[Review]: Grow Old With Me family photography

We – the man and I – are photography snobs.

For our wedding, we chose to get a cheap wedding dress and a regular tailored suit for him because we didn’t think our outfits were worth splurging on.

Instead, we spent on photography. After all, a photo is forever(-ish), a dress is not. We (okay, I) scoured the internet for hours and hours, and spoke to a few photographers before we found the right guy. And we never, ever regretted our choice of priority.

Family photo shoot with Grow Old With Me

Since then, we have done a couple of family shoots and they have all been with photographers whom we knew and trusted. So when Gideon from Grow Old With Me wrote to ask if he could do a shoot with us, I hesitated. Believe me when I say that I am picky – I don’t do studio shoots with contorted bodies and a shiny smile. And honestly, any review opportunity that comes my way has to pass my “is this something I would really use” test.

I checked out his site and realised that, hey, this guy is pretty legit. His style – beautiful natural light, sweet moments captured as a “fly on the wall” – was in sync with ours and I decided to give it a shot (unintended pun but, PUN!).

Family photo shoot with Grow Old With Me

On the evening of the shoot, it rained cats and dogs. GAH. Seriously, it was like our wedding all over again. We met up with Gideon and discussed our options, he suggested waiting it out and we ended up sitting at Satay by the Bay, chatting. Turns out that he loves Lego like we do, and he actually stays pretty near us! The rain was a blessing in disguise because it meant that he could get to know us, and vice versa, and we were able to get comfortable with one another.

When the rain lightened to a drizzle after almost an hour (!), we proceeded with the shoot. Gideon was great at engaging the boys, he knew what to say and do to get them to react. For instance, he told them that we were going to play a game and you could literally see their eyes light up.

Family photo shoot with Grow Old With Me

For that hour, we played games and laughed and hugged and kissed. The littles had so much fun, there was so much joy. And that was encapsulated in the series of photos that Gideon handed to us. The photos show the personalities of my babies, and how they love to chortle with glee. The entire set resonated with love and happiness – I am sure you can see it!

Family photo shoot with Grow Old With Me

Family photo shoot with Grow Old With Me

ESPECIALLY FOR BUBSICLES READERS
Grow Old with Me is currently running a Mothers’ Day promotion. For $288, you can a 30-minute portrait shoot, 10 high-resolution images and a unique 300mm x 210mm OnStone medium frame with gift box. If you tell them that Yann sent you their way, they will give you an additional 10% discount on top of the promo price!

Go check out their Instagram and Facebook pages to see their lovely, lovely work.

Family photo shoot with Grow Old With Me

A little development

I am a full-time working mother with two littles and I am currently working on my part-time Masters degree.

I say this not because I want you to heap accolades on me on being a super mum (because I am not, I am just an ordinary mum) but to let you know that these are the hats that I am juggling. And yes, these are also the choices that I made consciously and deliberately.

The notion of pursuing my Masters came last year. I will leave the origins of this thought for another post on another day but as the seed of the idea grew and grew, I decided that it had to be done. It took a while to materialise because I was plagued by so many doubts and considerations.

How would I juggle everything?
Am I going to kill myself, especially when the man is away on yet another long business trip?
Am I clever enough to do the Masters?
Will I be able to spend enough quality time with my boys?
Will this compromise my health?
How will I be able to run the household efficiently?

Truth is, I still don’t have the answers. But I realised that the more I weighed the pros and cons, the less likely I am to act. And so I jumped in, fully-clothed, and mooted the idea to my husband and my superiors at work.

I would have said that luckily for me, my boss pushed for this opportunity to happen. But to attribute it solely to luck would be to negate my own efforts. I have worked very hard over the past five years and my performance has been a key factor in this coming to life. Plus, I knew what I wanted and I asked for exactly what I wanted. (That, and a fantastic boss, as well, which I am lucky to have.)

