Thursday, August 30, 2012

Name That Tune

Today, B3 spotted a McDonald's from our taxi. He got excited, and I braced for the fit that would follow the announcement that we would not be having a hamburger for lunch.  Instead of even asking, he immediately broke into song  I couldn't help but smile. Six months ago, he couldn't have sung even half of these words.He would have attempted to fill in the blanks if I sang it, but even that was sketchy. Today he sang - voluntarily.   Sure, you may not understand each word he sings, but he's singing!

And what's on his farm? A John Deere Tractor, of course!

Note how he's an over achiever on the E I E I O part :).

Learning New Tricks

Watch out! I'm slowly joining the 21st century. I have loved my iPhone for a year now, and I'd be lost without it. Literally. As in, I use it nearly daily to figure out where I am when I exit a train station, get off a bus, or take a taxi. I admit it- I'm addicted.

Now, it just occurred to me that I could probably blog from my phone. Indeed, there IS an app for that! So, just beware: I no longer need to be at home with my laptop on to post.

I'm off to see if I can post video from my phone. I've got a good one!

**edited - Rats!  I can't post video from my phone.  Oh well.  I can at least type!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Grade

Today, we put a first grader on the bus for the first time.  How is that possible?  Has it really been a year since we left her at her Kindergarten door? This year, she didn't need us to take her to school; she asked to ride the bus.  Insisted, actually.  So, on the bus she went, without even a glance backwards. 

It's PE day, so she's wearing her PE uniform.  Notice no cute bow; she complains that a bow just doesn't work under the mandatory sun hat she has to wear.  We compromised with a little braid.  She thinks she's growing her hair out; she has visions of having long pigtail braids by Halloween. I keep trying to gently inform her that it's unlikely, but she insists that her costume requires it. 

Sure, she's still the same kid she was last year, but she's a Real First Grader now, and it's official:  She's growing up, right before our very eyes.   She is a bike rider, a shoe tier, and a chapter book reader.  A joke teller, a glitter lover, a mac and cheese eater.  She is a narrator of stories acted out by paper dolls and her brother.  She is  a cook book reader and an aspiring baker. 
She uses words like "rarity" and "phenomenal", and she uses them properly.  In case you're wondering, an Oreo cookie whose printed side is towards the icing is her idea of a "rarity", and strawberry juice tastes "phenomenal". 

Her current favorite music is 70's, sung Veggie Tales style.  Here's a little sample:

She's looking forward to a great year in first grade, but she wasn't without a little tiny bit of apprehension.  She did ask me last week if she got to go back to Ms. Rachel's class (her Kindergarten teacher) for just a few days to get her 'ready'. Ready?  She's more than ready.

We toured her new campus on Saturday, and she has wondered several times if she'd be able to find her way around.  Since it's new to everyone (and a little bit amazing, I might add), there will be plenty of guides to help her find her way.  She announced at bedtime last night that she didn't know if she would sleep at all:  "There's too much first grade excitement in me!"  She also expressed concern that she might "burp too much out loud in class".  I sincerely hope that this is not an issue, but one never knows when six year olds are involved.

Speaking of her new school, this is her favorite feature:

She's really looking forward to swimming class during PE this year. 

I'm looking forward to this:

Air Con!  And lots of it.  This is the ceiling of the gym/auditorium area.  After way too many outdoor presentations at the old campus last year, I'm no longer dreading going to her school for events. No, these vents didn't make last Saturday's assembly cool, but it wasn't sweltering, either.  I'll take it!

As we prepared to go to her school on Saturday, I reminded her that she had chosen a cute, girly outfit to wear to see her school and meet her teacher and classmates.

"I've changed my mind, Mama.  I'm wearing this!", she announced.
Sigh.  Not what I had envisioned, but she really, really  does love recess. 

So, off she went this morning, with her lunch, summer reading journal, and an American Girl book (to read on the bus) in her backpack. She is, indeed, ready!  I just hope they're ready for her (and of course, that she can keep the burping under control).

I can't wait to hear about her day!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bedtime Stories

It's been one of those weeks.
Oh, who am I kidding?  They're all "one of those weeks".
I thought a full schedule of playgrounds and playdates and fun would mean good times. 
We've had good times, but we've also had lots of tears and screaming.

He's screamed and cried because his sister sat on the sofa.    Because his sister moved the beanbag out of her own room. And because the apple juice cup was orange and not green. Never mind that he asked for orange at lunchtime.

She's cried because she suddenly thinks that the only toothpaste she'll currently allow in her mouth is suddenly "really really really not my favorite anymore!"  Never mind I have five more in the closet and she hates all things mint and not brushing is really not an option.  She's cried about not being able to play in her room because she, herself, has dumped buckets of toys on the floor. 

But then tonight, as their Daddy works late and I wash supper dishes, a sweet voice says, "Mama, OK AK read to me?" 


I think I'll keep them, after all.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

August 9 is Singapore's birthday, and we celebrated its 47th birthday this year.  It's officially called National Day, and the entire island celebrates.  Remember that we went to the National Day Parade Preview last weekend?  See details in this post (click here).
It's a festive atmosphere, and it's obvious that Singapore is proud of its history.

