The Squishy Book Club Part 1

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Max’s buddies.

It all started with Toy Story. Max’s Lola got him a stuffed Buzz and Woody when she went to Tokyo Disneyland last year. A few months ago, Netflix got a whole bunch of Disney and Pixar movies. I thought I would show him Toy Story so that he could appreciate his toys. Up until then, Max would watch an episode or two of Word Party or short Sesame Street videos on YouTube. But he would lose interest after a while and he only seemed to really enjoy the musical parts. I wasn’t expecting much when I showed him Toy Story. I thought that after a few minutes, he would wander off and do something else. But he didn’t. He sat through the entire thing. And he did the same for Toy Story 2 and 3. He would then start asking for “Buh” (Buzz) every morning. Sometimes, he would climb into his highchair and buckle his seatbelt and ask for Buzz (because I would let him watch while he ate his meals). Eventually, he would go through the entire Pixar selection in Netflix. And in a blink of an eye, Max’s new interest in movies made him seem more like a child than a baby.

This new development also started my back and forth with screen time. I actually have drafts of a pro-screen time entry and an anti-screen time entry. On one hand, parking Max in front of the TV lets me to do so many things! On really bad days (aka we’ve run out of coffee days), I use it to take a breather. It’s almost always easier to feed him when he’s watching something. And I see that he’s learned to understand basic narratives because he reacts appropriately to the scenes (he laughs when it’s funny, expresses worry when things are uncertain, and cries when the characters are sad).

But I have to admit that when Max is parked in front of the TV for too long, he stores up A LOT of pent up energy. As soon as we turn off the TV, he’s more hyper and impatient. It’s almost like he turns into sleepy Max even if he napped well that day. So, he’s harder to take care of and seems fussier. On the days when he has no screen time, he’s calmer and easy going. He listens more and he’s more inclined to wait.

I’ve heard from other moms that one possible effect of too much screen time is speech delay. A mom from Singapore shared that her son wasn’t speaking so much at 3 years old and his pediatrician was concerned, so they were told to eliminate all screen time. Eventually, the boy turned out fine. Also, from my training in education and psychology, we are repeatedly told that children do not learn to express their primary language by watching television. They learn language by observation (when their caregivers model language use around them) and engagement (when language is used on them and they are given the opportunity to express it as well).

While I don’t think that Max is exhibiting any signs of speech delay (he’s actually quite eager to talk to anyone who pays attention to him), this is something that’s always at the back of my mind whenever I park him on the couch to watch television. And this is why I overcompensate with reading time.

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One of Max’s first clear words was ‘moon’ because we kept reading Good Night Moon to him.

I try my very best to read a couple of books to him at least once a day. Thankfully, Max seems to enjoy reading. He often initiates it before I do. More than the improvements in his expressive vocabulary (and there are improvements because if you read the same books over and over again, your kid is likely to start imitating you), it’s a great way for Max to focus on an activity for an extended period of time. Reading also creates opportunities for Max to practice empathy. When he sees that someone is sad in the book, he becomes sad also. And we try to use that moment to teach him emotion words that can help him regulate his own emotions. And I think it’s kind of working!

A few days ago, Max bumped his head on a table and he came up to me, pointed at his head, and said: “Momma, wawa!”. His eyes were a little wet, but he didn’t bawl like he used to. Wawa is a Filipino term that short for Kawawa which has no direct English translation, but it’s what you would use to refer to someone if you pitied them (maybe it’s comparable to the word ‘poor’—as in, “poor Johnny, he lost his lunch”). He started using this term a lot when referring to Trixie from Moe Willems’ Knuffle Bunny. Trixie was wawa when she realized that she didn’t have Kuffle Bunny and her Daddy couldn’t understand why she was upset.

Because he had this word in his arsenal and he used it to communicate his feelings, he didn’t need to freak out and cry. Instead, he took my hand and brought me to the kitchen and asked for some “ay” (ice) for his head. I was so amazed! Just a few weeks ago, that same incident would have led to many more tears, a lot of hugging, and a breastfeeding session to calm him down. But because he knew that I understood him, he didn’t need to freak out to communicate that he was hurt and needed attention. Mind blown.

