edited to add–my in-laws say he was between 2-3 months old in this picture
**Edited to add** My mom says I was about 5 months old.
Baby Ellie (5 months old, 2009)
edited to add–my in-laws say he was between 2-3 months old in this picture
**Edited to add** My mom says I was about 5 months old.
Baby Ellie (5 months old, 2009)
We’ve discussed previously that I’m not a foodie. My lack of adventurous taste buds is one of the reasons I have sometimes reflected that I am the last person who should’ve been allowed to move abroad.
However, can we talk about one of the few types of food I *am* passionate about? Barbecue. I love barbecue. In fact, love isn’t strong enough–I have an ardent devotion to good barbecue. I love it so much that several years of dating/being married to me was enough to make Ravi thoroughly sick of barbeque food. Until about three weeks ago, I pined for American barbecue.
Then, I met Smokey’s
I had heard of Smokey’s before. They got rave revues last 4th of July from the other Americans, and Flora had mentioned them as one of her and Jeff’s favorite hangouts. So why didn’t I try them before 3 weeks ago? Take one reluctant husband, add a horrific pregnancy where water was a challenge to keep down, and finish it off with a breastfeeding newborn and you have a recipe for delay.
FINALLY, though, in the spirit of “no American chain restaurant March” as I christened it, Ravi bowed to the inevitable and off we went to Smokey’s.
I could weep from happiness.
I went back twice more in the space of 10 days, dragging my friend Winnie and then Ravi and the kids back to enthusiastically worship at the shrine of barbecue.
Do you know what those are? They’re freshly fried, hot from the oil chips. Do you know who else serves those in Singapore? NO ONE. They’re just the right amount of salty, and the salsa got Ellie’s seal of approval.
On my second trip, the owner had just added hush puppies to the menu, which on my first visit was the one appetizer I’d been sad to see missing. Hush puppies are basically fried balls of corn bread and are one of my favorite Southern specialties.
Ravi also tried the mozzerella sticks, which he said were okay, but he wasn’t a fan of the sauce (I’m not the only one with food ruts, and Ravi does love his marina sauce with mozzerella sticks).
But let’s get down to brass tacks. The most amazing appetizers in the world mean nothing if you can’t deliver on the barbecue.
I got the combo ribs and chicken platter, with baby back ribs…and was in heaven. The sauce is great, the ribs have been cooked to perfection, and the chicken is moist and flavorful. On my second trip, I tried the steak–and it was okay, but not what I go to a BBQ joint for. So on my third trip I went back to the combo and wasn’t disappointed–it was as good as I remember.
Ravi liked the burger on his first visit and the brisket on his second. I’ve forgotten what Winnie ate, but I remember she loved it too.
My only real complaint about the entree menu is that apart from the chicken leg, there aren’t any other chicken options. I’d love a good 1/2 chicken, chicken breast, or pulled chicken sandwich option to add into a rotation.
For dessert they have a chocolate brownie with walnuts (as opposed to almonds, which is what I find more commonly in Singapore), heated, and topped with chocolate sauce. No, I’m not sharing-get your own.
If you’re curious to try American barbecue or if you’re missing that slice of home, go to Smokey’s.
Smokey’s–73 Joo Chiat Place Singapore, Singapore, 427790 • Phone: 6345-6914
Today the Supreme Court chose to uphold the ACA.
Today is a Thursday. What that usually means is that we have a sitter to give me a break and Ravi comes home late. Tonight he was home before 10, specifically so we could watch the decision come down. Ravi and I watched the SCOTUSblog live feed, knots in our stomachs. When we heard that it was upheld, we cheered (likely scaring our babysitter in the living room).
Please excuse me while I do a happy dance and resist the urge to go wake up my child, so I can hug her and tell her she actually has a future, and she really can be anything she wants to be. After that I’ll be donating to the re-election campaign (again).
************* original post below*****
I try to keep the political stuff, particularly the American political stuff to a minimum here on the blog. I generally feel like there’s a time and a place for it, and that it generally doesn’t jibe with the spirit of what I’m trying to do here.
I would like to one day be able to say that the most important piece of legislation passed in my lifetime was a Marriage Equality Amendment. It is the Civil Rights issue of my generation, and I am deeply committed to seeing it through.
