Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gina 1, Video Clerk 0

I scored a point today in the "Have it Your Way" game. I went to a local video store to use two coupons for free video rentals. I anticipated some obstacles, as it doesn't seem likely that I could get anything for free here.

When the clerk took my videos, he asked for my card. I had never been there before, so I informed him I had no card (figuring this was where the obstacle course began). He told me I had to fill out a form with my particulars and show him my green card. I didn't have my green card. (note to self: put green card back in wallet). Here's our ensuing conversation:

"I don't have my green card, but I do have my Singapore driver's license, which has my FIN number on it." (that's my ID # - what he needed to see on my green card)
"Uh , sorry, but I need to see your green card."
"Ah, but I couldn't have a Singapore driver's license if I didn't have a green card in the first place right?"

Faced with the obvious, he relented. Score! I wrote down my number and walked triumphantly from the store. Chalk one up for Gina. I may not win the war, but in this battle I was victorious.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas happenings

I am listening to the happy sounds of my children playing with new toys, which include a Rescue Heroes fire truck (and about 7 men and 1 girl - thank God for Ebay!), a My Little Pony hot air balloon, a hot wheels track, and a Dora dress up adventure doll, among other things. As my son informed me last night, "Mom, I think these toys will cheer me up during room time!" (room time, if you are ignorant, is the hour of the day when I make my kids play in their rooms so I can have some "save my sanity" time).

As much as we try to make Christmas about Christ, it is inevitably more thrilling to children to play with toys than to ponder the mystery of God incarnate. I've had inklings lately of throwing in the towel on decorating, stockings, gifts and the like and going non-Christmas, in the sense of moving away from everything else that secular society has done to make this not about the birth of Christ. I did have a moment earlier this week when I was grateful for how we have shaped our holiday. I read someone else's blog about how her 4 year old came to her a week ago begging for a FurReal Pony, which it seems can be fed carrots and then will poop - how this is fun I don't know - which costs $299 and of course at this point is unavailable. Her dilemma came in not being able to explain to her 4 year old that she couldn't have the pony because how can Santa not be able to produce a gift? So she ran herself ragged hunting down this pony. My kids know about Santa, but we've never tried to make them believe in him. I know by this point, if we had made a big deal about Santa, Ethan would be asking me great questions like, "How does he get down every chimney? How can he fit? How can his reindeer fly that fast? How can he carry all those toys? How does he know what everyone wants?" and I would have to be producing lie upon lie to perpetuate something that has nothing to do with Christ whatsoever.

But let's not get started on that. As time passes, my unpopular opinions about Santa become stronger and more vocal. We'll leave it at that, while I inform you that I am now officially a homeschool geek mom because I am the proud and excited owner of a laminator. It's all I wanted for Christmas and I can now laminate to my heart's content. Whoever would have thought this day would come.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Post Script

I found out the hard way, after my burst of creative energy all over my tile floor, that kids need to be told that Crayola window markers and black Sharpies are not interchangeable. For several minutes on Saturday morning I was sure I was going to be paying our landlady for the replacement of 16 tiles. Thank God for floor cleaner, hairspray, and Soft Scrub. Too bad I didn't talk to my mom before I tried all those, because she cleverly suggested Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Those are golden. I'll save those for the next time I hope never comes. I'm pretty sure Ethan learned his lesson after watching me scrub the floors for 1/2 hour.

Rain, rain, go away

Singapore almost hit a record yesterday. It had the 3rd highest rainfall in a 20 hour period - 34.5 cm. There was some good flooding within about a mile of our house - some low lying nurseries. I had planned on going there today. I'm wondering about the possibility of scoring a really cheap, albiet soggy, Christmas tree.

While the thunderstorms make for nice white noise at night, they're putting a damper on my husband's family's vacation here. His parents and brother came recently and have been trying to enjoy Singapore. It's been made a little more difficult due to the constant raining and some mild sickness on their part.

The up side is that this is creating cool weather of sorts. It's been downright chilly for this former Minnesotan who has lost her ability to stand cold. The high yesterday was 77 degrees (which feels colder when you're damp and sitting under a fan in a hawker center). Right now the UV index is 3 - it's normally 11 (above 7 you're not supposed to go outside). It's currently 77 degrees, although it's supposed to feel like 82. Maybe because of the 94% humidity.

