I love my dada because…

My son Liam loves the written word. Since he started learning how to read, he’s been inhaling everything from books, to billboard ads, to traffic signs. Heck, he even goes through my cell phone and attempts to read my messages for me! What can I say? I have no secrets from the little guy! :p

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For Father’s day this year, I suggested to Liam that we make a simple book for his dada. My idea was to make our own version of his favorite snuggle-time book “I love my daddy because…”. Liam was excited to execute, and so was I!

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The first thing we worked on was the content. I asked Liam what he loved about his dada, and he readily enumerated the reasons why. It was such a privilege for me to hear him name his reasons, and grant me a sneak peek into what was in his heart! After this, we looked at old pictures and selected which ones we wanted to use for the book. Besides honoring dada with this gift, it was a great activity for us to do together because we were able to: (1) practice writing and reading, (2) increase his vocabulary and express himself more clearly (I helped him word several of the reasons he named) , (3) exercise his fine motor skills (by taping pictures, and peeling and sticking stickers to decorate the pages), (4) have fun, bond and reminisce—you’d be surprised at how sentimental little kids can be, too.

It took Liam and I 5 days to complete this project– all with the planning, printing of pictures, the writing, taping and decorating. It truly was a labor of love.

We finished everything last night and both our boys presented it to Rich this morning, a day before Father’s day.  He loved it! I could tell because I saw him avoiding my gaze and tearing a little. (Success!) The best thing is that we can proudly display the book on the kids’ shelf and read it whenever we want to!

Here’s how it turned out:

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I love my dada because
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He takes care of me
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He is silly and makes me laugh
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He teaches me to love my brother
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He loves mama and treats her with respect
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He makes mama happy
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He teaches me to do things
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He plays with me
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He teaches me about God
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He spends time with me
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He lifts me up
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He is my role model
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He showers me with affection
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He is my favorite person in the world

 

To all the dads reading this, Happy Father’s day! You are awesome! The world is a better place because of everything you do for your kids.

 

 

 

L is for Liam

I started looking for a basic alphabet book for Liam when he was around 8 months old. I scoured bookstores, online shops, and asked friends for recommendations, but found several things wrong with each one I got my hands on. Really, who knew that looking for something so simple would be so difficult?

Call me picky if you like, but most of the ones available in the market had several irrelevant (first) words (A is for armadillo, E is for Elk?!), and some very misleading pictures in them. For example, in one of Liam’s alphabet books, the page for letter “M” said that M is for moon (check)– but with a drawing of a round cratered object wearing a hat! Or in the page for R, there was a ring with a huge rock and eyes on it. So confusing for a child who is learning those words for the first time!

So, it’s true what they say: Necessity is the mother of invention. I decided to take matters into my own hands and make Liam his own alphabet book.If you’re frustrated about the alphabet books out there and are considering making your own, read along for a few tips:

  1. I bought an 8×11 (hard cover) photo book from photobook Philippines through a local group buying site, and used this to make Liam his alphabet book. They’re always on sale! In fact, there’s one going on as I write this: http://www.metrodeal.com/deals/Metro_Manila/Photobook-Philippines/623711110. *From what I’ve seen, there aren’t any photo books options that are all board. The ones with hard covers still use paper inside.This means you will probably get (some) most pages of your book drawn on or torn off– but hey, nothing a few pieces of tape won’t fix! 😉
  2. The book I got had 40 pages, which were more than enough for what I wanted to make for my baby. This will give you enough space for numbers, shapes, body parts or other things you’d like your child to learn about. For Liam’s book, I included the parts of the body, letters A-Z, numbers 1-5,  and colors. I included other things that I felt would be useful to him (like shapes) under the pages for colors and numbers.

