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! ❤
Mikey wrote about what it’s like to father our little tornado toddler. Read all about it over here!
I’d like to share my favorite excerpt:
He’s right: he is, in fact, a big boy. He’s bigger than many his age, and he’s strong, and he’s forceful. And he’s a boy in the most stereotypically predictable ways—he’s rambunctious, he’s feisty, and he’s a little bit naughty.
But he’s also very wrong, because he is absolutely still a baby. He’s gentle, and sweet, and cries when gets a boo-boo.
Sometimes I don’t know how to deal with him being all of those things at the same time.
Same. It seems like such a strange balance that we have to strike these days.
It worries me sometimes because Mikey can and loves to roughhouse with Max. And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t enjoy it. Not anymore. Not since his playful hits started resulting in very real bruises and, at times, blood.
I definitely don’t want Max thinking that men are stronger than women. But I guess we’re going to have to expand his definition of strength at some point.
Maybe, some day soon, we’ll be able to impart that a hug is just as strong (if not stronger) than a Mjolnir smash.
Christmas is a great excuse to buy Max more books. Not that we really need an excuse, but we feel more comfortable splurging on special occasions. And, since we took a trip over the holidays, we also got new souvenir books for Max! So our little Squishy library has a bunch of new additions.
1. Under the Love Umbrella
Divina Bell’s Under the Love Umbrella (illustrated by Allison Calpoys) was a Christmas gift Max received from his Ninongs Darm and Ram (THANK YOU! ❤️). It’s a beautiful book about a parent’s unconditional love for their child. It also has themes of equality and inclusion.
Char: I love that we have this book in our library. I love how real the kids are in the book—they have bad days and that’s OK. I like how it honors their experiences and their perspective. Sometimes, it may not seem like a big deal for us, but it is for our kids and that’s when they need to be reassured of our love the most. So when we read this book, it’s not just for Max to know how much we love him, but it helps me remember the kind of love I want to be able to give him. Oh! AND THE ART! It’s so vibrant and beautiful.
Mikey: Darm and Ram said that they got us that book for Christmas because they were sure that I would cry when I read it. They were right—I cried in their presence because they asked me to open their Christmas present immediately.
I also cried the second time I read it. Maybe even the third.
Max: Super Wings! Mama? Mama? Super Wings! Brralala. [Brralala = Umbrella]
2. Lost and Found
Lost and Found is Oliver Jeffers’ second book. This was one of our Christmas gifts for Max. It’s about a boy who meets a penguin and tries to help him find his way back home. It’s a heart warming story about friendship and altruism.
Char: Lost and Found was one of my favorite books as a pre-school teacher. The first time I read it, I cried buckets of tears. I knew right then and there that if I ever had a kid, this book would be a part of his/her library.
I love how the little boy in this book captures the helpful heart kids naturally have. The way the friendship between the boy and the penguin developed is magical. And I really hope that Max will have an open heart and mind to be able to experience and recognize all the magic that this world has to offer. It also gets a billion bonus points because the little boy in the book kind of looks like Squish. ❤️
Mikey: One of the things I’m most proud of about Max is how in touch with his feelings he seems to be. He appears to empathise with characters in his books and in movies he watches, crying quietly when, say, Simba tries to resuscitate Mufasa, or when Mister Fredrickson yells at Russell to go away, or when Bert can’t find his bottle caps.
So this book—which spends a few pages on the parting of friends, on acheyness caused by misunderstanding, and just plain old loneliness—is right up our wheelhouse. Or my wheelhouse. Life can hurt sometimes, Max, but also, things tend to work out too. I love that this book helps us impart that to him.
Max: Super Wings? Super Wings! That Super Wings. That Monkey. Penguin! Bye bye!
3. My Hong Kong Numbers
I found My Hong Kong Numbers by Sarah and Luke Garner while Mikey was geeking out at an Apple Store in Hong Kong. Whenever we travel, we like bringing home book as a family souvenir. It’s a counting book set in Hong Kong. It has the numbers in English on one side and the numbers in Mandarin on the other side.
Char: When I saw this book, I knew it was going to be our Hong Kong book for sure. The scenes in the book are so perfect because they’re so recognizable. And it’s perfect timing because Max is in a counting phase. To this day, Max recognizes some of the pages in the book. On the page with the taxis, he’ll say: “Max ride that with Lala and Lolo Benjie and Mama and Papa.” I also love that there are Chinese numbers on one side. There isn’t a lot about my culture that I think I’ll be able to pass on to Max, so I’m glad to have little helpful things like this book.
