Category Archives: Moving to Singapore

The end of the 30 day jail sentence for kitties

I was counting down the hours until I could pick up Jazz & Jayda from quarantine.  When 10:00 am Wednesday finally arrived, I was at the Sembawang Quarantine Station ready to get my furry babies and bring them home.  

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We had visited them twice, and each time, both cats seemed to miss us very much.  They would jump in our arms, rub on us, meow a lot, Jazz even sat in my purse.   The facility was clean, although it did smell a bit.  The cats space  was very much like a cell … windows on three sides, a ledge, and enough floor space for their kitty litter box.   There was enough room for one adult to fit. 

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Well, when we visited … all five of us squeezed into this room.  Imagine the excitement!  Cats carrying on, fur flying ( they desperately needed brushing), some allergy sneezing, my tears, and then all the other cats in the facility crying as well.  We must have looked like such nut jobs on the video surveillance camera, but we didn’t care!  

 Anyhow, when I finally had the cats released to me, after signing many papers, I got the kennels into my van, and off we went.  After the 30 minute drive home with both of the cats making the most terrifying noises, we arrived at the condo, and  after managing to get both kennels in the lift and up to the fourth floor, I opened the doors to the kennel and the cats experienced freedom for the first time since mid-July. 

Their reaction?  Complete chaos.  They freaked out.  Ran up and down the hallway, into and out of rooms so fast they were just a black blur.  Then they ran right into the closet in the master bedroom and hid in the darkest corner.  And refused to come out.  When I was able to drag Jazz out, he ran into the bathroom, and cowered under the sink, where he remained for hours.  They refused to drink or eat, and they seemed terrified of every little noise.   

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Can you see him under there?   poor Jazz.   I decided to lock them in the closet, which was about double the size of their cell, thinking that maybe they needed to gradually get used to big spaces again.  They were good with that, remaining quiet and calm for the afternoon, until the kids came home from school. Complete chaos again.  Fur flying, cats crying.  

Cats crying?  You know what I’m talking about … that loud, alien sounding “MERRAOWL!”  that give you chills.  In our very unfurnished condo, the echos of their crying were unbearable.   They never stopped crying.  They cried, and cried, and cried.  All. Night. Long.  

I spent the entire night cradling the cats like newborn babies, trying to get them to calm down.  Once finally relaxed and sleeping, I would put them in the back corner of the closet, but as soon as I would walk away, loud crying would begin.  This lasted for about 48 hours.  By the fourth day, they only cried when I wasn’t in the same room or when they couldn’t find each other.  

They have been home now for 6 days, and things have calmed down considerably.  Jayda sleeps wrapped around my neck or on my chest.   She gets as close as she can to my head at all times.    If I leave the room, she follows me like a puppy, always underfoot.  When I leave the house, I have to cuddle her to sleep, and then gently put her in the back of the closet, where she now has a nice fluffy pillow-bed.   Jazz is also a bit mental … Trent and I once found him cowering and shaking, trying to hid underneath the comforter on Shanes bed.  

Each day they get a little more secure,   they cry a little less, and with lots of attention and reassurance, I am hopeful they will forget the trauma they endured traveling to Asia.  

 

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18 Suitcases!

I know, I know!  I haven’t updated in a while.  I’ve got lots to post about, as we have been living in Singapore for not quite a week now.  We officially landed on this island last Thursday, August 8th, at 2:00 am.   That’s Wednesday 1:00 pm Central Zone time. Confusing, right?  We made a quick jump to 13 hours ahead in time from our home in Hudson.  

Let me back track a bit.  Our last full week at home was all about swimming.  We had the Minnesota State Swimming Championships at the University of Minnesota one weekend, and then the following weekend we traveled to Topeka Kansas for the USA Central Zone Championships.  Once we got through those two meets and traveled back to Hudson, we had exactly 18 hours until our scheduled shuttle pick up … we had a flight to catch!!  

Eighteen suitcases.  That’s how many I packed.  

