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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

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?

Family life as we know it Milestones and growing up Mommy guilt The Kao Kids

This too shall pass

January 8, 2016

When I had a baby who fell sick pretty often, having suffered HFMD twice, needing to draw blood for running high fevers every week, I thought I hit the rock bottom of motherhood.

But that eventually passed.

When I had an infant and a toddler – oh, correction: a screaming infant and a needy toddler – and my husband very unfortunately broke his leg and was wheelchair bound for 6 months and I had a full-time job to do, I thought I hit rock bottom again in this arduous journey called motherhood.

But that eventually passed as well.

When I was pregnant with a bigger-than-his-siblings baby who made me breathless all the time and gave me an almost hip dislocation which caused the doctor to order bed rest, and I was towing a screamy toddler who was tantrum-prone and an inquisitive, chatty and eager-to-learn preschooler who needed to field questions at his mother almost every waking minute and still at a full-time job, I thought I was stretched beyond thin in this motherhood gig.

Well, that too, eventually passed.

And then soon enough I had a nursing infant in my arms (who needed to nurse all!the!time!) and two preschoolers; and as if that wasn’t already crazy enough, I made the insane decision to stay home, living those years thinking that I could very well have gone mad with having to cope with 3 kids with such close age differences.

But that eventually passed and although I had lost my sanity again and again, my screw’s pretty tight right now thankfully, so phew.

This is 2016 and there are now 2 preschoolers and a primary school goer in the house. There’s now, in addition to the neediness from the younger ones (because Mama’s back to full time work launching something exciting and can no longer send them to school so they take the school bus), insecurity and uncertainty from the primary one goer who has homework, bag-packing, sorting out pocket money and spelling to do and learn. Add to that also – the new kindergarten is pushing my middle child in typical P1-ready fashion from Day One already, which is totally stressing me out. I saw the words ‘canopy’, ’emergent layer’, ‘understory’ and ‘rainforest’ in my K2’s spelling list for Week 6 which left me FLABBERGASTED beyond words because my dear girl can barely read, let alone spell.

For the first week of the year, I felt nothing but stress to have to rush home in time to make sure everyone is in bed by 8.30pm (which still ended up to be 9ish, 10pm – my poor, sleep-deprived children!) and making sure all 3 bags are packed, that spelling is learned, homework is done and everyone gets some air time to share their day at school. I feel guilty for leaving them in the hands of my helper for most parts of my working day and having to turn on the TV for them so the helper can cook and they would not be up to any mischief shooting catapults at birds from the window or drawing on the walls or making 1000 calls to me. With three of them at different developmental milestones in learning and always wanting to play and be their active selves, it is impossible to implement a self-directed learning routine.

It has to involve me and me setting the routines with them, and helping them follow a schedule while instilling discipline, which I unfortunately can’t do; because this year, I’ve gone back to vesting my time fully at work.

Which leaves me again with three needy kids whose love language of quality time I can’t speak on week days  – well, at least this first week of school – and a definitive surge of suckiness all round.

I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes. This sucky, yucky feeling.

And this too, shall eventually pass.

RIGHT?

Back to school in new environments!

Back to school in new environments! My big babies!

All this blog's PR Stuff Motherkao loves... Reviews

New year, old perm, and magic! [Review of Mosche Hair Salon]

January 7, 2016

This new year, I had my hair “refurbished” instead of getting a new look.

I’m not sure if you remember this exactly a year ago – but I got hooked up with two very experienced stylists who heard my plea for bounce and texture to my otherwise very limp, fine hair, who did this for me as part of my ‘De-Auntify Me’ Image Improvement Project at the end of 2014:

The BEFORE

The BEFORE

A soft perm at Mosche in December 2014

The AFTER, Part I: A soft perm at Mosche in December 2014

And then a final touch of brown

The AFTER, Part II: And then a final touch of brown

And the perm that I got done at Mosche exactly a year turned out to be the very FIRST perm that I’ve ever had that lasts. For one entire year.

I’ve had fine, straight hair all my life. And I’ve had countless perming done to it. They lasted from 2 weeks to 3 months at most, most of the time. None has ever proven my money’s worth (and time too).

Until this.

