I said, 'No, Satan! Jesus is on my throne!' "

"Mommy, Satan throws dirt at us, and Jesus sprays it away with water!"
"Really, so what is the dirt? Is it like lies that he's telling us?"
"Um . . . yeah, dirt lies."
"And what is the water that Jesus uses?"
"Um . . . it's from a hose."

So there you have it. Theology from a five year old.

Monday, October 10, 2005

We passed!

Erik and I are proud to say that we are now driving legally in Singapore. We took our driver's tests this morning, showed them every important document aside from birth certificates, poured a few more dollars into the Singapore government bank account, and now we anxiously await the arrival of our new driver's licenses.

We're breathing a little easier also because I don't know what the fine is for driving without a license in Singapore, but I'm certain there is one and it isn't something you could cover by fishing some coins out of your couch. And guess what - we actually learned a few things about driving while studying for the test! If you come to Singapore, we will be able to explain to you the subtle differences between the various colors and types of lines painted on the sides of the roads (And they are legion). If that doesn't make you want to come, I don't know what will.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Community Education

We were saved a week ago from spending about $250 U.S. to send Ethan to 10 weeks of gymnastics classes. We were about to commit this gross act of reckless spending because Ethan really wanted to learn, we aren't spending any other money on education for him at the moment, and that's about par for the course here in Singapore.

That is, until we found out that they have gymnastics at community centers. These are, I'm discovering, the equivalent of community education in the U.S. There are centers all over - in fact, there's one across the street from us - but not all of them offer every course. The gymnastics course we found for Ethan is a bit of a drive by Singapore standards (about 13 minutes) but it's a mere S$140 for 10 weeks (about $85 U.S.) We went for the first time this morning and he loved it! He said it was, "Fun but hard." I was full to bursting with pride for my little boy doing his best out there. I'd say he's a natural, or at least highly coordinated for a 5 1/2 year old.

We tried a ballet class for Megan on Monday night at the community center nearby. It was for 4-6 year olds and all the other girls besides her two friends who were also trying it out had been in the class before, so it was too difficult for her. She was disappointed because she really wanted to be with her friends, but I think if she waits until the next session she'll do well.

As for me, I'm eyeing the tango classes and in a few weeks some of my friends and I are taking a one time course on cooking Indian food. This is quite exciting for me - I feel like a whole new door has opened for interesting activities in our lives.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Higher Standards

When you live in a developing country, it's always a good principle to lower your standards. (by the way, when you say that, it sounds best if you use a game show host voice). Garbage pile right outside your front door bother you? Lower your standards! Don't like it when people spit on the street? Lower your standards! (and watch your step). You get the idea.

Well, after living in a highly developed country again for a year, I've recently realized how much my standards have gone back up, maybe higher than before. Things like the fact that the same little leaf has been on the landing in my stairwell for a week, or that the beautiful tropical trees growing over the bridge from the poolside to the barbeque/fountain side of our courtyard need cutting back because I have to duck have me wondering, "Who are we not paying around here?" (they're usually crazy about cleaning). Even my son has picked it up. He's quick to comment on public restrooms (and private as well, so clean well before we come over) that need some freshening.

I have to say that within our house itself, the standard is going the opposite direction. I used to think in China that I was a super mom. Now I know I was just a mom with a helper. That's the only reason my house was clean. Without one here, and with children at home and in homeschool, I still have to stop myself sometimes, look around at the mess and say, "Gina, lower your standards!" And then I feel better.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

American Singaporean

I've been thinking about the fact that you often hear of people who are something-American. Like Chinese American, or Japanese American. But you don't hear about, for example, an American Chinese or an American African. Maybe you do, but I don't.

Ethan's asked me before if he grows up in Singapore will he be Singaporean. Maybe it's the difference of whether or not we give up our citizenship. But do you think that would make him Singaporean? I guess my question is - what would it take for your kids to really be another nationality? Maybe it's a personal decision, maybe it depends on whether your host country even allows you to gain citizenship (I don't think China does).

I suspect my kids will grow up not really feeling like they are any nationality, which I lament at times, but not too much. I hope it will make them focus on their true citizenship, which is eternal and not dependent on geography.

Cough drops are not candy!

In both China and Singapore, cough drops can be found in the candy aisle. True, some kinds are no better than candy, but God help the kid who chooses menthol flavor over cherry.

Today my friend Karen and I took our kids to a nearby Depavali tent sale (more in future posts) to get their hands painted with henna. The henna lady was gone, so we wandered around looking at cool Indian-style skirts and shoes (I got a very fun pair). A woman came to us, recognizing that the crying little white girl must belong to the only foreigners there. Megan had stopped a few stalls back and was crying for me. When I ran to comfort her, the woman offered her own comfort - a Vicks Vapor drop in original menthol flavor. While I appreciated the sentiment I thought, "Do their kids really like these?" I put it in her pocket. She wanted to eat it later, but I told her it was "spicy" which it what she calls anything peppermint-like. I wasn't sure how to explain it to her but that was close enough. I feel a bit of a sore throat coming on too so I thought I'd save it for its true purpose.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Eating my words

I just stumbled on a post of mine from last December, where I complained extensively about the hassles of driving a car in Singapore. I finished my post by declaring that I didn't expect myself to buy a car anytime soon in Singapore.

