Friday, July 12, 2013

Natural Beauty

As a makeup artist, I have experimented on different kinds of beauty products. While some cosmetic products are sold at a much higher price, that does not necessarily mean they are better in quality. On the contrary, most commercially available beauty products are  loaded with harmful chemicals that can do more damage than good for your skin.  

So whether you are considering of buying a high-priced brand or a regular drugstore cosmetic, the key is know the ingredients.  Chemicals such as phthalates, formaldehyde, phenols, paraben preservatives, synthetic dyes and artificial fragrances can be harmful to one's health. I like to look at it like eating junk food. You know that it's not exactly good for you, but you still keep on buying it.

When I first learned about organic beauty, I did not hesitate to try these natural alternatives. I was also surprised that they are also priced reasonably! Such organic beauty products were unheard of in the Philippines a few years ago, but now, organic products are being sold online, in mall kiosks and even in some supermarkets.  Let me share some of the beauty products that I have personally tried and tested. These are products I would recommend because they did wonders for my skin! So I'd say, give it a try!

From Left to Right- Bio Oil, Bug Shield, Nature's Gift EV Coconut Oil, Mommy Patch Rice Baby Powder, Echostore Spa In A Bottle, All Organics Lemongrass Facial Toner, Be OrganicAll Natural Emu Skin Perfecting Cream, Human Nature All Natural Spray Sanitizer, Vanilla & Co Pure Shea & Cocoa Buttercream, All Organics Rescue In a Bottle

1.  Nature's Gift Extra Virgin Coconut Oil - As a young girl, I envied my grandma's shiny and healthy long locks. Her secret? Kakang Gata or Coconut Oil. I'm just glad that I don't have to over-exert my muscles just to be extract coconut oil by myself. EVCO is available mall kiosks and even in Mercury Drug. At least once a week, I use this as a hair treatment to hair to prevent it from dryness and breakage. Before taking a shower, generously apply it on your hair, massaging your scalp all the way to the tips. Let it stay for at least 15 minutes and then shampoo. I also used this to moisturize my belly during pregnancy and I continued to use it to help bring back skin elasticity of post-partum stretch marks.

2. All Organics Lemongrass Facial Toner - Forget about most commercial toners that are nothing but alcohol! This product is made of witch hazel so it won't dry or irritate your skin. It also has lemongrass and tea tree oil which have anti-bacterial properties to help minimize pimples. 

3.  Be Organic All Natural Emu Skin Perfecting Cream - Made with Rosehip oil and Jojoba oil. I was surprised how these natural oils helped control the oily parts of my face (t-zone) and minimize the size of my pores.

4. All Organics Rescue in a bottle and Echostore Spa in a bottle - These are my First Aid for migraine. They're loaded with soothing natural oils like peppermint, lime and lavender.
5. Mommy Patch Rice Baby Powder - This talc and paraben-free powder is made with cornstarch and rice powder. It keeps my skin matte and oil-free on days I just want to break-free from makeup.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

When Plans Go Wrong

My most enjoyable memories as a kid were family vacations in the beach or in the farm, in my mom's hometown province.  The same goes for my husband. That is why, we agreed to plan vacations and trips as often as our time and budget permits.  

While out-of-town trips can be a fun experience for your kids, they're more like a somersault stunt for mommies, especially with babies and young kids.  If a trip to grandma is an entire production number in itself, imagine going on a 4-day island beach getaway. Last April, we spent our summer vacation in Boracay. When I was single, Boracay was my go-to refuge to de-stress from work, bum around and party to wee hours. It is a familiar playground, so I thought. So carrying a toddler will be no problem? Right? Besides, I've also  events in Boracay when I was still in brand. I managed to mobilize an entire crew of chefs and production team. I thought I got it covered. Wrong.

Being the OC type, I always make a checklist of everything I need to bring. And that's how my somersaulting began. Oh well, forget about my 3 bikinis that would fit in a backpack. This time, I had to bring 1 Kilo pack of formula milk, baby bottles and cleaning stuff, a bag of diapers, floaters and beach toys and other what have-you to keep our 20-month old entertained. I did't even realize we were only allowed 10 Kilos of baggage per person until my husband reminded me! And because we did not buy Caleb a seat, we were just limited to 20 Kilos baggage allowance. Argg...I had to be conscientious about what to bring. Randy kept insisting that I pack light. In my mind, I was thinking, “How could you possibly pack light when you have a toddler?” 

