I need a few days off from the serious topics. So for those of you who also come here for the lighter side of things…Rhiannon eating porridge, and her deep attachment to her spoon (even though she almost never uses it). She turns 19 months on May 13 for reference.
There’s an American cable channel called “The Travel Channel.” Many of my American friends know I had an unhealthy relationship with this channel for a number of years. As a broke college student/grad student/student teacher/teacher I had few resources with which to travel. So I did my traveling online and on television. I’m also a sucker for learning how things work, and am easily transfixed by shows that talk about the secret underground passages in Disney allowing cast members to show up where they’re supposed to be rather than wander aimlessly or that detail the intricate workings of the Bellagio fountain. The Travel Channel often does dedicated weeks to places like Vegas. As a result, I’d spent hours thinking about what my first trip to Vegas might be like.
I never pictured taking a one year old and a four year old with me.
However, while my trip involved a few more random encounters with Elmo and Hello Kitty and fewer strip clubs and drinking than I pictured, I absolutely loved it. Vegas is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It’s a playground that lets you pretend you’re in Venice in the morning and Paris in the afternoon.
We went to Vegas for a cousin’s wedding on Ravi’s side of the family the last week of November 2012. The wedding was 3 days, and we stayed a week.
We stayed at Aria, a hotel connected to a mall called Crystal’s. I was a bit saddened to discover that this meant I was not entitled to freebies from the Harry Winston shop there (j/k). It’s a large property on The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) next to Bellagio.
I felt like we had a reasonable amount of time to do some exploring. We were never bored, and we never ran out of things to do, even with the girls.
For me, the highlights included seeing the Chihuly sculpture that takes up a vast part of the Bellagio lobby’s ceiling, Fiori Di Como. I adore blown glass, and I’ve seen a number of shows that talk about this sculpture, so I was thrilled to my toes to see it in person. It is extraordinary, and no words of mine can do it justice.
It’s a river of chocolate. A 27 foot tall chocolate river. Need I say more?
I fell in love with the dancing fountains at Bellagio.
I was, in fact, so transfixed by them that I made one of the dumbest decisions of the past few years. My purse was in the basket of my stroller, but I knew I wouldn’t be vigilant during the show. So I put the purse on the ground and put my foot on the strap. I was so enchanted by the four minute show set to “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis that afterwards I’d totally forgotten about the purse (watch the video clip-it was awesome). I walked away and didn’t realize it for a good 5-10 minutes. OF COURSE by the time we’d run back, the purse was gone.
This would’ve sucked under most circumstances. What made it something of a crisis was that my passport and Ravi’s passport along with my Singaporean foreign identification card and the girl’s fin cards were all in my purse as well as the usual suspects of cash and credit cards. Ravi and I couldn’t leave the US without our passports, and replacing the Singaporean ID was going to be a hassle (one that is finally getting sorted this week–with the holidays, it took MOM a long time to do the paperwork on their end).
All is well that ends well-we experienced no credit card fraud, there was very little cash total in the purse, and getting the passports replaced was a pain only in that it required a very long in person visit with a passport agency in LA (topic for another day).
To return to my original point, though. Bellagio’s Fountains. Could have happily watched them for hours on end. If Ravi ever surprised me with a room at Bellagio overlooking the fountains, I would be a very happy woman. I’d also be a very boring travel partner as I’d want to watch the fountains all night once they shift to an every 15 minutes format.
Elanor, Amit (my FIL) and I rode the gondolas at the Venetian resort, and were serenaded by the gondolier. Not as good as Venice, but fun nonetheless. Walking through the Grand Canal Shops was amazing–they have painted it (including the ceiling) to make it feel like you’re wandering Venice. There are performers throughout. It was a great experience.
Ellie poses with a fountain outside Caesar’s Palace
Caesar’s Palace was good fun, although next time I’d love to see the “Fall of Atlantis” show. However, as we were walking through, we met Marc Antony, Caesar and Cleopatra.
Rhi was enthralled by all the bright lights. She clapped, she laughed, she smiled, she shrieked. What can I say? She’s a happy kid.
