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5 staples every mom should have

July 21, 2016

Preamble:

Apart from my husband, there hasn’t actually been any guest posts on this blog since I started. Every now and then, people would write to interest me in a range of topics, and usually the ambitious me would rather pen certain thoughts myself.

Now the reason for this guest posting is really because I REALLY want to know what are the things I should have in my wardrobe from a fashionista’s perspective. And now with e-commerce becoming so convenient, I’d love to keep up to date (and my fingers busy with online shopping) to invest in what I should have so that I can stay ‘less aunty, more trendy’.

[Guest post]

5 STAPLES THAT EVERY MOM SHOULD HAVE by Sabrina Klein

Don’t you just love that feeling when you can throw something on in seconds and it just works? As I got older I realised how much time I wasted when I knew how I was going to be late for work and still spent most mornings faffing around trying to choose what to wear that day. I’m sure every woman can relate to this at one point of their lives. Back then I would even think about what I was going to wear for work the night before and plan it in my dreams and still get it wrong.

Being a mummy now, I realised that we need to take care of ourselves and put ourselves first just as much as our babies, whether that means dressing with a little effort – at least, it’s a start. It’s always a race in the mornings and because of this I managed to pick up on what are the pieces of clothing I do wear and which are the ones I never touch.

Then I discovered that the ones I repeatedly wore over and over again were of course, my staples.

So here I am, guest posting on this blog to share what I think should be 5 staples that are easy to put on and easy for mom-life:

The T Shirt Dress

Just wear and go - t-shirt dress for easy breezy wearing (Dress from The White Pepper, from asos.com)

Just wear and go – t-shirt dress for easy breezy wearing
(Dress from The White Pepper, from asos.com)

A definite lifesaver when you feel a little bit bloated on that day or if the weathers getting warm and you just want to keep it easy breezy. T-shirt dresses are always casual, probably with a few buttons in front and a waist tie. Sleeveless or 3 quarter length sleeves are the best picks for me and I usually go for prints that are dark so that if there were any spillages or splatter from my babies’ dinner, nobody can really notice.

Depending on what the weather says, you can pair a t-shirt dress with ankle boots or some strappy sandals and you’re good to go.

The White Sneaker

Bensimon White Tennis Elly Sneakers from lyst.com

Bensimon White Tennis Elly Sneakers from lyst.com

Every woman needs a pair of comfortable white sneakers, it is a must-have and a staple that can be worn with absolutely anything. I love putting together a girly outfit and then dress it down with some sneakers for a casual look. Bensimon and Veja are my 2 favourite sneaker brands which can be found at Rue Madame Parisian boutique.

The Denim Culottes

denim cullotes

Different ways of wearing the denim culottes

A french style that I can’t get enough of are the culottes, they are the next cropped jeans! The wide leg space gives me every comfort and breeze. The denim finish makes the culottes come across a little bit edgy and super versatile that can be worn with casual flats or going out heels. Usually I will throw on a white t shirt and some chunky sandals.

Chunky sandals for the win

Chunky sandals for the win

The Soft Basics
I think I’ve lost count of basic t shirts, cardigans, tops and tanks I have. I live in them because they always work and I like the feel of the soft cotton against my skin. Majestic Filatures is one of my go to brands I swear by for basics that last because the quality is great and the price tag is not so bad either. T shirts make it easy to wear chunky necklaces with too!

Soft basics from Majestic Filatures

Soft basics from Majestic Filatures

The Everyday Jacket
Every mom should have a jacket she can wear with everything. It’s like a safety blanket. Everyday jackets like the wrap jacket that wraps around anything and looks good every time or a blazer in simple colours of white, black and navy which is easy to match with most things and is perfect to wear to work or on casual weekends.

I have my eye on IRO’s white chic jacket which has side pockets and gives off a sense of elegant and fashionable look.

Iro white blazer

IRO’s the embodiment of Frech chic meets NY Street. Here’s the white blazer I love

How many of these do you have in your wardrobe, and do you concur these are every mom’s absolute must-haves?

 

I ♥ lists Milestones and growing up Parenting 101 The Kao Kids What to Expect... As a Mother

The A-Z Guide to staying home

May 13, 2014

This is the second year I’m staying home and it’s been nothing but crazy still. Many people have asked me how I survive on a daily basis, and what my secret is. I wish I could say vodka, but heh no, I don’t drink and have yet to give that to my kids to knock them out.

Although that’s a really tempting thought on really insane days.

Well, I’m still surviving (but barely breathing!) and I’m joining The Gingerbread Mum‘s blog train where she invited 31 stay-home moms to share their survival tips – one mom for each day for the month of May.

So here’s my very own tips – from A-Z – featuring all the things I do / use / need to make it through the madness. There’s no secret, really, but I hope some things in this list can help you make it through each day as they have helped me make it through mine.

You’re welcome.

Motherkao’s A-Z Guide to Staying Home: things you will need and places you must go

Activity books

Activity books can keep young children occupied for quite a while; even the littlest would colour away happily whenever he gets one. Value for money, and great investment in exchange for at least 5 minutes of silence (and longer if the kid is older). You can get these for less than $4 at fairs and mobile booths in shopping malls

I keep the kids iPad and iPhone-free with these

I keep the kids iPad and iPhone-free with these

Balloons

Believe it or not, I buy balloons from the party section in the supermarket. I buy many packets and use balloons to distract the littlest and to break up fights. I get the kids to choose a colour and they love to watch in anticipation while I blow each balloon, one by one, and then I make them volley the balloons and chase them. And while they do that, I can catch a shut-eye for a minute at least.

