5 Squishy Homeschool Essentials

I like to refer to our family as accidental homeschoolers. We never imagined that we would be homeschooling Max. But online schooling didn’t work for him. 

There are days when I feel like I’m a joke and nothing’s working. And then there are magical days where he spontaneously exhibits a skill we’ve been practicing for weeks. Mostly though, we have in-between days. A mix of the same old boring things (phonics and numbers) and a sprinkle of magic (deep dives into special projects like volcanoes and dinosaurs). 

When it comes to homeschooling, I quickly realized that Max doesn’t really need much. As long as he has an attentive parent, some paper, and pencils, he’s pretty much good to go. 

Honestly, I do most of the homeschool wanting. I temper this wanting with the reality that we’ve only committed to homeschooling this year. (So I really have to stop shopping like I’m putting up my own school. Hahaha.)  

Although, I have to admit that there are a couple of things that have really helped make our homeschool journey more convenient. I juggle work, chores, and my marriage, so I’m a fan of anything relatively inexpensive that helps lighten the load. So here are some of our Squishy homeschool essentials~~

Squishy Homeschooling Essentials: 5 Things We Can’t Don’t Want to Live Without

1. Printer

Before we got a printer, I made everything by hand. My sweet little boy would wow at everything I made. It was actually fun, but it took A LOT of time. 

The internet is a treasure trove of materials. So many kind souls let you download their original teaching materials for free. From worksheets to learning games, I’ve downloaded and printed a whole school year’s worth of activities. 

On top of that, it’s so easy to customize your own learning materials these days. From Canva templates to tracing fonts, it’s so easy to make your own learning materials. 

Tip: Get a printer that uses an ink tank rather than cartridges—you’ll save a lot of money. If you can, don’t skimp on your printer. We saved a few thousand pesos on getting an older printer model, but I now wish we splurged on a wifi printer.  

2. Electric Fans

We’re very fortunate to have an apartment that gets alot of natural light. Being bathed in sunlight helps wake us up and energizes us for the day (especially since we can’t really go out that much). 

There’s a downside though—it can get pretty hot sometimes (especially during the summer). We have an air conditioner, but we try not to turn it on to save money. It gets so hot sometimes that Squish complains that he’s too sweaty to do homeschool. 

So when I found these affordable electric fans, I knew we had to get it. It was originally for Mikey’s office, but we ended up using it. It circulates the air really well. I also love how it’s small enough to neatly tuck under Max’s desk. 

3. Online Second-Hand Book Sellers

I’ve already written about how much I love online second-hand book sellers, but they really do make homeschooling a lot easier. I love using books to introduce topics or activities. I also use books to tie up different skills and lessons. 

I’m not a very creative person, so I lean on books to help make things come alive for Max. Plus, I really want Squish to love reading. I want him to be a lifelong learner and I believe that reading plays a huge role in that. 

I’m very biased towards physical books (over ebooks). Screens are so engaging and I can already see his natural interest in them, but I really want him to learn to love physical books. 

Brand new books are really expensive here, so I love that I can get good quality second-hand books for a fraction of the price. Apart from the stores I mentioned in my previous post, here are some new online stores that I love:

  • Papyrus Book Shop Ph (Instagram only) – I just discovered this Cebu-based store this week. I love how organized the seller is. She posts teasers so you can turn on notifications ahead of time. She also lets me reserve books based on the post. 
  • Book Cellar Manila (Instagram and Facebook) – This store posts regularly and it’s one of my go-tos because the shipping isn’t as expensive as the other stores. They feature a lot of Japanese authors and we also got our first Gail Gibbons book from them! 
  • Books Curated by Teacher Cam (Instagram only) – The owner doesn’t post as often as the other stores do, but I can tell that the books are carefully and thoughtfully selected. I’ve only been able to buy a few titles from her, but they’re all life-changing books
  • BookDistrict (Instagram only) – This Bulacan based store is one of my favorites. From amazing Rosemary Wells finds to our first Aliki, I’ve gotten gem after gem after gem from Book Cellar (and at really great prices too). 

Tip: If you’re buying second-hand books from an online seller on Instagram or Facebook, ask about the “pile” option. Some sellers allow you to pile your purchases to maximize the shipping fee. 

4. Dry Erase Board

When kids are learning to read and write, modeling helps. So having a handy dry erase board is very convenient. You can show them how to make the right strokes for the letters or you can write words slowly as you sound them out. 

