Monday, December 31, 2012

Our 2012

If there was one thing I had to learn to do this past year is to be a little braver. We had to make several huge decisions this year-- some much harder than others, as you can imagine-- and we wouldn't have been able to make them if we hadn't compelled ourselves to embrace a certain amount of uncertainty. We had to learn that we can't always plan and control everything that is happening in our lives and that a healthy dose of unknowingness might not necessarily be a bad thing.

We're in a mostly happy place right now-- and I mean that existentially more so than geographically but they're sort of related, I suppose-- and your guess as to what exciting adventures 2013 will bring (us) is as good as mine. But with the whirlwind roller-coaster that 2012 put us through, I think we're pretty ready for whatever the coming year has in store :)

Alright, 2013- bring it on!

2012 Year in Review

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our new normal

Officially one month at new job :)
My new normal

It's been almost two months into the new job and I have to admit that I'm enjoying it more than I had expected. There's a lot of the number crunching that I knew would be part of the job, but also much intellectual stimulation, hard thinking (which I do enjoy, I have to say), and co-workers who make the challenging work exciting and interesting.

A new job has also meant a new schedule for all of us at home and that's something that's still undergoing some trial and error. Initially, I took Sophie to daycare and drove to work but that meant having to haul the poor thing out of bed at 6.45am and paying for really expensive season parking near my office in the central business district. We tried that out for a couple of weeks but realized that it didn't make sense financially or time-wise. Now that Jude's on break, he's taken over drop-off and pick-up and I take the bus to work, which has worked out so much better for everyone. Jude and Sophie get to sleep more and I don't stress out about being late for work. I also really enjoy long bus-rides (many thanks to Lush for great company), especially early in the morning, so it's been win-win all round. When term starts up again, we'll switch out depending on Jude's teaching schedule, but hopefully, it'll be more forgiving than a crazy early mad-rush for everybody everyday.

Coming home after 6.00 means little time for elaborate dinner prep. Thank god for our families though who always thoughtfully prepare a ton of food for us on weekends to bring home to freeze. Between that, takeout once or twice a week, and simple foods that are easy and quick to cook like fish, noodle soups, and veggies, we pretty much have dinner covered every night with time to spare to unwind and play and read with Sophie.

As for chores, we're managing to cope quite well-- if we need to, we put a video on for Sophie on weekends and do whatever major cleaning that needs to get done like mopping the floor or cleaning the bathrooms. But since no one is at home in the day, the house never really gets too messy or dirty; the Roomba also vacuums three times a week so that saves us from doing much dusting. Most importantly, we farm out the ironing to a laundry company because honestly, there is nothing I hate more than ironing...

The almost three-month break was nice to have after moving half-way across the world and gave me time to set things up in our new apartment. But it feels good to be back working and thinking about more than just how to hang our posters up or how many sets of bedding we need... I think the guy at our neighborhood DIY store was really getting sick of seeing me every other day with some new request ;)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy holidays!!


To you and yours :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bali

DSCF1201
It was really quite heavenly

We asked Sophie to tell us about our 4-day trip to Bali and this is what she said,

"We saw the sunset. And there was a dance with a monkey (kechak dance at Uluwatu Temple). Then we stayed in a hotel. And we went to the beach. And swam. Mama and Dada ate a lot of spicy food but I ate crispy chicken. We saw the paddy fields and there was rice everywhere."

We did a little more than that but in a nutshell, she got it about right :)

Photos here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Counting down to Christmas

Counting down to Christmas

To the strains of the Vince Guaraldi Trio (soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas) and Pink Martini's Christmas album, we finally got round to putting up our tree and hanging up our stockings last weekend. Christmas has always been a big deal in my family and the joy of counting down to it is something we've always shared with Sophie.

As you can tell, our first proper Christmas tree is a little on the slender side but it fits exactly where and how we want it to- at the edge of our living room wall and next to Jude's speakers. Most importantly, it has a little bit of everything we love-- things we picked from my mom's that I've always loved, those from dear friends who live too far away (specifically salt dough ornaments that dear Finn made for us back in Ann Arbor and a little Finnish elf from one of Tarja's Pikkujoulu parties), and new favorites that we (ok, Sophie) just added to our collection :)

The personalized stockings are handmade from an etsy store, byebyebirdieengland and are just about the cutest things ever. Sophie thinks they're adorable too and they've actually become an unexpected way for her to learn her letters. Today, looking at them, she realized that her name has fewer 'E's than mine and very plaintively asked that I share my extra 'E's with her. She was so sad, it was quite funny...

We still haven't found a Christmas wreath that we like and there's the whole yet-to-finish Christmas shopping issue (and then its attendant wrapping of presents), but that aside, that familiar quiet joy that always pervades as Christmas rolls around has definitely set in- things seem a little prettier, you find yourself being more forgiving of others and yourself, people are a little less grumpy, a little more generous, and there's just an all-round sense of well-being I associate only with Christmas coming round the corner...


1. Our first proper tree, 2. Salt dough ornament from Finn, 3. Tree topper, 4. Our personalized Christmas stockings have arrived :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Marking our return to the concert scene

The last time Jude and I got a chance to spend a night out without Sophie was January 2010-- Avatar was playing in the theatres, neither one of us had graduated, and Sophie had not even stared on solids yet. We were home for Sophie's first Christmas and the family was more than happy to jump at the opportunity to babysit. Since then, we'd just never got round to getting a babysitter in Ann Arbor and by then, we had just gotten used to schlepping Sophie everywhere with us. We had to eschew going out to anything past her bedtime but that was something we just got used to.

But sigur rós isn't just any old something and now that we're back home, family is around again to help us out with watching Sophie. She was more than happy to spend the night at the grandparents and hang out with her aunts, uncle, and Julianne-- she had her jammies, books, and toys picked out the night before and it was all she could talk about all Friday. When we said bye to her before the concert, she gave both of us a tight hug, reminded us that she was going to miss us, but told us to have fun anyway :)

According to Sam, Sophie did whine a little just before bedtime and asked for both Jude and I, but snuggling helped and she eventually fell asleep quietly and slept through the night without any fuss (except maybe sleeping horizontally and hogging precious bed space...) So all in all, I think Operation "Jude and Serene Return to the Concert Scene"was officially a success. We were praying it would be, what with Regina Spektor in December and possibly the Laneway Music Festival in January... ;)

Speaking of which, sigur rós was simply astounding. We've loved their music for so long and to be able to see them in Singapore was an exquisite experience. For a couple of hours that afternoon, I was so afraid that the concert would get washed out by the heavy storms, but thankfully the skies let up, the concert went on, and even though it did start to pour towards the end, it was less an inconvenience than a poetically fitting end to a gorgeous set. Because really, who listens to sigur rós on a bright sunny day anyway?...


