Monday, July 28, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays.

Today happens to be both. In fact, it's been so overcast the past week or so it hasn't bothered anyone that the pool is drained. Yesterday the kids went outside to play in puddles between the scattered showers. But it's so overcast today, and drippy, that I can barely keep my eyes open. Oh sure I could blame it on staying up until midnight reading New Moon, but that would admit I had something to do with my droopiness. No no, it's much easier to blame it on the rain.

Really though, I am a little down today.

The bid list, oh the bid list. I'm practically dreaming bid list. I have my heart set on Romania. Well, I did yesterday.
Today being a drippy overcast day (have I mentioned that?), Rebecca pulled out old home movies to watch. We chuckled through some footage from Becca's birthday in Togo, and oohed and aahed over how tiny Sable was when we got her. We saw kids playing in pools and dacing on stage. Then a DVD was from the fall of 2002, right before Ian started A100. We saw our house in Woodbridge. The kids raking leaves, making snow angels, putting on puppet shows, playing Duck Duck Goose with daddy before they could even say the words. I can't believe how perfect that house was for us, and I didn't realize just how very much I miss it. We sold it in a fit of frustration while in Manila, and I'm so sad we did. The perfect layout, the perfect lot. It needed a bigger master bath and a carport, but that was about it. Oh, it could have used new carpeting, but with four little kids (Jonathon had just turned one at the beginning of the DVD, Katherine was in Kindergarten), the dark blue almost-shag was just right for us.
We sold it, made a nice profit, went to New Zealand on R&R with cash to blow. Still makes me sad. I spent about 10 minutes thinking in circles along the lines of "I am NOT in the right place, what am I doing in India, this is all wrong, I want to go home..." I snapped out of it, thank goodness. I took a nap.
The stars of the shows were, of course, the kids. And it hit me really hard how much I miss having a baby in the house. I really want another child. Or two. I know every parent thinks their kids are awesome, but the DVDs reminded me just how awesome they are and how wonderful home was with four little guys running around. I've wanted more kids since the day Jonathon was born, and I thought I had successfully stifled that desire over the past year (yes, I've been bitter and hopeful for many many years), but today it flared anew. It hurts. A lot.
So, it's rainy. It's dark. I miss home. Not just home, but MY home. And I miss my little babies. Don't get me wrong, the kids are still awesome. They are all smart, funny monsters, growing by leaps and bounds (Rebecca grew an inch from June to July this summer). But after watching the videos today even Nicholas said he wanted a baby sibling. Specifically a little sister. So now I have 4 kids who all say the family would be even better with another baby in it, and my own heart screaming the same.
Isn't it funny (not in a haha funny way, obviously) how life twists the knife sometimes?
Hopefully I can shove all this back down to my "Do No Open" corner of the brain in order to come back tomorrow is a happier mental state, provided the weather complies of course. But I'm not optimistic. Something needs to be done.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sing it with me! "We have got a Bid List! We have got a Bid List!"

Duh du du du du DUH! Da-duh du du du du DUH! I'm envisioning myself in a conga line...

Ian got no work done in the office today.
The list came with instructions (it's the government, people, of course it came with instructions), so we now know that of our 150 options around the world, we have to make a list of 6 At Grade choices (numbered 1-6, #1 being our top pick), and we can then add on any others after that. At Grade simply means in his Cone (his area of experience) and at his Grade Level (he's currenly an 03). We are at a Differential Post (we get extra $ for living in a hardship country), so that eases the Grade Level requirement a bit. They expect that people in hardship posts have had weird things thrown at them and have had to shoulder some additional responsibilities, so some of the bids can be a "stretch," meaning he can try for a higher 02 position.
#1 FSI
followed by London, Sydney, Brussels, Romania, in no particular order yet. Other considerations are Vancouver, Amman, Moscow, and for some reason Ian keeps gravitating to Taipei.
It's Christmas, only you get to pick your own present. Like kids who make a carefully chosen wish list and know for sure that one of those fabulous gifts will be theirs. The hardest part is figuring out which potential gifts should even be on the list, and then which of all the wonders is the absolute best and he should just ask for. Ah, the stress.
We took our minds off it all to watch "Beowulf." A CGI flick? I didn't know. I sort of feel I should read the book now.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Still no bid list #2

We've been looking ahead. Rebecca is thinking about a future working with animals. For a long time she thought about working in an animal shelter. She briefly considered a career as a vet but decided the schooling for that took too long. Then she shifted gears to becoming a lifeguard. Today we talked about other animal careers and she brought up working in a zoo as an animal trainer.