Early on during the pandemic, Squish was given a Crayola easel with a blackboard and a dry erase board. There are wooden easels for kids that aren’t as colorful as the Crayola one. (If you have a small living space and you’re worried about having too many kiddie colors, this might be a better option.) 

Our Crayola easel has been very useful for homeschooling. The dry erase board also works with magnets, so we post words and pictures up on it all the time. 

I also got a smaller dry erase board with writing lines from Shopee. It’s great for Max to practice writing on. It also comes in handy when I need a makeshift board for sensory activities. 

Tip: If you’re getting an easel with a dry erase board, look for ones with additional storage. Ours came with four bins (just enough to store magnets, chalk, markers, and erasers), but I’ve seen ones that have an additional tray in between the two boards. Never say no to more storage (see below)!

5. Storage Solutions

Storage is the most underrated gift! If I could go back in time and change my baby registry, I would’ve skipped the clothes and registered for more storage. Once you start homeschooling, you’re going to need more!

For some reason, I’m less impatient when things are orderly. So I usually start my homeschool day by organizing our work area. (I usually end the homeschool day organizing too, but Squish usually finds his way there again at some point). 

Don’t get me wrong—our entire apartment gets really, really messy. Mess is inevitable with young children. It’s proof of life. 

When there’s mess, there’s usually a lot of living and learning going on, so I don’t necessarily hate mess. I just need to feel like I have some control over it. 

Mess is even more overwhelming when you don’t know where to put things. Having dedicated storage for everything saves a lot of time and it makes clean-up brainless. Having specific boxes for specific toys also makes it easier for Squish to clean up by himself. 

Here are some of my favorite homeschool storage solutions:

  • Ziplock bags – I use ziplock bags in various sizes to organize all of our reading and math materials and manipulatives. I like to buy good quality bags because I reuse them a lot. I’m still using the set I got from Daiso.
  • Storage boxes I get storage boxes in various sizes and types. Sometimes, I even use food storage boxes. We have a storage box for each toy category and we do the same for his larger homeschool materials. We have boxes dedicated to puzzles and math manipulatives. (I’m hoping to get a good deal on a couple of art caddies soon—wish me luck!)
  • Bookshelves – We have three main bookshelves for Sqish’s books. Two large ones in the bedroom and one Ikea FLISAT book display in his homeschool area. I try to organize the book by theme, but it always ends up messy. I like having a small one by his homeschool area to highlight the topics/themes we’re taking up at the moment. 
  • Cubbies – We have one cubby by his homeschool area and that’s where we keep his finished work binders (and a bunch of other spillover art materials and books). I have loads of binders from work, so I’m reusing them now to file Max’s work. (A three-hole punch is such a worthy investment!)
  • Rolling carts – I made my little brother hunt down this rolling cart for me in Landers. It was on sale for Php 1,600.00 then and S&R had the exact same thing but was Php 500.00 more expensive! I use these drawers to store our “active” homeschool supplies and materials. It’s where I keep all of the worksheets and centers I’ll need for the next few weeks. It’s also where I store all the supplies Max can use whenever he wants (paper, tape, and other coloring implements). 

Tips: If you want to foster independence, try to make your storage kid-friendly (ex: easy to open boxes, low shelves, etc.). Max knows that he can use all of the materials in our homeschool area. So it really helps if he can access them without any help. 

While it wasn’t what we planned, I really want to make the most out of this year with Max. I love that I’m getting to know him and his learning quirks. Sometimes though, I feel like I’m learning a lot more than Max is. 

We Have a Four Year Old!

It’s almost the end of October and I haven’t done my annual birthday Squishy post. Max is now FOUR years old! Oh my goodness. We celebrated his quarantine birthday at home with swimming, balloons, and all of his favorite food. 

I don’t always notice how much he’s grown in person. But sometimes, I’ll take a photo and it’ll surprise me. 

He’s taller now. His height is a constant reminder that we’re quickly leaving the toddler years behind. I miss my chunky, wobbly walker. But I have to admit, I do love his growing independence. 

Just in the span of our quarantine lockdown, Squish has learned to do so many things on his own. Here are some of our “I’m a big boy” milestones. 

Suppahhh Proud: 5 Big Boy Milestones We’re Thankful For

1. Potty Training

Woohoo! He’s had peeing down for a while, but it took him a while to let go of his diaper for pooping. We had nowhere to go, so we weren’t really rushing the process. 

But one day, all of a sudden, he just got on the toilet bowl to do his business! It was so abrupt that I still have a huge pack of diapers in storage for him. 

Like most of Max’s milestones, I have to respect his readiness. I can get panicky about his development, but rushing him doesn’t lead to lasting and real change. If anything, it just makes for a frustrated momma and squishy. 