The most significant piece of legislation that has been or will be passed in my lifetime is Healthcare Reform. This weeks marks the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act in the US, aka Healthcare Reform. People spend a lot of time trying to tear it down, and bitching about its many imperfections, but it is a life altering piece of legislation for our family, and for thousands of families like ours. Until it happens to you, it is impossible to understand that without insurance everyone is just one health care crisis away from financial ruin, no matter how well-off they might be.
This is not going to be a post that takes on the entire ACA. Rather, it is the story of how the ACA gave Elanor a future she would never have had otherwise.
Warning–This post is going to be long, and it will contain graphic details and photos. It may serve as a trigger, particularly if you’ve ever dealt with a child who has a life-threatening illness. I’m going to strongly encourage some readers (my parents, my inlaws, friends with young babies) to stop reading now, as what Elanor went through is the stuff of nightmares for parents.
I remember thinking at the time that the most dramatic part of Elanor’s birth story was going to be the pain I felt due to a bad reaction to my epidural (one too many top-ups had caused fluid in my spine, resulting in agonizing pain across my shoulders and into my neck) and how my OB had been yelling at me that I had exactly 3 pushes to get this baby out before she gave me an emergency C-section.
Ellie was born with the cord around her neck. Every movie, every tv show, every story had prepared me to be ready to hear my newborn crying out from the shock of entering the world. Elanor made no sound at all. I remember that she looked blue, and that her first apgar was low. I felt very lucky that a NICU team was in the room (I needed a vacuum assist and it was hospital policy that they be there), and they got her breathing fairly quickly. However, I was only allowed a brief look and hold (not more than a minute or two) before she was whisked away to the NICU.
Initially we thought that we’d gotten off lucky when she only needed oxygen blown at her face via a tube for 3-4 hours. We were told that they were going to give her some antibiotics until blood work came back to clarify that she was healthy, and that it was standard procedure in a case like hers.
Antibiotics are given via IV for babies.
The first tests came back contaminated, so they had to be repeated, causing what should have been a two to three day hospital stay to become a four day hospital stay. During those four days (Monday-Thursday morning) Elanor somehow managed to knock out four IV’s (one or two may have been that the veins blew, a common occurrence in babies this age, but at least two were her doing). We all laughed and shook our heads in mock exasperation. Our baby wasn’t going to stand for such nonsense as an IV!
I remember breathing a sigh of relief that the second set of tests showed a healthy baby. We took her home Thursday and thought that the biggest challenges that lay ahead of us were sleep deprivation and helping her and I figure out how to breastfeed.
On Friday she met her pediatrician for the first time, who noted that she had “mottling” of the skin. It could be a sign to worry about, she said, but it’s also not an abnormal condition in newborns that could mean absolutely nothing at all.
Looking back with the eye of a more experienced parent, she was so clearly losing ground that weekend. But we were first time parents, and everyone told us that babies are often quiet on days 5 and 6 of life. She was so hard to feed…I had to practically force feed her by pushing on the end of the playtex drop-in, and I was stressed about that, but things seemed okay.
Then Elanor stopped eating on Sunday night. I called the 24 hour nurse line for our pediatrician, and they told me that as long as she was peeing and pooing (she was) that it could wait until morning. She wasn’t running a fever.
We were exceptionally lucky that we were able to get an appointment first thing in the morning. Our pediatrician, a former ER doctor, didn’t sugarcoat her condition. Elanor was running a very low temp. The mottling had spread. Our baby was very, very sick. We were told to go straight to the emergency room. Her exact words were “Don’t stop for red lights.” At the time we took it to mean “don’t stop and grab some coffee and donuts,” but we later realized that she actually meant “don’t stop for red lights.”
Americans know that hospital waiting rooms usually mean a ridiculous wait time. We were heading to Mass General Hospital in Boston, a busy urban hospital, which should have meant an even longer wait.
We were triaged immediately, and rushed into a room, where doctors immediately asked me to remove her sleeper and they started trying to IV her.
We were moved into “acute emergency”, and our corner of the room was suddenly flooded with doctors, residents, and nurses. One nurse was assigned to Ravi and I specifically, to try and handle us as the seriousness of what was happening began to really set in.
The picture above is what is known as an intraosseous system. It looks, and sounds, like a woodshop drill. When a team can’t get an IV via normal methods, they use this to drill a hole into a bone (in Elanor’s case, her left shin) to get fluid into the body that way. I’m not a doctor so I don’t fully understand why this works. What I do know is that it has to enter the bone perfectly. It took them two or three tries to do it properly. I also know that the sound of this machine entering her body is something I will never be able to forget. Without looking, my fingers can find the scar that her shin still bears.