I listend to them A LOT as I was writing my dissertation and there were several moments throughout the concert that brought up difficult memories of me crouching over my laptop tapping away into the wee hours of the morning, which made for a rather complicated experience, especially while standing in the drizzle that would then give way to a downpour. But I love how I feel when I listen to sigur rós-- complicated or not-- and watching them 'live' and sharing that with Jude and my cousin Terri was something quite quite special.

The concert didn't exactly have the same vibe as what I had always envisioned a sigur rós concert to be (see video below) but having it out in the open at Fort Canning was quite an inspired idea, although it would not have been my first choice in Singapore. I was expecting something smaller, a little more intimate, something more befitting the spare lushness (how's that for an oxymoron) of their music. But it worked out beautifully in the end, and it was quite the night to remember.



More pictures here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from afar!


1. Sophie tucking in (Thanksgiving 2011), 2. Thanksgiving dinner (Thanksgiving 2010), 3. Family portrait 1 (Thanksgiving 2009), 4. "Let me at it!" (Thanksgiving 2008), 5. Getting ready (Thanksgiving 2007), 6. My plate (Thanksgiving 2006), 7. Kathy, Stan, Yong, and Jonas (Thanksgiving 2004), 8. at dave & jen's (Thanksgiving 2003)

Those of you who've been reading the blog long enough know that Thanksgiving has always been my absolute favorite American holiday, mostly because I associate it solely with our time in the U.S. without any of the baggage of missing home. And the food of course. Now that we're back, I miss it very much, the same way I'm missing Fall, my favorite season. It's times like these that I actually try not to think about Ann Arbor too much because it actually stings a little behind my eyes...

But I'm nonetheless going to take the time to remember all the wonderful Thanksgivings we've had over the years and our fantastic friends with whom we've had the utter privilege and joy to have spent Thanksgiving. Thank you for your friendship, fellowship, and love, and for introducing us to the fabulous world of (deep-fried) turkey, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. A particular shout-out goes to our friends Rick and Emilee with whom we've spent five out of our nine Thanksgivings in the U.S.- you guys had better make good your plans to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Singapore next year! You and your turkey fryer... :)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sophie sells lemonade



And perfects the art of bargaining... Although I have to say, $3 from $15- we got a pretty good deal on our part :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

COVEmoments

One tradition of the Singapore early education system that I've never really understood is the kindergarten graduation ceremony. Oh, I get that it's a huge deal that the kids are leaving the (relatively) carefree stage of their childhood behind and moving up to formal schooling- it *is* significant and it should be celebrated.

What I don't understand is why it has to involve a whole song-and-dance program, multiple rehearsals, kids in elaborate costumes (that the parents have to pay for and which will ostensibly never get worn again), and thick make-up for all the children involved (girls and boys). Nobody I've spoken to enjoys it-- kids or parents, it's so much work for the poor teachers, and it costs so much more money than is necessary.

So it was with much relief when we found out that at Sophie's daycare, they have no such tradition. This weekend, the whole center celebrated the Kindergarten Two children graduating on to primary school and instead of the usual concert/pageant extravaganza, we all participated in a family games day instead. Even though Sophie's three years away from her own "graduation", she's come to know the children who are graduating this year and it was exciting for her to be celebrating with her friends (even though she only has the vaguest notion of what we were celebrating...)

The families didn't have to cough up a lot of money for the event-- a modest registration fee (which covered a goody bag and lunch) and an event t-shirt that we bought for Sophie which also didn't cost us too much and which I can totally see her wearing again. The whole thing was based on the theme of the Kindergarten Two curriculum this year-- Loving our Planet. Prior to this weekend, families were asked to contribute as much recyclable material as they could so that they could be used during the event's activities. Then we basically spent Saturday morning running around City Square Mall-- Singapore's first Eco Mall-- completing various tasks that involved the recyclable materials like building a tower and replicating the life-cycle of a caterpillar.

Task 2- building a picture frame from recycled materials
Making a giant photo frame from
recyclable materials

Sophie at the head of a caterpillar
Sophie as the head of the "caterpillar"

Every child and parent (even some grandparents) was involved and even though I think many of the younger kids-- Sophie included-- got tired running up and down a mall after about an hour, I think the intentions behind the event were great. We were never bored, we didn't feel like what little money we spent was wasted, and there were so many learning opportunities for all involved, especially the K2s who experienced the culmination of their year's learning in such a wonderful and engaging way. We were really so so happy for them all as they walked up the stage to proudly get their kindergarten certificates at the end of the festivities.

Graduation ceremony
Graduation ceremony

Like I said, it's going to be another three years before it's Sophie's turn. But if this year's event is anything to go by, we will only have a wonderful celebration to look forward to in 2015.

More photos here.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Sophie the Rain Cloud

In retrospect, in light of Hurricane Sandy devastating the U.S. East Coast, dressing up as a rain cloud was probably not the most respectful idea. But if you know our daughter, you'd know that once she got something into that stubborn head of hers, she wasn't going to let it go without a fight. And so a rain cloud she was...

Sophie Raincloud!

I think last year was the last time I would have any say in Sophie's Halloween costume. This year, even though we have a perfectly functioning dinosaur costume she could have worn, Sophie insisted on being a rain cloud. She was adamant. I asked her why and it turns our, it's because of this video, an episode of her favorite Kipper cartoon where Arnold, Kipper's pig friend, takes a balloon ride into the clouds. When Sophie was sick a couple of weeks ago, she probably watched this video at least 10 times so I guess it stuck in her head...

And so with the help of a huge roll of cotton batting (the material you use to stuff quilts), an old dress, some felt cloth for rain drops, and A LOT of adhesive spray, Sophie's costume was born. She actually thought of crying on cue during trick-or-treating; and screaming- "So it will be like real rain and thunder, Mama." Oh Sophie...

Squirt galore

But in the end though, we settled on a squirt bottle which she ended up not using much of because she needed two hands to operate it and she was too concerned with her pumpkin candy bag.

In such a hurry to get to the parade

I think Sophie had a lot of fun- running around the estate with the big kids (some of whom mistook her for a sheep until they saw the rain drops...), shouting "trick-or-treat!" at the top of her voice (which was something she didn't do as much of last year), and riding up and down the elevators. One thing that did scare her though-- and which marked the end of Halloween for her-- was the last house we visited.

