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.