When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


12/25/14

#ChristmasFail

To all you parents, shaking your heads tonight, wondering where you went wrong,

I get it.  I feel your pain.  I am here to write about our no-so-perfect Christmas experience.  Because while I believe there are many very happy Christmas's out there, I don't happen to believe they are all as perfect as Facebook or Pinterest would have one believe.

We had an unhappy camper this year.  I won't say which child, but I will say it was devastating.  I was not as upset about getting the "wrong" gift as I was about said child's reaction.  While they were not rude or mean, the fact that they were upset at all was appalling.  Hadn't they just opened some really expensive gifts that they had requested?  Were they really going to get bent out of shape because every gift wasn't perfect or just what they had wanted?

I was mad.  No, seething, is a better word.  Seriously?!  I realize they still believe in Santa and therefore don't know exactly how much work went into Christmas this year (and being overseas, it was a tough year to gather presents).  But, seriously?!   Visions of a giant burn pile danced in my head.  Don't like your toys?  Well, at least we'll have a nice, festive fire tonight!  Marshmallows, anyone?  (That was my internal dialogue.  I didn't actually threaten to burn the toys, I just fantasized about it.)  Then I launched into the Don't-you-know-there-are-children-with-no-Christmas-presents-this-year speech, which in hindsight was not the wisest move.  What about Santa?  Doesn't he give them toys?  Don't argue with me when I'm disciplining you!  
*Sigh*  What was wrong with them?

That question quickly morphed into:  What was wrong with me?  Where had we gone wrong in our parenting?  How had I raised such ingrates?  Had I ruined them?

I've decided to chalk this year up to a learning experience.  It's an opportunity to change our family culture.  Yes, my kids are young, but there are concrete ways in which I can introduce them to the fact that there is much need in this world.  They can learn to be grateful, and they can be taught to serve.  I can start by modeling gratitude myself and limiting complaints.  

I'm still a realist.  While I am sincerely hoping next year will be better (in terms of the attitudes and hearts of our children and ourselves), I still have some dire predictions about next year's Christmas season….

26 hours of travel with a high probability of someone vomiting, having diarrhea, or both.  100% chance of snot, lots of snot.

Bringing the wrong clothes, not having enough clothes, feeling cold, and wishing we were back "home" in Singapore, swimming.

Sleepless nights as we cram into a) hotel rooms or b) family guest rooms.

Forgetting gifts for relatives, last minute shopping, overspending.

One (or more) of our children complaining about a gift from a relative in the relative's presence (despite much advance coaching, bargaining, and threatening).

Schlepping Christmas pr├ęsents back home.

Merry Christmas, moms and dads out there!  Only 365 days left...






 



Christmas 2014

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"  This Charlie Brown quote has been haunting me for the last month.  

I feel like life is like a cartoon right now.  The old kind where the character would dig to China only to find everything is turned upside down.  Yup.  That's a little what it's like.

Christmas, in particular, has been disconcerting.  Everything to do with Christmas seems to have gone awry.  It has made me seriously call in to question just what Christmas IS about.

I can tell you what it's not about…

The decorations.  Ours missed the boat and are (hopefully) in storage somewhere.  So we went to Ikea and got the picked-over cheap ones. 

The tree.  We ordered a relatively small artificial tree before we left the States, unsure about the availability of live trees.  The picture on the box looked promising.  The reality was pretty sad.  Take away our collection of ornaments (in storage), add some cheap Ikea balls (only to the top 1/3, as the baby launches the ones on the bottom), and voila!  Crap.

The gifts.  Some of the gifts I really wanted to order would have cost an arm and a leg for shipping, and you just can't find them here.  However, the culture here would have you believe that all your dreams come true in the shopping malls.  One huge sign read: Make luxury a habit.  Another: You CAN buy happiness.  Ugh.

