The One With Happy Frazzled Me and Jolly Cow Fresh Milk

Kids, especially growing boys like mine, need their calcium and it is my job to make sure that they get enough of it. Both J and Little C have shot up several inches in the last few months and drinking milk is a surefire way to make sure that their active and growing bodies get the calcium they need. Kids who don't meet the dietary requirements for calcium can suffer from calcium deficiency, which makes them more likely to be smaller, thinner and weaker than their peers. Kids who are calcium deficient are also more prone to developing tooth decay and are more likely to get sick.

Luckily, my kids are both big milk drinkers. But as someone who strongly supports breastfeeding, it's kind of a thorn in my side that both my boys are now on formula. For kids older than one year old, the best alternative to breastmilk is fresh milk. That being said, I've been trying to shift them to fresh milk for quite some time.

Why fresh milk? Well, for one thing, it's easier to prepare. You just pour it in a glass and there you go! Did you know that the quality of formula milk fluctuates depending on how it's prepared? If you put in too much water, then it's too thin (malabnaw). If you don't mix enough water, then it's too thick. With fresh milk, the quality is always the same because it's ready to drink.

Plus, compared to formula milk, fresh milk is as natural as milk can get. While it does undergo processes to lengthen its shelf life, it generally does not have any chemicals or added fortifications. In fresh milk, we have a natural source of nutrients like calcium, protein and carbohydrates that our kids' growing bodies need. Calcium helps in the development of strong bones and teeth, and the protein in milk helps in building muscles.

I love fresh milk. When I was younger, we were made to drink milk daily, but I hated the lumps in powdered milk, which made me hate milk. When I tried fresh milk for the first time, I fell in love with the taste and became a fresh milk drinker for life. Plus, the absence of lumps was a great bonus!

Last Saturday, some mom bloggers and I were invited to attend the launch of Jolly Cow Fresh Milk in Angelicum College. A series of activities were prepared to educate the students about the importance of drinking fresh milk every day. During the launch, the kids also talked about their dreams and what they needed to do to achieve those dreams. They learned about how having a strong and healthy body was a key factor in achieving their ambitions, and of course, drinking fresh milk can help with that.
The students try the milk samples
Jolly Cow Fresh Milk Event Launch (L-R): Dream Wall, Goodie Bags, Wanlu Puppet Show and fresh milk samples
The kids enjoyed the show from Wanlu and his puppets, even as they learned about calcium deficiency and the importance of drinking milk.
Learning from the master: Wanlu teaches the kids how to make sock puppets and some basic tricks in making them talk.
The kids were happy to show off their "hand"iwork! (Pardon the pun)
Even the teachers were included in the activities, helping Wanlu by being human puppets!
Fresh milk isn't just for little kids, mommies. Teenagers also reap the benefits of drinking fresh milk, by providing added nutrition which helps them cope with the growth spurts that come with puberty.
Angelicum's teens trying out Jolly Cow Fresh Milk
And of course, in the age of selfies, the teens also take advantage of the photobooth.
All the kids received personalized tumblers with a serving of Jolly Cow milk for them to try. The front of the tumbler has a picture of the child dressed as their "future self".
I guess all the festivities made the kids a bit thirsty!
The Jolly Cow team kindly sent the mommies home with goodie bags filled with samples for our little ones to try. I was glad to see that the included the non-fat variant of the fresh milk, which is for me. While moms still need their calcium, they can do without the added fat. :-)
There's full cream milk for my little ones and non-fat milk for happy frazzled me! There's also a condensada variant, which I'll use in making sweet treats for my boys. :-)
The folks behind Jolly Cow pride themselves on providing good quality, yet affordable milk for their consumers. Jolly Cow Fresh Milk is sourced from Germany and New Zealand, which means that the milk passes rigorous quality standrads. It also contains 3.5% butterfat, which is a higher fat content compared to other brands and this extra butterfat is what gives Jolly Cow fresh milk the creamy taste that I love in milk.

Thanks to the Jolly Cow team for inviting me to the launch!

*Jolly Cow is exclusively produced for Fly Ace Corporation and is available in all leading supermarkets nationwide.

Seven Easy-Peasy Toddler Snacks for School

When J started going to toddler school, one of my challenges was learning to pack healthy, but yummy and toddler-friendly snacks. Big C and I don't like the idea of feeding him those prepackaged biscuits that are so popular with kids, and fortunately, J isn't a fan either.

For me and my preschooler, snacks have to fulfill four basic characteristics. First, they have to be nutritious. Second, they have to be yummy, so J would eat them. Third, they have to be easy to prepare, and fourth, they have to be things that J can eat on his own in school.

