Squishy Conquers Hong Kong

 

A few weeks back, over the holiday break, we took a quick trip to Hong Kong. Overall, it was a much easier trip compared to Japan. The flight was shorter and Max was older, which, as it turned out, makes for an easier trip.

We decided to got to Hong Kong shortly after our Japan trip. I think it was partly because Osaka summer kicked our butts. It was so hot. I was desperate for jacket weather. Max’s Lola also joined us for this trip, so it was Max’s first time to go out of the country with his “Lala”.

I have to admit, the days leading to our flight was kind of a blur. We decided to leave on Christmas day to maximize our stay. So there was a lot going on before we left—Mikey was preparing for a big school play, I was trying to finish two weeks worth of work in one so that I could be relatively free during our break, and multiple Christmas eve gatherings. We even got to stay up and open presents on Christmas eve with Max!

I got to plan the trip little by little as we led up to our departure. But it was nowhere as detailed as our Japan trip. I also knew that it couldn’t be as detailed as our Japan trip because we were traveling with other people. Here’s what we ended up doing:

Rough Hong Kong Toddler Itinerary

Day 1 (December 25)

  • Left Manila at around 9 AM
  • Arrived in Hong Kong at around 1 PM
  • Ate lunch at the airport
  • Took the airport bus to the hotel
  • Checked into the hotel (Rosedale Hotel-Kowloon)
  • Unpacked
  • Shopping and dinner at Causeway Bay

Day 2 (December 26 – Mikey’s Birthday! ❤️)

  • Takeout from McDonald’s, Breakfast at the hotel
  • Disneyland 

Day 3 (December 27)

Day 4 (December 28)

Day 5 (December 29)

  • Shopping at Olympian City
  • Shopping and Lunch at Causeway Bay
  • Uber to the airport
  • Depart from Hong Kong at around 10 PM
  • Arrive in Manila a little after midnight

Trip Essentials

Maybe it didn’t seem like we had to prepare too much for this trip because I basically followed my Japan list for Max’s trip essentials. So it was just a matter of re-stocking some of the things we ran out of.

We decided to leave our carrier at home and we relied heavily on the Pockit stroller. When we’re here and we have access to our own car, we actually still prefer our bulky Graco Verb Click Connect Travel System stroller. This was the first stroller we got before Max was born and we still love it because it’s a smoother ride and it reclines. Max’s Lola didn’t like our stroller so she bought him the Pockit stroller. It actually feels wobbly when you use it, but it’s so convenient to pack. So, it’s what we bring along when we travel.

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Spot the Pockit!

I kind of go overboard with our medicine kit, especially when we go to non-English speaking countries. I don’t want to go to the trouble of having to translate our ailments and risk getting the wrong kind of medicine. So our medicine kit actually takes up 1/4 of one of our large luggage. I also have a smaller version of the kit with me at all times. During this trip though, it was the adults who benefited most from our medicine kit. We didn’t touch any of Max’s stuff.

We also always make sure to bring insulated water bottles. One for Max and one that Mikey and I share. Hong Kong has a lot of vending machines where you can get drinks, but Max will ask for water specifically when he’s thirsty. He was also snacking a lot because his Lola kept buying him M&Ms, so it was good that we had water with us.

Cold Weather Clothes

This was our first international trip where we had to pack for cold weather! We’ve been to Baguio a couple of times when it was nice and cool, but we heard that the Hong Kong weather could hit as low as 9ºc, so we wanted to be prepared.

I LOVED Uniqlo’s Heattech line for our trip. It can get a bit pricey, but if you scout out the clearance sections or wait for sales, it’s not too bad. I really think it’s worth it because of the space it saves. I wish I had just packed Heattech for all of us. Initially, I just bought two pieces for Max, one long sleeved shirt and one pair of leggings. My mom and Mikey’s mom decided to get him some more, so he basically wore Heattech for most of the trip. It’s also great to pack as extra clothes because it’s so thin and light! I also scored a bubble jacket from Uniqlo (on sale!) for him.

Mikey and I also got ourselves some Heattech pieces. I bought myself a long sleeved top, leggings, and a sleeveless shirt. The days I wore Heattech were my favorite outfit days. The sleeveless shirt was perfect for breastfeeding on the go. I just popped out my boob from the top since it was a low neckline.

The Hotel

Unlike our hotel in Japan, our hotel, Rosedale Hotel-Kowloon, wasn’t centrally located. But we remember that we chose this hotel because the nearest MRT station was connected to the Disney Train line. That meant that our travel time to Disney Land only took about 30 minutes. I thought it made more sense for us to book a hotel closer to Disney because it’s the only day where we would have to get up extra early to get there in time for it to open.

