Monthly Archives

April 2012

I ♥ lists Parenting 101

Top Ten Things You Absolutely Must Have If You Have Two Tods & One Infant

April 30, 2012

Here’s a list for the uninitiated:

10. Waterproof mattress protectors – you need them to line the mattresses for diaper leaks, milk spills, drool and in case your kid does the Merlion

9. Lots of spare kitchen utensils (ladles, spoons, whisks, tongs) tucked in every possible drawer and cabinet in the kitchen. It will be the most explored place in the house. Just keep all knives and scissors away. Don’t bother buying toys.

8. A ready and steady supply of all forms of cleaning agent (think Cif, Mr Muscle, Magic Kleen)

7. Contacts for cheap diapers and milk powder (check out forums and network with moms)

6. The number to your pediatrician’s emergency answering service so you can call him at one in the morning instead of rushing down to the A&E (unless there’s mortal danger, of course)

5. Google is your best friend

4. BabyCenter and Dr Sears are your next BFFs

3. A babysitter named Disney Junior

2. A maid of the Burmese kind (to do the three bagfuls of laundry daily; four if you don’t have waterproof sheet protectors – see #10, vacuum the soles of your shoes and be at your beck and call for diaper emergencies and Merlion experiences )

1. Buckets of salt to take with whenever anyone dishes out advice. Well-meaning or not, only you can figure out how to survive this leg of motherhood.

Milestones and growing up The darndest kid quotes and antics

Little Miss B

April 30, 2012

Just like that, overnight, my darling Becks has acquired the amazing ability to speak in complete sentences. Where once upon a time she was just saying two-word phrases (I want, don’t want, berries, poo-poo), she can now bark orders complete with the signature close-eyes-for-two-seconds-to-tell-you-I-mean-business look.

Crayons and sharing

Becks: I want to draw

Ben: I also want to draw (proceeds to take crayons)

Becks: (snatches crayons from Ben) Mei mei want to draw!

Me: (Ben whining in the background) Hey, hey, hey, share the crayons, please.

Ben: Mei mei share with me…

Becks: (still holding the crayons) No, kor kor SHARE! (runs away with crayons)


Don’t do that again

Becks: (having just spilt soup on the coffee table while prancing around) You don’t do that!

Me: Aunty cleans up the mess. She should tell you ‘don’t do that’…

Becks: Aunty, DON’T DO THAT AGAIN! Mei mei angry!


Unfinished business

Me: (Becks walks in while I’m expressing milk) Yes?

Becks: Mama, what are you doing?

Me: Expressing milk for di di

Becks: Are you done??


Close encounters with the maid kind Thunderstorm days

$374.55 for some serious ear-candling

April 28, 2012

There’s a huge hole in my pocket.

It’s a bittersweet feeling, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. The Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant whom I paid $95.01 to consult did a series of Specialised Investigations (it says that in my bill) called Pure Tone Audiometry and Tympanometry, two Clinic Procedures called Clearance Ear (Simple) and Syringing and a Surgical Procedure called Nasendoscopy.

The findings: the left ear has wax that needs to be cleared and basically, sucker, you’re ok! If you wish to investigate further, I recommend a CT scan but that will burn a hole way bigger than this one, so ginormous you can fit my Nasendoscopy machine in it. So go home and take some extra strong painkillers if the pain bugs you.

So this entire experience costs me $374.55 just to see some earwax and hear a specialist say three magic words. You. Are. Ok. 

Except that I went through this as the third-person and not the first.

Remember I mentioned the maid has been complaining of a earache for months now? She was pale as sheet on Friday morning and looked like she had cried her eyeballs out the night before. She said there was so much pain in her ears it felt like ten years of bathwater needed to be drained from them (ok, I paraphrased and imagined – all she managed to say with limited vocabulary was “pain. block. heavy. headache”). I decided that the visit to the ENT clinic couldn’t wait till May and if she were to go deaf in her ears, her entire Burmese village would probably come and hunt me down. So I called my lifeline from the hospital – this wonderful Medical Social Worker whom I’ve know all my life, also affectionately know as my mother – to ask if she could help me get an appointment to see a doctor immediately. And then I grabbed the baby and rushed her down to the hospital because the consultant would take a walk-in, like NOW.