Now, whenever he poops, we still do a celebratory dance. And for some reason, pooping on the toilet kind of helped his constipation problems. 

2. Independent Play

We established a pretty structure scheduled for our weekdays/homeschooling days. Here’s what we usually do:

  • Wake-up (usually by 8:00 AM) / Paps already clocked in
  • Breakfast (just me and Max)
  • Free play / Mama starts some chores
  • Homeschool (usually by 9:00 or 9:30 AM) 
  • Free play / Mama cooks lunch (usually by 11:00 AM)
  • Family lunch ❤
  • Free play / Mama works
  • Nap time / Mama works
  • TV time / Mama works and Papa makes dinner
  • Family Dinner ❤
  • Family play time (also when I sneak away to have me-time)
  • Bedtime routine
  • Sleep 

There are days when Max really wants someone to play with and I give in (especially when there aren’t any deadlines looming). But for the most part, he understands the structure of our day and knows when he can expect more attention from us. 

This didn’t happen overnight though. It took some time for him to get used to it. Yesterday, I had a meeting before his nap and I didn’t have to set up a show for him. It was the first time I didn’t resort to screen time to babysit him while I was in a meeting. 

As soon as I said goodbye though, he was right there waiting for me with a toy! Hahaha. It’s actually very sweet that he wants to play with us (especially on days when I don’t have a lot on my plate). 

3. Chores and Self-Help Skills

Last year, we finally caved and decided to hire part-time household help. Our helper came in a couple of times a week to help with chores. I started to take on more work and Max started school, so the timing was great. 

Unfortunately, the lockdown happened and public transportation was restricted to frontliners. Even when things slowly opened up for us, it wasn’t safe to have someone come in and out of our home on a regular basis. So we decided that it was best for everyone to part ways for now. 

Thankfully, we have a little helper in Max! He is always curious about what we’re doing and is eager to try. Here are a few chores and self-help skills he can now confidently do by himself:

  • Dress himself
  • Pack away his toys
  • Set the table
  • Prepare his own snack
  • Get himself a drink
  • Put his used plates in the sink
  • Dry himself after a bath

He also helps me out with the laundry by letting me know when it’s time to turn off the water (our set-up is very primitive). There were some slip-ups at the beginning, but it’s totally worth it in the long run! 

4. Nap Time

As I type this sentence, I’m sitting next to a curled up Squishy who put himself to sleep. After the nap wars of 2019, I didn’t think this was possible! 

At the beginning of the lockdown, Max actually stopped napping in the afternoon. He used to nap automatically after school because he would be up so early. But I guess he needed to adjust his energy expenditure when we were at home all day.  

A few months in though, I decided that it was time to reintroduce naptime. It was a little annoying at first because I needed to lay down and snuggle with him. I would end up falling asleep and lose prime working hours. 

Once we established our routine though, it got a whole lot easier! He would be the one to tell me that it was time to nap. Eventually, he didn’t need me to snuggle with him anymore. He would roll around the bed until I noticed that he wasn’t moving anymore. At some point, I started taking my laptop in with me and continued working as he put himself to sleep. 

He still needs me to come into the room and sit with him, but I feel like it won’t be too long before I can just send him in by himself. Just today, I simply led him to the bed and I went to the bathroom. When I was done with my business, I came back and he was already asleep! 

5. Work-in-Progress: Eating By Himself 

Mealtimes are special for us because that’s when we usually get to sit as a family without a lot of other distractions. Even in our humble apartment, it’s still very easy to let the day go by without really spending any family time together. 

So Max LOVES to talk when it’s lunch or dinner. He has a lot to say for a four year old. So the talking can get in the way of the eating. And he still prefers it if we feed him. 

But in the last few weeks he’s gotten a lot better at eating by himself. We explained that when we feed him, Mama and Papa can’t enjoy their own food. 

He still needs help in cutting up his food and scooping up all with his spoon, but there’s progress! And we’re very big believers in celebrating progress and not just successes. Hahaha.

(We found Squishy’s internet twin.)

I can’t believe we have a four year old. He’s such a goofy, funny, curious, and happy kid. (Also going through a very serious dinosaur phase. The read alouds are killing me! Why do dinosaur names have to be so complicated!)

People keep implying that we should have another kid because we’ll miss the baby stage, but we don’t really get it. Don’t get me wrong—I LOVED baby Max. I loved those endless afternoons of sitting in bed with a sweet-smelling blob of a baby on my chest. Toddler Max was also endlessly cute, with the one-word sentences and drunk-like movements. 