Chocolates

I stash a few boxes of After Eight in the fridge and sneak a few pieces in my mouth whenever I feel I’m losing it. You already know chocolates are a great cure for depression and insanity, right?

Disney Junior

Channel 311 on Starhub TV, oh, that’s a godsend babysitter. The kids like almost everything on it, from Doc McStuffins and Sophia the First to Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Now that we’re without a helper, this channel gives me my toilet break and some me-time in the shower. For another awesome babysitter recommendation, refer to the Letter N.

Espresso machine

One of the best things in our kitchen and worth every single cent we sunk in. Think the smell of coffee filling the air in the mornings and freshly brewed lattes that are kind to the stomach. I’ve said goodbye to 3-in-1 and its horrible aftertaste forever since we bought one. If coffee makes you happy, consider investing. We use a Philips Saeco.

Foot rubs

I don’t get to go for these anymore at those koyok-smelling places in the heartlands. No time, no money to buy packages anyway. But I give myself these rubs on my feet once in a while with nice smelling essential oils for a perk-me-up. FYI: your two big toes are connected to your cerebrum so remember to rub hard and press in when you think you’re losing your head.

Grapes

Best.fruit.ever. to give to kids. No need to cut, no need to wash plates or utensils. Just give them a good rinse with skin on and kids get vitamins, fibre and natural sugar.

Husband!

This word deserves a thousand exclamation marks if space allows. He’s your tag-team partner and the one who has to bear all your complaints after a hard day of you staying home. Be nice to him (so he’ll be ready to listen and empathise), always ask how his day was first, and squeeze his shoulders for a bit before you unload.

H is for Husband, the best tag-team partner ever

H is for Husband, the best tag-team partner ever

Ikea’s Småland

Ever since Nat can enter this place (he’s finally 92cm!), I’ve been going there at least once a month to “deposit” the kids while I get at least one hour of me-time and some coffee. Sometimes, I bring a friend who brings her kids and both of us get some adult conversations while the kids play. The best part of this all: IT’S FREE!

Juice

Best “distracting” beverage for the kids – I pour this out a lot whenever they whine for something sweet or I have to throw away candies from goodie bags they get from school. I exaggerate the number of fruits / veggies that they can taste from one sip of the juice – blueberries! grapes! carrots! peaches! apples! – even though it’s usually ‘Mixed Berries’ that they drink (two 1-litre packs for $3.95 from Marigold) and the kids start salivating. Add some ice cubes to make it like a treat! Works wonders every time!

Kdramas

This keeps me going when the going gets rough: the thought of being able to catch one episode – any episode – of something from kdramaland with enough hotness in it after the kids are in bed (Lee Min-ho, I’m looking at you!). Many sites have come, and gone – and failed me – but I’ve found DramaGo and DramaFire to be the most stable for now.

Cannot miss the chance to put a picture of HOT on my blog like a crazy fan girl

Cannot miss the chance to put a picture of HOTNESS on my blog like a crazed fan girl

Library

Place to go where you don’t have to put the books back and organise them by genres (me to OCD self). Place to go when you need to escape from sweltering heat. Place to go so kids can be awed by just how many books there are and to sit comfortably to read. Best place to visit during the school holidays to keep kids occupied.

Mom rules

I have these rules for myself to follow as much as I can. They guide me in the day-to-day handling of the kids and my role as their mother.

Mom rules

Nick Junior

Channel 304! Another terrific babysitter. My kids love this more than the one you read about at the Letter D. I find this channel more educational, slower in pace of moving images, and more engaging. I do still try to limit TV time (but it’s becoming increasingly tough these 2 weeks with no helper) but I really wouldn’t mind them catching the 15-minute segments of the many good shows on this channel – Go, Diego, Go!, Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies, Wonder Pets and Ni Hao Kai Lan.

One-pot meals

These help me save time and yet give the kids a meal. I throw frozen prawns, frozen corn and canned pineapples with pineapple rice paste in the rice cooker and we get pineapple rice for dinner. I throw some ribs and lotus in the slow cooker and we get soup. I put in chicken, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms and we get stew. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Playground

When I see the kids getting restless and sense that they need to expend their energy a little, I head on down to the nearest neighbourhood playground. Now that the kids are older, I leave them to play and climb and run while I sit and stone on the bench. Keeps me sane in the evenings too.

Quiet time

Now with the Bible app on my phone, I read the verse of the day and meditate on it throughout the day. For me, it really is crucial to spend time praying. Like the saying goes, prayer IS really the best way to draw strength from heaven.

Running Man

Ooooh! I am addicted to this, and like what you’d read while at the Letter K, the thought of being able to unwind with this after the kids go to bed keeps me going when the going gets tough. On particularly bad days, I find myself needing to watch this to have a good laugh before I sleep. I laugh out loud heartily (this variety show is just TOO funny!), release all the tension of the day, and when I finally feel that the stress is all gone, I go to sleep happy. Running Man *Hwaiting!* !

I catch my Running Man episodes here

I catch my Running Man episodes here

Singapore Mom Bloggers

I belong to this wonderful closed group called Singapore Mom Bloggers and we have meaningful virtual connections and friendships online. I share and rant there, and seek advice a lot from the mothers in the group, and having these moms as my friends keeps me sane on crazy stay-home days.