As much as I would like to hippie out and say that my child absolutely does not get any screen time, I can’t. It helps me in so many ways and I am very grateful for all those wonderful Pixar movies (which we enjoy watching as well…we still cry at the end of Toy Story 3). When I start feeling uncomfortable about the amount of screen time he’s had, it’s very easy to go on a screen time detox for a few days. But regardless of how much screen time he gets in a day, we’re definitely going to keep reading.

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We’ll be reading to infinity and beyond!
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Squishy Radio

We recently had a surprise 4-day weekend (class suspension on a Thursday and a holiday on a Friday). Holidays are great, but class suspensions are the best! It’s like finding an extra P500.00 in the bottom of your purse (or in my case, the baby’s bag). I was all pumped up and high on family love, so we made this as a joke. This is our first attempt at podcasting (well, mine. Mikey’s a pro).

Our chaotic little home is my favourite place on earth. ❤

Max’s vocabulary highlights

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Max thinking of words

Max is growing at a ridiculous rate, physically, mentally, and even emotionally (dude cried at the beginning of Up and it freaked us out). Among my favorite milestones of his growth is his rapidly developing vocabulary. Below are 11 of my favorite words that Max can now speak:

1. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “The Incredibles”—referring to the characters from the 2005 Pixar film, the film itself, its 2018 sequel, books that feature characters from the films, action figures of the characters, or just Mr. Incredible.

e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at a Mr. Incredible action figure)

2. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Ball”—a ball. Any ball. But maybe not an American football.

e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at a ball)

3. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Bus”—a bus, coach, van, or any large public transport vehicle found on the road, including jeepneys. Pronunciation is usually accompanied by a “vroom vroom” or “bbbbbbrrrrbrbrbrbr”.

e.g. “Buh?! Brbbbrbbbrrrrbrbrbr.” (while looking out window of car, pointing at a bus, and then mimicking the turning of a steering wheel)

4. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Buzz Lightyear”—the character Buzz Lightyear from the 1995 Pixar film Toy Story, action figures of the character, pictures of the character, or any TV show, mini-movie, or film from the Toy Story universe.

e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at Char’s iPad, requesting to watch Toy Story for the nth time)

5. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Book”—a book. Any book.

e.g. “Buh?” (while presenting a book to be read to him)

6. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Button”—any belly button, or any pressing button (i.e. those found on toys, remote controls, and car stereos; not clothes buttons).

e.g. “Buh?” (while lifting his shirt and pointing at his belly button)

7. Babbuh
noun | \bä-bə\
: “Bubbles”—bubbles from a bubble blower, bubbles made from soap suds, bubbles from milk foam.

e.g. “BABBUH!” (while pointing at bottle of bubble fluid)

8. Bai
noun | \bī\
: “Goodbye”—bye, goodbye, farewell. Usually accompanied by a wave. 👋🏼

e.g. “Bai!” (while waving at a security guard as we exit a shopping mall)

9. Bee
noun | \bē\
: “Bird”—“any of a class of warm-blooded vertebrates distinguished by having the body more or less completely covered with feathers and the forelimbs modified as wings” (Merriam-Webster), or any image or video featuring such a creature.

e.g. “Bee!” (while pointing at a bird)

10. Bee
noun | \bē\
: “Bed”—any surface meant for humans to lie down on, or, pillows.

e.g. “Bee!” (while picking up and then tossing a pillow at me)

11. Beebee
noun | \bē-bē\
: “Baby”—an infant, toddler, child, or any non-adult human.

s.g. “Beebee!” (while running in a shopping mall alongside what appears to be a 9 year old boy, and pretending to be a part of their family)

(This post may be updated eventually. Bai.)

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👋🏽

/I’ll make a million mistakes/

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Dear Max,

You are now one year, eight months, and twenty-one days old. I have been a Momma for that long (plus forty weeks). You won’t remember this, but to this day, I have never been apart from you for more than four or five hours. On most days, from 6:30 AM – 4:45 PM, it’s the Momma and Squishy show (and then we hear the jiggling of the door knob and we squeal with excitement when our favorite person walks through the door—Papa!).

