Visiting Sequoia National Forest & Sequoia National Park

We are back in Singapore, nearly a quarter into the school year. On our way back from the states, we stopped in San Francisco for a little vacation. Amelia had been talking for most of a year about wanting to see the “big trees” after we told her about the Sequoias and Redwoods in California. It was clearly something she was very interested in, and since we were going to be flying through the state, we thought a layover was in order. Be prepared for photo overload….

We visited Sequoia National Forest first. The highlight there was the Trail of 100 Giants. It’s a short accessible trail, right off the road. The Sequoia trees here are 1500 years young or younger. I thought we’d be there for maybe an hour. I was wrong. The kids played and climbed and jumped and had a ball. There was stump jumping and log balancing and even some stream hopping. In the forest they were able to go right up to the Sequoia trees and touch them. Some we could even climb inside of. The trees were amazing and the photos don’t even begin to do them justice!

Most of these massive trees have burn marks. They’ve survived fires because they are full of tannins, which make them resistant to fires. It also makes some of them pretty cool hide-a-ways.

Here we are hanging out INSIDE one of the trees. What a cool place to take a selfie!

The tannins also make the trees and root systems very slow to decay. This one has had it’s roots exposed for 200 years. I love the texture of the weathered roots.

The trees are also extremely brittle. When they were first discovered, many were cut down by men thinking they could build multiple houses from one tree. Due to the brittleness of the wood, this was not a sound plan. Many of these giants were instead used for things like shingles and fence posts.


I found their bark to be very unique. Smooth to the touch, yet with a lot of texture.


I was surprised to find the needles of the Sequoia trees are prickly and pointy.


Theo was a big fan of the pine cones. Here are just a few he found. You would think the big trees would produce big cones, but that’s not the case. The big cones Theo is holding came from a pine tree. The tiny cone came from a Sequoia tree.

The US Forest Service is planting Sequoia saplings to help ensure they continue to be around in the future. I wouldn’t have known this was a Sequoia if there hadn’t been a sign!


There were two trees that fell due to wet ground back in 2011. They fell on a boardwalk and bridge over a stream, blocking off that part of the path.

One of the last snaps of the day included the kids and Tom walking past a couple of “young” Sequoia trees.


Next, we went to Sequoia National Park. On the way into the park we stopped at Tunnel Rock. Of course, the kids had to climb to the top!

In Sequoia National Park we saw some of the more famous Sequoia trees, including General Sherman, the largest tree on earth by volume. It’s 109 feet around! Due to the huge number of people who visit the biggest trees in the park, they have them fenced off for protection.

The Sentinel seems like a big tree. It’s right next to the visitor’s center and easy to get to. However, it’s not anywhere close to the biggest tree in the park. It’s a mere 28 feet in diameter (wider than one of the houses I once owned for perspective).

We got to walk through an old hollowed out Sequoia. The kids were making all sorts of plans for it, from making it a secret hide out, to a shelter if it rained. There are stories of people living in fallen trees when the area was being first explored.

The General Grant tree is the widest known Sequoia at 40 feet in diameter.

A bit off the beaten path was the Mark Twain Stump. This tree was cut down in 1891 in order to cut a slab from the trunk to put on display at the National Museum of Natural History in New York City. Although it’s sad, it may have helped convince people to preserve these beautiful trees.

Finally, my personal favorite, The Parker Group. This group is named after the calvary officer who worked as the 2nd park superintendent in 1893. The calvary protected the park until the National Park Service was established in 1916.

Near The Parker Group is a tree tunnel you can drive your car through. The kids thought it was pretty cool until we stopped to take photos. ;-)


Here are a few more photos from the park. Next post: Yosemite!

♥ Rebecca

Driving in Singapore

Hello everyone! Life is good here. We’ve been busy with kid activities and life in general. Tom’s traveling right now and some of the after school activities are winding down. Both kids have soccer practice on Saturdays now and we’ve added swimming lessons to the mix. I’ve had a couple of mishaps lately, the most recent this afternoon... Apparently, when you get poo-ed on by a bird, the locals tell you this is “lucky.” I’ve had the “luck” of hearing this twice in the last week. Both times the Singaporean telling me how lucky I am was laughing… Part of me thinks luck has nothing to do with this, and these kind souls are just trying to make me feel a little better while they laugh at my expense. Part of me is expecting something great to happen.... I’ll keep you posted. ;-)

Let’s talk about driving in Singapore! When you move here from the United States, you are allowed to drive, but you have to get a Singapore driving license within a calendar year from when you first enter Singapore under your employment or dependent pass. This was a task on our to-do list, and we finally checked it off last week! After you drive you have to get something called a probation plate or p-plate. These are triangles you must affix to the front and back of your car to let everyone you meet know you are a probationary driver. It’s pretty much a scarlet letter shouting “new driver.” If you’re supposed to have one, and you don’t have it displayed, you will be fined. I’m curious to see if my driving experiences change at all now that we’re in a marked car.

