Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"When I get older..."

I can eat spicy food.

I will be a doctor and drive the ambulance.

I can eat cheese.

I will cook for you and Dada so much food!

I will read a book all by myself.

I can drive a firetruck.

I will go to work too.

I will wear Mama shoes.

I will drink fizzy water.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The First Purge

The First Purge
Nine bags of clothes off to the Salvation Army

You wouldn't think that packing up and giving away nine bags of clothes would be hard. But it was. Part of it was plain depressing, looking at the clothes and thinking, "Man... I used to fit into these?" Then there was a little bit of wistfulness, "Oh, I remember where I got those pants...". And of course some relief (particularly with some ratty thermal long johns), "Well, we're not going to you in Singapore."

Since we're going to need to purge before we actually start packing, we foresee many more trips to the Salvation Army and Kiwanis in our future. Clothes are one thing- thinking about furniture and kitchenware is something else. Oh, and did I mention we have a basement? A basement which has always been so useful but has now become a source of trepidation precisely because it has always been so useful. It was a place we would stow away things we didn't want to have to think about (camping gear, Sophie's "too-small" clothes, Sophie's "too-big" clothes, off-season shoes and coats, boxes and boxes and boxes which contain things I don't even remember owning anymore...)

We have about 5 weeks. Let's see this whole packing/moving business drive me completely batty.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Say cheese!

It started out better than I could have imagined- Sophie was SO excited for her first visit to the dentist and told anyone who would listen-- her teachers, her friends, the office manager at her daycare, etc-- her great "adventure" ahead. We had been reading The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist as recommended by the pediatric dentist and it definitely helped to get her prepared for what to expect when we got there. I also made sure to tell Sophie how I enjoy going to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned (I wasn't just saying it, I really do like seeing my dental hygienist for my regular checks) so she could see that going to the dentist isn't anything to be anxious about.

And so from the moment I picked her up from school to us sitting in the waiting area at the dentist's office, you really would not have seen a happier child going to the dentist- you would have thought she was going to the circus! She said 'hi' to the nurses when we walked in, showed them her Berestain Bears book, and even bragged about how she brushes her teeth all by herself (she doesn't, she just likes to think she does). I couldn't have been more proud...

Even when we entered the examination room, Sophie was still really excited and curious- she asked the nurses about the "tools", just like she had read in her book and happily picked out a free toothbrush that the dentist would later use to show us how to properly brush her teeth. And then, it happened. They asked her to sit in the dentist chair and it was straight downhill from there- screaming, crying, flailing, big fat rolling tears- everything you DON'T WANT a first dental vist to be like :( I ended up having to hold her in my lap facing me, legs around my waist, lying back across the dentist's lap. To make things worse, the dentist then tried flossing Sophie's teeth (with what I guess was flavored with menthol/mint), at which point the poor girl started shouting plaintively, "No! No! It's spicy! I don't want spicy!!! Noooooo!!!"

The dentist was amazing though and actually managed to complete the check-up despite the catastrophic meltdown- all 20 baby teeth are in and accounted for (yay!), teeth are in perfect condition (yay!), and no cavities (yay!). Which meant Sophie got her name put in the No Cavity Club where at the end of each month, one name will be drawn and the child picked will receive either a Beanie Baby or a gift card to our local bookstore. How awesome is that?

Just as quickly as she descended into her epic freak-out, Sophie snapped right back to her happy irrepressible self the moment the check-up was over. I asked her later if she had been afraid of the dentist and she said 'no' (thank you, Berestain Bears!)- apparently, what made her cry was lying in that chair alone. I told her she could bring one of her stuffed toys along the next time and that made her break out into a huge smile- "Can I bring DoDo (her teddy bear)? Oh no, that's not a good idea. DoDo has no teeth! He has fur!! Silly Sophie!!"

First dental appointment!!
With Dr. Amy, the calm AFTER the storm...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Random daycare daily report #31

Showing us the painting she made for us 
This morning, Sophie made you a beautiful work of art (although for now, it's hanging on our wall). She was making a sponge painting and saying, "I'm making this for my Mama and Dada." Wesley asked, "Why?" and Sophie replied, "Because they always love what I make." :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


After almost a decade away, we are returning to Singapore.

