January 2013 Archives

Keys


Master bedroom looking toward closet/bath area. I wish some of this space could have been used as a third bedroom for one of the kids!


Back toward the other side of the master bedroom. That door on the right goes out to the upstairs balcony.


From master to hallway. Anna's room is at the end of the hall; Sarah & Henry's is on the right. (their door is closer to Anna's door.)


Master bath.


Another hallway shot.


Henry & Sarah's room. I can't decide if the beds should go on the big wall or on the far wall...


Anna's room.


From the corner where the kids' rooms meet toward the front entrance (below) and another door to the upstairs balcony (on the left by the stairs).


Looking out the hall window toward the upstairs balcony.


Looking down to the atrium below. That's the kitchen straight ahead, below the master bedroom.


Coming downstairs.


At the bottom of the stairs near the entry looking into the house. Turn right to the living room, go straight toward the game room, bathroom, & guest room.


Living room.


Family room.


Kitchen. Note that this room is not air conditioned. There is a fan mounted on the wall though!


Lots of counter space taken up by the oven & microwave. I intend to remedy this somehow.


Dining room.


Guest room & office.


Game room. They called it a bedroom but I think it's more like an office. We'll see how stuff fits tomorrow; we might have to do some re-arranging to get it right.

I got about 5 trillion keys today. Two gate openers and 5 trillion keys. Every door that opens up to the outside has its own unique key. Obnoxious! There are about 14 doors that open up to outside (I'll have to do an official count later but a lot of the windows you see on the ground floor are actually doors.)

Thursday


Artwork that Henry's class did this week on a mirror.


Shoe cubbies for the Chameleons. Perhaps they need to add more?


Henry thoroughly enjoyed the walk-through. Here he is enjoying the first snack in our new house.


Sarah showing off one of her new moves in her new dobok.


It was another busy day! I hemmed & hawed about sending Henry to school today as I had to take him out early to do the walk-through at our house. I finally decided to send him for an hour-and-a-half so I could get a 5k run in and he could see his new friends. I'm glad I decided to do this plan because now Craig will not be coming home tomorrow at all so Henry will have to stay with me tomorrow to work with the movers. (I can't leave for an hour just after the movers get there!) I think Henry is a bit disappointed to not get to do the fun things planned for the Chameleons tomorrow but he is excited to watch the movers.

Soccer & Chinese

Henry's class had soccer today and Henry can't stop talking about it. He also is thrilled with Chinese class (twice/week). He hasn't let on that he's learned more than "nihao" but he's definitely interested.

MacRitchie

I loved my run today. I think it partially had to do with the fact that I was able to run and not stop at any traffic lights and I didn't have to breathe any exhaust. And there was a lot of shade. It was mostly trail (some paved at the start and finish for me since I did an out-and-back). I was totally prepared to see monkeys but did not see one. I saw a lot of moths & butterflies and then one two-foot-long monitor lizard that totally freaked me out. I wanted to take a picture but just couldn't stand to be near it that long. I had to run past it but it didn't like me, either, and it kind of walked off to the side of the path toward the vegetation.

American Women's Association vs. ANZA and The Marathon


Checking out MacRitchie Reservoir this morning before the AWA meeting.

I had about an hour before the AWA meet-and greet so I decided to check out MacRitchie Reservoir as a potential running spot for Henry's short days at school (so I don't have to go home and then back to school in the three hours he's there). It was awesome and I don't know why I haven't gone there before?! There is covered parking, showers, lockers, and shaded trails. I can't wait to check it out by running it tomorrow as my first official training run for the Sundown Marathon on June 1. That's right: I'm registered! Third time is a charm, right? (Attempt #1 resulted in a stress fracture so I couldn't do it; Attempt #2 resulted in deferring my entry to 2014 since I'm not going to be in Texas in March 2013.)

At the AWA meet-and-greet today I met and greeted some ladies that I don't know if I'll ever see again! The social was held at a nice antique store and although many items were tempting, I am pretty sure none of it was Craig's style and I don't want to move anything twice if I don't have to! I was slow to register for some of the other events AWA is putting on the coming weeks so maybe next time around I'll see a familiar face or two.

I'm going next week with ANZA (Australia & New Zealand Association) on a walking tour of Chinatown to learn about Chinese New Year, I'm going out with the AWA running group for a ladies night next week, and I'm going to my first ANZA book club meeting mid-February. Here's to getting out there and making some new friends!

Rosemary Wells, Blogging

Henry had his first full day of school today. (He is going 9-2 on Mondays and 9-2:15 (with music) on Wednesdays; the rest of the week is 9-12.) I was still a bit worn out from the race yesterday so I decided to just get groceries and then work on the blog today. WOW! I got so much done!! I have a feeling I can get totally caught up this week. I need to work on a system of staying on top of it though (Facebook has made it harder to keep up on the blog). I really feel bad that I don't have a lot of little notes for a lot of last year because I was behind all of the time. I've gotten into a good writing habit so far this year; it's the pictures that bog me down. I love having it done to look back on though and that is my big motivation.

