Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Say What?

I laid down to take a nap this afternoon.  Ben came in as I was getting settled and said, “Oh sorry.  I was just sneaking in before you started sleeping to get…”
I interrupted him with, “a good night kiss!”

“No!  I was looking for the swim toys in your bathtub.  But…there is one thing I know,” as he climbed up on my bed to lay a big one on my cheek.  “Kissing is LOTS easier than pooping.”

(Hysterical laughing from me.)  “What do you mean?”

“Well a kiss gets lost somewhere in my body and first I have to find it and then make it go up and they always come out of my lips every time.  When it’s a poop, or actually I guess pee.  When I pee I have to push so hard to get it to come out of my body.  Kissing is just lots easier.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Next Time...

One day during the pack out in Virginia I heard myself say inside my head, "Next time I will...." I knew I was open to do this again. I was excited to go despite the stress. I wanted the adventure and all it brings with it, but it seems to me society says you should do this sort of thing on a trial basis. Go for a year or two and then you can commit to more if you like it. I thought it was so odd that before I even boarded the plane I was mentally preparing for "next time" whenever that may be if we are offered the chance. I think it's a good sign, don't you? Lots of people here talk about "next time" and what they would do or should bring. Then end their comments with, "if I even remember any of this by the time we move again...I should probably write this stuff down." So without further delay, here's what I'd do different "Next Time". Leave: As of this moment, not much to change here - we got some bad info and planned our pack out wrong. We thought we would be bringing food. Nope. Singapore lets it in, but Exxon won't ship it. Oops. We were allowed 5 big air freight boxes. We filled 2 1/2. Air freight was the last thing we packed out. I'd do it first next time. Because we had so much empty space, we ended up shipping some of our luggage so we didn't have to drag it around in the airport. I plain ran out of time to drop off winter clothes to friends, so we've got a bunch here that should have stayed. Also have clothes from last summer for Jake that are pretty snug. I've informed him that he must stop growing for 5 more weeks until more of the 2T summer gear arrives so we can ditch the 18 month stuff. I'm sure I'll come up with lots of things I would leave home once we get our sea freight in five weeks. Bring: Kitchen - cookie sheet, pizza pan, casserole dish, medium large mixing bowl, cheap saucepan, MY spatula and rubber scraper, kitchen shears, plastic plates, cups and bowls so the kids don't break the expensive hotel ones, spices for cooking, tupperware for flour, sugar, salt, etc, 200 ziplock baggies (both sandwich size and gallon), kids lunchboxes, water bottle for everyone, four boxes of comfort breakfast cereal Toys and Kid Stuff - ALL woobies, binkies, Potsies, special love things, depending on how long we have to survive without, three favorites for each kid, predetermined alotment of cash to buy new and exciting toys upon arrival in new home, balls, pool toys as well as water wings/life jackets, playdough, markers, craft supplies, glue sticks, pencils, erasers for homework, Misc - printer, paper, ink cartridge, piggy banks/baggies/papers/whatever to pay kids allowance (they're still going to want it even if I'm discombobulated and then I don't have to say "no" I can say "do you have enough of your own money to buy it?"), Angie's fancy pillow that wards off stiff necks and back pain, my brand of face soap (because climate change plus high stress living is sure to bring teenage level acne breakouts), makeup, nail clippers, tweezers, thermometer for sick kids, fever/pain meds for adults and double amount for kids, eye glasses repair kit (screws, screwdriver, soft clothes, detail pliers), small screw driver to install batteries into new toys, box cutter to open air freight, scissors, family calendar, suction cups with hooks or those 3M removable hooks (hang excess swim wear in bathroom to dry, calendar on the wall, artwork from the kids, kitchen towels to dry because it isn't my house and I can't make permanent changes but those things make life much more orderly and tidy), tape (packing, masking and scotch to get you started), power converters as necessary, umbrellas, sun screen and bug spray to get buy until you find something you like, laundry bins (not sure this is a must, but we had 3 rubbermaid bins left at the end of packing so I tossed them in our near empty air freight box to fill the last half a box and they've been real handy - for laundry and go cart racing around the living room too) Clothes - next size up in everything for the kids, but special attention to Sunday clothes (Jake has 12 month slacks that are now better described as capris he's wearing to church these days and nearing the point of belly shirts, poor guy), school clothes, croc/sandal for swimming, swim suits boots/glove/hat/coat if winter, nice slacks for Angie (some days I think I should step it up a little, like for parent teacher conferences or school tours, but this back side isn't finding any pants on this continent that fit), Brian needs more t-shirts, cub scout uniform (and book) Mostly we chose to live light. We didn't forget anything that was huge and earth shattering beyond a stroller. In a moment of sheer exhaustion and frustration that the double stroller wouldn't fit in the air frieght box I gave the small umbrella style double stoller away. That was a definate mistake. Really could have used it. Ended up paying $40 for a single umbrella stroller to save Jake's life from his constant running in the street. Could have been free since we've got another coming on the boat, plus that one only cost $10 in the first place. If that's the worst of our troubles, we're doing really, really well. We have about everything we really need to survive here in the furnished apartment. For being the hoarder that I am, this has gone quite well. It's been nice to not have way too much stuffed into this little place, but as time rolls forward, we're accumulating more and more stuff. I bought some cleaning supplies, laundry stain remover then saw it was only for whites so had to buy more, stuff to mop the floor, misc pans and kitchen goods, food (vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, etc) that we had to leave and now will have to move. It's fine. It's just across town, just a bit on an inconvenience to move again.

