Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Singapore sam" making news in minnesota.

Singapore Sam at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.
Thanks to my Aunt Nancy (Mrs. Johnson) in Worthington, MN, "Singapore Sam" made the Daily Globe News! While we're in Singapore, we're bringing a stuffed frog (Singapore Sam) everywhere we go, and photographing his adventures in Singapore for the first-graders at St. Mary's in Worthington to read about. Singapore Sam has been to Thailand, Chinatown, the South China Sea, and other places in Singapore. Next weekend, he will come on a cruise with us!

Singapore Sam flying above Malaysia.

Every now and then, I Skype with Mrs. Johnson's first-grade class at St. Mary's, and the kids can ask questions about basically anything they want. Mrs. Johnson says they have been following our adventures in Singapore daily, and they're always asking me questions about Linna:)

Here's a link to the Daily Globe's story on Singapore Sam, and I've also copy and pasted the story below, along with some recent photos of Singapore Sam's adventures in Asia:


WORTHINGTON — Frogs are everywhere in teacher Nancy Johnson’s classroom at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Worthington. The green amphibians hop all over the walls, decorate bulletin boards, and a few of the stuffed variety inhabit corners of the room.

But the most important frog to the St. Mary’s first-graders is currently living on the other side of the world, about 9,0000 miles away. His name is Singapore Sam, and he’s the class mascot. Instead of hopping his way around the world, Sam traveled to Singapore with Johnson’s niece, Melissa Saigh, her husband AJ and their 14-month-old daughter, Linna. The Saighs are living there temporarily for AJ’s job and plan to return to their home in Minnetonka in November.

Johnson came up with Singapore Sam as tool to connect her students with another culture and broaden their horizons.

“Since many of her students have never, or may never have the opportunity to travel to Singapore, she thought it would be fun for her students to see parts of Singapore through the eyes of Singapore Sam. Children are much more entertained by a fun stuffed animal traveling around the world, than a couple humans they’ve never met,” explains Melissa on her online blog that details the family’s adventures. “Linna and I take Singapore Sam everywhere we go in Singapore. On the SMRT (underground train system in Singapore), to restaurants, the airport. Where we go, Singapore Sam comes with us! Linna loves holding onto Singapore Sam while she’s in the stroller, and at one point, Singapore Sam even jumped into the pool with Linna (this was an accident).”

Johnson’s classroom has followed Singapore Sam’s adventures through photos, but is also able to connect directly on the computer via Skype. There is a 13-hour time difference between the two locales, so Johnson’s class usually Skypes with Melissa first thing in the morning, which is evening in Singapore. On Thursday, the class was able to visit over the computer with both Melissa and Linna, who normally would have been sleeping but had been awakened by a storm. It is currently the rainy season in Singapore, and a small monsoon was brewing outside.

After singing a song, much to Linna’s delight, individual students took turns in front of the computer camera to ask questions, which ranged from personal (When is Linna’s birthday? How do you get your hair to grow so long?) to geographical.

Here are a few of their questions and Melissa’s answers:

Can Linna walk yet?

“No, but she can stand by herself, and yesterday she said two new words. She said ‘Yes” and ‘Whoa!’”

Is Singapore on the equator?

“It’s very close to the equator, so that’s why it’s very hot here. Has Mrs. Johnson shown you where the equator is on a map?”

How many more days are you going to be there?

“About a month and a half.”

What do you do during the day?

“Well, my husband goes to work, and Linna and I go to the pool, to her Mandarin Chinese classes, and there’s a mall right next door to our apartment, so we go there, too.”

Do you have cats over there?

“We have a lot of stray cats in our apartment complex, and they eat the food that we leave out for them at the pool.”

How do you say (the word) rosary ?

“I’ll have to find out how they say it in Chinese. I’m not sure if they have a word for it, but I’ll try to find out.”

Do you have Catholic churches there?

“Yes they do. My parents came here to visit us, and they went to a church called St. Teresa’s.”

When does Linna wake up?