I tried Googling for some ideas on healthy baon ideas, but most of what I got were lunch-type meals (especially in the Filipino context), so they weren't appropriate for preschool. Eventually though, I found some basic items that we rotate on a daily basis so J's baon doesn't get too boring. For mommies like me, who have to add "prepare healthy baon" to our never-ending list of things to do, here are some of my baon staples for J which are tasty, but also easy-to-eat and largely healthy toddler snacks for preschool.
  1. Fruits - My favorites to pack for J are grapes or bananas. These are a quick-fix since I just pack the bananas whole, and he can eat them by himself with no trouble. For the grapes, I pluck off about 15 pieces and wash them, so it's also one way for me to keep track of how much he eats in school. Apples are also a good snack, although I prefer to serve these at home because J doesn't like them when they're brown. I have heard of the lemon juice trick, but as with most kids, J's not a fan of the tart taste.
  2. Egg - The hard-boiled egg is one of my bestsellers. All you have to do is boil the egg, peel it, and slice into bite-sized cubes and you're good to go. This is a snack J can eat by himself, and he can finish one egg in the short snack time they have in school. 

  3. Bread - Sandwiches are always a quick and easy option. You can jazz this up by making homemade spreads when you have some free time, and stash in the fridge for a quick option on busy mornings. I don't really recommend buying the You can make chicken or tuna salad in big batches when you have some free time, and you'll have a back-up in the fridge for those busy mornings. J actually makes life easier for me, because he likes his bread plain, and all I have to do in the morning is to cut his bread in interesting shapes. I suggest investing in cute cookie cutters shaped like letters and numbers, so snack time can also be learning time.
  4. Cheese - The individually packed cheese slices are make great snacks. Once someone helps him open the packaging, he can eat on this snack on his own.
  5. Granola - I used to pack Cheerios for J's snacks, but lately, I discovered that my son was willing to eat granola. Go figure right? I chanced upon a bag of Mornflake oat granola with dried fruits in the grocery and bought it for big C. Well, Big C didn't like it, but it was a big hit with the kids! Both J and Little C like it, and I bring it in small containers as a quick snack when we go out, and of course, for J's school snacks.
  6. Yogurt drinks - J likes juice, but Big C and I don't like how most of the tetra-packed juices available have so much sugar in it, so as a compromise, I pack yogurt drinks for J. Somehow I feel that the yogurt factor makes it marginally healthier than just juice. Haha! Sometimes, it's good, old-fashioned Yakult (which I also loved as a child -- and still love as an adult) and sometimes, it's flavored yogurt drinks. My favorite brand is Dutch Mill, because it comes in a smaller serving than the normal tetra-packed drinks, and it's the right size for J to finish in one sitting. 
  7. Juice - Sometimes, I do give in and pack juice in J's snack bag. When I do give him juice though, Tipco and Apple & Eve are our brands of choice. Tipco has flavors like beetroot, carrot and broccoli, which DO NOT TASTE LIKE VEGGIES AT ALL! Like Tipco, Apple & Eve Fruitables juice boxes are a combination of fruit and vegetable juices, such as apple, orange, carrot, tomato, beetroot, sweet potato, strawberry and others. Plus, for some reason, whenever I pack these juice boxes in J's bag and it comes back empty, I feel like I've won some sort of battle, because I was able to sneak veggies into his body without him noticing. Haha! 
From this list of basic items, J's daily snack bag pretty much looks like this:
one hard-boiled native egg, one small container of granola, one Yakult and a tumbler of water
I hope this post has given you some ideas on what to pack for your preschooler tomorrow. :) Happy Monday, mommies!

My Unexplained Hiatus

Checking the stats of this blog, I've discovered that it's been close to three months since my last post.  A lot has happened in those three months, which robbed me of the time to write, but now, I've resolved to get back in the swing of things.

So what have I and my boys (both big and little) been up to?

Our J is now officially a preschooler. He started at a toddler level this June. Unfortunately, the first school I enrolled him in didn't seem to be a good fit. While he and I were both happy with the school, for some strange reason he kept getting sick there. He was also enrolled in that school last year, but he also kept getting sick, so we pulled him out, thinking maybe he was still too young. This year though, after just 5 sessions, my son contracted hand, foot and mouth disease. Mind you though, I am clarifying that I do not hold the school accountable for my son's illness. It just made me think that like pediatricians and yayas, maybe there's also a hiyang factor when it comes to schools.