Terminal 3

If the kids need space to run; if you need a decent place to eat out on weekends but don’t want to queue for that long (compared to places in town); if you need to dream of a holiday; if your kids want to be monkeys without you being judged, head on down to Terminal 3. This is our place to go on weekends; and my kids monkey around at the viewing gallery together with many other kids while the parents look out at planes and plan their next getaway.

Updates

I have stopped feeling guilty of scrolling my phone to check status updates on FB and Instagram. Why, I need to connect with people too, I face the kids almost 24/7, y’unno.

Verbal diarrhea

Known fact: women de-stress by talking. Talking helps them connect. Talking helps them unwind. So talk. Talk to husband. Talk to children. Talk to children’s stuffed toys. Talk to children’s school teachers. Talk to furniture. Talk to self. Talk to cleaners, pump attendants, service staff at restaurants and cashiers. TALK. It ALWAYS makes you feel better. Just make sure you won’t have to put your foot in your mouth while at that.

Water play

For hot days. For days they refuse to get in the bath. For days when I need 15 minutes to chill with a cup of tea. I turn on a trickle, throw in lots of plastic cups, bottles, bottle caps, and pails and get them to play while I sit outside the toilet with my cup of tea and watch them. Fun at a small price, and will certainly continue if PUB doesn’t increase our utility fees.

Or places like these also can:

Free fountain fun at Greenwich V

Free fountain fun at Greenwich V

Xerox-ing

Having a printer that can photocopy is extremely helpful. I zap things for the kids to do again and again, like their favourite colouring pages and activity mazes. If you own one of those Grolier Logico sets, the back of each card has an activity which you can xerox for the kids to try.

Young Living’s Essential oils

I’ve tried essential oils from Young Living for close to 6 months now and I am one happy convert. I oil the kids’ soles – and mine and Fatherkao’s – religiously and use the oils for various ailments and aches. They work great for me, by the way, especially Peace & Calming, which soothes me much after a tiring day with the kids.

Zoo (and the River Safari)

Our two default places to go if the weather is good and I have energy (the River Safari is fully sheltered, by the way). These two places never fail to thrill the Kao kids, and they just love the idea of being there looking at animals. Favourite hangouts: Frozen Tundra, Giant Pandas’ Den and Rainforest Kidz World. Oh yes, I’ve calculated that the zoo family membership is worth it if you visit at least 6 times a year. And also, this is the place to go during the school holidays if you’ve run out of things to do.

Z is fo Zoo

Love the cool at Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s den at the River Safari

There you have it, a list from A to Z! My favourites are the letters H, K and R. What are yours?

~~~

The next mom on the blog train is Summer, who blogs at A Happy MumSummer is a media executive turned SAHM from Singapore who stepped into the gratifying journey of motherhood during her four-year stay in Sweden. It was then she realised that this was her destiny all along and she is now the mother of two lovely girls. She believes that contentment is bliss and that happiness is about making the best of what you have. A Happy Mum is a place where she blogs about motherhood, babies, love, DIY crafts, travelling and all things happy. Join her tomorrow as she shares a heartfelt post on how she maintains her emotional well-being as a SAHM.

Summer_A Happy Mum

Need more survival tips? Read them all here from all of us on The Gingerbread Mum’s Blog Train! 



This post is part of a blog train hosted by The Gingerbread Mum 
where 31 stay-at-home mums share their survival tips. We hope that you’ll find our tips useful and remember that you’re not alone!

Close encounters with the maid kind Family life as we know it I ♥ lists The Kao Kids The real supermom Thunderstorm days

3 lists, 30 things, 7 days

May 6, 2014

It’s Day 7 since I sent the helper back to the agency after she demonstrated how weak-willed and unwilling to work she was. It’s the longest I’ve ever been without a helper since I’ve had three kids, and it’s going to be this way a while more at least.

There’s just one word to describe it all.

EXHAUSTING.

On the brighter side of things, I now have a list of 10 things I never really say but now say so very often, 10 things I’ve discovered since maid-less, and 10 things I am eternally grateful for. I’m exhausted, but that ain’t gonna stop me from making lists, and more lists.

~~~

10 things I never really say, but say so often now:

1. “I’m ONLY ONE person now, kids. So please (fill in the blanks).” Usually it’s “cooperate”, “do it yourself”, “help me out here” or “follow instructions quickly”.

2. “Do I look like I’ve got an extra pair of hands or legs?” This is usually in response to the kids making requests like finding a lost toy or picking a book off a shelf they can’t reach – and always at a time when I am unavailable to help. I now make them solve their problems – by taking a stool, using a torch, and getting help from the other siblings.

3. “My back is breaking.” Self-explanatory. Said whenever I feel my back is breaking. Which is very often.

4. “Seriously. Like seriously.” Said whenever the kids start fighting for my attention or squabble amongst themselves whenever I am at my busiest.

5. “Sorry I can’t sayang / hug / cuddle / kiss you now. My hands are full of soap.” The kids always seem to have a boo-boo for me to kiss whenever I am washing the dishes.

6. “Can you please wait? I can only do one thing at a time.” I can’t dry three wet kids at the same time but it’s always the same time they want to get out of the bath. And they get really upset who gets to be towel-dried first.

7. “Want to watch TV?” I usually never offer much but ever since we became maid-less… It was something that had to be so that I can cook / hang the laundry / do the dishes / wash the toilets. SIGH.