I think only Magic Scissorhands can give a defined cut like this and a perm that can last for a year

I think only Magic Scissorhands can give a defined cut like this and a perm that can last for a year

Which makes me love these folks at Mosche, namely my stylist Leslie and his assistant, Annie, and all the very experienced colourists, so very much. They are good folks who won’t fleece a cent out of you and would go all out to make sure that everything that’s done for you is worth your time, money and effort making your way there. They would suggest hair colour that matches your skin tone, take the time to learn about the image you need to portray at work, and recommend hair styles that suit your personality and habits. I’m used to going to stylists all around Singapore whose first question is always, ‘So what can I do for you today?’ but ever since stepping into Mosche I realised that they work a little differently around here. They actively take a keen interest in what really, really suits you.

With Leslie, before the cut and after the colour

With Leslie, before the cut and after the colour

At last, a perm that lasts!

At last, a perm that lasts!

So this was why I only had a hair colour (done twice in fact, because Leslie’s perfectionist streak wouldn’t even allow any uneven patches!) and hair treatment done.

Because the perm has retained its wave for a year and the hair is growing out very nicely with it. Because there’s no need to do another for the sake of it.

Same hair, same perm, different year!

Same hair, same perm, different year!

And this is how magic happened. I am starting the year in total awe of such professionalism and talent, and all ready to kickstart the year looking refurbishedly refreshed, all thanks to the good people at Mosche, who take their work and my crowning glory very, very seriously!

Happy New Year!

More details:

Mosche Hair Salon is at ROYAL PLAZA ON SCOTTS, Level 2, 25 Scotts Road, Singapore 228220.

Operating hours:
Monday to Friday – 10.30am to 8pm
Saturday – 10.30am to 7pm

Tel: 6734 0923 | 9628 8312

The person to ask for is Leslie Yap, the Artistic Director of Mosche Hair Salon, without whom this magic would never have happened.

***

Disclosure: This is not a paid review. All opinions here are my own.

Everyday fun! Going Out! Happy days Holidays! Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Overheard in Bangkok

December 19, 2015

We’ve been living here for close to 3 weeks now, and it’s almost feeling like we can live here forever. We love the food the people and the affordability. Guess the only thing we aren’t really loving are the crazy Bangkok jams, but hey, they didn’t call this amazing Thailand without them I am sure. This city has been so kind to us and we’ve had too many wonderful memories here, the funniest things ever said and heard (amongst ourselves) included.

***

Day 1

Ben: Why are there so pictures of this man?

Becks: What man?

Nat: The man wearing spectacles!

Ben: He’s everywhere! On buildings, on roads, on street sides and even inside shops!

Me: Erm, the Thais call him king, kids!

***

Day 2

Ben: Why do they have a king and we don’t?

Becks: We have! Mr Lee Kuan Yew, remember?

Me: -_-

(I had to explain constitutional monarchy and democracy to the kids, but I don’t think I did a very good job. Anyone wants to volunteer?)

***

Day 9, at Platinum Mall

Me: Ok, today’s shopping day so we’re going to be shopping non stop. Every floor has something for us to explore. I will need to get a lot of things.

Ben: Yes, like my pants. I have no more pants.

Nat: And my socks! And t-shirts!

Becks: And a hat! I want a hat.

Me: Ok, great! Let’s go.

Minutes later, after a few dizzying rounds of going up the escalator to find the food hall (which meant we saw what every floor of the mall had to offer)…

Becks: Mama…

Me: Yes?

Becks: I have only one wish.

Ben: What? Change your mind again?

Me: You want to buy dresses, is it? You must have seen enough Frozen dresses to last you a lifetime?

Becks: No…

Ben: You want shoes, is it?

Becks: No…

Me: Scrunchie?

Becks: My wish is to have a tiara. So I can be a princess!

Me and Ben: -_-

Wearing the tiara every day

Wearing the tiara every day

***

Day 12, at Asiatique in the day, walking past Juliet’s Garden

Me: This is what we visited in Verona when we were in Italy, kids.

Ben: Who’s she?

Me: Juliet. Well, we were told in Verona that when we rub Juliet’s left breast, we will find love and good luck.

Becks: What? We need to touch her left BRA????