Of course since Jonathon learned there are proffesional computer game players he's been asking which college he should go to that will get him a degree in video game playing. And he asked whether Marymount has an arcade, because he knows it's close to grandma and grandpa's house. He said he's saving all his money in India to change to American dollars later, so he can buy a townhouse next to grandma and grandpa. Rebecca disagrees, as she's thought far enough to ahead to want a house that her brothers and sister and their whole families will be able to visit. She wants to go to college in Virginia.

Katherine wants to go to college overseas, preferably Ireland, though she has no idea what she wants to go to school for or what the schools in Ireland offer.

Nicholas? No idea.

But I digress.

So we looked at the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) website. After reading up on Wildlife Careers, we checked out the Snore and Roar overnight campout activity, and then at Adopting a Species. Katherine is still talking about adopting an owl, though it doesn't seem that it's an option at the National Zoo right now.
What I did think was exciting was the opportunity for kids as young as 14 to volunteer at the zoo. I know the competition to get those spots must be quite a hurdle, but how amazing it would be.
Lots to think about when we come home. Not that we know yet, because, you know, still no official list out.
But if I had my list right now it would look something like this:
Krakow/Amsterdam/some other language post in a nice place
Am I dreaming? Absolutely. But right now, I feel like I have the right to dream.
Ian has been keeping an eye on for a while. A newly released search is quite impressive, where you can find home values across the nation, but also put in a street & state & zip code and it'll pop up a map of the area, with plots, and recent homes sold marked in red as well as current homes on the market marked in green. Click on the flag of interest and get the listing. Not only can we see exactly the streets we want, but whether the house backs up to park land, is next to a major road, is on the corner, etc., all with a single glance. Home prices have dropped dramatically where we want to buy, so it's looking very positive for us. Should we go home for our next tour. Not that we know yet.
In the meantime we're still going swimming every day. Well, I managed to swim 8 days in a row until this morning when the pool was so pond scummy green I couldn't bring myself to dive in. When you can't see the bottom of the shallow end, you know things are bad. Today we received an e-mail that acknowledged the sorry state of our pool and said:
... Tomorrow after the head pool contractor visits the site, we will drain the pool, inspect the filtering system, repair loose cracked tiles, and re-balance the chemicals with fresh water.
Next week the pool changing rooms will begin rennovation. They will be gutted and kitted out with new tiles and fixtures after waterproofing work is completed and new plumbing lines installed. Consequently, the rooms and the baby pool area will remain closed for three to four weeks....

While I'm thrilled the pool is finally getting some attention, I'm also frustrated. It's happening NOW. Summer break is still here, the kids are still home, and no one else has returned from vacation. The pool is a regular activity for us (except today, obviously). And I had actually gotten used to exercising every day. Blast.
While the kids are finishing up math, Rebecca has dressed herself as a veterinary surgeon, and I'm loading up a CSI computer game for us to all work on this afternoon together. And then we'll have some zucchini bread.
Hmmm, looks like CSI will have to wait. Rebecca has just grabbed some of my disposable gloves, dug out a thermometer, sprain bandages, and her toy medical kit, and is opening up her own office. The others are waiting patiently with their stuffed animals to see the doctor on-call.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Still no bid list

Poor Ian is at work, surrounded by constant reminders of not having a bid list yet. The rest of us have been hanging about at home, and keeping quite distracted.

So far this week we have:
- set up a painting station outside one morning and spent a few hours painting with watercolors. Rebecca chose a still life, Katherine drew a new fashion then painted it. Jonathon went for abstract and Nicholas did two separate pictures of ice cream cones. He's not exactly the adventurous sort.
- dissected fish in the kitchen. Armed with gloves, pumpkin carvers (any heavy duty cutting I did with a sharp knife... fish are slippery) and a desire to see blood and organs, the kids picked out the intestine, heart, air bladder, etc., of their fish. Gills were a favorite, as were eyes. There was a hunt for the brain, that was a little more difficult to find.
- swum every morning, even me. Sure, the pool is gross most days (should have seen it yesterday, Oh My Goodness), but I can still get in some laps before the kids descend on me for Monkey in the Middle or Marco Polo or today's nonsense game of everyone piling on me and pretending I'm a train. A fun passtime has been using old toothbrushes to scrub algae off the tiles. It's a rather silly attempt as much of the algae returns by the next day. Did I mention the pool is gross? And dangerous too. Tree roots are pushing in on several sides, so we have lots of cracked tiles with very sharp edges. Cuts are not uncommon.
- played Battleship and Carcassonne with Jonathon, Scene It! Harry Potter with the boys. I feel like there have been more games, but can't recall.
- watched too many episodes of Monk Season 1.
- baked and cooked, from jell-o by Jonathon to fish sticks for dinner tonight by Katherine, Rebecca made chocolate pudding and added fruit and a cookie for a yummy dessert last night, Katherine decided one afternoon to make pumpkin bread. Potato salad was another new endeavor for Katherine. She also made eggs for everyone for lunch today, scrambled for the boys, fried for the rest of us for egg sandwiches. Nicholas pitched in with the toast. OK, granted, some of the goods are from boxes but still, it counts in this house.
- sent Katherine and Rebecca to Amma Naana for eggs when we only had 2. They walked over by themselves, picked up 18 eggs and some treats as well, then made their way home.
- let the kids play on the computer. Duh, it's still summer vacation.
- made the kids do some school work. So far the only consistent thing has been math every day. Katherine is working on the first chapter of an Algebra textbook, Rebecca has 5th grade multiplication, Nicholas has 3rd grade multiplication, Jonathon has review on lots of stuff from fractions to double digit subtraction to whatever else I come up with.
And just think, there's still tomorrow. And next week. And the week after that!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Some odds and ends