I love being your momma. And I am utterly grateful that your Papa makes it possible for me to stay with you all day. Selfishly, it is the best. I get to watch you become you. I get to hold you while you sleep and I get to wake up to your smiles. I still can’t believe that you are our son and that I am your momma.

While most of our days are joyful, there are days when I look at you and all I feel is guilt. I was given this wonderful, funny, silly little boy, while you were assigned to me—a mediocre, at best, momma.

A momma who resorts to screen time more than she should. A momma who has never learned how to properly feed herself and is probably passing on her weird eating habits to her son. A momma who spends a substantial amount of time looking at her phone. A momma who doesn’t know how to wean her baby. A momma who has lost her temper over the silliest things. And a momma who hasn’t figured out how to discipline her kid.

I’m sorry, Squish. I’m sorry that I don’t have it all figured out yet. There are days when I feel like I lose every single battle and I’m officially a bad mom. But I’m not going to stop trying to figure it out. I’ll always try to do what I believe to be the right thing. So hang in there, okay? I promise to never give up. I promise to admit it when I”m wrong. And I promise to not freak out the next time you spill all the gold fishes’ food. (And if you want to help momma, maybe you can start sleeping for longer stretches at night? Please? But if you can’t help it, I’ll make it work.)

I love you, kid.

Love,
Momma

P.S. If there’s one thing I’m sure that I got right, it’s your Papa. I’ve already given you the best gift by choosing Mikhail Mahatma Y. Llorin as my husband (and consequently, your father). He’s the bomb.

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Squishy-the-toddler conquers Davao (and Airplanes!)

Over a week ago, we took our annual trip to Chema’s by the Sea (Samal Island, Davao City) to celebrate Lola’s birthday. We already did this with Squish last year and also when I was pregnant. Even though I’m not a huge fan of nature and the outdoors (stickiness and bugs), I am sentimentally fond of Chema’s.

Chema’s is where Mikey and I honeymooned. This is where I swam pregnant for the first (and only) time. Last year, Max went on his first airplane ride to get to Davao. That was also when he went swimming for the first time. And during this trip, he rode a boat for the first time (last year, we stayed in a car that was ferried across).

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Max on a boat for the first time! ❤

Many memories have been made in this beautiful resort. And we hope we get to go back enough times for Max to actually be able to remember it.

I still get a little anxious when we go out with Max (especially when we’re out without Mikey). A five day, out of town trip would have meant taking that anxiety and multiplying it by 1,000. But because we knew this trip was coming, I had some time to zen out (and prepare). While there were a few heart-in-my-tummy moments, I was able to enjoy the trip. And more importantly Max and Mikey had a blast!

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I promise they had fun.

Here are the things that I could have potentially freaked out about:

  1. The airplane ride (both ways)
  2. Max’s meals
  3. Max getting sick or hurt
  4. Mikey getting sick or hurt

I was most stressed out by the plane ride. Last year, Max slept throughout the Manila-Davao plane ride. But he was fussy and angry (and poopy) during the Davao-Manila plane ride. I remember feeling so helpless back then. And now that Max was a full fledge walking and running toddler, I knew it would be harder to make him sit through the whole trip. THANKFULLY, we didn’t have to force him to sit because he slept through both plane rides! It was a miracle!

The morning of our departure, Mikey and I woke up early to get ready. Our flight was at 11:30 AM and we didn’t want to rush. Max was sleeping soundly, but I accidentally woke him up (at 7 AM, he normally wakes up at 8:30-9:00 AM) with my hair dryer. He wasn’t crying or cranky, so I decided to let him stay up instead of offering to breastfeed him to sleep again. He spent the morning lazily eating Vienna sausages and watching Max and Ruby while Mikey and I got ready and loaded our things into the car. We made a quick breakfast (and coffee) stop at a nearby UCC before heading to the airport. Mikey and I really wanted Max to sleep on the plane, so we planned to let Max go crazy in the airport. It wasn’t hard because he was raring to go. After retraining him while we were checking in, we let him go nuts. We knew that he was hitting sleepy zone already, but he got a second wind when all his cousins arrived. We literally had to scoop him up mid-run when we got our boarding call. We had to ride a bus to get to the plane (Max’s first time also!). It was really cool because we got to see a lot of the planes and loading cars up close. It was exactly like the airplane scene at the end of Toy Story 2. Max was quietly observing and taking everything in. When we finally got on the plane, he was curious about everything—the buttons, foldable tables, and that piece of cloth on the headrest. But even before our they played the in-flight safety video, Max asked to breastfeed and was knocked out for the entire trip. The flight back to Manila was more or less the same. Our flight was at 10:30 PM. Mikey found a play area in the Davao airport and they hung out there until it was time to board. By the time we settled into our seats on the plane, Max asked to breastfeed and slept through the entire ride. It was amazing! 2 for 2!