One month in and I can honestly tell you that it’s tough. I don’t have it all. I am constantly exhausted from sleeping at 1am every night. Most days, I forget to read my boys’ comm books from school and they have had to go to school without a photo or a leaf for their class activities. I sometimes forgo putting them to bed because I have to work on assignments or attend my virtual classes. My readings are usually done in bursts and spurts because I have to attend to somebody or I fall asleep. I get relief from my helper, who ensures that the chores are done and my house is neat and clean. My mother pops by occasionally to make dinner for us.

I don’t do it all by myself. I am not a super mum. And I willingly admit to having help because I don’t believe that makes me a lesser woman or a lesser mum.

But it’s also been great in so many ways. I got to travel to Europe to attend classes. Being an unsociable and awkward introvert, I stepped out of my comfort zone and met new people from all over the world. It’s been so, so intellectually stimulating to be driven by the pursuit of academic (and professional) knowledge again.

This opportunity has allowed my husband to step up his game and be well and truly an equal partner in parenting. Not that he wasn’t pulling his weight previously, but I think he now feels a stronger sense of responsibility to ensure that I am not overly taxed (I am still his soft spot after all these years, heh heh!).

More importantly, I have started prioritising me. We have had a spate of poor health over the past year and I know that to run this marathon, I have to be in good shape. So I have started exercising regularly again (at least three times a week, I hope!), just to ensure that the engines are well oiled and running efficiently. My life is a little more structured than before.

Prioritising me also meant that I could squeeze in a little trip to Paris after my week of lessons was done. I had absolutely zero qualms in leaving my children to the care of their father – ZERO. Part of it is because I know that they would all be fine without me and he is more than capable to be a solo parent (he’s their father, he ought to be capable). The other part, of course, is that I have been solo-parenting quite a bit so it’s time mama has a break!

So talk to me about how well I juggle everything in a year’s time. Meanwhile, I will be quietly slogging away, typing those assignments late into the night. Wish me luck!

Paris

Review: Little Artists for Virtual Reality

Earlier this year, we brought the boys to check out the Avengers STATION exhibition at the Singapore Science Centre. While we weren’t particularly enamored by the exhibition itself, the boys did fall in love with the virtual reality exhibition within the Science Centre. They put on the glasses and were immediately transported to a fascinating world of roller coaster. And we had so much fun that I decided to purchase a pair of Discovery VR glasses – which completely sucked because the mechanism that allowed us to adjust the width of the lenses was spoilt!

When the opportunity to try out the two-hour “Little Artists for Virtual Reality” workshop, conducted by Presence Pictures in PIXEL Labs@NLB, came, I jumped. I figured that it was a great way to combine two of Aidan’s interests: art and VR.

Essentially, this programme is targeted at kids aged four to seven. The kids are first taught about perspective – foreground, background etc. – and then encouraged to design and decorate in a VR template on paper. They get to draw and colour, and think about where and how to meaningfully place their objects/characters. This hand-drawn artwork will eventually form their very own virtual world.
Once they are done with their handiwork, the facilitators from Presence Pictures will then use their proprietary VR software to publish it into the VR form.

Okay look, I am not somebody who excelled in Physics so that’s as best an explanation as it gets.

Aidan was thoroughly excited by the process because he already had an idea of what VR is all about. He started showing an interest in art recently and when I explained that he would be able to design his own VR world, he was even more thrilled.

We spent some time with the creative process: first, he had to think about what characters or objects he wanted to inhabit this VR world of his. Then, he was encouraged to sketch them out. Once that was done, he incorporated his characters onto the template provided. Subsequently, he had to fill his world with colours using the pencils provided and embellish it with the stickers provided.

When he completed designing his world, Edmund, one of the facilitators (and the company’s CEO!), took a photo of it using the app on the iPhone and it was immediately projected onto the screen. Aidan was super chuffed to see his work up on display. And then finally, he strapped on the oculus lens and saw his own world in VR form. He could not stop smiling!

What I loved about the workshop was that the facilitators Edmund and Eunice were extremely patient with him. My son can be easily distracted but they managed to coax him through the process, step by step, until it was completed. Eunice also allowed him imagination in portraying his virtual world, telling him to go with whatever colours he had in mind and not be limited to the norm (ie. His sky could be purple, if he liked).