8. “Aunties are a privilege. Now no Aunty so please do it yourself.” Said to the kids whenever they revert to suddenly not being able to do what they can do on their own and asking for help, like wearing their socks and shoes and bringing things back to the kitchen.

9. “Too bad! No Aunty!” Said as a taunt after #8 and when a tantrum is thrown for not getting help.

10. “Are you going to give me problems? Are you seriously going to give me problems now?!” This can be said in an exasperated tone, in a furious manner or in a totally resigned style when the kids start to act up or refuse to do the things as they are told.

~~~

10 things I discovered, since going maid-less:

1. If children don’t test boundaries, they won’t be children.

2. If children don’t make a mess, they won’t be children.

3. If children can learn instinctively how to clean up, sort and organise, they won’t be children.

4. That children CAN be taught to clean up, sort and organise, and they HAVE TO BE taught; and this ability comes with age and a sense of responsibility.

5. That Ben is as OCD as I am, and I can always count on him to pack in the OCD way I’ve trained him to.

6. That going on all fours to mop to the house with a cloth and a pail of water is faster than using the vacuum cleaner and then the mop.

7. That it’s OK to wash the children’s laundry together with ours.

8. That if I told the children I’m gonna be turning into a monster they would do as quickly as they are told.

9. That the children can watch Frozen or Lego Star Wars: The Movie again and again, and be completely engaged even if it’s their 18th time watching it because they are really watching it to repeat the lines after each character.

Although I don't agree with the "No right, no wrong, no rules for me - Let it go" and some other parts of the lyrics of the song, the kids love, love, love this movie. Especially Becks.

Although I don’t agree with the “No right, no wrong, no rules for me – Let it go!” and some other parts of the lyrics, the kids love, love, love this movie and the theme song. Especially Becks.

10. That even if Frozen or Lego Star Wars: The Movie is on, the littlest will still come and hug my legs and not give me a break; either that or he will be up to some mischief somewhere in the house, like wetting tissue papers at the basin, flipping his (cloth) “roti prata” up the ceiling or colouring the switches in the house with crayons. Why am I not surprised. The most he can sit through is the ‘Let It Go’ song.

~~~

10 things I am eternally grateful for…

1. Forgiving and accepting children, whom I can always count on to remind me not to yell.

2. Helpful children who will try to help out as much as they can.

There's clean clothes to fold every single day, and on most days the kids are enthusiastic

There’s clean clothes to fold every single day, and on most days the kids are enthusiastic

3. The husband, who’s a solid rock for the family and me, and who would gamely whip up a three-course dinner in a stuffy kitchen complete with jazz music and a glass of red, and then help to clean up and put the kitchen back in order.

The photo on the left had 113 likes after I shared how this man would cook a meal, do everything and still smile at the camera. I would've bitten everyone's head off if they stepped into the kitchen if it were me.

The photo on the left had 113 likes on FB after I shared how this man would cook a meal, do everything and still smile for the camera. I would’ve bitten everyone’s head off if they stepped into the kitchen if it were me.

4. Kitchen appliances that help automate processes and simplify things. I officially love our bread machine, washing machine, Espresso machine, microwave and Philips Airfryer on a whole new level now.

5. This contraption from Tupperware (whoever who gave me this gift, bless your soul!) that allows me to dice my garlic and shallots in 30 seconds which I can store and keep in the fridge for later use. You know how troublesome it is with Chinese cooking, with all the garlic, shallots, ginger and all.

It's a spinning dicer of sorts and it's small, handy and easy to clean!

It’s a spinning dicer of sorts and it’s small, handy and easy to clean!

6. Supplements that give me a little extra ounce of energy and makes me feel more recharged every morning.

I used to never take any supplements but now I'm liking what I'm taking (from L to R): I'm getting sponsored to try out Forever Living's Arctic Sea; Focus Point (by Root King) from my MIL who insists that I take these for my brain and cholesterol; Longevity from YL which lets me swallow Frankincense, Clove & Orange in a capsule; and a Multivitamin from Nature's Way which the husband makes me take

I used to never take any supplements but now I’m liking what I’m taking (from L to R): I’m getting sponsored to try out Forever Living’s Arctic Sea; Focus Point (by Root King) from my MIL who insists that I take these for my brain and cholesterol; Longevity from YL which lets me swallow Frankincense, Clove & Orange oil in a capsule; and a multivitamin from Nature’s Way which the husband makes me take

7. This wonderful invention called the jigsaw puzzle which keeps the kids engaged for at least 10 minutes. A few minutes of silence is always a good thing.

Thank God for jigsaws!

Thank God for jigsaws!

8. Educational resources like these which I use to keep kids occupied and improvise for our homelearning (no time to create and make new things!): flashcards, magnetic word and shape strips, counters and activity books with colouring, mazes and word search.

I buy at a sale and keep these in my stash. Very handy indeed.

I buy at a sale and keep these in my stash. Very handy indeed.

And these 3 for $10 activity books are great value-for-money and lets the kids go gadget-free while waiting for their food outside

And these 3 for $10 activity books are great value-for-money and let the kids go gadget-free while waiting for their food outside

9. Community libraries all over Singapore. We can always pop in one of those in the day to escape from the sweltering heat, nestle into one of those comfy couches and read away.

Hanging out at the library

Hanging out at the library

10. Young Living’s ‘Peace and Calming’ Essential Oil. This blend magically calms me down and helps me unwind. At first it smelled really strange. But then I grew to like it so much I need it to help me sleep. And I sleep very well because of it.

