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Becks Kao Motherkao loves... Reviews

The haircut after the haircut that went wrong (ft. a review of Aqua Korean Hair Salon)

July 19, 2016

So we all know that my little girl had a haircut gone wrong.

She was very upset with how short her hair turned out to be and threw a fit two weeks ago. Thankfully she is also one happy-go-lucky girl who bears no grudges and after we kissed and made up that night, she showed her mama she loved her more than she ever did.

What a wonderful little girl. Feisty and stubborn as she can be, sometimes hurling hurtful words to break my heart but also endearing and very expressive with her little acts of affection at the same time.

Just last Wednesday, after I returned home declaring that I was done with filming (the Channel 8 folks came by and interviewed me for Money Week 财经追击), my kids promptly echoed a chorus:

‘TIME TO CUT YOUR HAIR, MAMA!’

You see, out of panic at the salon the other day, I had randomly asked Becks if she wanted me to cut my hair too to ‘keep her company’. To which she said a resounding yes. I was held ransom immediately by the offer but got off the hook when I told her that I could only do it after Wednesday because I didn’t want to have short hair for TV.

She remembered. And so did her brothers who overheard everything we said.

Oh well. Don’t believe your kids if they tell you they can’t remember anything.

~~~

For my haircut, I took the chance to try out a Korean hair salon near where I worked.

So after this…

Haircut at Aqua Korean Hair Salon (2)

this…

Haircut at Aqua Korean Hair Salon (3)

and this was done…

Haircut at Aqua Korean Hair Salon (4)

I am happy ]to say I now have shorter hair than Becks’ and ain’t no one’s going to be complaining anymore about any haircut gone wrong.

IMG_6012

Of course, the little girl was really happy she’s finally got company.

Haircut at Aqua Korean Hair Salon (6)

 

~~~

A quick review about the hair salon:

I love k-culture and have been immersed in it for close to 6 years now. It started with Running Man and quickly morphed into a crazy love for everything K – food, hairstyles, fashion, people, drama and history. For the longest time I’ve wanted to get a Korean hairstylist to do my hair, and when I finally did at Aqua Korean Hair Salon, I did it over very few words and lots of quiet flipping of CeCi magazines.

You need to completely trust that a Korean hairstylist knows exactly what to do when you give him simple words like ‘short’, ‘c-curl’ and ‘volume rebond’, and even then with Moon, my stylist, he was first to suggest I was good to go with just an A-line bob because my hair’s really straight anyway, and if I were to be diligent to blow dry it daily, I would have a similar c-curl effect. I liked that he was honest, and didn’t try to hard sell anything that didn’t make sense.

But I’ve always wanted to try the c-curl and know for a fact that no one else would do it better than a Korean (plus I love Kim Ji Won’s hair in DOTS) and told Moon to go ahead and try it on me.

KJW in DOTS (Photo credit: KBS)

KJW in DOTS
(Photo credit: KBS)

And he did. He unassumingly worked on every strand and step, with quiet confidence and finesse.

The result? I. loved. it. much.

I managed to even tell him that in Korean.

좋아. 진짜좋아. (Joa. Jjinja joa.)

Haircut at Aqua Korean Hair Salon (5)

More details:

Aqua Hair Salon is at Delfi Orchard #03-16, next to the best place to do your brows, Browtisan. Connect with them on their FB Page – you can make appointments and get a non-obligatory consultation by leaving the stylists a message on FB, or contact them at 6732 8011.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All recommendations and opinions are solely my own.

(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.

Becks Kao Milestones and growing up What to Expect... As a Mother

The day my little girl said she hates me

July 11, 2016

PROLOGUE

I had never expected this day to come so soon. At some point in motherhood, I had imagined that my daughter might throw one huge tantrum and scream hurtful things at me but that would be the part when I am raising her in her adolescence and NOT NOW.