Also, as someone who lacks basic spatial sense (my husband will testify to it), I was impressed that this workshop allowed my five-year-old to think in 3D space. He was given free rein to design his world and the immediate outcome of seeing his work come to life in front of his eyes was most impressive.

Eunice also explained to me that the company runs a longer bootcamp version of the workshop, which I am highly tempted to sign Aidan up for. I think it’s a great, experiential way for kids to learn about virtual reality and spatiality. He’s already an avid Lego builder and this would definitely enhance his ability to see things in 3D.

If you are keen to check out the “Little Artists for Virtual Reality” workshop, it is part of Tech Saturday (Upsized!) 2017, the tech carnival organised by IMDA. Admission is free and so are the workshops! There are many techie workshops (or what Tech Saturday calls “worksheds”) available, ranging from coding to robotics Lego, that cater to different age groups from 7 to 50 and above. There are also Tinker Spaces, which allow you a hands-on experience with 3D printing, VR and robotics, as well as purchase your own electronics project home and DIY a mood lamp, Interactive Showcases which demonstrate the convergence of technology and media projects, as well as activities that you can enjoy with your family like flying a drone or have a first person view on the buggy car.

(I would love to sign Aidan up for the coding one, except he is too young for it. And I would love to attend the transmedia disruptive storytelling techniques one myself.)

So if you have nothing on that weekend, why not check out Tech Saturday? Do note that you have to sign up for the workshops in advance though.

What: Tech Saturday (Upsized!) 2017
When: April 29 to 30
Where: Hall C, Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Level 1
Admission: Free!

We were invited to participate in the “Little Artists for Virtual Reality” workshop but all opinions are my own! Kiddo really liked it – I am definitely considering signing him up for the longer programme.

A hug will make things right

I had a really rough day at work yesterday. The day was mostly spent trying to contain the wildfire that spread with a mistake that I had made, as well as cleaning up the mess made by others. On top of that, the unpredictable weather caused my allergic rhinitis to flare up and I was having problems breathing.

Hah. So much for taking a deep breath and calming down when you can’t even breathe. *snort*

Anyway, by the time I picked up my littles, I was in a terrible mood. I was ready to be a Monster Mum and yell terrible things at them if they hadn’t cooperated. When Zac refused to leave the school because he wanted to watch his friends dance (!!!), I was all ready to blow my top. I grabbed him, swiped his bag and shoes from the floor (while holding on to that little bugger, yes!) and was all ready to Y.E.L.L.

But, I didn’t. Because I was too exhausted and also because I thought, I have missed them so much and is this how I want to start my evening with them?

Instead, I talked. I am very good at talking. So I did. I said, look guys, I had a really bad day at work and I am very tired. Mummy has been working very hard today because I made a mistake, can you please help me?

Immediately, Aidan hugged me and said he would go home and draw a present for me. Zac leaned his head on my shoulder and said, “Sorry mummy. Don’t be sad, okay? I kiss you!” And then he proceeded to give me a huge kiss on my lips. And then he did it again.

When we got home, I had to make several phone calls for work. As I was talking, Aidan ran in and gestured to a piece of paper in his hand. The boy had really drawn me a picture! He produced it with a flourish, wordlessly, and ran out when I smiled. And when Zac came into the room, he shushed his little brother and told him to be quiet because mummy was on the phone.

And that’s when I knew that being honest with my boys, as little as they are, is a good thing. I have always wanted to shield them from my weary adult world, wanted them to steer clear from the problems that I face. I don’t usually talk about work to them.

In reality, I have been doing it all wrong. I should be sharing more about my day with them, telling them about my joys and my lows. They may not necessarily understand the context but it helps to build their sense of empathy. It also helps them to see that life isn’t pretty all the time, and that we face problems all the time. Hopefully, if I involve them in the process, I am showing them that the most important thing about problems is in how we approach and solve them (this is honestly a WIP for me even at 36! I react so quickly and so emotionally, it takes a while before I start seeing the logical steps to reaching a (re)solution).

Thank you, my littles. Thank you for teaching mama a lesson and for making me feel so much better about myself.

