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.

Review: The Wonderful World of Disney On Ice

The boys and I had a real treat last night when we caught The Wonderful World of Disney On Ice!

We hardly get out of the house during weekday nights so it was definitely a special one to remember. Plus, I have loved Disney all my life. I grew up at the cinema and the Disney animated films have always been a great source of entertainment and comfort to me as a kid. While my kids don’t really get to watch TV much, they know all about Mickey and Minnie and they loved our last trip to Disneyland in Hong Kong.

We got in right before the show started so it was perfect timing. Now, to be honest, I have no clue if there was some sort of storyline going on there – I think it was about Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy recollecting the different stories – but it doesn’t really matter. We were swiftly brought through tales such as The Lion King, Snow White & the Seven Dwarves, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Toy Story, Finding Dory – a mix of the classics (which I, uhhmm, grew up with) and contemporary favourites.

And I loved it! It was really cool remembering these favourites of mine and singing loudly along with the music without fear of being judged (HAHA) and the ice-skating, backdrop, props and pyrotechnics were incredible.

Throughout the show, Aidan was quiet and did not show much expression. I was wondering he wasn’t enjoying the performance. Zac, on the other hand, wouldn’t sit still on his seat. It was a good thing, then, that there was ample legroom for him to roam around. Luckily, everytime he started to get restless, something else would come along to distract him.

I needn’t have worried. Aidan LOVED the show, except he was a wee bit scared at two different parts of the night: when the witch appeared in the Snow White segment, and when Prince Hans was attacking Elsa and Anna in Frozen.

Speaking of Frozen, the second half was mostly dedicated to it. Not surprising, seeing how it is the crowd favourite. There were so many little girls dressed in Elsa and Anna outfits! This segment also had the most effects, which was absolutely enchanting. Zac adored Olaf – he couldn’t get enough of Olaf’s singing and dancing.

In short: a truly magical experience for both adults (especially Disney lovers) and kids. I do think that it was probably more suited for kids aged four and above. And please bring along plenty of cash because you will be suckered into buying overpriced popcorn, slushies, hot dogs and merchandise, heh.

Oh, and the great thing was that the show started promptly at 630pm and ended on time at 830pm. It meant that bedtime wasn’t terribly disrupted – I had showered the littles before we left and packed along their jammies.

The Wonderful World of Disney On Ice runs from now till March 19 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. You can purchase your tickets here.

Disclaimer: I received four complimentary tickets to catch the performance. No other monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own. But seriously, dude, you can’t fake the magic that is Disney. It is AWESOME. All photos provided by Feld Entertainment. Video is my own.

Missing in action

Hello! Yes it’s me. I am still alive, evidently. The blog, on the other hand, isn’t looking too great.

Well, it’s been a while and what can I say, life gets in the way. There’s always work to be done, littles to be cuddled, wine to be drunk and life to be lived. I used to think that writing was cathartic but these days, it sure doesn’t feel that way. So I took a break. Didn’t pressure myself to write.

The husband is off on one of his trips again and I have been playing the roles of both papa and mummy. It’s hard, but really not that hard because I am so used to it by now. There are days when the boys are absolute assholes and I have to channel my inner OHM to keep from exploding. Some days, I am successful. Other days, well.

Today was one of those days when I was not quite as good at keeping it together. Mr 5 was building a house using the PicassoTiles that we got him for his birthday (PS they are awesome and if you want a review, let me know!), and the house was filled with Duplo people. Inexplicably, Mr 2 (and Impossibly Cute) decided to do a Godzilla on him and stomped all over the house.

Poor Mr 5. He burst into tears and I had to wrestle the little Godzilla away. Gave him a pep talk, cuddled him a bit (just in case it was due to his love tank being empty) but it didn’t take him more than 60 seconds before he was at it again.

In short: Mr 2 was being a total asshat and destroying his big brother. Yes, that happens.

The third time they clashed, I lost it. Completely. Hauled the littlest into my bedroom and gave him a very stern talking to, accentuated with some finger wagging. I warned, I threatened, and then I forced him into his high chair to eat his dinner. He whined about not wanting dinner until I decided to let him have his fruit and main meal at the same time.

By then, Mr 5 was done with his meal and we sat at the piano together to practise, leaving Mr 2 at the table by himself. What do you know, that did the trick. The littlest calmed down and fed himself dinner while A and I tinkered at the piano. After the practice, we all sat down at the dining table to have our usual after-dinner yogurt.

“Hey Zac,” I said casually. “Is there something you need to say to gor gor?”

He nodded. “Sorry Aidan.”

“What are you sorry for?”

Without a break, he said: “Sorry for breaking your toy.”

“Aidan, didi has apologised.”

Aidan didn’t bat an eyelid as he replied, “It’s okay.”

In one evening, my little people taught me two things. Never be afraid to apologise for something you did wrong and never hold on to grudges.

I am getting better at saying sorry as the years go by (getting older and mellower and all that haha) but I have a hard time letting go. Not deliberately but sometimes I have a tendency to relive certain moments and conversations. I replay them over and over again, wondering if I could have done or said things differently.

But look at my five-year-old. He forgives so easily. In the next moment, they are the best of playmates again. He doesn’t forget – he sometimes stuns us with his memory – but he doesn’t hold it against people. He moves on with his life and he continues loving with his heart.

So yes, my kids teach me about life and living every day. While there are days that are harder than others, I still thank my lucky stars that I have them.

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