Osaka: Day 2 (Sunday)

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Good morning hair!

Mikey woke up early this time. He was energized from the massage (and antihistamines) from the night before. He left me and Max to grab us some breakfast from Family Mart. We decided to take Sunday slow. In our original itinerary, we planned on going to Den-den Town, Osaka’s tech and toy hub. But we decided to stay in Shinshaibashi and explore the area.

We took our time in the hotel that morning. We had our FamilyMart egg salad sandwich, prosciutto di parma (!), cheese, and baked rice breakfast. I enjoyed two cups of coffee from the 2ndfloor.

The first thing we needed to do that day was to visit the Pixar exhibit. We promised Max the night before that we would do it first thing. When we got to Daimaru, there was a bunch of people heading towards the exhibit. We didn’t think it would be a crowded thing since it wasn’t too crowded the night before. But we forgot that it was a Sunday and that most families with young children would probably visit on a Sunday.

The exhibit was on the 14thfloor. The elevator to the 14thlooked like it was going to be crowded, so we decided to take the one to the 13thand take the escalator up. While waiting, a lady from the concierge led everyone to take this same elevator instead. When we were inside waiting for the doors to close, the lady bowed apologetically, and stayed bowed until the the doors closed.

When we got to the 13th floor, they roped off a path heading towards the escalator to the 14th, to the ticket booth, the stroller parking area, and then finally the exhibit. We were so excited for Max. The exhibit was pretty cool! There were “life-sized” exhibits of all of his favorite Pixar movies. And just like Max’s Pixar obsession, the exhibit started with Toy Story. They made a huge replica of the Woody’s Roundhouse record player, Buzz Lightyear on RC, and a standee of Bonnie holding all of Andy’s old toys.

Very quickly, the whole draw of the place dawned on to us. There were lines for each exhibit and the whole point of the place was to take photos with them. That meant that you had very little time to explore the exhibit up close. My curious toddler did not understand this at all. He was finally seeing all of his favorite things in this huge scale and he wasn’t allowed to linger and play. On top of that, we had to wait in line for most of them to even get up close. Towards the end, we had said “no” and “wait” and “later” so many times that he was so frustrated. We actually left the exhibit with Max crying hysterically because he couldn’t play with Sulley and Mike Wazowski. It was kind of heartbreaking. Mikey carried him like a sack of rice to the gift shop and tried to distract him with the toys. He picked out a few things, but he was still in a bad mood.

He wanted to breastfeed his troubles away (and he was also teething—two lower front teeth were erupting), but it was hard. Eventually, I told Mikey that I thought we should have lunch in the hotel. So, Mikey went shopping in the food grocery in the basement while I breastfed Max in the bathroom (I did this a lot during our trip). We walked back to our hotel and when we got there, Max fell asleep right away. Mikey and I had a picnic and ate our take-out on the bed while Max slept. Mikey got a steak/beef bento box, gyoza, fired rice, and sushi for lunch. It was excellent.

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Since Max was sleeping, I decided to go out on my own to explore Shinshaibashi. I ended up spending all of my time (a little under an hour) in the first drug store I saw. Japan has really great skin care products, make-up, and seemingly random items for various ailments, so I loved exploring their drug stores. I was on the third (out of four) floor when Mikey messaged me to tell me that Max was awake and having lunch. I knew that it meant that I had to go soon, so I rushed through the last two floors and walked back to the hotel with my spoils.

We didn’t spent too much time in the hotel, we went out again to explore Shinshaibashi. It was kind of crazy. We took turns with Max whenever one of us wanted to explore a store. We went to Three Coins, the Disney Store, and I got to go to another GU (this one was bigger). Mikey got to spend some time in a tech and toy store, but he decided to hold off on his purchases until Den-den Town.

When Max was getting too nuts-o (I don’t think he understood why we kept stopping, he was just sitting in his stroller and got very bored), we took refuge at a Milky café. I had pasta, Mikey had pancakes, and Max had ice cream. Mikey also ordered an ice cream, but Max thought it was his again so he ate most of it. After Milky, we decided to just keep walking so that Max wouldn’t get annoyed. We just took note of stores that we wanted to hit at a better time. I guess this was the beauty of staying so close to Shinshaibashi. It would be easy to come back again.

