The last day as four

Tomorrow morning, Friday, August 28th, we plan to wake up in the wee hours and head over to Singapore.  Our family will grow from 4 to 5 as of 9am, when Carol is scheduled to have our son, Sebastian.

Carolyn is beyond ready for this, constantly uncomfortable or in pain.  Zoe and I are super excited about seeing the newest addition to our family, and Logan is along for the ride.

Tonight we went out for dinner at Sweetwater, where Carolyn wanted to go because the only thing she has wanted to eat for the past 3 weeks was their Moroccan chicken — we’ve been there probably 4 times in 3 weeks…

I had several other things to write about that happened over the past week or so, but it’s already 10pm and I have to be awake by 4am, so I’ll save those stories for later.  My next post should be from the hospital tomorrow!

Somehow worse than California

I can accept that Southern California has water problems — a gigantic population and it’s a desert.  Tens of millions of people all needing something in a land where that thing is in contradiction to the very land in which they live – [desert – any area in which few forms of life can exist because of lack of water or absence of soil].  Makes sense.

What I cannot accept is that Johor Bahru has water problems.  This is the most lush, green and rainy place I’ve ever lived.  It is literally a tropical jungle in many locations around where I live.  It rains hard, a lot.  But about a month ago there were some signs that a water shortage was looming, as the company where I work literally ran out of water for about 4 days before I arranged a new water supply.  The reservoirs were drying up.

There had been rumors that rationing would begin for residential and commercial customers very soon since industrial customers had already lost their normal water supplies.  I received a schedule from a trusted vendor that was supposedly from the state of Johor’s water company, SAJ, announcing the coming water rationing schedule, but everyone questioned its legitimacy.  I insisted that my source was good, but people I worked with said it was a fake.  I even had a Malay colleague call SAJ to verify, but they denied it and said “it’s a hoax”.  Amazingly, 10 days after I received the “hoax” rationing schedule we found the exact same schedule posted on the front door of our condominium complex and everyone else around JB and Pasir Gudang received it officially.  It appears to me that SAJ leaked it and then denied it, which is ridiculous, but they literally claimed that it was a hoax and then released the exact same document 10 days later officially.

The rationing was to begin last Sunday, August 16th, so on Saturday we decided to go get some plastic containers to hold water so we’d have it if needed.  The rationing schedule is crazy!  For an entire month we are scheduled to have water for 1 day and then no water for the following 2 days, so that means people only have a normal water supply for 1 day out of every three.  It continues to rotate like that for 30 days!  Depending on which area of the city you live in the days with water are different, so we were scheduled to have water on the 18th and 21st this week and the water was scheduled to be off on the 16th, 17th, 19th, 20th and 22nd.

For a place like Malaysia to run out of water is crazy.  I don’t care what spin anyone puts on it, this could not happen without poor management by the water company.  How do you go from not announcing a problem that has been worsening for many months to the point of immediately instituting water rationing such that everyone is without water for 67% of the month?  This is terrible for the people and for businesses.  Why didn’t they limit water usage earlier, BEFORE the reservoir levels were at the critical point?  Wouldn’t it have been better to shut off water for golf courses or other unnecessary usages before turning off water in people’s homes and at restaurants?  Why does Singapore continue to receive tons of water from Malaysia but the Malaysians are without it for days at a time?  Who negotiated that contract?

When we went to buy the plastic tubs it was crazy because there was a run on them by everyone living in the area, and apparently we were too late because most stock was already gone and the prices were high for the remaining items.  We managed to buy 2 very large plastic beach buckets and 4 large containers with lids that hold 20 liters each (~5gal).  Zoe joined me when I went into the hardware store to buy those water containers and I ended up buying her one of those straw hats the weed-eater lawn care guys always wear for Rm6 ($1.44).

After getting the water containers we went to Permas Seafood for lunch.  Afterwards we went home and I filled up all the containers with water in preparation for the apocalypse that would arrive the following day.

Here are a couple photos from the past week or two.  I forgot to mention that Papaw flew back to Malaysia after my grandmother’s funeral.  Some of the photos below were taken at Permas Seafood just after buying the water containers — check out Zoe’s Malaysian gardener hat!  Also, the Chinese people are burning that fake money in the streets again, so hopefully we can get more shots of this ritual, but I was able to snap one shot from the car on Friday evening (Aug 14).

