Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to make your kids brush their teeth Hapee-ly

This post is brought to you by Hapee Kiddie Toothpaste.

It's the end of the year! I highly suggest tossing out a lot of stuff so you have a fresh stock of new products for 2015. Then you have a good idea of when to replace things because you know when you started using them.

For example, I'm replacing all our toothbrushes tomorrow. You're only supposed to use your toothbrush for 3 months. So now that I know that we started using our toothbrushes on January 1, I know I should replace all of them on April 1. Great tip, right???

Speaking of toothbrushing, check out my toddler Iñigo:

Unlike Vito, Iñigo didn't like brushing his teeth. As in pahirapan. Akala mo talaga torture sessions ang toothbrushing sessions with how he screams! So, unlike his older brother who has perfect white teeth, Iñigo has, well, let me just say his teeth are not blackened stumps naman but we saw two cavities na. Soooo upsetting!

So these past few months have been a quest to make Iñigo LOVE brushing his teeth. And we have finally succeeded!!!

Here's what worked:
1. Use a mirror. My kids can see exactly what they're doing so they're more meticulous and involved. Brushing is always supervised. You really have to make sure they're brushing kasi si Iñigo kinakain niya yung toothpaste!

2. Choose dental products that have their favorite characters. To see their friends join them at every toothbrush appointment is a treat for kids.

3. Use a toothpaste designed for kids. When kids hit 2 years old, they need to have fluoride in their toothpaste (dental products for below 2 years old have Xylitol). But you can't use regular toothpaste because there's too much fluoride in it and the menthol stings young mouths.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Mommy Mundo Mom 24/7 Planner (and a giveaway!)

Photo heavy post because I'm doing a big review on the Mommy Mundo Mom 24/7 2015 Planner!

As you can see, the cover is a Topaz Mommy favorite: gray chevron! I guess I can't use that print on the cover of my planner should I ever come up with a Topaz Mommy planner!

Anyway, the front and back covers are thick and hard and sturdy, which is perfect for busy moms who throw their planners into bags and onto desks. But, as you can see from my photo, it dents easily, too, so maybe it's not so perfect for super O.C. moms who throw their planners into bags and onto desks.

The first page is the owner's info sheet. Very simple and no-nonsense. I like that. I don't like info sheets na sandimakmak ang info.

Page 2 is the first month of the year. I like that it's immediately the month. Usually kasi ang mga planners parang mga libro: may copyright page, may letter from the editor/publisher, may "how to use this planner," "how to make this your best year," etc. I like those, too, to be honest, but I like also how Mom 24/7 goes straight to your year!

The monthly calendar is followed by a weekly chart. There's the months (previous and next) and a motherhood quote by celeb moms on top, and spaces for notes and goals at the bottom.

What makes this unique is that the family's schedule is planned with Mom's schedule. I guess that's great if you have three kids. But if you have one or two, sayang ang space. If you have four or more, kulang naman. And asan ang schedule ni daddy? By not including space for dad's schedule, this calendar makes him insignificant.

I also feel that the column for Mom/Kids is sayang sa space since you write down the day's details under the day itself. What does one write in that column? I decided I can use that space for the week's goals and reminders... except I remembered the bottom part: 
I also suggest getting rid of so many lines. Lines make the page look busier, adding more stress to one's mind. Or make the lines thinner or lighter so that it looks more elegant.

There's a bookmark with the brand name. I like that it's a real bookmark and not a ribbon (although I like ribbons, too!). Although sana this bookmark has a quote, like maybe the year's theme, or an empowering word.

After all the 12 months are done, the section Pages & Perks follows. It's more of a health record for the family actually. This is a good idea because you have your family's health information at your fingertips (if you bring your planner everywhere, like I do). On the other hand, I think that information should be in a more permanent place kasi ibig sabihin nito, every year I'll have to fill out these sheets. Parang ma-effort masyado.


The next pages are tools for the fun stuff, like parties and vacations, and then the serious stuff like money and household management.

I just find it strange that there's just one page each for these tools. I mean, okay, maybe the party planner, baka nga naman Noche Buena lang ang party mo sa buong taon, but diba tayong mga mommies usually we throw a small party for each of our kids' birthdays? So kulang siya for me.

Yung vacation planner, okay. Baka nga naman isang major trip sa summer and isa pa sa Christmas break so go, okay na ang one page. But yung menu maker, there ought to be 52 pages because it's a weekly plan and there are 52 weeks in a year.
Six days? I guess Sundays mean going out or calling in meals!
I think only the bank account info is useful.
Great idea to write down what the family needs for reference! 

