Biking With My 7 Year Old

We have been cycling quite a bit recently. During the school holiday, my 7 year old attempted the new Tenah Merah Coast Road. It was the first time for him, the furthest he has cycled.

I haven’t got the courage to bring him along on my own because the stretch of road is long, sunny and windy. It would be painful if I have to deal with a whinny kid who needs coaxing to pedal on.

But a last minute arrangement with some friends kind of got him all hyped up. Despite my effort to warn him that it wouldn’t be an easy ride, his enthusiasm didn’t falter. I think good company and good food at the half way point motivated him.

We followed his pace and took almost 3 hours to complete more than 40 km. He was like this little hamster spinning a wheel. It was amazing how his little muscles and lungs worked so well. So he officially did his first full marathon on his bike!

Then few days later, there was a flypast by the Singapore and Indonesia Air Force to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic relations. It was a rare chance to catch 25 fighter jets airborne and we wouldn’t want to miss it. Unfortunately, the Dad had to work and his brother had something on that day. We decided to head off on our own, just the 2 of us.

I had done my homework, it would be a 26km ride round trip and the new PCN would bring us all the way to one of the vantage points.

I was initially worried that my little guy couldn’t make it especially when his Dad and brother weren’t around to ‘entertain’ him. But the Tanah Merah ride a few days ago kind of boosted his confidence and mine too.

The morning came and it started to rain. The dark clouds started clearing up soon after but my weather app continued to show chances of shower. I was hesitant and worried of getting drench. My 7 year old was however optimistic and insisted that we should just stick to our plan.

It was cool and windy after the rain. He did complain about the headwind but was soon distracted by the sights along the way. The fallen leaves that lined the paths and and the flowers that dotted the trees. It was a pretty sight and I was glad he noticed them. Then there were the rain puddles which were perfect for splashing and making a mess of.

Food was always a great incentive for a long ride like this so we stopped at a cafeteria to gorge on our favourite food, Bolognese pasta for him and Penang Char Kway Teow for me.

We discovered a new cafe which was dressed like a garden with potted plants and hanging greenery. It was a soothing place to escape and relax with a cuppa and indulge in a slice their home baked cakes. We found out that the cafe has been there for a while now but strangely, we have never noticed it before.

I wonder what other things we’ve missed in our daily business when we rushed from here to there.

After having our tummies filled, we continued our ride. The sky started turning dark again and storm clouds loomed in the horizon. Since we still had some time to spare, I decided to make a short detour to show him a new water breaker that I have discovered a few days ago.

The place was deserted with only a few foreign workers in sight. They would be seen toiling under the hot sun, pruning and planting new saplings on normal days.

We took a short walk along the water breaker that seemed to stretch out to no man’s land. He found a stick to poke around and got curious over the air bubbles that filled puddles of water.

Apart from air bubbles, he found a rowing oar and a big piece of styrofoam which he initially thought of bringing home for craft. But a closer look showed that it was too filthy and it raised questions on how the trash got there. He decided to keep the stick and add it to the pile of ‘treasures’ he had amassed from all his outdoor adventures.

It started to drizzle and we decided to double our speed on our bikes before the rain got heavier. I couldn’t remember when was the last time we cycled in the rain but it was surprisingly fun and liberating! I was actually glad that the rain caught us by surprise because on a normal day we would never go cycling in the rain! It turned out to be such a refreshing ride.

When we finally reached the place to catch the flypast, there were already eager spectators all decked out with their umbrellas and cameras. Before long, 20 F16 jets zoomed by in the formation of 2 arrowheads and and they came around 20 minutes later in their 5-0 formation. The show ended with a finale bomb burst by the F15s. It was a great show but if you ask me, the highlight for that day wasn’t the flypast.

Our 3 hour adventure on our bikes left me feeling peaceful and relaxed. We had a simple afternoon where not much was planned and not much happened yet it was exactly what we needed.

It was a slow pace afternoon where we experienced the quiet, beauty and fascination of Nature. My little man’s innocent curiosity and vivid imagination reminds me of the beauty of simplicity.

The simple delights of being out in the fresh air where Nature is the best entertainer, stimulator and teacher all in one.

 

 

 

2

Wooden Craft Teacher’s Day Gift

So my boys have been spending their free time in front of the computer. On one hand, I reasoned to myself that they have their fair bit of outdoor time every week doing sports so I should let them continue with their screen time especially when they are doing considerably well in their studies.

On the other hand, it just can’t be good staring at the computer screen for long hours even if they are indeed learning something! It got me really upset and it struck me that I might be the one who needs to come to term with my own dilemma and manage my own expectation.

I finally sat them down one day and explained to them the importance of balance. I admit to them that it is not easy because even adults can’t get it right. Like most tools, technology is a double edged sword. They can kill or help to improve our lives if used wisely. I am glad we had the conversation, not so much because of miraculous change in their behaviour but because it helped me straighten out my thoughts and articulate my fear.

Since Teachers day is just round the corner, I decided to use the occasion to get the boys to do something useful with their screen time.

Every year, we would make something for the boys’ teachers. The boys usually aren’t particularly interested in making cards, so I was surprised by my teenager who happily announced that he had already made cards for ALL his teachers in school. I am not sure whose initiative it was but thought it was good that the school or someone reminded them to show appreciation for their teachers. This time, I tasked him to help his younger brother out and make good use of his screen time to search for ideas.

After spending some time searching and watching some YouTube videos, they hauled out their soldering iron, hot glue gun and saw. Dug out some wood scraps from our craft room and got these out.

