For Mom, With Love (plus a FREE downloadable cookbook! ‚̧)

I’m on Year 2¬Ĺ of what is, arguably, one of the toughest roles I’ve EVER had, i.e. being Mommy.

Some days it goes really well and I feel like I GOT THIS FAM, I’m the best mama everrr. Naps are taken on time, bowls of food are wiped clean (walang tira! yay!),¬†toys are put away in their proper places.

BB and Me aka Flower-Head. He made it at school for Mother’s Day (aww)

On other days, I want to curl up in a ball and growl at everyone to leave me alone. Bucketfuls of guilt over everything — from being a working mom to not giving my son more leafy greens at the table.

Guess what I realized, mama? We don’t have to enjoy¬†every moment of motherhood. We don’t have to be the Insta-perfect mama 100% of the time.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to have those ups and downs. It’s okay to need alone time one minute, then need the MAXIMUM amount of hugs the next. We don’t have to sweat the small stuff. More often than not,¬†we¬†are our own worst critics.

Remember, taking time out to de-stress is important, not just for yourself, but for your little ones too.¬†ūüĎĆ

If one of your favorite things to do to wind down is whipping up something in the kitchen, you’re in luck. ShopBack teamed up with RedMart to release its first cookbook, “For Mum, With Love,” which you can download here for free.¬†

It has 18 tried-and-tested recipes with varying levels of difficulty, from delicious meals like Sardines and Pineapples in Tangy and Spicy Coconut Sauce (sardinas with a twist!) to feel-good classic desserts like Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Singaporean coconutty favorite Ondeh Ondeh. 

So download away! Here’s to good food and to us “good enough” mamas!¬†ūüėė


What Baby Learned at the Baby Gym

When BB was around 1¬Ĺ years old we thought he wasn’t getting enough interaction with other little bubs his age. There were older kids at the condo playground, but BB was mostly stuck with¬†yaya¬†at home all day. (Back in the Philippines, BB would probably have no shortage of¬†ninangs / ninongs / titos / titas / lolos / lolas + little cousins¬†dropping by, but given where we were, we had to think of alternatives.)

There was a baby gym near our place so we thought to give it a try.

Baby gyms — popular chains include My Gym, The Little Gym, and Gymboree — offer gym programs that allow kids as young as 19 months to engage in physical play in a safe environment (read: foam padded floors and equipment, colorful toys, friendly and helpful instructors, etc). Some also offer school-based programs like a preschool.

The baby gym we enrolled BB in, on a 10 x 1-hour session course plus unlimited free play during weekdays, was gym-based. (We weren’t keen on “school” programs as he was so young.) The course also required parent interaction, so one of us, either Hubby or me, joined BB on the gym floor during class time.

Class would start with the same song and actions (“Smash, banana, smash smash banana!”). I think the repetition allowed the kids to gain confidence joining the singing and the actions as the weeks went by.

One of the main focus areas was on developing the kids’ “gymnastic” skills. BB wasn’t turning cartwheels,¬†but as the sessions progressed he was hanging on monkey bars, tumbling on the mat, balancing on padded beams, and diving into the ball pits.

There was plenty of music (a mix of popular kids’ songs, some were Barney songs I think) and dancing, with both kids and parents encouraged to actively participate. The good thing is, the teachers don’t force your kid back in the circle if he/she suddenly stands up to run and play elsewhere, but they do try and coax the child gently back.

There were games, races, and puppets at the end of each class, and a sweet send-off song with all kids getting their arm stamped with a cute cartoon. We noticed BB got increasingly confident with heights, speeding up the ladder to the slides with just one hand for balance.

I appreciated that parents were encouraged to sing and dance along with the children, because we could do the songs back home and it delighted BB to recognize the familiar tunes.

By the end of the program BB never actually got 100% comfortable with playing with his peers (it was a class of kids from 19 months to 3 years old, so there was a bit of disparity in ages).

But a lasting legacy from BB’s time in baby gym is his I-can-do-it attitude when faced with physical challenges — be it climbing and rolling off the sofas at home, scaling the kiddie climbing wall at the mall, or facing slides tummy-down.

Overall — thumbs up baby gyms! Highly recommended for active little ones.

No Order Here

I read this essay on Scary Mommy and I find myself guilty, a little bit. The thing with writing a mommy blog is it has the tendency of making it seem like you have the mommy shit together, and the household runs like clockwork, floors are always polished, children sweet-smelling and well-fed.

Well, I just wanted to clarify that that’s certainly not the case, and it’s not my intention to make it seem so. There are dirty clothes in the hamper, work stuff I brought home and hadn’t looked at, unnecessary screaming in the playroom. We are all in the same boat, mama. Chin up.

A Toddler’s Toothbrush

A toothbrush.

What my toddler thinks it is:

  • Interesting chew toy
  • Toothpaste-flavored ice candy?
  • Lollipop (with bristles)

What he definitely does not think it is:

  • Something to clean his teeth with

As soon as BB had a decent row of baby teeth we started to think about how to introduce toothbrushing into his routine.

