Mashed Potacos

IMG_8391

Feeding Max used to be really stressful for me. There were a few weeks earlier this year where he refused to eat anything. (The culprits: two front teeth and two molars erupting at the same time, and a cold.) To be honest though, I think I took it harder than Max did (I definitely cried more than him). He was actually fine, he just didn’t want to eat. After a week of barely eating anything, he bounced back and ate normally again. After that, I was even more stressed during meal times. I realized that part of the problem was because I never really learned how to feed myself. Before getting pregnant, eating was just another thing I had to get off of my list. If I could survive all day on cups of coffee (which I often did), I would. I like food, but it was never a priority.

IMG_7644
One of the first times we attempted to go out with Squish was so that I could get coffee.

Mikey is the opposite. Eating wasn’t just something he had to do, it was the main event of his days. He took time to savor the food at meals, he wasn’t just getting through it like I was. I would often finish my meals quickly and it usually took him twice as long to finish. “Dishonest” food offended him, while it didn’t really matter to me (as long as the price was right).

I started seeing our contrast more clearly when Squish started solids. I would try to power through each meal, getting him to eat as much as he could. I wouldn’t even be able to think of eating my own food until I was done with the task at hand. On the other hand, Mikey would take forever to feed Max. He would eat his own meal while feeding the baby. And for some reason, Max always got really, really messy when his Papa was in charge of feeding him. It used to drive me a little nuts, until I realized that Max was gaining so much from these long meals with his Papa.

Because Mikey savored all his food, it would make Max really curious and he would ask to taste it. There were times when he would completely ignore all the food I prepared for him and would eat off of Mikey’s plate. Whenever it seemed like I was enjoying my food, Max would always ask to taste. He’s never outright rejected food just because it was new or different.

Slowly, I started taking it easy. I read that unless your toddler’s doctor prescribes a dietary plan for medical reasons, you shouldn’t judge how much they eat on a day to day basis. If your child doesn’t eat as much today, a healthy child will likely make up for it in the coming days. And I see that with Max. If all he has is a few bites of his breakfast, he makes up for it at lunch or dinner. Also, after reading Pamela Duckerman’s Briniging Up Bebe, I learned to appreciate the way the French sees mealtimes with kids—they aren’t forced to eat a lot or to finish a certain amount of food, but they are highly encouraged to try a little bit of everything that’s served. I realized that more than the calories gained at each meal, these early mealtime experiences actually shape their attitude towards eating and food. And I really want Max to enjoy food as much as his Papa does.

Taking it easy also means that I’m less stressed about meal prep and I take more chances. While we’re trying to slowly transition away from making food just for Max (we want him to start eating the food we eat), it’s still easier for me when I know I have something ready for him for lunch (because I don’t really eat lunch if I have breakfast). This strange transitionary period led to the creation of Mashed Potacos!

One night, we were having tacos and quesadillas for dinner. We finished dinner pretty early, so I decided to make Max some food for the next day. When I opened our refrigerator, I realized that we had a lot of potatoes. I figured I’d make him some mashed potatoes since I still had leftover grated cheese from dinner. When I was putting everything into the blender, I realized that I also had some leftover taco meat, so I threw that in for fun. And voila! Mashed Potacos was born!

This is what I used:

-three medium/small potatoes (the ones we have here are baseball ball sized ones)
-1/2 stick unsalted butter
-milk/all-purpose cream
-grated cheese
-2 small tetra packs of Cheez Whiz (the new mild variant)
-1 small bowl (about three tablespoons) of taco meat (ground beef cooked with taco seasoning)

This is what I did:

-peel and slice potatoes in quarters
-put potatoes in boiling water and cook for 20 minutes
-drain potatoes
-layer a few potatoes, some of the butter, some of the grated cheese, Cheez Whiz, and taco meat in the blender (saves you from having to mix it if you put in one ingredient at a time)
-blend until you get the thickness that you like. If it’s too thick add a little milk/all-purpose cream to make it smoother.

I don’t season it with salt and pepper anymore because the meat is heavily seasoned and the cheese and Cheez Whiz adds the saltiness it needs. It actually comes out mildly spicy, but Max really likes it (and so does Mikey, hahaha). I can’t wait to see what happy kitchen accidents we’ll come up with next!

IMG_8031
Happy eating! ❤
Advertisements

The Squishy Book Club Part 2

Max is interested in most books (even the novels that I read), but he’ll only initiate reading time with a few favorites at a time. Right now, here are his favorites:

IMG_8338

  1. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems. Mikey bought this book for Max during for his first Christmas. I never heard of the book, but it was one of the few children’s books that he knew and loved. It wasn’t a hit right away because Max initially liked books with rhymes and that could be read in a sing-song way. So, we kept this book in the car for a really long time. A few weeks ago, I tried reading it to him again while he was in the car seat and it was a hit. He would point out things in the book like “bibi” (baby, Trixie), “doow” (door), “chees” (keys), and “doo” (dog). I brought it back into our apartment and we’ve been reading it a couple of times a day since then. Soon, Max would start pointing out Trixie when she’s sad and he would hug me in the end when Trixie hugs Knuffle Bunny. The book is perfect for Max’s age (20-21 months)—it has a simple and relatable narrative, it’s not too long, and it has a lot of everyday things that he can point out.
IMG_8339
“Momma, wawa!”

