Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bali with Jer

While we were finishing up our trip in New Zealand, a package in the form of Jeremy arrived at our door in Singapore. Jer had about two full days before we came back, and since then we have been much better hosts, and it's been super fun. We have checked off nearly all of his "food goals" including laksa, chili crab, dim sum, idli...and we have a few more in the schedule. Jer has been an incredible uncle, playing with Sam all day long. She is LOVING him, wanting him to join whatever she does, holding his hand, letting him carry her (she doesn't usually allow those outside of the parent/grandparent category this honour).

In addition to having fun in Singapore, we got to take our fun to Bali, where we met Kurt and Amy, Matt's friends from Peace Corps, who are now living in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was a super fun long weekend. We stayed in Ubud, but were able to hike on the outskirts a bit, eat good food (Indonesian and Western), Jer and Kurt went biking, and we took a car around for a day.

I still believe there is something about Bali that takes my brain out of Singapore and makes me relax. Staying with a view of rice fields, seeing ox walk past your window, smelling the smells and seeing the beautiful colours of that place is just good for the soul.

Some highlights of our trip included:

  • Eating breakfast on Jeremy's porch every morning with a gorgeous view. The first morning it included an ox, and a perfect mango hanging right over his porch.
  • Sam loves shoes (LOVES shoes). We got her these fancy beaded flip flops (for $4), and she was so excited, she had to wear them out of the shop. The sidewalks of Ubud may not be the most consistent...and within about five minutes, Sam had tripped on a huge slab of cement and lost one of her new slippers into the sewer. We went back to get a second pair (one of which was dropped in the road in Singapore today - with cars running on both sides...but it survived. Maybe we should take a hint?)
  • The last morning Sam woke up at 6 and was watching Dora in our bed. Our bed had a lovely mosquito net to keep all the bugs out. After about five minutes, I opened my eyes, looked up and I saw a HUGE cockroach on the top of our bed, inside the mosquito net. How long had that been there? EEEEWWWW!!!
breakfast on jer's porch

all of the waitresses at the restaurant (Murni's Warung) hung out with Sam. They showed her the prayer ceremony. She showed them the snail on the wall.

the building at the back of the rice field (not the one on the right, but the shorter one on the left) is where we stayed. this photo caught sam mid-fall/trip.

you see these all over bali, but i think this is the most beautiful one i have ever seen. just at a store on monkey forest road.

sam lived off of grilled cheese and banana juice/smoothie.

photo of everyone but me, though it's a temple just outside of ubud

jer trying tamarillo, passionfruit and rambutan all at once.

All in all, it was fantastic to spend time with Kurt and Amy. The last time we saw them was 2007 in Hong Kong. It was also great to be in Bali. I just love that place.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

New Zealand

We just returned from the best holiday of our lives - perhaps including the future as well. We spent 2.5 weeks on the South Island of New Zealand (almost exclusively), and it was absolutely gorgeous (click here for photos). We flew to Auckland (10 hours), where Sam saw a golf cart type vehicle and called it a tuk tuk. Then we flew to Nelson on the South Island where the stone statues were Buddhas. The place we stayed first, Harris Hill Cottages (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!) was definitely the highlight of Nelson. The cabin we stayed, City Lights was a one bedroom cabin, with a bed for me and Matt in the main room, a full kitchen, laundry, picnic table and crazy view over the city of Nelson (see photo). We also had a few hundred sheep, cows, ponies, goats, horses, lamas, daisy the pig and dogs at our doorstep.

The first day we drove to Nelson Lakes National Park and hiked up the main mountain as well as around the lake at the bottom. Gorgeous green rolling mountains with sharp snow-covered peaks in the background. We stopped at the Founders Brewery cafe on the way home to try some local brews. Luckily nearly all breweries we have been to in Australia and NZ have playgrounds, so all were happy.

