Monday, July 28, 2014

Faith in Humanity - lovely people helping just because!

I am now experiencing my second bout of TOTAL strangers helping me FOR NO REASON AT ALL!

First: I posted on a mother's forum in November 2013 that we were going to Australia with our two young children, and did anyone have an infant car seat I could borrow, as the last time we went with a tiny baby the car seat was yucky. YEAH RIGHT, I thought - slim chances, since people here are always selling things at...the price they BOUGHT them at! But...might as well ask?! Within ten minutes I had a random mom who lived on the East Coast say, "Sure, no problem. I just need it back the day you arrive back in Singapore as we will be flying back to Australia that day." WHAT!? AMAZING! So we borrowed it, it was lovely, we gave it back (with a nice balsamic from the farmer's market in Margaret River). Wow! Faith in humanity.

Second: I put my stroller for sale, and I mentioned it was available in mid-August. I got a lot of responses very quickly (perhaps my price was too low!). The first one asked if she could get it a week earlier than I offered. Sure, I said. What's a week. Then somehow over Facebook chat she convinced me to give it to her on 25 July (a full FOUR weeks before I was prepared to part with it - 7 days after I had posted it for sale). She said she was traveling to Europe and she really wanted the small stroller for travel. I was jetlagged. I was busy. I didn't realize what was going on. Shit. But I had agreed. One night later I was up worrying at 3am as I am good at doing lately, and I thought of something - if she wanted this stroller for travel, she probably had another one, a bigger one, that would be sitting at home while she traveled. So I messaged her, and I said, "I know I agreed, and I don't want to go back on my word, but if I have no stroller I literally can't go out in a taxi with my 2 kids (I can't carry both car seats and Elie) for the next FOUR weeks. Since I agreed to get you the stroller much earlier than I was prepared to do (perhaps I agreed too quickly...), would you by any chance have a stroller I could borrow, as you will be traveling and not using it?" SURE she said! She said I could just drop it off with her friend when I'm ready. Wow! A stranger...and so far so good. It is big, but it's totally fine, and I am so thankful! Faith in humanity!

And by the way - her name is Fatima. I kinda wanted to tell her I was a name-hidden-Jew given the situation in Gaza/Israel right step at a step at a time.

Our First Visit to the ER (A&E as they call it here)

It's pretty amazing that it took us this long to go for an emergency visit to the doctor...Sam has only gone for three/four sick visits in her life: at 10 weeks she had mucusy poo after a trip to Jakarta (sound yummy?), at 2 she went for mycoplasma and at 2 she also needed to get a doctor's note at the end of hand, food & mouth (she wasn't actually sick anymore - she just needed a note to be let back into school, so I don't really count this one), and I made Matt take her (against his opinion - he was right) for an infection in her finger when she was 3. She was on antibiotics once, for mycoplasma just in case - though they said it doesn't do much, most likely. She is a healthy gal - and she, thank goodness, hasn't had any accidents (yet).

Matt was away for the weekend. Sam had a low fever Friday (around 99), but I didn't think it was anything. She then started acting like a nut, got a runny nose and a cough. Saturday she had a fever around 101 and was coughing a lot. Sunday she had a fever around 103 and sounded AWFUL - terrible cough. Very runny nose. Oy. We stayed home all day, other than a quick walk to get some fresh air (yup - Elie is for sure gonna get all day...). Sunday evening around 5:30, Sam said her face feels yucky, her ears hurt and her eyes hurt - "in a place in her head that you can't see" - and her fever was not going down. Shit. Nightmare. Sunday night. Public holiday the next day. No Matt. No helper. Shit.

I texted a few mom friends to see what they would do. Everyone said GO to the A&E - don't want to risk not having antibiotics...and it's a high fever. EVERYONE said to let them know if I needed anything - genuine offers.

Ok - so I am gonna go to the doctor. The wait will be two to four hours. Elie usually goes to sleep at 6:30. It's 6:15. He can't go with us anyway because he will go crazy in a stroller and I don't want him walking/crawling around the germiest place in Singapore (literally). SHIT!! I thought about my neighbors across the hall and their two maids...I brought my baby monitor to their house and asked if they would be willing to just keep it in case he cried for more than 20 minutes (chances were small) or if there were a fire (chances even smaller...) to just get him out. They were happy to do it, and we tested the monitor. No problem. THANK YOU!!!!