YL Peace and Calming EO

Also linking up with Mum in the Making‘s Thankful Tuesdays:

(Self) Examination I ♥ lists Thunderstorm days

No love in my tummy

November 18, 2013

Two weeks ago I experienced symptoms similiar to a fourth pregnancy: nausea, bloating, morning sickness. I was wretching bile in the early hours of the first two mornings and kept awake at night by cold sweat as my tummy started getting all knotted up like clockwork come 2am.

Except that I am definitely not pregnant. And it definitely ain’t gonna be any fourth time.

I went to the doctor after trying to tahan the pain for 5 days, and was told I might have a case of peptic ulcer. A peptic ulcer is an ulcer caused by stomach acid. An ulcer is where the lining of the gut is damaged and the underlying tissue is exposed. The doctor prescribed some acid suppressing medication and instructed that I try it out for 3 days. If it worked, I could continue treatment for a week. If it didn’t, it means that the ulcer was more serious than she thought and I would need a scope and day surgery.

Picture by Rob Jr. Picture Credit: Deviantart.com

Picture by Rob Jr. Picture Credit: Deviantart.com

The ulcer is healing right now, and I am glad I am feeling much better. I’ve made a couple of changes to my lifestyle (small little ones!) to make sure the condition doesn’t recur, and at age 32, I am glad for this wake-up call to treat myself better even with full time motherhood duties consuming my entire body, soul and mind.

1. Quit bubble tea

Yes, I’ve made one of the hardest decisions I have to make this year.

For someone who has had a cup of bubble tea (I drink milk tea at 25% sugar with no ice and no toppings) every single day since March 11 2013 (the day the kids started kindy and I started walking to Nex 5 days a week), it’s a painful one to quit for the bubble tea addict that is me. But in light of the hyperacidity in the stomach, and the pain I’ve experienced for that 5 days, it’s clear sign that perhaps this addict needs rehab.

2. Light supper half an hour before bed

I don’t have the habit of eating before I go to bed (unless I didn’t have my dinner). But now I try to have a cup of warm Milo and some bites if there’s a gnawing feeling of hunger. If I’m feeling really hungry, I no longer try to sleep the hunger away till the next morning (which I often do for fear of gaining weight). A few nights ago I cooked myself a bowl of ramyeon before I went to bed. The warm soup that warmed my stomach helped me sleep very well that night!

3. Eno’s is not a bad idea

It took a while for me to differentiate these three uncomfortable state of being: feeling bloated, feeling gassy, feeling hungry. I never had all these problems until recently, and I found the answer to one of the problems in this horrid drink! Hands up if you hate Eno’s Fruit Salt as much as I do. But surprisingly, the fast-acting effervescent fruit salt used as an antacid and a reliever of bloatedness has saved me on more occasions than one. I’m making sure this is a frequently stocked up item in the medicine cabinet.

4. Don’t pile on the chilli. Or belachan. Or chincalok. And go easy on the tom yum.

Nuff’ said. Another big sacrifice for a person who absolutely loves, loves, loves her spices. Moderation is now the answer to all my stomach woes.

5. Go for warm instead of iced

Never thought I would say this, but yea. I thought I’d only order warm drinks and stay away from iced ones when I am 60. Drinking cold drinks gave me so much pain when I had the stomach ulcer episode, and so now warm beverages are the way to go for me.

Many folks like to associate ulcers with stress, and I tend to think being stressed out lowers one’s immunity somewhat. Although it’s not been proven that stress, cold drinks and spices cause stomach ulcers, well, whatever it is, I’m making sure that this doesn’t come back to torture me again by chillax-ing as much as I can, and not get so worked up with the kids.

Be kind to your tummies and keep healthy!

Also linking up with:

www.ajugglingmom.com
Holidays! I ♥ lists Motherkao loves... The Kao Kids The real supermom

10 tips to survive Hongkong with small children

September 19, 2013

Now that I’ve gone to Hong Kong and back, and have survived a holiday with three kids, I guess I am somewhat qualified to write this post. I learned some stuff the hard way, and these lessons involved some sweat, a lot of tears, and even blood. If you’re heading to Hong Kong with toddlers or young children, you might want to keep some of these in mind.

1. Get the Octopus at the airport instead of the MTR station when you arrive

We had originally planned to buy our Octopus cards on the second day at the MTR station nearest to our hotel but I was really glad we purchased them together with our Airport Express tickets at the Airport Express Counter at Terminal 1 after touching down. We arrived in HK on a Saturday evening and the second day for us was a Sunday – which means everyone, I mean, everyone, was out on the streets. I think there were at least a few thousand Filipino domestic workers out that Sunday we were there, as well as hordes of tourists from Mainland China and HK’s own people, who love visiting the malls on Sundays.

So boy was I glad to have gotten the cards at the counter at the airport where there was no queue and zero jostling.

Octopus is accepted all over Hong Kong and can be used for transportation (we used it for the MTR, Star Ferry and the tram) and parking, at retail outlets and self-service machines. You can pay for stuff you buy from 7-11 with the card, which is really convenient.

2. When the menu in HK restaurants reads ‘steamed rice’, the rice is really steamed

When we arrived in HK on Saturday evening, the first thing we did was to travel by Airport Express to Kowloon to catch the free shuttle service to our hotel at Yau Ma Tei. That took close to an hour, including the 15 minute wait for the shuttle bus, but it saved us quite a bit of money (taking a taxi would have cost 3 times as much). By the time we checked in at The Cityview, a four-star hotel in Kowloon, we were famished. Three starving children is never a good thing, so we headed to The Balcony, a restaurant at the hotel, for our dinner. We ordered the set dinner and asked for the rice to be served first.