Sarah's class had a chance to see Rosemary Wells today and she told me that someone asked Ms. Wells why Max & Ruby's parents are never around (something I know lots of us have wondered!). The answer is that the parents are there, they're just not in the story. The parents are upstairs if Max & Ruby are downstairs or the parents are inside if Max & Ruby are outside, etc. Sarah was satisfied with this answer.

Green Corridor Run

Craig & I ran in the Green Corridor 10.5km run today. The kids were thrilled with their babysitters (American teenagers!) so I was happy that I didn't have to stress out about how Henry would react when he woke up in the morning to them and not me.

The race was great. Not that I ran that well (1 hour 5 minutes; Craig did it in 1 hour 1 minute). This was slower than my Bolder Boulder time from 2011. I was sweating before we even started! It was a trail run but not very technical. Even though I was slow (I'm calling this my new Singapore Speed--it's just hot here!), I was happy that I got to do another race near my Grandma's birthday (last year I did the Pineywoods 10-miler (also a trail run) ON her birthday with a stress fracture!).

I am really glad Craig & I both did it and I'm looking forward to my next race in April (a half-marathon) and I'm gearing up to sign up for a full marathon in June (price increases on Friday so I will get on that this week if I'm going to to do it!). The marathon (the Sundown Marathon) starts at 11:30PM on June 1 (my mom's birthday). It makes sense to do it at night so the sun isn't beating on you but I wish the start were at 8 or 9 instead of 11:30.

I'd like to figure out how to run on the green corridor regularly as you can get onto it from Woodlands. This is the old rail line from the south end of Singapore to Malaysia. Not sure why they stopped this service, but many people are hoping that they let it remain undeveloped for traffic-free recreation. I think it would be really cool if they'd host a half-marathon (or whatever it ends up being) and go all the way from the south to north end. I still can't get over how much is crammed onto such a tiny island!

Day 2, Peanut Butter, and Rosemary Wells


Henry is running with his "kite" that he made out of a piece of paper and ribbon.

Henry loved school again today (no, I am not surprised) and was really disappointed when I told him tomorrow is the weekend and he's not going back until Monday (which he followed with "is tomorrow Monday?").

I ran an errand with Craig (we had to go in together to get our joint bank account set up) and picked up a few groceries since I was out.

Henry & I were inspired by a a Pinterest recipe to make "Reese's Peanut Butter Bars." I decided to only make half of the recipe in case they were too good to resist. We needed graham cracker crumbs and although Cold Storage does sometimes carry these, the store I was at today (Fair Price Finest) does not. They do, however, sell digestive crackers which are very similar. I don't have my food processor yet (sea shipment), but I do have a little coffee grinder (one we had from Korea and put in the air shipment). Henry & I broke up the crackers as best we could and then put them in the coffee grinder. This worked pretty well. When it was finally time to have them for dinner dessert tonight I was glad I only made half a batch because they were delicious! In fact, I have not noticed Reese's Peanut Butter Cups here at all (I've seen peanut butter M&Ms though), so these might just be on some kind of regular rotation, especially since they were so easy.

We went to the pool and when we came back I noticed I had a bunch of new emails from Henry's school, Anna's teacher, Sarah's teacher, and Craig. Yikes! I was suddenly on information overload with all the things that everyone is doing and I need to make note of.

Anna's teacher mentioned that the kids got to hear Rosemary Wells talk yesterday. (She is the author of the Max & Ruby books!) I knew she was coming to SAS but I didn't know which day the kids would see her (Sarah didn't see her yesterday). I couldn't believe Anna forgot to mention this! Rosemary Wells told the kids how to draw Ruby (Anna has yet to show me) and talked about her writing process.

Craig's email was a forward from SAS that Henry got in for the Fall to the pre-k program and we have to let them know our decision in 10 days. I honestly thought I'd have more time to get to know Blue House before having to make that decision! Just when I thought the Henry's-schooling-roller coaster had stopped for a bit, too! In many ways it makes sense for Henry to switch to SAS in the fall, but soon he will be settled at Blue House and will have made friends. And do I want to switch him when we know we'll be moving back to Texas in the fall and he'll have to start at another school?

Swimming & Tae Kwon Do

Anna had swimming lessons and Sarah had tae kwon do today. Anna's swimming was cut a little short due to rain (the pool is outside and it was raining really hard for a while); Sarah said tae kwon do was "boring" so hopefully that will get better for her. She also had a field trip (her class goes to volunteer at a rehabilitation center for stroke patients every month) so she was probably pretty worn out by the time after-school activities started!

First Day of Preschool (Chameleons at Blue House)

Henry was so excited this morning! He liked the hat I found (a blue one) and the mug I found (a blue one) for him to bring to school to keep there. I was glad I had a stash of sunscreen and had already purchased insect repellent patches so those were also ready to go. The hardest part of today was waiting for it to be time to leave for school. The girls go to the bus at 6:40 (that's when we walk down, the bus comes at 6:48) and we didn't need to leave for Blue House until 8:40. So, we got his backpack ready and looked at pictures of the school.