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Driving in Singapore is initially rather intimidating. Everything is backwards from the U.S. Here, you sit on the right side of the car. You drive on the left. You exit to the left. You pass on the right. That wouldn’t be so bad, but in some areas there is a lot of traffic and a lot of pedestrians to navigate. The signage is in strange places, so you really aren’t always sure where you are or where you’re going because you forget where to look for that information. There aren’t standard city blocks, so if you miss your turn you may have just added 10 minutes to your trip. You also need to become accustomed to different signage, speed traps, and the (sometimes many) motorcycles whizzing by between cars. Once this becomes the new normal, driving here really isn’t too bad. Most roads have a speed limit of 50 km/hr (that’s 31 mph). Some of the expressways have a speed limit of 90 km/hr (56 mph). Many of the roads have little/no shoulders, so even though it sounds like no big deal, it feels like you are speeding along at 70 or 80 mph even though you’re going much much slower. When we were in the States in December, I was excited to drive faster. I was a little sad that it really didn’t seem very different from the speeds we had been driving for months in Singapore, even though it obviously wasn’t the same.

We drive a mini-van here, with extra emphasis on the mini. Really. It is shorter and smaller in all dimensions than it’s counterpart in the States. However, it’s considered a larger personal vehicle here, and there have been carparks we barely fit in. (Carpark = parking garage in American English. I rather like “carpark.” It’s much more concise.) Parking is also very different from in the States. Singapore is literally half the size of an average Iowa county and it’s filled with 5.6 million people. Therefore, land is at a premium and there is little land allocated to carparks. Most carparks have stacked parking, and an increasing number are located underground. I have never seen angled parking. There is simply no room for it. Almost all the parking here is made to reverse into. At first, this seemed strange. However, it makes leaving the parking spot quite easy. I’ve actually come to prefer it. There are a small number of parallel parking spots as well.

Many of the larger carparks have indicators to let you know if there is an open spot down the aisle. There are lights suspended that are green if the spot is open and red if it is occupied. It’s very frustrating to drive down an aisle only to discover a spot that appeared open is in fact occupied and has a faulty light! The largest carpark I’ve experienced here is at Resort World. The carpark appears to go on forever with thousands of green and red lights. It becomes super important to remember where you parked!

One of the things I find amusing (and that took me a surprising amount of time to figure out!) is that when you’re in a carpark, “exits” are for people; the “way out” is for cars. If you try to follow the exit signs while driving a car, you will find yourself next to a staircase or lift lobby (read: elevator) where you most definitely cannot drive your car.


Because space is such a premium, almost all parking is pay parking. You have a card in a device in your car that is read at each entrance and exit of a carpark and you are charged for the time you spend there. The downside is you CAN apparently get stuck in a carpark if the machine malfunctions and there is a line at the gate. This happened once and I was stuck in the carpark for 20 minutes and nearly missed meeting Theo’s bus home from school. (see above photo) Lesson learned!


Some of the expressways in Singapore use electronic road pricing or an ERP system. The road is free much of the day, but charges for use in peak hours. The rate varies depending on the time of day and expected traffic levels. The funds are pulled off the same card used to pay for parking. Other cities, such as New York, are considering using this type of system, commonly called congestion pricing.


One of my favorite road features in Singapore is the ECO-Link. The ECO-Link is a wildlife bridge that covers the span of the Bukit Timah Expressway or BKE. It connects the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, two areas wildlife frequent. Of particular concern is the pangolin, which is endangered. There doesn’t appear to be great hard data on the bridges effectiveness, but the rate of pangolin roadkill has decreased since the bridge was finished. The bridge is 50 meters wide at it’s narrowest point. Native plants were used to cover the bridge to make it part of the rainforest. So cool! I know Tom wants to get some drone footage of this someday, but for now, here’s a photo from the ground. (Also, stand still traffic is my favorite…)


I’m trying to step up my “Life in Singapore” posts before we head home to visit everyone this summer. If there’s something you’re curious about, let me know. (To my foodie friend - you know who you are - I’ll be writing about food, I promise!)

♥ Rebecca

Kayaking in Bali

This is a video that was never intended for the blog, but I decided it must be shared. I originally sent it to some friends right after we took the kids kayaking while we were in Bali. Today, I was telling another friend about the experience and realized I could get the video out of the Marco Polo app so I could share it with her. Y’all, I watched it back and can’t stop laughing. (Clearly the trauma has worn off!) So now, I share it with you. I hope you enjoy this unfiltered recounting of our kayak trip in the Indian Ocean.


♥ Rebecca

Chinese New Year

It’s Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year 2019! In honor of this, I thought I’d share a bit of what we’ve learned about this holiday as well as several visits to Chinatown. I’m by no means an expert, but this is what we’ve learned and experienced.

One of the things I was not expecting was the use of the word “auspicious.” I have never heard the word auspicious used so much. It’s not a word commonly used in the United States. However, in Singapore, it cropped up more and more as the Chinese New Year grew closer. It was found in emails, advertisements, and signage; everywhere really. Even McDonald’s got in on the action with some (delicious) “prosperity twister fries” only available for Chinese New Year.


