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.

 

 

 

Learning Watercolour Painting

My husband and I finally fixed up some wall shelves on one of our empty walls during the school holiday. This is how the wall in our lounging area looks now.

A mini collection of my amateurish artwork and it is kind of satisfying to see them framed and displayed neatly. Part of the satisfaction comes from knowing that I am capable of learning something new at this age!

So a friend saw some of my watercolour paintings and was quick to recommend me to her painting teacher.

Leach is a very talented self taught artist who is also very passionate about teaching. She conducts painting classes at her home studio regularly and on demand. On top of that, she runs a beautiful website and regularly posts her work on her Instagram account.

I’ve attended a couple of art jamming sessions before and I’ve done some painting on my own by following YouTube videos. While it was fun mixing colours and filing up blank canvases with my limited ‘artistic instinct’, it wasn’t enough to provide me a good understanding of the fundamentals of watercolour painting.

I still felt overwhelmed when I walked into ArtFriend and I still couldn’t figure out what art materials to buy. I ended up buying the cheapest paint and paintbrushes I could find at Popular bookstore.

Well, there may be nothing wrong with using cheap art materials but it would be good to know what a 100 dollar paintbrush can do that a 10 one can’t. Leach was able to enlighten me on this.

Over the 4 sessions, apart from learning how water, paint and paper interact to produce the different effects, I learned about the importance of buying high-quality paints, brushes, and paper instead of buying cheap supplies.

Just paper alone, there are different qualities of cold pressed, hot pressed, and rough watercolor paper. I learned about the qualities of the different weights of paper available and the effects one can achieve with each. I also learned during the lessons the different pigments used in each colour, from generic historical pigments to the modern ones and the binder used ultimately determines the type of paint – oil, acrylic, watercolour etc. I seriously felt like I was back to attending lecture at LT27. There was so much theory to know even before picking up the paintbrush to paint! It was mind boggling.

Thankfully Leach has thoughtfully prepared these notes which summarized what was being taught in class. She must have encountered students like me, whom after years of child bearing and rearing, have quite lost their abilities to grasp new knowledge.

I realised that painting can be laborious and effortful. Colour is diligently controlled by dabbing exact quantities of paint and water. Every brushstroke is deliberate. Every careless flick of the wrist can cause water and therefore colour to flow where you don’t want it to. The shades and tones can change inadvertently. Too firm a brushstroke would change the texture and feel. Each painting is made up of hundreds if not thousands of such deliberate brush strokes. To perfect my skills, I couldn’t be as carefree as before. Mastering this delicate, subtle and very fluid painting medium is not easy. I felt myself crippled by my own fear. A fear of making mistake.

Leach being an experienced teacher understands that. She has been very encouraging with her kind words and patience. Her witty humour also helped to lighten the mood during class and made learning less stressful!

The other day, I came across this picturesque Norwegian riverbank on Instagram by @doting_dad (who blogs at Life’s Tiny Miracles). I was so inspired that I got it sketched and painted in one sitting.

It was therapeutic to be fully absorbed and focused at working with this spontaneous and free flowing medium. It was a joy watching the water and colour separate and coalesce on the paper. But without constant deliberate practice, my technique was far from perfect and the painting was quite a mess. The journey was blissful but the outcome was far from desired.

Like most things, practice makes perfect. I came to the conclusion that while I should strive for perfection in my basics, there are times where I should just let go, don’t worry so much and just paint.

 
 
To find out more about painting classes with Leach, you can visit her FB page – Art Workshops by Leach.
To feast your eyes on her beautiful artwork, you can follow her on Instagram or visit her website.

A Walk Along The Beach

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but a walk along the beach on New Year Day’s morning to catch the sun rise put me in a reflective mood.

My husband and I had spent the last hour of 2016 doing what we love doing together.

We cycled to catch the biggest firework in town. We counted down to the New Year, watched the fireworks shoot up into the night sky. The spectacular display was reflected vividly on the glass that framed up Flower Dome, a part of our multi-million dollar garden that houses many different species of flora and fauna. It was like a double fireworks or a reminder that a reflection was much needed.

We went to sleep late that night, yet I couldn’t will myself to wake up later the next morning. It has became some sort of a date between me and him, the New Year Day’s sunrise, like a secret rendezvous.

A flu bug had been going around at home and everyone hasn’t been feeling too well this holiday season. It was bad enough to make me feel like 2016 sucks until I paused and think. And I am glad I did.

We had many FIRSTs in 2016. Some were scarier than others but overall we grew and we had fun.

The younger one joined Primary School and the elder one sat for his first National Examination. The Dad did some amazing carpentry work with the boys for our home improvement project. He showed them how much they can achieve if they were willing to get their hands dirty and put in some effort!

I had a taste of my first trail run and went for my first holiday without the boys. We ended the year with a charity project and a camper van holiday.

2016 had been a full and exciting year for us and we sailed through it relatively well except for some minor illnesses. So what not to be grateful for?

As I walked along the beach, watching my footprints being slowly washed away by each rushing wave, it came to me that the biggest concept I grasped last year had to be ‘Letting Go’.

As a parent, I have so often read and heard how we should take a step back and learn to let go so that we won’t rob our children the precious chance to fall, to fail and in the process, learn some valuable lessons.

If success is the cake then failure would be a key ingredient. We don’t always think of failure as an important ingredient in something good because it’s not sweet like icing sugar; it’s more like the bitter baking powder that interacts with the other ingredients to make the cake rise. Without it, you’d have a sweet, lumpy rock that would go straight into the bin.

So very often, fear grips me as I watch my boys try out something new or “dangerous”. At the playground, going down those staircases on their bikes, hiking up and down those 2200 rocky and steep steps in New Zealand. My intervention would have robbed them the chance to gain the confidence to overcome a new challenge, the chance to fall, to pick themselves up, to dust themselves off and try again. The chance to gain independence and to build resilience.

So often I was tempted to rush in to ‘rescue’ them from their school work when they did badly for a spelling, a test or even an exam. But I stopped myself, instead, took their cues on whether help was needed, reminded them their responsibility to know their work and do their best before taking a step back, bit my lips and let them try again.

Their year end results showed that the younger one is improving even though he started the school year quite clueless. The elder one has done relatively well for his PSLE despite failing miserably for his Chinese just last year. He managed to get into the school he wants and we are all happy for him.

They’ve learned that there is nothing shameful about failing and so long as they are willing to put their heart into it, nothing is quite impossible.

On a personal level, letting go encompasses more than just the fear of failing. It entails negative feelings and for me, something as simple as the ‘should haves’.

As I strolled on the beach, letting the morning sun bathe me in its warmth while dodging the next rushing wave, I felt a deep sense of calm, peace and joy, a strange new feeling from a place so familiar.

On such a morning, I would have Usually run or cycled. It was unlike me to just do neither and just walk along the beach. I knew too well I would struggle and couldn’t get pass the ‘I should haves’

I should have jogged
I should have cycled
I should have left home earlier
I should have done a longer distance

But then and there, so rarely, none of these were on my mind. I was living that moment. The sunrise, the warm sensation, the sound of the lapping waves.

Perhaps this is what they called mindfulness, an awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. A thing that my preoccupation with the ‘should haves’ has robbed me of.

It seems so easy to get there, yet so difficult. A place so new to me.