So here I am, nearly a year later, the proud and happy owner of my little Hyundai Matrix. To demonstrate my about face, let me relate an incident from last Friday.

I had to go downtown to deposit money in our bank. Usually Erik does this because it's right down the street from his office, but he was galavanting around China so I had to do it. I had driven past it the day before and discerned that there were no decent parking areas within good walking distance. Since I had the kids with me, I figured it would be easier just to take the bus there and back.

Getting there was no problem, because the bus came right away. On the way back, since I hadn't brought a stroller and the bus stop was a few big blocks from the bank, Megan pooped out and I had to carry her. Carrying a 30 pound child in 90 degree heat for several blocks is certainly a good workout but not fun. Then we had to wait for 15 minutes for the bus. The whole time I kept thinking, "How on earth did I think this was convenient before?!" I was so sweaty I had to shower when I got home. Ew.

I have become a car dependent wimp, I'll admit it freely. I love buzzing around Singapore, being able to tell my husband how to get various places (since I drive more than he does), knowing without looking now how to get back home from random spots. So here I am, eating my words, and enjoying it from inside my very own car.

Something new

Welcome! This is still Gina's blog - just trying something new and exciting. I was tired of my old template. What do you think?

How much do you love me?

Lately God has had me thinking about the way He loves me. This was brought about by an exercise in listening to God in our Bible study. We were told to ask God, "How much do you love me?" and wait for a response. I fully believe God speaks to us, but I don't usually just sit there and wait for an answer. It's more of a "so get back to me on that when you've got a chance" attitude. But this time, I just listened and this is what He said: The cross.

Now, in my mind I know that what Christ did on the cross demonstrates His love for me. But I have to admit that at times it feels a little impersonal. Christ died for me, but He died for everyone. It's like saying, "You're unique, just like everyone else." Who's to say I didn't get caught up in the cosmic mix of humanity? So I said, "God, if that's what you're telling me, you're going to have to explain that a bit." And of course, He did. In fact, He hasn't stopped explaining it to me for the past two weeks.

I often say that I love people "to death." Example - my brother Christopher. I rarely talk about him to others without saying, "I love him to death." I literally can't imagine life without him without getting choked up. That's the depth of emotion he evokes in my heart. God reminded me of that and said, "Gina, I loved you to death. I looked at you and said, 'I can't imagine eternity without her.' And so I went to the cross."

I just watched First Knight, and God said, "Gina, that's what I did for you. Lancelot diving into the water, jumping through fire, fighting the enemy for Gueneviere, that's what I did at the cross. That desire you have in you for a hero, who will sneak into enemy territory, break down the walls, slay the dragon, climb the highest tower because of his love for you - that's what I did at the cross."

I know that my love for others is human. And while sometimes my love for others is so strong it consumes me, at other times I know I must choose to act in love despite my feelings (or lack thereof). And I guess sometimes I think God feels this way about me - despite my sin, He will choose to love me. But God's love is not human love. He is the source of love. I am reminded of what Brennan Manning said in the Ragamuffin Gospel, "Don't ever compare your thin, pallid, wavering and moody love with my love, for I am God, not man."

So what He has been daily, and in so many ways (books, friends, songs, movies, thoughts) reminding me is the great emotion behind the cross. The cross was not simply an act of the will, but a passionate, daring, emotion-driven rescue of those He loved more than life itself. My heart is thrilled with this reminder of His love for me.

Overhead at our house

You have to record cute things kids say so you can repeat them ad nauseum to people forever. So here are a few things our kids have said lately that gave us a chuckle.

Erik and Ethan were trying to put together a small toy car Ethan took apart. Ethan expressed doubt that they could do it, but Erik said, "I think we can. You know why? Cause your dad's a genius!"

To which Ethan added, "Or maybe, cause we have super glue!!"

This morning during homeschool, Megan was working on letters while Ethan was busying himself with a math workbook. With each letter, we brainstormed what words start with it. We got to H and the kids started shouting out, "Horse! Hat! House!" Ethan then said, "Ham!" to which Megan added, "Cheese!" And now you know what kind of sandwich our kids like.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Megan enjoying her "room time"

Sunday, September 25, 2005

It's never too early to start good personal hygiene habits

One of Ethan's favorite activities

Enjoying the view

We love daddy!

Livin' local

I'm not the kind of person who wants to dive right into a new culture and try everything. I tend to be fairly cautious. I've noticed that when you encounter something new in a culture, there are three ways you can react: that's wrong, that's different, or that's better. I have learned to get past the "that's wrong" reaction to most things (otherwise you'll always hate where you live) but I leave a lot of other aspects of a new culture in the "that's different" category, rather than actually trying them.

So it's been a new experience for me in the last few weeks to try something new in my host culture. This to most of you will seem like the smallest, most banal thing, but I'm pretty proud of it: I have learned how to back into parking spaces. To me, this represents a cultural adjustment because you will find in any car park that almost every single car is backed into place. I've discovered that it's actually much easier than driving straight in because you have three mirrors to guide you. I find this invaluable. It now falls into the "that's better" category for me.