The elder one did the more challenging job of sawing and soldering the wood pieces while his younger brother cut and hot glued the little air planes using popsicle sticks and cloth pegs.

I thought these hand-mades look pretty cute even though I am not sure what the teachers can do with them. A friend suggested using the wood burned pieces for signage, wall art, coaster or even bookmark. As for the air planes, we could actually stick a magnet  and turn them into fridge magnets.

If you ever thought of trying out wood burning, all you need is a piece of wood (we get ours from Daiso) and a soldering iron. Here’s a couple of things we learned about wood burning,

  • It is easier to solder along the grain of the wood. Maybe it might be better to get wood with smoother surface or sand down the wood before burning.
  • From our experience, a soldering iron is not the perfect tool for wood burning. It takes a long time to heat up (and cool down) and it is difficult to control the stroke because we are holding the rod further from the tip (mainly because it is too hot to hold any nearer). The tip and the temperature also weren’t ideal for wood burning thus making it harder
  • Sketch out the design on the wood before burning. You can even use a carbon paper to trace out the design you want on the wood!

There are tons of tips and tricks for wood burning on the internet. So yes, it is good to be internet savvy because ultimately, it was the internet that gave my boys the ideas and taught them how to make their Teacher’s Day gifts! 
 

2

Living An Active Lifestyle

My husband bought me a new bike for my birthday a couple of months back. It was a serious, manly looking bike and he dressed it up with the most aesthetic saddle and handle grip!

I was pretty stoked to still receive a birthday present from him after more than 2 decades of being together. Well, there was nothing romantic about a bike, but it was something that still makes my heart skip, something that I have been ogling at and would motivate me to get outdoor. I was just thankful he didn’t get me some household appliance.

I started a more active lifestyle a couple of years back. I took up cycling and signed up for running events regularly. Before that I tried to run regularly but usually nothing more than 5km. I still dread running. On days when I am too lazy to run, I cycle and it kind of help to keep me going. I usually felt ill prepared for a run but my husband has more faith in me completing a run than I have in myself.

I can’t say that I have set grand goals, nothing like completing a 21 km in 2 hours. My daily stress revolves around decisions such as whether to slack off, cycle or run. I know it sounds insane and this stress kind of climaxed the last couple of weeks when I caught some infection and was too sick to head outdoors yet well enough to still move around in the house. I still cook, wash and clean and it kind of drives me crazy.

It all started during the June holiday, when I ate too much during our Japan trip. I gained a couple of kilos after the trip and I wasn’t diligent enough to resume my exercise regime. Didn’t help when I thought my husband’s suggestion of eating kimchi, fried egg and rice was a good idea for breakfast. (Geez, what was I thinking!)

It almost felt I was carbo loading when I wasn’t even burning calories! I felt horrible. Not so much because of the weight gain but because of how ill-disciplined I was and how I chose to let go. This kind of guilt eats me up, it devours me!

Then came the Straits Times Run 3 weeks ago. My husband had to miss the run because something cropped up at work. It was unfortunate but I was secretly relieved that he gave me the perfect reason to miss the run. 2 days before the run, I casually brought it up to my family and guess what, my Dad thought he could take my husband’s place!

My Dad is 66, has part of his stomach removed 5 years ago due to cancer. He is cancer free now and he brisk walks and cycles everyday but he has NEVER done a mass run, definitely not a 18.45 km run. He joked that he could walk and jog and he was not wrong. So it was decided. I would run with my Dad.

On race day, it wasn’t difficult for him to arrive at start point on time because he is an early riser. He is usually out in the park by then. My Dad showed up in his simple exercise outfit. Nothing fanciful or high tech or compression. He was wearing one of those free finisher t-shirt we passed down to him. For once, I was glad I wasn’t the slower runner and was expecting a relaxing run.

At 5.15 am the race started. He started off jogging at a pretty good pace. In fact it felt more like a sprint to me but he slowed down to a walk when we hit our first uphill. It was all good and he continued his sprint and walk tactics but I realised I couldn’t do what he was doing! It worked better for me to keep to my usual slow jog. I was with him for the first 10 km and we kind of lost sight of each other after that.

At the finishing line, I waited anxiously for him and finally saw him crossed the line at an impressive 2hr 33min!

That was my Dad, who has never trained for any big run but could complete a 18.45km like any fit and abled young men. I was so proud of him!

As I sat looking at my new trusty steel bike which has neither high end carbon fibre parts nor gears that could go faster, I thought of my Dad, who had battled cancer, who didn’t set off with some grand goals nor spend a fortune on branded gear or own anything Lycra. He is probably happy to be able to wake up each morning to enjoy the sunrise.

My husband has chosen this bike mainly for its frame because he thought the old one was a tad too big for my petite size. I have to admit that I kind of miss my cheery looking yellow bike and have been neglecting my new bike.

It feels harder to peddle or maybe I am just less fit with my recent binging and hibernation. I dread thinking of doing another run and I am not too excited to jump onto my serious looking new bike.

My Dad has come a long way since the day he lay in ICU battling the demon. It wasn’t a one time goal to beat some timing or win some finisher medals but a deliberate choice to lead an active lifestyle with consistent effort and discipline.

I probably shouldn’t think too much about timing, pace and distance. Every workout counts, whether fast or slow, far or near, long or short. And I should just stop giving myself excuses and be more diligent.

It would be helluva cool if I could agree to do a half marathon without skipping a heartbeat when I am 66, just like my Dad.

 
 

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