Finally it was time to go and when we made it there he was ready to put his shoes in the shoe cubby and hang his backpack on his hook. The kids spend the first hour or so playing outside in the sand and water, then they go inside for circle time and snack, and then playing inside. Henry spent quite a bit of time playing with helicopters and that led to helicopter research and more helicopter play.

When it was time to pick Henry up, I asked him what was the best part of the day was and he said reading the chameleon book. So, his teacher asked if he'd like to borrow it for the night and he did. You would have thought this kid had entered a candy store and was told to eat whatever he wanted! He gave me a very thorough book review all the way home and kept telling me all about it up the elevator and into the apartment. The book was The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle.

He cannot wait to go back tomorrow!

As for me, I didn't feel anything but happy for him getting to go to such an amazing school--how could I? I also got to go for a run (6k) and read the newspaper. How luxurious! I am not sure if I'll have time to go back up to our house on his short days once we move, so I'm going to try to come up with some good running routes for those days. I'll go up to the house on Mondays & Wednesdays though, probably.

Blue House!

I dropped Henry off at music today as planned and then I went up to the administration office to find out more about getting him in to preschool there. I was only really worried at this point about confusing Henry further but this was the right choice. Of course, Blue House is not, in fact, perfect, but near enough! The schedule is the worst of it (totally incompatible with SAS) and then the location isn't great for us (but I blame SAS on that one since they are the only school so far north). Anyway, Henry is starting tomorrow. I am beyond thrilled. Henry is super excited, too.

After Henry's music class, we went down to the Iguana classroom to get familiar with the room and to meet the teachers (two teachers and one assistant). I am seriously in love with all three teachers and seeing the classroom again just reaffirmed why I had wanted this so much for Henry. I do not feel guilty at all about sending him here. He'll go 9-3 Mondays (it will have to be earlier than that, however since the girls get out at 2:50 about 20 minutes away!) and 9-2:15 on Wednesdays (he'll continue with music) and then 9-12 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, & Fridays. Now I just need to run out and find him a hat for tomorrow (harder than you'd think as all the stores stock winter clothing here in the winter time, too--presumably because people travel to cold-weather places?).

Before all of this went through, I did write to SAS to confirm that there was nothing happening there for Henry and they said they do not anticipate anything opening up this semester and he's number one for fall. The next question I'll have to ask myself is: will I want him to just stay at Blue House since he'll have already made friends and we'll leave in the fall so why not give him a little more consistency? (We're hoping to at least stay until December and move at the end of the semester but we actually have no details on this so it is pure speculation.)

I feel so relieved that this happened! I could have done without the drama of the last week, however, but if I had been patient and just waited for them to call me, it would have been April before he got in and I don't think Henry would have stood for it (honestly, he is so different from the girls who begged to stay home until they got to Kindergarten!).

Chess & Jr. Apprentice Engineers

The girls had their first after-school activities today. These are done at the school which means no running around for me (once we move up to Woodlands next week, that is!). Both girls only had one other girl in their chosen activity and they both really enjoyed it. Sarah's was building with LEGOs but she said that we didn't have the right kind of LEGOs to show us what she did. Anna got to work right away by teaching me everything she learned so far (I've decided to learn with her--Craig already knows). I'm glad I went for it and had them choose one "brain" activity and one physical activity (Thursday they have swimming and Tae Kwon Do.)

Insanity

It is entirely possible that I have gone insane. Please keep that in mind while you read this!

Henry & I did the trial at White Lodge this morning and he liked it (he has actually wanted to go to every school we've seen--no matter how dark and tiny or how few toys there are). I was feeling OK about it because he can go three days instead of five, it's closer to Woodlands than Rain Trees, and the facility is nice. Just as we were leaving, however, I found out that both the teacher and assistant are leaving March 15. (In one way, this was OK because I wasn't that impressed with them so whatever; but what if I really didn't like the replacements?) I decided to go ahead and chalked up my hesitation to feeling guilty about sending Henry to school when he doesn't "have" to go.

So, on the way home, Henry & I talked about how he'd go to White Lodge for an hour by himself in the morning and how fun that would be. When I got home, I decided to send an email to Blue House to tell them to take Henry off of the wait list because I knew I couldn't handle it if they called next week to tell me he had a spot. I was feeling kind of bummed but I wasn't really sure WHY. Was it because I'd be losing my buddy three days a week or was it because White Lodge wasn't really awesome? Was it because it was raining again?

About an hour after my email went out, I got a phone call from Blue House. They had just had a meeting that morning about adding two more kids to each of the classes and had decided to go forward with this plan at the start of the next term in April. But, upon seeing my email they wanted to make sure they didn't lose Henry (he was number one on the wait list). Of course, I was super excited about this but I had just signed up with White Lodge! I had given them the information to set up payment with Craig's company already! Ack! I called Craig in a panic and asked him to call his contact to find out if they'd already started on the payment and I called White Lodge to tell them to hold the presses (I told them that I was feeling uncertain about the teacher switch, which was true). Fortunately, no payments had gone through or even been set up yet (what a relief!). I called Blue House back and we decided to go over everything tomorrow during Henry's music class.