And it’s a good thing too, because when you travel with other people, they don’t always keep to your schedule. So we actually ended up leaving a lot later than planned. We arrived at Disneyland about an hour after the park opened. If we had chosen a more centrally located hotel, we would have arrived much later.

Things like this tend to matter when you’re traveling with a toddler. Max is in his best mood when he wakes up and slowly winds down all the way up to his nap. In the morning, we don’t even have to bribe him to get on his stroller. He’ll willingly sit on it until we get to where we need to go. But if we spend too much time waiting around, he gets bored and wants to expend energy. So when we’re planning activities for him, we try our best to maximize his mornings so that he can get the most out of it.

Transportation

Hong Kong is great because the MRT is so easy to use. And it’s doubly easy because we ordered SIM cards from Klook so we could use the data on our phone or iPad. The MRT was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and since the weather was so nice, we looked forward to these walks.

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On the Airport Express

We only grabbed an Uber twice: on our way back to the hotel from Sneaker Lane and going to the airport from our hotel. After shopping in Sneaker Lane, we decided to take an Uber because it was a short ride, it started raining, it was late, and our travel companions were tired from the day.  Uber seemed like the best solution to get to the airport because we had a lot of bags and we could order an extra large car to pick us up.

Disney Land

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When we were first planning this trip, we were on the fence about Disney Land. We remembered our experience in Universal Studios Japan (USJ) and we thought that maybe we would wait for Max to get a little older before attempting another major theme part.

We’re so grateful that our friends convinced us to go. Unlike USJ, Disney Land was made for kids Max’s age! He was able to do SO MUCH more in Disney. He rode rides, watched shows, ran around with his bubble machine, and ate his heart out. He even met THE Buzz Lightyear!

Mikey also celebrated his birthday in Disney Land! As soon as Max fell asleep, Mikey got a Fastpass and rode Hyperspace Mountain which was the classic Space Mountain but Star Wars themed! After Mikey got to ride, he handed me Fastpass and I got to go on it too! So Momma and Papa also got to have their fun. The app was so useful in helping us navigate through the day. It told us what time the shows were, where they would be, and how long ride lines were. It was a surprisingly efficient day!

We ended the night by watching the Disney Paint The Night Parade which started at 9 PM. Max was already in wonky-ville before it started and he was actually latched and ready to sleep before the first float came out. But I was able to coax him off of me and got him to sit on my lap while we sat on Main Street. The lights, music, and all his favorite characters definitely woke him up. My Pixar loving toddler was so happy! He still talks about it to this day. He’ll randomly say, “Mama, go Disneyland?” and I just tell him that we have to save up again.

Ocean Park

When I was doing my preliminary research about Hong Kong, I asked a friend of mine who recently took her toddler there. When I asked her if Ocean Park was worth it, she said that her kid (and entire family) actually enjoyed Ocean Park more than Disneyland. So, that kind of sealed the deal for me. If we were going to Disney, we had to make our way to Ocean Park.

Ocean Park was a lot of fun! Even if we already went to the majestic Osaka Aquarium, it was so fascinating to see how different Max was in a span of a few months. It’s like he’s a totally different kid. When we were in the Osaka Aquarium, I remember Max being a little confused. He would spend a lot of time in each exhibit, just watching. But we would essentially have to move him from one window to the next.

This time around, he played a more active role. He would go from one window to another by himself, often calling me to come with him or pulling me by the hand. He knew that if he kept on moving he would see one new thing after another.

We didn’t spend the entire day there. There were a lot of rides that Max couldn’t get on. But we made sure to hit all the essentials–the large aquarium, the penguins, the panda, seal lions, and walrus.

Hong Kong is a great starter vacation spot if you’re testing out your travel wings with a toddler. It’s convenient and there’s plenty of activities for them, even if you don’t end up going to a theme park. It’s also a great place to go shopping. I hit Ikea on our first night and Mikey visited two different Apple Store branches. And, while Mikey was at the Apple Store, we found a bookstore where I got our books for this trip! We like to get at least one book as a souvenir for each trip. For this trip, we got My Hong Kong Numbers and Hong Kong ABC.

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Max is absolutely in love with My Hong Kong Numbers. Every night, he’ll say: “Hong Kong Numbers read?” I’ll be writing soon about this and two other books that we got over the holidays that we love!

Max was a lot easier to travel with this time around. He didn’t have any major meltdowns and we didn’t have to resort to screen time as much either. Just like in Manila, it would get a little difficult when we wanted to shop because Max finds shopping for anything other than toys utterly boring. But I guess that’s normal, right? Hong Kong made us a little bit braver about traveling with Max. Hopefully, traveling is something that gets easier (and funner) as he gets older.

