Matthew and his lightsaber

Back in 2019, there was an advertisement for a Combat Saber Experience at Bugis Plus. It was a short 30-minute session where you are given a lightsaber and shown how to use it. We took the experience and had our first combat saber duel. Well, sparring was more like it. That’s when we started to learn more about The Saber Authority, the ones responsible for giving us our combat saber experience. Aloysius was more than accommodating and our experience had been very enlightening. So enlightening in fact, that we signed up on the spot for another activity involving combat sabers. We also signed up for Sabermach’s saber building workshop. There was a glitch though as the slots have been filled. Then we met Jay. Again, another person that made our saber experience a great one. Jay managed to squeeze in at least one more slot for us and Matthew managed to get himself a lightsaber to build.

20200217_205228-733

So we started that day getting some pointers on how to duel with a saber. It is basically sword fighting with lightsabers. We were given simple instructions to follow and for the next few minutes, we were actually feeling pretty good. We were slashing left and right and moving with graceful footwork. At least I thought it was graceful. The last few minutes were spent putting those lessons to work with a friendly spar with one of the seniors. It was a good workout for me and I’m just glad that Matthew had a good time too. Good enough that what happened next had set us up for a few more months of future sword fighting. The Saber Authority had given us the nudge we needed to get us some exercise and some fun.

20191110_160702-175

After the combat saber experience, Matthew got to sit down and started with building his own lightsaber. Sabermach offered the Blackburn for this saber build. The build also seemed pretty simple. There were a few parts that needed to be put together and that was supposed to be it. It turned out not to be so simple. Putting the saber together was just fine, but the customisation work on the saber took a while. It was fun though. And it made enough of an impact on Matthew to get him to appreciate his own creation even more. The lightsaber he built was cool because it worked pretty darn well and because it was personal. The amount of work he put in there was enough to put a smile on his face while he was building it.

20200217_203850-729

At the end of the day though, I had to buy my own light sabre because I thought that there was no point with only one of us having a lightsaber because we won’t be able to duel. After that, we enrolled with The Saber Authority and have been having regular saber sessions on Sundays at the Sports Hub.

20200217_204000-731

Let’s talk about the Coronavirus

Coronavirus outbreak header from WHO

The Coronavirus hit the news hard at the start of 2020.

Let’s see what the World Health Organization (WHO) have on this matter.

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

The COVID-19 is the latest outbreak of the coronavirus and was first reported from Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019. Previously known as the 2019-nCoV, this novel coronavirus was identified as the causative virus in cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan.

While COVID-19 is a new strain, it still exhibits the traits of the coronavirus. This means that general precautions against the coronavirus will give you a good chance of not contracting the virus. Note that it gives you a chance, it does not make you virus-proof. It doesn’t help that there is false information that is going around through social media and word of mouth. We must exercise caution in the way that we process the information that goes our way. Yes, the new COVID-19 is scary. But what is even scarier is that we don’t know enough about it to completely remove its existence. What we have is information from the World Health Organization. Feel free to do your own research for validation’s sake but in order to help out, let us help ourselves to understand what we know and what we can do.

IMG_20200126_160535_830

Good practice includes:

Washing your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub as this helps eliminate the virus if it is on your hands.

When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose as this prevents the spread of viruses and germs.

When someone who is infected with respiratory diseases, like 2019-nCoV, coughs or sneezes they project small droplets containing the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus. So keep at least a meter away (yes, this is nearly impossible on crowded buses and trains).

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If your hands have touched surfaces contaminated with a virus, you can easily transfer the virus if you do not regularly wash your hands and then touch your face.

If you have any symptoms of fever, cough or breathing difficulty, seek medical care immediately. As many have said before, prevention is better than cure. The earlier the virus is detected on your person the better prepared the medical staff will be to handle your situation. Despite the virus outbreak, there are still normal cases of fever and coughing.

Practice good hygiene. This includes keeping yourself clean and avoiding contact with unsanitary surfaces and objects. Taking extra care when visiting live animal markets and wet markets should also be a given.

Avoid consumption of raw and uncooked animal products.

Information from the WHO is available on their website at https://www.who.int/

We can all help each other if we are more aware and considerate of others. Together, we can get through this outbreak. The fewer people getting infected, the less load there is on our medical practitioners, and hopefully the more time they will have to find a cure and a perhaps a vaccine.

We would like to give a shout out to the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare persons that have braved the outbreak in order to help those infected. We continue to pray for China and the rest of the world who have been hit hard by the COVID-19.

