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.