The most auspicious colors for the Year of the Pig are red, pink, gold, and orange. While walking through Chinatown, multiple people touched Theo’s hair or attempted to covertly take photos of him. One man looked at him and mouthed “gold” in wonder. That’s when we realized that Theo has a lucky hair color, which explains the fascination some of the Chinese people we meet have with him.


Red is found everywhere. It is the predominant color in many of the booths in Chinatown. It’s also the color of envelopes that are given as gifts, primarily from elders to younger members of the family. These envelopes contain money and are to “anchor the year” and bring wealth and good fortune to the receiver. I’ve read that the envelope tradition started as a red cord with a coin, like this one Amelia received from her Chinese teacher, and then gradually became an envelope over time. Some of the envelopes are decorated quite elaborately.


Oranges and mandarins also symbolize luck. There are mandarin trees outside many businesses and in public spaces. Mandarins are also given as gifts.


We saw some koi fish made of gelatin-like substance called agar agar powder. They, like many things associated with the Lunar New Year, are auspicious. They symbolize surplus or prosperity and good fortune.


Food is a big part of Chinese New Year. As in many cultures, there are certain dishes that are made for this holiday. My personal favorites are the pineapple tart (my absolute fav!) and the almond cookie. We also really like bak kwa, a sweet beef jerky.


Amelia begged us to buy her a qipao, or Chinese dress (also known as a cheongsam in Cantonese). She was very excited when her teacher encouraged her to wear it to school on Friday before Chinese New Year! Her teacher added a cherry blossom to her hair after she got to school. This kid was on cloud nine!


While in China Town the kids really wanted to get a coconut to drink. We got them one, and they promptly rejected it in favor of the pineapple drink Tom and I were sharing. They also tried satay for the first time. Amelia complained it was “too spicy,” and then ate most of the plate. Theo was a little less enamored with it, and he had to be convinced to try both the beef and the chicken. Neither of the kids liked the peanut sauce, which Tom and I thought was delicious.


We also had an opportunity to try a Singaporean ice cream sandwich; one version with rainbow bread, the other with a wafer.


On the way to Chinatown.


In Chinatown.


Many of the shops contained maneki-neko, or the waving lucky cat. The cat originated in Japan, but is common in many of the shops in Chinatown.


At school, both kids got to experience a Lion Dance. Tom also experienced a Lion Dance at work. The lion is (you guessed it!) auspicious in Chinese culture and is thought to bring luck and good fortune.


At work, Tom participated in a “prosperity toss” called yusheng in Mandarin or lo hei in Cantonese. It is a tradition found in Singapore and Malaysia. Tom was told the tradition of eating yusheng is not common in mainland China. In this tradition, noodles; vegetables such as radishes, carrots, ginger; peanuts; a variety of sauces; and salmon are mixed together and “tossed” like a salad with chopsticks. The higher the toss, the greater the prosperity in the coming year for the tosser.


Gong Xi Fa Cai!
(Wishing you wealth and prosperity!)

♥ Rebecca

Local Lizards

My next blog was supposed to be about Australia. I haven’t gotten through all the video yet, so no Australia. However, I did have an interesting experience today.

Right before we left the US I ruptured a tendon in my heel. It turns out not to be a very functional tendon, but it is pretty painful when it is ruptured. I was told to take anti inflammatories while I rest it and be nice to it and let it take a few months to heal. I did this as much as I could in a home with three flights of stairs… Anyway, I decided I’d try running on it today. So, I head over to the park. I’m jogging along at a pretty slow clip and I look down a path I wasn’t planning on taking. This path was right next to the harbor. I see this:

Malaysian water monitor

I may have said “what the….” out loud. This is a pretty wide path, and that thing was a good meter long. So, naturally, I got closer. The lizard seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place it at first. Finally, the name “monitor” popped into my head and off to Google I went. Sure enough, it was a Malaysian water monitor. I named him George (Malaysian water monitor is a mouthful!). George didn’t care much for me and he slunk off into the brush and into the harbor. Here’s a short video:

Fun fact: Malaysian water monitors can grow to 3 meters long. So, this guys wasn’t really THAT big after all! Also, they are venomous, although only mildly venomous to humans. Turns out it’s a good thing that George sounded the retreat… the alternative doesn’t sound a whole lot of fun!

Clearly, I should go running more often!

♥ Rebecca

Exploring Singapore

Hello! This should be divided into about 3 posts, but it’s your lucky day - they’re all in one! I thought I should update what has happened in the last couple of months. We have had some of the house issues fixed, and others have cropped up. We still have a list of maintenance work to be done, but I’m sort-of over it all and have started making them work around my schedule. The two big things, leak #2 and the floor damage from leak #1 are still not fixed. Luckily, leak #2 is in a shower, so the issue is minimized aside from the ceiling. In other news, driving has gotten much easier! I no longer feel like I’m driving down the wrong side of an interstate every time I’m on the road, so that’s a win!