We spent a day exploring Nelson, including finding the jewelry shop which made "THE RING" from the Lord of the Rings (Matt was beyond excited. I couldn't care less). They had a lovely market in town, with fantastic bratwurst, fresh fruit and veggies, etc. We were able to cook simple dinners for a few nights from our purchases at the market. We found the McCashin's Brewery in Stoke, and got a taster. Sam tasted the ginger beer (not really beer) and couldn't get enough.

While staying in Nelson we also visited Abel Tasman National Park. Most of the park is accessible only by water taxi so we saw only the first few hours by foot by the entrance to the park. We visited the Mouteka weekend market first, got amazing empanadas for the hike, with fantastic cherries and strawberries. They also had someone selling used children's clothes, which was fantastic, since we did NOT have enough for Sam. We were able to get corduroys, a sweatshirt and a few long sleeved shirts for a few bucks. Win.

 The park was incredible. The trail mostly hugs the shore, with amazingly blue water, gorgeous cliffs (seemed like limestone - like Thailand, but not as dramatic). While Sam slept in the carrier most of the way out, she hiked a great deal of the way back. At the turn around point we went down to the beach and ate our lunch. Sam was a bit nervous to go in the water at first, and definitely didn't like the waves, but after a while, she loved it. She completely soaked her clothes, so we took them off (see photo), and she had a great time walking up and down the shore, just in the edge of the water.

Leaving Nelson, we took the scenic route, the Queen Charlotte Rd, from Havelock to Picton. It had amazing colours and was well worth the extra kms. On the way down the coast, towards our next destination of Kaikoura, we stopped at Ohau waterfall to see the seals who climb UP the waterfall...We arrived in Kaikoura, checked into our cabin (Kaikoura Cottages - recommended - not anything crazy special but definitely did the job and also had an extra bedroom), went to the grocery store and had a nice evening. It was a bit of a cloudy evening, and we didn't realise until the next morning that we had an AMAZING view of gorgeous snow covered mountains.

We hiked around the Kaikoura Peninsula, which may have been our most beautiful hike we did (see photo). It had gorgeous, blue water on one side, snow covered mountains behind us, and lots of different terrain. Steep climbs, long treks in fields, a bit of pine forest, some even through a few towns and neighborhoods. We saw many seals, and we even saw dolphins jumping in the distance. It can't get much prettier than that anywhere in the world.

After Kaikoura, we drove to Twizel near Mt Cook. We drove nearly a whole day, passing through Christchurch and the brewery which made the beer for the Lord of the Rings (it turns out it's completely disgusting, as it had to be very low alcohol content in order to shoot and re-shoot scenes, but the bottle is cool). It was about 8 hours of driving in total, and Samara was a champ. She slept or zoned out for most of it, only creating havoc for about five minutes total. She rocked. The drive was INCREDIBLY beautiful. We wove down the east coast towards Christchurch - in yellow hills with sea on our left and cute towns every few...hours...? After Christchurch we cut inland and headed towards Mt Cook. It was gorgeous, and then it got even more gorgeous when we hit Lake Tekapo. It's a BLUE glacial lake like nothing I have seen before (see photo). After that was Lake Pukaki (seriously - cool name, right?), which was similar. Apparently there is some silt in the water which makes it blue, and it's amazing.

We stayed in the TINY town of Twizel (would be cool if it was soft "i" but it's like "eye") at the Aspen Court Hotel. Again, nothing to write home about, but it did the trick. The town had so few people but so many restaurants. Sam loved the playground, ate pizza and enjoyed her first hot chocolate. It was FREEZING!

While in Twizel, we spent a day at Mt. Cook. We were driving up to it and Matt insisted on taking a few photos. I was annoyed to stop the car for MORE photos (he loves photos), but it turns out this was a good decision. Once we got there, the weather was super cloudy and we didn't see it the rest of the day. We still have no sense of where the actual mountain was in relation to where we hiked. They told us it would pour after lunch so we better get going. We did the Hooker Valley Track (see photo), which took us up a river, across a few "shaky bridges" (as Sam calls them) and towards one of the glaciers. It was absolutely gorgeous, but raining nearly the whole time. Sam got down a did a bit of hiking on her own, and she loved it. We also did a walk to a glacial lake, which was ok but not as cool as the first hike.