But four-year old Max is still pure magic. He keeps us on our toes. We’re still taking it all in with the same awe and wonder. ❤ 

Shocking the System (For Squishy)

A few weeks back, important race-related issues began flooding my feed. My first reaction was pretty selfish. I thought, “everything is so crazy. Is this something that I even have the mind space for right now?”

Almost instantly, I get an answer: my silly little three-year-old walks into the kitchen and asks for a glass of milk.

Yes. I should, at the very least, absolutely have the mind space for it. Because Max would not exist in this world if racism was something I was OK with.

So I’m really grateful that Stan agreed to share his experiences in Mikey’s podcast.
I spent years struggling with the reality of never being Chinese enough and, at the same time, never being Filipino enough either. I wish that I knew someone like Stan when I was growing up—someone who wasn’t afraid of starting difficult conversations about what it means to be Chinese-Filipino.

I am a proud Chinese-Filipino woman raising an amazing Chinese-Filipino son with my kick-ass Filipino husband. By no means are we perfect or exempt from having prejudices, but we have to try to be better.

These episode of Mikey’s podcast are our attempt to start a conversation with the hopes of becoming better.

Our language shapes our reality, so maybe it’s time to start learning new words.

If any of this resonates with you and you feel like talking about it, please don’t hesitate contact us! ❤ 


Episode 3|Episode 4

First Squishy Days Unboxing Video

So, we spontaneously decided to record an unboxing video this morning. I apologize for my unkempt hair and house clothes, but we had so much fun doing this.

There are very few things that can perk me up before my first cup of coffee, but the cheap + books combo can definitely do it.

It’s kind of long (about 11 minutes), so feel free to stop watching when we get annoying. Hahaha.

This was our third shipment from Booksforless.ph. We ordered it on a Tuesday and we got it on Friday. Pretty good turnaround time.

I’ve been reading about Charlotte Mason’s strategy of using “living books” as a learning tool, so I got really inspired and went on a book binge.

I have to admit though that some of our favorites don’t really fit into the “living books” category. I also don’t think that you can really use this tool across all subject matters. But Max soaks up so much during our read-aloud time, and dabbling in some Charlotte Mason seems like a fun way to shake things up a little.

The Cheapest Book Lover Ever

I absolutely love a good deal. Unless it’s the groceries, I have a hard time buying things at full price. The same is true for books. I love books, especially children’s books, but they can be quite pricey here in the Philippines.

If you buy them new from regular bookstores, they’re usually Php 400.00-800.00 (USD 8.00-16.00) each. So a trip to the bookstore can easily eat up my modest freelancer’s paycheck.

So whenever I could, I would always ask Mikey to give me an hour (or three) so I could shop at Booksale. Booksale is a chain of bookstores that sells secondhand books. They always dedicate a huge section of their store to kid’s books and I could find books for as low as Php 15.00 (USD 0.30) and they’re usually capped off at Php 300.00 (USD 6.00).

When the pandemic and lockdown hit though, I had to be more creative with my bargain book shopping. Over the last month or so, I found online shops that sell and deliver pre-loved books. Here are the three online shops I successfully bought from.

3 Tried and Tested Online Sellers of Secondhand or Discounted Kids’ Books

1. Books for Less

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Second batch of books ordered from Books for Less (still waiting for my first batch).

I loved shopping in Books for Less even before the pandemic. They didn’t have as many physical branches as Booksale, but they would do a lot of pop up stalls in malls every now and then.

I was so happy when I found out that they launched a website during the pandemic. They add new titles every now and then. They have classic best sellers, like Eric Carle or the Dr. Seuss books. But they also have one-off odd ball ones like Dancing With Jesus by Sam Stall.

Here are some other details about this seller:

  • Payment options: PayPal, GCash, and Cash on delivery (COD)
  • Delivery: Store-organized
  • Shipping fee: Standard fee of Php 150 for Metro Manila addresses.

Favorite thing about this seller: Unlike most secondhand book sellers, they have a dedicated website where you can just keep adding titles to a cart. I like this because I’ll add all the titles I want first and then go through them again before I checkout.

Confuzzlement: Their payment verification process for Gcash payments is kind of confusing. The website says you just need to send verification to another mobile number (different from the GCash number where you send your payment to). And then you’ll receive a reply from the second number to re-send the verification to their FB Messenger account (and only then will your order be processed). So even though I paid already, it took another day for them to pack and ship my orders.