After the whole ordeal, she was sobbing away, saying she was really in pain and still is (I just checked) and she was really sorry for everything. I tortured her with my nagging of how she is not my fourth child and why she must learn to take care of herself (she’s from a very well-to-do family and came to work here because ‘Singapore good!’) because she’s probably never taken care of herself a single day of her life (believe me when I say she used to stay at home and do nothing. But to her credit, some sensibility hit her one day and she realised she can’t be a bum forever so she decided to choose the fate of a housemaid! See, I told you she doesn’t have much common sense). I unleashed all my angst about paying so much money to hear the doctor say she was perfectly fine. She seemed grateful that I was willing to pay for her medical fees and asked if she could pay me back. I’m still undecided yet because dragging her to the specialist was totally my idea (she has seen the GP four times!) and it would be terribly unfair to make her pay with her wages although she totally does not need money (so she claims).

Nobody, not even a qualified person, knows what is happening to her ears. But at least I know now it’s not contagious and I did not get a earache from her – the GP said mine was a case of an external ear infection, easily resolved with a round of antibiotics and some eardrops. I joined her in her sobbing nonetheless. Three hundred and seventy bucks could have gotten me lots of new shoes (and soles) for her to vacuum.

Becks Kao Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

You don’t have to say you love me

April 26, 2012

Because I know you do. Even when..

1. you say you don’t want Mama

2. you say you want Dada when Mama is just right next to you and smothering you (with kisses)

3. you refuse to kiss me

4. you refuse to say sorry

5. you look away when I talk to you

6. you put the food you’re supposed to share with me in your mouth and run away

I love you, precious, and I always will.

Becks at Day 20

Becks at eight months

(Self) Examination Family life as we know it Mommy guilt Thunderstorm days

Mega Meltdown

April 26, 2012

I had a meltdown of epic proportions last night. It was the culmination of a series of rather unfortunate events. I say rather because on hindsight, for one, I survived it (hey, I woke up this morning and didn’t feel that depressed), and besides, the Baudelaire kids have it worse.

The morning started with a cough from Ben and him doing a Merlion continuously for a few minutes, complete with Becks yelling “Kor kor pass urine! Kor kor pass urine!” and trying to jump on the spot where he merlioned. This was when everything happened in slo-mo for me. I walked out to smell a stench of undisgested goat’s milk all over the corridor. Amidst the stench, I lifted Ben to the other bathroom to shower him while having to answer his questions groggily (Am I going to school? Why are you washing me, Mama? Is Becks going to school? Am I sick? Do I need to see a doctor? Can I eat medicine?) and thinking ahead of myself what this day would bring. We decided to keep Ben home (I think it’s probably a mild case of stomach flu) and so I told Ben to play on his own.

Not knowing how to deal with boredom or being alone, Ben proceeded to help the housemaid with her daily vacuuming and dusting chores. They were happily in it together until she told him that she was gonna start vacuuming the shoe cabinet area and he was like, ok, it stinks so I’m sitting here to watch’ya, Auntie! And lo and behold, just as I was coming out to take the breastpump parts from the steriliser I saw her using the vacuum brush to dust *gasp* the sole of every shoe! Mortified by her absolute lack of common sense of the not-so-intelligent-Burmese-kind (sorry, I don’t mean to be mean here, but seriously, vacuuming the soles of shoes?), I let go a series of expletives (not at her, via whatsapp, to fatherkao) and told her that was a terrible thing to do:

Me: Shoes step… toilet, lift, shopping centre, car, pavement… DIRTY! Dead ants, mud, dirt, saliva, urine, germs – all on soles of shoes!!!!

Maid: Yes, ma’am.

Me: Vacuum brush… clean bed, cot, toys, chairs, tables, tv top, everything. Children touch, put fingers in mouth, rub eyes, nose…Fall sick!!!!

Maid: Yes, ma’am.

I’ll leave it to another post to rant about why I needed to get a maid and why a maid of the Burmese origin. Suffice to say, she was scared shitless by my outburst and I was left wallowing in guilt for being so unkind to another human being in front of my very stunned son, who probably thought vacuuming soles was the coolest thing to watch if not for his mother shrieking her lungs out.

