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(Self) Examination

(Self) Examination Motherkao loves...

This year, I will… support local, go sustainable and back social

January 4, 2018

Today I opened my eyes and the year is now 20-18. Amazing how time flies, and how quickly we lived through yet another 365 days.

As reflections are made of the outgoing year and resolutions for the incoming, most of us want to start the year right. I do a few things as a way of envisioning and setting the tone for how I want to live the next 365 days.

This year I want a lifestyle change with what I spend my money on and how I spend my money. This year, I want to shop with a conscience.

And it’s gotta be these three things for the consciousness in shopping: local, sustainable and social.

Increasingly, I am in the position of meeting and working with local businesses, social enterprises and people with businesses that promote sustainable living. So many of these people I’ve met in the course of entrepreneurship have inspired me to go slow, find out who makes my stuff, and where my money goes when I spend it, and for a while in 2017, I started looking out for local, social and sustainable businesses to support whenever I needed something new be it a a new bag, a new pair of shoes, or new clothes.

I want to continue doing that this year.

Last year, I had the privilege of being a part of a panel organised by DBS where I met a whole lot of social enterprises, all ready to take their businesses to the next level. What I realised then was that even though there were so many, and I mean MANY, social businesses out there that’s innovated something new, offering something different and even serving a very worthy cause fulfilling a real need out there, these businesses were not out there. Many people still don’t know who they are, and what they do.

A while ago, last year, sharing with social enterprises how to engage their consumers in the digital world with fellow panelists, Cheryl from Rock the Naked Truth and Beatrice from Klarra. I put on many hats that day – as a business owner of Trehaus and as mom blogger and target audience for many products ranging from kids and education to lifestyle and travel.

For social entrepreneurship, the ones who do have the visibility and also gotten the word out are really the ones who’s tapped on social media well, I must say. Many of them engage KOLs and audience-specific influencers, and then go on to fill their socials with beautiful visuals, captivating videos and purposeful content. They know their target audience well and understand how to position their cause to their advantage.

And most of all, they are authentic and believe wholly in what they do. I love that for all these businesses that are local, social and ethical, they are also truly passionate about their causes.

Here are some local, social and sustainable businesses which I love:

  1. Matter, a local brand I have grown to love for its cause and its championing of slow fashion in its own steady, quiet way.
  2. Coopita, a social enterprise and e-shop that preserves craftsmanship and showcases artisans from around the region. I recently bought a new tote bag weaved entirely out of upcycled plastic as part of the Coopita PLASTIC SWAP movement, and am loving the bag totally.
  3. The Missing Piece, where every piece is elegantly handmade and nothing is mass produced by a local mom of three.
  4. Twin Within, based locally but supporting single mothers through a peace organisation in the Philippines.
  5. Another Sole – love their shoes and the #buyonefeedone cause where part proceeds feed the hungry

There are so many other brands to love and support, and you can check them out here, and here. Hopefully, more of the social enterprises that participated in the panel discussion I participated can harness the powers of social media and get their stuff out there as more awareness is generated about the social cause.

In really comfortable #matterpants and my favourite plastic bag – this hugea** tote I am carrying is made of upcycled plastic and handwoven by artisans from Aarohana EcoSocial Developments who was recently represented by Coopita, one of my fave social enterprises in Singapore


This year, I will go slow, find out who makes my stuff, and continue to champion conscious and ethical living.

Share with me your favourite local and ethical brands, or social enterprises that you love!

Putting my best feet forward! With Another Sole 🙂

Disclosure: I was invited to share my thoughts about social enterpreneurship and social enterprises I love by DBS. All opinions here are my own.

(Self) Examination The real supermom

Hustling with heart and purpose

November 11, 2017

It’s been THREE months since my last blog entry.

I’ve been doing nothing but hustle, hustle, hustle.

Hustling to get things done, make things work, solve problems, manage crises.

Hustling is a huge part of my entrepreneur life; hustling gets the going going – look at marcom plans! do team reviews! take people out for one-on-ones! meet stakeholders! have conversations! engage the customers! solve the gaps in ___ (whatever that needs to go in the blanks)!

