Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Mind of a First Grader - Volume 4

As a hardworking first-grader, Jack has been putting in time every night with his "word ring."

The word ring is basically a key-chain type ring with 25 small cards hanging from it. Each card has a word on it that Jack is supposed to learn to read. The words on the ring are the most common words used in English that don't follow the basic rules of spelling or ones that he may be having trouble with. This week we decided that he'd mastered his first 25 word ring, so he brought it back to school and traded it for a new one. As this was his first time through with a ring of new words, he needed help with some of them.

Melissa: Here's the next one.
Jack: your?
Melissa: Correct! How about this one?
Jack: Um...woo-rad?
Melissa: Close...it's "word".
Jack: Is it word like, "word in a book" or word like, "Worrrd!"? Jack then holds out two fingers like a peace sign, but upside-down.
Matt: Um...did my six year old son just drop a gang sign?
Melissa: I think so.

My son is a stone cold gangsta.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another week

Not much to write about this week.

Jack had a regular week at school, I had a regular week at work, and Melissa had a regular week taking care of the two of us.

We had a pretty good weekend. On Saturday, the three of us showed up at MacRitchie park for the Cub Scout Pack hike. There weren't many people there and it wasn't really organized, but it was a nice hike. We walked about 5km through the woods and along the reservoir. There was a light breeze and because it was early, it wasn't too hot. In the afternoon, we played miniature golf at a place in East Coast Park. It was fun, but expensive. Has anyone ever paid $32USD for 3 people to play minigolf?

Sunday included a quick trip to the mall to run a few errands and get groceries. After that, Jack and I hit the pool for at least 3 hours with friends from our condo. (They've got 6 year old twins and are our first real friends in Singapore. Of course, that means they're going back to the US in June.) After swimming, we went next door for birthday cake at our friend's place. (Happy 2nd birthday Ethan.)

The coming week should give me much more to write about. Melissa is spending the entire week counting money for the PTA book fair. I'm taking Thursday off for Thanksgiving. Five families are getting together to eat. 10 adults, 12 kids and 2 turkeys. Should be crazy, but fun. Friday night we're heading off to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend. One of the guys who works for me is getting married on Saturday and was nice enough to invite my family. I'm sure a Chinese/Malay wedding will provide tons of blog fodder.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What's for dinner?

It's just too tempting to eat out in this city. Unless you're at a pretty nice restaurant, it's just so inexpensive and the food is really good. Add the great exchange rate from US to Singapore dollars and it costs about half of the price it does in the US to "run out and grab dinner".

Melissa has never been someone who's enjoyed cooking. While I like to cook, I don't get home until almost 7:00pm every night; too late for a 6 year old's dinner. What this adds up to is a lot of meals out of the house.

We've got a few favorites we've started to frequent, but Jack would go to the same place every night if he could.

"Chicken Rice" is pretty much the national dish of Singapore. It tastes just like it sounds. There's chicken and rice. That's pretty much it.

In most hawker stands, you can get a plate like this for about 3 SingDollars. That's about $2 in the US. Loy Kee is a bit more because it's a sit-down restaurant but you can't beat the price for what you get.

Traditionally, the chicken is boiled. The rice is then made from the "chicken water". Makes for good rice, but the boiled chicken skin can be a bit hard to get past for some. Most places will sell roasted chicken too though.

It usually comes with 2 condiments on the side: dark soy sauce and chili sauce. Local Singaporeans will get into arguments about the proper way to use the sauces. It's kind of like people in the US fighting about mustard or ketchup on hot dogs. Jack pretty much likes to drown everything in dark soy sauce. It's salty and sweet and stains his mouth brown until we can bring him home and hose him down. He'd eat it every day if he could.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


As I write this, I'm sitting in an airport in Seoul. I am connected through the wireless internet in the business lounge, directly to the servers in the Houston headquarters of my company. I can access any file I need, communicate instantly with my staff, Approve my client's ship design drawings electronically and work on my blog all at the same time.

My BlackBerry works anywhere in the world. I can (unfortunately) be reached by phone and email 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I just watched Barak Obama's acceptance speech and a documentary short about The Bahamas on YouTube.

My extended family is spread all over the world, from Texas to Singapore to Illinois to Long Island to Virginia to The Bahamas. We talk just as much now as we did when we all lived nearby.

It seems that this "internet" thing is catching on.

I just figured out that I can get Skype to automatically forward calls to my mobile phone if I'm not online. If you don't have Skype yet, give it a try. I resisted for years until my parents said they would be using it after they moved. It's free and easy to use. Just download the software from www.skype.com and install it on your computer. You can now very easily talk through your computer to anyone else who has Skype for free. You can also use it to make calls to regular phones anywhere in the world. Most calls will run about 2.4 cents/minute. Just make a $10 deposit with a credit card.

I know there's other software out there that does this and it's really nothing new, but it's working well for my family and friends, so I thought I'd share the wealth.

If you want to look me up on Skype, search my email: mtremblay_505@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Mind of a First Grader - Volume 3

A few weeks ago Jack's class went to Little India on a field trip. They had been studying the Indian (dots, not feathers) culture recently in school and this was a great way to end this part of their module on India.

Melissa was one of the chaperons along with Miss Michelle (Jack's teacher). As their group walked up to look at a Indian jewelry store, she heard this exchange:

Jack: Wow. Look at all that gold. These people sure know how to live.
Miss Michelle: You said it kiddo.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Trick or 5000 treats

Halloween is really only a holiday in the Americas. A lot of cultures have different ways to celebrate All Hallows Eve, but the tradition of wearing a costume and collecting candy is pretty much limited to America and Mexico.

The majority of Singapore is made up of people with an Asian background who don't have much of an idea what Halloween is all about. But they do know that if you put on a costume and visit the American neighborhood on October 31st, you can get a ton of candy for free.

Halloween in our neighborhood is HUGE. My friend Jason who has a house near the American School said that he ran out of his 2000 pieces of candy in 40 minutes. Other friends that live on Woodgrove Avenue, which is Halloween ground-zero, (I'm nearby on Woodgrove Dr.) say they need 5000 pieces of candy to make it from 7-9pm.

It was like a big street party. They shut down the streets from 7 to 9 and even hired security. There were people at every house in a pack at least 3 deep waiting to trick-or-treat.

sorry about the poor quality, it was really dark

Melissa stayed home to hand out candy and Jack and I walked around for an hour collecting candy. Jack had wanted to be Indiana Jones, but we weren't able to pull the costume together in time. (It's hard to find a whip in Singapore) He ended up going as a zombie and Melissa made herself a costume too. I'm sure you can guess what she is.

Jack had a great time trick-or-treating (Dad, this is the greatest Halloween EVER!) and we ended up the evening by vising his classmate Ryan's house. Jack liked it there because there were a bunch of kids sitting in the living room trading their candy like baseball cards. He said the most "expensive" candy that everyone wanted was "Nerds" and he was happy he made it out of there with all of his Nerds intact.

It was a great holiday for everyone. I never would have expected our best Halloween to be in Asia.