The End

We have come to the end of 2019. More specifically, the end of the school year for Matthew. It’s no secret that we have been struggling with math this year. We have tried different methods and different tutors with Matthew but in the end, it just wasn’t enough. Unfortunately, though he got promoted to Sec 3, he didn’t do well enough in the other subjects to keep him in Express. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it does mean he would need to fork out an extra year before graduating from secondary school. I’m still actually confused at how the system works here, but it is what it is. Extra year or not, we’re in for more.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but obviously, we were hoping for him to stay in the express stream as that would allow him to finish school quickly. After calmly reading out the results with him and talking out what to do next, we close the book and hope that he learns from his own mistakes.

We are still trying to sift through the school system here. It’s definitely not the same during my time. We are still trying out different teaching and learning methods to see what works better. We are also trying to learn how to adjust our minds and our attitude to better understand what we are missing. And on top of this, we need to be aware of how these things are affecting us mentally, emotionally, and physically. I’ve never had to think so much about school before.

It’s all done now. We can’t change any more results or decisions that we have made the past year. We all need to look ahead and navigate together if we want to pull through. This is what I told Matthew. It wasn’t to scold him or to make him feel guilty. It was me stating a fact. I do hope he gets it. And I do hope that we all see better results in 2020. To the graduates, congratulations. To the rest, let’s finish strong.

20190910_102720

We Got Another Bird

Okay. Honestly, I had written the previous post nearly a month ago. And it just so happened that on Matthew’s birthday, he got himself another bird. Our green-cheeked conure is 7 months old (more or less) and we had been wondering if she needed a friend. Well, Matthew decided that she did and went on ahead to get a grey-pied cockatiel. So we now have a 6-week old cockatiel and a 7-month-old conure. I think it’s going to be a flappy Christmas in our house.

20191211_122906

As mentioned before, this is actually our first time taking care of birds like these. Our conure, Skittles, managed to fly out through the window of our flat in less than a month. It gave me a scare when that happened since she was still just a baby and was just learning how to fly. We managed to find her after an hour or so looking. Right after that we took her to the pet shop and had her wings clipped. And to think that we were initially planning on keeping her as a free-flying bird. After that harrowing experience, we managed to train Skittles a bit. She still can’t fly as her wings have not grown back yet but she is very tame and now very clingy to the three of us. We were thinking that she also got scared when she lost her way when she flew out of the window. We were the only three people that she actually grew up with ever since we took her home at 4 weeks old. We hand-fed her every day, cleaned her cage, cradled her and kept her warm. She was literally like a new baby. Except smaller. And with feathers.

Matthew insists that the new bird is his. Technically, it is true since he was the one who paid for the bird. But all of us are going to take care of the bird as it grows up so it now becomes “our” bird. Matthew named her Sherbet because he wanted to keep the naming to food. With our birds, he is thinking of naming them after sweets. Hence, Sherbet.

20191214_125918

I have recently been reminded of how difficult it could be taking care of a baby. Like Skittles before, Sherbet needs to be hand-fed with formula. Unlike Skittles though, Sherbet does not actually shriek and shout in the morning when she is hungry. Surprisingly, Skittles has developed the habit of sharing the formula with Sherbet. And by sharing, I mean eating Sherbet’s food when she isn’t looking. Sherbet still needs a lot of training. She still needs to learn how to poop from a perch. She actually still needs to learn how to perch. She needs to learn how to fly and find her way around the house – hopefully not finding her way out the window. Sherbet still does not look like a proper bird with all the missing feathers, but we’ll get there. Probably sooner than we think.

We’ve Got A Bird

We got ourselves a new friend. A bird. A turquoise green-cheeked conure. I honestly have not heard of a conure until last May when we got ours. As it turns out, a conure belongs to a family of small to medium-sized parrots. Parakeets as some would call them. But hey, it’s called diversity.

IMG_20190518_182824

Our hamster died earlier this year and it was really a struggle having to cope with the death of another hamster in the course of over eight years. To be fair to us, a hamster’s life expectancy is between two to three years. And when we got over the death of Turd, we turned our eyes to a different type of companion. And no, it wasn’t a cat or a dog.

I have long been a dog person. I’ve lived my childhood surrounded by dogs. And living in a rural area of the Philippines, that means that those are your normal dogs. Mutts. And I loved them. Dogs are some of the most loyal and loving pets you would ever have. I believed that, up until we met our conure.