Now, I still don't hang my clothes out the window on a long stick to dry and I don't leave my door open in the evening instead of turning on the air, but maybe one of these days I'll try them. So if you're feeling like branching out, try the backing in thing, see what you think. Let me know how it goes.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Backwards Theology

Last week at our church Bible study, someone brought up the question of why God allows suffering, especially since non-believers often use it as a reason to doubt His existence. When ensued was about 1/2 hour of people giving pat answers to why God allows it. Everyone meant well, but it's not the kind of thing you can solve in sitcom time.

Our leader, who is a friend of mine, ended the discussion by saying something I have been turning over in my mind since then: We cannot look at our circumstances to tell us who God is. We have to look at the cross, look at the Bible, look at God, to see who God is. Then, we let God tell us about our circumstances.

Now that might seem blatantly obvious, but in examining my own life, I can seen how often I make judgments about God based on what is happening around me. We all do. We say, "How can God allow hurricanes to cause such devastation? How can He let children die and people get cancer and a million other tragedies . . .?" And our conclusion then, "He must not be good." It's so backwards. We need to look at our circumstances through the filter of who He is, not the other way around. We start with the truth that God is good, and that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. I'm not saying that when we do that, everthing magically makes sense, but from my experience, I see things in a totally different light.

Anyway, just something I've been mulling over. It's late here and time for bed. Hopefully when I read this in the morning, it will be as coherent as it seems now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Flying solo

Erik is in the middle of an 11 day trip out of the country (or out of town, if you prefer. It cracks me up that you can say either and be right). I have built up my solo parenting skills over time as his traveling has increased in recent years, but the tough part is when he's gone over the weekend. This time, it's two weekends (cue sad sympathetic music). But God has blessed us so richly that I've had to turn people down who have offered to help because we're so busy! Every day this week we've had someone over or gone to someone's house. Today some of our friends from Bible study are taking the kids for dinner so I can have some time for myself. Yesterday my friend Karen took them for two hours, just in the nick of time let me tell you because I was at the cracking point. (the cracking point for me means pulling out a second diet coke for the day - I don't drink coffee, so this is my addictive stimulant of choice. Side note: if you'd ever really like to bless me, bring me something diet that isn't coke. There's a shortage of diet pop in Singapore).

In other news, I started a small group Bible study at church last week on the topic of intimacy with God. It's unbelievable what I've already learned. I may even break my sharing adventures pattern to tell you about it here on my blog. But I can't right now because I hear strange crashing sounds coming out of my dining room involving homemade guns (made out of homeschool math tools) and something about shark infested tile. And so my solo adventure continues.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Gecko poop

Today I was cleaning a cobweb out of my corner and noticed that there were funny brown chunks like dirt along the ledge that hangs about two feet from my ceiling. I've decided that this must be gecko poop. I am not kidding when I say this - I'm certain that's what it is. Not only have we seen geckos in our apartment frequently, once in awhile a hidden one makes itself known by that loud sound they make. It usually happens early in the morning when I get up to exercise and it scares the willies out of me. I don't care what anyone says, that sound is nothing like "geck-oh." (they say that's how they got the name).

So this is a new thing for me. I really never thought I would find myself one day cleaning gecko poop off my walls. But here I am.

Monday, September 12, 2005

If it makes you feel better

So gas here is S$1.85 per liter or thereabouts. Those reading this in the U.S. might be paying the same in U.S. dollars per gallon. Or maybe more, I don't know. Well, let me translate this for you. When you convert liters to gallons and Sing dollars to U.S., we're shelling out a whopping $4.25 per gallon. So the next time you fill up and think that you're draining your checkbook in the process, think of us and drive an extra mile or two in celebration.

I love a rainy night

As I type, the sky is flashing and thundering at a constant rate. I was counting the time between lightning and thunder a short time ago (3 seconds is one kilometer) but I stopped when they became simultaneous. I don't know that I remember a storm quite this intense before here, though it rains at least every other day.

I love it. This is one of the things I missed when we lived in China, where our part of the country rarely rained. I'd like to go to sleep right now, lulled by these crazy sounds. It makes me feel safe and sheltered.

As a post note to Ethan's hospital trip - they were unable to remove the popcorn last night. I had to take him back in today where they planned to put him under because it was too painful. Fortunately, the doctor was able to suction it out enough to use a pick the rest of the way. It was a bit painful and he can't swim for a week, so I think that should help with the "don't stick anything smaller than your elbow in your ear" lesson. Feel free to use this situation as a learning tool for any of your children.

Another side note, I totally chopped my hair off today. It's just too blazing hot here for hair. If I had the guts, I might shave my head. As it is, I have a nice chin length bob with bangs that are about halfway there. A little shorter than I planned but that's why it's a good thing I'm not a Barbie doll - once you cut her hair, it's pretty permanent. And that's the news from a wet Singapore.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Experimenting with holes in your head

I suppose for every child, especially boys, there come a time in life where you have to experiment with what can, and cannot, fit into various holes in your head. This might involve a marble up the nose, a golf ball in the mouth, I don't know. In our case, Erik has just left to take Ethan to the emergency room to remove a popcorn kernel from his ear.

