Thursday, June 28, 2012

Extreme Couponing Makes Me Cringe

In all honesty, how I wish couponing is the norm in our country. I sure would love to have huge savings everytime I shop. And I am really amazed with the show Extreme Couponing because  there are these people who have figured out a way to double their savings and reduce items to cost nothing.

But I also cannot help but cringe at the things they buy.

Hundreds of flavored water?
Hundreds of candy packets?
Soft drinks?
Canned food?
Frozen food to last for months?

I mean... I like savings but at the expense of my family's health? Because I doubt they're using their savings on organic veggies to throw in with the frozen TV dinners. It's processed food! (For the record, I love sardines... the boys love Spam... but we're lucky if we open two cans of processed anything in a month).

Plus, these stuff have expiry dates right? We get those big bottles of supplements from abroad too, and unless these extreme couponers eat them instead, I really don't know what they'd do with all those vitamins and OTC meds since they also shop every three months or so.

I understand paper towels/tissue... but toiletries should also be used after a certain time, right? From what I know, baby colognes and stuff expire... so why would you hoard them and use hoarded ones on your baby?

Sorry, but that's like inviting allergies for me.

The episode last night was of a Dad who shopped galore for baby formula. But what if their baby couldn't use those? What if it made their baby constipated? And how long can formula be kept anyway?

Extreme couponing. I hope it saves health and lives too, not just bucks.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ably Ambling and Tumbling

I would ALWAYS rant and complain about my boys being typical boys... very active, noisy, rowdy, excitable, messy, active and enthusiastic.

But I will also ALWAYS silently say a prayer of thanks because they're like that. They're alert and healthy and happy and just the way boys are supposed to be. I love that Yamee has confidence in his gait and insists on going up and down wherever... except to ride piggy back. I love that Yakee can go up the stairs a hundred different ways with sure hands and feet.

I know accidents will always happen, like that time we let Yakee walk on his own and one of the wooden church chairs fell and hit his shoulder, or Yamee would lose his balnce attempting to climb the sofa. But I trust their angels are keeping them safe, that my etheric forces are keeping them safe... and that being able to roam and explore is teaching them about their limits and capacities, and thus, protecting them from serious harm.

I wish they'd stop diving on me though, but there is still some sort of pleasure to be had in the fact that we have those moments when we can actually dig our elbows on each other, and not in a fight.


Our fave thing to do together is to massage each other, brought about by Yamee's obsession with lotion :D


It may be premature but when Yamee was sick... I thought to myself, maybe this is the fever that will signal his language development. And well, I may be right. He has been babbling more :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Delays and Interventions

I'm a Psych grad. And I have enough friends with kids who have special needs. And both hubby and I have/had uncles with special limitations (they were undiagnosed). So, having my child asseessed by a developmental pedia was part of my mothering plan because in my mind, it can just as easily be us with a special-needs child. Then, I met someone online who regularly sends her twins to the DevPed (every six months) and is a great advocate of it, even for kids without special needs, because she says, "at least you get a picture of their strengths and weaknesses and can consult with the expert on how to better support/address those."

I was all the more sold and bent on getting Yakee assessed. I had to convince hubs though, because he had the impression that you only go if there is a problem, and like most fathers... he was more ready to defend a child's 'nornalcy' than face the possibility of a 'problem'. But because he is a loving one, and very supportive of my mothering, he agreed.

In the end, I kept my reason for doing it simple: I want it done to serve as an objective reality check... so that I'll know for sure that my struggles with my child are 'normal' and not because of special needs I am not addressing. I wanted to be reassured that Yakee was just testing his boundaries, and I just need to find better ways of accepting his growing independence, to parent him better... rather than him having needs I was not meeting.

And I was very quick to encourage others to do the same. I looked at it as a well-baby checkup. At least have an expert tell you that YES, YOUR CHILD IS FINE.

But then... my passion for homeschooling grew. And I discovered Waldorf. I will explain the connection as I go on.