The weather.  Most versions of the song White Christmas omit the opening stanza: "The sun is shining.  The grass is green.  The orange and palm trees sway.  There's never been such a day in Beverly Hills L.A.  But it's December the 24th, and I am longing to be up north."  A.Men.  The weather here is gorgeous.  It's a tropical paradise.  But it sure doesn't feel like Christmas.  


Even the church service.  This year we headed to church in the hopes of capturing the Christmas spirit.  I wanted carols, quiet, a poignant message.  I should have known it would be a disaster before we left the house.  Everyone was melting down.  Crying, complaining, tired after having been allowed to stay up too late the night before.  We arrived at church and noticed the children's section was closed.  We were handed candles and headed for the back.  As we waited for the service to begin, the kids were crying, flopping around in their chairs like beached sea creatures, and visions of our candle-holding hellions burning the church down danced in my head.  We left.  Before the fist song began, we scuttled out of there and into the van again, tears in all of our eyes. 

What was missing??

I was searching in all the wrong places.  I was searching for a feeling, a familiar scene, the perfect holiday tune.  I had taken Christ out of Christmas.  For weeks I had been drilling the message that Jesus was "the reason for the season" into the kids heads, but my words were not matching my actions.  Instead of making an effort to serve others, I was catching buses and carrying bags all over Singapore in search of the perfect gifts (which, given the reactions Christmas morning, apparently were not found).  I was up all night online arguing with Amazon over shipping prices instead of reading the Word with the kids.  

The only time Christmas felt remotely like Christmas was when I headed to a friend's house to collect my wallet.  I had left it there the night before when we hastily left the Christmas Eve party because our kids were falling apart.  I was frustrated with myself for misplacing something so important, for interrupting my friend's Christmas day, with my kids for freaking out and requiring a quick exit.  

But, ahhh, the quiet of an empty van.  Suddenly I was alone but not alone.  I was able to pour my heart out.  I am sad, Lord, I cried.  I am sad to be away from family on such a family-centered time of year.  I am sad that it is not cold and snowy and Christmas-y.  I miss the familiar.  

At the same time, I was thankful.  I was thankful that it had all been stripped away for once.  That I could examine my heart and decide: Would I truly practice what I preached?  Could I blame my kids for being ungrateful because they weren't totally thrilled with 100% of their gifts?  They were looking at me.  I was literally surrounded by blessings and whining because it wasn't exactly what I was used to.  It wasn't exactly as I had hoped.

I am truly glad for this experience.  Moving here I was worried my kids would be robbed of certain American experiences.  For once, I think it's a good thing.  I want them to know Christmas is not all about us and getting exactly what we want.  It's about appreciating the perfect gift that was given to the whole world and recognizing that without Him, there would be no reason to celebrate.  So, thank you, Jesus.  Thank you for leaving your perfect, beautiful, familiar throne, to be born in a humble manger so we could learn how to love and serve.  Thank you.

Wishing you all a merry Christmas.


12/21/14

Radio Silence

I realize I haven't blogged much lately.  I am still attempting to make sense of our new life.  So much has changed, and I am trying to figure out my role.

I know it sounds crazy.  How could so much change with a simple geographical move?  But nevertheless, it has.  Allow me to try to explain…

When I became a stay at home mom, I was out of sorts.  I had been used to a very structured, productive day.  I received professional feedback, had regular paychecks, and enjoyed lovely dinners with my husband.  Then we had our first baby, moved across the country, and I decided to stay home.  Of course, my world was turned upside down.  It took me a long time to feel "normal" again.  I actually felt better after our second baby was born 18 months later.  I found my routines.  I felt useful.

And here I am again.  Only this time, we moved across the world.  My roles and routines, so clearly defined after having four children, are all askew again.  Many of my daily responsibilities have disappeared.  I still buy the food, give the baths, help with homework, wipe the tushes, cut the hair, but my other jobs have been outsourced.

In Singapore, they call live-in domestic employees "helpers."  Fairly Godmother would be a more apt title.  I haven't written about the experience much for two reasons.  One is that I want to respect her privacy.  The other is that I still feel uncomfortable on some level about having help.

