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. ❤
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.
So, I got a new phone. Mikey gifted me with an iPhone X for Valentine’s Day and our anniversary. He bought it from a friend at a really good price and presented it to me. I have to admit, at first, I was more interested in flipping it. We could have easily made a good profit. But Mikey said that he wanted me to have the phone because I was with Max all day long and he wanted really good photos and videos of him (my trusty iPhone SE started having microphone issues). So after negotiating with him all night long (we agreed to sell a bunch of things so it doesn’t feel like we paid too much for a phone), I accepted his wonderful gift.
And boy am I happy that I did! I LOVE IT! I love all the nice photos I can take of Max and I love that I don’t have to worry about my microphone going kaput when Max says the strangest things. And the icing on top of this super expensive cake? WIRELESS CHARGING! When you’re sandwiched in between two boys in the dark, it’s hard to look for your cable without waking anyone up.
Here are some of my favorite photos from the last three weeks or so:
If there’s one thing that’s been pretty consistent this season, its Max’s drool. All of his teeth decided to start popping this year! Before the New Year, he only had four teeth. Now, in addition to his two top teeth and his two bottom ones, he has 4 new molars and 4 new front teeth. Hopefully, he gets a break soon.
Because of his teething, Max spends a lot of his time latched at night (especially when the molars were erupting). But I’m so glad that he’s on a pretty predictable nap schedule now! He can nap twice a day, but usually, he has a long nap after lunch (about 2-3 hours).
Max’s play behaviour is so interesting now. He likes to stack things and try to carry them while they’re stacked. He also likes to line stuff up and put toys on ledges. He engages in pretend play a lot too! Usually he’ll pretend that anything circular is a car wheel. He also pretends to eat his toys too! He’ll take a pretend bite and say “amm!”
We still have a really happy camper! Max easily smiles and laughs with us. His joy is our joy. We live a joyful home. Let’s eat Chicken Joy!
Max always looks for his Papa when he’s out. His first words in the morning are usually “Papa?”. When he’s playing and he sees something he normally uses with his Papa (like the guitar), he’ll call out for his Papa and run to our front door. Whenever Mikey gets home, Max runs to him and hugs him. He’s so in love with his Papa.
The first photo on the left isn’t the nicest photo. In fact, it’s a screen shot from a video. I was on the can taking care of my business when Squish refused to leave me. He’s going through a strange clingy stage where he prefers that I’m always near him. When I’m eating at the dining table, Max will pull my hand and make me sit on the couch to watch him play (even when Lola Myrna offers to play with him). It can get tiring sometimes, but he won’t always want to play with me. Some day, all he will want is space. So I’ll enjoy this while it lasts. ❤
Here’s Squish’s second ID photo. He looks the same and different from the first one he took. There’s more thought behind his eyes now. In this photo, he’s thinking: “why am I standing on a chair in this small room, with Momma and Papa holding my legs while they are kneeling on the floor? Who is that man and why is he pointing that black box at me?”
After a day with my new phone, I told Mikey that the phone was magical because it made Squish look so handsome in photos. Mikey said that Squish is handsome and that the iPhone X can finally capture him in all his glory. Hehehe. Oh well. I made sure to toddler-proof my phone by getting an Otter Box. It was well worth it because one week in and Squish already ran off with it and playfully tossed it.
Usually, I think of Max at his worst, most animalistic self, and I make sure that I’m prepared for that. When we’re out, I scan the area and see where Max could get hurt or inconvenience others. I try to avoid places that aren’t baby/toddler/kid friendly. I’ve declined invitations to go to really fancy restaurants because I worry that Max will bother the other customers. I want Max to have fun, but not at the expense of other people.
I underestimate Max all the time.
When Mikey told me that he wanted us to watch Jesus Christ Superstar (staged by The Rude Mechanicals and kids from the Tuloy Foundation) at Insural Life Theater in Alabang, I thought that we would take turns playing with Max outside. So, I agreed. On the day of the play, we were on our way home from my mom’s birthday celebration in Tagaytay (and on our way to Alabang) when Mikey said that he thought we could watch together with Max. I immediately argued and said that he would make too much noise and I didn’t want to bother the audience. Mikey said he would take care of it. He said that we should try and that if he freaks out, he’ll walk out with Max.
My brain went kind of haywire. More often than not, Mikey lets me take the lead in figuring out what’ll work for Max. But he seemed confident in his decision and I have to admit that I really wanted to watch the entire play. I calmed myself down and trusted that Mikey would take care of it if Max started freaking out.
When we got to the theater, Max was happy and clam. He was pointing out all the new things he was seeing. When we bought the tickets, the lady looked at Max worriedly. She asked Mikey if he would be okay during the show (in my head: I’m super worried too!). Mikey assured her that he would take him out if he started to make any kind of noise. When we got into the theater, I told Mikey that we should get seats by the exit so that we could run out if Max started acting out. When we got settled in our seats, Max was curious about the theater, he kept wanting to go up and down the aisle. Mikey let him explore while we waited for the show to start, but as soon as the lights went out, Mikey sat down beside me with Squish on his lap.
