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What to Expect… As a Mother

(Self) Examination Milestones and growing up Parenting 101 Re: learning and child training The Kao Kids What to Expect... As a Mother

Parenting at 5, 3-half and 2 (Part 2)

June 9, 2014

It’s incredible what parenting does to you. You can feel a host of extreme emotions – like that of guilt and elation, anger and love, and fatigue and enthusiasm – all on the same day, and sometimes, almost at the same time.

That’s what parenting my 5-year-old Ben, 3-turning-4 Becks and 2-year-old Nat is doing to me.

My littlest exasperates every single day. Without fail. With his mischief and antics. Like sticking the Yakult straw in his ear and wailing non stop for ten minutes in shock and pain. Or aiming his p-part at me to do a wee on me like a rain shower while I bathe him. Or picking things up from the garbage and stuffing his mouth silly with whatever he thinks is edible and having me chase him around the house to stop him. I always feel I have a combo Speedy Gonazales, Tazmanian Devil and Bart Simpson on the loose with him.

Some people whom I recently met commented I’ve lost quite a lot of weight. I think I lost them all by sighing a hundred times a day and chasing after Nat who is thinking up mischief every waking minute of his life.

Hunky Nat

But he is also, at two years of age, the most endearing child of the three. He cries for you, laughs with you, hugs you with no restraints, and tries with all he has to bring a smile across your face. You can ask for a hug or ten kisses and you get them, with no questions asked. His clingy-ness is unbearable on days when I am exhausted but incredibly heartwarming despite that tiredness.

Sporty Nat

This is my boy at two.


His brother, on the other hand, is growing up a little faster than I had prepared myself for. But who am I kidding? I don’t think any mother is prepared for her child to grow up.

Ben is now often immersed in his own little world, talking and pretend playing with himself, his animal figurines, his Transformers and Lego people. His vocabulary is extensive, often a close imitation and mish mash of what he hears the adults say. He is sensitive and shows his emotions freely, and is now more a person who is eager to please and to be accepted.

It’s all about solving his own problems, working things out by himself and trying his best with him now.

Yea, that’s my eldest. My firstborn. My big darling that’s going through this phase of self-discovery right now.

Sporty Ben


The little girl. Ah, my princess. The one who is getting more girly as days pass. She now wants long hair. She loves dresses. She adores having hair clips and hair ties on her hair and pesters me to comb her hair every day. She has ‘babies’ and loves to play mommy. She even hides in a corner to nurse them, feed them and talk to them.

Yes, this little girl. I don’t know what happened to that tomboy.

Princess Becks

Becks is turning 4 next month and is looking quite the stunner with those pretty big eyes and icy smile. Every day, she’s discovering a whole new world and learning what it means to be her own person in it; complete with learning how to handle – and control – her emotions and tantrums. She’s learning that she’s not two anymore, and we’re not going to be accepting bratty hissy fits like we used to put up with when she was in her Terrible Twos. As she begins to understand what is expected of her as she grows up, my darling girl is also blossoming beautifully – both inside and outside.

My little girl Becks


We’re not so much done with growing pains and this is very much the beginning. I’m learning too that my life, as a mother and a person, must not and should not stop as I parent these children, and that I too, must grow, learn, unlearn and relearn to always be appropriate – as opposed to being redundant – in their lives.

The Kao Kids

Family life as we know it Milestones and growing up Nat Kao The darndest kid quotes and antics The Kao Kids What to Expect... As a Mother

Sound bytes of our lives (V), ft. Nat Kao

May 31, 2014

If you don’t already know, there’s someone in my life right now that makes me cry and laugh at the same time. He exasperates me to the point I think I am going insane yet possesses the ability to turn my heart to mush with that face of his.

Yea, it’s this someone.


This someone has done the darndest things from stuffing toilet paper and scooping guppies from the fish tank and leaving them to wriggle in soap water to eating dirt and flipping out his diaper filled with poo. Recently, I caught him hiding behind the sofa bed stuffing cashew nuts in his face from a jar that’s he’s snitched from the larder. And just a few weeks ago, he was also caught in the kitchen doing this:

Nat_drinking Ribena 1

Nat_drinking Ribena 2

Yep, that’s the two-year-old alright, poking multiple straws into multiple Ribena packs and having a drink of his life. I bet if he could figure out how to open the jars of chicken essence, he would have tried some.

Nat is now 26 months old and beginning to say the darndest things too, which makes me roll my eyes and hyperventilate while amusing me with laughter at the same time.

Nat_handsome smile

Recently, he’s starting to learn how to snub me right in my face, and I am now resigned to the fact that I’ve got not one, not two, BUT THREE little tikes in the house who would always have a ready word for Mom to leave her speechless.


You can see if you…

In the car one day, passing by a bus stop with a ‘Frozen’ poster ad

Nat: Look, Mama! I saw Frozen!

Me: Nat, I can’t look. I’m driving.