We kept walking down the shopping lane and then eventually, we hit open air again. I looked up and gasped because right in front of us was the Glico Man sign. We had made it to Dohtonbori without knowing it! We didn’t realize that Shinshaibasi was connected to Dohtonbori.

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Dontonbori is a street full of food (restaurants and street food). Mikey got an order of grilled king crab legs from the famous Kani Doraku (the restaurant/take-out place with the giant mechanical crab on the sign) and Max ate a lot of it again. We spent some time (and money) letting Max run around in two arcades we saw along the way. We decide that it wasn’t really the best day to eat in Dontonbori since it was Sunday and there were a lot of people. Max was also still pretty cranky.

 

So we walked back to our hotel. We took another route and we got back in less than 10 minutes! We were seriously loving our hotel’s location. Max and I settled in while Mikey went out to get us dinner. He hit up a few places and came home with tokayaki, okonomiyaki, a huge butter garlic crilled oyster, fried oysters, rice, and drinks and dessert from Family Mart. Our room smelled like food, but it was an excellent dinner.

It wasn’t the easiest day with Max, but we felt like we got to know the lay of the land. I was starting to doubt how much we would be able to do on this trip since Max was having an extra fussy day, but without really trying, we just stumbled onto one of the spots we really wanted to hit. The universe was schooling me and my inner planner. She was saying: chill and let the magic find you.

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(Sometimes the Universe sounds like Mikey.)
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Osaka: Prep and Day 0

Osaka Prep

About three months ago, we decided to splurge and take our first international trip since Max was born. As soon as we bought the tickets and booked the hotel, we were SO excited. We even made a countdown poster that Squish and I would tick off every morning when we woke up. We were heading to Osaka, Japan! (Max would say “‘Pan!” every time we marked the poster).

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Our countdown poster. 

Japan has a special place in our hearts because we initially intended to go before we were going to seriously try for a baby (initially scheduled during the second half of 2016). But we were advised by many to get off birth control 6 months before trying to give your body time to recalibrate. My first birth control free month was December 2015 and I found out I was pregnant by January 7, 2016. We were shocked and so happy, but we knew that Japan would have to be shelved.

But now that Max was a little older and has gone on two domestic airplane trips, it was the perfect time to un-shelve Japan. We chose Osaka because we were worried that Tokyo would be too fast-paced for the newbie parents and toddler. It seemed like there was more than enough in Osaka (and the nearby Nara and Kyoto) to fill our week.

We decided early on that this trip wouldn’t be Max-centric. Soon, the little boy will have words to clearly express his preferences and we’ll have to seriously take them into consideration. We completely took advantage of his one- to two-word sentence limit. Hahaha.

Unsurprisingly though, the initial drafts of the itinerary I drew up included many activities that Max would enjoy as much as we would. I guess this is one of the benefits of having really childish parents. (It makes me wonder about how equipped we would be to handle teenaged Max, but that’s for future Char to worry about.)

For two months, I watched every vlog, read every article, downloaded every possible helpful app, made estimates on excel sheets, and bothered way too many friends (Hello, Darm, Ram, and Ronna!) for advice.

Our final itinerary looked nothing like the itineraries I used to plan. I used to pack in as much as I could each day, but we needed to consider Max, his attention span, and his energy management needs. Our formula was to have one scheduled “must-do” activity for the day and a list of suggested activities. But basically, we left a lot of room for flexibility and exploring and rest. It didn’t make sense to pack in as many activities at the expense of our enjoyment and sanity.

We chose a centrally located hotel that was, admittedly, pricier than many of the other options. We used to scrimp on accommodations, but since we’re travelling to a new place with Max, I told Mikey that it would make sense to get a hotel that (1) had an English-speaking staff (so they could easily help out in case of an emergency) and (2) was located near many of the things we wanted to see (so that if Max needed to rest in the hotel, one of us could easily explore without being too far away). Mikey agreed and we booked 7 nights at Hotel the Flag Shinshaibashi. It was probably the best decision we made for the trip, but more on this later on.