Who would have thought asking for rice first to feed my very hungry children would be our most frustrating wait ever.

The dishes came, one after another, but the rice didn’t, and the children remained hungry and whiny. 18-month-old Nat needed rice as his staple but the rice which was part of the set wasn’t served together with the dishes! We waited close to 20 minutes, only to realize that when the piping hot bowls of rice appeared on our table, they were not rice scooped from the rice cooker. The rice was steamed, bowl by bowl! Every grain was fragrant and steamed to perfection, and well, it was a case of better late than never for us.

So my advice to you if you’ve got really hungry kids: order fried rice or noodles or something that they can cook up quick to tide them over the hunger pangs. Steamed rice is really steamed in Hong Kong.

Rice is here! Can't wait!

Rice is here! Can’t wait!

3) People give up seats on public transportation, so learn to say thank you in Cantonese

Sunday was horrendously crowded in Hong Kong and people were packed closer than sardines in tins on their MTRs and trams (Star Ferry was less crowded). Despite that, it was amazing to see men and women giving up their seats for me, who was wearing the baby, and the two older kids. Despite the jostling and shuffling, there’s a whole lot of civility and consideration on public transport.

I made a mental note to myself that I need to teach Ben, Becks and Nat to say thank you in Cantonese the next time we’re there.

4) Don’t drink the soup

My children are soup kids. They love ban mian, which they call ‘ikan bilis noodles soup’ and all the soup versions of noodles we eat here in Singapore, like sliced fish soup, wanton mee and ba chor mee. For breakfast on the second day, we gave up waiting for a table at Lin Heung Kui and headed to one of those eateries along the street for some wanton noodles (wan tan min in Cantonese). When the noodles were served, I dished out three portions of noodles, complete with soup, for the kids.

Which was a big mistake.

Turns out that humble eateries like these don’t make broth. Their ‘soup’ is just yucky lye water (alkaline salts, or what we call kee in Hokkien) and horrible! And they don’t have wanton noodles in version dry: chilli with tomato sauce, tyvm, the way I like mine, which was a bummer.

So unless it’s a restaurant and the noodles are cooked in broth, don’t drink the lye water when you eat your yu dan min or wan tan min. Just give the kids the noodles and the dumplings.

5) Bring along children’s cutlery and food scissors, and always go to a restaurant that can strap your baby in on a baby chair

It’s impossible to get eateries and restaurants in Hong Kong to provide you with children’s cutlery and plastic plates and bowls, unless it’s Disneyland. I was well-prepared for this and brought along many kiddy spoons (the ones for soup too) and forks. My kids are 4 and 3 and 19 months and the tablespoon, soup spoon and table fork are still a tad big for them. I also brought two pairs of food scissors to cut the noodles, veggies and meat (ooh, love the char siew there!), as well as hand-and-mouth wipes (Pigeon’s wipes contain 100% food grade ingredients, so I feel at ease cleaning the scissors and cutlery with those wipes).

A note on the food scissors: remember to leave them in your check-in luggage, else they would be confiscated at the security check at the airport.

What I didn’t brace myself for, was that some restaurants don’t even have a decent baby chair to strap an active toddler in! Ben can sit still and wait for food, and so can Becks, if we make sure she’s got stuff to do, like scribble on serviettes (I always have pens in my bag), eat peanuts or play scissors-paper-stone with someone. But to make Nat wait even a minute without strapping him on a baby chair at a table with breakable ceramic and child-unfriendly everything (think sharp table corners, hot teapots, musty carpets and peanuts) is to ask for trouble.

And ask for trouble we did, on the second night.

This restaurant apparently serves great shabu shabu and yakitori grill but it was a huge mistake taking the kids there. Even if we had asked that the grilling be done for us in the kitchen. They had absolutely zero baby chair. So when I took my eyes off Nat for a few minutes (I need a vision break too, yes?), he cut his lip and chin while playing peek-a-boo with himself with the mirror behind the bench he was seated.

I almost fainted from seeing so much blood coming out from inside his mouth and the area around his chin. There was a cut (it looked like a cm long) that was gaping and for the moment there I thought he might need stitching. His lip was swelling and his teeth started turning red with blood mixed with saliva. Thank God the two cuts closed quickly with prayer and an ice cube.

So yes, this lesson was learned with blood.

If you have an active toddler, remember to ask the restaurant if they have a baby chair for his safety.

Nat's a tough one, this boy: smiling even after a fall

Nat’s a tough one, this boy: smiling even after a fall

6) Check the weather, and leave those raincoats at home in September

Download the app MyObservatory. My good friend who lived a year in Hong Kong told me that she referred to it every day before she headed out. The app provides personalized weather services, and users can get the latest weather information specific to their locations and an overview of a week’s forecast of HK’s weather.

I should have trusted the info on the app and left the raincoats at home. What was I thinking, bringing the raincoats and windbreakers and jackets! It didn’t rained a single bit while we were there. In fact, it was scorching hot and humid in September!

7) When at Disney, be prepared to be a slave

We spent close to 10 hours in Disneyland and I’m sure the kids were very glad they did minimal walking. They only stood when we had to queue and that was all the walking they did. You can rent strollers for HKD 90 at Main Street in Disneyland – and we rented three of them. Unfortunately, the strollers cannot be remote-controlled and the poor exhausted adults had to push these kiddos everywhere we went.