… … … … … …

On the bus on another day, passing by same bus stop with a ‘Frozen’ poster ad

Nat: Look, Mama! Frozen!

Me: Where? Can’t see lah, passed it.

Nat: (yanking my sunglasses) Take off sunglasses then you can see!

Me: -_-


Explain to you also no use

Me: Please don’t run. It’s slippery and you’ll fall.

Nat: Why?

Me: There’s water so if you run you may slip on the puddle of water.

Nat: Why?

Me: Aiyah, how to explain to you. Just don’t run! Listen to me, k?

Nat: Yes, Mama. (RUNS OFF)

Me: -_-


Why? Because!

Me: Why do I have to force you to come brush your teeth every night? Why, Nat, tell me why?

Nat: Because because!

Me: -_-


Liar, liar, pants on fire

Nat: Mama, can I eat pistachios?

Fatherkao: No more, Nat. I said enough.

Me: Dada has already given you a lot to eat, right? No more.

Nat: Can I eat, Mama, please?

Me: Please go check with Dada.

Nat: Dada, can I eat this?

Fatherkao: Enough for now, k.

Nat: Awww, ok. (walks back to me…)

Nat: Dada said ‘CAN!’, Mama. Nat can eat.

Us: -_-

… … … … … …

Nat: Mama, I like this snake.

Me: That’s Korkor‘s rubber snake. Did you ask before you take?

Nat: Yes. Can bring out?

Me: Please go ask your brother for permission.

Nat: Ok. Korkor! Nat can bring snake out?

Ben: (from a distance) NO!!! IT’S MINE! NO BRINGING IT OUT!

Nat: Mama, Korkor say can.



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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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


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!


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.


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


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!

The Kao Kids Thunderstorm days What to Expect... As a Mother

The day has already ended for me

April 29, 2014



It’s 9 am that I’m writing this and the day has already gone downhill. I am angry and exasperated. My blood’s reached boiling point and I am so ready to call it a day, curl up in bed and wake up the next morning.

So I thought I should start waking up consistently earlier a few days a week to get some work done. I’ve been following this blog and getting inspired to make some small changes in my life. I’ve been waking up with the kids (I sleep with them in their room) or sometimes later than them (if I stayed up to catch up on Running Man which I am currently addicted to) ever since Fatherkao started making the huge sacrifice of taking public transport and letting me sleep in instead of having me send him to work. I used to wake up at 6.30am to send him to work and every time I did that, the kids would also be up by 7 am bawling their eyes out. Don’t ask me why. It’s probably because they can’t find their mother and can’t go back to sleep without her. But if I slept till 9 am with them, they would usually all wake up fresh, happy and contented.

Waking up together with them has guaranteed me well-settled kids for the good part of the morning, except that now that I work from home, I’ve essentially gotten zero work done on most days. I try to stay up to do my planning and writing but I usually get so exhausted I just want to tune out, watch something on my iPad to wind down and go to sleep. It’s been a real challenge trying to find time to work while being constantly there for the kids and sometimes this becomes impossible.

Like today.

I got up at 7, saw that everyone in the room was sound asleep and crept stealthily out of bed to shower and get ready. There was editing to do, programme write-ups to think about and blog posts to plan for and I am all ready to lock myself in the study for an hour of productive work.

Then I got out of the shower and saw the little girl sprawled in front of me, awake but groggy and wanting all my attention. She whined and refused to get on with the routine for brushing teeth and having breakfast. Worse still, Nat also sensed the mom absence in the room and woke up upset and clingy. They both hung around the study, threw crayons and colour pencils (and whined some more while at that) and started squabbling. The new helper was completely helpless and totally incompetent in handling children (more on her soon in another post) and had no ability whatsoever to get the kids to listen to her.

Recipe for an explosive outburst from me there, I say.

At the breakfast table which I made everyone sit, they were making faces at the bread I bought from Crystal Jade last night and whining non stop for me. I tried two rounds of calm, patient talking and told the kids that they needed to eat and I would need to get some work done but MORE whining ensued, complete with legs kicking, chairs falling and hissy fits. Before I knew it, I morphed into my monster self, screamed at Nat and Becks for their poor behaviour and the maid for just sitting there not being able to handle the situation.

I only needed one hour. One hour to be productive. And it can’t even happen.

And then Ben woke up from all this commotion and things started happening on an even bigger scale. So after Mom’s outburst they were all suddenly cooperative and eating their breakfast and then decided that they wanted to play together. For a total of 5 minutes before the eldest started to complain about everyone else, namely his sister for eating into his space and his brother for throwing things and then more fighting ensued as they started to snatch toys and push one another. Now I have three kids fully awake, giving each other dagger stares and exasperating me to the point I want to scream in their faces and tell them all to go back to bed.

I only needed one hour. One hour to be productive. And it can’t even happen.

