The Bliss of Doing Nothing Together

The Bliss of Doing Nothing Together

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By Toni Tiu of Wifely Steps

It’s been tough for us lately. My husband and I have been working like crazy. In between multiple work commitments, we would have to see to household tasks. There’s laundry to sort, a grocery list to tick off, the occasional broken toy of our son’s that needs to be repaired. We’ve been kicking our days off pre-occupied with the tasks for the day ahead. It’s a shame to admit it, but the first thing we seem to do in the morning is check our own mobile phones. What should we accomplish today? By when should we do it? It’s become a crazy cycle, one that has taken a toll on spending quality time together.

So when joint free time comes up, like a rare Saturday morning when our son is sleeping in or our son spending a day at the mall with his grandparents, we seize it. What do we do? Where should we go? How long do we have? We begin cramming that precious free time with an activity outside the home, eager to make up for lost time. Let’s go watch this movie! Let’s visit that date place we haven’t gone back to in ages! Let’s paint a masterpiece together!

Some dates were successful (eating in places we like but we know our son dislikes). Some weren’t (We couldn’t agree on what movie to watch so we ended up roaming the mall… separately). Overall though, it got tiring. We got tired chasing time. We got tired trying to cram things we could do together in a limited amount of time. We got tired arguing about where we could go together — each of us had our own idea of quality free time which the other didn’t agree with. So most times, we ended up at home.

Tired with no agenda. Tired with the need to breathe separately, but together.

That’s when things began to look up.

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Finding Joy in Quiet Togetherness

We realized we could still spend time together without doing anything together. Being together was enough. That was what mattered the most.

We would be in the bedroom together – I would be reading a book while he would be putting a model figure together. There was no joint activity, and that was okay. There was love in the air even if we weren’t holding hands. We quietly revelled in each other’s presence. We were grateful for the quiet time we both needed to recharge individually, but still with each other.

On cool afternoons, we would walk around the neighborhood. There would be no need to fill in the quiet with conversations. Walking down the street, hand in hand, doing nothing else — that was enough.

When driving to the grocery or to the laundromat, we would sometimes just be quiet in the car. He would be concentrating on the road. I would be gazing out the window. But our hands would be together – his right hand on my left, and that would be enough. We knew we were headed to a place where chores would be our priority for that time. But at that very moment in the car, we were grateful to be together. We found joy in our quiet togetherness, made even more blissful knowing we were headed in the same direction together.

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Bliss can be found in doing nothing together, in simply enjoying the moment of quiet togetherness. Have you also experienced this kind of quiet joy in your relationships? Come share your thoughts and stories in the comments!

A day in our lives.

A day in our lives.

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I get some flak for my Instagram feed for some reason. I’ve heard of people saying it’s too nice to be real, that the photos aren’t realistic, that the whole #makeitblissful effort is just a fluffy, feel-good movement and nothing really important. Of course, it’s hurtful to hear comments like that, and to be written off as superficial and fake, when all I’m doing on Instagram is, really, just playing around with the way I take photos and what I take pictures of. Nothing more.

But I guess these reactions from some people are very telling of how we can be judged, simply from what we post online, especially photos. Photographs can tell you so many things about what a person is really like. With this in mind, photographer Lianne Bacorro and I found ourselves chatting over Instagram and on email about her latest photography offering, her “Day in The Life” photoshoot service.

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I loved the concept from the get-go. Lianne would go over the client’s location — usually their home, the preferable location — and just take photos of the family going about their day-to-day routine. There would be no styling, no props, no themes or anything. Whatever would be captured on the lens would be the subject’s real-life stories.

“By default, I’ve done a lot of “A Day in the Life” shoots whenever I travel with my family (esp. with my young nephews and nieces), so this is nothing new to me,” said Lianne when I asked her about this service. “I also love shooting candids so I’m very comfortable with this style. I’ve seen a lot of foreign blogs featuring “A Day in the Life” sessions, but I noticed there aren’t too many doing this locally, so I wanted to give it a try. I want to show that there is beauty in the everyday, that each seemingly ordinary day is special and beautiful in its own right.

