Monday, February 13, 2017

When the son shines

Ever since the end of Andre's 'O' levels and with Lesley-Anne away at Yale-NUS, I've been spending a lot more time with Andre. Since he will be enrolling in a polytechnic, he's officially on holiday till mid April. Shiok!

Personality-wise, I have a lot more in common with Lesley-Anne. We share many interests (we write books together, for Pete's sake!) and we interact on a similar wavelength intellectually. Andre, on the other hand, is sometimes quite alien to me. He loves sports, never over-thinks and seldom worries about what will come next. I once asked my kids, "I sometimes get backaches when I'm stressed. Do you?"

Lesley-Anne replied, "No, I don't get backaches when I'm stressed." while Andre's reply was, "No, I don't get stressed." 😳

In our family pictures, Andre is the one who features the most often because he's the most sporting. He doesn't mind appearing silly and he just makes us laugh.



Andre's happy-go-lucky nature is completely foreign to naturally anxious me but I realise that's precisely why it's so easy to be around him. Despite our differences, or maybe because of them, hanging out with him is very relaxing and I'm loving it.

Sometimes, we lounge about doing absolutely nothing. Other times, we indulge in the one common activity we love - eating!


Nom, nom, nom.

Lounge, eat...until guilt propels me to say we have to get off our butts. Then we attempt to get some exercise. Either going for a walk...

or playing table tennis, which is a challenge for me, with my almost iconic lack of hand-eye coordination.


Recently, Kenneth bought Andre a mini table tennis table from Decathlon. It's fun because you can play it anywhere, even in the comfort of your own room. However, it's not much of a workout because the table is so small you can even play it sitting down (see how small it is in comparison to the paddles?)

So Andre made up this rule: whoever loses a point has to do the twist or jumping jacks or simply jiggle about for 5 seconds. This plus the giggling that follows helps us break a sweat and shed calories (hopefully).


Part of the reason why it's great to hang out with Andre is that he's game for most things. I've scored tickets to the Coldplay concert in April and we'll be making it a mother-son evening, I can't wait. His enthusiasm is infectious and makes each experience fun. He's also the most fun to be with on holidays.

But fun-loving is not the only attribute Andre exhibits. Whenever we go out with my 86-year-old mil, Andre is the one who holds her arm and walks with her. When she came down with a bout of gastric flu and was vomiting, he was the one who stayed by her bedside, patiently holding her puke bag and rubbing her back. I was so impressed, I told him after that, "That's it. When I'm old, I'm so staying with you."

If nothing, we raised a son with a good heart. That's better than all the fun in the world.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The rooster beckons

Hope everyone had a good CNY break! For us, Chinese New Year is the time where we visit relatives that we see only once a year.

Sometimes, this is bittersweet, especially when visiting the elderly. One of my aunts is suffering from dementia and can no longer recognise us. Over the years, the number of relatives to visit has slowly diminished, as some of them pass on. A grim reminder to not take our loved ones for granted.

Nevertheless, CNY is a time for much celebration - of family, most of all.

Kids continuing the tradition of serving tea to their elders.
Extended family
And of course, food! This year, since Andre has extended holidays, he learned how to make a few traditional CNY dishes from his grandma, including ngoh hiong. I dream of the day when he can cook us a meal!


We had a delectable feast, as always.



From our family to yours, have a very happy and fruitful Year of the Rooster! 🐓🐓




Sunday, January 15, 2017

'O' level results and other milestones

Last Wednesday was the release of the 'O' level results. It shouldn't have been nerve-wrecking for Andre, since he'd already been accepted for early admission to the polytechnic course of his choice. All he needed to do was earn 26 points for his L1R4, which shouldn't have been a problem.

Yet, on Tuesday, he was a bundle of nerves. He moped around the house, mournfully singing Les Miserables' "One Day More", and repeatedly asked, "What if I don't make the minimum cut-off?" until I started having doubts myself. I began to wonder what rubbish he'd written during the exams to warrant this level of fretting. This is a boy whose self-assessment of how he'd done in exams holds a spotty record, to say the least. There had been times when he's come home to say the exam was "easy" only to be confronted later by a failing grade. This would inevitably lead me to shriek, "I thought you said it was easy! What happened?", to which he would look baffled and say "I don't know!"

