Seven Quick Takes

  1. We finally got wifi this month, after a month of frustrating bureaucracy, and it’s been really nice to feel somewhat connected again and be able to work. I’ve got to admit it’s also nice to be able to watch a movie without finding it in advance and downloading it too (I know, spoiled millennial here!). Netflix here has most cartoons dubbed in Chinese too so occasionally we let JQ watch one for 5-10 minutes in the hopes that he’ll pick up on some Chinese. Easy bilingualism, right? wouldn’t necessarily learn Chinese in five minutes three times a week, but kids’ brains are supposed to be porous so I’m sure he’ll get it in no time.

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    He thinks so too, and is wearing Chinese
  2. Of course, it should help that JQ has started getting babysat for three hours a day, five days a week, while I teach. We’ve asked his babysitter to speak Chinese around him so he’ll pick up on it–but it’s still a little early to tell whether it’s working yet as his go-to word is still “Maamaa” in various forms. He seems to be enjoying it (as in, not screaming the entire time), though he has been a little more clingy when he’s at home. Hopefully it won’t take him too long to adjust.
  3. It’s been interesting living in a basically bilingual country. Kids on the playground switch between English and Chinese without thinking; they study both in school and probably hear both at home. It does lead to some rather thick accents (it’s really hard to figure out what people are saying!), and their English is definitely colored by Chinese-isms (like using “lah” at the end of every sentence). It also makes for some humorous moments, like when the Singaporean man at Bible study gravely started explaining the spirit of peas (he meant peace) and how it could only be explained by the love of the cross.
  4. I haven’t taken any pictures recently because we haven’t really gone anywhere in the last few weeks, but I still have some neat pictures of downtown Singapore that I haven’t shared here.
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    This is the piano that Lang Lang played on….maybe on a visit to Singapore? I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but it got its own exhibit. Shiny, huh?
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  5. I’m finally figuring out grocery shopping/cooking here and remembering how to cook without an oven. We got spoiled by having an oven in England! Now it’s back to stovetop and toaster oven cooking, although the previous residents of our flat left us their rice cooker, so I’ve been experimenting with one-pot meals to the tune of–chopping up ginger, garlic, and yellow ginger (turmeric), throwing in rice cooker with rice and water and any other vegetables I feel like, putting a fish on top, and cooking away. Jared loves it and it’s awfully easy, though rather uninspired. It also stains my fingers and cutting board a bright yellow so I look somewhat jaundiced on my left hand.
  6. We got our boxes yesterday! So nice to unpack all the things we packed up in England–just like sending a present to ourselves to open in six months. Untitled Now we have a couple pictures to put on our walls and more stuff to clutter up the house with, like books..and…well…more books. UntitledAnd we still have most of our books packed in boxes in the U.S. When we finally move back, I’m not sure I’ll even know how to deal with multiple (as in, ten or so) shelves full of books any more–I’m already envying my future self.
  7. Around where we live, there’s very few white people, so JQ’s hair and skin draw lots of looks and admiring comments. They’ve also prompted several old men to start conversations: “Where you from? You American?”

“Yes, we’re American,” I reply.

“What you think ’bout Trump?  How could so many Americans vote for him?”

“Well, it was a hard election,” I say, evading the question. “Neither candidate was exactly great.”

“Well, I think Bill Clinton’s wife should have won. She’s much more experienced!”

And delivering this zinger, he walked away. Many Singaporeans feel compelled to state their opinions on American politics, and they all think I should have something to do with changing them. Sorry, but democracy doesn’t actually work that way.

Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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Always Summer and Never Christmas

I’m sure they do have Christmas here—we arrived just a few days after, and many businesses still had Christmas trees up, though they certainly looked incongruous in the tropical heat.

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The Durian Building and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

I’m going to confess now: I just can’t love the weather here. I’ve always been a winter lover. Those first cool breezes announcing the arrival of fall after the heat of summer are the best, especially when they’re followed by piles of snow so you don’t have to go out of the house. Yes, I’m as fond of temperate weather as the next person, but the problem is, everyone defines temperate a little differently. I suspect my definition would start around 55 F and keep going down from there. Which is why it’s almost heartwrenching to live here—where the only cool breeze I’ll ever feel comes from my air conditioner at night, where people tell you cheerfully, “Oh yes, nobody here even sweats any more!” as you drag your drowned-rat-sweaty self down the street trying to look cool and collected and failing miserably.