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Have Yourself A Squishy Little Christmas

It’s been a crazy few months for us over here. So much has happened in such a short span of time. I’m reading back on my last entry and it feels like all of that happened ages ago. Did we really manage to take a trip to Japan? Did Max turn 2? Were we really super stressed about his first fever? (Yup, yup, super yup.)

Lately, our squishy days have been very busy days. I scored a regular freelance job that I’m really enjoying right now. And I also got another Psychology-related gig that starts some time next year. The best thing about these gigs is that all the work is done at home and is flexible enough to withstand the chaos of living with a toddler. I’m learning so much from all of this and I think I’ll have to write about that later on.

Our days have also been extraordinarily busy because it’s CHRISTMAS! It’s our favorite time of the year! Actually, over here in the Philippines, Christmas celebrations (un)officially begins on September 1. But because Max’s birthday is on September 13, our little family’s Christmas extravaganza starts on September 14. I love building memories and traditions with our little family. Here’s what we’ve been up to this year.

10 Squishy Christmas Traditions

1. Christmas Nesting

I love decorating for Christmas! I make a day out of it where we turn on the air conditioner outside and play Christmas music. We did a great job in organizing and packing our Christmas decorations last year, so unpacking them wasn’t too stressful. I highly recommend investing in good storage boxes for your decorations. We have little decorations sprinkled all over our apartment, but my favorites are our Charlie Brown-esque Christmas Tree and our makeshift fireplace (shoe cabinet) with Christmas Stockings and Sexy Santa. We had fun decorating with Max. Every now and then, I’ll find one of his toys sitting in our Christmas tree, as if it really belongs there.

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2. Christmas Books

We’re so grateful that Max still finds it entertaining to be read to. One of the things I did for this Christmas season is box up some of Max’s books to make room for Christmas books on his little book shelf. For the next couple of days though, he was looking for some of his old books. But we dove right into a Christmas themed read-out-loud series that we all really enjoyed. Here are our favorites this year:

Max really enjoys rhymes. It sustains his attention even if it’s actually a longer book than what he’s used to. We love, love, love the Rory The Dinosaur series  (but the Christmas book is my personal favorite). It’s perfect for Max because the stories are short and easy to understand. He likes to point out objects in books, and, sometimes, he’ll try to skip to his favorite parts. Some nights, we go through 4-5 books before we sleep!

3. Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Over the years, Mikey and I have collected odd holiday shirts and sweaters. As soon as September hits, we start wearing our favorite holiday clothes. We always shop for Christmas shirts and sweaters in January when everything goes on sale. Last year, I bought I bunch of Christmas shirts for Max in Old Navy—all less than Php 200 or USD 3.77!

4. Peppermint Mocha (Starbucks)

I’M SO GLAD THAT STARBUCKS BROUGHT BACK THE ORIGINAL PEPPERMINT MOCHA THIS YEAR. Ok, I will stop yelling now. But last year, I was so disappointed when they tried to trend it up and came out with a DARK Peppermint Mocha. You don’t mess with classics, people. We made a yearly tradition to hit a Starbucks on the first day of red cups.

This year, we did it over breakfast. Mikey and I ordered our tall, hot Peppermint Mochas (no chocolate drizzle and please make sure that the whipped cream is as high as it is in the photos [and extra peppermint sprinkles for Mikey]) and we asked for milk on the side (for Max). We also ordered one pastry each. I’m so glad that Max is coming around to the idea of eating pastries for breakfast. He really likes the croissant with butter (I tried giving him some with strawberry jelly and he spit it out).

5. Power Plant Mall

We love visiting the Power Plant Mall in Rockwell over the holidays. It’s usually dressed up in a very holiday-dignified manner (except for that one year where they used ORANGE twinkle lights instead of warm white). They have these gorgeous, huge, real-looking trees that are full of twinkle lights and Christmas balls.  For the past few years, they’ve showcase these giant electronic animals that move and sing Christmas songs. This year, they added a little toddler’s play area by the fountain.

Christmasized Power Plant Mall makes me feel really warm and fuzzy on the inside. And Max really enjoys going there. In fact, it’s my favorite Momma-and-Squishy date place because the mall is pretty small and it’s easy for us to get around in.

6. Christmas Shopping Frenzy

I come from a big family and it’s tradition in our family to exchange gifts. My dad has eight siblings and my mom has five. I have over two dozen cousins and a handful of nieces and nephews. So Christmas shopping for me is kind of a year-round activity because it would be too costly and overwhelming to do it all during the holidays. Mikey and I used to hit all of the bazaars to find unique and, uh, competitively priced Christmas gifts. When we had Max, we kind of gave up on the whole bazaar scene, but this year, we were able to go to one with Max! As usual, we ended up getting more stuff for Max, but it was so much fun!