Here's how it happened: The kids were eating popcorn, and Megan came to me saying, "I don't want them in my ears!" I saw that Ethan had his fingers in his ears and was looking at Megan like a likely guinea pig for whatever ear experiment he was doing. I told him not to stick his fingers in Megan's ears (since that seemed like the extent of what he wanted to do).

A minute later, Ethan came to me with a mixed look of panic and sadness saying, "Mommy, I can't get it out of my ear." Sure enough, a kernel was pretty far in there. Erik and I tried gingerly to get it out with a tweezers, but I was hovering too much between hysterical laughter and outright panic so I couldn't do it. I sent them off to the hospital, where they will probably remove it with a tweezers and charge us $100.

This feels like a milestone every mother passes, one which I can put in the same memory folder as "knocked his tooth out on the tile steps" and "free fell off his lofted bed onto a pile of pillows" - you know, the ones that make the blood drain from your face, but thankfully you can kind of laugh about later.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Recent events in the U.S. are, I'm sure, in everyone's hearts and minds there. Not unlike 9/11, I imagine, though it seems the response to it has been somewhat different from various sides. I suppose you can't pick up a paper, turn on the TV, or to go work or a social gathering without being caught up in discussion about it. This kind of thing changes a country, affects the core of it, clarifies who we are and how we treat one another.

That is why sitting 6,000 miles away is like watching life happen from behind a sound proof window, the kind where you can see in but they can't see out, so it doesn't matter what I say, no one will hear. My knowledge of it is limited to whatever biased reporting appears on the internet. If not for the internet, I would hear nothing about it at all (partly due to a choice not to have TV or newspaper). It lends to a feeling of being detached. A friend of mine after 9/11 said, "It's like we're not being given a chance to mourn." I felt that way when a woman asked me if New York was near my house. I said no, and her response was, "oh, so then it didn't affect you."
This doesn't have the same strength of feeling as that, but there is a sense of built identity that you don't participate in, like when your family goes on a trip without you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I Speak Good English

Today at Mustafa (yes, I go there alot) I saw a book called "1,000 Commonly Mispronounced English Words" and my first thought was, "according to whom?" It seemed like it was written for people learning English with an Indian language being their first - I was disappointed that it was shrink wrapped so I couldn't look in it.

I've mentioned before that often I can't understand the Singaporean accent. Once in MacDonald's the server had to ask me three times if I wanted "oats" on my yogurt. How differently can you say the word "oats"? In addition to the accent, there are words they say differently, like "metabolism" which is pronounced, "met-a-BOL- ism." Or aluminum which is "AL-u-MIN-ium." Ethan's name is pronounced "Ee-tahn" and Megan is "Mee-gahn." I've noticed they usually place emphasis on different syllables than American English.

Not only do they pronounce things differently, they have different words for many things, mostly British. Like shopping cart is trolley, parking lot is car park, elevator is lift. They don't "turn on the light", they just "on the light" or "off the light." And when the Indians speak English it can sometimes take me a full minute to realize that I should be able to understand them.

I say this not to knock Singaporeans or Indians, but rather, to point out that there isn't one correct way to speak English. As English becomes more and more global, can we ever really define what "real" English is?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bow to the gods of bureaucracy!

For the first year that you live in Singapore, you don't need to get a driver's license. This seems counter intuitive, since I know far more about Singapore street laws now than I did a year ago. But who am I to question this small glimmer of freedom?

After a year, you need to change your driver's license to a Singapore one. Erik and I are in the process of doing this. Today we drove (oh the irony) to the License Bureau. We had to take numbers and wait for about two hours before we could sit down with a clerk. We were required to bring our passports, work permits, and of course money. We had a bit of a hiccup when we didn't produce our actual work permits but merely photocopies of them. The clerk had to check with a few people to make sure that was ok. We took brief eye tests, and then were able to schedule a time to take our tests. Yep. All that work just to schedule the test.

So a month from now (because it's always at least a month later) we get to go back to the same place, making sure that we bring our real work permits, and spend an hour answering questions like "When should you use the hand brake? a) whenever you stop, b) only when stopping on slopes, or c) whenever the foot brake is faulty. The correct answer is a, fyi, according to Singapore standards. I think we're going to have to study.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Driving defensively

I've been easing back into driving here in Singapore. Aside from driving on the left side (which isn't that hard really) I have the added anxiety of driving in high traffic. I've been driving for two months in rural Minnesota. There are places where you could lay on the highway for hours without getting hit. People on every side make me edgy.

I've had a few, well, let's call them "mishaps" rather than "things that could have warranted a fine" since I got back. First of all, I'm a pretty nervous driver. My friends and family, if pressed, would probably say that they don't enjoy driving with me cause I act like everyone out there is going to pull an idiot move and hit me. It's called being defensive. One step short of totally paranoid. In contrast, my husband Erik makes me nervous with his overconfident driving. We've developed a signal - if he's ever driving too close to someone or something else that makes me feel an accident is imminent, I go limp. You know, because if you're relaxed in an accident you're less likely to get hurt.