Last house...


It scared the bejeezus out of her when someone opened the door dressed as a vampire, flashing a torchlight under her face. At that moment, trick-or-treating was officially over :( Anyways, by that time, she was getting really tired too. And the humidity was probably getting to her as well. Her costume was basically one large quilt fluffed up so I can imagine that the mugginess was not fun.

She was happy going home with her little candy haul. She diligently picked out the ones she knew she could eat-- mostly the lollies and gummies-- and then force-fed the chocolates to Jude. I think it was her way of enjoying them vicariously through him :)

More photos here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hammy

Sophie's class at daycare has a pet hamster affectionately and imaginatively named Hammy. The kids take turn to care of it on weekends and this past weekend was Sophie's turn. It happened to be a long weekend so we got to spend an extra day with Hammy so that was nice :)

Trying to be as gentle as she can
Being so gentle with Hammy

I have to admit that Jude and I were initially a little trepidatious that something might happen to Hammy while in our care. I can't even keep a cactus alive so you can imagine our anxiety at a real life scampering creature that has actual needs. But Sophie was a most committed caregiver and made sure Hammy got its seeds, fresh water, and change of shower sand every morning.

Taking her responsibility to feed Hammy very seriously
Taking her responsibility very seriously

She was very very gentle with it and would find every opportunity to run by its cage and give us an update of what Hammy's up to (which usually wasn't very much in the day- it's a more "run around his wheel at 12 in the morning kind of hamster...)- "Look Mama, his eyes are open!"; "Hammy is burrowing under the sawdust!"; "I think Hammy's stinky. He's giving himself a bath."; "Dada, Hammy's running in his gym!"

And laughing at its antics
Laughing at Hammy's antics

There were also many quiet moments when Sophie was content to just sit and watch Hammy, whether it was doing anything or not. I wondered what was going through that little brain of hers as she contemplated this living creature so much smaller than she is.

She spent a lot of time just watching Hammy
Just watching...

She was sad to bring Hammy back to school today, but at least she'll still get to see it everyday. It was a wonderful experience for all of us, particularly for Sophie who did such a great job.

Loving Hammy
Such a good caregiver

Even though Hammy was by no means a demanding animal to care for, Sophie still learned about what it means to take care of a pet, that it's not all fun and cuddles and that it has needs that must be met first. We talked about how different Hammy is from us (he doesn't shower with water, doesn't drink from a cup, and only eats seeds), but also how alike many living creatures are (we both need water and food, and have the same desire to be clean).

Also, we now we know we can ostensibly own a pet and not run the risk of accidentally "misplacing" it... ;)

More pictures here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A room of one's own**

Until we moved back to Singapore, Sophie hadn't had a room to call her own. In Ann Arbor, she shared a room with our books and Jude's wardrobe while her toys and books took over our living room downstairs. So one of the most important things we wanted to give her in our new place was her own room that she can call her little haven.

We didn't bring any big pieces of furniture back with us, but we did bring a whole ton of books, including three boxes of just Sophie's. And so that became the central focus of her room. I had blogged about Jane Mount's children's books spine portraits, specifically her Ideal Bookshelf 1 a couple of years ago and we were finally able to frame and hang it up.

Janet Mount book spines portrait from 20x200

We brought Sophie's display bookcase back with us so that went in her room as well.

Books galore!

Initially, when we first started buying books with book jackets, I found them such a bother and Sophie would always pull them out anyway. But then I started saving the book jackets of books that Sophie really enjoys reading and got the idea to frame them as wall art now that we have a little more wall space.

Framed book jackets

Her kitchen set and lemonade stand are also in her room which makes Sophie so happy because she now basically has all her favorite things in one place. It's easily our favorite room in the house and we spend a lot time there just hanging out- reading to Sophie, allowing her to "serve" us food, having pretend picnics, etc. Whenever we need to be doing something else-- write an email, do the laundry, make dinner-- we know we can leave Sophie in her room and she will be perfectly content and happy. Sometimes, we actually have to bribe her to leave the room because she can stay in there forever if you let her.

The room has come together really nicely and we're quite proud of it. And to make things sweeter, we found out yesterday that Sophie's room has been featured in apartment therapy's My Room series!

[click for link]

apartment therapy is one of my favorite home and design websites and I love browsing through their Nursery and Kids room tours. And so it's just really exciting to have them showcase something we've put together, especially something as close to our hearts as Sophie's love for reading and books, and the room we've created to nurture that.

**From my favorite Woolf essay.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our snuggle bunny

"I didn't have a good day at school today. Can we have lots and lots of snuggles at home?"

So said Sophie on the drive home after daycare today. The poor thing sounded miserable and I asked her why she didn't have a good day (even though I had already gotten most of the story from her teacher at pick-up).

Incident #1: "I had an accident. I fell off the swing when it didn't stop."

One of Sophie's favorite things at school is a round net swing that she loves to lie on. Apparently, she decided she was all done with it and launched herself off before her friend who was pushing stopped.

Incident #2: "I bumped my head on something."

The thing about Sophie is that she doesn't really walk or run. She scampers. That's her default mode of getting from one place to the next. And she's also sort of easily distracted. Which means en route from one place to the next, it is not unusual for her to knock into something because she got sidetracked by something else in her line of vision. And apparently, that's what happened today with a certain concrete pillar.

Incident #3: "I was afraid to go potty and I cried and cried and cried."

This happens occasionally when Sophie only wants to go potty at home. It's not related to cleanliness (because this has happened even when we're at nice, clean bathrooms) but more about familiarity and comfort, I suspect. And today was one of those days, when she just refused to go potty even though she needed to. Holding your pee for 6 hours couldn't have been comfortable but apparently, every time her teacher asked if she needed to go potty, she would just whine and cry.

According to her teacher, she also didn't take a good nap (probably related to #3) and was sort of fussy and out of sorts for most of the afternoon.

Incident #4: "I got a bloody nose."

Sophie's pretty much recovered from whatever bug was ailing her over the weekend but there was still some residual runny nose this morning. So it seems Sophie was probably blowing it too hard or poking around in it with her finger so much so that it started to bleed.

So really, it was such an (im)perfect storm of a whole host of unfortunate things happening all in the same day...

"I wanted Mama and Dada."

Fundamentally, I think this was the issue, that after having spent four straight days at home with us because she was sick, it was just a little tough going back to the routine of school. She missed the snuggles and hugs and our constant attention, which I guess is really kind of wonderful if you think about it :) Like my friend Adelene commented, at least she could verbalize how sad she was feeling and knows what she needs to be soothed and comforted.