This episode takes the cake of all the tantrums she’s ever thrown and is making me rethink about preparing my heart for more epic tantrums sooner than later.

~~~

So it was a typical Sunday like all other Sundays yesterday. We spent time together as a family and made plans for dinner. And since it was an evening where we were going to get a rare treat from a chef friend who was going to cook us a meal at our place, I thought I’d better bring Ben to the hair salon for an overdue hair cut (and before the discipline master in school charges me for neglect – it’s been 2 months!) while dinner was being prepped.

And when I asked aloud in the car if anyone wanted to follow, I was surprised to hear Becks chimed a loud ‘ME!‘. This girl would never let anyone touch her hair, let alone cut it. She was quick to make her conditions known though – a trim will do, thank you very much; I’d still like to tie up my hair and braid it like Rapunzel ok, Mama?!

When we got to the salon we frequented, I gave instructions to the stylist for both kids who wanted their haircut.

For Ben, short, please. As short as possible.

For Becks, I pointed to where her shoulder blade was and told the guy in Mandarin that this little customer of his would expect to still tie her hair up after her haircut.

But I – very unfortunately – also did the following:

– used the word ‘chop’ in my mix of spoken Mandarin and English

– convinced Becks that the back of her hair looks nicer layered and subsequently agreed that it should be layered (which contributed to the short length)

– agreed that he should do whatever that’s needed to get rid to that tension wave that’s looking pretty obvious on her long tresses due to excessive tying

– read HER WORLD and not hover around the hairdresser and breathe down his neck to make sure the haircut was done to her requirements

Bad, bad Mama, I was. Catching up on all my magazine flipping

Becks must have sat there feeling extremely horrified as the cutting went on as her hair got shorter and shorter. To her credit, she stayed composed until we left the salon. I could tell my little girl was terribly upset with this haircut but she kept a straight face.

It didn’t help that her brothers called her ‘mushroom head’ (ugh, boys!) and everyone (my helper, me and the two hair stylists at the salon) exclaimed that she looked great with short hair after the cut was over.

She asked me in private after we’ve left to tie her hair up, and when I couldn’t, I knew a storm was looming.

I frantically took this photo and sent it to my family group chat so she could hear assuring praises from her yeeyee and grandparents that she had a fantastic haircut, but that didn’t quite work out because she kept insisting on our walk home that I tie up her hair.

The smile she couldn't fake

The smile she couldn’t fake

I quickly texted her dad who was with our chef friend at home and warned him that Becks was unhappy about a haircut gone wrong. I made sure that he knew what happened and told him to assure her when he sees her later.

And when we finally got home, her father gave her hug and told her she was the most beautiful in his world, and that was when she burst into tears and screamed at the top of her lungs saying:

“I HATE YOU MAMA. I DON’T LIKE YOU! I HATE YOU, MAMA” with the deadliest glare I have ever seen.

She then walked across to where I sat and hit me profusely, hissing at me to give her her long hair back, and when I said I couldn’t, she did the unthinkable.

“Then I wish you would die, Mama. I hate you,” she sobbed.

All because of a haircut

~~~

EPILOGUE

I watched in disbelief as my daughter cursed me with such anger. I even let her hit me to vent her frustrations, only to realise that she was reveling in the hysteria more and more as she hit and cursed and glared.

So I walked out of the house to remove myself from this hysteria and went downstairs. I sat alone at the playground for 15 minutes, thinking about those times I hurt my mother with the words I said and wondering if my mom would be in stitches right now, thinking: is this what they call karma?

When I returned, Becks was all showered and clean and lying in bed, sobbing, AND COMBING HER HAIR like there was no tomorrow. She managed to whimper a soft ‘Sorry Mama’ when she saw me and I made it known that whilst the apology was accepted, I was deeply hurt.

“All because of a haircut, Becks, and I cannot believe you wished I die because of this. Your hair would grow and you’ll have your long hair back but if I were to be gone, I’ll be gone forever” was what I said to her.

Life quickly resumed after we both calmed down (thank God for my boys who hugged me and made it all better). We had a lovely dinner with the most awesome steak and aglio olio and grilled corn linguine, thanks for our private chef friend.