Bringing up bébé – the Singaporean way

I don’t know about you but the arrival of my first child was a huge shock to my system.

After that long struggle with infertility, after the many treatments and procedures, we were all ready for our baby boy to join us. Well, we were as ready as one could be – afterall, I don’t really think that anyone can say that they are well and truly prepared to be parents.

And so, the shock. There was resentment, sadness, stress, frustration. There were many, many moments when I burst into tears and sank to the floor of my baby’s room.

Part of it was the lack of sleep, for sure. Exclusively breastfeeding my child meant that I had to sleep in three-hourly chunks. My entire life was broken down into three-hourly chunks. Add to the fact that anxiety over being a first-time mother – am I producing milk? Is he latching properly? Did he drink enough? Are there enough wet diapers? – made me sleep poorly. Nap when baby naps? Hah! (He didn’t nap much.)

Then, there was the sudden realisation that this mewling, helpless, tiny being was entirely dependent on me for survival. What if I didn’t know what I was doing? If he wasn’t sleeping (my first-born hated sleep with a vengeance – even as a newborn!), was his development ruined? Why was he crying? How can I make him stop?

In the days and the months of his life early on, it was just me and him alone in the house. I had no help, my mother was preoccupied with my nephew and we hadn’t had a helper yet. And so, I had to take on the roles of mother and wife and housekeeper all by myself.

That made me miserable. I was struggling to get used to caring for an infant and trying to get everything else done at the same time. Perhaps it was postpartum depression, I wouldn’t know. I had no idea, nobody ever told me that I would feel this way. I had assumed that once the baby was here, I would be glowing with maternal love and motherhood would come naturally to me.

It took me more than 10 weeks before I emerged from the cobwebs.

Thankfully, that gave me enough time to enjoy my newborn before I went back to work. And in that respect, I was really grateful that I had 16 weeks of maternity leave. Those 16 weeks were not only to help me recover from the physical aspect of the birth, they were necessary for my mental and emotional health. I simply cannot fathom how I would have been like if I had to go back to work a month or two or even three after the birth. My anxiety levels would have been through the roof, and don’t even get me started on the mum guilt.

Is 16 weeks enough? To be perfectly honest, I think six months would have been ideal. At four months, my babies were still itty bitty and dependent solely on my breast milk for sustenance so I felt so stressed at work, trying to find time (and space) to express. But then again, even the USA does not even mandate paid maternity leave – 16 weeks is great compared to that.

When I went back to work, I was lucky enough to have both sides of the family pitch in to help with caregiving. And when my son turned 28 months – and had a baby brother by then – we enrolled him in the childcare centre at my workplace. We chose to do so because, honestly, we decided that it was better than having our littles stay home with grandma and do nothing. They can pick up social, verbal and academic skills by being in school – and we have not had an ounce of regret since then.

It was a no-brainer: the school’s proximity ensured convenience in dropping him off and picking him up, and the costs were really reasonable. In addition to the basic $300 childcare subsidy that we receive from the government, we were also eligible for an employee subsidy.

This meant that we weren’t working just to earn enough to pay childcare fees! Plus – and that is a big PLUS – we were able to top up our boys’ Child Development Accounts after we had received the Baby Bonus ($6,000 during our time, it’s apparently $8,000 these days!) so the government matched it dollar for dollar. That sum of money has been used to pay off their childcare centre fees.

I know that when the Baby Bonus was first launched, many Singaporeans complained that the government was trying to bribe us to have children. There were grumbles of how $6,000 is not enough to bring up a child. I was probably one of them, heh.
But I will eat my words here and say that as a sandwiched middle-income group, the $6,000 and subsequent dollar-for-dollar matching programme has come in very useful. Will I have kids just for that $6,000? Nope. But as somebody who’s always wanted to have kids? Yes, that money helps, more than I could possibly have imagined.

Looking back on our five-year parenting journey, I sometimes wonder aloud to my husband if we would have kids all over again, given what we know now. Honestly? I would. It’s tough, exhausting, humbling, frustrating. But it is also amazing and joyful.

I wouldn’t change a single minute of it.

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