"Pssst...Mom, I Have A Secret"

I went in to say goodnight to Maddie Mae and she whispers, "pssst...Mom, I have a secret I didn't tell you yet. Do you want to know what it is?"
"Yeah! What is it?" "I decided that today was going to be a good day. And it was!" Her grin was from one ear to the other. The level of pride inside her was off the charts. My heart began to swell too. See, that's what I tell her at the end of the day when we have one of those "I'm contractually obligated to love you because I'm your mother but I don't have to like you" sort of days. We've had a lot of them since our arrival here. It's been rough. Even cool Mr. Brian has lost his cool with her and that really says something about her behavior if even he can't deal with her. He's the most even tempered guy I know.
Things are so rough with Maddie. She's a rough kid and I'm not the most refined mother. Her will is unbendable and she never runs out of fight. She grits her teeth and will dish back anything I foolishly try to throw her way and it isn't pretty. If she's not in the mood for something you better believe you are going to hear about it. Over and over and over. At the top of her little lungs and with veins popping in her neck while she clenches her fists.
Through much reflection over many, many months I've come up with a plan of sorts. I really feel like it's Gods plan, not mine because it's not something I really want to do everyday. I know that the days of unconditional love are already behind us. The days of quickly forgiving after a heartfelt apology and hug are also waning. If I can't repair this mother daughter relationship in the next few years, there won't be anything there when she's ten, fourteen, eighteen. I have come to view today as crucial.
Today I either build or break Maddie. I don't always choose right. Sometimes my temper, short fuse, exhaustion or frustration gets the better of me. Still, almost every day I try to have a minute with her when she's lying in bed. To tell her the good she did, even if the only nice thing I have to say is that she pushed the elevator button really well. She needs to be built up. Despite the iron will, she wilts like a delicate flower if not cared for properly. I don't believe in sugar coating things, so in a calm voice, I mention quickly the troubles we had that day and then compliment every silly thing I can think of. On the nights when the day was more bad than good I ask her if we work together tomorrow does she think we can have a better day. She's an honest girl and when she's still hurting, she tells me "no." Mostly she thinks we can do better together.
Tonight she gave me a great gift. The secret that today we would have a good day. And we did. We shopped in Chinatown and she walked for two hours without whining. We left a play date with no tears. She cleaned up her craft so we could eat dinner. We had a single time out and she took it well, no crying or back talk about how it was unfair. We had a good day. We had a great day. The best part? She complimented me back tonight. "When I had to go to time out, you didn't even yell." I teared up. She's right. I handled it really, really well. She tried to push Jake off a chair in such a way that he would have been hurt quite badly and I did great.
God has his hands in the details of our lives and he's here at our house now. Working, teaching and molding Maddie and I. I feel prompted to do or say or not say things. He opens my eyes to notice the good I typically overlook because in my mind it is simply expected. I see more now than I did before. I am eternally grateful, because Maddie is amazing. She will probably be my funnest child to hang out with as an adult. I want to be her friend someday in the future when the mothering role evolves away. She's so full of spunk and personality. I know she's a keeper and I love that little lady.

Ben Quotes and Cooking Adventures

“Mom…..I feel like Virginia was an ice land like in the movie Ice Age because it was so cold there. And below Virginia is a WHOLE NEW WORLD!! It’s called Singapore and there is no snow there EVER!”

While I was blogging and the kids finishing dinner, “Ewwww! Food just came out my nose when I sneezed. That’s weird. Hey, are you typing that on the blog?” “Yep.” “Okay, I’ll try to do it again then. Before you finish you need to write, ‘Ben got carrot on his chair and arm.’”

Also said today. “Mom, I know what I want for snack tomorrow. Carrots.” Uhhhh…say what? That coming from the boy who typically sheds tears over the thought of eating a tiny baby carrot. Today he was starving after school. He asked for a snack. I said he needed to come up with an idea. For weeks he has shot down any idea I give him and flops on the ground because whatever terrible food I dared mention makes him so upset. I ask and ask what he wants me to have in the house that isn’t candy or ice cream for snacks. Not once has he provided an answer. We have almost nothing under the sun that he will take to school for snack beyond pears. When we go on Saturday family outings we pack lots of water and several snack foods and I ask before we go what he wants, offering up to six or seven different things. I think he’s chosen to go hungry every single week so far. This kid is picky beyond belief. No granola bars, no pretzels, goldfish only sometimes, no banana, no apple, no oranges, no raisins. Just forget even trying vegetables. And now apparently he’s having carrots for snack tomorrow. I think it has something to do with the fact that he prepared them and they were just a slight touch sweeter than the normal big carrots. In any case, I’ll cross my fingers, but I’m not holding my breath.

The net result of his hunger today was that he chose a single slice of bread for his snack and ten minutes later was asking if it was dinner time. It was 4:20. I asked what he wanted to eat for dinner. He asked if we had mac'n'cheese, which we did. He got it and began preparing to cook it. Seizing on the odd opportunity that was currently presenting itself, I helped him read the instructions on the box, supervise to make sure he got all the right tools and watched him cook a dinner he was really excited to eat. It was awesome! Knowing the water would take a good while to boil I told him this is the time you use to get other things ready. I showed him the available vegetables in the fridge. He chose carrots. He peeled them and I chopped them up. He plated them. We read the next instruction to drain the noodles. I asked if the sink was ready. He understood the problem of having all the carrot skins in the sink so he cleaned it up. What a great day. I do think it was the best dinner I've had in a while. Just don't mention to him that we had mac'n'cheese for lunch today too. It was totally worth eating again for him to take such pride in his work.

After dinner Ben continued to be fantastic. This kid usually whines about any tiny amount of homework. Not today. He did his math on the bus and was just fine with doing the corrections I had to have him fix, mostly it was 5, 6 and 7 written backwards which is terribly frustrating to him. Then he did make-up spelling journal exercises because we swam and had a pizza party on Tuesday instead of homework. Then he did tonight's spelling homework. I asked him to read two books because no matter how many we return each day, he gets two new ones each and every day. We had a back log of 9 at the house now. This nut job decided to read four. Then since he was halfway through anyway, he finished the entire pile. We were up an hour past bedtime so he could do it, but it was totally worth it. He's a good boy that Ben. I think we're going to keep him around.

Monkey Attack!!

Yesterday was playgroup again and Maddie was excited to go.  We had quite a surprise as we came into the park from the bus stop.  Maddie had decorated an empty square juice box (1 liter size) to be a castle and was insistent that she bring it to the park.  I allowed it as long as she was in charge of it.  As we came up the road to the beginning of the car park (parking lot) there were lots of monkeys.  One saw us and almost immediately started to charge us. It got way too close before I figured out what was going on and ripped the castle/juice box from her hands and threw it at the monkey.  He was satisfied and instantly ripped it to shreds but she was traumatized.  Needless to say we were leery of monkeys when it was snack time at the playground and could see a baby monkey in the tree nearby.  We’ve already emptied another juice container so now we have a craft project planned for this afternoon while Jakey has his naptime.

