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


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


Comic Relief

Moving a family with multiple children overseas is challenging.  There are no two ways about it.  I am a positive person, but I am also a realist.  No matter how easy Aaron's company tries to make it, no matter that English is one of the national languages, no matter that our kids are in an American school, it is hard.

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.


Perfect Timing

I have always struggled with living in the moment.  Sometimes I worry about the unknown and overthink things.  Other times, I am too busy happily anticipating the future (packing bags a full two weeks before vacation) to enjoy the present.  Even when the present is peachy, I can taint it with feelings of dread that the good times are sure to end soon.

Just the other night I was filled with worry and dread.  What if my kids misbehaved here?  What if I didn't fit in?  What if I somehow enjoyed myself too much here, getting sucked in by an easy lifestyle and forgetting the needs of others?  What if we didn't choose the right place to live (either too far from Aaron's work or too far from the kids' school) and were miserable? What if?  What if?  WHAT IF???

I cried out to God.  Faithful as always, He answered me.  Verse after verse filled my head.  Humor me and take the time to really read these.  They are life:

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified.  Do not be discouraged.  For The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  John 1:17

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Matthew 6:25

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

It was as if God was whispering, "Stop worrying, child.  Look at what I have already provided.  Enjoy it.  Trust Me."

So I did.  I looked around with new eyes.  Eyes not clouded with fear and anxiety.  Eyes filled with wonder and gratitude.

Our temporary residence is a tropical paradise (see pool below).  The staff is ridiculously friendly and helpful.  Our kids are getting along (mostly).  Our never ending flight here was a huge success (thank you, Jesus...and Benadryl).  An American mom of four small children who has been here for a year has taken me under her wing, showing me the ropes.

As usual, God has anticipated and provided for our every need...And then some.  He perfectly timed our arrival in Singapore to coincide with the annual guest party for our residence.  The invitations were elaborate.  We had been watching them decorate with lovely flowers and center pieces for days.  I was pretty sure our crazy kiddos would destroy the ambiance, so I didn't bother to RSVP, assuming we would just hang out in our room.  However, the day before the party, a staff member approached us and encouraged us to come.  Though we had missed the proper reply date, they graciously allowed us to join and sent a personalized ticket to our room.

It was like something out of a dream.  The huge lobby was filled with the aroma of a mountain of  fresh local fruits and the festive sounds of a traditional band.  The staff were in colorful dresses and suits, offering flowers for female guests' hair.  Once registered, we received tickets for fan painting (Maddie's first choice), caricature mug painting (capturing Jack's essence), henna tattoos (the length of Parker's arm), hand massages, and more.  It was awesome!  Our sweet housekeeper, Dora, whisked Caleb away, smiling, "Go relax, Mama!"  Another staff member took Aaron and I on a tour of the various food stations highlighting the delicious local cuisine.  We sipped wine and chatted with other guests and staff members.

Kids were everywhere.  We allowed Parker to change into swim trunks and join a large group of youngsters in the pool.  Suddenly I was transported back to The Riverwalk pool in Texas, watching a bunch of skinny little boys throwing each other into the water.  Parker's smile was priceless.  Looked like my crazy, rambunctious, American kids were going to be okay after all.

We didn't head back to our room until Caleb began nodding off in the stroller.  What an amazing evening.  How perfect are God's gifts and timing!  I will do my best to show my gratitude to Him by enjoying the gift of the present.