The bid list hasn't been released yet. It was supposed to come out July 1st (or 2nd?) but was delayed 2 weeks. We should hopefully get it this week. Our plan still stands to head back to Virginia, though I have to say that if a good position opened in Singapore, we'd probably bid on it in a heartbeat. Well, I would at least.

I've put photos up of our trip. They are very much an abbreviated version of what we saw and did, but you get the idea. We stayed busy.

I'm sure there's more to blab about, but I'm done for today, meaning I'm crashing. No one has to wake up tomorrow, so that's nice. And here's a good thing, something my mom and dad will understand... Katherine went to bed before 9 tonight. She didn't stay up to read, she was actually tired enough (aren't we all?) to just want to go to sleep. I'm optimistic.

With that, goodnight.

Home Again

Singapore was a wonderful vacation. I highly recommend it. Make sure you go with a healthy credit card though. Ouch.

Our times are a little off, as they were before, but all is well back home. Three live cats, woohoo!
Pictures will be forthcoming.
Singapore Airlines seems to be slipping a bit in its service. Less to munch on, drinks took forever (and we were parched), our row was skipped for cool towels, there were problems with the kids' Interactive games. Normal for ones like Air France or Delta, but not up to our expectations for this airline.
We've chilled out a bit and are heading to the pool. Thank goodness it's Saturday and we can continue to get back on track tomorrow.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sentosa: ThemePark in a ThemePark (&) Last Day

The connection didn't work yesterday so today will be a quick rundown of both days before we pack up. Our flight leaves early tomorrow morning.

Yesterday we spent the entire morning at the clinic. Katherine had a blood draw and the results today said no diabetes (we already knew) and normal thyroid, even with a very very mildly elevated T3 level. All her other levels were smack average. Finally returned to the hotel about 2 p.m. The rain was coming through in waves so we decided to hang about until about 3 before descending on Sentosa Island.
There are almost too many options to get on the island. By car, by foot, by bus, by tram, by cable car. We got a round trip on the cable car and beelined past the giant Merlion to Palawan Beach. A nice little cove, it was fairly empty but for the packs of t-shirted and sandaled military guys apparently doing a beach volleyball tournament. Tough life for the Singapore military. The kids got their salt water and sand fix, even found a pocket of horseshoe crab eggs when they dug a hole. Newly hatched horseshoe crabs are really cute, and green.
We had a fabulous dinner on the beach at Coastes. Nicholas had an entire thin crust prawn pizza and wouldn't share a slice. My burger was soooo good. Jonathon ate his whole 9" hotdog. The girls had pasta and Ian went for some sort of sausage thing.
We were right next to the Song of the Sea stage. Skip the show. Parts scared the little kids sitting in front of us, and the rest was a little boring and a lot silly to the rest of us. It involved "kids" running around the beach singing funky songs until one sings a song so luffaly that he sees a sleeping princess in the water. He learns from Oscar Oscar, a digital fish shown on a water backdrop, that he can awaken her with his song. On the way, he wakens the fire king (lots of fire shoots around when he regains his power), he wakens the light goddess (lots of lasers through sprays of water), and he wakens the water nymph (lots of water shoots around). He sings again and voila, the princess wakes up and smiles. The end. Seriously, save your money.
The Merlion glows in the dark. It's pretty cool.
Last stop for the kids (all 5 of them) was the CineBlast, a "log ride" of sorts. I don't really know, I wasn't there. It was a toss-up between great and vomitable. I'm glad I stayed away. I sat outside and watched the gechos and a frog catch his dinner. The park was closing down. Though the island is open until midnight, most of the shops and rides are done between 8-9 p.m. which basically leaves the restaurants open. It was a fun place to go, but I think the island will be even better once Universal Studios Singapore opens in 2010. Unfortunately, the new building means lots of the natural tree growth has been summarily executed.
Today has been a good day, but a long one. We went shopping for about 90 minutes. By we, I mean the girls and I. The boys went to a video arcade. But the girls bought some new clothes before we met up again for lunch at Tony Roma's. More pork ribs for everyone! Except Rebecca who went for a big beef steak.
I know, I know, I talk about a lot about food. But we were happy to have a very different assortment of food from what's on tap in Chennai. I didn't have a pasta meal the entire 10 days and I tried to stay far away from chicken. Beef (and pork) was what was for dinner (and lunch).
Back to the clinic to wrap up, we didn't get out until 6:30 and decided that after such a big lunch, dinner would be the snacks we had in our room. The bags are getting packed and we're closing up shop. Though I think we're ready to be back in our house and see our (hopefully not dead) cats again, no one is looking forward to India. We've gotten used to balmy weather, clean streets, fresh air and the freedom to walk around. India is the antithesis of all this. We're going to miss it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