7. Rum Cake

Every year, we order rum cake from Mrs. Cristy Puno. This year, we ordered twice. Hahaha. It’s this beautiful bunt cake with a sugar glaze and Christmas sprinkles. The best thing about this rum cake is that it keeps getting better as the days go by. The center becomes rummier and rummier. Max prefers the crust with the glaze though.

The rum cake goes great with a cup of coffee. It’s extra special this year because Mikey gave me us himself an early Christmas present—a Nespresso machine. So our coffee at home was extra good with the rum cake—or, our rum cake was extra good with the coffee at home.

8. Christmas Movies

I love Christmas movies. I think we’ve devoured all the Christmas movies on Netflix, but the Christmas movies watch over and over again isn’t on Netflix. We’ve watched Elf and A Charlie Brown Christmas at least four times each. We were so surprised when Max finished Elf! He normally gives up after a while when it’s not an animated film. But he watches Elf from start to finish and he even cries during the sad parts.

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9. Christmas Music

Whenever Max is playing and we’re lounging around the house, we play Christmas music. Max can tell when it’s a Christmas song because he’ll say “‘mas sing” [Christmas Song]. He can also tell if the music is from A Charlie Brown Christmas because he’ll say “Snoopy!”.

10. Yearly Christmas Ornament Hunt

Every year, we try to get one new Christmas ornament each. When we had Max choose his ornament last year, it was pretty arbitrary. He just pointed to a random ornament. This year, he played a more active role. He pointed at the ornament and said “dinasawr hoho”. When I asked him if he wanted to buy it, he nodded. So we got him his t-rex-wearing-a-Santa-hat ornament. I got a Love is Love ornament and Mikey got an Ugly Christmas sweater ornament.

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Max is more involved in our Christmas traditions now that he’s a full fledged toddler. He points out “mas tweee” [christmas trees], “santa” [Santa Clause], “Hoho hat” [santa’s hat], “know man” [snow man], “pen gif” [open gifts], and “know flake” [snowflake]. I hope he’s enjoying the season as much as we are.

We love Christmas because it’s that time of the year where we make time to be with people we love. In the last few weeks we’ve spent time with friends from high school and their kids. For a stay at home parent like me, it’s refreshing to talk to other adults. It’s also so cool—and so sobering—to see all of our kids together. Weren’t we all just idiot teenagers, like, a few days ago?

I hope I get to write another post before the year ends. But we’re going on a short trip in a couple of days and I’m also trying my best to keep up with my new work-from-home gig. So, if this ends up being the last thing I get to post before the year ends: Team Squish is sending everyone happy thoughts of a warm and fuzzy Christmas and have a love-filled New Year. ❤

We have a two year old!

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Baby Squishy Shark by Mikey Llorin

Max is 2 today! Everyone keeps warning us about the terrible twos (or says that the terrible twos seem to have come earlier for Max). Max certainly has his moments. And oh boy have we had our share of tantrums. But he’s becoming such a great kid. He’s so funny, curious, brave, and sweet. (Now if we could only get him to stop breastfeeding…) 

It’s funny, because I majored in Human Development Psychology and I worked in a great pre-school for over 2 years, so I have this idea of how Max was supposed to be at each age. He continues to defy my expectations. Every time I take stock, he’s always surpassed my expectations—and not because he’s advanced or anything like that (although Mikey will say otherwise), but because his strengths are so…different. 

Max isn’t really interested in shapes, letters, and colors yet. My mom mentioned more than once that his second cousins are shapes, letters, and colors Einsteins. Max, on the other hand, has only two favorite shapes: kul (circle, which he loves to draw and point out) and diamonds (which he makes with his fingers, just like in twinkle twinkle little star). But he’s not really interested in the other shapes. To Max, all letters are A, B or E.  Sometimes we can get an M and an X out of him. And everything is the color boo (blue). 

I think if I were a bit more neurotic, it would concern me, but he’s just so cute. 😅 

His, uh, unique development comes in the form of empathy. Specifically, empathy towards his animated friends. 😅 Max cries whenever there’s a sad scene in the movies/shows. Here’s a list of all of Max’s tearjerking experiences: 

The first time it happened, I thought it was a fluke and then it happened again. Max is able to understand enough of the story and empathize with the characters. 

It’s so fascinating when it happens, he starts tearing up and then he calls for me. He snuggles up and hugs me and then he looks away for a while. Sometimes he’ll break free from the hug, point at the TV, and say “bibi” (baby) while crying. I ask him why he’s crying, and I ask him if he’s sad or if it’s because the baby is wawa. And he’ll nod. I’ll try to reassure him that it will be OK. And he goes back to watching.

I’m sure that letters, shapes, and colors will come in time. For now, we love our two year old oddball. 

P.S. I need to finish my Osaka series, gah! Work + Max getting sick’s slowed me down a bit but I’m determined to finish because I don’t want to forget.