Ahhh.  Welcome to my new life.  Some things could just never happen in Virginia.

Money, Money, Money!

All my kids LOVE money. Ben has been getting an allowance for about two years. He understands how to pay tithing and how much has to be put in his savings account and how much he gets to keep. He can read a price tag in the store and budget his cash to buy what he wants and know how much is going to be left over or if he can’t afford the thing he wants. Sometimes he even has the self-control to save up for a bigger item he wants to get.

Maddie started getting allowance this month. She LOVES to sit and sort her money out. She loves to count and put the right number of ten cent coins on the paper in the predrawn holes (doubt they are called dimes, but I don’t know what to call them).

Jake loves to hold as many coins in his chubby little hands as he possibly can. He walks around saying, “Dis one my money? Dis one MY money.” He scours the floor for lost coins and collects them to put in his pockets. I informed the kids that now that both of them are getting allowance we won’t be able to know if the money is his or hers anymore. Therefore, all money left out is Mom’s money. Maybe we’ll make it Jake’s money. When we pay out allowance to the big kids and then figure tithing and things I have to make sure to have lots of extra change to keep Jacob occupied placing it on colored paper all by himself.

Jake is also totally tuned into the fact that money is used for magic tricks and at our house it always is. Brian frequently does coin tricks for any visitors we may have as well as our own kids. Jacob loves to do magic shows just like dad. He'll grab a coin and say, "Abba abba hokus hokus" instead of "abra cadabra, hokus pokus." Then he will put the coin to the left hand and open the right one saying, "not in this one." Then he shifts the coin in his hands right in front of you and smiles as he shows you the other hand is now empty with total confidence that he has just accomplished the most amazing magic trick I have ever seen. It melts my heart.

I Can Totally See What You Mean

Ben wears a uniform to school here.  Every other day is “alternate dress day” where they can wear anything the like.  Last time he was a little unsure so he wore his uniform.  This morning I saw him in his uniform again and asked him if he liked alternate dress day yesterday.  He said, “Yeah.  It was WAY easier to find the kids I wanted on the playground.”



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cute little monkeys

A couple of weekends ago we decided to take the kids to visit the zoo. We had received a lot of recommendations for the zoo and the kids needed to get out of the apartment, so it sounded like a good idea. Unfortunately, this was the first weekend of the Chinese New Year, so the rest of the country also decided that visiting the zoo would be a good idea. When we arrived, the parking lot was full and cars were parked along the street approaching the zoo. I dropped the family off at the main entrance and then drove back to the end of the line of parked cars to find a spot to park our car. I got out of the car and noticed a group of about five monkeys sitting on the sidewalk. As I approached, these monkeys immediately disbanded their meeting and disappeared into the nearby trees.
I walked a little bit further and discovered another group of monkeys. Again, as I approached the monkeys fled the scene--that is all except one. One monkey decided that he particularly liked the spot he occupied and didn't seem to want to leave. "How cute," I thought. "This is just like the squirrels back at home--simply wandering around to find food and scampering off when someone gets near. Let me get a couple of pictures." I took a couple of pictures of this monkey and then started walking on. I knew I probably shouldn't get too close to the monkey, so I tried to keep a safe distance as I walked around him.
Suddenly the monkey stated staring at me. He bared his teeth and came at me. Those teeth looked pretty sharp and I was certain I didn't want to feel the monkey's teeth or claws on my bare legs so I took a couple of steps back. I started second-guessing my decision to wear shorts--why didn't I chose to wear nice thick Levis to protect me from strange animals at eye level with my knees? Luckily the monkey stopped moving toward me, but it did keep staring at me. Now I was in a dilema. My family was waiting for me at the Zoo entrance and I needed to pass the monkey to get to them, but I really did not want to excite the monkey anymore. I slowly and carefully took a few steps to move past the monkey in a wider arch. The monkey kept it's eyes on me, but did let me pass. I quickly hurried to my family, relieved that I wouldn't be visiting the hospital for a monkey bite.

Google Analytics

Anyone out there use Google Analytics?  I have it running on my blog and check it every six months or so.  It tracks where people are coming from to find your blog/website. 

I logged on today to see how many people are reading my blog and where they come from.  Funniest thing is that 29 (3%) of my visitors get to my blog by searching the words “heart murmur” or “neuroma”.  Who would have thought that?  Not me.  Other great searches yielding my blog: “Jimmy Zufelt bankruptcy” (2 visits) and “Singapore expat forum guide online” (4 visitors). Like I have anything useful to say to expats and advise to give.  Hahaha.

I love Google Analytics.

This One's Broken. Can I Get Another One?

Brian had his first accident driving here on the corner of our block on the way home from work on Friday afternoon.  Luckily it wasn’t his fault.  He was waiting to merge into traffic and a delivery truck took his rear view mirror off with its back bumper.  So what do you do when you have an accident?  Call it in and get a new car.


At least that is what we’re doing this time.  Our rental period on our temporary car ended today. We had a Honda Odyssey.  It’s nothing like an American version of the Odyssey to be sure.  It’s about half the size and still with seven seats. Look how short it is with Brian standing next to it. Anyway, the old company picked up the broken car and the new company brought us our new sweet ride.  Pictures soon of that one.  It’s red which is an unusual color here so we will be able to find it.  That’s great news to me.  Everything here seems to be grey, silver or light blue. 


Getting a red car was a stroke of dumb luck.  We literally had five vehicles to choose from.  No.  I don’t mean five makes or models.  I mean there were five vehicles in the entire country that we could have.  The lack of availability of things still floors me.  Three of the vehicles were totally hammered and looked really worn out – all three were either three or four years old.  They don’t build them to last here that’s for sure.  Of the two left one was normal and one was deluxe.  We went for the one with the better seating arrangement, seats that fold down into the floor for hauling more stuff, rear back up camera, GPS in the dash and a DVD player.  The kids are stoked about the DVD.  We wonder if it will even play US DVDs.  Kind of funny to think it might not.  The kids will be super bummed, but as far as Brian and I are concerned we weren’t planning to use it anyway.  DVD players are for 8 hour road trips not going to the grocery store.  And I can cross the island in an hour.  When they would use it we don’t know.  We’ll have to find some middle ground on this one.  Otherwise it is just plain mean to NEVER let them watch it.

