Archives for October 2013

Integrity of Heart

Our children know that lying is wrong and truthfulness is important. However this conviction does not kick in until they have a relationship with Jesus Christ and grow in their faith.

Yesterday morning Edan asked Edric if he could install an app on the IPad. Edric told him to wait for him to review it. (We are careful about the time spent on games and the type of games — preferably educational.) Both of us had a meeting outside of the house so Edan had to control his desire to start playing with the app. When we got back Edric found out that Edan honored his request so he called him into the room to commend him.

“Sit down, Edan, I want to talk to you… I am very proud of you for having integrity. Do you know what that means?”

“No.”

Edric explained, “Integrity is doing what you are supposed to do even when no one is looking.”

I watched this dialogue from my position on the bed, while holding Catalina and feeding her.

Edan smiled at first but then his face and posture suggested that he was bothered. He began to say, “Sometimes I do things that you tell me not to do…when you are not around.”

“Like what?” Edric prodded.

(Yeah, like what? I thought to myself, bracing myself for his answer. What could it possibly be? Edan is a serious guy, this might be something serious. What is it? What is it?!)

Edan continued, “Sometimes I change outside of the bathroom.” And he started to cry.

Huh?! That was it?! I started to cry. My sweet son was convicted about that?! I thought of how tender his heart is.

Immediately, Edric pulled him over to hug him. “That’s ok. Thanks for telling me.”

Edan also added, “And sometimes, Tiana comes into the bathroom when we are all taking a shower. And sometimes, I go into the bathroom when she is taking a shower.”

“Is there anything else?” Edric asked.

Edan shook his head. “That’s all I can think of.”

Here’s a backgrounder: Edric had a rule about modesty. He said the kids should change in private and not run around naked. He wanted them to be gentlemen. He also wanted the boys and Tiana to take a shower separately from one another because she is a girl. The thing is, right now they share a bathroom so it’s pretty challenging to follow this rule.

Edan really took that principle to heart and he was bothered when Edric complimented him for being honest. I looked over at Edric to signal him that we need to revise that rule as “try your best not to” instead of an absolute “have to.” Otherwise, someone like Edan, who is very rule-conscious, might end up having unnecessary guilt about these things. It isn’t something major.

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I wanted to share this story because Edan’s desire to do what is right is a mark of the Holy Spirit’s work in his life. A few years ago, he would not have been like this. He would sometimes connive and manipulate to get his way. And now he is willfully confessing his mistakes. I really believe it is because he made Jesus Lord and Savior of his life and he is growing in his faith. It is the Holy Spirit who puts in him the desire to practice righteousness. Nowadays, he admits it when his motivations are wrong and he confesses when he feels guilty about something.

It really blesses me that he has a tender conscience. He knows he can get a spanking when he voluntarily admits that he disobeyed a command. And if he doesn’t tell us we wouldn’t know. But he wants to walk in truth.

I had a parent ask me one time about a child who had a problem with lying. One of the first things I asked was, “Does the child have a relationship with Jesus?” Habitual lying in a child is symptomatic of their fallen nature. We are all born liars. The cure is to come to Christ, grow in Christlikeness, and listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit when he tells us to change a wrong in our lives.

The bible tells us, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 NASB)

We need to pay attention to the deeper spiritual issues in the lives of our children — the kind that cannot be cured by discipline alone. For example, I don’t think spanking is a good solution for something like lying. A child should be motivated to have integrity because they understand accountability to God and not because they are afraid of getting caught. They need to understand that God rewards those who live to please him in public and private.

When I was in college, I made some bad choices even if I had a relationship with God. I wasn’t physically pure while dating Edric. But I couldn’t live with this secret and neither could Edric. So before we got married, there was a point when we confessed our sinfulness to our parents. We didn’t have to tell them but we did. In fact, it might sound ridiculous that grown adults would do such a thing. However it was one of the best things we did as a couple. We wanted to have integrity before God.

This is a great Psalm to remind us to walk in integrity and truth (especially for leaders of the Philippines!):

O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, But who honors those who fear the Lord; He swears to his own hurt and does not change; He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. (Psalms 15:1-5 NASB)

Before I Do

Imaginenation is putting on another Before I Do workshop this month. This is a great way to prepare for marriage, if you are engaged or dating. Edric and I were invited to speak at this event again. We always enjoy being a part of it and seeing the twinkly eyes of the couples who are so in love with one another. We hope to keep that twinkle in their eyes beyond the honeymoon by sharing biblical and practical principles on marriage.

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Contact Imaginenation if you are interested:
+632.7137189 / +632.5063149
+63917.5634685 / +63917.8541559

Maneuverings of God

A friend recently asked if I had any extra breastmilk to spare. It’s very interesting how God works. If Catalina had not gotten sick, I never would have pumped like I have. Although I only pumped once or twice a day (at most), I did have some bags of milk to give her. Our babies aren’t too far apart in age, too.

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With my previous babies, I hardly pumped. I would pump the day I needed to be out — to go shopping, attend a meeting, or go on a date. I didn’t have anything stored in the freezer. Never used storage bags and never even used an electric pump. Pumping seemed like such a hassle to me. Simple was always the way I wanted to go through motherhood. So I just breastfed direct. There was no need to purchase a sterilizer or a bottle warmer either. And I did fine with Philips’ manual pump.

However, my househelp lost the one part of the pump that is most difficult to replace. I had another one coming in from the US but not for several weeks. So when Catalina got pneumonia I had no choice but to buy a new pump. She was not feeding. If I did not pump my supply would decrease.

I was upset at first. I felt like crying because it was another thing to worry about on top of caring for Catalina. Of all the househelp that could have been responsible for the lost part it was the one lady who was forced to resign because she had anger issues. So there was no way of recovering it. Yet once again, this was part of God’s plan.

I went to Mothercare to buy a pump and picked up a single Medela pump that was practically the same price as Philips’ manual one. If this was my first child, I might have considered buying a dual pump. Since Catalina is probably my last, I didn’t want to pay for a dual.

The Medela pump worked very well. It was noisy but that didn’t bother me since I pumped at home. Edric would sometimes say, “shhh” in the mornings but most of the time he was joking.

Because the electric pump was easier to use than my old manual one, I was more motivated to pump. Even though I did not have hundreds of bags of milk (like some of my friends do when they are breastfeeding), I was pretty happy to see the freezer filling up with my milk.

And then my friend asked me if I had any spare and that’s when I realized that God’s hand had orchestrated a series of events for her sake. He got me to start pumping milk when I normally do not and he allowed the part of my manual pump to be lost so I would replace it with a more efficient one.

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I just think its amazing how God works to meet the needs of his children. My friend is going to require more milk for her baby and I don’t know if I can pump enough, but I’m sure God will provide someway somehow, if not through me then another mom.

What we may sometimes perceive as inconveniences to us and detours in our own plans (like Catalina’s hospitalization or losing the vacuum seal on my manual pump), these are part of his bigger plan. If we could step outside our microscopic viewpoint — the one that tends to fixate on problems — we would realize that these are divine maneuverings by an all-knowing God. His intention is to make us more useful for good work, so we can become channels of blessing and love.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NASB)

Support Me

Edric rarely has to ask me to support him. That’s a given. I do. I want to. But every once in a while I forget what it means to be emotionally supportive and encouraging.

Some days ago, Edric and I were talking about a decision he made that was uncharacteristic of him. I was very upset with him and also concerned that he was not using his time profitably. He had this streak of online computer gaming where I felt like he just lost it. Because he had not done this in a very long time, I wondered if he was okay spiritually.

Whenever Edric doesn’t seem okay spiritually it makes me feel insecure as a wife because I rely on his leadership for our family. (For the most part, he doesn’t give me anything to worry about.)

I ventured to ask, “How are you doing spiritually?”

He was laying on the bed, looking up at the ceiling with his hands behind his head, reflecting on the answer to my question. And then he started to open up to me about the stress in his life as of late, sharing a list of things that have filled up, what he called, his “frustration box.” I listened quietly while holding Catalina in my arms. Most of it had to do with work and our house building. Some of it seemed valid but some of it seemed like unnecessary sources of stress.

I thought I could “help” him get back on track. So I couldn’t wait to share my insights on what he was thinking and feeling. When an opening presented itself, I jumped right in and started going on and on about the kind of perspective he should have…the correct “spiritual” perspective. I didn’t really acknowledge his feelings. I just wanted to identify what he was doing wrong and how he could fix it. It must have been really annoying to listen to me.

I have done this before and it never turned out well.

Edric does not appreciate it when I tell him what he should feel and think. First, he already knows what he should be thinking and feeling. He allows himself to be vulnerable with me because I am his closest confidant. Second, I am not supposed to teach him. That’s the Holy Spirit’s role.

What Edric prefers from me is encouragement. He wants to be able to come away from a conversation with me feeling hopeful about the future. He needs me to cheer him on when he is disappointed with himself.

At a certain point he wanted to drop the conversation and move on because he wasn’t feeling any better. My mistake was I pursued the same approach further. I tried to tell him that he wasn’t listening to good advice from me, that perhaps his pride was getting in the way. I even said, “If you are not willing to listen to me, your wife, who knows you best, then how can you really improve?” There was a voice in me telling me to keep quiet and shut it but I just kept on yackity-yacking away.

Well we both ended up irritated with each other. I was quiet for a while until Edric told me very honestly, “I need you to support me.” He explained that during this instance, he would have appreciated a hug and positive words, not a reiteration of what he was doing wrong.

He even said, “It’s supposed to feel like a safe place when I open up to you.” Instead, he felt bullet-holed by all my statements. He felt like I thought less of him and interpreted his frustrations as weakness.

Of course I had to apologize. I felt terrible. Even if my intentions may have been right, my method was totally ineffective. I discouraged him when I was supposed to be a lifegiver along-side him. And I knew what the problem was. It was a personality difference. I grew up in a home where my father and mother were very much head-over-heart type of people. Therefore I turned out to be pretty much the same. When there is an issue, I want to get to the spiritual solution right away and move on. But if I am not careful, I can come across as unwilling to empathize with what Edric is going through and this hurts him. So I said, “I have to grow in the area of empathy, will you forgive me for not being more understanding?”

Edric is easy. When I admit that I need to change in an area that he would like me too, his heart softens and he becomes very sweet. First, he said sorry for the choices he had been making as of late. Next, he affirmed me by saying, “I want you to always remember three things about me.” (He wanted to tell me this because he knew this discussion’s precursor was my concern about him.)

I will always love you.
I will always take care of you.
I will always be willing to change.

Not long after I came across this passage in Proverbs…

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. (Proverbs 12:25 NASB)

Sometimes I forget that Edric has a lot to carry on his shoulders. He has his ANC tapings, the homeschool program of TMA, numerous speaking and hosting activities, ministry and our house building to think about. I don’t always realize what it is like for him because he is so busy making sure I don’t have to feel any of his stress. All his hard work makes my life easy. So when the anxiety builds up, he needs my emotional support. He told me “if I can’t open up to you and be vulnerable with you, whom will I be that way with?”

As wives we need to remember that it’s our unique privilege to be encourager to our husbands, to support them with a good word when they need it and make their heart glad. Of all the people in the world, that good word of encouragement matters most from us.

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Sweet Randomness Part 2

BROTHERLY LOVE:

Elijah came home from a seminar he spoke at with his dad two Tuesdays ago. He went upstairs to say hi to everyone and then sat down at the table looking very forlorn. Everyone started eating but he seemed sad.

Out of nowhere he said “Nobody was excited to see me come home.” And he started to tear. (He can be very dramatic.)

I was surprised he felt this way…my 10 year old, big boy.

He continued, “Only Nancy (the househelp) said, Hi Elijah how are you? Edan didn’t even pay attention to me. He was just doing his computer programming when I arrived. You (mom) just went to your room to be with Catalina.”

Edan was equally surprised that Elijah felt this way.

I knew Elijah just needed some attention. So I asked him to come sit by me and I put food on his plate and asked him about his time with his dad.

Edan didn’t think he needed to apologize for being busy with computer
programing but he very thoughtfully said, “I saved your cup noodles even if mommy told me to eat them and I didn’t eat your ice chocolate.”

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AFRAID OF THE DARK:

Edan doesn’t like to use the toilet by himself when the lights are turned off. So he always tries to get one of his siblings to accompany him.

“Titus! Do you want to use the bathroom? Come, come let’s go…”

Titus replies, “No, I don’t want to.”

Edan finds another victim…”Tiana! Do you want to go to the bathroom?”

“No.”

“Do you want a prize?”

“Yes!”

She runs to the bathroom to accompany Edan and comes back with no prize.

Suckered…

LIPSTICK:

Tiana walks into my room and with conviction says, “I really really need makeup.” (I don’t know where she gets this. I don’t wear a lot of make up.)

So I give her lipgloss instead to play with.

A few days later, she comes home from church with her lips all glossy. I noticed them in the car. They looked very pretty but I wondered how she put the lipgloss on.

I asked her, “Can you show me how you put on lipgloss?”and she demonstrates it for me (very skillfully.)

“Where did you learn to do that?”

“Sunday school.”

Hmm…I sure hope not…

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SUBTLE MESSAGING:

I take Tiana with me when I do errands so we can spend time together. One afternoon she was being too rambunctious in the backseat and I asked her to stop.

She didn’t like being told to stop moving around so she started inventing a tune and singing to herself, “I love mommy sometimes…sometimes I love mommy.”

Of course I started laughing.

I can’t get enough of these kids!!!

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Don’t Make This Heaven

Catalina picked up a bug again. But so far, it hasn’t progressed to a dangerous point. Whew. She’s stuffed up and coughing but smiley, interactive, and eating well.

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I was stressed out when she came down with another respiratory illness. After all it was just one month ago that she had her second confinement. We tried our best to isolate her. I made people wear masks. No sick person was allowed near her. She was kept at home when we went out. But she developed a cold nonetheless.

While I was running I had my prayer time. I shared with the Lord my concern and worry. I was so paranoid about Catalina being sick because I didn’t want her to relive being in the hospital again. At night I watched her and held her just to make sure she could sleep in an upright position to ease her congestion. I felt discouraged that all my efforts to protect her in the last month amounted to this. But God spoke to me. He told me, hey, this is normal. People get sick. The perfect, pristine, germ-free, problem-free world I want for Catalina and the rest of my kids does not exist here. This is earth. In this world, there is disease, heart ache, poverty, injustice and suffering. There are natural disasters (like the recent earth quake in Bohol), calamities and evil people.

However, the sentiment that followed was…don’t lose heart. This isn’t home. This isn’t it. This isn’t final.

I need to back track a little and explain that we have been at the finishing stages of our housebuilding. The prospect of our own home was making me feel more situated on earth than ever before. I could finally settle down and root myself somewhere. No more condo living (which always felt very transient.) This was going to be a home to grow old in and enjoy our children in.

I had visions of the life we would have…the children playing in the yard, gardening, homeschooling in our new study room, cooking in our much bigger kitchen, going for evening walks as a family, spending time in the family room, having barbecues on the patio, entertaining guests, and on and on. Each of these fantasies was haloed by fair weather clouds and sparkly sunshine.

Then pop! Catalina’s cold happened. I needed to be reminded that this is a passing, fading, fallen world.

In a very subtle way, I saw the house as the fulfillment of my earthly wishes. But here’s what God has been impressing upon me: Don’t make this heaven. Don’t anchor your heart here, in this disease-stricken world (disease-stricken in more ways than just the physical). Do not fall in love with it. Enjoy your new home when it comes but don’t forget, this is just earth. Don’t get too cozy and comfortable. You are not in your permanent residence yet. You are still in transit. And while you are on temporary status don’t forget your real purpose.

My real purpose is tell people about God. God loves us. He gave us his son, Jesus, to die for us and pay the penalty of sin so we can have eternal life.

Whatever happiness and blessings we receive now are but a foreshadow of the riches of eternity. And whatever trials we experience at present ought to make us long for what God has prepared for us. The apostle Paul so beautifully describes it as this: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NASB)

Baby Shower for Baby Sisters

I am not an event planner but I really enjoy opening up my home to people. My mom was the same way so I must have learned this from her. Since our house isn’t done yet, I asked my mom if we could have a baby shower for my sister, Carolyn, and sister-in-law, Jenny, in her place. They are both due in December. She suggested we have one for Astrid, too. Astrid is a long time family friend who is a pastor’s kid like me and she is due even sooner than my sisters. My mom’s idea was to invite the pastor’s wives to share with all the preggy moms words of wisdom.

So it was a team effort to put together this baby shower. My mom and I worked very well with one another. We usually do. We have similar tastes and she never gets stressed when it comes to hosting parties and events which is great because I can get frazzled when things go awry. She, on the other hand, just floats around in her happiness and finds creative solutions when something goes wrong.

I took care of the decor and food preparation and she invited the guests and asked them to share their insights on motherhood.

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I thank God that I live in the Philippines because I could hand off Catalina to her yaya when I had to decorate and cook. Here is the pink and blue theme for a baby girl and two baby boys…

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Menu:
– Mixed Green Salad with Mangoes,
Apples and caramelized walnuts.
– Deviled eggs
– Pumpkin Soup
– Pasta Carbonara
– Grilled Rosemary Ranch Chicken on skewers
– Homemade Fruit Tea
– Cupcakes

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Drawing the Outdoors

We went to the park to have a picnic and draw nature. I love homeschooling!

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No One Outgrows Love

My mom and dad have a daily habit of walking. If possible, they do so twice a day, early in the morning and after dinner. In the mornings, swimming is part of that routine, especially for my dad. He will rarely miss being in the pool to do his laps. Being the incredibly disciplined person he is, sticking to a schedule is a priority. He invites my mom to do the same and together, they have enjoyed this daily form of exercise.

No matter where they are in the world (for as long as they aren’t in transit or attending an event or seminar) they will try to exercise.

When we were growing up my parents encouraged my siblings and I to walk with them, too. Mom and dad used this time to connect with us and get to know us better. Informal, relaxed, and outdoors, these elements were conducive to conversation.

So it became a family habit to walk and talk. We would often share with them what was going on in our lives as we made our way up and down the hills of Antipolo (where we spent most of our childhood). Walking time was synonymous with family bonding time.

Oh so long ago...

Oh so long ago…

My siblings and I are all married now and we have families of our own. But whenever we are at my parents’ place for a visit, they ask us to join them for these walks.

Saturday morning was one of those occasions. Mom and dad asked Edric and I if we wanted to go for a walk. They had just gotten back from their trip to the US and hoped to reconnect with us.

I saw my dad dressed to go for a swim at the park. (His usual attire is a t-shirt, cap, and trunks with a pair of goggles in one hand.)

Since Edric and I were also eager to find out how their trip went, we rounded up the kids. “Let’s go walking!”

We got them to join in on the morning’s exercise. It was drizzling. Everyone took an umbrella (except for me because I don’t like using umbrellas unless I absolutely need to carry one) and we headed towards the park.

On the way, my parents told us about the conference they went to and about visiting with my sister and her family. However, for most of the distance, they wanted to know how we were. They wanted to listen to our stories.

My dad actually walked to the park and back without going for a swim. Although he was dressed up for it, he decided he would accompany us all the way back to the house first. He didn’t want our conversation to be cut short. At first, I thought it was due to the rain. But when we arrived at the house, I heard him tell his driver that he needed to be dropped off at the park. He was still going to go swimming.

“Why didn’t you swim when we were there earlier?” I asked him.

“I wanted to be with you guys,” was his reply.

He knew that if he had gone swimming then Edric, mom, the kids and I would have walked back to the house without him. And he didn’t want to be absent while we continued talking. More than that, he wanted to convey that we were important.

I hugged him. “Thanks dad.”

It may not seem like such a big deal but it was to me. I know how routine and goal-oriented my dad is. When he walks to the park, he goes there to swim. That’s his agenda. It is very unusual for him to allow disruptions in his schedule. So postponing his swim was a sweet gesture. He wanted to extend the opportunity to talk to Edric and I and be with our kids. It made me feel very loved.

It’s a blessing that we still get to share these walks from time to time. And I don’t think I will ever outgrow them. More than the actual exercise, it’s the fellowship that my siblings and I (and our spouses) enjoy. It still matters alot to us that mom and dad want to be tuned in to what’s going on in our lives.

As a parent myself, I know how much my own children value the time and attention Edric and I give to them. When we block off our schedules to be with them it tells them they are a priority. Even doing simple things like walking together, playing board games, sitting around the dinner table or telling stories make a powerful impact. In fact they like it alot more than receiving material presents from us because they have our undivided attention and presence. This is more precious to them.

Children long for this kind of assurance, to feel special…even grown up children. No one quite outgrows the desire to be loved and cherished by their own parents. And it doesn’t take expensive gifts to communicate this. More often than not it is the gifts of time, attention, genuine interest and concern that children want from their mom and dad.

“To Be Continued”

The kids love it when Edric invents stories. He tells them almost every night while the kids are tucked in their beds. On nights when he misses story-telling time, he runs a tab with the kids. Like tonight. He had to make up four stories.

I am laying down in the room with the kids while they listen, completely riveted. The stories he tells revolve around 7 characters with similar traits and names to our own family. But they each have a super power and work together on different missions. He interjects spiritual truth and character traits, too. It’s like a TV series only better because the kids have to use their imagination.

Edric isn’t the type to read a storybook but he enjoys story-telling. He is so great at creating these make believe plots that are ridiculous but absolutely entertaining for the kids. I don’t know how he does it but he sits there inventing on the fly and the kids look forward to it every night. He told me he likes the challenge of his multi-level audience and getting reactions out of them. He also likes getting to know them as he studies their responses to his comedy or serious parts.

This routine started a few weeks ago when Edric saw Edan’s achievement test results. Everything was great except for his listening skills. When we discussed how we can help him to improve in this area, he said he would try telling stories. Of course I was thrilled! Since I do most of the homeschooling, I appreciate any sort of participation and input Edric can give to our kids. So far, these stories have been a creative way to get Edan to practice attentiveness and comprehension. Since he is a visual learner, he relies more on pictures and text. His ears need to be “trained.”

Although the initial intent was to help Edan, the kids have all gotten hooked on these stories. They remind Edric every night that it is story time or they tell him how many stories he owes them.

I imagine that someday the kids will remember these entertaining evenings. And while Edric’s stories are very interesting, I know it is his time that really matters to them. He is a busy man and the nights are perfect for him to wind down and relax. But he goes out of his way to be with the kids.

In the past he would make sure to pray with them before bedtime and they always asked for this. But with the added component of a bedtime story, the kids are developing a new kind of affection for him. They know he wants to spend extra time with them and it makes them feel really special.

He ended his story # 4 tonight in the usual manner he does, “to be continued” and they gave their usual protest “What?! Why?! because they didn’t want to be left hanging. But they know that their dad will be back tomorrow night with another good tale to tickle their imaginations. And what they know even better is that he loves them.

I snapped pictures of the kids while they were listening…(Edan looks depressed but that’s just his serious face. It was probably a serious part of the story. Elijah looks like he is sleeping but that’s how he listens.)

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The Thoughtful Things Children Do

A few days ago I mentioned to Edan that I would appreciate it if he did not knock on the door when it was closed. He had knocked incessantly and it woke Catalina up. Lately, all my kids have been doing the same thing when they want to ask me a question and the door is locked. I explained to Edan that the door is locked so I can feed Catalina, put her to sleep or rest.

Edan understood and asked “Do you want me to make you some signs?” He wanted to be helpful.

“Sure! That’s a good idea!” I said.

I didn’t think he would remember but earlier today he very thoughtfully made me three signs. He slipped them under the door while I was preoccupied with Catalina.

Allow me to interpret them…

The first one: Mom is putting Catalina to sleep

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The second one: Mom is sleeping with Catalina

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The third one (my favorite): Mommy is feeding Catalina

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Children are such a joy!

RKs

Each time Edric and I have a child, it’s like starting a family all over again. The joy is unparalleled but so is the stress that comes with caring for a baby. It certainly affects the dynamic of our marriage but we put in the effort necessary to preserve our identity as a couple.

The baby-at-the-center-stage lasted only a few weeks with our previous births. After we got a routine going, Edric and I were able to go out on dates and revisit couple-hood.

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With Catalina, it was different from the very beginning. Edric became second priority in my hierarchy of human relationships and I wasn’t as eager to make him first. He was a good sport about it for the first two weeks but after that, he began to say, “I miss you, hon.” I would hear this almost everyday. He said it with a measure of sadness and heartfelt longing.

I would look up from my catatonic breastfeeding position and reciprocate with, “I miss you, too.” I meant it but I expected Edric to understand that Catalina’s needs were more important than his, especially since she had been a hospitalized baby.

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Before giving birth, Edric and I were enjoying a 12-year honeymoon. I felt like I was more in love with him than ever before and he felt the same way. Romance was in full bloom. We were eager to be with one another, always finding excuses to spend time together.

Catalina’s hospitalization changed me. The euphoria I felt when she first arrived was replaced by a gloom that was uncharacteristic of me to have. I had experienced fatigue from lack of sleep in the past. This part wasn’t new…the whole zombified feeling. But I withdrew from everyone – Edric, the kids, family, and friends.

My world became very small – just Catalina and I. I didn’t want to be visited at the hospital or at home, I ignored calls and messages on my phone and emails. I felt overwhelmed by the presence of my four other kids whenever they were around. I also found myself crying at random moments, and I had little inspiration to write.

Edric tried everything to cheer me up and help me recover the spunkiness he missed. There was nothing that he lacked as a husband. He was always there for me. In fact, he was 10 for 10 in terms of being sweet and loving. He abandoned work for many days so he could be by my side. Yet even if I appreciated his company, I felt alone in my struggle to be the mom Catalina needed me to be.

As the weeks went by, I found myself less and less able to share what was going on inside to Edric (partly due to my inability to articulate the state I was in or even recognize what was happening). Inevitably, both of us retreated to our preoccupations. Edric delved back into work and his TV hosting. I dedicated each and everyday to Catalina’s well-being. I entertained myself with online surfing and useless amazon shopping…putting items in my cart and taking them out, sometimes buying them, sometimes making endless wishlists.

It wasn’t until a few days ago that Edric finally sat me down so we could talk more seriously about our relationship and what was happening to it. He invited me to share my feelings and he helped me to process them. He was also honest about his own perspective as a husband. In his usual manner of problem-solving (which I really appreciate), he proposed solutions that would help us reconnect as a couple.

He said we needed to get rid of “Relationship Killers” or “RKs” for short. First, our gadgets. Being on a mobile device was very often my default activity while feeding Catalina…even when Edric was around. I hardly gave him attention. So he would do the equivalent and preoccupy himself with his own phone since I seemed busy and disinterested in talking to him.

The second RK was lack of communication. We stopped telling each other what was going on in our lives.

Edric and I normally communicate on many different levels. There is nothing that we can’t talk about. Whether it be our silliest, most idiotic thoughts, vulnerable feelings, frustrations, embarrassing confessions, mundane happenings, news and views, or deep spiritual insights, we discuss it all.

But lately, I felt like I didn’t have much to share that was exciting or interesting. Everything I did resembled the Groundhog Day movie experience – exactly the same predictable, round the clock breastfeeding and baby care. My mistake was I failed to disclose my emotions. I became introverted and silent, choosing to shut Edric out because I felt like he couldn’t relate to what it was like to be a mom to Catalina.

As for Edric, he realized he needed to keep me updated. I hardly knew what he did everyday and when I would ask him, it was a boring and tiring question for him to answer. So he committed to be more open to let me in on his daily realities. In the past, we were together so often, I knew about all the details, people, and events that filled up his calendar. Since I had become so home-bound, he now had to make the effort to tell me stories. Not a typical man thing to do but he decided he would try harder.

The third RK was the lack of physical intimacy. This went beyond sex, which wasn’t the issue. It was the spontaneous gestures of affection like holding hands, rubbing each other’s backs, hugging, and kissing. Edric missed this. I, on the other hand, had a little baby to cuddle with all the time. My need for physical touch was completely satisfied. Edric’s was depleted.

Of all the solutions we talked about, there was one thing which really got to me. It was the point when Edric looked at me very intently and made an appeal that I had never heard before. He said, “Don’t disappear on me, hon.”

Don’t disappear on me…That’s exactly what was happening and Edric knew it. He could sense that I was pulling away emotionally, retreating to a world of my own, also known as babyland – the world where women go to with all good intention when they become mothers. I was lingering too long and using the excuse that Catalina needed me, only me, to be her everything.

Well, it turned out that a yaya could be there for the other parts like holding Catalina and watching her in between breastfeeding and my own bonding moments with her. It was my pediatrician who first suggested that I get someone who could fill in the gaps for me so I my life didn’t have to revolve around Catalina. For the first month, it made sense for me to be so hands on. But afterwards, when Cataina was introduced to breastmilk in a bottle, I didn’t have to be with her all the time. I had four other kids who needed me and a husband who wanted his bestfriend, conversation-companion, exercise buddy, and lover back.

At first, Edric had not factored a yaya into our budget. But after he saw that he was losing me to motherhood duties he said, “Let’s get one. I will make a way! I will do whatever it takes!” Yay! I love that about my husband. He is committed to keeping us together physically, emotionally, spiritually.

But I need to be committed, too. I have to watch out for the RK’s that I am responsible for.

I’m happy to say that the relationship meter is now on the high side. Going through the adjustment of having another baby has made us closer once again. Thanks to my husband, who made sure this happened, and to the Lord, who brought us back to the right priorities, our connectedness is back.

By God’s grace, Catalina is doing just fine, too. She is developing a routine and likes her yaya. In fact, I enjoy Catalina even more because we have quality time together. I don’t feel like a hostage anymore! When I need a break, I call her yaya, and she takes over so I can homeschool, exercise, hang out with Edric, leave for errands and meetings, or write. Motherhood is more fun in the Philippines!

Edric and I also have a new term that we are starting to use. “Relationship builder” or “RB.” When we do something sweet for one another, we say, “Oh that was an RB!” We’ve sorted out the RK’s so we can focus on the RB’s. Making time to listen to one another, that’s an RB. Going for a walk together in the late afternoons or evenings when we can, that’s another RB. Serving food on to Edric’s plate and arranging it so it looks appetizing, his version of RB. Speaking to me in a positive tone, my version of RB. Affection and physical intimacy, RB! Escaping for a quick movie night, a fun RB. Complimenting and appreciating one another, RB highlighted in bold letters.

There are so many other ways to build our relationship while we work through the new baby stage. We need to remember that it is important to do so. After all the first family – the nucleus – is our marriage. For the rest of our family to be healthy, the marriage has to be a priority for Edric and I. We both have to be committed to guarding, nurturing, and rescuing it when necessary.

From sad hubby to happy hubby…

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