We bought Pigeon’s training toothbrush set because it had three brushes we could use to progress BB through all the toothbrushing “stages”: getting comfortable with having a toothbrush in his mouth all the way to actually practicing how to brush teeth. We didn’t use the Level 1 brush very long since we started BB well after he turned 6 months.

As for toothpaste, we’re still using brands that are safe to swallow. BB isn’t too good at spitting yet. Brands that carry safe-to-swallow formulas include Aquafresh and the¬†Jack N’ Jill¬†kids’ toothpaste line. In Singapore, the Aquafresh brand is widely available in groceries and pharmacies, while Mothercare stocks Jack N’ Jill.

It was another challenge to actually get BB to sit down for two full minutes for us to brush his teeth. We eventually settled into a routine of toothbrushing after dinner, while BB was still strapped to his baby chair.

BB knew what was coming next as soon as we put on Blippi’s Tooth Brushing song. We chanced upon it on YouTube. It lasts for about the same time as a proper brush would, it was easy to follow the lyrics, the melody was kind of catchy, and the animation was cute. It did the trick of keeping BB in his seat.

(We don’t use the video these days, though we do keep BB strapped in the baby chair. ūüėĀ)

How about you? How do you brush your little one’s teeth? Share in the comments below!

Storytime Bedtime

I blink and it’s February!

Our major milestone last month: BB (officially) joined a playgroup. The first week was marked with teary drop-offs, but about two weeks in, BB willingly sat on the tiny stool for the quick temperature check and squirt of hand sanitizer — and bounded off to his classroom with barely a ‘bye’. He has also begun giving us short recaps of what happened at school (“I ate noodles”) and singing snippets of songs he picked up from music class (“The square is like a box!”). I am so¬†relieved¬†it’s working out.

Now that BB’s in preschool, sticking to his routine has become even more important. If we put him to bed too late, he risks waking late or getting sleepy before school ends at noon. I wanted to share with you all our bedtime routine since mid-last year, which (to date!) has worked in getting BB in bed with his bottle of milk at a decent time. We call it “Storytime Bedtime.”

Before we started “Storytime Bedtime” we had a difficult time signaling to BB it was time to go to sleep. BB is a spirited kid — if he has energy to spare he goes off like a little rocket — and somehow Hubby’s and my presence seemed to scream¬†“PLAY” to him, even at night. We tried dimming the lights, humming lullabies, and soothing pre-bedtime baths, but they weren’t working. If his energy was a volume knob on a radio, we had no idea how to turn it down.

Then we started reading him a book before bed. The first book we read was “Goodnight Moon” — one I chose on purpose as the story slowly wound down to the bit when the bunny falls asleep. To our delight it worked. Once the book was finished, he took his bottle without any fuss and kissed us good night.


“Storytime Bedtime” is exactly as it sounds; all you need is a book, preferably one that ends with a nap/sleep. Favourite books with sleepy endings include:

  • Goodnight Moon by¬†Margaret Wise Brown (a book I read aloud so often, I can now recite it in my sleep)
  • The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
  • I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama by¬†Anna Dewdney

(These days, BB is so used to the routine any book works fine. When we’re tired we tend to choose short ones, haha.)

We start off by shouting “Storytime bedtime!” in a sing-songy voice, and BB knows it’s time to go to bed.

It’s a great way to bond with your bub, sneak in some reading time,¬†AND prime him for sleep!

If your little one is as energetic as BB, do try it out! Let me know if it works for you.¬†ūüėä

Happy New Year y’all!

That Time of the Year

I truly love December. It’s like the equivalent of the year’s weekend — everyone seems more relaxed. This year we put up a small tree, even if we’re flying back to the Philippines for Christmas. BB was taken by it the first few days it was up. He referred to it as “Mommy’s plant.”

I also find myself looking back on the past twelve months this time of the year. If January feels like a fresh start (“Let’s draw up a list of New Year resolutions that look suspiciously similar to last year’s list!”), December is more for reflection.

2017 was, for me, a year of the same, a year of difference, and a year of in between.¬†I am grateful — to reach the (almost) year-end with a growing, talkative and rowdy toddler, a roof over my head, Hubby next to me maximizing our new-ish Netflix subscription, and the prospect of¬†lechon¬†and our traditional baked chicken in a week’s time,¬†shared with family, intact.

What have I done this year? How have I moved forward, how have I changed? What will I remember most about 2017? Drop me a note in the comments!

You May Be A Victim of Abuse Without Your Knowledge

Here’s the thing:¬†you might be a victim of abuse without knowing it.

No, I’m not talking about physical violence, but something a little less obvious, more insidious — and just as worse.

Have you ever heard of the term financial abuse?

(While I‚Äôve not experienced it myself, it‚Äôs a topic that’s close to my heart not only because I work in the finance industry, but because I’ve seen so many women victimised by it, either knowingly or unknowingly. If this post helps at least one woman out there recognize her situation for what it is, then I would’ve achieved what I set out to write.)