Jake's Ear Infection

We had been here two and a half weeks and I was feeling a little more adventurous than other days.  It was Friday and I was going to have me an adventure.  I was going to take both kids by myself and go explore a bit.  And then Jacob woke up.  Something was not quite right.  My high energy, must jump from the coffee table to the couch for hours on end little man was not at his peak.  All he wanted was to snuggle on my shoulder and started telling me “Ow my ear this one,” as he pointed to his right side.  Poor guy.  I called Brian and he got the recommended doctor from the ExxonMobil info.  It was 7:30am and they didn’t open until 9:00am.  That gave me way more time than needed to figure out how to get where I needed to go and what bus to take, etc.  The earliest bus left at 11:00am so I called and asked for an appointment anytime after 11:30am.  “How about 11:45?” came the reply.  Seriously?  Okay.  We’re set.  Oh yeah, while I’m there I needed to get my second round of the Hep A&B vaccine.  Not a problem they’d do it at the same time.  It was just that easy!!


Getting there was not.  It was a long process for another blog post.  When we got there we told the receptionist we were there and she pointed to a little half sheet of paper for me.  That was it.  Half a sheet for Jacob.  Half a sheet for me.  No Privacy Disclosure Acknowledgement, no three page financial policy, no health history with two pages of check boxes to mark.   Name, address, phone, reason for todays visit.  Done.


Then we waited about 10 minutes and the doctor called us back to his office.  We went in and it was normal, but different.  We sat at his office type desk and there was a sink and exam table to our side.  Jake had no fever, but a definite ear infection.  I had forgotten to grab our old medical records.  Bad move on my part.  I mentioned that he had one in Nov, it didn’t clear so we had to step up to a stronger medication.  Yeah, with that fantastic help from mom the doctor went ahead with his own prescription.  When I got home and dug out the records I calculated the equivalent amount of active drugs and realized we were getting one quarter of the dose that didn’t work the first time.  Ugh.  I gave it a shot with not much hope.  In the end, it took two weeks but he says it doesn’t hurt anymore.


The doctor told us to wait in the reception area while he wrote up his notes.  Then he took it out to the desk and the receptionist prepared the medications right there and then.  We checked out and were on our way.  Brilliant.  So easy.  So fast.  And no dragging my sick whiny kid to a pharmacy.  Love it.  And the cost was totally reasonable too.

Dinner Conversation

At dinner tonight Jacob pointed to the pasta and said, "I want protein dinner." Then he let us know that he needed some applesauce to put on it, the stroganoff sauce. I told the family that I had run into a gal today that had never in her life had a Goldfish cracker. I had to snicker just a little bit since they are almost at the point of qualifying as their own food group in the States. She was visiting from London, doing her "looksie" to see if they really want to move here so she came with us to playgroup so she could ask the more seasoned moms all those vital questions that she needed to answers too. Brian's comment was, "She's lucky." Too funny.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Valentines Day for Ben's Class

I thought these were cute.  There is a little place downstairs at our apartment to pick up brochures to tourist spots.  In the display were a bunch of free cardstock preprinted sheets of these little boxes for Valentine’s Day.  Perfect combination – free, cute, fits candy.  Sure to be a hit with mom and kid.  Brian and Ben punched them out and folded them together on Sunday afternoon while watching The Lion King.  Maddie helped a lot with putting one pink and one purple candy in each box.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Valentine's Day for Losers

I’m having a little me time. Catching up on blogs that I have not read since after young women’s camp ended in August! After that I put myself into high gear to dejunk the house and prepare to move to Singapore. That’s almost 6 months of not reading blogs and to be fair, not writing much either. Just think of all the funny stories I missed and now forgot because I was too busy. Sad. Today I have been reading and reading and reading. It’s so much fun, but I did notice one thing. I suppose it actually doesn’t come as much as a surprise.

Our kids would kill to be from another family. Have you seen the amazing and cute Valentine's Day things people do for their kids? Seriously? Start blog stalking and you'll know what I mean. Some are darling handmade cutsies, or 14 day countdowns with daily love notes, lots of people did some craft or made a treat and spent time with their kids and still other people gave their kids what I would classify as a mini-Christmas with some SERIOUS toy spreads. Sitting here on the couch side by side with our laptops (romantic, I know) I mentioned to Brian how we were failing our kids. His response? “No way. They need to show us some love. We do stuff for them all the time.” Can you tell we had a knock down drag out miserable day with the kids? I take that back, Ben was great all day. Maddie and Jake were tail spinning into disaster zone by 8:30am. Just ask Grandma and Grandpa how well behaved they were while we tried to Skype. It wasn’t pretty and only got worse.

As far as Valentine’s Day goes, I don’t anticipate a change for next year either. We know who we are. And we’re not cute. One of my favorite stories to tell from my working days proves it. I was asked to prepare a multi-million dollar budget plan for the proposed projects on the radar for prioritization. It would be submitted several levels up to the bosses for review with my research and justifications on which projects are the most important based on timing, safety concerns, environmental impact, etc. I worked for a few weeks and had my spreadsheet well researched and nicely laid out to concisely deliver only the most relevant facts and cost estimates to the big cheese guys in charge.

I submitted it to my direct line boss for approval first. He was less than impressed. I was sent back to tweak it a little and make it look nicer. I added a bit of pastel coloring to color code areas and departments. Nope. Still not good enough. Asking for direction, my boss took me into his office where he showed me an example of what he was looking for. I kid you not, he showed me a spreadsheet that had animations all over it and boxes that had sparkle borders that twinkled and moved. He told me to go make it look more “pretty like this.” Uh huh. And how am I supposed to do that on a printed paper?? Pretty? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?! All the required information is included. What is the point of all that was all I could think.