Yakee was already attending St. Michael when his first (and only, so far) meeting with the developmental pedia transpired. And I actually can't believe that I haven't blogged about it. Anyway, I wasn't sure what I expected and not quite sure how satisfied I was of the assessment. But I realized some things:
1) there were some tasks he didn't do well because I have not given him enough chances to practice (e.g. button up... I only stopped dressing him up completely after he started going to play school)
2) he hesitated a lot, and I knew it was because he didn't know the doctor, and not because he didn't know what to do/how to do it (because I have seen him play, I know what he can do... I'm not being a parent in denial)
3) I already knew listening is an issue for him (he was diagnosed to have auditory processing issues, which means it's hard for him to process more than one question at a time, or repeat long sentences... and that though it wasn't a cause for alarm then, it may be a sign of some attention disorder in the future)

We were advised to have him come in again for a check this year... just to make sure that if there is a problem, we could catch it.

So, anyway, like any prudent parent, I echoed these findings to his nurturers... and they assured me they'd make sure to come to him instead of calling him, and talk to him while facing him... stuff like that. But in the meantime, these same nurturers had so many great things to say about my child at the exit interview (which I apparently also forgot to blog about).

They told me how much of a natural leader he was, how he brought everyone together and kept the peace. I saw how much they appreciated my son for who he was, and I told friends later that I was literally fighting back tears because it was very humbling to me... I was the parent but I forget to see my child as they saw him. I was the parent and yet they saw something in my child that I have never seen or acknowledged.

And then, like what I said above, I discovered Waldorf. I attended the Waldorf Crash Course which changed a lot of how I look at children, at things, at parenting.

And I guess, when you're in love with someone/something... you  can't stop talking about it and feel extra averse to things that do not jive with it.

And I...  I seem to be becoming quite the fanatic against interventions that aren't natural for a child. And I find myself against things that take away the child from the home or from his parents.  So, I am now sort of anti-TV/gadgets for young children. And structured sports and play. And early school attendance. And early academics.

I like to think I was preparing to homeschool... but because of Waldorf, I find myself drawn by unschooling more. Regular school now feels weird to me, and certainly not for my kids.

I am telling these things just to give an idea where I am coming from.

Now... in our ygroups, a mother sought inputs about her son who still wasn't talking at over 2 years of age. Without thinking it through, I adviced the mom to sing more songs to the child and let the child move... I also said this:

"before... I would also say get your child assessed but I am now very iffy kasi
usually, if there is a delay, OT is recommended... and while that may be
helpful, one can also not say that the child just finally bloomed in time and
was finally ready to talk

i like yung suggestions to enrol in a class... not because I like the suggestion
that what your child needs is outside the home, but because it reinforces the
idea that sometimes, more people to talk to (or more things to talk about) get a
child engaged enough to talk

so, if you live anywhere near Kids Ahoy in QC for example, parang i'd recommend
you bring your child to their play sessions and alternate that with running in
parks... than manage your sked to bring your child to OT

but that's just me :) "

One of the moms there, one whom I really like and someone I know who had a child in therapy (plus, she's a play therapist) reacted to what I said... and brought up important points like:

1) Those who have not had kids undergo occupational therapy cannot really appreciate its value
2) DevPeds seldom recommend OT just after one assessment, and only really when they deem it necessary
3) It may be true that kids in therapy improved not really because of therapy but because of time (constitutional delay) but the emphasis should be on the improvement
4) Tests and measures serve a purpose
5) The assessment and if ever, therapy is not about and for the parent, but the child.

I was greatly bothered by this e-mail, not because I thought her points off-base (because I KNEW and BELIEVED in them already before) but because I realized I was being very dismissive already of what I once felt strongly about.

Oh, rebuttals came to mind asap... about how therapy is actually a lucrative business now, and how some therapists are holding families hostage. Or how some doctors are prescribing medication as Plan A.

More and more kids are being reported to have special needs, true. But, how about we look at TV/gadget use, diet, health, lifestyle and their routines instead?
Tests and measures serve a purpose, but they can also be counter-productive. They may be used as general guidelines but if one falls short of them, it shouldn't necessarily mean they have a problem that need to be fixed.

