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Sundown with love, running at sundown with my loves

July 10, 2015

I wanted to give up long before race day. There were more than enough reasons to anyway.

I needed to focus on work and cancel out any distraction.  There were processes to settle, curriculum to prepare and ideas to incubate. I didn’t have time to train (except for the five calories-burning sessions at Active Hive – another post on that soon). My husband, who was taking part in the Sundown Marathon with me, was not well for a long while with a phlegmy cough that didn’t go away. Ben had been having the sniffles too with his sensitive nose acting up a lot these days.

But a commitment is a commitment is a commitment. I said I’d do the 5km Fun Run for Sanctuary House, which I’ve been attempting to canvass donations for.

When Race Day arrived – and we were supposed to report at 7pm – I was already totally exhausted from being at work 6 hours earlier in the day. Fatherkao had a headache and popped two panadols that evening. The only one raring to go was Ben. And I had two other whining, unhappy, digruntled children who wouldn’t give me a break with their incessant grumblings about why they had to stay home with the helper. Not even TV helped.

But still we went, because a commitment is a commitment is a commitment, and boy, were we glad we did. That cool, lovely evening on 4 July totally made it to one of the high points of my year.

It was beautiful to be running at sundown.

The sunset view from Fatherkao's phone camera

The sunset view from Fatherkao’s phone camera

Add to that, the thoughtful organisers timed the Fun Run flag off to coincide with the fireworks from the NDP Rehearsal. We stopped after 1 km, stood by the Singapore River facing the Fullerton, and took in the breathtaking sights of the fireworks display before our eyes. Absolutely spectacular.

How close did we come ti soak in this spectacular sight?

How close did we come to soak in this spectacular sight?

This close. What a treat for the run!

This close. What a treat for the run!

And then being able make it to the half way mark with my firstborn – holding hands, encouraging him to press on, and sometimes looking at him from the back (yes, he got ahead of his very exhausted Mama) and thanking God that I have been blessed with lovely, healthy children.

Had this picture of the boys' back edited as a sketch because it's more poignant that way. I want to give thanks for the fact that in front of me ran two healthy boys!

Had this picture of the boys’ back edited as a sketch because it’s more poignant that way. I want to give thanks for the fact that in front of me ran two healthy boys!

And also extremely grateful that my husband, who hates running very much, was doing this with us with nary a grumble, encouraging Ben and me along the way, and teaching my firstborn some of life’s precious lessons. Overheard many times was the father telling the son to press on, not give up and reach for our goal. There were so many precious bonding moments no amount of money can buy.

When we held hands and made it through the finish line, it was touching to see the look of pride my son had on his face. That beaming, proud face after experiencing his first 5km-run. That look that says he’s grown up a little more after that evening.

Just the 3 of us

Just the 3 of us

Ben's well-deserved medal!

Ben’s well-deserved medal!

We had a lovely night after the run, being hosted by the organisers for dinner at the VIP tent, and talking a nice long walk to the MRT station talking about the events of the day and what the run was like for us. It was really, really nice to be walking hand in hand – just the three of us – like we were the best of friends and it was a beautiful and special moment for our firstborn too. I want to be doing this some time soon with Becks and then with Nat. I think that would be equally incredible.

Thank you, OSIM and Hivelocity, for the invitation to join the Sundown Marathon as a Sundown with Love Ambassador. We received more love that day than we could give.

Donations for Sanctuary House via the Sundown with Love platform closes 31 July 2015. If you could show a little love, click this link.

Disclosure: We were invited to be social influencers for the OSIM Sundown Marathon. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions here are our own.

Ben Kao Enrichment Homelearning fun Learning fun! Reviews

Exploring vocabulary through My World of Words [Review]

June 19, 2015

I guess one of the good things about being a language person is that it translates to being a mom that’s extremely particular about vocabulary building for your kids. I am big on making sure my children have a rich deposit of words in their vocabulary bank and make it my mission to introduce new words in English (and in Chinese too) wherever we go.

Like telling Ben, ‘Look, the snake is slithering up the tree. And it’s sticking out its forked tongue.’

So a snake doesn’t just move. It slithers. It doesn’t just have a tongue. Its tongue is forked.

