Thursday, July 19, 2018

Awesome Austria

Thank God, our dear toddler now knows how to turn the TV and electric fan on and off in the family room.  She can also wipe off her Crayola marker art on the mat and play fence when she wants to clean up.  She helps me baby proof her brother's play area and knows how to relate what she's seeing on TV to what she has experienced in the past. She still has to work on controlling her temper and being consistent, but who isn't having trouble with that?

At home we try to process what we have seen in our recent travels and try to recall as much as we can like how students come up with "what did I do/learn last summer" essays when they start the school year.  We wear our souvenir shirts at home to trigger storytelling for my toddler and appreciation of colors and shapes for her baby brother.  Their favorite picture book at the moment is that about the tragic Austrian Queen Sisi.  Leji thinks she looks a lot like Mommy (haha!) and tries to copy her lipcolor with either cake frosting or lipbalm while constantly peering into a tiny mirror locket with Queen Sisi's face on it.

My kids loved Vienna's relaxed summer vibe; it was very memorable for them. The community is über kid-friendly and I dunno why but everything just seemed to taste better there (even their rice and tap water had some sort of sweetness :p).  It was quite common to see independent toddlers and barefoot babies in the playground, their blond parents wearing white and light clothing pushing huge-wheeled strollers --perfect for the sprawling gardens and ancient cobblestones.

One morning, we saw a gorgeous lady (her hair was so nice) quietly coming down unassisted from a bus with a baby cart and two well-behaved toddlers in tow. It was so amazing; it like watching a breezy Carefree ad. Their buses are efficient and well-designed, even people with disabilities could roll and ride without worry through a special door. 

Public transport was cool but it was quite a pain for hubby to look for convenient parking space for our family van.  Parking is limited in this city and not all parking slots can accommodate tall vehicles. We had a slot reserved by Hotel Mocca (where we stayed) but it was still quite a walk to get to the parking area.

Leji admired the books and funky furniture in our boutique hotel. She enjoyed shopping in the convenience stores for cookies and milk. Despite not having aircon, she exclaimed: "Oh, I think our holiday is quite lovely!" Thank you, Peppa Pig.

Leon couldn't help but agree with her.  In this city, Leon learned how to sit more confidently in high chairs and reach for more stuff while eating solids.  The wooden chairs in our hotel were conveniently ergonomic.

Beer was served more often than still water and Leji got to pretend she was drinking beer too.  She kept ordering aplesaft to help her gulp down all the food!
"Good for 2" Whew!
 As for me, I was just giddy with all the greenery.

Leji and I spent quite some time chasing each other in Schonbrunn.  She looked so cute in her pink Dirndl. Thank you Lola Berna for sponsoring her outfit & Lolo Edsel for showing us around the city!

The Schonbrunn Rose Garden smells like Channel No. 5.  I was sort of expecting Sleeping Beauty to pop out of nowhere haha.  Everything was just overwhelmingly romantic.  Wish we could come back again in the future.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Family-friendly Germany

Despite having to struggle over carseats and jetlag, Germany will always be memorable for us.  My Lola is actually part-German (her mom's surname is Hayden); and when Leji found out, she claimed to be part-owner of all the castles we visited saying she has German blood :p.  

It's the little details that matter and honestly, it's hard not to fall in love with Germany.

1. Family-friendly airport

In Frankfurt, they have counters that prioritize families with small children.  Most of their washrooms have diaper-changing areas equipped with liners, toilet paper, and soap/disinfectants. & McDonalds has a huge play place in the middle of everything :p. Leji & Leon were spoiled. 

2. Family-friendly parking 

Except for rural truck spots without toilet paper and several highways without proper washrooms, Germany is super conducive for travel and sight-seeing.  We took advantage of women's parking spaces that double as family parking areas specially designated near exits to increase the safety of women. The concept of Fauenparkplatz started in 1990 to reduce the risk of sexual assault in private parking areas.  This made lugging around two strollers & bags a whole lot easier.

