Be Quiet Mommy’s Reading

I’m not sure how many of you know what a voracious reader I am. It’s August 23, 2018 and I’ve already read 92 books this year. I had to increase my reading goal for the year from 100 to 150 books on Goodreads. (Look me up using my email delilahnight at gmail dot com and add me as a friend if you’re on there.)

Back in 2014 I started a book review blog. Then life got complicated. But I’m ready to start blogging over there again as well as here and Delilah Night. Want to read more in depth reviews? Go to Be Quiet, Mommy’s Reading and like the blog. Or like the Facebook Page. Right now reviews are every m/w from me, and Fridays the girls take over to review their favorite books with a book vlog. Depending on how things shake out, I may need to revise the schedule–some weeks to more, others to less.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , ,

Back to School

This was the first week of the 2018/2019 school year for Rhi and Elanor

Posted in Back to the US, Pictures, Rhiannon | Tagged , ,

Photo Essay–A trip to Disneyland

Posted in Back to the US, california, North America, Pictures, Travel by Continent, Country, US | Tagged , , , , , ,

Things I shouldn’t do

There are some things I *really* shouldn’t do. Things that are actively stupid, given my back. Things that I *really* *really* *really* shouldn’t do.

Things like this

 

Yes, the Xtreme Sky Flyer fucked up my back for several days. Yes, I got yelled at. Yes, I kind of think all’s well that ends well and it was so fun.

It really sucks to be a thrillseeker with a bad back.

Posted in Acts of Supreme Clumsiness, Video | Tagged , , ,

Marijuana

Singapore’s attitudes towards drugs are pretty draconian. Some opioids are available via a doctor but when I would’ve been given a stronger pain killer in the US, in Singapore I was made to be an inpatient. (This would never happen in the US because a night in the hospital is thousands upon thousands of dollars.) But today we’re going to talk about pot, and specifically what using pot for pain has done for my quality of life.

I understand that this is controversial stance and I don’t think I would necessarily have written a pro-drug post while still living there. So this is me, free from the constraints of living in Singapore to talk about why I wish Singapore would institute medical marijuana.

To my Singaporeans readers–posession/consumption of pot in Singapore carries a 20k sgd fine and up to 10 years in prison. Which is better than the death penalty, I guess.

I wanted to try pot for my chronic pain for years before we moved back to the US once I started reading up on the benefits of medical marijuana. It wasn’t an option. Instead I had to weigh the potential consequences of pain versus opioid every day. Because while I was grateful for the pain relief, I do not want to risk addiction. So there were plenty of days where my baseline pain made it difficult to do normal things like get up and walk around or to grocery shop but wasn’t painful enough to force me to stay in bed. And there were days where I chose to stay in bed because getting out would mean a pain pill and I wanted to avoid that.

When we moved to California only medical marijuana was available. But it wasn’t difficult to get approved for medical marijuana here–I used telemedicine in which I uploaded paperwork showing my MRI’s and then skyped a doctor. I got approved on the spot, was emailed a letter and my card arrived a week later. California is quite relaxed in this regard–it varies state to state with some states making it ludicrously difficult to get approved for medical marijuana.

Even though recreational pot use is legal in California now, I still consider myself a medical patient as I specifically use it for pain and not to get high.

A quick chemistry lesson–Marijuana has two main components–CBD and THC

  • CBD is the pain killing agent.
  • THC is what gives you the high, and is useful for increased pain and those who suffer from anxiety.

The amount of CBD/THC you get changes depending on the strain of marijuana you smoke–if you smoke. Given that I have children, and wasn’t a fan of smoking pot in college, I chose not to smoke or vape. Which left me with a few options.

  • Creams–I tried a CBD cream on my back but didn’t get much relief from it
  • Edibles–Edibles are generally only THC and I wasn’t looking for a high. Plus, based on my very limited experience of two things, it’s hard not to make something taste like pot. Blech.
  • Oils–I haven’t tried these but I know people who swear by CBD oils. You put a few drops under your tongue. But that came too close to tasting pot for me.
  • Capsules–WE HAVE A WINNER

The picture above is how I use marijuana. These are CBD pills. They look, honestly, like the Vitamin D capsules I took for years.