“There is beauty in the everyday.” This is super-aligned with our belief here in Make it Blissful! I appreciate this approach to family photography, in particular. We’re often bombarded with heavily styled images of photoshoots that are planned from prop to hair accessory. Since our family isn’t fond of themes that are too flowery, frilly and fancy, we were totally on board with Lianne’s concept. We scheduled an afternoon shoot at our home and garden for sometime early February.

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“I’ve covered a lot of families/prenups that are into elaborately styled sessions. While I still love shooting styled sessions, I would also like to shoot sessions that focus more on the real emotions and unique personalities of the subjects and how the family members interact. Sometimes, the fancy outfits and the props would take away the attention from the subjects. These sessions also draw out more authentic expressions from the clients, since they are more relaxed and not pressured to smile for the camera. I think, years from now, clients would appreciate looking at these photos more since it is a more accurate representation of their family life.” — Lianne Bacorro

Lianne arrived, and I hadn’t even sorted out the house yet, nor had I showered or put on any makeup or gotten the kids ready. And I loved it! After sitting down to some drinks to talk things over, I just let Lianne start shooting whenever and wherever she felt like it. There were no planned areas, which means that everywhere you looked there was some little chaos going on: some spilled food here, a pile of boxes and random things there; magazines on the floor (on top of which was our electric fan); dishes in the kitchen sink and the dining room table. It was literally just a day in our crazy, working-from-home-with-two-kids lives in all its unglory.

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Looking at these photos makes me grateful all over again for our silly little family, our tiny simple home, and our little life together. There really isn’t much else I’d add to our lives (well, maybe some more travel, when we can afford to!). But when it comes to being “picture perfect,” for me it’s not about dressing up and styling our home for a photo shoot. It’s moments like these when we’re in our element that our best qualities are captured. So thank you, Lianne Bacorro Photography, for spending that afternoon with us. It really was some of the best fun we’ve had as a family! And these photos will last us forever, which is the best part of all.

Liann Bacorro is a Manila-based photographer specializing in a variety of lifestyle photography concepts. Connect with her via www.liannebacorro.com and her Instagram @photographybylianne

Cycles.

Cycles.

 

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Every time I small Krista’s baby smell, I’m reminded of when Vito was a baby. Funny, right? They look nothing alike, and yet so much about her reminds me of those days five years ago when I first became a mother. I had no clue what I was doing, despite the many books I’d read and websites I’d scoured. I only knew that I would provide the best possible for Vito: care, clothing, food, products, anything.

Now that Krista is here, I find myself at the starting line of motherhood again. She is very much like her older brother in her general cuteness, but she’s a lot different in temperament. I remember Vito being a very good natured and satisfied baby, no matter who carried him. But Krista is a high need baby. She prefers me over anyone else, and often cries when I leave her sight. A day with her is a seemingly endless cycle of hugs, kisses, cuddles, nursing, napping, carrying, and more hugs, cuddles… you get it.

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I struggled with this as her temperament became more obvious, perhaps around her 4th month. It was exhausting to be needed. The endless cycle of carrying her, entertaining her, feeding her, nursing her, and being there for her has had me — at some point — in tears. (In fact I kind of lost it the other day; she’s been teething and grumpy and clingy, you see.)

Times like these, I’m often tempted to compare my two kids. Why can’t she be more like her brother when he was this age? It’s a mental struggle I’m dealing with, and every time I fall into the comparison trap, I stop and remind myself to stop comparing… to be sensitive instead, to appreciate the cycles of her neediness.