We were busting with excitement for weeks and that all came crashing down a few days before were scheduled to leave. We were scheduled to leave on a Friday, and the Monday of that week, Max got his first-ever fever. At it’s highest, he hit 39.9. We even missed the wedding because we were waiting for results in the emergency room. The fever lasted for about a day, and the day after his fever broke (Wednesday), he developed a rash. His pediatrician believes that it was Roseola. And even if the rash looked bothersome (it wasn’t though), it was a great sign because that meant he was OK. I only allowed myself to start thinking of Japan when his pediatrician gave us the go-signal Wednesday night. And because we had been so focused on Max’s health, Thursday was all about last minute errands for the trip. When we finally got Max to sleep Thursday night, Mikey and I shared a quiet squeal: we were going to Japan! Ok, it was Mikey squealing because I was still on edge about everything. I was half expecting Max’s fever to come back and having to give up the trip altogether.

Day 0 (Friday)

Our flight was at 3:30 PM, so we needed to be at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Terminal 3) by 12 noon at the earliest. But we were ready to go by 10 AM. My mom lent us her car and driver to take us to the airport, so we had help in loading and unloading our bags. Max wasn’t completely himself yet. He was on his 4th(out of 5) day of the decongestant, so he was still a little clingy and fussy. And because we allowed him unlimited screen time when he was sick, he had a lot of pent up energy to spare.

I’m never relaxed on travel day. I can only relax after immigration. So, I made Mikey skip all the yummy restaurants you can only access before immigration. I made all of us go straight through immigration after we got our boarding passes. We ended up eating so-so food for lunch. There was a National Bookstore inside and we found him a Finding Dory busy book on sale. We thought it would be perfect for the plane. On our way to the gate, we found a small play area so we let him go wild until it was our turn to get on the plane.

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Spot Dory’s Dad and Paw Patrol. 

Looking back, I think the plane ride would’ve been perfect, but the flight was delayed and we spent an extra 45 minutes taxiing. So, even though Max fell asleep as soon as we got on the plane, he woke up halfway through the ride and there was a period of boredom/fussiness. Thankfully, the flight wasn’t full and the man sharing our row moved to another row at the beginning of the flight. Max ended up having a seat all to himself and he watched a few videos while seated. But he really wanted to run up and down the aisle, so we placated him by taking him to the bathroom and letting him push all the buttons in there. At some point, he fell asleep again and when we woke him up, we were in Osaka.

We landed at the Kansai International Airport passed 8:00 PM Osaka time (about 1 hour ahead of Manila). Mikey put him in his front facing carrier so that we could get through immigration, get our bags, our sim card for internet, and an MRT card. We got through everything pretty well, we even had dinner at a small fast food Udon restaurant. Max only acted up when we finally got to the train. When we got to the train, he wanted to breastfeed right away. I read that breastfeeding isn’t normally done in public in Japan, so I resisted. I offered him videos and I tried distracting him with the view (but it was dark). Eventually, I caved, and it was calm again. The walk to our hotel seemed long that night, but it’s probably because we had no idea where we would end up.

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Only Squish looks fresh and camera ready. 

Seeing the hotel for the first time was like seeing an oasis in the dessert. We were sweaty and tired from the trip and in desperate need of comfort. The fancy faux wooden hotel doors opened automatically (sideways!) and we were welcomed by the staff on the 2ndfloor lobby. The hotel was fancier than we imagined. There was a quaint library, a nice coffee machine (free! FREE COFFEE 24/7!), a fireplace surrounded by leather chairs and couches, and an ornamental giant stone that Max freaked out over (“stone” is one of his words).

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This is the library. E house a nice selection of kids’ books. 

