What Baby Learned at the Baby Gym

When BB was around 1½ 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.


When Baby Won’t Eat (and my 2nd mini-giveaway!)

I see these pudgy babies on my friends’ Facebook pages, all cheeks and Michelin man arms, and I imagine these are the babies those Food Network and Tasty Junior and Annabel Karmel recipes were written for.

These are the babies who’ll probably wolf down my homemade baby mac n’ cheese (artfully blended to hide all the vege he’ll surely spit out at first sight) and ask for seconds.

These are probably the babies who’ll eat just about anything.

And then there’s Squishy.

Source: Fowl Language Comics
I remember the grief I had (and insane amount of Googling I did) when all he ate at ten months old were boxed infant cereal and apples.

After a lick of choco ice cream — which he turned down right after. Smart kid, but… but… who turns down chocolate?!
I took the parenting books to heart by keeping him fully on breastmilk for his first six months — but I knew of parents who had started feeding bub purées at four months and they were eating way ahead of Squishy at his age.

I worried. Did we start him too late on solid food?

We tried all the tricks to no avail. I bought a ceramic slow cooker to cook Japanese rice mixed with different ingredients and vegetables to vary the tastes, prepared food with different textures and colors, used funky cutlery and plates to get him interested in eating.

Nothing. He barely ate.

We took our concerns to the pediatrician who told us not to worry. His weight was fine (50th percentile). He was active. He was hitting his milestones.

Parents being parents though, the worry wart never quite goes away and Google is more than happy to fill the void with endless amounts of information: WHO growth charts you can use to plot baby’s height/weight“ideal weight” calculators for those too lazy to plot anything after a full day at work, and countless forums with equally worried parents fretting about weight issues other than their own.

Fast forward to Squishy at 1+ years old.

He’s eating well — a rotation of steamed rice, pasta, meesua, and his favorite bread for carbs; chicken, pork, fish, and (sometimes) beef for protein; broccoli, carrots, and a bit of spinach for his vege. He loves bananas, apples, and mangoes. He’s more adventurous in his diet, eager to give everything a try (but also quick to spit it out if he doesn’t like it too much, like onions).

We think we should feed him more leafy greens and he still gets a bit red when we feed him eggs, but we’re working on expanding his menu.

More food ends up in his tummy these days, but sometimes it ends up in his/our nose
Squishy’s no Michelin baby, but he’s not light to carry either.

He’s active as he can be, thriving, and best of all — he looks happy.

So what changed?

The short answer is: nothing.

Squishy just gradually came around to trying more new things. That’s it. His eating “issue” sorted itself out in time.

Believe me, I know how frustrating it can get to see your bub refuse food. But after our experience with Squishy, I realize babies and kids are smart. They will let you know when they’re hungry (loud and clear). They won’t starve themselves. They’ll gradually come around, on their own, to eating all the healthy food on your table.

Like our pediatrician said, as long as your bub is hitting his or her milestones, is active, playful, and cheerful, don’t get too hung up on the percentiles. Baby will be fine. 🙂


Now, for all you parents with easy-to-feed kids! (Jealous *sob*) Do you have time to make them cute bento-style lunch boxes? (Jealous again)

This giveaway is for you! 🙂

The MamaDramaSG Kawaiiii Mini-giveaway 

I picked up the prizes in our last trip to Japan so they’re 100% legit. 🙂 There will be five (5) winners getting one prize each, chosen at random:

– Kawaii bento picks (cute eyes, mini animals) x4

– A sausage mold set x1

So cute hor!
Terms & Conditions (Please read):

– This giveaway is open only to parents resident in Singapore.

– This is not a sponsored promotion. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. I hereby release Facebook of any liability.

– The giveaway starts 14 Mar 2017 and ends 01 Apr 2017. 

– Your personal details are entered through the @GleamApp and I have no access to these. I will only be able to see the details of the winner automatically selected by the @GleamApp.

– There will be five (5) winners getting one (1) prize each (chosen at random). The winners will be contacted by email 24 hours after the giveaway ends. If there is no response within 48 hours, I reserve the right to draw another winner.

– The prize will be mailed to the address specified by the winner. No special requests for delivery requiring additional charges on my part will be entertained.