The last part of the Mommy Mundo Mom 24/7 Planner features discount coupons. So hooray for moms who love to shop!

What I loved:

  • The hard cover. I don't mind that it gets dented. I'm not precious with my things. In fact, the more battered my things get, the more I love them. But not too tattered naman so maganda yung sturdy covers.
  • The simplicity and straightforwardness. No frills, no illustrations, no "What is Mommy Mundo?" and branding like that. I like that it goes straight to your day!
  • The grocery essentials. You can just check that basic list every time you make the shopping list!
  • The price. It's a very friendly P395 lang!

What needs improvement:

  • The lines need to be toned down. There's too many and they're too dark. Too busy and stressful!
  • Add daddy's schedule.
  • I really think one page for the Menu Maker is just wrong. Either make it 52 pages or remove it altogether. 
  • Add a pocket for receipts, notes, bills, etc. 

For more info on the Mommy Mundo Mom 24/7 2015 Planner and where to buy it, click here.

Or you can leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Topaz Mommy blog entry is because I'm giving away my Mommy Mundo Mom 24/7 2015 Planner!!!

Leave your Facebook account name or Twitter handle so I know how to contact you in case you win.

Yes, that's all! Oh, and you need to have a Philippine address. Giveaway ends exactly 24 hours from now. So that's Dec 31, 12:30am. Good luck!

*This planner was given to me. This is not a sponsored giveaway. I'm just giving it away because I already bought a planner!


CONTEST IS CLOSED.

Winner is Dane Relente! Congrats! Send me a message at my FB Topaz Horizon page to claim your planner!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Gadgets for the kiddies now made affordable by Smart Bro!

This post is brought to you by SMART Communications.

My readers know that everyone in my family is gadget-crazy. And no, we are not robots, nor do the kids (or the parents haha) have behavioral problems, and we talk to each other all the time. So don't worry, mommies. Gadgets are fun! 

And you can have a gadget your kids will enjoy because of Smart Bro's Gadget Plus Plan 499! This is what comes with Smart's new offer: 
  1. Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite
  2. Samsung Kids grip case with stylus
  3. Smart Bro Pocket Wifi
  4. 50 Internet hours every month
  5. 30-day FREE Samsung KidsTime app
  6. Dora the Explorer plush doll

 Sulit, mga mommies!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Topaz Mommy is 5 years old

Today, this very day, is the 5th anniversary of Topaz Mommy. I started mommy blogging five years ago today when I announced my pregnancy.



And oh what an adventure it's been!

Reading that very first blog post now fills me with so much emotion. I remember my fears mostly. Now, five years later, I just want to hold newly pregnant me in my arms and tell her, "You're going to be just fine. You are going to love this new adventure so much, you're going to have babies back to back!"

Haha, if newly pregnant me heard that, she'd scream and burst into tears!

But, yes, I really love being a mama. I don't enjoy every minute of it, nope. Some days, oh dear heaven, talaga namang feeling ko masisiraan ako ng bait. Especially now that Vito, 4, and Iñigo, 2, are fighting all the time. Really drives us nuts! But happy nuts. Always happy. I can't imagine life otherwise. Honest-to-goodness truth yan! Every time Vince and I start dreaming of stealing away for a weekend because our kids have driven us up against the wall yet again, we realize quickly that a weekend away from our kids may be quiet but it will not be fun. It won't even be peaceful because we'll just be worrying about those critters. We love our silly, exasperating, exhausting, crazy, wonderful little boys!


On the fifth anniversary of Topaz Mommy, I want to tell you that a great deal of my love for motherhood is because of you, my dear readers. Whenever I was in despair over some motherhood issue—big or small, real or imagined—you swooped in and helped me out. The past five years have been filled with love and encouragement from you. You were always there, giving advice, sending virtual hugs, sending gifts to my house, calming me down, telling me I'm normal, I'm okay, don't freak out. The wisdom and comfort of shared motherhood! I feel so blessed to have you! Thank you!

I know that I haven't really blogged a lot about my life this year. I blogged regularly enough but these posts were mostly sponsored. That's because I had a really busy year—was pregnant, gave birth, have two little boys growing up fast, got two new jobs. I was living life and had no time or energy to document it! It's a little sad that I missed telling you all about my third pregnancy (it was mostly miserable), Piero's milestones, Inigo's cute but terrible twos, Vito's first time to go to school. Toilet training, my feelings about school, juggling motherhood and work again, raising three spirited boys (yes, Piero is makulit na grabe!).