So in the end, Big C and I decided to transfer J to another school, where his cousins went. Thankfully, as of this post, J is happy and thriving, and we're praying that he continues to do so. He's made some new friends, and has shed his shyness. He's very talkative and we have the most interesting conversations on the car rides to and from school. (Now, I'll shift into bragging-mommy mode. Heehee!) His teachers say that he's a quick learner, and that he aced his first quarter assessments even though he missed the first month of classes in his school. Now, we're looking forward to his next two years in the school, and I'm especially looking forward to enrolling Little C there as well in a year.

Speaking of Little C, what has my munchkin been up to in the months since he turned 1? Well, he's walking now! To our surprise, Little C taught himself how to walk. J took a while before he started walking, as did all his cousins, so I was expecting at least a month or two more before Little C would take his first steps. Plus, given the fact that we weren't as enthusiastic about him learning how to walk (parents of more than one child should understand this), we were taking our sweet time and savoring the days that we chased after one squirmy little boy instead of two. We didn't really encourage him the way we did J, with walking exercises and thingamabobs to help him walk.  No, I'm proud to say, my Little C taught himself how to walk.

On a more serious note though. We've started cutting back TV time for Little C. At night, when all four of us hang out, we used to let him and J watch cartoons, but now, I've imposed a moratorium. No more TV after dinner. Since we started doing that, which is about two weeks, I've noticed that Little C has been a bit more attentive to his surroundings and responds more to people. I feel really guilty for letting him watch so much TV, especially since we've successfully kept J from the TV until he was about 1.8 years old. I honestly believe that J learned so much quicker because he wasn't glued to the TV set for long periods of time.

My Little C is still a happy and loving baby, although we've started seeing flashes of the temper that our little dragon has kept well-hidden from us. Big C and I have to work on teaching him to not cry to get his way, and to learn to use his words when he wants something. Hence, we've been teaching him how to sign. At the moment, all he can sign independently is "eat" or "food". Haha! Sometimes, he also says "chia!" which is the Chinese word for well, "eat". What can I say. My son has a healthy appetite. He loves to eat, and we have no problems getting him to eat. Like all toddlers (sniff, sniff! I can't believe my bunso is now a toddler!), he's a very messy eater though. He can also sign "thank you" and "sorry", although he mostly imitates the actions at this point.

As for Big C and I? Well, today, we celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. This song has always reminded me of the two of us (although in the song, the guy is singing to the girl). Big C and I met when we were both 16, and we've been together since we were 17 years old. That makes 13 years, and I know that doesn't compare to other couples who have been together for 20, 30 or even 50 years, but at the moment, that's practically half our life. I love this song because of how it makes me feel. It brings up memories of a young couple who grew up together and are still growing up and going through good times and bad. At the end of the day, while we are now married and parents to two wonderful boys, most days I still don't feel any older than fast cars and freedom. With Big C, I will always be a happy, light-hearted 17-year-old girl, and to me, he will forever be that 17-year-old boy I fell in love with all those years ago, even as the years pass.

A happy weekend to you all!

My Little Miracles

From "Love You Forever", by Robert Munsch
Little C was around 6 months old when we discovered that after we give him his last feeding for the night, we can leave him in his crib and he'll fall asleep by himself. Because of this, I don't get many chances to have him fall asleep in my arms, as I did with J. But there are some nights, when he would enjoy being lulled to sleep cuddled in the rocking chair and last night was one of those special nights.

Last night, I gave Little C his bottle and sat with him in the rocking chair. I sang him the same discordant lullabies that used to lull J to sleep, a mixture of well-known songs, and some gibberish I make up for my boys. I always loved putting my children to sleep. It was the best time of the day for me, a quiet, peaceful time, just me and my babies.

When Little C fell asleep, I stayed there for a while, just relishing the feel of his growing body cuddled against me, his warm little foot cradled in my hand. I rested my cheek against his head and breathed in that special little boy smell that was so unique to my sons, and I did something that I haven't done in a while. I prayed.

I expressed my thanks for this baby, this human being, that I have in my arms, for the privilege and honor of being his mother. I said my thanks for every day that he wakes up healthy and free from illness, for every smile and laugh, for all his milestones and for all that he is. I asked for guidance and patience, because I am not perfect, and my son deserves the best. I shared my fears of failing him, and asked for help to be the best person I can be, so that I can be the mother he deserves. But what I did not ask for was more love to give, because I already had that in abundance.

When I look at my sons, I see little miracles. I see little people, who were formed from specks of nothing and groups of cells, who grew gradually inside my womb, to become functional human beings who walk and talk and think and feel and love. Every new skill they learn is amazing for me, even when it's the second time around with Little C. The way my sons have learned to roll over, crawl, sound out words, or do things for themselves, is nothing short of magical for me.