My second order also arrived before my first order, so that was confusing. As of writing, I only have my second order. I’m still waiting for my first order.

2. Bookery for Kids and Mums

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A few of our favorites from Bookery for Kids and Mums.

I’ve been buying from Bookery for Kids and Mums even before the pandemic started. They have a great selection of pre-loved books and new, low-cost editions of more recent titles.

Usually, the owner of the shop will post available titles in batches on Facebook. You go through the photos of the book and comment “MINE” if you want them. It gets pretty intense when new uploads are available—kind of like a bidding war.

I had a specific title in mind for my latest transaction with them, so I just messaged them directly to check for its availability. They had the title and it arrived at our place in two days. It was pretty amazing!

Here are some other details about this seller:

  • Payment options: Bank deposit (BPI, BDO, PNB, and Security Bank) or GCash
  • Delivery: Store-organized
  • Shipping fee: Depends on delivery location (they use Lala Move or ABest Express for Metro Manila deliveries)

Favorite thing about this seller: As Facebook stores go, her store is pretty organized! They also reply pretty quickly. I don’t have trouble navigating through her titles. I also love the variety of titles they carried in the past two years. I think I got most of Max’s “How Do Dinosaurs…” books from them.

3. Book Boutique PH

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I got all of this for Php 745.00 (USD 14.85)—including the shipping fee!

I discovered Book Boutique PH accidentally when it popped up on my Instagram feed (the ad spies are working). After a quick perusal of their Instagram page, I switched over to their FB page because they updated that more regularly.

Just like Bookery for Kids and Mums, they have a first-come-first serve commenting system. But apart from this, you need to take screenshots of the books you want and send them via FB Messenger as well.

They have an interesting selection of books. I found Japanese Children’s book which are always quirky and fun! They also had a bunch of Rosemary Wells books too.

Here are some other details about this seller:

  • Payment options: Bank deposit (BPI), Palawan/Cebuana/LBC pay, and Paymaya
  • Delivery: Store-organized
  • Shipping fee: Depends on delivery location (they use J&T Express)

Favorite thing about this seller: I love their week long reservation policy. If you want to take advantage of it, you have one week to shop for books. That way, you can make the most out of your delivery fees incase they add new titles during your reservation period.

Confuzzlement: Certain photos have comments that are hidden (I think it’s set to “show relevant” rather than “show all”), so sometimes you don’t know if the books are already reserved/sold. They verify this pretty quickly though when you chat them up on FB Messenger.

While I always try to honor Max’s natural interests, I have to admit that I try to sway his interest towards books whenever I can. Heck, we’ve been reading to Max even before he was born. I’m just glad that we’ve found an affordable way to keep getting him books even though we’re on lockdown. ❤

And Here We Are

I never thought I would ever seriously consider homeschooling Max. I joke a lot about slowly turning our little apartment into a pre-school, but not in a million years did I consider homeschooling.  

I know that our educational system has serious problems and it’s far from perfect. But when schools and teachers care about their students, even when they don’t have a lot going for them, amazing things can happen. I’ve seen it happen many times over. I wanted that for Max.

We were so excited when Max started school last year. We were excited about what he would learn about himself and the world. I never imagined that the world would turn upside down. 

We’re about eight weeks into an enhanced community quarantine. Basically, only one member of each household is allowed to leave to buy essentials.  This means that Max and I haven’t been outside our apartment for two months. 

It hasn’t been that bad for me. I love my boys and the days go by pretty quickly. But my heart aches for my three-year-old who loves connecting with other kids. 

So here we are. It’s been a month since Max’s teacher decided to hold regular online “classes”. Before that, she would just send a list of to-dos for us to accomplish every day. At first, I thought the online classes would be great, but they’ve actually been problematic.

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Circle time at home. Each Duplo represents a classmate that he misses.

Depending on the day, 2-3 teachers will send videos, instructions for activities, or Zoom links for “online classes” between 8:45-11:30 AM. The videos and activities aren’t too bad because we can do them at our own pace, but the online Zoom classes have been a huge struggle for us. Max and I end up fighting because these classes require sitting in front of a screen for 20-30 minutes.

Sometimes, the teachers have intermittent internet connection and there’s a lag or we can’t understand them at all. Even when the internet is stable though, Max doesn’t know who to focus on—his teachers or his classmates (who, naturally, are also active).

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Max’s first zoom class. We were so excited that we dressed up for it. Then we were told that it would happen every day, so we stopped dressing up in fancy clothes. Hahaha. 

