December 2012 Archives

We took a vote in the morning and the kids really wanted to go the umbrella factory first thing. We hired a driver and he took us there plus the silk factory, silver showroom (? it wasn't really where they made the silver, so I'm not sure what else to call it), and then to lunch. This all reminded me very much of Craig's & my trip to Beijing where they took you to all of the government-run tourist/special stores except this was on a much smaller scale.

We thought we were going to be able to paint an umbrella, but apparently they weren't offering that at this particular place. The kids did like learning how they make the umbrellas and paper. They also liked scouring the gift shop for that perfect something to take home as a souvenir. They were equally interested in the silk shop with the worms and cocoons and ladies weaving. They were a bit perturbed, however, when we didn't buy anything at that gift shop! The silver showroom was nothing to write home about (but, I guess I just did, didn't I?). Henry was ready for an early lunch so we had the driver take us to a Thai place on the way back to town. The food was really good and all the flowers & fountains, etc that made up the atmosphere were great. One of the best parts that we weren't expecting though is that Chiang Mai is much cooler than Singapore at this time of year! Not cold at all, but just really perfect weather.

This afternoon we decided to take a tuk-tuk taxi (all five of us piled in!) to a coffee shop we read about in the Straits Times a few weeks ago. The coffee was good but the desserts were better. We walked around that area of town some and then decided to stop at another coffee shop, Impresso, to get the kids some drinks and to rest their weary feet. The coffee there was ridiculously delicious and we'll have to go back another day to have some more. We've been away from the US for seven weeks now and I guess we were all ready for a little bit of food from home so we went to a Mexican restaurant and it was delicious (especially the homemade tortilla chips--something I did when we were in Korea and now I feel compelled to find a source for corn tortillas in Singapore so I can do it again). Satisfied and tired, we hopped into another tuk-tuk and went back to the hotel.

Closer to evening, Anna, Sarah, & I went to the center of town (tuk-tuk again) so we could watch the lanterns and possibly send one of our own into the air. The idea is to write down wishes for the new year on the lanterns (but we didn't think to bring anything to write with!). So, we talked about wishes/goals/dreams for the new year and I also suggested we send away and bad/sad things that happened last year. We bought a lantern and the lady who sold it to us helped us get it going. She said to wait three minutes for it to be ready. Well, it went straight into the water! (She was still with us.) Feeling slightly defeated about that, we watched others for a while then bought a second lantern from another lady. She said to wait five minutes. We had the help of some others lighting lanterns, too, this time and this one took off. All of the lanterns flying through the sky were just amazing. It was by far one of the coolest sights I have ever seen. I couldn't get a really good picture of it though! There were trees and city lights and water fountains in the way it seemed. But, I know that the girls will remember this evening always and I will, too.

We walked through the market area (special for New Year's Eve, I think) and then went back to light one more lantern before going home. This one went off well, too. Finally, Sarah indicated that she was getting tired so we hopped in a tuk-tuk and went back to the hotel. From there, we watched the lanterns from our 19th story window, and then finally went to bed. About an hour after I finally fell asleep, I heard horrible noises outside. The hotel was having a New Year's Eve party and fireworks were right outside our window! I do not know how the kids slept through this, but both Craig & I were awake! We took some pictures for the kids and then finally we were able to sleep, too, after not too long.

This was one of my most favorite New Year's Eves and I told everyone that we should always spend NYE in Chiang Mai. No one disagreed!


We made our way to Chiang Mai, Thailand today! I booked our flights, hotel, and elephant day a week or two after we arrived in Singapore and then never really went back to make further plans. I began the day wondering if I ought to have spent more time actually planning this trip out! (I actually began my day on a run which was a really great way to start off a vacation.)

We took a taxi from our apartment to the airport and everything went so smoothly that we arrived super early. (A nice change from when the van came late to pick us up when we moved here last month!) We had to change planes in Bangkok which ended up being a fairly long walk (but riddled with travelators so it wasn't bad even for Henry). Thai Airways was really nice (we flew coach) and the kids were all great. Of course, the two flights were so short (2 hours & 1 hour) that it was no big deal.

Once we arrived at the arrived at Chiang Mai it was harder to get a taxi than it ought to have been. We took a number from a lady and then she called a bunch of numbers and we all walked away from the terminal toward the parking lot where we waited again for our number to be called as the taxis arrived. Finally we arrived at our hotel and had dinner there and decided it was best for Sarah & Henry to get to bed as they looked completely exhausted from the day. Craig & Anna did go out to the night market tonight though (only on Sunday and Saturday). They rode in a tuk-tuk taxi (Anna loved this!) and they saw people lighting lanterns at the temple. If I had looked out the hotel window, I probably would have seen some the lanterns over the city! Tomorrow night ought to be a good night to do that, too (New Year's Eve).