This also brought to mind the following:
a) The speaker hired at a Learning Styles seminar I attended didn't believe in ADHD and believed more in learning styles (duh)... that it's not that a child cannot pay attention, it's more that he may process things differently and that is okay. A parent, however, needs to be aware of how his child learns and teach/approach him that way.

b) Debra Bell, the speaker at the recently held Homeschooling Conference, shared with us the story of how one of her daughters couldn't read well till she was around 10. That daughter was homeschooled and is now a Math teacher at a public school. That daughter also acknowledged to her Mom (Debra) that she now knows that had she been attending regular school, there would have been pressure for her to attend extra classes or have tutors and that she''d have been made to feel lacking because of that 'inability' at that age.  (this same sentiment will be echoed in a lot of homeschooling blogs)

c) Dr. Fuller (one whose background in education and psychology is extensive), creator of Ball-Stick-Bird books, was surprised herself when suppposedly uneducable people (those with IQ below 60, based on standardized tests) taught themselves to read her books, when she created those books for high IQ but illiterate adults

d) A movement with indications of Steiner's anthroposophy is the Camphill movement, which basically looks at people with special needs as just different, without the need for the same people to be 'trained' according to the 'norm'. It's like one advocacy among the deaf... to hear shouldn't be THE GOAL but to self-realize despite not being able to hear.

(I do not mean to suggest that Waldorf/Anthroposophy and Homeschooling believers do not believe in delays and therapies... just that they may offer a different view of looking at the 'delays' and how to 'address' those.)

Now... "The assessment and if ever, therapy is not about and for the parent, but the child."

True, it is very sad when parents in denial would refuse to get a child assessed or not commit to a therapy regimen. True, the time a child is frustrated from not being able to communicate or move as he liked will be time that cannot be recovered anymore and may have lasting damage to their self-esteem.

By the same token, special classes and the resultant stress of those on the parents' emotions, time and finances could also potentially result in anxiety, frustration and shame as well on the child.

So, what is a parent to do?

I... I went to my husband and told him all this. I ended up crying, afraid that I might be veering off to one school of thought and end up jeopardizing my sons' future. After all, Yakee still has those listening issues (which is also weird because his widow is so strong) and Yamee is still not talking.

My husband listend and listened and listened and then asked me if parenting came with a manual and guarantees (no) and if I'd do everything I can for our children should they need help (yes). Then he told me that whatever we decide upon for them, they will accept it, thrive in it and if it was wrong, forgive us... because they'd also know that we love them. That I love them. He also reminded me to only worry about how I will parent our children.

(yes, isn't he wonderful?)

This reminded me again of the Waldorf belief that it is in our striving to be better parents that our children will bloom. So, whether we decide to just let them be, honor who they are now and let them unfold in their own time... or provide them with all the interventions we can to ensure that they have had help... it's going to be okay. The important thing is that it was done out of love and humility, faith and courage. Not out of fear, conformity, not because you just want to be different or too lazy/uninvolved to do anything about it.


So, when faced with the possibility of a child having delays or special needs, what do you do?

I guess you can start with home remedies, basically more intentional activities at home to address or possibly help with whatever it is you are concerned about. But also, just watch your child at play without intervening or directing the play. See what is coming out of her play, what she is good at, what she struggles with. Just be at a place where you not only see what's different about your child in a negative way (comparing to the usual standards) but also in a positive way.

Then schedule an assessment with a DevPed.

And should further assessments require drug and therapy recommendations... then I suggest to do your research and process the course of action with your spouse. Do you go into the therapy suggested? What are your options? Why are you doing this? Is it really because you want to help your child or because you don't want him to be different, lagging, etc? Can you commit to supplementing it with activities at home? (that's another thing hubs pointed out, some parents might provide all the therapy in the world but not be there with their child when they're needed, even just to talk to... same way that some parents might be so blind that their child is already asking for help... and hubs said, he believes that children do ask for help when there's something they really need that isn't being provided.) Are you open to changing course should one strategy fail? Will you check with your child if they think it is helping them? Should you choose to delay therapy, can you live with the decision? Should you choose to go into therapy, can you manage your expectations?

Parents know their children best and are in the best position to see if something's working or not, if their child is responding positively to something or not. And yes, we can get outside help... just hopefully, we don't lose sight of who our child is in pursuit of what we want her to become. And hopefully, we remember that there is NO ONE WAY to raise a child, or help a child.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Intimidated Galore

I spent last night trying to rationalize my scheduling for our coming days so I can include reading time, formal instruction, art/music, free play and chore time. On paper, what I have so far looks great. However, I am stumped with ideas for some activities.