While we were eating, my daughter disappeared every now and then to comb her hair.

~~~

POSTSCRIPT

Last night before we went to bed, I held my little girl tight and assured her that I would never hurt her or harm her. It was only a haircut, and I was sorry I didn’t control the process of her hair being cut more strictly than I should.

I told her she should never ever say those horrible things to me ever again and she made me a promise she wouldn’t.

-THE END-

Motherkao loves...

그냥

July 10, 2016

Just because…

Seorae (1)

Seorae (2)

Thank you, Big Boss.

Plaza Singapura, #02-01, 68, Orchard Rd, Singapore 238863

Opens daily from 11:30AM – 11PM

Postscript: Not the best banchan (no spread!) but there’s free flow egg and cheese in the grill pan. Galmaegisal was ok and steamed egg was a tad salty. So, this post isn’t a review of any sorts. Happy to just have SJK tie my laces. Hurhurhur.

Milestones and growing up Nat Kao Thunderstorm days

The sudden case of not being able to walk

July 9, 2016

Nat has had two viral fevers over the past 3 weeks.  I’m not sure if this was a happy coincidence for him because he is now in the phase of really NOT wanting to go to school.

If you ever needed a heat pack...

If you ever needed a heat pack…

His last viral fever which ended last weekend was a pretty scary one. After three days of high fevers hitting close to 40 degrees, he woke up one day suddenly not being able to walk. He cried, clutched his calves, crawled out of bed and bawled his eyeballs out declaring that there was pain in his legs and “I CANNOT WALK!”

That was enough to frighten the s**t out of me because the last time I read about children who told their parents they can’t walk was when children were diagnosed with meningitis.

Thankfully, after the morning had passed, he gained some strength in his legs and by the time he was at the PD in the afternoon, he was all smiles. The doctor said he could have been lacking electrolytes in his body or dehydrated after an illness or perhaps going through growth spurts.

Well, whatever that’s not meningitis sounds great.

And this boy’s really just milking my anxiety and excessive mothering this entire week for as much as he can, occasionally dramatising his pain and saying he can’t walk and sniffing and coughing in more exaggerated ways than I can imagine so he can get away with not going to school.

So what’s a mother to say to a 4-year-old who’s gone through a pretty traumatic 3 days of high high fevers and an episode of “WAAAAAA…I CANNOT WALK! SO PAINFUL, MAMA, HELP ME!” that frightened the pores out of her?

She lets him have his way.

The last child gets away with all these, I tell you.

And the best caption in Singlish would be: got fever, cannot walk, still can smile! AIYO!

And the best caption in Singlish would be: got fever, cannot walk, still can smile! AIYO!

Milestones and growing up Mommy guilt Nat Kao The Kao Kids

What my children prayed

May 12, 2016

Every night during tuck-ins, the kids and I would pray. Sometimes I would pray and they would say “Amen”; some nights they would repeat a prayer after me. A while ago, I invited the children to pray for me and Fatherkao.

This was what transpired…

Ben: Dear Lord, I pray that you protect my Mama and Dada from harm and danger. Keep them safe. Amen.

Me: Thank you, Ben. I say ‘Amen’ too.

***

Nat: Dear God, make my Mama eat a lot. So she can be fat.

Me: Ugh! Nat! Did you just ask God to make me fat? Why?

Nat: If she eat a lot, she will grow and grow so she can be as tall as Dada. Amen.

Me: Mama doesn’t want to be fat, Nat!

Nat: *silence*

***

Becks: Dear Lord, make my daddy strong. Give him a strong back. And make my Mama not angry so she won’t be angry with us. Amen.

Me: That’s nice, Becks. You know Dada’s back has been acting up, and Mama’s patience has been running low every day, huh? Thank you for your prayer.

And then a loud wail happened…

Nat: *crying loudly*

Me: Why are you crying?

Nat: Why you like Becky’s prayer and korkor‘s prayer but you don’t like mine??? WAAAAAA!

***

That night, a selfish mother happened. I had heard my youngest child’s words of prayer but not listened to his heart. In his world, my four-year-old saw that his mother was smaller in size than his father and felt that she should be as grown as he was, and went on to pray that his mother – his world, his everything – would never be at a disadvantage in size, ever.

After all, she was the centre of his universe.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Out of a gentle heart and the kindest spirit, Nat prayed. For me.

That night, I held him tight and thanked him for his prayer.

That night, apart from needing to smack myself in the head, I thanked God that I received from all three of my children who’s made me everything in their world, and that I received most from my littlest whose heart has remained so pure he just genuinely wanted his mother to eat well and grow.

May I learn to be a mother who listens and not judge, and one who receives when her children give.

Amen.

My children, my world, my everything

My children, my world, my everything

All this blog's PR Stuff Going Out! Reviews The Kao Kids

10 reasons why we loved our staycay (yea, you heard me right) at Capitaland’s Sky Habitat

March 30, 2016