Hair Cuts

I researched on the expat board for someone to cut my hair (someone to cut westerners hair that isn't straight and a short cut) and made an appointment for this morning. I love the lady I found (she is from the US but has been living her for 2 years) and will go back to her every six weeks. Henry & Craig also desperately needed cuts and I really ought to have booked a spot for Craig with my lady with his curly hair but he would never pay those prices for his hair... so the boys went to the $10 haircut place at Causeway Point. Henry's wasn't the best cut and Craig's was a bit short (but will, obviously grow out!). The cool thing about Craig & Henry's hair cut was that you pay with your subway card (we load the cards with money occasionally). I don't actually know why that's cool because it would be just as convenient to me to pay with my debit card, but whatever.

Meal Worm

Anna took care of a meal worm this semester and watched it go through its life stages to becoming a beetle. She was a little disappointed when I told her she'd have to release it outside before we went to Thailand, but, really we all might be amazed that I lived with a beetle in a cup in the apartment for a week! Anna let her beetle crawl on her arm and everything--yikes!

Wild Monkeys (finally)

Craig & the kids enjoyed breakfast upstairs while I went for a run.

We continued our quest to see some monkeys out in the wild today. We were headed to MacRitchie Reservoir but missed a turn and ended up going to Pierce Reservoir instead (Craig rides there with one of his cycling groups and he has seen monkeys on the road in the morning). We parked and punched out our parking coupons (I can't remember if I've explained that one yet: I bought a coupon book for "coupon parking" at 7-11. I have to punch out the year, month, day, and time (rounded to the nearest 5th minute) and each sheet (50 cents each) buys 30 minutes of time. So for, example, we arrived at 3:15 and filled out one coupon as 2012, 12, 29, PM, (hour) 3, (minute) 15. We thought we'd walk for an hour so we filled out a second one with the hour and minute reading 3:45. That bought us parking until 4:15. Then we left both coupons on the dash of the car.)

We went for a walk on the nature path at lower Pierce Reservoir and heard a lot of bugs and birds and something splashing in the water but saw zero monkeys. We did see a couple of large lizards, a small squirrel, and a turtle. Disappointed, we headed back to the car. Craig said he'd show us where he's seen the monkeys on the road in the morning and sure enough, they were still there. Apparently they are there waiting for food. There were so many! They were alternately cute and creepy. I was glad we were in the car and I'm not sure how I'd feel if I were out walking/running/cycling and had to cross the paths of that many monkeys.

Art Science Museum

Anna made this cute decoration at school for us.

The kids spent a long time making mazes for the hex bugs to roam around in.

We went to the Art Science Museum today (I was partially interested in going just because the building is so cool--it is a lotus flower). I kept seeing advertisements for the exhibit: The Art of the Brick and thought this was something we ought to go check out. Everyone was really inspired and at the end, we all sat and make things with LEGOs for a long while. I particularly liked the portraits that and one 3-D wall art that was like rain drops.

After the museum we walked along Marina Bay Sands and just enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

Boxing Day

This morning Sarah had her last swimming lesson and then we had a quick snack and headed out to the zoo.

The zoo opens at 8:30 and I normally like to get there when it opens because it is cooler and less crowded. We left the house just after 10! Parking was no problem and we signed up for a year membership when we arrived (I'd heard the zoo is really good and we'd use it!).

The zoo was the best zoo I've ever been to by far. I can't figure out how they do it, but there are so many exhibits where the animals are truly within reach and no enclosures. How do they keep them in their "exhibit" space? How does no one get killed? We only made it through about half of the zoo before we had to call it a day. We plan to go back the last week of break to see the other half.

We saw the cutest little baby pygmy hippo; Anna was thrilled to see a white tiger; we saw lots of monkeys & apes; and we saw a show called "The Rainforest Strikes Back" where there was a boa constrictor locked up in a "log" in the row directly behind us--eeeeeek! I was seriously freaking out when the announcer pulled the snake out of this log and wrapped it around his shoulders right next to me. The kids were a little freaked out, too, but luckily none of us truly panicked and the guy with the snake eventually moved up on to the stage area.

One thing the Singapore Zoo could improve on is the number of bathrooms around the grounds. We had to walk quite a way from the Rainforest show to the nearest bathroom and then there was a super-duper long line to use it. Anyway, we all left happy and tired and wanting to return again and that's great news in my book!

Christmas Day

The girls were up relatively early but we had to wake little Henry up at 7:30 to get the party started. Everyone was thrilled with their gifts from Santa and family members. We hung around the apartment playing with everything and then went down for a Christmas lunch party thrown by one of Craig's co-workers. We got lucky today with the weather because the sun never really came out from behind the clouds so it felt pretty cool at the party when we had all anticipated being super hot.

After the party we came back up to play with some more toys and then had our Christmas "dinner" (really just a meat & cheese platter since we had a large meal downstairs) and we had our Christmas Crackers. This was the first year that Henry wore his crown throughout the meal. We quickly cleaned up and hit the MRT and got off at Orchard to check out the Christmas scene there (and to see more of the street lights lit up on foot).

Orchard Road was packed with entertainers, music, parade floats, and tons of people. We walked from Orchard MRT to Somerset and got some good people-watching in along the way. As we walked down Orchard, we started to hear what sounded like angry shouting into a microphone and I was fully expecting to see a riot start. As we got closer, we saw a group stretching and Anna said, "oh, that guy is counting" because she understood the Chinese numbers he was saying! She asked me, "is it weird that that I can understand what that guy is saying?" And I said, "no, it's super cool!" I was a little jealous in that moment but I could see that she appreciated that she is learning something useful in her Chinese class at school.