If you have any additional questions – feel free to send me an email at themamadramasg@gmail.com!

Good luck! 🙂

Enter the giveaway here:


Or enter on Facebook on my Giveaways tab:

A Late Hello, 2017

I blink and it’s March. Squishy is not so squishy anymore; he’s definitely crossed over into toddler territory now I think. Maybe I should start calling him LS – Less Squishy – heh. He has also, somehow, accumulated around 60-odd words (yes, the O.C. in me counted) ranging from mangga (mango) to calculator (“Kata-kata!”), enjoys trips to labas (outside), and loves pointing out all the cars, buses, and trucks (“Tuck!”) that pass outside our window.

I realize that the words Squishy knows (and loves) to say are what he sees around him everyday. A city boy, through and through.

Since I last posted we’ve spent days in cold places…

Bundled up – Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

And days in warm ones…

Sand play in Boracay

There were days spent with family…

Inang teaching Squishy how to “bless” (mano)

And days when it was just us.

Lazy day at home trying to chat with Siri from a locked phone.

I’m sorry I haven’t been diligent in posting. I blame work. (Cue the helpless shrug and a big HOLLA to all the working mamas in the room *fist bump*).

Squishy and I are back and we owe you guys a giveaway. Stay tuned!

Rolled mat = instant crawl tunnel = FUN

Kids Read #4: Good Night Philippines, Good Night World by Mila Bongco-Philipzig

“I’m sleepy now. Good night. I love you.”

The message repeats, page after page, but in eleven different languages – from Ilonggo to Italian, Kapampangan to Cree, Cebuano to Swedish.

good night phils 2

These are children, siblings, parents all wishing their loved ones in various corners of the world a good night.

The Filipinos abroad are mostly OFWs: engineers, nannies, cooks, nurses, musicians.

These “good night” conversations are held over Skype, Facetime chat, old-fashioned phone calls.

The aim of “Good Night Philippines, Good Night World” is to

“celebrate the diversity of places and languages in the Philippines, as well as the courage and versatility of Filipinos who have had to embrace other cultures and languages as they travel to study, work, or immigrate abroad.”

The book has a simple premise and it was fun to have a go saying good night in all those languages (there’s a pronunciation guide at the back).

good night phils 1

But I found my thoughts drifting.

It’s not that hard to imagine such a “good night” conversation taking place in real life.

As of 2015 there were 2.4 million OFWs working abroad, mostly women (51.1%). As of August 2016 OFW cash remittances totalled $17.6 billion – 10% of the country’s GDP. By ratio to population, the Philippines ranks 1st in the world when it comes to dependency on remittances.

In short, a lot of Filipino families – not just the ones who have OFWs in the family – have OFWs to thank for the Philippine economy’s resilience.

What the statistics don’t show, however, is the day-to-day sacrifices they make. The hotel worker waking up alone the next day, after hearing her daughter’s voice in a call the night before.

It can be very lonely, especially this Christmas season.

Hubby and I are OFWs ourselves. We’re very lucky indeed to have Squishy with us here.

Not everyone is as fortunate.

When Squishy’s old enough maybe we’ll talk about books like these. How he thinks the kids in the book feel with their parents working so far away.

We’ll talk about all the languages the people spoke – how different they sound yet how in the end, they all mean exactly the same thing.

Good night. I love you.

good night phils 3


Good Night Philippines, Good Night World (Anvil Publishing)
By Mila Bongco-Philipzig

Php 150 at National Bookstore

Kids Read #3: Mmmmm…Sarap! by Ana de Borja Araneta & Krie Reyes Lopez


Whenever we visit the Philippines I try and drop by National Bookstore. I love bringing back Tagalog kids’ books for Squishy.

One of our favorite finds this year is Mmmmm…Sarap! (Mmmmm…Delicious!) from Anvil Publishing.

I was drawn to the titular character, a round, hungry bangaw (blowfly) who encounters yummy Filipino dishes. Is he (or she) brave enough to try new tastes?

mmm sarap 1

The bangaw is eager to try classics such as tinola (chicken soup in ginger broth) and ginataan (the illustration shows the sweet dessert with glutinous rice balls, pearls, and sago — though ginataan can refer to a lot of dishes cooked in coconut milk).