Max was sitting down with Mikey during the first few minutes, but after a while, Max asked to come to me. I sat him down on my lap and then he hugged me tightly while watching. I think the darkness, loud music, and bright stage lights scared him for a while. Eventually, he let go from the hug and just sat on my lap. He watched the entire first act quietly and clapped with everyone at the end!
I was stunned! During the entire first act, my heart was beating so fast and I was half ready to jump out of my seat and run out of the theater. I couldn’t believe that he quietly sat through the entire first act!
During intermission, I told Mikey that Max needed to run around. Mikey took him around the lobby and to say hello to some of his friends. When the second act began, Max wasn’t ready to sit down just yet. So, I told Mikey that I would run around with him outside until he was ready to come in. After 10 minutes of running and exploring, I asked him if he wanted to join his Papa and he nodded so we went back to the theater. When we went in, we were just standing by the exit and Mikey joined us. Max wanted his Papa to carry him. I sat down and eventually, they sat down next to me. Max watched for a bit, but after a while he asked for me and tugged at my shirt. He started to breastfeed, and he fell asleep for the rest of the second act. It turned out well because the second act gets gory towards the end. Hahaha. He woke up during the curtain call when the audience was roaring and applauding. He joined them in the applauding. I think he really enjoyed the parts of the show he got to watch.
Again, I was floored. He could have played the fussy card, instead he quietly asked for milkies and fell asleep in my arms. I need to learn to trust my child (and husband—hahaha) more. I can’t believe that he almost missed out on this experience because I was afraid. I wonder how many potentially successful experiences I’ve deprived him of already? Oh well. I shall do better. Max deserves better.
Looking back, I think there were a few things that helped make the evening a success:
Max played all morning in Tagaytay with my folks. He was allowed to run freely and play during the morning. There wasn’t a lot of pent up frustration in him and I think that helps when you’re planning to have a toddler sit down for an extended period of time.
Max napped really well right before the play. On our way down from Tagaytay, Max fell asleep almost immediately. In fact, he was still asleep when we got to Alabang. Mikey said that we should let him sleep some more so we actually hung out in the parking lot until he woke up. He slept for about 3 hours.
Max ate before the play. Mikey suggested that we get a bite to eat before we head to the theater. We weren’t really hungry and we didn’t even finish our order. But Max had a lot of tofu and had a lot of miso soup. I think he would have been fussy if he was hungry.
Seats by the exit. It helped during the beginning of the second act when Max wasn’t ready to sit down yet. It also helped calm my nerves because I could make a quick getaway with the toddler if I needed to!
We’re so glad that Max got to watch his first play! ❤️ We’ll be on the lookout for more age appropriate shows. Maybe he’ll be able to sit through an entire show the next time we go! ❤️
“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” -Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail
As a child, I would get yelled at by an aunt/tutor for making up stories based on the picture in books instead of reading the words. It took me a few years before I could disassociate those negative experiences with books and discover how much fun reading was.
I have to admit, as a former preschool teacher (and Developmental Psychology major), I have a bias for books. I want Max to be a lifelong learner and developing a love for reading is instrumental in that. Also, in grad school, I did an annotated bibliography on the effects of joint book reading on toddlers (c. 2000s) and toddlers’ whose parents read to them regularly (regardless of the type of book or variety—the effects were the same even if you read the same book over and over again) had better emotional regulation skills because they could identify emotions more accurately than toddlers who weren’t read to.
But what I’ve learned in my preschool classrooms and in my grad school classes (and basically every single day I deal with Max) is that readiness is key. And interest is usually a great indication of readiness. He needs to be interested to be able to successfully engage in any activity. Forcing or tricking him will only lead to short term success and frustration (for the both of us).
All I can do is provide a stimuli that hopefully piques his interest. Here’s how we do it in our crazy home:
We made books readily available. This is why I was adamant about getting Max his front facing bookshelf. This is the same kind of shelf we used in my preschool classroom and I remember how inviting our reading nook was. Kids would just gravitate towards the area and pick out books to read. I tried to recreate a similar nook at home. Every now and then, Max will pick out a book all by himself and sit on his little couch and “read”. Whenever he does this, I feel like the money we spent was worth it. I figure, if he sees it regularly, he’s more likely to be interested in it!
We offered books that are related to what he’s interested in. Max went through a serious wheels-on-the-bus phase. He loved pointing out vehicles and he calls all types of land vehicles “buh” (bus). So we got him a few vehicle board book to show him that he could see buses in videos, in real life, and in books! It was a hit! He would just pick up the book, hand it to us, and say: vrrrrooom vrrrooom! Buh! And then we’d go through the book together.
