Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Treasure of Talk

For a stay-at-home mom like me, the challenge is finding ways to keep an active, curious toddler NOT bored.

Of course, I can just prop him up on pillows and turn on his favorite Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show, then rotate that with baby games on our smartphones, then I’d probably have half his waking hours covered.

But is that really what I want for my son?

Have you noticed the look on a child’s face when he’s been watching TV for too long? My husband and I call it the “zombie”. It’s that bored, sapped, “bangag” (sorry, don’t know the English translation for this) look on his face, sitting atop sagged shoulders. You could almost see his brain getting dull. Kawawa naman L

Since I stay home with Gabbie, I feel like my son could get so much more from everyday. And though I am not at all a mega-creative, SUPERMOM (I refuse to be pressured by such terms!), I thought I’d just do what felt like I COULD do.

I talked to my son.

I started early on. Since he came home with me (from the NICU—at 1 ½ months), he’s been getting an earful of stories from me day after day. From pointing out trees, birds, swimming pool in our condo clubhouse to telling him about our busy day ahead, I talked to him all the time. So did his dad.

We didn’t really do baby-talk. We pretty much talked to him like a young boy and we would ask him questions, too even if he couldn’t answer yet.

We talked to him while playing, while eating, while poring through books, and while he threw his tantrums (talking to him in a calm voice is a big help).

And now, at 22 months, I can hardly believe all the stories he tells! He started with unintelligible words, phrases (we called it Gabbie’s “Mandarin”) but he told his stories with such passion and expression that we couldn’t help but “converse” with him, even though we didn’t understand a thing.

Now, he can say words (“Mommy”, “Daddy”, “books”, “sit”, “eat”, “milk”, among countless others) and phrases (“Mommy cook”, “Dede please”, “More milk”, among countless, many others) and he knows all the letters of the alphabet and numbers one to ten.

I couldn’t believe at how well he can absorb information and remember things. And I am at awe at how confidently he can express himself (and that includes his frustration—argh!).

Now, you might ask, how and what did I do?

Honestly, apart from the alphabet toy that his Ninong (godfather) gifted him, which sings the sound of each letter, plus me reading books to him, I can’t say I manipulated him into this one mean, learning machine.

Gabbie enjoys his books
He’s a smart boy. And I truly believe that talking to him has helped immensely with his growing grasp of the world and learning concepts.

My growing, talkative little boy means Mommy has to step it up, too. I can’t just sit around and let his learning go to waste. So, I’ve been researching on several blogsites on toddler activities that can inspire some creative conversations. Here’s some of what I’ve done with Gabbie:

·      Number hopscotch – Write numbers on colored papers and stick them on the floor. Hop on it together as you recite the number.

·      Read and identify – Since attention span can’t sit through a page yet, identify a standout image from each page and “tell” that story (with feelings and gusto!)

·      Color-hunting – We identify our color of the day and we go around the condo complex. He would point out everything he sees that is of the same color as our color of the day.

·      Grocery list – Got this idea from We printed out his own grocery list and off we go to the grocery, where he picked out what was on the list and ticked them off as we went along. He enjoyed shopping and learning what each item was called, and what it looked like J

·      Other helpful websites:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What Breastfeeding Has Taught Me About God

It’s been awhile since I last wrote and I have a perfectly good excuse—we moved houses!

The move was so tedious that I vowed to write a piece about that but the only “lesson” I wanted to share was to NOT buy any more things! Well, if that can’t be helped, then consider this: Buy purposefully. Rooting that deeper into my life, I wanted to speak purposefully, act purposefully, live purposefully.

As in God’s way, I come to this goal through a process. I recognize this to be a long, fruitful journey towards a life that is purposed, meaningful and more glorifying to Him.

To help me put that into practical terms, I have decided to start on a new devotional with Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life, which I have not yet completed reading.

So in the weeks to come, I pray that this journey towards purpose will be blessed, and that I may be able to share its fruits with you.

In the meantime, I have decided to write about something that is very close to my heart. First week August is World Breastfeeding Week and many breastfeeding-related activities are being organized to support and celebrate the cause. I simply want to write about how breastfeeding has opened my eyes about God and His wonderful gifts of provision.

I have been breastfeeding my son, Gabbie for 20 months now. From the looks of it, we don’t seem to be on the verge of stopping anytime soon. I mean, he giggles in delight at the mere sight and mention of my breasts (he calls it “dede”).

Breastfeeding at 20 months
While I have had my share of breastfeeding-related issues like wrong latch which lead to pain and nipple wounds, as well as mastitis and engorgement, I have had, more importantly, countless epiphanies during those late-night feedings about how God provides and how his provisions are not just complete, but perfect!