What made Ellie happiest of all, though, was all the holiday decorations. It didn’t matter if it was the first or fifteenth tree that day, we still heard a gasp and a shriek of “CHRISTMAS TREE!!!!”
We got a sitter and saw Peepshow one night. Highly recommended for burlesque fans. For my fellow “Amazing Race” fans, Chippendales was advertising the hell out of the fact that James and Jaymes were performing–no I didn’t go, and yes, I regret that choice now.
If you want to see more photos of our trip, I’ve left the album public on my personal facebook page here.
My darling Ellie,
Happy fourth birthday. May you always embrace the world as fearlessly and with as big a heart as you do today.
PS-Stop calling me mother-it’s freaking me out.
Filed under: Asia, Australia, Boston, DC, Holidays (Not Singaporean), Hong Kong, Maine, North America, Pictures, Random Stuff, Sydney, Third Culture Kids, Tourist Destinations, Travel by Continent, Country, US, Video | 4 Comments »
My darling Rhiannon
You are now one year old!
This time last year we were still in the hospital, both of us still recovering from your unexpectedly early arrival into the world. You were constantly cuddled close to me, skin to skin, as we got to know each other. I hated putting you into the bassinet, and only did so when absolutely necessary. We were learning to breastfeed, and I was fervently hoping we’d make it to six months. You were a tiny little doll, but even then your gorgeous big brown eyes tried to take in everything (even though you couldn’t see very far with any clarity).
Living with a newborn was both familiar and completely new all over again. I remembered, vaguely, that I got up a lot with a newborn. Nothing really could prepare me for waking up that frequently, and still needing to be a present parent for my older child (instead of just sleeping whenever you did–although I did as much of that as I could). Breastfeeding was also very new to me, as was trying to figure out how to breastfeed on the go.
You were a bit fragile at the start-getting hospitalized twice-one at a month of age with gastroenteritis and once with RSV at two months of age. Luckily, since then you’ve been quite resilient, although you’ve had the full complement of head colds your sister has brought home from pre-school (as have I).
You were both louder and calmer than your sister. When you want something, your shrieks spiral up into decibel levels we’d never experienced before, earning you the nickname of ‘the banshee’. However, those moments are fairly rare (and usually have to do with wanting a diaper change or food faster than I am capable of delivering either). In general you are the calmest, happiest baby I’ve ever encountered. You are easily pleased–a cuddle is your most common request, and one everyone is happy to give you.
You are adored wherever you go. When we drop off or pick up Elanor, the teachers of the school all know you by name, and often pass you around to adore and cuddle you. They’re a group of aunties to you, who are just as excited by the news that you had learned to sit up or crawl as we were. In crowded elevators you draw smiles and waves. Even in the US, where babies aren’t as universally adored as in Asia, you were smiled at and adored. You look at the world as a place full of people who love you and are happy to see you…so you move through the world with an equal amount of love and happiness to share with them.
However, there are few people you adore as much as your big sister. The two of you have a mutual adoration society I’ve written about elsewhere. She gets some of your biggest smiles, and you are her favorite person most days as well. I have loved watching the two of you develop your relationship–it is a source of smiles and a great source of comedy (she defines “sharing” as she gets to play with your toys, for example).
You are already very well traveled, having flown to the US twice and to Australia once. I would argue that you are not the biggest fan of flying, but the reality is that we won’t really get a sense of what sort of traveler you are until you’re a bit older. It’s awfully hard to sit still for that long as an adult–it’s clearly so frustrating to sit still when you’ve just learned to crawl!
You love food. You were a big fan of breastmilk from the start. For a short time, we were able to give you the occasional (maybe once a week) bottle of formula if you were with your dad and I wasn’t around, but you soon wised up and flat out refused, occasionally deigning to accept apple juice if absolutely necessary. Jarred food was not a big hit, but once you learned about table food, you immediately began to demand it, squawking loudly in anger if we didn’t feed you fast enough or share all the food you felt it important for us to share.