When I first received the invitation, I was stoked. And stunned. At the same time.

Say wwwhaaaat? A staycation at a condominium? Is that even allowed? Like for real, I get to stay in a condo apartment?

Like how cool is that? The kids were thrilled. And so were we. Plus the extended family.

So we made plans to go for a quick getaway back to the north (where we used to live and hang out) on the last weekend of January to see what this condo staycation had to offer. We found ourselves awed by this when we got to Sky Habitat at Bishan:

SkyHabitat_Motherkao_Facade02

This is Sky Habitat, located at Bishan Street 15

SkyHabitat_Motherkao_Facade01

The view from below

‘Say wwwhaaat?’ the kids exclaimed? ‘This is our “condo-hotel” for the night?’ They were all intrigued by the fact that it was like our typical staycation at a hotel stay except that we were not going to be in a hotel room but here, at a  3-bedroom condominium apartment:

SkyHabitat_Motherkao_CDS03

What it’ll look like if you lived in a 3-bedroom apartment unit in Sky Habitat

Truth be told, I secretly wished I could stay here forever.

Our staycation may be over, and we’re still pretty much hung over and bummed by the fact that we’re back to reality. Nonetheless, here’s 10 reasons why we really loved this staycay (or otherwise known as if-I-had-$-I-may-so-buy-this-place AND if-you’ve-got-$-you-should-really-consider-Sky-Habitat):

1. Taking a chill pill on the Sky Bridge

The Sky Bridges at Sky Habitat are located at levels 14, 26 and 38. And that’s like literally chilling out on top of the world. I mean, how cool is that to be looking at the clouds, lazing on one of those lounge chairs by day and looking up at the stars by night?

Our view of the Level 26 Sky Bridge from the room's balcony

Our view of the Level 26 Sky Bridge from the room’s balcony

Late afternoon lazing on the Sky Bridge on Level 38

Late afternoon lazing on the Sky Bridge on Level 38

Someone stands on the Sky Bridge on the 26th level and says she's on top of the world!

Someone stands on the Sky Bridge on the 26th level and says she’s on top of the world!

What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing? What do we think we might see?

What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing? What do we think we might see?

Being on the Sky Bridge spelled relaxation for us right away, and we were happy to just look up into nothingness for once.

2. Dining at the Sky Terrace with family

During our staycay, we had food catered for 10 people, and so it was fitting that we did an early Chinese New Year reunion dinner at the adjoining Sky Terrace next to the living room. My parents and siblings came over, and we had a time of feasting and reunion at our staycation apartment on Level 19.

We could barely keep our eyes open - the wind was strong in this one!

We could barely keep our eyes open – the wind was strong in this one!

A very sumptuous spread, thanks to Capitaland and Neo Garden!

A very sumptuous spread indeed!

SkyHabitat_Motherkao_Dining3

Happy to be eating and watching the sun set

It was a meal with a view on a breezy evening, and a lovely time to be had with family.

3. Sports for all

Of course we had to see what the condo had to offer in terms of facilities! And like many other condos, Sky Habitat’s facilities include a gym, exercise corners, children’s playground, tennis courts and three swimming pools – the 50m lap pool, the children’s pool and the Sky Pool.

The 50m lap pool was just next to the tennis court, so while Ben, Fatherkao and my siblings had a go at swinging some rackets and picking up balls (hurhurhur), the gramps and their grandkids took a dip in the pool.

While Ben trained hard for tennis...

While Ben trained hard for tennis…

Grandpa and Grandma jumped in the pool...

Grandpa and Grandma jumped in the pool…

...And had a splashing good time with the Nat and Becks!

…And had a splashing good time with Nat and Becks!

We all paid some overdue exercise debts that day

We all paid some overdue exercise debt that day

4. Awesome skyline by the Sky Pool

This. This is the view. ‘Nuff said.

On the highest floor on the 38th level, we find this...

On the highest floor on the 38th level, we find this…

5. Private Movie Theatre

This is the super cool part of our stay. Sky Habitat has their very own private screening room.

Soundproof? Check.

Quality sound system? Yes, it’s a Bose. Check.

Super luxe seats? Check.

Snacks? All ready. (I think the little girl finished hers before the movie started.)

Super comfy lounge seats and an even super good reason to be with family

Super comfy lounge seats with front row tickets and an even super good reason to be with family

It’s movie time!

6. Luxe of Space

We stayed in a 3-bedroom apartment, and boy, do we love the living room space. Love it that everyone could lounge comfortably or look out into the skyline or hide in their little nooks and still be around with family.

The very spacious living area that can comfortably sit 10

The very spacious living area that can comfortably sit 10

Watching TV and lazing after dinner

Watching TV and lazing after dinner

With Nat busy capturing the faces of everyone

With Nat busy capturing the faces of everyone

Playing hide-and-seek in the study

Becks playing hide-and-seek in the study

Chilling out in the balcony - every room has a drool-worthy view, thanks to a spacious balcony

