Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More Swinging

Megan was hamming it up for me on the swing - she was trying to stick out her tongue and make a funny face but her smile got the best of her.
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Monday, June 25, 2007

Swinging girl

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy Times

You can figure out how Erik took this picture. We were waiting for the hot air balloons at Rochesterfest to start their race. I'd post pictures of the balloons but they're all sideways and I don't feel like fixing them right now.

These pictures are in backwards order but once again, it's early in the morning and I'm feeling lazy. This parachuter was at the breakfast on the farm, another Rochesterfest activity.

Megan tried her hand at a tractor.

The kids are on top of a tractor on a beautiful day at the farm.

Ethan was too focused on his sausages and how cold he was this morning to pay much attention to the camera. After breakfast we took a wagon ride and looked at the animals.

They like to flip the pancakes right onto your plate at this place.

You can always count on Nonna to teach baking skills from a young age. I'm thankful I had a mom who didn't make me afraid of eating raw cookie dough, because life would be less fun without it.

My three in a tree

You be the judge - do I look more like my dad or my mom? Most people say I'm the spitting image of my mom, but others have said I look like my dad.

Megan loves time with Nonna

The Butz boys - Grandpa, Ethan and Uncle Andrew at Subway on our way home from the airport.

Lessons in Americana

Ah, there's nothing more American than parades. Gather your friends and family, every captain's chair you own, and camp out along the parade route to enjoy and appreciate the effort put into all those crazy floats. Oh, who are we kidding - we go for the candy.

This past Friday our city held the Rochesterfest parade. Rain threatened to cancel it all day so we weren't sure we were going until an hour before, particularly since my brother threw out a nasty rumor that they don't give away candy at parades anymore. No candy? What's the point? No wait, they just don't throw candy. They pass it out. Ok, get the captain's chairs.

Since we left in a hurry, we didn't get dinner aside from the one apple I cut up and threw in my bag along with the remnants of a box of graham crackers. Let's face it - without a Biblical miracle, that's not going to sustain four adults and two kids. We saw a little girl with a hot dog. We debated taking it from her but decided the better, more mature thing to do would be to find the source of the hot dogs.

Erik and Christopher ventured off to find food and my mom and I found some spots right on the road. If you have kids, you have to be right on the curb, or you might as well go home. After the boys returned with free hot dogs, drinks and chips, thanks to a local church group, we settled in. What we didn't know was that our children were completely unversed in how to do parades. I forget sometimes that growing up overseas has its casualties, like the fact that my seven year old son only this year learned how to swing by himself (Asia has a severe swing shortage). But can you really blame my kids for not picking up on this right away? At parades, you're asking your children to step out in the street where there are moving vehicles to accept candy from perfect strangers. And be obnoxious about it if necessary. That's a hard mental transition to make.

Once we convinced them it was ok to go in the street, they just stood there. We kept saying, "Wave kids! Smile! Jump up and down! Hold out your hands!!!" to the point where our neighbors started looking at us funny. Being next to my brother, who is one of the funniest people I know, brought out the life in me too. I waved enthusiastically at every person on those floats, danced with the Treasure Island casino people while begging them for cheap bead necklaces. I screamed and hollered. It's a bit how I imagine I might act if I were ever drunk. Which is why I've never chosen to be drunk - I can have just as much fun this way and still remember it.

It took awhile, but by the end of the parade our kids had mastered this new skill, and had a lot of fun in the process. Unfortunately I didn't think there was any need to bring a camera so I can show you their progress. They are now real Americans who can hold their heads and their gigantic bags of candy up high.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

In the Land of Choice

I've always said that you can get anything in Singapore, which is essentially true. But after being back in the US for a week, I've realized you can get anything there if you don't care about having a choice. You can get deodorant, if you want Lady Speed Stick. You want diet pop? Here's Coke Light, enjoy.

But here - this is the land of choice. You want deodorant? Here - here are 150 choices for you. You can even get deodorant that sparkles (and haven't you always wanted sparkly armpits?). You want diet pop? Diet Coke alone comes in about 10 varieties, including vitamin enhanced.

I went to the grocery store yesterday morning to get milk, and spent a fascinating time wandering the aisles just to see all the new products (Crystal Light makes green tea with raspberry now - it was almost appealing). I felt like an old person looking at new technology for the first time, "Well, will you look at that . . . " It's fun, but in some ways I miss the simplicity of limited choices.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

With the end in sight

I've climbed a few mountains in my day. Just a few. Not a lot. And not big mountains really. Anyway, that's not my point. My point is that when you climb a mountain, it's always a bit hard to gauge how far it is to the top. Sometimes it seems like you're getting closer, and other times it feels like you've made no progress at all. And those last steps can seem like the longest.