3. They anticipate your baby's needs

Leon got a free crib at Schloss Lautrach, Bavaria
Schloss Lautrach, the castle where we stayed in at Bavaria, was totally awesome. It had sprawling gardens, art everywhere, and magnificent staircases.  They lent us a decent crib even if we didn't request for any.  They even had sparkling water & pear-flavored gummies with a welcome post card.

 4. Kid-friendly food

Leji, like most toddlers, loves pasta (spätzle), sausages (bratwurst), cheese (käse) and potatoes (kartoffeln).  Oh how she loved German food!  Most restaurants serve her favorites :)  They're very fond of using glass bottles so Leji enjoyed grape and raspberry juice like wine.  We also liked their sour cream chips and dark chocolate milk found in most convenience stores.

5. Smooth roads

Oh how we wish we also have picturesque roads splattered with castles and organic strawberries here, there, and everywhere in the Philippines.  We wouldn't mind the traffic if that ever happens in this lifetime.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Plane Bassinets: heaven-sent to sleepy parents on long-haul flights

I never had problems carrying my daughter when she was an infant.  Born premature at 34weeks, Leji has always been lithe and easy to carry.  Just make her latch directly and she wouldn't mind even the shakiest turbulence. 

We had our first domestic flight when she turned one; we had two short international flights before she turned two.  Cebu Pacific, PAL, and United Airlines never offered to sit us in bassinet seats for flights 3 hours or shorter but it was never a problem. Cebu Pacific allowed us to gate check our stroller on our flight to Hongkong so I think they're cool with babies; but it still would have been more efficient if we opted for PAL or Air Macao on our way home..but that's another blog post :p

We've had our first bassinet experience with Singapore Airlines two years ago.  It was awesome. They handed a Finding Dory plush toy and a padded waterproof bassinet protector for us to take home.  Leji loved the stars on the bedding liner.  She just played on the bassinet as she couldn't keep still but she enjoyed every minute of it.  They even served ice cream after dinner! It was her first taste of ice cream (at 14 months).  Singapore Airlines really knows how to take care of babies. Although I hate it that our stroller got dumped at NAIA and lost a screw :/  At that time I didn't know you could actually complain about damaged strollers and request for a refund. Too bad.

We weren't able to join my hubby's business trip to Hawaii when Leji was only four months (DFA wouldn't release her passport before the actual release of her NSO birth certificate; her US Visa application got delayed) so he promised us a US trip soon. 

Leon lounges in an Asiana plane bassinet

When we were finally ready with her visa, we found out soon after that I was pregnant with my second child. He was almost as heavy as his sister at five months so we really request for bassinets each time we fly. 

Our first long-haul trip as a family was for our cousin Dennis' wedding in Vegas last May.  People with babies rave about Incheon Airport so we opted for Asiana.  Their airport deserves another blog post but I was hardly able to take any pictures as I was busy running after my toddler who was so excited with the quality of rest and play areas in that airport; they even have a UV sterilizer and a distilled water dispenser in the nursery!  We even took a free shower, toothbrush, and tour. I realized we should have stayed longer as they gave us a 30-day transit visa.  We'll come back when the kids are a little older :)

The MNL-INC and INC-MNL flights were amazing; the pilots were great and the flight attendants were really friendly.  But it was hellish when there wasn't a bassinet seat available (where I could also sit near my toddler and hubby) for our INC-LAX flight.  Asiana squeezed us in a code share flight with passengers from other airlines.  We didn't realize early enough that the layout of the plane also changed when they moved us to an earlier flight.  Horror of horrors, our seats wouldn't recline properly and it was so hot and cramped in the flight; the kids weren't able to sleep at all.  

Going home, we thought everything would be much better as we would get to ride their newest airbus.  Turns out, the flight was so slow and turbulent despite its flight height.  Our toddler was restless and cranky.

