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! 


My 7 Year Old’s Doodles

My 7 year old enjoys doodling. He would doodle random things that comes to his mind or things that he likes such as planes, knights, cars, battleships. Occasionally, I get a ‘get well’ card when I am sick. Sometimes, a confusing picture book on a fight between his good and bad guys or even a scene from the latest book he has read.

It is not always easy to decipher what he draws. But if you ask him, there is aways some ‘stories’ behind his drawings. It is interesting to watch him tell his story with gusto and to find out what goes on in his little head. It is this innocence and enthusiasm that make these doodles so endearing and precious.

He drew this one day and wasn’t too happy when I couldn’t recognize his Star Wars characters.

He went onto the internet and found some step by step tutorials on how to draw Star Wars characters. He was so determined to get it ‘right’ and the amazing thing was he could remember all the steps. Empowered by his new skill, he spent the afternoon duplicating storm troopers and Kylo Ren. I tried but just couldn’t seem to remember all the steps!

Recently, he learned about Keith Haring during art class in school. He likes the artist’s graffiti-inspired drawings because they are simple, colourful and cartoony and I think it pleases him that he could actually reproduce some of these quirky drawings. He was so excited to tell me about the artist ;and how he got started by spraying paint at NYC subways.

We spent more time googling about the artist which led us to a conversation about graffiti in our country and how people got punished doing it. It was a challenge trying to explain what is perceived as Art and what is vandalism. Frankly, I have no answer but we all agreed that the metro stations and tunnels in Paris were much more interesting because of graffiti and perhaps they should do so for our MRT stations!

He probably spent a lot of time thinking about Haring’s work because he made all these Haring inspired doodles for the next few days. He even made me a Haring inspired get well card that week when I was sick.

His Haring’s inspired doodle kind of culminated to this piece which he did for his Dad’s birthday while he was away.

It was a colourful surprise for his Dad when he came home. The kind of present that would put a smile on any parent’s face.





Our Creepy Crawly Pets

We found this guy at our doorstep last Friday afternoon.
It was a deja vu moment.
6 years ago, a similar guy showed up at our doorstep on my elder son’s 7th birthday.
He thought it was a present from his Dad.
And my boys had their first praying mantis pet.

We were just reminiscing the days where we had our first mantis.
And lamenting how hard it is these days to catch one.
The NParks people are doing a good job keeping our parks green and keeping bugs away.
We hardly see any creepy crawlies around our estate.
It was easier to find them when we were living overseas.

The boys brought home a couple of geckos during a hiking trip when we were living in Alabama.
These green fellas were cute, according to my boys. (and no, I don’t like them)
They crawled all over us when carried but won’t move around much if left on their own.
We didn’t build any nice homes for them but let them live with the boys’ toys and hunt their own food around the house.
One eventually died and we let the other one go.

We also found a brown widow in our backyard, tucked in a corner of the seat of an outdoor chair and decided to keep her.
The brown widow is the cousin of the more infamous black widow.
We learned from then on, to never assume that the chairs were safe for sitting and always check the bottom of the seats.

She had a fat butt and could be identified by the orange hourglass on her belly.
She uses the same neurotoxic venom as its cousin but is less dangerous because she delivers less venom in her bite.
They came out from hibernation when the weather started to warm up.
That was when we couldn’t do without the pest control guys.

She built the strongest and stickiest of homes, definitely not those that could be destroyed by a gust of wind.
During the time that we had her, she managed to kill a few other species of spiders.
We dropped in those spiders as ‘food’ and they were found dead, wrapped up in sticky silk the next day.
We weren’t sure whether she sucked the juices out of them but she is known to eat up the male after mating.
We tried to verify that by dropping in what looked like a male brown widow but that got her killed instead.
Till today, we still couldn’t solve the mysterious death.

These creepy crawlies often don’t live long.
But they lived long enough for the boys to learn that keeping pets requires work. (and for me to find my hidden courage and capacity to like these creatures)
Finding food for their pet was one of those work.
They had to catch them alive because these creepy crawlies like their food fresh, just like us.
And for every creepy crawly they had, they learned about death and saying goodbyes.
It was perhaps one of the toughest lesson for them and they remember.

Last Friday, they were thrilled when mantis showed up.
But that excitement didn’t last long.

They loved how alert the mantis was.
They loved his vibrant green coat and how he eagerly propped up and peered into my camera.
They loved his vividness.
But they also sensed that he was scared and was trying to escape.
And they were most worried to see him die.

They had the mantis long enough to show him to their Dad when he came home from work.
Both boys decided to let the mantis go that very evening.
I was the one who was reluctant, knowing how hard it was to have a mantis showed up at our doorstep!
But I agreed to it and later realised that maybe I should be glad that they showed kindness and could empathize with their creepy crawly friends.

Read about their first mantis pet
And how he died.