It was not an easy or uncomplicated decision to make but it has been the perfect storm of factors and we think this is the right thing to do for now. Jude has been made a very generous job offer that we couldn't turn down and the research prospects in Singapore appear much more promising for me than they are here in the U.S. More importantly, when we asked Sophie if she'd rather stay in Ann Arbor or go back to Singapore, she batted nary an eyelid and replied, "I want to go to Singapore." I think she has very fond and vivid memories of when we were home over Christmas and is really looking forward to reliving them again. She talks about her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her cousins, and all the things she remembers seeing and doing- she's ready to leave right now if we'd let her :) I doubt she understands the magnitude or permanence of this move but she's happy about the prospect and I guess that's more than we can ask of her right now. And of course, there's our families, who couldn't be more ecstatic about our decision. The happy vibes that were jumping right out of Skype when we broke the news to them could probably generate enough electricity to power a small country :)

We're going to miss Ann Arbor in so many ways- this is after all where Jude and I shared our first home, bought our first car, started and completed grad school, and had our child. And where Sophie is concerned, Ann Arbor has given her just about the most blessed childhood we could have asked for her. It has given her great caregivers and friends, taught her about seasons, and inculcated in her a love for and curiosity about nature and the great outdoors. Ann Arbor made it possible for us to expose her to the array of intellectually and culturally-rich experiences that have shaped her early years. Singapore will do the same as she moves past toddlerhood, but in different ways, and it'll be quite the adventure for all of us.

We recognize that we'll be going home with some degree of privilege-- not of money or status-- but of experience. The last nine years here has influenced us tremendously in the way we now think, behave, and make decisions. And we want to use that experience to do good. To be good. That is what makes me hopeful about this next stage of our lives- that by going home, we can be of greater service than if we stayed here, that we can better contribute to something larger than ourselves, put something out into the ether that was not there before us.

But for now, there are more modest concerns that occupy us- purging and packing up the house, figuring out the details of the move, and dealing with mundane things like car payments, loans, credit cards, etc. Basically, we're slowly erasing the traces of our life here in the U.S. and re-carving one in Singapore.

See you in August, Singapore.

Sunset at MacRitchie
Sunset at MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Random daycare daily report #30

Our daughter, the firetruck groupie...

Firetruck visits Gretchen's House
The firetruck visits daycare!
You were right, Sophie was pretty thrilled about the fire truck visit. The kids were a little nervous that the siren might sound, but Sophie wasn't going to let that slow her down. Before we left the room, she slapped on a set of headphones, just in case, and she was good to go. When the firefighter asked if anyone wanted to get in the truck, most of the kids said no and scooted away. But not Sophie. She said, "I do!" and let the firefighter pick her up and put her on the truck :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I really don't know clouds at all

Our outdoor girl
Girl on grass

This was Sophie this evening in our backyard as Jude was firing up the grill for dinner. She spent a good 10 minutes rolling around the grass, sometimes lying still and just starring up into the sky. I asked her later why she was lying on the grass.

"I was watching the clouds go by."

How very Joni Mitchell of our daughter :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Random daycare daily report #29

Sophie's Mothers' Day present to me from daycare
Sophie's Mothers' Day present to me from daycare
Sophie had a terrific day. This morning, she wanted me to rock her like a baby. It doesn't seem like that long ago that I *was* rocking her to sleep. Sophie loves for me to tell her stories about when she was in the baby room and I love that I've known her long enough that I can tell her those stories :) Have a wonderful Mothers' Day. You have one fantastic kid!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Random daycare daily report #28

Sophie is really excited for the month of June. She keeps telling me that Dada's birthday is in June, then she will go to Preschool. Sophie also informs me that on Dada's birthday, she will have to help him blow out the candles because there will be [arms thrown out wide] "sooooooooooo many!"
Helping dad blow out the candle ...
Jude's birthday in 2010

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Blown away

[click for photo album]
1. Our loft apartment for the next 5 days, 2. Crown Fountain, 3. Shedd Aquarium, 4. With Dada, 5. Sophie's first bacon!, 6. Mini paleontologists , 7. Beautiful brides, 8. Sophie & Uncle Han :), 9. Beginning of the 4-hour solo drive back to Ann Arbor

And we're back from our Windy City vacation and it was wonderful. We all had a blast of a time and it was beautifully memorable for a whole host of reasons. We have always loved Chicago and even though Sophie's been there two other times (once when she was 8 months old and the other when she was 14 months), this is the first time she will probably remember any of the things we've seen or done.