Mikey: Uh. The art is nice? And it reminds Max of our Hong Kong trip?
Max: Hong Hong Numbers, yes, taxi!
Someone decided to jump into my photo shoot. He said, “Mama, Maxie smile!” ❤️
We’ve officially reached the one-book-more at bedtime phase. It’s hilarious because every time we finish a book, Max will shout “again!” and run off to get another book. In the morning, I end up picking up a dozen books and putting them back on the shelf. My nerdy heart is filled with joy, but Mikey’s sleepy heart isn’t as thrilled. ❤️
On Monday, Day 3, our Thing of the Day was going to be our visit to Nara Park in Nara Prefecture, where wild deer mill about. The deer are famous for being polite, bowing to curious and happy humans who feed them the deer cookies you can purchase at every corner of the park. But we also read some reports that said that they were aggressive and rude, acting very spoiled and entitled to those deer cookies, to the point that they would literally bite the hands that fed them.
We wanted to find out. And we thought Max might have a blast.
We started off the day by having breakfast outside our hotel room for the first time. We chose McDonald’s (yes, we are those kind of tourists)—Char and Max had a boring old Sausage McMuffin with Egg, and I had a strange burger-muffin hybrid with a kind of spicy-garlicky sauce. It was excellent. Their orange juice was excellent, too—Char later admitted that that was what she was curious about in McDonald’s, more than the food.
McDonald’s was just a few meters up the road from Apple Store Shinsaibashi, so we decided to drop by since it was only 5 minutes to opening. When we got to the door, they asked us to choose one of two queues: shopping, or Genius Bar. We queued up on the shorter shopping line. I planned on zipping in and checking out the second floor, picking out an Apple Watch band, paying for it, processing my tax refund, and heading on out of there. What happened instead was one of the greatest moments of my life:
We took the train and arrived at Nara station at around 11, and we decided to head to the park before having lunch. At the information center, when we asked for directions to the park (it’s supposed to be a 5 minute from the station), they warned us that it was going to be very hot, and that we should drink water. They were right—it was crazy hot. I had Max on in my hipseat carrier, and I held an umbrella over us. Poor Char had her hands full with the stroller so she didn’t use an umbrella. It was just ridiculously hot. Thankfully, the shade of the trees from the park were only a few minutes away.
The first deer we saw seemed so majestic: the deer was seated a short distance from the fence, beyond the reach of regular humans. It was a magical moment—I mean, how often do you see wild dear just hanging out a few meters away from you? But it was also short-lived: a few more steps and suddenly deer was everywhere. And so were the little stalls that sold the cookies. Char quickly bought us a set of cookies, and Max and I tried to feed a few. Whenever we did, it was such a thrill for Max. We kept walking and feeding deer who were just hanging out on the sidewalk, surrounded by tourists.
Char had to follow us and keep pushing the stroller, so she didn’t get to feed any of them. Max enjoyed feeding them, but we couldn’t get them to bow. Honestly, it was probably because it we were also very tense. I was worried that these wild animals would suddenly just pounce on Max, or pounce on Char, or pounce on the stroller, or pounce on me. So we just tried to feed as many as we could. When the cookies ran out, we decided to head back to the station to figure out where we could have lunch.
Nara station is connected to a kind-of strip-type mall, with food places galore showing off “classic Kyoto specialties”. We chose a place that advertised a really good-looking set meal that included unagi, which is what I ended up ordering. It was excellent, but I forgot that unagi was only my favorite thing as a child, and not as an adult. Char had salmon and lean tuna sushi, which were just sublime. For dessert we found a place that offered matcha (green tea) soft serve. Char and I generally don’t like matcha (it tastes like leaves), but to me, this one was great. We each had a milk/vanilla and matcha twirl on a cone. Japanese soft serve is the best in the world. (Char still didn’t like it though, and wished she just got plain milk/vanilla flavored soft serve.)
After lunch, we went to Daiso, the JPY100 store, and we took a quick shopping trip. There are also Daiso and Japan Home stores here in Manila, but it was just so exciting to be in a Daiso in Japan! They had things we would have a hard time finding here: wooden fridge magnets, a hose that made water transfer from aquariums so much easier, and even a straw tool that made it easy to make two-layer dessert drinks! Needless to say, we freaked out. (Char more than I.)
At around 2PM we decided to try and feed the deer again. We kept the stroller and our shopping bags in a coin locker (JPY500 for 24 hours!) so that Char would have her hands free to feed the deer. On the intensely hot walk back to the park, we saw a family off to the side—a man and his young son rubbing sunblock all over his wife. It was like taking a peek at our silly future.