Heat lamps were aimed at her body as they tried to get her temperature up.
People swarmed around her, trying to stabilize her to the point where she could be taken up to the PICU. Ravi and I stood off to the side, both of us sobbing, holding each other. Yes, we thought she was sick, but this was so far from what we had imagined as a worst case scenario.
This was the first time I realized that my daughter might die.
Ellie was stabilized to the point of being able to be transferred and she was whisked away to the elevators used for patients and doctors.
The nurse whose unfortunate duty it was to deal with us had to take Ravi and I up to the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) through the public elevators. She pushed the empty baby stroller, while we numbly followed her. I was clutching the sleeper I’d removed in the first room like a lifeline. In the elevator journey to the 6th floor, a well-meaning woman glanced into the stroller and said “where’s the baby?” I crumpled against Ravi, moaning.
We were led to a private room and given water. That day was a blur of waiting, crying, fear, doctors who couldn’t answer the most important question of all “Will our baby live?”, my father in law sitting with us, and pumping. Pumping was the only thing I could actually DO. The only time I put the sleeper down was when I needed my hands to pump.
About six or seven hours later, we were led to a private room in the PICU. Elanor was alive, but they weren’t sure if she would make it through the night. I’ve read her medical file since and I know that she went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.
If we had waited even one to two more hours to get to a doctor, she would have died.
Maybe five people have seen the photo below before today because it is so graphic. Elanor has never seen this photo, although she will one day when she is ready to hear the full story of her medical history.
I took this picture of Elanor that night because I was terrified that I would never have the chance to take another picture of her again. Dreams of birthdays and graduations were reduced to one…that she would live through the night.
November 10, 2008. PICU, Mass General Hospital
The long and short of it is that somehow she had gotten an infection that had turned septic. Sepsis is when your blood becomes infected. Infected blood circulating through your body means that all your major organs take a hit. When Elanor got to MGH, she was in septic shock and early stage organ failure. At that point in the illness, sepsis is fatal in somewhere between 20 and 50% of all cases.
In Elanor’s case, their priority was to hit her with a ton of broad spectrum antibiotics because they didn’t have time to wait for a blood draw and tests. As a result we do not know exactly what bacteria it was that infected her, how she got it, or why it almost killed her. The most likely scenario that the Infectious Diseases team could come up with is that when Elanor dislodged those four IV’s after she was born, they created four perfect entry points for bacteria.
It was, basically, just bad luck.
November 11th and the morning of the 12th were good days. It seemed that the antibiotics were doing their job and that she was bouncing back with a vengeance. There was even talk of removing her from the ventilator on the 12th.
Then an ultrasound of her brain turned up bad news. There were two small bleeds in her brain; she had had a stroke. For several days she was put on anti-seizure medication as they did more detailed imaging (CT Scan, and then on the 13th an MRI) and tried to figure out how bad things were and whether they were getting worse.
On November 15th, they were able to take her off the ventilator (she’d been kept on it longer in case she were to have another stroke, I believe…I’ve reviewed my carepages updates from those days, and I’m not completely clear whether she needed it for other reasons or if it was discovering the stroke and waiting to see what happened). Apart from about 10 minutes while they changed her bedding on the 13th (when I was allowed to very carefully hold her), it was also the first time that we were able to cuddle Elanor since her admission.
Testing over several days, such as a spinal tap were able to rule out a few potential illnesses (for example, the lack of white blood cells in her spine ruled out spinal meningitis), and she was weaned from five antibiotics to either two or three. Elanor was put on a feeding tube (a tube inserted in her nose) and my breastmilk was given to her slowly via that tube.
On the evening of November 15th, Elanor’s blood pressure began to go up, and she was put on labetalol, a drug that would be part of a major drug shortage starting in 2011 (story here) and if this is correct, is still not easily available (a fact that scares the hell out of me). She would remain on this drug until March or April of 2009. A nephrologist was brought in, as high blood pressure in a baby of her age almost always means that there are kidney issues. It wouldn’t be until February that imaging would show that one of Elanor’s kidneys had failed permanently-the hypertension was caused by her body trying to keep it alive, basically.
Elanor was moved to a regular pediatric floor on November 22nd.
On November 23rd she started drinking milk from a bottle. She drank expressed breast milk, which they added calories to. This allowed her to drink less and get the same number of calories, as she was still a bit weak. On November 25th they removed the feeding tube as she’d been able to drink all her milk from bottles for two days.