Then my mother-in-law came because she was such a kind soul to take my maid to the polyclinic because she had been complaining of a earache for almost two months now. I am convinced more than ever that she might end up being the fourth kid I have to take care of because of her absolute lack of common sense, but like I said, it will be for another post another time. So she left with my MIL and I was alone with a three-year-old toddler and a two-month-old infant, which was fine by me because Becks wasn’t in the equation, and if she was, then it would definitely NOT be fine (are you kidding me, one pair of eyeballs to two tods and an infant?). Ben was a darling (I don’t think it was stomach flu) and played on his own as long as I sat beside him. Occasionally he would ask for biscuits and help with flushing the toiletbowl, but it was lovely to have some time to spend with him. Until I discovered that there was laundry in the washing machine, toilet rugs unwashed (the boy had also vomitted in the toilet in the morning!), a very unsterile washing machine that has loose threads and grime, and kitchen cloths and floormats stuffed in the children’s laundry basket of clean clothes. I nearly went ballistic. Add to the madness of putting right what the maid didn’t – three knocks on the door by the postman (at different times) because I have been happily g-marketing away last week, a hungry infant and a toddler in need of lunch and a nap, plus the realisation that I need to fix lunch for Ben, that pretty much sums up the madness in the afternoon.

The maid came back with a referral letter to see an ENT specialist and I had to beg my MIL to take her to the hospital next month. Then my daughter came back from daycare looking like grumps and throwing tantrum after tantrum, wanting my attention, all 58 kilos of me to sit right next to her. Both tods wanted Mama to feed them their dinner so there I was practising my octopus-juggling act while stealing occasional glances at the baby telling him soon it would be his turn to feed.

Then I came up with a brilliant idea of letting fatherkao do a bottle feed so I can feed the kids and grill the red wine-marinated ribeye in my happycall pan and have a nice romantic dinner complete with rucola salad and Cabernet Sauvignon (ambitious, I know). Except that I forgot to factor in baby Nat refusing the bottle (he gags) and fatherkao needing to move his bowels and take a shower after a hard day’s work.

So you have it, the perfect conditions for a meltdown: two whiny kids, a screaming infant, a tired hubs and a my-rubber-band-is-going-to-stretch-and-break mom. And it took one MISunderstanding amidst the 100-decibel noise pollution (called a crying symphony by two tods and an infant) to lead to a screamfest between fatherkao and me, resulting in a meltdown of swearing, sobbing, sulking, et al.

By the end of the day, I felt so bad for screaming/sulking/sobbing that I cried so hard singing lullabies to my babies. They must be wondering why Moses crossing the Red Sea and Jesus Loves Me makes Mama feel so sad. By the time they were asleep, I was a hungry, exhausted wretch. I thought I’d get some junk food to make me feel better so I ordered McDelivery and chomped down a mcchick, nuggets and a pack of fries. I didn’t feel better; I felt bloated which led to more guilt pangs of adding to the kilos which are already so hard to lose from pregnancy. And as I tried to sleep away all the bloatedness and guilt, I started to have a earache too. It was certainly not from the earlier noise pollution. It was a real earache which was so painful it kept me awake all night. It was like the terrible-ness to end a terrible day. I hope earaches are not contagious. If they were, it must be because the maid has been vacuuming the soles of our shoes.

All this blog's PR Stuff Becks Kao Ben Kao Family life as we know it Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Don’t worry Mama, we still love each other

April 26, 2012

My kids have started to fight. I don’t know when it started but I guess it’s inevitable because feisty-with-fearsome-temper Becks is growing up. But after all that snitching and snatching (we never really interfered till we see blood because, well, sibling rivalry, it’s part and parcel of life), they always kissed and made up and told each other they were sorry and still love each other.

Still, I’m missing this – what they used to do when they were a little younger:

Rowing a boat together

Rowing a boat together…



Rocking on a rocking horse

Rocking on a rocking horse…

Hugging each other ALL THE TIME!

Hugging each other ALL THE TIME!


Ben Kao Milestones and growing up Parenting 101 The Kao Kids

We’ve fought the good fight. Now it’s time to bring on the iPad.

April 24, 2012

The children are learning with iPad apps. We’ve finally succumbed to the evil-ness of Steve’s creation (I bet he must doing the laughter in his grave now). Yes, the iPad is a wonderful tool for work and leisure for busy adults, but for kids – no way. Kids should learn their ABCs from mum and dad and books and flashcards. They should learn how to count and trace and colour using pen and paper and stickers. Not with the iPad – that to me spells L.A.Z.Y for mama and papa.