I am so grateful that I'm married to a man who rescues me from a lot of parenting duties. Many moms wonder how I do it and it's really simple. My secret is Vince. He is really my partner in raising our kids. He feeds them, gives them baths, plays with them, disciplines them, entertains them. He does all these every single day! Dear Vince, my wonderful husband and the super dad of the #SalesVIP boys, thank you so much for saving me from insanity and despair!

He should be the one with a parenting blog. Seriously. I'm flailing about every day, not really knowing what I'm doing, just hoping my love will be enough. Then there's Vince! Do you think he should do a daddy blog?

Anyway, we're entering the sixth year of mommy blogging. I don't really know what my plans are for this blog. My eldest boy is 4 and he's in preschool, and I made a vow to not post photos of my kids' faces when they turn 6. So what happens to Topaz Mommy when the readers don't see my kids? Will you still hang around? I know the real reason you're here is because of the kids! It's not me haha.

Well, we have time to decide, I guess. After all, my youngest is still only half-a-year old. Still, as today proves, the years do go by quickly. I wonder what's in store for Topaz Mommy.


Five years. It does not feel like 5 years. You have been my friends for 5 years. Thank you for being here all this time, dear readers. My family and I are grateful for the love, support and friendship. You have really made a big difference in our lives. God bless you!

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Kids' art wall made special with washi tape

I posted my kids' improved art wall over at Instagram and Facebook a few days ago and it was such a hit that I'm going to share it with my readers!

Here's the history of that wall:
It was an accident really. My kids started putting stickers on a blank wall (see white wall behind the costumed cuties) and I was just too exhausted to peel them off. So we just started taping up the kids' artwork randomly. They loved it! I loved it, too. Sorta. I didn't like how haphazard the arts and crafts projects looked on my wall.

So I used washi tape to secure the art. Unfortunately, there were two problems: First, this washi tape kept peeling off, and second, if I used washi tape on all four sides for each artwork, I'm going to run out of washi tape fast. And washi tape isn't exactly cheap!

I posted my problem over at Facebook and my friends who are either supermoms or crafts queens (or both!) came to my rescue. Because most washi tape is made for paper, it's not strong enough to stick to walls. So everyone recommended MT washi tape. It is not cheap. I got a set of four rolls at Fully Booked for P600. I was so shocked!

To get the most mileage out of that expensive tape, Martine of Make It Blissful sent me a photo of a wall with washi tape frames. It was such a brilliant idea! I implemented the idea one afternoon while the kids were napping. Look!
Soooo fab! Sooo brilliant! Soooo super mommy!

With washi tape frames, these happened:
1. The art wall looks organized.
2. The art wall looks festive!
3. The kids' art looks pro. Seriously! Because they're framed, they look better!
4. I don't need to use more washi tape!

I also like how I can use the frames to post anything the kids did—not just art on paper. We did these foam monsters, for example. I also posted Vito's certificate of completion in a sports program. You seriously can post anything and it will look great!

Best of all, once there's new art, the kids choose which old art to take down and replace. So I don't feel guilty and the kids don't feel sad because we all feel like the old art has had its time on the art wall and it's time to give chance to the new art.

I love my washi frames on the art wall! Try it, too!

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Friday, December 19, 2014

A day with Mama, the magazine editor

I wear many hats so last month, when Vito had a school assignment that asked him to document a day spent with one of his parents at work, I was stymied. I'm a homemaker more than anything. When I have time, I'm a blogger. I blog more than I contribute to any publication, as writer or as editor. So which hat do I put on for Vito's assignment—housewife, blogger, writer or editor?

I finally decided on magazine editor because, visually, that's the most interesting one. Writing and blogging are usually done in front of a computer, unless I go to events, which then looks like I'm just partying for a living. Not very impressive. So magazine editor it is!

For the day he spent with me at work, Vito came along for a fashion editorial shoot for Baby Magazine. I'm the Market Editor. That means I pick every product that comes out in its pages. Clothes, shoes, accessories, books, toys, gadgets, diapers, beauty products, baby products, etc.

On our way to the studio, I told Vito that he'll see me oversee a photo shoot featuring clothes on kids like himself. I said that when clothes are photographed on models, the clothes look more appealing to moms who shop. He said, "Okaaaaaaaay!"

Here we are at Bulb Studios along Pasong Tamo. Vito's wearing his school uniform. We're early. He wondered where everyone was.

Here's Vito checking out the empty studio. Because his Papa has a mini studio (haha, it's just a 2x2 white tent with mini lights for product shots for my blog), Vito was impressed by how big a real studio is.