Which we gave her plenty off this evening- there was a lolly for finally going potty after almost 8 hours, videos with Jude while I got dinner ready, an extended post-dinner fruit-for-dessert chit chat on the couch (together with a talk about how she could  have a better day at school tomorrow, sans boo-boos), 7 books instead of the usual 3 before bedtime, and lots of hugs and snuggles in between. And so our snuggle bunny went to bed happy as a lark and looking forward to school in the morning.

Let's hope tomorrow will be a better day for her :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bug

It was one of those things that went about as soon as it came. Sophie stayed home from school since Thursday and today's probably the first day she seemed completely back to her usual self mood-wise (although slightly sans voice coz of phlegm in her throat...). It started with a fever and a cough and the poor thing seemed pretty miserable.

Day 2 of staying home from school :(
Sick bunny

She didn't have much of an appetite and only wanted to eat blueberries and jam sandwiches. She also then started wheezing, which worried us more. She hadn't had an asthma/wheezing episode since January and to make things worse, our nebulizer that we've always used in the U.S. conked out on us despite using a power transformer to convert the power wattage. Thankfully, we managed to borrow one from our sister-in-law and also eventually bought a brand new one, thanks to Jude's mom-- family rocks!-- but Thursday was really a little stressful to say the least.

Thankfully, Sam and her friends came by in the middle of the day to cheer the sick bunny up when they had a 4-hour break in between classes- again, yay to family! (and an apartment close to the university). It gave me a little breather and also really helped to relieve much of Sophie's lethargy- thanks Yiyis Sam, Ellie, and Su!

Auntie Ellie and Auntie Su came by to cheer up the sick bunny
Dress-up with Yiyis Ellie & Su

Yiyi Sam visits with a sick Sophie
Reading with Yiyi Sam

By yesterday, although there was still some residual coughing, Sophie was more than well enough to attend an early morning wedding mass AND a MacDonald's birthday party, all before noon. Recovering from a cold is hard though and she zonked out for a power nap before the party. She really needed that- she wouldn't have been able to have all the fun she did blowing bubbles after otherwise :)

Bubbles at birthday parties are the best!
Nothing better than bubbles at birthdays!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nope, not yet

Untitled
At the allergist. With her own stethoscope,
you know, just in case... 

I wasn't expecting any sort of earth-shattering news like she's completely outgrown her allergies or anything; in fact, I was more concerned about the possibility of having to draw blood and how upset Sophie might be. In the end though, the doctor opted for a skin prick test instead and the results show that Sophie still has a bad allergy to egg and all dairy products. Sigh...

Most children outgrow these common allergies by age 2, if not 1. So the fact that her allergies still linger even after she's turned 3 means she falls in the category of children with "persistent" allergies. There is still a likelihood that she may outgrow them, but there is also the possibility that this is just something we're going to have to keep managing.

It's been so much a part of our lives that it really doesn't seem that hard actually. We're still reading food labels vigilantly, watching out for cross-contamination at home and at the grandparents', and being really careful to ask questions when we order food outside. Managing Sophie's allergies has been both easier and harder now that we've moved back to Asia- on the one hand, there are less foods with dairy in them in Asian cuisine so Sophie has had the opportunity to try (and fall in love with a whole myriad of foods that she otherwise wouldn't have eaten in the U.S., case in point- fishball noodles...); on the other hand, egg is used so prevalently in Chinese cooking-- in thickening sauces, coating meats before they are fried, as a glaze to so many pastries, etc.-- that it's hard to know if something *really* doesn't have egg in it, not to mention the risk of cross-contamination.

We're lucky that Sophie's daycare has been really wonderful in working with us to manage her allergies. Her current teachers aren't as used to dealing with children with allergies as the teachers in Gretchen's House but they've still done a great job always being very careful and thoughtful about keeping Sophie away from possible allergens. The common practice of children celebrating their birthdays in school-- together with cake and treats-- has been a little tricky for us though. Sophie almost always can't have any of the cake but her teachers have been really good in letting us know in advance when a birthday celebration is coming up and I've packed her a special vegan treat as a snack so she doesn't feel left out. And Sophie's cognizant enough about her allergies that she never kicks up a fuss about why she can't have regular cake like the other kids. She never asks for it. In fact, when I offered her soy ice-cream last week, she insisted she couldn't have it, and that she can only have sorbet- "No cream, Mama. I can't have cream because it's not safe for my body. I will get hivey hives hives."

Hopefully, the day will come when Sophie will be able to enjoy food free from care or worry. But right now, she relishes what she can eat happily and joyously and is always open to trying new (and safe) foods. Which is more than we can ask for, really :)

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Snail and the Whale

So excited for The Snail and the Whale at the Singapore Repertory Theatre!
So excited!

Sometime last year-- or maybe it was Christmas the year before-- Sophie received the activity book to The Snail and the Whale from my friend Khanh Duc who lives in the U.K. She fell in love with it almost immediately-- you know, because of the whale-- and I had to get her the storybook just so we could find out what the story was actually about. Since then, it's become a solid favorite and regularly comes up in our nightly bedtime reading. It's a beautiful story about a tiny snail's immense wanderlust and how it ends up saving the life of the "great big grey-blue humpback whale" (Sophie's favorite line from the book...)

And so two months ago-- literally a week after we had just arrived back in Singapore-- when I found out that the Singapore Repertory Theatre was going to be putting up a production of the story in October, I jumped at the chance to get tickets. They are a little pricey, I have to say, and probably not something we can do on a regular basis, but Sophie (and us too) had a wonderful time, which made it so worth the while.

We only told her we were going to the play on Friday night-- she's at that age when telling her things too early in advance only frustrates her because her grasp of time is still sort of tenuous-- and it was the first thing she asked about yesterday morning when she woke up. She got washed up and had breakfast in record time and we didn't even have to ask her twice to wear her shoes (which usually takes her forever...) Nearly bursting with anticipation by that time, she still managed to make sure she brought her copy of The Snail and the Whale along and even wanted to bring her whale plush toy with her, but changed her mind in the end because she didn't want to lose it at the theatre.

And she had an awesome, awesome time :) The production company did a fantastic job keeping the play intimate, interactive (complete with squirting water at the audience!), and funny enough for a three-year-old to appreciate. They used the book as a metaphor for a more melancholic story of a daughter missing her seafaring father, which I don't think Sophie got, but that Jude and I kind of liked actually. Props were cleverly used (customized modular furniture were re-arranged to form the shape of the whale) but modestly and sparingly so it didn't get too overwhelming for the kids or distract from the story.

