Sunday, June 30, 2013

Seeing the World: Bottles, Music and Helsinki

Europe is filled with buskers - mimes, singers, even magicians on the street (be careful with those magicians though - sometimes they are swindlers!). We chanced upon this guy outside Stockman department store in Helsinki. His talent is amazing! Check him out.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

DIY Keychain Name Tags

There are a lot of commercial places/websites today where you can order personalized bagtags and name plates for your children. I've ordered from these places myself - they have all sorts of designs and characters. I even some from Pin of I-Prints for the little guests at my second daughter's 1st birthday party, as a special personalized souvenir. They make lovely presents for classmates and teachers too! Recently though, being the last minute person that I am - with school fast approaching, I had to make some impromptu bag tags for my daughter. I was thinking of just printing her name off the printer and having them laminated at the nearest National Bookstore.

When I got to National Bookstore, these were hanging beside the cashier.

Lightbulb moment, bright idea. I could print the info on paper, decorate with a strip of washi tape, and voila, instant keychain or name tag. 

For my keychain, I wanted information on both sides of the keychain. I cut the info into small strips and attached them back to back with washi tape at the bottom and at the top. Just make sure you center the information, leaving just enough space for about half the width of the washi tape. Fold the washi tape over to the other side to decorate other side. If you don't have information on the other side, you can always decorate the entire back portion with washi tape too.

I think I will be making a lot more of these in the future. They are cheap and great looking too.

My washi tape were all bought from Paper Chic Studio, curated by my fellow SoMom, Cai.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

When God Gave Away Artistic Genes....

When God gave away artistic genes - I must have been asleep. I used to have a hard time with the elementary school artwork assigned to me. Eggshell art in the shape of an ice cream cone? Trust mine to come out looking like just scattered eggshells, forget the cone. I dreaded art class in grade school. I blame it on the fact that I was not really exposed to art or creating art when I was young. I was never one of those girls who could perfectly color in a picture - with perfect shading, even colors, and fantastic strokes. Left brain dominant - that's what I definitely am!

Now that I have two daughters - I'd like to try and unleash the creative/artistic side in them. I believe that if they are exposed to art and creativity at a young age - they will bring this with them to adulthood. They may not turn out to become experts in the creative field, but it will definitely balance out the ultra left brain genes they would have inherited from me. Hence, I find it wonderful that there are so many new developments in the world today that help kids become more creative people (even if born to left brained parents!)

Two weeks ago, K and I attended a SoMoms event sponsored by Amspec (Amalgamated Specialties Corporation), the makers of Crayola and T-Pencil, held at Gymboree. It's a perfect combination - Gymboree is a venue for kids to experiment on their own self expression - and Amspec provided the tools for the kids to explore. To my delight - Anne Tan of Gymboree confirmed that, indeed, creativity cannot be taught but should constantly be nurtured and triggered. It's not something that you can transfer to your child - it's something that has to be developed in him or her.

Newbie SoMoms

This was the first time for us to attend a "creativity" session at Gymboree. I liked that the session combined physical movement (dancing and actions), words (storytelling), and arts & crafts to stimulate the children. It was the right balance of "active" and "passive" creativity for me. K eagerly joined in the fun - she's now 4 years old and loves pretend play. I think her "imagination" skills are getting developed now - because she also loves listening to stories, and makes up stories from the pictures in her books.
Working on her roaring lion

The kids pretending to be frogs, hopping up and down.
The older kids were taught shading techniques (I sure wished I listened more closely to this! It's a good "talent" to have.) They used T-Pencils to shade shapes and simulate shadows. With just a pencil - any drawing can become a piece of art. Amspec endorses the use of their pencils for longer use - you literally can use your pencils until they are just a stub. So how do you know your pencils are good quality pencils? Smell them! Real T-Pencil pencils smell of cedar. Check the graphite points too (that's the black thing in the middle of the pen that we refer to as "lead") - they should be perfectly centered so that the wood around it does not break easily while being sharpened
Centered Graphite Points on Amspec T-Pencils

Three types of shading: Lines, Criss Cross and Dots

With a few strokes from a T-Pencil - this bigtop came alive!

Now here's the best part - Amspec also makes Crayola! This got me excited (someone hinted at a field trip to the Philippine Crayola plant - W-O-W!). The ubiquitous yellow and green Crayola box is a natural part of our childhood. I noticed other copycat crayon brands have used the same color scheme - I guess to confuse consumers when they are in a rush. I personally have been loyal to Crayola crayons only. I never really knew why (as I said, not an art expert here, so who was I to judge the better crayons?). It's just a psychological thing, I guess.

Thanks to Amspec though, I now know why I need to be loyal to Crayola. Amspec maintains the highest standards in the production of their products. This means that the crayons, the ink and even the paper wrapped around them are all non-toxic. The inks used are actually soya inks. So the huge non-toxic sign on each Crayola box is true - it is not poisonous at all. Remember that the next time you freak out at the sight of your kid putting his hand in his mouth after handling Crayola crayons!

The next time you are at your neighborhood bookstore, do check out Amspec products - I am sure you will find something that will appeal to your child (and even to you!)

Takes a load off your head - knowing they can easily be cleaned.
See? Washable!
I love that there are erasable versions of everything now.

This is magic. Any little girl would love these.

For the little hands of your little ones...

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Force Behind My Breastfeeding Success #BestStartswithDad

My siblings and I grew up drinking formula. In fact - I remember drinking powdered milk well into my teenage years; I drank powdered milk every single day until the day I graduated from high school. My youngest brother drank (a different brand of) powdered milk well into his college years. One of the questions strangers would ask us at the grocery check out counter was "who's drinking all that milk?" - after seeing the cartload of milk and four fully grown children with my mom. Needless to say - none of us were breastfed. I probably never tasted a single drop of breastmilk until I had my own.