I decided to put Elie to bed and try to relax and think about whether this is the right thing to do. He went to sleep easily. I tried to relax. I was furiously texting with my neighbor, Mariana who lives 13 floors up and is SUCH a giving wonderful friend and Susie who has also been there for so many critical moments in my last few years. I decided I could leave Elie with the neighbors, leave them my door code and leave them Mariana's number in case he cried, she could decide what to do. It is one of the scariest things I have ever done - leaving my baby in an empty apartment for an undetermined amount of time...but I did it. Sam was a mess.

We took a taxi to KK hospital, which is probably a 20 minute walk and somehow because of how the roads go and all of the traffic lights, it's also about a 20 minute drive. We got there and it said that there would be more than a two hour wait. That's not so bad...

Meanwhile I couldn't relax. Mariana offered to leave her boys with her husband and go sit in my apartment, but I felt SO uncomfortable asking someone to do that, given that the maid across the hall, Mala, would probably be totally fine - and she takes care of our Kitty when we're away - we totally trust her and she is a good soul. I just couldn't believe my baby was in an empty apartment. Luckily Sam was a champ. She just watched people, we read books, she watched the cartoons they had playing...and about an hour in, Susie texted me that she was in a taxi on the way to my apartment. "How do I get in?" I would never have asked her to do it, but it really made me feel a million times better. Once she got in I did relax.

So - the ER experience here - now that I could focus on that - was amazingly efficient. I haven't been to an ER since a UTI in 2003 at GW I don't really know how they work now-a-days, but it impressed me. You walk in and get a number (at 7:21). After about ten minutes we saw a triage nurse. Then you pay $98, a flat fee to see a doctor and for medications. We didn't end up paying because Sam had to pee (and I don't mess with timing for that...), so the lady said we could pay on our way out. Then you go to another waiting room (oh my god - the germs - I didn't realize I was such a germaphobe - I did NOT like the bumps on kids faces, the coughing, the super high fevers...). We waited there about an hour and a half and then we were called into one of 20 rooms (at 9:20). The doctor was very good with Samara, and surprisingly he was anti-antibiotic and other medications, unless absolutely necessary (not so common here). He said her ears were red, but they weren't raging with infection. He thought she had an upper respiratory infection and a flu, and that she should take paracetamol and ibuprofen for her fever, gave us a medication in case her cough keeps her from sleeping and just monitor the fever and let her rest, drink loads of water and get better. He said it could be over soon or could last another week. After we left his room, we go to the next station, where they fill the prescriptions in about three minutes. Then we paid (which again, we should have done at the beginning), we hopped in a taxi, and we were home. Sam was asleep by 10:30. Matt came home around 1.

As an expat, I always talk about what to do in case of emergency - with Matt, with friends...whom do you call when you need help? Plus, I'm SO bad at asking for help (though I'm better than I was, since my whole bed rest experience). I am SO SO SO thankful for my community of moms at City Square - two of them whom I contacted offered to do anything, and I know they would have. And I'm so thankful for Susie who knew when I really needed help that I wasn't able to ask for.

Now we just need poor Sam to get better. We need Elie to not catch it. I need to get better (sore throat and cough for the last 2.5 weeks...), and Matt needs to not catch anything with a compromised immune system (he just went on a crazy long plane ride for a super short visit). Here's hoping...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Michigania - with my family!

I have written about Michigania in the past - like when I dreamt up my imaginary participation there in 2007 and when I surprised my family there in 2009. I surprisingly didn't write about going with Matt and Sam in 2011 when Samara was nine months...but all in all, it's a VERY important place to me, and it's one of the hardest parts of being so far away in Singapore every year. I was able to make it in 2009 and 2011, but that's all...until this year!

My family started going to Michigania in 1978, when I was seven months old. It's a family camp for members of the University of Michigan Alumni Association. It's on a BEAUTIFUL lake in northern Michigan, and it has everything you would ever want to do. It used to be rugged living for a week. Now it's totally luxurious (ok - there's still sand in the beds...) and just amazing fun. My family has gone every year since 1978, and I have gone many of them. I missed when I was 13 until about 20, since I went to Camp Ramah for the full summers. When growing up we went with loads of family friends - people we saw at camp and throughout the year, and when I went back in college I made my own friends - a group of amazing people who had always been there, but I had never known. At this point it's all jumbled together into a big family (or at least it feels like that), and it's just filled with people whom I love, even if all we say throughout the entire year is "volleyball after lunch?" "tennis at 10?" PLUS my immediate family goes and my dad's brother and his family.