We made read-aloud time a routine. I started reading to Max when he was a few days old. When I first started doing it, it was because I had absolutely no idea how to get through the day with an infant. Reading was comforting to me, so I thought it might help time pass while we waited for Mikey to come home. At around two months, I started noticing that Max would really pay attention when I would read to him. By five months, if he was near a book, he would sit and turn the pages on his own during free play. I tried reading every day, but it also depends on what we were up to that day. If he was happy playing with bowls all day, I would let him. Or if I was too tired, we’d just have a slow paced free play day (and maybe some screen time too, hahaha). It was only a few weeks before his first birthday that we made a serious effort to read to Max during bedtime. He loves it! He memorized some of his favorites and acts out the parts that Mikey and I dramatize. He also imitates the characters in the books. When Chu the Panda sleeps at the end of the book, he pretends to sleep too.
We try to model book reading behavior. It takes me so long to finish books now because I’m so used to uninterrupted-coffee-and-alone-time reading scenarios. I become unmotivated to read when I know that I’ll be interrupted. And since the quality of my nighttime sleep hasn’t really improved*, I still look forward to napping with Squish in the afternoon. But whenever I do get to read in Max’s presence, he’s always so curious about my book. When he was younger, he used to put one of his books on top of mine while I was reading. But now that he’s in the phase where he imitates everything we do, I’ve seen him grab a book whenever I read and pretend to read too! So hopefully, the more we model reading, the more it’ll rub off on him!
We visit bookstores like it’s a toy store. I’m still really sad that we don’t have local community libraries here. My childhood was filled with afternoons of walking to the library with my mom and checking out books. I remember how important I felt when I was given my library card! It was the only card I had in my wallet (my next card was my Pepsi Max card that I won after correctly identifying Pepsi over the next leading brand in a taste test). The closest thing we have to a library here are bookstores. Whenever we’re in a mall, we always try to stop by the bookstore. We point out familiar objects or characters on book covers and if there are unsealed board books, we encourage him to flip through it. When I have extra money from a gig, I always set some aside so that Max can pick out a book when we’re out.
I realize that nowadays we do a lot of our reading on our iPhones/iPads but for now, we’re sticking to real books because Max associates gadgets with videos. I’m so happy that Squish sees reading as a family activity! When he picks a book from his library, he usually brings it to us so that we could read to him. Sometimes, he’ll walk away before we finish, and other times he’ll keep bringing us more when we’re done. Hopefully, his love for books and reading will grow. I can’t wait to share all of my favorites with him when he’s older. And Mikey has a whole box of comic books waiting for him too!
*Co-sleeping = constantly Tetris-ing myself to find a good sleeping spot
Back in the day (the day being my life pre-Squish), I would make sure that I made time for myself. In those days, me-time activities were very self-indulgent. I would spend hours in a coffee shop doodling, reading, or writing. I would binge watch television shows or movies. I would get a massage, manicure, or a foot spa. Heck, I would spend evenings jogging taking long walks around a nice neighborhood. And me-time was always more fun when Mikey was around!
When Squishy was born, I was afraid that I would never be able to have me-time again. But we were able to re-introduced me-time slowly. It started when Squish was 3 months old. Mikey would take Squish with him in the mall and I would go off to get my eyebrows done or get waxed. Or I would take Squish with me while Mikey had a haircut. But at that point, we would take it an hour at a time.
At around 5 months, I was able to have a work meeting that lasted for about two hours. Max and Mikey sat at the table across the restaurant. Late last year, we realized that we could leave Max with his Lola Myrna for 2-3 hours at a time. Now that he’s eating real food, he only needs to breastfeed when he’s about to sleep. So Mikey and I pilot-tested it during one of his breaks in November. After breakfast, we snuck out for coffee and some couple time. When we got back, Max was clingy, but he was perfectly fine!
I took advantage of it during the holidays. I had so many errands to run—I needed to go to my old University a few times and I had to get a lot of Christmas shopping done. I asked Lola Myrna to watch Max in the morning a few times. I just needed to be back home in time for his nap (at around 1:00 PM). I would usually leave at 10:00 AM and I’d be back by 12:30-1:00 PM. Mikey and I even got to have a 2 hour anniversary eve celebration when we left Max with his Lola Myrna during dinnertime.
At first, it’s difficult to stop thinking and worrying. I used to take me about an hour before I could chill and enjoy my freedom. It was especially hard when I had to do Christmas shopping. I felt so guilty the first two times I did it that I ended up buying him toys.
It’s much easier to have *me*-time when it’s for work. I don’t feel as guilty. Today, I finished my work faster than I anticipated so I had a good two hours left for myself. It’s funny how efficient you become when you’re a mom and you feel like all the time you have for yourself is borrowed.