Or telling Becks that there are many shades of pink. It can be bright or dull in its simplest. But it can also be luminous. Or fuscia. There’s bubblegum pink, coral pink, flamingo pink. And no, it’s not good to say Mama has pink cheeks but rather she’s applying blush.

And so am I glad that Scholastic sent these Ben’s way – because here in this house, we’ve all gotta be building our vocabulary foundation well, brick by brick so that we can speak a little more descriptively in English!

These books provide early and transitional readers (see the type of readers here) a very colourful experience of reading thematically through picture stories, as well as discovering specific meanings and definitions of nouns and verbs. There are some simple writing exercises, creative writing tasks, as well as fun activities like crosswords that follow each picture story, and is a very good resource to hook a 6-year-old up with.

First, a picture story

First, a picture story

Then reading the definitions and filling the numbers into the blank bubbles

Then reading the definitions and filling the numbers into the blank bubbles

And then trying out the suggested activities

And then trying out the suggested activities

What I really like about these books is that they provide the plural form of each noun beside each noun description; and like a good dictionary, they have sentences to illustrate the meaning of every verb and noun. There is no differentiation between US English and UK English as well, because the book follows Standard English, covering a range of nouns and verbs used the standard way. There’s really nothing to complain about, because the book is really thoughtfully and colourfully designed to educate and enrich the early reader. Perhaps some sticker-activities, to keep the little hands occupied, would be my humble suggestion.

My World of Words and My World of More Words can be found in major bookstores.

Disclosure: The books were sponsored by Scholastic Education for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions here are our own.

Ben Kao Milestones and growing up

Can’t handle the toof

April 30, 2015

Tooth fairy, tooth fairy…

Someone’s been waiting.

Dentist Chair 01

Dentist Chair 02

Shaky tooth up. Shaky tooth down.

Discomfort  is… all around.

But we’ve got a wonderful dentist friend who tells him, “Don’t worry. It’s because your adult tooth is coming out. Everything looks great and you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Epilogue in momspeak:

It feels like yesterday my baby had a budding tooth. Didn’t I just see a baby with a toothy grin a while back? It’s been 6 years, really? (This boy now calls me ‘Mom’ instead of ‘Mama’ and whines about his shaky teeth and butterflies in his stomach about going to the dentist.)

P/S: This is not a sponsored post. We see a really friendly dentist at ToofDoctors at Serangoon Central.

(Self) Examination Ben Kao Milestones and growing up Mommy guilt

Great expectations

April 19, 2015

Being the firstborn almost always automatically means that there are more expectations of you than your siblings.

You are expected to share.

To be obedient.

To set an example.

To be sensible.

To understand.

At least that’s what I went through as a firstborn. And it’s something I have unconsciously put my firstborn through.

Six seems to be the age of meltdowns, emo-ing and lots of scowls. I get these almost on an hourly basis with my firstborn who turned six earlier this year.

He gets hurt easily by unkind words yet sometimes say the unkindest things without realising it; he polices everyone around with that tremendous sense of right and wrong; he balks at injustice and asks the most existential questions. He’s growing from baby thoughts and talk to being a boy, and is beginning to develop a personality and flair of his own, complete with warts and quirks.

And sometimes this mother is many steps behind in understanding what is happening to the child she first rocked in her arms.

Tonight I received a timely reminder to grow and change as my firstborn grows and changes.

***

It was time for bed. Our bedtime routine usually consists of a bedtime story before tuck in. Ben asked me while I was brushing my teeth if we could have one. I mentioned I was quite tired and joked, “Hey, why don’t YOU read us one?”

Excited at the thought, he went to choose a book – 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle (for the tenth time now, maybe) – and waved it at me. To his disappointment, his sister had fallen asleep and Nat has chosen another story and refused to listen to any more of 10 Little Rubber Ducks again.

I tried to get the brothers to compromise. Look, let me take you all to Paris with Everybody Bonjours and then in the morning, when Becks is awake, Korkor can read ALL OF US his Ten Little Rubber Ducks! Nat was pleased but my eldest was starting to sulk.

By the time I finished reading Everybody Bonjours and declared it was time for bed, I had a full meltdown from a certain somebody. There was a scowl on his face, a high pitched ‘I DON”T WANT TO SLEEP, I WANT TO REAAADDDD, PULEEAASSEE…’, complete with some foot stamping.

