May 30, 2009

ear candy

Two sweet you tube moments shared from our home to yours. So sweet, they could make Kim Jong-il reconsider his nuclear non-sense or they could make you cry rainbows. Go call the kids, cuddle and watch.

This one is from Renee and Jeremy...

This one is from Gruff Rhyss...

Happy weekend from the Kingdom of Candy!

May 29, 2009

creative computer play

Surely I'm not the only parent that worries about my kids' media consumption. But what if you can coax your conspicuous media consumer (a.k.a computer addict) into becoming a media producer? Like... program their own games, make their own animated shorts or express their ideas with self-made media collages? I'd be okay with that.

The folks over at the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten Research Group believe it's actually more than okay. Their blurb is: "We develop new technologies that, in the spirit of the blocks and finger paint of kindergarten, expand the range of what people can design, create and learn."

So they came up with Scratch - a programming language that makes it possible for kids to make their own stories, interactive games, animation, music and art. They can also share their creations on the web. In a you-tube like environment, Scratch kids from all over the world can comment - even collaborate - on one another's work.

You can download Scratch for free. Yes FREE. It works for Mac OSX and Windows. Developed for kids 8 to 18 years of age. Although, it was suggested younger kids may take to using the programming language with some adult supervision.

A little anecdote from Mitchel Resnick who heads MIT Lifelong Kindergarten: While visiting an after school center, I met a student who was creating an interactive game in Scratch. He didn't know how to keep score in the game, and asked me for help. I showed him how to create a variable in Scratch, and he immediately saw how he could use a variable for keeping score. He jumped up and shook my hand, saying thank you, thank you, thank you! I wondered how many eighth grade algebra teachers get thanked by their students for teaching them about variables?

Where was Mr. Resnick when we were in grade school? Good thing our kids can benefit from their work....

May 28, 2009

yummy - deceptively delicious mac and cheese

A little under a year ago, he stopped. Cold turkey. And though I'm obviously not thrilled I have to start sneaking around behind his back, I must do what I must do.

Cousin MomPreneur saved the day when she sent over Deceptively Delicious, a compilation of recipes by Jessica Seinfeld on creative ways to camouflage pureed vegetables into just about everything you cook. I was skeptical at first. Sweet potatoes in pancakes? You have got to be kidding me. Cauliflower in our mac and cheese? Yikes. With nothing to lose, our blender went on overdrive that very day. Here's a simple one we tried and loved:

Macaroni and Cheese, with Cauliflower

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni

nonstick cooking spray

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup nonfat skim milk

1/2 cup cauliflower puree

1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

1/4 cup nonfat cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander.

Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the oil, then the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture resembles a thick paste but has not browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the milk and cook, stirring every now and then, until the mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vegetable puree, cheddar, cream cheese and seasonings and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the macaroni.

Tato still gets a serving of vegetables on his plate. I continue to cross my fingers that he will fall head over heels in like with his greens once more. In the meantime I shall sit tight and wait. Last I checked Mak and Tato were happily devouring the pancakes, nuggets and pasta filled with sweet potatoes, spinach and cauliflower. And so was Mac Daddy. Who said cheaters never win?

May 26, 2009

lego out of the box

Oooh Lego! Must express some love for you just like Nana did in her previous post.  She is drooling over the Frank Lloyd Wright set, but her godson - who has yet to grasp the architect's genius - is currently more interested in Star Wars.  So to date, Baby Bear's favorite Lego set is this one....

Nana, the Mak-Tatos seemed pretty interested in Star Wars too....

when Bear shared his Star Wars pop-up book with them in Subic. 

Try asking them what an AT-AT Walker is!

Pappy actually got pretty far trying to build the ship as it appears on the box. But there was a waiting period involved and other pieces lying around so...  tadaaah!

Baby Bear just built what he calls an "attack walker" all on his own. He also preferred to be his own "engineer" rather than Pappy's assistant! 

And why just build one ship when you can create an entire "attack station"? Again, "attack station" is Bear's term, not mine.

In the end, we ditched Pappy's plan to help Baby Bear create the ship as-per-instructions. Instead, we just let him think out-of-the-box. Turned out way cooler.

I must also thank Lego for keeping him quietly busy for hours on end this summer. Not to mention engaged in some serious creative play.

Baby Bear working with his hands and thinking out of the box. 

