Sunday, January 22, 2012

River loves the outdoors

 We rarely go out but when I saw River yesterday in the mountains, I think it's time to 'unplug' (meaning less computer) and hang out more with nature.

Since he was as young as the first few years that he began walking, he had been picking up leaves, flowers and dried leaves for me. (I meant to press them and then frame them or tape them in a book but I never got around to doing that. I know I'll regret that when he gets older. Actually I already regret it now).
I should have known then how much he loves nature but I didn't or I didn't pay much attention.

I think kids naturally love being outdoors, they are equipped to have dirt inside their nails or their hair, I honestly think that they NEED nature to boost their immune system. I don't know what happened but modern day parents seemed to have settled to electronics like tv, ipads and computers as the best past time for their children. Ahem, I'm as guilty as anyone can get. I went to the mall last December for the tree lighting and I was appalled by all the children around me from as young as 6 months old and above,all glued on ipads and phones, watching their favorite shows while the parents chit chat with other parents. What have we become as parents, nurturing the future leaders of this planet? Oh how I hated what I saw, how they are missing out looking at all the beauty around them, the Christmas lights, the Santa's house, the gigantic tree in front of them. They were all oblivious to the beauty that surrounds them and the parents seem to be so happy that they have found the best  baby sitters for their children so they can go about their lives. TV shows are raising our children, how sad and parents work to buy the best toys, the best gear for their kids, I mean, do the kids really need those?  I truly think that kids would not mind if they rode in a brand new car or a good enough car or if they had the best expensive toy or if they just ran around in the backyard or park. I think we've completely messed up the concept of their needs and what we want for them (and ourselves) and I think that's a bit selfish, don't you think so?

I saw this billboard on the way to the store one day and since then, I feel a certain guilt inside me that I cannot shake off.

 This campaign is just too strong to ignore and I know a lot of parents have the same sentiments that I have after seeing this billboard. I am so guilty that there are times that I refuse to look up but then I find myself looking up and having that same feeling I felt the first time I saw it.

Could you accept this challenge with me? If you in any way a parent like I am? Stay away from the malls and walk outdoors and breathe in fresh air instead? Skip the indoor playground and choose the outdoor park? Refuse to buy toys for awhile and make some handcrafted ones? together? Unplug and discover nature? pick up leaves, pine cones, branches instead of lego pieces? Skip the fancy restaurants and let them eat like kids. Look up in the sky, look for cloud figures or count the stars instead of looking down at the phone screen watching wow wow wubzy? We can do this, I know we can and I think we will be raising happier kids that way. Kids who actually nap in the afternoons and sleep early at nights. I am mostly talking to myself while writing this but if this entry kind of strikes some nerve in you then maybe you are like me. So, why not make this year very different from the past years and just do what the kids would enjoy and not what we would enjoy and someday, when we see what we've reaped, kids who aren't materialistic, kids who are healthy and happy, kids who are simple and kind, I could go on and on then we can give ourselves a pat in the back. That is what good parenting is about.

I truly think, that society has messed up with our brains and told us that success is how much money we have in the bank or what level of education we have finished. Is that really what success is about? Is success being in a job you hate? Being with a boss you want to strangle? Having a ton of credit cards you can use to buy things you don't need? What is success to you? To me, success is being a household name, writing books, my photographs landing in magazines and websites and having this dream inside me is taking away time from my kids but this morning I woke up with a different desire inside of me and that desire is what my kids desire as if fate allowed me to borrow it for a minute and look inside them and experience their wants, their needs. Yes, I still have a dream for myself that I want to achieve but I think that my children should come first. When we brought these kids to this world, our dreams are just secondary to their needs. That rarely happens. They set their needs on the sidelines to accommodate what we want for our lives and then we attend to them on our free time. Parenting had become a chore. Parenting had become an occasional thing. We have a desire so high that we bury ourselves with work so we can achieve that one goal, we pay strangers to raise our children so we can do what we want, turn on the tvs and computers so we can work on things that would put more money inside our pockets. Let me ask the same question again, what have we become?

