[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

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.

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.

Timbre @ Gillman – Super Social BBQ

Before the kids came along, we went out at night. A lot. Weekends were usually spent hanging with our friends: choir practices, arcade gaming (yes!), movies, pub-crawling. One of the places we used to go to was Timbre @ The Substation – how could we say no to awesome live music, good grub (ROAST DUCK PIZZA YUM YUM) and ice cold beer?

Me and the girlfriend at Timbre @ Substation waaaaaay back in...2007

Me and the girlfriend at Timbre @ Substation waaaaaay back in…2007

Then we had kids. Overnight (HUR HUR PUN), our nightlife disappeared. We were either putting the babies to bed or nursing (okay, I was nursing) or sitting zonked on the sofa or snoring in our beds. We were, and still are, exhausted. We stopped heading out to nightspots.

And then Timbre contacted me and told me about their Super Social BBQ. Huh, what’s that? you might ask. Well, GOOD NEWS FORMER NIGHT CRAWLERS, you can now have your cake and eat it too.

Essentially, Super Social BBQ is a weekend event at Timbre @ Gillman which is family-friendly. That’s right, you heard me. Kids-friendly. Child-friendly. Toddler-friendly. Everybody-friendly. Every month, Timbre @ Gillman runs a themed event on all Saturdays and Sundays that is especially catered to families, starting from 4pm.

Have you been to the Gillman outlet? Well, I hadn’t, until I received the invitation and I was super impressed. The restaurant retained its rustic, super chill vibe, which is cool, but what was even cooler was that gigantic backyard behind the eatery. During the weekends, the backyard turns into a play area for the kids – you can expect bouncy castles, wading pools and live BBQ.

When I was there, it was storming outside so we didn’t spend much time outdoors. Timbre had thoughtfully set up an activity station indoors, where kids could colour or get their faces painted or do some crafting. There was even a balloon sculptor onsite. My boys ended up putting together a carousel – in line with the Carnival theme for November – out of paper plate, paper cup, pipe cleaners and paper cutouts.

Other than providing fun activities, Timbre @ Gillman also put together a menu just for the kids. There are items such as bolognaise, chicken and pancakes, minute steak and cheese frites and fish & chips, all affordably priced below $15. We ordered the bolognaise with heart shape pasta ($10) for the littles to share and the portion was more than enough for them.

As for the adults? I was honestly pretty darned happy to be there. I could indulge in my roast duck pizza once again and wash it down with an chilled alcoholic ginger beer. There was a live band playing. It really made me nostalgic for those days when we could stay out till the wee hours without a care, swigging our beers and making merry.

In fact, I was feeling so sentimental, I decided to order me an earl grey martini (my first martini since FOREVER). It was so surprisingly good that I cheered up immediately.

The mark of a true family-friendly restaurant is in the happiness level of all members of the family. Did Timbre @ Gillman’s Super Social BBQ hit the mark? I will say YASSSSSS. My boisterous boys had fun participating in the activities and they especially loved the live band. They were gleefully dancing after shoving the pasta and pizza into their mouths. The man and I were thrilled to be out at a nightspot once again, eating the grub that we had loved.

We had so much fun that I started making plans with our friends and their kids to check it out again!

The Carnival edition of the Super Social BBQ will run till this weekend! For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Disclaimer: I was invited to Timbre @ Gillman for dinner and given dining credits. However, all opinions are solely mine (and totally honest!) and no other monetary compensation was received.

Thank you, Joseph Schooling

Dear Joseph,

I know that the chances of you reading this is close to zero, what with the international media casting its astonished eye on you, now that you have have slain a giant. And let’s not forget the mountains of accolades that are being heaped upon you by our local media. But I still want to say a huge thank you to you, for helping to transform what had seemed so laughably impossible into reality.

This morning, at 9am, I was in bed nursing a head cold when my four-year-old burst into the room. “Wake up!” he said. “Joseph Schooling is going to compete!” And so I dragged myself out of bed and sat my aching head down in front of the telly with Aidan and Zac, my two-year-old.

“I want to sing the Majulah Singapura,” Aidan whined. “Where is the Majulah Singapura?”

