Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Baby Goes to School

Schools at this time have become more aggressive. Before, the earliest that kids attend school is in nursery level. Now, even newborns are welcomed in schools. Playschools that is. They have special programs that are said to stimulate the babies' mental, social, and emotional development.

In my quest to finding the best playschool for Baby, I decided to try 2 of the more popular ones. And based on Baby's response, I am sure I have found IT.

Gymboree is conveniently located at the malls. Parking is never a problem. And you're not wasting gas because you can run your errands quickly while you're there. They also have very sophisticated materials, toys, gyms, playgrounds, and facilities. Everybody knows Gymboree; it's a name that is trusted.

Kindermusik, on the other hand, is a little more discreet (at least here in the Philippines.) Yes they also have several branches / locations, but only within another pre-school. Therefore it also looks like just another pre-school - a small studio with a tiny reception area, no fancy gyms and playgrounds. Having a driver is recommended because the crowded parking spaces can be a hassle.

I don't know why Baby enjoys going to Kindermusik more. She doesn't know it's a bit cheaper than Gymboree. Maybe she loves singing, dancing, and playing, more than playing, playing, and more playing. Maybe Teacher Jeannie is really really good as what I've been hearing*. But the verdict is obvious via Baby's reaction. In Gymboree, she cried because she didn't feel like participating. In Kindermusik, she cries because she doesn't want the session to end.

*Among all the Kindermusik instructors, I heard Teacher Jeannie is the best, so we signed up under her, despite the location which is in Cubao. But Cubao is not that far after all. I remember giving us 1 hour travel allowance on our first day of school. We got there in no time, 45 minutes too early, we even got to preview the toddler level class!

We registered in their summer course, P4,120 for 6 sessions, as a trial. But I think we're signing up for the regular semester in July, P8,925 for 15 sessions. Flu virus go away!

Yaya's Day Off Part 2

Baby's yaya has asked for this vacation since January. (The longest notice ever, haha.) It means 6 whole days of exhaustion and fatigue on my part. Although I could see her sincere concern for Baby, I had reasons to suspect that she might not be coming back:

(1) tip from the other maid, who happens to be the yaya's cousin
(2) she only left a few of her things - only the uniform and some old sleepwear
(3) I have read her Sent Items and she has mentioned it 3x

I kept telling her to at least inform me honestly if she's coming back or not, so as not to waste money on the return ticket. She said she would, so I kept my fingers crossed and hoped for the best. Fast forward to the 5th day of her vacation, I called her cellphone to remind her of the flight and to advise us if there's going to be any delay. But all her numbers (I tried 4 sim cards at that time) were out of reach. I dialed and redialed. Every 30 minutes for the whole afternoon.

I got super paranoid that by dinner time, I asked her cousin to call the auntie, or the neighbor, or whoever can help us pass the phone to yaya. I finally gave a sigh of relief when I was able to talk to her. True enough, she came back as expected (or hoped!) I immediately gave her a raise. And Husband took me to the spa for a relaxing massage. Woot!

Monday, May 11, 2009


I cut my left thumb while cleaning the lapu-lapu last week. It was big and deep, but didn't hurt as much as it seemed. The pain lasted through the first 2 seconds at most, but a lot of blood gushed out - I felt dizzy, nauseous, and I thought I was going to pass out. I think I just had my first panic attack.

Husband would always ask me to let the helpers, well, help me. I don't mind giving them the floor, when it comes to the rooms, the laundry, the cars, and pets, but I would rather have full control of the food that we eat. When I ask the helper assigned to the kitchen to do things for me, I still make sure I am around to supervise. Otherwise, I'd prefer dialing my favorite hotlines:

Sango - 6361991 - I usually order the master cheeseburger for merienda, but prefer any of their Japanese rice meals for either lunch or dinner.
Razons - 6870019 - Sisig and halo-halo satisfy our craving!
Brooklyn Pizza - 6339999 - My favorite pizza! Not only it's the least greasy, I love the way it tastes too! We customize our pizza, it would always be a combination of cheese and porko.
Causeway Restaurant - 6389374 - Frozen dimsum kept for another day (asado siopao, chicken feet, and raddish cake), and cooked food for lunch or dinner (beef with ampalaya, polonchay with garlic, lapu-lapu fillet with taosi, yang chao fried rice, needless to say, a balanced diet!)
CPK - 6877841 - Always always chicken BBQ pizza and thai crunch salad, no more, no less.
not but not the least!
McDonalds - 8-MCDO - cheeseburger and float for me, quarter pounder meal for Husband :)