I have capsules at several different strengths for different reasons

  • 20:1 (20 parts CBD to one part THC) pills are good for most days. They take care of the aches and pains of what we now know is fibromyalgia. It doesn’t impair my abilities at all.
  • 4:1/2:1 (4 or 2 parts CBD to one part THC) are for days when I’m a little more OW! but still need to keep going. This is what I’d take when my pain is ratcheting up but I can’t necessarily lay down and sleep.
  • 1:1 (equal parts CBD and THC) are for days when I’m in a LOT of pain and can afford to wait up to an hour to get relief. I can usually see this building, and try a lower dose but if it’s not working and I can afford to relax/sleep I’ll take a 1:1. If I’m in acute pain I’ll take an opiod, but that means I take maybe one every 1-2 months now because of the pot.
  • Pure THC capsules–I have started to try these at bedtime because my anxiety goes up sharply at nighttime–I can ponder all the bad things in the world (don’t @ me with suggestions) and my mind just won’t STFU. This is when the THC works in my favor and helps me feel a little sleepy and relaxes me. Coupled with a podcast or a familiar audiobook, I can zone out and fall asleep before six am….or just fall asleep, period. (Ask Ravi about the time I stayed up for two days straight and was crying because all I wanted to do was sleep. Fun times.) I started the because my dispensary was out of 1:1 pills and the person suggested them–I found that they can be helpful.

This is not to claim that the way I do medical marijuana is superior to the way anyone else does it–this is *my* journey and what works for me.

Full confession–I’m also only able to use pot in the way I do because I can afford it. A bottle of 30 pills goes for 80 dollars, and that’s 15 doses for me. A cheap month is under 200 usd. A bad month can be more. Insurance doesn’t cover medical marijuana because it’s still illegal on a federal level (which means don’t buy it in the US and try to take it to SG x 2). Given the US Attorney General’s stance on Marijuana the US won’t move in that direction at the federal level until the reign of terror that is Trump is over.

When we moved to the US from Singapore I was freaking out because I was still in a wheelchair pretty frequently and highly dependent on a cane when I wasn’t. I used  prescription opioids almost every week, and sometimes every day, depending on my pain levels.

A year and a half later, I can’t remember the last time I needed my wheelchair, although I did use a mobility scooter at the Bronx Zoo in New York in June. I keep a travel cane (it folds up!) in my car, but only sporadically need it. For the most part I can just walk around, although I do still have limits I need to respect (and sometimes throw out the window to my own detriment–but that’s for another post).

I give a lot of credit to medical marijuana.

Which leads me back to my original point–it sucks that we couldn’t have medical marijuana in Singapore. They could simply offer a CBD course of pain management. It wouldn’t violate the drug laws in that you wouldn’t be chasing a high/getting “rewarded” with a high. Hell, I got more of a high off my opioids, which I *could* legally have in Singapore than I do off my pot (unless I take a higher than average dose of 1:1 capsules or a pure THC capsule)

I do not condone the possession or consumption in Singapore. It is illegal and I am explicitly saying don’t break the law.

BUT

I wish that I’d had the option of using CBD for pain while I lived in Singapore. I think my quality of life would’ve been better those last few years if I’d had CBD.

Having said that….

Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) this month (Jan. 10) announced that it would develop synthetic cannabinoids, or chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant, as part of a broader S$25 million ($19 million) investment by the body into synthetic biology. The initiative will help boost Singapore’s push to develop a “bio-based economy,” and grow new industries and create jobs in a sustainable way.

It looks like some of you may get the chance to try it in the future. Although I’m not clear if what the article is saying is that they’re looking into this from a purely economic stance, with the goal being the production of medical marijuana for use outside of Singapore or if they’re considering actual medical marijuana. But my articles are all from January of 2018–if any of my readers has more info, please leave a comment. I’d love to know more.

Posted in Back to the US, repatriation, reverse culture shock | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Expat to Expat–Suggestions to help you hire the FDW that’s right for your family

This is my last post from the drafts folder. This has been sitting there since 2016 because this is an inflammatory post. Anything I’ve added for clarification will have a *** *** around it.