We received our air freight! This means that the kids have bikes and most of their toys! We also have TV and Internet. Rainy days have gotten a whole lot easier! Our sea freight should arrive in Singapore this week. It will take some time to get through customs, and then we will have our bed and outdoor furniture. I’m pretty excited to be finally “moved in!”

We have tried to explore some of Singapore in the last month and a half. We took the kids to Sentosa, which I talked about in my last post. We also took them to the Art and Science Museum. They had exhibits on Marvel comics as well as these contraptions called “wind walkers.” It was all very interesting and the kids had a good time trying out their best super hero expressions.

We walked through Marina Bay Sands and checked out the giant fountain and indoor canal. The fountain has a whirlpool at the top, and it spills into the canal (which is in the mall, complete with gondolas). Every shop in this mall is high end. It’s all a sight to take in!

We also took the kids to Gardens By The Bay. They have two domes, the flower dome and the the cloud dome. The flower dome has a display that changes regularly. When we visited the theme was sunflowers with a Wizard of Oz twist.

The cloud dome is filled with rain forest plants and has a beautiful orchid display. Some of the orchids are teeny tiny!

The kids thought the trees and lanterns were fun too. The display in the flower dome is changing now, so this will probably be a frequent location, especially for rainy days!

The kids are enjoying school. Amelia is playing soccer with a club on Saturdays. She’s enjoying it and learning a lot!

Last week I was able to go on a field trip to Little India with her first grade class where the children learned about Deepavali or Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. We visited a temple, a wet market (where Amelia got to hold a shark), the bazaar, and ate some (mild) Indian food. (Amelia isn’t really a fan.)

We’ve taken a couple of trips in the last month and have had our first visitor! I’ll share all that in future blog posts!

♥ Rebecca

And Then...

Day 14. It’s been 14 days since we moved into our townhome. 14 days without wireless. Now, that doesn’t seem too bad, however, EVERYTHING here requires internet access. Want to open a bank account? Use the internet. Need phones? You can use the internet. Need to order school uniforms? Use the internet. Need to sign your kid up for soccer? Internet. Regular bus? Internet. Activity Bus? Internet. Heck, you can even sign up to get the internet using the internet. We have phones now (finally!), but no wifi. As a result, my data usage is out of control. I’m posting this because I finally caved and added on to my plan so I could make it until we get wifi in our home. However, uploading photos is painfully slow, so we've posted photos from recent events on our Facebook pages. 

How has the move to the townhouse been? Well… Let’s just preface this by saying I realize that my problems aren’t really all that big in the grand scheme of life. In real life there are much, much worse things. However, this experience has gone far differently than anticipated.

We moved into the townhouse on August 18th. We wanted the kids to get settled and get bussing for school in place and opted not to go into temporary housing until our belongings arrive. We thought some normalcy and routine would be important for the kids, even though that meant living without most of our things.  We anticipated our air freight with our essential belongings would arrive within a week. Our townhome is partially furnished, so we have a sofa, a dining table and chairs, beds for both kids, and a grill. Tom and I purchased an air mattress for ourselves, thinking it would only be for a few nights. We got some plastic bowls and plates and flatware from IKEA and new bedding for the kids. We were set, we thought. It would be like camping, but in a house. So, “glamping.” A cush life, really. ;-)

When we arrived, the A/C wasn’t working. Singapore is near the equator. It gets HOT here. We have 8 air conditioning units. They were all dead. And then the bedroom ceiling started leaking water when it rained. And then the bathtub wouldn’t plug. And then the washing machine became possessed. (Actually, they didn’t take the bolts out that hold the drum in place for shipping. Luckily, Tom forgot to put some wrenches in our freight, so we had two crescent wrenches in our luggage and he was able to fix the problem.) And then there were delays with the kids’ bussing. For the nearly the entire first week I drove the kids to school in the morning, then I drove back to pick Theo up at 1:15, and then Theo and I waited until 3:15 when we could get Amelia, and then we drove home. All in all, I was spending about 5 hours a day driving to and from school or waiting for the kids at school. The silver lining: I got pretty comfortable driving here. At least in the daylight! The kids are FINALLY on the bus, which is great and frees me up to meet repair people. Every. Single. Day.  

They fixed the A/C by stealing electricity from the jacuzzi. The jacuzzi still doesn’t work, but it’s really a non-essential item, so we thought we were on the way up! Then the toilet started running all the time, with no access to the tank to stop it. Enter leaky sinks, random items that were not installed correctly, and some minor issues with the kitchen appliances. Then, this week we had a demo for our appliances and discovered the oven element had moisture in it. Apparently, the oven must be run periodically otherwise the moisture builds up and trips the breaker, killing power to the entire kitchen. We have no idea when the oven was installed prior to our move in, but it was long enough ago that the oven became a kitchen killer. A technician came the next day, and fixed all our appliances, including that oven!