Beyond frustrated, I returned to my office and let loose my feelings to my cubicle buddy and good friend Jared. He looks me straight in the face and says, “Well, Ang. We all know you’re just not a pretty person.” I can still hear his voice and see his mannerisms as he said it too. It’s crystal clear in my memory. Instantly I couldn’t stop laughing. He realized what he said the second it came out of his mouth. It was priceless. And I can’t argue with him whether the comment was meant to have a double meaning or not. I don’t wear make-up, get my nails done OR put sparkles on my spreadsheets. I’m Angie and on most days I’m basically pretty happy with what I am.

In summary:

Valentine’s Day will continue to be a mediocre affair at our house for a long time to come. I do hope to reinstitute the tradition Brian and I had since we were dating of making sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day. The kids have loved it in years past. And that, folks, is the size of a “pretty” goal that I can handle.

GO AWAY You Nasty Neuroma

The neuroma in my foot is back as of yesterday. I stayed off my food almost all day today except making lunch, dinner and a quick shopping trip because we were out of milk and bread. I've just entered a toally new and different existence where walking is NOT optional. You can't drive right up to the door of Target and grab things quickly while you lean on a shopping cart. My life is walking intensive for the next 5 weeks at least and I don't have time to mess around with major debilitating foot pain. Please, please go away. I just don't have the energy to figure out what doctor I need to see about getting a cortisone shot and even if I knew where to go...I'd have to walk to a bus to then walk to the office. If worse comes to worse and I have to sit all day everyday, I don't even have my rolling office chair to sit on to do the cooking. That helped a lot last time to keep me funtional while I was down. Stupid slow boat shipment. Hurry up, I need that chair. P.S. Brian told me about a week ago that he seems to have one too. Leave him alone, would ya?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile

Seeing “Singapore” appear on the Live Traffic Feed of your blogs.  I like to leave my mark and I know how cool I think it is when I get a hit from a really cool place.

Mandatory Stroller Rides

I finally decided that no matter how overpriced they were, I had to buy a stroller because Jake needs to be locked down and controlled when we are out and about. He has bolted full speed into streets with oncoming traffic, tried to jump down off the curb into the bus lane of traffic, jumped through elevator doors as they were closing, runs for escalators and travelators when I can barely handle the ten grocery bags I have to lug home from the store on the bus/taxi/shuttle. I thank the Lord for the many great people here who have consistently saved his little soul from certain destruction many, many times. In the end, it's not their responsibility and I can't seem to keep up with his fast little legs. For his own safety I bought that thing. Today I tried to leave it home and let him walk because we were literally going to a friends house just across the street. Nope. Should have brought the stroller. I'm just glad at that moment there were no taxis going 100 mph down our street which is usually the case because he ran for all he was worth, genuinely thinking he was heading to Ethne's house. Little punk. Guess we're never leaving home without a stroller again.

Har Paw Villa - A Whole New Kind of Playgroup

From Maddie: “Playgroup is fun. It was the best one because it had lots of things that I liked. It is the best in the whole entire world because it has a beautiful table. I’m going to take Ben and Dad there because it’s so fun. You go up stairs and you can’t go on the paint parts.”

Yesterday we decided to be adventurous. Playgroup through our church was planned for a park. Since the congregation members are literally from all over the entire country/island it’s going to be all over the place. Several people took the bus or taxi, only two people drove of the eight moms that came. I’ve never in my life been to a playgroup where people took buses and taxis to get there. If you didn’t have a car or a ride you just didn’t go.

We tried the bus this week. It was a little scary at first not knowing where we were heading and knowing for sure I wouldn’t recognize it when we arrived so it could go terribly wrong and I’d be stuck, lost in the big, huge, scary city with two kids. The up side was that I didn’t have to show up if things went bad and it was a great first try at the bus system because I could take one bus without a single transfer. Both good things for a beginner.

Everything went really smooth. Public transit is still new enough to Jake and Maddie that they were content to watch everything out the window as we drove along. That meant I was able to hold the bus schedule in hand and watch for landmarks, buildings and street signs to keep track of where we were so I knew when to get off. It was about a 35 minute ride and we hopped off. Then I tried to get my bearings and found we were one stop farther than I had hoped, but it was only a quarter kilometer beyond my target so not a bad walk back.

The park we went to was beyond interesting. It was the Tiger Balm Park. The family that discovered and marketed Tiger Balm had the park built to give back to the community that brought them success so it was free an it was phenomenal to walk through. One mom kept saying "I feel like I walked into a watercolor painting." I think that is a great way to describe it. Think Mary Poppins jumping into the sidewalk pictures. Everything was 3-D and painted with bright colors. It was pretty old, so some stuff was showing age, but still magnificent detail went into every square inch of the acres of sculptures. There were sidewalks that went up and down, stair cases that lead all over the place. It was a bit like a maze there were so many ways to turn and the entire park was like the pictures show. Big and little sculptures, even an underground tunnel totally painted with waves and water leading to spiral staircases in and out. To put light into the tunnel the roof had big vertical voids which were were the outer edges under a gazebo and foot bridge.

Near the beginning Maddie had to use the bathroom and Gage wanted to come to, so his mom Jessica and I took them. Then we couldn’t find the rest of the group but figured if we wandered we’d hit into them. After all, we were only gone about 4 minutes so they couldn’t be too far. We explored for an hour letting Maddie and her brand new best friend Gage lead us along wherever they felt like running. It was delightful and a much needed day of free energetic running for my two kids who have been locked down in a hotel setting for way too long.

After an hour, Jessica called someone and found out most of the moms camped out on that tunnel gazebo place and the kids ran up and down and around them for hours. We meandered back and spend another hour just there. We had some goldfish crackers, raisins and water then they went off to explore the nearby area again. Maddie and her great imagination began to lead the group through what then became the “Spooky Tunnel” and they would all make loud high pitched spooky ghost noises as they ran through the tunnel. Jacob was the absolute best. He is becoming such a big kid and loves to follow in anything Maddie does. He’d drag me through the “pookie tunnel” over and over with a smile from ear to ear and his hands in front of his body bouncing up and down like a zombie coming to attack but not really sure why he was doing it other than that’s just what you are supposed to do in a pookie tunnel. I spent more time than I wanted in the tunnel and less time getting to know the other moms, but it was still a great day and I did get to chat with Jessica for a long time in the beginning. A much needed day for all.