I have been debating whether or not I wanted to write this–discussing Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW’s), more commonly called maids or helpers is opening a can of worms. I had to close comments on my post on what I’d learned from a negative maid experience (which largely centered around what I did wrong) because it turned into a maid bashing free-for-all. After writing about the details of that negative experience, I was publicly called out as an example of a horrible employers in a TWC2 (transient workers count too) article for sharing my story. ***Which is why this post has sat in my drafts file for years***

I haven’t really discussed FDW’s because I chose not to have one. Our negative experience, coupled with my realization that I was a bad manager, and flavored with fear that my judgment had been so flawed made us re-evaluate having an FDW, and we did not employ one for three and a half years. But after my near fatal illness last year(***2015***), and the (still ongoing) recovery, we decided that what was right for our family had changed and we once again decided to employ a helper.

This is not her story–that isn’t mine to share. What I will say is that our experiences have been like night and day, and I think I understand why. So with that in mind, I decided to write the article I wish I’d read before we decided to hire someone in the first place.

I’m choosing to refer to prospective employees as FDW’s, which I feel is more respectful than the more commonly used maid/helper (although in day to day conversation, I am absolutely guilty of using helper).

disclaimer–These are my conclusions, based on my experience. I am writing with a foreign expat audience in mind. Your mileage may vary. Both times I chose to hire an FDW who was already in Singapore. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of hiring someone I’d never met, and then having them show up and move into my house. This may not be the right call for you, but I can’t advise on hiring someone outside of SG.

1–Do you actually want to hire an FDW?

Conventional wisdom is that you must hire an FDW to survive in Singapore as an expat. There is some logic in this declaration–when you first arrive you are on your own. It takes time to build a network of friends who become your family, and having a paid support system certainly has its benefits.

That said–you do not need an FDW. Plenty of families, both local and expat, do not employ an FDW. My kids are now old enough to pitch in and help out with the cleaning, and were it not for my health concerns we could make do with just a weekly cleaner for the heavy cleaning chores. There are plenty of cleaning companies (we used Mrs. Sparkles for three years and I have nothing but nice things to say about them). You can easily hire a part-time babysitter to get a break from babysitting (we used Just Us for a year, and then changed hiring a sitter without an agency). If you have groceries or water delivered, you can request that they be left outside your front door. Some play spaces allow you to leave your kids and go grocery shopping in peace (Amazonia at Great World City, and Tiara Society at UE Square among them–both malls have a Cold Storage).

Whether or not you choose to employ an FDW is a very personal choice. I will say that hiring Mrs. Sparkles for three sessions a week of four hours was equal to the average cost of an FDW including the taxes. Privacy comes with a big price tag, but for some families (particularly Americans like us, who practically fetishize privacy) it might be the right trade-off. My goal is to reassure you that while it may not seem like it when you first arrive, there absolutely are families who do not employ FDW’s and are thriving. Do not let someone pressure you into a decision that isn’t right for your family.

2–Take the time to actually conduct a search

My in-laws flew in from Boston and stayed nearly three months while I was in the hospital and post-release. However, their life is in Boston and they couldn’t move here indefinitely. Nor would we actually want to cram six people into our apartment. I wasn’t healthy enough to go it alone with minimal help as I had before. Hiring an FDW at that time was absolutely the right call for us.

The first time I hired an FDW, I called up an agency someone recommended to me and hired the first person they sent over. This was a mistake.

If you have never hired an FDW before, you don’t really know what qualities to look for or what duties you’d like her to perform. Conducting a search will feel as foreign to you as Singapore does.

The most important thing I can tell you is that maid agencies are not looking out for your best interest nor are they looking out for the FDW’s best interest. They will throw candidates at you without listening to what criteria you’re asking for. They will pressure you to hire someone as quickly as possible.

One solution is to search for an FDW without the use of an agency–you can connect directly with FDW’s on Anisya. This allows you to screen FDW’s directly. However, based on my experience, it can be a lot of effort for little reward–many of my interviews conducted over Whatsapp came to nothing, or appointments were canceled, and twice the employer was not willing to release the person I had hoped to employ. I put out a lot of effort and ended up hiring someone via an agency.

Should you go the agency route, my advice is to talk to two or three. That way you are screening a wider range of candidates.