It’s extremely annoying that these kids can’t continue to sleep without the mother presence. It’s even more annoying that they can’t seem to share and play together peacefully and happily ever after. In days like these, I often question if I’ve gone all wrong with the way I parent them; if I made the wrong decision to have more than one kid (one kid = nobody to fight with = peace in the house); if I made the wrong move to do three kids back to back; if I had done the stupidest thing to co-sleep; if I had pursued the wrong cause of wanting to start something of my own; if they are like this because I stayed home.

I only needed one hour. One hour to be productive. And it can’t even happen.

And I’m the one all ready to bawl my eyes out now.

Ecard credit:

Ecard credit:

What about you? Do you have days like these? Misery loves company, so hit the comment button and share your misery with me!

(Self) Examination Becks Kao Ben Kao Family life as we know it Milestones and growing up Nat Kao Parenting 101 The Kao Kids What to Expect... As a Mother

Parenting at 5, 3-half and 2 (Part I)

March 6, 2014

Last month, my sons turned a year older and I’m officially doing this mothering gig with my three kids who are 5, 3.5 and 2.

This means that change is here again.

The 5-year-old is clearly growing up fast and probably has a vocabulary of close to two thousand words. He’s playful still but not as cheekily innocent as he was a few years ago. He’s now got an emo streak and pensive moods, and have been showing signs of being easily hurt and offended. He’s learned the art of argumentation, and has also picked up the skill of being acidulous and sarcastic (why, why, I’m sure he also learned from the best). He has the ability to give you a million and one reasons (and then some more if you allow him to) why he can or cannot do something, something as simple as why he can’t come immediately to brush his teeth or empty his bladder, and would do almost anything from pouting to demonstrating aggression to win an argument. He can fire questions at you fast and furious and has about more than a gazillion ‘whys’ in his head every single day.

Not a day passes without him asking at least 50 questions, giving you a ton of useless reasons as excuses why something happened which is not his fault, and a show of emo-ing, complete with tears and sulking at corners of the house. He learns things fast but is also very selective in what he wants to learn. He’ll cite poor memory as his excuse for not remembering how to spell words you teach him but he can remember every single character in all his favourite TV programmes. He’s an energiser bunny who’s waiting every day to muck around, asking, “What can I do? What can we do?” and looking for someone to play with him.

Ben at 5

On good days, he goes a little wild and says the darndest but most intelligent things that can make you laugh so hard and wonder if you’re with a 5-year-old or 15. He can also have very intense conversations with you, and we have had days of talking about God, heaven, life and the meaning of it all.

On good days, he’s also a wonderful big brother to his siblings and acts with a mature sense of sensibility.


The little girl is a July baby so she only turns 4 in 4 months. Although the terrible Terrible Twos which we’ve experienced with her is finally, finally over, we do get the tantrums once in a while especially whenever she’s tired or in discomfort, though the tantrums have evolved to be more muted and controlled. I’m happy to say that Becks is now able to exercise a lot more self control at this age.


She’s also at a phase of being really eager to differentiate herself from her siblings. I’m not sure if it comes with being the middle child but she’s demonstrating to us clearly every day that she wants to be different, and to be seen as different. In the past, she would join the games and rough play, and play with much abandonment with them. Lately, she wants to read about the Disney princesses and play with dolls. She’s been asking if I could buy her a Barbie or a princess doll. She would drag her brothers to pretend cook and grocery shop with her, and if they didn’t want to (and preferred to be doing neanderthal-like things like uzzah-ing the house down) then she would go to a corner and be perfectly fine talking to and cooking for her soft toys and her bolsters.

Becks at 3 half

Her ambition for now is to be a mummy. A good mummy, she says. I wonder where she got that inspiration.


I’ll be lying to say I don’t have a favourite. When you have more than one kid, you’re bound to have someone who is the apple of your eye.

That said, I don’t play favourites. I don’t pit one sibling against another and bring on the rivalry with any favouritism games. I love them all with all my heart and all that I can in my capacity as their mother and a human being.

So this boy.

Nat at 2

He turned two last month and is starting to talk in sentences it’s just way too cute, cute, cute. The things he says and words he strings together – aww, soooo cute, I tell you – just melts my heart and makes me laugh so heartily everyday. Not a day passes by without bouts of laughing out loud and sides-splitting gaggles filling the house. With Nat, we’ve heard much laughter, and had much laughter.

So while I’m sometimes tearing my hair out at trying to communicate with my firstborn and feeling the frustration of handling the temperamental middle child, the baby – and resident clown – in the house gives me much respite from the parenting weariness of the day. I’m just glad to have only suffered hardship from the Terrible Twos one out of three. I was anticipating and bracing myself for tough times with the littlest who has a mule-like temperament, and while the littlest has his “moments”, it’s been so easy to handle his moments with distractions and lots of hugs and kisses.

I’m really going to miss this stage. And because Nat is Nat, I’m so glad we didn’t decide to stop at two. We can do with more funniness, adorableness, and happiness in this house, methinks.