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    The “numbers” page also doubled as the “shapes” page.
  3. After I decided what I wanted to include in my 40-pages, I searched for photos on google images. My husband tipped me to specify “large” as the file size to make sure that the pictures would be of good-enough quality for printing. You can do this by clicking on search tools, and then size.Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 3.17.35 PM
  4. Choose pictures that you know will be relevant for your child, things that he will encounter. For example, you could put pictures of items inside your house, in his room, or even names of people, etc. This will make it easier for him to associate things with their rightful names.
  5. As much as possible, Rich and I don’t let our kids spend time in front of the TV. But at the same time, we want them to be able to relate to kids their age. Making your own alphabet book means having the free hand to put whatever character you like in the book! We made sure to include Barney in the B page, Mickey mouse in the M page, Sponge bob in the yellow page, and so on and so forth.

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    Liam knows of Sponge Bob and Mike of Monsters, Inc. because of his book!
  6. My husband knows photoshop and made the book cover for me. However, if you don’t have a creative to help you out, you can opt to get a cover photo from google images and use the text box to personalize.IMG_4228

Our book’s title is “L is for Liam”. So now that my second son Marco is turning 8 months, the plan is to work on another book that’s personalized for him, too. Will let you know how that one goes 🙂

A quick trip to the Fisher Mall supermarket

I don’t know if I’m the last person to hear about this, but in case you’re clueless like me, there’s this place in Quezon City called Fisher Supermarket. It’s inside the new Fisher Mall, and if you are at all into seafood, it’s definitely worth your visit.

I’m actually not a big seafood fan myself, as there are only certain kinds that I like; but I do find going to the supermarket therapeutic and really enjoyed the afternoon I spent there.

Expecting a dark and dreary place with wet floors, I was pleasantly surprised to see a clean and well-lit place.

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I admit it! I avoid the wet area of supermarkets because I cant stand the smell. So we don’t starve, my husband has taken it upon himself to pick out our meat and seafood for us during grocery trips. When he called me to take a look at this one’s wet section, I obliged. And while I am certainly no wet market expert, I dare say that fisher supermarket has the cleanest and widest (supermarket) selection of fresh seafood in town! Seriously, no fishy smell, no muddy floors.

We went past noon on a weekday, and there was still plenty of seafood– both live and frozen, to choose from. Check these babies out!

Instead of looking elsewhere for a place to eat, we decided to try their dampa-style “paluto”. We ordered a kilo each of their live shrimp and live sea bass, selected how we wanted these cooked from their menu (We chose to have the shrimps steamed and the fish cooked tausi style), and were given a buzzer to let us know when our orders were ready.

There are signs showing you how to order in 3 steps.

Our food took 20 minutes to cook, but was delicious! The seafood was light, sweet, and cooked just right. This is the reason why our food was already half-eaten when I remembered to take my phone out for a picture! :p

 

Some tips when planning your trip:

  1. If you don’t live in the Quezon city area, bring an ice chest to help keep your seafood fresh on the road as the traffic can get really bad.
  1. The supermarket doesn’t have a dining area for paluto customers, so we had our meal at the food court right outside the supermarket. Depending on the time of day and which day of the week you go, it might be best for someone to save a table while another places the order.
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Food court outside the supermarket: weekday (late) lunch crowd
  1. The paluto service doesn’t sell cooked rice or have utensils for customers, so you might want to buy rice from one of the food court merchants to get utensils from them.
  1. They give you a buzzer so you can shop around the supermarket, or look for a table outside while waiting for your order.
  1. The washroom is outside the supermarket, but clean and close by. They have soap, tissue, and clean floors. It was odor-free enough for some moms to use it as a pumping (nursing) station, too.

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This post makes me feel like such a domesticated housewife sharing (insider) market tips, ha ha! But I really enjoyed seafood/supermarket shopping, and plan to take the kids along on our next visit.

 

Fisher Mall

Quezon Avenue and Roosevelt Junction, Quezon City

2941560 local 100 and 110

 

 

Hot Air Balloon festival 2016

My 2-year old son, Liam, loves vehicles. This is why being stuck in traffic with him can be very entertaining. To occupy ourselves, we play a game we call “Find it and win!”. The mechanics are simple: We name a transportation vehicle—like a bus, an armored car, a yellow taxi, a fire engine, an airplane, etc. , and the first person to spot it on the road (or in the air), wins!