I insisted on doing preliminary interviews–over Whatsapp for FDW’s I connected with over Anisya and at the agency with candidates I was interested in interviewing. Only after passing through my screening did I invite prospective employees to my home to meet my daughters.

I’ve worked in Human Resources in the US–take hiring an FDW as seriously or moreso (given the nature of the employer/employee relationship in Singapore) as you would hiring someone to work in a hypothetical business you own back home.

In total, I spent four to six weeks and talked to easily one hundred candidates. Which is probably overkill, but given that I’d made the wrong call before, I wanted to be certain that I’d found the right person.

3–Insist on seeing the MOE employment record for any prospective FDW (with a work history in Singapore)

I had no idea this was something you could ask for back in 2010 when I was a clueless newbie.

I only discovered you could request this when several agencies included this form for all the candidates. I then requested it for all the candidates I was going to do a second round of interviews with in my home. This is an MOM generated form that lists all the dates of employment in Singapore for the prospective helper. More than once, the records from MOM and the paperwork from the agency did not match up.

For me, a consistent employment history was important. Everyone has one or two jobs that just didn’t work out, and I didn’t hold that against anyone I was considering. But there were many instances of FDW’s who transferred regularly, rather than completing the two year contact. For me this was a red flag, and I chose not to interview candidates with sketchy employment histories.

4–Ask for references

Anyone I was seriously considering had references. Either employers still in Singapore I could speak with directly, or a former employer I could email, and I checked out the references. In several cases, this did change my opinion of the FDW. Nothing dramatic, but rather things like letting children run roughshod over them (Rhiannon is a bully, and anyone I hired would need to be able to stand up to Rhi if/when caring for her). The few references I spoke to that were nasty were generally discounted as crazy people who complain about everything (I’ve met more than a few of these employers in my day to day life in Singapore–any excuse to complain).

5–Know what’s important to your family and ask interview questions accordingly

Things that were important to me included/questions I asked were

  • Are you frightened of/allergic to cats? (we have two)
  • Can you swim/do you feel comfortable alone with the girls in the pool? (they’re learning to swim)
  • Can we include a clause in the contract that if a family member is in the hospital you will work on that Sunday? (we are firm believers in not interfering with an FDW’s off day, but hospital stays are an extenuating circumstance)
  • How do you think children should be disciplined? How would you handle a tantruming three year old who is on the floor, kicking and screaming, in the middle of a mall? (A post for another time, but Rhi has been diagnosed with Sensory delays and can throw spectacular tantrums.)
  • Are you comfortable reading books in English at bedtime on nights I’m not home for bedtime?
  • What would you do in case of a medical emergency? (If a child broke a bone while playing, or I fainted–the latter was a real issue from last June)
  • Are you comfortable with letting our children be responsible for their own chores?

I ruled out candidates who were allergic to cats (important!), and who were uncomfortable with/couldn’t answer the question about medical emergencies. The rest of the questions weren’t necessarily deal-breakers, but factored into our decision.

6–Give your children a say

Out of that original one hundred (roughly) applicants, I did extensive interviews with maybe thirty, and introduced my kids to about ten people.

Elanor and Rhiannon eliminated roughly a third of the FDW’s they met within five minutes. The chemistry was wrong, or the FDW was too meek and sat near them rather than playing with them even after they asked the FDW to do so.

After each person, we talked to the girls. They knew that they wouldn’t make the final choice (and their preferred candidate was not mine, for the record), but that we cared what they thought.

Obviously this isn’t possible if you don’t have children or your children are quite young. But even a three year old will have an opinion and deserves the chance to share it with you, especially as you are interviewing someone who will at least occasionally care for them. (I do most of the childcare, but I have doctor appointments, and sick days, and Wednesdays the girls have to be in two different places at the same time.)

7–Trust your gut

This is a difficult piece of advice for me to give, especially as my gut failed so spectacularly the first time.

That said, listen to your instincts. If that little voice inside says that this isn’t the right person, listen to it. I was reaching a point of fatigue and almost gave in and just hired someone more than once, even despite my instincts saying “maybe this isn’t the right person.” Stick to your guns.