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Needless to say, the logistics of three kids with 18 suitcases was a bit complicated.   We checked 13 of them, and we each lugged a carry-on bag and it worked perfectly.   Once in the shuttle, I snapped a pic of one of the boys taking one last photo of Hudson from the 94 bridge. Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last few moments at the airport, prior to boarding our flight with one-way tickets, brought different emotions to each of us. Trent was relieved and ready to just get his family settled, as he needed to concentrate on his new job.  Maria became quiet and introspective, I imagine she was thinking of her friends she was leaving behind.  The boys were giddy with excitement, like just before kick-off for a Steeler Super Bowl, which made them hungry, which then warranted a last minute top-off at Subway.  I frantically made a last minute phone call to my parents, and got the reassurances that I needed from them, that I was in fact, making a move that would be good for my family and that things will be okay.

I know my sweet parents didn’t want me to take their grandchildren to the other side of the world,  and I could hear the emotion in their voices, which brought me to tears.   I managed to embarrass Maria a bit, which of course is my job, but when the child looked at me and said, “Let’s Do This!!” when they called for us to board, I dried my tears, gathered up my gear, and shuffled onto the plane.  

 

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And so we have now been Singapore residents for FOUR complete days now.  It has been wonderful, exhausting, exciting, emotional … you get the idea right?   I think because of all the stress & exhaustion, I came down with the sickies, but thankfully I had a Z-pac from my physician-sister Rachel packed that by some miracle I was able to find. I’m confident that in a few days I’ll start to feel better.  

On Saturday our air-shipment arrived  ( with very little damage ) and I’m working on getting it all unpacked and setting up the house.  

The kids had school orientation on Saturday, which lasted nearly the entire day, and school started for Maria yesterday, today for the boys.  All three kids at school today. 

 

Now you see why today is the day I found time to update this blog, right?  All three kids are at school today!!! 

 

Thank you for your prayers, you all have been a huge blessing to myself and my family as we continue to settle into our new country.  We pray for continued health for my family,  that we all relax and let go of our anxieties,  I pray that the kids make new friends and feel comfortable in their new school, and that Trent is able to let go of his worrying about me & the kids and focus on his job.   Love you all!!

Blinkman Kitties World Tour

Jazz & Jayda are the babies of our family.   They were born under a tree near our house, and hit the jackpot when my three kids spotted them 8 years ago.

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The kids love this brother/sister duo, and so when it came time to planning our move to Asia, I knew it would be complicated to get these two to the other side of the world.   After some preliminary research, it didn’t take me long to become overwhelmed with the  many steps to getting things lined up properly in order for the cats to be accepted in the Singapore.  There was rabies shots on two separate days (exactly 30 days apart), titre testing had to be done & sent to the University of Kansas.  There was microchipping, teeth cleaning under sedation, deworming,  and several health exams.  There was applying for import licenses,  quarantine reservation applications,  plane reservations, and pet hotel reservations.   USDA Endorsement paperwork,  Health Certificates,  more last minute check-ups that had to be done within 10 days of their travel,  airline declarations completed by the captains of each plane, and customs permits.

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I had to hire a professional pet relocation company to handle all the details, which to the shock and dismay of Trent, cost a small fortune.   I’m telling ya, Trent has a halo.  My  husband grew up on a farm.   With farm cats that never came in the house.  Ever.  And now he has morphed into this man who will willing to spend part of the kids college funds to move two cats.  He deserves a lot credit.

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Hudson Pet Hospital handled this easily, communicating with my pet relocation company, and when it came time to go, Jazz & Jayda were ready.  At least according to their health, and their paperwork.  But they had no idea what they were in for.  Below is a picture of the cats in their travel crates (minus the doors ).  Jazz has his treats packed and ready to go.

 

 

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And here they are all loaded into the car, ready to go back to Hudson Pet Hospital for another visit.

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Very early on July 20th  ( 4:30 am )  they were picked up at our home and transported to the Minneapolis airport, where they were loaded onto a flight to Chicago.   From Chicago they flew to Amsterdam, where they were booked into a “Pet Hotel”.  I’m not kidding, they had a room for the night.   They were able to spend 12 hours in a room in Amsterdam,  and while they stretched their legs a bit, their travel crates were cleaned, they enjoyed some snacks, and endured another health check.    Their next flight was to Singapore, where they were inspected and then their paperwork was inspected and they were accepted into the country.  They spent the night at the airport, and the next afternoon they were transported to the quarantine facility, where they will spend the next 30 days.

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This is where I said my tearful goodbyes to the kitties, and then Cliff the driver loaded them into his car and off they went!

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60 hours!   It took nearly 60 hours to go from Hudson to Singapore!  How did two very spoiled,  little house cats with pea-sized brains handle this?