Your favorite foods are blueberry yogurt, ice cream of any flavor, french fries, toast with strawberry jam. You eat with far more enthusiasm and interest than we’d ever seen before (your sister being an eat to live kind of child, whereas you live to eat). However, you are very petite–you’re about 14 lbs–almost triple your birth weight, and still quite teeny (for which my back is very grateful).
I love that I have let myself have the luxury of enjoying where you are now, rather than worrying about what was next.
Your sister was so ill just after birth, and her personality was always so driven to do the next thing now now now that we were always focused on what would happen next with her.
With you, we accepted your changes as they’ve happened, but not worried about if they had happened yet or why they weren’t happening faster. Personally, I was thrilled that your teeth didn’t come in until about 11 months and am very happy you’ve not started walking yet. If I’m being honest, I’m probably much more present and calm with you because I’m not so stressed about potential medical hiccups. I probably have allowed myself to be calmer and more in the moment with you…and that’s been a wonderful luxury.
Having said that, two days ago we saw you stand alone for a second as you picked a toy off the couch. Then you realized you weren’t holding on and immediately sat down. It was only a second, but both your Dad and I were so thrilled to see you growing and changing before our eyes.
You are still sleeping in a crib next to my side of the bed, and wake to nurse once or twice per night. I am definitely looking forward to sleeping the whole night through again (some day) but I really love those quiet moments at 4 am when the world is dark, your Dad is asleep next to us, and we just cuddle and breastfeed.
You sign “milk”–which can mean you want milk…and it can also mean “mama.” I guess it does make sense that the two are interchangeable for you. We have made it to one year of breastfeeding…and while part of me is thinking about weaning, I’m pretty confident that we’ll taper off naturally. You primarily nurse at night these days–maybe once during the day, but for the most part your waking hours are filled with an interest in food, not mama’s milk.
You say dada, mama, heeeeeeey (to mimic us) and are a pretty chatty baby in general. I can’t wait to hear you add more words to your vocabulary.
You view the world with great amusement. I can practically see your eyes gleam when you know you’re getting us to do what you want. You’ve started to play the drop something on the floor to see you pick it up for me. You know how to wave bye-bye but prefer to watch us wave and dance for you before deigning to gift us with a wave back.
There are days when it is tough. When I get frustrated at trying to balance two children, or feel frustrated on your behalf because I have to wake you early from a nap just to go fetch/take Ellie somewhere instead of letting you sleep. But I can’t imagine our family with you in it.
Happiest of birthdays, my darling.
A full set of pictures from Rhi’s birthday can be found here.
As part of the Mid-Autumn Festival, there was a Mass Lantern Walk in Chinatown this past Saturday night.
We arrived at the start of the walk just a few minutes before it actually started (aka about 20 minutes late due to traffic), and just in time for the Lion Dance. It was loud and chaotic, which are two good words to describe the entire experience (but not in a bad way). I had picked up some cheap lanterns at cold storage and had dropped a glow stick in them (traditionally laterns use fire which seemed like a bad combination with my 3 year old and a paper lantern). I definitely felt a bit of lantern envy when I saw the amazing variety–the straight up spherical paper ones, but also elaborate ones in the shapes of the dragons and such, themed ones (like a thomas the tank engine lantern-no joke), and battery-operated ones that lit up and did stuff (a bug with flapping wings). Sadly it due to the low light and constant movement, I had to toss a number of photos–it was not the kind of environment that is tri-pod friendly (although I, along with many other amateur photographers had mine with me).
Ellie is not amused
Ellie had been sick all day Friday, but had seemingly bounced back on Saturday. She insisted she wanted to go to the walk. Although she hasn’t sat in a stroller in almost a year (and even then mostly to transport her around airports when she was too tired to walk), she ASKED for her stroller. This should’ve been our first clue that it wasn’t a good idea. But we tried. About a minute before the walk began, Ellie started crying and wanted to go home. Ravi decided to take her home and insisted Rhi and I stay (especially as he could tell I really wanted to do the walk, and knew I’d been looking forward to it).