I am unworthy of this gift.  I wish I could somehow share this blessing with all of my hard-working friends and family back home.  I just feel weird, like a First Lady who was simply a wife/mother/employee one day, and the next, someone's washing her underwear.  Weird!

Another reason I haven't written much is that we have been traveling a lot.  I am torn.  I don't want to brag.  I feel like if I put travel blog post or pictures on Facebook, I would be tempted to feel prideful about them.  At the same time, I really want to record these experiences.

For years our "family vacations" consisted of camping out.  We loved it!  Some of our best memories were made watching babies crawl around muddy campsites and roasting marshmallows. These days, vacations are very different.  Aaron's work allows us one paid trip home per year.  If we choose to spend those dollars on other trips, that's okay.  It's not that we don't want to come home.  We have four children ages 7 and under.  A 23 hour travel day is not something we wish to endure right now.  So, instead, we've been exploring closer Asian islands.

I want to share those experiences, but I don't want folks to get the wrong impression.  We're still the Rausch's.  We buy our appliances at the secondhand store here, and I love to find a deal at the Japanese dollar (well $2) store.  We have half a reindeer minivan.  (Jack rolled down his window and we lost an antler on the expressway and we're too cheap to replace it.)  I ask visitors to pack items in their suitcases I refuse to buy here (cosmetics, sunscreen, etc.) because they are so over-priced.

This is our life right now.  It's wonderful and weird.  It's still messy (since many Asian bathrooms don't have changing tables and the cuisine doesn't always agree with Caleb's tummy).  I hope you'll still come along for the ride.  I hope you'll enjoy the stories about our travels and know that I wish you were right here beside me the whole time.




12/11/14

Gone!

I lost two kids today.  Caleb and Jack.  Gone.

It had been a hectic morning.  Where's my uniform shirt?  Am I supposed to wear red shorts today?  Are we going to get to school early so I can play like when I ride the bus?

We arrived so early, in fact, we had front row seats in the auditorium.  Front row seats with a 3 year old and 1 year old, hmmm …  I informed Jack before the show started that if Caleb began to cry I would exit to the right and that he was to follow me without a peep.  Perfect plan, right?

Needless to say we spent the entire program in the back of the auditorium, where Caleb cried and thrashed and I hissed at Jack to stop stomping up and down the risers.  Caleb's wails were so loud at one point that I stepped outside a nearby door.  Only to learn that it locked behind me.  With Jack still inside.  Ugh!  I raced around the auditorium, slipped back in and crouch-walked my way past camcorders to where Jack was still (thankfully) sitting.

By the time we got back to Parker's classroom for the tea and cookies, I felt as though I'd run a marathon.  Dispensing insane amounts of sugar to my three boys, I sighed with relief and allowed myself to relax and socialize with some of the parents.  I was so proud of my guys.  Parker was helping Jack with his candy wrappers; Caleb was toddling contentedly behind them.  The classroom was filled with parents, children, and festive decorations.  Christmas music was playing.  It was wonderful.  I met one of Parker's classmate's parents with their newborn baby.  Did I want to hold him?  Um, is the Pope Catholic?

So there I am, precious newborn babe in my arms, chatting it up with the parents, when I look around and notice I don't see Caleb or Jack.  Hmmm…I bent to look under tables.  Surely they were behind that couch.  Under a desk?  They can't open the doors, can they?  No one would have allowed them out, right?

I handed the sweet baby back and fought the panic rising in my chest.  "Jack?"  "Caleb?!"  "Has anyone seen my one year old and three year old?"  Blank stares.  "I'm not going to freak out," I squeaked.

I hastily kissed Parker goodbye and hightailed it out of the classroom frantically searching the halls.  A teacher at the end of the hall wearing a Santa hat and smile said, "Oh the boys in the striped shirts?  They're with ______ (in my panic I neither heard nor cared about the name)."  I raced down the hall in the direction he pointed.  Dead end.  I ran back to the teacher, heart pounding.  "Oh," he said absently, "I'm sure they probably took them to the front office…"

More running.  Darn you double stroller and slow elevator!  I burst through the door to the office to see the boys happily wandering around, staff smiling.