I was so proud to fit our house in 2 trolley bags. My mistake was...I didn’t weigh the bags. Oh no! I know I'll hear it from him when we found out our luggage was overweight by 6 pounds. Because I was smart (or maybe scared? :) I manage to rummage some stuff out (I got the books and toys out first because they are the heavy ones) and magically squeezed the excess baggage in my beach bag and  took it as my carry-on luggage. Ok, so my planning skills have become quite rusty. My saving grace is deciding to bring Caleb's umbrella-type stroller because the last thing I need was a tantruming toddler.

The plane ride went pretty smoothly for Caleb, who was asleep on my lap. Oh, I'm so lucky. But not quite... Just when the plane was about to land, Randy grabbed him and stood him on his lap. He started coughing and the next thing I knew, both of them were soaked in vomit. Just like any good mother,  I panicked! I kinda stood there staring and forgot where the wipes are. It was a good thing the passengers were deplaning and didn’t have to deal with the foul smell. One of the flight attendants who is also a mom came to my rescue with a box of paper towels. We were the last one to get off the plane. My poor husband had to take care of 2 babies. We rushed to the carousel to catch our pre-booked transfer arrangements. Because we have not gotten over the incident, the tedious transfers (land trip, boat ride and another land trip) seemed like nothing. 

Unfortunately, my story does not end here. This was only the intro. Just kidding.  When we got to the island, I did not know that the boutique hotel I chose did not have its own back road access. So in the mid-afternoon, we had to carry along our overweight baggage, stroller included in what seemed liked Sahara dessert. I could almost hear an argument about to blow up. But I did not. Thank God I have a very understanding husband. I felt just laying in bed and hold a pity party. How can I overlook all these things? By God's grace, I was able to control my emotions. I realized that if my husband can forgo all these things, I could as well. I had a choice of whether to make this an enjoyable experience for my family or a time to spoil that possibility by choosing to lick my wounds. I chose the latter.

Our first island beach trip was not just a learning experience for Caleb, but I guess, more for me.  I may be the one in-charge of the planning, but there are still things I cannot control. Things can go wrong along the way, but what's important is for you to be focused on the solution.  Mishaps can be inevitable. As women, we tend to be control-freaks and we feel miserable when plans go wrong. Good thing my husband was there to understand and catch me. As he would always say, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Is Your Fridge A Safe Place to Store Your Food?

Last year we replaced our Samsung 7 cubit feet no-frost refrigerator with a General Electric 10 cubit feet manual defrost. We knew that switching from automatic to manual would be a bit of a hassle but we still went for it for the following reasons: 

1. A manual defrost fridge costs less vs. to the no-frost fridge;
2. It is more energy efficient
3. The system is less complicated so technical problems would also be less complicated compared to the no-frost type

We chose to buy from GE since they are better known for refrigerators compared to Samsung. You see, our old Samsung no-frost fridge was on top shape until my husband accidentally left it open while we were out the entire day. Since then, we had it repaired several times and payed a hefty amount for  the replacement parts and service. Another reason why we switched brands was because we were not happy with Samsung’s after sales service. Not only were they not able to detect the real cause of the breakdown, their response time was also slow and tedious. During these times that it was under maintenance, we lived on take out food and lukewarm drinking water. To minimize spoilage, we also had to pack the contents of our fridge and bring to a neighbor friend  each time it conked out. These series of unpleasant incidents made us realize how important a refrigerator is to any household, so much so when we had a baby. We couldn’t afford spoiling precious breast milk because of another refrigerator malfunction.
Our fridge could be considered the most important appliance in our house because we use it to store our food. Food being one of human’s basic need should not only be made available for consumption, it should also be properly stored.  Improper storage of food and lack of care for our refrigerators can cause bacteria to thrive in our food. In my Microbiology class in college, we studied different microorganisms that grow in different types of food – Salmonella, E. Coli and Listeria to name a few. These food-thriving bacteria are the common causes of food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses. Needless to say, proper care and maintenance of our fridge should be a top priority to ensure the safety of our household.
The reason why I chose to write about this topic is that I made the mistake of leaving the responsibility of caring for our fridge to our household help. Now that we don’t have one, I was obliged to take on this task. Just last week, I decided to do a general cleaning of our fridge. I wanted to do it the right way so I did some research online. If you have a manual defrost fridge like ours, thorough cleaning requires you to first defrost it. While a manual defrost fridge is more energy-efficient, allowing ice to accumulate could cause more problems for you. For one, when the ice thickens on the freezer walls, it can cause the plastic lining to break and may affect the piping. Secondly, thick ice can act as an insulator, which causes the refrigerator’s compressor to work double time. Lastly, defrosting the ice will allow you to clean up dirt, deposits and other liquids that has frozen with the water (this includes blood and juice spills from meats… eeww!) Defrosting should be done at least once or twice a year or as soon as you see ice thickens on the freezer. Following are some guidelines on how you can do your general cleaning:

