Dear Gianna,

Right as you hit your fifteenth month, we closed another school year. It wasn’t without challenges, but above all emotions I am grateful that we got to spend it together.

We: you, dad, and me. We rose early and drove wordlessly and went about with our daily routines for eleven months. Your father was miserable most of the time, I was often unfocused with the mix of duties, and you were a trooper amidst it all. You were sick more times than a baby your age should be, but I sure hope the bright side is that your immune system is beefed up.

And now, we are at a crossroads once again. Uncertainties are staring us in the face again. Our minds are littered with questions: Should Daddy go back to Manila for work, at the cost of seeing you only on weekends? How will it be with just you and me at home? What if there’s a thunderstorm and the lights go out? What if I need time for thesis? How do I drive us to work, when you’re so used to sitting on my lap, and is it even worth the escalating price of gas?

In spite of it all, my dearest, you have started walking. Tentative at first, but now braver.

In spite of it all, you have started talking. Words are starting to spill out: Mama, Dada, Papa, Nana, baba, dede, tete, niyaw-niyaw (cat), ff-ff (fish), there, Amen, nah, added to the array of gestures you sign like please, thank you, milk, water, eat, cracker, read, shoes, socks, car, yes…these all make me beam with pride that you can make yourself be understood in your own little way.

You have actual favorite books now, and you have active participation in every one of them (though I think you prefer Daddy’s read-alouds over mine). You laugh in context, have silly antics, and you give kisses and hugs that just about clears all troubles away.

There are times when you assert yourself and it gets exhausting, so battles are fought. You vs Me. Me vs Dad. Dad vs You.The last more often that I’d like, and I pray you don’t resent him for it. I may not always agree with his ways, but in my heart I know he means well. He means so well, sweetheart, that in fact, his misery this whole time is rooted in the fact that he can’t give the world to you.

Still we go back to gratitude.

Because how many families can say they had the blessing of time in the same workplace?
Because whatever comes our way, you are one thing we will always be thankful for.



At the Oakridge Moving Up Ceremony 2017-2018

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A Year Later, A Birth Story

My Gianna,

Around this time last year we were anxious, impatient, and inexplicably excited about exactly when you were coming.
I remember that I was half-hoping you’d make it to March, but then we can hardly wait to see you (we’ve been waiting for a good three weeks and it wasn’t particularly easy.) I remember how that weekend went on as usual, and then at dawn the following Tuesday, you were breathing the same air we do.
It’s been a year, my love, but the memory of you coming into this world runs bright and vivid in my mind.

Sunday night I was no longer able to sleep continuously because of the waves of teeth-clenching pain which came in 20-minute intervals. I was scared, but I waited until the sun came up to tell your dad that I was feeling pre-labor pains. On Monday morning, Daddy and I still walked around town and watched a movie at home. Contractions were already five minutes apart while we had dinner before checking at the hospital, and shortly after arriving I was already being wheeled into the delivery room. Turns out I was already 7 centimeters dilated. It’s all happening too fast, your Daddy and I thought, but we were wrong.

Three whole hours later of pushing and howling and shouting and crying and giving it all the strength I’ve got, the doctors had to do an emergency C-section to get you out.
It was just in time, too, for when you came out you were not breathing and almost blue.

As soon as I woke up in the recovery room, I asked Daddy how you were. He said you were okay but something about his wan smile told me not everything was fine. This motivated me to stand up as quickly as possible so I could get to you in the Newborn ICU. Twelve hours later, enduring the feeling of having the wind sucked out of me, I was finally able to stand with Daddy’s support.

This is the first image I saw of you outside my womb, taken from Daddy’s phone. Of course I cried a river.

The morning after, I held you for the first time. You looked so frail and fragile, and seeing the cannula up your pretty little nose broke my heart. It was not pleasant, that experience of birthing you, and on top of the trauma, I worried endlessly if you were going to be alright. I felt guilty about the distress and I ached all over, but seeing your tiny face took it all away. You were too weak and tired to latch or do anything but sleep but we kept trying until you took my breast the very day we were about to leave the hospital.

On your first night at home, we couldn’t stop watching you. We were careful with every move and uncertain if we were doing things right. We had no rhythm, and you did not come with a user manual so we had to rely on instinct and good old Google.

The rest, as they say, is history.

365 days with you, love, and each one is made fuller because you are here.
On your birthday, I pray that you emulate the meaning of your two given names: God is Gracious, and Wisdom. May God always be gracious upon you, and may you, in turn, share that graciousness to everyone to meet. Always remember that you are a testament to God’s wisdom and perfect timing, and I pray that as you grow older you will bear the same wisdom in all your decisions. I wish for you to grow up to recognize what God placed you in this world to be, and I promise that your dad and I will try our very best to get you there.
Since you came into our lives there are so many things we’ve done less of–like sleeping and eating out and going to the movies–but loving is not one of them.
Dearest Yanni, my Gianna, never have I loved more in all my life.
I love you more than I could ever have the words for.