Doing the walk (which went up a main street, down a side street and then looped on New Bridge road), I really enjoyed the diversity of Singapore. You hear a lot of talk about how diverse Singapore is, but it’s moments like the walk that really show it. In the picture above you can see the Mid-Autumn Festival’s lanterns strung in front of the Sri Mariamman Temple. For a spell I walked next to a Buddhist mom and her daughter and we chatted about pre-schools. Later we walked past some older Aunties who chatted up Rhi in Mandarin (I may not know much Mandarin, but I know Mei-Mei for Little Sister). We shared street space with women in Saris holding their lanterns. Expats galore took part. And no one seemed out of place. It’s just how Singapore is. (Which is not to say that there aren’t simmering xenophobic tensions, class tensions, etc) This de rigeur diversity is absolutely one of my favorite parts of Singaporean life.
At points I felt a little bad about bringing Rhi to such a loud gathering without getting her some ear plugs or some such (if you watch the video you’ll understand–we were never NOT near some very loud drumming–awesome drumming–but loud). I wasn’t sure if I should’ve taken her (as opposed to sending her with Ravi), but she loved it. She loved the lanterns, she was interested in what was happening, she flirted shamelessly with everyone who noticed her, and even appeared unfazed by the loud drumming.
Dancers. Can someone tell me more about them? If I were in the US, I’d think of the outfits as Polynesian inspired. I’ve never seen anything like them related back to Chinese Culture. Please, share in comments!
Ditto. Please share in comments if you know the significance of the women dressed like this. I feel like I was missing out on a lot of the significance and nuance of what was happening around me, and I’d love to know more.
This drum team was AMAZING. I loved that there were a number of women (I’ve mostly seen men when I’ve seen this style of drumming at Lion or Dragon dances) and I love the synchronicity and drama of their movements (as well as the sound of the drums).
There was a main stage just before the walk ended, and if you check the video you’ll see the group performing at the end of that video.
So here we have it, another experience in my quest to explore more of Singapore. We were in town for the Lantern Festival of 2010, and tried to do a few family friendly things– see here, here, and here. Last year we were still out of town during the festival. But this was our first year really trying to engage with the festival. Ironic, then, that unless they’re going to be up for a few more days, we’ll have missed out on the Clarke Quay lantern displays (we kept trying to see them with the girls, but every time we planned to, something would come up)–anyone know if they’re already gone, or how much longer they’ll be there?
I would’ve liked to have stayed longer, but I was needed at home, so shortly after we finished the walk, Rhi and I left, missing out on the night market and other experiences. Below is a video with various clips of the sights and sounds from that evening. Sorry for any shakiness in the video–hard to push a stroller with one hand, record with the other and walk all at the same time.
Just a heads up that some of the content in the post is not safe for work.
It really should come as no surprise to my readership that I love drag queens and drag shows. So I was thrilled to be in Boston for Perestroika: The Best Drag Show in the World, which happens the first Monday of the month at Jacques Cabaret. I owe a huge thank you to Becca for reminding me about Perestroika and for getting us a table! You went above and beyond and I love you for it.
I could go into a long discussion of drag shows in the US versus my experience of cabarets/ladyboy bars in Asia, but I’m on vacation. It was also my first night out without the baby in ages, so I’m just going to revel in how much fun it was.
This video will give you a peek into the experience. NSFW at times. The ladies are ridiculously talented.
Below are some stills I took throughout the night…
Jacob, Jim, myself and Kate before the show.
(My lovely friend Aimee made and lent the hat to me)
Becca not only got us a table, but she called Katya during the show to tell her we were there! Katya came out and told everyone that Becca had just called her. Becca, you should know that the mere MENTION of your name brought down the house. Kayta presented me with a cupcake for coming all the way from Singapore. (If only I could come every month–I don’t get nights like this in SG). I was so touched!
I’m going to put an album of the rest of the photos on the Expat Bostonian facebook page. Come and see!