I think true success to me is having joy inside you that no one can ever shake off of you, being able to raise kids who would be great husbands and amazing fathers or daughters who would be amazing wives and mothers. Why raise a child who becomes a rich miserable employer who treats his employees like crap? Is that success to you? Why raise a child who thinks that expensive bags and shoes are the mere reason of her existence? Is that success to you? I don't know about you but I think 2012 is the time to unplug. There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. I want that for my kids too but I think that is just secondary to having a heart inside their chest and having a smile on their face. I want to raise kids who actually love the jobs that they are doing and go home to a happy family who actually eat together at dinner and that's when I know I am an awesome mother. That is true success to me.

So beginning today, I will minimize the use of my computer and play more. Go out more and enjoy the outdoors. My children are more important than any dream I have.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hugo and the first 18 months

This is a belated post since in a few days, Hugo will actually be 19 months. He has grown so much and even I am amazed by the things he knows and picks up on a daily basis. Physically, he has become so strong, climbing over everything that doesn't move (including myself, when stationary) or being always on the run. 

Intellectually, he has also grown leaps and bounds. The other week, I listed all of the words he says and understands, and the list is up to almost a hundred words. This does not include words he can understand, and the things he can say (but not comprehend). He has also started stringing words together to form sentences like 'Bye, Mama!', 'Thanks, ate' or 'Thanks kakers (thanks for the crackers). He follows instructions to a T too. I asked him to, "get Papa's slippers" one time. And he did! 

Our nightly ritual of reading books and going through his flashcards...

him watching his educational videos regularly probably helped in this department.
He has started showing that he can pretend-play too. A few weeks ago, I saw him line up all his toy cars of differing sizes on the floor, bumper to bumper. As soon as he got to the end, he said "choo choo!". Yep, it was a train. What amazed me was when he did that the second time, he put the driver of his Mega Bloks truck at the front most car, face down. Then Hugo started snoring! The "driver" was "sleeping"! 

Spot the driver

During the holidays, Hugo's Dad, Caloy also came home during his school's Winter break. I've mentioned that Caloy is studying overseas to get his Masters degree. When we picked up Hugo's dad at the airport, Hugo did not skip a beat and immediately went with his dad. I suppose our nightly Skype sessions helped Hugo remember. What's so curious though is when his dad left, Hugo seemed to be looking for him every so often. The night Caloy left, Hugo went walking around the house, wearing his dad's shoes, and knocking at the door saying, "Papa? Papa?". Another time, I arrived home from work and he exclaimed, "Mama!". He then looked behind me and said, "Papa?".  :(

Hugo and Caloy on New Year's eve :). The Pinoy-style firecrackers did not faze him one bit. 

A few days ago, Hugo woke up at 530am and sat on my tummy, waking me up in the process. He then said, "'la na Papa?" (Papa's not here?) while looking around our bed. He repeated this several times until he fell asleep 30 minutes after. At one point after I already thought he was sleeping, he stood up abruptly and repeated his question.

How am I supposed to explain how attached my son has become to my husband who has been with us for only a few weeks the past 6 months, and only an hour or so everyday? In  a lot of ways, while I expected him to develop physically and intellectually at a fast rate, I never expected him to develop emotionally this way. It's a bittersweet discovery. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

River loves to sing

River started singing as soon as he started speaking. Since then, he would not stop singing. He sings while playing,he sings in the bathroom, he sings whenever  and whatever he may be doing. Early last year, before he turned 4, I was surprised to see (while watching Backyardigans on Netflix)when he got up, went to the computer and enabled subtitles (I didn't even know he could do that) and sang along while reading the lyrics.

Last Christmas, he performed in our church, sang the whole 'dream a dream' song from Yo Gabba Gabba to everyone's surprise. Since then, he sings every Sunday in church and takes a bow after each song. Last Sunday, he sang Yo Gabba Gabba's 'Don't be afraid' and my mom thought it was a Christian song hehe.