IMG_20190615_132006

When we went to the pet shop, I was a bit sceptical. The only birds that I have come across when I was younger were the love birds that my grandmother bred. I did not get to interact with them much because they were all caged and they would fly off the moment they sense an open door (or window). So when we were greeted by this chick, I was a bit undecided. The chick had been chirping and following my wife as we went around the shop. It barely had any feathers but it was big enough to fit in your hand. My wife asked about it and 10 minutes later it was on the way home with us.

We’ve had lots of stories with this bird since we brought it home. We still don’t know if it’s a girl or a boy, that will apparently cost us to get a DNA test for the bird. But it feels like we now have the best of both worlds. This conure acts like a puppy. It’s playful, loyal, and loud. Yet, it’s still a bird. It’s small, makes less of a mess, and loud. We are definitely in love. And according to nature, they could last 10 to 20 years!

IMG_20190615_102649

Geeky Things Kids Should Do

There was an article I read a long time ago about geeky things kids should do before they turn twelve. Well, we are way past that now. But there were things on that list that we have actually done and I am quite happy about those. But there are still things to do. In an age where mobile phones and tablets are given to children as young as 2, I can breathe a sigh of relief that we never brought up Matthew in such a way.

 

That said, we are probably in a hybrid situation where we are holding on to our past and embracing the future for both ourselves and for Matthew. This list of geeky things to do then would probably be because of this. And I’m happy that we have actually managed to do quite a bit on that list. This list is not exhaustive, and I will be running through the things that we have done as briefly as possible. We should probably write a full feature on some of them provided we have the means to do it.

DSC_2476-01

1. Tear something electronic apart. Heck, we love doing this kind of thing. We have taken apart a keyboard, an R/C car and a rice cooker among other things.

2. Play a musical instrument. He played the piano when he was in primary school and he is now on percussions in his CCA. So I guess that’s checked off the list.

DSC_2325-01

3. Play an “old fashioned” video game before getting too jaded by modern graphics. Oh, hell yes. 8-bit games rule. Our oldest console now is a GBA but we had a GBC before that. Can’t go too old-school.

4. Plant seeds and watch them grow. You know how this is a school project? It still is, but we have been doing the stuff even before they were asked to do it at school.

5. Create a lightsaber from an old cardboard tube and shiny paper. For some reason, we had cardboard rolls for plastic sheets. Two of them. I didn’t even have to do anything, Matthew just doodled lightsaber handles on them and we started humming lightsaber sounds.

6. Watch a trilogy (we won’t even judge you if it’s all in one day!). Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Back to the Future, Pirates of the Caribbean and then some.

7. Mix Mentos with Coke. Over and done with. This should be a school requisite.

8. Watch an animated series (Batman, Superman, Justice League, X-Men, etc..). Cartoon Network helped with these. And then there are others like Ben 10, My Little Pony, Wakfu, Gravity Falls, and the list goes on.

DSC_0343-01

9. Visit your state or nation’s capital. Visit the museums there. Okay, we’ve been living in Singapore for a good 10 years and we have more or less visited the museums here twice. We still have to visit the Istana though.

10. Play a video game all the way to the end. Uh-huh. Let’s see, there’s Halo 5, GTA-V, Fallout 4, Titanfall 2 and Castle Crashers. At least from recent memory.

11. Build a model. We have built Gundams. Lots of Gundams.

12. Make a paper aeroplane or newspaper boat. Seriously, it is a sad childhood for anyone who has not made a paper aeroplane and flew it. A paper boat maybe not so much, but parents please, teach your children to fly paper aeroplanes.

DSC_2335-01

13. Play a Table Top Game. We tried our hands on The Walking Dead but ended up buying the Star Wars X-Wing Table Top game.

DSC_2338-01

14. Attend a Comic/Game/Toy Convention. We did. And Matthew ended up loving it. We’re going to attend this year again.

DSC_1336-01

15. Build something crafty. Once upon a time, we got lost and ended up in Playeum. Here, Matthew was introduced to the wonders of a glue gun.

DSC_1475-01

16. Wear a Costume. Yeah, I had to don the same, but we made it through the night without getting caught!

DSC_2911-01

17. Program a Drone. This is the primary reason he got into his school of choice. Drones.

DSC_2935-01

18. Experience Virtual Reality. During the time that VR is just jargon, we managed to attend an exhibition that had a small VR booth set up for learning (rather than playing a game).