Yesterday and today, workers are fixing the leak in the master bedroom. They come back next week to fix the floor. We got a rental bed and rental kitchen supplies, so we can actually cook real food! (Who knew you could rent that stuff?!) Internet and TV are scheduled to be installed next week. We’re learning how to navigate the various stores (because there is no one stop shop here!), driving is no longer a matter of life and death, and I found a Starbucks within walking distance! Things are looking up!

Oh, and those freight shipments that were packed up in the beginning of August in Iowa? Yeah… They’re still in the States. Yep. The company was waiting for documentation they didn’t need (turns out they’ve had sufficient documentation all along). They also wouldn’t answer emails or provide any information. They are finally communicating, and it looks like it will be another week or three for that two-week air freight. Our sea freight will be here the end of October.  

So, that’s what we’ve been up to. Tom’s been at work, I’ve been managing all of our crazy. We were told by others who have experienced expat assignments that you need to pack a good amount of patience with you. I’ve run out a couple of times. I’ve only had one, “I’m getting on the next plane out of here!” moment, so I’m taking that as a win. (That moment was the catalyst to the rental bed and kitchen. My husband is a smart man.)

We did have the pleasure of taking the kids to Sentosa last weekend. Sentosa is an island off the coast of Singapore (yes, Singapore is also an island). Sentosa is considered part of Singapore. It has some resorts, Universal Studios, and a bunch of other things on it. We enjoyed the beach and walked to the “Southernmost Point of Continental Asia” which feels entirely like a gimmick, but they have a sign, so we supported Singapore’s marketing efforts and took some pictures. The beach at Sentosa, although pretty, is a bit dirty. We’re looking forward to some excursions to other beaches in this region. Amelia wants to swim where she can see her feet!

Family Sentosa

Most evenings we are outdoors. (The kids’ toys are all still in those shipments in the US.) We’ve taken full advantage of the massive park across the highway and the pool right outside our condo. The activities become a bit slim when it rains. Theo is learning how to swim (his puddle jumper is in a freight shipment), and Amelia is a fish, swimming the entire length of the pool. The pool is maybe 75 meters long (distance is not my forte) and 1.2 meters deep (there’s a sign that tells me this part!), so Amelia can touch if she needs to. Barely. Having a pool accessible all the time has been amazing, and I’m extremely glad we chose this property because of that! Here’s the view out our living room door.

Pool from Living Room

Tom is in currently in Indonesia on a short work trip where part of their time is being spent improving an orphanage. I can’t wait to hear about his experience! I was going to share some photos he sent me, but that is just not to be this evening.

Happy Friday to all my people back home!

♥ Rebecca



Hello Singapore!

Whew! The Brandau family has had a fantastic few days. It started with the wedding of my baby brother Travis and his girl Angie. They had a beautiful wedding! I barely took any photos the entire weekend, but the photographer has released a few that look amazing! Congrats to both of you!!! Angie and Travis asked all of the cousins to be in the wedding, so here are the few photos I took of my adorable children. 


The next day was a whirlwind. We drove home to our apartment, packed up the rest of our suitcases, and made it to the airport with the help of some very patient friends (Thanks Whit and Abby!). My Mom kindly offered to finish cleaning up things like my kitchen. So far, I think we've only thought of three things we've forgotten! We were worried about a tight connection in Denver. We landed in Colorado and I ran off with the kids while Tom waited for our two bags that had to be gate-checked. Luckily, the flight was delayed slightly and Tom made the connection with time to spare! We learned what's important to take on the plane (gummy worms and a fully charged iPad for each kid!) and even experienced boarding and then getting off a plane with a soundly sleeping 3-year old. 

The kiddos are watching the first plane arrive.

The kiddos are watching the first plane arrive.

On plane #1!

On plane #1!

Plane #2!

Plane #2!

The kids were rock stars on the flights. Theo had one very small meltdown during the last hour of our 24 hour trip when I poured his milk on his cereal "wrong" and we needed one bandaid before boarding the first plane. Otherwise, we were amazingly mishap free. Really, the trip couldn't have gone better!

Singapore! We made it!

Singapore! We made it!

We checked into a hotel to help with the transition as we get our home here ready. Tom leaves this afternoon for a quick trip to Thailand, so this way I don't have to worry about getting household items and food right away. 

The kiddos are looking out the hotel window at the view!

The kiddos are looking out the hotel window at the view!

Yesterday we took possession of our home, got our minivan that we will be driving here, Tom got a local phone, and we explored a park near our home. The kids ate their first meal in Singapore, which, ironically, (due to some time constraints) was McDonalds. It's amazingly like McDonalds at home. There are a few differences, like the size of the drinks, corn on the kids menu, and durian McFlurrys. Durian is a local fruit that is supposed to smell horrific. It smells so bad they don't allow them on the MRT (train system). No, I didn't try one.

Amelia testing out our new ride.

Amelia testing out our new ride.