Shame on you if you have to keep your kids entertained with the iPad while they are being fed or waiting for food to be served at restaurants. Shame on you if your kids have to hold on to their iPads to sit still in their car seats. Shame on you if you’ve allowed the apps to teach them A is for Apple and 3+3=6 and oranges are round and a triangle has three sides. Shame on you if you never bought a single box of colour pencils for your kids and took the pains to sharpen them one by one because your children’s idea of colouring is tapping the colour swatches on the ColourRama app to fill the pictures.

I believe in reading to my children, holding their hands to teach them penmanship (on paper, not on touch-screens), mixing water colours on the palette with a real paintbrush and singing songs out loud complete with actions and exaggerated expressions. I believe mealtime is family time and no TV (or iPad) should be allowed because we need to look into each other’s eyes – engage – and talk about our day – it was irrespective of age, we could all listen even if you were 21 months old (we shall talk about mealtime in another post). We must play real board games, touch actual chess pieces and roll a proper dice. We must learn how to speak our mother tongue from grandma and grandpa and mama and papa. We must teach our children the old-fashioned way.

So this prissy Mama shook her heads at parents who took out their pads to keep their children entertained and wagged her finger at mommies who bought apps to teach their children (cheaper than tuition, you know, a friend once told me). Fatherkao has always kept his iPad out of reach and the children never really knew it existed (they were busy entertaining themselves with real books, real card games, real flash cards, real colouring – intelligent and well-behaved, I know, aww, my wonderful kids) which was why we were shocked when one day, Ben walked over to fatherkao who was watching Top Chef Season Nine on his iPad and asked:

“What are you doing with your (*pause*) iPad?”

We gasped. Time stood still for three seconds before I locked eyes with him and asked him, “How did you know this is called (*pause*) iPad?”

He couldn’t give me an answer. I guess he just knew. Either by osmosis or he could connect two and two together and realised this device had a name (Ben is really an intelligent boy, by the way. He listens in to our conversations and can ask pretty smart questions). Or someone in daycare (gasp, someone brought an iPad to school!) must have told him so. So there it all began. He was always interested in the iPad and soon, we found ourselves downloading flashcards, counting games, shape sorters and alphabet tracing. Last night, he held the stylus for the first time and sat down (a good ten minutes in total) to trace the letter A, properly, stroke by stroke, on the iPad. Two days ago I have tried to hold his hand with a pen to get him to write the letter on paper but he could not even sit still for ten seconds.

But I have fought the good fight for three years and three months. I have bought and read books to my children and plastered the living room walls with their masterpieces done in pastel and crayons. I have bought them real stickers and got them to arrange the stickers in proper sticker books (which were very hard to find these days). I have blasted songs in mandarin and learned how to sing them before teaching them to my kids, complete with made-up actions and expressions. I have stayed away from technology (namely those beginning with the letter ‘i’) and kept them away from my children for as long as I could. Mama was cool but the iPad was way cool-er and there was no escaping the clutches of the ‘i’ Monster, who could transform your learning experience into one that was animated and funky and fun-ner than the ones you had with Mama.

I still believe in what I believe but Mama needs to check her competition out. So I am getting an iPad myself.

Becks Kao Ben Kao Milestones and growing up Nat Kao Parenting 101 The Kao Kids What to Expect... As a Mother

Contented Little Mother

April 24, 2012

When there was only one kid in the house, life was a breeze. A dear friend (bless her soul) came by a month after Ben’s birth with a book on how to turn my baby into a CLB (a Contented Little Baby). This woman (the author, not my friend) knew exactly how babies worked – she told mothers what time to feed, what time to put baby to bed, what time to have lunch, how much milk to express. If you followed her routines to the letter, you’d be guaranteed a CLB. We tried the routines on Ben religiously, and wala, what did we know, we had a CLB in our arms! Naptime, bedtime, feedtime, me-time – bring ’em on! Easy as pie! This was why we decided since we were the privileged few who knew the secret to having contented babies, let’s have one more.

So when I knew I was pregnant with Becks, I headed to Borders to buy The Contented Baby with Toddler book. I thought I had it all figured out. I would follow the routines to the letter and I would have two contented babies and a blissful life. Awesome.

