I'm talking first world problems here. Like getting turned around in an underground mall because you can't cross a major intersection on foot so that your 40 minute errand ends up taking 3 hours. Like having two very little, very tired boys in the double stroller when you realize there is NO elevator to take you where you need to go. Like nearly running over the motorcyclists that zip between the cars when you are just starting to get the hang of driving on the wrong side of the road. Like not knowing what is in the food you are ingesting. Like not having a local cell phone (gasp!) so you can't make too many calls on your American phone because you are dreading the bill (even though you added an international plan). Like not being able to find parking ANYWHERE when you are close to being late for the appointment to obtain your Dependent Pass (something akin to Willy Wonka's golden ticket...you've gotta have one). Like realizing you only have a debit card, and the only place selling any food only takes cash, and there are no ATMs in sight, and all the kids are crying and hungry and tired, and it's a zillion degrees with 99% humidity.
I can deal with that stuff. It's the emotional stuff that really gets me. Like my kids having trouble adjusting to school. In Texas, Parker attended the small, sweet Ogle Elementary, a mere four doors down the street from our home. Maddie's tiny Redeemer Day Preschool operated out of church less than a mile up the road. Now the kids ride a bus 45 minutes to a school with more than 3,800 kids from over 50 countries. Not too surprising they would be experiencing some culture shock...
The bus ride has been particularly traumatic. After her very first day of school, between sobs, Maddie informed me her seat mate told her he would never ever be her friend, that she was ugly, ugly ugly, and that he wished to burn her/us/our house down. "I'm sorry, Mama, but I called him 'ugly' back once," she cried, burying her face in my side. Well, welcome to Singapore, darling. Are you kidding me?
I was shaking. I was ready to hop in our minivan and hunt that kid down and...and...I didn't know what. Forget it. By the time I retrieved the car from the garage under our building and strapped the kids in, the bus would be long gone, hidden in a tangle of traffic.
I took a deep breath, wrapped Maddie in my arms, and gently reminded her we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. It pained me to say those words. I didn't want to pray for this kid, but with the threats he was making, it sounded like he needed it. I gathered more information from Maddie. The parent of a kindergartener never gets the "full" story I suppose, but apparently Maddie had been getting along with this guy and then decided to tickle him, at which point, things went south. Okay, so maybe he was embarrassed and lashed out.
I was able to contact the transportation office and ensure Parker and Maddie would be seat mates for the rest of the year. I gave it a few days, and when Maddie was still crying before and after school, I decided to email the teacher and counselor. We were already meeting Friday with the nurse to address her peanut allergy and to give them the blasted Epipen that took 3 hours to acquire (remember that 45 minute errand?). I figured we could address bus boy at that meeting, too. If only we could make it until Friday...
Meanwhile, the little boys and I had appointments every morning to meet with our darling realtor, Caitlin, to search for permanent housing. The first day we met, my heart was heavy, worrying about Maddie. I was tired. My eyes were puffy from crying. Jack was whining. Caleb was Caleb (always smiling, thank goodness). We toured, we walked, we sweated. Repeat.
(Caitlin and Caleb)
In the middle of our day, we were at yet another condo, when Jack was whining that he was hot. I dipped my hands into a nearby fountain and wet his head. I promised him he could do the same at the pool when we viewed it. The pool was large and beautiful. I stood by Jack's side as he carefully bent to wet his hands in the cool water. We headed for the elevator a few meters away, and by time we reached it, Jack was whining that he was hot again.
Caitlin said cheerfully, "Jack, you have a few seconds before the elevator arrives. Why don't you run over and wet your hands again?"
"Yes, hurry, Jack!" I called, as he was already running toward the pool. I muttered sarcastically to Caitlin, "Watch him fall in."
And that's exactly what we did. We stood there and watched him topple right in! It was like it happened in slow motion. Head first, shoes and all, into the deep end he went! Caitlin shrieked and I began to laugh as we both took off for the pool. What a sight we must have been, Caitlin in her pretty dress and heels, me with a baby strapped to my chest, fishing this little boy out of the pool! In the end we were all drenched.
And I couldn't stop laughing. Between giggles, I praised Jack for knowing exactly what to do, turning the right side up and reaching for the side of the pool (thank you Emler Swim School for all those lessons I thought were overpriced at the time). He was a bit stunned but fine. Poor Caitlin sat in a nearby chair looking ready to faint. Meanwhile, my giggles grew into belly laughs. I knew I must have looked crazy, but I couldn't stop. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. "I called it! I totally called it," I howled. Oh, the blessed release that laughter provided! It was just what I needed.
Of course if Jack had been in any real danger, it would have been no laughing matter. But he is a decent swimmer and was totally fine (and finally cool!). This? This was a blessing from God. It was comic relief. It felt wonderful to be laughing instead of crying. These were the silly, embarrassing, familiar moments of life that I had been missing. Par for the course when you travel with the Rausch Family Circus!
UPDATE: My meeting at the school went well. A day later Maddie had her own meeting in the principal's office where she received an apology from the little boy.