"I'm so sorry!" I panted.  "I-I didn't realize they got out - could get out!  I-"
I swooped them into my arms and kissed their faces.   Then to Jack, "How did you get out?  Did you open the door?  Did you let Caleb out??"

"I jus wanted go in the hallway.  I'm jus sorry, momma."

Never have I been more grateful to live in Singapore.  Some call it "Disney with the Death Penalty."  It is beautiful, clean, and thanks to their extremely harsh punishments for breaking the laws, it is ridiculously safe.

No one was at all concerned that I had misplaced two very young children.  What?!  For once I was grateful I wasn't in the States.  That said, I am pretty sure I am going to need to put Jack and Caleb on leashes when we are in public.  Sheesh!  

12/3/14

To My Big Birthday Girl

Dearest Maddie,

I have put off writing your birthday post.  For over a month.  I didn't forget.  I wasn't too busy.  I was waiting... for the perfect post.  Then I realized, that post was not coming.

You see, in my head, I had planned to create at least 18 blog posts documenting your perfect birthdays.  Friends, family, beautiful decorations.  All-American birthdays with candles and cakes, and everyone smiling.

The truth is, this year was very different.  Not better, not worse; just different.  For starters, we moved from temporary housing (where we'd been for our first 2 months in Singapore) into our permanent home on your actual birthday.  Boxes and movers everywhere.  Since the muffin tins were still packed, I couldn't bake your cupcakes for school this year.  Instead I brought donuts.  You were ecstatic.

Grammy arrived that night around 1AM.  Early Friday morning before school you ripped open your presents from Grammy and Aunt Natalie and Uncle John.  You also opened gifts from Pappy, Grandma and Grandpa, and mom and dad.  You couldn't wait to get home from school to play with them!  (Of course, you couldn't play for very long because it was Halloween after all, and even toys can't stand in the way of sugar!)

Months before our move, when we first learned we would be living in Singapore, you immediately began to beg for a birthday party on the beach.  Halloween took up one weekend, the next we were traveling to Borneo, so your party was a few weeks late.  We took a family picnic dinner to the beach, with cupcakes, and tons of icing and sprinkles, so you could decorate your own.  We sang happy birthday and built sand castles as the sun sank low in the sky.  Palm trees and wild ostriches were your decorations this year.

Recently you received your first party invitation to a classmate's birthday celebration.  The agenda was quite creative and elaborate.  My heart sank just a bit.  I vowed to wait until I could throw such a party for you before writing your post.

But time marches on.  You are growing older and more lovely each day.  I can't wait for the "perfect" moment or party to document our lives.  You were perfectly content with your non-traditional birthday celebrations.  So I will be, too.

You find joy in so many things I tend to overlook.  I hear you excitedly teaching your younger brothers words and letters and giving them stickers for their efforts.  You notice and carefully collect fallen flowers along the sidewalk.  You constantly think of others, drawing pictures for them, making bead necklaces, or even giving your toys away.

We have our moments where we lock horns (particularly in the mornings when you don't want your hair brushed or sunscreen applied).  We yell.  But we also hug.  We make up.  We squeeze hands three times to silently say "I-love-you."  You still want to be carried, and girlfriend, you have some heavy bones, but I will gladly lift them up and carry you as long as you ask.

Sweet Maddie, thank you for being you.  For being thankful.  For being my darling little 6 year old girl.







10/23/14

On a positive note...


Today was a great day on so many levels!  First, I left a group on a social media site that was creating a ton of negativity in my life.  I had joined the group to obtain information about the expat community in my new home, and to be fair, I did learn some very useful things.  However, on the whole, it was not good for me.  I allowed the "squeaky wheels" to color my view of all Singapore expats.

