On photography and writing

A good photograph anchors the story you’re telling, and helps to give it weight.

I’ve never been more aware of the relationship between photos and words than I am now, as a writer, a mum, and an amateur (read iphone) photographer.

Photography is one of the skills that bloggers or writers tend to pick up while doing our art. In the past year or so, I think I’ve grown more attuned to aesthetics, placement of subjects and the space around them, and the networking of colours.

And obviously the kids make naturally awesome subjects to practise on.

God knows how much I covet a DSLR…For the record, I haven’t found the courage or time to pick up a DSLR. I heard it’s a route that one will travel and not turn back on. Plus lugging the kids around is weight enough for me, and so I’ve been content just playing around with my iphone.

I’ve also found that apps make cool toys. I’ve started falling for picfx, which is the app I used to edit Vera and dad’s hadouken moment. And of course instagram, which almost everybody is on these days. I think apps like these satisfy our need for beauty, as well as  community, as exemplified by the avid usage of #hashtags. And perhaps a bit of narcissism, since we all get to prettify ourselves and earn likes for the most adorable pictures of our children. But I try not to think so much, and just enjoy the process. Anyway the cute/fun/funny/lovey pictures will be more for us to reminisce and savour in old age, no?

But I digress. (See what apps do to me?) I wanted to talk about the relationship between photography and writing.

For me, my photos are often the main starting point of a blog post. Like the picture of Vera and her granny walking in the park. Or the lovey-dovey one with dad and daughter holding hands. Or dreams by a window. They give me the spark of inspiration with which I need to start a post and the focus so that I don’t digress.

Sometimes, like the hadouken example above, the photo IS the post. On all other occasions, they embellish a post and help bring out the essence of the story.

I love taking shots of the kids outdoors and at play. It’s where they’re in their zone, and where I can feel comfortable running about in shorts and doing silly things like experimenting with angles, focus, lighting and so on. I also secretly love the green and blue backgrounds that come with those shots. Where there is sunlight highlighting the subject, all the better.

Here are some of my recent favourites, all instagrammed or picfx-ed.

JJ’s selfie, all joy at being able to hold the iphone and seeing himself on the screen.

a joyful boy

Happy boy at the top of the slide. Photo taken literally through a hole in the floor.

shining happy boy

Another variation of the hole-in-the-floor shot.

Just chillin’ (also the cover pic on my facebook page)

Defying gravity.

defying gravity

Like I said, I’m amateur-ish and there’s still lots to learn. Here are some of my inspirations: 6 tips for better instagram photos, scissorspaperstone for her photos of crafty and yummy things, and photographers like Project Alicia and Steph Tan.

I harbour a hope that one day I’ll make that leap into the DSLR world, and never look back, except to perhaps laugh at my own naivety at thinking the iphone was ever enough for me. (But hey it’s all about my own growth and development, so no judgment calls are being made here.)

If I may say so myself, I think I’ve grown in writing and photography in the past few months. I feel as if one passion feeds the other, and creates a giant snowball.

What do you love about photography and/or writing? Do you own a DSLR and why or why not?

For the love of enrichment classes

Parents living in Singapore are spoilt  for choice – when it comes to enrichment classes that is. There is enrichment of the arty type, musical type, dance type, performance type, sporty type, language…the list goes on.

Recently, a question popped into mind: Does my child actually need enrichment classes to grow and develop well? 

Now, let me say on the onset that I’m not against enrichment classes. When Vera turned two, I remember having a conversation with the hubby on what classes to go for. Because we chose a mainstream childcare centre that was close to our home, it did not offer much by way of enrichment classes. No gym, no specialty art, no…you know what I mean. So the kiasu Singaporean in me wondered if my daughter was going to “lose out” in any way in the future. (It’s not something I like to acknowledge, but if you poke around my heart deep enough, the fear is there.)

Well, it’s been 14 months since then. Vera has since moved from the childcare centre to a kindergarten, as we wanted brother and sister to spend more time together – you know doing stuff like perfecting the art of snatching toys from each other without mummy yelling and removing the said toys at once.


My point is…Vera is developing well and is like any normal girl her age, without any external classes except for kindy. But can I really conclude that enrichment classes don’t matter that much?

I guess it boils down to personal choice and individual situations. For us, we are blessed to have the grannies around to play with the kids, while mum and dad are away making hay while the sun shines. Now that I’m home two extra weekdays a week, we get to spend time exploring new places, doing simple art and learning activities, reading, singing songs… (Vera enjoys putting on little song / dance items to entertain us too.)

Come weekends, we get to spend extended periods playing, running about at the playground, meeting up with friends, and doing some craft or artwork. I guess, by the grace of God, we haven’t run out of activity ideas for the kids. Yet. (And if one day we really do, there’s always the trip to the playground that will save the day, right?)

But I digress. If you’re considering enrichment classes, maybe it’s good to start with some basic questions:

– What will truly enrich my child’s life? Is it something that I can’t fully provide for at home?

– What is my child inclined to? Does s/he display a gifting in certain areas or preferences for particular types of activities?

– What is his/her learning style? Is the enrichment provider’s teaching style a good match for my child? 