The kids chilling out in the balcony – every room has a drool-worthy view, thanks to a spacious balcony

Gong gong finding respite at the Sky Terrace

Gong gong finding respite on the Sky Terrace

Boys hanging out at the bar counter

Boys hanging out at the bar counter

Gives family bonding a new meaning, right here, without feeling any sense of overcrowding.

7. Chillaxing by the Children’s Pool

View of the pool from the 19th floor

View of the pool from the 19th floor

Just right below on the first floor is the Children’s Pool. Which our kids loved wading and get some endless pool-noodling fun. Fatherkao and I put on our shades and napped away amidst the palm trees, unblocked view and reclining chair in the water.

Pool-noodling in the wading pool

Pool-noodling in the wading pool

Chillax. Goodnight, world.

Goodnight, world.

A totally new way to chillax for us. A rest much sought after and well-deserved, in my opinion.

8. Simplicity

There are only 2 blocks of 38-storey residential flats (a total of 509 units) with two basement carparks, a landscape deck and other ancillary facilities. That’s all. The blocks are just Block 7 and Block 9 (hmm, someone tell me why – are they auspicious?) and that’s about as simple as it gets. Unlike those huge condo developments, you’ll never experience being packed like sardines in confined spaces. Nor do you need to meander round and round the basement carparks finding your apartment lobby and all. How lost can you get with only Block 7 or Block 9 to go to?

9. Convenience all around

3 minutes. All it takes is 3 minutes to walk to Bishan MRT Station (Circle Line and North-South Line) and Bus Interchange. Talk about convenience!

Walked across a big field and we were at Bishan Interchange in 3 minutes

Walked across a big field and we were at Bishan Interchange in 3 minutes

That's the convenience right under our nose

That’s the convenience right under our nose

Kids got their shopping fix at Junction 8

Kids got their shopping fix at Junction 8 – look at the loot!

We walked across a large field and got to Junction 8 in minutes, and did our Chinese New Year shopping at BHG for the kids.

10. 10-minutes drive to Bishan Park!

We can see Sky Habitat in the background!

We can see Sky Habitat in the background!

This was another highlight of our stay. We love Bishan Park. They boys love dogs and stood outside the dog park in Bishan Park for a long time, well, just watching the dogs go by. The little girl was happy to just run around and smell the flowers. It’s good to know that we can get a slice of nature amidst the concrete jungle, which is just a stone’s throw away.

Happy to be here

Happy to be here

Watching the dogs

Watching the dogs

And our leisurely stroll concludes our very relaxing weekend

And our leisurely stroll concludes our very relaxing weekend

Sky Habitat is what is to be the Habitat of the Future – a high-rise apartment but, in many ways, also a house. Each unit boasts a private garden or outdoor space that opens up to the sky. And when regarded collectively, the units are reminiscent of idyllic houses terraced along the Mediterranean hillsides, complete with alleys and walkways linking the community of homes on several levels. Given its unique collection of living qualities, Sky Habitat is really a new hybrid home. A house with all the conveniences and connectivity of a condominium. And a condominium with the openness, identity, and the private garden of a house.

It was a privilege to get a glimpse of this through our weekend stay there. It was a much needed respite for the tired, working adults, an enjoyable space for the children to engage and explore, and a simple yet forward-looking space for the family to bond and spend time together.

Thank you, Capitaland, for having us!

More details:

Sky Habitat is located in one of the most desired suburban residential areas in Singapore, with seamless connectivity to destinations such as the vibrant Orchard shopping belt, bustling Central Business District and Integrated Resorts, while Bishan MRT and Interchange is just at its door. The development is also surrounded by sought-after schools from Ai Tong School, Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School & Secondary School, Catholic High School, Raffles Institution (Secondary) to Raffles Junior College and SJI International. It is also situated near heartland amenities and shopping centres like Junction 8, NEX, Ang Mo Kio Hub, Thomson Plaza, MacRitchie Reservoir, Bishan Park, Bishan Stadium, Sports Hall and Bishan Library.

 

Disclosure: We were invited by Capitaland and hosted by Formul8 for this staycation. All opinions here are our own. We went back to our own home after that weekend; and no, we didn’t get to stay there forever even though we wished!

I can't categorise such entries

Negotiating new terrains

February 8, 2016

2016 is a year of new beginnings.

The motherhood terrain is looking incredibly different. The landscape ahead is looking craggy and filled with highlands and alpines. For one, I’ve got a primary-school-goer this year, and that itself is changing the motherhood game completely. The academic pressure is building up, slowly but surely, and I’m beginning to get glimpses of angst, outbursts of annoyance and many occasions of arguing and bickering (the firstborn with me, his siblings, his father, and just about everyone he is familiar with). Not to mention the sporadic emo-ing complete with the sometimes pensive, otherwise sulking face looking out into nothingness which makes me DREAD the tween years which I imagine would draw nearer than I think.