No more!  I will happily find my new friends one face-to-face encounter at a time.  I spent the entire day today with some awesome expats.  We went on an outing to the Gardens by the Bay children's park.  The park was truly incredible.  I've been to spray grounds before but none exactly like this.  It was huge!  Music was playing, and the kids were having so much fun, I decided to join in - fully clothed!


Then we went up inside these enormous tree-like structures crawling with beautiful vines and flowers and walked across a suspension skybridge for a gorgeous view of the city.




We finished with lunch and ice cream for the kids.  I didn't even get lost on the way home.  So thankful for such a positive day!

P.S. For those of you who might have been wondering, I never felt slighted or judged by anyone here.  My previous entries reflected my frustrations about expat comments regarding the treatment of their helpers (which I viewed as incredibly prejudiced and ugly).  In my pride, I, too, unfairly judged an entire group of people.





10/22/14

To my friends back home

To my dear, dear friends and family,

I.miss.you.  I know, I know; it takes time to develop true, close, lasting friendships.  Blah, blah, blah.  In our Amazon-Prime-2-day-free-shipping world, I was kind of hoping I could just place an order, and *poof* intsta-friend would be on my doorstep.

Don't get me wrong, I have met some really nice people here, and we are beginning to become friends.  It just takes time.  And at times like this, I want you all back.  I want to curl up on your couch and have a cup of tea.  I want to sit around a sticky table littered with Crayola masterpieces and chat.  I want to have you you over for a big cookout and offer this toast:

To those of you who refuse to gossip and tear others down, thank you for teaching me what it means to be a woman of character.  To those cheerleaders who listen and smile and don't participate in one-upsmanship, thank you for showing me how to be happy for others.  To those could care less about the size of my home, the brand of clothes my kids wear, and the number of cars in my driveway, thank you for teaching me that a person's worth is never tied to her bank account.  To those who scrimp and save and work the long hours to put a decent meal on the table for your family, thank you for demonstrating there is no shame in getting your hands dirty.  To those of you who take the time to make eye contact with those who serve you and call them by name, thank you for reminding me that everyone matters.  To those who humbly serve others week in and week out, thank you for reminding me there is a hurting world just outside the doors of our cozy homes.  To those who introduced me to Jesus, thank you for taking the risk and saving my life.

Friends, I miss your honesty, compassion, love, humility, grace, and generosity.  I am so thankful God allowed you to touch my life.  I hope one day I can introduce you to the new friends He provides in Singapore!

10/9/14

So much!

So much to blog, so little time.  I should be napping right now...

Both Jack and Caleb are asleep, and I am bone tired.  However I know that if I lie in bed, my mind will be swirling with half-written blog posts.  No, I haven't give up on my "Around the world in 80 days."  I simply have no time to write it.  We discover new things every day, and I usually snap a few photos, but that's the most I am able to do at the moment.

Aaron has been traveling this week, and even when he's home, he's not.  He gets pulled into late meetings or has late night phone calls with folks in the States (who are just starting their days).  Maddie started rehearsals for the Nutcracker.  I joined MOPS and a women's bible study.  We have had play dates with new friends.  The endless coin laundry in the basement continues....

But it's ok.  I'm ok.  At least, I'm getting there.  When the kids smash their fingers and toes in the huge, heavy wooden doors here (an every day occurrence - I promise I'm not exaggerating), I don't automatically tear up and wail, "I hate this place!"  When I send the wrong item to school (Is today the swimming pack, the library pack, the word folder, or the reading pouch?), I don't cry.  I have released my death grip on the steering wheel.  I can navigate that awful, ginormous underground mall.

Those changes have been great.  But the real saving grace always comes from the same source.  It's always God.  How wonderful it felt to be in His house, singing praises with tears on my cheeks.  To be reminded of my blessings.  To receive the love and support poured out by fellow believers.