Yaya's Day Off

My in-laws are out of the country. Their housemaids are consequently out of household chores. They went to Divisoria today. Since they were chaperoned by the mayordoma, I asked my helpers to tag along, so someone could keep an eye on them in this so-called "day-off". Although the newest one was left here with me, she wasn't a big help - she wouldn't do things correctly because she isn't used to them, and I couldn't blame her. I don't care about the laundry, the dishes, and all the other chores, they know they should finish everything when they come back. All I care about is Baby; I couldn't just wait for yaya to come back before she takes a bath, or takes her vitamins, or drinks her milk...

The yaya left at 7am. It was my first time, in 10 months, to give Baby a bath. And I thought I was already a super hands-on full-time mom. (Don't laugh, Husband has never clipped Baby's nails, changed her nappies, or given her a bath. What he does to help around is feed Baby junk food, and sometimes puts Baby back to sleep when I happen to be in the shower.) Anyway, I just realized how dependent we are to the yaya. Without her, it's like 2 hands are not enough. I'm so thankful for Baby's undisturbed 1 full hour morning nap, I was able to shower, express milk, and prepare Baby's lunch. It's very difficult to look after a high-maintenance human being like her, I don't know how other people do it without a yaya!

They came back around 1:30PM, very delighted about the tons of stuff they've bought for P1,000. But I'm happier I finally got the time to turn on my laptop.

Mothers' Day

It was extra-crowded at the malls yesterday (Sunday). But our Mothers' Day celebration started on Saturday - we checked out the newly-opened 85-peso japanese store Saizen at the Robinsons Galleria; took home some TGIFriday food for lunch; visited Husband's grandma at her residence in Greenhills; had dinner with my whole family at Burgoo - and continued going out on Sunday - lunch at Crustasia; snacks at Seattle's Best; shopping at Expo Mom (Rockwell Tent); movie at Eastwood Ultra7; and finally dinner at Mr. Kurosawa. It was very tiring. And definitely a good day for the restaurants, because even the not-so-good ones are fully booked.

Happy Mothers' Day to both of our moms (Husband's and mine). Couldn't even begin to imagine whether I deserve to be greeted like so. Whatever I think I've sacrificed for Baby through these months is n.o.t.h.i.n.g. compared to what they've gone through for us through the years. I feel I can only deserve such honor when Baby herself expresses it with utmost sincerity. I guess that would still be several years into the future. So for now, I'd be the good daughter greeting every mom out there, Happy Mothers' Day!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Technical Department

I am not techie. I have never owned a single iPod in my life. I prefer simple point-and-shoots compared to sleek SLRs. I have never upgraded my laptop.

Marrying a techie guy might not change me, but it might influence Baby a great deal. She loves to "listen" to the iPod, "work" on the laptop, "play" with the PSP, and the list goes on...

I still couldn't get her to love posing for the cameras, though. That's why we end up taking almost 400 pictures of her every month. It's the total number for my simple Canon IXUS 850 and Husband's complicated Lumix LX3 and Canon 400D.

He's blown away cash for lots of camera lenses too. I wish I could say he earns the money back. But he's a CFO, not a photographer. If only I'm interested, I've taken photography lessons by now.

The OC

Why should I bag the title The OCD Queen?

I keep a list of the following:

LPG - to keep track of the last purchase to find out whether the helpers have been abusing it or have not been switching it off after each use (note: a fire hazard!)

rice - for the same reason, to keep track of last purchase to know whether the helpers throw away left-over rice when they know they shouldn't (They need to finish everything before they could cook a new batch.) A 25kg sack usually lasts 1.5 months, feeding 5 adults in the house.

payroll - to track the helpers wages and salary increase (This is based on their performance; I don't have a set rule.)

baby notebook - a list of the date and time of each single thing related to Baby, from day-to-day stuff like feeding, burping, peeing, pooing, to milestones like first tooth, first crawl, first step, etc.

Anyone want a re-match?