When we got to where the deer were, all of three of us got to try feeding them, and we got them to bow too. Max was just delighted. Our nerves were a little calmer so we fed them a little more actively, but then that also led us to encounters with more aggressive deer. One of them, after being fed twice, tried to search for more cookies on my person, and ended up biting the strap of my hipseat carrier (that Max was on!). It was fun, but freaky. Max loved it. Also the part where they bit it smelled like poop.
We walked deeper into the lovely Nara park where some families having picnics, and the deer were just grazing around, ambivalent to the non-wild human creatures hanging out around them. It was nice to have some fresh air and delight in the beautiful non-consumerist touristy part of the Kansai region.
Afterwards, of course, we decided to dive straight into consumerism all over again. Our next stop was back in Osaka, to Denden Town—Osaka’s answer to Tokyo’s Akihabara, and the hub of otaku culture in the prefecture.
We arrived in the area at around 4PM, and one of the first things I saw was a wrestling-focused store, proudly proclaiming they had products that featured WWE’s Asuka. I geeked out at the paraphernalia (a RING of HONOR Championship replica!) and large selection of DVDs, and I wanted to buy a shirt or two, but unfortunately they had nothing that fit me.
We then went to have a quick snack at a hybrid legitimate-restaurant-and-heat-your-own-food-yourself-shop, and then after few minutes of confused navigating, we found what had come for: JOSHIN Denden Town Kids Land! I went nuts. Kids Land is a 5-story toy store. The first floor featured character toys, Lego, and puzzles; the second featured plastic models (Gundam, etc.); the third was called “Tamiya Corner”; the fourth featured model vehicles and weapons; and the fifth featured train and railroad models. We were so excited to take Max to the train floors, but honestly, I was more excited for myself. Unfortunately, we found out that the train and railroad models were those for serious hobbyists, and the locomotives were insanely detailed replicas—not toys at all. We ended up getting Max a car wash set, and I bought some Star Wars and Dragon Ball “Figure Rise” plastic models that were on sale.
At about 7PM, we checked out a few more giant Joshin stores (cosmetics, home appliances, and electronics), but there wasn’t much to them besides being giant awesome Joshin stores—there wasn’t really anything else for us to shop for. We knew that there was more to Denden Town, but we were pretty tired and hungry by then, and we figured we had had our fill of the place with our huge shopping bags in tow. Max was also getting a little fussy. We decided to get some dinner and then head back to the hotel. We chose to have dinner in Yoshinoya, which served fast-food Japanese cuisine. Yoshinoya stores can also be found in Manila, and, frankly, they’re not very good. But our friends told us that Yoshinoya was excellent in Japan, and it was comfort food to them.
Char had a gyudon (beef on rice in a bowl, topped with egg), and I had a gyudon topped with curry sauce. Max had some of Char’s food while watching YouTube videos on an iPad. I must say that our friends were right. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about their curry sauce.
It was then off to the train and back “home” to our hotel. When we got home, Max immediately fell asleep and didn’t even give us a chance to bathe him and brush his teeth. Char curled up and watched Twilight on Netflix—it’s still one of the things I don’t really understand about her. It’s like the universe’s way of compensating for her amazing-ness. I decided to assemble my Super Saiyan Son Goku model on the hotel room floor. Assembly took about an hour, and the succeeding photo shoot and social media posting took about 30 more minutes.
By 12:45AM, I was falling asleep, with happiness in my tummy, thinking about Son Goku, Denden Town shopping, my dorky Twilight-loving wife, and my son squealing in delight as he fed those entitled deer.
We recently had a surprise 4-day weekend (class suspension on a Thursday and a holiday on a Friday). Holidays are great, but class suspensions are the best! It’s like finding an extra P500.00 in the bottom of your purse (or in my case, the baby’s bag). I was all pumped up and high on family love, so we made this as a joke. This is our first attempt at podcasting (well, mine. Mikey’s a pro).