It was another late night for the kids so we decided to head back home before it was too late. Overall, it was a really good Christmas Day.

Christmas Lights

The kids have been obsessed with Legos for the past several days so aside from Sarah's swim lesson & a quick trip to the store to get a last-minute gift, we pretty much stayed home and relaxed today. (Henry's still a little under-the-weather, too.) We did decide to go out and look at Christmas lights. I had read about a guy who has a pretty nice set-up near the Botanic Gardens so we drove by his place (it was really awesome!) and then down Orchard Road. Craig had a hard time seeing the traffic lights with all of the lights on Orchard! I think the kids were thoroughly pleased and then ready to climb into bed so Santa could come (I had given them all new pajamas tonight and they rode around in the car in those). Anna has written a note to Santa with a few questions and she wanted to leave a plate of cookies out for him (something we haven't typically done because of the cats).

Gardens by the Bay

I took the girls to Gardens by the Bay to see & hear the carolers tonight and we decided to also stay for the sound & light show at the Super Trees. Henry wasn't feeling well so he stayed home with Craig. The carolers were only yesterday and today so it was our last chance to see them! They were really good & the girls were glad we did it. We decided to come back another day to go to the paid (and air-conditioned) exhibits at Gardens by the Bay.

The Super Trees were strangely intriguing. I couldn't stop looking at them from all over the park. I can't quite explain their appeal but I think this might be a normal reaction to them as everyone else couldn't stop looking at them, either! It was fun to be in the city at night since we could see Marina Bay Sands (the building that looks like three buildings with a ship on top) and the Singapore Flyer plus the Gardens by the Bay all lit up. I think Anna & Sarah enjoyed having a girls night out as well. I think we'll head back the last week of winter break.

Lunch and the Park

Craig & I saw an ad for a cool looking furniture store last weekend so I looked it up and it turns out the company owns a couple of furniture stores and restaurants. I noticed that one of the restaurants was going to have a balloon artist today (and the ballon sculptures (?) looked really cool) so we thought we'd go to lunch there and then to East Coast Park after that. We never found the restaurant! But we ended up at this Indian restaurant that Sarah cannot stop raving about so it worked out well in my book!

After lunch we did find East Coast Park. We saw several people in four-person bikes and though that that was something our group could do (it looked like there were even extra kid-seats in the front, so we thought we could fit all five of us). It turns out the lot we parked in was really far away from the bike rental place so we didn't make that happen. We did have fun playing on the beach a bit (did not bring our suits though!), playing in the sand, and finding teeny tiny sea shells. We walked for a bit and enjoyed the cool sea breaze and the ships in the harbor. We also got to see planes landing and taking off at the airport so it was quite the park! We plan to go back with swim suits and another time to rent the bikes. Should be fun!

We wanted to go to Gardens by the Bay to hear carolers tonight, but decided we should do it tomorrow and spend more time at Gardens by the Bay instead of trying to do too much in one day. We're hoping to see lots of touristy sights over the next three weeks!


Yesterday afternoon we were walking back from the bus stop and we turned the corner and I saw our friends Jerry & Aksana hopping out of a taxi with their kids--they had just arrived from Korea for a vacation in Singapore! Anna & Eleni used to go to Rainbow Playschool together and Eleni was at Anna's 3rd birthday party--they were our neighbors for the first year we were there the second time (2007-2010). Anyway, they are now in the apartment directly above ours for the week and we got together tonight. It was fun to catch up and see the kids together again (none of them remember each other, however!).

And so we start Anna & Sarah's winter break (although it feels like Sarah's been on break since we left Texas, I'm calling it their break since Sarah starts school when this break is over). We got an email from SAS admissions basically saying they dont' anticipate any room for Henry at this point and his application will be rolled over to the fall. I can state that I'm willing to start him mid-semester, however, and I'll do that.

Russian Tea Cakes

I think all but two or three presents are wrapped in fabric this year: thanks for getting the rest of them done for me, mom!


I noticed a really large snail as I set out to run on Tuesday and brought Sarah & Henry by to see if we could find it again today after we dropped Anna off at the bus stop. We realized that the area by the tennis courts & playground is literally crawling (ha!) with snails. They are really large, too. We were all simultaneously creeped out and fascinated by them.

Will the reindeer come this day?

Henry asks every single day if "the reindeer will come this day" and "will it snow today?" Poor kid! We like to pretend it is snowing outside when we look at the snowflakes we hung on our windows. There is a place called Snow City here that you can rent all of your snow gear and go sledding but I hear this time of year is particularly busy. Maybe it's busy all year but it's not something I want to do with the kids on my own so we'll see if we make it there sometime when Craig has time off.