So, bringing my conscious kid and my not -so-conscious-yet kid, plus my husband, to this important place and sharing it with them was literally a dream. Samara LOVED every second of it. It's hard to say what was the best part:
The constant attention from my mom, dad, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins...
The amazing 3-4 Nursery where they teach the cult songs and stories and turn it into a magical place... ("Mommy, you know who blows the wind? Puff the Magic Dragon!")
The freedom to do whatever she wanted nearly all the time - just running out of the dining hall when she was done so she could put on a "performance" at the gazebo...
The chocolate milk, hot chocolate and ice cream at every meals...

She rode a horse for the first time, went tubing for the first time, made friends, learned loads of songs, and seriously loved every second.

Elie also had a good time - though his needs were simpler. He slept much better than I had expected (woke up once per night...only...) and had a good time playing in the nursery. He ate more than his share of food.

Matt and I had a great time - ok - me especially. I went mountain biking with my dad nearly everyday, played tennis nearly everyday (and I did pretty well, if I may say so myself), loved tubing with Samara, played lots of boggle, euchre, drank good beer, did the high ropes course (or at least part of it - but even getting up to the top was success for me!), caught up with friends (though it's amazing how hard it is to find time to properly catch up when you have kids to take care of and a million activities to do in one week) - that I wish I did more of. All in all, it was such a fun week. I can't wait to go back next year (and every year, but I'll take one year at a time in my negotiations with Matt).

A day after camp we flew back to Singapore. I got super sick the last day of camp, so the trip back was really hard for me. I felt like I was blowing my nose, coughing, SUPER weak and just wanting to sleep, having my ear explode out of my head from the pressure...all while taking care of Elie. He did sleep a bit, and he nursed for about 30% of the time he was awake. I didn't have energy to do anything else with him. Thank goodness he still likes nursing. Life saver.

I'm still sick - with a new sore throat symptom today. Ugh. And Samara is sleeping through the night but still waking up early. 5:45 this am - not that bad (not that I got up with her...). Elie is sleeping until about 3, nursing and going back to sleep until 7. I, on the other hand, have been up from about 2-5 for the last few nights. Matt, magically is nearly untouched by jetlag. Ever. It's amazing.

Photos - in no particular order!

Jess and Mike came to visit for a few hours! Jess drove the Ensign.

Me and Matt on the sailboat!

Samara on the way home from camp. Sporting her unicorn horn, her unicorn necklace, another necklace made of "M" pastas and singing all of the songs the whole way back.

Our name tags. Your first year you get a blue lanyard and yellow after that. This was Elie's first time! (And apparently Matt doesn't realize how long Hildebrandt is)


Elie and Jer at riding

Samara riding peaches (the second time)

Jer skippering, Mike and Sam on the boat

Samara peeing off the back of the boat (and on my leg)

Samara and Vivian playing in their "house"

Arriving at camp - we stopped at the M rock


Usual scene - Eric, Elie and my dad, chilling with a ball

Elie at a meal. He LOVES cottage cheese (too bad it's SO expensive in Singapore!)

Elie petting Astro - a REAL horse - not just in his book

Me, Matt and Sam tubing on Mark's boat - she loved it! She was so brave, and it was so fun!

Friday, July 4, 2014


I have now been in the US nearly three months. I stayed for a similar amount of time when I "studied abroad" at Wharton in 2009, but otherwise, this is the longest I have been in the United States in seven years. I left as a newly married lady, in my late twenties. I had never been to Asia. I thought I had traveled a lot, but I hadn't. I was living in New York, was close with my family, and I had NO idea what I was signing up for. But I was game.

Now, I have been staying in Michigan as a recent corporate MBA, with two kids, after quite an adventure. The adventure is not over - we are going back a week from Sunday - but these vastly different experiences have given me some interesting observations and perspective.

* As I was growing up I said I would NEVER live in Michigan. When I was with Matt living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we both said we would NEVER live in Michigan. Guess what? It's a great place to be! The weather makes the outside completely accessible (which is a HUGE problem I have in Singapore - and I haven't gotten over it after such a long time...). Metroparks, farms, playgrounds...there is a lot to do with kids (though I am the first to admit I wasn't here for the past winter). Schools are good. Family is important. It's a good place with good values and great beer. I'm not sure what our social life would look like...