May 25, 2009

cool stuff - frank lloyd wright meets LEGO

Did I say over at my JOB WELL DONE post that "too much of a good thing isn't always a good thing"? Am I allowed to take it back? I just saw two of my favorite things come together and its GOOOOOD!
Imagine LEGO (which I have always loved)
and FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT (who I have always adored)
Then comes this:

LEGO and The Frank Lloyd Wright foundation just released this new collection including two of Wright's most famous structures, the Guggenheim museum and 'Fallingwater'. You can read all about it over at prairiemod.
I can't say for sure all the Mak-Tatos of this world will get a kick out of this but a few of us grownups will certainly be spending more time in the playroom way after they've gone to bed. A stroke of genius! It should be available for purchase any minute now. Now how to get my hands on this.
Did I say over in that same post that I'd hold back on the GOOD JOBs? Can I sort of take that back too? Just this once?

May 23, 2009

good read - where the wild things are

This Maurice Sendak classic is one of the first books Baby Bear had memorized by heart when he was about 3 years old. It is the very first book he brought to his nursery show and tell. Chicha used to enjoy having it read to her at bedtime, but last time I suggested it for our nightly story she said "no mama I might dream that." So now, we only read it to her when it's daytime. She's just quirky and cute that way.

"That very night in Max's room a forest grew..."

I can imagine some kids getting scared of Sendak's beautifully compelling illustrations. But I think many can relate to his young protagonist Max. He has his naughty moments, gets punished by his mom, but copes by using his imagination and retreating into his own invented world where even fearsome beasts bow to his rules. For a moment, even if it is just in his own head, he has complete power over his life - and he can pursue his adventures in wild abandon. There is a Max in all us. There should be a Max in all of us. This simple classic story celebrates this. If your kids haven't met the rascally but imaginative Max, I suggest a trip to the bookstore.

"...and made him king of all wild things"

About a month ago I stumbled on the Where The Wild Things Are... MOVIE trailer. I was thinking whoever is behind this don't you dare mess it up! Then I am really blown away when I see it's being directed by Spike Jonze. I heart him! Oh... he just happens to have directed Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. And remember the brilliantly hilarious Fat Boy Slim Praise You music video? Directed by Spike Jonze. If you do remember it, Mr. Jonze was even the lead dancer of the Torrance Community Dance Group. Hilarity! But enough fan-girl digression.

Jonze also co-wrote the film adaptation with Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. So... Sendak plus Eggers plus Jonze equals this-better-be-a-good-movie. Production was plagued by controversy. It took years. Finally it will be released this October. Baby Bear is hyped. Chicha loves the trailer, but we'll still have to see wether she'd be ready to watch the actual movie.

"Oh please don't go - we'll eat you up - we love you so!" And Max said, "No!"

Here's a cute, related tidbit. Molly over at the We Love You So blog posted their "rigorously analyzed" Top Ten Rascals in Literature. Wild Things protagonist Max wins top rascal, beating the likes of Holden Caulfield, Oliver Twist and Curious George. Of course top prize goes to Max, because We Love You So is a blog about the wild, wild influences of the people behind the big screen version of the Sendak classic. That blog is now a daily habit of mine. Not just because I am cyber-stalking Spike Jonze, okay?

Now here's the trailer. Soundtrack is Wake Up by Arcade Fire. Coolness factor just keeps rising....

May 22, 2009

yummy - fish gratin recipe

vintage illustration from a 1964 cookbook

One of my favorite cooks won't be found creating her gastronomic masterpieces in the back of a fancy restaurant. This one works her magic in her own kitchen. Even Tato who has decided he will eat "zero vegetables, mama, zero" happily wolfs down her squash soup. After dinner one night her two year old gave her the widest smile. "The tofu was yummy tonight, mama". Yes, you read right: her t-o-d-d-l-e-r. Who needs the Michelin Stars when you get the stamps of approval from the pickiest of eaters?
Thank you, Lita for sharing one of your favorite kid-friendly dishes!

(modified from Annabel Karmel. Serves 4)

2 fillets of dory or sole

salt & pepper to taste

juice of half a small lemon
100g wheat germ (instead of bread crumbs)

50g grated cheddar or parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
50g butter, melted

Season fish fillets with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Lay them flat in a greased oven-proof dish. Mix the wheat germ, cheese and parsley and stir in the melted butter. Divide the cheese and wheat germ mixture evenly in between the fillets and spread in a thin layer to cover the fish. Cook the fish under a pre-heated grill for about 10 minutes or until the wheat germ turns golden and the fish is cooked through.
Serve on a bed of potato or sweet potato mash.