Swimming Lessons

Sarah & Henry had their first of four swimming lessons this afternoon. Poor Henry gave the instructor a pretty tough time, but after I pulled him out of the lesson and told him that only good listeners get lessons, he pulled himself together and did a much better job. (Henry was a little freaked out and while that was normal and OK, it got to the point where it was wasting Sarah & Mike's time and my money--I'd rather just Sarah get the lesson if Henry was going to freak out the whole time.) Hopefully we can practice again before the next lesson to get Henry more relaxed. Sarah said she had a hard time understanding Mike's thick Singaporean accent and he is a pretty big guy, so that was probably part of Henry's problem, too. Hopefully the next lesson will be better for everyone!

Sunday Stuff

I went on an 8k run this morning and finally got to see some more of the Botanic Gardens (about 1k worth). I went a little later than usual and saw a lot more runners on the roads and a ton (on the edge of too many) in the Botanic Gardens (there were also lots of slow, casual walkers/familys/etc. so that added some congestion). I'm running pretty slow and I know it's a combination of lost fitness and the heat + humidity. It was fairly overcast most of the run, so at least I had that going for me. Next week I'm thinking of trying out a totally different route for the sake of variety.

When I got back, I took a quick shower and then took the kids down to the pool. When we got back, Craig took the kids up to his office (he forgot something there and needed to get it) and out to lunch. I went out to Somerset & Orchard to try to finish the last of the Christmas shopping. I still need to go to Great World City or Tanglin sometime this week but I think I did pretty well. I also discovered Prologue on the 4th floor of Ion that is a really good book store (well, so much better than the two Populars I've been to). I was pretty tired out by the time I got there, but they had the two books Henry needed to finish his shopping for Sarah (he wasn't with me this time but he was with me last time when we tried to get them but Popular didn't have them).

We are still waiting to hear about the house. The landlord has accepted our offer in principal but it has to go through Craig's work and the landlord has to agree to their terms as well. Fingers crossed we'll hear something this week about it! If we get it, our move-in date would be February 1 (our sea shipment is scheduled to arrive in Singapore on January 21).

Little India

We went to Little India tonight for our date night. I can't believe we've been here over a month now and I hadn't been to Little India yet! I found our restaurant on Yelp and it was super delicious. We will definitely be going back! We'd both probably be happy rotating our date nights between Saveur and Lagnaa Barefoot Dining but I suppose we ought to try out a few other places, too. I've got about five more that I've short-listed.

After dinner we went to check out The Verve. I kept hearing about it on one of my expat Singapore Facebook groups. There was one store (probably the one that I kept hearing about) that was pretty good otherwise the mall was kind of sad. I got some really pretty snowflakes for the windows for the apartment. (I bought some coffee filters to make snow flakes that way but the coffee filters were not round like the ones I had in our art supply cabinet at home so they didn't make good snowflakes.) This tiny little store was packed with party supplies/decorations. A lot of it was kind of junky but there were lots of treasures there, too. I'll have to remember it for sure.

Little India was interesting but we really didn't explore too much. It was really crowded so not much fun to navigate. I wonder if going during the day during the week will be better.

Nature Walk

We decided it was time to try to see some wild monkeys today. (Craig & I saw one house-hunting, but the kids haven't.) We drove over to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. We saw tons of people and one moth. We heard some interesting sounding bugs and birds. Perhaps it was too busy with people but we were all a little disappointed (especially since there were so many "don't feed the monkeys" signs everywhere). Anyway, the Nature Reserve was really nice and it has lots of paths that will be potentially good for running (the one we took was super steep though).

Music Class

Henry had his trial music class this afternoon. He was super excited and nervous. I could tell he really wanted me to stay, but I reassured him that I would be just down the hall with Sarah. He just loved the class. He was so excited to tell me all about everything. They sang Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bell Rock (one of his favorites!); he got to play the bells; his teacher played the guitar and sang a song about balloons; and they read Frosty the Snowman. He made some observations about his classmates (one girl and five other boys) and teachers, too. He is super excited to sign up for January classes. Sarah & I really enjoyed our one-on-one time, too (something we really don't get very often any more--we used to get a lot when she was in preschool and Henry was still napping).

Tonight we went to Terri & Mike's house while their kids (10th & 8th grade) came here to babysit for us. It was the perfect storm since our kids love their kids and we fed and paid Terri's kids. Unfortunately, Anna has a cough and was keeping Sarah up. Instead of putting Anna in our room, they put her on the couch so they couldn't watch a movie (I had suggested they rent one from iTunes)! That was a bit of a bummer for them, I'm sure. Craig & I really appreciated the night off though!

Meatball Tree

We had Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam (of course I got some from IKEA yesterday!) tonight and I, naturally, started singing "on top of spaghetti" to the kids (although I changed it to "on top of a lingonberry all covered with jam"--"jam" and "sneeze" don't rhyme at all of course, but we didn't care). Every time we got to the verse where "early next summer, it grew into a tree; the tree was all covered with beautiful moss; it grew tasty meatballs..." Henry would shout out "YOU COULD PICK A MEATBALL!" like it was the best idea EVER.