“She wakes up at 7:30 a.m., which is 6:30 p.m. your time. So when she is getting up, you are getting ready to eat dinner and go to bed.”

Does it look over there like it does here?

“It looks very tropical, and they have palm trees, so it looks quite different than it does in Minnesota. But some things are the same. They have McDonald’s here.”

In a Skype interview separate from the students, Melissa said that the Singapore experience has been an enjoyable, albeit lengthy vacation, but they are getting anxious to return to the States. A former television producer and reporter, Melissa is now a stay-at-home mom who does occasional work for Twin Cities TV stations.

“I miss my house, cooking in my kitchen, making chili and hotdish,” she said. “It’s been a big learning experience, a once-in-a lifetime trip … but I’m getting the itch now to come home, to be back with my family. I miss having fall.”

Chatting with the St. Mary’s students has helped Melissa feel connected to home, and having Singapore Sam along for the trip has added dimension to the Saighs’ explorations of Singapore.

When they return to Minnesota in November, she and Linna plan to personally return Singapore Sam to the St. Mary’s class.

“Singapore Sam is also collecting little pieces of Singapore memorabilia along his trip, to send back to Mrs. Johnson’s first-grade class. So far, he’s found some chopsticks, postcards, a Chinese soup spoon and a few other things, to send to Mrs. Johnson’s students,” writes Melissa on her blog.

“It’s kind of opened their eyes to other cultures,” said Johnson about what Singapore Sam has brought to her classroom, “to see there’s more out there than just Worthington, Minnesota.”

On the Net:

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

Singapore Sam in Chinatown in Singapore.

Linna dressed up in her Singapore Sam costume for
Halloween this year.

Singapore Sam on my husband AJ's head in the pool at the
Radisson Blu in Phuket, Thailand.

Singapore Sam in Thailand.

Singapore Sam on Shangri-La's "Toots The Frog" (resort's mascot).

Singapore Sam passed out from the heat on Sentosa Island.

Singapore Sam on board the Singapore Flyer.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jumping in the pool & swimming under water.

AJ and I can't get over how much Linna LOVES the water! She's 13 months old, can't walk on her own yet, but the girl sure can do a lot of jumping into the pool and swimming under water. Linna loves going in the "big" pool (some days even more than the baby pool) and swims like a fish. At this rate, she'll be swimming laps in the big pool, before she takes her first steps!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Closer to walking.

Linna got a new toy from the store in Singapore yesterday, and it's giving her a lot of practice walking! I walked into the store with the intent to buy Linna a new sound machine (her old one broke), but we walked out with this instead (I can't find a sound machine in Singapore). She loves to push this walker around the house, and is pretty good at getting it out of corners:) We're getting closer and closer to walking!

Cute reminder about our minnesota roots.

Even as I'm surrounded by beautiful sunny weather, good new friends, and my wonderful husband and daughter in Singapore, there are times that I really miss home. I miss making a delicious hotdish in my kitchen, sitting around the bonfire in our backyard, and being within a short driving distance of my parents and in-laws. I'll admit that my life in Singapore is absolute paradise, but my roots will always lie in Minnesota.

Last week, an artist named Rebecca Peragine sent me a lovely print, to remind me where "my roots lie". It's a drawing of the state of Minnesota, and all of its counties, with "My Roots Lie Here" written underneath. The print comes with a couple heart stickers that you can place anywhere in Minnesota. We have this print in a frame, hanging above Linna's pack n' play in Singapore. I see this print every day, and I am reminded of all the things waiting for us in Minnesota. It's these thoughts that put a smile on my face:)

Rebecca's company is called Children Inspire Design and she uses recycled materials in each of her designs. Every product in her "One Mother to Another" line is created by the hands of mothers in impoverished areas in Mexico and Haiti. The money they earn through fair trade of these products, offer economic opportunity, and a lesson to their children (especially girls) that women can control their own future. When one of these products is purchased, Children Inspire Design buys two more from them. This gives them the ability to buy food, clothing, and opportunity for their children.