What is financial abuse?

First things first. What do I mean by “financial abuse”?, a US website¬†launched to provide legal information and resources for survivors of domestic violence, defines it like this:

Making or attempting to make a person financially dependent, e.g., maintaining total control over financial resources and withholding access to money, are some forms of financial abuse (also called economic abuse).

Purple Purse, a US national campaign focused on ending domestic violence through financial empowerment services for survivors, has the following definition:

Financial abuse prevents victims from acquiring, using or maintaining financial resources. Financial abuse is just as effective in controlling a victim as a lock and key. Abusers employ isolating tactics such as preventing their spouse or partner from working or accessing a bank, credit card or transportation. They might tightly monitor and restrict their partner’s spending. Victims of financial abuse live a controlled life where they have been purposely put into a position of dependence, making it hard for the victim to break free.

The message is consistent: if you’re in a relationship where you’re feeling¬†manipulated¬†or controlled¬†through financial means or when you feel your partner may be limiting your financial independence,¬†you may be a victim of financial abuse.

What are the signs of financial abuse?

According to, the following may be signs you’re experiencing financial abuse:

Does/did your partner:

  • Prevent you from working, or stop you from going to work?
  • Prevent you from going to college or university?
  • Ask you to account for every peso you spend?
  • Check your receipts or bank statements so they can monitor how much you are spending?
  • Keep the log-in details, bank cards or PIN numbers for your joint account so that you cannot access the account?
  • Spend money allocated to bills for other things?
  • Steal, damage or destroy your possessions?
  • Spend whatever they want, but belittle you for spending any money?
  • Insist on control of all financial matters?
  • Insist that all the bills and loans are in your name (but does not contribute to them)?
  • Make you ask permission before making any purchase, no matter how small?
  • Make significant financial decisions without you (e.g. buying a new home, car)?
  • Place debts in your name?
  • Steal money from you, or use your bank card without permission?

If any of these situations feel familiar, you may be experiencing financial abuse.

Even in a country like the Philippines, which was the only Asian country to have made it (at one time) to the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the world’s 10 most gender-equal countries, I suspect the above situations are far too common.

Female participation in the Philippine labor force is much lower at just a little over 50%, compared to 70% in the UK and 67% in the US. This indicates that it’s highly likely that Filipina women are under-utilized in the labor market, and may suffer from inferior work opportunities compared to men, less stable work, or unpaid work burdens¬†(think stay-at-home moms that depend on a single income). Overall, this makes them more vulnerable to financial abuse.

Okay, so I might be a victim of financial abuse. What do I do?

I know it’s very difficult, especially if you’re a stay-at-home mom counting on your spouse’s income, to be truly financially independent. I have read personal stories of women feeling absolutely crippled by being given less money for basic necessities by their partner if they complain about their situation. Your partner may even threaten to leave you, which especially if you have kids, can be devastating.

But — and here’s my attempt at a glimmer of hope — there are some things you can do.

  • Start working on your financial literacy.¬†I know (trust me,¬†I know)¬†finance is not the most exciting subject in the world. However, it pays to know at least the basics — how to take stock of your finances, how to make a simple budget, the best ways to save whatever you can, how to prioritize your expenses — for you to be able to properly assess your specific situation. There are plenty of free resources online. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas launched¬†Peso Sense, a nationwide Financial Literacy campaign “designed to encourage improving productive expenditure, improve the capacity for saving and promote entrepreneurship among Filipino beneficiaries of international or domestic remittances.” The Peso Sense website,¬†, contains free e-Learning modules with topics like Basic Finance, Managing Your Money, and a primer on the stock market.
  • Ensure you know your own ATM PIN codes, online banking passwords, and similar login information. You can always change them if you feel they have been compromised.
  • Have copies of important financial documents such as your bank statements, credit card information, etc.¬†Know which assets are in your / your spouse’s name (bank accounts, credit cards, land titles, etc.).
  • Save whatever you can — as Tesco used to put it, “Every Little Helps.” Put away the cash in a location only you know.
  • Look for a part-time job or sideline, if possible. If you blog, look for a way to monetize it. Maybe you can start a small online Facebook shop selling on consignment, or set up a makeshift¬†sari-sari¬†store at home.
  • Up-skill for free. There are plenty of free resources online if you wish to take courses to improve your skills: think Coursera, edX, or Open2Study, among others.
  • Reach out to trusted friends, family, or even your local church.¬†Especially if you feel you’re a victim of abuse, as they may be able to help you and your family get back on your feet.
  • Financial abuse may be an indicator of more widespread abuse.¬†You can report / discuss your situation using¬†Violence Against Women (VAW) Hotlines on this link.

To paraphrase, remember:¬†it’s your money, your life.

I’m interested to hear if you know of anyone with this experience, of if you have other suggestions of how to cope. Feel free to comment below.


Image credit: Fabian Blank