Despite receiving constant communication via our pet relocation people … flight schedules, emails & texts with pictures, flight trackers & updates,  and despite Trents assurances that even spoiled house cats are tough as nails, I was wild with anxiety.   From the photos I received,  it was pretty evident that they were freaked out.  Jayda was sitting in the kitty litter box in every single photo.    This nearly put me over the edge.

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But what could I do from the USA to help calm my kitties all the way in Singapore?

Facebook.  Yup, I used Facebook.  For all you Facebook haters out there, wait to you hear this story:   Earlier in the year, I joined a closed private group on Facebook for Expat Wives in Singapore.  (if you search for this group, you won’t find it .. you have to be invited to this group).  This group is a topic in itself, which I will post about separately later.  I used this facebook group to see if anyone would be willing to go to the quarantine station to check in on Jazz & Jayda.  And to my surprise,  yes, several women were willing to go out of their way for a complete stranger!  Ultimately, Ellen checked in on the kitties, within 12 hours of their arrival.  She took treats, she sat on the floor with them, calmed them down, and took photos of them for me.  She gave the kids and I such a gift of her time & love for animals & I am so grateful because her assurances that the kitties were healthy and did in fact survive their ordeal calmed the kids down.

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See how much better they look?

Funny thing is, once Ellen & I communicated via email, we were stunned to learn that we both bleed Black & Gold … We are both Pittsburgh girls!!  We went to high schools near each other ( Seneca Valley & North Allegheny)  and at the this very moment, her brother is living in Zelienople, my hometown!!   Of course I made sure she would tell her brother that if he ever needed anything to call on my mayor-of-Zelienople dad!

At this writing, Jazz & Jayda have served 7 of their 30 day mandatory quarantine sentence.  Once we land in Sing,  one of the first things on our to-do list is to visit them.    Then we will find out how truly traumatized they are, and we shall see how willing Trent is to invest in kitty therapy.  Maybe I’ll find a cat whisperer on Facebook too?

 

 

I love Space Saver Bags! The Movers are here!

You’ve seen the commercials, right?   “Too much stuff?  Not enough space?”  

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 Well,  this was an issue that I was up against.  Why?  Well,  our deployment to Singapore is considered short-term by Trents employer, and so we don’t get a big container shipment that moves our things by, literally, a ship.  We get two small crates that go by air.  

How small?  4′ x 4′ x 4′ .  Maybe a little bigger than a dog kennel.  I take more than that to a swim meet!  (You’ve all seen us at a meet … we bring a cooler or two, chairs, blankets, and sometimes a tent, not to mention those huge Speedo backpacks ).   

For the last month or so I have been sorting through our things, and putting them into different staging areas, in order to make it easier for the movers.  My three categories were:

 1.  Things we cannot live without and must ship.  Like clothes, shoes, etc.  Personal items.  Swim gear, swim towels.   More purses, more shoes.  

2.   Things we would really like to take with us, like blankets,  some framed pictures, vitamins, silverware,  bathroom items, cat food, kitty litter pan, a couple pot & pans (no bakeware because our oven is European size & an American size cookie sheet wouldn’t fit), two frying pans, some tupperware, some office items,  extra clothing & that we stocked up on, and some cleaning supplies.

3.  The things that I figure would make it easier to get settled with if I had them so can you please get creative and fit these items in the crates.  

That final category included comforters for the kids rooms.  Since the kids start school two days after we arrive, I figured it would be much easier to have them pick out their room things here in the States and bring it with us.   We cannot paint the walls, which are made of concrete, and so we cannot hang much on the walls either.  In order to personalize their rooms in a way to make them happy, they were able to choose the comforters they wanted.

Maria choose a fuzzy hot pink, Cale choose a turquoise/white comforter, and Shane wanted orange. 

We all know how big comforters are … and so here is where the Space Saver Bags came in extremely useful.   I found that these came in all different sizes, and I especially loved the jumbo size.  In this one I was able to fit in 25 large bath towels, two blankets, and Shanes entire wardrobe, plus some of Cales.  Wow!  Needless to say, I invested a small fortune in these bags.   Here is a picture of what they looked like stacked on a table, and then then stacked on the floor on a taped off area measured to the size of the crate.  