However he balks at sinigang (a sour, tamarind soup usually cooked with pork or shrimp) and dinuguan (a savory stew made from pork offal, pork blood, and vinegar — trust me, it tastes better than it sounds!).

Sinigang? Ang asim yata niyan?” (Sinigang? Isn’t that sour?”) he wonders.

The narrator encourages him to overcome his fears and questions: “Huwag matakot tikman!” (Don’t be afraid to taste it!)

It’s a gentle, consistent message throughout the book — give it a try, don’t be afraid.

mmm sarap 2

In the end, the bangaw succeeds in overcoming his fears and ends up full, healthy — and sleepy (of course!).

The illustrations throughout the book are unique in that these are fabric pictures. The blowfly’s wings, the palayok (clay pot), all use fabric from ANTHILL, which stands for Alternative Nest and Trading/Training Hub for Indigenous/Ingenious Little Livelihood Seekers. ANTHILL showcases Filipino hand-loomed fabrics and uses them to make stylish, contemporary stuff.

mmm sarap 3

Mmmmm…Sarap! is a light book to enjoy with your kids. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fun for the parents who read along too.

mmm sarap 5

The authors, Ana de Borja Araneta and Krie Reyes Lopez, intend it to be:

…Ibig namin sanang gumawa ng mga aklat na nakatutuwa. Kumuha rin kami sa mga karanasan sa tunay na buhay.

Mula sa lambingan ng magulang at anak, ito ang mga paksa sa aming mga aklat:

  1. Ang pagtuklas sa sariling katawan sa kiliti, pagtikim at pang-amoy. (Mas madali kasi isulong ang kalusugan kapag komportable sa katawan ang bata.)
  2. Ang kalikasan, sa pagtanghal ng mga kulisap at hayop mula sa ating pang-araw-araw na buhay.
  3. Ang ating kultura, sa paggamit ng mga katutubong disenyo mula sa mga tela at habi ng katutubong kababayan.

Maybe that’s why Squishy loves the pair’s other works, books with “distinguished” titles like Kokak! Kokak! (the Filipino version of the sound a frog makes, a.k.a. Ribbit! Ribbit!) and Prrrrrt…Utot! (the Filipino word for fart — haha). 😀



Mmmmm…Sarap! (Anvil Publishing)
By Ana de Borja Araneta & Krie Reyes Lopez

Php 175 at National Bookstore

The First Year

Facebook: “Hey, here’s a moment from one year ago we thought you might like to look back on.”

It was Squishy’s baby shower, exactly one year ago.

baby shower 1

baby shower 2

I love Facebook’s On This Day feature. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard of it, On This Day reminds you of things you posted, Facebook friends you made, or photos you were tagged in on a given day. It’s a bit like time traveling: you can “talk” to your old self by commenting on your posts.

I can’t believe it’s almost a year since Squishy was born. Time flies. I know, cliché, but it’s true. It feels like only yesterday when I was picking out the cupcakes for the baby shower, getting ready to go to the hospital to be induced, and crying with sheer exhaustion from lack of sleep in those early weeks.

Now the little baby’s walking around in his squeaky sandals, licking everything he can get his hands on, keeping up monosyllabic conversations (“Ta-ta-ta? Ta!”), and losing his baby fat.

Squishy’s not as squishy any more.

Looking back over his first year, here’s my…

  • NAY (thought it was important, but turns out it’s not, really),
  • SHOULDA WOULDA COULDA (I wish I did more of this), and
  • YAY (glad I did it, and will do it again for my next kid!)


The breastfeeding thing. I had great plans of skin-to-skin contact and immediate latching when Squishy was born. As I wrote almost a year ago, all that came crashing down in the post-birth stress. I’ve since discovered the “middle path” of exclusive pumping and am now firmly in the #FedIsBest camp.

My pump and trusty pumping log
My pump and trusty pumping log

Writing about the experience. I know, I know… with an extra hour free while baby’s asleep you’d much rather sleep too. I would. 🙂

But I read something like this, which I wrote in June…

[Squishy] – He’s almost 7 months now. He’s not a fussy baby thank god. He cries when he needs something – his diaper changed, a nap, a bottle of milk, a hug. His appetite has increased to about 1L of milk everyday so we really have to supplement with solids. He laughs at the drop of a hat: at seemingly random things like holding the ice pack from my cooler bag, [Hubby] thumping on the leather sofa, chicken sounds (puk-pukaaak!), playing peek-a-boo from behind a fan, me blowing on his tummy, tickles at the bottom of his feet.