Since it was a holiday, AK and B3 were thrilled to have Dad stay home from work. The fact that he had been travelling for 3 days made it even better.  There were three major celebrations during the day.

First, we took delivery of our newest addition:  a small chest freezer.  WoO HOo!  Can you sense the excitement?  I haven't been this thrilled with an appliance since Christmas of 1995 when I unwrapped my Kitchen Aid Mixer. (That remains one of the best gifts of all time, even if I did know what it was before I opened it.  Thanks Mom and Dad!)   In Charlotte, our (much larger) freezer was filled with prizes won by savvy couponing, thanks to the great grocery wars around town.  Who can pass up free frozen veggies and waffles and buy 2 get three cartons of ice cream?  Not us!  Since there are no such deals in Singapore, we settled into a confining and restrictive routine of using our tiny freezer on our fridge.  Unfortunately, our favorite meat source requires a $200 purchase to qualify for delivery, and $200 nearly fills the freezer.  There's not much room for cooking extra and freezing leftovers or stockpiling anything. 

...Until now.  I saw an ad on a local Facebook group with a list of things for sale.  Around here, Expats are constantly coming and going, so someone is always selling something.  After I figured out that the seller would deliver the freezer to us (oh, the joys of having a car!), I immediately bought it.  So far, I've only rearranged things between the two freezers so that we can actually tell what we have . Now, I can order chicken from the Chicken Man and have other frozen stuff delivered, too.  Not to mention we finally have room for things like extra spaghetti sauce, making chicken stock instead of just tossing the bones, freezing cookie dough, and of course, Popsicles.  So, we're thrilled.  I don't think we'll fill it up, even though it's tiny, but we'll definitely enjoy the meal variety it affords.  Before, we had to eat whatever we had so we could empty the freezer enough to buy more.  I think this will work out much better (...even if it's temporarily plugged into a daisy chain of power strips and extension cords because our washer and dryer melt their electrical outlet.  But that's a story for another day).

After we got the freezer settled, we took a bus to the East Coast Park for some bike riding.  AK has just mastered riding 100% by her self - so we wanted to celebrate by renting bikes along the beach.  It seemed like a good idea when we were discussing it, but somewhere between bus stops I realized that this would be my first time on a bike in at least ten years.  Ten Years?  And I was going to have to figure out if I could still ride a bike on a rented bike on a very crowded path?  Suddenly, this great idea wasn't looking so great.  I considered feigning an illness or simply flat refusing, but I chose a bike and rode anyway. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't pretty, either.  Let's just say that AK left me in her dust.  Often.  Riding on the path was much like I-285 at about 9 am on a Thursday; Traffic was heavy, but it was moving with an occasional stop and go moment.  She did great!  The B3 was on the back of B2's bike, and he enjoyed being a passenger.  We rode to the East Coast Food Village for some fruit juice, satay, and fried rice. 

Then, back to the bikes!

After we got home, it was time to wait for the evening's festivities.  The National Day Parade area is just beyond the view from our condo window, but the aerial features look like they were intended for us. Our view was better than last week's when we went to the actual event location.  My favorite part is always the Singapore flag flown over by helicopters.  See?  Isn't it a cool view?

And then came the planes...

We watched the rest of the parade on TV.  It was fun to look out the window and see the big screens on the floating platform and then see those same screens on TV. Also, the event was broadcast onto huge screens at Marina Barrage, which we can also see out our window.  So, we could really see the show 3 times.  Sorta :). 

Anyway, then came the fireworks. If we lived here for ten years (Heaven forbid...!), we would never get tired of the front row seat for the fantastic fire works.  I turn out all of the lights and watch every single time. 

It's fun to watch the traffic slow down for the fireworks.  Every time, the cars anticipate that it's almost time for them, and traffic slows to a crawl. 

I always think about watching the fireworks from the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics as I was driving by the Olympic stadium that night.. Seeing those was a coincidence, but I think some of these people must just plan to watch from their cars.   I don't know if we'll be here next year to enjoy National Day celebrations, but if we are, we'll be right here - on the sofa, watching out the window!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

367 Days

As of yesterday, we've been in Singapore for a year. A leap year, so that's 366 days.  Today marks our 367th day in Singapore, and I can confidently say we've learned a lot in the past year. 

Today, we started our First Day of Our Second Year celebration by riding bikes to lunch.  This is a Big Deal in our house; AK had learned to ride her bike in May, but she hadn't ridden since then.  So, I was determined that before school started, she'd master starting and stopping (those are sort of crucial details, right?) herself so she could ride further than around our practice loop.  Last week, we rode along the river trail one morning.  She did well, but I was constantly having to give her a steady push to get her started once she stopped. Which, incidentally, was every time she saw a pebble or a stick or a bird or a crack in the pavement; she had zero confidence in her abilities.  Little by little, she gained a little speed and distance, and she ran over one good natured jogger and a group of  3 not so good natured women.  Later, on our way back, she left me far behind and actually figured out how to ride without stopping.  When I caught up with her, she jumped up and down and grinned, obviously thrilled with her performance.
    "I saw those ladies again, Mama.  Those ones I ran over?  I didn't hit them this time!"  Fabulous.  She was getting a little confidence.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that those women were quick learners; they saw her coming and cleared a (wide) path for her.