Having such a good time!
Super grainy picture from during the play

Sophie was entranced from beginning to end. She would periodically ask worriedly, "Is it ending yet?" and settled back in comfortably when we said no. And when the 55 minutes was over, she asked plaintively, "Can we watch it again?" like it was one of her beloved Kipper videos. We had to explain to her that a play involves real people acting 'live' and that you can't just watch it immediately again from the beginning, and promised to take her to more plays in the future. That seemed to satisfy and we spent the rest of the day talking about her favorite parts of the production (when the father-- the whale-- was tickling his daughter-- the snail) and the parts she didn't like so much (any parts involving crashing waves, thunder, or lightning).

We of course had to read the book before bed last night (and tonight too) and she actually started singing some of the lines in the book just as the actors did in the play. The story has gained greater resonance for her now that she connects it to a different context and we're glad she got that experience to enrich her already deep love for the book.

More photos here.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

There's a kind of Lush

I take my radio very seriously. I can't remember a time when I didn't listen to the radio. The fact that it's free makes it just inherently democratic. And everyone I know listens to the radio.

But this doesn't mean that all radio is created equal. In the words of George Orwell, some are more equal than others. I like my radio station to play good music, minimize the incessant and inane chatter that passes off as entertainment, and have as few ads as possible (although enough to keep it afloat, I suppose...) Oh, and I hope it isn't too much to ask that it also be clever and funny. And when I say clever, I don't mean serious; just a radio station with presenters who don't treat listeners as a vacuous, mindless mass. I don't want to hear rivaling jostling voices talk about the merits of dehydrated beer or bantering co-hosts debate whether falling down in slippery public toilets is really funny. Just play decent music and talk to each other (and by extension, me) as intelligent, thinking individuals. With a sense of humor. Is that too much to ask?

Thank god for Lush 99.5 FM. I chanced upon them while channel surfing the car radio in exasperation a couple of days after we bought our car and I haven't listened to anything else since. They play AMAZING music- Glen Hansard, M83, The Radio Dept,, Chairlift, Grimes, Nina Simone, and so much wonderfully more. My grouse with the other English music radio stations in Singapore is that they all sound homogenous. No matter how much they claim to target different audience (teens, working adults, women, etc), they all seem to play the same generic music. They could swap station addresses and I wouldn't be able to tell them apart. And don't get me started on the DJs- in the words of our friend, Tym, listening to some of the insipid rambling makes her want to stab her eardrums out.

Which is why I love Lush so much. Apart from the fact that they promise to air no more than two commercials back to back, I could listen to their DJs all day (and would if not for the fact that they actually don't talk much and just allow the music to speak for itself...) Joe Augustin and Petrina Kow are hilarious in the morning. They make me laugh at least once every morning, like today when Joe likened a predicted worldwide shortage of diapers (after an explosion at a Japanese chemical plant) to someone bombing all the True Blood factories around the world. I'm glad no one else was in the car with me- I think the cars going at 70km/h next to me could have heard me guffaw... The two of them have wonderful rapport and an uncanny ability to put a clever (and often funny-- note, not silly) spin on current happenings in Singapore and around the world.

Lush's roster of DJs and the creative team also reads like the who's who of the Singapore radio I grew up with- people like Dahlia Z, Georgina Chang, and Chris Ho, whose show on Lush, Clubscape, incidentally, was the only radio show in Singapore to be nominated at the recent International Radio Festival.

There's apparently some radio ratings survey going around and it seems Lush isn't doing too great relative to the other more popular and aggressively marketed music stations. I'm not sure how much the survival of the radio station is dependent on this survey or if there's some other way radio listenership is measured. But for the sake of preserving interesting and entertaining radio in Singapore, please listen in to Lush and keep it going. Hopefully you'll fall in love with it as immediately as I did.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

DONUTS!

Sophie has never had donuts. She's probably seen them at the store or they might have come up in some book we were reading, but as with many pastries and baked goods, we've avoided donuts because of her allergies.

So I was surprised when a couple of weeks ago, she started asking for them. Specifically donuts with sprinkles. Until now, I still have no idea what triggered the request but I managed to find this recipe for vegan donuts and it looked easy enough. Finding donut trays turned out to be the bigger challenge and after looking around all the major department stores in vain, I discover that my mom and sis have a complete donut tray set (for regular-sized and mini donuts and even a little tool for injecting jelly-filled donuts) in the storeroom that they were about to throw away! Yay for bakers in the family!

And so yesterday, I surprised Sophie with a tray of unglazed mini donuts when she came home from school and got her to help me with the decorating. You should have seen her quivering with excitement- she could barely stay still enough to wash her hands and climb up her stool onto the kitchen counter :) It was quite the challenge for her to resist eating the donuts as she went along (I told her we would wait till we were done glazing all of them first)-- although she did steal a couple of sprinkles-- and she actually had a foreboding running conversation with each of them as she dipped them into the icing sugar glaze, "I'm going to eat you later.", she would say... ;)

"I'm going to eat you later!"
Talking to the donut...

But when it came to dipping them in melted chocolate, I think the temptation proved too much and she asked if she could "please, please, please" try one. It was such a plaintive request that I couldn't say 'no':

So happy!
Mmmmmmmm

Testimony to how much she loved "her" donuts, she asked to have two donuts for dessert instead of her beloved fruit, she brought three to school today for snack, and when Jude asked if he could take a few to work for his snack, she looked like a pirate who was about to have her treasure looted: "No please, Dada... Please don't eat all my donuts. Please. Pretty please..."

Mini donut bounty
Mini donut bounty

More pictures here.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

In the not-at-all-bleak Mid-autumn

Lanterns lit!
Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival, a.k.a. Lantern Festival

One of the things we've been sad to miss out on the past nine years away was celebrating festivals like the Mid-autumn Festival with the family. It was always one of my favorite festivals as a kid and I'm glad we got to be home for it this year, and more importantly, to share the experience with Sophie.

The cultural symbolism of it is lost on her right now, of course, but the fact that she got to spend the evening surrounded by lit lanterns and carrying one around the grandparents' neighborhood-- just like my cousins and I used to do growing up-- was more than enough excitement for the three-year-old :)

Lantern walk
A first for both kiddos!