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Parliament Building

I’m just feeling a little robbed of my winter this year. It was just starting to cool off in America by the time we left—we had maybe an entire week of almost winter weather in Oregon where it doesn’t know how to winter—and now we’re plunged here, where “winter” means there’s thunderstorms that drop three inches of water in an hour most afternoons.

It’s so hot here that I immediately start sweating if I even think of going outside, and yet, in the interests of saving on our energy, I try to run the air conditioning only half the day.

And, to a native Coloradoan, the humidity here is nothing short of obscene, generally bringing the heat index up nearly twenty degrees.

I get it—you can’t live on a tropical island without, you know, actually living in the tropics. But I can’t say I’ll be sad when we go back to winter. Let’s just hope I haven’t acclimated by then!

Just Love that Baby

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Since we still don’t have wifi, and I still have no friends here, I’ve had some time to have Grand Thoughts. Mostly, it turns out, on the subject of parenting, since that’s what I’ve been doing by myself for about 12 hours a day. Yes, life is exhilarating right now. Why do you ask?

I know it’s not the Done Thing for people who a) are under 30, b) have only one child who isn’t even two yet, and c) have no track record of reliability for their Grand Thoughts to hold forth on the subject of parenting, and yet, since I have a blog and am feeling the compunction to post since who else am I to talk to about anything serious in my 12-hours-a-day conversation of “Please don’t scream!” and “No! You can’t pull your dirty diapers out of the trashcan!” and “Would you like to play with your cars?”, I am writing about the subject of parenting anyway. Besides, Done Things are overrated.

Some days (ok, most days), I want nothing more than a set of prescriptions to follow which will make my kid behave perfectly and ensure that nothing I do will wreck him for life. At this moment, I think being the parent of a one-year-old is an exercise in futility, as it takes the millionth time of saying “no” for it to finally sink in—and for most things, we haven’t reached that millionth time! But while I may not have attained to much wisdom yet in the few years I’ve been on earth, I have learned this much—there are no set rules of how to deal with people. Ever.

In fact, there might be only one rule, and it’s one my parents repeated often: you can only change yourself. Your attitude, your behavior, your reactions.

But even though this lesson was drilled into me so often, I still assumed there was a right way to parent, a way that would at least almost ensure that a kid would turn out and have good behavior. Just do these things, show off your mad ninja skills when your lovey numbkins is having a tantrum at the supermarket, and everyone will be in awe of your wonderful parenting.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t having a kid that shifted my paradigm on parenting (I mean, I half raised 3 or 4 by the time I was 20, so of course I thought I had it all down), but simply growing up and reading different viewpoints in the process. If you’re strongly attached to an idea, the least you can do is read the other side’s arguments to see if you’re missing out on something crucial.

The first was an article somewhere or other (probably posted on Facebook) about how “parent-ing” is a new concept. We don’t talk about “wifeing” or “husbanding” or “daughtering” (which looks kinda like “slaughtering”) or “sonning”—it’s only this one relationship, between parent and child, which is talked of in this way, like something to do instead of a way to live. (We do have kidding, though, for what it’s worth.)

Thinking about the relationship between parent and child as any other job, like “housekeeping” or “dishwashing” not only begins to make children into things, but also puts more stress on parents to be the perfect parents. If it’s a job like any other, surely it can be done right, like any other job can. There must be a right way to soothe your child’s tantrums and definitely a way to prevent those embarrassing things from ever occurring, most especially in public where we need to exhibit the fact that we have it all together.

The second was an article published in The Atlantic, which, despite its rather misleading headline which seems to guarantee that with this new info from a child psychologist no child will ever again misbehave (sardonic laugh), still puts the focus where it ought to be—on parents’ behavior. It’s not a power struggle or a fight to the death for mastery, although some days it certainly feels like it. Instead, let’s treat this relationship the same way we treat all our other relationships: as a way for us to become better people, to be sanctified.