Hello everyone. I’m Motherkao. I have three kids age 5, 3-half and 2 and a new season of parenting is here again. I am bracing myself for the challenges ahead. There’s potty training, meal times routines, sleep training and weaning (yes, 24 months and still going on – ugh!) to settle, ABCs and 123s to teach, words and books to read, songs to sing, stories to tell, games to play and lots of clowning around to do. There’s also fun to be had, skills to teach, values to impart and lives to shape.

In other words, there’s a whole lot of mothering to do.

The Kao Kids Mar2014
Ben Kao Everyday fun! Fatherkao loves... Milestones and growing up What to Expect... As a Mother

From two to four, of toys and more

November 25, 2013

This post chronicles my son’s development over the years, particularly his changing obsessions with toys and characters.

This post is written for parents with little boys – I’d like to offer you a glimpse of what you might encounter the next few years raising your son.

This post is about the many phases of boys and their toys, and what weekly emails from parenting websites like Baby Center never warned you.


Vehicles of every kind

At two, my firstborn was crazy about construction vehicles. As soon as he started talking, he started learning the different names of the huge trucks he saw on the roads – excavator! concrete mixer! dump truck! he would try to say.

First trucks

And so very quickly he got himself a whole load of these toy vehicles to play with.

A few months later, he started liking trains. He became fascinated with someone called Thomas and all his (goddamn expensive) creepy round-faced friends. He got an entire collection of die cast trains for Christmas that year.

Thomas and friends

When he turned three, his obsession with cars started, which very incidentally, also got his father (the bigger boy) extremely excited. They started amassing Tomica die casts and building tracks of all kinds, which very quickly consumed them to the point of obsession. They would sit together to watch cars move from Point A to B after building those massive car tracks that take up half the space in the living room for hours on end.

Car track

Unfufilled childhood dreams

I never understood the point of it, but apparently, it was like being in car heaven for these boys.

Handy Benji

After the car phase, Ben’s curiosity with tools began, in part because he started watching a series called Handy Manny on Disney Junior and in part due to observing his father work with tools to build the stuff we bought from IKEA.


And just like that, I suddenly had a handy little man at home overnight, “working” with hammers, screwdrivers and spanners. It was a very noisy phase indeed as he went knocking around the house all day and night.

Building blocks and Lego

When tools became passé for him, he spent hours creating things from his imagination with his Lego blocks.


Lego Quadro

He made all sorts of stuff – stuff we can never make out, stuff which existed only in his mind, and a whole range of playthings from dragons to zoos to carnival grounds. Whenever he came to us to show us what he’s made, we’d say, “Wow, that’s amazing! What’s that?” but it never deterred him from making more and fuelling our own imagination too.

Dinosaurs, wild cats and animals of all kinds

Between playing Lego and sometimes revisiting earlier obsessions like his toy cars and tools, Ben started getting curious about animals, particularly those prehistoric giants that have gone extinct a long time ago.


That was when we threw him a dinosaur party. That was when I also had a challenging time learning all those five-syllable names of dinosaurs talking dinos with him all day long (oh yes, the pterodactyl flies! oh wow the acrocanthosaurus ate these! watch out, here comes the nedoceratops!). I’m telling you, the dino phase was the one most tiring ever! I’m actually secretly hoping Nat skips that cos’ I ain’t wanna name another dinosaur ever in my life.

At four, Ben moved from dinosaurs to animals – farm animals, zoo animals, safari animals. There was this time he was particularly interested in big wild cats. Ask him now and this boy can tell you the difference between a leopard, cheetah and puma. Ask him now and he can also tell you also why the tiger and the lion are both kings in their own respect. He knows where these cats live, what they eat and their different characteristics. Because of his interest in animals, he’s pored over many encyclopaedic books all by himself at home and at the library just to learn more about them.


Bam! Bam! Bam! Kababoom!

Nerf battle

Ah yes, weapons. How can I forget? Sword, shield, bow and arrow, oh yes, and GUNS. So my four-year-old, together with his sister and baby brother now, are so into them. In the beginning, I was one determined mother who swore that I would never allow my kids to play with toy weapons. Not even water guns in the pool. Everyone has an informal causation theory that playing with guns leads to aggression and violence, and I am one big believer of this theory. Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for the kids, their father thinks otherwise. “No link!” he says. “This is what boys play!”

And that was how I lost the battle against weapons.

Actually, what made me not insist any longer was this piece of research I found online:

According to Michael Thompson, PhD, child psychologist and author of It’s a Boy!  Your Son’s Development From Birth to Age 18, children learn how to control impulses, delay gratification, think symbolically, and view things from another’s perspective through imaginary games. Play also allows children to act out their fears and aspirations. “As a little boy, you’re not very powerful,” Thompson says. “With a gun, you feel powerful and heroic.” According to Thompson, it’s really about dominance and heroism, winning and losing, and who gets to be the good guy in the end. Of course, when there’s hurt and aggression involved, that must be stopped by the adult.