With nothing to do until 3:30 this afternoon, we got off to a slow start this morning and eventually made it to the Science Center.

The Singapore Science Center is much like any other science center. There's a section on chemistry, others on the human body and nanotechnology, a portion on dinosaurs, and plenty of hands-on activities in between. By far the best part was watching baby chicks hatch. Sure, schools in the U.S. get to do it all the time with classroom incubators (Rebecca did in 1st grade in Virginia) but it was still way cool. The bad part of the trip involved Jonathon. Notice a trend? He and Nicholas wanted to hang out in the dinosaur section with a game while the rest of us walked next door to the Discovery Zone (with the chicks). Nicholas came over, alone. We didn't see Jonathon for the next 15 minutes and finally found him, miserable, at the entrance where I was headed to the reception desk to have him paged.
He lost 5 stars for that trick. Nicholas lost 4 for losing his brother.
The other day we realized we'd had enough of the boys acting out. Those things that are annoying in small amounts but have gotten just nuts after being here a week. Running to the elevator to see who can pound the buttons first. Pushing each other out of the way to open a door, any door. Behaving unsafely on the escalators. Requiring a half dozen warnings. You get the idea. So we instituted Stars, a process by which the boys each start with 10 stars a day and lose stars for acting out. At the end of the day we determine what the result is. This is a new process for us, so we haven't worked out the kinks yet, like how to earn back stars or if each lost star means a different penalty or should a range of stars determine the end result. What we have seen is that for Jonathon the star system works pretty well. He doesn't like losing stars, and getting lost aside, he's trying really hard to hang on to them. It's not as much of a slamdunk for Nicholas, and there's the issue of the girls thinking they get to decide what is lost-star worthy, but like I said, it's a work in progress.
We had lunch at McDs, and I've learned yet again how much I dislike McD food. The fries are OK. They're pretty good, considering, but the rest is just lousy. Jonathon got another "Kung Foo Panda" toy so he's happy again.
After Katherine's session from 3:30-5:30 (where the rest of us indulged in yet more gelato, bagels and hot cocoa, along with some Go Fish and War), we had dinner at the Jumbo Seafood restaurant at Riverside. A little too much food today, you think? Someone had recommended the black pepper crab so Ian went for it. Spicy, even for us. The stir fried rice noodles with seafood was excellent. The fried prawns with cereal (not quite what you think, but close) was quite good. The yam wrapped scallops were quite tasty though a little too sweet. Don't order the pitcher soft drinks, they're watered down. And make sure you can see the water, because unfortunately I got stuck facing the beer stand and the drink trolleys while the short people in our famille who couldn't see over the hedge were facing the river. Yeesh. Nah, I'm not really annoyed, I'm just stuffed and needing some sleep after my very relaxing and indulgent bath.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nothing to see here ->

It's my birthday today. I'm 34.

I slept in until 11 a.m.