It's amazing how he doesn't get nervous in front of a crowd. None of my kids are the same. His dad is in a band and whenever they have rehearsals here in our house, he gets his musical instruments and head bangs. One time, he took the microphone, went out the front door and started singing to people walking by. I try to sing along sometimes and he corrects me whenever I sing the wrong words and then says "good job mama'  when I get it right.
I swear he's done a better job in church, I will try to upload that video soon.  The second video was when he had a fever, that was why he was looking frail but I still find it amazing that he is never in a bad mood while sick.

By the way, HAPPY 2012 from my family to yours!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chrismas Memories and Dancing Lights

We live in an urban jungle (as if i have not stressed that enough). Sadly, Manila does not have enough open spaces. Or it does not have parks which are similar to the ones I went to growing up.

I grew up in Baguio City, at a time when the cold air smelled like pine. I grew up spending my weekends in various parks and open spaces (Burnham! Mines View! John Hay!). At that time, pollution was a thing from first-world urban jungles. On the other hand, Hugo is growing up in a different time and city, and I sure as hell will make sure he won't be short-changed. 

This is the reason why we spend most of our time in our favorite park: Ayala Triangle Park.

Wee wee Hugo with his dad and our niece
Ayala Triangle Park is a 2-hectare open space in the middle of what can be (some of ) the Philippines' busiest avenues: Ayala, Makati and Paseo de Roxas. The Park itself is just a wide open space of grass and greenery: it does not have your usual swings and see-saws. It does have a jogging path (well, pedestrian lanes) and restaurants (some of the best in the city). We like bringing our picnic basket and blanket, some munchies, and entertainment for the kiddos (bubbles and balls).

This is where Hugo practiced his first steps.

While in the park, Hugo spends most of his time running around the greens and running after older kids and dogs. 

In fact, this is where we shot Hugo's birthday pictures.

The park also has big art installations that people can  touch and look at up close.

Independence day Month. Spot the baby.

This Christmas season, Ayala Triangle's trees were decorated with thousands and thousands of LED lights. From 6-9pm every night, Ayala Triangle features a sights and sounds show where the LED lights blink and dance with Christmas carols. We viewed the show a few nights ago and the whole time, I excitedly watched it with one eye on Hugo, waiting for his reaction. Expectedly, Hugo was amazed (overwhelmed?); he kept saying "lights!".

LED dancing lights

They change in color and blink to the beat of Christmas carols (Pop songs for Christmas, really, like "do they know it's Christmas?" by Band Aid)
This is just Hugo's second Christmas and now that he's already a little child who can appreciate things around him, I would like him to look back at this one day and think how happy the Christmas season is for him.  My friend, Ia, who was with us with her family, mentioned that she now understood why her parents brought her to the opening of the Christmas display of the COD Department Store when she was still a child. Now, it is our turn to create similar childhood Christmas memories with our young ones.

The lights and sounds show started last November 17 until will be until December 23. Definitely worth braving the Christmas traffic. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

River The Little Art Patron

We don't go on out of town vacations nor hop on a plane to go to places far away from home.
We are not the Disneyland type ( though I wouldn't mind that.)
A big family like ours (4 kids in all + 1 most of the time) and a one family income at that, our budget is limited and must be spent carefully.
So where do we spend it?
(lots of them)
Museum memberships.
Yes, they are expensive but totally worth it 
specially when it would mean, an Andy Warhol original 2 inches away from your face!
or a Rembrandt or a Monet.
Or if you're lucky a Basquiat!

the actual Edward Scissorhand suit that Johnny Depp wore.
 (that I would never fit in)
My kids don't appreciate it as much as I do but someday they will be thankful.

I hope or I would regret that the money was not spent on Disneyland.
Edward Scissorhands actual Fawn from the movie

Andy Warhol Art installation

Monday, November 21, 2011

Through the Little Person's Eyes

Sometimes it's easy to forget that Hugo sees things for the first time, most of the time. (He is just a year old after all.) For example, the World Cup Museum (which is not frequented by tourists/ visitors) in Seoul held so many wonders for the little person. Usually, when he's not strapped in his stroller, he likes pushing it himself. When we were in the Museum, however, he literally looked at his stroller and then back at the row of balls on display, as if he was torn between the two. 

He chose the balls.