Us: -_-

The love-locks filled garden on a hot day at Asiatique where nothing was open

The love-locks filled garden on a hot day at Asiatique where nothing was open

Verona's Juliet, looking all worn out (Photo Source)

Verona’s Juliet, looking all worn out (Photo Source)

Act 2, Scene 2: Capulet's Garden Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?

Act 2, Scene 2: Capulet’s Garden
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?

***

Day 13, at Bangkok Railway Train Night Market

Me: I finally found it after searching for so long!

Ben: What?

Me: Good ol’ entertainment for 20 baht!

Ben, Becks, Nat: YAY! We have iPhones!

Me: We call it the Blackberry.

Ben: Ok, mine is.

Becks: Mine’s pink berry!

Nat: And mine’s green berry!

Me: -_-

New "phone"!

New “phone”!

Nat's new Greenberry

Nat’s new Greenberry

Ben with his Blackberry

Ben with his Blackberry

Becks and her Pinkberry

Becks and her Pinkberry

***

Day 14

Becks: See, I have an iPhone and I can play iPhone games.

Me: Yes, that’s right. Best ever.

Becks: And I can even take selfie!

Me: -_-

Becks taking a selfie while on our Safari Park self drive

Becks taking a selfie while on our Safari Park self drive

***

More ‘Overheard in Bangkok’ coming your way soon. Till then, here’s the reason we are here, and how we are eating like the locals.

Family life as we know it Going Out! Happy days Holidays! The Kao Kids

Bangkok Living, Part 2 – Street Eats

December 3, 2015

I am making seasoned travellers out of my kids, doing the most untouristy things here in Bangkok (read about why we are here here). We’ve been here 4 days now and we’ve not eaten at a single restaurant nor visited a single tourist attraction (save Siam Paragon, which I went to, just to see how much the food hall’s changed).

We’re living in an apartment where cooking isn’t allowed, and so we are always searching for where to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s a bustling street selling street food right in front of where we live, but we’ve not tried anything there yet. We’ve been hopping around on our friend’s car and he’s been taking us to where the REAL good food is.

I don’t think we will encounter any eating experience that can match what we’ve been experiencing so far if we lived in the greater BKK metropolis. I’d thought I’ve done enough street to get some street cred from the few times I’ve visited Bangkok, but those were in no way near what I’ve experienced on this trip.

And my kids. Oh, these kids. The transformation these 4 days have been pretty amazing. They’ve managed to morph from grumpy on Day 1, whining about no air con, the unbearable heat and dirty floors to becoming solidly adaptable, gamely trying anything I feed them by Day 3. I’m not sure if it’s because they see how much their mother eats at every turn she makes, or if it’s because of the generosity of my Bangkokian friend who made sure we get to try everything that’s good on the menu, or if it’s due to my repeated nagging about the value of taking the road less travelled and getting them NOT to think and act like self-entitled tourists, but I am sure the fact that the awesomely tasty food we’ve been ingesting so far helps A LOT in making them enjoy what they are eating now.