We had lunch at Sushi Tei in the Paragon Mall. The kids really wanted to go to a sushi-go-round again, and this one Katherine and Ian went to back in May. It was quite nice and quite tasty.
Since I didn't even get up until after 11 (the kids were up after 9:30, repercussions of a 1 a.m. bedtime), lunch took up most of our time before our clinic appointment at 2:30. And the clinic took up until 5:30, though for my birthday we stopped at the Coffee Bean for a hot cocoa and cream cheese on sesame seed bagel. You know my thoughts on that already. The three kids got gelato next door, and we all spent another $60 at the Cold Storage on more bing cherries, chips, cheese cubes, yakult, peanut M&Ms... you get the idea. Come Saturday it'll be a while before we have these treats again. It's all good.
We dropped off our goodies at the hotel and watched some Price is Right (Drew Carey isn't the same, but the games are all the classics again!) before descending on Borders.
First we had to get to Borders which involves traipsing through other malls and maneuvering through underground passages with escalators and stairs both up and down. On one escalator Jonathon was a few steps ahead of me heading down and was shaking his foot. It didn't take but a second before I realized his Croc was stuck between the step and the side and was getting chewed up as we descended. A quick shout to Ian, who was closest, to yank his foot out and then worry about the shoe meant his foot escaped unscathed. His Croc is no more. The stairs caught the back strap and ripped it out, and the part by his big toe is torn up. He'll be wearing his tennies from now on, and will hopefully remember this for a long time. The kid keeps messing around on the plethora of escalators we meet up with, but then his bad experience in 2005 with an elevator hasn't tempered his behaviour around them, so who knows.
Back to Borders: Oh Borders, how I enjoy your well-stocked shelves of reading goodness. How your pages and smell of new print entice me. I could live happily in a Borders. With no room in our bags already, we bought 7 books. In my defense, 3 are Ian's and not ones I'm likely to read. Of the other 4, one really caught my eye especially since we did the Battle Box tour. It's entitled The Battle for Singapore by Peter Thompson and looks to be a great read.
Katherine found several books of interest but we're still trying to guide her reading into brighter topics. I know kids regularly go through phases of Goosebumps or the Twilight series, but they aren't the best material for her right now. Finding mysteries or exciting tales she'll actually enjoy seems to be quite a hurdle. If you have recommendations for teen reading that doesn't involve romance, fantasy/scifi or vampires, please let me know.
It was 8 by the time we arrived at Tony Roma's for dinner. The kids sang Happy Birthday and Katherine commented it was good I was having a birthday because without me they wouldn't be here. Aw. Nicholas said if I wasn't here they couldn't go to Singapore. Um, OK. Jonathon chimed in his two bits without stopping his chewing to say without me there'd be no rib eating. Good to know I'm good for something!
So yes, 34 has started quite nicely thanks to my amazing family. Ian had grand plans for my day, but really, spending time with them was all I needed or wanted.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A weird day

Nothing particularly odd happened today, but it was odd day nonetheless.

After Ian and Katherine left to the clinic this morning, the other kids swam for a bit before vegging in front of the TV. It was a slow morning for this part of the family, but noonish we were all back together and contemplating lunch. We keep ending up back at the mall (any mall) where a quick fast food lunch was followed by movie tickets for the 5 p.m. showing of the new Indiana Jones flick.
But that left a big chunk of empty time in the afternoon. Tennis shoes for Rebecca? Check. Flipflops for Rebecca? Check. Three more hours to kill? Um...
But we made it. Shakes and smoothies from Orange Julius along with some hands of Crazy 8s took up a bit of time. We wandered slowly for a while. For another hour we sat by the theater entrance. That was booooring. But finally it was 5 and we sat through the silliness of "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Indy is too old. I'm a Harrison Ford fan as much as the next person, but he was moving like an old man. I will admit it has a few funny spots, and I wa glad to see Marian back.
Hunger struck again and with Rebecca's shoe boxes in tow we returned to the hotel. Now, the original plan had been to go to the Night Safari tonight, but it stormed several times through the day and after our massive patch of utter boredom, we were all plain wary of the weather and generally drained. We had a family summit. Voting occurred. Debated were organized. Voices were heard and positions held.
Ian popped some Motrin and we went to the zoo.
And we had a blast.
Dinner was OK. While we were eating though, out came three adorable creatures. A baby boa, a white owl, and a cerval. I admit, I screeched a bit when we spotted the cerval, and gladded handed over $10 so the kids could have their photos taken up close and personal with all 3. Very cool. That was right before the Creatures of the Night show. When we were in Singapore 4 years ago after our tour of New Zealand and Sydney, we stopped by Singapore and did the Night Safari. The kids were 2, 4, 6, and 8, and at one point the audience is asked for a kid volunteer. In 2004, Katherine was chosen. Tonight, it was Jonathon's turn and he looked so cute! After hiding grapes in his hands and having a little otter-type creature sniff them out, He got a free scoop of Ben&Jerry's for his trouble. I hope at least one photo turned out but it's tough when no flashes are allowed. We had a wonderful time seeing the striped hyena Jonathon is so fond of and the recycling otters, the bearcats, poorly "behaved" wolves and mongooses, and high-jumping cervals (they really are amazing).
We took to the trail. First by tram (avoid the tram, the other people are so loud) and then by foot. In 2004 we didn't manage to walk around due to jet lag, but it was so worth it. Our first stop when we hopped off the tram at the East Lodge were the flying squirrels. They are by far the coolest animals ever. We watched them swoop across a couple times. Way cool. The bats in the mangrove enclosure... very cool. The fishing cats and leopards, awesome. The pack of wolves when the ran after a perceived dinner bell... yup, cool. The porcupines spooked the boys. But by 11:30 we had made our way back to the start, snacked on ice cream and hunted down some souvenirs.
There's a 5 person limit in taxis in Singapore. It always passes as a minor issue and we've only been turned down once, but at midnight at the zoo there was a single taxi that arrived after a few minutes and complained about our numbers. Thankfully he did take us home and only gave a light tongue lashing about requiring 2 taxis next time.
Yeah, right.
Anyway, that's how I spent the beginning of my birthday, coming home from a great time at the Singapore Night Safari. We didn't make it to the actual Singapore Zoo this time, but that's OK. Should we ever come back we have to leave something to do, right?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A pleasant Sunday to you.