Home of the durian.

Home of the durian.

We explored a park near our home and the kiddos loved it! Here's a video I took of Amelia.

Tom drove in Singapore, where everything is backwards! (I'm not quite ready to take that on yet!) After the park, the kids passed out and we had to carry them to our hotel room. They woke up at 4:30 this morning all bright and cheery ready to tackle today. 

Theo still seems a bit confused about what's going on. He asked if we were in Singapore when we were in Denver; and yesterday, while driving across Singapore, he asked when we were going to Singapore. Amelia asked if she's a "city girl" now. :) 

Today is all about relaxing and helping the kids adjust to the 13 hour time difference. 

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers as we take on this new adventure! 

♥ Rebecca

And Now For Something Completely Different.

After a drought of over two years, this blog is being revived! Why? Because we have plans we want to share. As many of our friends and family know, Tom and I (and the kids of course) are moving half way around the world to Singapore! I knew I kept this poor, neglected blog around for a reason! After months of secrecy during which I resigned from my position as a school psychologist with the AEA, we sold our much-loved house, and we moved to a less expensive apartment, we are here.  Tom and I spent 24 hours traveling to spend some time visiting the country we will live in for the next three years. That has brought many decisions and new experiences, but first the questions we are commonly asked:

First, where the heck is Singapore?
Folks know it’s in Asia, but that is about it. Singapore is on the most southern tip of Malaysia, near Indonesia, north west of Australia.  Here’s a visual for you:

Why would we ever choose to leave our friends and family?
Good question! We know it isn’t forever; we’ve agreed to a 3-year assignment. Also, we are planning to return once a year to visit everyone! We will come back during the summer for a few weeks to see everyone we love back home. We would also LOVE it if you decided to visit us! Serious!

What’s the time difference?
13-14 hours, depending on daylight savings time. Right now it’s 13 hours. Our days and nights are opposite from our people in Iowa. I’ve been here a total of 3 days and so far I’ve needed to call or text my BFF twice while Iowa was sound asleep. It may be a problem….

How long does it take to get to Singapore?
From Iowa, about 24 hours. We flew from Des Moines, to Denver, to San Francisco, to Singapore. That last leg from San Francisco to Singapore was 16 hours long. I got to watch two movies and sleep. If I try, I can make it sound like a vacation!

San Francisco to Singapore

Why are we going?
Well, Tom had a job opportunity here that will allow us to travel and see places and cultures we otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience. When we found out we made a pros and cons list, gave each pro and con a weighting, put it in a spreadsheet, blah, blah, blah (if you know us, you know this is all true). Then we looked at each other, said “What are we doing? We have to do this. Duh.” And that was that.

What do the kids think?
Amelia is excited. She’s also sad to leave her friends and family. Her emotions pretty much mirror those of her parents, she’s just a bit less logical and a bit more emotional, because, you know, she’s 6. Theodore… he’s clueless. He’s just going with the flow and is his happy self.

Am I (Rebecca) going to work?
Heck if I know! Initially, no. We need to get settled in a new country and then we will see if I settle into the life of a SAHM or if I lose. my. mind.

Where will the kids go to school?
The kids will an international school that follows the US curriculum so when we return home the kids will be in roughly the same spot academically. We toured the school this week and it looks amazing. I am excited for the kids to attend. I’m also excited to see the differences between the school system in Iowa and the programing at the international school. Theo will also be going to preschool there. He’s so social we decided he really needed peer interaction. He’s been with other kids his age his entire life, and he’s learned a lot in his amazing daycare this last year. We didn’t want him to stay at home and have (potentially) limited access to other kids his age. So, to preschool he will go!

When do you go?
My baby brother is getting married on August 11th, and we knew we couldn't miss it! However, we are going to need to leave the next evening.  The children's school starts on August 15th, and they will need time to adjust to a new time zone. We'd like them to miss as little school as possible.

It's nearly midnight here, so we are off to bed. We have more places to visit and explore tomorrow!



Don't Be Shocked / 10 Months!

So, truth is, taking care of two littles while both parents are working full time, one parent is going to school full time, and the other is running a small business while having a super busy school year doesn't leave much (any?) time for blogging. On the plus side, we HAVE taken photos of Theo's first year. Every week we take a crib photo next to a stuffed lion and every month we take a photo in his chair with a sign. These milestone pictures have gotten more and more complicated each month as Theo has gotten less and less happy to happily sit in one place. Theo's 10 month photos last month brought a new experience... sign licking... Luckily, the chalk is non-toxic!

This is what I was aiming for...

This is what I was aiming for...

And here begins all the shenanigans that followed...

And here begins all the shenanigans that followed...

Here we have it. Chalk licking... Yuck.

Here we have it. Chalk licking... Yuck.


We also took some photos of Theo with a stuffed giraffe he got from a wonderful woman at our church. Theo thinks it's a ball and tries to throw it and tackle it. So cute!