I texted Mikey to thank him for giving me some time last night to prep (it made work so much easier). He told me that I should reward myself. When he said that, the possibilities seemed endless for a few minutes:
What should I do? Should I get my nails done? Should I order another cup of coffee and read my book? Should I get a haircut? A movie maybe?
While I was figuring out what to do, I remembered that we ran out of Chuckie and fresh milk for Max. And there were other things I needed to pick up as well. So I took out my note pad and drew up a grocery list. Hahaha. My me-time has evolved into efficiently getting my work done so that I can take a leisurely trip to the groceries. This is my life now. Haha.
Despite the change, there’s very little to complain about. When I was waiting in line at the checkout counter, I was going through Timehop and ogling at baby Squishy’s photos. Things are different now, but Mikey and I had the privilege of choosing all of this. And while there are times when we miss our old life, we really wouldn’t trade these Squishy Days for anything.
The holidays came and went. I’m so grateful for the time my little family got to spend together during the break. We even had the chance to mend our Christmas hangover with a quick trip to Tagaytay.
There’s so much I want to write about, but I didn’t want to spend too much of Mikey’s break doing something that didn’t involve them. But now that Mikey’s at work and Lola Myrna is taking Max for a walk in our apartment, I can guiltlessly type away!
December was jam-packed with parties and dinners and errands! But I think that one of the highlights was something that had both very little and very much to do with Christmas—Star Wars: The Last Jedi!
The Last Jedi was the first movie I saw since I gave birth to Squish. I think I was at the beginning of my third trimester when I last saw a movie (maybe one of the X-men movies?). After that, I was too big and bloated to sit for 2 hours straight.
There have been movies (and plays that I really wanted to see since Squish was born, but because I was breastfeeding him and I was his primary caregiver, none of them seemed important enough for me to leave my baby for a few hours. And Mikey, being the trooper that he is, generally went on this movie diet with me (save for a few plays that he went to see). But we told ourselves that when The Last Jedi came out, we would find a way to go see it.
Now that Max has three full meals a day, it’s easier to leave him. He really only needs to breastfeed when he’s about to sleep. And he’s down to one long nap a day. But I still feel bad about leaving him. When I leave him with his Lola Myrna in the morning to run errands, I can barely relax. I keep worrying about him. It takes about an hour and a half for me to acclimate to my new freedom, but by then, I’m usually done with my errands and I’m on my way home. Mentally, it’s easier for me to leave Max with Mikey.
Mikey really wanted us to see the movie together. Our friends even offered to babysit Max for us. But I told Mikey that if I left Max with anyone else but him, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the movie. I would keep checking on Max. So we decided to take turns and watch the movie by ourselves. Mikey saw the movie on opening night (December 13) while I stayed at home with Squish. And I saw the movie the next night. Mikey and Squish hung out at the mall while I watched the movie. I told Mikey that it would be easier for him if they stayed at home where Squish can roam freely with little supervision, but Mikey had a few errands and was drunk on coffee so he was pretty confident that everything would be fine.
We had an early dinner at a restaurant near the cinemas. And the boys walked me to my movie. I was very excited. I’m not sure if I was more excited because of the movie itself or because it was the first movie I would watch in a year and half where I knew that I would not be interrupted.
When we bought the tickets, I was a little scandalized by the price. It was Php 450.00 for a ticket (about USD 9.00). The last time I saw a movie, I think it was less than half the price! But we went to one of those fancier cinemas that had La-Z-Boys and seated less people. They even had a butler service and gave us free popcorn! I guess it was worth the splurge since that was how I broke my movie fast—and it was Star Wars after all!
It turns out, it was the perfect movie to watch too! It was an escapist film full of characters that I’ve been invested in since I was a kid. I really enjoyed the pacing of the movie! I was so worried that I would fall asleep halfway through (just because I hadn’t had uninterrupted sleep in about a year and a half), but I didn’t! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time—crying and laughing and aww-ing! I left the cinema pumped up and fire bellied. I was armed with a new mantra for life and parenthood (thanks Rose!):
“That’s how we’re gonna win—not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”
I was so excited to see my boys! I found them at a restaurant having a second dinner. Mikey was eating chicken wings and feeding Squish potato soup. They looked war-torn, but happy. (Apparently, Max suddenly had a distaste for his stroller, so Mikey had to chase him around the mall while pushing the stroller around. Hahaha.)
Star Wars was a gift that kept giving to this homely stay-at-home-parent! The high lasted all throughout the whole break (and even up to now!). Mikey and I geeked out over it with our friends online (Hello, Star Wars Appreciation Group!). And we loved all the Star Wars themed presents Max got. It’s a great time to be a fan! ❤
Maybe one day soon, Mikey and I will be able to go on a date and watch a movie together. But for now, I’m happy that we have a game plan for when either of us really wants to see a movie.