Favorite Max moment with this book: when Max expresses sadness when Trixie is sad and when he tells me that Trixie is wawa.

  1. Sweet Dreams Jack-Jack by Meredith Rusu. After his Toy Story obsession, Max’s next favorite Pixar movie was The Incredibles. He would call them the “bols” (because they’re the incrediBOLS, hahaha). Last month, a huge load of merchandise started coming out in preparation for the sequel. Max’s Lola made sure that he had everything that was available, and it included this book. Max loved it right away! He would make us keep reading the page where all the characters are introduced. And when we would force him to move on, he would pay close attention to the story. Again, it’s perfect for Max because it showcases characters that he knows (so he’s already invested and interested), it has a simple narrative and it’s short enough for Max to sit through the whole story a few times in one sitting.

Favorite Max moment with this book: when Max says “oh no!” when it looks like the Racoon is winning against Jack-Jack.

IMG_8342

  1. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. Robert Munsch is famous for ‘Love You Forever’, but Paper Bag Princess was my favorite book growing up. When I saw that they had a board book version, I knew I had to get it for Max. I hope that it helps him learn how to be kind to people. I think that this is an abridged version of the original book. The length is perfect for Max. And he also really enjoys the sound effects we make when we’re reading the dragon’s part. He also really likes knocking on the door when the Princess knocks on the dragon’s door to rescue her prince.
IMG_8343
“na na!” (knock knock)

Favorite Max moment with this book: when Max says “bumba” (for “bomba”—Filipino slang for naked) when the Princess’ clothes get burned off.

IMG_8344

  1. Making Friends! (Just like Us) by Jess Stockham. Last Christmas, Mikey was asked to come up with a wish list for Kris Kringle. I told Mikey to ask for ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ or ‘Rainbow Fish’. Instead, his co-teacher got Max a bag full of Children’s books from Booksale. I love receiving books from other people, especially when we’re given a book that I wouldn’t normally buy. This book was a big hit with Max. There’s no narrative in this book, it’s just a bunch of examples of how friends can be affectionate to one another. It’s also a flap book that starts with animals (which Max loves) and you open the flap to see children imitating the animals. It’s a great book because Max can be rough with people (especially when he’s excited)—it’s a way to remind him to be gentle and that he can express his fondness in other ways. 

Favorite Max moment with this book: when Max copies all the actions! He will ask to hold my hand and cuddle with me! It’s the best!

  1. How do dinosaurs eat their food? By Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. Max really liked “How do dinosaurs go to sleep?”, so when I saw this on an online secondhand bookstore, I bought it right away. Some moms don’t like this series because the first half starts off with all the things you’re not supposed to do, and the second half shows what a good dinosaur does. They think that it might give their kids more ideas on how to be naughty. I guess they have a point, but Max loves the dinosaurs and he takes his cue from us when it comes to how we’re supposed to feel about the misbehaving dinosaurs. The book is a quick read and Max still enjoys the rhymes.

Favorite Max moment with this book: when Max says “please” and “thank you”, just like one of the good dinosaurs.

Honorable mention (aka a new book that Momma really likes but Max is still warming up to): Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak. I’ve always loved this book, but for the longest time, all I could find was the hardcover edition, which I thought was too pricey. But I finally found the paperback edition last week! I love how Sendak captures the energy of little kids. I’m half giddy and half wary that the Max in the book reminds me so much of our Max. Max is warming up to the book already, he likes to point out the boat and trees and moon. He thinks it’s funny when the rumpus starts because Mikey will beatbox some party music and shake the book. Hopefully, he’ll start asking us to read it on his own soon.

Failed books (so far): The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I keep trying to get him to like it because it was such a hit with my preschoolers. But he gets bored by the time we start counting all the food the caterpillar eats. Haha. He enjoys the end though. He flaps his hands like a butterfly when the caterpillar emerges from the cocoon. Maybe he’ll enjoy it more when he learns his numbers.

Reading with Max is one of my favorite things to do. When he’s really into a book, he’ll call my attention, point to something in the book, and start babbling! Man, I really wish I could understand what he was saying. Oh well, we’ll get there soon enough.

The Squishy Book Club Part 1

IMG_6245
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.

IMG_7873
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.

IMG_6347
We’ll be reading to infinity and beyond!

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. ❤

/I’ll make a million mistakes/

IMG_7727

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.

IMG_7728

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).

IMG_7066
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!

IMG_0737
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.

IMG_7395

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.

IMG_7495
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. ❤

IMG_3447
Hi Al!