8–Know that there is no guarantee

I’m sure that most of us have taken a job that we thought would be really great, only to realize we hated it. (Hello, retail jobs. Your employee discount didn’t not make up for how sucky the job was.) The same is true of any time you hire someone, whether as an FDW or in another setting.  You try to find the best possible person, and you hire them, knowing there are no guarantees in life.

I never saw B’s MOM sheet. Maybe it would have passed my scrutiny. Maybe I would still have hired her and had everything fall apart eighteen months later all the same. I don’t know.


If you do end up hiring someone, I wish you the best of luck.

***Closing comments because I’m not interested in the maid-bashing that inevitably happens on posts like this.***

Posted in Culture Shock, Expat to Expat Advice, Helpers, Singapore, Uniquely Singapore | Tagged , , , , , ,

In which I share questions I’m asked every time I go back to the US

***I’m going through my draft posts and finishing them/adding to them to get them out into the world***

 

My friends and family are well educated about Singapore by this point (some were more educated about Singapore than I was when we moved here).  However, inevitably while on vacation in the US, I will have conversations with people who know nothing about Singapore, or who are very misinformed.  I was reminded of these conversations recently when Stacey shared on FB that someone had recently tried to explain to her how Singapore was a city in India.

I often don’t mind educating people about Singapore.  But then there are times when I just want to finish my Christmas shopping and not give an in-depth lecture about the location and history of Singapore.  Or talk about the bubblegum thing.  Or Michael Fay for roughly the 500th time.  I sometimes feel like I should just carry a pamphlet with the answers to these questions written down.

We’ll do this by topic

Geography FAILS

Now, the US is very local-centric.  Our evening news covers the very small part of the state we live in.  In Boston you would rarely hear about something that happened an hour away, for example.  National news is minimal and international news consists of the Duchess of Cambridge giving birth, the country the US is at war with on any given day (but only if something really interesting happens or a lot of people die), and/or stuff that involves Americans.  So it is unsurprising that few people know where Singapore is–I’m not sure that I could have done better than to point to Southeast Asia before moving here.

That said,

  • Is it in China?/What part of China is that?
  • Having to explain what a city-state is.
  • Being asked if it snows a lot here in winter, AFTER I’ve said we’re close to the equator.

History

Again, many Americans don’t have the best grasp of US History, and most schools interpret World Civilizations to mean Fertile Crescent, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Western Europe, conquest of the Americas, Africa only long enough to talk about the slave trade, and then the US until World Wars 1 and 2 and usually stops before we get to Korea, Vietnam, the fall of the Soviet Union etc.  In US History the Pacific front of WW2’s narrative is Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, we bombed them, we won.  I’m still learning so much about World War 2 and what that experience was here in Asia.

Again, that said

  • People don’t know what a British Colony is/was.
  • People don’t know that the Pacific Front of WW2 affected anyone but Japan and the US.

Culture

Broken record here, but people in the US know very little about foreign cultures.  Some people pick stuff up from The Amazing Race, but only a small percentage of the populace travels outside the country.  So if they have heard anything about Singapore, it is one of two topics.  If they haven’t, I get other awkward questions.  I should include language here, but I’m going to give it its own category.

  • Is it really illegal to chew gum there?
  • Why can’t you chew gum?
  • Isn’t that the place where they caned that kid (Michael Fay)?

Language

Everyone asks what language is spoken in Singapore and is SHOCKED to hear that it’s English. Like I said, the concept of a British colony and that it became a separate nation in the wake of WW2 is strange to Americans because we’re such an insular people.

The idea that English is a primary language in a country where the majority of the population isn’t white showcases some ugly internalized thought–that English is a white, western language.

Nor is this confined to just the US. Kirsten Han told me that when she applied to university, she was made to take the TOEFL test–an examination given to a foreign student to see if their English is up to snuff. Despite her being a native English speaker.

 

None of these questions comes from a malicious place, but they are common and they are exhausting.

 

Updated to add–I still get some of these when I talk about living in Singapore for seven years. But not with the same frequency.

Posted in Culture Shock, headdesk moments, Random Stuff | Tagged , , , ,

Homework and Alcatraz

***I’m going back and finishing some posts that were in my started, but never finished file***

Elanor has to do a report on something from California history. She chose Alcatraz (a famous former prison, now a national park) because it sounds like Azkaban from Harry Potter.

