Our Current Obsession – The Rubik’s Cube

We are currently crazy over the Rubik’s Cube. The boys pack it with them everywhere they go. They play with it during car rides, while waiting after school, in the restaurant and even when they are hiking outdoors. They (we) are totally obsessed with this piece of twistable, rotatable plastic.

I remember playing with this puzzle when I was in Primary School. It was one of those geeky toys that I could never figure out and I had never gone beyond solving 2 faces.

Forward 30 years later, with the advent of the Internet, you can find a slew of Youtube videos on how to solve the Rubik’s cube. The only challenge is to be able to sit through the videos, understand the instructions and follow the steps.

I got inspired after watching a 2 year old solve the cube on YouTube. After a day of staring intently at the screen, I got it solved but could only do it by going back and forth the video many times. There were just too many steps, or what they call algorithms, to memorize.

My boys were surprised to see that I could actually put the pieces into its original position without throwing it, kicking it, jumping on it or blowing it up. Since the least geeky person in the house could do it, it couldn’t be too difficult. So they thought. And that was how it all got started.

My 11 year old got it figured out after watching the video and he was determined to beat me at the timing. In the beginning, it took me more than 20 minutes to solve the cube but after a few days of playing with it, I could do it in less than 3 minutes (if I got lucky).

We bought more cubes. Now each of us owns one. The new cube is smoother and could turn faster. The quality isn’t as good as the original one but it costs less than half the price. The boys were happy with it and they call it the ‘speed cube’. Within a couple days of twisting and turning, my elder boy improved leaps and bounds and now he could beat me flat. He could solve the cube in less than 2 minutes.

Marcus was eager to join us but even after having sat through the video with us, he couldn’t grasp what was being said. I decided to teach him myself. My husband thought it would be futile for me to teach a 5 year old something a 40 year old couldn’t do. Little did he expect to see him master the cube in less than a week.

These days, we would sit at the dining table and have a cube race while the Dad watch on. We have officially dethroned Dad as the Geekiest guy in the house. He was totally impressed, humbled and amused.

I guess I would be too, if my 5 year old has to teach me how to solve the Rubik’s Cube.

Surviving The Haze

It’s been more than a month since our little red dot was covered with smog. Almost every morning I am greeted by a dismal view from my bedroom window. I could hardly make out the ships in the distance, which is a good indication that the PSI reading is well above 100, in the unhealthy range.

I miss basking in the warm sunshine and I miss riding with the wind in my face. I miss battling with’the sun is too hot to run’ or ‘the wind is too strong to cycle’. The kids miss jumping into the pool and riding around the estate with their friends and I miss having them out of the house so that I can have some peace and quiet at home! Our daily routine got thrown off. The boys were asking for their ipads more than usual. Everyone was driving everyone nuts.

The mother in me felt that I should be doing something to help them occupy their time.

We tried crafting. I tried to pique their interest in making something cool for the Lantern Festival. We decided to make a storm trooper lantern using old plastic containers. It got them excited enough to put everything together and had it painted but thereafter, the ‘lantern’ was pretty much left sitting on the shelf. They were more interested in lighting candles and playing sparklers.

I sorely recalled the jet pack we made for the SuperHero Me party held at the National Library a while back. My 5 year old was eager to put on a jet pack for the party. He woke up early in the morning, determined to get it done on his own. Since it was a kids’ costume party, I was set to help him make a cute looking jet pack with 2 rocket boosters on the wings, decorated with happy colours. I told them my idea and they both protested.

Firstly, a jet pack doesn’t come in rainbow colours. Secondly they don’t have rocket boosters on the wings. The weight on both wings need to be exactly the same and having rocket boosters on the wings will risk sending the jet pack into a crazy spin if one side will to break down and will likely kill the user!

Ok, so Mom doesn’t know much about making jet pack.

One week passed, then one month passed and we were still getting the haze from our lovely neighbour and we had slowly gotten used to not seeing the ships from our window.

The boys were left on their own on most days and we were less restless after accepting that the haze will be here to stay and we will be confined at home. The kids had also gotten better at finding things to do around the house.

It was not all peace and quiet. They squabbled and they drove me crazy on occasions when they got too rowdy but we survived. I think the good thing that came out of this episode is we got better at dealing with boredom and here are some things that kept them busy.

1. Learn to fly the drone without breaking the house

The Dad was away for a week and gave them the permission to fly his new toy IN the house. They were thrilled. It took them a long while to figure out how to take off and land the drone without crashing into something. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted to watch them fiddle with their new toy and I usually choose to hide in the kitchen.

2. Boardgames and cards

We aren’t very creative and often stick to the traditional Chess, Uno, Monopoly, Scrabble.

We were at a toy shop the other day and got smitten by this beautiful chess set For less than 50 bucks, I thought it was a steal for a wooden set. Alas it turned out to be a plastic one with wood looking finishing! I was a tad disappointed but the kids weren’t bothered and were happy to have a new chess set to add to their collection. We played with it for many nights. They were pleased with its magnetic pieces and have decided to bring the set along for our upcoming holiday.

If you are more adventurous in trying out new games, head over to MyFirstGames and choose from a wide selection of fun and interesting games (non electronic) for kids.

3. Make something edible

Onigiri or Japanese rice ball, not the usual kind of sushi I would make but they are fun and easy enough for my 5 year old to help. In fact he was the one who taught me the clever trick of using cellophane wrap to roll the sushi into ball after learning it in school. So you can make these without having to own a whole range of sushi making tools.