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Tenth Anniversary Special

It was late last year when we realized that 2018 will mark our tenth year of marriage. (Gah, if our relationship were a person, it will be a fourth-grader!)
Of course we wanted to make it extra special.
Of course we thought of ways to make it so. We thought maybe we could travel, or have a love celebration with other couple friends and family members as we renew our vows to each other.
But it was late, as in we had little time. Also, realistically speaking, the money we make as slaves of the teaching profession doesn’t accord us with extra budget for travel, aaaaandd…I can barely find time to get a haircut, so time to plan a party was virtually nonexistent.
Nonetheless, we tried to make it as special as we could.

Last October, while we were in Manila to process some documents from my old Alma Mater, Rey suggested that we look at some rings from the jewelry shop where we had our wedding rings made many moons ago. I said I wasn’t much interested, but he insisted. His insistence was rooted upon the fact that he had already decided to get us new rings. I have to admit I was a bit opposed to this. I thought it was impractical, and I was worried we could not afford it. But he pointed out that I didn’t have mine (not that I lost it, but that it wasn’t where it was supposed to be) and what could be a better time for an upgrade than the celebration of our decade together?
So I agreed, and we tried out some designs and eventually landed on one we both like.


Fast forward to January 5, our anniversary date.
We started with a visit to the church, requested for a blessing by a priest in our parish, then offered a mass for thanksgiving.


We had no actual plans after, but I was craving for some sushi so we had a simple lunch at one of our favorite places for Japanese cuisine in Dagupan, then headed home.


At home, I eased Rey into a little request (though I know for him it will take a lot) which occured to me just that morning. I asked (with a tad more sweetness) if we could make a list of ten things we are thankful to each other for. He responded with pretend-annoyance and a pa-cute smirk.

The night wore on as per usual. We had dinner and watched Friends til it was bedtime, and before sleeping I asked if he had his list, because I am about to text him mine. He laughed it off and jokingly read aloud Yanni’s book: “Dear God, Thank You”, (which incidentally mentions 10 things) replacing God with ‘Hon’. I laughed along, kissed him good night and sent him my list.


I wasn’t expecting anything more from him after that, so my heart was a-flutter when I woke up to this:


It doesn’t take a genius to judge that his list is better-written, right?
So, there. Our Tenth Anniversary.
Nothing fancy, but it was as special as it could be.
My heart is content.

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It Takes a Village

When Gianna was born, I was able to tidy up around the house, do the laundry, and finish assigned papers for my online course.
But not without my husband taking charge of the stove, the dishes, and the errands. Not without my mother relieving me for two hours in the morning, and two hours in the afternoon so I could squeeze in getting stuff done, including bathing.

When Gianna was seven weeks, I woke up to her uneasy cries one midnight to find that her forehead was burning with fever. I was able to keep sane until her father arrived from the planned Manila trip he had to abort.
But not without my sister ready with her thermometer and medicine, checking up on us and worrying with me until the sun came up.

That following morning, Gianna was admitted in the hospital, and I got through that only because I had a sister who held her foot down as a nervous nurse inserted the IV line, and I had a husband who minded all our hospital chores.

When Gianna was ten weeks old, I had to take an exam for a subject I was enrolled in. I was able to focus and do well in it.
But not without Rey taking control. Armed with a pacifier, he shut our bedroom door and took the baby away so I could concentrate for three full hours.

The following day, I had to host back-to-back Moving Up Ceremonies. We survived a hectic day with a breastfeeding newborn that started at 6am and ended at 1pm.
But not without a small fight, a diaper disaster, and a dad that held her for 4 hours.

When Gianna was four months old, I was already back at work, and I had to do training for teachers. I was able to hold sessions without a baby in my hands.
But not without other teachers holding her in theirs. Not without my husband–a newbie teacher–having to participate in the sessions standing up because he has to rock her to sleep.

When Gianna was five months, School Year 2017-2018 opened. I dreaded how I was going to juggle baby care and the busiest time of the academic calendar, but I was able to bring her to work every day and take care of her without a yaya.
But not without having her wrapped around my torso while I did rounds in the classrooms. Not without a crib beside my desk. Not without a principal who insisted on putting that crib there, and relieving my sore arms and back once in a while. Not without friends visiting us at work to watch over her.

The point is, difficult things have been done since our daughter was born.
But it wasn’t without help.
Because it’s true what they say.