So the kids started playing with Nerf guns with their father (I shared here about Fatherkao making dinosaur target boards to play with the kids, and it was great for hand-eye coordination!), “smiting” one another with swords and learning how to defend themselves with shields and playing with bows made of plastic and arrows that had suction cups.

Sword play

Ben the Knight

Ben also started watching the animation series Mike the Knight and was immersed in a world of bravery and chivalry, and dreamt of knighthood day and night for months.

More than meets the eye

Transformer fever

Three months shy of his fifth birthday, some creatures that can change their bodies at will have started to dominate his world. Intelligent robots, called Transformers that could think and feel, are now his favourite playthings, and he’s experiencing a fascination with these species of “living robotic beings” with a curiosity and obsession I’ve never seen. He’s fired me with questions after questions about these beings after watching the movie, and finally took out his Transformer toys which he never really could figure out or understand in the past that were given to him as gifts. He now talks to them and about them all the time, and functions in a world of Transformer-speak that has a huge invisible sign warning everyone else to keep out.

Transformer love


As I mentioned, this post is about boys and their many toys. Although I write from my experience with one boy, I’m sure what I’ve shared isn’t just specific to Ben alone.

Comparatively speaking, the little girl doesn’t seem to have obsessions of these varieties. She’s ok with stuffed toys, dolls, girly things and masak-masak play like cooking, cleaning and other domesticated things but has never dwelled on it every single day liking just one particular thing for months! I’ve not ever stereotyped toys for my boys, not at least before they were three. Ben plays with dolls and engages in play activities like cooking and cleaning occasionally with Becks and Nat, but it’s interesting how his preferences and interests have geared towards things with masculine attributes all on its own, and turned into phases of obsessions which are going to be so unique to him to remember his childhood by.

And it’s incredibly amazing how God wired boys. From what I understand, these boys remain, umm, boys, for a long time even in adulthood with bigger, better toys. Quite apparently, the one person that influences Ben’s interests in toys is himself one big boy looking to relive his childhood too. You should see the look on both their faces whenever they are in a toy store. (Right, Fatherkao?) 

I know more exciting times lie ahead as my little boy turns 5, then 6, then 7, and I am thinking the Justice League of Superheroes, war soldiers, and more Transformers already!

Parenting 101 Re: learning and child training The darndest kid quotes and antics The Kao Kids Thunderstorm days What to Expect... As a Mother

Survivng Fight Club (or ‘How to Handle Sibling Conflicts’)

November 5, 2013


I shared in an earlier post how the kids are fighting every day, and how it’s come to a point I am seeing blood.

So what does a mother do when the fighting start? How much conflict should she tolerate? When should a mother intervene, and how does she do that?

In this post, I share three principles Fatherkao and I abide by.

Rule #1 Don’t get involved

It is common for siblings to disagree, squabble and fight. I remember what Dr Kevin Leman says in his book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours that when children fight, they are actually “cooperating with each other”:

“It seems odd to call fighting an act of cooperation, but that is exactly what is happening. It is extremely difficult to get a fight going with only one person.”

He goes on to say that the best way to handle this is to give the children what they want. If they want to fight, let them. Our right as parents is to say where and under what conditions they can fight – in a room elsewhere, at the backyard, away from everyone so that it does not interfere with the peace and welfare of others in the home. He also mentions one thing which I see happening when the kids fight.

“Their fighting, for the most part, was designed to get the parents needlessly involved in their hassles. The sooner parents learn to stay out of their children’s hassles the sooner they will teach their children greater responsibility and accountability.”

I couldn’t agree more. My job as a mother is not to eliminate conflict and rivalry between siblings. Conflict at home  is natural. My job is to help each child resolve his or her conflicts in a positive way and build psychological muscles for dealing with the realities of life. So when I see a fight starting, I usually order the kids to take it elsewhere, out of my sight. I shoo them into the room, close the door and say, “Resolve the matter. Come out when you’re done.”

And you know what? Most of the time, they immediately say, “We don’t want to fight anymore, Mama.”

Rule #2 Step in only when there’s a danger of physical harm

Following Rule #1 doesn’t mean that I encourage my kids to fight. I see it as an opportunity for them to resolve their conflicts without me as their audience. The problem with always intervening is that you risk creating other problems. The kids may start expecting help and wait for you to come to the rescue rather than learning to work out the problems on their own. One kid would also feel more “protected” than another, and that would inadvertently make the kid feel he or she can get away with things, while at the same time stirring up sentiments of resentment in the other kid who is not “rescued”.

But if there’s a threat of physical harm, there’s a need to call the shots. Sometimes one child may pick a fight with another who is totally outmatched in size and strength. Sometimes a child may be provoked so badly by name calling and taunting he loses control and smacks the one provoking him. Sometimes a child may use things to hurl at another as an act of retaliation. These have all happened (and more – pushing and shoving and biting and kicking, yes, all and more) and I have had to clean up the sometimes very bloody battlefield with a very broken heart. This is when all involved in the battle gets a time-out and a swipe of the cane on their bums. This is when I insist that nobody is right and everybody is wrong and they all kiss and make up. Fatherkao sometimes insists that they think of three things to do to show love to each other, especially to the one injured.