Actually,I know the internet can provide me with so much ideas and projects... but executing them will be a problem. I am a sloth, after all. But this is it.

On top of this, there is that on-going decluttering. I have asked our helper to start going through my old magazines (when I say old, I mean decades-old) at the other house so I can transfer my Readers Digests there, and use the shelves in our home for our books and art materials. We have yet to fully back up all the files on the old desktop so we could give, donate or throw it away already. I am also considering letting the TV go or buying a flat screen one and use peerless mounts to maximize space. Hopefully, we could create 'office' spaces for hubs, myself and the boys.

 I am intimidated because I am committing to things that will ask so much of me.  And I now have to keep fighting that sucky inner voice that keeps telling me I am not creative nor resourceful nor fun enough.

This is it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Breastfeeding Disempowerment in Disguise

Monday started with my insides in a knot. Fellow breastfeeding advocates admitted to feeling as anxious as I was over a draft House Bill  entitled “An Act Promoting a Comprehensive Program on Breastfeeding Practices and Regulating the Trade, Marketing and Promotions of Certain foods for infants and Children.”

At first glance, it does appear pro-breastfeeding, doesn't it? It does appear as if they had the babies' well-being in mind, right?
Unfortunately, this draft bill is just a fancy way of really saying... "allow milk companies to promote their products with impunity."

Read articles that have already discussed some of the things the bill hopes to accomplish against breastfeeding:
An Alarming House Bill
A New (Anti) Breastfeeding Bill

How about we revisit some truths?
1) Breastfeeding is not just best for babies  but also best for women.
There are enough studies to back up the claims on the benefits of breastfeeding to babies, because breast milk  provides nourishment in the right amounts and in biodigestible form but it also provides good bacteria and antibodies from the mother. And then there are the effects on the mother too, like lactation amenorrhea and reduced osteoporosis and cancer risks.

2) Breastfeeding saves lives.
Did you know that when malnourished babies are brought to Bantay Bata, Ms. Gina Lopez hires wet nurses so these babies will surely thrive and survive? Sure, these babies may gain weight with just milk formula, but the act of being held and pacified by a heart beat as well as being given antibodies to fight common illnesses are what allows them to thrive.

3) Breastfeeding saves lives in emergency situations
Celeb mom Gladys Reyes has woefully went on to promote powdered milk, but she thanked God she was breastfeeding when she and her family were trapped in the second floor of their home for many hours during Ondoy... contrast that with other moms trapped on rooftops who were formula-feeding who were crying because they couldn't feed their babies.

And then there is the fact that typhoons displace thousands of families in the country yearly. These people end up living in shelters with not enough food, water, ventilation and disposal systems which allows the shelters to be breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria. Diarrhea is always a problem in these shelters, which is why the Department of Health always appeals to the mothers to continue breastfeeding so that there would be one less baby to worry about.

3) Breastfeeding is free, formula is not.
We may spend on pumps or nursing covers initially but it will still not be as much as you'd spend on formula... and when you start with formula, chances are, you'll be offering powdered milk for many years. The middle class family may spend an average of P4,000 for milk formula (how much more if your infant is sensitive and was prescribed the really expensive ones?), some of which would have to be thrown out if not consumed within a specified time (unless you want to invite stomach troubles for your child). P4,000 for 12 months is P48,000... enough to cover 1-2 years worth of vaccines or some child's tuition.

Imagine the cost, not just financial, to a typical Filipino family when most of their money goes to the purchase of milk instead of food for the entire family, or allowance for the school-aged kids. Imagine how dangerous it would be for the babies of poor parents who will water down their formula (water intoxication may cause seizures) or feed them milk substitutes like evaporated milk or rice water?

4) Milk formula is not a sterile product.
Milk formula, as well as most powdered and liquid milk, is  processed food. Not only is it made from hormone-raised cow's milk, there are also issues in the manufacturing, containing and storing processes that it goes through. It also requires sterile water, equipment and the right formulation, otherwise it can be toxic.