After Mt Cook we headed to Queenstown. The drive there was absolutely unbelievable (though we almost ran out of gas - you can go HOURS without seeing a pump, it turns out!). It was another long drive, and we ended up at our B&B about 15 minutes outside of Queenstown, Crownview B&B. This place is DEFINITELY recommended if you're up for a B&B. They were the nicest people, even the baby played with Sam (in addition to the sheep, dogs, chickens, etc.). The view from their home was the Remarkables in one direction, other, less sharp, but still snow covered mountains a bit to the left, then their gorgeous grass and huge valleys all around their house. Just when I thought it couldn't get any more beautiful, out popped the rainbow (see photo). No joke!

We really enjoyed the Queenstown area. Our first night we got a Fergburger to have at the beach (See photo. Sam had grilled cheese and enjoyed the fries, though she had to defend from the ducks who also love fries). We also visited the Remarkables market - just at the base of the mountains. They had cool locally made crafts and food and even a sandbox for kids. At the Queenstown market we found a lovely piece of art which we both agreed on (this never happens), and we enjoyed live music and generally amazing weather and positive vibe. We did a walk out to Sunshine Bay, along the lake from Queenstown, and that was gorgeous too. As a treat we had lunch at a lovely winery, Amisfield, and Sam kept herself busy on the petanque field.

We took an evening trip to Arrowtown, which is a few minutes away from Queenstown and was crazy historical and gorgeous. The pub where we ate even had a tree-house for the kids to play in. While the boys were all throwing sand and rocks in and out of it, Sam wanted to bring in a pink chair and sit nicely. Boys and girls are so different. We also took a drive up to Glenorchy to hike up Diamond Creek/River (see photo of Sam hiking), and that was gorgeous too (see a trend?).

While Queenstown is generally the place for sky diving, bungee jumping or doing other crazy things, we hiked and took a calm boat ride on the lake. Next time. After Queenstown we drove out to Te Anau to stay on a deer farm at Rose N'Reel. We had our own cottage, literally surrounded by a deer farm, including sheep, a super friendly horse and dog and loads of other animals. We didn't realise they had a cat until we were reading bedtime stories with Sam and the cat jumped in the window and onto the bed...that was alarming, but very welcoming, I suppose. While Te Anau is incredibly gorgeous itself (we did a bit of hiking around the lake and in a neighboring town), it's also the jumping off point for the Milford Sound. We drove out there to take a few hour boat ride, and it was AMAZING (see photo). It was like the cliffs of Thailand or the Philippines but WAY bigger and more dramatic...and with snow and glaciers, waterfalls and other impressive bits.

From Te Anau we drove all along the south (the SUPER scenic route...perhaps not worth it...through the Catlins) all the way to Dunedin. While the town itself was really pleasant, and it's a cultural hub, we were so used to being outdoors that we didn't really know what to do with ourselves. We spent most of our time in the botanic gardens (and they were GORGEOUS!). We stayed at Leithview, another working farm but this time about two minutes from the city. While we found our B&Bs to be fantastic, it's much easier to stay in a self-contained cabin where we can cook, have separate spaces to sit after we put Sam to bed, and more flexibility for noise.

We spent a day on the Otago Peninsula, hiking around, and we ended up seeing two rare sea lions (see photo) at Sandfly Bay. One was sleeping on the beach, and the other walked ashore and got himself comfy while we were there. That was super cool.

We flew from Dunedin to Auckland and spent a day there. Similar to Dunedin, we weren't quite sure what to do with ourselves in a city - so we enjoyed the good food, checked out the main street, the harbour and walked around a lot, but we spent a lot of time in a big park.