Anyway, earlier in the week I was so concerned about making sure I was going to be in the correct lane at the next stoplight that I blew through the crosswalk stoplight right in front of me. Fortunately, the woman had only started to cross and was nowhere near my car yet. Immediately after that I was almost sideswiped by a taxi and then a truck who both thought it necessary to enter my lane with great haste. So all that really upped my white knuckled grip on the steering wheel.

Today I drove to the grocery store and noticed that the car park there doesn't bother me nearly as much as it used to. Then I found a rare parking spot near the market and I started thinking, "See, this driving thing isn't so bad. I'm getting the hang of it again!" And as I left the market, I turned the wrong way down a one way street.

I noticed my mistake right away and thought, "Maybe I can just back up onto the street again." Sure enough, someone had pulled up but in the right lane instead of the left so I could correct my mistake. But wait, were those lights on that car? Brilliant! I had managed to pull my idiotic move right in front of a police officer. I started praying, "Please don't pull me over. Please just . . . wait. Are they laughing? They are kind of laughing. Not outright laughing, but definitely smiling. I think they're going to ignore me!" It felt like I'd done some kind of Jedi mind trick, "Drive away. Forget about the stupid foreign woman who turned the wrong way." So much for my driving finesse.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My life in a commercial

This afternoon I had the sadistic impulse to push 100 pounds of kids and double stroller to Mustafa for groceries. Mustafa after 2 p.m. is like Target the day after Christmas. But what can I say? We needed food. And hand soap. But it turned out to be an amusing outing.

I passed two women, one who appeared to be the mom of the other, both pushing single strollers. The younger one commented in Chinese that my stroller seemed quite useful (she actually called it a "train"). I thought, "This would make a perfect commercial: "Sick and tired of making your mom push one of your kids every time you go somewhere? Get the Graco Duo Glider!"

Then, two women passed us on bikes. They were squinting into the sun and one said to the other that I had the good idea to wear sunglasses (this was also in Chinese). Cut to commercial, "You don't want to get early wrinkles from squinting do you? Then buy these fabulous sunglasses right now at Walmart for only $5!" I was still chuckling about that when I walked in the door of Mustafa and the guard exclaimed, "Ehhhh, double double!" which you have to read with a strong Indian accent to understand why it amused me.

After 15 minutes of crazed grabbing to get out as soon as possible, I noticed a huge display of Corn Flakes, "imported from England" for the bargain price of S$7.80 a box. I was contemplating what a boring box it is - white, with that red and green chicken that looks freaky without an actual eye - when two women walked over, picked up a box and literally oohed and ahhed. One said, "oooooh" and the other said, "Ahhhh" and then talked about the cereal. I thought at that point, "Ok, is there a camera following me?"

In all the excitement, I forgot to buy bread.

It's downright balmy!

Since we've been back, we have been blessed in the weather department. I think God knows we need to ease back into things. It's been cloudy most days, which makes it relatively cool, albeit still quite humid. It's usually somewhat breezy though so you don't notice the humidity so much until, say, you realize that you forgot to put parking coupons on your car and have to run across a huge park before the parking nazi discovers you. Then you sweat.

Strangely, says that it is currently 84 degrees with 84% humidity making it feel like 95. I have to disagree. Must be that 7 mile an hour wind. Please don't let this scare anyone off from visiting. You get used to it, really.

Ok, still off to swim before the sun comes out and drives that UV index up to 11.

Up at the crack of dawn

Getting up at the crack of dawn in Singapore is actually a good thing for our family, because it happens at about 7 a.m. every day. It seems this morning we finally got over the hump of jet lag. When our kids ventured out at 7 and 7:15 respectively, they were not only awake but cheerful.

I myself slept from 9:30 to 6:15, sleeping through my alarm which means I was really tired. I'm the kind of light sleeper who wakes up when people in the next apartment roll over. Suddenly, we all have a new lease on life and I have the energy to move out of our complex. We hopped in the car this morning and went to a park. Driving again in Singapore is fodder for another post later. Right now, we're off to the pool!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

His view of me

I didn't start my blog with the purpose of sharing anything other than our adventures, so it's a bit unusual that I feel compelled tonight to share something more personal. It's not that I don't like sharing personal thoughts - actually I have to keep myself from blurting out a lot of them most of the time (I'm not much for small talk). I just prefer not to pour my heart out into the great electronic abyss.

But lately I've been mulling something over in my mind that God is teaching me through a variety of ways and it is this: I think that most of the issues we have with self-esteem and insecurity and all that are a result of not seeing ourselves the way God sees us. If we really believe that we are Beloved, that the God of the universe is in love with us and is constantly working for our good, if we make that our central thought and core identity, the opinions of the world have to dissolve. It seems so elemental, but it takes a discipline of the mind to keep this perspective when everything around us tells us otherwise. My desire in life right now is to pursue this, to let how God sees me be the way I see myself.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

So Ethan starts kindergarten this fall and I'm going to homeschool him, for reasons of which I'm sure on most days. :) We haven't officially started since we're still reeling a bit from jet lag, but this morning we were doing a craft with glue and sheets of foam and other things, but the important thing for you to know is the glue part. Anyway, in a moment of nostalgia, I covered the back of my hand with glue and let it dry so I could peel it off like skin. Ethan thought that was pretty cool and did it on both his hands. He wanted to leave it on one hand until Erik came home but soon discovered the impracticality of it.