On November 27th, which coincidentally was also Thanksgiving that year, Elanor was disconnected from constant IV medication. It marked the first time I could pick her up and walk more than a few feet from the IV pole with her (which had still allowed us to cuddle her while sitting in a chair or laying on a cot next to her crib in the room). I remember carrying a sleeping Elanor down the hall and describing the paintings on the wall to her, thrilled to have the freedom from the constant IV’s.
In a stunning blow of irony, Ravi and I both caught gastroenteritis that week. Ravi had to stay away from the hospital starting the 25th because he was ill. I came down with it the evening of Thanksgiving, and ended up in the emergency room of MGH myself. I was admitted for observation for about twenty hours, and received a number of bags of fluid rehydration (as I was pumping through the whole thing). This is only relevant because Ellie would likely have been able to go home on either Friday November 28th or Saturday the 29th, but with sick parents, they elected to keep her until the 30th when both of us were healthy again.
November 30th, home again, sharing a moment with her Daddy
However, being released from the hospital was only the start of her journey.
What were her medical needs after the initial illness?
Elanor’s medical care was my full-time job for over a year after that (by which I mean driving her to appointments, attending early intervention sessions, reminding everyone about what medications she could/couldn’t have, and just trying to stay on top of everything).
Oh, and of course she had the usual pediatric appointments with her pediatrician for well baby visits and vaccinations.
Elanor ended up needing two pieces of medical “equipment.”
Portland Children’s Museum, Maine, December 2009
Her first piece of medical equipment was a helmet as she learned to walk. She was at increased risk of a repeat stroke if she were to fall and have head trauma, so she was helmeted from the time she started walking until about 14/15-ish months, when she was determined to be a skilled walker.
Foot Brace, taken January 2010
The second piece of equipment was a foot brace to correct her issues with her right foot. She wore this from 14 months of age until around 18-24 months of age (with less and less time wearing it daily once she was 18 months).
Where is Ellie today?
Ellie, age 3. Photo taken March 2012 by Kirsten
We are lucky.
Three years later, if you were to meet Elanor, you would never guess at her history. She is an active, social and bright little girl with a passion for life.
We are lucky.
Ellie still sees her stroke team annually. There are potential issues down the road, such as learning to read. Some stroke patients have trouble with their vision when reading left to right (crossing the mid-line), so they’re keeping annual tabs on her for now. She’ll get another neuropsych work-up at age 6, after which she may be released. I don’t know at this time. Her risk of another stroke is low, but not 0%.
We are lucky.
Elanor had her first neuropyschological assessment last September. While the stroke did cause some white matter damage (white matter controls the muscles and such, so it’s no surprise that she did have some motor issues early on), her grey matter is intact. She is developmentally where she needs to be with no signs of any sort of development/emotional/behavioral/learning disabilities.
We are lucky.
Elanor has one working kidney. It is growing at an accelerated rate and she should end up with 60-75% of normal kidney function. She will not be allowed to play contact sports (and for lower contact sports like basketball, she will need to wear some kind of guard/vest/thing). Should she ever become pregnant, she will need additional assessments, and may need high risk care, depending on the the toll clearing both her and the baby’s waste takes on her kidney. At this time, her nephrologist does not think she will ever need a transplant. She will, however, need annual kidney checks for the rest of her life.
What does any of this have to do with the ACA?
While Ellie was sick, if we had been uninsured, I don’t know that we would have gone to the doctor as quickly as we had. However, if we had waited to see a doctor because of lack of insurance, even waited two or three hours, Elanor would have died.
We had good health insurance at the time of her illness. We paid a relatively low co-pay ($250 USD) for her hospital stay. However, the bill for that stay was 250,000USD, not counting Dr’s fees. Obviously an insurance company doesn’t pay 250k, but if we had been uninsured, we would have been on the hook for all of it. Even though we were fairly financially stable, the bills for that stay would have bankrupted us.
When Ravi parted ways with his former employer in November 2009, we are lucky that we were in a place to afford COBRA insurance. Had we let our insurance lapse, Elanor would never have been able to get coverage again. While you and I might look at Elanor and see a triumph of medicine and her own stubborn spirit, insurance companies see nothing but a pile of pre-existing conditions that they want no part of–they see a potential transplant or dialysis, stroke, more expensive pregnancies, and a thousand other potential complications.