When I look at them, I think, these boys could not have appeared out of nowhere. They could not have been created by random chance. And oh, how beautifully they were created! Their little arms and legs are mini replicas of mine and their father's. When they were tiny babies, I looked at their fingers and toes and I was fascinated by how wonderfully they were formed, tiny little versions of the same things I had on my own hands and feet.

How can I look at them and not see them as blessings, given to me despite my unworthiness and my imperfections? How can I look at them and not see them as reinforcement of my faith in something or someone greater than myself, who has the power to create something as beautiful as a human being?

When I look at my children, I am humbled. I know that they are gifts, given to me for an indefinite period of time, but mine to care for, to love and to guide in the ways of the world. I don't know what I've done to deserve them, because I am not a perfect person, and I'm most certainly not a perfect mother. But I am the only mother they will have, and for them, I am perfect. They say that only a parent can feel unconditional love, but now, I know that's not true, because I know my children love me unconditionally. They look at me and they do not see my imperfections and my failings. To them, I am just Mommy. I am not too thin or too fat or too light or too dark or too much of anything or too little. I am just what I should be, because I am just what they need.

My sense of religion, not faith, is fluid at best. I believe that there is something greater than me, that has control over my life, but not my choices. This something, or someone, has a greater understanding of why things happen the way they do, the good, the bad and all that happens in between. I know that I am not smart enough to understand, so I will not even bother to try. All I know is that there is something out there. It's not something I like to give a name to, or define, because on most days, I can't. I simply prefer to say that while I am not religious, I am spiritual and I am faithful. My faith is simple, but it is strong, and when I look at my sons, all that I believe in is living and breathing, right in front of me, and I feel blessed.

With sons such as mine, how can I not be?

A happy day to you!

Goodbye, May!

Today is the last day of May 2013, and I'm happily bidding the month goodbye!

It's been a really busy month for our family. For one thing, we had a lot of big family events, such as my sister's wedding, my mom's birthday, and of course, my Little C's birthday. There's a lot going on in terms of work too. It's the peak season for the statistical consultancy service that I work for, which means twice as much work as usual, and I also started another editing sideline. Plus, the boys have been caught in the cough-and-cold season we're having right now, thanks to our crazy tropical climate as we move from summer to the rainy season. In addition to being under the weather, Little C is sprouting a whole bunch of new teeth, which has turned him into an irritable little dude for the past few days as well. Add to that the never-ending yaya and maid problems I had to deal with at home and you've got one crazy month right there.

Working has been a bit challenging lately, what with twice as many projects to finish and not enough time to work on them. J has also been very malambing lately, and he's taken to hanging out in our room in the afternoons to play. That's not the problem, since J's pretty good at keeping himself occupied. He plays with his iPad or watches Mickey on the TV. The thing is that he's recently discovered the joys of building blocks and would always ask me to play with him. He'd call me, "Mommy, Mommy, play please?" and tug on my hand until I joined him on the floor to work on our latest creation. I try to join him as much as I can, because as Big C says, the day will come when he won't want to spend time playing with Mommy, so I should enjoy it while it lasts.

I guess that's one of my biggest conflicts as a WAHM. People sometimes think it's so easy for us since we stay at home to work, but finding enough time to finish all that we need to do is always a problem, especially when you've got adorable little kids who plead with you ever so nicely to stop working and play with them. J actually said to me one day, "Mommy, no type!" which means that I should stop typing on the computer. Oh, the guilt!

Because J has been spending so much time with me, I feel very guilty because Little C is always left to fend for himself. I try to squeeze in as much Mommy and Little C time as I can. I make sure that I'm the one who picks him up first thing in the morning so we can spend some quiet play time. He loves it when I take off his socks and smell his feet and wrinkle my nose. When he wakes up from his afternoon nap before his brother does, I drop everything and I try to spend some time playing with him, just the two of us, so I can give him some undivided attention. Some afternoons, I put him in my sling and take him on a walk so we can babble on about nonsensical things, just like I used to do with J when he was a baby.

He's growing into such a wonderful toddler, easy with his smiles and laughter and bravely testing the limits of his small body. He's just perfected standing up, and I couldn't be prouder of him. He hasn't started walking yet, although he did take his first hesitant, but unsupported steps a few days ago. We're in no rush though. J took a while before walking and I suspect Little C is the same way.