As for me, I was just happy with that delicious meal my mom painstakingly prepared and basking in the love and laughter of family. By the time the night was over, Sophie summed up everyone's sentiments fantastically, "I'm having a great time, Mama." So did Mama, Sophie. So did Mama...

More pictures here (thanks to the brother-in-law!).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rediscovering an old love

I used to be an English major. Which basically means for four years, it was pretty much my job to read everyday. But that was for school, and ironically, there was little time for me to read things I enjoyed as opposed to things that were prescribed in the syllabus (if you put a gun to my head and asked me to read Samuel Richardson's Clarissa again, I'd tell you to shoot...) Over the years, between being a teacher, a grad student, then a grad student and mom, and then a working mom, I've tried to carve out time to read, mostly before bedtime, although I haven't always been as successful as I'd like.

Since we've been back though, I've tried to make a greater effort to clock in some good reading time- I schlep a book with me everywhere so if there's any downtime-- when I'm having lunch alone, while in line for something, waiting for a friend, etc., I have a book to occupy me. It's really a more productive use of my time than constantly checking my email or Facebook on my phone (and shaves off data plan usage on my phone plan too...). I also try to spend half an hour to an hour reading before going to bed. It actually helps wind my mind down for the day.

Books I've finished in the past month:
Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World (Lisa Bloom)
The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides)
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

In the midst of:
An Everlasting Meal (Tamar Adler)

In the queue:
Wishful Drinking (Carrie Fisher)
The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes)
The Glass Castle (Jeanette Walls)
Possession (A. S. Byatt) (I'm going to try starting a tradition to reread this once every year. That's how much I love it)

While I do most of my reading in bed, Jude and I are also starting to read more with Sophie. As in, reading our books as she flips through hers. Initially, I worried that if I sat and read a book of my own, I'd be ignoring her. But then I realized that I'm modeling a healthy habit for her- a child who sees her parent reading for pleasure quickly gets the message that reading is pleasure. And so we made a book nook in our room for all of us to read together-- Jude has his POÄNG chair from Ikea, we got Sophie a kiddie-sized one too, and I usually just sit on the bed. We filled a basket with some of her books (that we rotate every week or so) and after dinner or bathtime, we'd just all flump down together with our own books for a little bit before putting Sophie to bed. It usually isn't for long-- 20 minutes at the most-- but it's a nice way to just be quiet around each other and unwind from the day. Sophie understands that this is a special reading time and she doesn't ask us to read to her; besides, she knows she'll get a bunch of books read to her in bed just before she goes to sleep.

It's so trite to talk about how soulful it is to read but it's hard to find any other activity that feeds your soul and mind so richly as reading. Books have always been a huge part of my life-- in one way or another-- and as I grow older, I can only hope that they will continue to be. For me, and for Sophie.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cuteness

No, please do not adjust your screens. Really, my niece is exactly as cute as the photo suggests... :)

LOVE this photo so much!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

34 boxes

I've never been happier to see our vacuum cleaner. Or our can opener. Or our books. And don't even get me started on how happy Sophie's been now that all her toys and books have arrived.

And arrived they have. All 34 boxes.

1. And our boxes have arrived!, 2. More boxes..., 3. Sophie's room in disarray, 4. So.Many.Books

It feels great to have all our things in one place again. For a while, it was a little tricky getting certain things done-- like opening a can (I know that sounds so silly...)-- because I didn't want to spend money buying a can opener just for the moment when I knew I had packed our awesome one somewhere in those boxes. There was also some anxiety about whether our boxes would arrive unscathed and all accounted for- I've heard too many horror stories about international moves. But thankfully, we got a great moving company and nothing was broken or lost in the transit.

Most importantly, Sophie is ecstatic that she has all her beloved toys and books with her again. Mostly her books. Since our boxes arrived, we've been able to pretty much leave her in her room while we prepare dinner and this is what she'll be reliably doing:

Reunited

Like I said, happy camper :)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Setting up home

So let's see- we've been to Ikea probably half a dozen times in the last 3 weeks, I have the nearby DIY store on speed dial, and I've probably bought enough 3M Command products (mostly hooks and hanging strips) to qualify for stock option...

Setting up a home from scratch has been more exhausting than I had expected and this isn't even taking into account the 32 boxes of stuff that are sitting at a warehouse somewhere in Singapore waiting to clear customs. The major things were out of the way fairly quickly-- our apartment comes furnished with the big items like beds, desks, and closets and our families have been so helpful with things like household products, pots, silverware, linens, etc. But it's one or some other little thing that needs constant attention almost everyday- organizer boxes for the bathroom (who knew they'd be so important?), foil and parchment paper (we used to buy these in bulk and never had to think about them), or basic medical supplies like band-aids or paracetamol.

Thankfully, I haven't started work yet and with Sophie at daycare for most of the day, I've been exploiting the fuel efficiency of zippy Honda and driving about town getting stuff done. And in the process, I've learned that I no longer derive any pleasure from shopping. Oh, I will shop if I have to get something, but if nothing in the store is on my list of things to buy for the day, then I'm not going in. I used to love just walking around malls- soaking in the atmosphere, browsing the racks just because I could. But I think a combination of having had Sophie (anyone with a kid will tell you that the first buzzkill of window-shopping is a clingy, whiny 3-year-old) and having lived in a city where we only went to the mall once every three or four of months (and only because there was something specific to get), I no longer have the patience nor fortitude to bustle at a crowded shopping center.

Which also explains why we keep going back to Ikea and to the same DIY store- I know where things are and who I spoke to last. And that's what's going to help me get things done in the shortest amount of time so I can get out of there and conquer that next bit of household minutiae.

Don't get me wrong, I'm actually enjoying this whole process-- yes, it's been tiring, but I'm also appreciating the me-time to do my own thing once house stuff has been overcome. I'm reading a lot more than I have (just finished this and have this and this started), writing quite a fair bit too, and also setting aside time for Sophie.

When Jude and I were both working, our days were a harried blur of breakfast- daycare drop-off- work- daycare pickup- dinner- bathtime- books- sleep. And while I know we'll be replicating that once I start work, it's been nice these past couple of weeks not to have to do that. Sophie can see the expressway from her window and so we take some time to watch the cars together after I rouse her as she slowly wakes up on my lap; or I pick her up early from daycare whenever I can. Most of her toys and games are spread out in those 32 boxes so we read a lot, and do art, or just talk about our day. She's at that age where she can fully engage you in a conversation so we just lounge on the couch and chat. She tells me about not drinking chrysanthemum tea at school because it was too bitter and I tell her about having to return the water filter because it broke.