I can't explain why NOW, but I'm still feeling like I'm on an emotional rollercoaster. Blue House said he could start February 18 (mid-term) or possibly earlier. Henry is totally confused now, too. Now he's NOT going to go to White Lodge by himself tomorrow (he was looking forward to this) and instead is going to music as usual and to check out the Blue House classroom and meet that teacher.

Preschools Again


Henry & I saw this old payphone on our walk back from lunch. I can't imagine it gets much use any more.

I've decided to look at one more preschool before I drop off that Raintrees application. I just can't bring myself to commit to it. There is one school in Upper Bukit Timah that looks promising and we'll do a trial there tomorrow (I will stay with Henry while he tries it out). It's not as awesome as Blue House or SAS but they have an opening. Henry is clearly READY to go to school and we're just not having as much fun as I thought we would. I don't know if it's the temporary house or if I'm in a funk or what's going on, but I really would like to make a decision about this!

Another Coffee post!

Craig thinks that people are going to think that all we do is go to out for coffee. Would that be so wrong? I wanted to take everyone down to Arab Street because the area is so cute and I found a promising coffee shop to try out. I liked this place a bit more than yesterday but am still planning to go to another place for our first bag of beans for the espresso machine.

Unfortunately it was raining again today and we had some grumpy people in our group so we cut our outing short. Anna & I went to Fair Price Finest on the way home to get a few essentials so I could make dinner tonight and lunches tomorrow. Henry & I will go "real" shopping tomorrow after breakfast.

I've been talking to the kids a lot about our upcoming move and the arrival of our sea shipment. They are unbelievably excited. However, some of today's grumpiness was because it has been raining all weekend and we haven't gotten to use the pool. This is the thing we'll miss most about our apartment so everyone has wanted to maximize our time there while we can!

Coffee, Packet Pick-up, Handmade Fair


Henry made a dragon boat out of play dough. He has been singing songs and talking about Chinese New Year with his music class.


Dragon boat detail shot.

We will be reunited with our espresso machine in just two weeks so we need to figure out where we're getting our beans from! We checked out one place today that has potential and I've scoped out another couple of sources online. Hopefully we'll hit the jackpot on the first one.

Next, we needed to pick up our packets for our race next weekend so we took care of that. It was raining pretty steadily all day today so Henry, Sarah, & Craig went home and Anna & I went to the handmade fair on our own. It's a good thing we split up because all of the vendors were crammed under a tent due to the rain and it would have been a nightmare for Henry to be there! Anna chose some nice messenger bags for the kids and I got myself a piece of wall-art that reads "let your heart lead you." I'm glad we went! I was hoping to get some pottery but everything was too small so I went with the art instead. It was also really nice to have some one-on-one time with Anna (or A-rod, as I sometimes call her even though she hates it!).

Coffee-Fail and School Decision (maybe)

Henry & I went to meet up with the AWA ladies for coffee. They are supposed to meet from 10-12 so I got us there at 10:20 knowing that people wouldn't actually show up at 10 and wanting to maximize the time I could spend there (I figured Henry would get bored and not last too long, too). Well, we got there and couldn't find anyone that looked like they were with AWA (no one waiting & looking for others) so we went ahead and ordered and enjoyed a small treat. About 20 minutes later as we were finishing up, we noticed the AWA ladies assembling. Oh well, maybe next time!

Anyway, one of the preschools I am looking at has a branch in the mall we were at so I took a tour of that school, too. It was OK but it's in a mall so no windows and the play area is the mall play area (actually nice and you never get rained out). Still, I don't think it's the place for Henry so I'll look another time at my "rejects" from the first time around this weekend. There is still a spot at Raintrees for Henry so I'm thinking of dropping off his application there on Monday.

Henry & I drove all around Woodlands today and looked at a few preschools. We didn't have any luck but I wrote down a few web sites & phone numbers to enquire about the few that we didn't pop in to see. The first school didn't have space (but I didn't like it--it was tiny & dark), the second school is only for Muslims, and the third & fourth schools were slightly better but still not quite right. I realize I'm being picky but Henry is only 3 and he doesn't HAVE to go to school so I don't want to send him to a place just to send him!

So, although the day seemed like a "bust," I think it satisfied my curiosity enough to know that I probably want to stick with the downtown preschools even though it will be a bit of a commute for us.

Music / Preschool Hunt 2.0


I really hate waking this kid up to walk his sisters to the bus every day. We all can't wait to get up to Woodlands and sleep in another 45 minutes every day!

Henry had music class this afternoon and while we were there, I enquired about his status on the wait list. He loved his music class as usual (they are singing songs about dragons and lions, presumably for Chinese New Year). As for the enrollment status, they said he might get a spot in April. I'm leaning toward not waiting until April for a "maybe" so I think it's time to expand my search although I'm still in love with Blue House. I also am still holding out hope that SAS will have a spot for him (although hope is fading fast!). Hopefully I can arrange some more tours this week and make a decision.

First Day of Kindergarten at SAS and Durian Puff


Just as before we entered the building (we were already under the covered walkway) someone flipped a switch and it was POURING rain (it had not been raining at all until it dumped out of the sky all at once). I've never quite seen the rain just start like that before. It was really LOUD, too.