Our room was small, but not in the claustrophobic kind of way (at least not on the first night)—it was very cozy. The bed was so inviting. I was worried about the beds in Japan because most rooms for two only offered a double bed. Our hotel had what they called an extra large double bed and it was very comfortable. Max fell asleep pretty quickly, and Mikey took a stroll to the nearest konbini to get us some water and pick up a snack. I unpacked, took a hot shower (Shiseido amenities!), put on PJs, and got into bed with Max. We were in Japan. We survived our first international flight and our first MRT ride. Now I was squealing. What a day. We made it.

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See, I was really excited. I had all sorts of paraphernalia made for the trip. Hahaha. I love our matching passport holders–mine and Max’s, I mean. Mikey’s (the brown one) is so annoying.

Monday Night Fever

Max had his first fever two weeks ago. The timing wasn’t ideal (is it ever?). He got the fever the night before the wedding of one of our best friends, and we were slated to leave for Japan in a few days. Things didn’t go quite as planned, but we learned a lot from it. Here’s what happened:

Monday

Mikey and Max left to run a few errands so that I could finish chores at home. Earlier that day, I thought Max felt a bit hot, but when I checked his temperature, it was still normal. He tends to run a bit warmer when he’s teething and he had two teeth erupting and it looked pretty painful. So, I wasn’t too worried. When Max got home, I gave him a hug and I knew that something was off. He was warmer than he’s ever been. I took his temperature and he was a toasty 38.6. He had a fever. His first fever.

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After checking his temperature, I gave him a dose of paracetamol and he fell asleep. When he woke up, he asked to watch a movie. He woke up cooler. His temp was down to the 37s and he had an appetite. He ate chicken nuggets while watching, and after a while, he seemed like he was his old self again. I read online that a lukewarm bath helps, so I insisted on giving him a bath even if he was crying like crazy. Looking back, I should have just let it go. By the time it was bed time, his temp was back up to the 38s. I gave him another dose of paracetamol before he fell asleep and I hoped for the best.

Tuesday

At midnight, Max’s temperature would fluctuate between 37.8 and 38.5, based on our in-ear thermometer. We started to doubt the thermometer’s accuracy, so Mikey went out to look for a drugstore that was open that hour, that had forehead/infrared thermometers available. He found one at arrived home at about 1:30 AM.

At around 4 AM, Max was still pretty warm. It was like paracetamol didn’t work. He woke up and asked to watch “karks” (sharks), so we were up with him. I was worried because his temperature seemed to be rising and the paracetamol wasn’t controlling it anymore. We dressed up so that we could go to Urgent Care, but he fell asleep again after a while. He woke up at 8 AM and this time he was very, very hot. His temperature was at 39.9 and he was a different baby. He didn’t want to leave bed and he wanted to breastfeed all the time. He was crying a lot, and when we got to the car, and he started breastfeeding and sleeping again.

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We were in a daze. We had to be in Tagaytay by 3 PM that day, but we were so worried about Max. When we got to Urgent Care, they escorted us directly to the Emergency Room because they had pediatricians there, and because it was the Dengue/Dengvaxia Express Center (imagine our silent panic when we saw this). When we got there, they gave Max a sponge bath, more paracetamol, and they put something in his diaper to collect his urine. Because his fever was less than 24 hours, they advised against a blood test because it’s not likely to show anything. His fever finally started going down, and by the time we were discharged (around 2 PM), he was fever-less. It took a while for us to be discharged because we had to wait for the urine analysis (which came out normal). At this point, we knew we couldn’t attend the wedding anymore. We made arrangements for our friends to cover for us.

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Finally fever-free in the ER.

After the ER, we went to our pediatrician’s reliever (our regular pediatrician was out of the country) for good measure and she examined Max. She said his ears and throat seemed slightly red and maybe the fever was just the body’s way of fighting a virus. We told her that we were hoping to leave for Japan on Friday, so on top of the paracetamol, she prescribed a decongestant and to help fight off the impending cold and to let him rest more soundly. She told us that if he wasn’t better by Thursday, we could run a blood test then to see if it was anything more than a run-of-the-mill virus.

We arrived at home at around 3 PM and we were in a daze. I was relieved that Max’s fever had gone, but I was heartbroken that I missed the wedding of one of my best friends. There are many things that I’ve given up as a parent, but this one really stung (it still does). But the heartache went hand-in-hand with gratitude for the improvement we were seeing with Max.

