Confessions of an Expat Mom

Confessions of an Expat Mom

…or should I say “mum”.  Five months ago, my family relocated back to Singapore.  It’s been two years since we’ve lived here.  This time around, things are different.  We have a baby.  So I am officially an expat mum.

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It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything on the blog, let alone something relating to Pilates or fitness.  My time for the past five months has been devoted to James, our now eight month old son, and setting up our new life in Singapore.

Yes, I flew 10,000 miles alone with my 3 month old baby.

It all started with a 26 hour journey half way around the world.  Alone, with a three month old baby, I put on a happy face as I entered the first class cabin of Singapore Airlines.  I know, I know, first class seems a bit much.  But it was the deal I cut with my husband; if I fly alone with James, I have to fly in first.  Deep down though, despite the luxurious accommodations, I was terrified.  Terrified to be bringing a baby into first class, spending the entire flight on edge that at any moment this little monster would start screaming.

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James was an angel and slept almost the entire journey.  The flight attendants even set up an entire bed just for him.  Gotta love a cabin that only has two of the eight seats occupied.  Word of advice for mammas traveling on a long haul flight with a baby?  Cash in all of your airline and credit card points for a business or first class seat.

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Landing in Singapore, I finally took that deep breath I had been waiting for since we left the US.  Steve greeted us at amazing Changi Airport and our new life began.

The dreaded move in day.

Our container arrived about three weeks after James and I arrived.  Yes, that meant we were all living out of a suitcase (or 7) in temporary housing for 19 days.  Most of which were without Steve, who was traveling for work.  It was the worst 19 days of my life.  So I will not elaborate.

The day came that I’m sure Steve was dreading; showing me our new house that weeks before I arrived, he had picked out.  Good news is I loved it.  Bad news is I was going to have to manage move in day alone; Steve would be in China.

The truck arrived and as one would hope the team unloaded faster than I could keep up.  One would hope; not me.  I had no idea where anything was going.  So before I could even decide where I wanted the toaster oven that we couldn’t even use due to its American voltage, we had dozens of other appliances stacking up.  The result? A whole house literally dumped into the rooms of our new home.

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Home is where all of our furniture is.

After probably 2 weeks everything was in its place.  Our high rise Tanjong Pagar condo was now beginning to feel like home.  This so far has been the biggest difference between Singapore 1.0 and Singapore 2.0.  (1.0 refers to the first time Steve and I lived in Singapore, 2012 – 2014.  2.0 refers to our current stint).  The first time around we were in a tiny furnished apartment; it felt more like a hotel.  We were both always itching to leave the island and go on an adventure.  Now, I look forward to our weekends home, lounging on our Pottery Barn sofa.  We have the space to host guests, to let James run free, and even a few outdoor patios!

Don’t get me wrong.  One of the major advantages to living in Singapore is the travel we get to experience.  And to have James along with us is something that I am so grateful for.  James has already banked stamps in his passport from Thailand, Vietnam, and Australia, and will soon get some from the Maldives and Indonesia.  After all, this is exactly what being an expat is all about.

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The true confessions of being an expat mom. 

When news first came out that we were moving to Singapore with our new baby, the first question out of everyone’s mouth was “…but your family will be so far away! Do you have any idea what it’s like to not have any support system?”  Well, yes, actually I do.  Living in California, our family was still on the other side of the country.  So what was another ocean, right?

But I will be blunt now; in Singapore we have a live in “helper”.  A good helper can do it all.  She is a maid, a nanny, a dog walker, a cook, a shopper.  I will not hide it; I will be completely honest.  Beth, our helper, is the glue that holds our house together.  I will not lie and say I am the glue.  I do not do it all.  Far from it actually.  In fact, I am a better mother because of Beth.  I am amazed when I look at friends and family back home, and they do do it all.  They are superheroes.  I may be selling myself short, but I really don’t think I could do it.  Not without Beth.

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Since James, I have put my full time career on hold.  You probably have noticed a lack of Pilates and fitness inspired posts, a very slim teaching schedule, and more and more photos of James.  So why the need for Beth?  Well, like I mentioned earlier, to help me be the best mum I can be.  I am happier, healthier and stronger because of the help she gives us.   We can go out with friends, without thinking about a babysitter.  I can workout without feeling guilty.  I can have some alone time to enjoy a long shower.  And I can go out to teach a few classes.  The time I then spend with James (and let’s not get confused or the wrong idea, I am with him most of the day) it is more cherished because I don’t feel like I am being put on the back burner.  I will never be ashamed of admitting I have help.  I never forget how lucky we are to have the opportunity to live in Singapore, where we can have this help.  I also think about how hard it is going to be when we do eventually repatriate back to the US.  Which is why we must stay in Singapore until James can take care of himself…so at 5 years old, right? They are pretty self sufficient by then, aren’t they?