This is how I feel right now with packing our apartment. I might pack 5 boxes and feel like it looks no different. Then I'll think we're almost done. The next minute I'm overwhelmed by how much is left. And then comes the moment when I realize we're out of boxes anyway so I gratefully sit down to write out my thoughts.

We have two more days in this apartment. It's been a blessing - hard to believe we've been here almost three years. I feel more nostalgic when I'm outside at our local places, where I know I'm going to miss the proximity to the wet market, the children's library, the hardware store. Inside it's more like The Long Goodbye. It's less and less our home and I long to be done and on to the next journey.

Friday, June 08, 2007

One Cool Kid

Reverse Culture Shock

After nearly eight years in Asia, I have to admit that going back to the States is more of a culture shock that being here. For the curious, here is a brief list of what I anticipate will be most jarring about returning (I'll update with reality after we're over the border):

1. The weather - I'm used to a 5 degree temperature variation year round, but you've heard me say that a million times. I do miss the seasons, but summer in MN is pretty nice. I need to buy more warm clothes. Or as one of our Chinese friends told us in preparation for cooler weather, "You should wear clothing more."

2. The size - everything in America is big. I sent a video clip to some friends recently, and my Australian friend wrote back about the people in it saying, "Are all Americans that big?" I'm looking forward to being extra small again, instead of the medium I am here. But it's not just the people - it's the cars, the stores, the movie seats, the portion sizes. It's like something from Gulliver's Travels.

3. Being a majority person - I can go through days without seeing another white person other than my family. I'm used to that. It weirds me out when everyone's the same color.

4. English - I know there are people in the US who speak other languages, but here it's common to hear 4 or 5 languages in the same store. When I'm in the States and I hear another language, it's oddly comforting.

5. US currency - When I see something priced in Sing dollars, I usually do a mental conversion so I know how much I'm really spending. In the US, I look at things and think, "$5 - so that's really like $3! Oh no, wait, it's just $5." That's disappointing.

6. Driving on the other side - for the first week, I will ask my mom on a daily basis which way I should pull out of the driveway.

That's what comes to mind for now. We're excited, though I am dead tired from packing and thinking through change of address and last minute purchases and repainting walls. My poor kids have watched more than their share of TV this week, not that they're complaining. They are climbing the walls with excitement about going back. So far they're still counting the days, but I suspect we will progress to "how many hours?" pretty soon.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Consider what your clothing says

If you ever travel to another country and see a t-shirt you think looks cool because it has some foreign script on it, think again before you buy. You really need to know what you are proclaiming to the world. I've seen people in China wearing all kinds of obscenities which I'm sure they didn't know.

Here in Singapore you'd think people would know better. Most of the population speaks English, and if they don't, they must know someone who does. The other day I saw an Asian woman wearing a shirt that said something like, "BLOND, but still smart." Today I saw a woman with a white t-shirt that said, "In" with an arrow pointing up and "down" with an arrow pointing down. And then in the back it had a pretty little black tie. Aside from this being somewhat unfashionable, why did she want to draw attention to her digestive system? And on it goes.

My favorite of all time was an old man in China wearing a white shirt with an American flag on it. Under the flag it said, "Smoking CanKill" (sic). Guess what he was doing? Don't be one of these people.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Remember as a kid when you would go to vacation Bible school and how much fun it was? Yeah, me neither. I mean, I think that I went, but let's be honest - a span of nearly 30 years kind of dims the memories.

Well anyway, my kids started VBS yesterday and they are already hooked. They came out with a huge goodie bag full of sports themed paraphernalia. (the theme is "Game Day"). They also had a CD of songs they learned actions for which we heard about 100 times yesterday. Megan stood in the living room last night with the CD on trying to remember all the actions, which was pretty darn cute.

Ethan gave me a run down on the snacks they got, including the cupcake he didn't really like. Megan said, "It tasted like the playdough from the monkey dentist." I'm tempted not to explain what that means, but I will. She got this playdough game where you can play dentist for a monkey. The playdough in it has a cherry smell.

I helped with decorations beforehand so I consider myself off the hook for volunteering this week. I intentionally didn't commit to anything, hoping I would be moving this week. Well, I am in a way. We found a place last Wednesday night, but it isn't available until the end of July. Now for the tricky part - we have to have our whole house packed up before we leave June 14th so the movers can come while we're gone. So that's what I'm doing while the kids are off having fun.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Messing around with the camera

You know how they say we only use 10% of our brains? Well, I think most people use about 10% of the potential of their SLR cameras, and I am determined not to be one of them. The other day as the kids were playing outside, I messed around with some options on my camera. Below is my first venture into RAW format and monochrome. I've also been learning how to set my camera on completely manual and base my shutter speed on the light reading. It helps when you have a cute subject.