After almost three hours I decided we needed to call it quits. Jake should have already been down for a nap. I was out of water and the kids were drenched in sweat. Maddie’s entire head and all of her hair was so wet it looked like she had been out swimming. It was gross. We packed up and walked to the bus. Jake fell asleep on the ride home and Maddie tried but was too darn interested in absolutely everything going on around her. She has been such an amazing walker here. Maybe it’s because we haven’t really ever asked her and we haven’t had a stroller until I broke down and bought one* on Tuesday so riding wasn’t an option.

Marital Communication

Hello Brian,

You may have noticed I’m a little bit weird lately. Sorry about that. It’s just that when I’m overwhelmed, stressed out and unsure of what’s going on around me and in my own mind, I sort of shut down, even with you. I know you’re the one I should be sharing these things with the most, but right now I’m not always here, I’m inside myself trying to figure out little old me and understand what my new life is supposed to be. Hopefully I’ll be back soon.

I know you have often said in the last three years that you have to read my blog to know what is going on at your own house. For the next month or two you may want to keep doing that. I’ll be back soon enough, so know that I do love you. I’m so incredibly happy here. I’m glad we came. Not a day yet I’ve regretted it. I’m sure that day will come in a big typhoon of tears and girly emotion with a drippy, snotty nose and red puffy eyes, you know, the whole package.

I hope this helps explain just a little bit about why when you asked this morning where to catch the shuttle home from work I basically had no answer. I’ve done it about 7 times now and it’s easy, but I don’t know what road it’s on or how to describe it since there is construction and you have to go under the street then out into an island bus bay in the middle of the street to get on and look for this bus color or sometimes it will be that one that is totally unmarked. I hope it worked to point to it on the map. In any case you did come home tonight so I guess it was information enough that you found it. I just don’t always know how to say stuff and that makes me frustrated. I haven’t always got the mental capacity to explain that in a calm and collected manner. No excuses. I’m just a little bit messed up sometimes. And when you tried to ask about my day with genuine interest yesterday and I was near mute, I’m sorry. You tried to ask if I tried going to playgroup and if we took the bus or a taxi and what kinds of fun adventures we had and I couldn’t even look you in the eye but only muttered short and simple fact based answers it’s because I’m on overload. I’m not processing everything well all the time and I feel stupid about my mistakes and vulnerabilities. I hope telling you about it two hours later was okay. After twelve years, you may have noticed one of my defense mechanisms when I’m feeling vulnerable is to avoid eye contact. Bummer, too, because you have to most kind brown eyes. They are one of my favorite features and I’m glad you passed them on to Ben.

Maybe it’s best said this way, you know, in your language. I feel like I’m on delayed response, like a computer locked up when you ask it to send an email with an attachment that is just too big. I know I lock up, but if you’re just patient, I’ll come back just like the computer always does. You’ve been great to me. I hope I’m supporting you too. I really am happy here. And I’m glad we’re here together because, well, “we’re uh-possed to be together” if you know what I mean. Wink, wink. I love you.


Kid Updates

Maddie Mae – Wears socks on her hands almost daily, the fancier the better in her opinion. Last night I finally put the pieces together. They are her fancy princess gloves like the long white ones Cinderella wears to the ball. She cracks me up.

Jacob – Has begun to stutter. Sort of. He has been saying the “t” sound after most of his sentences. Otherwise he speaks almost crystal clear in full sentences, at least for a two year old. How he will say stuff like, “Jakey want go with daddy in a car t-t-t-t-t.” Jenny suggested today that it was because I was teaching Maddie how to read. Are you scratching your head like I was? She explained it happened to her two girls when she was teaching the older one to read. The younger daughter was imitating the repetitive sounds made when you are sounding out a word (s-i-t) and the adult will repeat a sound to help them understand and remember. Makes total sense to me so I’m buying her theory. Otherwise I’ve got no explanation why he stutters a “t” after sentences that don’t even end in the letter.

Ben – Came home from school and his white polo shirt was clean for the first time in three weeks. Of course I noticed and teased him, “Ben, I can tell you didn’t have any fun at school today.” “Huh?” “Well, your shirt is totally clean and white still so I know you didn’t have any fun.” The grin starts across his face immediately, “Oooooh, NO! I had LOTS of fun! We had recess on the rooftop playground and I climbed into the tunnel tube (he begins sketching out a schematic diagram of the playground on scratch paper so I can understand) and when I was right here (points) I was right above the girls (draws two stick figures). And so I listened really carefully to them and got their secret plan to chase Caleb around the playground. I snuck out and told him so he didn’t get caught and he ran away. It was AWESOME!!”

I guess recess play is the same across the world. He played spy on the girls in first grade in Virginia too. Although there he usually chose to be on the girls team so he could protect them. (Smooth. Get in good with the ladies.) Not sure if we should worry about his love interests yet. He definitely liked someone in his last school class. Too bad he missed the Fairy Tale Ball right after we moved or he could have had the chance to dance with his fair maiden. This week when we read who gave him valentine cards on Monday night his face lit up when I read MacKenzie’s name. “Do you know who she is yet?” “OH YEAH! She stands in front of me in the lunch line and she is the funniest girl in the whole class. I like to be by her.”

I remember first grade. Recess was filled with kissing tag for the better part of a year. Mostly I didn’t like it. Nathan liked my best friend Bethany and his best friend John liked me. I recall going in during recess in tears to Mrs. Zagarella to tell her I wanted them to stop. Wasn’t a whole lot to be done I guess. She explained it was because they liked us, but I wasn’t impressed at all. Just mad at stupid John and dumb Nathan. After first grade though I don’t remember any romantic encounters for anyone until about fifth grade. Maybe we’ll be in the clear soon. People here don’t date until they are much older than they do in the States and don’t marry until much later in life. Hopefully that translates into the younger grades too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Maddie's In!!