A doting husband, a caring family, loving friends, awesome workmates.
This is my village.
This is the village that my curious little girl will grow up in, and I’m already confident of the power it has to bring her up.
Way up.


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The Drama in Rolling Over

Dear Gianna,

You rolled over for the first time the other day, and I swear tears stung my eyes. Delight won over so I clapped my hands instead of crying.
Such a simple thing, this act of you turning over on your belly, but to me, it represents more than a physical milestone.
It’s you discovering your strength.
You figuring out the right amount of force to accomplish a task.
You were surprised, too. After days of kicking and turning, you finally got it! I saw the split-second of amazement in your eyes before you broke into a smile, mirroring my own.
It’s been eighteen weeks with you, my love. Merely a fraction in the span of time, but it’s already teeming with memories.
You’ve transitioned from gas smiles to giggles.
You’ve endured weeks of aircon-less nights in our sauna-like bedroom. You’ve gotten through fevers, colds, rashes, and IV insertions. You’ve gone to so many places newborns dare not go.
Wasn’t it just yesterday when we brought you home, uncertain and slow with the diaper change, and extra careful with handling, swaddling, watching, and everything else?
It wasn’t too long ago when you had to be fed every two hours then be rocked to slumber. I didn’t realize how difficult that was until now that you sleep for four, sometimes six-hour-stretches at night and I no longer have to get up because you can put yourself back to sleep.
Now you’re discovering what you can do on your own, and it’s both amazing and bittersweet.
I’m tempted to say slow down, but I also can’t wait to see more of the person you will be. So like what I’ve always said to you even while you were in my womb:
Grow strong, my love.
Meanwhile, I will watch in awe as you hit your milestones, and pray to dear God that I don’t miss any of them.






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Life lately

Life lately sounds like sharp cries for hunger, and wails of protest upon water touching a tiny face. Days are filled with the drone of a fan, only mildly successful in saving us from the sweltering heat. Life lately sounds like nursery rhymes and lullabies, happy, high-pitched voices and cooing responses.

Life lately tastes sweet–like halo-halo and ice cream so often craved as a momentary remedy for rising temperatures, like the mangoes that make lunch so much better.

Life lately smells like rubbing alcohol, oil and sweat; like the breath and skin of a newborn–distinct, delicate, delicious. The house has Rey’s cooking wafting through the air, and coffee shared in the morning–rituals we will not so frequently have once I get back to work.

Life lately looks like the clock being watched for the last feeding, the last diaper change, the last nap. Time is both slow and quick, chores are both easy and laborious.

Life lately feels like gentle kisses on chubby cheeks, like a solid weight on one’s arms, like sore muscles and heavy eyelids. Open, toothless smiles on an angel’s face make this life feel oh so light.

Life lately is a war between wanting to get through and staying in the moment. It is a phase of healing and reconnecting, both in body and in bonds. It is building routine, constant worrying about what’s normal, and relentless praying that everything is as it should be.

Life lately is centered on a fresh new life we brought forth, and life as we knew it will never be the same.

photo by Pascal Campion @pascalcampionart

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Recent Realizations

If there’s one big thing I realized recently, it is that things get easier with time. This learning is two-fold:

First, acceptance is the key.

Before we brought Yanni home I had it set in my mind that it was not going to be easy. But on our first night together, when she would rouse every 2-3 hours until the sun was brightly peeking through our bedroom window, I found myself in the wee hours of morning praying “No, this can’t be. This shouldn’t be.” A week went by, and then two, and somewhere in between I told myself, “if this is how it is, then so be it.” And now, almost seven weeks later, she sleeps for longer stretches and wakes only twice to feed at night.

Second, practice make perfect.

From changing nappies, bathing the baby, to feeding her, this rings true. Changing nappies used to be slow and frightening, now it’s easy and occurring less (thankfully:)).
Rey and I used to be so rattled when we give Yanni a bath, especially when she screams her lungs out, now we’re more relaxed and so is she.
There was a point when I was dreading the next moment Yanni gives a cry for hunger, because my nipples were so sore and I feared they couldn’t take anymore contact, but thanks to Medela Purelan (and the frequency of feeds, actually), it was all good eventually.
I have proven with these things (as with most things) that the more you do them, the more you get better at them.

At first I was frazzled by the amount of things to get done: baby care, house work, school work, office work, plus of course there’s time allotment for the husband, and for the rest of the family. But. Things get easier with time.
With God’s grace, a good support system, and a strong will, the floors will get swept, the dishes will get done, the laundry will get washed, the papers will be submitted, the deadlines will be met, the baby will fall into some sort of routine, and rest will sort itself out.

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