DSC_2033-01

19. Build a Robot. Yeah, it was just a kit. But isn’t a robot, a robot?

DSC_1865-01

20. Be an Eco-Warrior. There was one time I brought home extra garbage bags, gloves, and tongs from a beach cleanup that we did with my colleagues. Inspired, Matthew invited us to do the same. And we went to Pasir Ris Beach to clean up, much to the surprise of the people that saw us there.

We probably made half the list and that really isn’t enough. The world has become digital now. Children are always on their mobile phones or tablets playing games or watching videos. There aren’t enough of them going out to play with their friends anymore. There aren’t enough of them riding their bikes around town or going to the beach. Even as we try to bring our children out to do more things, these appliances always draw them in. We need to teach our children how to find balance in their lives because they are moving in a much faster pace than we did. And this may make them unprepared to manage the expectations of a very demanding world.

I would like to reach out more to Matthew and do more geeky things together even as our world turns digital. That is where our world is heading and there is no way to turn our back on the future. What we can do is to make every step going forward also be significant enough to look back on and trigger memories that he would someday recall to smile upon and reflect on.

Naming Convention

When I was a kid, people called me shy. To this day, I have this subconscious thought that I am shy. Contrary to this image that I have in my head, my wife refuses to accept this fact. When I think about it though, I am not that shy. At least not anymore.

And this is what I wanted to discuss. I was “labelled”, for lack of a better word, as being a shy child. And I grew up believing that I was. I may have grown up a little differently if I had believed otherwise.

So why was I told that I was shy in the first place? To be quite honest, I could really have been shy and timid when I was young. I imagine that most kids would be. I do remember being told stop being shy at certain times in my childhood. But it wasn’t an encouragement type of being told, it was more like a stern command to stop being shy. Mind you, this was the norm in the time and place that I grew up in. And so I grew up thinking I was normal and I don’t really have anything against my upbringing. Even with the guidance of our parents, we still grow into our own adult selves. And this is where I am now.

DSC_0283-01-01

Matthew has also been called a lot of things. We were building him up ever since he was much smaller. We always told him that he would be great. We always told him how good looking he was. We always told him how we loved his thoughtfulness, his kindness, his wittiness, his being a good son. It had always been praise. And then, we changed. The three of us changed.

DSC_1429-01-02

Over the years, the frustration over Matthew’s performance in his academics seems to have piled up. He has his own frustrations and we have our own. And it has really rocked the boat.

IMG_20181224_190050-01-01

Obviously, as parents, we try not to focus on the negatives. It is unsurprisingly difficult. It isn’t impossible but it is difficult. Humans, by nature, only look at things that are obviously in front of them without taking the time to understand why. Some won’t even bother asking the question. And this is where the bad labelling comes in. Words hurt. And you won’t know how much you have hurt that person until that person comes up to you to say it. And at one point, Matthew did. And I felt horrible. It felt like someone had thrust a hand into my chest and yanked my guts out. For a father that had been doing his best to be a good dad, hearing your child say that you had hurt him with your words, that is just devastating. And we’re not even talking about harsh words here, this is just about me pushing him to study harder.

IMG_20190428_201644-234-01

And so I woke up. I had been lost in thought for a long time about what to do with Matthew. Because I had been thinking on my own. I really don’t want to be blamed for anything because I was thinking of how Matthew’s future would be like. But those were my thoughts. His thoughts are different. His thoughts are of the present. His thoughts do not look forward enough that we see eye to eye. And that’s where I need to take a step back. I am thinking of his future, but I had not been walking him there. I was four steps in front of him and he just couldn’t grasp it. It took a while to learn that. But I am hopeful that it is the way for all of us to move forward. Maybe not in the same direction, but at least all at the same time.

Formicarium

I decided to surprise Matthew by bringing him to visit The Singapore Ants Exhibition. It was supposed to have ended in August but we were lucky to find out that it had been extended through September. He had recently been fascinated by ants while watching YouTube (what else?) with Ant Canada. To be honest, with my worsening eyesight, small insects would have been at the bottom of my “to see” list. But this trip wasn’t for me.

20190914_144023-21

Matthew became interested in ants when he watched a YouTube video about ants. Of course, it’s from YouTube, where else do kids learn things nowadays, school? Well, we aren’t promoting or sponsoring anyone in particular, but AntsCanada is the channel that we are following when we want a closer look into the world of ants.

20190914_145211-22

The Singapore Ants Exhibition was a surprise. First, because I never expected ants to be a “thing”. Second, is that there would actually be an exhibition about the tiny little insects. But it was a welcome one. The entrance fee wasn’t so bad. What I feel bad for is buying the magnifying glass with LED lights. I did come to the conclusion that ants are tiny little things. But it turns out, my smartphone would be better suited magnifying the insects than the magnifying glass. So let’s just get that out of the way.