To make my amazement easier to understand, consider these points on breastmilk:
1.    The first few drops of breastmilk, called Colostrum, which is small in quantity (perfect for a newborn’s marble-sized tummy) but powerful in its content of immunoglobins and antibodies, which acts like a vaccine, protecting baby from viruses and bacteria as it enters into the world, flows the breast for the newborn. Colostrum coats baby’s stomach lining to protect from bacteria, acts as a laxative to help baby expel early stools to protect against jaundice and bilirubin and provides the perfect nutritional food for a newborn baby.

When I read this about colostrum, which is commonly referred to as Liquid Gold, I thought wow, God sure knows how to protect my baby. As He gave us Gabbie, he also gave what he would need for his small developing body. Gabbie was born at 1.3 kilos only (he was born at 30 weeks) and I was determined to give him all of my colostrum then. As a mother, I instinctively knew his premature organs NEEDED my colostrum. With each drop of my liquid gold, I felt God’s reassurance that He knows what Gabbie needed to become bigger, stronger and healthier, and He has already provided for it.

2.    Breastmilk is nutritionally complete, always contains millions of live white blood cells and immunoglobins for immunity and protection, changes in composition from feed to feed based from baby’s nutritional needs, is always the right temperature, puts me and my baby together pretty often, and has given no financial burden to the family.

I am reminded of Scripture when Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Looking at my baby after each feed, content and secure and happy, THAT is a testament to this verse.

For a baby, their most important needs are food, warmth and security. Breastmilk fulfills all, and its benefits extend to the mom, and to the dad too. While breastfeeding took a bit of practice and while I also experienced some challenges during, I also recognize that help was never far from me, and I never had to endure anything that I could not bear. Also, the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the few challenges I have met along the way. Click on the links above so you can have a rundown of the nutritional benefits of breastmilk. Breastmilk brought my premature tiny baby to a healthy, intelligent toddler that he is now, and all that without a single cost to my family. The milk flowed each time my baby would suckle.  If I were to describe our breastfeeding journey, I’d say it was convenient, sulit, and enjoyable! The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22)

3.    Breastfeeding promotes mother-baby bonding.

As I searched for literature online to explain how breastfeeding promotes bonding, I came across this article that says that there is no evidence that breastfeeding does, in fact promote bonding between mom and baby.

While it does say that the propagation of such claim was to promote “competitive mothering”, I do believe that we’re looking at this from a wrong standpoint.

Breastfeeding, by its very nature, requires something from the mother and her natural instincts. It harnesses her capability to recognize her baby’s (and her own body’s) cues of hunger, and emotional need, and then her natural capacity to fulfill those.

Breastfeeding requires mommy to hold baby often, and it is but natural for affections to grow as baby gazes on mommy’s face several times a day, and mommy caresses baby’s soft cheeks and head several times a day.

What I’m trying to say is, the evidence that will prove that breastfeeding does in fact promote bonding is watching mom and baby together, and apart. I know my son is about to cry even before he does. I know when he’s hungry even before he asks for milk. And he knows when I’m tired, or angry, or when I’m up for some playtime. And upon waking, and wherever he might be, he always calls out Mommy and looks for me. He’s happiest and most secure when I’m around.

One might argue that bottle-feeding can also facilitate bonding between mom and baby. To which I say, probably so, and to which I will add, establishing baby’s bond with mom goes far beyond breastfeeding and will continue well onto the years and decades to come. God’s grace for parenting is always sufficiently available to all parents, regardless of what milk you choose to feed your child.

Breastfeeding is just a sure, easy, convenient way to do it. I mean, you’re feeding your baby, getting some forced rest (you gotta sit down while you nurse, Momma!), and you’re spending some quality time with your little one. That’s the best kind of multi-tasking!

Happy breastfeeding pair.
I pumped milk in the beginning when my son was still in NICU, but as soon as he came out, I never touched a pump again. We breastfeed directly up to this day. So while I do not have an idea as to how much milk he consumes everyday, I rest assured that he is well-fed and that I will have milk again for him when he asks for “dede” the next time.

Breastfeeding has taught me a lot of things, but its biggest gift to me is strengthening my faith in my God who provides the milk day in and day out.

So, to all moms, breastfeeding or not, let feeding be NOT about you, or how you compare to other moms. Let feeding be what it’s supposed to be. It’s about nourishing your baby, and believing that the same God who gave you that precious bundle of joy, will also provide for his EVERY need (that goes beyond just the physical, Mommies!)

Let’s not tire ourselves out by making breastfeeding complicated or thinking too much about it or doubting that you’re producing it. The simple fact is God will provide for the milk that your baby needs every single day for as long as he will need it. He made it perfect, he made it complete, and he made it graceful. Let’s have faith in that.

Happy breastfeeding week, Mommas! J