Another thing that I was worried about was Max’s meals. We pretty much let Max try anything now, so we’re not picky about what he eats. And while Max will try almost anything, he likes what he likes and he won’t continue to eat something if he doesn’t like it. I’ve learned to relax a bit when it comes to his eating because I believe that he will eat as much as he needs to. I also think that if he doesn’t eat that much at a certain time, he’ll make up for it later on. What was stressful was handling everyone else (the grandparents) who may become stressed over Max’s lack of appetite. I toyed with the idea of bringing a blender so that he could have a failsafe (mushed up veggies), but Mikey said no. He thought it would be a good opportunity for Max to try other things and I agreed. We brought some staples though: small boxes of fresh milk and Chuckie. I also packed him some of his favorite crackers. There were some meals that were a hit (buttery shrimps and mixed veggies with squash) and some meals that were misses (almost all of the breakfast food). But overall, I think he ate the amount of food he normally eats. He also snacked a lot because swimming makes you hungry and thirsty. And because we were on vacation, his nap schedule was all over the place and we let him have a lot of screen time during meals (so we could enjoy our food too).

Last year, we barely made our plane to Davao because we spent most of the previous night at the hospital waiting for Max’s fecal analysis. He had his first bout of diarrhea and I was a headless chicken. The test results were normal and we were cleared to go by our doctor as long as we made sure that he was properly hydrated. Max was such a trooper back then—apart from the round-the-clock-pooping, you couldn’t tell that there was something wrong with him. But it was stressful for me and I was extra careful about not wanting him to catch anything before we left for Davao. Thankfully, he was completely fine. But just in case, I brought a huge medicine bag with me (complete with a travel sized nebulizer). I also made sure to pack everything Mikey would need if he got sick also. It was important for Mikey to stay well because the fun would almost immediately stop if he wasn’t! Mikey was the MVP (most valuable parent) on this trip because he did the heavy lifting when it came to playing and swimming with Squish. And apart from a few episodes of gassiness, Mikey was well throughout the trip. Hallelujah!

I’m still not sure if I’ve mastered the balancing act. I think that it’s really important to be prepared, but also equally important to let go and have faith in your partner and child (and also allow yourself to be present). It took me two whole swimming days before I could enjoy holding Max in the pool by myself. And it only happened because Mikey really needed to pee and Max’s floaters were in another pool. I expected Max to be uncontrollable and both of us would end up drowning in a 4 foot pool. But he was the opposite of uncontrollable. He let me hold him and allowed me to help him float while he kicked. It was so cool. Before that, I would watch Max and Mikey from the side and yell “Love! Love! Love!” every time I thought Mikey wasn’t paying enough attention.

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Even though it drives me nuts sometimes, I think that it’s really helpful that Mikey and I interact with Max so differently. If it was just me and Max, I don’t think he would do anything fun (like jumping into pools by himself).

Overall, this trip has encouraged to be a bit braver as travelers with a toddler. And I can’t wait until our next adventure.

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Away we go! ❤

Frequently Asked Question

“Don’t you want to cut his hair?”

We get this a lot from the grandparents and their peers. Max was pretty much bald throughout his entire first year. And then he lost most of what little hair he had when he was three or four months old. It’s been pretty cool seeing it slowly grow and thicken. He still has a high hairline in front, but the back of his head is noticably less visible now because of his hair. Heck, I’ve even began brushing it when we’re on our way out.

