August 28, 2010

The Real World

You have NO idea how it feels to be on the receiving end of your anger!!

These were the words Nathan yelled at me Friday morning after a frustrating start to our day. Let me just clarify that by "anger" he did not mean that I was beating him or even yelling at him. Talking to him in a frustrated tone of voice? Definitely. It didn't matter.......he was still distraught (translation: exhausted) and would not settle down. He did get on the bus, but his shoulders were slumped forward and he was shuffling his feet with not even a wave as the bus pulled out of the driveway. I went on a preemptive strike by emailing his teacher to give her a head's up in case my anger was brought up and suddenly we have the nurse looking for inexplicable bruises. Nathan came home happy, with our morning forgotten, and all was right in 9 year old world once again.

What does this have to do with life in Singapore?

Despite the fun and adventures and new experiences, we are still smack dab in the middle of real life. Real life means we have days where every Jenkins family member is in a bad mood. It means we still have to hand out consequences, have difficult conversations, pay bills, figure out what's for dinner, and laundry. Loads and loads of laundry.

I am very aware that these next few years are going to offer some experiences we would otherwise never have had. I am also very sensitive to the fact that if those adventures are all I ever talk about, it can get obnoxious very quickly. We are blessed and thankful for our time here, but we are still immersed in real life every single day and real life can be tough sometimes.

I thought I was going along with the parenting thing pretty much figured out. A few bumps here and there, but overall I thought I was doing a relatively stellar job. Then a few weeks ago Garrett made the comment to me:

You know how you always talk so nice to people in stores and restaurants? You use that nice voice? I wish you talked to me like that.

Nothing like being slapped upside the head with the hand of reality. That comment coupled with Nathan's somewhat irrational comment has really made me think. Do I put forth more effort in being kind and gentle with strangers than I do with my own children?

I am the one person in this world they should be able to count on for a kind word when everything around them is ugly. I should be the one person that they can trust for a word of advice without the sting of criticism. Trust comes from not having to wonder what kind of mom is going to greet you every morning.

I sat down with Garrett and apologized to him. Apologized for the times that real life has taken away from what he deserves out of me. He deserves a mom that is consistent and loving.

A mom that parents him out of anticipation of his success and not expectation of his failures.

I continue to be in awe of life around me and every single day I encounter something that is new and different, but my real life is home with my family. People that deserve the very best I can give them no matter where I am or what's going on around me. A mom that is present and attentive and has enough self-control to not let her parenting be ruled and swayed by her emotions.

Real life continues in the midst of our adventure. Some days I rock at real life and others I fail miserably. The important thing is that I learn from my mistakes and pick myself up determined to do better. Now, if only I could figure out a way to not have to deal with the laundry, life would be just about perfect!

August 17, 2010

The Honeymooners

You are in the honeymoon phase!

A phrase I have been on the receiving end of a dozen times in the last week. When I respond to a question about how I'm doing with a positive response, I get THE look followed quickly by THAT phrase and a rushed "but you will like it eventually" type statement thrown on at the end to make it all better.

Why is it that we can't let those in a state of euphoria stay that way? We are quick to tell a newly married couple about the troubles they will face in the future. We share horror stories of labor and delivery to a sweet woman glowing with excitement for a new baby. We tell women with infants about how hard it is to have a 2 year old, we tell moms with 2 year olds how hard it is to have elementary aged kids and we tell moms of 3rd graders that their life will soon be tormented with teenagers. We tell young women to enjoy their youth before "real life" sets in and we tell women in their 20's to enjoy having all their body parts in the proper place because it won't be long until everything starts sliding south.

Is it that difficult for us to let someone live with an innocence that comes from not knowing what lies ahead? Do we begrudge their happiness because it was once robbed from us?

I understand that in the interest of reality people are just trying to prepare me for the inevitable. That the charm and excitement of a new life will wear thin and reality will set in.

I get that.

I have been purposely enjoying each and every day that I'm happy, refusing to sit in dread of the days I won't be. That is how you miss stuff. Plain and simple.

You miss the joys of being a newlywed when you dread your first fight over money. You miss the joys of being pregnant when you've heard the stories of 37 hours of labor. You miss your kid's childhood when you live with trepidation of what the next stage in their lives will bring. You miss the excitement of living somewhere new and exciting if you are just waiting for the day the honeymoon will come to an end.

I vote that the wiser and more experienced person allow ignorance to reign. As they say:

Ignorance is bliss!

August 10, 2010

Things that make you go "Hmmmmm"

We have officially been in Singapore 5 weeks as of today. School is in session and schedules are filling up with lunches out with friends, meetings for church and school, business trips, and even a birthday party the boys have been invited to. While it doesn't feel completely like home, we are not wasting any time in putting down some roots. I guess you could say we are embracing the concept of "blooming where you are planted".

I still walk around in awe of where we live. I have had some incredibly interesting conversations with taxi drivers and am starting to learn a little about the culture of Singapore. There are several interesting aspects of this country that I feel compelled to share with you because after all, I want you to feel like you are getting the full Singaporean experience through us.

Here we go.