My friends remind me to enjoy her clingy-ness. Lately I’ve been looking at it with more positivity (#makeitblissful, Martine!). I think I’m much better, and even while she’s crying out beckoning for me to return, I see it as something I need from her more than what she needs from me. I need her appetite for affection, her need to be touched, cuddled, embraced and nurtured. I need her seemingly endless cycles of hugs, kisses, cuddles, nursing, napping, carrying, and more hugs, cuddles… (lather, rinse, repeat — it kind of has that rhythm to it, haha!)

I need it so that I can be the mom she needs me to be.

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This essay is inspired by Cycles, Cycles Sensitive and Cradle Natural. I used Cycles and Cradle for my first baby’s needs, and have begun a new cycle of utmost love and care as I use them for baby Krista. Cycles is celebrating 10 years of uncompromised, natural baby care. For more information, visit cyclesbaby.com

 

Movie(ng) moments.

Movie(ng) moments.

“Two more sleeps, and then it’s Minions, Mom,” Vito reminded me a couple of days before Saturday. He had already prepared his H&M shirt, the one with the long sleeves, anticipating the airconditioning in the cinema.

“I’m going to get a hotdog and popcorn,” he mused, the night before while we had dinner.

“That’s great, babe,” I said. Looking back, I felt I responded rather nonchalantly, and I apologized the next day (not that he recalled!)

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I forget how quickly these days will pass, how he’ll not always look forward to going to the movies with me and his dad. We’ve taken him to the movies ever since he was comfortable being in the cinema, and these days it’s like he’s waiting on tenterhooks for the next big film to hit the screens. Any excuse to eat a tumbler of popcorn to himself, I suppose!

We arrived at the movies promptly before 3PM last Saturday — a special block screening by Monde — and I watched my little guy smile eagerly as I handed him his popcorn and lemonade.

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The movie was fun, but it was even more fun to watch him laugh out loud! It carried on next morning, when we made our #MyMamonMinions for breakfast. We went through two packs just to claim the icing so that he could make up four mamons! He’s quite the artist. (We also quite enjoyed the Belgian Waffles and Chocolate Muffins by Monde, too — yummy with coffee, for me and Ton, of course. Vito always has milk with his breakfast.)

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As a mom, movies with my little ones will be one of my fond memories. I know this because I remember the first movie I went to as a kid: Land Before Time, 1986, Pacific Place, Hong Kong. (We lived there then).

I don’t know how many movies Vito will watch along with us, but I will remember to count each of them as special.

I don’t know how many opportunities I’ll get to enjoy his creative bouts of inspiration… even if it is just to ice some sweet cakes in his favorite characters.

I don’t know how many memories I’ll make with him, but I hope that they will be too many to count. In the end, I just hope that he will cherish them as much as his Dad and I do.

Oh, I also saw my good friend Frances Sales of Topaz Mommy there with her family! Tried to get our two Vitos to have a photo together but it didn’t happen, so us nalang, haha! 

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This is an essay for Monde (http://www.monde.com.ph/mymamonminion), and their #MyMamonMinion campaign. A few of us bloggers were treated to a block screening — thanks, Monde! Follow #MyMamonMinion on Instagram to see fun creations, or upload your own Minion mamons, too. Thanks for reading!

Patience and the process

Patience and the process

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The other week, my son wanted to know how bread was made. After many trips to the supermarket, a lot of snack sessions in places like the French Baker and Sonja’s and Bread Talk, he was curious about the process enough to ask me to teach him. He made sure to remind me daily to buy all we needed: yeast, flour, baking soda, sugar, oil, salt, and milk. (We were going for a basic yeast & milk loaf from a recipe I’d learned as a kid.)

There are many lessons a child can learn from breadmaking. Unlike baking cookies, there’s a lot of waiting involved — something that a preschooler has a hard time dealing with! I explained the process would take a total of 3 hours, which to him was a lifetime compared to the 30 minutes it takes to bake our chocolate cookies, from bowl to oven to plate.

He agreed to wait. And so we began.