My mom is obsessed with cutting his hair. Whenever we FaceTime with her, that’s one of the things she consistently mentions. She doesn’t like how his hair on the side can cover his ears. Mikey’s mom also asks about it when it looks particularly disheveled after rough play. My dad, on the otherhand, thinks that if we shave all his hair off, it will grow back quicker and thicker. (They actually did this to me when I was a baby. Yup, Max inherited his baby baldness from his Momma because Papa had hair as a baby!).

But why don’t we want to cut his hair? It’s actually the last missing entry in his baby book. And when the time comes to snip, I’m going to document it like crazy! I’ll even bring ziplock bags so that I can keep some of his first locks.

I don’t want to cut his hair because I love that he can look goofy and messy and that it truly does not matter to him. All too soon, he will understand words. He will meet people who will give their unsolicited fashion advice because they “care” (regardless of the pain they may inflict). He will meet people who will use words like ugly, fat, sexy, pretty, skinny, dark, or white. And while Mikey and I will try to communicate our unconditional love as well as teach him how to take care of his body, we can’t completely protect him from jerks.

So, I don’t want to cut his hair because it’s in no way a nuicance to him right now. Sure, it gets messy after playing. Sure, the sides are uneven. But who cares? We don’t. And, more importantly, he doesn’t. I want him to be his goofy toddler self for as long as he wants. Childhood is fleeting. And he will spend more years caring about how he looks more than the years he didn’t. I’m in no hurry to grow him up. Besides, I absolutely love his Einstein look when he gets up in the morning. ❤

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Hi Al! 

Teatro de Mikey de Squishy

At the parking lot, walking towards the Insular Life building, the venue of the final show of Rude Mechanicals’ and Tuloy Foundation’s rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar, I told my son: “Max, Papa used to call this place his battlefield.” I was thrilled—not only because I was going to watch a live performance in a theatre with my 17 month old that night, but because he was going to watch a show in the very same theatre I performed in for the first time as a professional actor.

Insular Life Theatre was my battlefield, and walking into it that night was as nostalgic an experience as I’ve ever had. The place looked the same. It smelled the same. And while it felt different since I was coming in as a spectator rather than a performer, all the old feelings stirred themselves up all too easily.

As we shimmied to our seats, I knew that Char was thinking of something else entirely. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but tell Max about my very first performance, as Nick Bottom, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I told him that I was scared and that my I was sipping short, shallow, and nervous breaths. My dear friend and co-actor Chino came up to me, rubbed my shoulder, and said: “Just enjoy it, brother.”  It could certainly have been condescending, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I wish I could’ve told Char something with the same effect to calm her nerves about Max. But if I told her to “just enjoy”, she would probably give me the evil eye. Instead, I assured her that if anything went wrong, I would simply take Max outside the theatre and walk around.

It turns out, though, that I didn’t need to. Max, like a trooper—like the most amazing trooper in the history of troopers—like, I dare say, a stormtrooper—sat through the entire first act. Like a cultured stormtrooper with his father’s theatre DNA. He sat and he watched, over pursed milk-ingesting lips, as Judas and Jesus and the Disciples and the Jews sang about God and their fates. And then at the end of Act One, he clapped and clapped, as if he knew what he was doing. I was so very proud.

During intermission, I carried him out and took him to the front of the stage. (He kept pointing there after the applause simmered down.) When we got there, he motioned that I place him on the stage itself. I told him that I can only put him there after the show, because the stage still belonged to the performers, and we must respect performers. Part of me felt like he understood, but he was probably just distracted by the audience milling about behind him. I couldn’t help but feel proud, though.

After the show, during company call, I took him to the stage, as promised. Max stood alongside proud and exhausted actors, and he looked delighted. And then the actors all crossed to stage right to listen to their director, and Max ran with them—this tiny baby, alongside dozens of happy sweaty actors. It looked like a happy Lion King stampede. I freaked out and jumped on stage and caught him, thanks to one of my friends who stopped Max, making sure he wouldn’t get Mufasa’d. And then Max became sad.

Maybe it was because he was prevented from doing something he enjoyed. Maybe it was because a stranger made physical contact him. I’m not sure. Part of me is worried that picking him up snuffed out a just-kindled desire for being onstage in front of an audience. But if this whole experience has taught us anything, it’s that I shouldn’t underestimate Max.

I can’t wait to be in a theatre with him again.