A Birthday Party At The Pool

Malcolm turned 12 and we had a pool party celebration for him last weekend. We had 10 boys over and we basically let them run wild.

Through the years of party planning, I learned that I usually risk losing my voice and sanity trying to have the kids do my bidding. A handheld speaker would definitely come in handy but it really needn’t be too complicated. The kids are usually happy just having their friends around to play with.

This time round we brought down our pool noodles, a ball and a frisbee and the boys played for 3 hours while I sat under the shade, with music plugged into my ears, chilling out. It was a pity that his younger brother fell sick and couldn’t join them at the pool but thankfully my husband was around to help babysit him.

I found this old photo of Malcolm looking all babyish at 4 years old.

12 years old is special for many reasons. In this country, there is the high stakes Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) which drives some parents to go on a year of unpaid leave so that they could stay home to coach their children. It’s the year where they would bid goodbyes to their friends whom they have spent their last 6 years with in Primary school. It’s also the year where theme birthday parties are no longer cool and colourful party decoration are for babies. And for me, I suspect it would be the last time I would be needed at his birthday parties. And that kind of motivated me to throw a birthday party for him.

The party was in the afternoon so I prepared some light snacks for tea. I ordered 40 mini burgers and baked a quiche. Gosh, they could really eat and there’s no such thing as too much food!

I got him to choose some balloons of his favourite colours but soon realised that tween boys didn’t really care much about balloons, they were more interested in releasing the helium filled balloons to see how high they would go!

So my son wanted a cake that looks like a cake, not a car nor a plane or some fanciful designed theme cakes. I heaved a sign of relief that I didn’t have to work with fondant this time. At 12 years old, he had outgrown theme cake and wanted something that looked ‘edible’. It happened to be one of his buddy’s birthday that day and so I baked 2 ‘serious looking’ (or boring looking) cakes, one for each birthday boy. An oreo cheesecake and a 2 layer chocolate cake.

I got the oreo cheesecake recipe from a friend and the chocolate cake from here. The chocolate buttercream was really easy to work with but as usual I cut back on the amount of sugar. I used slightly less than 2 cups instead of the 3 that the recipe called for. Even so, my boys thought it was sweet. Can’t imagine if I were to go ahead with the recommended amount.

Most of the boys had 2 servings of the cakes, one of each flavour and they seemed to prefer the cheesecake. One of his friends even requested to pack some home. I was delighted that the cakes turned out so well. All these years of trial and error making birthday cakes sure did something good to my baking skills. The kind of things mothers do. I have surprised myself many times during the last decade.

It was a simple birthday party, exactly what he had asked for, with the boys getting in and out of pool, eating, swimming and running around. I can’t think of a party simpler than this and I hope it would be one of those things that he would one day look back with fond memories.



Running A Half Marathon And Beating Myself

I completed a half marathon 2 weeks ago. It was my second time doing a 21 km run. The first was about 2 years ago, during the Army Half Marathon. I did a couple more long runs that year, but nothing as long as a half marathon. 2014 was a good year mainly because of all the running distances I had clocked. Prior to that year, I have never participated in any race, I reasoned ‘Why pay to suffer?!’ I was contented with my own-pace-own-time jog.

Then I found out about the Singtel Cancer Run, a 15km run where all monies collected go to the Singapore Cancer Society. I thought that it was at least something meaningful, like killing 2 birds with 1 stone, getting a good workout while doing charity and that was when I signed up for my first run.

After a year of good runs, I ended 2014 with a torn meniscus and strained ligaments. My knee were swollen and I could barely walk. I couldn’t swim, because I couldn’t kick with my injured knee and any form of exercise was out for me, even brisk walk. Rest was all I could do.

I was advised by my orthopedician to go for regular physiotherapy to strengthen my muscles so as to regain mobility of my knee. I went for the first few times but decided to stop as it was too time consuming. It didn’t make sense for me to travel an hour just for 15 minutes of exercise. Due to the injury, my left knee was unstable and could ‘give way’ when I strained it, eg while going down a flight of stairs.

It was good to rest! I could indulge in a chocolate cake without having to think about burning off the calories! I could sleep in and not struggle with ‘I should have gone for a run’. I realised that the should-haves created unnecessary stress in life.

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With rest, the swell on my knee went down, I could walk better but I still couldn’t fully extend and bend my knee and I was still limping. I read that I could do some exercise to strengthen my quads so as to help stabilize my knee. My thoughts immediately went to my bike that had been sitting pretty in the living room.

I started off with my son’s bike, which was smaller in size, before going onto my own bike. I had to lower the seat so that I didn’t have to extend my legs too much and I couldn’t go fast. Still, I was exhilarated that I could finally ride my bike!

I thought to myself ‘Nobody could tell I was limping, It was good to feel brand new, It was good to feel strong’. I realised that it was easy to take all these for granted.

In the beginning, I got aches and pains after each ride. My knee swells on occasions when I cycle too hard.

My cycling routine wasn’t intensive. I cycled about 2-3 times a week and usually do about 20-30km. It took me about an hour or so and it fits right into my mornings while my younger one was in preschool.