So this is a nice preparation for Christmas. We won't have sub-zero temperatures, but if the rain continues as it is supposed to, we will have sub-Singapore temps.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My multicultural world

I have been acutely aware this week of my cross cultural experiences. It began at the park, where we were joined by three elderly Chinese people, two (presumably) grandchildren, and their Filipino maid. The maid was speaking Mandarin with them. Then, a western looking woman appeared with four children whose father obviously was Asian. I assumed two wrong things about her - first, that she was English speaking, second, that her children would speak Chinese. Instead, I heard her speak German to her children. Later, when the youngest child was careening down a rocky hill, one of the old people tried to tell the oldest child in Chinese. The kid stared at the woman until the woman said in Chinese, "She doesn't understand. " I responded in kind, "You're right, she doesn't understand," which made the woman start talking to me in Chinese about the baby. I thought, "This is really wild."

This morning I had an experience that reminded me of the language gap between Singaporeans and westerners. I was browsing a kiosk, looking at one shirt in particular, and the shopkeeper hurried up to tell me, "I have size." It was so on the tip of my tongue to say, "You mean you have different sizes?" I refrained. I tend to let the Singlish slide, but that's just too bad.

Yesterday, it wasn't a language gap but a usage gap I encountered at Mustafa. I was there, believe it or not, at 5:30 a.m. (long story) to change money and pick up a few things before Erik left on a trip. One of my purchases was a large bottle of lemon juice, the ReaLemon brand. The check out girl asked, (now imagine this with an Indian accent) "Would you like to drink this now?" before putting it in the bag. I just smiled and said, "No thank you." I can't imagine they drink it straight like that - more likely that she just doesn't have the faintest idea what I would do with it.

And I just spent time with a woman I've been getting to know at church. Originally from Denmark, she grew up in Africa but speaks English like she's from Minnesota, and here she is in Singapore. Life is interesting.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Homeschool games . . . or . . . I'm finally glad I have tile floors

As part of our Christmas activities, the kids and I made gingerbread bean bag people. Well, ok, they were out of brown felt at the craft store, so they're a greenish brown. So you wouldn't be tempted to eat them. But anyway, part of my purpose was to have little bean bags for all the homeschool games which seem to call for them.

One in particular was a math game which requires large squares of paper with numbers written on them, placed on the floor. Being creative and sometimes lazy, I thought, "I have tile and Crayola window markers," hence the game pictured below. We drew the numbers, and the kids took turns answering math questions - for Megan it was simple addition and "what comes before or after?" and for Ethan, it was subtracting from double numbers. Then they had to throw their people onto the answer. Megan loved it so much that when Erik and Ethan went to the Cub Scout pack meeting tonight, that's what she wanted to do for Megan/mommy time.

Having been fairly discouraged by homeschool lately, finding something they enjoyed which also teaches them something was like winning the lottery. And my tile floors combined with those window markers now look like a giant chalkboard.

Megan sitting on her math game

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Ethan asked me what confused means. I said, "It means you don't really know what to do" which I'll admit is not a great definition, but I was on the spot. And a bit weary of giving definitions to unknown words, to be totally honest.

"Mom, when Faith (Megan's best friend) comes over, I'm confused." I take this as a sign that I need to be a bit more clear in my definition giving. True, Ethan doesn't know what to do with himself when Faith is over and she and Megan close the door to her room and whisper and giggle as little girls should. But confused? Oops, my bad.

Oops, I did it again

Sorry to borrow that overused phrase from Britney Spears, but there's no other way to put it. I have done something, twice now in the last month, that I haven't done since high school. It is a stupid, preventable thing. And it has unwanted effects on my body.

What is it? I've slept on a muslin pillow case. Why so detrimental? I am allergic to muslin. Not musliMs. MusliN. Translation: cheap, coarse cotton fabric. I discovered this when I was young by noticing that I developed a rash all over my face after contact. Just my face though. How weird of an allergy is this? When I used to frequent random dorm rooms and camps for retreats and camps as a kid, I always brought an extra pillow case with me. Since I've moved on to better thread counts, I've lost the habit.

My first recent bout with this was in Thailand. I suspected that the pillow cases in our budget hotel were not the highest quality, but I have been training myself lately (thanks to encouragement from my chiropractor friend) to sleep on my back instead of my stomach, my preferred position. No problem then, but the last day I decided to indulge in a 10 minute stomach nap. I had the rash for a week.

This morning, I woke up on my stomach again. Quite unusual actually. I also found that the extra throw pillow I'd been using as a body pillow since my son has claimed mine as his own was under my head. And guess what? Cheap cotton fabric on it.

I can already feel the rash. I'm not looking forward to the next few days, when it will spread, itch and make me feel leprous. That's what I get for buying cheap pillow cases for my throw pillows just because I'm in love with the color.

So now you know one of those useless party facts about me - I'm allergic to muslin on my face. At least someone wins in this situation.