It's so refreshing!  Though I am physically exhausted, my spirit has been renewed.  And I know things will only get better from here.  Pretty soon our helper will join us.  Then we will be moving into our own home.  Then we will be getting our things.  Then Grammy comes for a long visit (Yay!).    I feel like I'm finally getting my feet on the ground.  I'm looking forward to what God has planned next.

Will keep you posted when I can!  P.S. We miss you all!

10/1/14

Help!

Many moons ago my friend, Mandie, and I memorized the song "Help" and performed it for her mom (a huge Beatles fan) along with an undoubtedly well-choreographed dance routine.  These day, I hear those lyrics in my head nearly all the time...

"Help!  I need somebody.  Help!  Not just anybody.  Help!  You know I need someone.  He-eh-eh-eh-elp!"

That is how I feel all.the.time.  I never imagined a move overseas would throw me for such a loop.  Especially since we had averaged a move every 2 years for the last 14 years in the States.  I was a pro at moving, right?  WRONG!

I am good at moving within the U.S., no doubt about it.  Give me a week or so and we would have our church, library cards, and frequent shopper cards at the local grocer.  We would have cruised around in the minivan and found a few parks, registered for voting and school, and found a pediatrician, doctor and dentist.  You name it, I could get it done.  

And then we moved here.  To Singapore.  And it feels like another planet.  Prior to the move, every Singapore expat I met raved about how wonderful and beautiful and easy it was to live there.  I think they must be suffering from some sort of tropical amnesia.  Maybe it's just me, but I don't happen to find it easy at all. 

Everything is a process.  Banking, communication, government agencies, internet access, mail, shopping, transportation, doctors, school, parking.  Each aspect of life is suddenly filled with unexpected difficulties and delays.  Even play dates can bring me to tears, as I am inevitably 45 minutes late because I get lost every stinking time.  Every day is a learning experience, and this momma is downright exhausted.  

I never intended to raise four children in a big city.  Before kids, it was a lot easier to be adventurous.  With kids, give me the ease of the [boring] burbs any ol' day.  Give me huge, free parking lots and quiet streets with big, empty sidewalks.  Give me ramps and elevators for my strollers, reasonably priced food and drink, and well-marked public restrooms in every major store.  Give me some one-stop shopping!    

Now I know why people in big cities don't have large families.  Now I know why every single time we go out on the street we are a spectacle to behold, with people constantly asking, "Four?!"  

Yes!  Four!  Four children, people!  They are all mine.  Yes, I know it looks crazy.  It is crazy.

So is coin laundry in teeny tiny washers and dryers in the basement of our building.  Do you know how many loads of laundry this family creates every week?

Going to the grocery?  Always an adventure.  Not only is the food ridiculously overpriced (I'm talking $8 for a box of cereal!), but getting the groceries home is a challenge.  I even bought a rolling cart because the bags were so heavy.

Tonight I rushed through the kids' bedtime songs with tears in my eyes.  Because I desperately wanted to stay longer and cuddle with my babes, but I knew I couldn't.  Because I still had three loads of laundry to finish and businesses to call (that were just about to open in the U.S.), and email to finally check. "I'm sorry," I choked, "Mommy doesn't have any extra to give tonight." 

So here I am.  Exhausted and humbled.  Realizing I really, truly can't do it all.  If I were in the States, it would be a different story.  Here, I need help.  

We have decided to hire a domestic helper.  Wow!  Never thought in a million years I would write those words.  This from the girl who adopted her mother's motto: "If your house it too big for you to clean yourself, your house is too big!"

Well, mom, I'm crying, "Uncle!"  I can't do it here.  I just can't.  I have to let go of my pride and accept some help for now.  

Our decision is not just about the chores or errands.  Aaron's real travel schedule has yet to begin.  With his new job he will be traveling about 25% of the time.  He's never been gone that much.  I can't even imagine what evenings would be like alone here without another person in the house.  I don't want to.  What if a child had to be rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night?
  Who would stay with the kids?  

We interviewed a few candidates and settled on a sweet woman with a lovely disposition.  The kids seem to like her.  It will be interesting to see how we all adjust to another person living in our home.  I won't share her details on here to protect her privacy, just as I hope she won't share information about our family online.  