So no matter how bad they feel or how angry they are, when the adults intervene, it usually means that they will be forced to hug, kiss and say “I love you.”

Rule #3 Let reality be their teacher

This one is a little difficult to follow. I’m always more inclined to protect the kids and make excuses for their misbehaviour – he must be tired, she feels neglected, this only happened twice – but thankfully, my partner in parenting, i.e. the other parent, is someone who stands quite firm and is more principled than I am. This rule we have at home is inspired by Dr Kevin Leman, who coined the term “reality discipline” which basically means to let nature take its course. And when nature doesn’t take care of the problem, the parents help nature along. The fundamental idea is to not rescue your kids from the consequences of failed responsibility. You allow life lessons and experiences to teach your children while they are still at home under your loving authority. Parents should not hover (like helicopters) or rule autocratically but authoritatively guide and direct them in a loving relationship.

I’m still learning to do this, and am consciously looking out for ways to teach the children. Recently, a fight broke out between Ben and Nat. Nat was perceived to be attempting to destroy something Ben has built, when actually he was just ruled by curiosity and driven by the need to explore. Ben obviously doesn’t understand developmental milestones, got upset and swung a plastic bucket (the sandcastle type) at him. What he didn’t know was that that bucket had a crack and the broken piece which was jutting out cut Nat on the flesh just below his eye.

This was the perfect opportunity to apply Rule #3. Fatherkao calmly took Ben to a corner, ordered for a time out and put on a blindfold for him. We thanked God that Nat was not wounded fatally but needed Ben to understand what it would be like if his eye was injured. So he went around not being able to see during dinnertime, all the way till it was almost bedtime. In fact, he ate his dinner blindfolded.

We didn’t lecture, didn’t scold, didn’t cane. In fact, credit goes to my husband who remained so calm it made me a little embarrassed (I had earlier gone hysterical but held my tongue from screaming at Ben).

Part of reality discipline: teaching Ben what it's like if he's lost his sight

Part of reality discipline: teaching Ben what it’s like if he’s lost his sight

There you have it. Three things that I try to remember when the fights begin at home. By the way, there’s gonna be Rule #4 come the day I can find boxing gloves their size. It’ll be “Make kids put on boxing gloves”. 

The darndest kid quotes and antics The Kao Kids Thunderstorm days What to Expect... As a Mother

Welcome to Fight Club

November 4, 2013

There is almost nothing constant in the world of parenting the Kao kids. The dynamics change. The demands change. The seasons change.

And now, I’m spending every single day breaking fights, stopping squabbles and wiping away blood and tears.

A few months ago, everything was still fine and dandy. I remember writing a post about how my babies are finally playing together.

Then just like that, everything’s changed. There’s suddenly a lot of angst in the house. The kids are smacking one another, snatching things and yelling. A LOT. Somewhere some time in the day, somebody’s being bullied, crying foul or yanking hair. I don’t interfere in their sibling quarrels usually, but now that there are more incidents of blood, I am yelling more frequently, sending kids for time out and inviting Mr Cane to handle some of these fights.

One of the reasons for this new situation arising is because someone is stepping into the zone called the Terrible Twos at 21 months. Oh man, this boy knows how to fend for himself, alright! He’s not one to be bullied, and he asserts his independence in as many ways as he knows how. He’s also started smacking (faces), throwing (things at people) and biting (body parts of anyone) whenever he perceives that he is at a disadvantage.

The other reason is because Ben is beginning to understand the notion of fairness, justice and revenge. I’m beginning to suspect that Ben may be more gifted than I think he is. He is verbally expressive, and argues with me like a lawyer would with another in court. The case he is arguing is usually his own, and he is very skilled in negotiating about rules, punishment, discipline, bedtime, dinner – basically nearly anything he doesn’t like or wishes to avoid (but that’s for another post another time, and another issue altogether). And because he thinks that whatever Mom and Dad expect of him should be the same with his siblings, he gets considerably upset and angsty when things are not equal. Things are not always equal because he is four and he should know better and has been taught more things.

Anyway, it is this grappling with the notion of fairness and justice that has caused him to be quite pent up. As a result, he sometimes act like a bully when things don’t go his way.

And of course, we have to add Becks to the equation, the little girl who still has tantrums and meltdowns, and who’s learning the art of negotiation from her brother by watching him every day. She joins this by contributing spiteful words with her unbridled tongue, always yelling, “I don’t love you anymore!” and getting way too emotional.

So there you have it. These two months have been tough with the kids with their evolving needs and temperaments. One minute they could be playing together and the next, they would be tugging shirts and pushing one another. They swing from adoring one another one moment and declaring “I don’t love you” the next. There’s a lot of tempers to tame, a lot of conflicts to negotiate and communication skills to be taught. This is one of the biggest challenges of having three children aged 18 months apart between each other thus far.

