Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happiness in the ordinary...

1) Eliot jumping in puddles with her new rain boots.
2) Alexander bringing me home a cupcake from school sale.
3) My first cup of coffee of the day.
4) Rainstorm outside.
5) An unexpected gift (thanks Michele).
6) A really good book on my nightstand (Tess of the D'Ubervilles).
7) Eating masala dhosa in Little India with my friends.
8) The kids playing together...even if it is just 'Angry Birds' on the Ipad.

What are some of the 'ordinary' things that make you happy?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dream Big

"I wish our beds were made of jello so we could bounce on them."

Musings of a Five-yr-old

When I went to pick Eliot up from school today she showed me a tiny eraser that her friend gave her.
"She got it in Hong Kong. Can we go to Hong Kong to get more?"
Hmmm, you do realize that Hong Kong is four hours away by plane from Singapore.
"Well, four hours is not one hundred."
The crushing logic of a five year old.

(Later, while watching the music video of Taylor Swift sing 'Fifteen').
"Is this girl in jail?"
No, why?
"Because Justin Beever is in jail. Maddie told Katie and Katie told me. Because Maddie sometimes looks at the news. A very important girl asked Justin Beever for chopsticks but he didn't give them to that's why he went to jail."
So, this is how rumors in the entertainment world get started.
By first graders...who knew?

(Photo depicts yet another cheerful swimmer in the family)

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Not About The Hair...

To say that the Singapore climate is not kind to curly hair is an understatement. The sudden rain, the unrelenting humidity. My hair has on occasion reached new highs, and not in a good way, in a Marge Simpson-like way. My hair, once prompted my son to rush out of the school bus demanding: "What happened to your hair?"
Umm, I washed it...and then waited for your bus while it dried naturally?
But sometimes I wonder. Maybe the curls are good, maybe frizzy builds character. Why is it then that I spend a good part of the morning rush hour forced by my five year old to blow dry her hair straight?
Is it because I still remember when I was little and I had a rubber band wrapped unceremoniously by my Mom around my unruly pony tail in the mornings? My hair pulled back so tightly that I spent the rest of the school day with eyes wide open like a deer caught in the headlights. And at night time when the rubber band was taken out there was always some of my hair still attached to it. Could be...

Parents Coffee Morning Singapore Style

Today I met the lovely moms of the kids in my son's fifth grade class.
As always, it was interesting to hear what other moms have to say about their children: love of cricket, interest in Mandarin, gymnastics. And we weren't even intimidated by the very long list of one girl's accomplishments: professional ballerina, proficient in many languages, good at snowboarding, skiing, swimming. At least, not until she mentioned the motorcycle riding and the long hours spent learning for the sake of learning. Because that's just what she likes to do. My first impulse was to say: "Could she please come to my house." The second was to quickly think up something to say about Alexander when my turn came to speak.
He loves watching Phineas and Ferb suddenly didn't really cut it.
But seriously, it is this incredible assortment of people from different cultures and backgrounds that will always be the thing I cherish most about life in Singapore. You get to hear about Japanese-Chinese fusion cuisine, life in Dubai, puppies over pilates...and that's just over coffee. The women, hail from all over the world: Shanghai, Tokyo and London and include a Brahmin healer, a fashion designer, and an intrepid adventurer who is about to trek the Himalayas, on her own. Oh, and an ex- Canadian Olympic Riding Team member. (And just for the record, she was afraid of bragging. Please. If it were me, I'd be putting that on my business card. You know, if I had a business card.)
And you just never know what you're going to learn.
For example, one mom revealed that just the other day her dog was bitten by a cobra in the garden...
See what I mean. I will not be getting a garden. At least not in Singapore.

Can Michael Phelps Skate?

Alexander has started a new school. This school offers many more sports than his old one. He's doing swimming, baskeball, aerial troupe, and athletics. Maybe he was sports deprived.
But to be honest, we're not that sure he's really keen on swimming. After the many laps he had to do to get on the team, his first words as he got out of the pool, were: "I'm going to get you for this."
That can't be good.
I have to confess that like most expats who live in Singapore surrounded by pools I have always been completely paranoid about having both my kids become good swimmers. I watch every single swim lesson. And, the fact that the kids' swim instructor is an ex-Mr. Singapore is totally irrelevant.
On Friday, Alexander had his first swim meet after school, he came in last. I was excited he had competed at all. He complained that the kids he swam against were so big that when they jumped in the lane they created a tidal wave that overwhelmed him. I figured he was exaggerating until I saw them. This kid needs some protein, pronto!
I admit that in part I am influenced by my older brother (yes, the same one who always won at Monopoly, if you've been following this blog) who was on the swim team at Yale. But Alexander likes to dash those dreams. "Of all the sports I do, swimming is the one I like least. Just so you know I'm only doing this for you." (Excellent reason.) In fact, yesterday he confided that all the other kids on the team told him that they also do not like swimming but are just doing it because their parents want them to.
Finally, I feel like I'm part of a team: Annoying Parents Who Force Their Kids to Be on the Swim Team. Okay, so it's not so catchy I get a t-shirt?

Friday, September 16, 2011

So You Want To Be Famous...