For our trip to Europe, we decided to try Cathay Pacific. They're awesome with kids. Their baby cot looked flimsy (compared to the other airlines' bassinets with nice zip-up designs and quality stitching/materials) but it served its purpose with a convenient canopy which shaded baby from harsh reading light.  For our HKG-FRA flight, I insisted on having the bassinet seat even if we weren't sure if someone else would sit beside me.  Hubby decided to sit with my toddler on a row behind.  Turns out, that was the best game plan as my daughter was able to stretch and sleep adequately.  The passenger who was supposed to sit next to me moved to another area so hubby had the option to move forward each time I required assistance (i.e. changing his clothes, feeding, etc.).  Thank you, Lord! 

We weren't able to request special meals for our baby on our flight back but there were free flowing drinks and snacks for everyone during the long haul flights. When my toddler had a tantrum on our flight back (she couldn't poop in the potty properly during the turbulence), a flight attendant comforted her with a Frozen activity pack and a cup of milk. They even provided us extra diapers (she wouldn't use her pullups again after the drama in the lavatory). We three weren't able to sleep well but baby Leon was able to rest soundly thanks to the bassinet. 

On a side note, Cathay Pacific is great with kids but weird with PWDs. We travelled with my 5-month pregnant sister-in-law who has spine implants and there always seemed to be an issue with her wheelchair request. In Frankfurt, a flight attendant even told her on the plane while waiting for special assistance: "Get up now! You could walk." In HK they even asked her to get up from a wheelchair to give way to a PWD business class passenger to her dismay. 

When we landed in Manila, we allowed everyone to go ahead of us as usual as we had 2 senior citizens, 2 babies, and a PWD with us. A flight attendant said: "What are you waiting for? Everyone has left! Get out!" So I guess that's really how they treat guests who need special assistance. They were quite consistent in being rude to her.  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tandem Feeding Diaries: Months 4-6

Leji loves travelling with her brother
Despite all warnings, we braved the odds and decided to take the kids on multiple trips this summer. It's a bit crazy but you only live once, right?

Travel with Bender makes it look so easy; but we realized we're not ready to sell everything and take on a nomadic life at this point so we just took on a series of trips. 

We lugged a ton of bags (plus strollers and carseats) with us so I didn't bother include my laptop in the production number. I don't know how other blogger moms do it, but it's harder to convince my toddler to sleep/nap when I have my computer on.

What's so challenging about road trips?

1. Kids refuse to sit and remain strapped in their carseats for long periods of time. 
2. When they're too tired, too hot or overly stimulated they just cry non stop.
3. Some people think you're bad parents when the little ones cry so much. They stare.
4. When baby poop or spit explodes all over you and your backup clothes are stored in a far-flung bag. If the baby is consuming solids already, its nasty smell diffuses oh so quickly. It's embarrassing.
5. Adjusting your body clock becomes even more tricky as toddlers totally redefine jetlag. Dear God. Hubby required extra potent coffee to get to drive after long-haul plane rides.

I tell people I tandem feed; but during roadtrips it's quite impossible to make them latch at the same time.  The carseat requirement in first world countries make it even trickier.  My dear toddler hates pumped milk so we opt for cookies or granola bars plus flavored or almond milk while on the road. When I get stressed, I grab a bag of chips.

There are times when she insists on latching for comfort & throws a fit when she sees me prioritize her baby brother. We tried distracting her with toys and gadgets but after all the hullaballoo we realized it's much simpler to rush back to the hotel before she gets overly tired.

I usually allow her to latch once we get to the hotel room except when I have to put her brother to sleep.  They usually tease each other when they're face to face; he even grabs her hair and pokes her eye :/ So they take turns. I usually encourage her to drink milk from a sippy cup while her brother is at it. Before I tried making her drink the let-down milk from our Hakaa; but she said it's gross even after transferring the milk to her sippy cup. I figured she didn't like the smell of UV-sterilized Hakaa.

When she is too tired to wait, she would demand: "Alright, I just need a hug!!!" Most of the time with tears. She often tells me she can't wait for her brother to turn two.