Some people say siblings that fight the most are the tightest and closest when they grow up. I sure hope that they will grow up tightly knit looking at the number of fights I have to break up every day.


Picture from Jantoo Cartoons

Close encounters with the maid kind Family life as we know it The Kao Kids What to Expect... As a Mother


October 16, 2013

While most of my friends were busy candy crushing and completing their heist missions in GTA V, I was busy accomplishing the missions in MITKH* v.1 the last 5 days.

* MITKH : Maidless in the Kao Household

There were many levels to complete in MITKH v.1 and all of them came with challenges which had to be completed mostly in single player mode. Like any RPG, the player has to take responsibility for acting out roles within a narrative through a process of structured decision-making and character development.

Here are some of the challenges I completed in MITKH v.1 in ascending order according to the level of difficulty:

  • Challenge Take Care of Daily Needs of Three Children ON YOUR OWN

Level of difficulty 1.5/5

In this challenge, you double up as mom and maid. With one pair of eyes, hands and legs, you feed, bathe, dress and tuck in three kids aged 4, 3 and 20 months simultaneously. With practise, the children learn to wait their turn and you get better and faster such that you don’t get too flustered by the tasks any more. Sometimes, unexpected things happen, such as one of the kids falls and hurts himself, spills food on the floor, poops at meal times and throws a tantrum.

Cheat trick: Take deep breaths, ignore if you can so you can focus on mission, ensure that the older ones follow instructions to the letter. Enlist the help of Mr Cane if you have to to ensure order and discipline so mission gets accomplished with minimal yelling and nagging.

* Bonus points if you accomplish tasks with minimal yelling and nagging.

  • Challenge Mind the House that has NO Window Grilles with Three Kids

Level of difficulty 2/5

In this challenge, you face bored kids with mischief up their sleeves and no grilles in your confines. The kids unexpectedly throw ball, shoot Nerf guns, jump up and down sofa, tables, waist-level shelves and beds.

Cheat trick: Locate books and scatter them everywhere in the hope that kids will see them and start reading. Shut windows if needed. Enlist the help of Mr Cane if you have to to ensure order and discipline so mission gets accomplished with minimal yelling and nagging.

* Bonus points if you’re able to get grilles installed in time.

  • Challenge Bathe, Poop and Pee with Nobody Watching Three Kids

Level of difficulty 2.5/5

In this challenge, you need to do the above real quick. Unfortunately, all kids are awake and needing your attention. You do not have the option of skipping this challenge as you smell like a stink bomb.

Cheat trick: Usher kids into the master bedroom. Shut windows and doors. Turn on the air conditioning. Get them to sit in a circle. Tell the kids that you are going to play a game and you will emerge in a few minutes looking all gorgeous and get them to imagine what a sight it will be. Ask them to close their eyes and guess what colour of clothes you’ll be putting on / what t-shirt you would wear / whether you would appear wearing a skirt or a pair of shorts. Throw as many questions to them as possible and run into toilet to accomplish mission.

* Bonus points if kids don’t start banging on your door after one minute.

  • Challenge Do Laundry: Fold, Wash, Hang with Baby Holding on to Your Legs

Level of difficulty: 3/5

In this challenge, the laundry bags are filling up faster that you can say ‘laundry bags’. There are clothes on the bamboo poles which require keeping, dirty laundry not washed and baskets of laundry unfolded. Plus there’s a baby perpetually grabbing your legs everywhere you go.

Cheat trick: Ask older kids to help you and be specific – pair up the socks, fold your own underwear, bring these to the washing machine, give me 5 pegs for this pole – and remember to ask nicely. Make it sound like it’s the most important job they could do in the whole world.

Helping to keep clothes

Little trooper following instructions to hold clean and folded laundry this way and to keep them in the cupboard

* Bonus points if kids don’t walk out of their job halfway and decide to do something else and if you do not abort tasks in this challenge with baby grabbing legs.

  • Challenge Prepare Fried Rice for Lunch with Baby Holding on to Your Legs

Level of Difficulty 3.5/5

In this challenge, you’re alone and kids are starving. It’s too far, too hot, too troublesome (plus too embarrassing since you smell like a stink bomb and haven’t brushed your teeth) to walk out to buy lunch. You need to cook something quick with what you have in the fridge.

Cheat trick: Mince garlic with food processor. Mince frozen prawns with food processor. Ensure there’s eggs and leftover rice in the fridge. Give baby empty containers with caps that he can screw and unscrew to keep him occupied while you prep and cook.

* Bonus points if kids don’t faint from hunger and you’re able to wash all plates, bowls and wok, and clean kitchen up before dinner.

  • Challenge Clean House Thoroughly

Level of difficulty 4/5

In this challenge, there’s hair everywhere (yours). Plus dust, dirt, grime, food bits and booger. Every step you take makes your feet feel icky and the baby is starting to pick food bits up to ingest. Some cleaning is in order.