The second one spreads her little wings

Well, last Wednesday (August 12) was a sad day for me.  I love having my kids at the ages they are right now, Logan is 2 and Zoe is 4.  They are funny, energetic, full of wonder, question everything in an effort to understand this world, and so many other attributes that make being their dad a wonderful experience.  Unfortunately time doesn’t slow down for anyone and my girls continue to get older.

On Wednesday morning Logan got ready to go test out her first pre-school.  I was happy and sad at the same time.  I want her to interact with little people her age and to have fun, but I also don’t want her to be nervous or afraid.  I want Logan to see and do as many things as possible in her life, but I also want her to stay put as the little 2 year old sweetpea that hugs my legs and cries “Da-da, no go” when I leave for work each morning.

Logan was wearing an adorable little dress with flowers and she knew she was going to school for the first time because we had all been saying it for the previous couple of days.  She was all smiles at the kitchen table while we ate breakfast together.  Normally she watches cartoons on the iPad or is sleepy when we have breakfast together, but that wasn’t the case last Wednesday – Logan was excited.

After breakfast I got a kiss and left for work.  I was nervous for her, worrying about how she may feel abandoned by being left in a strange place with unknown people.  Once I got to work and was busy with other things my mind was elsewhere, until I received some photos from Carolyn through Whatsapp.

The photos were of Logan and Zoe at Zoe’s school.  The place where Logan was going to visit was a different school – a brand new school.  Logan and Zoe were both smiling, and you could see the happiness in Logan’s face, as she apparently thought that “going to school” meant “going to school with Zoe”.  She was thrilled up until the point where Zoe went inside and Carolyn put Logan back into the car so she could be taken over to her new school.  Carol said that Logan freaked out; poor Loggie was sobbing uncontrollably because she thought she was going to spend the day at school with her big sister and all of the classmates.

Instead Logan went to her school, which coincidentally is being run by the mother of one of the kids in Zoe’s class!  Since the school is only like a month or two old they are still trying to recruit students.  Logan was the only kid in the class on her first day, but Papaw stuck around while Carol ran a couple of errands.  Logan actually enjoyed it and played around with one of the two teachers.  They told us that there are another 3 students Logan’s age who are already enrolled, but none of them came that day so Carolyn decided to do another test run the following week to see how it goes with other children around.

In the end it seemed like Logan was ok with the school, but the next trip will be more telling since there will be kids her age and neither Papaw nor Mommy will be around with her.

Here are the photos of Logan’s first day in nursery school:

Sebastian is ready

On Friday, August 7th, I woke up at 1:30am to Carolyn yelling.  She was in pain – a lot of pain.  She was crying and saying that she was hurting really badly, so I asked the obvious question at 1:30am, “Do you want to go to the hospital?”

“YES!”

We quickly threw together a bag of clothes for her and the kids in case they decided to deliver the baby, then we woke up the girls and Papaw and flew out the door before 2am.

It all reminded me of July 2013 when she was cooking dinner and we were watching the Soprano’s and she started complaining about pain; we rushed to the hospital that day and Logan was delivered 5 weeks early shortly after arriving at the hospital.  She had been ready to get out into the world!

Going across the causeway was easy, hardly any cars heading into Singapore.  Leaving Singapore was a different story – traffic was bumper to bumper leaving Singapore at 2:15am for some reason.  We made it from our home to the hospital within about 45-50 minutes.

At the hospital we went straight to the maternity ward.  They wouldn’t allow anyone but the husband into the ward, so Papaw and the girls stayed outside in the waiting room.  The nurses hooked some sensors up to Carolyn and said she was indeed having contractions.  They contacted our doctor who told them to administer steroids to mature the baby’s lungs in case he was delivered, and then they administered another drug to try and stop the contractions.  When 5am rolled around we found out that Carolyn was going to be admitted at least for the day because they had to give a follow-up dose of the drugs after a 12 hour wait.  Since Carolyn was tired and about to fall asleep by that point I decided to take the girls and Papaw somewhere so we could all get some rest.

We tried several hotels but every single one was full.  It turns out that all those “SG 50” signs we saw on the Thursday from the previous week (July 30th) when we were in Singapore for Logan’s second birthday were meant for this weekend (August 7-9).  Singapore was celebrating its 50th anniversary of becoming an independent nation, which would be officially marked on Sunday, August 9th.  That’s why all the hotels were packed and that’s why all the traffic was flooding out of Singapore – it was a 4-day public holiday declared by the government and some people wanted to be in Singapore for the festivities and some wanted to leave and visit places in Malaysia for the long weekend.