No regrets; my children seem to have gained more self confidence after everything.  My daughter rushed to my grandma as soon as we got back. She showed our phone photos and even enacted some of the events that took place. "Gramma, we went up a huuuge castle. It was mine for a day! It had a lovely garden with pink flowers and other colors...and we rode a gorgeous train!" I was shocked to hear her say gorgeous. She gushed: "Lolo, Lola, Tito Niki & Tita Abby went there with us. You know them, right? Complete family! It was really fun, I wish you were there too."  She's so cute when she's not overly tired.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Drumtao with a Toddler

My dear toddler Leji enjoys adrenaline powered music. She had such a grand time when we took her to Drumtao Manila.  "HUUUge drums, Mom!" She gasped at the lights and effects; her favorite part was the one with glowing men who dance.  She couldn't help but say "WOWWW!" She also loved the fluidity of the scarf dance and the chirpiness of the flutes.

When I was pregnant with her, I was totally hooked on Game of Thrones and Marco Polo (on Netflix). As I binged on nori and almonds, I was thrilled to feel her kick along with the beat each time there was a battle scene.  The sound of the blade and drums excited her.

When I covered Fete de la Musique for CNN Ph during my second trimester, I actually enjoyed it despite the heavy rain. She loved the bands that were heavy in percussion instruments.  I have to admit, I never got to appreciate such bands before until I got pregnant haha.

The night before I was rushed to the hospital for emergency contractions at 34 weeks, I was at the premier of Heneral Luna.  I guess she got really inspired to come out early when she heard the drums and cannon firing.  My friends joke I should have named her "Luna".

Her fascination with percussions is evident up to now.  She love watching UP Street Dance Club's concerts and choice of music.

As for Drumtao, while the girls in front gushed at the abs and synchronization of the warrior-like drummers, she couldn't help but do her own drumming with the Kia Theater seats during intermission. I hope we can take her to Japan in the near future so she can immerse herself further in their wonderful music and culture. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tandem Feeding Diaries: Month 3

Women who have normal vaginal births are usually expected to return to work after their 2-month maternity leave.  For freelancers like me, we just start working as soon as a project starts coming.

For both my first and second pregnancies, I started attending meetings/ vtrs a week after delivery.  I tried to keep these activities as short and brief as possible and avoided wearing heels so as not to worry my mom who says I shouldn't take a bath, use the stairs, and expose myself to "hamog" for at least two weeks after giving birth.  Antibiotics and pain meds prescribed by my OB Doc Madgie allowed me to recover more quickly (thank God!)  It drove me crazy lying in bed smelling like that; I just couldn't allow myself to be seen in that state for so long :/

I suffered from mild dehydration and electrolyte imbalance though for trying to tandem feed in 3-hr Christmas traffic.  I also got nipple blisters as my toddler shallow latched as we drove through unexpected humps and bumps. Oh if only all humps were painted with visible yellow stripes! Haay. It's just impossible.

Eventually, we managed to convince my toddler that it's better to latch only in the privacy of our bedroom.  I told her her baby brother gets scared more easily and he needs more latchtime than she does.  She agreed and told me she's brave even when we pass through tunnels; my little boy is at a stage wherein he's scared of the dark and uneven roads.  I'm proud of how she would try to calm her brother each time: "Don't be scared! Leji's here!" So adorable. She would even sing to cheer him up.

With God's grace, I was able to book several projects last of which happened to be out of the country.  
Watching the sun rise while pumping at the charging station

It proved to be quite stressful.  I was hoping to store as much milk as I can in the freezer.  But each time my toddler would see me pump, she would ask when would it be her turn to latch.  I would usually allow her to latch after my 20-minute pumping session in the morning.  Then her brother would ask for more milk.  Then I couldn't pump again for the rest of the day.  I even had to eat rice and meat at times in the wee hours of the morning just so I would be able to produce more milk.  I produce more milk after sleeping/napping so I couldn't do much really other than eat/drink, breastfeed, sleep/nap,  repeat.  Even when I take malunggay tea & incorporate malunggay leaves in my meals, I only get to pump adequately when I'm not too tired.  I avoided going out and attending meetings for two weeks so I wouldn't get distracted from producing more milk.

I realized I could only pump twice a day max while tandem feeding.  I have to get up really early in the morning before they start demanding for milk in bed; then I pump again in the afternoon before they get roused from their nap.