We got notice that Maddie Mae was finally accepted to the Singapore American School. She is really excited. Only problem is that the acceptance doesn’t start until next school year. This girl needs to get out of the house!! She is so much more happy when she has social time with her friends. She misses Reagan and Owen and wishes they could come play with her here in Singapore. Poor girl.

We are connecting with a friend from Fairfax that lives across the street from us so we can walk over. The Allens have been here since October so they are a little more settled than us (i.e. they have toys to play with). When we went over last Monday for the first time the smile on Maddie’s face was absolutely priceless. I could tell she felt like she had walked into an alternate universe from the world she is living in. There were more toys than she could hope to play with in a month as far as she could tell (i.e. they had more than three small things per kid which is what we’ve got here).

I am grateful for little girl friends in walking distance for now and incredibly grateful that the schooling situation is worked out for next year at least. I’m still asking around for referrals on schools for the remainder of this year. Our contract was finalized today on the house so I can move forward with more assurances that I know what neighborhoods to look in now for public preschools. There is a Joy School group in the neighborhood we’re moving too so if there is room maybe we can do that if none of the neighborhood preschools have space.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mr Security - I Take That Back

Not sure if you read my thoughts on security here in Singapore, but it’s safe to say I was less than intimidated by the guards.  My thoughts really formed last Saturday while we were at the Singapore Zoo.  We watched a lion dancer show at the main entrance and I watched the guard keep people out of the area the dancers would soon be occupying.  Today we went back to the zoo.


Dear Mr. Zoo Security Guard,

I am writing to apologize about my comments this week.  I am a naive and stupid woman.  I am so sorry.  I guess last week I didn’t notice the machete you were carrying around with you.  Don’t worry.  I saw it this afternoon.  I wasn’t sure my eyes were seeing things clearly (You should know that my eyesight is compromised and I am quite far sighted.) I pointed you out to my husband.  He snickered at me and said, “That’s an umbrella.”  Of course I teased him back, but ultimately believed him.  After all, it made a whole lot more sense to my American mind.


Brian watched the kids on the grass across the road while you walked around the parking lot and I gathered up the kid gear to brave the zoo.  When everything was in order in the backpack, I headed over to procure my PB&J sandwich with the kids.  Imagine my surprise when Brian confirmed my original thoughts.  He even described the type and shape of the blade and the handle.  Yep.  You’ve got a machete.  At the zoo.  Walking around the parking lot.


Hopefully you recall that even in my first post I fessed up to the fact that you could totally take me down whether or not you actually look intimidating.  I just wanted to let you know, however, that you have now achieved a new level of “looking intimidating” enough to be on security detail.  I hereby swear that I will behave myself at the zoo and keep all my wild children in line too.  We bought the annual pass, so we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.  I promise to be nice to you, because the last thing I want to do is get a close up of that thing.


With Respect,

A Well Behaved Zoo Patron

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I’m sorry, but it’s really hard to take security guards seriously here.  They are tiny, thin, Asian men. Just not the night club bouncer look.  I’m not denying that they could totally take down this old mom, but still, they just don’t have a very demanding presence.

My Blog Has Replaced Emails

About four years ago email was about to make me nuts.  I can’t remember what my church job was at the time, but I’ve had some email intensive busy ones during our time in Fairfax. Then there was keeping up with friends and family.  My inbox became something I absolutely loathed.  It hung over me day and night. I had no peace because I always had a stack of emails waiting to be returned.  I always felt guilty at not giving everyone the attention they deserved and I would love to spend time on them, but there just isn’t enough time in the day.  Then I started to blog. At first not many people read blogs, but after time they got “cool” and in my book that is a very beautiful thing.  I can keep everyone updated on my life if they so choose to follow along without having to write 50 personal emails every week.  Brilliant.  I love blogs.  Plus Brian sometimes reads my entries to my kids.  They LOVE hearing stories about themselves. 


(Of course he only reads the nice ones and the ones that don’t give away Santa and Tooth Fairy secrets.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Muted World

I find it interesting that the colors of processed foods here are so incredibly muted.  The yogurt Jacob is eating this morning is just a little bit grayer than the normal American pink yogurt.  I already mentioned the strawberries in the Special K.  We bought Kellogg’s brand Fruit Loops and all the colors are totally “off”.  Jenny told me yesterday that is because they use beet juice to color the red (making it a little more purple than red) and other various fruits and juices to attain the colors.  Her kids wouldn’t even eat them so she donated them to the nursery at church.  My kids are fine with them so far though they are definitely not a fan favorite anymore.  Funny thing is, the box for the Fruit Loops looks lots nicer than in the States.  It’s fully done up in a super high gloss packaging like a really expensive electronics product might have back home.


All in all, as long as it tastes the same it shouldn’t matter, but I do secretly miss those nasty, probably carcinogenic artificial coloring.  Just don’t tell the organic fanatics my secret confession her, okay?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My New Expensive Life

Things are so crazy expensive here.  Some days I am internally going nuts paying so much for every little this and that.  Other days I am solid and okay with it since there is nothing I can do about it anyway.  My stomach churns over some random purchase every single time I enter the stores.   Here is just one example of what happened today.


We have 3 bowls the kids can use.  All the other ones are fancy grown up bowls and I had to inventory the apartment and see the replacement costs so I happen to know each bowl will cost me $13.80 if they break one. That’s why the can only use the three plastic penguin bowls provided.  Problem is, if I don’t do dishes every single meal we run out of everything.  It’s  a good lesson in discipline for me, but still draining. 


Today I figured I’d buy 3 more bowls, you know, like the dollar store kind.  They came in sets of 3’s.  Perfect. Wait.  The bowls come in either blue or purple.  Maddie would absolutely hate eating from a blue bowl and Ben would be positively insulted if I asked him to eat from a purple bow.  Whatever, we’ll get 6 and I won’t have to deal with crying.  WHAT??  Three cheap-o plastic bowls cost $9?  Tough beans to Ben.  Maddie wins this one since she was at the store with me and Ben was at school. (see, we all knew school sucked, now we have proof)  Pay the $9.  Three purple bowls.  I’m still irked that I paid that much.  Realistically it only buys me a couple more hours before I have to do dishes.  Better be worth it.