It was also HOT, HOT, HOT and there was very little shade. Bring a brolly and slather sunblock generously. I’m telling you, SPF 25 is NOT enough. I got sunburnt still. Go for SPF 50 and more. I slabbed copious amounts of that for the kids and they were saved. Oh, plus the fact they sat on strollers that had a little canopy that covered their heads.

Slavery begins at Disney

Slavery begins at Disney

8) Not everything you see in the gift shops can be found in Main Street. Or at the hotels. Or at the airport.

So I read from some blogs that you can get souvenirs from Disney almost anywhere. There are souvenir shops in the two Disney hotels and one huge one at the airport. And they say whatever you see in those little souvenir corners, shops and carts in all the various lands in Disney you can be sure to see the same stuff at the mega huge shop at Main Street.

Nope, sorree‘!

See this Pluto stuffed toy here?

This Pluto is special cos' it's lying on its tummy!

This Pluto is special cos’ it’s terrycloth material and Pluto’s lying on its tummy!

Ben fell in love with it when he saw it in Fantasyland. I told him, naa, we can buy it at the hotel, I’m not gonna lug this all the way and it’s like what, only 5pm, and I’m here to announce to you that we searched high and low for it after we left Fantasyland and couldn’t find it anywhere else. Nope, not even at the airport! In the end, I had to go to the Disney Store at Nex back in Singapore, and even then the Pluto we got in Singapore looked different.

A word of advice: never ever leave the buying of souvenirs to the end of the day before the park closes (after the fireworks, that is). Buy them if you want them when you see them. At the corners. From the carts. At those themed stores after your rides. Whenever. Wherever. The stores at Main Street after the fireworks suddenly turned into the all-so-familiar scenes of frantic buying and grabbing as if an apocalypse was going to wipe Mickey and Friends out from the face of the earth forever. There was way too much pushing and shoving (I tried to go find Pluto) in the souvenir shops; and it took me a long while to jostle my way out.

9) Bubble tea is not everywhere – when you see it, tapao!

I’m a hopeless addict to bubble tea. I have it without the bubble though; I need the tea to function normally on a daily basis. So there was no *Share Tea or Drink Tea or Koi where I went. I did see a ComeBuy, and I was ecstatic. Just minutes ago before seeing ComeBuy, I was at a cha chan teng trying to psycho myself that HK milk tea could somehow remotely taste like bubble tea. Good thing I didn’t down the nai cha. I couldn’t be happier to be sipping my ComeBuy Milk Tea.

I also found a Gong Cha near the hotel we stayed. Should have tapaoed one and kept it in the fridge. Needless to say, I was zombiefied at Disneyland because there was no bubble tea.

(*Share Tea, Drink Tea, Koi, ComeBuy and Gong Cha are the names of bubble tea shops. My favourite has to be Drink Tea!)

10) Toilets are hard to find. Forget pull-up pants.

One of the things that was extremely difficult to locate, besides bubble tea, was the toilet! We could hardly find public toilets and even despite asking so many people at the MTR station where the toilet was, we couldn’t find one in the station or near it to help Ben answer nature’s call. At Ladies’ Market and Electrical Appliance Street, we searched for toilets everywhere and there was none in the malls! I kept having to tell Ben to hold his pee in and even wanted to put on the diaper for him at one point, because it was just all too frustrating to be searching for a toilet for a boy needing to pee A LOT.

Of course, clean toilets are aplenty if you hang out at the more upmarket malls in Hongkong Island. Where we were at Kowloon, we always needed to get a drink at a cha chan teng or wait till meal times at restaurants to use the toilet.

Fortunately, Becks and Nat had diapers on the whole time. I’m not about to put myself in a situation where I have to bring three kids to pee. At different times. All the time.

On hindsight, I should have made them wear the Velcro ones instead of pull ups. Pull-ups are supposedly convenient to remove (just tear sides – easy if it’s not soiled) but difficult to put on. Especially when the kids are wearing jeans and socks and shoes. To pull up the pull-up, they’ve got to remove their shoes and socks and take off their jeans. Very tricky if the toilet floors are wet and dirty. If I’d brought along Velcro ones, they’d be easier to remove (just unfasten Velcro). And to wear them, all I need to do is to get them to remove their pants to knee level without taking their legs out and fasten the diaper with them in a semi-squat position (it takes skill to wear it for them standing up, but then again, I’m a mom of three!).

So just for the record, I need to say that it was hell changing Nat’s poopy diaper on the plane. He refused to lie down on the changing table. He was wearing a pull-up. He stood while I removed a diaper bomb of yesterday’s dinner. There was some turbulence. He refused to stay still while I cleaned. Let’s just say shit happened. If he had worn a Velcro one, it would have been much easier to remove, roll up and dispose. This tearing-a-pull-up’s-sides business always leaves you with a mess especially in a confined space.

And of course, may I also add Tip#11 for mums like me who have three young children? Don’t be a hero. Bring your maid. Bring a troop of babysitters. You need all the help you can get.

You’re most welcome for these tips.

I ♥ lists

5 random facts about this blog (& blogger)

April 12, 2013

1. Before I started this blog, everything was journalled by pen on paper. I wrote letters to the kids, each one of them – while I was preggers with them, and after they were born. Sweet thing to do, one would say, but very tiring indeed.