This is not the easy way out. Yelling comes to me much more easily than calming down and taking time to evaluate my own behavior. As parents, we have to die to ourselves nearly every minute. Babies are so needy, and they never. ever. shut. up, and they’re awfully fond of feeding me half-chewed oranges. My natural response is not one of warm fuzzies.

I can change my response to JQ, but I can’t change his response to me. I need to look at myself first and make sure my attitude is a good attitude, since what I’m modeling is even more important than what I say. (I’m still fairly certain, however, that he’s never had pulling diapers out of the trashcan modeled to him. That came out of his own little head.) I think we lose sight of this in the struggle to do everything right with our children and make their behavior what we want. Unfortunately, yelling at a kid for screaming is like eating a whole chocolate cake when you’ve just finished reading about the dangers of sugar. It feels so good, but you know it’s wrong—and won’t even get you the results you want!

These are things I want to remind myself of later, when JQ is more than a baby who toddles around drunkenly and giggles at being naughty, when I’m feeling overwhelmed and want only to control behavior. Parenthood is a relationship, not a job: our children are more than objects whose behavior we can control. They’re people who we need to love and teach.

My goal for myself, in 2017 and beyond, is to treat JQ with the respect he deserves as a child of God, and to make sure my attitude and behavior are right instead of yelling at him.

So go ahead, eat that half-chewed orange, giggle at that ridiculous thing he’s doing, keep telling him “no” for the millionth time. These are relationships we’re building, with people who are growing up to be men and women. Soon he’ll be all grown up—and then, I’ll finally be an expert on parenting. Too bad you’re reading this now.

Living in Virtual Solitude: Or, I Have no Wifi

Singapore.

DSC_0262 It’s the land of much heat, beautiful buildings (mostly), almost no mosquitoes (they wiped them all out when Zika showed up), some slightly scary wildlife (which we haven’t seen any of yet), and many interesting foods. It’s also the place where getting wireless internet is more bureaucratic than renting an apartment. Which is why we’ve had a house for almost two weeks now, but still have no wifi. DSC_0246

Of course, living a life free from the distractions of Facebook videos, Netflix, Instagram, and all other web browsing (although we do still have data on our phones) has some obvious benefits, such as spending more time with people (consisting right now of exactly two people, Jared and JQ, since I’m not exactly flush with friends here), spending more time reading books during JQ’s naptime (I’m at around a book a day, so far), spending time playing violin, and spending time cleaning the house when I’m not being a slave to JQ’s every whim. I would even say I’ve been spending time cooking, but I’m still adjusting to grocery shopping here, which is always a hard part about moving. Not only do you have to figure out what’s affordable in stores (pro tip: don’t expect lots of dairy products in Singapore), but you have to figure out how to cook with each country’s kitchen equipment (yes, we’re back to the toaster oven here). For now, it looks like we’ll be eating a lot of rice, green leafies, and tropical fruits.

However, in spite of all the benefits, I’m still a millennial. I miss having wifi. I’m kind of getting anxious about getting back to work (this house ain’t gonna pay for itself), and all day interaction with a small human who has just started bleating “Maamaa” in the most piteous way, while fulfilling, is not exactly restful. At least he naps for about three hours a day?

We should be getting wifi any time now since Jared finally has his official Student Pass. I’m sure it will be nice to get back to working a few hours a day and not feeling quite so disconnected from the rest of humanity (the humans that I know, that is. There’s loads around here that I don’t know). I know the benefits of living a more connected life will be there, but I hope I can remember the benefits of being minimally connected as well. And of course I’ll still be teaching my small bleating wobbly human.

2016: Year in Pictures

Well, it’s that time of year again, and I’m sure you’re longing to remember what happened this year for us.

Let’s start with…

January

where we did a lot of traveling around the UK (to Gloucester, Oxford, and Southampton) while Jared was on break, and took several awkward self-timer photos.

Jared: That’s not pointing the right way.

Me: Yes it is! It’ll be fine.

Looks at picture of one arm cut off body.