And am I the only parent who is fighting a losing battle against technology? For the longest time I have kept Ben occupied with books, LEGO, crafts and sports but these days he’s been begging me for a mobile phone to play Minecraft because everyone plays Minecraft, he says.

Then there’s the other two preschoolers, one in K2 this year and the other in Nursery (and both almost at the same height now I get questions like ‘Are they twins?’ everywhere I go). They are plonked into a new kindergarten with an amazing accelerated curriculum I don’t even know if I should laugh or cry. The K2 is learning how to use Google at computer class and learning words about the rainforest I only picked up in Geog in Secondary 2. Her tingxie phrases are pegged at Primary 3 levels, and while her Primary 1 brother is being tested the spelling of pronouns like ‘she’, ‘he’, ‘they’, ‘we’, she needs to figure out how to blend and spell the different layers of the rainforest from forest floor and understory to the emergent and canopy layers. The good thing is, after a month of being in the new kindy, she’s so much more vocal and confident, and speaks Mandarin with more ease and poise than she did a month ago. Which is the reason why I am undecided if I should laugh or cry in her case because while it is such a pain taking her through her weekly spelling tests and homework, I am seeing a much more outspoken girl who enjoys going to school.

The littlest is 4 this year and he is so mature for his age, I don’t even recognise this baby anymore. He probably has 6000 words in his vocabulary now, and knows all the names of his favourite dinosaurs, Star Wars characters and just about every thing under the sun. He loves to read and write, and wishes to outdo his sister all the time (which is partly due to that super ‘on’ new kindergarten!). He argues his way out of trouble and is able to give a ton of reasons why things happen, and I find myself dealing with an even more intelligent version of my firstborn when he was 4 – which makes this motherhood gig more exhausting now than ever. Nat, oh Nat, where has my baby boy gone?

2016 also marks the year of embarking on yet another entrepreneurship journey. One chance meeting and almost a full year of incubating an idea from seed to fruition later, and I now have a 5th “baby”, one that I’ve always dreamt of having. As an educator, I have stood in almost every classroom in every possible setting – as a relief teacher in a primary school during undergrad days, an English and Literature teacher in my practicum days, as a JC lecturer and tutor for almost 7 years and as an adjunct lecturer in NIE just one year after leaving the civil service – but none was as rewarding as the “classroom” which I homeschooled the kids in where we practically explored everything we wanted to. That classroom was the most challenging yet most fulfilling, because little did I know this when I stayed home with my kids – that I was protecting their right to play; because in play, they learn the most. I was present for them in their growing years, and facilitated those precious learning hours through play as a present parent.

Which is why I’m replicating the experience I had with the kids at Trehaus.

Trehaus is the dream that my co-founders and I have always wished existed – to be present for our children and to create a place where work and play would never have to be mutually exclusive.

And so I’ve stepped onboard full time as a co-founder to direct the programmes we roll out at Trehaus, embracing the play philosophy for young children, and making work-life-balance less of a myth and more of a reality. And I am proud to declare ‘acheivement unlocked‘ for pressing on in this steep climb up the start-up route once again to bring what we’ve dreamed of to life. It didn’t come easy but we started. And I am treasuring this opportunity to educate and make a difference. I’ve stayed home for the kids and now, for a change, they will be coming to work with me.

To mark the changes for the year, the blog’s gone through a revamp too! As with life, nothing remains static. I’ve said my goodbyes (boo hoo!) to the days of diapering and breastfeeding. I no longer have toddlers with snoot to wipe off, boo-boos to kiss and toothless grins to play peek-a-boo with. This blogspace will now chronicle the new milestones I experience as a mother, the challenges I face going back to full-time work and my thoughts about topics close to my heart: of education, play, creativity and learning. And while I negotiate new terrains, I hope you will stick around and share this journey with me, as I would like to learn from you too. It’s going to be helluva ride, this year, I’m so sure of that!

Cheers to a better year ahead - one of dreams and discoveries!

Cheers to a better year ahead – one of dreams and discoveries!

Learning fun! Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Creativity Lost and Found

January 24, 2016

The problem is real, and as an educator, I’ll even go as much to say, the problem is serious.