My brother Julian wants to be famous. Call me crazy, but I kind of think he already is. You may have been to one of his piano concerts, read about him in the newspaper, or heard me brag about him once or twice. I mean, the boy has already sold loads of CDs, played at sold out concert halls from Sydney to Toronto, performed at $1000/ticket fundraisers, been on the radio, TV, played at Carnegie Hall...but I get it. He wants to be REALLY famous, which begs the question, how famous is that? I worked in Italian television (behind the scenes as a producer) and got to meet a lot of famous people. I got to see their insecurities, constant need for approval, and dissatisfaction (sure I have those too, but I'm not famous so it doesn't count).
I used to want to be famous too, back in the day when I won first prize at my middle school talent show and put on shows for my great-aunts (until my mother told me to stop because she was afraid one of them would die from a heart attack...they did laugh a lot. Best Audience Ever.) But when I got older things changed, it was much more fun to hang out with the 'famous' (you know who you are) people cracking jokes in the background without having to worry how my hair looked (that would have been scary on many levels). So I now wonder how famous does the kid want to be? The best pianist/performer in New York City, Europe, the galaxy? And while we're at it are we talking New York Times or Jerseylicious famous? Does he want his own talk show? Or his Youtube video to go viral? Get on a reality show (banish the thought)? Anyway, your suggestions are welcome. And no, having an affair with Sarah Palin doesn't count...(I already suggested that one.)
Check him out:

Why Playing Monopoly With a Five-yr-old Is Not So Fun

1) They get kind of grumpy when you get money from the bank and they don't.
2) They throw a tantrum because nobody is landing on their property.
3) They REALLY don't like the: "Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200," card.

I wonder if my family's obsession with property (mainly in the talking department) is directly linked to having had a TV deprived childhood and therefore spending inordinate amounts of time playing monopoly. There was really just one rule: my older brother had to win. It didn't matter if it took three hours or fifteen. On those rare occasions, when my little brother or I were winning, he would end up beating us in the end by using extreme tactics like exhaustion or dehydration. (Think episode of Man Vs. Wild.) "So you want to go to sleep? Sure, we've been playing since breakfast and it is now midnight...but only if you admit defeat." Who knew that playing Monopoly with my five year old would remind me of those joyous occasions with my older brother? Moral of this story: she grows up to be an investment banker like him. Or someone who doesn't like to lose. Did I really need to use the 'or.' Your call.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mystery To Me

Yesterday, my Mom had lunch with some old friends who used to live in Verona. Their son, who was visiting from Washington with his wife and child, happened to be sitting next to her. "Do you remember him?" she asked me. Of course. We were in the fifth grade together. He was very popular, on the soccer team. I was a complete geek with glasses, corduroy pants (thanks Mom) and unruly hair (wait a minute, minus the corduroy, things haven't really changed that much.)
Anyway, she was calling to tell me that at the table he had confided to her: "Back in the fifth grade we couldn't wait for friday afternoons because Jennifer used to read mystery stories she had written at home to the class. She used to choose the names of the characters from the students and we all wanted to be in those stories."

Really? Part of me feels elated that anybody would remember (and the cool boy at that), another part feels like I kind of should be writing mystery stories right now. Or that at least my Mom could have replied: "Well, you may have heard of The Da Vinci Code?"
"Omg...she wrote that?"
"Sorry, not at liberty to confirm..."
Keep the mystery alive, that's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

All Grown Up?

Alexander is coming back tonight from his 5 day school expedition to Taman Negara, rainforest in Malaysia, about 8 hrs away by train from Singapore. I don't know about you but I think my 5th grade field trip was to the city market. A bit much? On the second day he was gone, I was already looking through old drawings he had given me and re-thinking the whole 'away at college one day' scenario. Maybe it's not such a good idea after all (well, at least not for me). It's hard to fathom that the boy who was first in line to get on the bus to the faraway (no phone calls allowed) rainforest was the same boy who used to cling to my pants when I left him off at preschool. Not that I'm not happy he left with so much enthusiasm, because I am. Really. Just a little teary.

Yesterday Eliot was playing with a friend, chatting about boyfriends, babies, and marriage. The usual stuff...for a five year old? It's funny because she's so obsessed with mother-baby relationship that now even her pets (stuffed animals with Bear at the helm) have pets.
Anyway, I overheard her saying: "Oh, yes, I have a boyfriend."
What's this, I strained to listen?
"It's the older brother of Alexander's friend. But we don't talk to each's too embarassing." Ah, these modern relationships.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm back...

Hello blog. It's been over two months.
I have to admit that Eliot's 3 night hospitalization for serious case of salmonella in July (after her last day of school party) may have triggered my feeling disconnected and remote, certainly exacerbated by spending part of August in my parent's summer house (no TV, no phone, no Internet) and no, they do not live on some remote Finnish island. Only today, with Eliot finally joining her brother in the school ranks, do I find myself in a quiet house in front of a computer screen with a cup of hot coffee. Wow, Eliot started first grade today, that certainly brings me back.
Of my many (many) school years, the first grade was, hands down, the hardest for me. In retrospect, the fact that I couldn't see the board and badly needed glasses, can't have helped. I still remember just not getting the alphabet, the phonic system, or all.
So Eliot, this morning when you were worried about going to school because you "don't know how to read," believe me, it really hit home. But don't worry, pretty sure you'll be fine.
Now, about that other small matter of Math being in Chinese this year...
I guess some things are better left to discover on your own.

(Eliot on her first day of first grade)