When Ravi was considering his current job with GNB, insurance was an issue that almost tanked his acceptance. Had we not been able to get insurance that the US accepted, Elanor would have been considered without insurance for 60+ days and therefore everything would then have been a pre-existing condition. We could not accept a job, dream job or not, if it did not include access to quality (US accepted) health insurance. With the passage of the ACA, insurance is one less consideration for potential expats.
Before the ACA, Elanor would have needed a job with insurance within 60 days of graduating college. Once we could no longer cover her, Elanor could not go more than 60 days post graduation without insurance. This meant that no matter how talented, she could never think of pursuing a career in the arts (unless she had a day job with insurance) or any other career without immediate insurance. It meant that her FIRST criteria in picking a major and finding a job would be insurance; not happiness, not location, but insurance. While we love her and would do anything we could to support her dreams, we are not wealthy to the point where we could just pay for her medical care out of pocket for the rest of her life…and a transplant or dialysis would bankrupt us.
Look, insurance companies are scum, and I will be the first person to say that the ACA doesn’t go far enough. BUT, thanks to the ACA and the fact that my daughter can not be denied insurance for pre-existing conditions, her future is now in her hands.
Now I’m not lying to her when I tell her she can be anything she wants to be.
Unless the ACA is dismantled. There is a Supreme Court challenge coming up. The Republican candidates are using dismantling it (among other divisive issues) as part of their platform.
The ACA is modeled on my home state of Massachusetts’ health care reform. While it is has not been perfect, one thing you can say about it is that post health-care reform in MA, we have the lowest rate of uninsured children (and adults) in the country.
We still have so far to go, but I urge you to contact your elected officials and urge them to support the ACA. Healthcare is not something that anyone ever goes their entire life without using, and you never know when the unexpected will happen. The consequences of the unexpected can be devastating.
I edited this entry the day after I wrote it to clarify a few words, and fix some awkward phrasing. I finished it and published it at 5am originally, so it needed a few fixes.
Ravi left Boston for Singapore to start work on March 27th, 2010. Elanor and I left Boston on April 17th (Ravi came back around the 10th to help with last minute transition-y stuff). Which means we are approaching our two year anniversary in Singapore.
It’s hard to miss this anniversary. Employment and Dependent passes are being renewed. Our apartment lease is ending. Our cell phone contracts are ending. Thus it is also a time where reflection is inevitable.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the woman I was two years ago and what I was worried about. What I was scouring the internet for…trying to figure out what to bring to Singapore. What to purchase because I couldn’t get it here. What I’d need for Ellie (and the baby we kind of wanted to have at some point in the future–aka Rhiannon). I read list after list about what people thought I should bring, what they regretted not bringing, and so forth.
You know what I never saw? A list of things people regretted bringing. So in the spirit of being different, I bring you my top 10 things I shouldn’t have bothered hauling halfway around the world. While this is meant to be tongue in cheek, I am planning on giving a few pieces of good advice to any incoming expats who might read this.
The Top 10 Things I Wish I Hadn’t Brought to Singapore
#10–Exercise Equipment I didn’t use in the US
I think it probably bears saying that if you never used your (in my case) Yoga Ball, Tennis Racquets, or Ice Skates in the US (or only used them extremely rarely) that you’re not going to use them in your new home country. Same you, different location.
Yes, it’s hotter here…and you wear fewer clothes, so being more in shape might be nice. But really, what’s the likelihood? If you *do* turn a new leaf, there are plenty of places to buy equipment
you won’t use here (or in any country you move to, most likely).
#9-Books that MIGHT be useful should X/Y/Z happen
Because who wouldn’t love to read about Middle School Math?
To be fair, there was logic behind this mistake; books are heavy and they are expensive to ship, thus I should ship all my books over in the shipment that I am not paying for. In 2010, Ravi and I had barely purchased our first Kindles, and e-books were not our habit at that point. So we brought a LOT of books to Singapore, not fully understanding how little space we would have, especially once we had to convert our office/library into baby #2′s room.
I especially regret the library of history non-fiction books I’ve been dragging around since I quit my MA/PhD program in 2003 and haven’t opened since then either, and the library of math-related books that I haven’t touched since I last taught Math in early 2008.
I have begun the tedious process of weeding out books that have NO usefulness to us and donating them, and taking the books we would like a copy of, but just not in Singapore, back to the US (as my suitcases are mostly empty on my way to the US). There are many trips worth of books left to go. Having almost fully converted to Kindle by now I am frustrated that we brought books for anyone but Elanor (apart from favorites).