That was when I lost it.

This is what happens every day. Things don’t go your way and you throw a tantrum. You don’t get to go somewhere, you whine. You don’t get to buy something, you whine. What happened to my sensible boy, my eldest child, who’s older than everyone else and should be able to understand things more? Why can’t you just try to see what I’m getting you to see? Your sister is left out here and she hasn’t had her story. And it’s 9 and it’s bedtime. Just understand that, say, ‘Yes, Mama’ and go to sleep. Simple, right? We can do a story tomorrow, with all of us, that’s fair, isn’t it? Why can’t you just listen and understand? Why can’t you just behave like a six year old should?  

And then there was the sound of silence and gentle sobbing under the blanket.

Was I being too harsh? Every child would want a gazillion stories at bedtime, but if we can’t, we just can’t, right?

Wrong. I was so wrong.

I asked Ben who was sobbing under his covers to get up and talk to me.

Me: Tell me, why was it so important that YOU had to read the story tonight and not tomorrow that you had to throw a tantrum?

Ben: Nothing.

Me: Don’t tell me nothing. You never say nothing if you feel something. Please think about it and tell me.

– Silence –

Me: Please, tell me. Don’t keep things inside you.

Ben: I wanted to show you love, Mama. I wanted to read to you to show you love.

Me: (I am choking by now) You wanted to show me love by reading me a book?

Ben: (in between sobs) I don’t know what else to do to show you I love you.

***

I held my firstborn close tonight. And after he fell asleep, I cried.

Because I was a fool of a mom to be always correcting behaviour but never tuning in to my child’s heartbeat, never once sensitising myself to his feelings as he grows.

Because I am doing what I’ve always known to do as I’ve been raised, never once stopping to listen to what my son is really telling me, always just expecting him to be the one that understands.

I’m the one that needs to understand tonight. That my firstborn’s heart is searching for ways to love his mother as he realises he is no longer that baby in her arms. That when I do peel away all the layers of tantrums and meltdowns, I see a child growing up because he is beginning to understand that love is no longer taking but giving of himself.

Ben

Post Script: 

Me: I’m sorry that I’m the one not understanding things. I’m really sorry.

Ben: It’s ok, Mama. (kisses me on the cheek)

Ben Kao Getting all sentimental now Happy days Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

6.

February 26, 2015

My firstborn occupies a special place in my heart.

He is creative, spontaneous, imaginative and curious.

He is sensible, kind-hearted, and always eager to learn and help.

For the longest time ever, I have yet to handle a meltdown or a tantrum from him. He understands and listens to reason, and always chooses to love and obey. He is affectionate all the time and hardly has a mean word for anyone.

Yet these are not the reasons why I love him so.

This boy was my very first. The very first baby I carried in my womb for 38 weeks. The very first human being I held in my arms to say, “Hello, I’m your Mama.” The very first person that my world has known that was flesh and blood.

I love him so because … just because.

He’s mine, that’s why.

Ben turns 6 today, and I am giving thanks for all these beautiful years of having him as mine.

Ben's 6th_1

Ben's 6th_2

Ben's 6th_3

Ben's 6th_4

Happy Birthday, Son! You’ll always have that special first place in my heart.

Ben at 6

Ben Kao Everyday fun! Milestones and growing up

Six is the age of…

January 28, 2015

… Scowling at injustice with a big, big sense of right and wrong

Here he is, very upset that he is the only boy in his group. He says his teacher did the WRONG thing.

Here Ben is very upset that he is the only boy in his group. He says his teacher did the WRONG thing.

… Sulking every day on the way to school complaining to Mom about girls and telling her how much you hate them

"I don't want to go to school, Mama. I hate girls."

“I don’t want to go to school, Mama. I hate girls.”

… Singing your lungs out in the shower and doing the boogie woogie while at it

The noisiest part of his day, and mine

The noisiest part of his day, and mine

…And staging a water battle for German and American soldiers while you’re at it

Drowned comrades

Drowned comrades

… Needing to look cool all the time

So the sunglasses need to match the outfit...