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Adventures with a baby; not so adventurous. 

There are some pretty crazy places to go in this part of the world.  Tree houses in the jungle, beach chalets with no locks on the doors, dusty temples in the equatorial sun, and endless hours snorkeling the world’s best reefs.  Well, we quickly realized after our first trip to Phuket with James, that these trips are few and far between.  When the simple task of washing a bottle becomes a 20 minute endeavor, you think twice about where you want to travel.

Kid club? Check.  Shady beach and pool cabanas that shield you from the sun? Double check.  Overpriced big name resort that purifies its own water? Jackpot!  All things that we would have run away from in the past are now at the top of our list.

The ultimate expat mum adventure? Bringing your helper on your holiday.  Now that sounds like a plan.

There is no place like home.

Every now and then I think about home, and what we are missing, and what James is missing.  He doesn’t get to grow up with his cousins, or his grandparents.  There are no Sunday dinners with all of them.  His only perception right now of them is on a screen.  We don’t get to keep a car seat permanently installed in a car, let alone drive him to soccer practice.  And I do miss that.  I am so grateful for everything we have here in Singapore, especially Beth, and the time that I get to spend with him, not working full time.  But I do look forward to the new experiences we will have as a family back on the homeland.

We will see you this summer!  James and I will be back Stateside on June 30th. We will spend a week out in NY on Long Island with my family, and then a few weeks in Houston, and will finish the trip in Boston in August where we will be reunited with Steve!

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Hola From La Jolla!

Hola From La Jolla!

It is one month since our move from San Francisco to San Diego.   My husband and I decided to get a place for the year in La Jolla right on the ocean.  We thought, we might as well do this right as we try to
FullSizeRender get acclimated and get a better sense of where we ultimately want to buy a home and start a family, and dare I say it? Settle down.  I must say, we picked the absolute perfect place to live.  The Ocean House on Prospect is a new building that overlooks the ocean on the famous Prospect St. in the Village of La Jolla.  We can walk to all the shops and cafes, meet people walking the dog, and most importantly, walk to the beach.  I was told La Jolla is full of retirees, so I was a bit nervous to see what the demographic of our building was going to be like.  Fortunately, many of the residents are just like us; young professionals, most with dogs, transitioning to a new place.  After the first week of meeting everyone, it is clear; we are in our own little “Melrose Place”.  Reality show anyone?

FullSizeRender1I can’t tell you that it is an easy, seamless change.  Southern California really is dramatically different than Northern California.  Sure the scenery is different, it’s warmer by about 20 degrees and the sun is always shinning. But the whole vibe and way of life is different too.  It is more laid back than I could have ever imagined.  Even in fancy La Jolla.  People walk around with no shoes on for starters.  OK, fine, I get it; we have some of the best surf breaks in all of the US and people are crossing the street with board under arm, ready to literally just jump in the water.  But to get out of your car with no shoes on, to then walk down Girard Ave. to get to your yoga class?  Really?  Not even flip flops?  OK, that little bit of the Northern Cali / New Englander in me may stay forever.  I’m OK with that. It’s just another nuance that makes this place unique.

Now, in terms of my world of fitness and Pilates.  Just as you would imagine, people here are very much into fitness and health and most importantly, looking good.  With that said, there are small boutique studios and gyms on every block, sometimes multiple on a block.  I can’t keep up with them all.  I’ve tried several, not just to potentially teach at, but to work out at myself, and to be 100% honest, none have blown me away.  It is the weirdest phenomenon.  More on that to come in a future post.

With hundreds of fitness studios around, naturally there also has to be juice bars and cafes.  And that there are.  Juice, acai bowls, smoothies, super foods and boosters oh my!  I love it.  I can go to a different juice bar every day.  So far, and I do have a lot of testing to do, but the best acai bowl comes from Nekter Juice Bar.  The best smoothie comes from Juice Crafters.  Again, another blog post with my absolute winners to come soon when I get through them all.