Mr. Christmas

Henry is having way too much fun wrapping up matchbox cars for himself, leaving them under the tree for a few minutes, and then unwrapping them. I'm not sure if it's the tape or the thrill of presents that's driving this activity but he sure is fun to have around this Christmas (not that he wasn't the other years, he's just particularly fun because he is three and has such fun ideas).

Uniforms & Groceries

SAS had a Tabitha of Cambodia holiday sale (see their US website here) today so I thought it would be good to take Sarah & Henry there so they could do a little Christmas shopping and we could also stop and buy Sarah's uniforms and get her set up with the bus for next semester. Anna's teacher happened to walk by when we were picking out some things and we had a nice chat. She said she's really happy with how Anna is doing and she was able to do a reading assessment with her this week (Anna's still whispering to her but she did the assessment and never even mentioned this to me!).

Once we had our fill of shopping we went over to Causeway Point to get lunch and go to that Cold Storage. We needed groceries and I figured that that is probably where I'll usually shop when we get to Woodlands so why not start today since we were already on that side of town. We met another American lady in the checkout line who gave me her information in case I had questions or needed anything while we are looking for housing there/getting settled. That was really nice! I hope I can return the favor some day. (No, still no word on our housing offer from last weekend. I'm not sure why someone else in the office hasn't made any contact with us on behalf of our realtor?)

The best part of the day today was when we went upstairs for breakfast (we haven't gone the past two mornings but had to this morning because we needed groceries!) and one of the ladies that works in the breakfast room came over and complimented Sarah & Henry and said how wonderful and well-behaved they are and how she was so impressed with them. They really were well-behaved this morning and it was nice that someone noticed and said so! I think she set the tone for the whole day with them!


Some of the Christmas decor we have around the house.

We've been here one month now so I suppose it was just time to go to IKEA to check out what they have in preparation for moving into permanent housing (we're going to need rugs no matter where we end up; we'll need some random furniture if we end up in our first choice in Woodlands--no word from our realtor as he went on vacation on Sunday! The nerve!). The other big reason to go to IKEA was to get some Gingerbread house kits for the kids. Yes, I realize I can make my own. No, I'm not going to start this year.

Sarah & Henry were super excited to go to Smalland and I didn't protest. It turns out that they just didn't like it as much without Anna, I guess. They mostly sat in or on a giant clog and watched TV. I really wanted to get a picture of the giant clog but didn't want to creep anyone out by taking a picture in the child watch so you'll just have to imagine.

I got several Christmas presents for the kids and a few treats from the market (since I'm apparently not baking cookies this year I'm buying a variety of fun cookies & chocolates--we still might make a couple of cookies but we haven't started yet!). I didn't know how to not pay for parking on our way out (it turns out I was supposed to take the "cash card" out of the little box that sits on my windshield so that the electronic payment system would not charge me. Craig explained this to me when I mentioned to him that you get free parking if you spend more than $30 at IKEA and I got the parking ticket from the cashier but I was pretty sure I got charged. I stuck the ticket in the machine, too... oh well--maybe I'll get it right next time!

On the way home we decided to get gas if we passed a convenient spot. There was an Esso on our side of the road so I pulled in. I got out, ready to pump and then saw you have to go in if you are paying by credit card so I pulled around to a different pump so we'd be closer to the doors to go in and someone came to pump my gas. I am sure I confused the guy by being so confused. I know I was supposed to get the lowest grade but I panicked and got the mid-grade (all the while hearing Craig's voice in my head telling me to always get the lowest grade!). Again, maybe I'll get it right next time! I paid $2.090 SGD per liter for 51.47 liters (total was $107.58 but then there was a -5.38 discount that I don't know how I got so I paid $102.20). Let's see how long I can make a tank last!

Are you expecting me to do some calculations for you or can you do them on your own? Maybe I'll do them and you can check my work.

Today 1.00 SGD = .82 USD
so my gas was USD $1.71/liter
1 liter is .26 gallons
51.47 liters = 13.6 gallons
SGD $102.20 (discounted total) = USD $83.71

I paid $6.16/gallon.

Post Office Adventure

Craig has been cycling to and from work and says it takes about the same amount of time as driving.

I mentioned to Minsue that I needed to mail some packages to the US and she offered to come help me out. Wow, am I glad she did! In hindsight, I should have definitely not brought Sarah & Henry with, but, because Minsue was there, it worked out this time. We were first in line when the post office opened and the lady behind the counter helped me assemble some boxes, handed me tape & scissors, and told me to come back to her when I was done. (You have to take a number here like in Korea, and each counter deals with different services.) Thirty minutes later we were done!

Unfortunately, they didn't have any packing materials (other than the boxes, tape, & scissors) and I had to send stuff that was meant for Craig's side of the family in the same box as the stuff for my mom's side of the family (sorry mom!!). If I hadn't done that, the items for my side of the family would have rattled around in a too-big box (one item didn't fit in the smaller box) and who knows what condition it would have arrived in. I'm still not sure what condition it will arrive in, actually; or even when it will arrive.

So, Minsue entertained Henry the whole time (Sarah was patient and hung out near me & helped me carry a few things back and forth between the counter and where I packed the boxes). Next time I'll know more what to expect and I'll plan to not have the kids with me if possible. The post office was really crazy-busy and it was a small space for a lot of activity.