Theo desperately wants to chase after his big sister and has started trying to walk. It's amazing how fast his first year is flying by. Six teeth (7 now!), first steps, a whole lot of "real" food, and lots and lots of "talking." It has been a busy month for this little guy!

2 Months!

I cannot believe two months has flown by!  It's August, and that means only a short period of time before I return to work and the kiddos go to daycare. :( Amelia is excited about this.  She misses her friends. I have serious dread about dropping off the little man though! I know this happens to most Mommas, but I hate leaving my little squish with someone else. All. Day. Long. Ugh.

Enough focus on that. Theo had his 2 month appointment this week. He's increased his weight by about 50% of his birth weight, now weighing in at 12 lbs, 13.5 oz. He's also grown in length and is now 23.25" long.  He seems way bigger than his sister was at this age, but is progressing on his growth curve quite nicely!

I am WAY behind on posting photos. Here are a few!

Theo at 1 week vs Theo last week at 8 weeks.

Theo at 1 week vs Theo last week at 8 weeks.

Visiting some of the Great-Grandparents.

Visiting some of the Great-Grandparents.

Do the zoo!

Do the zoo!

Feeding the giraffes.

Feeding the giraffes.

Happy Birthday!

If you are slightly squeamish or really don't want to see photos of a beautiful baby straight from the womb, you should stop reading now. We debated sharing these photos, but decided they were way too cool to keep to ourselves. At least I think so... But hey - I may be biased.

I really wanted photos of this baby's birth. Birth photographers are expensive. They're on-call and work odd hours. They have to be available all the time. This costs a pretty penny. I also really wanted a new camera. New cameras are expensive. In the end, the camera won out. No birth photographer for me.

In lieu of a birth photographer, I asked Tom if he would take a few photos. (I thought I might be a bit preoccupied.) I showed him a few examples of what I wanted, and he agreed. I was hoping for one good photo. After all, he would be a little busy too...

What I got was this.

Words cannot describe how happy I am that Tom was able to freeze this moment for us! These photos make my heart sing.

Happy Birthday Theodore!




Our little Theodore was born last week! (More photos to come!) The name Theodore made a late run to the front of the line for the win. Unfortunately, the name game is still not over. We call him both Theo and Teddy. We can't seem to settle on just one...

- Short.
- Can transition from childhood to adulthood.

- Amelia can’t say it; she calls him “Feo.”

- It’s just so darn cute!
- Amelia can say it.

- We don’t particularly like the vision of a 30-year-old son who is called Teddy because his parents bestowed that on him as an infant and it stuck.
- We aren’t huge fans of “Ted.”
- “Teddy” sounds like “Daddy” which has confused a certain 3-year-old.

Apparently, we’re expected to pick one. :)  We may not be able to pick. Just warning you…

The Curse of the Second-Born Child

Dear Baby Boy,

So far I think you’re falling under the curse of the Second-Born Child. When your sister was born, I made a point to jot down important dates and milestones. It’s not that I don’t notice these things this time around. I relish in every moment. So far with you, there are a few things I have tried to burn into my memory. However, I haven’t yet written them down… I just don’t take the time in the moment to do so. I swore I would never be that mom. The mom who makes a baby book for baby #1 filled with stories and memories and baby #2 gets a shoebox full of random objects with no apparent rhyme or reason to their inclusion. Yet, here I am, on my way to indeed becoming that mom. So today, I resolve to try to change that. I will break the curse of the Second-Born Child, and you will get the time and the attention you deserve. You are a gift from God, an answer to my prayers, and I will do what I can to capture these memories for both of us.

So here are my thoughts. They may be a little random and scattered, but you should just get used to that from the beginning. After my first 30-some years of life, I doubt that will change.

Let’s take a moment and talk about your name. This is one area where I might be hyper-attentive. I’ve had friends tell me I’m “over-thinking this.” Am I??  Really?!? I feel like so much goes into a name. And a name can say a lot about a person. I want you to be able to work construction with this name or be a CEO of a company. I don’t want your name to color other’s opinions of you in a negative light without giving you a chance to shine doing whatever you love.

The name game was complex when your sister was born. This time it was worse. First, we had much less time to think about names. Life is just too busy! Second, it seemed there was always a reason to nix a name.

Too popular.

I worked with a student once named ______ and now I only think of him when I hear that name.

That doesn't flow well with our last name.

I met a kid named _______ once.  He was a Holy Terror. Better stay away...

So tell me Baby Boy, who are you? We are a few quick days away from your arrival and the “short” list of names (currently 7!) seems to change daily. (Don’t even ask how many names are on the “long” list!) I just hope when you arrive we will know who you are. Then perhaps you can grow into your name, become whoever it is you are meant to be, and shine.  One thing I can promise you, we will not name you “Kiwi” or “Peanut Butter Easter Egg” like your sister has suggested. Yes, I know.  It is illogical to ask a 3-year old’s opinion on such matters, but sometimes a person is desperate. Luckily, we have the short list, so  Peanut Butter Easter Egg you will not be.