Most people come to La Jolla to visit the famous La Jolla Cove and see the sea lions.  It is a daily walk for
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FullSizeRender3Beaches.  Oh, the beaches.  So many beaches.  My happy place.  I have realized that I can never live some place landlocked.  It has a calming power, like nothing else.  After contemplating getting the ocean view or street view apartment, we decided to splurge the extra money every month to see the ocean 24/7.  Best decision ever.  Especially because when we do buy a house, the chances of us having an ocean view are slim.  My favorite part is that when I am in the kitchen preparing dinner or washing dishes, I look up and see the ocean.  I also strategically put our big mirror on a wall in our bedroom so that when I am getting ready, I look in it and see the ocean behind me.  So, back to the beaches.  My favorite beach so far, is the Del Mar Dog Beach.  Yes, of course it is because Paya can come with us.  It doesn’t feel right going to the beach without her.  Not only is the Del Mar Beach my favorite because of the abundance of dogs, but because the ocean is calm enough on this beach to swim and not get plummeted by crashing waves.  They also host the annual Dog Surf Competition.  Paya is in full training mode.

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I have to pinch myself when I remember that I live here and am starting a life here.  Next year, Equinox will be opening their first club in San Diego where I have accepted my position again as Pilates Coordinator.  Nothing like Equinox exists down here, and we are going to blow San Diego away.  I cannot wait to get back into the swing of teaching and build up my business, creating a name for myself in the Southern California community.

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Moving…It’s Just Our Thing

Moving…It’s Just Our Thing

We start our love story in Boston in 2011.  Then we move to Singapore for 2 years in 2012, which people thought was absolutely crazy.  Crazy, maybe, but one of the best things I’ve ever done.  Then, in 2014, we head back to the motherland to start our life, and possibly a family.  We decide on San Francisco.  This was it; we are going to build our new life in this crazy, amazing city by the bay.  Steve starts his job at one of the oldest brand consultancies, and is eager to climb the strategist ladder.  I go back to Equinox, because it feels comfortable, having worked there in Boston, and is then unexpectedly given the Coordinator position, which is quite the opposite of comfortable.  The first few months in my new role are tough and I come home every night wanting to demote myself back to Pilates Instructor.  But by December I am on a roll, and getting the hang of running the Pilates studio at Equinox.

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After 3 short months, I have built the following at Equinox I have always wanted.  I have a Pilates team that continues to amaze and impress me, to this day, and have made friendships that will last.  My group fitness classes are packed, and I am teaching in front of 50 plus people, all excited to come back for the next class.  I love my job, and I would not change anything about it.

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Last month, only one year after arriving in our “new home” Steve tells me he received a job offer from an advertising agency, wanting him to step in as the strategy director.  I am so happy for him; this is where he had wanted to get to since the day he started this career around the world in Singapore.  Unfortunately, this promotion does not come at his current gig.  Nope, it is for a firm down in San Diego.  Here we go.

The Lampert’s are moving again.  To be honest, I never imagined myself even wanting to live in San Diego.  Southern California, yes.  Secretly I have always wanted to be a SoCal girl.  But maybe Santa Barbara or LA.  I have never even been to San Diego.  After a bit of real estate research, it is a done deal.  I thought the Internet was broken when my results came up after putting in our search parameters.  More than one bedroom and bath, a full stand alone house, a garage, washer and dryer.  It is like real life.  Over the past year I have become so jaded to what is normal.  San Francisco, turns out, is not at all sustainable if you want to start a family, and this opportunity in front of us helped us to realize this. I love our home in Russian Hill; after just a year, it really does feel like home.  It’s absolutely perfect; for just us, and Paya.  But I am not okay with putting a potential child in our walk in closet turned nursery.  First, Steve is not ready to give up his closet, and second, I want more.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

LaJolla

After a weekend trip to San Diego to check it out (although this wouldn’t be my first rodeo….I moved to SF without ever stepping foot here), we find a great place to live in La Jolla, and decided to make this happen.  On August 28th, 2015, we will be moving down south.

San Francisco will forever hold a special place in my heart.  I fell in love with this city, and with all of our friends and my clients and students.  I am excited to start yet another journey, and who knows, this could be our forever home.  And I am so excited to check in with you in another year to share stories of a new place, new friends, new job, maybe new family members??

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Thank you to everyone in SF who have made our time here so memorable.