I felt I had to write about it a little bit anyway.  Hiring a helper, someone who will move into our home and be a part of our daily lives, seemed to be a pretty significant detail I couldn't leave out of our blog.  It's also good for my humility!  Will keep you posted!


9/27/14

Day 6 - East Coast Park

Aaron's company held a carnival to support the World Hunger Relief Program at a place called Big Splash at the East Coast Park today.  It was beautiful!  

We never saw the water park.  We knew Caleb wouldn't last long in the heat.  (Sure enough he was beet red in no time despite keeping him in the shade, hydrated, with a cooling towel around his shoulders.).  We stuck to the carnival - kite painting, dunking booth, balloon swords/guns/flowers, bouncy house, yummy food (Caleb loved the spring rolls!).  

We flew the kites in the field between the carnival and the sea.  Then the the older kids played in the Singapore Strait while super dad strolled Caleb (and the balloons and the kites and the leftover food and drinks) in the shade of the huge trees.  It was so neat to look out over the water and see huge cargo ships.  A perfect day...until it was time to leave, at which point everything and everyone fell apart.  Shocking, I know.

Despite the ugly exit, I'm certain we'll return.  Great park!



9/26/14

Days 4 and 5 - play dates!

I'm already falling down on the job of  photographing our adventures.  In my defense, Parker and Maddie have been off school the last two days, and it is rather hard, not to mention unsafe, to snap shots when you are driving or trying to help a bunch of kids cross a busy road.

That said, I did snap the shot below waiting at the world's longest traffic light.  Notice the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car.  Still getting used to that!  We were heading home from dropping Parker off at his first official Singapore play date.  It was with his "new best friend," Shin Hwe.  (Don't fret, Texas buddies!  Parker finds new best friends wherever we move, but he doesn't forget his old ones.  Just ask his best buds in Louisville!).  

I didn't notice much on the way, as my ears were straining to hear the GPS and my knuckles were turning white from my death grip on the steering wheel.  However, on the way home, I relaxed a bit and got my bearings.  I only got stuck in the roundabout for one full circle before I managed to escape.  Not too bad!



On day 5 we joined our new friends, Eelin and Deepti (and their daughters) on an excusion to visit a mall that sold books and art supplies.   Maddie was in hog heaven.  We bought some cheap used books and modeling clay.   It was fun but very hot.  The building had an open atrium design, and by lunchtime we were all ready for some airconditioning.  We walked to another mall with a huge indoor food court and had a delicious lunch.  One short train ride and we were home.  All in all, a very successful outing!

9/24/14

Day 3 - Lunch with Daddy

Caleb was in a fresh diaper and in my arms, ready to be lowered into the stroller when my phone rang.  We were just about to explore a specialty grocery store when Aaron invited us to join him for lunch.  It was a no-brainer.  He's been working late, and the kids and I missed him.  We've always met him at the office and gone to lunch when we could...in Seattle, Louisville, Dallas.  Why not Singapore?  (Now we know why not Singapore, but this morning at 11, we did not.)
"Just take a cab," Aaron suggested.  Trying desperately to retain some shred of frugality in this ridiculously expensive city, I shrugged off his suggestion.  "We can just take the MRT (subway); the boys are already set to go.  See you in a half hour."

I strapped Caleb in the baby carrier, a backpack on my back, and Jack in the umbrella stroller.  Away we went.  Busy city streets.  Down two sets of escalators ("Hop out, Jack!", fold the stroller, "Hold my hand!", down we go!) Through the tunnel.  Into that monstrous underground mall.  Through the subway gates.  Down another escalator (Repeat scenario above.). Onto the first train.  I won't bore you with all the details.  One more train and a million escalators and stairways later...we emerge into daylight.  

A few short blocks to Daddy's work.  Another few to the bridge allowing us to cross over the major road.  Up 3 flights, over, down. 