All in all, it was absolutely incredible, and without a doubt the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life. Two and a half weeks was a good amount of time, as any less I would have felt like I didn't see anything and any more, I would be sure that my child would not survive off grilled cheese and pizza alone. The people were super welcoming, the food was super tasty, beer and wine were good, and the prices were WAAAYYY cheaper than Australia, where we went the past two years. If it weren't so damn far away, this New Zealand place would be the most visited place on earth. For sure. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


We have really tried to stay away from princesses. We haven't bought anything of the sort - really try not to have too much pink, definitely don't call Samara a princess, etc. We got an amazing gift of hand-me-down children books from a family in the Jewish community here in Singapore, and in between the Little Bear, the Berenstain Bears, the Mercer Mayers and all of the other goodies...was Cinderella. ONE princess book out of maybe fifty or more books. Somehow Samara spotted that one, and she wants us to read that one all the time. She loves Cinderella. She loves the prince. She loves that Cinderella "lays keppy" in the prince.

In the last two days I went to Mustafa and H&M with Sam. We looked for baby books at Mustafa, and immediately, she was drawn to the princess books. She said, "mommy, I want this one." She opened them, found the princesses and the princes and she had a hard time putting them down. At H&M she found the princess shirts and daughter has been princessified - completely against my will - and I have nearly no idea how it can happen so strongly. Shall we move to a mountain top?

She has completely memorized Madeline, The Mouse and the Buddha, the Giving Tree and she's not all princess, but still, I'm pretty shocked that it happened so early...and in Asia! I heard this person on NPR more than a year ago, and I was like, "not my daughter. No way." Right...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bangkok...sans parents

I generally don't want to post about my parents coming to Singapore until it's know, as it's not safe to post about one's whereabouts in the internet. Well, this time, they didn't come, so I can post away. My parents were supposed to come two weeks ago for a long visit in Singapore and then a mountain biking trip in Vietnam with their friends. Unfortunately, my dad had some sort of problem with a disk in his back (looks to be temporary but not healing SUPER quickly...), so they couldn't travel. I was super excited to spend time with them, and mostly to watch them spend time with Samara, and I was SUPER bummed that they couldn't come. Hopefully we can reschedule soon.

In the meantime, around the time they were meant to arrive, as I returned from Hong Kong, Sam got the stomach flu. Then three days later, I got it. Two days after that, Matt got perhaps they were happy they didn't come! Man, taking care of a kid even a few days after a stomach flu is miserable! That was not a very fun week...

We had planned a trip to Bangkok, when they were in town, as it's a super easy place to go, cheap to stay and so much to do - we LOVE Bangkok. Matt and I decided to go anyway, and we had a super fun weekend with Samara, and we were all feeling totally normal by Friday night.

I actually extended my personal trip so that I could attend the World Blind Union General Assembly and learn more about visually impaired people's needs (as this is part of my job - supporting our employees and also our customers). It was fascinating to be in a place where probably more than 50% of the people had visual impairment. It made me think about completely different things that I usually do (presentation style, my appearance (or not think about it, really), conference materials, signage in a hotel and general accessibility, etc.). For no good reason, I also got upgraded into a CRAZY nice hotel room for that one night, and I had the best night's sleep of the last few years. When my wake up call came, I was thoroughly confused.

Once Matt and Sam arrived, we decided to go to a few new places. We took a boat down the river to go to an antique mall, we went to a new area to walk around in (though it kinda looked like the rest...), had some really nice food (thank goodness I felt better and could enjoy it!), went to Chatuchat market (the BEST!), relaxed, shopped more, went to the park (multiple times...finding new playgrounds...), and generally had a REALLY nice family weekend. I stress about Samara's eating and sleeping on holiday, but she slept like a champ, and she didn't wither away (though she didn't really eat, either...). That makes for a happy Melanie. Samara entertained herself on the plane with a pad of paper and crayons, drawing letters, shapes, snakes, dots, turtles.

We saw the King's motorcade, but we didn't see Obama. We did see the traffic he caused, though, as all of the streets around him were closed.

Sam having a snack in chatuchat market 

weird, right?

mommy - this is my table. you have your table.

Sam kept taking headbands from the front of the store, putting them on, going back to the auntie with the mirror, looking, saying, "nice" then putting the headband back and taking a new one...repeat.

