Monday, August 31, 2015

New reasons why moms should bank their cord blood

This post is brought to you by CordLife.

This is me way back in 2012, a few hours after giving birth to my second son, Iñigo. Hehe, I still look shocked. So I was mortified when a parenting TV show used this photo for an episode on cord blood banking (and they forgot to get my permission, too. Very bad, MARS!).

Anyway, my longtime mommy readers know that we banked Iñigo's cord blood when he was born. We didn't do it with Vito because we balked at the price, but by the time Iñigo came along, there were payment plans that made it easier for us to invest in it. Back then it was P48,000++ at blood collection then P8,000++ for the annual storage fee. Still pricey, that's why we didn't bank my third son Piero's cord blood and umbilical cord, thinking that one kid's stem cells are enough. But now I regret it. I should've banked all the stem cells I could! Grrr! Why? Because I just learned that stem cell research is now making huge strides in how these miraculous cells can help heal us!

Just recently, I was invited to a lay forum on stem cells. It was presented by CordLife to the Rotary Club after dinner at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel. Here I am (in red) at the bloggers' table with (from left) Em Matias-Sulit, Noemi Dado, Neva Santos, Tin Dychiao and Jackie Go. Now I'm normally home by 5pm but I was told new findings on uses for stem cells will be shared so off I went!

You see, when we banked Iñigo's cord blood, we just did so as an insurance for some dreaded happening in the future, with the hope that it won't happen of course. But when we looked at the list of what stem cells were being used on back in 2012, we weren't really concerned because the diseases listed (weren't in our family histories. So the banking of the cord blood was for "just in case."

I was curious to know what science has come up with in the last three years. And, boy, have they found out a lot. Now I really wish I banked my cord blood and umbilical cord when Piero was born!

First, what are stem cells?
Stem cells are "cells with the ability to divide for indefinite periods in culture and to give rise to specialized cells." [source: National Institutes of Health]. I understand them to be our building block cells. They are unspecialized, basically blank cells, that develop into the different kinds of cells in our body with a specialized function—some cells become muscle cells, some become brain cells, some become bone cells, etc.

There is an abundance of stem cells in the umbilical cord tissue, the cord blood, and the baby itself because of the rapid growth and development that happens when we create new life. But we grown-ups have stem cells, too. Not as fresh maybe but still good enough to be harvested especially from parts like our bone marrow. We have enough stem cells because they repair our bodies when we are injured, sick, and even simply because we're aging.

Second, how can stem cells be used?
Because of the stem cells' unique ability to transform into specialized cells and because they transform with no limit, they have been or have potential to be used in treating conditions and diseases that are caused by a damaged organ.

Here's a list:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cycles and Cradle are 10 years old!

This post is brought to you by Cycles and Cradle.

This week, I received a big box of goodies from Cycles and Cradle. It was a lovely gift because my family's been using these products for exactly five years.

Yes, I know it's exactly five years because we got Cycles laundry detergent the month our firstborn came into our lives and we wanted to use safe and effective products for our spankin' brand new baby Vito.

I found out that Cycles and Cuddles are celebrating their 10th anniversary this month. Happy birthday! Thanks for making moms and babies happy for 10 years!

Here are my favorite products from their line:
Cycles liquid laundry detergent 1.5L bottle P398, 800ml refill P254, stain soaker 500g P179, powder detergent 1kg P272 

Vince has allergies. I have allergies. So we assumed that our kids will have allergies. I made sure that the products we used for our kids will be devoid of allergens. Even with laundry soap. Kasi kahit na the soap is rinsed off naman, powerful detergents can be hard to rinse, or they leave a residue lalo na if hindi masipag mag-banlaw ang naglalaba. It's that residue I was worried about because harsh detergent can irritate skin. 

Also fragrance. Fragrance can be a terrible irritant to sensitive noses and breathing passages. I have asthma and one of my triggers is suffocating scents. I was scared the fragrance of laundry detergent might also trigger a reaction with my kids. 

I like that Cycles mild laundry detergent is gentle. Super mild in every way from how it treats clothes, feels on skin and how it smells. But even though it's gentle, it can still remove stains from food, poop and play!  

Cradle Toy & Surface Cleaner 500ml P232, 75ml P75
We all know that babies and toddlers put absolutely everything into their mouths. But I never could use alcohol, alcogel or sanitizing spray on my kids' toys because I was scared they'd ingest chemicals. Parang I'd risk germs rather than strong chemicals (don't crucify me! Besides, germ exposure boosts immunity!). And then I got a sample of Cradle Toy & Surface Cleaner and that allayed my fears. It's a natural cleanser made from food and natural ingredients so even though a film of Cradle stays on the toy, alam kong safe to ingest yun.  