He forbade me from going to school with him and said he would text me the results. So I waited anxiously and every time the phone beeped, I jumped. After a heart-pounded wait, I received a text from him. 11 points!!

This was a way better result than any of us could have hoped for and we were ecstatic. To put Andre's results in context, during his four years of secondary school, there have been exams where he had failed more subjects than he'd passed. In sec3, I wasn't sure he was even going to be promoted to the next level. We were particularly surprised by his B3 grade for A. Math, since he'd consistently flunked this subject in school. He had aimed for 16 points for the 'O' levels but surpassed that by a mile. The early admission turned out to be quite unnecessary after all. With this score, he can almost have his pick of courses at the polytechnic. What a wonderful boost to his confidence.

That's a nice close to Andre's secondary school journey and the last bit has been an especially eventful one. I'd shared in an earlier post how his school awarded him the Outstanding Leadership Award for his contributions in badminton, and how his teachers wrote him glowing testimonials. As it turned out, the school also chose him for another school award: Most Valuable Player...


as well as the Eagles Award (under Edusave), for leadership, service and achievements in CCA. The award ceremony was held yesterday.


I've always believed that God takes extra care to look after the sparrows and that's Andre - one big sparrow. As a student, he might not be considered the most "accomplished" in the traditional academic sense, but I've come to realise that he has made his mark in his own funny and affable way, and always on his own terms. My sparrow is all grown up and I'm so very proud of him. 💖

Prom night



Monday, January 9, 2017

Hong Kong revisited

Happy New Year! Bucking the trend, we were on holiday last week, during the first week of January, instead of December. We were in Hong Kong for an eat-sleep break - a great way to recharge before starting 2017!

Will write a few posts on my Travel Blog on where we ate and stayed. The first post is already up, so if you're looking for foodie ideas for Hong Kong, do check it out!

Meanwhile, here are just a few sneak peaks of food shots to tempt your tastebuds 😋

 


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Art, science (and math) in full glory

Every year-end school hols, we try to make an excursion to either a museum or an attraction of interest. This year, we made a trip down to the Art Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands for three ongoing exhibitions - Journey to Infinity: Escher's World of Wonder, NASA - A Human Adventure, and Future World.

The Escher exhibition was the one we were really keen on. In case you don't know, M.C. Escher was an artist who combined mathematical concepts in his art, playing with perspective and architecture. One of his most well-known contributions was the artistic interpretation of tessellations to a completely new level. In Singapore, primary school kids still learn about tessellations today.

This was one of his earlier works on tessellations...

Sky and Water 1
which gradually became more complex.

Reptiles
Angels or demons?
Circle Limit IV
From 1954, Escher began working on optical illusions and concepts of infinity, which resulted in some pretty captivating and today, iconic artworks. 

Relativity
Ascending and Descending
All four of us loved the Escher exhibition, which probably says something about how OCD we are as a family 😆

As an undergraduate, I chanced upon a book of Escher's artworks and was immediately hooked. The geometry and poetry of his lines spoke to me so much that I attempted to recreate a colour version of one of his works. This was one of his early woodcuts during the period when he was consumed by the architecture of buildings:

Inside St Peter's
My not-quite-exact replica in coloured pencil.

 
Our main purpose was to visit the Escher exhibition but since there was a special all-access ticket to all three ongoing exhibitions, we decided to cover 'em all.

The NASA exhibition is good for kids and adults interested in all-things space. You get to see models of different space shuttles...

Saturn V
and gawk at space food...

 and space toilets.


You can also pay $6 to get a ride on G-Force - Astronaut Trainer Ride. It's a contraption that tilts you back and forth and spins you around. We watched for a bit to see if anyone came out of the ride walking sideways or throwing up. Nope, nobody did!

Finally, there's the Future World exhibition. In my opinion, this exhibition is great but more for younger kids (primary school and below). It takes interactive art and play to a whole new level. For example, you can draw your own a sea creature, scan it in a machine and see it swim on the digital wall. What's amazing is that the picture doesn't come out static - it moves and squirms like real sea creatures.