1.  Schedule the time when you will clean your fridge so you can empty its contents
2. Temporarily store remaining contents in a cooler
3. To defrost, remove from power source and allow ice to melt on its own. Have clean absorbent cloths or paper towels ready to minimize leaks. Do not use sharp object to remove ice as this can damage the fridge walls
4. Remove all trays and wash with dishwashing soap and water. Use a sponge and dishwashing soap to clean the walls of the entire fridge. Rinse using clean damp cloth. Allow to air dry
5. All refrigerators come with a defrosted water tray. Make sure to clean and wash this as well

I only discovered about the defrosted water tray as I was cleaning our fridge myself. And was I shocked and disgusted to find very nasty things in there! Marked in the tray is a reminder that says “This tray evaporates defrosted water effectively. Please clean once a month.” I never even thought this part existed. Because this unit is not easily accessible, it can easily be missed out and neglected. I immediately disposed the ugly residue and disinfected it with Domex Bleach. It was indeed a learning experience for me. Disgusted as I am, I'm glad I discovered it before it became a livable place for an anaconda. Lol! Make sure you check out this part every time you do your cleaning. I definitely definitely have this on my list next time!

It is not enough to just do periodic general cleaning.  Maintaining cleanliness in your fridge at all times is a must. This will ensure that the contents of your food will be kept safe. It will also help you save time and effort in doing a thorough cleaning. Here are a few guidelines on how to keep your fridge clean all the time:

1.  Always make an inventory of your food. “FIRST IN FIRST OUT.” Use older items first before the new ones 
2. Throw away left over/ unused/ expired food items for more than 3-4 days. Molds and other microorganisms may grow in your food and may affect other items
3. Cover all food items to avoid spills and foul smells. Clean spills immediately to avoid staining
4.  Make sure your fridge is set to the right temperature. If you don’t have a fridge thermometer, now is the time to buy one
5. Keep food items organized. Do not mix raw, cooked and fresh items. When defrosting raw meat, keep them at the bottommost part to avoid its juices from mixing with other food items

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What's The Deal With Online Deals

Who likes to pay full price? I don’t.  Like many others, I am lured by the words PROMO, DISCOUNT AND SALE.  They say that to stop unnecessary spending, you should avoid going to the malls. Nowadays, this does not necessarily hold true. Shopping used to be just confined in retail shops or malls, but with the Internet generation, the web has become a limitless retail paradise. Retail therapy is just a click away. In fact, online shopping has become immensely popular that it paved the way for group buying or online deals sites.  
Online deals sites offer almost anything you can think of - from food and dining, travel and various types of services and products. The reason why deal sites have become so successful is that they offer savings/ discounts to as high as 90% off the regular price. After all, who doesn't like to get a good deal?  The catch to it though is that the products and services are limited and are only available for a short period. Customers who are enticed by the bargain are compelled to make the purchase right away. You can find some really good deals on these sites. Most of them are so hard to resist that it can make you buy without much thought.  On the business side, sellers or merchants use these sites as a venue for getting new customers, getting rid of high or slow-moving inventory or just for marketing or promotional purposes.
Impulsively buying from these online deal sites can pose danger to your budget.  It would be good for you to know that just like mall retailers, their objective is to make you buy, buy and buy! Yes, it can be addicting too! I know some people who buy vacation deals just because the price seems too hard to resist, only to end up reselling their vouchers at a much lower price. One piece of advice, unless you really intend to use up the deal you want to buy, forget about it, even if it screams 95% off.   