Our chaotic little home is my favourite place on earth. ❤
Max is growing at a ridiculous rate, physically, mentally, and even emotionally (dude cried at the beginning of Up and it freaked us out). Among my favorite milestones of his growth is his rapidly developing vocabulary. Below are 11 of my favorite words that Max can now speak:
noun | \bə\
: “The Incredibles”—referring to the characters from the 2005 Pixar film, the film itself, its 2018 sequel, books that feature characters from the films, action figures of the characters, or just Mr. Incredible.
e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at a Mr. Incredible action figure)
noun | \bə\
: “Ball”—a ball. Any ball. But maybe not an American football.
e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at a ball)
noun | \bə\
: “Bus”—a bus, coach, van, or any large public transport vehicle found on the road, including jeepneys. Pronunciation is usually accompanied by a “vroom vroom” or “bbbbbbrrrrbrbrbrbr”.
e.g. “Buh?! Brbbbrbbbrrrrbrbrbr.” (while looking out window of car, pointing at a bus, and then mimicking the turning of a steering wheel)
noun | \bə\
: “Buzz Lightyear”—the character Buzz Lightyear from the 1995 Pixar film Toy Story, action figures of the character, pictures of the character, or any TV show, mini-movie, or film from the Toy Story universe.
e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at Char’s iPad, requesting to watch Toy Story for the nth time)
noun | \bə\
: “Book”—a book. Any book.
e.g. “Buh?” (while presenting a book to be read to him)
noun | \bə\
: “Button”—any belly button, or any pressing button (i.e. those found on toys, remote controls, and car stereos; not clothes buttons).
e.g. “Buh?” (while lifting his shirt and pointing at his belly button)
noun | \bä-bə\
: “Bubbles”—bubbles from a bubble blower, bubbles made from soap suds, bubbles from milk foam.
e.g. “BABBUH!” (while pointing at bottle of bubble fluid)
noun | \bī\
: “Goodbye”—bye, goodbye, farewell. Usually accompanied by a wave. 👋🏼
e.g. “Bai!” (while waving at a security guard as we exit a shopping mall)
noun | \bē\
: “Bird”—“any of a class of warm-blooded vertebrates distinguished by having the body more or less completely covered with feathers and the forelimbs modified as wings” (Merriam-Webster), or any image or video featuring such a creature.
e.g. “Bee!” (while pointing at a bird)
noun | \bē\
: “Bed”—any surface meant for humans to lie down on, or, pillows.
e.g. “Bee!” (while picking up and then tossing a pillow at me)
noun | \bē-bē\
: “Baby”—an infant, toddler, child, or any non-adult human.
s.g. “Beebee!” (while running in a shopping mall alongside what appears to be a 9 year old boy, and pretending to be a part of their family)
At the parking lot, walking towards the Insular Life building, the venue of the final show of Rude Mechanicals’ and Tuloy Foundation’s rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar, I told my son: “Max, Papa used to call this place his battlefield.” I was thrilled—not only because I was going to watch a live performance in a theatre with my 17 month old that night, but because he was going to watch a show in the very same theatre I performed in for the first time as a professional actor.
Insular Life Theatre was my battlefield, and walking into it that night was as nostalgic an experience as I’ve ever had. The place looked the same. It smelled the same. And while it felt different since I was coming in as a spectator rather than a performer, all the old feelings stirred themselves up all too easily.
As we shimmied to our seats, I knew that Char was thinking of something else entirely. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but tell Max about my very first performance, as Nick Bottom, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I told him that I was scared and that my I was sipping short, shallow, and nervous breaths. My dear friend and co-actor Chino came up to me, rubbed my shoulder, and said: “Just enjoy it, brother.” It could certainly have been condescending, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.
I wish I could’ve told Char something with the same effect to calm her nerves about Max. But if I told her to “just enjoy”, she would probably give me the evil eye. Instead, I assured her that if anything went wrong, I would simply take Max outside the theatre and walk around.
It turns out, though, that I didn’t need to. Max, like a trooper—like the most amazing trooper in the history of troopers—like, I dare say, a stormtrooper—sat through the entire first act. Like a cultured stormtrooper with his father’s theatre DNA. He sat and he watched, over pursed milk-ingesting lips, as Judas and Jesus and the Disciples and the Jews sang about God and their fates. And then at the end of Act One, he clapped and clapped, as if he knew what he was doing. I was so very proud.
During intermission, I carried him out and took him to the front of the stage. (He kept pointing there after the applause simmered down.) When we got there, he motioned that I place him on the stage itself. I told him that I can only put him there after the show, because the stage still belonged to the performers, and we must respect performers. Part of me felt like he understood, but he was probably just distracted by the audience milling about behind him. I couldn’t help but feel proud, though.
After the show, during company call, I took him to the stage, as promised. Max stood alongside proud and exhausted actors, and he looked delighted. And then the actors all crossed to stage right to listen to their director, and Max ran with them—this tiny baby, alongside dozens of happy sweaty actors. It looked like a happy Lion King stampede. I freaked out and jumped on stage and caught him, thanks to one of my friends who stopped Max, making sure he wouldn’t get Mufasa’d. And then Max became sad.