Things that make me go "Hmmmmmm":
(insert throat clearing here)

1. This first item I have tried to articulate several different ways and can't seem to get it right so I'm just going to say it.

There is an obvious lack of silicone here.

I am not going to insert my opinion one way or another about that fact, but it honestly took me all of 48 hours before I mentioned my observation to Scot. Being a wise man, he made no comment at all. I have since voiced my observation to new friends who have all concurred. The end.

2. For some unexplainable reason, people walk around here with their drinks in plastic bags. There is a straw sticking out of the top of the bag in order to enjoy the refreshment but it's in a Top Secret kind of way. Like they swore off Frappachinos but then passed by a Starbucks and couldn't help themselves and now they are hiding their drink in a bag to avoid judgemental stares from others. These pictures are not the best because I was taking them while pretending that I wasn't taking them. It makes me feel like I'm a covert opperative of some kind.

Notice his drink from McDonalds in a clear bag? He's not ashamed!
Her drink in her left hand in a handy carrying bag.

3. There are NO baked chips of any kind in Singapore that I have found thus far. I am assuming that since everyone here is 4'9" and 70 pounds, they are probably willing to splurge on a bag of Lays.

4. There are more Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Porsches, and Aston Martins here than anywhere else I've ever been. They are everywhere! We live on an island! A crowded island at that. I'm all for driving a fast car, but when you can go from 0-100 in 5 seconds flat before having to stop for a stoplight or traffic, what's the point? Never mind the fact that you can't even get a new Toyota Camry for less than $95,000 so you're talking some serious coin for one of those rides. Notice how I slip so easily into street talk? I'm just cool like that.

5. When handing over a business card or credit card, you do it with both hands, not just one. It's like paying respect to the card. I like to throw in a little bow just to spice things up.

6. This is a typical Asian toilet. Every restroom, or loo, that I have been in has had the typical Western toilet as well. My friend informed me that in Malaysia and other neighboring countries, that is not the case. Which means at some point I am going to have to figure out how to get my 5'11" self into a squatting position without touching every germ infested wall around me or losing my balance and falling into the hole which would lead to me screaming and would certainly incite a national disaster. It is not unusual to walk into a restroom with all Western style toilets and find a set of footprints on the seat where someone felt the need to practice their aim.

7. It is Hungry Ghost Festival time here in Singapore. All around the country you find altars much like this one. The Hokkien Chinese believe that the gates of hell open up at this time of year and souls roam the earth. What a fun filled festival! It makes you want to grab the children and hop right over to Singapore, doesn't it? The Chinese build altars with incense, mandarin oranges, roasted suckling pig, and rice being offered up to the ghosts to appease them.

Don't want Grandpa getting ticked off!

They also burn fake money to ensure great fortune in their afterlife. Why fake? I was told it was because they can fool their gods using fake money instead of real money. it just me or does it seem a little odd to actually trust a god that is that stupid? Just sayin'.......

8. Speaking of money, all the "paper" money here is actually made out of plastic. They come in $2, $5, $10, $50, $100 bills which are different sizes depending on the amount. It's brilliant and fun and still seems very fake to me.......which is absolutely reflected in our poor bank account.

9. I have been told that they do hangings at the prison on Fridays. It is not open to the public which works well for me because you couldn't drag me to something like that. BUT, it is a very useful fact when threatening my boys about consequences for breaking the rules. Fear can be a very useful parenting tool.

10. We are now using words such as "alight" instead of get out, "queue" instead of get in line, "handphone" instead of cellphone, and "lift" instead of elevator. You refer to Asian men as "Uncle" as a sign of respect and the women are "Auntie". It makes us feel very cool and proper to use our new vocabulary. We are doing our best to blend. Well, except for the height issue and my curly hair and Garrett's red hair, but other than that, we are totally blending in!

There are many more things, but I like things all nice and neat so we'll stop at 10.

Every day I encounter something new or different that makes me smile or wish I had my camera with me or shake my head in wonder. It's a wonderful and fascinating country with much, much more exploring left to do!!

August 07, 2010

Plugged In Once Again

On June 28, we boarded a plane in Houston bound for the start of our new adventure. Did you know we moved to Singapore? Just kidding.

That fateful day, I had to turn off my phone. I waited until the absolute last moment when I was seconds away from a face to face encounter with the air marshal that was surely on board our plane. Ever since meeting a real live air marshal this summer who told me he could kill a guy with his thumbs, I've been fascinated with the challenge of identifying the thumb killing protector of the airplane on each flight we've taken.

I digress.......the turning off of my phone and putting it away until the time came in Singapore when I would have permission to turn it on again without paying $274.53 a second, was traumatic for me.

I am a cell phone addict.

It's easy to say that now because I went through all the hard stuff weeks ago. Detoxing from a lack of access to text, email, Facebook, and talking to friends was UGLY! I had the shakes, nervous twitching, hallucinations, and cell phone envy in those first few days. I would hyperventilate over the thought of having no available contact with others and just narrowly avoided adopting habits such as smoking or picking my cuticles in an effort to occupy my now empty hands.