The upside is, buying from deals sites can save you a lot of money, especially if the products or services being offered are things you normally purchase ,like a salon treatment, a vacation or a household product. Let's say you are planning to go to a salon for a haircut and hair color treatment and then you see this deal being offered, if you find the establishment and validity period agreeable, then by all means, make that purchase!  When buying from these sites, it is always important to read the details of the deals. If you are considering of purchasing from an establishment you have not tried before, do your research first. Read reviews/ blogs about the place, call up the establishment and ask questions before hitting the BUY button.  Most importantly, ask yourself what value will this purchase give you? in everything you buy, there are many other important things you need to consider. Price is just one of them. And if you are a wise spender, buying from these online deal sites can work well for you. I have personally purchased some really good deals that gave us huge savings. Let me share them with you.
1.  Pico De Loro vacation from Deal Grocer– Paid P6,500 instead of 9,000 per night. My husband has been raving about this place when his company held a couple or conferences in this exclusive resort.  We stayed 2 nights so we saved a total of P5,000 for our beach vacation last year. When this deal was offered, we didn’t hesitate buying it because it is the only time they allowed non-resort members.  The stay was very memorable for us because not only was the place amazing, it was also our first time to take our baby on a beach trip.
2.  IPL sessions at R. Locsin clinic from Groupon– For 300/ session, this deal was a real steal considering the very professional staff and hands-on dermatologist who will personally oversee your treatment. 
3.  Album from Photobook Philippines from Groupon-  We wanted to give a personal and unique gift to my brother who go married in the States. Since I had just given birth that time, we were not able to make it to their special day.  Through this deal, I was able to personally design their wedding album and gave something which they truly appreciated.
4. Hofa Ottoman Storage from Ensogo – We’ve been looking everywhere for a functional ottoman that would match our living room couch and we found it in the most unusual place. Plus, we only paid 1,999 when all the ottoman seats we have canvassed are priced double this amount.

Go ahead and find out what's hot on these deals sites! For all you know, that much needed dream vacation might just be a click away!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Breakfast For Champions

I believe that the mother’s food philosophy is usually passed on to her children. As a foodie, I want our toddler to enjoy a delicious and nutritious variety of food. One of the commitments I made as a stay-at-home mom is to teach him how to love and appreciate natural and home-cooked food. Yes, preparing healthy food is a commitment.  Aside from the effort involved, it also takes a lot of love and patience to train your child to get the hang of eating healthy food. Occasionally however, I allow our toddler to have some special treats like cupcakes, chips and pizza, but only in small quantities. Some parents choose to wait until their toddlers reach 2 or 3 years old, which is ok. But for us, allowing him a taste of these treats will train his palate to different tastes.

The meal I always look forward to is breakfast.  That is why, I always make sure that our son would also enjoy breakfast as much as I do. It seems convenient and practical to just serve him cereals, which I do sometimes. But more often, I come up with some yummy specials that make him choose to drop his toys every time I say, “Breakfast is ready!” Here are a few of his favorites, which are all easy and simple to prepare:

1.  Tomato, Spinach and Cheese Omelet (or what I call TSC)

Ever wondered why Popeye’s muscles grow big whenever he eats spinach? That’s because spinach has tons of nutritional value, including Vitamin K, A, Folate and Magnesium. This is one super food that any mom should teach his kid to eat. Eggs and cheese are good sources of protein. While tomatoes are also a packed with nutrients, it is high in water content making it a filling food. This has been my power breakfast because it is loaded with nutrients and will give you a feeling of energy boost to give you a head start.

Ingredients: 1 pc. Fresh Egg, beaten
                      ½ slice of low fat quick melt cheese
                      Spinach, ½ cup chopped
                      Tomatoes, 1 pc. cubed
                      Prepared pesto in olive oil, 1 tsp.
                      Pepper to taste
How to Prepare:

Microwave: If you are in a hurry, you can make this breakfast in just a minute. Just mix in all the ingredients and place in a microwaveable ceramic bowl. Put a cover on the bowl and cook in the microwave at medium high for 40-60 seconds.

In a Pan: Heat a teaspoonful of pesto in olive oil. Add in tomatoes, spinach and beaten eggs. Add pepper to taste. Remove from heat and immediately top with cheese.