I took Ellie there a few weeks ago, and she was as impressed by the audio tour (which is told by actual former guards and actual former inmates).

Ellie saw firsthand places like the visitation area, the warden area, areas that were scarred during the battle of Alcatraz, and the holes through which three prisoners made an escape.

Elanor in a cell

A mock-up of what the cell that one of the prisoners escaped from. They don’t actually know or believe that it was successful. There were signs that the three prisoners probably drowned in the icy San Francisco Bay, but they only declared the people dead in the 70’s.

 

If you visit San Francisco, buy your tickets in advance–they sell out way in advance. If you like being scared, there’s an after dark tour, too. Definitely don’t miss the audio tour–it is exquisitely curated oral history.

For those with mobility concerns, there’s a tram that takes people to the top, but keep an eye on the time. Everyone else, be prepared for the walk from the bottom to the top of the hill.

Even if it’s warm in SF, be prepared that Alcatraz will be freezing cold. Even in summer.

 

 

Posted in Back to the US, North America, San Francisco, Travel by Continent, Country, US | Tagged , , ,

New York City with kids, part 9–Things we didn’t get to :(

New York is an amazing city. It’s impossible to do everything you’d like to with or without kids.

Things I wanted to do with the kids but we didn’t get to for various reasons include

Ellen’s Stardust Diner with the singing waitstaff. I have loved it since I lived in NYC and this was the first trip where I didn’t manage to go. Every time we tried–and we tried three times–the line was insurmountable. Had I been with another adult, I might have done the wait, but it was just too long with the kids. The staff are largely actors who have or yet to work on Broadway–the level of talent is incredible.

Books of Wonder, a children’s bookstore in NYC. I’ve been to several times before, including when I took Elanor in 2013, but we just didn’t make it there this time. This is a space dedicated to the idea of helping children love reading, and it’s a great place to browse. It’s also an indie bookstore–support local bookstores!

I mentioned it in another post, but we just didn’t make The Natural History Museum on this trip. Do you or your child love dinosaurs? You should definitely go. Other exhibits are nice, too, but the big draw for me has been and will always be the dinosaurs. This is the museum where the movie Night at the Museum takes place.

 

I meant to, but we didn’t make it to the Statue of Liberty or The Empire State Building. Yes, I lived in NYC for a semester of grad school. At the time it was the one year anniversary of 9/11, so the Statue of Liberty was still closed to the public. I didn’t think Elanor would appreciate it at the age of five, so we skipped it in 2013. The Empire State Building has long lines–there are apparently crazy expensive tickets that let you skip the line, but I’m skeptical as to the value of them.

If you want to see the Statue of Liberty, but don’t want to actually go to the statue (you have to physically climb to the crown if you want to do that–not kid or stroller or accessible friendly), take the Staten Island Ferry—it’s free and you get amazing views of the Statue for your Facebook/Instagram account.

Every family has different priorities, but those are high on my list of things to ensure we do next time.

Posted in New York City, North America, Travel, Travel by Continent, Country, US | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

New York City with kids, part 8–Milk Bar

My kids are huge fans of the tv show Masterchef Junior, which is a cooking competition for kids 8-12. One of the judges on the show is Christina Tosi, who is the owner/chef behind Milk Bar in New York.

Milk Bar is a desserterie with nine locations in New York City as well as locations in DC, Las Vegas, and Toronto (Canada). I have their cookbook, and please let me assure you that none of their desserts are easy–they require a lot of preparation and practice.

What can you get there? Cakes, cookies, cake truffles, ice cream, and milkshakes.

One of the things they’re famous for is cereal milk flavored items. The idea being that the best milk is that milk left after your cereal has leeched out some of its sugary goodness into it. My friend J got a cereal milk milkshake. She said it was yummy if overpriced.

Rhi and Ellie opted for cookies. Rhi is holding a confetti cookie, which she really liked.

I got the crack pie that they’re also famous for. It is gooey and decadent and definitely worthy of the name because a month later I’m craving another piece!

If you’re near one, I suggest going in and trying it out!

Posted in Back to the US, New York City, North America, Travel, Travel by Continent, Country, US | Tagged , , , ,