Linna's sleeping area in Singapore.

I hope you'll support this talented artist, and all that she's doing to make our world a little bit better place to live!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Duck tour.

While my parents were in Singapore, we decided to take a tour of Singapore by getting on board a remodeled WWII amphibious Vietnamese war craft! Even Linna came along for the Duck Tour. I heard that the views from the water were pretty spectacular, and since we didn't have to walk on this tour, all four of us jumped at this opportunity!

The tour boat/bus is an actual war craft that can drive on the road, but it also floats and drives on water (like a boat). We drove for about 5-10 minutes on land (traffic was bad due to the F1 road closures), and then splashed into the water! We got some great views of the Singapore Flyer, Esplanade, Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino, and the "real" Merlion. They gave each one of us a set of headphones to listen to music, as well as some pretty interesting facts about Singapore. I was kind of hoping for an actual entertaining tour guide, standing in front of the crowd, while telling us about the sights we were seeing. Nonetheless, the facts about Singapore were very interesting!

On the Duck with Grandma and Grandpa!

Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino.

Linna got a little restless (she was tired and HOT) during the tour, which made it a little difficult for me to enjoy and relax during the tour. I ended up taking off her dress, and just let her hang out in her diaper cover. By the end of the tour, she was out cold! She had fun looking at all the buildings from the water, and even wanted to jump into the water for a little swim (sorry Linna)! Other passengers on the boat were taking photos of Linna, which I find so funny:)

Nap time after the Duck Tour.

It was pretty neat to be on board a piece of history, while experiencing an hour-long tour of Singapore. If you do take a Duck Tour, try to sit on the right side of the boat. That's where we sat, and we had the best views right off the bat. Strollers are not allowed on the tour bus/boat, but they watch them for you and keep them safe!

Besides the heat, the four of us had a great time on our Duck Tour of Singapore!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My angry baby.

Trying to take a cute photo, in the midst of a public tantrum.
The older Linna gets, the more she can get into. She loves opening closets and taking out all the clothes, taking all of her diapers off the shelf, and throwing all of her toys into the empty bath tub. However, there are some things she tries to get into that she shouldn't be, so we've been starting to use the word "NO" a lot in the Saigh household. Linna does NOT like the word "NO".

When we tell Linna "NO", she does one, two, or all three of the following:

1. Throws her body backwards, acting as if we just ruined her entire life.
2. Tries to grab/pinch our faces (this really hurts).
3. Has a complete meltdown on the floor (the public displays of this are always award-winning).

She will normally only do these things when she is tired. When we do tell her "NO", we direct her attention to something else. When she does the "face grabbing/pinching", we take her hand away, say "NO", and then show her a "gentle touch". The other day, she actually bit my mom! She has never bit anyone before. The public tantrums and meltdowns are the worst, and I now totally understand why some parents just "give in" and give their kid whatever they want in the middle of a public tantrum. I've done this so we don't make a "scene", but I do not want to become "that parent". This parenting stuff is tough!

I'm sure Linna is just frustrated because she isn't using her words yet, and she just wants to communicate with us. However, I am a firm believer in "laying down the law" when it comes to my kid. Linna needs to know who is boss (us, not her), but I also don't want to be telling her "NO" all the time. I refuse to become the parent that yells at their kid all the time, so AJ and I make sure not to "yell" at Linna if she does something wrong. We simply say "NO" in a deeper voice, and redirect her attention to something else, OR explain to her why she can't do what she was doing.

Discipline is a hard thing for us to grasp as new parents. I'm hoping this "temper issue" Linna has is just a phase, and she learns how to accept the word "NO". People weren't joking around when they say how much it sucks to be the "bad guy".

Once-in-a-lifetime experience on sentosa with my parents.

Linna hanging out on the big bed at Shangri-La.

First of all, I can't believe that I was with my parents for a week on the other side of the world, and THOUSANDS of miles away from Minnesota! We had such an amazing experience in Singapore, even if it was for just seven days.

To the left of our balcony at Shangri-La.
Monkey warning.