2.  Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes w/ Peanut Butter

Ingredients: 1 pack of Whole Wheat Pancake Mix
                     1 pc. Fresh Egg
                     Cooking Oil
                     Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter, about 1 tsp.
                     1 pc. Cavendish Banana, sliced
                     Light Maple Syrup


How to Prepare:

Follow package instructions to prepare pancake mix. Cook pancakes on a non-stick pan over low heat. Immediately spread peanut butter on top of freshly cooked pancake and top with banana slices. Drizzle with maple syrup

3.  Sweet Potato with Yogurt

Ingredients:  Sweet Potato
                      Cinnamon Powder
                      Low-Fat Plain Yogurt

How to Prepare:

Boil sweet potato until desired texture is achieved. If you are feeding a toddler, avoid over-cooking the sweet potato so he can get enough practice in chewing. Peel, slice/ cube and sprinkle some cinnamon powder. Top with yogurt.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Making of A ‘Lil Foodie

My husband says I'm a good cook. That's good enough for me, knowing I can please him with my limited kitchen skills. It's hard to say so for myself.  But I can say I know my way around my kitchen. It must be because I grew up with a family of good cooks or could be just because I love to eat. I think everyone who appreciates good food should learn how to cook. When I got married, I was able to experiment more with food. I’m not the type who follows a recipe to the letter but I do get inspiration from recipe books, culinary websites and TV shows. When we had a baby, a made a note to myself that I would give a head start to our child in the kitchen. 

Even when we did not have  household help, our son got used to seeing me working in the kitchen. The day he said the word "COOK" was like music to my ears! I knew this is the right time for me to start teaching him a skill that any real gentleman should know. To keep him busy while I prepare dinner, I would give him a small pot and a wooden spoon. He would insist I also give him an apron so I would hang on his neck a kitchen towel to serve as his little apron.  

One of Caleb’s favorite restaurant food is pizza so I thought of preparing something he is already familiar with. But since mommy likes to put a little twist to everything, we tried making Whole Wheat Pizza Tortilla Rolls instead. First, I set up all the ingredients and introduced their names one by one. I let him touch, smell and look closely at the ingredients. Then I showed him how to put all the ingredients in the tortilla and guided him to do the same.  After we have assembled all the tortillas, I set up a picnic on his play mat and there enjoyed a special lunch together. It was a great learning and bonding experience for me and Caleb.  And I’m definitely looking forward to the day when he would be the one to cook for me and his dad.

Assembling the Ingredients - Green Bell Peppers, Cooked Ham, Onions, Seasoned Spaghetti Sauce, Fresh Basil, Tomatoes, Quick Melt Cheese slices and Whole Wheat Tortilla

The 'lil foodie at work

Finished Product - Yum!

Sailing A Boat With An Empty Box

As parents, we all know how important playtime is to a toddler.  It is during active play that they develop dexterity and learn to master different types of physical skills. Playing does not just involve the conventional toys that we know. Toddlers are innately curious and they love to explore and discover new things. It is not really about what they are playing with, but the process of how they use it to learn and enjoy at the same time.  No wonder even with my son’s box loads of toys and gadgets, he still prefers the most unusual things he can find around the house – a wooden spoon, my wide-tooth comb and empty water bottles. Tired of telling my son not to play with this and that, I gathered stuff I the house, which I thought might be “useful” for him.

Here are some of the unconventional toys we discovered:

1.  Water/ Juice PET bottle (without the cap) and cardboard cut into sticks

I’ve read about this DIY toy, which made use of pipe cleaners.  I couldn’t find them here so, I made my own version and what do you know! We now have an instant toy to keep my curious boy busy. Not only that, this activity helps him develop eye and hand coordination and gives him a clever sense of fulfillment after shooting each stick to the narrow opening of the bottle.

2.  Empty Boxes

One time, I saw my son grab one of the empty boxes in our storage room. He sat inside the box and told me, “Mommy, boat!” Well for me it was just one of the boxes I’ve accumulated from my online shopping, but yeah, for him it is a boat. The boat sometimes becomes a ship (depending on the size I presume). Sometimes, he just likes putting his other toys inside and then scattering them on the floor all over again.

3.  Glossy Pages

Satisfy your toddlers urge to tear up paper by giving him/her old issues of glossy magazines. I prefer the glossy ones since they won’t leave a dirty imprint on his hands (which later can spread on the floor or the walls!)

