I’m Throwing A Boobie Retirement Party

Oh my goodness! We accidentally weaned Max last week! I say accident because we didn’t prepare or plan for it, it just kind of happened one night and we followed through. Here’s a quick recap of how it happened: 

Saturday

It was a tough week for us. We were all getting over a bug and I had work that I wanted to get to. Max fell asleep the usual way that night—by breastfeeding until he was knocked out. As usual, I ninjaed my way out of bed so that I could keep working. On good nights, Max gives me 1.5-2 hours before he wakes up and asks to breastfeed to sleep again. But that night he kept waking up every 45 minutes. I’ll admit that I was very frustrated. I ended up finishing my work at almost 4 AM. 

When I finally got back to bed, I had a total of 8 minutes before Max woke up again and started pulling at my shirt. At first, I pretended to sleep, but he got more persistent. I was so sleepy and tired that I said: “No Max. No more kikis. Momma is so tired and you’re so kulit tonight. No more na.” 

(Kikis is what Max calls breastfeeding. We borrowed it from his friend Mateo, who called it milkies.)

He cried and cried. And I thought it would be a matter of time before I gave in, but after a few minutes he just fell into my arms and went back to sleep. I was so surprised! That has never happened before. He slept until about 8 AM, but because I was so sleepy from the night before, I let him latch on again when he asked for it in the morning. 

Sunday 

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Max at a birthday party eating cheese fries.

We had a full day on Sunday. We had a birthday party to attend and I had some work that I wanted to finish. Mikey and I didn’t really get to talk about what happened the night before, so we stuck to our regular night time routine—Mikey gives Max a bath, I dress him up, Max plays a little, and Max breastfeeds to sleep. 

When Max fell asleep, I decided that we would try to get him to put himself back to sleep again. I was riding on the confidence from the previous night’s accidental success. I had an epiphany that night: I realized that Max will be completely OK without breastfeeding. And that he is capable of getting over it—I just need to give him a chance. I let Mikey know and he seemed to be cautiously onboard with me. 

The timing also made sense because it was a holiday the next day. So, I wouldn’t feel too bad about keeping Mikey up all night if Max didn’t stop crying.

To our surprise, the same thing happened. He woke up at around 1:30 AM and he asked to breastfeed. I said no and I said that I couldn’t because my kikis were wawa. He protested for a while, drank water, cuddled up, and went back to sleep! I was so amazed and these first two nights really helped build my confidence to keep powering through. 

Monday 

Looking back, it seems like our accidental weaning was timed perfectly. We had another packed day on Monday. We spent most of the day with our friends and their kids to celebrate my Goddaughter’s birthday. So Max was preoccupied all day long and didn’t even think about breastfeeding until late in the afternoon when they finished playing. But by this time, he was so tired that he fell asleep on his stroller. 

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It always feels like we accomplished something when he falls asleep on his stroller.

We had dinner and dessert with our friends. I made sure that Max ate a lot that evening. I even bought him a tub of Potato Corner cheese fries after dinner. I thought that it might be easier to keep weaning him if he was full. Before we entered the car to go home that night, I needed to talk to Max. The car is one of two places that we’re allowed to breastfeed and I knew that he was expecting it after a long day. 

I told Max that we couldn’t kikis because Momma’s kiki’s are still wawa. And I made sure that he agreed to not breastfeeding before entering the car. When we were in the car, Max was still expressing his desire to kikis. So I had to keep talking to him. Here’s our exchange: 

Char: I’m so sorry Max. I know you want to kikis. I know that it’s hard for you. But Momma’s kikis are broken. We can’t kikis anymore.

Max started quietly tearing up and he hugged me.

Max: Broken like Ga-ma’s shoes? (A few days back, we were out with my mom and one of her shoes broke while we were walking.)

Char: Yes! Just like Gwama’s shoes. Remember she couldn’t use it anymore after it broke?

Max: Yes (and then he changed the subject).

I think this exchange made a world of difference because Max understands the word “broken”. He’s had (MANY) first hand experiences with things breaking. So he knows that, sometimes, when things break, you can’t use them anymore. 

When we got home, Max went through his usual nighttime routine. Mikey gave him a bath and I dressed him for bed. When we got to the bed, I made sure to put on three layers of shirts so that he didn’t have easy access to my boobs. He picked out a bunch of books to read and we gamely complied to his requests. Usually, Max would already be latched by reading time, so it was really amazing when he just sat there and asked that I hold him while we were reading. 

When it was getting late, Mikey and I warned him that it was the last book and we’d be turning off the lights soon. After we finished the last book, Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site, Max snuggled up into my arms and put himself to sleep. 

It was so crazy because we were really expecting Max to cry all night long. Our friends told us all about their weaning experience and all of them told us to be ready for the buckets of tears for a couple of nights. Not counting the times he passes out because he’s so tired, this was the first time he put himself to sleep. We could hear him sucking on nothing for maybe 30 or so until he finally fell into deep sleep. We were so proud of our boy! He woke up once or twice that night, but all we did was give him some water and cuddled with him. He never stayed up for too long. 