He stared at this for a good 10 seconds.

It was like that too when we went to N Seoul Tower. And no, he was not impressed with the tower. He went crazy over the Teddy Bear Store. You can just imagine how amazing it was for him to see rows upon rows of teddy bears. We gave him a little bear which he immediately hugged, and when his Dad handed him a bigger bear, he promptly dropped that for the upgrade. 

Here's the upgrade (the Panda). If he knows how to sigh, he must have sighed here.
We had to peel him off this bear.
Good thing too that he had yet to learn the powers of throwing a tantrum. When it was time to go, he just waved goodbye to the bears. Then again, stopped to wave goodbye to the store (while at the doorway). And then again, stopped to wave goodbye to the display.  
Even Haechi Seoul, the official mascot of the City's tourism office managed to impress him. 
This is Haechi Seoul. I wonder what Hugo was telling him/ her. (note how he is waving his finger at him/ her)

Going back to my original point, I suppose I need to rewire my brain a little and show the little person around this big world of ours with more care and effort. Older people take things for granted most of the time, but seeing a child's amazement over the smallest of things will really make you stop and look around. People laugh at me when I say I want to take Hugo to the Manila Zoo, saying that the animals there are close to dead and suggesting that Zoobic/ Singapore Zoo/ HK's Ocean Park would be infinitely better. But really,  why wait for months, possibly years before we can take the trip and see the wonder in my child's eyes?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On his bookshelf

Since Hugo was 6 months old, he has regularly watched the videos of Your Baby Can Read. These videos are supposed to teach a baby how to read through a multi-sensory approach, meaning babies see and hear the word, then see the corresponding concept. Countless parents swear their babies have learned to read  as early as 1 year old because of this program.

Hugo at 6 months. We plopped him down for almost an hour at a time everyday. Forced reading. Hehe.

Even Janine swears by YBCR. River, as early as 1 or 2, has already shown signs of reading. He's so advanced that at 4 years old, he has become a voracious reader. He reads everything he can, from signages to Janine's text messages. (Over her shoulder, aloud, as she types the message. Haha.)

Anyway, back to my point. I myself cannot remember how I learned to read. I remember how I learned to read time, but I do not know how I learned to read words. I always loved reading. One of my fondest childhood memories consists of borrowing books from my school library and spending the whole Saturday afternoon reading it. The same is true with my husband; he loves reading so much that he reads our assigned reading materials in college during his free time. Yep, to RELAX.

Here is my husband, at around age 3-4, reading Time Magazine (gasp!).
My point really is, Hugo will grow up in a family that loves reading. So, I should not worry that he won't learn how to read in time, right? Still. 

I want for Hugo to develop the same love of reading. I want him to get lost in the imaginary world created by books. This is why for the past few months, we read three books regularly before going to bed. We start off with a picture book of first words (Baby's First Words) which Hugo likes because it the words "car" and "ball" in it.

Our nighttime routine. Note that he uses his mom as a footrest.
"Hooper Humperdink.. Not Him!" from the Dr. Seuss' library of Beginner books comes next. I read this using a sing-songy voice and an upbeat rhythm which I hope keeps the little one tuned in. In between pages, I also ask him questions(Me: where's the bike?  Hugo: Thdeeeh!), and I'm glad to report that Hugo correctly points them out to me most of the time. :)

Our last book of the night is "Goodnight Moon," where a bunny goes through a nighttime ritual of saying goodnight to everything and everyone in his room. Aside from asking him about the pictures in the book, I also make him fill in the blanks once in a while. [Me: "Good night to the old lady whispering..." Hugo: "Shhhh" (hush)]

We plan to keep doing this until Hugo learns to read by himself. They say babies thrive in repetition and consistency. I agree. We have been reading these books regularly and already, I see Hugo scanning his other books by himself or giving me the books to read before sleeping. Maybe, in 1 more month, I will change or add to one of our nightly reads. In the meantime, I will read these three books aloud to him, every night. Yep, it doesn't matter that by doing so, I have memorized all three books by heart. :) (All together now: In the great, green room, there was a telephone...)