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As you can see, they took up a good portion of one of our crates.   But without the bags, they probably would have taken up  most of our entire shipping space.

Yesterday the movers came to pack up our crates, load them up on a truck, and ship them to Sing.  It was a bit overwhelming, as you can see.   ( I spy a black cat in the photo!  Miss Jayda could care less as to why her momma was buried underneath the rubble. )

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Because of the Space Saver Bags, I had room for everything I wanted to take, including two Christmas trees (much to Trents dismay, “why do you need two?” he kept saying ), Halloween decorations & costumes,  wrapping paper, a stereo, desks & chairs for the kids,  and thanks to Target, rugs that match the comforters!   Even with all that, the truck was still empty when it was loaded. 

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And so now the things we use most in our every day lives we are without for a good month.  We sent our things early because it will take a good 3 weeks to clear customs, and we prefer to “rough” it on this end where our lives are very comfortable versus in Singapore. We are hopeful that our crates will be delivered to us within a day or two of our arrival.

Keep in mind, that while all this was packing was happening, Trent was severely jet-lagged, as he had only just returned the day prior from a 3 month stint in Asia.  He was a real trooper, but after the movers left, this is where I found him.  He threw all the cushions on the deck out of the sun, and was out cold.

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Sweet Parents : Sweet Grandparents

The past few weeks have been very busy with friends and family,  fun events, and farewells and final goodbyes.  Our parents don’t live nearby, and so we are fortunate that they were able to make time to travel to our house to  spend some time with us.

My parents came in from Pennsylvania, traveling by car.  My dad cannot sit still for long, so he only hung out for a couple of days before he took off again.  He is a busy man … he has things to do, places to go, people to see.  And weddings to perform.  He is the Mayor of Zelienople, and of the many responsibilities that fall to him in this role, one of the sweetest perks is to officiate at wedding ceremonies, and he had to get back to Pennsylvania to make sure a nice couple tied the knot!

I am a daddy’s girl, and always will be!

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It was very difficult to say goodbye to my dad, so I tried to keep it light and fluffy, and while having some fun in the pool, when one of the kids decided to snap a photo of my parents, it picture caught the best photo-bomb ever!

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When dad took off for home, my mom was able to spend a few more weeks with the kids and I.  We packed in the fun, including a two day outdoor swim meet.  This was the first time either of my parents were able to attend a swim meet.

 

 

 

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I also took her to Valley Fair, an amusement park here in the Twin Cities, specifically to get her into the old time photo store.  You all know those places … you dress up in costume & pose with props?  Well, mom is a bit feisty and full of spunk, so I knew she would go along with it.  And she didn’t let me down.  When they asked her what props she wanted, I was not surprised when she said “All of them”.  So here is the photo, mom with a long cigarette, gun, and an empty liquor bottle.  They told us to be serious, but mom winked.

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Just before the gal snapped this photo, mom realized that she had her watch on, so I helped her take it off, she wanted this photo to look authentic.  Funny lady that she is, her watch was a Mickey Mouse watch!

My father-in-law arrived from his place in Arizona by motorcycle.  Thinking that is a long way by bike?  Not for Dale.  He is a life-time biker, and has logged hundreds of thousands of miles by way of his Honda Gold Wings.  This year, his bike was a brilliant blue!

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He is always great fun to be around, and from the first day I met him over 16 years ago, he has been teasing me.  We have a fun relationship, I am so blessed to have such a wonderful man for my second dad.

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Of course I took photos of these sweet parents with their grandchildren, because, after all, they are sweet grandparents!

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The night before my mom left for  home, again, I tried to keep things light.  Maria has some software on her laptop that distorted our faces … here are a couple of the good pics:

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And finally, saying goodbye at the airport, was tough.  Here is the last picture I took of my sweet mom.  She intends to make the trip to Singapore to for a visit, but in reality, it’s a very long tough trip, and it would be a difficult trip for her.  I’ll just have to make plans to fly to the USA!

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Summer Reading

Thought you might like to see what I’m reading this summer! 

 

The first couple of books are very interesting.  Trent doesn’t have time to read, so I am highlighting some key points for him.   Thankfully it is easy reading, because I am finding that I only have a minute here and then another minute there for this.    I can easily read a page or two, put it down for a bit, and pick it up later.  