Me: Ok, where should I point it?
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We managed to get a fairly decent one with all of us in the picture, though, so I’ll count that as success.

Jared’s sister also came to stay with us in January, and we had a great time with her for the next three months.

For

February,

for some reason all my pictures (and my one blog post) were of the baby. Apparently not much happened in February except me taking baby pictures. Can you blame me, with that much cuteness constantly around? DSC_0229

Oh, I did manage to snap an iPhone picture of the daffodils since (in my opinion) February is ridiculously early for daffodils. So babies and daffodils = February.

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In

March,

we took some long walks to some parks near us and enjoyed some sunshine. We also visited Cambridge with Jared’s mom and sister, and I managed to write a couple blog posts on all my best tips on living my relaxed lifestyle while pregnant and thoughts on moving so often.  My little brother also gave his thoughts on what it’s like to be a country hick in London.

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In

April,

we loved watching all the trees bloom. London has so many pretty spring trees.
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We also went on a boat ride down the Thames to enjoy more of the spring weather. And Jared’s sister left us to go back home to the U.S., but not before we convinced her to write a blog post about her time here.

May

was the month I went to Yorkshire, and I’m still in love with its green hills and pastoral scenes. I also managed to take some more lovely self-timer pictures–maybe I should make that one of my New Year’s Resolutions!DSC_0642

In

June,

we had even more visitors! My sister came to visit, and we thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures of the lovely flowers at Greenwich park.
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OK, now you can stop yawning about all these park visits and flowers and la-di-dah, because in

July

is where it gets interesting.

First, we coined the term “monstering” to describe the habits of our baby. Then we visited Gloucester once again,  and then we moved out of our flat and went touring for a few months.

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And you get a bonus picture of Edinburgh for this month since it was one of our favorite places to visit and was just so gorgeous! Cumbrae Island was also a highlight.

Edinburgh

 August

was the month we visited Paris (and Berlin) and I have two pictures of the exact same scene because I can’t decide which one I like better.

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Anyways, Paris was amazing even though I never wrote a blog post about it and if you ever get the chance to visit, go there. And eat a croissant. They really are that good.

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In

September

the craziness quieted down a little as we stayed with my family for about two months. JQ got to meet his twin cousins (and terrorize them a bit) and we loved getting to see so many friends while we were back home. It was so great to remember what it’s like to have friends just around the corner to get together with, and having so many aunts and uncles to take care of JQ was lovely too.

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October 

was THE month for enjoying fall colors. So many golds and greens and blues–it was so lovely. We even made it on a hike up Horsetooth Rock to eke out the last bit of goodness from the warm fall weather.

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November

was the month I didn’t write even one single itty bitty blog post. We headed to the west coast to see more family before taking off for our next destination, and JQ found a new favorite thing in life. Puddles. He enjoys stepping in them, sitting in them, splashing in them with his fingers, and licking up the water from them like a dog (and I’m not even joking about that last one. It’s terrible.). At least in Oregon you know the rainfall is fairly fresh?DSC_0017

Last but not least, we survived until

December, when we went from this:

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to this:

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Yes, we survived our 36ish hours of travel from Oregon to Singapore. And no one was more surprised than I was that JQ was almost an angel baby on the flights. Those baby bassinet things they have are amazing–except for the fact that you have to take the baby out of them for any turbulence.

Well, have we ever come a long way since the start of 2016! I am hopeful that 2017 will be somewhat calmer…or at least mostly in one place.

For other years in review, go to Revolution of Love!

Confessions of an Older Sister

When you grow up as one of the oldest children in a large family, it changes your outlook on life. People always say, “Your mum must be incredibly organised,” and I always think, well, she is, but she’s mostly a good delegator (a skill which I have inherited but which is, unfortunately, of little use at the moment. For some reason Jared doesn’t like it when I try to delegate things to him! Little Rascal will certainly have to enjoy it, though.)

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My background as an older sister has, I think, made motherhood a different experience for me. When JQ was first born, everyone said, “It’s so much different having your own baby, isn’t it!” But it wasn’t, not really. Everything just felt so familiar, like I’d done it before, which, of course, I mostly had. (Besides breastfeeding. It would just be weird to do that as a big sister.) But diaper changes, clothes changes, holding him, soothing him: I’d been doing that since I was 6!