Because there aren’t too many airplanes or helicopters that fly past the areas we frequent, it’s always a treat for Liam to see these. That’s why when Rich and I heard that the annual Hot Air balloon festival in Clark was coming up, we cleared our schedules for that day and set out to take L on a field trip at the break of dawn.

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The event ad promised that it would be a weekend of all things that fly, and it was. Here are a few things we did to help us make the most of our 4-hour day trip:

  1. The program was scheduled to start at 5:30am, and we planned to leave our place an hour before. To save Liam a few minutes of sleep time in the morning, we made him wear a going-out shirt to bed. This helped him drift back to sleep more quickly after we took him to the toilet before heading out.
  2. Since there was no traffic, it was a nice, quiet drive, and didn’t take long for us to reach the Angeles city exit. We woke Liam up before arriving at the venue to show him what a sunrise was. I loved watching his face marvel at the changing colors of the sky! 943811-md
  3. The event parking area was a grassy field with no clearing, and the air was moist and cool; so we decided to keep Liam’s pajama pants on instead of changing him into his shorts. We also made sure to spray him with citronella mosquito repellent to keep the bugs away.
  4. We decided against bringing his stroller down because the area was mostly grassy and un-cemented. Rich brought a belt bag, and I brought my trusty sling to hold all our essentials: some cash, a camera, our phones, an extra shirt for L, a fan, a cap, L’s breakfast, and drinking water. This freed our hands and we were able to carry Liam around when couldn’t see some of the displays, and when he got tired.
  5. It got warm later in the morning, so the cap and shades we brought came in handy. If your kids are sensitive to the sun, you might want to apply sunblock on the road like we did, and consider bringing an umbrella, too.
  6. The festival was a 4-day one, with an entrance fee of P350/adult/day. Liam got in for free! Whee! We had extra loose cash to buy things they sold inside the venue like snacks, bubble makers, kites, souvenirs and other knick knacks.  IMG_3634
  7. One other thing we brought with us was L’s favorite book called “Things that go”. A spread in the book featured vehicles that were “In the air”, and we held it open as we saw the different things at the festival. This made the experience extra exciting for him because he saw the objects in his favorite book come to life!
  8. Besides hot air balloons, some of the things we saw flying/roving and on display were: light planes, a small airplane, helicopters, emergency helicopters, para gliders, kites, segways, motorcycles and bicycles, an ice cream truck., police cars, and even men with exotic birds(?) There were also a few mascots, including Jollibee who was a big hit among the kids, as usual! IMG_3580
  9. There were no restrooms in the venue, although there seemed to be a sufficient number of portalets scattered in different areas across it. With a toddler in tow, I chose to wait until there was a cleaner toilet facility available–and was I glad I did! (We made L wear a diaper in case of emergency) We found this unassuming gem of a bathroom at the Shell (gas station) in NorthWalk, right across the venue. It was very well-maintained, with a complete set of toiletries (soap, paper towels and toilet paper); and the floors, sink and toilet were clean and dry. It was also air conditioned, with music playing, and even a magazine rack for people who had more serious business to do in the toilet :p image (32)

Some friends recommended that we have lunch in Pampanga afterwards, but Liam fell asleep in the car and we decided to head home instead. Besides, I was already missing my infant boy who was about to wake up for lunch!

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Thinking outside the box

Being a mom to a toddler has unleashed a (more) creative side of me. How could it not? My little boy sees so much in the mundane, and opens my eyes to a whole new way of looking at things every single day! Come to think of it, I’ve never laughed as much as I have since my firstborn started talking.

-After seeing some nuns walking along the road one morning, he tells me: “Look, mama! Angels!”

Photo from dreamstime.com

-Or after seeing the leaf garnish on our plate at a restaurant, he declares: “It’s auntie leaves!” (His aunt’s name is Liv!)

Yes, my boy is as silly as he is imaginative!

