Painting up a storm

I was telling Jason recently about some paintings by my ex-colleague, Sandra – huge canvas ones hung on the wall in her new home, and how pretty they looked. Something about my account piqued his interest and he asked to buy some bigger canvases so he could do the same. Like Shannon, he doesn’t want to go for lessons, but for different reasons. He used to take art classes, but he’s stopped since the beginning of this year because he would rather spend his Sunday mornings… watching TV.

He still paints on and off, but now learns from library books or YouTube. Anyway, the purchase of several sizes of canvas boards from Art Friend has reignited his interest and he’s spent the recent weekends painting with acrylic paints.

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I thought they looked like blue roses but I’m apparently reading too much into it. “No, they’re just circles,” he insisted.

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He got the idea from a library book, Acrylics, (on the floor below, cover partially hidden), and has been experimenting with the different techniques inside. He was trying to recreate the cover of the book below, but in his favourite colour – green.

 

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This is the final product, I just propped it in front of another picture in an old frame, hence it doesn’t fit exactly, and put the wooden craft word in front of it. I thought he could do more to blend the white, but he lost interest in touching up after a while.

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A sunrise or sunset picture.

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With a flock of birds!

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I like watching him paint, because I’ve never been much of a painter. I like painting furniture, containers or signs, but I’ve never felt inclined to paint a picture the way Jason does. This time, he looked like he was having so much fun I decided to have a go at painting something. Shannon and I chose a simple one from his book but the blending technique which I thought looked easy, wasn’t at all easy. This was my first attempt at painting balloons in the sky. I chose the picture because it had my favourite colours, but I was totally unable to paint the clouds the way it looked in the book! I did it my own way in the end, swirling the brush here and there and finally called it a day.

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Added Instagram filters!

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The paintings have found a home on top of our piano, blocking all the smaller photo frames that used to be there. 

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Something is looming

They are colourful, intricate, and remind me of the friendship bands of my school days. I’m talking about the Rainbow Loom bands, created by a US-based Malaysian-born engineer. The craze has reached my home, and we finally relented and got Jason a pack of the colourful bands that is all the rage among kids now. Yup, it’s Jason who asked for it. And when he did, my first reaction was: “Um, isn’t that for girls?!” His reply: “No lah. My friends, the boys, are all doing it.”

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And while the bands come in all colours, he chose the “boy colours” to make the bands for himself.

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While I love crafts, I haven’t felt an inclination to pick up this particular one. Everything he learnt came from Youtube, or his cousin, or his Laosim. My sole contribution to his latest interest was to provide him with a compartmentalised box for the bands his papa bought him, which previously contained my cookie cutters. They fit perfectly in there, even the tools, and that makes me happy because they are not all over the home.

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The top row of bands are Jason’s, and he made most of the bottom row of bands for Shannon, who was pleased as punch to wear them. He’s made a pair for their papa and me as well and beams with pride when we wear them.

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He is most adept at making the basic band – the “Fish Tail” – and found some of the other styles too difficult to follow on the video tutorials. At a recent family gathering, he discovered a fellow loom-lover in his Laosim and he spent a fruitful evening mastering the “Dragon Scale”.

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Throughout all this, we presumed Shannon was too young to have a go at it. So when Laosim asked Shannon if she would like to try her hand at making a bracelet herself, Shannon shyly replied that she didn’t know how. Laosim gamely said, “I will teach you.” And she did.

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She taught Shannon how to make an “Inverted Fish Tail”, which she said was easy enough for a 4.5 year old to learn, and left her to repeat the steps after guiding her for the first few rounds.

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Amazingly, Shannon kept at it, methodically repeating the steps in the coloured bands of her choice.

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After 30 minutes, she successful created an Inverted Fish Tail!

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The final product:

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I felt bad that I totally underestimated her. See how pleased she is with herself.

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Some impressive creations from Laosim include the “Minion” and “Rose Garden”!

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PS, Thanks for your kind messages yesterday regarding the miscarriage, and for sharing your personal stories. Thanks also to S who remembered that this month is the first death anniversary of my grandmother. Appreciate the concern. :)

 

A pregnancy… and a loss

Soon after Shannon came along, I wrote in ST about how I could not imagine myself having a third kid. As it was, I could barely manage then, juggling a full-time reporting job and two kids. I was sleep-deprived most days, and hardly had time for myself and my husband. Many readers wrote in commiserating and sharing their experiences. Well, Jason is now 8 and Shannon 4.5 – and I was never more glad to say goodbye to the nappy-changing, night-feeding years.