Lots of Love,


A New Beginning

Dear Baby Boy,

I thought should record the story of how we found out you existed. Our journey began in August, when your Dad and I took an in vitro Fertilization (IVF) class at the fertility clinic. We really wanted your sister to have a sibling, and so far things weren’t sticking very well. In vitro seemed to be our best bet, because it would increase the odds of a good embryo being implanted. We took the class. I did a bunch of tests. I was told my eggs were plentiful, but they were becoming “geriatric” before their time and IVF was indeed our best bet for a high quality embryo. We really wanted another child, whatever the cost, so we signed up and I went and picked up medication to start the process.

Fast forward a couple weeks to the end of September. It’s a few days prior to starting the medication for the IVF process. I had what appeared to be food poisoning or an intestinal bug. It hit over the weekend. Lots of abdominal pain. So much so that at one point I passed out (luckily I was sitting and your Dad was there). Dad wanted me to go to the emergency room.  I resisted.  I canceled my weekend plans and stayed home. By Sunday night I was feeling much better.

At work the next day I felt a little off. By mid-afternoon I was freezing in a room others said was a little chilly and didn’t think much of it. Some of the stomach cramps had returned. At about 5:00 p.m. I walked outside into a beautiful 70 degree day and realized that I had a fever. And stomach pains. Which, together, can signal something bad. Of course, it’s after regular doctor hours, so I call First Nurse. Where do they send me? The ER… A friend came over to watch Amelia (with all her groceries + her own two kids I might add - Thanks Desi!), and off we went. After being taken back to the room, they quickly decide that it’s not my appendix. The next step, a CT to see what is going on in there. I ask for a pregnancy test, because I wanted to rule out the slim chance I was pregnant. They give me one, but it’s a urine test. And, since I had a horrible headache as well, I had drank a lot of water to ensure I was hydrated. News flash: urine pregnancy tests aren’t very accurate that early with diluted pee. It does not take a medical degree to know this. My attractive ER doc was very annoyed when I asked about the sensitivity of the test and tried to blow me off with vague statements like, “Oh, it’s VERY sensitive.” Yes, well HOW sensitive Dr. Hot & Full-Of-Himself? He didn’t know the answer to that question, so I requested a blood test. Despite his reassurances that his course of treatment wouldn’t change regardless of the outcome of the pregnancy test, a little voice was nagging me to get the blood test.  Dr. Hot & Full-Of-Himself tried to talk me out of the blood test, saying it was unnecessary (as if a CT was necessary!) and would keep me in the ER much longer while we wait for the results. They even had a tech come to take me to CT prior to giving me the blood test, which I did not appreciate. After another conversation followed up by a snarky comment from me wondering aloud why a $100 test is such a big deal when they want to spend way more on a CT, I got my blood test.  I had requested literature regarding the safety of CTs during pregnancy, and while we were waiting he brought me a single piece of literature explaining that if you are newly pregnant in a nuclear disaster, you will most likely miscarry. Never mind the amount of radiation and exposure is vastly different from Chernobyl and a CT.

To this day I thank God for that nagging voice that made me, in my feverish state, insist on a blood test.  Dr. Hot & Full Of Himself came back in with the results and quietly said, “Well, you were right. It’s 88.”  Keep in mind that anything above a 5 is technically positive. I said, “What? Can you repeat that?” And then number was the same. Yep, the test was POSITIVE.  And just like that the course of treatment Dr. Hot & Full Of Himself was recommending changed. He called in an OB to consult. The OB noted that I had one of two issues happening: 1) diverticulitis, which was uncommon at my age and couldn’t be safely treated during pregnancy, or 2) colitis, which is basically an intestinal inflammation. Treatment?  Go home. Wait a day or two. If it goes away, it was colitis. If not, diverticulitis. Seemed reasonable to me.

And by the way - it was colitis. I am just fine.

Now tell me, Dr. Hot & Full Of Yourself, why was this not your recommended course of treatment from the beginning? Seems a lot cheaper than a CT which would expose me to unnecessary radiation.  Perhaps we could have discussed these options, hmmm? I hope you learned a lesson here. I hope it knocked you down a peg or two. I appreciate confidence from my doctors, but not arrogance to the point of recklessness. I do hope it knocked you down a few pegs, but given that at no time did you apologize for being an ass, I don’t have high hopes. Let’s just hope we do not meet again.

And just like that, my geriatric eggs pulled through, without assistance. I believe you were meant to be here, Baby Boy. So, in those teenage angst years, please never forget: you are wanted, and you are loved. Always.

Lots of Love,


Jumping In With Both Feet - Our New Blog

Soon our family will grow by 2 feet!  ...and 2 hands. Lame, I know.  I can't help myself! ;-)

Seriously though, soon we will welcome our newest little edition to our family. This has lead to the creation of this new blog to share our journey with our friends and family. And who knows, MAYBE I'll even update it more than the last blog! 

Here we our in one of our last family photos as a family of three!