5) Due to some technicalities in the packaging that can be circumvented by milk companies, people often think they are buying milk that came from the US, Australia, etc when milk sold in the Philippines is largely supplied by China. Think about it, do you honestly think New Zealand can supply the world with milk? New Zealand can supply Kiwis with milk, but not the world. European countries can supply their milk demands, but not the world's. The USA can probably supply their own demands, but again, not the world's. And most countries in Southeast Asia cannot really produce milk in large quantities because of the tropical climate that affect a cow's milk production.

6) Breastfeeding doesn't pay.
Sure, there are many mompreneurs now selling breastfeeding paraphernalia and accessories but no one is earning enough to fund TV ads, billboards and celebrity endorsers. Milk companies, however, can freely dangle millions to donate something (in exchange for "Sponsored By" banners) or sponsor events. After all, milk companies generate an income of around P42 billion in our country (because they have effectively created a culture of formula milk dependency well into childhood among Filipinos, when formula is really only prescribed by the American Academy of Pediatrics for babies 1 year and below).

Milk companies are estimated to spend some P2 billion to employ some 3,000 Filipinos and spend another P2 billion for marketing, which includes advertisements, freebies, incentives offered to doctors by Med Reps and other varied ways of propaganda. These various ways to promote their products (and undermine breastfeeding) are what fueled boycotts of milk companies around the world, since breastfeeding cannot possibly compete with free vaccines, notebooks, shirts and what-not distributed where they are hard to catch and monitor... in our case, community health centers in far-flung barrios.

7) It pays to breastfeed, however.
Breastfeeding provides a baby optimum nutrition. Breastfed babies also report fewer and/or milder ilnesses which translate to savings in medical care and productivity (since a working Mom may be absent fewer times). Breastfeeding also protects from a lot of childhood ilnesses which result in 16,000 deaths every year for the Philippines.

Even if we assume that the 3,000 milk company employees in the country are all a family of 5, that's only about 15,000 people directly benefitting from the milk trade. But is their well-being more important than the 16,000 lives we lose every year, and who knows how many families driven to greater malnutrition and poverty from dependence on milk formula? And if we're to take the reasoning that milk companies do not just employ people but also move the economy by employing the services of ad agencies, printers, etc... should we also then be thankful that they are also driving patients to doctors, dead babies to funeral homes, shoppers to buy mineral/distilled water and reducing the population by 16,000 yearly?

8) Mothers are still fighting to breastfeed.
With the Milk Code and the breastfeeding campaigns by the DOH, as well as handy information from books, the internet and support groups on breastfeeding... Filipino mothers still have to fight and take a stand to breastfeed. We still have to defend our choice to our husbands, parents, friends, doctors and employers. We are still made to feel ashamed if we do it in public.  We still have to convince ourselves that our bodies can deliver the milk as naturally as it delivered our child. We still have to combat a lot of myths and there is still a lot of information about breatfeeding tha isn't common knowledge. Why, even doctors are quick to say that after a year, our milk is no good for babies anymore.

That is still the scenario now... so imagine how worse it will be when milk companies can lure the Filipino's psyche into thinking that all the plus, plus they add to their milk makes it the best thing to give to our babies? Imagine how harder it will be to raise children eating right when a dependency on the bottle is cultivated? Imagine how many diabetics that will create in the short and long-term? Imagine how much that will deplete family resources for the marginalized?

I have said it often... I advocate breastfeeding for the poor. Moms like me can afford E.R. trips and sterile water and dental checkups. But not the poor. And unfortunately for the Philippines, the poor is at least 50% of the population. Even middle-income families are better off using their money elsewhere, instead of filling landfills with cans.

Let's all take a stand for those who seldom get to be heard. Do not support this consolidated bill and let your representatives know that you, their voting public, are against it.


My fellow LATCH peer counselor and mom blogger has also already blogged lengthily on this attempt to water down the Milk Code.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Search of Outdoor Areas

Yakee is attending St. Michael for another semester. But since part of the Pre-K Waldorf curriculum and the rythm there includes outdoors time, I am stumped.