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Mixing the ingredients was the first step. I let him measure out each one to make the dough. “It’s important to follow the recipe properly when we bake,” I said, stressing the importance of taking things slow and deliberately measuring the right quantities, or the bread wouldn’t come out right. And so, we dissolved the yeast in a bit of boiling water; we measured the flour, the milk, the salt, the sugar, and I let him mix the mixture until he “felt tired.”

At this point we were only less than ten minutes into the process, but I took over since the dough was coming together and a bit challenging for him to mix. At least with my son, he shows that he is willing and eager to learn about things that interest him. Teaching him about the dough rising due to the yeast; the step of kneading the dough to let air in (which would make the bread soft); the second “rise” to let the bread set: I saw that he appreciated each step.

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Patience and the process. If there is anything I want my son to know when he is learning about the things around him (the food he eats, where and how his clothes are made, his toys, etc.), it’s that nothing comes about without someone putting the hard work into it.

“It’s easy to eat our bread every morning when we buy it from the supermarket,” I explained. “But can you imagine how hard bakers work to make us our bread each day, so that we will just have an easy time eating it?”

The baking session was meant to drive home that point: Patience and the process pay off with a yummy ending. He understood it, and after tasting the fruit of his labors (and waiting through the 2 and a half hour process of letting the dough rise, kneading it and letting it rise again), he was able to enjoy his bread more. He had his first slice plain and warm, and the next with some eggs later on that day.

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In teaching my son to bake a loaf of bread, I also learned a couple of lessons myself, mostly about my son and the way we’ve decided to let him learn things. I related to him how the yeast “wakes up” the other ingredients for the dough, how the yeast “eats” the sugars in the dough while it “sleeps”, creating the bubbles in the dough that make our bread soft and yummy.

He picked up well on it, but I think it will be good for us to bake some more to reinforce the lesson. But I find that he initiating the lesson made it so much more meaningful a learning moment to him. It is this “meaningful learning” that I cherish during these unschooling episode we’re in. In the past year, he’s picked up on quite a few things, like writing sentences on his own, using inventive spelling (starting January 2015), creating his own “superhero” stories, using mini sketchpads, telling time to the hour, and reading level 1 “I Can Read” readers, and the Kindergarten sight reading list, all on his own and enjoying them so much that we often buy two more copies each time we head to the bookstore (which is often)! Much like a lump of dough left to rise and expand, so is Vito’s knowledge and awareness of the world around growing gradually.

It’s not so much that he knows how to read and write. Of course I’m happy (and relieved!) that he does.

But what is most important is that he stays hungry, stays curious. (See what I did there? #stevejobsreference) It’s that his mind expands each time he learns something new, and hopefully, so does his awareness of the people and places and situations that shape his worldview.

I hope that he keeps on being hungry to learn. Not so much about how to study — not yet, anyway — but how to ask more questions, how to delve deeper into a topic that fascinates him (which today, was the skeleton), how to never stop expounding on what he knows. Just like the yeast that “gobbles” up sugars and expands the dough in the loaves we make, I hope Vito will keep on gobbling up these learning moments and grow wiser, deeper as a person. I remind myself to never tire of his constant questions and to see them as coming from a little mind that wants to get bigger and bigger, curiouser and curiouser.

May I never be a reason for him to want to stop being the inquisitive, sometimes naughty, but the always observant sponge of a learner that he is. May I have the patience to enjoy the process he is going through, because this is also a life lesson that I will be learning for the rest of my life.

Busy, tired, sleepy, but still a happy working mom. Here’s why.

Busy, tired, sleepy, but still a happy working mom. Here’s why.

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“I feel sorry for you,” someone said to me recently, while at a gathering. I knew the sympathy was targeted at my current situation, because my daughter happens to be a very attached baby. She prefers me to anyone else.

I must admit that yes, I feel sorry for myself sometimes. My daughter is five months old, teething, clingy, and often cries when anyone else holds her, even her dad. (Ton and I joke that she only likes him in the first two hours of the morning, which is their usual “daddy time” together, when she is in her best mood.)

