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?

Where to buy children’s books on Instagram

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I’m only just now beginning to see the joy in reading and collecting children’s books. There is so much artistry that goes into making a really good children’s book that I never quite appreciated before, from the carefully crafted words to the matching illustrations. Kids are a really discerning audience. How do you make something engaging and still make it relatable to a preschooler? How do you even captivate the imagination of a 3 year old when most of them can’t stay still long enough to have their pajamas put on?

I’ve managed to get a hold of some really nice books for Stella. Some I’ve bought in bookstores, some are gifts, and some I’ve bought online from Instagram sellers.

Here are some of the book sellers on Instagram that I follow. They have a nice, well-curated selection of children’s books that I always check out.

1. Sunnypages
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2. Ben.and.lily.
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3. Beluga Dreams
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Sleep training update

After weeks of sleep training, which includes increasing her milk intake, experimenting with different bed times and bed time routines, I think it’s safe to say that my sleep training has been an utter disaster. Lol. I have come to just accept that my dearest, darlingest daughter just won’t sleep through the night yet. She will when she’s ready and I just have to accept it. She’s a very happy baby during the day, anyway, and is rarely ever fussy. Her awful sleeping habits are just a quirk. She still reaches for me at night, with her eyes closed. It’s cute and sweet and I console myself with the fact that the time will come when she will no longer reach for me.

It works, sometimes. Other times I want to tear my hair out.

Ah, motherhood.

Adventures in sleep training

Whoever thought of the phrase "sleeps like a baby" obviously wasn't referring to my daughter

Whoever thought of the phrase “sleeps like a baby” obviously wasn’t referring to my daughter

At six months, Stella has been hitting every milestone on time, sometimes even earlier. She turns on her sides and back, she grasps toys with a firm grip, she coos and laughs and makes great eye contact. She can’t yet get us the remote control or fetch us a beer from the fridge, but we’re working on it. For the most part though, she has been on point on just about every single developmental milestone.

Except for one thing. ┬áHer sleep. That glorious activity that is essential to every person’s sanity and survival. For several months now, Stella would be nursing every two hours at night. I lie in bed in complete terror, looking at my baby’s perfectly angelic face and hoping to the lord almighty that she stays asleep. Which, of course, she doesn’t. Two hours after she drifts off to sleep, she would start squirming. Small, but not imperceptible, squirms, which would then develop into full blown thrashing. All this with her eyes closed. I would sigh, pull up my shirt, and do the one thing that ends the thrashing: nurse her. A few minutes later, a satiated Stella would drift off to slumber once again. I meanwhile, would be wide awake, looking at my husband sleeping beside Stella, blissfully unaware of the murderous looks I was throwing his way.

So now I’ve taken it upon myself to fix this problem that I might have created. There are many many sleep training methods, but all of them boil down to the following general categories:

1. Cry It Out Method – This method encourages mothers to do just what the name suggests, let their baby cry it out. This is also called the Extinction Method, which was popularized by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. The idea is to set a bed time, leave your baby to sleep, and go back the next morning. You presume the baby will cry herself to sleep for a few days, until she learns how to self soothe.

I, cannot, for the life of me, do that to Stella, although I make no judgments on parents who do. Parents who opted for this report a well-rested, happier baby. Still, the thought of leaving Stella to cry her lungs out, and making no attempt to soothe her, makes ME want to cry. Option number 1 is out.

2. Controlled crying – Again, as the name suggests, this method involves crying, but in graduated stages. Also known as the Ferber method, this method involves checking the baby at timed intervals, making small attempts to calm the crying baby such as a pat on the bum, or a soothing voice, but ultimately still leaving her to soothe herself.

At this point I might have to say that I am a wuss and I cannot stand the thought of letting my baby cry, for any amount of time, and not doing anything about it. All the sleep training guides also point to negative sleep associations that hinder a baby from sleeping well. One of which is nursing them to sleep. Sorry naman. Guilty as charged. But what is a sleepy, bleary-eyed mom to do when the only thing that would calm a baby down is to nurse her? ┬áThe sleep trainers say that a baby should learn how to put themselves to sleep without these “crutches,” whether they’re nursing, or rocking to sleep, or ssshing, or patting the baby’s bum.

I will just have to find a way to sleep train Stella without any form of crying. (Incidentally, there is a book called the No Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley, which I have yet to read).

The first order of the day is to make sure that Stella’s getting enough milk during the day so she doesn’t have to feed at night. I read that one of the reasons a baby is wakeful at night is because they might not be getting enough nourishment during the day. This might be true for our situation, seeing as how my breastmilk supply isn’t the greatest. I have also noticed that Stella seems to nap better when I give her expressed breastmilk in a bottle, as opposed to simply nursing from me directly. I’ve increased her milk intake, up to 4 oz per bottle during the day when I’m away in the office, and tonight I will give her an additional bottle after our final nightly nursing session.

So help me God.