The competitors lined up at the starting blocks, we held our breaths and shushed our noisy children. We wanted to indulge in the moment, to see if you could land the gold that we have talked of for so long and yet unable to achieve so far. Everyone leapt off the blocks and we watched as you emerged from the water, masterful strokes propelling you forward strongly. And then you turned and I started cussing out of fear that one of them Amazons would overtake you.

And then it was over. 50.39 seconds. You did it. It was so fast and yet for all of us – whether we were sitting in the kopitiam or at home with unwashed faces – it felt like an age.

You did it. Who could have foretold this moment?

We ate our breakfast and then it was time for the awards ceremony. You know, my kids love, LOVE singing the national anthem. They grabbed a flag each, plonked their bums on the coffee table and watched as you waited to go up the podium. Next to you were the three silver medalists, all great names and Goliaths to your David, especially that one named Phelps. You looked so small next to them, and so lonely. I guess it is a bittersweet feeling, to be on top and yet be so alone.

Your name was called, you stepped up and this was it, the moment all of us have been waiting for: the national anthem was played.

Majulah Singapura.

You did it.

My boys waved their flags madly and sang along quietly, their eyes glued to the ascent of our flag. And when it was over, they turned to look at us and grinned. And that was when I thanked you.

Not just because you put our little red dot on the international map with your achievements. Not just because you worked so hard to get that gold.

But mostly, it was because now my children have someone to look up to. Someone to prove that it is possible to achieve the impossible, that following a dream, a passion can pay off as long as they put in the effort.

They may not be national swimmers – I mean, let’s just focus on getting Aidan to put his face into the water mmmkay – but who knows what is in store for them in the future. Maybe they will become artists. Or musicians. Or writers. Or footballers. Maybe they will want to carve their own paths, away from the straight and narrow route that our education system will push them towards. Maybe they don’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. Maybe they would want to be themselves, aspiring towards a goal that our society may scoff at.

Before you won this morning, we did not have that role model. There was no trailblazer. And now that you have gone and landed this amazing feat at our feet, our children can have somebody to look up to.

So really, you did not just win an Olympic gold, you have gone and rewritten the rules of the game for Singapore.

Tonight, before he drifted off into dreamland, Aidan whispered to me, “Mummy, can you buy me a cap?”

“A cap?”

“Yes, for swimming,” he replied, nodding in the dark. “Like the Olympic swimmers. Like Joseph Schooling.”

And for that, I, as a mother, thank you.

A new page in #Singapore 🇸🇬 history! Joseph Schooling – Olympic Gold 🎖#MajulahSingapura

A video posted by Jimmy Liew (@jimmyliew) on

Review: People Impact IQEQ Programme

I am not much of a fan of enrichment classes.

Right now, my kids do not attend any classes except for swimming and (soon) music lessons. That’s all we have signed them up for and that’s all husband and I agreed to sign them up for. Whatever academic stuff that they know, they learn through the daycare.

Sometimes, I wonder if I am not helping them with this mentality. Sometimes, I wonder if they will struggle when they go to primary school and realise that their classmates are miles ahead of them in terms of academic development. But we consciously choose to allow them these few years of playfulness and freedom, so that’s a risk we have to take.

When People Impact asked if I was keen to try Aidan out for their IQEQ programme, I hesitated. But like any good reporter would do, I decided to do my research and checked out their website. What I saw intrigued me.

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Instead of focusing on academic skills like literacy and numeracy, the programme seemed to be emphasising more on “soft” skills such as creativity, problem-solving and communication. As an educator, my students have shown me that it is those with high EQ and people skills who are able to succeed in life. The students who do worst in school can thrive and excel when they are out in the industry because they have the right personality and attitudes.

So yes, I decided to check it out with Aidan. We attended one of the classes that was meant for the older kids in kindergarten and even though parents were usually not allowed to sit in, I was given the opportunity to do so and observe.

When we got into the classroom, I was pleasantly surprised by the intricately designed “maze” on the floor. Judging by their reactions, so were the kids. There were seven of them in total, including Aidan, and I was told that the usual teacher-student ratio is 1:8. There were two teachers that day, CK and Aileen, who got Aidan to introduce himself to the class since he was new. I was rather surprised that A was immediately comfortable in that new environment, given that he can be pretty reserved. He was happy to introduce himself and Teacher CK assigned the other boy in the class to be his mate – the two got along so well!