Maybe it was because he was prevented from doing something he enjoyed. Maybe it was because a stranger made physical contact him. I’m not sure. Part of me is worried that picking him up snuffed out a just-kindled desire for being onstage in front of an audience. But if this whole experience has taught us anything, it’s that I shouldn’t underestimate Max.
Our family had a breakthrough! With encouragement from our friends, Mikey took Max out with him to run errands and I had almost 2 whole hours by myself at home! It was the first time I was home alone since Max was born. I was nervous, but Mikey’s blood pressure was up the entire time! We survived! He got all the errands done, Max wasn’t that difficult in the car, and I had some alone time. Mikey took a bunch of videos while they were out and with my superior editing skills, I put it together and made our first ever Squishy Days Vlog! Here it is:
Meanwhile, here was what Momma was up to:
Worry that Mikey left Max’s jacket on the bed:
Text Mikey and check on them:
Call Mikey when you don’t receive a reply:
Put on Madmen:
Put on a face mask:
Sort laundry (no photos because Madmen was getting interesting, hehe).
I missed my boys though! When they got home Squishy gave me a nice big hug! I think me missed his Momma. Mikey had his I’m-the-champ-face, but he needed to sit down to normalize his blood pressure. We survived! Yay! The possibilities are endless! ❤
It’s 2:00 AM one night. Max is tossing and turning. My left eye is half-open. I see that Max sits up in what seems like a drunken stupor. “Drunk Fu”, we call it. He looks like an old Shaolin Master trying to recover from a concussion. Or The Undertaker trying to get up from an F–5.
I pretend to be asleep (even though I practically am).
Char wakes up from her own half-sleep. It seems to be the only kind of sleep she gets these days. Max sees that she’s awake—“awake”—and snuggles up to her chest.
“Okay, okay,” my wife concedes. She picks him up, pulls up her shirt, and Max feeds.
I go back to sleep, relieved.
It’s 11:00 PM on another night. Char has just “tagged” me—it’s my turn to step in and watch the baby. She just finished breastfeeding Max, so she’s supposed to be done for the night. I carry Max and sing to him. Dear Theodosia. It’s Quiet Uptown. There’s a Little Wheel a-Turning in my Heart. Max struggles with his sleepiness. He loses, and falls asleep. I take quiet little steps to the bed, when suddenly, Max wakes up again. He looks at me, looks around, and then looks at his Momma, and lets out a cute little whimper.
Char gives me a blank, defeated stare. I smile, sheepishly. I let Max down on to the bed, and he turns and crawls swiftly into his mother’s arms.
I go to sleep, relieved.
It’s 10:30 last night. Max is asleep. I had dozed off without brushing my teeth. Eventually I couldn’t stand it, so I quietly slide off the bed, sneak to the bathroom, and I brush and I floss. I sneak back to my bedside and plug in my chargers. Then–smack— I accidentally tip over a bottle of Lavender and Peppermint linen spray.
The sound wakes up Char, and then slowly wakes up Max. Char destroys me with an optic blast gives me the evil eye. She picks up Max, and breastfeeds again, and then says, begrudgingly, that I should go to sleep.
So I do, relieved.
If I was asked what I think about when I think about breastfeeding, I would be lying if I didn’t first talk about the absolutely selfish relief I feel whenever Char has to breastfeed. Look, I try very hard to share responsibility with Char in caring, protecting, and raising Max. I am absolutely allergic to the thought of being a deadbeat Dad, or a lousy Father. It’s 2017: old ideas about stereotypical (read: irresponsible) manhood should be dead and buried. I believe real men should do chores, cook, wash dishes, and put babies to sleep. Real men should be able to—and be glad to—do anything and everything women can do for their families1. So, that’s what I try to do for Max—I should be able to do anything Char can do for him.
But I can’t breastfeed. Unfortunately, Max also absolutely prefers direct feeding over bottle or cup feeding: it’s the most foolproof way of putting him to sleep. If Max refuses to sleep in my arms, and he starts showing signs of wanting breastmilk2, really, what’s a man to do? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I have to admit that the relief extends to the fact that I literally can’t breastfeed. But I do hear from very excitable breastfeeding social circles that men can actually do it. There isn’t any scientific material, though—or at least, no guides or workshops or YouTube tutorials that can teach me how to do it. Of course, if such materials were in fact available, it would be my moral obligation to actually try to learn it so I can share in the responsibility along with my wife.
But those materials are not available3. I guess I can just go back to sleep, relieved.
For the record, I believe women should be the same. ↩︎
These days it’s a short whimper, and a yearning glance in his mom’s direction. ↩︎
Please do not reply to this post with links to these materials ↩︎