The closest outdoor area that I trust for my sons to roam in is at Paco Park, and that's a good 15-30 minutes away, depending on traffic. It also doesn't feature a playground exactly, but I guess it can provide the nature walk my sons need. We could just bring the magnifying glass and let them use it on decaying leaves and crawling ants.

But still, I want better parks and outdoor areas for them. One with water fountains and playground sets and maybe a pond. And yes, preferably with other kids to play with (ones that don't cuss, like the kids in our neighborhood). But well, I'd settle for just a large area for them to run around in and provide the energy release they need.

Or, I guess, I'd just have to really enroll Yakee for soccer lessons once he's done with St. Michael.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shopping and Shopping

I was salivating over a Grimm's Set of 2 Handmade Wooden TANGRAM Puzzles on Ebay and also pouring over the wooden toys by Toys and Stuff . I am looking for toys for my sons that require them to do something, not just clicking on buttons, to enjoy the toy... like shooting a ball inside a cup. Someday, I expect both to be proficient with yomega yoyos and all kinds of puzzles and playing with foot sacks. Which reminds me, I have yet to crochet them their own hackysacks.

But I felt I couldn't justify the purchase... and ended up buying books from Amazon instead. I spent the same amount on six books (two of which would be future gifts to mommy BFFs).

And well, now I just ordered two Glamouflage wraps from Eden (they were on sale, what could I do?).

So, yes, maybe I should have just bought the wooden toys I wanted for my kiddos in the first place... otherwise, this shopping spree might not end.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Yamee's Challenge

Yakee was born excited and excitable. Though he didn't talk early, he was a signing baby and communicated to me just fine from age one. Yakee was also very transparent. There were no gradations in his emotions. If he's upset, he's upset. If he's happy, he's happy. The only times he will sit still for long is when he's watching TV or being read to.

Yamee... well, he likes taking his time. He looks at you, watches you, and if it's a new environment, will not respond to you. He has different kinds and levels of happy and upset. You always have to coax him out (except with his brother, who he's always eager to be with and who he responds to all the time). It's common not to get any reaction from him and I find always having to guess what he wants and needs.

But I can't say he's a quiet boy, nor one that keeps to himself.

And yes, he wouldn't sit still for TV and stories, but likes checking out books just the same. But he would sit still pouring over a chest of toys, sifting through them one by one, and returning them one by one.

It's natural to always compare him with his older brother... I like to think though that when I do, it's really just to be matter-of-fact about their similarities and differences. But it is a growing challenge to realize again and again that he is a different person, and thus will react differently to methods we know as parents, and that he will give rise to different provocations and ask different questions. I know I keep saying DIFFERENT but that's just what he is.

A lot of the things we already know because of Yakee will not apply to him... and I am wondering a lot if I am parenting him well, and I am sure the second-guessing will be lifelong. They always say to parent each child differently because each child is unique... but since a parent seldom knows he's doing right by one child, what more with two?

Then again... I have friends with seven kids. How dare I complain and get intimidated, right?

Weaning from Co-Sleeping

As I am typing this, Yakee is sleeping in the big bed with his father and Yamee is on his bed.

It has been over a year since we moved Yakee off our bed. His first nights away (haha, as if his bed isn't just beside our bed)  went well enough but up to this day, he still joins us in the big bed when he wakes up in the wee hours of the morning.

In a way, I can't blame him. He was in our bed for close to three years... and he sees his baby brother co-sleeping with us.


Since I have this general plan of breastfeeding Yamee longer... and since I have not weaned him off night-time feedings yet (Yakee was weaned off that when he was Yamee's age now), I don't think I can shoo Yamee away to a bed of his own just yet.

And Yakee... well, he did get excited when we were looking at videos of Murphy beds. A picture of a trundle bed at also caught his eye but mostly because he thought the lower bunk is a hiding place. But would a cool bed make him stay in that bed? I don't think so.  Maybe not until his brother is sleeping with him (and by then, he'd be the one shooing him away). And I actually don't think I am ready  to wake up and not see him at my feet or beside me just yet.

Haha. I once turned to him in my sleep and tried breastfeeding him :D

But the price of not being completely weaned off our bed is this... Yamee and I sometimes have to sleep in his bed :D