So the sunglasses need to match the outfit…

…Wanting – not a pet dog, a pet kitten, but a pet JAGUAR

Security blanket every night

Security blanket every night

… Making a mess with your Lego and turning a deaf ear to Mom’s nagging about bricks hurting her feet (like, who cares?)

It's painful? Really? If you stepped on a brick?

It’s painful? Really? If you stepped on a brick?

… Being extremely creative, with tons of mischief up your sleeve

Making Running Man nametags and making himself a spy

Making Running Man nametags and making himself a spy

…Wanting many moments of being all alone to create something massive

"Leave me alone to make my Lego," so says someone

“Leave me alone to make my Lego,” so says someone

… Leading the pack

"Shall we play MAGIC TRAIN, guys?"

“Shall we play MAGIC TRAIN, guys?”

… Having no fear

This is just a vampire. What's so scary?

This is just a vampire. What’s so scary?

… Having intense conversations with friends, and wanting to be with older boys

Playing BrainBox with Gabriel, his bff for now

Playing BrainBox with Gabriel, his bff for now

…. Monkeying with Mom and loving every minute of it

Ba ba ba... ba ba NA NA!

Ba ba ba… ba ba NA NA!

6 years ago, this boy entered my world. A leaking water bag and almost 14 laborious hours later, I met the gentlest, sweetest, baby who came to rock my world.

And rock my world he did. Every. Single. Day.

I love you, Son. Every. Single. Day.

Becks Kao Ben Kao Everyday fun! Happy days Milestones and growing up Nat Kao The Kao Kids

Castle show

January 27, 2015

These days I work 7 days a week.

And these days, my children see only the first part and the last part of me. In the mornings, when I send them to school and back home, and in the evenings when I return home for dinner.

The routine is pretty set in the afternoons after I send them home from kindergarten: grab a snack, get a shower, sit down and finish ‘Mama Homework’ and then play.

And these days, at 3, 5 and 6 years of age, PLAY is the best thing ever that can happen in their lives. With one another. With each other.

Today, when I got home, I found them in a castle. Suddenly, there were knights and a princess in the house, and lots of talking animals.

The kids said, "Are you ready to see a surprise?" and ran to their room.

The kids said, “Are you ready to see a surprise?” and ran to their room.

Surprised, indeed. By their creativity, and the mess! They've turned the Kura into a castle!

Surprised, indeed. By their creativity, and the mess! They’ve turned the Kura into a castle!

Tonight, the children prepared a “castle parade”. My children sat their mother and father down and announced:

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Welcome to our show!”

And then proceeded to demonstrate how to cook eggs (my youngest is currently into everything OVAL), how to swordfight like a knight (Ben’s specialty), and how to prance around like a princess (no prizes there who was in charge of this segment).

So the host made the announcement...

So the host made the announcement…

…and even asked if we knew the difference between the shields a Viking used and the ones that knights use.

The castle cook demo=ed how to cook eggs...

The castle cook demo-ed how to cook eggs…

And the princess held up the magic egg from we-don't-know-where

And the princess held up the magic egg from we-don’t-know-where

And if you ask me, this was the best show I’ve ever watched so far this year, and such an excellent respite from the stresses of a 7-day work week.

At this point, I would say – Those years of juggling, struggling and living each day to survive 2 tods and an infant? Today was the day I felt they were worth those blood, sweat, tears, loss of hair and sleepless nights.

Because now they  have proven to be the best play mates for each other.

Keeping each other company, while Mama's at work!

Keeping each other company, while Mama’s at work!

 

Becks Kao Ben Kao Family life as we know it Getting all sentimental now Nat Kao The Kao Kids

Letters sealed with love and just a little more

November 26, 2014

I wrote these to my children tonight.

Love letters to my children

Because?

Because one is learning to read, one is learning to identify simple sight words and one is learning to identify the letters of the alphabet and his favourite things.

Because they never fail to show me how disappointed they are whenever we open the mailbox and nothing is for them.

Because we just read Colin McNaughton’s S.W.A.L.K (Sealed With A Loving Kiss) at bedtime.

Because I know Nat would love to have me draw him a million green triceratops; Becks would love to colour some pretty flowers and Ben would love to be affirmed by my words.

And…

Because Mama has been missing in action this whole week being at work, and she badly needs to tell them how much she loves them.

In a way that means most to them.