Random people taking photos with my daughter.

eating coconut ice cream in the market

tuk tuks are THRILLING!

playground at Lumpini Park. Heaven.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tot Shabbat

Our progressive Jewish community has just over 100 families. They're mostly from the US with a smattering of UK, Israel, Australia and a few other European countries thrown in. Matt and I have met many of our friends through this Jewish community, and on an island 24 hours flight (at the shortest...) from home, this has been our family here. Our community has Shabbat services and dinner once a month and a few other activities, like talks, holiday parties, a book group (sometimes)...and Tot Shabbats for the little guys.

Yesterday Samara and I hosted Tot Shabbat. I had been to around four or five tot shabbats in the past, and usually there are around 8-10 kids and an adult for each kid family. Yeah - everyone else who hosted had huge apartments or houses, but turnout was really never all that big, but it was low key and fun. Eh - I'm working part time now, so I have time, and I'm sure we won't get so many people...

As RSVPs came in, I was becoming more unsure about the capacity of our 1100 square foot apartment. I decided to not cut it off, as someone is bound to be sick or get stuck in traffic and not show up. In the end, we had 12 kids and 10 adults. It was completely nuts and crowded, but it was super fun!

Kids mostly just play together, and parents mostly talk. As it turns out, they don't actually need so much entertainment. We did have challah dough ready, though, so that each person who wanted to could braid a little challah - that ended up being really fun for some of the kids, and we had sheets with the parsha (Torah portion) of the week to colour and a few other activities. Before anyone left we did the blessings over the candles, wine and challah. All in all, for two hours, it was really nice, and I would definitely do it again.

Generally we light shabbat candles when we have shabbat dinner. Though I often think about getting back into the routine of lighting them every night...I'm definitely not in that routine. This past Friday, after Tot Shabbat, Matt and I had tickets to this local theatre production. So we scarfed down some food, quickly, and ran out. On the way, Rose SMS'd me and said, "Ma'am, should I keep the candles burning or blow them out?""Just leave them, please" was the response. This definitely made me laugh. With a two year old, the idea of blowing out shabbat candles comes up a lot too!

If you're reading this from somewhere out of Singapore, you may be shocked that I am called, Ma'am. This is for another post, which I have been talking about doing for about a year and a half, about having domestic help here in Singapore. It is clearly such a sensitive topic, and so so complicated for me, so I want to make sure it gets the attention necessary before I throw it on my blog.

Basically, I call myself Melanie. I call Matt, Matt. I have told Rose she is welcome to call us Matt and Mel or whatever, and when she speaks with us, I think she actually prefers not to address us in any way in person (no Ma'am in person, and I don't think I have heard her say my name either), but in writing it's Ma'am and Sir. Definitely takes some getting used to, and I'm definitely still not used to it (nor do I plan to be).

Cynthia and Maddy making challah

Amit and Liyah making challah

Samara learned about welcoming and taking care of guests from the parsha, where Abraham welcomes the guests (by serving them meat and milk, but that's another story...). Here she hugs Maddy goodbye.

Alexi and Ruth

Amit pulled out his drum, but only for a few minutes. Sam loved it. More more! She had to go tap his shoulder and say, "Excuse me. More please."

Friday trip to Mustafa, earlier in the day. Sam needed her dinosaur in her shirt, her bag, hat and of course her watch.

Even earlier in the day, this is her best friend, Nathan. They still spend most days together and love each other.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Matt, Sam and I went to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend...for the third time (Matt has been there for work many many more times). I wasn't impressed the first time. I wasn't impressed the second...and this time left me with the same impression. Eh.

It's kinda like Singapore, but not as good. The positives:

  • Chinatown is kinda fun in the evening. There were some fun stalls/shops, and we absolutely loved the food at the Old China Cafe at the end of all of the madness.
  • You can stay in a five-star hotel for nearly nothing, so the Shangri-;a was our home base this time and last, and it was great. The breakfast is an event, and when eaten outside, it can be coupled with coy-watching and Sam-chasing (which is a good thing - I hate controlling her in a restaurant. Misery).
  • The pool at the Shangri-la was a highlight. We swam three times in one weekend, and Sam was a superstar. She absolutely loved it.
  • The base of the Petronas Towers (those two iconic towers in KL) has an incredibly huge playground. That is like a dream to a two year old. Finding shady areas to play is another challenge, but all in all, that was a highlight.