4.  Empty Clear Plastic Jars

One of the activities Caleb likes to play is play collector. When we go down to the park, he brings along his sand bucket or a clear plastic jar and where he puts everything he finds interesting. One time, I was teaching him about numbers so I asked him to collect 10 flowers that fell off the pavement.

5. Toilet Paper Tubes

You’ll be surprised how a toilet paper tube will be to a toddler. My son likes to play with them like blocks or as a trumpet. Sometimes, he just like to cramp in his little toys inside the tube only to challenge himself how he can get them out again.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Managing My Time As a SAHM

Being a stay-at-home mom can wear you down emotionally and physically. Some people may think it is pretty simple, but unless you are one, it is hard to comprehend how demanding it can be. To survive as a SAHM, you need good time management skills, the ability to multi-task, inexhaustible patience, unwavering commitment and lots of unconditional love. Unlike other 8 to 5 jobs, being a SAHM is 24/7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You don’t get any day-offs, vacation or sick leaves. You don’t even get paid monetarily. Every SAHM knows that to be able to accomplish what you need to accomplish, you need to run a schedule that works for you and your kids. Even when I had a household helper, I planned out a schedule to ensure that she will make use of her time efficiently. This schedule is something that you develop over time as you get to know your child’s personality. As soon as my husband leaves for work, I keep in mind that my son Caleb is my priority. This means that he comes first before mopping floors, washing dishes or cooking dinner.  Needless to say, this is not an excuse to be lax on your chores. My own strategy to keep our house in order is to “Clean As You Go.”  This means that if there is a scum on the floor or on the table, I wipe it right away. All dishes have to be washed immediately so they don’t pile up on the sink. Beds have to be made up even after a nap and toys have to be kept in the box when not in use. I keep in mind that as much as possible, I want our place to look presentable even when there are unexpected guests. This strategy has helped minimize the time that I need to clean. I’m not a believer of general cleaning because in my opinion, that’s a waste of time. Time is always of the essence when you're a SAHM. You don't just sit around the TV doing nothing, there always is something that needs to be done - a spill that needs to be cleaned, a diaper that needs to be changed and a snack that needs to be prepared. Your day can be filled up with so many unexpected chores that the more important things get pushed aside. That is why setting your priorities is a must. One priority that I like to keep on my list is having time for myself and doing things that refresh and boost my energy. Time for exercise is one of these things. And by exercise, I don't mean vacuuming or chasing around my toddler. A good exercise for me is a 30 minute run, 20 laps in the pool or a yoga workout video.  As  a SAHM, this entails extra effort on my part, like waking up early just catch to squeeze in the 7 am spinning class before my husband goes to work.  More that the desire to go back to my pre-pregnancy weight, I value exercise mainly because I want to be recharge, function at my best and avoid getting sick.  Another priority for me is setting time for R&R or as I call it “mommy me-time”. My favorite would be shopping online, savoring my coffee or tea while reading OK! magazine or watching the Entertainment channel. Whatever that is or however little time you have left, it is important for SAHMs to set aside time during the day to put their feet up and unwind. After all, over fatigue can lead you to feel cranky, and even depressed. But most importantly, effectively managing your time means making it a priority to pray and reflect on God’s word so you will have the strength and wisdom you need to seize another day.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fun Play in Gymboree

It’s pretty amazing where a small 18-month boy gets all his energy.  The minute my son learned how to walk, he starts roaming around our small condo home like a conquering knight. Every now and then I would hear a discomforting cry and see my kid with a red bump on his forehead or a small scratch on his leg. Even after installing child safety locks and placing padded mats, I realized that it is quite impossible to fully childproof your home, unless of course you take out all your furniture.  The only time that our son can freely roam around is when I take him to the mini-park or the basketball court. Nonetheless, I always worry about him hitting himself with other running kids or tripping on the cemented floor. So how do we allow some freedom to our little explorer while sparing myself from being the over-protective mom? The answer - take him to a padded playing area where he can freely wander and rumble.