#8-The Nintendo Wii and its accompanying “stuff”
I had not played my Wii very much since I had Elanor. Moving to Singapore and having another baby didn’t actually help.
The logic was that Wii’s are region-encoded and the system is pricey here, so if I *did* want to play, it was best to bring it from home. I played it exactly once or twice when we first moved, and that’s it.
I finally packed ours away recently and will need to get around to putting it on craigslist soon.
#7-My Gorgeous Vase
I have young children. Exactly when did I think I was going to be able to display this?
To be fair, when we moved, Ellie was walking and such, but I still had pretty things displayed in our home in the US. But I just don’t have a child-proof space here for it. So I keep it hidden in the office, fake lilies still taped together (something the movers did) feeling more rejected than Miss Havisham.
#6-My Crystal Bowl
Young children, nowhere to put it, and the added bonus of being able to give a concussion. It gets moved around from place to place in the house, but ultimately is another thing that is impractical to have and impractical to send back.
#5-Too many magnets
Ravi and I have an unfortunate habit. We each collected magnets prior to meeting, and then added magnets from every location traveled to, and every show seen. After a while, the collection was ridiculous.
I finally thinned the collection out before the last trip home. This is the super small fraction I kept, and luckily for me, magnets are at least easy to pack and take back to the US.
#4–My Cupcake Stand
Overall, I made smart choices about what kitchen stuff to leave behind and what to bring. I think the issue was that I hadn’t yet used the cupcake stand in the US, and I just had to justify buying the damn thing (we’ll use it at parties! I’ll make Ellie cupcakes!) by bringing it here…where it has gathered dust for two years.
Yes, every baby is different. However, I hated the fit and the design of the Maya Wrap the first time around…putting a different baby in it doesn’t mean it will feel more comfortable on my body. Logic #FAIL (this can also be applied to assorted other baby crap I didn’t use/didn’t like the first time…now TWO babies haven’t worn/used/sat in/played with X).
#2-My Wedding China
Yes, I am sentimental and like to serve dinner on our wedding china on our anniversary (we picked a pattern as close to the china used at our wedding as we could fine), and occasionally major holidays. However…see previous remarks about small children. Let us also discuss the logic #FAIL in dishes I’m going to use, at most, once a year.
See previous comments about too difficult to take back in a suitcase/too expensive to ship. So they sit above my cabinets, not getting used.
#1-My Wedding Veil
I only just stumbled across this. I can only guess that the veil was a victim of the “oh, just fuck it all” attitude that came over me after sorting 95% of an apartment into Mom’s House/ In-law’s House/ Donate or Sell/ Toss/ Singapore. At some point I decided I didn’t care anymore and let the packers just box it up and send it to Singapore. Including this, apparently. At least it will be easy to toss into a suitcase and take back next time.
Honorable mention-Various knicknacks from home
This isn’t so much a regret as it is just my acquisitive nature creating a bit of a hoard (much like our magnet issue). I brought a lot of our cute knick knacks and souvenirs from our travels to decorate the home here in Singapore. The logic was sound–to make it feel more like home. However, I did not take into account that I would be buying more stuff as I traveled in Asia. So now my shelves are a bit crowded.
In the end, my mistakes generally fall into a few categories (Do I say, kids, not as I do)
#1-Stuff I didn’t use/ use frequently back home–if it’s not something you use frequently, it’s not worth bringing
#2-Stuff with emotional, rather than practical value, and too much of it–it’s not that I don’t think you should bring sentimental items, but perhaps limit them, as you’ll be creating new memories here. If it would break your heart if it broke…maybe it should stay “home.” Limit it.
#3-My wedding veil–I have no idea, either.
In the end, it’s hard when you have a move like ours; it’s indefinite so it’s hard to say whether you’ll “need” something or not. The fear is always that if you leave it behind, it’s behind forever. Of course, this is NOT TRUE. It just might cost you some money down the line to ship it to wherever you are.
Even when a company is generous enough to ship the stuff for you, free of charge, do yourself a favor and lose the excess “stuff.”
At least I had the common sense to leave the marble chess board with pietra dura work that we bought in India back in Boston…
Like me, I know a lot of readers have young children, so I wanted to pass along this list compiled by Expat Living. They are mostly water play areas, but that’s what we do here in Singapore
Check the blog later today for a “real” post!
I did one of the worst things a theater addict can possibly do in Singapore. I went to a Sistic counter (ION’s) and began to peruse the leaflets for upcoming theater. Four shows worth of tickets later I had to stop. Thankfully my in-laws are coming into town for a month or I would’ve bought more.