– What are your priorities/goals as a family? eg. For us we’ve identified that the sibling relationship and just being able to play together is foremost right now.

In a social context where usually both parents have formal employment outside the home, enrichment classes can play a supplementary role, and ‘enrich’ the child’s learning experience. Employed effectively, they can encourage and build your child up in an area of gifting, or even in an area of perceived lack (for example, in the Chinese language).

But choose wisely, as time and resources are limited.

So…we’ve chosen to space out enrichment classes for Vera. Now that she’s turned three, we are planning to embark on art workshops (for the first time) during the June holidays. So far we’ve been having fun with simple art activities at home, so I think it would be great to expose her to some art lessons.

Further down the road, we might do a performance related one as well, since Vera loves performing so much. Next year, we might also think about swimming and/or music lessons.

Every parent wants the best for their children. And I see it as my privilege to be able to learn alongside them, encourage them to try new things, and to water their thirst for learning and exploration.

At the same time, my ideal is to be able to do more home-learning activities with them. Some days I may feel inadequate and tight on time, but still every effort should be worth it.

But what do you think? What enrichment classes have you considered for your child? 

Check out this article for home-learning tips and ideas:

I see your true colours shining through

I’m a big fan of accidental beauty.

Vera was playing around with some colored stones that ah-ma-nai-nai (what she calls god-grandma) gave her the other day. Together with the daddy, Vera managed to piece together a little rainbow!



She repeated after her dad, learning the colours that make up a rainbow. I paused for a moment to take in this little arc of wonder right before my eyes, and the happy smile on her face. By the way, do you know that a rainbow is actually a sign of God’s promise of redemption to Noah and all of humankind?


This made me think of Cyndi Lauper’s song True Colours.

I see your true colours shining through
See your true colours
That’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colours
Your true colours are beautiful
Like a rainbow


To my dear little ones,

Don’t be afraid to let your true colours show. Don’t live your life trying to prove something to others, or trying to be someone else.

Our God has created you as a unique individual. On days when you feel imperfect and lousy, just remember that He is the Potter. He will continue to mould and shape you with each passing day, and every waking hour. But only if you allow Him to.

You are His work of art, and that’s the way I choose to see you too.

Love, mama

Education is not a race

The article titled ‘Sorry, your child is not bright enough’ published in Today has been creating waves lately, at least where my Facebook and Twitter are concerned.

I’ve heard from some parents sharing about how the tuition industry and its proponents have ‘mercenarised’ education, and about how wrong it is that some enrichment centres reject children from entering if they don’t pass an entrance test. And we are talking about children as young as six here.

The idea about enrichment centres ‘streaming’ and selecting ‘the cream of the crop’ is appalling. I think it’s also very revealing about the way Singapore does education.

But my main focus here is on parents — who feel that if they don’t enrol their children in these centres they will get left behind even before they set foot in primary one. I know we live in an extremely competitive and ‘kiasu’ environment, and as parents, we only want to provide the best environment for our children’s intellectual growth and well-being. But have we ever stopped to think that all this pushy parenting and undue stress can be counter-productive to the learning and development of our young ones?

If you were a 6-year-old, and you’ve just been told that you didn’t make it into a particular enrichment centre because you didn’t do well enough on a test, how would you feel? What would it do to your self-esteem?

At best, the child makes it through, does sufficiently well through primary school and secondary level education, and lands himself a spot at a local university (something he might have been able to do anyway without the help of an external education provider at a young age). But at worst?

Perhaps we need to rethink the equation that child + enrichment courses = good grades = highly intelligent and eventually successful individual. Perhaps we need to rethink the entire concept of intelligence itself.

I’ve been reading John Medina’s Brain Rules for Baby, and it’s been a refreshing read. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School — a provocative book that challenges the way our schools and work environments have traditionally been designed.

In Brain Rules for Baby, Medina talks about the danger of hyper-parenting, and lists the ways in which it can potentially hurt our children’s intellectual development:

  1. Extreme expectations stunt higher-level thinking — pushing your child to perform tasks his brain is not developmentally ready to do can lead to them resorting to lower-level thinking instead of higher-level thinking and processing skills.
  2. Pressure can extinguish curiosity — where children focus their energy on securing parents’ approval instead of exploring their worlds.
  3. Continual anger or disappointment becomes toxic stress — at the extreme, this can create a psychological state known as learned helplessness, which can physically damage a child’s brain, and is deemed a ‘gateway to depression’.

Really, good grades are not the be all and end all. Don’t stress our young. Let them enjoy their childhood. If you really want to invest in their education, try these instead.

Spend time with them.

Nurture their love for exploration and discovery.

Model timeless values such as kindness and generosity.

Instill gratitude.

Read great books together.

Hone their social skills.

Emphasize the value of effort and hard work.

And perhaps, just perhaps, these will benefit them in all areas of life, above and beyond the academic realm.

I leave you with this quote from the book:

“Write this across your heart before your child comes into the world: Parenting is not a race. Kids are not proxies for adult success. Competition can be inspiring, but brands of it can wire your child’s brain in a toxic way. Comparing your kids with your friends’ kids will not get them, or you, where you want to go.”

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