Well, I'm hoping that June will be a lot more mellow for us. Thankfully, the boys have been feeling a bit better since yesterday, and I've just sent off my last project for this month. I'm looking forward to a bit of rest this weekend. Before I end this post, I'd like to share some pictures of the month that passed.
Our little dragon C, rolling on his Di-i's new bed
I want the remote!
His angpao for sharing his dragon luck
A picture with Uncle Marvin from SG (Thanks for coming home for  Little C's day!)
The proud grandfather
My handsome little dude
My sweet boy
Goofing around with Kong-kong
Blessed be, these sisters three
My sister walks down the aisle
Family picture time before Little C's baptism
With Little C's godparents
With my siblings-of-the-heart
Happy Friday to all, and I hope you have a great weekend ahead of you!

My Little C is 1!

This Mothers' Day was triple-special for me. First, of course, because it's Mothers' Day, and I remember that I get to celebrate this day, not just because I was raised by a wonderful mother, but also because I now have the honor of being the mommy of two of the bestest boys in the world, my J and my Little C.

Second, this Mothers' Day marks my anniversary as a breastfeeding mommy. Yes, I managed to make it to a year. Yay me! There have been more than a few rough spots, and we are still mixed feeding, but formula only enters the picture for one or two feedings a day. Despite the fact that Little C is not exclusively breastfed, the larger part of his diet is composed of mommy's milk. I am also proud to say that my son will only take formula late at night, when he's asleep and can't tell the difference. During the daytime, it's only mommy's milk for him. If we try to give him formula because I missed a pump, he'd rather just take water. Also, this breastfeeding journey is much more successful than the last one, and I'm super thankful for that.

Third, because I have now been breastfeeding for a year, that means one other thing: my little munchkin is now one year old!

In honor of his first birthday, I'd like to take a little trip down the memory lane of his first year of life.

Hello, world! He's out!
First picture with Mommy
In the nursery
His first picture with his Ahya
The day we brought him home from the hospital. Look, he and Elmo are the same size!
Tummy time!
First time in the sling
The day he got his coral bracelets, marking his first month
Morning playtime with Daddy

The first time we captured his smile on camera
Caleb, being Caleb!

Picture time with Mommy
We were saving these red pajamas for him, but by the time we let him try it, he was too big for it, so he only got to wear it once. :)
Enjoying the bouncer he inherited from his Ahya J
Fresh from a bath
The first time we put him in his booster seat
Because Mommy should also be in the picture!
His first TPC pictorial

His first haircut by Angkong, according to family tradition

After Mommy cut off the rest of his hair!

Before his morning bath
Being carried around in a pouch sling

His first carousel ride

Milestone: crawling on hands and knees
First time to hold his own bottle!
He loves to watch TV!
His first Christmas
Hanging out with his "batchmate", Sophea
Family day with Daddy & Mommy's friends
Welcome to the Christian world!
A picture with his cousins at his 1st birthday party
Happy birthday to my Little C! I can't believe it's been a year already. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was in the delivery room, and now, Little C is well on his way to toddlerhood. He's standing by himself now, and although he has yet to take his first steps, he gets around well enough because he crawls crazy fast. He's a curious little boy, and he loves to eat! He'll try any kind of food, and he gets mad when we take too long to give him his next bite. He's a loving little boy, who loves to be tickled and tumble with us. He adores his big brother and would follow him anywhere. He loves Mickey Mouse, and would smile and laugh when he watches his favorite show.

To my Little C, thank you for coming into our lives. Daddy and I used to think that we were just fine with one child, but when you came, you completed our little family in a way that we never imagined. You brighten my days with your smiles, and I am so proud of you. Your hugs and slobbery little kisses are the best things in my world. To hear you laugh makes me happy like nothing else does. You are a happy, wonderful little boy, and I have nothing but the best intentions and brightest dreams for you. I hope that you grow up to find your passion in life, and whatever it is, you can be sure that your Mama will be there to support you, to cheer you on and to believe in you even if you don't believe in yourself. Most of all, I hope you live a long and happy life, that you always stay healthy, and that one day you find someone to share your life with, the same way that Daddy and I have each other.

Sometimes I wish you would stay my baby forever. When I look at you, usually when you're sleeping, I marvel at the changes that time has wrought on you. So much has changed in a year, and I'm sure so much more will change as you grow older. I hope though, that some things will stay the same: that you will stay the same loving boy you are now, that you stay happy and healthy, and that you will always let me call you my sweet baby boy, even when you grow big enough to be the one to carry your Mama.  

I love you so much, my sweet boy. Whatever happens, that much will always be true.

Forever and always,