I couldn’t help but tear up when Max finally went to sleep. I’ve been stressing about weaning since he turned 2 years old. I spent the last few months worrying, planning, and trying. In the past, I would cave in really quickly when he started crying. Maybe all he needed was some time. Time to be able to understand the situation and the ability to express his sadness about it. 

Tuesday 

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Awake at 6:30 AM.

At around 6:30, Max woke up and asked for kikis. But when I reminded him that we couldn’t anymore, he didn’t want to go back to sleep. He asked for pizza and ice cream, so I promised we’d have that for dinner. In the meantime, I made him some bread and milk and I let him watch his favorite show. I also made him his favorite homemade mac and cheese for lunch. He was very clingy and sensitive throughout the day, but he didn’t ask for kikis. I think he was just working out his feelings. 

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No kikis nap!

Since we were up so early he actually fell asleep while watching TV at around noon and he woke up at 4PM. I took him to our apartment’s outdoor area and we raced cars and blew bubbles. I just wanted to reassure him that I still loved him and that he could still count on me even if we stopped breastfeeding. 

After a dinner made up of many helpings of mac and cheese, pizza, and ice cream, Max went to sleep without breastfeeding again.

Wednesday 

Max woke up at a decent hour on Wednesday. He woke up at 9 AM and we were having a really pleasant day until it was time to nap. I could tell that he was already sleepy, but he really didn’t want to go to sleep. He fought it all afternoon. 

At one point he said: “no sleep mama! Sunny day!” It wasn’t until he had a meltdown because I finally refused to leave the bed to join him outside that he finally let me hold him. But as soon as he got into my arms he feel asleep! 

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After hours of protesting, he finally fell asleep.

Apart from the endless books, we didn’t have too much trouble putting him to sleep later that night. I think he was closer to accepting our new routine. In fact, sometime during the day, we had a funny conversation:

Max: Papa give Maxie a baff (bath). Mama kikis. 

Char: No, Max. Remember, Mama’s kiki’s are broken. 

Max: Papa give Maxie a baff (bath). Mama hug. 

I was so amazed. He corrected himself automatically when I reminded him of our new set-up! 

To Infinity and Beyond! 

Max is still learning how to fall asleep during the day time. I guess it’s easier at night when it’s dark and he can’t see anything. So, we’re still figuring out nap time over here. It’s Thursday (2:30 PM) and I’m writing this after an hour of trying to get him to sleep. (And I’m editing it at 6:30 PM when he finally fell asleep!)

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He seemed to be back to his usual goofy self after a few days.

So far, here’s what we found to be helpful in kickstarting the weaning process:

1. Having Activities Lined Up

My goddaughter’s birthday party was perfect timing. If we had stayed home all day that day, Max would’ve wanted to breastfeed for his nap and it would’ve been really hard to say no. I’m glad that we had activities that distracted him from wanting to breastfeed. 

2. Resolve

Everything changed when I realized that Max will be OK without breastfeeding and accepted that it’s also OK for him to cry. It gave me the courage I needed to hold my ground and it made me find other ways to soothe him. 

3. Language Development and Empathy

None of this was planned but I’m so glad that I used the word broken. It’s so much easier to get your toddler to do what you want them to do if they understand the context. And, from the beginning, I should’ve made an effort to explain things in his terms instead of just saying that we’re not going to breastfeed anymore. 

4. A Bedtime Routine

It helped that we already established a routine with Max. So even if we had to remove one part of it, he still has a semblance of predictability that offers him a sense of security.

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I love you forever, Maxie. ❤️

I know that this is already a really long post, but I still have all sorts of feelings and thoughts that I still need to work out. It feels like a really important transition in my journey as a mom. The difference is so palpable and it’s only been a few days.

A few days ago, Mikey ran some numbers and told me that I had been breastfeeding Max for a total of 895 days (or 2 years, 5 months, and 12 days). It’s been a hell of a ride and I still can’t believe that it’s actually over.

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While The Baby Is Latched: WAHM Musings

When I decided that I would be a stay-at-home parent for the first few years of Max’s life, a few people commented “sayang”. Sayang, I suppose, because I am an able bodied adult who could have a job. And maybe because they thought that I was wasting my (relative) youth as well. 

At first, a part of me felt bad. I was also afraid that when the time came for me to go back to work, I would not be able to keep up with my peers. I thought about all the conferences, seminars, and projects that I usually made up my time—these professional development opportunities that I would now miss out on, and how this inevitably meant that I would be behind. 

Ultimately though, those fears weren’t enough to change my mind. I wanted to dive into motherhood and focus on that for a few years. Again, I’m very fortunate that Mikey and I found ways to make this work. And I completely understand that our set-up isn’t for everyone. 

Soon enough though, it became clear to me that I had so much to learn. That the time that I’m spending at home with my child isn’t a period of stagnation. It was actually a season of unbelievable stretching. 

You know how they say that a baby grows at a tremendous rate in their first year of life? I think this kind of carries over to their parents.¹ 

Being the primary caregiver of an infant (and now toddler), has taught me so much and I’d like to think that I’ve grown in ways that I’ve been able to avoid in my carefully curated career. 