Vanity Fair

I had flawless skin even with the growing belly, only until my 6th month in pregnancy that is. I didn't think I'd be one of those who'd face the stretchmarks problem. Then ugly tiny red lines started appearing, concentrating on the bottom part of my tummy. I heard quite a lot of rave stories on Palmer's cocoa butter lotion so I decided to try it out. Unfortunately, I developed allergic reactions to it, I ended up giving away the second unused jar I've purchased.

I had friends who suggested some oils but I was too lazy to religiously apply every after bath. I just let the stretchmarks be. (I also had a few on my lower butt cheek.) After giving birth, these lines became light brown. And now, 10 months into momhood, I noticed these lines have become white. Hopefully, they would match my skin tone soon, so I would only need to worry about the still-obvious stitch the next time I need to bear my tummy.

Having stretchmarks is a visible indication that my skin was, well, stretched. Therefore having flabby skin is the next issue to be resolved once the baby is out of my uterus. My masseuse introduced Clarins firming cream to me. It tones the skin; I don't know how it works, but it somehow managed to solve my skin's "droopiness". It better do the trick, because it doesn't come cheap (P2,800 for a jar available at Rustans).

Currently, I don't have much time fixing myself up. I'm happy with a shower and some face powder. Thank goodness I'm not super vain. But I would love to engage in some kikay activities once in a while.

Apples of My Eye

Consumers nowadays are lucky to benefit from a fairly competitive market. If only the baby and mothercare industries were run by monopolies, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be as keen investing in R&D to improve their products. While there are several options and alternatives available to us, here is a list of my personal favorites, when it comes to different baby-related items:

Huggies Dry Comfort - I have only tried 3 brands of disposable diapers - Drypers, because it was a free sample, Prokids, because I trust Taiwan-made products more than Phil, China, or Thai-made, and Huggies, because Baby came with this kind of diapers when she was taken home from the hospital nursery. It was a sureshot goodbye Drypers for me; it gave Baby rashes after the first and only use. I still found good use for the remaining samples; they make good hot compress for my breasts when I was suspecting plugged milk ducts during the earlier stages of my breastfeeding (or pumping, for that matter!)

Prokids are ok, but Baby would develop some rashes at times, so I decided to just finish the pack and then switch back to Huggies. I think Huggies is the best not only because it does not irritate Baby's sensitive skin, it's also super-absorbent, it lasts upto 10 hours. No more changing in the middle of the night, and Baby stays dry all the time.

Vandol ointment - There are lots of organic, expensive, and imported brands at Rustans, but I love Vandol. Vandol is not only used by babies for diaper rashes; grown-ups also use this for bites, wounds, and whatnots. It's vitamins A and D (you can never "overdose" or over-apply); it smells good; it's soothing on the skin. We would always have several tubes - 1 in Baby's organizer, 1 in Baby's diaper bag, and at least 3 in my medicine cabinet for buffer. Vandol is available in most drugstores.

Medela PureLan - I'm on my 10th month in pumping (and still counting!), and so far I have tried 3 different breast creams. Lansinoh is ok, but I feel it's a little too sticky. (I personally dislike that icky feeling.) Earth Mama-Angel Baby is neat, it works like butter (i.e. melts/softens when applied), and it's all-natural, but I feel it's not as effective in healing cracked nipples. Medela PureLan worked best for me. It's a bit expensive but a little amount goes a long way. I haven't tried the generic ones they have in Mothercare, and I'm not planning to because I've found The One. Then again, I think it's different for each one. Find yours here.

Sogo nursing bras - There aren't many choices when it comes to nursing bras. And among the limited selection, it could only be too cheap or too expensive. Bravado is a good brand (available at Crossings in Shangri-La) but one piece costs P2,000+. (I have 2 of these, thanks to my mom, who got those for me while I was on "house-arrest", i.e. a few days after giving birth.) There are also a few options at Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, but it's not easy to find your size. (And even if it was, I still find it impractical; I would rather spend the same amount on branded clothes so that people may appreciate, and not on something that would always be hidden under my shirt.)

Good thing there's SM. (They really got it all for you!) They carry cheap nursing bras like Sogo and Soen. I stay at home most of the time, so I don't really need nicely-padded bras. What's more important for me is that the bras should be comfy and non-wired. (I find underwired bras to worsen plugged milk ducts and do not help at all in pain related to breast engorgement.) Whenever I go out, I use my pre-pregnancy bras that are nicely-shaped and padded, but because of my bigger ahem, cupsize, I use extension hooks available in Big & Small Co.

Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags - I swear I have tried every kind of breastmilk storage bag available here at this time and Lansinoh is the ultimate winner. Breastfeeding By Blue comes in second. I say this with obvious criteria in mind - quality and price. The Nanny brand is the cheapest, available in SM Baby & Co at P250 for 25 bags. It can ideally store upto 10oz (I personally try to fit in 12oz to save on bags with no problems.) However, I have experienced wastage 3x because of sudden holes on the bags while thawing the milk. Bottomline: it's cheap for a reason - poorer quality.

Lansinoh bags are very durable. (Feel the plastic and you'll know the diff!) And it has a double seal to ensure freshness and to avoid spilling. The downside is that it's the most expensive one in the market. Mothercare carries this item at P479 for 25 bags. And it's usually out of stock. A better alternative is available here. I also like the brand Breastfeeding by Blue. I actually use this most of the time. It's always available at Babyland for P350 (with 10% discount if you're a Babyland member like me.) I wish though they also come up with an improved perforation version because it's easier and more convenient to just tear along the opening than cutting it open.

Kleenex/Surebuy - I always keep a box of facial tissues on my bathroom sink. This is where I pump the milk and I need the magic paper to dry my nipples, wipe my breastpump and pump parts, etc. I wasn't particular of the brand before all of this came. I actually preferred cheaper ones because it goes to the trashcan after each use anyway. But I realized I actually pay more because cheaper ones are not durable and so I end up using more pulls. I know Kleenex might be the most expensive brand, but I like that it's 3-ply; just one pull gets the work done almost every time. Surebuy (it's like the SM Bonus version of Rustans) is the next-best thing, but be sure to get their 3-ply tissues (even if they are a lot harder to find) because they also have 2-ply poor quality ones.

Pigeon wet tissue - There are also a lot of baby wipes in the market - Wet Ones, J&J, Lactacyd, etc. But I like the Pigeon brand because it's chemical-free. It's not only safe for the baby's bottom, it's also safe to use on hands and mouth. I recently got a free sample of NUK oral wipes and I love it! It's pre-sterilized, also chemical-free, and the texture is effective in taking the food residues and other dirt away.

Got Milk?

People may wonder why I chose to bottle-feed breastmilk to Baby. I'm lucky enough to have a lot of milk supply. Thanks to the ever-reliable mamary glands, I haven't given Baby a single drop of formula milk. (She's 10 months old now and my 5cu ft chest freezer is full, and I haven't stopped pumping. I think I can feed her pure breastmilk for a few more months and afford to donate some because of frozen milk's limited shelf life...) So why not directly breastfeed when the benefit is obvious (e.g. great bonding between mother and child)? Well, I have 3 practical reasons:

(1) I wanted to measure Baby's intake. I have a notebook that chronicles the date and time of each feeding, burping, diaper change, and other what-nots like rashes etc. since the day she was born up until the present. This is not an exaggeration.

(2) I wanted to give chance to others in helping out with Baby. I did not hire a yaya or marry a husband for nothing. I have a life, too.

(3) I wanted to save the frustration Baby and I would have gone through when (a) she doesn't latch-on properly and (b) she needs to switch to bottle when her teeth start to grow because it would already be too painful for my poor nipples.

So far, I have tried several bottles. Each kind has its own pros and cons. Read on to know more:

Born Free - I like that its neck is wide; it makes it easier for me to transfer frozen milk from bag to bottle. The regular-neck bottles are a little too messy for milk that hasn't completely been thawed. It also has a valve that prevents colic and gas - very reliable. It's not available here in Manila, though. There's this brand, B Free, that I see at Rustans and Baby & Co, but I believe it's the fake version.

Green to Grow - The best thing about these bottles is that they're eco-friendly! It looks best too, with its cute design. The only thing I hate about Green to Grow is their nipples. They tear easily. And of course it poses a danger to babies. Who cares if the material is guaranteed silicone, we still don't want tiny pieces to be processed by baby's fragile digestive system. The good news is, Medela and Pigeon nipples work compatibly with Green to Grow bottles! I got my Green to Grow bottles in the US, but now I see these bottles to be widely available at Rustans, so that's another good news.