May 20, 2009


I'm on the couch with the kids. They are watching Sponge Bob while I'm getting some work done on my laptop. During a commercial break Baby Bear nestles close and in the sweetest voice says: "Mama, when I grow up I want to become... to work in a bank so I can give my son and daughter everything they want." My thought bubble: could this be his way of saying please get me every cool toy on those TV ads? Then I'm kind of impressed.

Chicha overhears her brother and not to be outdone in declaring her own aspirations, says in an equally sweet but serious tone: "Mama, Mamaaa... when I grow up I want to be a.. a.. a clown." Well she does make us laugh a lot. She could be a great clown.

future clown giving pappy a kiss in magic lagoon, subic

future banker with yaya also in magic lagoon

future banker chilling with pappy in dungaree beach, subic

future clown with possible future boyfriend mak

May 19, 2009

job well done

Dungaree Beach, Subic Bay

Two pit stops, six are-we-near-alreadys and three hours later we finally arrived in Subic, home of this year's International Triathlon. The kids were more than happy to adopt it as their playground for the weekend. Pappy and Mac Daddy were all set to make it their battleground.

On Sunday, the Dads were up at the crack of dawn to brave the waves, attack the hills and pound the pavement. The rest of us got up shortly after eager to cheer from the sidelines. Somewhere in between our "GO, DADDY GO" I got to thinking about my other role as head cheerleader to Mak and Tato.

Mak and Tato, our mini cheering squad

I recently stumbled upon Alfie Kohn's article Five Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job. Up until that moment I had never given it a second thought. By saying "Good Job" I believed I was making my children feel good because I genuinely thought they were doing a good job. And I was acknowledging it. Out of curiosity I made a mental note to count how many times I said it that day. I lost count mid-morning. I guess I say it a LOT.

The article says loving, encouraging and supporting our children is good. Praise isn't. The more we praise, the more the child begins to rely on it. Rather than boosting their self-esteem we create an even bigger dependence. So i guess no more "Good job, Mak, for only biting Tato's left ear and not both" (Kidding, of course) I see the wisdom but don't agree with every single point. You can read all about it and make your own judgements here.

In Common Sense Parenting, Ray Burke and Ron Herron talk about using effective praise - specific praises as opposed to the usual "Great" and "Good Job". You point out good behavior and your child understands why. "Did you see how happy Seb was that you shared your blocks?" "I saw how you helped Nicola pack away the toys."

This thing called parenting is getting trickier by the day but these I know for certain:

1. Too much of a good thing isn't always a good thing.

2. Balance, balance, and balance is always key.

3. I will encourage more than praise but will not kick myself if i hear myself saying "Good Job"

1 1/2 kilometers in open water, 40 kilometers of pedaling and 10 kilometers of literally hitting the ground running later, we happily watched them cross the finish line.

mak joins mac daddy in the last stretch!

baby bear takes pappy to the finish! chicha trying to catch up. the mak-tatos cheer!

No need to be stingy here. I will give credit where it is certainly due. Good job, Pappy and Mac Daddy! Thank you for inspiring us to set goals and achieve them. Thank you for showing our little ones that hard work does pay. Thank you for making us all proud... And a bit misty-eyed.

Nona's Pappy and our Mac Daddy after finishing
The Subic International Triathlon 2009.

May 18, 2009

Love in the Time of Parenthood

Admit it... the love-life is never really the same after the baby comes. Here's an honest but heartening reflection by Barni Alunan-Escaler written for Working Mom Magazine. Barni, by the way, is a dear friend and one of the coolest mamas I know. So cool she's sharing her thoughts with us.

There is acreage of advice about fanning the flames of post-pregnancy passion. The first time I became a mother, they came, eerily, through emails just when my baby needed to nurse. Here are a few examples of the subject headings that littered my inbox: Ways to Rekindle your Romantic Relationship. Make Parenting a Sexy, Can-Do Job. Three Easy Ways to Feel Sexy, Slim and Supported. Whoa.

Some stories made me laugh, like the one about a desperate dad who found romance again only after hiring an intimacy coach. But mostly, I was pressured and a bit stunned by the suggestion sex could resume after the first six weeks. Six weeks!? Bite me!

Tell that to my friend who had a fourth degree rip effectively joining her butt to her crotch. Even without complications, for the first six weeks (and well after), my everyday look was a bedraggled bun and two damp circles spreading across numerous shirts. In those first six weeks, so help me God, it would have taken the world’s best SWAT team to crack the code, bypass the sensors and blow up the vault where my sex drive lay dormant. Prince Charming’s kiss wouldn’t have jolted me out of my narcolepsy, and the prescribed dosage of narcotics couldn’t sing away the blues. Like many first-time moms, I was spectacularly flattened by the demands of taking care of an infant.

