It’s been a long time since I blogged here. If you’re reading this, we’re glad you didn’t give up on us!
Back in Singapore
After our summer in the States, we came back to a whirlwind of school, work and another year of big changes to navigate. I started a Ph.D. program this fall and our family has worked to make the changes for me to fulfill this lifelong goal. I am studying online through Regent University in their Counseling and Psychological Studies program with an emphasis in Trauma and Crisis Counseling. Watching our family pull together in new ways as I study has warmed my heart. The kids have enjoyed me being a full-time mom most of their lives and their willingness to support my studies speaks a lot about their love and nature. Chris has made the adjustments quite nicely too…we have enjoyed talking about what I am studying and dreaming about future work together. He says I get lots of counseling practice right here at home…raising teenagers is an ongoing crisis of sorts!
Update on the Teens
Ariana turned 12 in August. That is hard to believe! She is rocking 7th grade and has settled back in to expat life seamlessly. Probably better than the rest of us, truthfully. She is writing a book with some friends during their lunch hour. Their creativity and ability impresses me. Ariana is running cross-country again this year and loves her artsy classes most. She takes a Master Chef class and is working with Guide Dogs Singapore to raise money to bring more guide dogs here. This week, she leaves to study in Yogykarta, Indonesia with her grade. They will be learning traditional batik art, studying environmental conservation and immersing themselves in the culture. We are excited for her to enjoy these amazing opportunities!
Michael has a ROUGH start to the school year. Illness has plagued him since we returned from our home visit. He had several infections and then encountered a mosquito infected with dengue fever. Seriously. He had a high fever for 5 days before being hospitalized for four more days. Now he is resting at home for two weeks before he can return to school. He and I battle each other in Smash Brothers on the Switch in between school work to pass the time (I never win). On the positive side, Michael traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand with his class for field studies and thoroughly enjoyed being there again. They did a lot of hiking, conservation work, camping, and threw some fun in there too. Michael runs on the cross-country team (when he isn’t battling dread diseases), participates in some clubs and generally makes 9th grade look like a breeze. We are praying he recovers fully soon and gets back to school with his friends.
Jonathan is in 11th grade. It’s just tough here…homework consumes most of his time as it does for his friends. Thankfully, there are some bright spots scattered throughout the work. Jonathan traveled to Yunnan, China for field studies and hiked through some gorgeous countryside there. One highlight of the trip was playing basketball with Tibetan monks at their monastery. The monks won. The kids couldn’t believe how good they were at basketball. It’s my favorite travel story so far. Not surprisingly, Jonathan is also training with the cross-country team this year and we are starting to look at colleges…yikes! We aren’t quite ready for this, but so delighted that we have shared this expat experience with him and he will be well-prepared before he leaves.
Well, the only travel that has happened so far this fall is Chris’ work and the kids’ school travel. This explains the recent dearth of blog posts. However, the day after Ariana flies in from Indonesia, we will be traveling to NEW ZEALAND for the kids’ fall break. Seeing New Zealand is a bucket-list dream for Chris and me, so expect way too many pictures and updates on our Instagram feed: Rambling Robbins.
Chris’ work takes him around the world. Before Michael’s illnesses, he was traveling almost every week. He has been home the past two weeks with us and we are enjoying him being here. I have marveled at how much Chris has grown in cross-cultural management skills and how quickly he learns and adapts to each culture he works with. Not bad for a redneck from Arkansas…Truly, we talk often about the experience and growth that we have gained just from one year of living abroad. It is worth the challenges of expat life to truly know and learn from people in other cultures.
One thing I never expected to do was to hire a live-in helper. Domestic helpers that live-in are a staple of Singaporean culture, but as an American, I struggled with the concept. That is a whole other blog post. But, I have to say, our life here would be so much harder the assistance of our wonderful helper, Veronica. She cares for our house and dogs while we travel, carries the bulk of the household duties, and backs me up while Chris travels for work. Truly, she makes all that we do possible. On top of that, she adds laughter and love to our home too. We are so thankful for her and look forward to sharing more about her and the role of helpers in Singapore more soon.
Our sweet Fred had surgery to remove another tumor. He just keeps hanging with us and we are thankful. Fred is 13 this year so we are enjoying every day together. He and Jack still do almost daily walks with me to Bishan park and they enjoy harassing passersby at our gate. Jack is seven years old now and continues to amaze Singaporeans with his sheer size and boisterous personality. Every time we go out, he draws reactions ranging from The Scream to Fatal Attraction from locals. No one is ambivalent about him here.
Up to Their Usual Shenanigans
We are slowly finding ways to be more involved with our church and missions here in Singapore. Chris is part of a men’s group that meets for regular prayer and support, the kids are exploring youth group, and I am continuing to meet with missions and humanitarian organizations here. I hope to partner with OMF (Overseas Mission Fellowship) by volunteering counseling services to missionaries as well as serving with the HOME (Humanitarian Organization for Migrant Economics) to care for domestic and foreign workers who have experienced abuse or discrimination in Singapore. There are many opportunities to be involved in missions, but the pace of life here presents many obstacles to engage in them. We are finding creative ways to do this and hope to share some of those with you soon.
Finally, we appreciate you reading our blog. Staying connected with people is so important to us. We miss our family and friends back in the States. You are loved. Come back here soon as I hope to post more regularly again!