Hustling is the much needed momentum for mom life. Most of us know the drills: Thursday is tingxie for Child 2 and it’s Wednesday for Child 1, reading practice needs to be done before Monday for Child 3, spelling is on Tuesday for Child 2 and Wednesday for Child 1 (wait a minute – is it Monday?), Chinese tuition for all 3 children are on Tuesdays, end of year assessment happens in Term 4 Week 5 for Child 1 for Math and English and Term 4 Week 6 for Chinese but it’s also broken down into multiple occasions for assessment over Weeks 7 and 8 and …

blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah … …

And beyond the school stuff are the mom-i-need-an-erasable-pen-from-Popular + mom-my-school-shoes-can’t-fit-anymore + mom-there’s-a-play-date-i’m-invited-to + mom-i-need-to-get-my-bff-a-birthday-gift-it’s-his-birthday-tomorrow + mom-it-looks-like-i-have-cavities-see-how-many-stains-my-front-teeth-have + mom-I-lost-the-school-library-books-I-borrowed + mom-when-are-we-going-to-the-zoo-i-need-to-draw-a-picture-of-the-racoon-dog + mom-what-time-will-you-be-home-i-need-you-to-do-page-3-worksheet-with-me + the gazillion “mom-I…” requests.

Is it hard to have babies this big? Yes, it is. Small babies just exhaust you physically. Big babies – they drain the helluva you mentally.

For many years now, I have never stopped wondering why I would take the path of madness. When I stayed home with three kids aged 3, 2 and 1, I thought I was mad. When I started my first business while staying home with them, I thought I was mad. When I plunged even deeper into the depths of being a startup founder and entrepreneur, I thought this was it – I really must be mad. And amidst all these madness, life actually got madder with schedules and crises and offers and invitations which I say yes to.

I recently said yes to going back to my corest of competencies. I am even madder now: to be prepping lessons, designing curriculum and standing in classrooms again, amidst the beautiful chaos already present in my life.

Because I actually still want to make magic happen every day, as a mother, as an entrepreneur, as an educator.

It’s a mad world I live in but I am loving every minute of this madness. Because if I hustle with heart and purpose, I know it’ll take me somewhere.

Moms are the most amazing creatures when we hustle. We become super, and I am not at all embarrassed to declare that.

(Self) Examination Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids What to Expect... As a Mother

The sadness when you are done having babies

August 3, 2017

This always hits me around the months of August and September.

This time round it hit much earlier, and I have begun to feel this way by the end of July.

An overwhelming sense of sadness.

Recently I read this article and it described everything I’ve felt for two years now, usually at this time of the year – this time of the year when ALL birthdays are officially over. My boys celebrate their birthdays in February and Becks celebrates hers in July.

The first time I experienced this sadness was right after Nat’s third birthday. By then I already knew. I knew in my heart after he blew out his three candles, that I was really done with having babies, and that he would be my last.

My babies are officially no more and what I have in the brood right now is an 8-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old who are smarter than me, sassier than me and stronger than me.

At least this is what they think, and what I let them think.

Life every day with them is filled with both frustration and fun. Depends on the perspective you wish to adopt, hurhurhur.

You listen in to a whole load of stuff; they talk about a whole load of stuff; and a whole ginormous load of stuff is learned and picked up and discussed and explored and thought about and squabbled over every friggin’ waking minute.

It’s exhilarating and exasperating at the same time.

Now that I am done having babies, this is my area to grow as their mother – to handle the exhilaration and exasperation all at the same time and to savour it all while at it.

To cherish them as they are growing up, to tune in and work out the patience bit every single waking moment.

Yet, I can’t help but to reminisce and cry sad tears every night looking at this…

And this…

And these…

And at the gazillion photos and videos of them as little beings (thank God for technology!).

Every night while they sleep, I’ll be scrolling the hundreds and hundreds of photos we’ve taken of them since 2009, watching old videos from the family cloud drive, and planting hundreds and hundreds of kisses on every sleeping child’s cheeks, and breaking down into a childish wreck squealing ‘my baby, my baby, my baby, you’re my baby’. I know, this mother has gone bonkers.

So much so that sometimes the kids tell me to get a hold of myself and pull myself together. ‘What’s wrong, Mum?’ they’d ask. ‘I am not a baby anymore’, they’ll declare in their waking moments.

Goodbye, babies. Hello, big little people.

(Self) Examination Becks Kao Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

It’s dark.

May 19, 2017

If there’s a Dark Ages to my history of motherhood, this should be it.

It’s now looking like the darkest ever. The toddler and preschooling years were pretty manageable. Exhausting but manageable. There were poopy diapers to change, dirty mouths to clean and lots of bedtime stories to tell but looking back, except the fact that you hit the sack every night bone tired, those years with 3 kids at those milestones were pretty much OK to navigate through.