Then I found myself pregnant last month. After the initial shock, we grew to accept the idea. My husband’s grin said it all. The strongest reaction came surprisingly from Jason. He was so excited about having another sibling, and would eagerly whisper to me: “I hope the baby’s cute and guai(obedient), not like meimei!” He would “talk” to the baby and ask about its development after each gynae visit.

Shannon, whose reaction was initially muted – perhaps she didn’t understand fully what it meant, or she was worried her position as the baby of the family would be usurped – was soon influenced by her korkor and became enthusiastic about the idea of becoming a jiejie(elder sister). One day, she came to me and said: “If the baby is a girl, can I change my name to Elsa and name her Anna?” (Frozen craze…) I was caught off-guard and stopped myself from laughing out loud, before asking her, “what if baby’s a boy?” Without missing a beat, she replied: “Then I’ll call him Olaf or Kristoff!” For the uninitiated – Olaf is the name of a snowman and Kristoff, the good guy. Or so Shannon says.

It is another reason for them to fight. Jason: I want a didi. Shannon: I want a meimei.

Perhaps it is age – I just celebrated my 36th birthday – but this pregnancy was tough. I was feeling nauseous day in, day out. When I was expecting Jason and Shannon, any nausea could be dispelled with food. This time, nothing I tried worked. I was just counting down the days to the end of the first trimester. It didn’t help that I had spotting at about 6 weeks, and had to be on bed rest. Thankfully, during the scan, we saw a tiny heartbeat after a long search and the spotting stopped after a week or so.

I was relieved and was looking forward to the 8.5-week gynae visit last week. I felt good – I was feeling nauseous and I had not been spotting for two weeks. During the ultrasound scan, my gynae took longer than usual. Then he frowned and said: “I don’t see a heartbeat.” My heart sank.

A repeat scan (ultrasound and internal) at Thomson Medical showed the same result – a sac that measured 8 weeks or so, but no heartbeat. This miscarriage was the second one. I had a miscarriage before Shannon came along. But that time, I had bleeding, and no nausea. There was a sac, but nothing developed.

My gynae gently told me that one in six pregnancies end in a miscarriage, usually in the first trimester. It is usually because of chromosomal abnormalities and so the pregnancy is terminated spontaneously. It is nature doing its job. He also said his wife has had 3 miscarriages and he could do nothing about them. Miscarriages are common, but they are usually early and hushed up, so we seldom hear of them. I understood all that. In fact, the nausea was so unbearable despite the lack of heartbeat, I told him I would like to arrange for a D and C immediately.

Before I had the miscarriages, I had the impression that a miscarriage meant the womb being unable to carry the foetus successfully, there would be bleeding, lots of it. I also thought it was because of strenuous activity. But my two experiences showed me otherwise.

These are some other questions I asked my gynae both after the first miscarriage in 08 and last week. He is not one to mince his words:

1) Is it because I didn’t take folic acid before I conceived?

Gynae: (Thought for a while) Did you take folic acid before you conceived and successfully delivered the first time (Jason)?

Me: Nope.

2) I’ve been on bed rest, how come I still have spotting/bleeding? Is it something I did/didn’t do?

Gynae: If the baby is healthy, bed rest will help. If not, even if you lie down, you will continue to bleed.

(When I had Shannon, I was spotting/bleeding for 4.5 months even though I was on bed rest. I managed to carry her to full term.)

3) Is it my age? I’m 36.

Gynae: A 26 year old can also miscarry. Try again after three months.

But a loss is a loss. We grieved over what it could have been. Jason took the news the hardest. He said: “But I was planning to play lao ying zhuo xiao ji (literally: eagle catches baby chicks, kinda like a catching game) with the baby and we need at least three people for it.”

It has been nearly a week since the D and C and life is slowly getting back to normal. There’s always a silver lining. In this case, a supportive family has been critical in helping us get through this period. My mum has been cooking dinners for us and my husband doing the heavy lifting at home. Jason and Shannon are their usual selves, demanding much of my attention and I don’t dwell on the loss.

The only difference now is perhaps that the thought of having a third child is no longer as scary or as daunting as before.