Food!  We ate in a huge food court inside the KK Women and Children's Hospital near* Aaron's work.  (I am learning *near is a relative term.). It was yummy!  We tried different noodles and sauces with chicken.  Caleb's favorite is still rice.  He wore most of it.  Afterward, I let him play in the kids' area while daddy took Jack for a special cupcake treat.  

Lunch was over way too soon.  Aaron had a meeting, so he walked us back across the bridge, and we decided to skip the escalators and wait for a bus.  It took us home in a very roundabout way, but we were able to see some of the city.

Whew!  Next time we'll take a cab!

9/23/14

Day 2 - Botanic Gardens

Today we were off on another adventure. It is so strange living downtown in a big city.  Some cities are described as concrete jungles.  Here you have a mix of concrete and actual jungle.  It is stunning!  Today we decided to explore the very large, very beautiful Botanic Gardens, a short 15 minute walk from our temporary housing.  

We were nearly there when I ran into a roadblock of sorts.  Construction was ahead.  Metal fences flanking the sidewalk warned: Danger: Keep Out - Work in Progress.  A huge truck seemed to block the walkway.  I stood there trying to figure out what to do.  "Well crud!"  No way around this one; we were next to a giant road, multiple lanes in both directions with a median.  Suddenly a woman pushing a stroller emerged from behind the truck on the temporary wooden sidewalk.  Woohoo!

We continued on our merry way and weren't disappointed.  We had never been to this part of the gardens...shaded paths, bright, colorful flowers, a huge lake with swans, fish, and turtles, rolling grassy hills, pavilions, towering palms, tropical trees covered in vines, waterfalls.  It was gorgeous!

It felt oddly familiar, like Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville or Ault Park in Cincinnati or Hanna Park in Jacksonville.  It was so spacious!  I could breathe again. I didn't realize how claustrophobic I had been feeling in the city.  It was good for my soul and great for my boys.  

Jack and Caleb had a ball!  Chasing pigeons, running down hills, touching waterfalls.  I hope we can return soon!








9/22/14

Around the world in 80 days

Okay, maybe not around the whole world, but at least around some of it.  I have decided rather than having a pity party for myself because it's hard to get around with all my little monkeys, I would put a positive spin on things and write about/post pictures about all the new things we discover.  My goal is to discover 1 new thing every day for the next 80 days and document it here.  I'm sure this largely visual journey will be interspersed with my reflections about faith, culture, and family, and I will also do birthday posts, but the vast majority of the next few months of posts will be short, sweet snapshots of our new life.

I actually started yesterday...We visited Chinatown!  Parker and Maddie were in school.  I strapped Caleb on my back, put Jack in the umbrella stroller, and away we went!  When I realized I would have to cross that horrible intersection (the one with no elevators and the vast underground mall), I almost bagged the whole mission.  I'm so very glad I didn't.  The mall isn't so bad, as long as you ask for directions at every kiosk.  We even stopped and played at the interactive wall.  (I will try to post a video of that at some point.) 

We found the right bus stop, I breathed a sigh of relief and unstrapped Caleb.  Just as I opened our crackers and juice, the bus arrived.  AGH!  I gathered Caleb in one arm, the stroller in the other, and shouted for Jack to climb aboard.  I had no idea what to do.  I had heard you could use the same cards for the bus as the subway, but I couldn't make the darn thing work.  I tried to ignore the stares of the other passengers as the driver shouted instructions I couldn't understand.  I finally deciphered that he was telling me to take the card from its sleeve.  Swipe, sigh, into the nearest seat we sank.

A sweet, elderly woman moved across the aisle so she could chat with us.  She told me the best stop to take for Chinatown (there are 3 or 4).  She rang the bell, took Jack by the hand, and helped us off the bus.  

It was gorgeous!  Hanging, decorative flowers, yummy fried rice and egg custard, beautiful temples, and sweet people stopping to touch Caleb's hair and stroke Jack's cheek.  Can't wait to return with the other kiddos!