Now that the kids are older, the challenges that I am facing are mentally and emotionally exhausting. Besides schedules, learning needs, progress follow-ups in between sassy retorts and juvenile arguments, there’s also the middle child and her difficulty to cope with changes and transitions smacking me right in the face.

I wished I could document in detail the pain and heartache and challenges and horrible days I go through managing her but I have decided against that and am learning to emphathise from a child’s perspective – that it can be both embarrassing and difficult, and I should park the details at some recesses of my memory somewhere where it wouldn’t hurt her. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of stuff going on from January till now, from learning needs and anxiety to lack of confidence and disastrous meltdowns. They are all now rolled up into one giant mess ball, coupled with my initial inability to handle her at her point of need (I was harsh, firm, upset, hysterical, critical, judgmental and having my own meltdown with every meltdown she had) and we pretty much have a bad situation right now, bad enough for me to call it the Dark Ages of my gig in motherhood.

I told myself I wouldn’t write.

I would deal. I would learn. I would press on.

And until I have found that little success, that aha-I’ve-overcome! moment, I would not write or rant for fear that it would cause more damage. Because you know, people would tell you ‘It’s ok, you’ll be alright’ and ‘Don’t worry, you’re doing a good job‘, and I know for a fact that IT’S NOT OK and I AM NOT DOING A GOOD JOB.

Because if I truly have any ability to reflect, I really can be better.

I can be better at…

…being consistent – and not swing from extreme to extreme, one moment encouraging and the other moment turning into a monster and screaming at the kid

…empathising – hey look, Mama, she is having a hard time too, and I shouldn’t be the only thinking that I am having it hard

…riding the tantrum /meltdown out – because a tantrum is technically not a tantrum but a “a good, deep work on fear” which can be deep-rooted and needs lots of emotional work.

I’ve been reading a lot and finding comfort in the advice and articles on this website, Hand in Hand Parenting, and taking heart that I am not alone going through this; that probably a thousand has gone before me.

I’ve also learned to ask God boldly for patience, wisdom and peace, every single day, every single moment of having to go through this.

And most of all, I’ve learned that motherhood is about change. Because the person that you’re mothering will never stay the same.

Tis’ true, the saying: that the days are long but the years are short. I so miss those bubbly, happy tods in my brood and wish so much I could baby them over.

But hey, change is needed now, and onward I go – to soldier through the Dark Ages.

One step

(Self) Examination Happy days

Counting my blessings

April 4, 2017

Dear Lord,

What was on your mind when you gave me these?

KaoKids_Reminisce - Copy

These very beautiful little people. And this wonderful person who chose to marry me.

Birthday Lunch_MotherkaoApr2017 - Copy

You must be thinking of how blessed, how loved, and how happy I would be.

With these people in my life.

For 36 years of life. For having these people in it. And for everything You have given.

Birthday Cake_MotherkaoApr2017 - Copy

My heart is full.

And filled with gratitude.

(Self) Examination Family life as we know it Getting all sentimental now Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

New challenges, new resolutions, new year!

January 20, 2017


It’s a new year – and we’ve made it here. I am grateful.

I’m grateful that this year, I have – in my brood – bigger, older, more sensible children. Children that I can reason with, confide in, talk to.

Children whom I’ve never imagine to be growing this tall and talking this much, and coming this far with me in this motherhood journey.

Children who love me as I am, whom I know can watch me grow old and still hold on to me.

Children whom I love, as they are; and whom I know that I can watch grow up and hold on dear to.


Tis‘ so true the saying; that in parenthood the days are long but the years are short, and I now have a 8-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old this year. Instead of diapers to change and tiny hands to hold, I find myself having to do so different things.

Like sitting on the swing at night with my firstborn, talking about his hopes and dreams.

Like reading the little notes my little girl leaves on my desk, filled with hearts and words spelling out, “I love you, Mama.”

Like having my littlest call me over the phone, asking me, “How was your day, Mom?”

These littles have grown up, and this year, I resolve to do three things.

I resolve to disconnect to connect.

I resolve to eat right and live life a little more balanced, so I can be a healthier, mindful mom for them.

I resolve to work a little harder at making their dreams come true – if that would mean being more efficient, more effective and more excellent.