There's something to be said for quiet Sundays. While today wasn't our normal level of quiet (*chirp* Chennai *chirp*) it was a pleasant day of poking around Singapore.

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is near Clarke Quay and across the street from a converted church which is now an assortment of... shops and restaurants. It's a wonder that any restaurant here is full, so it's impressive that most of them are packed. Hello tourists.
The Cathedral is an old building in need of some attention. It's open air, what we've become accustomed to over the past 3 years, but the differences between this Mass and the ones in Chennai are clear. The music was beautiful, the homily made sense, and above all there was a sense that people understood why they were there, even the tourists like us. It was such a different experience.
The Hog's Breath Cafe' was across the street and our lunch destination. Oh yeah, steak. And a baked potato. Jonathon had a kid steak, Rebecca went for the sampler platter. A ridiculous meal of loaded baked potato skins, chicken strips, buffalo wings, and fried calamari rings. Delicious and totally bad for you. We wandered the little shops until we made our way to Fort Canning Park. The plan was to walk the park and let the kids tear around on the greens. We explored the spice garden, climbed on top of the Fort Gate, almost crashed a wedding reception, and found the Battle Box museum. Built into the hill, the Battle Box was completed just a few years before the Japanese invaded Singapore during WWII. It was a working station, for communications and military support. The Japanese pounded it into submission, taking over the food depots, breaking the water mains, blocking refueling missions. On 15 February 1942, the brigadier generals convened and agreed to surrender the island to General Yamashita. All the generals were taken as prisoners of war and spread out around the island prisons. One escaped, and left his division behind in prison as he returned to Australia. When the war ended and all the rest of the BGs were released, the escapee was court martialed. As well he should have been. Anyway, the tour involved animatronic figures and headphones, so it was quite reminiscent of the Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor. On Corregidor it was 2 year old Jonathon who didn't like the dark spooky tunnel, this time it was 12 year old Katherine who was stuck to me like glue. Yeesh.
Aside from the perpetual need to find bathrooms for the boys no matter where we were, one time we gave in to using an empty water bottle for little hopping Jonathon, we had a good time in the park. A big hill lured the kids to roll down, once completely unintentionally for Jonathon. It was a spectacular tumble. Now he's got 3 limbs all scratched up (a tumble at the picnic last night got an entire shin), and plenty of time for the 4th before the week is up.
We returned to Clarke Quay and found ourselves in the middle of a youth marathon of some sort. We asked a couple people what the race was for but no one seemed to know, but it didn't matter. We people-watched while the kids sipped blue 7-11 Slurpees, then meandered through yet more malls where we splurged on girlie things like earrings and nail polish. When we finally considered dinner, a recommendation for the Jumbo Seafood restaurant along the riverwalk made our choice for us. The line changed our mind. Oops, a place that needs reservations on Sunday night along the riverside? Who knew?
We walked all the way back to our neck of the woods. With kids who had been walking from about 12:30 already, they were not happy. After a quick dinner at California Pizza Kitchen we returned to the hotel with more than a few blistered feet at 8:30. The boys were still completely filthy from the time at Ft. Canning Park so they were both tossed in the tub while we Skyped with my parents.
Now we're watching the sorcerer, conqueror, one-man Spanish Armada (sorry, tennis commentators are taking over my brain) Nadal play men's finals against Federer. It's been a rocking match so far, and Rebecca is a huge Nadal fan so we have high hopes he'll knock Federer off his high horse.
Must get back to the game, but first, a shower. I'm sweaty and stinky too. Don't win before I get back, Rafael!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 4th!.. uh 5th!!