I have never stored this much milk before. So much so, we had to buy more stuff for milk storage!  I didn't expect I could pump this much milk until I had to.  We bought a 2-door self-defrosting inverter ref to be able to store my pumped milk more efficiently. Our old one had such a small freezer that had a plastic door that wouldn't close when there's too much ice.  The door can't keep the temperature constant when it's not sealed and defrosting it wasted most of my milk.  Some of the cups get stuck in the ice & you really can't take them out unless you defrost them with the ref.  It's a chicken and egg thing.

I smiled happily at our new freezer with neat compartments filled with milk cups. But at the back of my head, I knew it might still not be enough despite pumping up to the very last minute before dashing to the airport. 

Oh well. My baby's ninang/pedia Doc Coco advised me to stop worrying. She said I should just enjoy my project and banish the thought that I'm a bad mother just because they might have to resort to formula for a couple of days.  

We tried Nan Optipro with his existing Playtex newborn drop-in anti-colic bottles (which they also use to feed him with pumped milk). Other than nastier smelling poop with an ugly dark color, they didn't notice much difference with his behavior.  Unlike Leji at six months who refused to take in formula because it tasted different (she hated Similac; it's loaded with iron and has a slightly rusty taste), his three-month old system treated formula like breastmilk.  He demanded for it every 2-4 hours.  

When I returned, he smiled and latched hungrily as if nothing happened.  He still loves me...yey!  His poop color turned back to normal after a couple of days.

My toddler didn't have a problem with the setup either; she loved the idea of having more playtime with Lola.  She simply preferred powdered milk over fresh cow's milk after seeing her baby brother consume formula.  We're back to tandem feeding in bed.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Lej's Fave Sippy Cup

Leji has always hated silicone nipples.  She gnawed on them incessantly and refused to be bottle fed in my presence.  She thinks pumped milk is gross especially when she sees it coming from a Hakaa (she really hates silicone). Thus, she learned how to drink water from a straw at four months and started drinking from Avent cups independently as soon as she learned how to sit.

But in her terrible twos, she developed a fondness for mixing things together and pouring stuff everywhere.  She would wipe her mess afterwards with a paper towel and try to prolong the activity as much as she can because it's so enjoyable for her.  She even thinks soaking up the couch is interesting to watch sometimes.  So we decided to back track a little bit and reintroduce sippy cups at home even if she has already mastered the art of using grownup cups and glasses with two hands.

Leji loves mango yoghurt shake
We have existing Dr. Brown's soft-spout toddler cups; but again she hates silicone.  She gnawed on them like there's no tomorrow before she turned one.  She also found a way not to make them spill proof; she removed the detachable handle in one and broke off the snap-on cap of the other.  Washing up soft spouts is also a chore; some of the milk residue remain in the crevices of the silicone spout even after exposing them to heat in the sterilizer.   I use a mini flosser brush because even an old toddler toothbrush can't clean it effectively.

We took Leji to Baby Company so she could choose a new sippy cup.  She opted for a Philips Avent hard spout (fuchsia with a penguin!) which claimed to be more durable than the soft spout.  However, it's not entirely true that it's spill proof and easy to clean.  Even with the silicone stopper inside, it still spills on the bed & it's quite easy for my toddler to accidentally open the cover while turning it around trying to figure which angle is most fun in milk sipping.  You also have to wash it immediately after use otherwise foul smelling milk residue will annoyingly remain in the spout.  It's tricky to scrape off even with toothpicks and hairpins.  We bought it at full price; a few weeks later it's not surprising to see the model 70% off at Unimart.   

My mom-in-law then gifted us with the Playtex Playtime Spout.  It has colorful 3D animals on the side which Leji happily identified.  She likes her flavored milk cold; its double wall insulation is pretty effective.  When we discovered it was easier to clean (my pinky could fit in the spout and effectively remove residue with soapy water), really spill proof (even when you throw it on the floor!), and harder to "accidentally" open during toddler experiments, she decided to buy it in other designs and colors which Leji could mix and match (one lid fits all!).  Leji says her Lola's really cool.  Thank you, Lola!