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The first activity had something to do with the 4×4 maze on the floor. The kids were first divided into two groups. Within the groups, they were to work in pairs, with one child giving instructions to the other on how to “safely” exit the maze without being eaten by the lions.

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I was honestly very impressed by the activity. It not only reinforced spatial skills in the children – they had to instruct their teammate which direction to turn and how many steps to take, for instance – and it also encouraged them to speak up with confidence. The children clearly enjoyed this very much, they were full of relieved smiles when they managed to guide their friends out of the maze!

The next activity was Cloud Nine. This time, the children were split into three groups of different colours. The teachers would show each group a picture and every child had to name an object immediately and physically associated with the item in the picture. For instance, a picture of a table could elicit answers like “chair”, “cup” and “pencil”. Once every group member has given an appropriate answer, their hot air balloon would be allowed to ascend to the next cloud on the wall. The idea was to move up to the ninth cloud.

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This took quite a fair bit of time as the children needed some guidance now and then. But the kids gave it all their attention since the activity played on their innate sense of competition. Everyone wanted to move up to the next level! And it was a clever way of broadening the children’s perspectives, allowing them to draw the relevant associations from difference sources of information.

The third – and last – activity was conducted in a separate classroom, which the teachers had ingeniously turned into a pseudo laser-tag room using raffia strings. Here, the kids were divided into two groups and tasked to retrieve numbered tags from the walls while navigating through the complicated “laser” beams safely. If someone touched a raffia string, the attached bell would chime and the child had to freeze on the spot until a teammate makes his/her way over to tap her shoulder, thus freeing her. It was a game of team work and also built their gross motor skills.

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The kids were alternately IMPRESSED and SCARED of the laser beams! You could see from the anxiety on their faces that they thought it was real, that they really couldn’t move if they touched the string. And when they got out safely, they all broke out in huge smiles. Before his turn, Aidan whispered to me that he was a little scared. But he did great! He not only managed to retrieve his number swiftly, he was able to help save his friends a couple of times.

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Once the session was over, the teachers would invite the parents in and give them a quick debrief on what their children were up to that day. They would also sit down with certain parents to give them one-on-one feedback on their children’s progress.

During their one-on-one session with me, Teacher CK noted three things about Aidan: firstly, he was a very verbal child, and had no problems speaking up and understanding instructions (just goes to show that he has selective listening at home, HAH!). Secondly, he apparently has good focus for someone his age (for instance, he was able to sit and wait while the other kids had their turns). Lastly, he was definitely not the dullest tool in the shed, phew! I was told that they would love to have him in the programme because they felt that he had the potential to be a leader.

Wow, who knew? That little tyrant who drives me nuts on a regular basis could potentially have a high ROI. Although why he cannot focus on simple tasks like putting his toys away at home when he supposedly has strong focus leaves me perplexed.

All in all, I left the centre very impressed. You could tell from the details of the activities that the teachers had spent time and effort in crafting them. Each activity nailed their intended objectives. More importantly, the children kept up their attention and energy levels for the entire two hours that they were there. Aidan had skipped his nap to attend the class and he never wavered. The teachers were able to effectively facilitate the activities and motivated them through positive affirmation.

Would I continue the classes for Aidan? I would definitely love to – costs and logistics notwithstanding. Aidan clearly had fun and we capped off that lovely mummy-firstborn afternoon by going for coffee at one of our favourite cafes, One Man Coffee.

SPECIAL FOR BUBSICLES READERS
If you are keen to try out the IQEQ programme, you can sign up for a single trial class for your child at just $5/child (Usual: $20). Or take up a special one-month regular class package $288 (Usual: $588).

Just email info (at) people-impact (dot) com (dot) sg with your name and contact details as well as your child’s name and age. You’ll have to let them know that Yann from Bubsicles sent you their way to enjoy this deal!

This special offer expires one month from the published date of article. However, you can sign up first with this special offer and arrange for a later date to come for the lesson.

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Disclaimer: We were invited to attend a trial class by People Impact. All opinions are strictly my own and no monetary compensation was received.

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