The kids like theirs with tuna, crab meat or egg. I like mine with avocado and cucumber. Sprinkle the balls generously with sesame and seaweed condiment before popping them into your mouth. We made enough to let the kids bring to school for snack.

4. Indoor Ping Pong

The kids got interested in table tennis after watching some para athletes play the game at a shopping mall a while back.
They had been bugging me to get a table tennis set but we couldn’t fit a table tennis table into our home. Instead we turned our coffee table into one. It was good enough for them to hone their ping pong whacking skill and even my husband and I can have a match using this.

5. Lego

I think this has to be the best investment we’ve made as parents. The boys still play with them everyday and I would have saved loads of money if I had it figured out, that these are the only toys the kids ever need. Here are some thoughts about playing with Lego

6. Create something

My 5 year old enjoys doing craft only if mom is not there to tell him how to do it. He discovered Mister Maker the other day on Youtube and got so inspired after watching that he hauled up the craft box and turned some old cardboard boxes into a castle for his Lego troop.

The boys are fascinated with things that can fly, shoot, burn and explode and we usually let them try out. Recently my elder boy had a really bad burn on his finger while playing with fire. The blister was huge and it took weeks to recover. His blunder would be a great add on to his list of ‘How Not To Get Burned’. They came up with their own shooting ‘toys’ and had a game to see whose creation is better for target shooting.


7. Watch Youtube Videos

We have a love hate relation with the internet.

My elder boy learned to code his first computer program via the internet. My younger one learned about planes, ships, oceans and space watching Discovery Science and National Geographic.

Recently we bought a book on how to fold paper planes. As it turned out, it was easier to learn to fold paper planes from Youtube videos.

They learned to do cool experiments at home, some more dangerous than others and I am beginning to think that the Science teachers in school should turn to Youtube for inspirations.

The latest thing we learned from Youtube is to solve the Rubik’s Cube. I was overjoyed that I could solve the Rubik’s Cube! I was so proud and relieved that my brain still function well after more than a decade of mundane chores.

Now everyone in the family can solve the Rubik’s Cube except the Dad and that of course made the boys uber proud.

The internet has certainly changed the way how kids learn these days and it is definitely a life saver for a stay at home Mom like me.

I guess like all things, moderation is the key and our challenge is to harness power of the internet, mitigate the risks and try to gain the most out of it.



To Those Who Had Fought

Last week I attended the wake of a beloved friend’s father who died of cancer. Last year around this time, a relative succumbed and passed away. Most friends I know have someone in their family who is living under the torment of this ruthless killer. My dad is a cancer survivor himself.

2012 was a gloomy year where my friend’s father, a close relative and my dad were diagnosed with cancer. My dad had almost half of his stomach removed but thankfully his cancer was in the early stage thus chemotherapy was not required. With only half a stomach left, he now takes small meals, chews his food well and watches what he eats. He has since lost considerable amount of weight but is still leading an active life. He cycles and goes for walks everyday.

It’s good to slay the demon. It’s good to wake up to another day of sun rise, to breathe another breath of fresh air and watch the world go by.

It’s good to be living and moving.

Unfortunately both my friend’s dad and relative weren’t so lucky. They have battled and succumbed to the disease. And I can’t help but to feel angry at how brutal this killer is. Each surgery and chemotherapy session promises hope. Yet a relapse would often follow and another relentless battle begins.

It’s cruel to be lifted by hope and then have it shattered by another life sentence. All we could do is to helplessly watch them shrivel and succumb.

This Sunday, I will be running in the Singtel cancer run. It will be my 3rd year running but my first since I busted my knee last December.

I have yet to regain full mobility of my left knee but the regular cycling trips have helped strengthen my thighs and build up my stamina.

2 months ago, I finally mustered enough courage to go onto the treadmill. It was in a spur of the moment, I was not attired, clad in my denim shorts without my usual jogging accessories. (music and drink) My boys watched on while I stepped onto the machine, I told them I just wanted to test out my leg. Half of me was worried that I would wreck my knee further, the other half knew that I would never find out if I don’t try.

Alas, I lasted half an hour on the treadmill! I was thrilled. I was exhilarated. I could run!

After trying out a couple more times on the treadmill, I finally made it outdoors last Friday for my first 10km run for the year. The beginning of the run was awful; my legs weighed a tonne; I couldn’t stop thinking about the bad air I was breathing in due to the haze. It also didn’t help that I had to stop multiple times to answer my phone. It was the first day of school holiday and I had snuck out in the morning while the boys were asleep. When they finally woke up, the younger one had to call me multiple times to check on me. Arrrggghh!

My pace was erratic; I couldn’t maintain a good pace; my posture was poor and it caused my calf muscles to tense up and ache; it was only much later that my muscles started to ease up but by then I was already gasping for air. I took much longer than usual to complete the run. It was demoralizing; I felt so not ready for the run.

I know I would be a nervous wreck at the starting point and my energy would probably be sapped by the hot sun (the race starts at 7am, which is a tad late, if you ask me). I worry that my heart would thump too hard and my legs might decide to go on strike that day. I could foresee that it is not going to be an easy run and I have thoughts of chickening out.

But I thought of my friend’s father who passed away, my relative and my Dad. Things were put into perspective and I was reminded why I am running.

For me it’s a 15 km race to the finishing line but for many of the cancer patients, their race is one with an uncertain destination, a race with no finishing line.

My mind was set. This Sunday, come what may, I shall run and complete the race.

I will run.
To honor those who had fought.
To celebrate those who had won.
To remember those who had lost.
To cheer those who are still fighting.

Note : This is not a sponsored post, do head over here if you wish to make a donation to the Singapore Cancer Society