The lovely ladies from Shangri-La that gave
Linna "Toots" the frog.

I decided to take my parents to Sentosa during their visit to Singapore, which is an island just about five minutes from our apartment (pretty cool huh?!). Instead of just spending one day on Sentosa, we decided to stay at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort, to really relax and enjoy our time on the family-friendly island. We could not have chosen a better place to stay! So many of the people we met at our resort had small children, and the resort really caters to those visitors. On the first day we were there, two of the resort "workers" walked up to Linna in her stroller, entertained her, and gave her a stuffed frog! The frog is the resort's "mascot" named "Toots". Linna was so excited to introduce her new stuffed animal named "Toots" to her other stuffed animal named "Singapore Sam":)

Checking out the peacocks on the grounds of Shangri-La.

The iguana that jumped in the pool at Shangri-La.

Snacking by the pool with Grandma.

Shangri-La didn't just have a huge swimming pool, with a shallow part for the little ones. They also have a splash-pad and water slides for the kids. One day, as the kids were going down the water slides, we watched a three-foot-long iguana slowly check out the pool, and then jump right in for a swim! He jumped right into the pool pit where the kids end their water slide ride, and the looks on their faces when they came down the slide and saw an iguana in the pool was PRICELESS! I could tell by the glances I shared with the other parents that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our kids:)

Our balcony view at Shangri-La. Gorgeous!

This resort has other wild animals hanging around, like monkeys and peacocks. There are signs all around the resort about not feeding the wild animals. Because of guests in prior years feeding the monkeys, the monkeys are so smart that they have actually learned how to open cans of pop inside the hotel rooms, IF you forget to close your balcony doors! Linna left a few raisins on our balcony, and when we went back inside our room, a monkey came onto our balcony and ate them! I wish I had captured this on my camera:(

Mama and naked baby on the beach.

Grandma and Linna taking their first dip in the
South China Sea. Naked of course!

From our room, we could see the pool and the South China Sea! Linna would have spent every second in the pool if we would have let her. For two days, she chose to play rather than nap during the day, so Linna would CRASH in our room around 7 p.m. each night. The best part is that she'd sleep until around 8 a.m.!

The resort is within walking distance to a very calm beach, so my mom, dad, and I took Linna for her first dip in the sea. Linna has never seen (let alone been in) a body of water other than lakes and ponds, so this was a fun "first"! Since she was tired, her first dip in the sea didn't come without tears.. but she did do it! How many kids from Minnesota can say that their first dip in a body of water (other than a lake), was the South China Sea?! Such a lucky girl!

Linna in a "food coma" after all the food at Shangri-La.

The morning buffets at Shangri-La were amazing!
We didn't eat again until dinner time.
"What should I order next?"

My mom and I also booked massages at Shangri-La's Rasa Spa. If you ever stay at this resort, you MUST book a spa treatment! From the moment we stepped foot in the spa's doors, we were treated like royalty. The cold towels they gave us when we walked in smelled of delicious flowers, and the tea sort of resembled an Aveda tea from spas in Minnesota. I don't know what type of oils they use at this spa, but my muscles literally felt like they were melting:) I may have to go back to this spa for another treatment before I leave Singapore. A+ for the Rasa Spa, from both my mom and I!

Mom and I at Rasa Spa before our massages.

The cold towels and tea at Rasa Spa.

Since my parents were here, they watched Linna one night, while AJ and I had dinner at Barnacles. This restaurant faces the water, and you can watch the sun set while you're having dinner! The food was amazing too. I had the Lobster Italiana, and AJ had the Barnacles Mixed Grill. My pasta was so flavorful and delicious, and AJ devoured his entire plate of food! We also tried the Ying & Yang and Seafood Trio appetizers. We like to eat:) These plates really gave us a taste of the local dishes that people often talk about in Singapore. Everything was phenomenal, and it was nice for AJ and I to have dinner together as a married couple... without the baby:)

AJ's dinner at Barnacles (before).
AJ's dinner at Barnacles (after).