Did anyone else do the glue thing when they were kids? Maybe it was just me at my progressive elementary school.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Back in the tropics

It's 7:30 p.m. here and I am trying my best to stay awake. We lost the kids to sleep at 7:10 tonight, which is about 10 minutes later than last night. We're thankful though that they've managed to sleep through both nights after coming back, albeit waking up quite early (about 5 yesterday and 6 today).

So the reason I left everyone wondering if we'd actually made it back to Singapore is that we haven't had internet access. It's the only explanation. Because as my brother in law Andrew seems to think, I normally have absolutely nothing better to do than update my blog. So I deeply apologize to all of you whose lives were hanging in the balance there waiting to hear from me. Someday Andrew will be married and have small children, and then I will be able to laugh at him and ask him why on earth it took him 4 days to finish a 600 page book (as was recently the case with my reading of the 6th Harry Potter). I can poke fun at Andrew like this because he's such a good sport and more importantly, he's thousands of miles away now that we're back Singapore. :)

Monday, August 08, 2005

double rainbow at Glacier

Erik's incredibly proud of this picture

overdue pictures from Glacier

Ethan's new passion

Megan and Emma back together and naked in the pool

Beating the heat



Megan and Ethan

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Look Ma, no hands!

I always knew I would hear the above phrase from one of my kids. I was a little surprised to hear it first from my daughter today. Fortunately, she was in a swing - the kind that is really a chair with safety straps.

I was surprised because she's the more cautious one of the two. But caution in relation to Ethan is like saying that a rock climber is cautious compared to a base jumper.

And on that note, Ethan decided this week that it was time for him to ride without training wheels. So he hunted through my dad's tools, found a wrench, took off the training wheels and rode away. Just like that. The next day he decided a 12" was too tame so he took the training wheels off the bigger bike and rode that down the street. Then around the block. Then to the park a mile away (with Erik) like he'd been doing it for years.

So I guess that whole thing about waiting until your kids are ready to do something has some merit.

Somewhere out there, Martha Stewart is laughing

I am not the world's best cook. I hate cooking. I love baking. But I am also not the world's best baker. You may remember the infamous brownie broiling incident. Tonight I topped that, I think.

So I volunteered to bake 4 dozen bars for a funeral this Friday, because there's nothing better than baking and giving it away. That way you can taste a lot of while you're baking but not actually eat it afterwards, thus relieving yourself of many potential added pounds.

My mom and I made an old standby, Oatmeal Carmelites. When we made the oatmeal part both of us thought, "boy, that looks funny" but proceeded to cook it anyway. That was a mistake. When something looks funny, you should really go back to the recipe and re-read the part where you were supposed to add two cups of flour. That way, it doesn't come out as simply the same stuff only warmer.

Nevertheless, it tastes good. Not good enough to send it to the funeral because I can't think of many things ruder than giving someone bad baked goods during a sad time. But good enough to nibble and laugh about for awhile!

Monday, July 25, 2005


The other day my friend Ginger and I went to the Mall of America for some power shopping. I stopped at Archiver's (that's not the unbelievable part. I can smell scrapbook stores from miles away, sort of like how sharks smell blood in the water) and bought a few things. Ginger and I sat on a bench while she fed her adorable new baby boy, and I left the Archiver's bag there.

A few stores later we realized this fact, and despite backtracking, we couldn't find it. I chalked it up to a lost cause. But! Ginger pulled her phone out about an hour later to check the time and noticed she had a message. It was my husband. Apparently, someone found my bag and returned it to Archiver's. Then, because for some inexplicable reason they ask for your phone number at Archiver's and I, also for reasons unknown at the time, had given them my mom's number, they called my mom. My mom called Erik, who called Ginger, and left a message. Great! So we rejoiced, and Ginger subsequently left her cell phone sitting on that bench.

A few stores later we realized this second mistake. Ginger went to security and reported it missing, then headed to Radio Shack to cancel it.

And yet, there is a happy ending to this story. The next day, the mall called her and said someone had turned the phone in. So it seems there are still good people out in the world!

Saturday, July 23, 2005


I just posted about our trip to Montana, but I did it in the order I wrote them, so if you want to read them chronologically, start from the bottom. :)

Now this is more like it

We got an early start on Sunday so we could hit the Highline trail which runs alongside Going to the Sun Road (the main road through the park). We were fairly concerned that we'd have another day of rain because it was so cloudy visibility was no more than 10-20 feet driving up Going to the Sun Road. We got out at Logas Pass and started our trek. The first section is a path along sheer rock. We couldn't see anything on the other side, the side where if you fall, you will fall a very very long way. I mean literally, we saw nothing. There could have been UFO's hovering 10 feet out and we would have missed it all.