 

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The next two books are more for me, and how to daily interact with Chinese, Indian, and Malay.  I had no idea how much I didn’t know!   These books go into great detail, like what to wear to a wedding or funeral, how to hold chopsticks without offending, dress,  business meals, festivals, visiting at a Chinese or Malaysian home, and table etiquette.  

I may never eat these foods, but now I know the difference between Cantonese, Hunan, Hokkien, Shantung/Beijing, Szechuan, Hainanses, Hakka, Shanghainese, Teochew, and Tim Sum dishes!    “Ching”  (Eat & Enjoy!)

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Since not one of us Blinkmans eat fish, we are definitely going to struggle when it comes to eating, as this is the main staple for the Chinese.  The Indians & Malay though … now that is a different story.  Rice & bread are the principal items at an Indian meal.  Their food is hot curry, coconut, chili, yogurt, and spices.   Rice is also one of the main foods for the Malaysian people too, but also coconut, chili, spicy meat & fish & vegetable.   Satay is the most famous and popular Malay dish.  This is meat marinated in a spicy mixture, threaded on skewers and barbecued.  The sticks of cooked satay are dipped in spicy peanut sauce before being eaten with sliced cucumber, raw onion,  and ketupat (a square piece of steamed rice cake wrapped in coconut leaves).   This sounds so delicious to me!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Because we only have two years in Asia, I plan to take every opportunity to travel and see all that we can see.  I have been told that this next school year “has a bumper crop of long weekends”  and that I should start planning now for some fun three day excisions.  First on my list?  Bali, Fiji, Australia, Cambodia.  Then Thailand, China, Bora Bora, New Zealand.  Should I keep going?  There is soooo much to see and do, it is a bit overwhelming.  And so exciting!!

 

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And there you go … my summer reading books.   

Culture Class for the Kids, Culture Class & a Blizzard for Trent

 

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Last week the kids had their day of learning when Liz came to our home to educate the kids about their upcoming life in Singapore.    Image

 

***  Yes … my walls ARE purple, although not that purple.  For some reason it is really bright in this photo.  Please don’t think my walls are painted the same color they were when I was teenager!

****** See the suitcase on the floor behind Liz?  It’s my holding place for all my spices that I cannot live without.   Garlic, onion, Italian seasoning… all for my sauce.   I’ve got priorities ya know!  

Anyhow, back to the kids …

Liz spent the entire day with the kids, teaching them, eating lunch with them, putting up with their antics, and even seemed like she enjoyed it!   She made them do silly games … all the while making them think about what their life will be like and what to expect, while living in Singapore.Image

 

 

She even made them look at a Singapore cookbook to see if there are any recipes in there that they think they would like. I don’t think they found any though.  That’s why I’m bringing the spices!!

 

The one of the most interesting things of the day was when Liz made the kids graph how they think they will feel during the next two years during different events and/or stages, hopefully making them aware, somewhere in the back of their minds, that this move is not going to be all easy-as-pie and smelling-like-roses.  They are going to have some ups and downs.  It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to their friends.  It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to their grandma, grandpa, pap pap, aunts, uncles, cousins.   Their swim team friends and coaches.  But then they will have the ups of the adventure, a new house, new school, new swim team.  New friends.  But then a few months will go by and reality will hit with an “oh man, we have to LIVE here”  and we may have some low days.  

Christmas might be hard, with no snow.  Oh wait, it might not be that hard, haha.  

But you get the idea, right?  

So she made them graph out how they think they will feel, and by physically seeing this graph, I think the kids got a pretty good idea what they are in for.  But they also understand that each one of us will be having some good days and some bad days,  all at different times, and we all need to be understanding and patient with each other. 

And Liz brought some candy for the kids, which I totally enjoyed.  🙂

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Trent is next for culture class.  Unfortunately, he took off for Asia so fast that there was no time in his schedule to include this.   The kids and I really did learn a lot from our culture classes, and I do think that we are better prepared to live in Singapore now.  I think that we will be better residents of this country, and we will know how to respect and show respect to our fellow countrymen and our soon-to-be friends.   So, with the few days that Trent will have here in Wisconsin, between packing up, running errands, finalizing flight plans for our family and cats, swimming championships, and last runs out for Dairy Queen fixes, he is scheduled for his own culture class.   

And I’m thinking of joining him … and bringing Dairy Queen to the class!  

Culture Class & a Blizzard for Trent.