One of her favorite books has always been Good Night Chicago (that we bought during one of those earlier trips) and ever since we knew we were taking this holiday, Jude and I have been highlighting to Sophie the different things in the book we would be doing with her. We brought the book around with us throughout the trip and whenever we were someplace highlighted in there (like the aquarium, or Millennium Park, or a Cubs game), we'd whip it out and show her the page. I think having a pictorial checklist of sorts was particularly exciting for her :)

Some highlights:
1) Thanks to, we scored a bright, airy, eclectic, and beautiful loft apartment in the city (with internet and parking included) for a fraction of what it would cost to stay in a hotel. The location was unbeatable and we were always just five to ten minutes away from anywhere we wanted to go.

2) Just like the children in her book, Sophie wanted to walk bare feet in the waters of the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park. We did, and she was thrilled.

3) Sophie loves sea creatures. Always has. And there was no way we were going to miss out on the Shedd Aquarium. I cannot describe to you how happy she was all day that day. All she could talk about was the dolphins, and jellyfish, and seahorses she saw, the beluga whales in their huge pools, and the aquatic show that just awed her so completely. You would not have found a happier two-year-old that day.

4) Sophie attended her first baseball game, at a good 'ole traditional ballpark no less! Complete with baseball cap and ballpark hotdog. The Cubs were playing the L.A. Dodgers and although we didn't stay for the whole game (it got too cold), it was definitely quite an experience for Sophie. She even got an official "My First Game" certificate from the folks at Wrigley Field to commemorate the event!

5) Sophie's first taste of bacon (at nana). 'Nuff said- it was an important day :)

6) Another highlight was definitely the dinosaur exhibit at the Chicago Children's Museum. Designed to be a faux excavation site, the children could pretend to be mini paleontologists digging for dinosaur bones. Sophie took the task very seriously and was determined to "dig" up at least the dinosaur's tail before she would leave the exhibit.

7) The main reason we were in Chicago was to celebrate the wedding of our good friends, Libby and Naomi. It was a beautiful ceremony and there was much happy crying all round. Sophie remembers them fondly from when they visited us last year, and so she's been looking forward to the wedding for a long time (mostly because so she could wear her sparkly purple sneakers). They are two of our favorite people in the world and we're just so happy that we could share in their special day.

8) By sheer coincidence, my uncle happened to be in Chicago for a food convention. Sophie and I met up with him for a delicious brunch at sola and it so nice to be able to catch up with family even if it was only for a couple of hours.

9) Jude left for a conference early yesterday morning so I had to drive back to Ann Arbor with Sophie on my own. Let's just say, it was exhausting being engaging, answering questions, telling stories, and singing songs, all the while trying to maintain a 75mph speed limit and keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you... For four hours. Thank god for Sirius satellite radio, the Muppets soundtrack, and a venti Pike Place coffee from Starbucks.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Pancakes, Pancakes

So this is our new favorite bedtime story and has been for the past week or so. Sophie goes through phases and we never really know when or why she becomes fixated with a particular book. But we're not complaining, particularly when it's a fun book like Pancakes, Pancakes, which is about a boy who craves a big pancake for breakfast and has to go through an entire process-- from threshing the wheat to milking the cow-- to get the different ingredients. I think it's good for Sophie to know that food doesn't just appear on your table and that there is a process by which it gets there.

And so, to make things a little more fun, we decided to make pancakes yesterday morning. I showed her all the different things that go into her pancake and we talked about how different they are from the story. No eggs, butter, and milk for us, but there was soy milk, baking powder, and oil. I asked her to choose between strawberry jam that the boy in the book had or chocolate chips, and of course, the wise toddler chose chocolate :) And while I was making the pancakes in the kitchen, she sat and read the book with Jude:

Reading Pancakes, Pancakes in anticipation
In anticipation of breakfast

Thanks to this really easy recipe, it didn't take long for yummy, fluffy pancakes to reach the breakfast table:

And breakfast, is served
Pancakes, Pancakes!

I think Sophie was sufficiently pleased- she was silent the whole time, carefully chewing and savoring the melty chocolate chips, and finished the entire pancake in less than 10 minutes.

And then went right back to reading Pancakes, Pancakes just to complete the experience :)