These are the other products from Cycles and Cradle that I got from my big box:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

If I had a million pesos for Piero

This post is brought to you by Pampers Baby Dry.

Pampers has an ongoing promo now and it is sooo exciting! It's like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but for this, it's more like Pampers Baby Dry and the Million Pesoses for My Baby!!!

Libre ang mangarap and if I had a million pesos for Piero (he's now the only #SalesVIP wearing Pampers diapers), here is what I would do with the money:
1. Put it all in the bank in an investment account (the safest kind they have).
2. Don't touch it till he's 18 and will probably need it for college tuition.
Oh wow, was that boring or was that boring?! Actually, by the time he's 18, I'm pretty sure a million pesos will just pay for his freshman year. Or buy him his first second-hand car.

When I'm a millionaire...

So let's have a little fun. If I had a million pesos to spend on Piero (and, okay, let's include his brothers) in one year, this is what I'll do:

1. Go to Legoland in Malaysia!
This is the first on my list because the kids love Legos. Love isn't even the word to describe this emotion. Obsessed is a better word. My kids are obsessed with Legos. Thank goodness they have their Papa and aunts and Mama's friends to give them Legos because if it were up to me, I'd never buy those blasted things. I'm always stepping on a brick, tripping over them, lying down on them and sitting down on them.

But a Mama's love for her children's obsession overlooks what she despises. In fact, if we had money to go to Legoland, I'll even let them go on a Lego shopping spree! Now that's love.

2. Go to Hong Kong Disneyland!
My kids love Disney movies and TV shows so much, they can recite whole scenes and sing albums of the catchy songs. So we have to go to Disneyland again (check out our first trip here)! Because we are a family of small kids, the relatively small Hong Kong Disneyland is manageable. Of course, Disney World is the dream but I think we'll need to live there for a year if we were to enjoy it and not have our legs collapse.

3. Go to Universal Studios in Singapore!
My kids love to be entertained by moving pictures. They're like their Papa that way. So Universal Studios will be great because they can see Sesame Street, Transformers, Jurassic Park, Shrek, the Penguins from Madagascar, and their super duper favorite—the Minions from Despicable Me. Sooo fun!

And while we're in Singapore, we might as well go to the other tourist spots like the Night Safari, the Singapore Zoo, the Singapore Flyer (which might not be a good idea pala for little kids because I've been on it and the hour-long ride can be boring after 20 minutes), and all the parks parks parks we can find because my kids are condo dwellers and need space to run run run in!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Old photos of Vito

It's still the birthday week of my eldest boy, Vito. I'm so proud of that kid. While I wish he could stay little forever, I'm also looking forward to the time when he will finally be a man and change the world for the better. He's already changed mine in the most profound and beautiful way.

Okay, I'm getting all emotional! Especially when I look through this blog and see how Vito's grown! Let me share with you a few photos just from this year alone:

I am caught by surprise by these photos. Even though I am so present in my children's life, I'm also almost always distracted by home concerns, work, and (the most distracting of all) the younger children to be focused on Vito. I know these moments happened (I was there!) but I never seemed to have the time to stop and soak it in because Piero needed to breastfeed or Iñigo had a bug bite. I saw it happen and then I looked away. Thank goodness for photos then!

I don't regret having three children (the more, the merrier!), but I also wish that there were three of me so each child could have me 24/7. Thank heavens his Papa, my amazing Vince, is always there when I can't. He's especially there for Vito. They are such buddies. Iñigo and Piero, being still babies, are with me more, although Iñigo is now moving into his Papa and Vito's circle.

Still, I can't complain! I work from home so I'm with the boys constantly. I guess I'm just being greedy with the time because it's slipping by so quickly. I mean, just look at Vito. He's a big boy, all of a sudden! I was there every single day in the last 5 years of his life, feeding him, teaching him, playing with him, praying with him, singing with him. And yet I am taken aback—when did he grow up?

I'm reminded of the story in the Bible, about Martha and Mary. Jesus was invited to rest at the house of the siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Martha was busy taking care of Jesus's needs—his food, his comfort. Mary was busy just basking in the Lord's presence. Martha complained to Jesus and He replied, "Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42).

This story is about us being so caught up in good work for Christ that we forget Christ. It should be our love for Christ makes us do the good work. It's not the other way around: Good work in His name will not create the relationship; we have to have the relationship first. Good work for Christ without getting to know Him will just cause us to get tired, resentful and stressed out. There is no joy in serving a God we don't know.