Speaking of which, our 32 boxes are scheduled to arrive on Monday. Just as we got comfortable and have the house as set up as it can be...

Monday, August 27, 2012

讲华语**

One of the things we worry about with Sophie being in daycare in Singapore is the whole speaking Chinese situation. Until we moved back, Sophie almost never heard any Chinese spoken around her. We taught her the Chinese words for "soy milk", "grape", and "apple", and that was about it.

But now that we're home, she hears it everywhere-- when we're at the store, at a restaurant, on TV at the grandparents' (we don't have TV signal in our apartment yet), and most importantly, at school.

But thankfully, she's actually been keenly enthusiastic about the language. She constantly asks what the name of things are in Chinese and she's been surprisingly receptive to us reading her Chinese books at bedtime (with us translating the story line by line in English, of course). In fact, right now, she's particularly enamored with the Tao Shu books that we borrowed from the cousins. We only have two from the series and we've read them almost every other day :) Honestly, it's actually been interesting for me to rediscover my mother tongue as well- I think the last time I was asked to read anything in Chinese was when I was 17!

It helps too that Sophie's favorite teacher at school is also her Chinese teacher. It's fascinating how children form attachments and particularly so in this case when Sophie barely understands what her Chinese teacher says to her. Her teacher will sometimes speak to Sophie in English if it's an important instruction, but for the most part, she only speaks Chinese. We suspect part of it is precisely because she speaks primarily Chinese. We think that for Sophie, Chinese is like a new puzzle- her curiosity and interest are being piqued and it's something to be explored and discovered. And her Chinese teacher represents all of that in one adoring, affectionate package.

Watch as Sophie sings her first Chinese song :) She has no idea what the words mean individually but she's actually got the intonations down quite accurately.




**speak Chinese

Friday, August 24, 2012

Settling in

My sister reminded me recently that it's only been four weeks since we've arrived in Singapore. And yet it feels like so much has happened in this short span of time. In fact, so much has happened just in the last 10 days alone.

1) Jude officially started at his new job. Although it's been hard work and he's been really busy, I think it's also something he's feeling good about.

2) We finally moved into our new apartment after living out of our suitcases for close to 4 weeks. We're still in a mild state of disbelief that we get to call this home for at least the next year and are counting our blessings that we get to enjoy it for even that long.

Our new place

In the little time since we've moved in, I think we've gotten it pretty much as livable as it can be right now. Many thanks go to our parents for bringing us essentials like kitchenware and pantry items- this move would not have been possible without them. Ikea has also been a great friend (I've been there three times in the past week alone) and so have several different DIY stores around the island. We are a little nervous about the 36 boxes of our stuff that is presumably in the middle of some ocean right now- I'm already mentally picturing where we're going to put certain things and it's making my head hurt...

3) We bought a car. We still miss our VW (shout out to the Cooneys- We're so happy that Tempest has found such a loving family!!) but this Honda has been a really zippy ride.

4) We found a daycare for Sophie that we all love. It's a lab school, which makes the educator geek in me so happy :) I'm particularly excited that we'll get to support the research and professional development that goes on in the center. And best of all, Sophie has been having a whale of a time since she started last week.

5) I submitted an article-- my first in Singapore-- to IPSCommons, an online platform for our local policy think-tank. It was published yesterday. I'm quite happy with the piece and excited to have it up somewhere for public consumption.

So there- not too shabby for 10 days, I think. There are still odds and ends that need to be tied up but for the most part-- until the rest of our stuff arrives in two weeks-- we're pretty much settled in. And with that is a profound sense of gratitude and we feel really blessed to have family close by to make this all relatively painless.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sophie at the Elizabeth

It's not quite The Plaza, I'm no Nanny, and we don't have a pug or a turtle. But for the past three weeks, it's almost like Sophie's been living the life of Eloise (at the Plaza).

Since we arrived in Singapore, we've been staying at The Elizabeth Hotel in the heart of Orchard Road. Even though it's meant cramming all that we've brought along with us and the energies of a now 3-year-old into one room, it's actually been quite a nice stay. For one, it's literally a 2-minute walk away from the hospital my grandfather was at when he was ill, which made visiting him so easy. It's also right in the middle of the shopping district so Sophie got an immediate introduction to big city living right from Day One. Let's hope she doesn't think walking through fancy shiny malls is going to be part of her daily routine once we've moved into our new apartment...

The staff at the hotel has been nothing but kind- three weeks is a long time to be staying at a hotel and because the hotel isn't a huge one, we've become familiar with the people who work here. The lady who cleans the elevator is always careful to tell Sophie not to run after she's just mopped the floors; Suresh, the waiter in the hotel cafe knows Sophie by name and always says 'hi' and 'good morning' when we go down for breakfast and always has Sophie's highchair ready for her; and the porters out front never fail to ask to help with our bags even when it's obvious we only have the diaper bag with us. Sophie of course knowns everyone- waves to everyone, says 'hi' and introduces herself to everyone-- staff or guest--, and has on more than one occasion, invited various members of the housekeeping crew to her birthday party :) They adore her, I think, which is why we come back every evening to a room well made and Sophie's toys all meticulously laid out the extra bed she sleeps on, no matter the toys were were when we left the room.

We check out tomorrow morning and while it'll be a relief to have more space again, a small piece of me will miss The Elizabeth a little. It's been our haven from the whirlwind that's been the past three weeks and for that, we'll always be grateful.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunshine after the rain

Sophie asked for three things for her birthday: balloons, dinosaurs, and a chocolate cake with purple stars. And we made sure she got them all :)

Balloons!!
Balloons!

Making a wish
Note the T-Rex piñata in the background 
and the dinosaur themed cutlery

Sophie's request- chocolate cakes with purple stars
As requested

Almost all the credit has to go to my sisters who made sure that Sophie got everything she wanted- Sam painstakingly handmade the purple stars that adorned Sophie's vegan chocolate cake (thanks, Delcie's Cakes!) and her giant present (more on that in another post) and Sherri picked out all the dinosaur decorations, the piñata, and the balloons.

It was a small family affair since we are technically still in mourning; in fact, we celebrated Sophie's birthday a day late since it was my grandfather's funeral on her actual birthday. But Sophie was none the wiser of course- all that mattered was that she got everything she asked for and was just happy relishing the family love (her first birthday with the grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousin!).

After a really sad week for the family, it was nice to bask in some happy vibes again... Happy birthday again, our sweet sweet Sophie. And thank you for cheering us all up with your boundless birthday joy!