Well that’s embarrassing.  So she got MY mop and MY bucket (provided by the apartment complex) and mopped my floor.  Hahaha.  This proves how lazy I am I suppose.  In my defense, I may have the mop and the bucket but I don’t have any cleaning products yet.  The floors are nice and clean again…with her barely wet mop.  I’m going to have to learn how to do that. Maybe I just need to squeeze the water out harder…


It’s on the shopping list for today (floor cleaner, mirror cleaner, bleach and laundry spot remover).  Amazing what you don’t realize you don’t have until you need to use them.  Other randomness – we bought shampoo and conditioner but have no soap left for baths.  Can’t find any face soap for oily skin, only “normal” and believe me, I’m oily adjusting to this climate of humidity and warmth.  Maybe throw some teenage acne cream in the mix for the next little while and ban all makeup which I don’t wear often anyway.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Take That Back

Jakey is fully awake now.  No more groggy sick baby boy.  He just climbed on my back, grabbed my head, forced it around to look at him and then told me, “Mommy a bad boy.”  Then he jumped down and left.  Little stinker.

Snuggle Time with Sick Jakey

Jakey’s been under the weather for about a week now.  Runny nose started last Tuesday, fever Wednesday through Saturday morning, Sunday he was good except in the middle of the night and after naps he had so much phlegm he was gagging as he cried.  Today he has the most raspy voice ever accompanied with a cough.  All this sickness has made for a rather snuggly little boy.  Brian has totally loved that Jacob now wants to sit and snuggle daddy instead of always screaming, “Mommy do it!” when he tries to help.  Today I snatched him out of bed and ran downstairs to the bus to get Ben and he laid happily on my shoulder while we waited.  Back home he sat in my lap while Ben read me a book.  We always call he Jakey Boy.  He looked up at me, put one hand on either of my cheeks.  I asked him if he was my friend to which he nodded his head.  Then he says, “Jakey Boy Mommy fwends.”  Big smile creeps across his face and he says, “Jakey Boy Mommy BOY Fwends!!!” He melts my heart some days.

Experiment Today - Floors

Okay, so I wondered just how hard it will be to actually clean here.  The floors are all marble and with windows open it will likely get really dusty every single day.  I’ve had carpet under my kitchen table in every single place I’ve lived since 2002 so while I was well aware of what was going on in those carpet areas I could live in the bliss of pretending it was clean.  Now the floor under the table is always just a little bit sticky.


The experiment then, was that I didn’t clean up much of anything.  The maid came on Wednesday afternoon and then again today, Monday.  Is it worth hiring a helper to take care of all of this for me? I’m just not sure.  I did have to sweep the floor twice, but didn’t mop once even though we had a cup of apple juice spilled and various other daily things hit the floor.  I did a quick rag wipe, but no water wipe downs for five days.  How good will the maid clean?  How terrible is that?  Don’t worry, I picked up the rest of the house, washed all the dishes and wiped down the kitchen.  See, she mops with a barely wet mop.  I’m curious to see if it is really doing much as far as sticky goes.  It dries almost in an instant.  See, when I mop, everyone has to stay out for 20 minutes while the floor dries.


Can you tell I’m bored to tears?  I look at my February calendar and get depressed.  It’s empty.  My internal being thrives on being busy, busy, busy and anxiously engaged in good causes. J  Here I have nothing.  And I will likely continue to have nothing until we settle into our new home at the end of March.  It’s a bit depressing to tell the truth.  So my life for now has come to the sad and despicable place where my amusement revolves around measuring the cleaning quality of the maid and her barely wet mop.  Would someone please shoot me now?


I made the kids oatmeal this morning for breakfast.  I made real oatmeal instead of the instant packets.  I knew it would take some fixing up to make them like it.  I stirred in our delicious raspberry jam until I could see lots of it in the bowl even after I stirred it up and hoped for the best.  I did not taste test it because, well, there is no amount of anything in the world that is good enough for me to want to eat it. 


My mom made oatmeal for us when I was in first grade.  She made me finish my bowl. That only lasted a few days because every single day I had oatmeal for breakfast I was quite late to school. What can I say, it tasted HORRIBLE. It’s just not my thing.  Everyone has their food they can’t eat.  Oatmeal is mine.  The very texture of it in my mouth actually initiates the natural gag reflex inside my throat.  I HATE oatmeal.  My grandma lived to be nearly 100 years old and always told me it was because she ate oatmeal every single day for breakfast (of course when I lived with her in college my cousin Rick introduced her to Cocoa Pebbles and she got a bit addicted so I think she had about a 6 month oatmeal break).  I concluded that if it took literal torture daily, I just wasn’t interested in living that long.


In any case, I made oatmeal for my kids. And despite loving Quaker Flavored Instant Oatmeal Packets, they wouldn’t eat it.  I broke out the raisins and mounded in a plentiful amount so they would have a few in every single bite.  They still hated it.  There was nothing I could do to make it better.  We don’t have brown sugar yet so I put that on the shopping list.  In the end they ate Special K with Cookie Crisp mixed in.  And I ate the oatmeal.  All of it.  It was hard, but I did manage to choke it all down.  Too bad I hate raisins too.


If you have ANY advice on how to make regular oatmeal taste good to my kids, I’m all ears.  It’ll be loads cheaper to feed them that than continue on this $10/box cereal kick we’ve been on since we arrived.  What do you do at your house?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ben's thoughts on Singapore

To get out of the apartment today we took the free shuttle to Chinatown. We mostly just walked around to become more acquainted with the area. When we arrived back home we went to the Kids Lounge (indoor playground) so the kids could unwind a little before going to bed. I decided to ask Ben what he thought about Singapore so far. Here is his response: Singapore is amazing! There is no money in the water that I can scoop out (no one tosses their coins into the various water fountains--I don't know if it is the anti-litter laws or perhaps they value their money more than people in the US). I like the Kids Lounge, the pool, and the beach (although we haven't made it there yet). We live so high up (30th floor) and there are lots of tall buildings. Singapore is smaller than Virginia but feels bigger because there are lots of tall buildings around. There are lots of playgrounds at my school. I am excited to go to the beach, and look around our new house. It won't take me very long until I stop looking around the house because I will have seen it all.