Within about an hour or so, things were clearing up. This trail is 7.6 miles over fairly level ground. It ends at the Granite Park Chalet, which was built in 1913. We stopped there for an hour, and, crazy people that we are, decided to hike back. I started wondering how many people have fallen off the mountain just because their legs decide to throw themselves off rather than have to take another step. I was almost startled off the mountain by a huge bird flapping its wings in the bushes near me, and had to chicken fight with a mountain goat (he decided to go around me). In the end, we were glad we did it though. It's amazing to get back down to the ground and see how far up and away we climbed. It's a great sense of accomplishment.

Sunday's stats:
Miles hiked: 16
Wildlife spotted: hoards of marmots and squirrels, several big horn sheep, mountain goats, big bird that scared me

Adventures Foiled

We knew that there was a 50% chance of rain Saturdayy, but doesn't that mean that theoretically, 50% of that vast national park should be dry? We went in search of it.

We stopped at one trail which Erik insisted would be fun, but when a misty gail threatened to blow me into the Dakotas, I insisted more (which I am inclined to do) that there had to be somewhere better. Our next try was at St. Mary's Falls, which is a short hike to an impressive gush of water. We wanted to go further up the trail to some place my dad had recommended, but when we looked up and saw black clouds, we thought it would be a good time for a trail run. We made it back to the car only slightly damp.

Everyone had recommended Avalanche trail to us, which ends at five waterfalls. It was only about a 4 mile round trip so we figured we could outrun any rain that came our way. That was an erroneous assumption, especially since neither of us was wearing rain gear. The rain came so suddenly we had barely turned back. I used Erik's sweatshirt as an umbrella until it started dripping through. He ran for the car and I found shelter under the end of a canoe sticking off of a car. So much for that hike.

In the end, we went to a new hotel on the west end, read some books, and made use of their hot tub (ahhh!). I've concluded that God is not a respecter of vacations. I guess if it's a choice between Erik and Gina's perfect hiking vacation and the earth's regular need to be watered, God's going to side with the earth. I don't blame Him for this. It has to ruin somebody's day, so it might as well be mine. I feel no less loved. And besides, it makes you appreciate the sunny days even more. :)

Saturday's stats:
Miles hiked: a disappointing 2 or so, but that's ok
Wildlife spotted: 2 (oooo! Look honey! That big animal - is that a moose? It can't be a bear, its legs are too long. Oh, they're . . . ) cows

Climbing Mountains

Mountain climbing is a great analogy for life. There are two ways to climb a mountain I think. One is to climb it with focused ambition, the goal being the top. The second is to stop frequently along the way to rest and look, not just because you need to, but because you want to. I can be a bit of the former - always looking ahead, not stopping to enjoy what I'm in. So today I tried to be the latter and felt my ability to be awed grow each moment. I also found a part of myself that's braver than I thought. This part has been slowly growing since I've been married to Erik and realized that he's going on adventures and if I want to be with him, I'd better go too. Turns out he finds a lot of good stuff on those adventures.

We hiked to Grinell Glacier, which has starting at its trailhead frightening warnings about entering bear country. These warnings are repeated every 500 yards or so until you're thoroughly paranoid and have developed a fool proof plan for how you will escape the emminent bear mauling unscathed. Erik and I chattered non-stop for the first mile or so until we saw more bear bait ahead. We figured there was strength in numbers so we picked up the pace and met a family of 6 from my hometown! So that was a fun little quinkidink.

At the glacier, by request from a friend of ours, we tried to "hug the glacier" to no avail. You couldn't get that close. So we contented ourselves with getting off the beaten path a bit to find the top of the glacial waterfall we'd seen hiking up. The problem with getting off the beaten path is finding your way back when needed. We did find ourselves wallowing for a bit in the "this isn't fun anymore" stage while we struggled our way back. It's amazing how easy something can look when it's really not.

Going down is one of those things as well. The last two miles of the hike Erik sometimes encouraged me to look around but I was back in focus mode. One thing that motivated us was the promising thought of some cheese fondue served from 2-5 p.m. at the hotel. Whenever one of us lagged behind, we'd pick ourselves up with the very word, "Fondue!"

Back at the ranch, we did enjoy our fondue, some complimentary huckleberry frozen yogurt, and some relaxing hours reading while overlooking the lake. A good time was had by all.

Today's stats:
Miles hiked: somewhere in the vicinity of 13
Altitude climbed: 1700 ft
Wildlife sighted: regular sized chipmunks and various other small woodland creatures

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Erik just picked up a book I've been hankering (I love that word) for called I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson. Bryson is a travel writer who lived in Britain for 20 years before returning to his native America. The book is a collection of articles he wrote for a British publication detailing life in America and his observations of the changes that had happened. It's laugh out loud funny in some places. I can relate quite a bit, being an "expat" (expatriate=person who lives outside their country of origin) myself. I particularly enjoyed his commentaries on junk food and the U.S. Postal Service. If you're looking for a good read, I recommend this one. If you're fortunate enough to live near me in Singapore, you can borrow it when I get back.