It’s been pretty hard. Max and I sometimes end up fighting and we would start off the day on such a foul note. I would end up bribing him with screen time to sit through the whole thing, but he wouldn’t be absorbing anything. I would have to keep repeating the teacher’s instructions so that he could understand what he needed to do. Sometimes, he would have to repeat things multiple times because we wouldn’t be sure if his teacher saw or heard him.    

It works for some of Max’s classmates though. One of them just sits in front of the computer without any supervision. I can’t do that with Max. If I leave him in front of the screen by himself, he’ll lose interest right away and wander off. 

So what ends up happening is that we spend double the time we need to for school. After his morning classes, I spend the afternoon giving him supplementary activities to make up for his Zoom classes. This is especially stressful on the days that I have to focus on work. 

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One day, his teacher reviewed letters A-L during their zoom class and Max didn’t pick up any of it. So I started making him worksheets to help support alphabet awareness. Since then, he’s been working on 1-2 homemade worksheets everyday (we don’t have a printer yet).

It all came to a head one morning when both Max and I were palpably in dread of his online classes. That’s when it hit me—signing on to another year of this is like setting him up for failure.  

That’s not what I want. I want him to LOVE learning. Before all of this happened, Max loved going to school. He would be the happiest boy when I dropped him off and picked him up. Now, he can hardly wait to press the *Leave Meeting* button. Sometimes, I have to physically restrain his hand so he won’t press it. 

We haven’t decided on anything yet, but we’re definitely considering homeschooling him ourselves next school year. What makes this decision scarier is that it’s actually a viable option. 

It feels like a lifetime ago, but I did teach in a preschool and I was somewhat involved in their curriculum management. Mikey also taught preschool music and movement classes for years. And more importantly, we’re super lucky to have friends who are preschool literacy experts and legit homeschooling parents who I can easily run to for advice and support. 

One of my biggest hesitations about all of this is that I love being Max’s mom and I really worry about what this new role will do to our relationship. He’s already calling me Teacher Mama and it kind of makes me uncomfortable. 

After his Zoom classes he’ll sit in the classroom corner of our apartment and say, “Ok. Now you teach me.” It’s cute and I love that he loves spending time with me. But I can feel the pressure rising in my chest when he says things like that. 

When you take on the teacher role, there’s a clear goal that you’re trying to reach. And, with any goal-oriented task, there’s bound to be bouts of frustration if you don’t learn how to manage your expectations. 

I’m already really prone to being anxious about his development, so I worry about adding *real* /concrete learning outcomes in the mix. It’s so much fun to be his mom and I worry that being his official teacher will take away from that. 

It almost feels like we don’t have a choice though. It’ll take some time before there’s a reliable treatment protocol or vaccine. And our country’s testing and contact tracing capacity is nowhere near where it needs to be for me to be confident enough to let Max physically go back to school. 

Nothing is set in stone yet though. Hopefully things will be clearer once we conference with his teacher next week. But I think I already know what I need to do. </3

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Warm Bed Smells

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Hello again dear void. I started this blog because writing helped me navigate through my topsy turvy transition into motherhood. I haven’t updated it lately though. I started a few drafts highlighting our last few travel adventures, but I never got to finish them. 

I’d like to think of it as a good sign. I’m either able to manage my stress better or I’m busy with work (work that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do as a stay-at-home parent).

But with everything that’s going on right now, I find myself starting at this blank screen again. In a crazy turn of events, we’re entering our fifth week of an enhanced community quarantine here in the Philippines. 

What does that mean for us? Basically, we’re only allowed out to buy essentials like food, water, and medicine. Only one member from each family can leave and they need to bring their quarantine pass whenever they go out. For us, that’s Mikey. I don’t know how to drive, so he’s been going to the grocery/drug store for us every other week. 

We’re OK though. Maybe I should have started with that. We love our little apartment (and each other). We’re lucky that a work-from-home is an option for us. We’re close enough to groceries and drug stores, so it’s easy enough to run out and replenish our fridge without going through government checkpoints. We even managed to buy a cheap washing machine because all laundry services have been suspended). 

All things considered, we’re really more than OK. But I still worry. I told Mikey that I think I would be less worried if it were just me and him. But we have Squish. Of the many things I worried about as a first-time parent, a global pandemic was not one of them. 

There was no book or chapter in What to Expect When You’re Expecting to help prepare us for this. Though, I’d like to think that we aren’t failing Max completely. I wish we could add more greens to his meals and be less reliant on screen time for his entertainment. But he seems to be the same happy and silly toddler (and he loves having Mikey at home all day). 