Probably ten women took photos with Sam. They just bend down, some pick her up, some stand next to her, and they take photos. This is something that is normal out here, but I still don't expect it and I laugh each time. Sometimes it kinda scares Sam, and she says, "Mommy!" looking for me. Do I comfort her and say, "It's ok, Sam. They just want to take a photo with you." or do I just sweep her away? Hm. Usually I tell her it's ok and I let them continue to take photos. Perhaps I'm not the best mom.

Another thing that's funny in SE Asia, which I have gotten used to, is that people take your child away at times. The first time this happened was in Jakarta in December 2010, when Sam was about 10 weeks old. We pulled up to the hotel, and someone just took the car seat, baby and all, and walked away. That time they took her around the security area, but I had to go through, so they didn't let me go with her, and I didn't understand where I was going (security at a hotel was not something I expected). At the airport today I asked if I needed to take Sam out of the stroller and fold it up to go through the belt thing. They said, nah, and they just wheeled her away. I was still sorting out all of my other things, and she was on the other side with five new friends. I realised that I had grown used to this. Normal? Who knows.

One funny story - we were in the pool at the hotel, and another little girl came into the water with her dad. We said hi to her, asked how old she was, and she was a month older than Sam. I asked if they were on holiday in KL, and the dad said, yes, they live in Singapore and they were there just for the weekend. I said, "me too." And then he said, "didn't we meet two weekends ago at Anthony and Cynthia's?" Yup. Small SE Asian ex-pat world.

Sam at the playground at the bottom of KLCC/Petronas Towers, with Matt
(She loves her Thailand shirt with that monkey - LOVES)

Random Indonesian women who took photos with Sam. They also took some standing up with her. Hugging her, and these, standing next to her. 

This place is like heaven for a two year old. She had to give each one that she knows (Winnie the Pooh, Micky, Minny, etc.) a hug. Each one. This woman, from Burma was showing her Barney who sang a song. Each animal was like USD2.

Discrimination is totally legal. It's weird.

Yay Jetstar! Not only were our flights free (ok - they were from a voucher after our trip back from Tasmania was delayed and we spent WAY MORE than this ticket's worth just on one night's hotel...and they had promised that we would be reimbursed...but whatever...) but the pilot invited Sam in to meet him and see all of his gadgets! Cool!

Since nearly all of my good friends here are pregnant, Sam is convinced that she's pregnant too. She makes her stomach go up and down and says, "Mommy, baby moving." She needs to have a dinosaur in her shirt quite often, and if it's not her pregnant belly, then it's "Ergo." Her dinosaur in her ergo. It's pretty funny.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ben and Rong the Coffee People

I mentioned almost exactly two years ago that my mom found Ben the coffee man. Ben's shop had a drinks stall, a Thai restaurant and a Malay restaurant / food stall. Ben made my life better, every day, for nearly two years. While on maternity leave, Samara and I went to his little shop every morning to get me an iced coffee, not so sweet (kopi ping siew tai). Once I went back to work, I went everyday on my way to the bus, and I had a special thermos cup so that it could last until I got to work. When I started working two days from home, I would bring Samara on those days and Saturdays.

Ben and Rong, his star employee from China, watched Samara grow. They used to hold her when she was a baby, and then they would bring out things to entertain her, like the service bell, the cash register, stools, coins, ice, straws...whatever a coffee shop has! They stopped business and sat and watched diggers with her. They absolutely loved seeing her, and she loved going to visit them. We would usually visit with them for at least ten minutes each time we went.

Rong speaks no English at all. She taught me "swee teau" which means sleeping, "zhao ahn" good morning "lai" - coming, and other words as well. She spoke to Samara in Chinese. She brought back gifts for Sam when she went home to visit. She got her a birthday present when she turned one. She is an extremely hard and dedicated worker and made the best coffee in the area.