What have you resolved to do this year? How is this year looking like for you?

I hope twentyseventeen would be a great one!

(Self) Examination Holidays! The Kao Kids

December Prologue Twentysixteen

November 30, 2016

I’m fighting a cough that wouldn’t go away for a month already and it’s terribly exhausting. Every night, my mind is filled with so much to write and reflect as the year comes to an end and the children are growing up so quickly before I can take stock of how the year has gone by for us but every night I am hacking, hacking, hacking away for the whole of November.

And so as time whizzes past me and my children are moving up one academic level in their learning milestone – Primary 2, Primary 1, K1 – gulp! OH MY! – I am making myself a promise to give them a little more of me in the December of twentysixteen.

And so away we go, back to where the warmth and love and kindness we’ve received the last time round, this time of the year, to be together.

Goodbye November: the Kao Kids looking out to see where December is taking us

Goodbye November: the Kao Kids looking out to see where December is taking us

This is proving to be a bit challenging though; one of them has a high high fever now and is throwing up and the other is also starting to feel ill.

Appreciate all prayers and love sent our way.

(Self) Examination Thunderstorm days What to Expect... As a Mother

The aftermath of the ‘I-hate-you-Mama’ blow up & the need for a village

July 14, 2016

So I wrote a post about Becks’ telling me she hates me and wished me dead for the haircut gone wrong and I was so surprised to receive encouragement from the blog’s FB page and private messages from readers and friends who told me stories about their own childhood (telling their mums the same thing!) and tantrums their own children threw.

What I learned from our sharing with each other was that motherhood’s a tough business to be in and that however tough it was, I am never meant to soldier this alone.

It subsequently inspired me to write this post for the Trehaus Blog titled ‘It Takes a Village’.

“It takes a village to raise a child and a community to keep parents sane.” It’s a quote I read somewhere recently and that became so true in my life, post the I-hate-you-Mama tantrum. My virtual village rallied around me to provide support so I don’t live with mom guilt and discouragement. We all need to create a village for ourselves as parents so that parenting would never be a depressing and lonely job.

And I am so glad that a community has always been around for me to offer that kind of encouragement and pat on the back because of this blog.

For this I thank you.

It takes a community to keep a mom sane

P/S: I am going to get a new look soon. Becks is holding me hostage to the offer I made her (out of panic, I did) at the hair salon the other day. I asked, “Should I cut my hair too to keep you company?” to which she said a resounding yes.

(Self) Examination Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Settled and happy

October 15, 2015

It’s been past a month since we’ve moved, and everyone is settling in our new place quite well. It’s now really cosy (hurhurhur, smaller, that it), and because we’ve spent a bomb on carpentry to stow and tuck things away and created a wooden, earthy feel to the new home, it very much feels more like HOME than ever.

And it’s great – so, so, very great – to be living near amenities again! Oh, the happiness to find a taxi stand 2 minutes away; the MRT station – fully airconditioned – 5 minutes away; cafes, restaurants, coffee joints, ATMs and even an ice creamery in our vicinity just a stone’s throw; and to be living near cheap and good hawker fare where we find good ol’ local folks take pride in the food they make that it’s almost a guarantee to have to queue for my bak chor mee, lor mee, kway chap, lei cha fan and carrot cake at lunch time and breakfast on weekends (which I’m really not complaining to be eating at $2.50 a meal). I now can proudly say that a 24-hour Fairprice is behind me and a 24-hour Cold Storage is in front of me, and that I will never have to rummage the larder for a snack or a cup of ramyeon ever again.

We’ve been spending our weekends exploring the ‘hood and just scooting to places. The Kao kids are all too thrilled to be on their kickscooters and bicycles doing that. I am happiest with good food, having zi char one day, claypot rice the next, and then get thrilled by the thought of Nakhon Thai near me, as well as Gastronomia, Crystal Jade and Baker & Cook, and there’s also Phoon Huat (my favourite Red Man), and being next to a community centre (where in the past I am near nowhere and every where we went we had to drive) where my kids can finally enjoy the good ol’ PA courses at less-than-a-hundred-bucks-a-term and play at an indoor basketball court for free. It gives a whole new meaning to being in the heartlands.

Keep guessing where.