Max is at a great age where you can totally reason with him, so he doesn’t complain much. He gets that there’s a virus out there that we’re trying avoid. When he prays though, he wishes the virus would go away so he could have some Xiao Long Bao again. Hahaha. 

Kids are amazing, aren’t they? They’re more resilient than we give them credit for. Squish is a great reminder of the everyday joy I would miss out on if I let the internet/news consume me. So I don’t. I try to keep informed, but I stop myself from refreshing my feed too often. 

This morning, I woke up earlier than my two boys. I squiggled out of Max’s snuggle, plopped myself on top of Mikey, and inhaled. We were all enveloped in warm bed smells. I didn’t realize how long it was since we regularly had quiet mornings like this. So today, for warm bed smells, I am grateful. 

(Now on to my lasagna. The toddler says that I’m the most beautiful and goodest cooker, so I’m putty in his hands when it comes to his food requests.)

Three Year Old Squishy

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Our three year old Spider-Squish! ❤

During our last visit to the pediatrician, I was carrying Max and another little boy came up to us, pointed at Max, and said: “what a cute baby!”

I just smiled, but Max didn’t think it was funny. With a stern face, he answers the little boy: “I’m not a baby! I’m a big boy! I’m three years old!”

We officially have a three year old! How did this happen? How did we get here? We’re officially on his last year as a toddler. I almost can’t believe it. I still remember holding my little lolo alien baby in my arms.

His third birthday celebration lasted for about a month. We’re not big on big birthday parties so we had a bunch of intimate gatherings throughout the month. Some planned and some accidental, but all equally wonderful.

Max’s first birthday party was at school! I can’t believe we’re having school parties now! It was really simple. I got some cupcakes, juice boxes, pizza, and Jollibee Chicken Joy and spaghetti.

We brought small goodie bags for Max’s classmates, but they loved the cupcakes! I sprinkled some M&Ms on top of them and they went nuts over it. I guess you can’t go wrong with M&Ms and toddlers.

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M&Ms FTW

On the eve of his birthday, Mikey and I set up a small salubong for him. It’s a little tradition we have, and I hope we can continue it until he’s older. We got him a donut (because we ran out of his birthday cupcakes) and we set up his birthday gifts. He blew out the candles and opened his gifts in a frenzy.

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Squish’s birthday donut

We got him a toy cash register and while he was playing with it, he said: “best gift ever!” I like getting him generic toys because I feel like they age better than toys associated with movies or TV shows. Mikey’s the opposite, so he eventually got Max a big Optimus Prime for his birthday too.

On the day of his birthday, we took him to play in Adventure Zone. The yearlong membership was his birthday gift last year and we don’t plan on renewing it again because he’s so busy with school now. As we watched him play, we were feeling sentimental about how much he could do now. He could barely slide by himself when we started. Just like last year, we ended up having a Xiao Long Bao dinner in Din Tai Fung.

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We love the plates they have for kids in DTF.

Mikey planned an impromptu playdate with some good friends, and they ended up in Adventure Zone again the next day. They had so much fun that Max fell asleep right after he had a few bites of his Shake Shack cheeseburger.

He had so much fun that he came down with a really bad cough. He was coughing through his big birthday lunch with my family the next day. But it didn’t stop him from playing with all his new toys with his Ninong Charleston.

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With Ninong Charleston

His last birthday celebration was with his Lala who helped us end the month with a bang. His Lala took him to Toys R Us to pick out his birthday gifts. We also had a great dinner at Sakura Yakiniku, Mikey’s favorite restaurant—and now, one of Max’s too.

Maybe when Max is older and he expresses his desire for a big birthday party, we’ll finally throw him one. But for now, his month-long celebration was pretty perfect.

When Max was about to turn two, everyone warned us about the terrible twos. As the year progressed, I kept thinking: it’s actually not so terrible. In fact, it’s pretty magical. I didn’t want to say it out loud because I was worried about jinxing it.

But now that the terrible twos are over, I can finally admit that it was amazing! I mean, of course there were hard days and I’ve locked myself in a kitchen out of frustration a couple of times. But I got to witness him grow so much in a year. I watched him become more independent and expand his vocabulary. Last year, he only spoke in two- or three-word sentences. These days, we can hardly get a word in without Squish interrupting.

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Squish showing off his robot family

Our world looks so different these days. Max is in school, and, on top of my writing gig, I’ve taken on a research position in my old university. I miss those days when Max and I would spend most of our time at home. It’s been tough to work in family time, but I hope that things will normalize within the month. But maybe more on this later.