Evenflo - It leaks. But it's glass. I use this to feed water and vitamins to Baby. (The doctor recommends to drop the baby's iron vitamins to her water, so it wouldn't stain her teeth.) I really don't mind if ever the bottle gets stained, I think Evenflo is the cheapest BPA-free bottle available in the market!

Medela - The thing I like about Medela is its compatibility with Medela pumps. It's very convenient for Medela users like me; just pump and feed, or pump and store, no hassle. The nipples can be very hard to find (sometimes available at Rustans) but I use Pigeon nipples when I'm out of choice and it works perfectly well. BTW, there are 2 kinds of Pigeon nipples. The cheaper ones (at P39.75 a piece) work fine, but the more expensive ones called Peristaltic Nipples (P239 each) are softer and more durable. It's perfect!!

I'm loving the Pigeon brand. But I don't have the chance to use any Pigeon bottles because I already have plenty. (I actually have other brands like Adiri, Gerber, and Sassy, sealed and brand new. Any takers?)

Tooth Fairy

Baby is a late bloomer indeed. The average age for the first tooth to emerge is at 6 months, so I've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting. I was even anxious that Baby's first tooth might pop while I was in Singapore for a few days (@ 8 months). Of course I wouldn't want to miss that special milestone. And her poor gums have been itching and aching and swelling for the longest time. Last week was kind of different. Even her sleep was disrupted for 4 straight nights (and so was ours!) She would wake every hour, crying inconsolably and uncontrollably.

And then I saw the tiny white thing on her lower front gums. This signals yet another sign that she's growing more and more each day. Until such time when she's totally independent of me. Although I would like to see her develop normally (or preferably even more advanced compared to other kids), it somehow depresses me to imagine the day when she will not need any of me anymore. It would be too selfish for me to wish that she remains to be my baby forever, so I'm just praying that we would be able to raise her as a good Christian.

Anyway, I bought this tiny tube of Hyland's Teething Gel from Healthy Options (not cheap, almost P600 for 1/3oz.) I was just convinced to buy it because it's 100% natural. No minimum or maximum number of application. Yes it didn't have any side effects. Honestly it didn't have any effect at all, if you ask me. I would still feel much pity for Baby because she continues to cry even after applying this to her gums. The good news is, we're pretty sure it's safe for baby's sensitive gums. The bad news is, it's a total waste of cash.

Thankfully, my mother-in-law gave us another teething gel, Bonjela brand, from their family trip to the US several months ago. I'm not sure if it's available in Manila, but I've never seen it here. I have no idea of the price either, but this is what I would highly recommend. Baby starts feeling better (i.e. stops crying) a few minutes after application. The downside is that you will have to wait for at least 3 hours before you can apply again. So the trick is to apply the gel right before you put the baby to bed. It will provide the necessary relief for her to have her sweet dreams.

The intensity and duration of the pain differs for each baby. I'm glad I only had 4 sleepless nights in my case.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The First Years

I'm a fan of The First Years BPA Free Suction Bowl with Lid. Baby got hers in green and yellow. (Baby & Co. P399) It has soft sculpted handles to offer a secure grip. Suction base helps keep bowl in place in almost any material. Sure-fit lid helps prevent leaks around the edges. Bowl material is break-resistant and surface can only be warm to touch, at most, even if you put something very hot inside. Deep sides for easy scooping. Microwave and dishwasher-safe. 8 oz. capacity. This is the perfect handy bowl for serving, storing and transporting your child's meals and snacks.

I also find The First Years Take And Toss 8 Oz. Bowls With Lids (6 Pack) very useful in storing baby’s meals! (Baby & Co. P399) I make Baby's meat stock per batch, store everything in the freezer, and just take one bowl to reheat per meal. It's just the right size, and it saves time and power. These bowls come with lids that seal tightly to keep food fresh and prevent leaks. There's also a designated area for putting the date, so you can always keep track of the food's freshness!

I got Baby's The First Years Take & Toss Bowls with Lids and Spoon in Singapore. I did not give it a second thought; I purchased it right away. I find it practical because they are affordable enough to lose and durable enough to reuse over and over. Just the right size of an infant's feeding needs, these bowls have 2 compartments and are also comfortable for adults to hold. Lids seal tightly to prevent foods from mixing into different compartments. Built-in utensil compartment makes it easier to take along a Take & Toss™ Infant Spoon!