We would make extra dessert when we had people for shabbat dinner, and we would bring that. We brought kugel, challah, and any treats we could think of. When we went back to Michigan we brought jams, sauces and other things we thought they might like to try. They also shared their Chinese treats with us - for all holidays and occasions.

I loved to go speak with them about the challenges of getting work passes for foreigners in Singapore, about Ben's mom, his kids - I met all of his kids when they visited. I learned so much about the issues of running a coffee shop / restaurant in Singapore, and I also learned that he is a super simple, good man. It's a hard life for these people right now in Singapore - and he worked so hard to do the best that he could for his business, his employees and his family.

In June 2012 our friends Ari and Julia stayed with us on their way moving out of Singapore (boo...). They left their wonderful espresso machine in return for our love and hospitality. At the same time, I realised that sweetened condensed milk was probably not helping me fit into my clothes, which were getting a bit tighter around the waist (what took me so long? I don't know - that coffee is just SO good!!). I decided to make my own lattes every morning. While they were super delicious, hot, caffeinated and convenient, I had the Ben dilemma. Do I keep visiting, even though I don't want to drink the coffee? I had really came to love Ben and Rong...

I decided that we would go visit on Saturdays, and I would get coffee sometimes. We loved our visits. [This is where it turns into the Giving Tree...] but then we got busy. Sam slept later. We skyped with family. We had plans after my yoga class...and we stopped going so often. We would skip weeks. Ben mentioned that there were problems with his landlord, but there always seemed to be something that he was working to solve.

One week in August, we went to see Ben, and he wasn't there. The whole shop was gone. No tables. No people. No umbrellas outside. Nothing. My heart sank. I didn't have Ben's phone number, and I had no way to find him. Matt and I talked about asking the shops around him if they knew where he went, but we never did it.

Three or so weeks later, we went to Tekka Market to get fruits and veggies. "Hey!" We heard someone yelling to get our attention. It was the Malay uncle who ran the Malay stall with Ben. He knew us well, as we always said good morning and chatted with him. Matt and I were SO excited that we had found him. He gave me the new address and Ben's phone number. He let me know that the landlord had given them one week to get out.

Sam and I are hoping to go visit Ben tomorrow morning, unanounced. He will be super excited.

This is right when my mom met Ben.

Coffee with Alex in Oct or Nov 2010. Iced coffee on the left, iced tea in the middle and iced black coffee on the right, for Alex.

This is Ben and Rong with Flat Stanley, around Feb 2011.

Me, Matt, Sam and Rong

Ben playing with Samara in March 2012

Samara organising the chairs, also in March 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Yoga in the Park

Today is my second day of part-time working. You can tell that I'm happier and that I have time, because I'm updating my blog three times in one week, after something like three months of no posting...

This morning Sam and I took her (Isaac's) car to the park for a little ride. She drove all around, and we ended up seeing a truck with a whole bunch of drums and colourful stuff - like stuff that they bring when they're doing a lion dance - like stuff that was involved in the super noisy parade outside our windows two nights ago. She hung out with all of the uncles, decorating the truck for a while. There was a little girl, Irene, who played with Sam in the sand, on the swings, and all around the park. Probably for an hour.

Then we saw a man doing yoga on the cement. Sam and I watched him for a while. He put his hands together and said, Namaste. She put her hands together, gave a little bow and said, sawadee-ka. He continued to do his sun salutations. She started to do hers. She reached her arms up, she touched her toes. She did downward dog. She did cobra. Here is a photo of her touching her toes while the uncle is in the background doing upward facing dog (that's dirt from sitting on the ground, not poo). At the end, she put her hands together, gave a little bow and said, namaste.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Samara's Second Birthday