More photos here.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Writing a eulogy is hard; writing a eulogy for a grandfather is even harder...
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
- Mary Elizabeth Frye

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Up and down bus

You would have thought I had brought her on the most amazing carnival ride ever, or that we were sitting in a fancy space shuttle ready to take off on some fantastic journey. And to a three year old who until a week ago, had never seen a double-decker bus, sitting right in front on the upper deck probably elicits the same level of thrill and excitement :)

On the front row of the upper deck of the a double-decker bus
Sitting  right up front on the upper deck

Sophie calls it the "up and down bus" and we rode on it yesterday, fully intending to visit the library to get her a library card. But no, Sophie had such a wonderful time sitting where she was and seeing what she was seeing from the vantage point that there was no way she was getting off before she was ready. And so we ended up bypassing the library and taking the bus all the way to my parents' instead, 45 minutes away from our hotel. Thankfully it was all on the same bus line.

You should have seen and heard Sophie-

"We get to sit on a double-decker bus- that makes me smile!"

"You can call me Bus-driver Sophie! Hi! Nice to meet you!"

"Ok everybody, no squirming on the bus! Put your bottoms on the seat, please!"

"Oh look, Mama- the cars look like toys. And I'm on a giant bus!"

"Oh hi, Mr Bus-driver- thank you for taking me to my Por Por's house."


Throughout the ride, she alternated between pretending to drive the "upstairs bus" and hanging on to the edge of the window because something new caught her attention outside-- some billboard of some sort, an interesting looking building, the MRT train zooming close-by, etc. It was probably 45 of the most exciting minutes she's had in Singapore; and that made me smile. I'm glad Sophie is so curious about her new home and how open she is to all the new experiences and sensations. One day, she'll eventually take riding on a double-decker bus for granted-- just as many of us do-- but until then, I'm happy to just sit back, watch her revel in her newfound love for public transportation, and pray that it lasts for a long, long time :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Homecoming is sweet

The sun's been unforgiving, jet lag lingers, and I still miss our car.

But being bathed with love does have the tendency to take the edge of things like that :) It's been a wonderful homecoming and as it gradually sinks in that we've moved back to Singapore permanently-- you mean, I don't have to cram every family commitment, social engagement, and food imperative into 20 days??-- it's also slowly feeling more and more like we've made the right decision. In particular, Sophie is SO happy to be here. She wakes up with a smile every morning, asking if she's going to see one set of grandparents or the other today; her face lights up with delight when she's informed that she will indeed be; and she's been so curious and accepting of all the new sights and sounds she's encountered just in the last three days alone. She waves at everyone she sees, asks about the plants she's never seen before, is immensely thrilled by the prospect of one day riding on a double-decker bus ("How do they get up there, Mama?" she asks, eyes widening in amazement...), and asks to translate everything into Chinese, which she seems to recognize as the second most widely spoken language in Singapore.

She still thinks her friends and teachers from daycare are "on their way here"-- I think she didn't really get the whole goodbye Gretchen's House part-- but apart from that, we couldn't have asked for a more wholehearted embrace of Singapore from her. The real test will be when she starts school of course, but until then, we're pretty confident that she's loving her new home as much as we could have hoped for her to :)

Cousin love with Julianne!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our last day

View of the Pacific Ocean from Highway 1
View of the Pacific Ocean from Highway 1

In the end, it was a fitting way to end our last whole day in the U.S. Of all the things we will miss about this country-- and Northern California in particular-- this is one of the most significant- the breathtaking vision of the Pacific Ocean from Highway 1. There's something in that wild, untameable, almost violent oceanscape that gets me every time, a profound reminder almost, that Life is larger than our immediate cares. Which is sort of how we're viewing the next stage of our lives in Singapore-- the end of one adventure merely signifies the beginning of another; and another will follow after. As our friend, Rachael reminded us today, "Life is long."

The next time I blog, we will be several time zones away. We will miss our life here in the U.S. but a new exciting adventure beckons us in Singapore. We are looking forward to being with family, to reconnect with old friends, and to build a home in a country that hasn't really felt like home for nine years now...

Here's to finding our New Normal.

Monday, July 16, 2012

How we spent our last 36 hours in Ann Arbor

Saturday
1. Jude and Sophie spent the morning at the Hands-On Museum: We've spent so much time here with Sophie over the years, the attendants at the front desk don't even bother checking our membership card anymore when we visit.
2. Final drop-off at the Salvation Army: I've lost count of how many boxes we've taken to them. Every time we think we've brought our last box, we find enough things to fill another...
3. Gave Tempest a final car wash: It deserved it and we wanted to hand it over to Dan and Wendy in as clean a condition as we could get it.
4. Spent the rest of the day with the people we love and hold dear in Ann Arbor: thank you everyone for braving the scorching heat and coming to our farewell party. Thank you for your kind words, hugs, kisses, tears, and years of friendship. You mean more to us than you can ever imagine. Thank you also for being so enthusiastic about our white elephant game and taking a little piece of us with you, whether it was a bag of binder clips, dishwashing detergent, or batteries :)
5. Did our last load of laundry in Ann Arbor: And as a result, slept at 1.30am getting packing done.

Sunday
1. Woke up early to do last minute packing.
2. Threw last bulk of trash (including everything that was left in the fridge, bathroom, and basement)
3. Stripped our bed and sent it off with a friend who thankfully allowed us a final night on a proper bed instead of on our quilts or an inflatable bed like we thought we'd have to.
4. Said our last goodbyes to our neighbors: we had an impromptu breakfast in our shared backyard and it was really really nice.
5. Made sure the cleaning lady came and left our keys with her. It was hard handing over the keys to a place you've called home for the past 8 years.
6. Had lunch at Zingerman's. But of course. We had our favorite #13- grilled Sherman's Sure Choice (corned beef, coleslaw, and white cheddar, and a side of mac & cheese. That really made leaving Ann Arbor even harder. Jude likened it to breaking up- "Really, it's not you; it's me."
7. Spent the next couple of hours with the Cooney-Flanigans at their house: we made/ate popcorn, Sophie got in some quality Julianne time (even got to see Ginny, their cat, who she adores), and we just talked. Like it was any other visit we've paid to them. Except it wasn't. Saying goodbye to them was tough- together with the Cooks, they've been the closest thing to family we had in Ann Arbor. And having had them all in our lives these past 9 years has been nothing but a complete privilege. We've been so blessed...

There's an Ann Arbor-shaped place in our hearts that no other city will fill. Bye bye A2- you have NO idea how much you'll be missed.

Bye, house!!