Something around every corner to enthrall the little ones.

The Crystal Universe with 4D technology and a heckuva lot of LED lights was quite spectacular.


I know this post might come a little late since it's nearing the end of the school hols (parents say "yay!" kids say "boo!"). However, the exhibitions are still on so you might want to book one of the upcoming weekends to take your kids.

Future World is on till 8 Jan, Escher exhibition till 26 Feb and NASA exhibition till 19 March. Special all-access pass to all three exhibitions available.

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's the most wonderful time of the year

December leading up to the Christmas season is always my favourite time of the year, and I'm sure I'm not alone. The kids are off from school, work usually slows down as people clear their leave and go on holidays. As if in cahoots, the weather cooperates, sending showers of blessings that cause temperatures and tempers to mellow. One of my favourite sounds in the world is the fall of raindrops on the roof. It reminds me of God's protection against the storm and makes me feel safe.


This year especially, I welcomed the winding down period because 2016 was such a hectic year for our family. Lesley-Anne started university, Kenneth embarked on a new job, and Andre completed his 'O' levels. Here he is happily clearing out his mountain of school and assessment books.


Lesley-Anne and I launched the new Danger Dan and Gadget Girl series, and on top of that, my business boomed, so much so that I could barely keep up.

I'm not complaining though - all these are blessings for which I'm deeply grateful. But up till last Monday, Lesley-Anne and I were still working on book-related stuff. We conducted our very last school talk of the year, and finished up the manuscript for a new Danger Dan adventure. So it was such a tremendous feeling of relief when that was done.

The very next day, we went shopping! Just some background, Lesley-Anne, my sister and I all hate shopping for clothes. Really and truly. It's such a bothersome chore and it seems like something is always not right - either the fit, the colour or the price (that's the reason I don't like shopping online for clothes. What looks good on the screen too often doesn't look good in person). So once every year in December, the three of us make a pact to dedicate a day for clothes shopping so that we're more or less set for the year (and since we'd be Christmas shopping too, that's two birds with one stone!)

This year, Andre unwittingly decided to join us gals, lured by the promise of brunch and tea. It probably started dawning on him that he'd gotten more than he'd bargained for when we spent a prolonged period at Topshop.


Six hours later, he declared the shopping trip more tiring than the 20km night walk he went on at badminton camp.
 

I have a funny feeling he won't be joining us next year 😆.

As for me, I'm a happy camper. All my shopping's done! Now all that's left to do is to enjoy the rest of the holidays, feast and be merry.

A very blessed Christmas to all of you, my fabulous readers! May you experience the joy and peace of the season, and bask in Christ's love, always.



Monday, December 5, 2016

My other badminton player

For a long time, sports was never Lesley-Anne's "thing". That is, until she went to JC and joined the Modern Dance CCA. Dance is siong, to put it mildly. Thanks to the numerous practice sessions which include intensive PT, by the end of JC, Lesley-Anne was a compact little package of muscle (she could hold her own arm wrestling Andre). She even managed to overcome her dislike for running and clinched a gold for her NAPFA test in JC2.

When she entered Yale-NUS, she continued to seek out Dance CCAs, but she decided to also try out for a sport. That's one of the great pluses of university life - you're encouraged to join as many CCAs as you like, without having to commit to just one (and without the fear of losing points if you drop one).

She tried out for badminton as that's one of the few sports she enjoys. She occasionally plays with Andre during the holidays, for fun. She thought it would be a great way to learn how to play the game properly, as Yale-NUS engages a professional coach for its training sessions.

What she didn't realise was that since Yale-NUS has a very small enrolment, its pool of athletes is tiny. Hence, some sports have difficulty attracting members, especially female athletes. So when Lesley-Anne signed up for badminton, the CCA happily welcomed her. Then two weeks into Yale-NUS and just four basic training sessions later, she found out, to her horror, that not only did she make the girls' school team, she was expected to represent Yale-NUS in the upcoming NUS Inter-Faculty Games!