Today is Samara's second birthday. Pretty crazy that we have been parents for two years, though in other ways it's hard to remember life before we met her! Today was my first day of part time working (technically Monday was, but today was my first day actually not working!), and it was so awesome to spend it with Sam. We slept in until 7:45 (heavenly!), then we skyped with Bubbie and Zaydie and made cupcakes. We went for a walk with the scooter (until they started spraying for mosquitoes and we had to come back inside). We read books. We build with blocks. We coloured. We even went mountain climbing on our bed. When Sam slept I went to two doctor appointments that I never had time to go to, and then ran other errands. I spoke with people I always want to call but never get a chance to. I got to play with Samara outside in the middle of the day...AND go to her music class. She has been going for over a year, and I have NEVER been (I wasn't so impressed, but that's another story). We then played on the playground, had dinner, sang happy birthday on skype with Savta and Papa (with Tita too), ate the cupcakes (Sam just liked the frosting, really), read books, opened presents from Tita and a new toothbrush from Mommy and Daddy (hey - if you wrap it and make it special, what do they know!?) and went to bed. What a great great day.

I want to try to capture what Samara is like right now.

  • She says sentences like, "I have boo boo," or "I want milk." Or "mommy drink water too.
  • She likes to orchestrate. She tells me where to sit and what to do. (I recently read that no one calls little boys "bossy", so I'm reluctant to use that word). She's usually pretty flexible, but she will sit on say, the red square, and she wants me to sit on yellow.
  • She knows her colours. She sometimes confuses green and blue, but overall she knows red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, black, brown and white.
  • She is extremely excited by diggers and cranes.
  • When I'm not listening to her but she wants me to, she will physically move my head to look at her.
  • She likes to lick ice. She loves ice cream, yogurt, raisins and cereal bars. She hates trying new foods, but she'll still eat purees if we make her.
  • She can recognise books in her bookshelf (like if I'm talking about them, she will go get them), like one fist two fish, caps for sale, goodnight moon, goodnight gorilla, michigan book, pajama time and ALL of the Jewish books.
  • She actually loves everything Jewish. She knows the bracha for the candles. She wants to practice shabbat everyday. She talks about the shofar non-stop, and sometimes she says, "I scared shofar," and kind of hugs herself while she says it. I'm not sure why she's scared of the shofar. She also loves to wear kippot.
  • She has a running commentary through life. Singing. Dancing. Eating. All done. Start singing. Talking. Ringing. Anytime she hears a ring, she goes, "ding."
  • She knows nearly all animals that I know. She's good with animal sounds too. It's pretty impressive, really. She does call the hyena in Goodnight Gorilla a rhino, but mostly she's got it.
  • She remembers the weirdest things - like for example she remembered what cup someone used in our house more than a week after they had left.
  • She is extremely good with names. She knows all of the names of the kids in our condo - and some of their moms' too! She's super social - loves to say hi, NAME and bye bye.
  • She does not like sharing. She knows what it means to share, she knows the word share, and she uses it, but always at the last minute, she pulls it in (whatever "it" is) and says, "mine."
  • She loves to clean. She hates dirt.
I could actually probably go on and on, but I won't.

In other news, there is some sort of parade in my neighborhood tonight - I think it's Chinese, since I saw a lion-dance character. It had LOADS of symbols, drums and people chanting. It had two cars with neon lights. There were probably 200 people trailing it (and the people didn't look Chinese - at least from the 7th floor). This was at 8:30 and again at 10pm. Don't other people's kids sleep? I mean really, SYMBOLS!?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Photos from our trip to the US

Breakfast with Savta on the deck each morning. Looking for ducks and boats.

Walking into the water. Playing with the trucks. Getting dirty in the sand.

Matt the pilot
Feeding baby fozzy.

Making waffles with Bubbie.

Checking something out with Papa.

First canoe ride with Jer (not so successful - but not because of Jer's sterning).

Congrats to Mike and Jess!

The groom!

Sarah and Talia - seeing the cousins again after they took such good care of Sam (and me!) in New York in January/February.

Aya. Sam's singing debut.

Wow does she love that scooter.

Grandma and Grandpa came to visit.

Visiting Grandma.

Feeding a bottle to the calf.

Learning to strum with Dan.