We decided to just head back home to JB, so we went quickly back to the hospital and I gave Carol her bag of clothes and an iPad and told her to give me a call whenever they were about ready to discharge her and we’d come back to get her, or if they had to deliver the baby then to call me immediately.

From the time we left the hospital just past 5:30am until we cleared customs in Malaysia it took more than 4 hours.  I have never sat in traffic that long to cross the border.  I’ve had a few 3 hour waits, but this was nearly 4.5 hours.  The amount of cars with Singapore plates flooding into Malaysia was absurd, and what made it even more incredible was that the sun wasn’t even up for the first half of our marathon crossing.

When we got home we went to breakfast, then came home and all slept for a while.  When we woke up I called Carol and she said that her doctor had been by a couple of times to check on her and the contractions had been stopped but the doctor said the baby would be fine to deliver 7 weeks early but she wanted him to mature inside Carolyn for longer if possible so they were going to continue doing what they had been doing and monitor her through the weekend.

Carolyn ended up staying at the hospital from about 3am on Friday morning (August 7) through Sunday afternoon (August 9).  The rest of us ended up staying in JB all day Friday, having dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant and then going to an amusement park where Papaw rode on several rides with the girls.  On Saturday we ate breakfast out and then went over to Singapore and visited with Carolyn.  I was able to find a hotel room for Saturday night since I was able to search on the internet instead of going door-to-door like I tried early on Friday morning.

We all visited with Carol for a while, during which time Papaw went to Paragon and picked up some chili crab buns for everyone from Din Tai Fung.  The girls both missed their mommy a ton since they hadn’t seen her for 24 hours, so they were dancing around and climbing up into her hospital bed to hug on her.  Zoe kept looking around the room and asking, “Where is Sebastian?”

We finally headed to our hotel and checked in.  We took a short walk in search of a place to top-up my Auto Pass but we weren’t successful, so we ended up going back to the room and having dinner and then watching a show about SG 50.  The next morning (Sunday) we woke up early and all took a long walk along the river, eventually making our way to a 7-11 at Clarke Quay that topped up my Auto Pass and where we bought a couple of cold drinks.  We took a taxi back to our hotel and the driver said nobody was taking taxis all weekend long because the government made public transport free for the holiday weekend.  We ate breakfast at our hotel and then went to the hospital and picked up Carolyn.  Sebastian decided he could wait a little longer before making his entrance into the world…

Here are some photos from that weekend:

Loggie celebrates turning 2

My dad flew back to Kentucky for the funeral, and while he was gone Logan turned 2.  We had a big outage planned at my job for the weekend of August 1st and 2nd, so I took Thursday off since I’d be at work over the weekend.

On Thursday, July 30th, we woke up early and headed over to Singapore.  We went to Sentosa island for the day.  First we had a dim sum breakfast at Din Tai Fung, then we spent a few hours letting Logan and Zoe check out all the fish in the Singapore Aquarium.  Singapore was all decked out in banners and bunting to celebrate “SG 50”, Singapore’s 50th anniversary for becoming an independent nation.

Carolyn struggled with the aquarium at first because she’s getting far along in the pregnancy and not up for walking around a lot.  Luckily the halfway point in the aquarium is a humongous tank where we sat down and enjoyed watching all the creatures swimming around.  The big tank is definitely the highlight of the aquarium.  Something I noticed was that they reversed the path through the aquarium, where you now start at what used to be the exit and make the loop in the opposite direction from before.

After the aquarium we went to the Children’s Garden at Gardens By The Bay so the girls could play in the fountains for a while, then we stopped at Satay By The Bay and got some cold drinks and a plate of satay.  Zoe and I had some fantastic blended fruit juice drinks that I plan on getting the next time we’re there!

We eventually made our way back to JB.  We all sang Happy Birthday to Logan and she covered her face and almost started crying, so Zoe blew her candles out for her.  Everyone enjoyed her little Baskin Robbins ice cream cake.

Here are some photos from the first part of Logan’s second birthday, spent at the aquarium in Singapore:

A sad day

Less than a week after my dad arrived in Malaysia we received some terrible news – my grandmother passed away.  I always called her “Jean”, but to my dad she was “mom”.  One of my aunts sent me a text message around 6:30am on Saturday to let us know.

I woke my dad up to tell him.  I can’t explain how sad I was to have to tell him that.