Cheat trick: Use lots of Magic Kleen cleaner and wiper sheets. Better still, enlist the help of older children if they are willing. Close both eyes if you need and imagine the mess and dirt is not there. Ask children and husband to do the same.

Helping to mop

Little trooper helping to mop the house

* Bonus points if you can vacuum and mop (not just use Magic Kleen!) with all kids sitting still on the sofa and not come down from it at all.

  • Challenge Prep Lesson Materials for Two Older Kids AND (actually) Teach Them Something While Baby is Awake

Level of Difficulty 5/5

In this challenge, you have to continue your home teaching endeavours and follow through with lesson planning and delivery. Kids need to trace their letters, read their readers (both English and Chinese), practise their addition and sequencing, draw, do craft, go on field trips and listen to stories.

Cheat trick: Not known.

* Bonus points if you can do all the above and not lose your cool at any point in time.

I didn’t manage to start on the last challenge. It was all too difficult and exhausting by the time I reached that. I’m hoping I never need to clear that level nor play another version. EVER. AGAIN.

Just for the record, I don’t like this game. At all. Cos’ IT WAS FOR REAL! (Sorry, need to vent.) It gave a whole new meaning to the words “bone tired” of which I am experiencing right now.

P/S: The reason for MITKH v.1 was because the helper requested for home leave to visit her gravely ill mother. Initially she asked for two weeks. I said no. She asked for one week, and I said no again. 5 days is my limit. We had a deal, and I am glad she honoured her word and returned.

Re: learning and child training What to Expect... As a Mother

Pressing on at 6 months

August 22, 2013


It’s been half a year since I’ve traded those beautifully tailored shift dresses (languishing now with dust in the walk-in) for t-shirts and shorts, and pretty heels (which must be growing mould right now in the shoe cabinet) for flip flops. I no longer get salary credited to my bank account the 12th of every month and am existing at a state of subsisting.

It has been helluva six exhausting months. I still have meltdowns once a month on the average. The learning curve’s been steep. I didn’t stay home with one kid, then went on to have my second and third. I stayed home with all three at their most whiny, sticky, wimpy and needy. I had to learn to be patient, do everything myself (with the helper), learn to teach each child, differentiate their learning and deal with those horrible feelings that come with lack. The lack that is of energy, time, money, space and sometimes, love – on my end.

I have to learn to bite the bullet. Every day.

Recently, a friend casually asked me if I’ve been doing well staying home and if I was ready to throw in the towel and return back to work. “So, is it rewarding?” my friend asked.

I’m not experiencing the rewarding feeling yet, and I don’t see any tangible rewards for now; all I can say is that it’s been very challenging.

As the kids grow and move from milestone to milestone, they change. They have different needs. Different emotional needs, social needs, physical needs and learning needs. At the beginning of the year, Becks was still in her Terrible Two stage, Ben was a boy with truckloads of unanswered questions in his head, and Nat was still very much a baby. Six months on, the little girl is throwing fewer tantrums and the eldest is asking more sensible and intelligent questions. But they are also now joining forces to fire questions at me and squabbling non-stop and quarrelling over the pettiest thing. They sing this stupid na-na-nee-boo-boo song and verbally fight over who’s first / taller / bigger / stronger / better / faster every single day. The littlest is also joining in when he can by screaming his head off at them. He’s now at the worst of his separation anxiety and is up to mischief I’ve never witnessed in Ben and Becks. He is everywhere and cheekily naughty every waking minute it takes at least two adults to keep him out of trouble. Think stealing food from bowls not his, throwing things out of the window, graffitising our walls and hiding Lego pieces in crevices and corners of the house.

Then there’s their learning that I find the most challenging. If I had one kid – oh gosh, easy peasy! There’s the world to explore with the child and I can do so many things with him – prep loads of activity sheets, tell endless stories, join in the play. C’mon bring it on! Now, even doing meaningful learning at home is getting tougher. Someone’s perpetually stuck to my left hip or needs to sit on my lap. Someone’s bored doing three-year-old things and someone’s feeling overwhelmed learning with a four-year-old. One-to-one time with me is always interrupted and disturbed. Sometimes I don’t even know if time spent learning with me is fruitful or not, with me feeling exasperated all the time. I join the dots with Ben to practise our counting and I find Becks and Nat tearing tissue paper in the room. I read to Nat and the kids are all around screaming the story in his ear and answering the questions I rhetorically ask to get him interested. I teach Becks the letters of the alphabet and Ben hovers around, with Nat monkeying in the background. I know I should have better crowd control and I don’t really know how to do it without hollering my lungs out. That, is the real challenge – to train them to be engaged, to help them learn when to be appropriate and to teach them to be focused.

It’s been half a year and I’m still finding my groove to this stay-home gig. I’m not about to put on a dusty dress and mouldy shoes for now and return to work yet. I’m hoping that staying home, with its unending challenges, can be more rewarding sooner.

Now, to continue biting the bullet.