Preschool Hunting

All of the above photos are from Blue House Pantry (part of my dream school for Henry! I wish the girls could have gone to this school, too--it's amazing!)

I took the kids to check out three preschools for Henry today. I was really glad to have the car and, of course, the GPS today.

The first school was fine but not outstanding. Henry would be good there and they have an opening for him. It's a bit of a step down from his Texas preschool, but he's not in Texas so that's fine.

The second school was just not for me. It had bad lighting, unimaginative rooms, and just kind of lacked any real personality and I could not see Henry spending his time there.

The third school was amazing. We were there during a major thunderstorm but the natural light that came into the rooms was still awesome, each of the classrooms was peaceful, inviting, creative, and just wonderful. Henry is number one on the wait list for this school (he's number one on the wait list for SAS, too, so I guess it's just a matter of which family moves out of Singapore first: an SAS family or a Blue House International family).

I haven't actually toured the SAS preschool but now feel that I should (Craig has). If SAS calls with a spot first, then I will go check it out but I kind of have my heart set on Blue House International already. However, Blue House will be a 20 minute drive for me & Henry each day (each way). It will actually be less time in the car than we were doing in Texas, however, since he had to drop the girls off and wait in car line every day. Once we move up to Woodlands, we'll walk the girls to school and then we can drive into town to preschool. Not exactly ideal, but not the end of the world, either.

Henry is going to try out one of the afternoon music classes offered at Blue House Village (Blue House Village is a community of artists that rent out space from Blue House International) this week; if he likes it, he can go one afternoon per week after school. This is a drop-off class and I really wish I had known about Blue House four weeks ago because Sarah & Henry could have been going to music & Mandarin classes all these weeks! Oh well... Sarah will start Mandarin in January at SAS and if Henry doesn't get a spot at SAS or Blue House right away I'll sign him up for classes through the Blue House Village.


We took the kids to Tanglin Mall today to see Santa. Henry told me before we even left the house that he was not going to sit on Santa's lap. Sarah also didn't want to. Anna said later that she wanted to but no one asked her! Poor kid! Anyway, in the line, they give the kids some paper to write a letter to Santa and put the letters in his mailbox (next to Santa). Henry asked for a bear, Sarah asked for a stuffed animal dog, and Anna asked for a yellow shirt, yellow pants, yellow socks, and yellow shoes. I think they made these decisions in the line (and we were second in line and only waited about 10-15 minutes total (we got there a few minutes before Santa).

Henry is still not acting like his energy levels are normal (but maybe 90%) but Anna woke this morning and said she had a sore throat. As the day progressed she had a fever and a funny tummy (thank goodness she didn't throw up). After some Motrin and a long nap, she was as chatty as Henry was on Friday after being sick. Hopefully Sarah, Craig, & I don't have to go through this same sickness now, but again, it seems to be a fast-moving thing which is its only positive.

Tomorrow we are going to tour three preschools for Henry. Hopefully one of them will be a good fit!

House-Hunt Part 3 & Date-Night

We took the kids up to Woodlands today to look at (hopefully) the last three houses. One (the "nice house") we had already seen and the other two were new listings on the same street. We ended up making an offer on the nice one and I'll be sure to share pictures if the deal goes through. The kids are super excited about the house but disappointed that there is no pool. We drove over to the Woodlands Swimming Complex so they could see what the public pool option is like. In this house two kids will have to share and we initially assumed that Anna & Sarah would share but after talking it over, everyone agreed that Sarah & Henry should share. We'll give it a try and see how it goes!

After Woodlands we decided to check out Holland Village a bit. We picked up a few gifts to send back home and had lunch at the same pizza place we went the first Saturday we were here (on our "tour" of Singapore).

We had arranged for a sitter tonight so we could finally go on a date-night. We decided to go to Saveur and it was really good. Craig was in love with the salmon confit he had (unfortunately it was a special, so we're not sure he'll get it again!). Everything was fantastic and it was nice to sit & relax and enjoy each other's company and some great food. It was also really nice to go out & back on the subway, not have to worry about parking, etc.

Home Day

I left today open in case I needed to go look at more houses up in Woodlands with the realtor but it looks like we're all going to go tomorrow morning instead and just look at 3 places (one we've already seen but has been named "the nice house" so it's at the top of the list!). Unfortunately, our other top Woodlands choice ("the koi pond house") is already taken.

I started off the day thinking we'd head over to Holland Village to do some exploring but then thought we ought to go to the pool in the morning, have lunch, and then go to Holland Village. I'm so glad I went with that plan because Henry didn't eat much of his snack (not totally abnormal but he likes everything I gave him and didn't eat the gingerbread men which was odd). We went to the pool and he didn't play very much and after about 20-25 minutes started asking to go home. I got him into dry clothes and then I started hanging up all the towels and suits on the drying rack in the kids shower. By the time I came out to start lunch (about 3 minutes tops!), he was asleep on the couch.