Welcome to Big Sky Country!

Erik and I decided to take a little vacation time this year in a place we've dreamed of for some time - Glacier National Park. We drove to the park Thursday morning and hit Hidden Lake Overlook trail. It's only about a 3 mile round trip, but I was a little surprised at the belly aching and outright refusal to try it by many people who stopped at the Visitor Center there. C'mon people - what are you doing here if you aren't willing to hike? Some people used their kids as excuses, but I didn't buy it.

The mountains there are so unbelievable that I had to remind myself I wasn't looking at a gigantic painting. Thursday and Friday night we stayed at Many Glacier Hotel which was built early in the 20th century. It's a beautiful, huge place overlooking a lake. It also capitalizes on the all American principle of supply and demand. While their prices certainly reflect the 21st century, they didn't seem to feel the need to make the ammenities keep up with the times. Our room was quaint, which is a real estate word for really small. I was glad it had a shower, but there are a lot of big Americans who would not fit in it. I think though that most of those people aren't usually the kind to go out and attempt to climb really big mountains.

Thursday's stats:
Miles climbed: about 5
Wildlife spotted: several mountain goats at close range (about 4 feet) and 2 well-fed chipmunks, bordering on gopher size. They got so close I thought they might scamper up my leg looking for food.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

First Class Passengers

Last Wednesday night Erik and I flew to Montana using some of the thousands upon thousands of frequent flier miles we've accumulated to and from Asia. We also used our privilege to fly first class. I've never done that before, except for the last 10 minutes of a flight I took with two friends to England when I was 13 years old. But that's a different post.

Our first class bonuses started right at the gate. Our one bag was 3 pounds overweight. The attendant said, "Sorry folks, looks like you're just a little over here. You'll have to take out a few . . . wait, you're first class! Here I am rambling on and on and you didn't even stop me. You're just fine then." So apparently first class passengers get a higher weight limit. Good to know.
On the flight, we got drinks early, and free snacks in abundance (you had to pay for them in economy class). All in all, it's a good deal. Too bad we can't afford it on a regular basis.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The 4th of July

Erik and his brothers

Look at all that grass!

Enjoying a summer day

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Say what?

While Erik was cleaning a good amount of dirt off Megan's face yesterday (a result of working out in the yard for the afternoon) he said, "Boy, you sure did a number on your face Megan."
Ethan then asked, "What number was it daddy?"

Saturday, July 02, 2005

House of Hui's

So we thought, "We'll just find a restaurant by the movie theater - there'll be lots of them!" Or, the movie theater could be a lone structure in a vast residential area.

We ventured past the theater, trying to guess where we might find food. We turned down a street and found a strip mall that held one restaurant, "House of Hui's." That was when we made the silly mistake of saying, "Hey, yeah, Chinese food sounds good."

Nothing against House of Hui's. It's a nice little mom and pop establishment dishing out copious amounts of Chinese food, primarily through take out. But despite the fact that a lot of Chinese food in the states is made by people actually from China, something gets lost en route. You just can't get great Chinese food outside of China. When we left, Erik said, "I think I need to go for a really long bike ride tomorrow to get rid of all that fat." This, coming from the man with warp speed metabolism.

We saw War of the Worlds. I was expecting more of an action flick - which it was - but didn't know it would be so hide-behind-by-hands-heart-racing-afraid-to-put-my-feet-down suspenseful. At one point Erik said, "I can't see how this is going to end well." I won't give away the ending to tell you whether or not it does. If you're looking for a thrill, this is a good flick. Definitely entertaining. But the whole time I kept thinking, "Tom Cruise really believes this stuff!"

Tales from the Timberlands

Last weekend we braved the seven hour drive north to the Upper Penninsula for our somewhat annual visit with Erik's college friends. This event used to be held on Lake Independence, but our hosts have returned to their roots in the Keweenaw (pronounced, oddly enough, Keewenaw).

There are too many stories to tell from our time there. We had a blast! Ethan caught his first two fish and loved riding in the boat. Megan had her first bonding experience with a boy - 2 year old Kolson. The two of them played really well together. Erik was pretty good about not switching in grandpa mode too many times, "Back when I was in college here, I used to . . . " Because for those of you who don't know, Erik is a Michigan Tech grad, Michigan Tech being located in Houghton (in the Keweenaw). It's a beautiful place with lots of history - we actually spent our honeymoon there, but that's another story.

For those of you outside of the midwest, the Upper Penninsula is more commonly known as the U.P. People living there are known as Uppers (pronounced "yooopers"). One of the interesting things about the U.P. is the accent. You know how people talk about the Minnesota accent? Well, this is that times two. We stopped at a convenience store (which turned out to be a convenience liquor store) for a bathroom break. I asked a man inside if there was a bathroom and he said, "Uh, yah, I tink soh." That became the phrase of the weekend.

On the drive home, we narrowly missed running over a deer and a fox. I would also have liked to run over a particularly obnoxious Care Bears DVD in our possession. All in all, a great time. We just wish it wasn't 7 hours away!