Today we actually celebrated the 4th of July.

Not right away. Being Saturday we didn't roll out of the hotel until 11 a.m. and then it was only to head down to Orchard Road for some shopping. Rebecca has completely outgrown her tennis shoes and we hunted through several shops before deciding $100 is too much for shoes outgrown in 6 months, even in Singapore dollars. Heck, even the flipflops (which I'll be ordering from Old Navy, thankyouverymuch) were "on sale" for SG$30. I wonder what the COLA is to live here anyway?
The movie theaters are quite nice, at least at the Shaw Lido. We saw "Kung Fu Panda" and it was hilarious. I don't want to sound like an ad, but seriously, I did laugh out loud and several parts took me by surprise. I highly recommend it, even with the cartoon violence. No blood is shed.
We wandered through a few more malls (not shops, entire malls, as large portions of Singapore city is just layers of shopping centers) before reaching the ToysRUs. Honestly, we aren't here to shop. I like walking through a mall periodically, but doing it daily isn't fun for me. Seeing as we're here though, and malls aren't all that common in Chennai with Borders, Gap, and ToysRUs, I'll put up with the temporary sensory overload.
About 3:30 in the afternoon we hopped the MRT to Sambawang station on the north side of the island and caught a shuttle to the Terror Club. Yes, the Terror Club. I don't know why anyone, especially an American MWR, would call their place the Terror Club, but that's where the American Association's IndepenDance celebation was held. At 4:30 it was a pleasant field with a long food tent filled with wonderful smells of ribs, burgers, kebabs, plenty of room to sit and enjoy the breeze while the kids tore around to the trampoline bungy thing, the free cotton candy, the bouncy houses, martial arts demonstration and trial class.... you get the idea. Because of the location, we could let them roam free, much like at the AISC picnics. We found an empty bench on the hillside while the kids wound down, in time for the presentation of the Colors and the National Anthem. Shortly after, the fireworks started and it was a very decent show. Sitting with my sweaty, dirty offspring among the sea of people in red, white and blue, hearing the anthem and watching the show was worth all the grumbling along the way ("Where are we going?" "How much longer?" "Why do we have to go?" "How long are we staying?").
Catching a cab, we passed the zoo and night safari (planned for Monday night provided the 60% rain predicted for all week holds off) and were home by 9 p.m. Now the boys are conked out. The sleeping situation is still a problem but tonight we tried something different by putting the boys to bed while letting the girls stay up to watch the women's finals of Wimbledon. For some reason both DSs have come out so I'm the only one actually watching tennis, but it's not even 10:30 yet and church isn't until 10 in the morning.
I think I'll have another snack.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th!

It was tough to get up this morning. We're keeping our Chennai schedule, having lunch at 2 or 3, dinner happens at 9:30. But in a city that has such a hopping nightlife we're one of the first heading back to the hotel to find our beds.

This morning was the first of 6 visits to the clinic. It's a long story so I won't bore you. Suffice to say it took up all morning and is the actual purpose of our visit to Singapore. We'll be spending time at the clinic every day next week,
While Katherine was upstairs, the rest of us hung out in The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. They have really really good hot cocoa. And even better bagels. With cream cheese. It's my dream breakfast. Seriously. I was so happy.
Then we walked over to the Cold Storage grocery store and emptied the place. A slight exaggeration, but what else do you call bags of bing cherries, oranges, apples, a box of Lucky Charms, mini Mars Bars, cheddar cheese cubes, feta and garlic potato chips, and a handful of noneatables? The bing cherries didn't last long, the other fruits are for breakfast tomorrow. It's all good.
We grabbed a cab back to the hotel to drop off our goodies before going to the Suntec Plaza and sushi. The last time Katherine and Ian were here, they went out for sushi, the kind on a conveyor belt, or as the kids like to call it, a sushi-go-round.
Oh, which reminds me of yesterday when we were at Brewerkz. When we'd ordered our drinks Jonathon very politely pointed out "Shouldn't we order 2 bottles of chilled water too?" Hee.
Back to today, the sushi place. We had quite a bit of fun tasting the variety of foods on offer. A roll with tuna inside was a big hit, as were teppanyaki fried crab. Jonathon liked the raw salmon. Everything went over well except the squid balls. In the boys' meals were balls of some random starch filled with itty bitty octopus tentacles. Honestly they could have passed for maggots, they were just the right size, shape and color. Katherine ate one (she eats anything) and said it kind of grossed her out too. With tentacle stuck in her teeth. The Donut shop where we bought a dozen various delicious morsels made it all better.
We wandered through the malls. Mall after mall after mall. No need to experience the outdoors, even with how nice it was. We're looking for new tennis shoes for Rebecca and so far we haven't found anything like a Payless here, but it's still fun to look.
We needed a break so returned to the hotel for some downtime with a nap (for me), DS9 and doughnuts. Hot cocoa and Krispy Kreme type doughnuts is my second favorite breakfast.
The kids went swimming and at 8 we searched for dinner. Eating out gets old, I'm glad we at least have our breakfasts covered here in the room. And if we plan well enough, we can do a late lunch/early dinner and only have to make one eating out decision. We won't be that lucky every day. Tonight we ended up at McDonalds. A very American meal for our Independence Day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ah, Singapore