Misery loves sympathy

It is normal for marriages in the post-partum year to suffer an upheaval. Many couples find their sexual relationship--a basic underpinning of most marriages--rough going for a time. All you have to do is think about sex and, on cue, your kids start bawling. I’m sure you know what I mean.

The whole sex-after-the-baby setback leads inexorably to a change in marital dynamics that lasts for years where total absorption in your children becomes the order of the day. More than sex, relationships are at stake, often plagued by the couple’s failure to communicate about their complicated feelings. Suddenly, you are a bickering married couple. Never not arguing. Always defensive somehow about the daily choices that involve raising your child properly.

Husbands, no matter how modern or in touch they are with their feminine side, hate to admit that jealousy and deprivation are predominant feelings in response to their wives’ full body giving over to the baby and the natural love affair they share. Women too, are extremely conflicted. Many don’t know how to feel maternal and sexy all at once. They yearn for cerebral reinforcement – to reclaim the intelligent, fun and willowy woman that existed before Mommyhood. This is especially true of stay-at-home moms.

Setting the modest goal of venturing out and getting in touch with other moms, fat and sagginess be damned, is an important first step to recovering that lost individual. Shore up your besieged intellect and conversation skills wherever and however you can. Whether it is on park benches, mom-and-tot classes, a book club, a meal out with friends – meeting other moms gives you a chance to hold a mirror up to your own life and gain a healthier perspective.

Connecting with people outside your home also takes some of the burden off marriages where wives expect their husbands to be everything to them. Thankfully, we live in a culture of extended families and help that allows us the rare fortune of stealing time for ourselves.

For husbands, I have just one tip: I know keeping the flame of romance burning requires that you tear yourselves away from your children every now and then. But before you dream of a night of wine and cheese under the stars, here’s the paradoxical schockerooni: being home and sharing responsibilities is the way to keep romance alive! It’s a giant turn-on to see husbands involved and in love with their babies. I can almost guarantee your wives will fall in love with you all over again. I know I did.

Romance revisited

Often, my mind flies to the time my husband, Mark, and I were DINKS (Double-Income, No Kids), when greeting each other after a long day meant practically falling to the ground hugging and laughing hysterically. I miss our languorous pursuits – winding down with a match of Monty Python Tetris and singing Internet karaoke. Not to mention, watching a good film uninterrupted at a reasonable time of night.

Today, post-kids, we are like two colleagues bumping into each other at the cafeteria. I know it’s not a unique situation, and regret is not the feeling I get about this lessening of time together because of our children. But when all our leftover energy can afford are snatches of pleasantries and talk that don’t even begin to cover the scope of our day, well, I can’t help but feel a little melancholic. And yet, it is quiet company I accept, especially after spending time with my two boys, both of whom I wear like heavy winter layers throughout the day - Alec spooning me in bed and nesting his face in my hair, and Jack, one leg flung over my waist as he maniacally sections a fistful of my bangs. When I finally put them down for bed, personal space – not romance – is what I want.

But I count my blessings. In the weeks after Alec was born, Mark was my ministering angel, swabbing my wounds with antiseptic and ointment, swaddling the baby with the ease and flourish of a magician, soothing him to sleep. Turns out, I’ve married the hairy version of Florence Nightingale. I have to beg Mark to come with me to kiddie parties, but nursing me back to health is a complete no-brainer. It was the same when Jack came. There was nothing forced. I saw a loving father whose biological impulse to participate wholeheartedly in caring for our children was instantly marbled into the rest of his life. And though libido-less in those first weeks, I was smitten.

Tonight, Mark comes home from a hundred meetings totally wrung out. He walks through the door and Alec and Jack rejoice, attacking him with greetings and demands like they do nearly every night. He is overextended, but he is not the kind of dad who will begrudge his children their pleas. So, he gets on the floor and builds elaborate train tracks. He strums on the guitar and sings. He accompanies Alec on the piano with Jack on his lap. He leads the prayer before the boys go to bed. And there’s just enough time left for us to eat together, have a decent conversation, before we both collapse on the couch. And the day ends.

It’s not the Kate and Leopold dinner-on-the-rooftop scene, I know, but I do cherish the way intimacy has become as reduced as a rich, soothing chicken stock – ostensibly less, but really more. Wide awake, I watch Mark’s last ounce of energy dissipate into deep sleep with a soft velvety sigh. A cresting wave of love crashes over me, and my heart backflips like it did the day he first held me close. And somehow, tonight, in this very moment, there is romance enough.