I have some very good childhood memories of holidays at my grandparent’s home in Bardstown.  The house was a great place to spend time as a kid, from catching crawfish in the creek to hearing hundreds of clocks ticking, all the way down to the strange old hardware on the doors (the locks were a button on the top).  My dad’s side of the family is big, really big, so there were always lots of aunts, uncles and cousins around when we’d visit for holidays.  My grandmother would prepare a great meal and I can’t really describe the feeling other than to say it felt “warm”, like Christmas warm.

The two main things that really stick out to me about my grandmother were that she was the catalyst that led to my biggest passion outside of my family – travel, and she was emotionally the strongest person I know.

My grandparents traveled all over the world.  I never knew anyone who traveled like them.  Most people I knew would go down to the beaches in Florida for summer vacation, or maybe to Washington, D.C., for a special trip, but my grandparents would go to Australia, Scotland, and so on.  They wouldn’t just go for a couple of days either, they’d take long trips and see everything.  Jean once told me that her favorite trip was to Australia, and she said they traveled across the entire width of the country.  I still have a boomerang she picked up for me in Australia, and if I remember correctly it used to be on my nightstand at the house where we lived in Florida when I was in about 3rd or 4th grade, so mid-late 1980’s.

We would watch slide shows of their trips when I was a kid, sitting in the huge den in that farm house.  At the time I didn’t appreciate it or realize that some of the greatest enjoyment in my life would later come from traveling.  When I got older and would visit my grandmother I would always steer the conversation to travel and ask about all the places she had been.  She’d tell me about friends she had from New Zealand or visiting distilleries in the UK, and many other stories.  She loved seeing the world and I shared that excitement and amazement with her.

My grandmother was also incredibly strong.  Without going into all the details, I literally can’t handle it when I have to hold my crying girls down for their pediatrician to administer a shot.  It tears my heart in half to see them crying and makes me actually tear up seeing them.  I cannot imagine how devastating it would be for a parent to have something happen to their children, but my grandmother unfortunately experienced that loss during her life, and also the loss of two husbands.  I really can’t fathom any possible way that I could cope with that, but my grandmother seemed to accept that as a part of life and she was strong for all those around her who struggled outwardly more with those losses.  She was what I wish I could be, caring but able to be strong for others during incredibly difficult times.  It’s a cliché, but they really don’t make ’em like her anymore.  She wasn’t afraid of anything and she epitomized strength.  I hope to have some of her courage if I ever face the same hardships she had to face.

My grandmother leaves behind a great legacy with all of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I will miss her…

Papaw makes his way to SEA

The day after my last posting, July 19th, I took a taxi from JB over to Changi airport in Singapore together with Zoe.  We got to the airport around 11pm, and after a 30-40 minute wait Zoe’s Papaw appeared.  The whole area around that terminal in Changi has changed so much since just 2 years ago.  I really liked the previous layout because you could always pull into the parking lot that was literally across a 2-lane road from the arrivals area.  The new version is much nicer than the old parking lot, with lots of glass and air conditioning, but parking is now a long way away.

We made our way back to JB and we were all exhausted so we hit the sack soon after getting home.

The week before my dad arrived I decided to purchase a couple of items for him to bring with him since many things over here (especially electronics) are much more expensive.  I ordered some items on Amazon and he brought them in his luggage.  The main item was a GoPro, which is a tiny camera that you can take everywhere.  I’ve watched dozens and dozens of amazing videos shot with a GoPro on YouTube, so I wanted my own so that we could get video of the kids.

The following Saturday, July 25th, we had a pregnancy checkup in Singapore.  The checkup went fine, Carol and Sebastian were both fine.  He was estimated to weigh 1.965kg (4.33 lbs).  After the doctor visit we went to Din Tai Fung for chili crab buns, then we drove around a little bit and finally ended up at Gardens By The Bay so the girls could play at the water park in the Children’s Garden.  They both absolutely loved it, as they always do.  After about an hour at the water park we went to Satay By The Bay and got some cold drinks and all shared a plate of satay.

On the way back to JB the girls were wiped out, asleep in the back of the car with Papaw.

The whole day I was videoing different things with the GoPro, so that evening I got some help from Carolyn with editing and we put together a video of our day in Singapore.  I’m going to try and post it here on the blog soon, but if you are on Facebook then you can see it on Carol’s page.

Here are the photos from Papaw’s arrival where Zobug joined me in going to Changi as well as some photos from our trip to Singapore on July 25th, plus a couple of Zoe when I picked her up from school one day because Carolyn wasn’t feeling very good at all: