Three Dozen


The house is still. I just made myself my regular morning cup of coffee. I have that precious pocket of time to myself before the toddler and the husband wakes. Before chores and plans for the day.

Just the way I like mornings on a weekend.

Happy 36th, self.

You’re three dozen years old today. Do you like where you are?

You are a wife to a husband who has willingly chosen to stay home and care for your child while you work. A husband who is meticulous and particular with his parenting, and happiest at planning meals. A husband who knows you so well you’d end up with two packs of bacon in the freezer–one you bought for yourself, the other he bought as a sweet surprise gesture because he knew you’d want it for breakfast on your birthday.

You are a mother to a sweet girl who lights up the day with her tingling laughter and whose very being fills yours with pure joy.

You are pregnant with a baby boy–more than you could ever wish for–who is getting heavier and more active every day, and whose arrival is much anticipated this June.

You are a mentor to hardworking, creative teachers.

You are a friend to lovely people excelling and making their mark in their chosen fields.

You are a sister and daughter to a family which, after years of turmoil, is now in a calm state, thanks to the presence of little children.

Yes, there are less than ideal facets to your current state.

You currently have no steady monthly savings like you used to.

Your house is littered with trinkets and toys because you can’t invest in home improvement.

You’re waiting for a change in the place and pace of your living situation. You’re looking to leave the country bearing bright dreams for the welfare of your children, but right now, that is beyond your control.

A lot is interim, you are in-between, and you have no choice but to take things as they go by.

But you’re good, 36-year-old self.


From where I stand, I like what I see.

Proof: I always get the birthday blues (since I turned 25, I think?) I have qualms about growing old. But today, I’m chill.

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Year Two

My Dearest Gianna,

As we enter a terrific stage, there is a slight terror attached with the excitement. Slight, because you’re you.

At 24 months, you’re still cautious as ever. With the same hesitation you took in learning to crawl from a sitting position, you step into slats and stairs slowly and surely. You’re still afraid to take both feet off the ground so no matter how you love watching Roo and Tigger bounce, you still can’t jump. You’re also not much of a runner, but you love jogging the sleepiness away in bed, giggling as you flop onto the cushion. You’re not much of a talker, either, but a conversation is definitely possible with you. You nod earnestly to show agreement, and violently blurt out NO (with matching head shake and hand gestures) to make it clear that you don’t like something. With a mix of signs, repeated syllables and slightly discernible words, you communicate useful verbs, fruits, animals, objects in the house, modes of transportation, favorite characters, some colors, shapes, about 4 letters, and 2 numbers. You’re shy around new people, but will always bless or kiss with sound when asked.

At 24 months, you’re still dainty, tentative, and easy to comfort. And I pray ever so fervently that while you keep that sense of carefulness as you grow older, may you also bear strength and focus that will drive you to do many great things, and be whatever you want to be.

I love you, my dear Gianna Sofia, my Yanni Bunny, my sunshine, my firstborn.

You continue to teach me so many things, and the joy you give us is beyond compare.
Happy birthday, sweetheart. 💛



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Taking Stock

Making: the most out of no-work mornings, when I could find time to sit by our kitchen window to read, think, have coffee.

Cooking: make-believe dishes in plastic measuring cups to “feed” a toddler learning the basics of pretend play.

Drinking: Coffee, always coffee. 🙂

Reading: literacy journals to prepare for thesis writing, Ron Clark’s The Excellent 11 for work, and revisiting Fates and Furies for fun (?)

Wanting: to be home as quick and early as possible. I hate the fact that vans from my hometown have gotten scarce, and I have to resort to riding a jeepney, which lengthens travel time.

Looking: for a copy of The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori.

Playing: songs from my phone again, since I have some alone time to listen to music during the commute to and from work.

Watching: Modern Family Season 9, The Bucket List Family videos on YouTube, Barney, and all them Winnie the Pooh movies.

Wasting: time on social media when I should be occupied with more productive endeavors.

Wishing: that the coming months bring us more favors.

Enjoying: the little pockets of time I now have again for myself: early mornings when both baby and daddy are asleep, and my work commute.

Waiting: for the processing of a potentially life-changing application.

Liking: today’s outfit—crisp white button-down, jeans, and tan lace-up sandals with stacked heels, courtesy of my sister.

Wondering: what’s going on in my husband’s head.

Loving: the sound of Yanni’s laughter. When I hear it I always think it should be bottled up and sold as an anti-depressant.

Hoping: that Yanni’s German measles resolve right away.

Marveling: at how Yanni can now connect prior knowledge to new information. Some anecdotes: her Chicka-Chicka ABC book has a drawing of a coconut tree, and she opens a page and then points to the coconut tree outside our window, saying “tah”; one of her current favorite songs is The Green Grass Grows All Around by Barney, and I was surprised when one night she got Is Your Mama a Llama, turned to a page with a turtle and some eggs, pointed at it, and made an egg-in-nest gesture; she loves playing with AR Animals Cards now, and she constantly picks up similar animals to show us, like the egret and flamingo, rhino and hippo, antelope and Sika deer, as if to ask to explain how they are different.

Needing: to know if this is, in fact, the best set-up for our family right now.

Wearing: clothes I haven’t worn in months which are starting to smell musty because of this wet, wet weather.

Noticing: how much Yanni has grown and that she’s starting to be more willful.

Knowing: that the strength of a parent’s love is constant. It brings so much comfort to know that I have my parents’ support no matter what—whether it’s money I need or extra hands to help with my child.

Thinking: about how complicated parenting is, and how my husband and I seemingly have different approaches, and how we could resolve these differences, and how it will affect our daughter as she grows up.

Feeling: uncertain, uneasy; like something is not quite right.

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Mom Guilt

Ok, so let’s talk about guilt for a minute.

I have to leave my eighteen-month old daughter to go to work now, because our yaya of eleven months went on to search for greener pastures.

It wasn’t actually bad. Daddy dearest was up to the task, and my parents assure me she’s well-fed and well-behaved. Leaving in the morning is not as difficult as I imagined. In fact, I welcome the time to be alone with my thoughts, and yes, to read again (already I’ve crossed the halfway mark in one nonfiction book and I’ve picked up another novel that I have so far read 76 pages of).

But that doesn’t mean I’m not wracked with this pressing feeling that instead of being at work I should be with her. I rush to head home as soon as I can, pushed by guilt.

And also because I miss her, but goshdarnit, mom guilt is real.

I follow several moms in Instagram and lately I got interested to read up and learn more about the Montessori approach. Watching videos left me in awe, wishing there was a community like such where I could place Gianna in. Then I begin to question if I’m doing enough, or if I’ve perhaps committed an incorrigible mistake without knowing it, and then all the guilt follows suit.

There are nights when she’s fussier than usual, wanting to nurse again and again and again. Just the other night she was awake at 1am, and intermittently asked for ‘dede‘ practically every hour until 5am. I’m guilty of wanting to stop breastfeeding altogether, and guilty of not trying harder to train her to drink from the bottle (maybe if I did her weight gain wouldn’t have been so slow), and guilty for all the times she’s been sick, and guilty for feeding her easy meals instead of painstakingly, lovingly prepared ones, and guilty for leaving her to Pooh and Friends at the Hundred Acre Wood when she’s supposed to be exploring some mini-forest or the great outdoors.

I swear, how did parenting become so guilt-laden?

Oh, wait. I know the answer to that one.

Social freaking media.

And then one morning, thanks to a friend who has always kept me in perspective, I heard what I needed to hear. That Montessori can be too rigid, that things have to be in context, that I’m awesome just by trying, and my child will turn out great.

So then I remind myself to stop comparing.

Because it’s been said and well, proven: Comparison is the thief of joy.

I placate myself with the idea that G is growing up, and so it’s okay that we’re not tied at the hip 24/7, that I want to wean her off the boob, that we spend longer hours apart because as she grows older, the reality is: she will need me less. And that’s okay. (though it causes a part of me to slightly panic 😥) That’s okay because she will be her own person, and there’s more to myself than just being her mother.

Lastly, I am assured by my frenemy the Internet that the very fact that I worry about being a bad mom is a sign that I’m not.

Mom guilt is real, but so is our love for our children. We can’t be all perfect, but if we try hard, we parents will know our children best, and the kind we strive to be for them is as perfect as they will ever need.

So it’s been two weeks since the first draft of this entry, and as of this writing G has a centavo-sized bump on her forehead which she incurred from falling off the bed–minutes before I had to head out the door. I was tempted to not go to work, but it was our first day back after a week and a half-long cancellation of classes, and I needed to sub for one absent teacher. Mom guilt alert again, especially when I recall the sound of her sobs while she suckled at my breast for comfort. Mom guilt alert, but whenever I see her face–that sweet innocent face that says as long as I’m around everything will be alright–I’m reassured that everything is alright.

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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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