Let’s start with shows I *did* purchase tickets to
A Chorus Line
A Chorus Line will be the next big musical to come to MBS after Wicked Closes. (My review of Wicked can be found here)
This is one of the musicals I remember watching as a kid, and one that I’ve loved for years, but never managed to see staged, so I’m very excited to see it live. Some of my favorite numbers (“At the Ballet,” “What I did for love”, “Dance 10, looks 3″) are from this show.
[Out of Order] features a lead actor (in this case a junior UK minister) who has to lie his way out of an embarrassing situation (in this case a planned adultery with a secretary) with the help of an innocent side-kick (in this case the minister’s personal private secretary), who gets more and more embroiled in the increasingly tangled tale improvised by the lead character as events unfold. The action takes place in a suite in a posh London hotel and revolves around accidents caused by a defective sash window. source
Sex and politics in farce form. What’s not to love?
Get your tickets now, though…it’s only in town for 5 performances!
Looking for a fun introduction to classical music (particularly strings based classical music) for your 3+ year old? Enter Music Evolved, which according to its pamphlet
No stuffy bow ties and boring sit-downs. Just a lot of dancing, singing, and, of course, music to the ears.
Enjoy familiar classical masterpieces by the world’s greatest composers like Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Brahms, and Bach, performed specially for young children by classically trained musicians.
Uncover the magic of each instrument–the violin, viola, cello and discover how they work together to create such beautiful harmony in this interactive, educational and theatrical performance.
As Ellie is learning violin, this was an obvious choice.
In town from April 21-29. Get your tickets here
Based on a children’s book of the same name (which Claire from The Dot Diaries tells me is wonderful), this is a play for 3 year olds and up that is part of a larger festival of children’s theater called the ACE Festival (arts and creativity for everyone) which runs from May 18-June 10. The Owl Who was Afraid of the Dark runs from June 5-10, tickets here.
Other shows you can buy tickets for, in case you weren’t aware
Shakespeare in the Park–Twelfth Night April 25-May 20 Tickets here
Another option for Shakespeare fans is Romeo and Juliet, showing April 12-28, tickets here
All the ACE Festival shows can be found here. They include “The Little Mermaid” (think Hans Christian Andersen, not Disney), Hakim and the Giant Turtle (based on the legends about an island off the coast of Singapore), Hare Brained (a retelling of the tortise and the hare) and more.
The Wiggles Live in Concert May 26-27 tickets here (A side thought-Lady Gaga is also in concert on May 27th–that makes my head hurt! Her tickets are sold out, though, sorry…I managed to snag one, and only because I was on the computer the second they went on public sale and only needed one ticket)
Tickets for “The Cat and the Hat” as a stage show just went on sale. It will be showing August 22-Sept 30th. Tickets here I have a feeling we’ll be seeing this one, too.
Obviously there are other shows happening as well, but these are just some I wanted to highlight!
I thought that it was only fair, given last week’s love letter to Singapore to be equally honest about things I don’t love about Singapore.
Since the things I probably talk about loving the most have to do with my kids, I thought it only fair to talk about the stuff I don’t like with regards to them first.
1-People give Ellie candy…constantly
I’m actually fairly pro-candy on an occasional basis. But people (store clerks, doctors, her violin teacher, taxi drivers, etc) are constantly giving her lollipops and these little sweets. It’s like they walk around with their pockets full of them, and just randomly give them out to kids. In principal, I realize it’s meant as a nice gesture, but as an example-today the woman at the chicken rice store gave her a lollipop as she was handing me Ellie’s dinner. Luckily after over a year of this, Elanor is resigned to the fact that I get to dictate when she gets the candy.
Chupa Chup lollipops–a common suspect
2-People stepping in when I am disciplining my child
Let me be clear…I do not cane or spank my child. I don’t curse her out. I put her in time out, or I make her sit in a shopping cart, or I tell her “no, you can’t have that thing”. Then Ellie starts crying.
Here is where the trouble starts. Strangers walk up to her and tell her things like “don’t cry” and “what’s wrong?” or offer her candy.
I generally love how child friendly the country is…but when my kid is crying and I’m explaining to her that she doesn’t get everything she wants or that she is in time out, or I’m even just standing there, obviously handling it…interfering doesn’t help. It generally makes things worse. It’s sort of the flip side of everyone being sweet and welcoming of children…they also feel that they can/should step in without knowing any of the details.