Love envelopes

Ben Kao The darndest kid quotes and antics What to Expect... As a Mother

Welcome to Ben’s world – turning 6, and spouting nonsense

November 7, 2014

Ben Kao

Is 6 the age when your child starts to say all the things you never taught him to say?

Ben is turning 6 in February, and starting to say many, many things which I have never introduced.

Like “what the…”

And “bloody hell…”

And “ne ne pok”

And “ah bu neh neh”

Best of all, he doesn’t even know what all these things mean. He tells me, “My friends say so I say lor.”

I asked him the other day when he said, “I can see your ne ne pok!” where exactly are the “ne ne pok” and he didn’t even know where to point. I asked him if he knew saying “ah bu neh neh” was derogatory and he didn’t even know it was referring to people.

He thought it was some poem.

I think he also thinks that hell is a bloody place.

*facepalm*

I think I’m going to be facepalming a lot when he goes to primary school.

jpg_PIM0110

Becks Kao Ben Kao Going Out! Learning fun! Milestones and growing up Re: learning and child training

What my kids caught which can never be taught when it poured

November 2, 2014

One of the perks of being a blogger, at least for me these days, besides getting the usual media invites for events and product samples for review, is to be invited to exercise.

Which by the way, is great, because I so need to do so.

We were invited by the good people at SPRG (the same good folks that invited me to participate in the Great Eastern Women’s Run as an influencer) to join in the inaugural Hello Kitty Run 2014 at Sentosa as part of the feline character’s 40th birthday celebration here in Singapore. Since Becks, my little girl, is such a fan, they say.

But it’s 5km! I say. Her royal highness is not going to be able to make a 5km-run, not when her mother hasn’t even done her maiden 5 clicks yet.

It’s a FUN run, they say. And it’s perfectly ok if we walked and enjoyed the scenery.

So we said ok. Because her royal highness is such a fan, and she got excited by the thought of being in a run with me. And with Hello Kitty, or so she thinks.

And so we joined 17, 000 other fans yesterday at Sentosa, to participate in the first run of our lives together – me, Becks and Ben.

Hello Kitty’s mega 40th birthday surprise comprised a bouquet of flowers presented by Dear Daniel, a 33 inch cupcake and a birthday song sung to her by all 17,000 race participants. (Image Credit: SPRG)

Hello Kitty’s mega 40th birthday surprise comprised a bouquet of flowers
presented by Dear Daniel, a 33 inch cupcake and a birthday song sung to her
by all 17,000 race participants. (Image Credit: SPRG)

It was a madding crowd, I tell you. Local and overseas fans turned up in full force – men, women, boys, girls alike – tattooed with red ribbons and donning everything that screamed Hello Kitty from headbands and spectacles to shoes and shimmering pink skirts.

Sandwiched all the the way at the back in the huge crowd - but first, a wefie! (Look at her royal highness' grumpy face - too hot and stuffy, she says)

Sandwiched all the the way at the back in the huge crowd – but first, a wefie! (Look at her royal highness’ grumpy face – too hot and stuffy, she says)

We had to be flagged off in waves because there was such a swelling human crowd. The jostling and heat, plus the threat of a stampede, were just too much to bear.

Just look at how crazily packed it was at the starting line.

17 thousand people, folks. This is how it looked like! (Image Credit: SPRG)

17 thousand people, folks. This was how it looked like! (Image Credit: SPRG)

And then the terrible happened.

This was how the sky looked when we finally got close enough to the starting line

This was how the sky looked when we finally got close enough to the starting line

And there were still a whole lot of people in front of us!

Look at the dark clouds covering the skies. And there were still a whole lot of people in front of us!

The moment the fourth wave was flagged off (and that was us), the rain started pelting heavily on us.

It was like all the Chinese compositions we’ve ever written in school that always read “突然间下了倾盆大雨… 我们都像落汤鸡一样” came to life (loosely translated: suddenly, it rained cats and dogs and we looked bedraggled like drowned rats).

And I was torn between running back to seek shelter and hailing a cab home from Vivocity or continue walking in the rain with my five-year-old and four-year-old. So many people with young children were walking past us with their kids and babies strapped in carriers and strollers in the opposite direction anyway. Nobody would blame us for not being able to continue the race.