I’ll admit that in the past, I’ve been lucky enough to pick and choose career opportunities that have kept me well within my comfort zone. But you can’t do that as a mom. Your child’s need will fling you into many unplanned uncomfortable zones and you just have to go through it because it’s not just about you anymore. 

And now that I’m slowly easing my way back into the world of employment, even if it’s mostly work-from-home gigs, I can already tell how motherhood has impacted the way I work. 

Most glaringly, I’m just more grateful. And it makes a world of difference. I didn’t realize how entitled I used to feel in the past. Even if I didn’t express it to others, if I felt like something was unfair at work, I would let the negative feelings fester and marinate in my heart. 

Now, it’s so much easier to overlook imperfections because I’m just grateful for the opportunity to contribute to something and earn money AND take care of my kid at the same time. I found that feeling bad and ranting is a waste of energy and mind space. For as along as I can continue working, I am grateful. 

I’m also more mindful of my time. Because any time I spend working is time away from my family. I force myself to focus so that I make the most out of it. I really can’t believe how much time I used to waste at work. I could’ve gotten more things done. 

And soooooo, as my son unlatches and I’m finally able to get back to the work that I’m ever so grateful for, I’d like to say to this my imaginary audience:

If you choose to stay at home with your child, it is not wasted time—not for you and definitely not for your kid. And if or when you feel like it’s time for you to work again, you may need to learn new things but don’t be surprised if you find out that you’re a better version of yourself. And that’s not something that’s easily gained from a conference or week-long seminar. 

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Another WAHM bonus: a really cute co-worker who often forgets to wear pants. ❤️

 


1. I think this is true for all parents—regardless of their employment set-up.

WAHMing It Up

Never apologize for working. You love what you do, and loving what you do is a great gift to give your child.” -Marlene Sanders

You don’t even have to love your job; you can merely love what your job does for you—the confidence and self-fulfilment that comes with doing and earning.” -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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I recently started a regular work from home gig and these excerpts from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions perfectly capture a lot of my thoughts and feelings about this new role.

I think it was early October when a friend told me that his company was hiring work-from-home writers. And when he explained that everything happened online (the application process, interviews, and all the work), I thought I had nothing to lose.

And here we are! I’ve been a regular work from home mom (or work-at-home-mom, or WAHM) for about three months now. In the beginning, there was a lot to learn on the job front and even more to learn on the home front. It was a bit of a learning curve (it still is). And there were days when I felt like I was a failure at all of it—as a wife, a mom, and a freelance employee.

But I kept at it because I realized how much I needed this. More than the added income (which is wonderful), I needed to remember that there were other things I could do apart from being someone’s partner and mom. And that’s worth all the late nights where my boys are sleeping and I’m typing away on my computer.

I still believe that I am where I should be—at home with Max. I love how flexible this gig is. Working from home has it’s challenges, but for us, it’s pretty ideal. Max’s growing independence is a gift and I don’t want to waste it. And I’m fortunate to have a husband who truly believes that we’re equals. I’m young and I’m still really eager to learn new things. So we’re going to keep on going. ❤️

 

Team Squishy’s Favorite 2018 Holiday Books

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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!” ❤️

 

 

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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. ❤️

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.

 

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. ❤

Osaka Epilogue: #watashiwatamago

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The view of the moon while we were on the plane on our way to Osaka.

I don’t want to sugar coat our trip. Looking back at the photos, it would be easy to paint a picture-perfect family vacation. But there were times when it was so hard that I wanted to join Max in his tantrum and cry. Mikey is the epitome of patience and flexibility when it comes to dealing with Max, but I know that he had some tough times with him too.

We were kind of baffled at this new clingy and fussy toddler that we were dealing with. He either wanted to breastfeed or to be allowed to run amok. A part of me thought that maybe this was a new phase Max was entering. Maybe it was a preview of the terrible twos that people kept telling us about. But looking back, I think it was a mixture of Max being frustrated because he couldn’t communicate what he wanted, the horrible weather, over-stimulation because of all the screen time, teething, and also still recuperating from his sudden sickness a few days before the trip.

It would be easy to regret the timing of the trip (“maybe if we waited until he was older, it would’ve been easier“), especially nowadays when we can meaningfully reason with Max. We could regret it, but we honestly don’t. As silly as it sounds, all the hard stuff is ultimately eclipsed by the sheer fun that we had together. Experiencing the world in new ways as a family is such a privilege. We are beyond grateful.

It took me a while to finish this series, but I think (like always) the timing makes perfect sense. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to include this last tidbit: a few nights ago, Max saw his Papa’s iPad wallpaper (a photo of Max and I watching rays at the Osaka Aquarium) and he said: “rey! Pan!” (Ray! Japan!). We were so amazed! He remembers and even if he can’t fully articulate it, I know that he learned and grew so much because of this trip. And so did we.

P.S. Our trip hashtag for all our social media postings was #watashiwatamago. Here is the backstory of that hashtag.