It felt like forever to wait from 6:48am (when the bus takes the girls to school) until 3:40pm (when the bus brings the girls back from school) to find out how Sarah's day went. When I finally asked her, her response was: "Great! Great! Great!" She was absolutely beaming with excitement! She made a new friend (Emma), had three recesses, and had music class.

Henry & I met up with my friend Sophia that I met in Korea the most recent time we lived there (Sophia's son went to Playschool with Anna). Sophia is Singaporean so she was a big help for when we were researching Singapore in the fall when we found out we were coming here. We met up for lunch and then went for a walk around Arab Street. I just have to go back there and check out all of the little shops and restaurants. It was an older neighborhood which I haven't seen much of here (most everything we've seen is new and fancy--which is also nice in its own way). After Arab Street we stopped off at a cream puff shop (not sure of the name now). They had all sorts of filling for the cream puffs, one being a durian puff.

I can't really describe the durian puff except to say that I didn't hate it, I didn't like it, I can't categorize it. I ate about 3/4s of the puff before I decided that was enough. About an hour later (and lasting about 6 hours more!) I had durian burps that were very unpleasant! I bought an extra puff to bring home and share with the family. I put it in my bag as there are no durians allowed on the subway (Sophia reassured me that it is just the fruit that is not allowed--the puffs are OK). When I took it out to stick in the fridge, I was almost knocked out by the smell!

Sarah was the first one to try it (fingers pinching her nose) and threw the puff down, spit it out, and started shouting how much she hated it and ran out of the room. Anna tried it next (fingers pinching her nose) and pushed the puff away. Craig tried it, cringed and put the puff back in the wrapper. Henry didn't try this one (he "tried" the other one by taking a bite of the pastry).

I still want to try the fruit!

Orientation

Anna had a late start this morning so it was the last time the girls were able to go upstairs for breakfast as Sarah starts Kindergarten tomorrow! After we took Anna to the bus stop (Henry in full panda gear, of course), we went to the grocery store to stock up for the week (Henry in full panda gear, of course). We had an early lunch and then drove up to Woodlands for Sarah's orientation (Henry finally took off his panda gear).

Sarah's orientation was different from Anna's in that there was a group of new students for the new semester. There were four new Kindergartners (going to two classes, so there will be a new boy starting in Sarah's class tomorrow, too). We got to see the library (wow!) and we met Sarah's new teacher. Sarah is so super excited to get back to school. When I asked her what she was excited about, she said, "I'm just excited to learn!" So, tomorrow morning I will send both of my little girls off on the big bus to the other end of the island. It's going to be a long day waiting for the bus to return so I can hear all about Sarah's big day!

Zoo (Panda-monium)

We all went to the zoo today partly because we all needed to have our picture taken and put on the membership card. I emailed the zoo our picture but never got a response so I wanted to take care of it as we were instructed to take care of this within 2 weeks of setting up our membership.

We also decided to go see the Giant Pandas that the zoo acquired in November. We had to pay extra and they had limited viewing times available. We saw a few animals and then went to see the pandas. We didn't get a good view of the boy (Kai Kai) but had a nice view of the female (Jia Jia). They were both sitting and eating a pile of bamboo. I didn't think the kids were too impressed but apparently the pandas really spoke to Henry!

The whole rest of the day, Henry was playing with the panda-paw-fans the kids got on the way out of the zoo (I don't know why they didn't get them on the way in, it was hot today!) and had his panda sleep mask on (thanks, Rachel & Mat!). He is also determined to be a panda for Halloween this year.

Babysitter Trials

I decided to try a new sitter from the agency tonight as we weren't totally excited about the other one we had from there or the private lady we had been working with. The big problem is they are so expensive and have 4-hour-minimums. Anyway, Craig & I are signed up for a 10.5k race in a few weeks and we need someone here early that will be here when the kids wake up. The girls I am not worried about, but I am worried that Henry will freak out when we're not there (he has only woken up to grandma or nana, not babysitters--at least in recent memory, I suppose there were a few naps he woke to a known-sitter before). So, I want Henry to be comfortable and thought we'd try one more new one and let him decide who he wants to wake up to.

This is all to say that we are seriously contemplating getting a "helper." Minsue told me I'd want one and I'm not convinced that I actually do "want" one so much as it makes the most sense. A "helper" lives with you and works six days per week usually to send money back home to the Philippines or Indonesia or Malaysia. Often times to make money for their own children who are staying with grandma while mom is here making money. I've been told that the helpers want expat employers because we are known to treat the helper humanely. The whole thing is a bit awkward which is why I've resisted looking too far into it.

I think we've finally decided now that we're going to interview a few ladies and see if there is a fit. We have to take a 3-hour course through the Singapore government to familiarize ourselves with all of the rules associated with having a helper (for example we have to pay for her medical care and take her to the doctor for well-checks every six months; she has to have one day off per week; every one or two (?) years you have to pay to send her to her home country for a length of time; etc., etc.--I don't know all of the details as I haven't taken the course yet!). We'll see how this develops, I guess, after I take the course and start the interview process.