We gave Max another dose of paracetamol and his first dose of the decongestant. He napped right after and we kept checking his temperature. Sometime during his nap (at around 5 PM), I noticed that the surface of the bed around him was soaking wet. I got really worried, but when I touched him, he finally felt normal again. We took his temperature and it was finally back down to 36.8. We checked again because we thought the thermometer was acting up. We ended up using three thermometers and they all read the same. When we finally accepted that 36.8 was really his temperature, Mikey and I cried. It was like we were breathing for the first time in almost 24 hours. We gave him two more doses of paracetamol (at 4 hour intervals) and we let him sleep that night without waking him for another dose.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I was up every hour feeling his forehead and checking his temperature. The fever never came back.

Wednesday

The first thing we did that day was to check his temperature. He didn’t have a fever anymore, but he was still clingy and he wanted to breastfeed all the time. We basically gave in to everything he wanted: ice cream, screen time, and unlimited breastfeeding. He wasn’t back to his normal self yet, but he didn’t have a fever and he had bursts of energy where he seemed like his old self again. We wore out our new thermometer that day. We checked his temperature every 30 minutes.

At some point, I noticed that he developed rashes in his chest and tummy area. He didn’t seem to be bothered by them. This is when we thought that he might have actually had Roseola. The pediatrician called us again that night to check up on Max and we told her that he was fever free since yesterday afternoon, but he had developed a rash. She confirmed that it was most likely Roseola and that the rash’s appearance is actually a good sign because it means that he’s already well. She also assured us that it was unlikely that it was dengue because his fever wasn’t persistent. She ended the phone call with: “have fun on your trip”. I finally allowed myself to be excited about Japan again.

Thursday

We were still in a kind of daze. The three days took a physical and emotional toll on us. But I was grateful for Max’s speedy recovery and that it wasn’t anything more serious. But I did make notes of what I learned from the whole experience:

  1. Don’t be afraid of fevers. The (reliever) pediatrician told us that a fever is actually the body’s way of fighting a virus. The body actually heats up to make it inhospitable for the virus. So, the next time this happens, I hope we won’t be as panicked.
  2. Apart from paracetamol (and ibuprofen, but we didn’t get to use that), there are other things you can do to keep your temperature down. The ER told us to use a damp cloth and wipe his forehead, neck, armpits, and groin. You don’t actually need to bathe the entire body. We also used essential oils (Healthy Monsters PH’s “Ouchie Hot”) on his back and the soles of his feet (a mix of pachouli, peppermint, tea tree, and lemon grass) every four hours. I don’t know how helpful the essential oils were, but I’d like to think it helped since the fever was gone in 24 hours.
  3. Invest in a good no-contact thermometer. We had an ear thermometer and one for the armpit, but they kept giving us different readings. Max also really hated the armpit one. I kept flashbacking to all those times I was in a baby store and saw all the wonderful no-contact thermometers that are readily available, and that’s what prompted Mikey to leave in the middle of the night. The last thing you want to worry about is if your thermometer is really reliable.
  4. Hydration is important. Just like with diarrhea, dehydration during a fever would cause more serious problems. The doctor advised us to just let him drink whatever he wants, as long as he’s drinking. So I kept offering Max water, juice, milk, and Chuckie.
  5. Don’t stress about the other things you normally stress about, like weaning, his diet, and screen time. He was already so uncomfortable (and we were very tired), so whatever kept him happy at the moment, we would give in to.

By Thursday night, Mikey and I were breathing easy. As soon as we put Max to bed, we had a mini date in the living room. We ate leftovers and watched two episodes of The Office before going to sleep.

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Parenthood is cray, yo.

Friday

We made our 3:30 PM flight and landed in Japan at around 8:30 PM. But Japan deserves whole other entry (or three).

Mashed Potacos

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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.

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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!

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Happy eating! ❤

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:

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  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.
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“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.

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  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.
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“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.

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  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

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Max’s buddies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We’ll be reading to infinity and beyond!

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. ❤