2. I started blogging in 2008 at ‘Of Pancakes and Panache’. I rambled and mused, and shared some snippets of my life baking, eating and having a chinchilla. And like every first time mum, I recorded boring details of having Ben as the centre of my universe.

3. I started ‘The Musings of Motherkao’ at the encouragement of my colleague who asked me to write about my life in Comedy Central because the stories I told of my kids cracked her up everyday. When I asked my husband what he thought, he was all for making our already hilarious lives public, and so started my journey of blogging away.

4. I’m very glad to have started this blog because I no longer need to report to anyone who wants to know how the kids are doing.

5. I wanted to be able to laugh at myself, so I *finally* embraced taking on my husband’s surname that was similar to a bovine. My friends now call me Motherkao instead of my name, and I’d like to think that that’s because they envy my wild life with three in the barn.

Linking up with:

I ♥ lists The Kao Kids

Ten completely useless skills I’ve picked up doing this mothering gig

November 14, 2012

I’m taking stock of how my life has changed ever since I popped three kids. And since tis’ the season for some reflecting and thanksgiving (ho ho ho, the year is coming to an end!), I’d thought I make a list of the things I won’t otherwise be able to do if I ain’t have no kids.

Now for my bragging rights:

10. Picking up clothes, paper, toys (basically, anything light) with my toes

Yes, I’ve discovered that as I plod along the house with a baby in my arms, I can still keep pathways uncluttered and the house quite organised with the help of all ten toes.

9. Scrolling the iPad with my toes 

During those boring days of maternity when the baby was velcroed to me almost 24/7, I was glad to be able to read blogs, e-books and digital magazines with the iPad. Brings multi-tasking to a whole new level.

 

8. Sleeping in a confined 6-inch space at the edge of my queen-size bed without tossing or moving

The three kids have officially taken over the master bedroom. They all congregate on the bed every night and carve out their own little space. I’m usually left with the space of my body width. It’s amazing I can still fall asleep and not fall off.

 

7. Using the mucus shisha

I’m getting pretty good at using this contraption to suck out my children’s gooey stuff in a totally glamorous way.

6. Planning a blog post in my head while events unfold and typing my thoughts down at breakneck speed the moment I have access to a computer

I’m able to cramp a lot more things in my head now and take them out selectively when the time calls for recall. I wouldn’t say it’s a useful skill; I’m feeling pretty cluttered up there.

5. Swallowing food with three (or fewer) counts of chewing

To say I can swallow food whole would be too incredulous but it almost feels like that every time we eat out. Someone would need to pee or poop; the baby would be whining; mischief would usually begin after four mouthfuls of food (think falling cutlery, sliding on chairs and the chicken dance). It’s no wonder I get indigestion. And piles.

4. Giving Ben and Becks the look

Like every mother, I’ve finally mastered the look which says “you had better stop what you are doing before all hell breaks loose and your mother goes certifiably nuts”. Every mother has one. If you don’t believe me, ask yours. Or better still, do something crazy and she’ll show you.

3. Doing the emotional blackmail

Not sure if every mother does it but I have, and can do it quite well. It involves some pretend-crying and pouting to get things done my way. I know, I’m a mother with issues.

2. Styling my children’s hair with soap

My favourite hairstyle for Becks is the onion.

 

1. Making useless lists like this and putting this up on my blog.

Need I say more? Completely useless exercise.

Family life as we know it I ♥ lists Milestones and growing up Nat Kao The Kao Kids

Enter Lil’ Nat

May 19, 2012

It’s now triple the madness. Ever since little Nat entered our world, the Kao household is never really quite the same again. Here’s what has changed:

1. We’ve all gotten used to Nat’s crying as part of ambient sound. Because this is our third baby, we don’t pick him up as and when he calls. Although I sometimes indulge him a little; this being the last time (hopefully!) I’ll be holding a baby (that’s mine) this small.

2. Peak hours have extended. It used to be crazy from 6 to 8.30pm, but now it’s even crazier, with peak period officially ending at 10. This is because everything gets delayed with Nat in the picture (see #3).

3. My kids have become more clingy than ever. When I was pregnant with Nat, Ben and Becks were pretty ok with feeding themselves and having someone else shower them. But now, it’s “Mama, feed me“, “Mama, change my diapers“, “Mama bathe me“, “Mama clean my mouth“, basically, “Mama, [DO EVERYTHING]“. They would burst into fits and throw ginormous tantrums if fatherkao or the helper were to come along and do what they want me to do. Becks would refuse to eat if I didn’t hold the spoon. Ben would hold on to my thighs. They would both sit on the floor and cry because they want Mama. This is the reason for the extension of peak hours – the three kids would take turns to be fed / cleaned / showered by me, which means that by the time all is settled, Mama is an exhausted wreck. All these would happen on a daily basis while the helper and fatherkao watch helplessly at a corner.

4. My kids have learned how to be considerate and helpful overnight. The clingy part aside, they have turned into helpful little troopers, refilling wet wipes and entertaining Nat when I need a break. They’ve also learned to shush each other up and whisper. This never happened when there were only the two of them.

5. My husband and I have started asking each other for permission to go to the toilet. Usually, when permission is granted, we’ll also furnish each other with details of why we are going and how long we would take.

6.  Our house is filled with a lot more laughter amidst the madness. Yes, we are all stretched thin but when we see the two clowning around the little one, and the little one chuckling repeatedly, we can’t wait for the day when all three of them would start playing together. What fun!

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.