Okpo Ladies Night

I went out with some ladies from Okpo tonight. I only knew two of the six other ladies but enjoyed meeting the others tonight! All of us were in Okpo at some point and somehow a few of the ladies crossed paths with some and not the others (timing issues). Basically we all have friends in common (Facebook has suggested several of these ladies to me as people I may know based on mutual friends) but weren't all in Korea at the same time. Two of the moms have 3-year-olds so Henry & I will hopefully get a playdate set up with them soon.

Something I like about Singapore (when it works) is my taxi app on my phone. I tell the app where I want to be picked up, what kind of taxi I want (there are various price ranges depending on how "nice" the taxi is), how many people are traveling, and when I want the taxi (you could book in advance). Once your booking is confirmed, you get the license plate number of the taxi coming to you and you can track it on your phone. It was Friday night so service was a bit slow and I had to request the taxi twice (if service is too busy or slow they sometimes won't take a booking so you have to just make a new request) and it came much later than it said it would. Still, it's one of the things I like about living in the city. (I can use it when we move up to Woodlands, too.)

Home, Home, Home

We have stayed home all day every day this week except to go the grocery store Monday, popcorn hunting Tuesday, Henry's music class Wednesday (he loved it again!), and we didn't leave the apartment complex at all on Thursday! We needed more groceries today though and we found the microwave popcorn at Cold Storage. It was in the canned food section on the bottom shelf and they had the yummy French popcorn. Still no sign of the kernels though!

I had wanted to go do lots of fun stuff with the kids this week but they were determined to just stay home. I guess this was a good way to help our bank account recover from the trip to Thailand anyway!

Morning Teeth & Bedtime Teeth

Henry always says he wants to brush his "morning teeth" in the morning so we've started calling nighttime brushing our "bedtime teeth."

Popcorn Hunt

I have never seen popcorn at Cold Storage although I've kept my eyes open. I've been buying really yummy microwave popcorn from 7-Eleven though! It is a French brand and it pops in a cardboard box and is so much cooler than the bags we have in the US (maybe I've already written about this?). Anyway, some ladies on the Singapore Expat Wives board I'm on were asking about kernels so joined in the conversation and asked about microwave stuff, too, since the last two times I've been to 7-Eleven they were totally out. The horror! (My air popper is coming in the sea shipment and we can pop in the pan on the stovetop if we hav kernels...) Everyone said they've seen both styles at Fair Price and at various Cold Storages.

We decided to go to Fair Price at Somerset and we did find an Australian and an American bagged microwave popcorn but never found kernels. So we bought a couple of bags of each and are satisfied for now! I still want to find the kernels though since I'd prefer to make my own. I was told to look in the canned or dried beans sections so that's where we'll look next time at Cold Storage.

Back from Vacation

I really appreciated the fact that we could go upstairs to have breakfast this morning before we went out for groceries! We basically hung around today, did laundry, went to the pool, and relaxed. It is nice to be "home." However, we did find out (finally!) that we are moving into "the nice house" on February 1!

This house is nicer and larger than our home in Texas which I'm not terribly excited about! One big drawback is that one of the bedrooms is downstairs and the rest are upstairs. If we had teenagers this would be fine and I'm sure there would be a fight over who could have the room downstairs. We have decided to put Sarah's double bed (in the sea shipment) in the downstairs room and use that as a guest room/office. Sarah & Henry are going to share the larger kids room and Anna will have her own room. We haven't decided if we'll get Sarah a twin bed or get a (low) bunk bed from IKEA. I think I need to do some measuring before we decide on that one. The house has a family room and living room, a dining room, an office (which we think we will use as the game room), a decent-sized kitchen with lots of counter space (the oven is currently sitting on the counter and we hope to change that!) and a little breakfast peninsula that will be great for weekday mornings before school. There is also a large area off of the master bedroom and an upstairs balcony/terrace area. The front yard is a nice size for Singapore and we can park both cars in the driveway (not possible everywhere). We will be about 900 meters from the school gate and that is the number one thing I am excited about (I'd be even more excited if Henry could get a spot, too!). So, while we are happy to be home, we are also itching to get settled into the new house! We plan to use the pool a lot this week because that is the number one thing we'll miss about this apartment.

Here are some pictures I took on the camera from the first time we visited on November 24. I didn't take more/better pictures on our second trip up in December... Soon enough there will be pictures of it with our stuff in it.

Back to Singapore

We really had a great trip. Yes, there are some things I would do differently if I had to do it all over again, but overall, I think we all came back to Singapore feeling relaxed, happy, and like we experienced something totally new. I think that means it was a success. Also, I am already starting to mentally plan our next trip! We're still narrowing down our choices but we're thinking about: Vietnam & Cambodia, Australia (but where?) or New Zealand, India, and shorter beach vacations in Malaysia, Indonesia, or the Philippines. Really, we don't have enough time in our year here so I hope we can plan and budget wisely to get as much out of this region as possible!

We had a slight delay out of Bangkok (thankfully not out of Chiang Mai as we only had an hour to connect in Bangkok) but we returned to the apartment in high spirits and ready to enjoy the last week of the girls winter break here. (Craig goes back to work tomorrow, unfortunately).