He ended up throwing up twice (once all over his bedding so housekeeping had to come up and replace everything for him). At about 6 PM (after I read to him for about two hours straight!), he sat up and started talking in his normal voice. Then said he was hungry so we went to the table and I gave him some of the random bland stuff we had on hand (Craig & the girls had gone out at this point to get saltines and other sick-people food). He started shoveling everything into his mouth and talking to me non-stop! He was talking about Christmas, Texas, God, books we read, random stories from things we've done in Texas and Singapore, things he's waiting for in the sea shipment. He had a lot on his mind!

I gave him a shower and Craig read to him and he went off to bed feeling totally normal (better than normal, it seemed!). Now I just hope no one else gets what he had. It didn't last long but it didn't look like a lot of fun from his end. Poor little guy. I'm glad that the girls are old enough to entertain themselves. I have too many memories of one kid being sick and the other kid(s) being really needy, too. I'm also glad that Craig had already come back from Indonesia and was able to come home at a reasonable time!

Sarah made a nice little craft out of straws. We have these double-bendy straws from DAISO and she formed them into a heart and made a wand for Henry as a get-well gift. Anna came off the bus today all excited that she made a new friend. We had yummy microwave popcorn made with "corn grown with love in the Burgundy region of France" and it came in a cool box that you microwave it in. So much nicer than the bags that are the standard in the US.

So, tomorrow we're house-hunting for (hopefully) the last time and we have a sitter coming so Craig & I can have a date night. I'm hoping to take the kids to see Santa on Sunday morning and we're hoping to get out and do something touristy this weekend as well.


This is the elf we have in our apartment--Zamp still hasn't shown up--and the kids have named her Isabella.

We finally decided to focus on Woodlands area for our housing. While disappointed in some ways, we are mostly just happy to have made the decision so we can move forward (if we had decided to live in town, I would have been disappointed in some ways, too--all of our choices were loaded with pros & cons). I'm excited to be able to walk the kids to school and back. I have signed up Anna & Sarah for after school activities at SAS on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Anna will take swimming lessons & chess; Sarah will take Tae Kwon Do and Apprentice Engineers. I am really looking forward to getting to Woodlands and getting settled now!

Henry & I are going to tour three preschools on Monday. My first choice for him has a wait list, the next choice has an afternoon spot available, and I don't know about the availability for the third. Hopefully one of the schools will speak to us and we can get him in in January (or SAS will have a spot open up!).

Driving Again

Sarah, Henry, & I met up with some of the wives from Craig's company today (they have a group here, like they did in Qatar). I met a couple of nice ladies who had loads of advice for me about where to live, etc. I probably won't go to another coffee with them until February when all three kids are in school though (Sarah & Henry didn't last as long as I had expected them to which was very frustrating!).

When we got back to our apartment, there were a couple of guys re-finishing our front door. The smell from this was pretty bad and there was a big mess all over the place. We hit the bathrooms, I grabbed the car keys, and we set out on an adventure: my first driving experience without Craig. Thankfully I had the GPS though. I kept thinking today that I don't know if I would have been brave enough without the GPS. I guess I would have studied the map a bit harder and written down directions.

We went to pick up Sarah's tile from tile art class (this was out by the airport). I got to use my parking coupons (you have to buy a booklet of parking coupons and in coupon-parking-areas you punch out the date & time you are parking for. Each sheet is 50 cents and it pays for 30 minutes of parking (I think you can get 25 cent/15 minute parking sheets, too, but you can only use the sheet that matches the parking lot. Thankfully I had 50 cent sheets and it was a 50 cent parking lot). It's possible I'm not explaining this well: it's not that complicated but it's something I wouldn't have known about without the tour Craig's company gave us our first weekend here. If you don't display the proper coupons on your dash, you can get a $20 fine or something like that so it's worth it to just toss an extra sheet on the dash if you think there's a chance you won't make it back on time. You can get the sheets at 7-11 (which I did yesterday at the Newton MRT on my way to go Christmas shopping).

All that to say: we picked up Sarah's nice art, had lunch, and then decided to drive up to Woodlands to see if we could get her sweater back that she forgot at this week's art class. I was really glad I had the car to do these two errands! I relied entirely on the GPS except for one street in Woodlands and two streets near our apartment. I imagine the more I drive, the easier it will get!

When we got back it was starting to rain and the guys were still working on our door and it smelled even worse! We still had some time before Anna came home so we went to Novena to find something to put my phone in while I run (it's a huge phone) but we were unsuccessful. Finally it was time to meet Anna at the bus. And the guys were still refinishing the door. They were almost done and the fumes were horrific! We went down to the wet playground and stayed down there for nearly an hour before we braved going upstairs again. This time the guys were gone and the door was finished. The smell wasn't as bad (still there, but it didn't make me light-headed any more).


This is a convenient spot to put the money for the delivery guy!

I determined today that I have to do my weekday runs on the treadmill until Sarah & Henry are in school. As much as I hate the treadmill, I hate the 4-hour minimum the babysitter has more. I really just need an hour or so. I miss my YMCA membership (childwatch)! I am starting to think my training for the 10.5k race at the end of January is going to be pretty shoddy...