The stylist for our shoot is the ever gorgeous Kim Palanca. She is the friendliest, sweetest, nicest, funniest, and super organized and capable woman I've ever met. She's a mommy, too. I don't know how she balances everything! When I grow up, I want to be like Kim!

This is Mark Ches Ang. He's the photographer and owner of Bulb Studios. He's amazing with kids! Our theme for the shoot is photo shoot. Yes! You read that right. So Mark pulled out all his photography equipment as props for the background to show that the kids are in a photo studio, but we didn't actually use the equipment. They're just the setting.

Vito is observing Mark doing test shots on the models as they're being fixed up and posed by Kim.

When everyone was ready—studio, props, clothes, kids, etc—the shoot goes by fast. So for this part, I asked Vito to stay in the dressing area and just get busy with his iPad.

It's not a good idea for parents (and grandparents and yayas) to be at the shoot because kids should be following the commands of the photographer. Kids get confused when the photographer says one thing ("Okay, just look at me, relax.") and then there's a chorus of loving fans screaming other things ("Smile, kuya! I'll give you ice cream after this!!"). But I am grateful that for this shoot, all the parents who came were very cooperative. Thanks to my dear friends Michelle, Didi, Chrissy and Pinks, for being such pros!!!

With the shoot in full swing, I snuck away to breastfeed my baby Piero. Yes, he still goes with me everywhere! I'm so glad my job allows me to bring my kids to work!

And it's a wrap! Look at those cute kids! That's Kailee in the silver flats, Bella in the gray-and-orange hoodie, Rael in the jeans, and Lyndel in the striped shirt. Super easy to work with, these kids! All they needed was donuts from Didi and promises of candy from Kim! Oops!

And we're done! Just a day in the life of a magazine editor and her little boy. Just a day in the life of a child model, too, as shown here by Lyndel who's having a snack after all his hard work! See the fabulous results of this fun shoot in the December-January issue of Baby Magazine!

So that's what I do! Well, one of the things I do. It's a fun job, and I'm happy I got to share it with my son... and with you!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stop stressing. Be a blessing!

Last night, my husband reprimanded me gently. He said that the true joy of Christmas is in the giving. I scowled. With just a couple of weeks left before Christmas, I have not done any gift shopping at all. Just the thought filled me with dread. Just the thought stressed me out. I have three little kids to attend to, deadlines to meet. Most importantly, I have no desire to go out and get caught in the mess called traffic jams.

Christmas wasn't happening in my mind and my heart. I used to love Christmas. I really did love the season! Then I became a mom and to me, now, the holiday season just means stress.

Vince listened to me rant about the time I'll have to spend shopping and wrapping presents. He looked really disappointed that I was not excited about the holidays at all. Then he quietly reminded me what the heart of the season was: giving.

My selfishness was getting the best of me. But my stubborn heart insisted that I had a point—I really don't have the time or the energy! My reasons were valid. I refused to listen to my husband, even though I knew he was right.

Then today, an e-book was sent to me, like out of nowhere. It was Keep Christmas Holy by Making It Hassle-Free by Karen Ehman and Glynnis Whitwer. It was a book on parties, with recipes to boot. I thought, "What a strange party book!" and scanned it half-heartedly. And I knew in an instant God was talking to me when these verses leapt out at me:
Proverbs 18:16a, “Giving a gift can open doors;” (NLT) 
Proverbs 31:20, “She opens her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her filled hands to the needy [whether in body, mind, or spirit].” (AMP) 
Nehemiah 8:12, “So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” (NLT) 
Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

I refused to listen to my husband—never a good thing!—so my God talked to me. I was instantly rebuked! This whole season is not about me, and it will never be about me. No matter how I feel, I must always remember that every day of my life—and especially in the season of giving!—is about serving God, my family and others!

So if you, like me, are feeling the holiday stress, pause, take a deep breath and relax. This is an opportunity for us to serve God by celebrating our loved ones. Let's be a blessing!

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Loving my three sons

Vince teases me that Piero, my third and youngest boy, is my favorite. That's not exactly true. The kids are all my favorite. Yes, yes, it's possible. Vito is my favorite when I need things done in the house—he's so responsible and smart and sensible. Iñigo is my favorite when I need a laugh—he's so funny and silly and entertaining. Piero is my favorite because with him, I finally relaxed with this whole motherhood thing!

With my eldest darling boy, I feel so much pressure to do well. I try to get away from the pressure by being a chill mom and, honestly, I am the chillest mom I know. I am super chill. Like, totally. But there is effort to be relaxed, you know what I mean? For example, if someone tells you that someone else is talking about you behind your back and you say, "I don't care," isn't there still a part of you that does care, that wants to know what exactly is that backbiting person saying? But you push it from your mind actively. You resist. You will yourself to not be affected. So yes you don't care but you decided to not care.