In the same way, this applies to motherhood. Perfect analogy actually since mothers are soooo busy with the nitty-gritty that we many times forget to just enjoy our children—the reason why we're so busy with the nitty-gritty! Many times I find myself annoyed and easily upset because I'm just so tired serving, serving, serving. This Bible story reminds me to stop getting upset! JUST LOVE THEM! Let us choose to get to know them, enjoy them, be with them, love them—and when we do, we have chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from us. Love first. Everything else follows.

God bless us, mommies!

P.S. Thank you everyone for your birthday greetings for Vito. I especially loved the ones who called him "Jelly Bean." Thank you for remembering Vito's nickname, a nickname I've forgotten! Wow. You really have been there from the beginning. Thank you for loving my Jelly Bean, watching him grow up, and blessing him!

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Vito is 5 and that is a most wonderful thing

One evening, a few weeks ago, the two older boys, Vito and Iñigo, had just had their bath and were having a little quiet time before dinner. I was sitting beside them, cradling their youngest brother, Piero, in my arms when I gave the baby a sniff. "Okay, baby boy," I said. "You're the only one who hasn't taken a bath. You're bantot na."

Vito immediately dropped his Legos and hugged Piero, gently covering his brother's ears. "Don't listen to her, Piero. You're not bantot." Then he turned to me and said, "Don't be mean, Mama."

"I wasn't being mean!" I protested. "I was just stating a fact."

"It's not nice to call him bantot," Vito insisted. "That hurt his feelings."

I couldn't think of any comeback to that save for an apology to Piero and also to Vito. Then I stared at this little boy who is more adult than the one adult in the room—his own mother!

There have been many times my husband Vince and I wonder about our eldest son. He's so responsible. I mean, why would a tiny child be responsible?!

Perhaps the best example of his being responsible was when we didn't have a yaya and maid and I was pregnant with Piero. It was early in 2014 and I was suffering the sleepiness and fatigue that come with the first trimester. Vito was 3-and-a-half, Iñigo was 1-and-a-half. They wake up at 6 a.m. and I would rise with them, prepare breakfast, and do our morning activities while Vince, who works late at night after a whole day taking care of his young sons and pregnant wife, slept.

One morning, however, I nodded off for around 10 minutes on the sofa. I snapped awake, in a panic, realizing that I had two toddlers in my care, and found Vito preparing bread for Iñigo's breakfast. When I started getting up, almost in tears from guilt and terror, Vito said, "It's okay, Mama. You sleep. You're tired. We'll watch TV. Then I wake you up when Iñigo poops, okay? Sleep na."

He was 3-and-a-half.

The memory of that morning still makes me cry. I feel guilt for falling asleep. I feel relief that nothing bad happened in the few minutes I was asleep (thank You, God!). I feel wonder and gratitude that I had a son who took care of his younger brother and his pregnant mother (he takes after his Papa!). And now that he's 5, he has an even more tender heart—always the big brother doting on his two kid brothers, always the one who runs to the door and kisses and hugs everyone who leaves and arrives, and always the one who asks God at night to "please bless everyone in the whole world, especially those who don't have mamas and papas anymore."

I don't really take credit for his being so wonderful. I think Vito really was born that way. I always felt that he was better than me or Vince, that his soul was brighter, and that I'm just lucky enough that God chose me to be the mother of this incredible boy. I never think he's the lucky one. I felt as soon as he came into the world that I was given a privilege, and that I... I mess up this privilege many times. So Vito is amazing not because of me and how we're bringing him up. He's amazing because he's teaching Vince and me how to grow up.

I don't know how such a little body can contain all the goodness in the world. And for the last five glorious years, Vince and I have been the grateful witnesses and recipients of that goodness. Our world is a better place because of our Vito, and one day, the rest of the world will see what we see and be all the better for it. I can't wait for that day!

But for today, I wish my first boy a happy birthday!

Vito, may your life be a blessing to others as it has been a blessing to us. May you grow in wisdom, health and love. May your compassion strengthen your heart when you face the world's cruelty, and may you always turn to Jesus when the days grow dark and evil. May you always say the way you do today, "Jesus is in my heart! I'm not afraid of anything!" May you always walk in light and courage and faith, finding favor in God and with every person you meet. God bless you, my darling boy. Happy birthday!

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Family fun at Sky Ranch Tagaytay to celebrate Piero's 1st birthday!

Ooh boy, this is one month late! Exactly one month ago, my bunso baby boy Piero turned a year old. We had a mini party at home and then we drove off to Tagaytay to continue the celebration!