Ben tells me he misses the northeast where we used to live, and to be frank, I miss the prata and teh tahriks at Jalan Kayu and to be able to buy my eggs from the wholesaler at $5.50 for a tray of 30. Not forgetting the ribs at Jerry’s and the bak kut teh and chilling out at Cedele’s at Greenwich V. But then I discovered the gem of the wet market that’s only 50 steps away from me selling eggs cheap too and even baked wares like tarts and pies and steamed baos and I quickly stopped reminiscing the quaintness that’s in Jalan Kayu and started seeing my new neighbourhood with a renewed sense of hope.

House-moving was previously dreaded for the unknown, but I think I am one happy gal post-move.

More importantly, we’ve hit a milestone in this family – sourcing, renovating, packing, relocating – and adjusted to the move as one. No tears. No ‘I wished we were back there’. No regrets. And this new place feels more homely than ever, because the family has become tighter making this move, and that’s all that really matters.

This Family

P/S: One of the best things about this move was that we de-cluttered. Like MAD. It’s like a good detox on a whole new level. We’ve never felt lighter and better.

(Self) Examination

After the radio silence comes the ramblings

September 15, 2015

This has been the longest radio silence the blog has been left to transmit, and now I’m back – which means the transmission of silence officially ends (hopefully).

I blame it on life.

Life has a way of making you reevaluate and reflect. Life has a way to get you busy; busy to the point your world spins out of control. Life has a way of putting up check points for you to check-in and take stock.

So this year, and these past months, I’ve made some bold moves in life. I’ve started the journey to entrepreneurship. If you know me, and have hung around long enough, you would know that I am a person teeming with crazy ideas, big dreams and a heart for social causes and education. I’ve decided not to silence them nor hide them in the guise of motherhood anymore. I am usually not one who would take the first step but I’ve decided to start meeting people, learn from them, ask to be mentored by them and surround myself with like-minded friends. I started meeting people who were willing to incubate ideas with me. We discussed endless possibilities.

As a mother, I embraced life. I decided to give one thing free rein at home. I allowed my kids to play. We stopped homelearning. We stopped doing activity books and worksheets. Inspired by the Reggio-approach, I exposed my children to everything open-ended. We gathered loose parts, Yakult bottles, dried leaves, twigs and toilet rolls. They ran barefoot everywhere, sang plenty of piggy-back songs and role-played. We played games. We drew. A lot. We made up stories.

As a teacher, I returned to school. I attended night classes. I met people who were hungry to learn and made new friends and began my academic pursuit for early years enrichment education.

As a family, we made big changes. We moved neighbourhoods and are now back in the West, where nothing much has changed, except that everyone around us got older. We started our family on a journey of ‘less is more’ as we downsized our space, and it has made us more appreciative – for what we have; and creative – with what we have. Nothing has humbled me more than the fact that living in a mature estate meant seeing old, lonely, sometimes grumpy, but most of the time kind and friendly elderly folks, and that it was always good to be reminded that we can always be a little kinder, a little more considerate of others – walking behind them, holding lift doors, putting on a smile and saying hello.

So like I said, life has a way of keeping you up, spinning you in circles, forcing you to stop at check points and making you reevaluate at pit stops. And that’s what I have been up to.

This blog has morphed more into a space for chronicling personal journeys more than motherhood journeys. Although there’s much to learn as a mother of a 6-year-old-soon-to-be-primary-school-going-child-who-is-sassy-with-retorts-every-waking-hour, a 5-year-old who’s still trying to find herself and blossom like she should, and a 3-year-old who only wrecks your nerve with his wit and mischief on good and bad days, these things have become increasingly private to me – things I wish to privately savour. I worry about the exposure the children have on social media, as the blog has grown and morphed into something quite beyond my control. We’ve come a long way, since 2012, and people are beginning to recognise the kids on the streets because of our public persona. I’m not sure if that’s something they want, now that they are older. I have thoughts like: what if someday my children become fiercely private people, and resent what I did? And I’m thinking perhaps this blog should be more of me than them, for now, unless it’s something that’s worth sharing – like a meaningful event or an engagement that benefitted the whole family.

But one thing remains: this blog is my gift to my children – a gift of my words to them and their growing up years chronicled for them. Because sometimes in life, we tend to forget. And may this space always serve as a reminder of how they have made my life so complete, and that because of them, I chose to pursue a life that was worth something.

One of the better quotes I've read, and always want to remember

One of the better quotes I’ve read, and always want to remember

P/S: Perhaps my co-writer might continue to share his fatherhood journey on the blog. But nope, not gonna be changing blog domain just yet.