That's me with the whole motherhood thing. I don't need to be perfect or do what a mother is "supposed to do," and that's a loooooooong and scary list, especially in the age of the Alpha Parent. All I need to do is care for the boys that were given me in the best way I can, given my talents, abilities and resources, with loads of love. As long as my kids are happy, healthy and good people, I know I'm doing something right.

And yet I feel that pressure to be a perfect mom. I push back just as relentlessly, but it's there. It's there. Worse, I feel like my children, especially Vito as my firstborn, are expected by other people to reflect that perfection projected at me.

I know Vito feels it, too, because he's the first child and he has to be the role model for his brothers. He has to be good. He has to be more mature. He has to be responsible. We don't insist on that. He just knows it. He knows his younger brothers (well, Iñigo, for now) will copy his behavior—good and bad. This weighs heavily on him. We don't place that responsibility on his shoulders but he knows it's there anyway. He's become so sensible and mature, like a little man, so serious and thoughtful, which makes him strangely older than his age and yet he's so sweet, and I'm swelled up with pride. That wonderful, awesome, little man is my boy! My boy!

With Iñigo, my funny and lovable little fellow, he somehow senses that he's never going to be the only light in our life. He has to share that light with his brothers so he'll do anything to get our attention. He'll fight sleep so that, at night, he can have his parents all to himself. He sings and dances and performs, and he's delighted when we pour our attention on him. He needs to be loved. He showers us with kisses and hugs and nibbles and cariño brutal because he wants us to see him and love him. And we do, we do! Oh, Iñigo is beyond adorable! But he just can't get what he really wants because Vito is always doing things he can't yet do and Piero is stuck to me almost 24/7 just because Piero's a new baby.

So I worry about Iñigo, too. I want us to parent him so that he knows he is loved so much, that there is no competition, that he is amazing just as he is, that he has nothing to fight for. We love him as is! Yes, he's funny and sweet and entertaining—and we love that!—but even when he's annoying and throwing a tantrum, we still love him anyway. I hope we show him that and I hope he believes that, because he's special to us. He's loved simply because he's my boy. My boy!

With Piero, my precious sweetheart, suddenly I feel the pressure's off. He doesn't have to meet his milestones on time (he does). He doesn't have to be entertaining (he is). He doesn't have to do anything (he doesn't!) because I just want him to let me love him because he's my last baby. While everything is a first with Vito, everything is a last with Piero. So everything is savored. This is the last time I'm going to hear my newborn child cry. This is the last time I'm going to put breast milk on infant acne. This is the last time I'm going to breastfeed my child. This is the last time I'm going to make my baby laugh for the first time. This is the last time... everything. And it makes me panicky and relieved and sad and happy and it's glorious and bittersweet and familiar and strange all at the same time.

With Vito, it was a welcome, a triumph, at every milestone. With Iñigo, same victorious feelings. With Piero, it's a welcome as much as a good-bye. This is the first time he laughed... I'll never hear a first-time baby laugh from my child again. It's too precious, everything he does, because his firsts will always be my lasts. So I just want to drink him in, enjoy everything about my youngest boy, my last and precious boy.  

Each of my children has different needs and I love them all in a different way. Same big love, shared equally, but shown differently. I hope I'm really doing the right things. I do want to be the best mother to my kids, and while I do resist the pressure to be perfect, I am open to advice and suggestions. I know that not everything that works for some moms will work for me or my kids. The pressure also keeps me on my toes, knowing that this is the age of the most documented lives (parenting included) in the history of mankind. So there really should be an effort to make sure that what I document, my kids (yes, my kids, not the public!) will be happy and proud about. "Mama and Papa loved us. They may not have been perfect, but they tried every day to be good parents. And we had a happy childhood because of their love!"

Each day is a chance to learn and love. Some days, I fail at the learning, sometimes I also fail at the loving. But I'm grateful for every new day I have with my boys, that new chance to be a better mother to them.

Every time I pray, I ask God, "Teach me how to love my children in the way they need to be loved. Teach me to love them with Your love. Open my eyes to their needs and open their eyes and hearts to the love Vince and I have for them, and most importantly, to Your love, so that they will never feel unloved. Let them feel such overwhelming love and acceptance that there will be no space for fear. You said in Your Word that perfect love drives out all fear. Let that be the only perfection my kids know—love! Please let me love them the way You want them to be loved and please give me Your love so I can give beyond what I can give. Amen."

Amen. May we all love with the love of our Father!

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." I John 4:18


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