I’m so glad that we have a Gymboree Play & Music near our place. Just last week, I decided to take him there for gym play. Their gym area was like a play paradise for my son! It was colorful, spacious and most importantly padded.  For the first time, he tried climbing up the slide on his own. I did not have to hold his hand because it was just the right height for him and if ever he falls, I know he’ll land safely.  Unlike the other playhouse that he used to frequent, Gymboree does not have a lot of toys that steals away his attention. Instead, they have big foamed balls that he can push, giant tubes he can bounce from and tunnels he can creep into.  It is simply a place where he can freely enjoy and use up all his energy. It is ideal for developing my little toddler’s motor skills while socializing with other kids.

Without much thought, I signed up for an annual membership worth 2,000 Pesos. It comes with 5 gym play coupons, worth 350 Pesos each, a 20% discount on gym play, 2 free Play & Music classes outside the Philippines and a free portrait session from Picture Company. Initially, I was thinking of getting him the lifetime membership for 4,000 which comes with 10 gym play coupons and the same discount until he turns 5 years old.  But I'm worried that it's not going to be worth it since he might eventually get bored and prefer to play somewhere else.  For now, we'll just use up his free coupons and later just pay 280 Pesos for every hour of gym play.  I plan to take our little boy in Gymboree once a week. It will give him a good workout and an opportunity to play and mingle with other toddlers. This could be our mommy and son day that we both can look forward to every week. Maybe afterwards, we can hang out in his favorite bookstore or check out some toys in Toys ‘R Us and share some frozen yogurt.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Raising A Hearty Eater

When our baby boy started eating solid foods, I made it a point to always serve him healthy and natural foods.  Fortunately, he loved everything I served him, including ampalaya (bitter melon) and monggo (mung bean).  From 6 months to about 13 months, he gladly ate everything that I put in his mouth. Our pediatrician advised that we train his taste buds by letting him eat the same thing for 3-4 days before we introduce a different kind of food.  The advice worked well for me because it was more convenient and practical prep-wise.  I would cook his food in advance, portion and store them in glass lock containers, keep them in the freezer and just thaw and reheat for his lunch or dinner. When we dine out with him, I pack his lunch so he will get used to eating healthy home-cooked food. I was a happy and proud mom. I could not relate to friends who share about their baby feeding problems. I was always proud to say, “My baby eats anything!” But even though I was happy to have a hearty eater, I was a little bit anxious about the possibility that he may one day trade fruits and veggies for hotdogs and fried chicken.

When Caleb turned 14 months, not only did he become choosy with food, he also refused to be fed.  He wanted to hold his own spoon and fork and tried to feed himself as if he could.  Of course, this meant more mess and more clean-up time for mommy and less food for him (since most of his food gets on the floor instead of his mouth). The three of us used to have smooth dinners together, until he started throwing tantrums and refused to eat.  When he did not like the food that was served to him, he would throw up a fit and cry for milk.  Alas, quality time dinners became episodes of power struggle.  Good thing, my husband Randy and I agreed that we will not give-in to this tiny creature who learning to assert himself.  Every time he would fly into a rage, Randy would put him in his crib and let him cry for a few minutes.  When he calms down a bit, he would talk to him and tell him that he should eat what is on the table.  More often, this would go on a cycle that would test our patience.  His cry may tend to get louder which meant longer time out for him. At each episode, we make every effort to hear him out and then try to explain why we’re asking him to eat his food.  We learned that we always had a choice whether to put a quick end to our misery and just hand over what he wants or to be firm and make him understand the value of obeying us.  I would explain to him in a calm manner why mommy and daddy wanted him to eat his food.  I’d say something like, “ Caleb, mommy and daddy want you to eat your food because we want you to become a strong and healthy boy.  You want to play with your toys, right?  You need all the energy that’s why you should eat the food we are serving you.  That’s what mommy has prepared for you today and I will be disappointed if you don’t eat what I have prepared.”  99% of the time, he would be convinced and will try to finish the food on his plate.  And every time he does so, we make sure he gets a lot of kisses and appreciation.  

