Monday, December 28, 2015

Writer's Block

"Writer's block is just an excuse people use when they can't write but they still want to be writers." 
Alexander keeping it real.
On the flip side, the house is clean, I learned how to cook lasagna, and I've read a gazillion books. If only writing books were as easy as reading them. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Twas the Night Before Christmas

(Eliot has been writing her letter to Santa for an hour. It's like Karl Ove Knausgaard's "My Struggle" with foam stickers.)

Some questions in the letter: 
Am I on the naughty list? If yes, how do I get back on the nice list?
Are my parents on the naughty list? Because they don't get a lot of presents.
What's your phone number?
Can you wake me up when you come so I can see you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Wishes

I see you put a reindeer on your Christmas list, Eliot. 
"Do you think Santa will leave me one when he comes?" 
Hard to say. 
"Maybe, I should have put down a polar bear as well." 
Don't you think it would be hard for a polar bear to live in Singapore? 
"We could always move to Antarctica..."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Off the Grid (aka Sentosa)

Off the Grid: A Day in Sentosa. As my friend Anna joked when I told her: "You left the island? Wild day for you then." But it had been a couple of years, so I decided to give it another try. Delicious seafood buffet, peacocks, and most importantly no sunstroke...I may be a convert. Just 20 minutes from the city and you don't have to pack, my idea of a vacation (or staycation). It's like being in Bali without the plane trip. Bintan without the ferry ride. No airport immigration lines, you get the picture. The only downside of a fancy hotel buffet: watching your kid eat rice instead of roast beef and the Christmas themed cupcakes you are forced to smuggle in your handbag. (Photos by Eliot)

Not the Sentosa I remember.

Prawns anyone?

Peacock in Singapore by Eliot

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Advice My Parents Gave Me...When I Was a Kid

Some habits are harder to quit than others.

From my mother, the idealist:

1) Never tell someone you hate them...only that you are disappointed in them.

2) Never give two presents, it minimizes both.

3) A hand made card is preferable to a store bought one.

4) Shoulders back when you walk.

5) If you're invited to someone's house always bring something.

6) Remember to send a thank you card after a dinner or party.

7) You get more flies with honey than vinegar.

8) If a friend talks badly to you about another friend behind their back, chances are they are talking behind your back as well.

9) When complaining at a shop or restaurant, don't start out with the complaint but with telling them how much you have always loved coming there and what a loyal customer you are (see point 7).

From my father, the practical one:

1) Always wear a scarf in a cold climate. It's the most important piece of clothing.

2) Always shake off all the drops after a shower as it makes drying with a towel much easier.

3) Make sure you have good light when you are reading.

4) Always bring something to read when you go out.

5) When possible, avoid calling. Writing is always best.

6) Go to the gym. Every day and early as possible.

7) Eat a healthy breakfast.

8) Never talk about politics with friends.

9) Don't always walk the same route to school.

10) Don't complain, don't explain.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Some Considerations at the Gym

1) Based on the type of exercises I do at the gym, it is entirely possible people think I am recovering from some sort of sports injury. Should someone actually ask if that is indeed the case, I am prepared to answer that question with a question. "Have you heard of bobsledding?" or "Who would have thought water skiing could be dangerous?"

2) My son claims that now that I started going to the gym, I work that bit of information into every possible conversation. "You want a snack? Why just this morning at the gym..." It's just that as a conversation opener, it sounds more credible than: "Over a second helping of pecan pie..."

3) In Singapore, the gym is either freezing (somebody just left) or feels like a sauna (you're the first person there).

4) From the windows of the gym (never to be opened), you can see everything that's going on in the condo. You can spot the residents who wade in the pool fully dressed, leave the garbage right next to the bin, keep school buses waiting, car motors idling, smoke in the no smoking area, use the common condo showers instead of their own to save on hot water. You're like a human CCTV only on a treadmill.

5) The gym equipment indicating heart rate is very likely faulty. It's either that or I am having a heart attack.

6) Exercise induced allergic reaction is a real thing. Google it. This explains so much.

7) Fully dressed guy in blue jeans and long shirt working out next to me. One question. Why?

8) It's always a pleasant surprise to see the treadmill workout summary say "Good job" and not: "Are you crazy? Does your doctor know you're doing this?"

Sunday, December 6, 2015

No Love Lost...for the Ballet

"What's happening?"
Twenty minutes into Swan Lake, Alexander leans over and whispers: "Will there be any talking at all?" Eh no, it's a ballet, remember?
A few minutes later, Eliot chimes in: "I don't get what they're talking about...because they are not talking."
What exactly were you expecting when I said we were going to the ballet?
"The theater. Like Matilda." That was a musical.

(Note to self: when bringing kids to the ballet for the first time possibly mention the lack of dialogue.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Toughest Crowd

Don't forget to read the small print.
I was looking forward to speaking to Eliot's class today...then she handed me these notes (see photo). The kind of rules and regulations you might see when signing a rental contract...only more detailed and with smaller handwriting. I guess winging it was no longer an option. These were tough guidelines to follow and point n.5 to 'make jokes along the way,' wasn't as comforting as you might think. And just in case I was feeling overly buoyant, at bedtime she added in a sweet, conspiratorial tone: "I really don't get your book."
Still, I arrived at her school fairly confident, after all I had gotten this book past the entire editorial team of Marshall Cavendish, a reputable publishing house. Surely a couple of fourth graders couldn't scare me. Since I was a little early, I checked out the lost and found which according to my children is strictly off limits to kids. Retrieving the many assorted plastic food containers lost in the past few months further boosted my spirits.
Ms. Roxanne Walker, the teacher was very welcoming and the kids were engaged, although we were off to a bit of a rough start when I showed them the cover of my book: "Diary of an Expat in Singapore," and they asked me what an expat was. Telling them that they were all expats surprisingly came as a revelation. "We are?!" After some debate, it was agreed that expat kids like air conditioning, long plane trips, roti prata, and wearing sweaters, but most importantly have passports from other countries. I then asked them to reveal one true thing about themselves as a way of differentiating fiction from non-fiction. One kid noted that in Singapore only people at airports wear jeans. Another that people wear shorts, while back home they wear long pants. Another that when you leave an air conditioned building, it feels like hot air envelopes your entire body. Another that he really liked cold air....I was starting to notice a pattern. And somewhat predictably, when I asked about zodiac signs their answers were all animals. Yep, expat kids.
Afterwards, outside the classroom, Eliot confided that she had been a little worried but that her classmates liked me. I guess sharing the chapter about Eliot as a five year old was a good idea. It's incredible how funny a five year old can appear to a ten year old. It's all about perspective. Especially, the revelation that she had once said to a host: "My name is Eliot and my Daddy ate a rabbit," brought a huge laugh from the class. Disturbingly true, yet clearly still a crowd pleaser.