We booked a stay at Taal Vista. Just one night. The reason we picked that hotel was for its big garden and the fact that it's right beside Sky Ranch. And that's where we spent the rest of Piero's first birthday!

At the carousel...

At the balloon ride...

Iñigo dancing for us heehee!

Vito joined in soon after. Crazy kids!

Merienda time! Just popcorn, hotdogs and fries for my boys.

We tried out a few more rides till it got dark. The first time we went to Sky Ranch, it was still on soft launch. Now, with a lot more rides plus a row of restaurants and convenience stores, it's a fun place for the family (and sweethearts uyyy!) to go to. However, I really wish they'd just charge a one-time fee, you know, a ride-all-you-want rate. It's so hassle to line up every time we wanted to ride a ride!

Anyway, on our last ride which was the train, Piero fell asleep. That's our signal to go back to our hotel. So we walked back. Malayo pala yun pag marami kang pagod na batang dala!

Back at our room, we ordered room service, ate the cute cake Taal Vista made for Piero, and then fell asleep. What a birthday!

The next morning, the birthday boy flexed his new walking muscles all over the hilly terrain of the hotel's expansive lawn. His brothers were also delighted at the chance to just run and tumble everywhere. City boys!

Piero also showed off his climbing skills!

Here's the birthday bunny and his proud Papa. My loves!

Oh, and the boys tried climbing trees, too. They didn't believe me when I said I used to climb trees and swing from branch to branch like a monkey when I was a little girl!

Oh, Piero!

Happy birthday, dearest darling! You complete us. You are a gift to everyone in our little family. May you bring joy and blessings to everyone you meet the same way you do to us every single day of the past year, today and beyond. We love you!

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Super mom! Ina Raymundo on Baby Magazine

Meet my new mommy peg! 

I met Ina Raymundo at the launch of the new look of Baby Magazine. I'm the Market Editor of Baby MagazineYes, I have a day job! What's a market editor? I'm basically in charge of all the products featured in the issue. So shopping finds for the kids, fashion and beauty products for moms, books—I source those and feature them in our pages. Sometimes I also help with getting our cover moms. Ina was one of them. 

I love the painting, by the way!
Ina with our editor-in-chief, Juana Manahan-Yupangco.
Our Features Editor Ana Javelosa Gloria (who has a new book out this month!) with
our next cover mom, Dimples Romana and her super cute son, Alonzo. 
With Shari Macainag of The Misty Mom (hers is the biggest beauty/mom blog now) and
Mommy TreatsPaola Loot Bronfman with her two daughters, Sjöfn and Semira. 
Luxe lifestyle blogger Cat Arambulo-Antonio ( I shot her for a feature
in Baby Mag and she is so hilarious!
Cat Juan Ledesma ( with daughter Nara and Happy Skin's Jacqe Yuengtian-Gutierrez with son Raf.
With the lovely woman behind The Strip and Browhaus, Tab Abad-Estacion.

For the current issue, which is the health issue, we wanted a mother who was fit and strong, someone who loves her children and her body, someone with a healthy marriage and just as healthy self-esteem. So we asked around on Facebook and the overwhelming vote went to Ina Raymundo.

How fit and fab is Ina?!

After this photo, Ina told me that she only paid attention to her body after she gained a lot of weight after her first pregnancy. She told me that being strong really helps her get a better grip on her life as a mom of five and an actress. Her body can handle the 24/7 caring and nurturing, the running here and there. A healthy body doesn't get stressed and overwhelmed. That makes her a real supermom in my book! In fact, I was so inspired, I started going to the gym!

Find out how Ina keeps herself strong for her five children and sexy for her husband all while being a working woman in the current issue of Baby Magazine

Gosh, I really love that cover. All parenting magazines have pa-cute or pa-innocent moms on their covers. That's okay. Motherhood seems to be celebrated because it's a job for saints. But mothers are not saints. We're normal people with ups and downs, joys and pains, trials and triumphs, desires and guilt. 

I love how this cover is so powerful, which is what the modern mom is. We know what we're good at, we know what our limits are, we push at those limits relentlessly. The modern mom is no longer the quiet woman hovering in the background while her husband and children shine. She is in charge, she is passionate, she is front and center of whatever will benefit her family. She takes care of herself because she knows a healthy and happy mommy is at her best and her family will be best served by that. Plus, I love how sexy the cover is. Look at Ina carrying her daughter and doing squats! Sexy and strong!

Gotta love that cover. I just LOVE it! So unapologetically sexy, so unapologetically woman! Grab the July-August issue of Baby Magazine from your favorite bookstore!

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