And so, when a recent purchase came with a big box, I excitedly set it aside and cleaned it. I had no use for it, but I knew that Liam would find something to do with this new and giant plaything!

You see, toys don’t always have to come in a box. In this case, it can be the box!

Presenting, our homemade tunnel!

 

Also Liam’s new toy house.

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It doubled as a new hiding place for hide and go seek.

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And it was also a road for Liam’s toy cars  “Like the one in Edsa, mama!”

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If you have a big box lying around the house, clean it and keep it from toppling over by securing the sides. If you don’t have packaging tape, you can try and make do with a stapler like I did. Just make sure the sharp staple wires are folded in, and that you tape over the sharp parts afterwards. Also check that there aren’t any leftover staple wires on the floor that could hurt your child.

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There you have it! A fun, free toy that will stretch your child’s imagination. Enjoy! 🙂

Liam’s DIY train party

Last May, my husband and I planned a simple party to celebrate Liam’s second birthday. And we did it D-I-Y style! I picked the theme, and helped my creative-genius-of-a-husband cut, paste and stitch everything together!

We used trains, and the colors blue and orange.

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The venue was too small to fit both our families in, so we threw 2 separate parties on 2 consecutive days instead. It was double the work, but the venue allowed us to keep the reusable decor on until egress the following day.

We scoured the basement of SM Megamall and found the fabric we used for the bunting. The plain ones were inexpensive at around P80/yard, while the striped accent was pricier at around P450/yard. The meticulous hubby also insisted that we visit 3 ace hardware branches to find the nylon rope in the thickness and color we wanted.

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Here’s Rich installing the bunting and railroad decals
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Some of the other decals in the still-bare function room

Besides the bunting and the wall decals, Rich also custom-made some placemats, water bottles, and my favorite handmade centerpieces that doubled as snack holders.

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These centerpieces were a big hit! Some guests asked to take them home after the party. We used them to hold chips and sweets.

The picket fence and artificial plants you see on the table were provided by our caterer, The Creamery. They emailed us pictures of their available themes and decor, and we chose the ones we felt would work with ours. Not too bad, right?

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We asked the caterer to alternate blue and orange table covers. Here’s how one of the tables looked with the placemats on before the guests arrived.

Because we had 2 parties, the kuripot girl in me saved cutting the cake for the second day! We only posed with it on day 1! Haha! It was a chocolate cake by hearts and bells, and surprisingly moist and yummy!

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Liam loved looking at and eating this choo-choo train cake. Good job, hearts and bells!

It was a small party and we didnt really have a program prepared– just a simple dinner and some picture taking. The main event was surprising the birthday boy with one each of his favorite mascots on both days.

For day 1, we got Mickey Mouse. He was okay. He could’ve been a little (or a lot!) more energetic, but Liam was happy he was there. I remember that days after the surprise, he would still tell me: “Mama, Mickey Mouse came to my party!” Sulit na rin. Mickey’s rate was P2,500 for a 30 minute appearance, including a dance number and photo op.

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A high-five with my 2-year-old
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Family picture with Mickey (and buffet  setup by The Creamery)

For day 2, we got Liam’s other favorite character, Jollibee, and boy, was he fantastic!!! We had to place a food/drink order of P4,000 and pay an appearance fee of P1,750 to get him, and it was the best deal of the day! All the kids and grown-ups (including Richard’s 94-year-old grandpa) had a ton of fun watching him! He danced and was super silly for an entire 30 minutes. I realize I’ve been speaking in superlatives, but he really was a Jolly-Bee! 🙂

*Jollibee Greenhills also agreed to let us use the P4,000 consumable on a separate occasion because we already had a caterer, so it worked out great!

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Jollibee dancing with one of Liam’s uncles

I have to tell you, I am so proud of how my crafty hubby executed our ideas into one fun, seamless party. It was nothing grand, but a true labor of love. ❤

Teaching independence

Our household has been yaya-less since April. Yes, that’s with both a toddler and a newborn (whom I gave birth to in July). My husband and I have officially reached superhero level! Thank God we have a trusted all-around helper who is willing and able to help with the kids in between chores. Oh, bless her!

