Stella’s first Halloween

When I was growing up, one of my favorite traditions was Halloween. My uncle would dress my older brother up in various reincarnations of either a headless horseman or a zombie (back when zombies were not yet in fashion), always just two alternating every year. The costumes were always a hit, and managed to snag my brother Best in Costume awards several times. When my brother outgrew that, my uncle, ever the Halloween fanatic, turned to his three hapless daughters and dress them up. We’d always go trick or treating around the neighborhood, then settle down and watch Magandang Gabi Bayan while munching on the treats we’d gotten from hours of hard work trick or treating. It was a fun time, and these little memories added to what I consider a simple, but really charmed childhood.

Now that I’m a mom, I want to start making family traditions for our little motley crew of three. Right off the bat, I knew I wanted Stella to celebrate her first Halloween. And not with dainty, cutesy princess outfits either. Nope. She will have loads of time to be a princess or fairy or butterfly. Now that she still can’t mouth off her objections, her father and I will have some fun. Thus was how Stellasaurus was born. I have to hand it to my DIY husband. He completely DIYed Stella’s costume using Stella’s pajamas, some cardboard, and strips of felt paper.

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For our costumes, I just bought a pink shirt and a red bandana (to channel our Jurassic Park costumes) from SM and tadaaaaa!!!!

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Stella’s face said it all: Moooom, you’re embarrassing me!” Why yes, my darling, and your father and I plan to embarrass you for many more Halloweens to come. Because really, what are children for, if not for parents to embarrass them? Happy Halloween!

DIY Menu Board and Meal Planning

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Stella eats solid food twice a day these days, and it’s a challenge to have food ready when she’s ready to eat. Before I organized her meals (and made my DIY menu board), we would prepare her meals on the spot. We would scrounge around for whatever vegetable or fruit is available, boil or steam it, then mash or pureee, then wait for it to cool. The entire process would take anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour. Sometimes it’s not a problem, but sometimes the meals would just be too close to her next feeding schedule. Which means she won’t be drinking as much milk as she should. Which, of course, isn’t ideal, as the primary nutrition of babies up to 1 year is still milk.

In a nutshell, there was just zero method to the madness. There was just absolutely no system in place. And I learned early on that when it comes to babies, there needs to be a system for everything.

And so, after one too many rounds of “Anong kakainin ni Stella?” “Ano bang meron?!””Kalabasa nanaman!” I decided to sit down and figure this thing out once and for all.

I needed a plan. I needed a schedule of her meals AND a schedule of grocery shopping to make sure we won’t have to scrounge around anymore or “steal” food from the pantry that’s meant for other people in the house. After several rounds of deliberations, some hits and misses, I came up with the following:

Grocery: Do the grocery every weekend for the following week’s meals. I originally wanted to shop for two week’s worth of meals but when I did that I ended up with several rotting pieces of vegetables and herbs. Sobrang sayang. Grocery once a week after work just for one whole week’s meals is enough.

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DIY menu board: I’m pretty proud of my DIY menu board I made, considering I have absolutely no arts and crafts bone in my body. I just got a white board, a round of extra strength adhesive tape, and several colored markers, all from National Bookstore, alphabet letters from the toy section of the grocery, and a roll from my mom’s sizeable washi tape collection, and ta-da!

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Simple menu board. I wanted to make sure the lines were straight and even, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to calculate the spaces. So… bahala na si batman. Pwede na yan!!! As long as I can write on the board and as long as Weng, our housekeep, can read it (she helps prepare Stella’s meals), ok na!

I plan Stella’s meals for the entire week every Saturday or Sunday and go grocery shopping with the husband after. We’ve been using this system for a while now and it saves us a lot of time and energy. I don’t have to rely on food jars bought from the supermarket. I can make baby food using fresh vegetables and fruits. And not to mention, no more scrounging around for food! I highly recommend sitting down and making a plan for when your baby’s starts eating solids. It’s apparently not one of those things that you can do on the fly. Well you can, but why on earth would you want to?

Mommy favorites: the solid food edition

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I guess it’s safe to say that Stella doesn’t like carrots

We started feeding Stella solid food as soon as she turned six months. It’s exciting to see her get a taste of something other than milk, and it’s a joy to discover what food she likes and doesn’t like. So far, she loves squash, pears, prunes, bananas, peas, sweet potato, and cauliflower. She doesn’t care for carrots and brocolli. I don’t too, so I can’t say I blame her. Here are some of the things that have made this feeding journey easier for us.