Children lose their creativity as they age, and many start losing that ability to think in divergent and non-linear ways when they enter school. Although there’s some shift in the focus now in the local school system to develop a child holistically and encourage creativity through project work and problem-based learning, schools still very much “teach to test” because our system hasn’t moved much to making formative assessment a mainstay in education yet. Think the PSLE and the GCE ‘O’ Levels most students go through, and you’d get a pretty clear idea that nothing much has changed in the summative method of assessment. A benchmark is used to evaluate student learning, skill acquisition and academic achievement in a one-time sitting of an examination, and this compels teachers and students alike to rely on a formulaic approach to ace the examination.

So yes, the problem of losing creativity as a child grows older is real – and serious, as a matter of fact – but as a parent, I say all is not lost. We don’t have to resign ourselves – or our children – to fate, or to the fact that research and statistics has proven it to be so, because there is much we can do as parents – our children’s first teachers – to help our kids develop those hungry and wondering minds so they can continue to be creative even as they get older.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Foster the imagination

If you follow me on my blog for a while, you’ll know that the number one thing that I’ve introduced to my three children are books, books and more books. Children stories ignite the imagination and take little ones to worlds far and beyond, and children can only go on adventures that can only be experienced with a good book in their hands. No TV show and no award-winning programme can ever replicate that firing up of a child’s imagination and turn them into life-long readers. I say, cut the screen time, and give your child a book. Or better still, immerse in one with your child on your lap, and read away!

For a list of inspiring children’s titles, you can check out the recommendations here, here and here. I bought all 50 books in the last list, and we’ve been reading and re-reading them at tuck-in every night, which is an awesome bedtime ritual to have, by the way.

2. Teach creative problem solving

I’m probably going to get some stones thrown at me here, but I think the first step to get kids to solve problem creatively is to allow them to talk nonsense.

You heard me right. Let them talk – no holds barred – and don’t judge them (unless the nonsense includes bad language, that is).

Hear me out on this. In a world of model answers, rule-following memorisation and waiting for the right answer have become acceptable and almost compulsory. I prefer to let my children take me on a spin first with what they think can help solve a problem and then help them do a little critical thinking along the way.

Case in point: My six-year-old son wants to increase his savings (to buy a book from the bookstore which I am not buying for him) but doesn’t know how to.

So Ben comes to me with this problem and hopes I can help him find the answer, but I encourage him to think crazy, talk crazy and solve his problem with whatever comes to his mind instead. And amongst his solutions over a span of weeks, he tells me about taking money from a bank (also called robbing), waiting for ten-cent coins to drop from the sky, taking $10 from my wallet (also known as stealing, in my opinion), help our helper and ask her to pay him, and performing for people so they can give him money (like a busker).

Every suggestion he came to me became a teachable moment to ask, ‘What might be a possible outcome?’ (as in the case of taking money from the bank), ‘How would so-and-so feel?’ (like my helper who might have to part with her hard-earned money) and even ‘Do you you think you could carry it out?’ (perform in front of an audience or standing under the sky for I-dunno-how-long to wait for ten-cent coins to fall), which helped him consider more perspectives and evaluate what went through his mind.

Finally, he told me that he could ask the neighbour if he could throw her trash for her nightly so she doesn’t have to walk out to the common chute. It was something he could do, he said. It was something he felt he could commit to, he also added. And he was going to boldly ask her for 20 cents every night he helped her walk out to throw trash.

And he did. Much to my neighbour’s delight and his satisfaction.

That’s some entrepreneur talk already, for a six-year-old. Ben discovered a possibility ALL by himself.

3. Surround your child with construction toys and natural materials

Construction toys and your typical egg carton, cardboard and bottle caps can hardly match the latest battery-powered robot or video game for their flashiness value, but the former helps children develop divergent thinking, not to mention motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial skills and creative thinking.

Make LEGO bricks and wooden toy blocks the staples of play for your child. Throw in some kitchen rolls or toilet rolls, empty Yakult bottles, ice cream sticks and milk bottle caps, and encourage your child to create, design and innovate. Open-ended materials like these allow for divergent – as opposed to convergent – play and give children an intuitive grasp of how things work, fit and align, together with a visual-spatial sensibility and lots of fun creating, dismantling and building.