* People here ask "where did you grow up?" "How are you?" or they just start talking about stuff. In Singapore, the first question I always get (and I'm probably guilty of giving it too...) is "What do you do?" It's just not as important here. What you do often defines people in Singapore, because that's why all the ex-pats are there - for work. Here it's just something people do. AND they come home after work and spend time with their families. Seems that staying at work until six is LATE! My dad and I took Sam to see Barney and a few other friends in Royal Oak, at 4pm on a week day. There were DADs there! I rarely see dads doing stuff like that in Singapore. People have gardens. People sit and drink a beer on their porch in the evening. People seem to have more time here because they're generally not working super long days.

* There is so much SPACE. I know we live in an unnecessarily small apartment in Singapore and not all people live in such tight quarters, but we have no storage. We can hear everything going on in the apartment, from anywhere. It's just really tight. Here there are different places you can sit in the house and whole rooms go unused - ok - a bit wasteful, perhaps but what a luxury!

* My mom and I got our hair cut by this lady recommended by a friend in Ann Arbor. She was seriously a curly hair expert! She referenced customers she had earlier that day (not earlier that YEAR!) or herself. She had ideas about how we could manage our hair better. She was fantastic! She knew what she was talking about. Though I finally found a lady who does a good job in Singapore, she just doesn't compare.

Another bizarre observation was at the Book of Mormon last night. I had major culture shock, as I could NOT believe people were being so wonderfully offensive on stage. It would SOOO NEVER FLY IN SINGAPORE. Everything there is so nice and tidy (and censored). I just couldn't get over it. I still haven't. Definitely the funniest thing I have ever seen. Ever. Ever.

I always write this when I visit the US, but talking with good friends who KNOW me and whom I love and care so much about is cleansing for my soul. I got to visit Joanna and Mike in Columbus last weekend (and got to see Shana and Daniel a few months ago and have seen Jill and Ben a few times - with a few other friends here and there) and watching our kids play together, staying up drinking good beer and chatting about good, important topics, was just unbelievable. I feel so lucky to have such amazing friends who remain so, even after I have been gone for so long, and when I come back I can rarely go visit anyone. Turns out amazing friends will be there, even after being gone for seven years.

I know, I have been living with my parents so dishes, cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc have been limited. I have had someone (thanks, mom!) to watch either/both kids ANYTIME, which has been an amazing luxury. I am living in a beautiful house on a lake in a super wonderful neighborhood that we would never live in for various reasons (mostly schools) - so yeah - it's not real life. But man, has it been awesome!

Today is our last day in Sylvan Lake and we're moving to Matt's parents tonight, Matt arrives tomorrow and we're off to Michigania for the week. We haven't been for three years, and I cannot wait to share it with Matt and especially Samara (Elie won't really know the difference). What special time to be with my family, amazing friends and doing such fun things for a WEEK! I can't wait.

Sam has loved her time in Michigan. She says, "I love Singapore. Mommy loves Singapore and Michigan, but she loves Michigan so much that we're just going to stay." She said she misses her friends a lot in Singapore, so she's looking forward to seeing them.

One more positive - since I always complain about Elie's sleeping...he has slept through the night for the past THREE nights in a row. That's about eight times in his life. (Of course, now that he's sleeping, we're shifting him twelve hours...but I'm lucky I have had a few nights!!).

Sam and Matt the first night he got home, when he visited in June. What a look. 

Sam and Papa went kayaking a few times. Sam even does it by herself!

We met the Cat in the Hat and a few other friends! Yay Public Television!!

Elie was sleeping - but this was us the night Matt came home for his visit. Yay to be a family again!

She's a nut (but a cute nut)

Super Papa reading Fancy Nancy on the deck before Sam got dressed for camp. Elie was pulling himself up on Papa's chest hair.

Judy cleaned Samara's teeth for the second time. "Sam, what was your favorite part of getting your teeth cleaned?" "ALL OF IT!!"

Sam, dad and I went for a long canoe ride one morning.

Amelia, Charlie, Sam and the creepy dog in Columbus. What fun. Wow.

Sam fell on her face on the tennis court in Sports Camp. Overall she LOVED the camp.

So much time to sit and read with the kids. I love this picture my mom took.

Sam wanted a popsicle and Elie was game for anything, so we had popsicles and watermelon on the driveway in the shade. Yum!

Uncle Jeremy took Sam to her first day of Sports Camp, when he came to visit.

Elie hanging out with Sandy Schwartz, a dear family friend.

This kid eats ANYTHING!