1. Whole + Natural Baby Food Book

This beautiful book is a comprehensive guide to feeding babies up to one year. The book, written by Filipino moms, uses local ingredients and gives a step by step guide to preparing solid food for babies. The book is filled with recipes and beautiful photos and it’s perfect reference book for first time moms like me. I suspect even non first time moms will find this useful for their own children. I’ve tried many of the recipes already and most of them has been a hit with Stella! I even tasted them myself and the food is delicious. As it’s independently published, this book isn’t out in the bookstores yet. Try emailing wholenaturalbabyfood@gmail.com to purchase your own copy.

2. Munchkin suction bowls

The suction feature comes so handy when your baby is like mine, always grabbing things or knocking them over.

3. Chicco spoon
I’ve used other spoons before and this is my favorite. The spoon isn’t so hollow, unlike other spoons, which makes it easier for Stella to take the purees we give. It’s also made of silicon, which makes it soft on Stella’s gums. Love this and I’m so glad we switched to this.

4. OXO Storage container set
These are leak proof, watertight, and air tight and they have measurements to make portioning a breeze. We make Stella’s food in batches ( because who has time to cook baby food every single day?) and we store the food in these containers. We just pop them in the refrigerator and take them out for the next meal.

5. Ecomom sterilizer
I cannot rave about this sterilizer enough. It cleans all of Stella’s bottles, spoons, bowls, toys (even our cellphones!) and its drier feature saves us from the time consuming task of drying all her stuff one by one. Everything just feels so clean after a cycle in the Ecomom. We use it as storage too. I love multi purpose appliances!

6. Mamas and Papas baby bud booster seat
I was initially hesitant about getting a snug chair but this one has cast aside all my doubts. The chair feels safe when tied to a chair and though the fit is snug, Stella seems comfortable enough. It’s easy to clean, too. The removable activity tray that comes with it has also been a useful and most welcome distraction for Stella.

The Mix feeding Mommy: Or How I learned to stop feeling guilty and forgive myself for giving my child formula

I was determined to exclusively breastfeed Stella for at least 6 months. I read so many books and articles on breastfeeding, joined online breastfeeding support groups, watched countless youtube videos. I hired a lactation consultant to come to our house. I bought nipple creams, breast pads, nursing covers. I drank just about every single lactation supplement in the market. I have not one, but two, nursing pumps, one for the home, and a portable one for when I’m out and about. I approached breastfeeding with almost military precision. Pump every 2 hours, round the clock. I was determined to reach my goal. And I almost did.

Just two weeks shy of my goal, I fed Stella a bottle of formula. Just like that, I had failed my first parenting goal. There were many reasons, none of which seem relevant now. For a time I was convinced that failing this would mean failing other parenting goals as well: how to be polite, to be kind, to work hard, to have grit and tenacity. How to achieve one’s goals, for that matter. It was hard not to wallow in melodrama. My daughter was not going to be as smart as the other kids! She will have a lifetime of health issues that she wouldn’t have otherwise if only I’d exclusively breastfed her! The list was endless. Then there was the sense of guilty and betrayal, too. I felt betrayed by my own body. My body, who had carried and sustained this child for nine months, just couldn’t nourish her as she deserved to be nourished. I resented it and I resented resenting it.

It took one mom in one of my online mommy support groups to make me feel that I finally had permission to cut myself some slack. I was telling this mom, a woman I happen to admire, about my various breastfeeding problems. She said ‘I started feeding my baby formula weeks ago. I’m not going to kill myself just to breastfeed.’

It was as if a lightbulb had switched on in my head. “Yes!” I said. “Sometimes I just wanna say, f**k this s**t!” We both laughed, me somewhat bitterly. She was absolutely right though. While I have absolutely no regrets, there just came a point when you say, I can’t do this sh*t no more. Why it took a fearless, unapologetic mom to make me feel like I too, can quit apologizing for my failure and learn to just do what needs to be done, god only knows.

I didn’t give up immediately, but I did stop getting up in the middle of the night for pumping sessions. I spent time with my daughter as soon as I got home instead of pumping. I stopped wanting to kick myself whenever I forgot to store my “liquid gold” properly. I Most importantly, I let go of the guilt. I suppose if I had just applied myself more, pushed myself harder, perhaps I would have made it to my goal. Or perhaps not. I would never know now. When the time came for me to surrender and admit defeat, the one consuelo I told myself is that there is so much more to parenting than breastfeeding. It stung, but if I let guilt consume me, I’d only be setting myself up to fail at other things.

I still think breastfeeding is the best option for babies. Stella will be 7 months in a few days and I still continue to breastfeed her, albeit I now also mix feed with formula. But I have forgiven myself for using formula and I wish all moms who feel guilt about using formula do, too.

Stella’s 6th month

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In three days, Stella will turn 7 months so this is a somewhat late post.

(It’s actually a very late post but I’m determined to post her monthly photos for posterity’s sake. And also because I think my daughter is becoming cuter as the months pass. Lol.)