My dinner at Barnacles. SO good!

Desert at Barnacles. Nom!

The Shangri-la is also near so many of Sentosa's attractions. We decided to check out the Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom, 4D Magix, Merlion, and Singapore Cable Cars. There is literally so much to do on Sentosa, it would take a person a couple days to accomplish it all! Linna and I will be going back to check out the Port of Lost Wonder next week:)

Feeding the birds.

Grandpa and Linna feeding the birds.

I want that bird mom!

The Butterfly Exhibit was so much fun. ESPECIALLY the part where we got to feed the birds. "Feeding the Birds" on Sentosa, means you actually get to hold and touch the birds! I was holding three to five birds at one time, and Linna thought that was pretty spectacular. She actually wanted to hold and play with them:) The butterflies were all within touching distance, and sometimes they would land right on us. The creepy, crawly, insects we got to see were also unreal... even the dead ones mounted on photo walls. I can't imagine ever seeing one of those things ALIVE and in person. YUCK! Although it was VERY hot inside, this exhibit is a "must see" if you're on Sentosa!

The four of us also climbed to the top of the Merlion on Sentosa, which is a huge statue of a lion with the body of a fish. The views from the top of the Merlion were pretty incredible, which made my mom very nervous (she's afraid of heights).

Linna putting her coin in the lion's mouth at Sentosa's Merlion
to see if she won a prize. She did!

I think my dad's favorite part was the 4D Magix. For about $18 each, we went into three 4D movie experiences. One was a "pirate experience", where you sit in moving chairs, and not only watch the 10-minute movie in 3D, but you get sprayed with water, etc. It makes you feel like you're actually IN the movie. We also checked out a "Desperado" 4D experience, where we sat on fake horses and shot at targets during the movie. It was just like being in a video game. I thought this attraction gave us great value for the money!

Singapore Cable Car views.

Linna on the cable cars. Eyes closed. Must be scared;)

Finally, we ended our day riding the Singapore Cable Cars. Besides the fact that they are NOT air conditioned (Singapore is HOT), the views were pretty fantastic! My mom sat and prayed the whole time because she is afraid of heights, but my dad, Linna, and I took in the breathtaking views. The ride lasted about 20 minutes, and we captured so many wonderful photos. FYI, buy the year membership instead of the one-ride ticket. It's just a few dollars more for the one-year membership!

Sentosa will definitely leave you needing a nap, but it's a must see for all Singapore visitors! Thank you Sentosa for giving my family a once-in-a-lifetime experience:)


Getting ready for halloween.

Since we're 13 hours ahead of Minnesota time, Linna will actually get TWO Halloweens this year! So we of course have TWO Halloween costumes for her:) My mom found Linna a frog costume at a garage sale in Minnesota and brought it with her to Singapore. Auntie Lisa got Linna a hand-me-down strawberry costume. I really can't decide which is cuter...

Strawberry Linna.
Frog Linna.

Last year Linna went as a ladybug and Baby Gaga (the baby version of Lady Gaga). Celebrating Halloween is so much fun when you have a kid!

Ladybug Linna, Halloween 2011.

Baby Gaga Linna, Halloween 2011.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Baby-free getaway to phuket thailand.

Plane ride from Singapore. Beautiful islands!

As I'm writing this blog post, we are flying above dozens of the most tropical and beautiful islands, that until now, I had only seen in photos. AJ and I just got back from a weekend in Phuket (pronounced "poo-ket"), where we stayed at the Radisson Blu Plaza Resort Panwa Beach. Every second of this trip was magical and we had the chance to visit a place I had only dreamed about seeing in person. We even flew over Koh Phi Phi Island, where the film "The Beach" was filmed. Unreal!

Yes please!
Our ride waiting for us at the Phuket airport.

This was waiting for us in our room. Loved the sweet rice!