It’s hard. It’s exhausting to be needed, to be the source of my daughter’s joy, to be the walking milk machine. And, because I have work to deal with, my schedule has just been in an uproar since Krista began to take shorter naps during the day (and — let’s face it — longer stretches of mommy time).

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But, I can hardly say I feel sorry for myself every single moment. I think about my decision to stop at two kids, and about how I don’t think another one will follow Krista. And then, suddenly, her neediness matters less.

It’s not always this way. I still crave extended times alone. I still wish I could go to the salon without a baby wrapped around me. I miss the times I could say “yes” to go to a meeting, or coffee or a lunch date, dressed nicely and with enough time to fix my hair properly and have my eyebrows shaped. (Don’t get me wrong; I look decent, I just always have the baby with me, whether to get my hair and nails done, or have myself made-up.)

I told my friend Frances about this, and she made me feel better. “My second kid was like that too, and I felt horrible… but he actually turned out to be the most outgoing because I brought him everywhere with me.”

In an instant, I saw my situation more blissfully. Thank you, Frances. 

I’m validated that I feel horrible too at times. But I’m also hopeful that all this attachment is going to be good for Krista somehow!

OK, so there is some good that comes out of bringing my baby everywhere. As a baby, she likes being out and about, being entertained by other people as long as I’m wearing her close to me. Who knows? In the future, she may be a great people-person, good at meetings and sealing deals like her mama!

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Bringing up bebe: I wore Krista during my recent workshop with Oster Philippines

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My other friend, Em, mused a similar thought on Instagram the other day, about bringing her kids to work for the same reasons. Her younger child is similar to Krista, prefering his mom to anyone else. And again, the affirmation to be an attachment parenting – working mom was there, like a sign for me that nothing was wrong, nothing was “not ideal.” So I have a clingy baby — no problem! Therefore I shouldn’t think it’s a problem for the people I work with, whether I’m Skyping from my workspace at home, or meeting in a resto in the city.

I’d venture to say that if moms want to work with their babies in tow, it’s not all for the sake of the babies: It’s for the sake of the moms, too. I know it’s that way for me: I’m a maidless mom, by circumstance and also because we’ve decided to keep things this way while we can. If I’m going to be working and raising my kids, I have to suck it up and live up to what I’ve decided to do.

Note: In fact, I asked Oster Philippines during my event with them recently, if I could wear Krista during my cooking demo. I weaved in the idea that using their appliances was so easy, a babywearing mom like me could cook a complete meal, hassle-free. Me being me, there is always a silver lining to a situation. Sorry, I can’t help it!

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As of this writing, I’ve just come from a meeting and sealed a deal for another blog coaching project and blog-build. My baby was there, nursing then napping in the shelter of my nursing cover, while I proposed a killer idea to my client. She is a mother, too, this new client, and someone I look up to and respect madly. “They’re only so small for so short a time,” she said, but at that moment it seemed ever so much wiser a piece of advice could ever be.

It’s taken me three attempts to hit “publish” on this blog post, because I’ve been interrupted by nursing calls, tummy times, cuddles and requests to be carried. I’ve also had to tend to a preschooler son’s needs — I haven’t forgotten him at all. “It won’t always be this way,” my colleague PM’d me this morning on Facebook, and I read it as coming from her with a wise smile, because I knew she was in my shoes a few years back.

I have nothing to feel sorry for. Sure, I may be tired most days. Sure, it can get stifling to be needed and wanted and adored by my baby. Sure, it’s not easy being a working mom, and by choice, without an extra helper at home. But I am happy, and nothing has stolen my joy.

Ok, I’m going back for cuddles, and hopefully I’ll be able to put the baby down for a nap long enough to get dinner on the table!

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For discussion: How do you deal with managing babies, your business and blogging, mamas?

Event: My next workshop is a crafty one! Care to join me and be part of the first to taste a new product I’m working on with Juice Hut Manila? Sign up here: makeitblissful.com/workshops