Thailand: Palace, Temple, Saturday Market

We hired a driver today to take us to the King's winter palace (the royals were not there so it was open for tourists) and then to the temple on the side of the mountain.

The palace grounds were beautiful and just filled with flowers. Anna was thrilled to find out that the princess has her own house on the grounds. We saw the guest house and imagined how fun it would be to stay there. Then we continued on to the palace itself and it was under repair! Totally blocked off with nothing to see. The buildings themselves were not as "grand" as I expected them to be (I think Anna was thoroughly disappointed, too--I need to get that kid to Versailles, I suppose!). But, the grounds were gorgeous and the weather was really cool today (the kids were glad they brought their sweaters along and I wished I had!).

After the palace we headed to the temple. This temple was really large and I had read in my Lonely Planet guidebook that a white elephant carried a relic on its back and then the built the temple where the elephant collapsed and died after wandering for quite a time with the relic (this was the intent--to let the elephant decide where the temple was to be built). I'm probably not re-telling the story completely or even well, but I think that was the basic idea. We had to take a tram up from the bottom of the hill to the actual temple (it was just an elevator that went up the side of the mountain at an angle... it wasn't really that far up so I'm not sure whey they didn't just put some stairs in but I think Henry was glad for the elevator/tram).

The temple had little bells hung on the edge of the roofline and I spotted them in the little shop so we bought one and wrote our names on it and Craig hung it on a nail. I don't know how often they take the bells down and re-sell them, and I also don't know what we were supposed to write on it but I know that it is a way for the temple to make some money to keep up with repairs and whatnot. This was definitely the most impressive of the temples we went to, but also the most busy.

After the temple, we went back into town to get one more cup of that amazing coffee we had earlier in the week and to have some lunch. Craig took the kids back to swim in the hotel pool while I got to do some more shopping. I regret that we didn't get any souvenirs to send back home to family but I am always torn on this subject. I don't want to send people stuff that they don't actually want/won't use/will clutter their home... I think I need to start a new habit of buying postcards and sending those to people. I'll start that on the next trip, I guess!

Thailand: Scorpion-tailed Boat Cruise

We kind of felt like we were running out of ideas for things to do the next couple of days. One of the big things to do here is to go to Flight of the Gibbons which is ziplining. I know Anna would love it, but I'm not sure about the rest of the family! Craig & Henry have a known fear of heights and I'm not far behind them. Sarah is not particularly adventurous, either. In the end, we decided it was something we'd wait to do unti they are older (they have a similar attraction on Sentosa island in Singapore, too) so we didn't waste our day getting to the zipline and then have everyone freak out!

We thought the scorpion-tailed river cruise sounded about our speed. The Ping River in Chiang Mai isn't the prettiest river in the world, but our driver was nice and told us some of the history of Chiang Mai and Thailand. In the middle of the cruise, we got off and toured a little garden and had a snack (the kids devoured the dragon fruit here--now they love it!) before we got back on the boat to take it back to the place where we started.

This tour was relaxing (it was an hour and a half long) but was not something I would do over again. I think we ought to have spent a day or two in Bangkok or one of the beach towns and only spent 3 or 4 day sin Chiang Mai? But tomorrow is the Saturday Walking Market and we're all looking forward to that!

Thailand: Buddhist Temples

After a slightly nauseating ride to & from the Elephant Nature Park yesterday, I think we were all keen to stick to tuk-tuks only and check out some temples in town. We slept in, went out for a really nice breakfast, and then walked to several temples. This was not particularly exciting for the kids, but they went along with it until lunch time. Then I went back out and did a little shopping while everyone else rested at the hotel. I only wish I knew what any of the things at the temples meant! At one place, a lady just at the bottom of the steps to the temple was selling baskets of birds for you to release. She said it was for good luck and who were we to argue? I don't know how she catches the birds but they flew off and maybe we'll have good luck. Who knows.

Thailand: Elephant Nature Park

We were picked up in the van for the Elephant Nature Park around 8:30 this morning and then it was a little over an hour to the ENP. We watched a movie on the way up about the park, its founder, and some of the elephants there. The elephants are all rescued from abusive situations or they are retired working elephants that have no where to go (and can't live in the wild because they are not wild).

Once we arrived, we got to feed some elephants their breakfast. Each elephant had a basket of fruit and vegetables to eat that was her own. We would hand them a bunch of bananas, half of a pineapple, half of a squash, etc. If someone handed her one banana, she would wait for more to put in her trunk before popping it into her mouth. Anna was super excited to feed the elephants, Sarah needed a little nudging, and I was surprised that Henry was not as hesitant as he was to pet the tiger cub. I mean, these elephants are huge and the tiger cub was pretty small, relatively! I guess he understood that elephants have a reputation for being gentle and tigers don't!

After the elephants ate their breakfast, we went for a walk through the fields and we got to pet a few elephants and hang out with them for a bit. It was surprising how often you could be standing there and suddenly a giant elephant was right behind you! They are very quiet creatures. I was worried the kids would get accidentally stepped on but, obviously, that did not happen (thank goodness!). We walked over to where there was a new baby elephant and his mother. The mother was eating while the baby played with the mahout. He was adorable!