On Thursday, our first day in Boston, I took Ellie to see Brave (the new Pixar movie) with Rhi and my friend Kate. We both really liked it, although there are some scary parts if you have a sensitive little one. Might be one to preview first unless you’re certain of your child’s tolerance for scary bears (E doesn’t scare easily).
After the movie, Kate headed to work and the girls and I wandered over to Boston Common (locally known as “the Common”).
Ellie had some Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins, and she sat down near a fountain to eat them.
We seemed to have brought blistering equatorial heat to Boston, as even my little Singaporean child was whinging about how hot it was outside. So as we wandered the Common in the general direction of a garage entrance (the garage is under the common, so there are several entrances down), we were wilting.
But then we saw…
We immediately headed in that direction, stopping only to acquire a balloon flower.
Then off Ellie went into the water. While she was in there, I made the following video.
This was a classic Boston summer afternoon with a kid. I loved sharing it with Ellie.
Rhi has gotten very verbal lately. We’re pretty sure we’ve heard “la!” for Ella (and maybe even “el!”) in the last day or two. Today I managed to catch her saying “da! da! da!” on camera. Nope, no “mama.” Glad to know where I rank after gestating her for 9 months and feeding her from my body for almost another 9, the little ingrate. Ellie’s first word was “mama”–at least someone loves me.
All sarcasm aside, it’s so exciting to see her becoming verbal! Enjoy the video.
Ellie has been attending The Little Gym since she was a year old (at the advice of her physical therapist), and one of the first things we did after moving to Singapore was to connect with The Little Gym of Singapore. Ellie has been attending classes there for the two years we’ve lived in Singapore, and I have nothing but great things to say about them. Rhiannon began classes with them last week.
The Little Gym offers non-competitive gymnastics for kids 4 months of age through 12 years. Kids are divided by age, and the curriculum builds upon itself. In the baby classes, we do things like help them learn to pull into sitting from a prone position, as well as play games that help them develop awareness of their bodies. Until age 3, a parent is present in the class with the kids, and after 3 it is a drop-off class. At Elanor’s level (3-4 year olds), they’re doing forward rolls, baby cartwheels, walking on the beam, and more advanced skills.
I have never met a teacher there who is not wonderful with the kids, and if you have a very physical kid like Elanor, I would encourage you to check them out.
About a week and a half ago, Ellie’s class had their mid-year show. Below are photos and video from that show.
I should start off by admitting that I’m not really a rock concert kind of person. I see rock shows every so often as a change of pace, or because I really like an artist, but in general I dislike them because it’s too loud, the music is distorted, you end up standing for the whole thing, and you can’t even see the person you’re there to see. Worst of all is when the singer isn’t really all that impressive without all the technical help added in the studio. I much prefer Broadway musicals–beautiful music, I get to sit, I can understand the lyrics, high quality (usually) voices, and narrative (which, as a storyteller myself, I am incredibly fond of, unsurprisingly).
So, now that I’ve gotten that off my curmudgeonly chest…
OH MY GOD YOU GUYS, LADY GAGA IS EVEN MORE AWESOME IN PERSON THAN ON HER CD’S/MUSIC VIDEOS.
I will admit that I’ve been a “Little Monster” (the popular nickname for Lady Gaga fans for those not into pop/current music) for a few years. I first liked the catchy pop music. Then I caught a video (Paparazzi, I think) on youtube and I’ve been hooked ever since. Most of the time there’s so many elements happening in her music videos that you can just enjoy them as a story, or you can go for a swim in symbolism (which I will admit to doing–I love deconstructing stuff, and Gaga’s work is ripe for it). I’m a little obsessed with the “Judas” video at the moment for that reason (I could sit around and analyze/talk about that for AGES) Obviously her strong stance on gay rights is right up my alley.
So when I heard she was going to bring her Born This Way Ball to Singapore, I made a point of trying to buy a ticket as soon as they went on sale. 20 minutes after they did, I was able to get through on the website, at which point only single seats were available. I promptly bought one and texted Ravi something along the lines of “Thank you for the Lady Gaga concert ticket. What a great Mother’s Day gift.” His response was something back to the effect of “Glad I don’t have to figure that out.”