Fast forward to almost two decades after high school - married for over two years, pregnant with a singleton. I've had a few friends who's had kids of their own - and I saw them successfully breastfeed their kids. I also knew of people who were not successful. If you asked me what the success rate was for breastfeeding (at that time) - I would have said 50%. I personally knew that breastfeeding was going to be good for my baby - but I did not have (in my brain) a single fact to even start explaining why I wanted to breastfeed. 

I started reading about it - the hows, the whats, the whys and the why nots. I went to social media and followed people who freely and openly talked about breastfeeding on Twitter. It helped that - a year before I gave birth - my sister in law had herself given birth to her third child, and I saw her own struggles. I saw her lactation consultations. I saw how hard it was to teach a baby to latch. I saw how precious each drop of liquid gold was. I also saw how she fed her baby with donated breastmilk whenever she ran out of her own. It was a theoretical and a practical lesson all rolled into one.

When I finally gave birth in the summer of 2009 - K was overdue (almost 41 weeks) and I gave birth via C-Section. 24 hours from delivery, K still had not peed - and my husband and I had to consent to letting her have some formula (thinking it was the best option at that time). As a first time mom, the task was daunting. I had no idea whether I could produce any milk at all (I could not see it), and it was not exactly a walk in the park to have a baby try to latch on. Still, I was determined to breastfeed her. She took only 1 serving of formula and never had taste of it again, until she turned 1.

Looking back - despite all the physical effort coming from me - it would have been mentally and psychologically impossible if my husband did not share the same determination to breastfeed our children as I did. As with any marriage issue/concern, the husband and wife has to have a united stand.
He cheered me on. I refused to buy an expensive breastpump until I could prove that I could produce milk. On my first month, I used an Avent handpump (thanks to my sister in law) and pumped around the clock. It was not an easy task - but having my husband around to celebrate each precious squirt sure helped reduce the pain of the aching wrist tendon.

He talked about it. There was no shame in talking about it to family, friends and even strangers. It was the sharing of a good thing that mattered. He picked up the facts that I had fed him (I would often repeat the benefits of breastfeeding to him - as he's not a reader) - and relayed them to other soon to be parents. He would ask me for more information and tips whenever he needed to share with his friends.

He scheduled (and paid!) for the lactation therapist. We contacted Lita Nery to help me - with how to get the baby to latch on, how to treat lumps and blocked ducts.... He asked Ate Lita so many questions that I think Ate Lita probably remembers him more than she does me.

He never looked away.  It honestly feels more embarrassing for me to feed/pump when my companion is embarrassed. If my companion were comfortable, I personally had no qualms about it. Over the combined 40++ months that I've nursed my 2 girls, I've had to feed/pump in the oddest of places - from restaurants to train platforms to bleachers to amusement parks. He never looked away.

He lost precious sleep time and comfort. If you know my husband, you will know that sleep is of utmost importance to him. In order for me to nurse my girls round the clock - we chose to co-sleep, which meant he had to give up precious bedspace for the girls. There were also nights when he would get disturbed by fussy, hungry babies. If it weren't the fussy, hungry babies - it would be the sound of my Medela pump, whooshing and swooshing the night away.
Fathers play a very important role in the breastfeeding success of families. That single voice makes a difference - against all the many potential questions that will come your way as you start your breastfeeding battle. It could be the one single tipping point - whether the breastfeeding relationship will last for one month or one year. It definitely made a difference in mine.

To my husband, and all fathers out there - Happy Fathers Day - and may you always stand for what is best for your family!

Friday, June 7, 2013

What is Success for You? #TheThirdMetric

How would you define success? What does being successful mean? I know it's a broad question - and it can be answered in many different ways. Your answer may also depend on which part of your life you are in right now. A student may define success as getting into a great college or graduating. A young professional may define success as getting a corner office with a view. Each of us have our own defining moments. Even the most successful of people, I am sure, also have their own definition of success; a success which they may not necessarily have attained, however successful they may already be. 

But what if I asked you - if there's only one thing you could be successful with in life - what would that be? Among the many things that you have achieved and done - what is the one thing that would make you a failure if you did not achieve it?

My definition of success is (and has always been) to have a happy family. It did not matter whether I get to take up my MBA or not; whether I owned my house or had to rent one. It did not even matter whether I had any children - I was willing to adopt. None of those mattered - except that I knew I wanted a family that had fun together, loved each other, and will survive through thick and thin together.

When I was a young girl, the path of life was simple. I would graduate from high school and I would go to college. I would graduate from college and I would get a job. Once I had a job, I would get married - and have children. That was the end of it - nothing specific on what course, which college, what job, what guy to marry (or who), and how many children. It's like one of those drawings by little children - stick figures with no faces, a generic house in the background, and usually a car, a garden and the sun shining in the background. How was I to know that life would get really complicated? Unfortunately - life has a way of sucking you into it - and eating you alive. Ateneo or La Salle? Business or medicine? Bill or Ted? Big wedding or small wedding? Corporate job or start your own business? Accept the job transfer or stay at your current role? 1 child or 5 children? The choices go on and on - and each choice you make add on more complication to your life.

It's all up to us to go back to the basics and review again what is it that will define your success. What is it that will make you feel you've truly succeeded? Don't let the world's definition of success define your success - because you deserve your own.

The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power took place on Thursday, June 6, 2012. It's a movement led by Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzenzinski about creating a more holistic, humane view of success. Read all about it here