Today, I get a rare morning off at Starbucks while I wait for Max. I can finally finish writing this post and watch an episode or two of Downton Abbey. In about half an hour, I’ll start packing up so I can walk back and pick up Squish. A three year old. Who goes to school. WHEN DID ALL OF THIS HAPPEN?!

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How was this three years ago???

 

 

Squishy’s First Day Of School

Dear Max,

Today is your first day of school. How did we get here so quickly? I can still remember the days when the hours would go by so slowly, and yet here we are. It’s your first day of Pre-kindergarten 1.

Pre-kindergarten 1. Is that even a thing? Honestly, if you were a bit more like me, I would’ve kept you at home for another year or so. But you’re 100% you (and a little too much of your Papa).

You’re the little boy who would run up to kids you’ve never met and try to play with them. You’re the little boy who would cry when I would pull you away from them. You’re the little boy who would tell me that you want to go home with strangers. You’re the little boy who’s more excited to play with the kids at Adventure Zone than go on their fancy slides and playhouses.

You *are* a little boy. As much as I’d like you to be, you aren’t a baby anymore either. You have your own thoughts and preferences. And Papa and I see how you light up when you’re around other kids. You’ve also told us many times how much you want to go to school.

While this day came sooner than we expected, we can’t deny how excited we are for you. Your dorky parents are teachers and lifelong learners. So for us, school is magical and ordinary at the same time. We hope that you embrace the regularity and routine that comes with schooling. At the same time, we also hope that school becomes a catalyst of many mind-blowing and life-changing experiences.

You’re only 2 years and 11 months old. While it would be great if you end up mastering your phonics and learning all your numbers, we’d rather you learn how to:

  • securely get along with different people
  • joyfully share what you have
  • patiently wait for your turn
  • confidently explore the world

It’s not always going to be fun. There are times when you’ll be asked to do things you don’t really feel like doing. There may also be times when you won’t get along with a friend. But that’s OK because you’ll learn so much from these instances.

We believe in you bud. You’ve totally got this. We love you.

Love,

Your dorky and sentimental parents

P.S. Don’t grow up too fast

I’ll Do Better Next Time

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Over the weekend, we went to the Greenhills Shopping Center in an attempt to fix my broken iPad. While Mikey took care of the tech stuff, Max and I explored the shopping stalls in the bazaar area.

Max has been such a great trooper lately. We’re so amazed at how far he’s come from the last few months since we’ve weaned. Nap time isn’t a struggle anymore, he’s sitting in his car seat without any trouble (I can finally sit in front with Mikey again!), and he’s slowly learning to regulate his emotions with the help of words.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a willful (and many times a disobedient) toddler, but he’s trying so hard. We’ve also been “working” long hours lately and I can see it take a toll on him. So, to pep up the trip to Greenhills, I told him that he could choose one toy from the bazaar. He was so excited!

We walked around for a bit before we found stalls selling toys. When we finally found one, Max zeroed in on a Frozen themed toy gun. He pulled the trigger and the gun began signing the first two lines of the Let It Go chorus. Over and over again.

I started panicking internally. I didn’t want Max to have access to Elsa singing two lines of Let It Go on demand. I was also pretty sure that Mikey would hate it. So I tried diverting his attention to the other toys. He would look, but he’d keep coming back to the Frozen gun. It didn’t seem like he wanted anything else.

Desperate, I said: “But Max, that’s only for girls.”

I regretted it the moment I said it.

We make every effort to ensure that we don’t develop any gender stereotypes in our home, and certainly not in any toy stores. We know that social biases are already a strong enough influence, and this is why we try to offset this with our own influence on Max. So when I said it, shame washed all over me as my toddler looked at me in confusion.

I try to backtrack and I tell him that he can totally have it if he wants it. While I was trying to get the foot out of my mouth, the sales lady offers Max a similar gun, but this one was Captain America themed.

Max loves the MCU, so he was pretty happy with it. Instead of Let It Go, it made random laser noises when you pulled the trigger. We bought that toy instead.

Max seems really happy with his Capten ‘Merica shooter, but he still talks about the Frozen one. Max likes re-telling stories. So, more than once he’s said: “Maxie play with Frozen shooter, sing Let It Go. Maxie boy, buy Capten ‘Merica.”

I’ve apologized and I told him that I was wrong. I tried explaining that both boys and girls can play with both Capitan America or Frozen.

Unfortunately, the memory of picking out the toy is stronger than my postmortem dialoguing. So, he remembers it more.

My words matter, now more than ever. I’ll try to do better next time.