 

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Taking pictures of him, however, is definitely a learned skill. Most of them are blurry because he wants to grab the camera!

 

Signs you may have been the oldest of many:

  1. Your main worry when you become a mother is that your child will be understimulated and have no one to tend to him.
  2. You wonder how you’ll fill all the hours in the day with only  ONE baby to take care of who can neither walk nor talk and sleeps a lot (answer: you sleep, mostly).
  3. You over exaggerate just how horrible sleepless nights are going to be until you’re just about sure you’re going to be a zombie forever. You will be a zombie, especially when at the hospital (I spent much of my time there thinking of stunning retorts to the plethora of signs forbidding me to sleep with my baby in bed with me when there was nowhere else he would sleep and I had not slept in years and was considering dying). But not forever.
  4. In spite of all the advantages, when you’re actually the parent, there’s a lot more responsibility on your shoulders. When you’re just a big sis, there’s always someone else to hand the baby off to, but when you’re the mum, that’s it. You’re it.
  5. When you go and visit family, however, you find yourself conspiratorially siding with your child (“Grandma doesn’t let children eat chocolate–let’s eat some chocolate!”) like you did with your siblings when they were younger.
  6. On the other hand, it’s so much easier to sooth a  baby when you’re the baby’s mother. He’s not always crying for someone else–he wants me, and I can pretty much figure out what he wants most of the time. Being the “second mommy” just isn’t the same thing, and the baby knows it.

What do you think, other older children? I’m sure I’ve missed several points on the wonders (or otherwise) of being a big sister.

Winter in Oregon

This is winter in Oregon.

Gray skies, patches of green.DSC_0018

Far-off hills wrestling with fog

As the sun says goodbye.
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This is winter in Oregon.

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Tall grasses bend with the weight of the wet

Red-bellied roundness beside them.

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Crystal-fire, of raindrops on rosehips

Clear water comes dripping to earth.
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This is winter in Oregon.
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Tall bearded trees reach into the water

Holding the sunlight prisoner.
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Colors are dying and growing old,

Fading in the wetlands.
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This is winter in Oregon.
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This message was brought to you by a few moments of silence from this cute little face. I’m sure you’re all thankful.
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Fall in Colorado

It’s fall, and it’s gorgeous. I’d forgotten just how gorgeous Colorado falls could be, and I’m definitely enjoying it while I can, because who knows how long it will be until I get to see a proper fall again!

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I may be biased, but I think Colorado scenery is some of the prettiest for fall. Blue mountains, blue sky, and blue lakes contrast so nicely with the yellows and reds of fall.

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So even though I’ve traveled all over recently (it feels like it, at least!), it’s been so nice to come home.

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Sadly, the leaves left quickly when a giant windstorm came up and blew them all away. But we sure enjoyed them while they lasted!

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There’s just something about the mountains that is so beautiful against the sky.

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I hope you’re enjoying fall wherever you’re at, though I’m guessing it’s not as gorgeous as this!  Now if I can just pack in a little snow before I move to the tropics!

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Culture Shock

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Cute baby picture just because

This time around, coming home was definitely more of a culture shock for me. Last time I was too busy being pregnant (and honestly just glad not to be in China any more) to really notice culture shock. Although it was a bit strange to be able to look at menus and not have to summon up my little stock of Chinese to try to order something and figure out what I was eating, that quickly passed and I figured out how to order in English again.

But maybe because in a lot of ways England is a lot like America–they’re both rich countries, speak English, Western, and have similar lifestyles, I found I noticed the differences a lot more when I came home. America definitely has its perks (like family and friends), but there are a lot of things I’ve been missing about England.

  • Food quality and prices

I don’t miss the restaurant food: that was pretty nondescript and mostly too expensive for our budget anyways. But just regular grocery store food in England seemed much higher quality and was so much cheaper. I don’t even know how to shop here since so many of the things I got used to buying and cooking over there are suddenly way out of my price range. So here’s hoping Singapore has Cadbury chocolate and custard creams! Also, American grocery store eggs are nasty. They’re so pale and flavorless.