Today was different. She no longer needs any help to get started, and I've given up keeping up with her.  I just find her sitting on a bench, waiting on us to catch up. Our destination was the neighborhood food center, which is only about a mile away.  They were looking forward to some fresh fruit juice.  By fresh, I mean the juice lady takes some fruit and mashes it directly into your cup. Today, they chose strawberry.  Oh my. Delicious! 

We finished out our day by having dinner and groceries delivered. Delivery is one of my favorite perks of Singapore life.  This time last year, we could barely carry enough groceries home from the store (walking about a mile each way) to get us through the next day. Oh, how things change!  Tonight, apples, peanut butter, flour, oil, juice, rice milk, Diet Coke, and a variety of other necessities arrived on our doorstep. 

In the past year, we've learned to deal with the heat. We still prefer snow to sunshine, but we're managing.  We've settled into our car-less life, but a year ago we were anxious to get a car of our own.  Now, buses and trains and taxis get us where we want to go.  It's not always convenient, but it works.  The sticker shock that made me break into hives last August is long gone; if we want it, we buy it. Sometimes.  Old habits die hard, after all. Those $8 USD Cheerios don't even make me flinch anymore, but some of our eating habits have changed a little. 

Last August, I wondered what we needed to do to make AK and B3 feel comfortable here in Singapore.  I didn't want to feel like we were just biding our time here until the next US bound flight.  I knew we needed to be all here or it wouldn't work, but I didn't know how to do that.  It's not been easy; we've all had our moments.  AK still says her favorite thing about living here is being able to swim year round, and I'm still trying to figure out how to keep our home from looking like a rented beach house.  There are always towels draped over dining table chairs drying, swimsuits hanging behind every door, and pool toys piled in the entry way.

We enjoyed a month in the US this summer, and I wondered what it would feel like for B3 and AK to come back.  I got my answer before we even cleared immigration.  As soon as the wheels touched down, AK sighed one of those contented, tired, but happy sighs.  "Home sweet home Singapore!", she said.   As we exited, B3 told every single flight attendant, "I'm going to my house!" or "My Daddy is picking me up and will play cars with me!" or my favorite, "My Daddy is in Singapore and he has a taxi!" 

Clearly, at least for now, Singapore is home.  Who knows how much longer it will last, but for now, we'll look for new ways to make Year Two as good as the first!

Monday, August 6, 2012

NDP Preview

This year, Singapore turns 47 on August 9th, and Singapore goes all out for its birthday.  The various government apartment buildings display lots of flags

 ...and every condo and office building will have some sort of celebration. Ours has flags and banners this year. 

  It's a national holiday, but the main event is a huge National Day Parade that takes place during the evening hours.  It's not an American style parade; it's more of a presentation.  A precious few tickets are available for stadium style seating in front of a huge floating platform.

It's such a big deal that there are many practices and previews before the 9th gets here.  We've enjoyed the air show of helicopters and fighter jets from our windows a few times this summer, and even the practice fireworks never disappoint.  Alicia and Emma were even able to see the airshow one morning while they were here.  Perfect timing!

On the Saturday before National Day, we went down to Marina Bay to watch some of the preview from the cheap seats (aka not inside the actual parade area).  We had noodles and rice and spring rolls as we watched the show.  The people watching was spectacular!

All 6 of the parachute guys all landed on the platform. I have no idea how they land with such precision.
AK was concerned that they were on fire.  "I see the smoke, Mama!", she said after I told her there was no fire.  Smart girl had a healthy fear of fire, so she thought they'd all be crispy by the time they landed.

It's always a favorite moment when the helicopters fly over carrying a huge Singapore flag.  That's the Art Science Museum under the flag.

B3 loves the "army boats!", and they did not disappoint.

Even the blue trash boat, which we see nearly daily, made B3 happy.

Neither kid was a fan of the 21(?) gun salute.

Then the planes came....
  There are about five flyovers, and they're all impressive.  Two of the planes above split off.  Then, there's a couple that suddenly turn 90 degrees - straight up - and look like they'll just go on forever.  And then there's the one that does a loop around upside down.  It's loud, and it's crazy!  We've seen the planes several time, and every time we all find ourselves at our apartment window looking for more long after they're done.  Who knew when we chose this apartment that the extra entertainment would be so good?   After the boats, the show moves mostly to the platform.  There are lots of songs and dances.  We headed home in hopes of making it before the fireworks.  We had little teeth brushed and kids in pajamas and sitting on the sofa before the first firework popped, so it was perfect.    While it was certainly worth the trip to see the festivities at Marina Bay, we all agree our view is much better from our sofa.  We can't wait until practice starts in June 2013 for next year's show!