3-The accessible entrances that aren’t
I have been pushing a stroller around Singapore for about 2 years, and while Singapore is likely the most stroller friendly country in Southeast Asia…I have some serious beefs with what constitutes “accessible.”
Every so often, you will be going through a mall connector (say from city hall to Marina Bay Financial Tower)…and in the middle of an otherwise ramped/accessible throughway…there is a random set of stairs. Or the random set of stairs at the bottom of an escalator. Or there will be an escalator in one direction (up, for example, from the parking lot to the entrance at Indoor Stadium) but not the other…an escalator can be stroller friendly in a pinch, but stairs are an issue, especially if I’m on my own.
I am deeply grateful not to be in a wheelchair in Singapore. I spent 8 weeks in one, and it was so profoundly hard that I barely left the house.
4-People’s love of and respect for kids/moms goes just as far as the elevator door
Look, I really don’t love taking my stroller on an escalator or two…but when I need to get 8 stories, or 5 (or say, at United Square where everything but the 2nd floor has stairs between the “floor” of the mall and the parking lot level of the same name) I really need to get in an elevator. Unfortunately, the elevator door is where people’s courtesy ends. I have learned to use my stroller as a weapon, especially when I *was* there first, because I’ve gotten shoved aside and had people shove on in front of me too many times.
This is one thing where the US wins when it comes to kid friendly. Generally speaking (although of course I’m sure it happens, and has even happened to me) when a parent with a baby is waiting for an elevator, s/he is let on first and then people fit on afterward. Otherwise they wait or take the escalator.
I don’t know if it’s because the malls here are generally 5+ stories or what, but it irritates the crap out of me. I have literally had to wait over half an hour for an elevator, even when I’m willing to do anything–go up to go down or the inverse just to get on the elevator.
All those escalators I’ve taken? Have resulted in me replacing two wheels on my stroller thus far after escalators took a chunk out of the wheel. I’ve resigned myself to thinking it won’t be the last time either.
5-The negative side of the academic coin
Yes, Ellie is getting a fantastic education. Yes, Singapore is a leader in academics. That is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement…
There is a lot of pressure to put your children in school early, and to get them tutors early. I think the reason I didn’t experience much of it is that I had Ellie in classes at 2 1/2, which is a fairly typical age for kids to start. But a friend of mine, whose son just turned four says that she has gotten tremendous pressure to put him in school, regardless of whether he is ready or not.
Tutors also start fairly young. With Elanor getting Mandarin daily in class, and Ravi and I having zero fluency in Mandarin (beyond the occasional word we picked up from Ni Hao Kai Lan) we are actually considering getting her a Mandarin tutor sometime this year or next so that she can keep up. I certainly feel concerned that I can’t support her in her Mandarin.
I like that the schools here range from Montessori t0 very academic, so there is likely a good fit for every kid (at least in the pre-k/k category). However, not every kid is ready for school at the same age, or the same approach, and the variation in approaches dwindles as kids age into the primary and secondary schools. As kids age, there is far more push for every child to excel, and tutors are seen as the way to get your kid up to the level (or to be ahead).
Along with that, there are not a lot of choices for parents of special needs students. Few schools are equipped to (or choose to) address learning disabilities, autistic kids, or other students whose needs may not be standard (I haven’t heard much about students who have physical disabilities or how their needs are addressed). It is my understanding that awareness of these issues is starting to grow, but that few schools address them.
Readers with kids…any pet peeves you want to share?
Short notice, but I will be a “featured guest” on a Live Talk at The Motherhood at 1am Singapore time (aka in 2 hours). Our topic is “Breastfeeding: Figuring out what works for you and your baby.”
Nancy Holtzman, a really awesome IBCLC / certified nurse (and friend) is leading the conversation. If you are a new mom, you really need to follow her on twitter. Her stream of consciousness tweets about everything from dealing with frozen breastmilk during a power outage (of help to many moms in Boston who lost power yesterday) to teething to breastfeeding are incredibly helpful to new moms (even second time moms like me…I can’t believe how much I’ve forgotten and how helpful reading her tweets often is for me).
If you are up, join in. If you’re going to bed soon, submit a question now at the link above. If you want to read the transcript, it will be available.
I don’t do the “mommyblogger” thing here very often, but I know a number of you are new moms like me (or are thinking about motherhood) so I wanted to give you the heads up. I also feel very honored to be included.