Nothing beats living like this, really.

~~~

*Warning: Salivation expected. Food pictures ahead.*

Over the last 3 days, we’ve had…

Duck

I’ve never tasted duck this good, soup that tasted so herb-y yet heavenly, and noodles that soaked up the savoury gravy this soft and chewy. This was duck noodles near Thong Lor.

This was the first thing I wanted to have - duck noodles.

This was the first thing I wanted to have – duck noodles. Soup version.

The story goes that many years ago, my friend posted a picture of this claypot duck noodles and declared it heavenly. I commented saying I wished I could try it. And many years later, I am FINALLY here. In other news, hello again, blood pudding.

Duck noodles. Claypot version. The story goes that many years ago, my friend posted a picture of this claypot duck noodles and declared it heavenly. I commented saying I wished I could try it. And many years later, I am FINALLY here.
In other news, hello again, blood pudding. I’ve never forgotten how you tasted since Yong Tau Foo days at Tiong Bahru market when I was 6.

Beef

This was refreshing as it was salty. A happy paradox, no less. I bet no one can tell this was beef just by looking at the second bowl.

This was a helluva kicka** beef noodles soup tucked in some corner of some Soi which I would never have known existed for 40 years. My friend's wife had this as a kid, and she says the taste hasn't changed.

This was a helluva kicka** beef brisket soup tucked in some corner of some Soi which I would never have known existed for 40 years. My friend’s wife had this as a kid, and she says the taste hasn’t changed.

This clear beef noodles soup so so so tasty. Kids had it with sugar added to the soup and liked it much.

This clear beef noodles soup was so so so tasty. Kids had it with sugar added to the soup and liked it much.

Thai coconut pancakes

These were piping hot when we got them and they were oozing creamy coconut sweetness in the mouth. These Thai coconut pancakes would be something I would miss so much – where can I find them in Singapore?

We bought this from a roadside stall for our breakfast and they were filled with yummy coconut goodness with spring onions and corn as surprises

We bought this from a roadside stall for our breakfast and they were filled with yummy coconut goodness with spring onions and corn kernels as surprises

Yong Tau Foo, Thai-style; and Green Curry

After tennis training yesterday, my friend brought us to this obscure lane with a stall that’s a gem on its own. It’s in Soi 32 of Ramkhamhaeng. I won’t be able to tell how to get there as it’s clearly untouristy, right in the midst of terrace houses, a pebble-filled open space and lots of trees and motorbikes BUT it was a satisfying eating experience here through and through.

The short walk from car to stall along a dusty road

The short walk from car to stall along a dusty road

Who would have known such good food can be tucked here?

Who would have known such good food can be tucked here?

This is where deliciousness begins

This is where deliciousness begins

The spice line-up

The spice line-up

Granite seating and "landscaped" view

Granite seating and “landscaped” view

Typical fare on the tables – coconut kueh-like dessert and fried pork lard

And this was what we ate:

This is Thai style seafood yong tau foo with the sweet sauce and chilli sauce mixed. Kids had it in sweet.

This is Thai style seafood yong tau foo with the sweet sauce and chilli sauce mixed. Kids had it in sweet.

The most authentic green curry I've ever had in my life. I could breathe in the variety of herbs and chillis used and by golly, this was VERY spicy!

The most authentic green curry I’ve ever had in my life. I could breathe in the variety of herbs and chillis used and by golly, this was VERY spicy!

Thank God for this Pandan jelly drink to wash away the spice!

Thank God for this Pandan jelly drink to wash away the spice!

I hear you can only find this brand in the area where the locals are. Well, at least this girl's cute face ain't too difficult to remember.

I hear you can only find this brand in the area where the locals are. Well, at least this girl’s cute face ain’t too difficult to remember.

Dessert for sale

Dessert for sale

We bought some desserts home and the total cost of everything we ate and drank and bought (which included a packet of banana chips, 4 packets of sugar-coated nuts and coconut milk jelly) amounted to 375 baht. The Singaporean in me gasped for all the money I’ve ever spent on horrible foodcourt food.

I ate myself happy every meal. I think the kids did too. It has been nothing but. Enriching. Awesome. Tasty.

This Bangkok living.

And this is only the first week!

——-

Also in this series: Bangkok Living, Part 1 – Tennis in Bangkok

Getting all sentimental now Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

I’ve got a new name

October 22, 2015

How fast are my children growing?

Fast enough for everyone to give me a new name.

The name’s Mom.

Mom, mom.

What happened to Mama? That’s what I’d like to know too.

I’m still dealing with being called this new name and losing the baby-talk-term-of-endearment. When once upon a time, it was ‘Mama, look! Me draw circle!’ Today, it’s ‘Hey, Mom, check this out. Way cool, right?’

When a year ago, everyone would be whining and crying, ‘I want Mama!’ Today, it’s ‘Bye Mom, I love you, I miss you, and have fun at work.’ Believe you me, my three-year-old speaks in this manner too.

Too fast, kids. Way too fast.

I guess my only consolation that I still have some babies left in the house is at bedtime where everyone still wants their Mama sitting next to them and tucking them in bed.

Please leave a space for Mama in your heart always, babes.

Ben&Nat2015

BecksOct2015

KaoKidsOct2015

(Self) Examination Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Settled and happy

October 15, 2015

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

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

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

Keep guessing where.

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

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

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

This Family

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