You’ll be surprised like I have been.

Openendedplay01

Openendedplay02

4. Let your child decide what he wants to learn

I’ve been very inspired by the Reggio-Emilia approach for early years education which is based on the fundamental premise that “the child is made of one hundred” – a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, of playing, of speaking, of listening, of marveling, of loving a hundred joys… (Loris Malaguzzi, the guiding genius of Reggio). What strikes me most in this approach of teaching young children is the use of “provocations” which are deliberate and thoughtful decisions made by the teacher to extend the ideas of children, who are viewed as capable, inquisitive learners. I like how in this approach the teacher extends what the children want to know or learn and become the facilitator to help children explore.

One of the things parents can do is to give the child a say on what he or she wants to learn and embark on a learning journey together with the child by putting together open-ended materials for exploration, miniature museums at home or simply tapping on that “hundred” ways of thinking, playing and marveling for learning.

For more Reggio-inspired teaching and learning, follow these awesomely creative people and blogs:

1. ‘Miss Reggio’ Blog

2. An Everyday Story

3. Let the Children Play

5. Encourage curiosity (by allowing your child to feel bored)

Children need to be given the room to feel boredom because this negative emotion can be such a motivating force to push them to create their own entertainment (source). Nobody is responsible for amusing them and if you would just try to resist the urge to turn on the TV and let your kids get bored, you might be surprised to see what they can entertain themselves with. My kids would sometimes grab a book and sit quietly on the couch or grab their stuffed toys and suddenly find reason to go on a “holiday”, “excursion”, “theme park visit” or “picnic” with them. Sometimes my eldest would lie in bed and talk to himself, dreaming up worlds in his imagination, and my youngest might decide to roast some “chickens” (he once used a hanger, some strings and pegs to hang and tie all the caps at home and called them chickens, “roasting” them by the bedside lamp!). My little girl would start combing her ponies’ hair and sort her paraphernalia out, or just sit by the window and watch the world go by. Whatever they set out to do from the state of boredom has always yield more rewards and surprises than anything negative (some people think children become destructive when they are bored but inquisitiveness can be managed with boundaries set).

The unpleasant sensation of boredom have often propelled my children to search for something engaging, and this, to me, keeps them constantly creative.

***

Creativity fosters mental growth in children by providing opportunities for trying out new ideas, and new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Somewhere along the way we might have lost it growing up, but we could always make it a part of our parenting philosophy to help our children so they never lose that creative spark even as they grow older.

All this blog's PR Stuff Going Out! The Kao Kids

We’re racing to the zoo, zoo, zoo – Safari Zoo Run 2016

January 17, 2016

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The littlest is 4 this year, which means we can *at last!* take part in the annual Safari Zoo Run! AND… we’re so thrilled that we don’t have to run run with the kids – like how we had to do 5-clicks for the Sundown Marathon last year with Ben. This year, we’ll participate in the Family Dash (going at 2.5km only!) which means we can all do it together quite effortlessly (I hope!), while being at one of our favouritest places in SG. We’ve been Friends of the Zoo for a few years now and it’s going to be special this year to be taking part in the Zoo Run as a family.

The Safari Zoo Run was conceived to commemorate Singapore Zoo’s famous matriarch and one of Singapore’s most loved animal personalities — Ah Meng the Sumatran orang utan, who died of old age in February 2008. But really, beyond remembering Ah Meng, it’s all about a time of family bonding, as well as raising awareness on wildlife conservation since portion of the proceeds from this year’s race will go towards aiding the conservation efforts of Singapore Zoo and Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Definitely supporting conservation. Which is the reason why we’ll always be Friends of the Zoo.

If you’re big on conservation, and love a workout with your family, book your slots here for the Zoo Run which happens over 2 days!

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Note that Junior Category is open for 13 to 17 years old and the Kids Category is for 4 to 12 years old.

RACE DETAILS
Date: 27 & 28 Feb 2016, Sat & Sun
Time: 730AM – 11AM
Venue: Singapore Zoo
Targeted no of runners: 16,000 pax (8,000 per day)
Website: http://safarizoo.run/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SafariZooRunSingapore

We’re dashing to the zoo, zoo, zoo… How about you, you, you?