When friends ask Rich and I how we manage, the first thing we answer is that we’ve encouraged Liam to be independent from the start. Whenever we would see him observing us perform a certain chore or activity, and as long as it’s safe enough for a child to do, we encourage him to try it out himself and then praise his efforts. Because of all the new things he is able to do himself, his natural inclination toward cautiousness is slowly being replaced by confidence. And with daily practice and improvement, there’s also less work for us to do. Win-win! 🙂

Here are a few examples of how we make independence possible for our 2-year old:

  1. He learned about packing his shoes away in Little Gym class. Before going inside the studio, the kids would be asked to keep their shoes in the cubby holes outside. Likewise, they’re asked to collect and put their shoes on after class. We saw how excited he was doing this himself, and had a cubby hole custom-made for him at home. While he still cant keep his shoes neatly, he knows to keep matching pairs together. He also removes his shoes as soon as we get home, and picks a pair of slippers to wear.

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    Here’s how his cubby hole looks after he chooses which pair to wear for the day
  2. To help Liam sleep, we turn the A/C on, the lights off, hand him a bottle of water, and put his blanket on. We do this after his usual routine of drinking milk, brushing his teeth and saying his prayers. When I have stuff to do or a crying infant to attend to, I simply leave the door ajar, and he falls asleep on his own. The key is to teach him help himself sleep. I always remind him to look for a comfortable position and stay in it, to close his eyes, and to stop talking. He is 2, so the talking part isn’t that easy, but when he is tired, he can fall asleep in less than 10 minutes!
  3. Most of Liam’s toys are easily accessible to him. His crayons are in a box on his table, his cars, legos, and puzzles in those easy open plastic boxes you find everywhere, his favorite books on the lower parts of his shelf, etc. He knows where to get the toy he wants to play with and where to return it. He also knows that if he doesnt put his toys back in their proper place, they may go missing; and while I will help him look for them, it will be when Im free to do so and not right when he asks me for help. This makes him more conscious about keeping things in their proper place.

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    This toy bin holds his stuffed toys, and a hidden compartment in his toy stove keeps his food and cooking toys.
  4. I’m a sort of a neat freak when it comes to eating. I squirm when Liam uses his hand to pick saucy food up (I cant help it!)! But I do try to suck it up when I know that he washed his hands before the meal. I also encourage him to feed himself by handing him his own set of utensils as he eats. He cant eat by himself just yet, but it makes mealtime more enjoyable for him– and fun mealtimes are always less stressful and go by faster!
  5. He has easy access to a hamper he can put his dirty clothes in. No, dumping clothes in a hamper doesn’t require too much time, but it still is helpful. He does this for his own clothes and sometimes helps with ours, too!
  6. I like Liam to have enough water to drink throughout the day. To make sure I dont forget to offer him a drink on really busy days, I hand him a bottle filled with water at playtime. He does tend to drink more when he sees it in front of him already, and I like that I can somehow measure his intake, too.
  7. We put a stool in front of his bathroom sink so he can climb up and wash his hands by himself. He also uses the same stool when it’s time to brush his teeth. Of course, he is just 2 and I make sure that I am close by when he gets on the stool and that he doesn’t slip and fall.                                                                                      .

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    Liam on his stool, brushing his tongue.
  8. I don’t like Liam bringing his toys or books to the toilet to play with while he poos. Instead, I stick a poster or a picture of something that he’s interested in by the toilet (mostly just fliers of menus and cars distributed in the malls) and I can leave him with it as he does his business. This keeps him busy and he just calls for help when he’s done and it’s time to wash up!

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    This counting poster keeps him occupied in the toilet and has helped him recognize numbers more easily!

My dream is to raise bright, confident kids who are able to do more with their God-given skills and time; and these things are just a few of the ways in which I try and help my toddler become just that.

What about you? How do you help your kids become more confident and independent? I would love to hear your examples, too!