It has been a couple of months and I’m happy to say that his appetite seemed to have gone back. I also took note of what he wanted to eat, like how I noticed he liked to eat soupy or saucy dishes.    I would also ask him what he likes to eat. “Do you like fish or chicken? Chicken? Sounds yummy!  His vegetable picture book was also a big help.  By trying to describe different veggies to him in the most appetizing way, he will look forward to having an enjoyable meal.  I think it also helps that he goes with me to the grocery where he gets to see the ingredients.  When I cook, he would nudge me and insist on observing how I stir up the wok.  As he grows older and learns to make his own choices, it is still more likely that we will have similar episodes as before. I’ve learned that to instill discipline, patience and consistency are important.  We also do not want to deprive him of the not so healthy options because we do not want him to crave for it.  From time to time, we let him have a taste of French fries, pizza and ice cream.  We also let him enjoy his food - let him spill a little, hold his own spoon, use his hands, pick up and eat what fell off his bib.  Allowing some freedom on the table also helped him have a more enjoyable experience and better appreciation of food. Besides, I'd  rather clean up a 'lil mess than see good food go to waste.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Making It Work Without A Yaya

I have always wondered how my friends abroad can juggle the demands of motherhood without domestic help. They say moms here in the Philippines are lucky because it’s cheap to hire a yaya/ nanny.  While they scour dirty kitchen floors and sort laundry day in and day out, most of us have the luxury of time to go shopping with our girlfriends, get our nails done or simply have uninterrupted dates with our husbands.  Well, for most of us at least. For the past six months, I have been juggling household chores and taking care of our 1- year old.  Since we got back from our vacation in the States last October, we have relentlessly tried to find a replacement for our estranged yaya who “promised” she’ll be back. She never did. A friend of mine said, it is just like living abroad, to which I strongly begged to disagree.  It is not by choice that we don’t have a yaya. It’s just that, we’re having difficulty finding a good one.  Finding a trust-worthy, dependable and loyal household help is as rare as a real gentleman these days. Now I am starting to realize that my friends abroad are much luckier than I am.  For one, day care does not come cheap. Second, doing household chores seem more taxing.  Aside from the fact that it’s always dusty, the humid weather makes you feel like you are doing Bikram Yoga after just 15 minutes of sweeping the floor. I realized I had the choice to rant about these “inconveniences” or make the most out of our situation. God must have a good reason why He has allowed us not to find a replacement for our son’s yaya.

This new season in my life as a stay-at-home-mom made me realize a lot of things. One of them is a revelation of how selfish I have been.  All my life I’ve focused on accomplishing things for myself – a promising career, travel, save money and buy what I want with my own money. It has always been me, me and me. But when most of your time is devoted to making sure the needs your family met, the last thing you think of is yourself.  It has only been a few months, but I could see that our son seems to enjoy spending more quality time with me.  Since it is just our toddler and myself during the day, things can get pretty monotonous.  I add a little bit of creativity to make it interesting not just for him but for me as well. Even while I do chores, I engage with him so he can learn and have fun. While cooking, I give him a small saucepan and wooden spoon and he pretends to cook as well. While spraying Windex on the balcony glass doors, we play make faces or peek-a-boo. There was this one time I set up a picnic mat on our kitchen floor. I cooked up some cheese sticks and packed our snacks in a lunch box together with his toy camera and fisherman’s cap.  We also tagged along his stuffed toys and pretend we have company.  I also try to expose him to a variety of activities throughout the day, including reading.  Fortunately for me, it was not a challenge to help him develop a liking for books. At barely a year and a half, he has a wider vocabulary with that of a 2 year old. You live him with a book and some music, and he can keep himself entertained for as long as an hour.    Being able to do all these things give me a profound sense of fulfillment that I never experienced in drafting marketing strat plans or executing events.  As to character building, I am realizing that taking care of your child will test and hone you in many ways – your patience, kindness, your creativity, judgment and most importantly, your ability to love unconditionally.  Slowly, I started embracing the value of being a mother, a value that may not have monetary compensation, but has immeasurable lasting rewards. 

There are still days when I wish we have household help, especially now that our toddler is getting more curious and active.  I maybe physically exhausted, but happy and content.  There are both plusses and minuses in having a helper, and I’m fortunate to be able say that the latter has more.   In truth, I am torn whether to actively search for a helper. Maybe this explains why we still have not hired one until now.  Our situation has given me so many things to be grateful for.  The most important of which is how it has allowed me to depend more on God for everything – strength, wisdom and discernment.  I am also thankful for having a supportive husband who helps me with the chores even though I know he’s tired after a long day’s work. This has been one form of our bonding together as a husband and wife.  Our house may not be as clean and organized, but it is our haven and special place. And while we are still in search for that suitable yaya, I continue to cherish each single day as I labor this season.