After my run, I did get to go out and get some Christmas shopping done. I need to get my US packages out by Monday, I've decided (probably should have already done so, but it's not like I haven't been busy or anything).

We are still undecided on housing. Maybe it just means that the right option hasn't come up yet.

Neo-Cubism Art Class

Sarah had her second art class through the community center. This one was what we had expected it to be: painting on canvas. She also got to bring it home today (we still have to go back to pick up her tile) which was nice. However, it was raining a lot when we went home which wasn't so nice! It's a really good thing I had two little umbrellas in my new bag (Sarah & Henry shared and I shared with the painting). I was a little worried we wouldn't make it home in time to meet Anna's school bus because I had planned to take a taxi home but it's harder to catch a taxi when it is raining. So, we wogged to the MRT and we did make it home. In fact, we made it home with enough time to bring the painting upstairs and grab two more umbrellas so all four of us could have our own when we met Anna at the bus. Sarah's painting is great (it was instructor-assisted which drives me nuts but Sarah is pleased with it so that's what matters. It's a fantastic souvenir from Singapore, too!).

While Sarah was in class, Henry & I walked around the shops in Woodlands. These shops are kind of like walking around Okpo but with a different flair. We picked up a few household items we needed, checked out the frogs in the pet shop, and had a treat from one of the shops. Again, it was nice to have some one-on-one time with Henry.

Craig rode his bike to work today (about 20km). He swears the traffic was fine and he never felt like he was in danger. Since it was raining all afternoon, I assumed that he would catch a ride home. He did not. He waited until the rain slowed a bit and then rode home. Against my wishes, but he is alive and again he said he felt like the ride was safe. He only had trouble pulling into our parking garage but had fortunately already unclipped from his bike so didn't have any real problems.

Yesterday I'd say we were leaning toward living in Woodlands; today we're leaning toward living in town. Seriously, where is a coin? Living in town seems like the more authentic experience, I think. Living in Woodlands seems like living in Texas (because it is a neighborhood; our town in Texas is nicer than Woodlands area in that it has more to do).... No decisions have been made yet.

Anna noticed that our Elf on the Shelf, Zamp, has not arrived at our apartment in Singapore yet. I noticed this, too; but I also noticed that a different elf was sitting in our tree and it looked like a girl. We're not sure what the deal is with Zamp (is he taking this year off, perhaps?) or who this new elf is. Anna wrote her a note and we're hoping to have a reply by morning.

Driving & Christmas Tree

I drove today! I had Craig & the GPS with me so it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. However, it's just really hard to know where the car ends on your left and I had to really focus on staying near the line on the right. The biggest problem I had was turning on the windshield wipers when I was trying to signal. The gas & brake aren't switched and the ignition isn't switched but the shifter, wipers, & indicators are switched. You have to remember which side of the car to get on as well.

We went to Giant and got a load of groceries that we never could have gotten on the MRT. We brought everything home and Craig went back out to get the transformer for the printer. Then we all went back out again to do a drive-by of the two houses in Woodlands that we like and to pick up an artificial tree at (a different) Giant. The tree is a bit taller than me and a lot skimpier than the one we had in Texas but it also takes up much less storage space so I think it's just perfect! I didn't bring the tree skirt (I noticed it when I brought the decoration boxes down for the air shipment but for some reason decided to leave it). I'm using a cloth I have from my Grandma and never know exactly what to do with--now it has a perfect job!

Craig & I go back and forth about where we ought to live. I honestly don't know what we'll do right now. All the choices have equally good (but different) pros & cons. And we're only here for a year so it's hard to say what is the best way to spend that time...

House-Hunting Part 2

We saw another seven places today; this time they were all closer to where we are now rather than up by the school. I liked three of them and Craig liked two. One is on the 33rd floor! I would much prefer to be lower but lower isn't always an option! We have to decide which place we want to try to get and then work through Craig's company so even if we decide we like something, the owner might not like the terms we are working with and it might fall through. So, it's a good thing we've got several on the list that we really like. Hopefully the whole process won't be too painful/obnoxious.

When Craig & I got back, we decided to take the new car out to dinner with the kids. The kids have named the car "blueberry" since it is blue. We went to Great World City (where Minsue took me) since it was a place you can't get to by subway. We had dinner at Skinny Pizza and Oh My Dog. We originally were trying to go to Oh My Dog (hot dog place) but there wasn't any seating and that wasn't going to work very well! So, we decided to go to Skinny Pizza (their tag line is "What a crack!") and you could order hot dogs from Oh My Dog so we all were able to get what we wanted in the end.

I'm going to attempt to drive tomorrow. The driving itself doesn't look crazy or out of control (comparing to Doha here!) it's just the left-hand side that has me a bit nervous. I'll have Craig with me and the GPS to help out so I'll figure it out. I'm hoping to procure a Christmas tree, a transformer for the printer, and some groceries. Any one of those items would be pretty nice, actually!

I'm feeling almost better after I took some motrin this morning; my sore throat is mostly gone but I'm really worn out. If I don't improve by Monday I'll head to the doctor then.

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