  • Walkable cities

American cities (at least the few I’ve been in) are so poorly designed for walking. They practically force you to drive places just so you don’t get run over while trying to walk somewhere. In most of Europe, though, we could walk 5-10 minutes and be at a grocery store without endangering ourselves by trying to cross ridiculously busy highways without crosswalks. I know it’s the American way of life to have a giant car and always drive everywhere, but maybe if cities were planned better more people would be able to walk!

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  • Not knowing which way to look when crossing the street, and not knowing which side of the car is the passenger side or driver’s side

It’s not so much of a problem now that I’ve been back a few months, but for the first little bit of traveling through Europe and coming back to America, I was terribly confused as to which way I should look when crossing the street. Eventually I just gave up and looked both ways twice to make sure no one was coming. It didn’t help  that in Europe they don’t print helpful messages on the pavement for which way to look!

And I had the same problem with knowing which side was the passenger side of the car. I didn’t often ride in cars in the UK, but apparently I rode in them enough to thoroughly confuse myself. Why don’t they just standardise these things?

  • People talk to you in trains

When we got back to D.C., so many random people would just start up conversations with us. They’d ask about the baby, talk about the weather…and didn’t seem to have any idea that you just don’t talk to people on trains! In London, no one ever talks to anyone else on the tube, except maybe to offer someone a seat. It’s just one of those things that Is Not Done.

  • Light switches

One of those things you’d never think of but is actually pretty confusing are light switches. When I got back home, I would constantly search for the bathroom light switch on the outside of the door, only to realize it was on the inside. (People who put light switches on the outside of bathrooms must never have had little brothers, is all I can think.) Not only are light switches located in different places, but they also move backwards, which has led me to hit the switch several times just trying to figure out which way is on or off.

  • Language

One of the biggest ways I felt like a foreigner in England was my accent. When everyone else is speaking in nice posh British tones with all kinds of rounded vowel sounds and without “r”s and all that, I felt like my American accent stuck out a mile. It’s pretty impossible to blend in when every word you speak loudly proclaims you a foreigner. Of course, this was even worse when we traveled around France and Germany and couldn’t even speak the language (every time I thought about German I would come up with Chinese instead!).

  • Getting used to friends and family being in the same time zone again.

When you’ve only been able to call your friends in the afternoon for a year, suddenly being able to call or text during any waking hours is slightly strange. I often waited till the afternoon to call just out of force of habit! It’s awfully nice to live in the same time zone, though, and not have to worry about waking people at 3 am or so.

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There are a lot more things, such as grocery delivery, beautiful giant parks (definitely the best part about England), and not having any plugs that fit in the sockets when we came home, along with location restrictions on Netflix (some of the shows we really enjoyed are way too expensive here) and strange dinner hours in Europe.

It was a great year, England: thank you for having us. Now on to ever newer adventures–I’ll keep you posted as to what Singapore is like!

Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes!

 

The Life of a Tramp, part 2: Cumbrae Island

Of all the places we visited, Cumbrae Island was definitely one of our favorites. We stayed at an adorable little village in Scotland called West Kilbride, and our hostess recommended we see Cumbrae island.

So we headed off early in the morning on the ferry and hoped it wouldn’t be too chilly since I’d gotten rid of all my jackets. That’s what happens when you put all your stuff in one carry-on sized suitcase.

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But even though it started off cold and gray, it became beautifully sunny when we got there. And I have a ton of pictures to prove it.

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When we got there, we thought about being cheapskates and just walking all the way around the island (about 10 miles), but decided to take a bus into the town of Millport and rent bicycles.

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It was an adorable little town (and super cheap housing prices!) and we were almost convinced to buy a beach house there for summer vacations.

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It was so much fun to cycle around the island on the most beautiful day ever and feel the fresh air and see the gorgeous scenery. I might have enjoyed it a little.

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We stopped and ate lunch overlooking this view.

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JQ sat on a rock and supervised.DSC_0907

Then it was off for more cycling and enjoying the view.

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What can I say, except that it was gorgeous and you should go there if you ever get the chance?

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