Flash forward SIX weeks. Yes, that would be 42 days or 1008 hours later and my phone works once again. It is a bittersweet moment for me. I had gotten used to not having a phone and so I was forced to actually look out the window during bus rides or actually have a conversation with my kids during subway trips. I wasn't consumed with who had a bad hair day or was going to the grocery store per Facebook posts and the only chatting I was doing was with the real live people that were actually sitting in front of me. I wasn't distracted during conversations by a ring notifying me of a new email. I walked empty handed to places looking up and around the entire time instead of at my phone as a way of avoiding eye contact with others. I had phone numbers of new friends written on scraps of paper that littered the inside of my purse. I was much more present.

I think that having a handphone (as they are referred to here) makes this move feel more permanent. I have a Singapore phone number now which is an 8 digit number written as 1234 5678 and we almost have a new local bank account to pay for said cell phone number. I have written and received a couple of texts from local friends and even walked down the rode today reading a new email. I am sad to say that I will probably shush a child or half hear what he's saying while engrossed in my phone and will join all the others in sitting at a table to eat, plopping my phone next to my salad fork before my napkin even goes into my lap.

I hope that I will take my forced time off to develop better handphone habits. I honestly think a person without a cell phone is more pleasant that being with one that is addicted. I much prefer being pleasant. I think I'll start to use my time more exploring all the possibilities having killer thumbs could afford me!!

August 01, 2010

Scenes From A Grocery Store

In preparation for friends coming to visit tomorrow, Nathan and I set out by bus to do some grocery shopping. In the last two weeks I have been to 6 different stores and one wet market (farmer's market) in an attempt to figure out where my store of choice was going to be. After much exploring and more shopping than I would have done in 2 months back in Houston, I have found my favorites. We discovered the Singapore version of Wal Mart in a store called Carrefour located, like many other grocery stores, in the bottom floor of a local mall. It is both large and relatively inexpensive so I am forcing myself to go there on a regular basis. We think it's really fun that it's a 2-story store with this fun walkway to take you between the two levels.

Since we are now experienced shoppers, we went with our $1 in hand prepared to "rent" our cart.

The very first thing you will notice when walking into Carrefour is the smell. Nathan gagged his way through his first experience in this store because it honestly smells like you have walked into a storehouse for rotting fruit. I now know to expect this so it's funny to see novice Carrefour shoppers walking around with noses wrinkled, shirts covering mouth and nose opting for the scent of their own self over that of the store. It's truly one of the worst smells ever. The culprit? A fruit named Dorian. It smells so bad that there's a saying that Dorian "tastes like heaven, but smells like hell". It's enough to make you want to have an altar call right in the middle of the store. It is actually illegal to buy Dorian and take it on any form of public transportation because of the smell.

With my camera in hand, determined to grab a picture of this foul smelling fruit, we went to the large display of Dorian in the center of the store. I snapped a picture of the guy in charge of cutting up the fruit and then he offered us a complimentary piece. In a matter of seconds, Nathan and I had an audience of about 20 Asian shoppers anxious for the floor show of watching the poor Americans suffer through their first Dorian experience. Nathan was the first to take a small bite. There was a full head to toe shudder that followed that bite. It was then my turn, all the while being cheered on by a growing crowd. Never one to want to disappoint a crowd, I picked up the fruit with the look and texture of raw chicken skin, took a deep breath and bit into it. It was truly one of the most horrendous things I have ever tasted. I'm sure the look on my face said it all as there was an eruption of laughter from the crowd before they began to disperse. I was fighting the urge to vomit right there while graciously telling the man that although we appreciated his generosity, we would not be taking any home with us.

I am convinced that the Dorian display is the key to fast weight loss. The smell is so intense and so terrible that there is no extra lingering in the cookie aisle or walking back and forth in front of the bakery deciding whether that 5 minutes of excercise yesterday merits buying a bakery cake. pretty much take a deep breath, run into the store and get what you absolutely need and leave as soon as you can. If only there was a Scratch 'n Sniff option for this blog.......

We decided to pass on the $45 bag of frozen escargot. We did not, however, pass on this next aisle where you could hear the angels sing. Well, at least Texas angels......

I have been very surprised to find that you buy eggs on an aisle much like you would buy a can of tuna or a jar of olives. No refrigeration needed. I have a love/hate relationship with eggs ever since that time in college when I cracked open an egg to find blood inside. To say that I was scarred is a gross understatement. I don't know if I thought refrigeration is what prevented the egg from turning into a chicken.....I am not sure to this day how that happens, nor do I want to know. All I know is that there was something very disturbing about buying eggs that were sitting out there all exposed and warm. I nervously purchased a dozen and was happy to find not a feather nor a beak in the entire bunch.

Nathan and I completed our shopping in record time and joined the 362 other shoppers in incredibly long lines to check out before going outside the mall to line up once again for a taxi. I purchased just over a half full cart of groceries for $150 today and consider that a raging success. In this house, that should last about 3 days.

We are looking forward to having the Linebargers here for the next several days and having the chance to be Singapore tourists! I am going to have to consciously make an effort to not smother my poor friend in my excitetment at having her here.

Hmmmm......I wonder if they've ever had Dorian? Now that could be a lot of fun!

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