Cycling, unlike running, is low-impact but has several aerobic benefits. You can ride uphill in a low gear to build strength. You can do short sprints to spike your heart-rate and build speed. You can also go for a longer, steady ride to build endurance.

After 4 months of regular cycling, I finally attempted a 9 km run outdoor. I was thrilled that I could complete the run. It sort of gave me confidence for the upcoming 15km race for Singtel Cancer Run in July last year (but was eventually cancelled due to haze).

Then early this year, my husband took the liberty to sign me up for a half marathon.

With my younger boy joining his brother in Primary school this year. I had a good 6 hours to myself in the morning. I could run and cycle or do both!

I didn’t push myself very hard as I was careful not to worsen my injury. I tried to do at least a 10 km run every week and keep to cycling during the week. Once a while when I was too tired to do both, I rollerblade. I found out that excessive pushing of the rollerblades caused the pain on my knee to return and I was not as mobile. I was happy to put on my rollerblades but it was no longer like before. (I still hope that it could get better)

Apart from cycling, I attend Pilate class once a week. The class helped to strengthen my core muscles and force me to stretch muscles which I wasn’t very disciplined to do.

Cycling at a moderate pace had helped to strengthen my quads, build up my aerobic fitness and improve my endurance. Being able to run a 21 km was the best testimonial.

I enjoyed the run better this time. Apart from stopping at drink stations to grab drinks and taking a few pictures, I basically ran all the way. My hamstrings hurt during the last 2 km but I could continue even without any heat rub! (unlike the last run)

I came in with a better timing and was in a better state than 2 years back when I did the same distance. However I was famished and gobbled up 2 bananas as soon as I crossed the finishing line!

I didn’t collapse in a pile when I reached home. I showered before heading out for Tim Sum and spent the afternoon shopping! I remember sleeping the afternoon away after the previous half marathon. My fitness had definitely improved. And I am planning to sign up for more runs to motivate myself to continue this fitness regime.

Though my ranking at 500 plus amongst 300o over female runners wasn’t something to shout about, I am happy that I have beaten myself, in terms of timing and overcoming an injury.

And that befits what we want to teach our children, that ‘the only person they should try to be better than is the person they were yesterday’. (Of course, I had my husband to thank again. He was once again my guardian angel throughout the run)


This entry was posted in Fitness.

Parenting A Tween Boy

My elder boy is turning 12 in a couple of weeks. He now stands taller than me, wears bigger size shoes and could barely squeeze into my old jeans! My ex colleagues thought I had a new boyfriend when I brought him along for our annual gathering during Chinese New Year. It’s a give away of my age just having him next to me and calling me mom.

I find myself revisiting the parenting section in the library and I think I have read more parenting books in the last couple of months than I’ve read in the last decade since I became a mom. It suddenly dawned on me that parenting a tween boy requires more wisdom than teaching him how to treat his first zit.

The things you read about puberty, hormones change and mood swings are all real. I now have someone who wants to win me in everything, from swimming, cycling to climbing, which really isn’t all that bad, especially when winning includes beating mom at her PSLE scores. I certainly have no qualms about losing to him.

There are unspoken rules growing up as a tween boy. Apparently, hardly anyone reads in school and even if they do read, they are usually fiction and not some books that talk about the History of Mathematics. So no matter how much you love the present you received from last Christmas, you wouldn’t be caught dead reading it. Bottomline, it isn’t always cool to be geeky. You need to be with the right company to display your nerdy side.

I appreciate the fact that boys are more straightforward, less emotional and they don’t stay angry for long. They are nonchalant to most things but can be sensitive to the feelings of the people they love.

A couple of weeks ago when my husband was not in town to celebrate our wedding anniversary, my elder boy took over the kitchen and cooked us (me and his brother) a meal instead. He basically cooked what he likes to eat. French bread, ribs and spaghetti.

He already knew how to cook spaghetti so the only recipe he got from me was for the ribs. I gave him my recipe for making chicken wings. He had probably drizzled too much honey and caused the liquid to be burnt. He was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t any sauce left to dip his bread. The ribs were a bit charred but still tender inside.

I was surprised that he actually took the trouble to make the bread. He had used the recipe that came with the bread maker machine and it turned out beautifully and went perfectly well with olive oil, pepper and salt.

Of course the meal wouldn’t be possible without my trusty oven and bread maker machine. Still, his effort was commendable and I heaved a sigh of relief that he didn’t burn down the house.

I took a picture of what he cooked and sent it to his Dad and told him it was the best wedding anniversary present I’ve ever received, ironically it wasn’t from him but from our 12 year-old-to-be. I felt so loved and I told him I could get used to eating charred ribs.

It really isn’t all that bad parenting tween boy, if you look past the shopping part (or the lack of it). They only need half a luggage space when we travel because they only pack the bare minimum. They can live with 1 bar of soap because that’s all they need from head to toes. Mirrors are decorative because they don’t use them so you can hog them for all you want. They spend more time thinking about what to play than fretting over what to wear and how they look. They could put up a big fight one moment, kiss and say I love you the next and mean it.

Having grown up with sisters playing masak masak and dressing up, it is refreshing to be parenting a tween boy. The time we invested and the bonds we built over the years certainly helps. It really isn’t all that bad and scary and I am enjoying every bit of it.


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