Next up was an amazing lunch (all vegetarian--in fact everything I've had on this trip has been vegetarian) and then it was time to give the elephants a bath in the river. We all got a bucket and walked down to the water. The idea was to just throw the water at the elephant and get her wet all over. The mahouts had bananas to keep the elephant in the water and I really expected the elephants to reach in the water with their trunks to help with their baths but they did not. As soon as bath-time was over, the elephants went to the mud and covered themselves in their sunscreen and scratched itchy spots on posts. I was really wishing we had booked the overnight stay at the park but when I made the reservation I just wasn't sure how Henry, in particular, was going to handle the day. I actually would have loved to just spend the entire week there!

After bath (and Henry needed a change of clothes since he got soaked playing in the water) we watched a short film about Thailand's elephants. Henry fell asleep and snored SO LOUD! The girls loved the movie and we learned about the violent methods that are traditionally used to get elephants to comply with the mahouts commands and to get them to do the work that they do.

After the movie, we had one more chance to feed the elephants and then it was time to get back in the van and head back to the hotel. Now, I think it was good that we went to the monkey school, snake farm, and Tiger Kingdom because we were able to compare the experiences and talk about the way that we treat animals and their living conditions, etc. This was by far my favorite day of the trip but we still have a few more days to go!

Thailand: Monkeys, Snakes, Tigers, & Orchids

We decided to go to Monkey School today and the driver said that the snake farm, Tiger Kingdom, and an orchid farm were also nearby so we should do them all. We agreed and set out for the monkey school first. I had suggested these things to the kids with some hesitation: the idea of some of these places seems "wrong" but then also this is how these people earn their livings. There are many things I could say here, but I'm going to try to just leave it at the level of documenting our family vacation...

Monkey School: When we arrived, the lady asked the kids if they wanted to feed a baby monkey a bottle of milk. Henry did not, but the girls loved it. Then we saw a few gibbons and they asked if we wanted to feed the monkeys. We bought a basket of fruit and we were led to an area where the monkeys were tied to posts with a short chain and you were to toss the food at the monkeys. This part was really hard for me. I really wanted to walk out and leave! We did stay for the "show." The monkeys (and members of the audience) did some silly tricks all while on a leash (I found this interesting because at the Singapore Zoo, the animals in the show we saw there did not have leashes and I wonder why each place is the way it is). At one point the monkey came around and looked into your eyes with a basket, an umbrella, and a sign, and put its hand on your knee! I was not expecting this and it took all I had to not freak out. The monkey did not put its hand on the kids until Anna lifted her skirt just enough for her knee to show and then the monkey did put its hand on her knee. Sarah actually moved up to the top row of bleachers away from us to make sure the monkey didn't touch her! The monkey's hand was cool and limp but by the third time this happened, I got fairly used to it (still would have preferred it didn't happen though!).

Snake Farm: This was Sarah's idea. Henry & I sat on the top row of bleachers for this (he was seriously freaked out and I contemplated taking him out of the area completely but we would have had to walk right past the stage and I didn't know if he could handle it). Craig & the girls sat in the middle row and Anna & Sarah pet a couple of the snakes. Somehow, I didn't feel bad at all about the snakes living at the snake farm like I did for the monkeys at monkey school.

Tiger Kingdom: I initially did not want to go here at all but this was the one Anna was most excited about. I partly didn't want to go because I didn't want to be eaten or have anyone in my family eaten by a tiger and also partly because I had heard that they drug the tigers and it all seemed so unethical. I guess this was my day without ethics though and I had already seen the monkey school, I might as well compare Tiger Kingdom to that! Tiger Kingdom was a really nice facility. We paid to go in only with the littlest tigers (I believe you have to be an adult to go in with the adult tigers anyway, so it was never an issue to let the kids go in with the adult tigers). While we waited for our 15-minute turn, we were able to watch the people in the adult tiger area and there was one tiger who was passed out in the corner, but two others we were active. There is no way I would have been in there with them walking around and playing with each other the way they were! I was convinced we were about to witness a mauling. I can't figure out how the tigers are not eating people. Obviously they are well-fed and they are well-cared for, but I still don't get it! Anyway, the tiger cubs were adorable. Henry said he didn't want to pet them when Anna & Sarah went for it, but when I went to the tiger cub, my little shadow jumped on my lap and happily pet the tiger. He is such a goofball! In the end, I liked Tiger Kingdom the most of the three animal places we visited but I'm not sure it's something I would recommend for anyone to do if that make sense.

Orchid Farm: We ate lunch at the orchid farm and it was another really good meal (buffet style so we all could get just what we wanted). If I had been there alone, I'm sure I would have taken 1,000 pictures of orchids but I'm pretty sure I'll be fine with the few that I took and not miss the rest!

After this touring we went back to the hotel and just rested until dinner time (pizza tonight). We wanted to be sure we all got lots of good rest tonight so that we are ready for our big elephant day tomorrow!

March 2013

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