Awesome. NOT. Becks was a baby who disliked routines and she very much wanted to do what she liked when she liked however she liked and you’re not stopping her because she is a strong-willed girl with a mind of her own and a fearsome temper. She’d shriek the house down if you woke her up at 7am if she wanted to sleep and she’d scream her lungs out if she wanted to guzzle more milk beyond the stipulated time for feeding. She sent the message loud and clear – I will be contented when you give me, my royal highness, what I want, so buzz off and just let me be the baby I want to be. ‘Nuff said.

So there were no more CLBs in the house because Ben’s routines were disrupted by the sister who called out to Mama at her whims. I turned to other baby-led routines and tried other ways to fit Becks in. There was no way to CLB, Ferberize or Baby-wise this girl. It was a tough year, because Ben and Becks were like chalk and cheese – one needed routines to follow, and in turn, feel secure; the other was a free-spirit. I don’t know what we did but we somehow survived by just keeping naptime, bedtime and mealtime consistent for the two of them. And it helped that they started to attend the same preschool and the routines are very much fixed at school, and so life just got better and better.

In a few months, Nat is going to spend more time waking than sleeping and start solids. I practically threw all routine-advice out of the window and did what I felt I should when I should, for Nat. Perhaps it’s experience, or perhaps, it’s instinct. Although because I didn’t follow some form of a routine, he is refusing the bottle now, I am swallowing my lunch and dinner (not much chewing involved) and can go constipated for days because everyday springs new surprises. You don’t know when baby would wake or sleep or want milk – you think you know but you actually don’t – yesterday is not the same as today and tomorrow will be a different day altogether. Some days you think, ah, it’s almost time for a feed so let me get ready, and baby sleeps an hour more and you’d be like, dang, I should have taken a bath and cooked some lunch; and some days you put baby down and you know for a fact that he has just spent the last hour feeding so it’s time to drift off to slumberland with a full tummy but no, he’s all gurgles and smiles and you badly need to brush your teeth, move your bowels, scrub and double-scrub your-smelly-leaking-milk-dirty-self and cut your dirt-and-poop-trapped-nails.

So this is what having three kids taught me, apart from learning to groom myself, eat my food and move my bowels in record time of 4:36 minutes (all together), that each kid is different and with each kid I am different, and have to be. It’s impossible to tell a first-time (neurotic) mum to go with the flow but with three kids, you can and may sometimes even feel guilty that you’re hecking it. I’ve come a long way since my CLB days and am doing what I do best like a fish in water – mothering – and being a CLM, Contented Little Mother.

(Self) Examination

Why I’ve started writing (again)

April 23, 2012

I used to write. That was before children. Mostly about mundane things and my otherwise quite boring life.

Then I had kids. One after another, since 2008. I spent my first maternity (leave) grappling with motherhood and the baby in my Baby Bjorn. I spent my second maternity still trying to figure out motherhood with one in the Bjorn and the other in the Capella. And now, as I write, I am in my third maternity, adjusting to the demands of motherhood with one in the Beco carrier and two other in the Graco twin stroller.

And in all these grappling and figuring and adjusting, it didn’t occur to me that I should start a blog (again). I started a parent journal and recorded entries in dribs and drabs, mostly while at work when I had some breathing time. I wanted to reflect about decisions and choices but every night I would collapse in exhaustion. I read parenting books and got confused by the assortment of well-meaning advice. I didn’t have time to chew the cud, so to speak, and that is not good for motherkao. It made her run around like a headless chicken on good days and an insanely neurotic one on bad days.

So one fine day, a buzzer went off inside me and I toyed with the idea of another blog, not without first having to reason away all the reasons why I shouldn’t start one again (I will never sustain it… Please, you will get too busy as they grow older… Are you sure you want the world to read about your children… Is it even safe… Will there be stalkers?)

Then I decided, what the heck, I should just write because it is CATHARSIS for me. Three pregnancies, two needy toddlers and one I-need-to-feed-on-demand infant later, I am an emotional wreck in need of purgation.

I’ve been reading other mommy-blogs and often thought it wonderful to leave something for your kids to read one day as you detail and document milestones and funny moments of this journey together. I thought I’d do just that. But I’m also secretly hoping that a publisher will pick these posts up and compile them in a book (and make me famous) so I can give someone like Neil Humphrys a run for his money.