Monday, February 27, 2017

Zoo-topia

For parents of young kids, the zoo is usually a popular venue for outings. For us, we were Friends of the Zoo, so we were frequent visitors. Then for some reason, when our kids grow up, the zoo shifts away from our radar. It really is a pity, since animal watching is hardly an activity just for children.

Recently, Andre suddenly had a hankering to visit the zoo. We tried to remember when it was we last visited the zoo and figured it must have been at least 8 years ago. Spurred by his enthusiasm, we decided to make a day trip to the far north of the island. Luckily, we had a 1-for-1 coupon for tickets. Honestly, we haven't been there for so long, I had no idea that zoo tickets had become that costly!

Lesley-Anne brought along her camera and tested out her wildlife photography skills.

Prowling cheetahs (behind glass)
Giraffe
Tapir
Hungry otters
It was a little poignant to see Inuka, the 26-year-old polar bear, all alone, after his mother, Sheba, died in 2012. Polar bears in the wild tend to live only up to 10 years old, so Inuka is quite a senior citizen by now. I understand that the zoo will no longer take in any more animals from the Arctic due to concerns raised by animal welfare groups, so do go see Inuka while you still can.

Inuka (behind glass)
Zebras
Croc
The Fragile Forest section is particularly beautiful. The animals are free-roaming so you can see them up close.

Flying fox
"I don't wanna move it, move it. Lemur alone."
Parrots
This monkey was sitting on a stump with her baby, happily minding her own business and letting Lesley-Anne take her photo, when a squirrel jumped right on top of her. Both the photographer and subject were startled and the monkey let out an indignant screech. I guess squirrels are the pesky young brothers in the animal kingdom!

Caterpillar
Mr Toad
Baby meerkat: "I wasn't going to do it, mum! Really!"
Ferret
After lunch, it started pouring at the zoo. We saw this poor pelican at the seal enclosure, totally drenched and shivering.

"Stand guard, they said. Riiight."
Hamadryas baboons
Tree kangaroo
White tiger

This is not a paid post, so it's my true opinion. If you're looking for a fun and meaningful venue for a family outing, we highly recommend the zoo. No matter what ages your kids are, it really is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. Admission fee: $33 (adult), $22 (children aged 3 to 12), $15 (senior citizens). Get 25% discount if you buy tickets online.




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.

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