… and wish I wrote more. I read it and I remember how it felt, and while there are photos to show me what we were doing then I like reading these few journal entries because (and to misquote from 50 First Dates): “when l read it, it’s like l’m telling myself.”

first year

And speaking of photos…

YAY and yay some more…

Taking so many photos. It was an accidental tradition, the weekly photo-taking and celebration of a “week-sary” every Tuesday, the day Squishy was born. We sent the photos to our families back home and it kept them connected with Squishy. Taking “mandatory” photos forced us to pay attention to how quickly time was passing (“What! Is it really – weeks already!”) and appreciate the day-to-day.

These photos are my visual keepsakes from Squishy’s first year – all that’s left of a year that went by too fast.


Pamahiin (Philippine Superstitions)

I haven’t posted in a while. We’re currently on our first family beach holiday with Squishy (yay!).

The other day, we were shopping at one of the arcades.

The salesladies cooed and said hello to Squishy, who had his hair (what little there is of it, hah) in a fountain. It’s getting long especially the fringe, and we’ve been told we can only cut it when he turns one. We have a month to go.

One of the salesladies is especially persistent. The thing is, Squishy now has a look which I’ll call The Gaze. It’s the kind of look that’s hard to ignore – like he’s trying to tell you something. I’ve seen strangers reacting to The Gaze by engaging him and playing/talking to him, or acknowledging him with a small smile, or just looking uncomfortably away. It’s pretty funny to watch.

pamahiin 1

Squishy had given this particular saleslady The Gaze. She immediately swooped in, pressed his hands, murmured “hello” etc, touched his cheeks, even motioned to ask if she could hold Squishy for a bit. We tried walking away but not too far – I was looking for a batik dress and didn’t want to be chased out of the shop before I was ready – but the saleslady doggedly followed.

Our helper urgently whispered to us that we should move on ASAP because the saleslady looked pregnant.

“So what?” I asked, when we were safely out of earshot, a few shops away.

Our helper said the saleslady might be naglilihi, which could potentially be dangerous for Squishy if she decided to make him the object of her lihi.

Now, lihi is a Philippine concept that doesn’t directly translate to English, so I’ll try and do it by way of example. Say you suddenly started craving coconut in the wee morning hours during your pregnancy. You could be naglilihi, which means it’s possible your baby might turn out fair/pale– like white coconut meat.

The belief is that your baby absorbs the properties of whatever you’re craving for.

The way our helper explained it though, is that lihi isn’t limited to strange food cravings – if Squishy, for example, was pinaglihian (or made an object of lihi), he could become thin and weak as his energies are absorbed.

I’m not a believer of Philippine pamahiin (superstitions) but I do find them very interesting. The incident reminded me of other local beliefs which remain popular today, especially in the provinces.

Take, for example, the concept of strangers/visitors greeting little babies with an exclamation of “Pwera usog!” and wetting a thumb with one’s saliva and swiping it on the baby’s forehead.

That your baby has to deal with a stranger’s saliva (!) on his head is already terrifying to new mums mindful of basic hygiene (thankfully these days some people skip the saliva part altogether and just say “pwera usog”). However the concept of “usog” itself – which loosely translates to a curse, or a hex – is even more so.

If a baby is nausog, he/she falls inexplicably sick, and can only be cured by the person who caused the usog, either by said person wiping saliva on the baby or greeting baby again – properly, this time. “Pwera usog” is a bid to keep evil away, and is often accompanied by a bracelet of black and red beads (some people call it a “Corales” bracelet) or a little pouch with herbs, pinned to the baby’s chest.

It’s fascinating to me that the belief in pamahiin lingers on even in a mostly Catholic country like the Philippines.

This combination of superstition and religion was married in an interesting way for us some months back when Squishy received a rosary bracelet, a present made by a friendly Catholic nun.

It was the same color as a Corales bracelet, but with a Catholic cross in the middle.

Now that’s an anting-anting (charm) that packs a solid one-two punch.

pamahiin 2