Or: Is it possible for a city-state to be too sterile??

I'm writing on a really tiny keyboard so forgive the typing errors. Ian bought an "Eee PC" last time in Singapore, as a portable toy, and it's tough to type. I'll keep this short.
There's a 2.5 hour time difference from home, so we're just a little off, wanting to go to bed at 1 a.m. and sleeping in until 10 a.m. This morning we finally got out of the hotel at 11 and were off to Snow City. This city is so clean, so green, so fresh and so pleasant. It's just so right and has everything, it almost seems... boring? No, not boring, but there's something a little off about everything be right on.
But I digress.
Snow City is a room. A very cold room (-6.9C to be exact), where we donned boots, jackets, and gloves to go tubing down a frosty, icy hill. I went down once and got enough snow in my shoes, gloves and, um, pants, to stand on the sidelines and cheer for the rest of the time. An hour was too long for any of us though, and less than 40 minutes into it the kids were ready to thaw.
Snow City is next door to the Science Center, so after a quick lunch of fries and soda from McDs in the Kinetic Garden we watched Dinosaurs: Live! on Imax. We've saved our tickets for the rest of the Science Center for another day. We've got time.
Since today is Ian's birthday (35!!) we went to the Brewerks Restaurant at Riverside Point, a microbrewery on the river. The food was OK, the raspberry beer wasn't nearly as good as the good stuff in Brussels (but then, what could ever be as good?), and I do wish we'd sat along the riverside rather than inside. But when they heard it was Ian's bday, out came the complimentary piece of cake without any staff song. What could be better?
The weather was simply gorgeous. We took the half hour river cruise before heading over to the Funan IT Mall for odds and ends. I needed an SD card that doesn't have the first 11 photos corrupted, so some AA batteries and a thumb drive later, we started home. With an SD card too of course. And 2 new DS games. Who agrees with me that "Guitar Hero for DS" is the dumbest idea ever? We passed the beautiful St. Andrews Cathedral on the way to the MRT, our primary mode of transportation today. By 8:30 p.m. we made it back to our rooms.
And a birthday cake from the hotel was waiting in our room. Cool! It's good chocolate cake too, something you can't find in Chennai.
We're tired. The kids aren't sleeping well in their room. We have a makeshift bed out of armchairs for the boys to trade off, while the other 3 sleep sideways on the twins pushed together. Far from ideal, I know, but our other option is 3 hotel rooms and that's plain prohibitive. Not until the kids are bigger, please! But what this room situation really means is a lot of giggling intermixed with a lot of "She took all the covers!" and "He's out of bed and keeps hitting me!" Is it legal to let kids sleep in the hall? OK, how about just the bathtub?
I'm kidding, but I'm ready for the novelty to wear off.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In Singapore

On a largely empty Singapore Airlines flight, we made it here. All we've accomplished so far is to go to Burger King, but we've got the whole day free tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Just One More Thing.

Yesterday on our way to the Consulate for lunch I noticed a gas station that was just packed with cars. That is odd. Our driver said the station had regular gas, apparently something rare these days where premium is available (at over $6.00/gal) but regular is short or plain unavailable. Other news says it's all about a delayed tanker. Still others say it's all about diesel. Whatever the reason, it's ominous.

I knew gas was expensive, I just didn't expect shortages. At leat not yet. Our car is at 1/4 tank and will remain so until we return, but what then? I'm hoping things will ease over the next week as the gov't has claimed, but I'm also realistic in realizing this might only be the beginning.

Scott Carney wrote a bit about it on his blog:

And speaking of fuel and fuel prices... our trip to Singapore? The tickets cost about $3000. A full 1/3 of that is a fuel surcharge. Yup, $1000 to pay for the fuel, just for the 6 of us. Insane.