Got official t-shirt and everything, don't play play! When she told us, in a panic, we didn't know whether to send congratulations or condolences. It was just so funny. With total confidence in her abilities, I told her, "Err...just try to win a few points, ok?"

It became even more unreal when she said she was being fielded as a singles player. This was pure strategy - Yale-NUS knew it didn't stand a chance playing against some of the other more formidable teams, so it placed all its bets on its doubles and assigned the rookies to singles to get thrashed for experience.

But as we all know, life is often stranger than fiction. It turned out that at the very first meetup, the opposing team had the exact same strategy of assigning the sacrificial lambs to the last singles match. Lesley-Anne's opponent was as petite and inexperienced as she was and upon discovering this, Lesley-Anne proceeded to desperately "anyhow serve" (her own words) and lob as high as she could. Final score: 21-17, 21-8! She didn't just win her match, hers was the deciding match (last singles in a set of five). WAHHH! Rookie win! Honestly, when we heard the news, we 😂😂. Except Andre who was slightly indignant. "Who on earth wins their very first competition match??" Lesley-Anne, apparently.

Since that very eventful baptism by fire, Lesley-Anne has been enjoying her twice-weekly badminton sessions tremendously. Then in end October, Yale-NUS organised an overseas athletics trip, where quite a few sports CCAs like badminton, tchoukball, floorball and basketball were given the opportunity to each send a team to Taiwan to play friendly matches with Taiwan universities.

Lo and behold, Lesley-Anne was selected to go! It was a real surprise since she's so new to the game and there are stronger players on the team. We're guessing that she was chosen because of her commitment (she diligently attends every single training session).


So off to Taiwan she went for four days and had a marvelous time. The team of eight players (four boys, four girls) had the opportunity to play against three different Taiwan universities and even though their opponents were way better than they were, it was a priceless experience.

Funny fact: Yale-NUS is known for its international mix and for some reason, the Taiwanese thought Lesley-Anne was Korean. One group of students called out to her, "Anyoung haseyo!" 😝

Lesley-Anne has been very fortunate. I can safely say that few other universities would have given such a golden opportunity to a newbie. And for me, I'm just pretty stoked to be able to say that both my kids are on badminton school teams!


Monday, November 21, 2016

Coming into her own at the Singapore Writers Festival

Another Singapore Writers Festival has come and gone, and this year, Lesley-Anne was the participant from this family, not me.

She was invited to speak at two panels. The first, Singapore Through Their Eyes, which focused on writing about local characters set in local contexts.

The second was targeted at teens: Write This Way,  where four teens shared their experiences and advice for writing.

After the second session, some friends and fans approached Lesley-Anne for autographs and advice.


She has received quite a lot of publicity for this year's SWF.

An SG Now Feature: "8 Singaporean writers you should know about"

As one of the writers interviewed for a Today newspaper article: "Words by Women".


And a full feature interview and writeup on youth.sg. 

Funnily enough, it's not the writing or speaking that she's most daunted by - it's the publicity. Over dinner before her first SWF session, I asked her how her week has been. She looked cross and said "bad". I thought maybe she didn't do well in some essay or was swamped by work. Turns out, someone in Yale-NUS had found out about her Today newspaper feature and spread the word, so random strangers had been stopping her and asking her about her books. What a nightmare for Ms Anti-Social.

Watching Lesley-Anne this SWF, it was evident to me how much she has developed as a writer and speaker. Her mindset on writing has definitely expanded, as demonstrated in her quote in the Today article: 
“You (as an artist) are not just there to showcase how well you can do your craft, you have to use your craft for something ... More than just providing entertainment, you are supposed to start a discussion of neglected topics in society.”

Having participated at quite a number of official events now, her confidence and eloquence have grown. Even among adults, she holds her own. In fact, some of the things she was talking about made me mutter, " Aiyoh, so cheem".

Nevertheless, it makes me proud to see her come this far. It especially warms my heart to see her talk to teens and kids about her passion. To be able to possibly make a difference in someone's life, that's something special right there and I'm glad to be part of her journey.

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