Our resort was on Panwa Beach in Phuket, Thailand, which is about a 45 minute drive from the Phuket Airport. We left Linna at our home in Singapore with my parents (they are visiting for a week), because we needed some "couple time". I have had Linna 24-hours a day, 7 days a week with no help, and while I love every minute, every parent needs and deserves a break. My parents were more than happy to spend a couple days alone with Linna in Singapore!

Woman making food on the side of the road in Thailand.

Thai babies at a daycare in Phuket. So cute.

The drive to our resort gave us a lot to look at. We had a driver from the Radisson pick us up, because my husband had read horror stories of tourists being "taken advantage of" in Thailand while trying to find a taxi on their own. On the way to our resort, we noticed that almost every "local" drives a motor-bike. I was SHOCKED at the number of babies and children that were passengers on these small motor-bikes, WITHOUT wearing helmets OR being strapped in! So scary. I tried to get a photo of this, but they zipped by us so fast.

Bubble baths in the pool at our resort.

When we arrived at our resort, we were taken back with the graciousness and hospitality of the staff. These people were constantly greeting us with the traditional Thai "head bow". Whatever we needed, they would get it for us... and quickly! The views of the beach and pool from our room were spectacular. I loved watching the sun rise over the water in the morning. I'm so jealous of all the people that live in Phuket that get to see these views every morning!

Chinese Herbal Soup. Very good!

SO much food!

Pad Thai in Thailand!

The pools, lounge area, and the water were breath-taking! I don't think I've ever seen water so clear and blue. One afternoon, AJ and I decided to take a kayak out on the water. Those things are a lot of work! We didn't see any "sea creatures", but being out on the water was very relaxing! In the morning, the water recedes about 150 meters, and then comes back to the shore line in the early afternoon. This makes it so fun to walk out on the sand (where the water would normally be), and find crabs, starfish, and hermit crabs in the early morning. The crabs were too difficult to catch (man those things can book it), but I did get to hold a few starfish.

Since this was our first time being away from Linna after being in Singapore for a month and a half, we decided to "live it up" in Phuket. I got a facial and the most relaxing massage at the Talay Spa at our resort! My massage therapist actually got on the table and over my body to do my massage:) I've never had that happen back home in Minnesota. I loved it because she could put all of her weight into my aching muscles, and it felt AMAZING! She also used these hot herbal compresses all over my body, and they literally melted away any stiff muscle in my body (trust me, I had a lot of those). This massage was unlike any massage I've ever experienced.

We also ate A LOT! Every morning we had a breakfast buffet, where we tried dishes like Chinese Herbal Soup, curried vegetables, and many other delicious breakfast foods. AJ loved their cheesy sauteed spinach, and I couldn't get enough of the chocolate croissants and salad bar. They had kid-friendly food, as well as dishes to satisfy any palate. One evening, we had dinner at Azur, which looks over the beach at our resort. We ate sea bass that was coated in a sea-salt crust, and baked/steamed, then cut open right on front of us! AJ was a huge fan, and I think Linna would have loved that dish too. We also ate river prawns, rock lobster, calamari, and Pad Thai! There was so much food... and LOTS of drinks by the pool too:)

View from our room.

Since we were only in Phuket from Friday to Sunday, we didn't venture outside our resort much. We did go check out the shops across the street, and even ran into a daycare with two of the cutest Thai babies. Those babies made both AJ and I miss Linna:( We did get to see the outside of a Buddhist Temple in Phuket, as well as many road-side food carts and shops on our drive to and from the resort. I wish we had more time to go out and explore, especially when our resort offered complimentary transportation in and out of the city.

Look how far the water recedes. That's a fisherman
out on the water. I wonder what he was catching.

All the prices in Phuket are in baht (their currency). Currently it's about 30 baht to 1 USD. It's kind of scary to get a bar bill that is almost 1000 baht:) For a higher-end resort in Phuket, we expected the prices of things to be much higher than they were. Our room at Radisson Blu was just a over 100 USD per night. You can't beat that, and we were very happy with how far our dollar went at the Radisson Blu in Phuket!

After a nice, relaxing weekend in Phuket, we are both so excited to be home with our baby!