I was also very worried about the kids catching a cold. They have never, ever been drenched like this in their lives, and if they ever got wet because they were at water playgrounds, we always made sure that there was a warm shower facility and fresh change of clothes available. I didn’t have a brolly or poncho in my bag. I had packed light for the run – there was only a water bottle, two hand towels and two singlets to change out in my bag, plus keys and some money.

I stopped with the kids to hide under some bushes near Sentosa Gateway and asked the kids a few questions to gather information about their state so I could make a more informed decision:

Me: The rain doesn’t look like it would stop. It may get heavier and we would soon be wet to our socks, shoes and underwear. Shall we run back?

Ben and Becks: *silence*

Me: If we run back now, we can make our way home. Then we won’t be so wet.

Ben: But you said if we start a race, we finish it. That’s what people do when they race?

Me: Yep, I did say that whether we are comfortable or uncomfortable, wet or dry, we don’t give up once we start. But it’s a long way ahead. Sure you want to continue in this?

Becks: I don’t want to go home. I want to continue.

Me: Ben?

Ben: Yes, continue. We don’t give up.

Me: Alright, let’s press on to get our medals.

Ben & Becks: Continue! *with a glint in their eyes and smile on their face*

And so the decision was made. We continued to have a similar conversation in the rain at the 800m mark, the 1.6m water point and the 2.4km toilet break, and every time I would ask, “Shall we seek shelter? Can we take a break? Shall we wait till the rain becomes a lighter drizzle?” and the answer from my two determined children would still be the same.

“Let’s continue,” they would say. “Let’s not give up.”

And never did we stop once in our 5-km walk to hide from the rain or to rest our tired legs or to whine. Ben and Becks saw it as a chance of a lifetime to be indulging in free flow water play, and I saw that they were considerably cheerier as compared to the looks on their faces while we waited in the heat for the race to start.

They were happy to be skipping in the rain, wringing out water from their shirts and splashing in puddles.

Playing with raindrops at our toilet break near Palawan Beach

Playing with raindrops at our toilet break near Palawan Beach

My bag was soaked through and there would be no more dry clothes and towels, but was so glad I had a ziploc bag for my phone - hence this photo!

My bag was soaked through and there would be no more dry clothes and towels, but was so glad I had a ziploc bag for my phone – hence this photo!

The rain made being in the race uncomfortable physically for all of us but it lifted the spirits of these children.

Around the 1km slope uphill we also experienced kindness. A lady walked past us as we chanted “Never give up!” and swiftly removed the towel Ben had on his head with a beret she was wearing. Without saying a word, she waved goodbye and we were left to savour the act of kindness speechless in the rain.

What an awesome moment. Which I am sure would be remembered by Ben for a long time.

We also experienced kindness at the Sapphire Pavillion after the finish line from three lovely ladies who helped me protect my kids from the squashing and mayhem that was unfolding before our eyes as everyone pushed and shoved to collect their medals. Because it was still pouring and the only way to exchange our race bibs for our medals was in leylong style (the organisers should have thought of a more systematic way to queue, or maybe they did but everyone was in such dire need of shelter that they just kept packing the space resulting in the human jam), the kids and I were compressed by the people all around us till it got difficult to breathe. It was then we meet three friends who helped us out. Two of them formed a human cordon around my children and the last one grabbed our race bibs and edged forward to exchange for the medals on our behalf.

For that I remain forever grateful to the good Samaritans I met last morning.

Last morning, I was reminded of Philippians 3:14. We were literally pressing on towards the goal to reach for the prize.

Last morning, my children learned something that can never be taught by words nor bought by attending an enrichment class.

And we finished the race!

And we finished the race!

Last morning, they walked all 5km of a race from start to finish on their own. No strollers. No carrying. No breaks.

Last morning, they learned what it meant to never give up, and that the medal was every bit the prize they had worked hard for that they deserved.

It would have been otherwise difficult to learn this precious lesson had it not been for Hello Kitty and the rain that fell on us.

Our well-deserved medal!

Our well-deserved medal!

Disclosure: We were give media slots to participate in the Hello Kitty Run 2014. All opinions here are ours, including the lesson we learned and the exercise opportunity we gained. We endured wet clothes, shoes, socks and underwear to bring you this post.