Shannon and Ballet (Part 2)

Finally finished up some work for a business organisation that took me out of my comfort zone (I don’t usually do business stories! Much less that on China…) And I’m so glad that’s out of the way!

The last time I wrote about Shannon and ballet, she was asked to go back for a second trial lesson. I decided to let her go for it, but do it differently this time. I would not go into class with her.

So on the day of her second trial class, I picked her from school and told her we were going for ballet lesson. She started crying, saying she did not want to go for class. So she sobbed all the way in the car, from her school to the ballet class (about a ten-minute car ride), even while changing into her leotard.

She got out of the car fairly willingly, still crying, and following me. I brought her into the class, still crying, and handed her to the teacher, still crying, and told her I would wait for her outside.

And I did, I decided to sit outside for 45 minutes, hoping for the best. I guessed the other mums around me were probably thinking what a Tiger Mum I was, forcing the girl to go for class.

When I peeked into the class through a tiny gap at the door after five minutes, she was intently listening to the teacher. After 10 minutes, she was doing the exercises along with all the other little girls. In 15 minutes, she was prancing around like the rest, shouting out answers gleefully when the teacher threw them questions.

After class, she ran out of the room into my arms with a wide grin on her face.

“I like ballet,” she announced. Moral of the story? Mummy cannot be with her when she goes for class or else she goes into her manja mode. And yes, follow gut instincts, even when misunderstood by others to be a Tiger Mum.

I wish I could say that ballet classes have since started and we’ve been going every week. Unfortunately, one of the other girls decided not to sign up for the class, and the class is now still short of one girl to start. I think they need at least five girls in the class.

Such an anti-climax, after all the tears and drama.

So while waiting for one more girl to sign up, Shannon’s still dancing at home. :)

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Garden inspiration

When I met Shermaine for lunch at Concetto in The Cathay a couple of months back, we spotted an indoor herb garden in the restaurant. I’ve always wanted a herb garden by my kitchen window but hubby was convinced it would not succeed because we don’t get direct sunlight there. Encouraged by the indoor garden I saw, I naively attempted to create one in my kitchen. Oh we had so much fun preparing for it, using an old fish tank my husband got for free because it leaked.

First, we laid a layer of pebbles to allow for drainage.

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Then, a layer of soil on top.

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The pretty it up, I found an old broken plate from one of the potted plants outside, and decided to use it to make a sign.

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I thought I would use chalkboard paint so that I could change the sign down the road, so I got Jason to paint it.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t like how it turned out. Too black.

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So I decided to clean off the paint, and when I did, the edges were left looking black. I thought it look quite rustic this way and left it as it is. Using a stencil, I traced out the words: “My Herb Garden”.

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And coloured the letters with Sharpies.

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Here it is, before I added the herbs. Driftwood was from another fish tank.

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And I present my herb garden, in its full glory, with Jason’s cactus to add some colour.

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Not wanting to be too ambitious, I used two ready herb plants from the supermarket and just repotted them.

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Alas, that glory lasted for all of 2 weeks. It was not for my lack of trying. We moved it wherever the sunlight shifted to. The tank was set on a table with casters making it a breeze to move around. But it just wasn’t getting enough direct sunlight. The lack of sunlight proved too much for the herbs. This is what it looks like today! SAD.

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The herbs didn’t die on me, and they didn’t go to waste either. I started cooking them when they started looking droopy! So for two weeks, we had delicious roasted rosemary chicken, rosemary chicken stew, Thai basil minced pork etc for dinner.

Then, last week, I went down to Macpherson Primary as part of a Compass visit, and saw a beautiful garden the school parent volunteers, staff and students had created. And I got inspired all over again! Not that I’m doing anything to my garden at home, but am keeping it for the future if and when I get a plot of land with direct sunlight.

A vertical garden using recycled drink bottles, which reminds me of the one we saw in Malacca.

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A (horizontal?) garden using wood planks.

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A compost pile.

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A flower bed tended to by a grandmother volunteer.

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All under a “treehouse” where outdoor lessons are conducted!

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Visitors entering the treehouse.

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Another view of the treehouse.

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The pupils at Macpherson Primary have many outdoor learning spaces, and hopefully they grow up to enjoy having greenery around them, and have better luck tending to herb gardens than I!

 

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