20190914_145715-25

There were a good number of factoids scattered about in the small exhibition hall about ants. The different types, the different breeds, their different habitats, and some fun facts as well. We got to see big ants and small ants. We got to see the ants at work. We were asked to see the difference between the different types of ants and what they do, as well as look for the queen somewhere in the swarm. Some of these activities were more difficult than others because of their size though. But it is rewarding in a way when you manage to find what you were looking for. Seeing an army of ants attack a live mealworm was actually a good look at how nature works.

20190914_152054-32

Overall, the ants’ exhibition was a good experience. Eye-opening even. If only the location was easier to get to though.

20190914_152907-33

What A Day

My Sad Keanu interpretation

My Father’s Day gift this year was being slapped in the face that I have not been a good father (or just not good enough).

Ouch. Reflection follows.

When I started the journey into fatherhood more than 13 years ago, I promised myself that I would be the best father that I could be. I had ideologies, I had dreams, I had plans, I had quite a lot in mind, to be honest. That was thirteen years in the making. And then a brick wall hit me. When you hit a wall, you become dazed and confused. You stop for a while and get your head back on straight. Or at least you try to. Looking back at those thirteen years I have to admit that it hadn’t really been smooth as the journey in my dreams. There were things that I know I should have done differently. There are things that I should have said differently. There are decisions that I should have made differently. Not going into the mumbo-jumbo of time-travel and alternate universes, it could have made a difference in how I am now. I can’t say how much of a difference, but it would have made one.

Breaking things down, one of the things that I regret the most is showing Matthew how I lose my temper. I am very bad at this. Unfortunately, this is one thing that I can no longer undo. This is also one thing that he seems to have gotten from me and it is utterly frustrating being stuck between calming down and flaming up when both of us are doing the same thing. It’s like a Dragon Ball Z fight.

The next thing is actually one that may have been a by-product of my temper outburst. I thought that I would not come to the point that I would need to shout at Matthew. But it did. It was becoming harder and harder to get him to stop and listen. It had gotten to the point that I would be shouting because of frustration and even though I know that I shouldn’t, I could not get myself to stop.

I also told myself that I would do my best not to curse in front of Matthew because I get really disappointed when I hear young kids shouting expletives that they may not even understand. There are places and people that they hear these, and parents should not be one of them. Again, this is where I have failed when I have been taken over by my temper.

Spare the rod and spoil the child is a term that has been thrown around from generations ago. I did not want to ever reach this point in my fatherhood. But I crossed that line. At the boiling point, I have gotten to slap Matthew on his bums. Not a lot of times, but I didn’t think I would need to do it. Another case of an unfortunate event.

Whenever I realised that I had done any of the things that I wish I didn’t do, I would try and go into a calmer state (believe me, this is easier said than done) and try to douse the fires that have been set. I would do my best to explain what had happened and why I had done some of the things that I had done. I would break down what he had done that had gotten me to act the way that I did. I would explain why I shouldn’t have done what I had done and especially why he shouldn’t do what I did.

And I apologize.

It wasn’t like this when we were younger. In fact, it wasn’t like this until he had gone to school. It started probably somewhere between primary four and primary five. It had become a journey that went in and out of bad experiences which had affected us in a way we didn’t expect. There are things that Matthew does that has already become an instant trigger to my frustrations. And no matter how many times I have talked to him about it, he would still go on and do them, seemingly without a care in the world. I try to avoid it as best as I can because I am really tired of telling him off again and again. It’s fair enough when he does these things to me, but they become hairline triggers when he does it to his mum when I am around. And I just explode.

So I guess I have not been the good father that I thought I would be. It’s harder than I thought. This is definitely not turning out to be the happy, ever-laughing, and ideal parenting blog that I initially thought it would be. And that’s fine with me now. I realised that life isn’t all about the fun and the laughter. It comes drizzled with sadness and frustration as well that should not be ignored. This is a realisation. A reflection. No, I have not been the ideal father. And you can’t create a new account and start all over. You can only learn from your mistakes and pick up the pieces and hope that you can turn things around while there is still time.

Matthew is a good person. I don’t doubt that one bit. He just needs to realise that he has the potential to change the world. I guess that means me too. This is not a reboot, but a sequel. Welcome to fatherhood season 13.

20190619_105222-COLLAGE