I knew I was likely going to miss the opening act because I had to get the girls home from Ellie’s pre-school pick up, get ready, breastfeed, and then drive to the Indoor stadium. However, I didn’t think I’d be more than 15 minutes late—with traffic I was almost an hour late, and trying not to freak out. Luckily I got to my seat about five minutes before Lady Gaga took the stage.
It was a show unlike any other I’d seen The dancing was spectacular, her voice was even better live (if anything, she downplays what an amazing singer she in on her albums), the costumes were everything you’d expect, and there was even a vague narrative (taking over a country). I think what blew me away was how little (if at all) the show was toned down. She opened with “Government Hooker,” for one. There was rhetoric like “I am not an instrument of your government.”
She performed “Judas,” which was banned here in Singapore from radio play. Possibly because I”m a former Catholic and anything that pisses them off tends to cheer me up (particularly in a literary, musical, or art related form), or possibly just because it’s a damn good song (and video–see above) it’s a current favorite of mine. However, it crossed a line here (and in many other nearby countries–it was also banned in Indonesia and Malaysia). It was the cause of protests during her concerts in the Philippines. Threats from Islamic Extremists caused her to cancel her Jakarta concert (which in a predictable yet amusing twist has only boosted her popularity there.)
screen shot from a radio station explaining that “Judas” is banned from radio play in SG
Clip of her playing Judas in concert. Sorry for the distortion-shot on my camera phone and the bass distorted both sound and picture
There was a ton of homoerotic dancing. It was, quite possibly, the most gay friendly night of my time here in Singapore. I felt free to be myself–including the part of me that is open about my bisexuality. I know that 337(a) isn’t often enforced, but it *is* still on the books, and Pink Dot (while awesome) is a far cry from a Pride Parade/Festival. We are very far from even discussing marriage equality here. While I’m not trying to impose my vision of equality on Singapore/Asia, one of the things I struggle with most in Singapore is how open/vocal I can be without risking Ravi’s employment pass/my dependent pass. Foreigners, after all, aren’t allowed to be “political,” and it’s hard to know what that means. I have a feeling that my full uncensored view about all things LGBT would likely fall into that category, so I mostly keep my mouth shut and support Pink Dot and the few opportunities I have.
I absolutely loved every second of it. After the first 20-30 minutes, I put the cameras away so I could just enjoy the show. I’m kind of sad that my camera died before one part where she was sitting and chatting with the audience when someone tossed her a doll. She then made it dance on the stage and sang a bit of “Born this Way.” She then said “if you ever wonder what I’m like when I’m at home in my room…I do a lot of silly stuff like that.” But enjoy the rest of my photos and videos.
Obviously one of the keys to Gaga’s success is her insistence that you love yourself, that you are special. (It was even the center of a recent Simpsons episode “Lisa goes Gaga”–thanks to my friend Jim for pointing me at it earlier today). No matter what horrible things someone is saying about you or doing to you (she shared a story about being tossed in the dumpster by some boys in front of classmates), that you are worthwhile. People respond to that, and obviously it’s something that isn’t getting said enough.
Early on, she did Born This Way, of course (shot on my dslr, so the pic/sound is a bit better)
I loved her motorcycle/keyboard
It’s hard to escape being a mom, though. The two people sitting in front of me were a mom and her tweenage daughter. It made me all mushy to think of sharing a concert or event like this with my daughters one day. Earlier this week, Ellie and I (and Rhi in my arms) had danced around to Lady Gaga, and Ellie is a fan of her songs. So after the show, I made a point of stopping by the merchandise tent. I couldn’t resist getting Ellie a light up hair bow, and the smallest shirt I could get for her…which is currently a nightgown on her.
Obviously, I think that if you get the chance, you need to catch the Born This Way Ball. It’s next in Australia and New Zeleand, then Europe and eventually the US. Keep an ear out for when tickets go on sale in your area.