I’ll Do Better Next Time


Over the weekend, we went to the Greenhills Shopping Center in an attempt to fix my broken iPad. While Mikey took care of the tech stuff, Max and I explored the shopping stalls in the bazaar area.

Max has been such a great trooper lately. We’re so amazed at how far he’s come from the last few months since we’ve weaned. Nap time isn’t a struggle anymore, he’s sitting in his car seat without any trouble (I can finally sit in front with Mikey again!), and he’s slowly learning to regulate his emotions with the help of words.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a willful (and many times a disobedient) toddler, but he’s trying so hard. We’ve also been “working” long hours lately and I can see it take a toll on him. So, to pep up the trip to Greenhills, I told him that he could choose one toy from the bazaar. He was so excited!

We walked around for a bit before we found stalls selling toys. When we finally found one, Max zeroed in on a Frozen themed toy gun. He pulled the trigger and the gun began signing the first two lines of the Let It Go chorus. Over and over again.

I started panicking internally. I didn’t want Max to have access to Elsa singing two lines of Let It Go on demand. I was also pretty sure that Mikey would hate it. So I tried diverting his attention to the other toys. He would look, but he’d keep coming back to the Frozen gun. It didn’t seem like he wanted anything else.

Desperate, I said: “But Max, that’s only for girls.”

I regretted it the moment I said it.

We make every effort to ensure that we don’t develop any gender stereotypes in our home, and certainly not in any toy stores. We know that social biases are already a strong enough influence, and this is why we try to offset this with our own influence on Max. So when I said it, shame washed all over me as my toddler looked at me in confusion.

I try to backtrack and I tell him that he can totally have it if he wants it. While I was trying to get the foot out of my mouth, the sales lady offers Max a similar gun, but this one was Captain America themed.

Max loves the MCU, so he was pretty happy with it. Instead of Let It Go, it made random laser noises when you pulled the trigger. We bought that toy instead.

Max seems really happy with his Capten ‘Merica shooter, but he still talks about the Frozen one. Max likes re-telling stories. So, more than once he’s said: “Maxie play with Frozen shooter, sing Let It Go. Maxie boy, buy Capten ‘Merica.”

I’ve apologized and I told him that I was wrong. I tried explaining that both boys and girls can play with both Capitan America or Frozen.

Unfortunately, the memory of picking out the toy is stronger than my postmortem dialoguing. So, he remembers it more.

My words matter, now more than ever. I’ll try to do better next time.

I’m A Big Boy

Silly Butts

One evening, I was working and Mikey and Max were watching The Incredibles. I took a quick break to plant kisses on the toddler and to catch one of my favorite scenes (Edna slapping Elastigirl).

Before I turn back to my laptop, I say “Maxie, look! Papa is Mr. Incredible, Momma is Elastigirl, and Maxie is Jack-Jack!”

Max ignores me and I go back to work. A few minutes later, Max looks at me with a serious, almost angry, face and says, “Maxie big boy, not baby. Maxie Dash.”

Mikey and I were stunned in that did-that-just-happen kind of way (this happens a lot now BTW). We were silent for a while and then we started laughing in disbelief. Did our two year old really just say he was a big boy?

He’s Dash.

Yes, he did. And he’s been saying that a lot. Max is starting to develop his self-concept. Mostly, I’ve observed that he’s been able to articulate his categorical self. He can tell us what he thinks he is or isn’t. It’s so fascinating.

Here are some phrases he has said relating to his categorical self:

  • Maxie not baby, Maxie big boy
  • Maxie not scared, Maxie brave
  • Maxie so funny

Aside from this, he’s also getting better at recognizing others’ emotions. Whenever he does something to upset me, he’ll say, “Mama no sad. Mama happy please.” And he’ll literally try to turn my frown upside down with his tiny (usually sticky) fingers.  

Or, when Mikey was upset because the internet went bonkers during WrestleMania, Max went up to him and said, “Papa, no more sad! Papa smile! Papa happy!” And he ran back to me and reported, “Mama, Papa smile! Hooray!”

Beneath his tornado tendencies, Squish is really such a sweet boy. ❤

After Max started self-identifying as a big boy, we noticed that it got easier to get him to do certain things.

For example, it’s no longer a struggle to get him to sit in his car seat. We explained that all big boys (like Papa and Mama) have to wear their seatbelt in the car. After we said that, he quietly accepted his fate for the rest of the car ride. The first time though, he asked me to sit next to him and hug him while he was strapped in. But the next time, I got to sit in front with Mikey. That was a huge breakthrough for us!

We also use the “big boy” argument to get him to walk or sit in his stroller. We told him that since he’s a big boy, he’s getting too heavy to carry. So he has the option to either walk or sit in his stroller. He usually sticks with whatever he chooses and it means a lot less drama for us.

I’m 90% amused and loving this phase, and about 10% (maybe 15…or 20) sad and nostalgic. I can’t believe how this little human is unfolding before our eyes.

But you’ll always be my baby. ❤ 

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).

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

The Squishy Book Club Part 1

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.

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.

We’ll be reading to infinity and beyond!