Homemaking is Not Boring

As a homemaker, I never seem to be bored. Well, I do have five kids so that keeps me busy. But I am talking about not running out of fun things to do and learn, too. There is always a new way to cook chicken, a craft project to beautify the home, a skill to add to your repertoire of handy-manny-fixer-upper abilities, a book to read or internet site to visit to get tips on parenting, and for me, there is homeschooling and writing.

I think it helps to have friends and family who enjoy being home-based mothers, too. We feel very fulfilled and happy at home, and we enjoy exchanging stories and parenting adventures. And most of the homemakers I know have some sort of extraordinary ability or talent or even a hobby that they are able to delve into even while they take care of their homes and their children.

My sister-in-law, Jennifer, is one of those women. She recently moved to the Philippines to live. Prior to this she was based in New York. She is an incredible jewelry designer and is into all kinds of crafts. Today, she invited my friend, Marilen, and I over to make hair bows for our daughters. We had such a great time!

Jennifer has collected so much ribbon over the years, I wanted to spend all day making bows. After about an hour and a half, I made three designs. The idea was to bring clothes of our daughters’ to match the bows to.

Jennifer originally does beading classes or parties for adults or kids. Her jewelry line is called Bead Blessed. But she is open to doing bow making classes or parties, too. For p500 to p750 per person/materials included, I think it’s such a great deal. You can come up with unique pieces, and of course it is fellowshipping with other women that makes it so memorable.

Jennifer’s Samples (Bows that she has made for her daughter, Teegan):

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Clothes to match to bows:

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The tools:

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Our healthy snack:

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Our designs:

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Contact Jennifer at (0917) 302 3319
See her bead work as featured in Bride and Breakfast: http://brideandbreakfast.ph/2014/01/16/wed-colorfully-kate-spade-editorial/

Sweet In The Arms Of…

Catalina reached out to me for the first time today. She is five months, going on six. It was a wonderful feeling to be wanted. Her little arms stretched out and she motioned toward me. Moments like these are sweet rewards for being a mom.

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While I was holding her, I thought of the parallels between what it is like to be a mother and the heart of God as our Heavenly Father. When my baby girl extended her arms, lunging forward towards me because she wanted to be held, I didn’t say, “Oh well that’s so cute, keep doing it and maybe I will pick you up.” Of course not! Immediately, I dropped everything to take her in my arms and hug her, whispering tender things in her ear. I was thrilled to pick her up.

If I am like that as a mom, flawed as I am as a human being, then what more the delight of a perfect God when we reach out to him, call out to him and turn to him with all sincerity? If he put in me a desire to be good to my children, then how much greater must his goodness be?

He eagerly waits for us to recognize that he loves us, just like I wait for the point in time when all my kids know that I love them and they can reciprocate. One of my highlights as a mom is hearing my children say, “I love you, mom” for the first time, without being prodded or coerced to.

In the meantime, I do all I can to communicate to them that they are special to me, hoping that one day they will want to have a relationship with me. Similarly, God has done everything to make it possible for us to have a relationship with him.

The Bible tells us “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love –not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

Our actions and circumstances do not change who God is. He remains a loving Father even if we reject this truth about him.

So we have to ask ourselves, what keeps us from reaching out to him in faith, with outstretched arms, so that he can be the father he wants to be to us? Is it the disappointments and pains of a fallen world? Is it our refusal to give up sin and follow his design for our lives? Is it our own misconceptions about who he is and our lack of intimacy with him? Is it our busy-ness and the constant striving after personal ambition? Is it the pride of personal success?

If we really knew how deeply, magnanimously, and unconditionally loved we are by the God of the universe, we would all throw our arms up into the air with abandon and say, “Lord, take me. Take all me! I want to be your child.”

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12 NASB)

Catalina dosed off to sleep in my arms while I held her. (When she is with me, she has everything she needs — company, affection, protection, milk! At least for now…) She looked so peaceful and content. In a small, earth-bound sort of way, this is what it is like to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father. There is no sweeter experience than to be held by him. But unlike me to Catalina, he is the source of everything we need and will ever need, forever and ever!

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Mommy Matters Makes Magic Mom-wear

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When Mommy Matters asked me to be a brand ambassador for their breastfeeding clothes, I was like, yay, what a privilege! But at the same time, I was like, ack! I just gave birth! I am not feeling too hot about my body right now. Muffin top is not exactly confidence-building. But then I tried on the clothes that Janice and Candice sent me and I was like, hey! These are so comfy and they hide everything you don’t want people to see!

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Mommy Matters clothing is so cleverly designed with strategically placed holes and cuts so you can breastfeed anywhere, anytime. It’s like magic mom-wear. Now you see me, now you don’t.

For those of us moms who know what it is like to have a screaming baby that needs to be fed RIGHT NOW, you absolutely need to be able to give them easy and quick access to your breasts.

My daughter, Catalina, will throw a fit if she isn’t able to get her milk-fix when she wants it. In fact, if I take too long she will continue to cry even after she is able to breastfeed just because she wants to express how upset she is that her “food” didn’t arrive on time!

So it makes sense to wear clothing that understands the needs of a breastfeeding mother. And this is where I give credit to Mommy Matters for being so thoughtful about their designs. Babies will also feel cozy next to the soft fabric (they mostly use knits) when they are being cuddled.

The shoot ended up being a lot of fun, thanks to awesomely petite and talented photographer, Sheila Juan Catilo.

I am so happy Mommy Matters let me pick out several items to keep, too. Here is one I wore the other day…super comfy!

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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)

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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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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An Appetite for Truth

The Kids Recite Psalm 1
The link above shows our kids reciting Psalm 1 during a parenting seminar Edric gave recently. He asked them to do it impromptu so it’s a rough performance but I thought they were so cute, especially Tiana who was copying her brothers.

Edric is really great at getting our kids to memorize bible verses. It’s part of our weekly family tradition. After I gave birth he decided they would memorize an entire chapter. He thought Psalm 1 would be a good one.

I love this Psalm. I memorized it as a child. It speaks of the blessings of following God, using a tree as a beautiful image to depict the fruitfulness of the righteous.

Edric and I have noticed that our kids tend to be better at memorizing scripture when we keep their minds “clutter-free.” We protect them from too much TV or media influence so they can fill their minds with content that favors spiritual health.

It’s interesting how memorizing scripture keeps a person mentally sharp as well. This worked wonders for my sister, Candy, when she was at dental school in San Francisco. She called my mom one day telling her that she was having such a hard time retaining all the information she had to remember for her classes. My mom encouraged her to memorize bible verses and this helped her with studying. It improved her memory. She did really well in dental school. In fact, she was Valedictorian (but this is another story).

There may be some sort of science to explain this but I also believe that God blesses those who treasure his word. I think about the story of Joshua as he was charged by God to lead the people of Israel into the promised land. God gave him the secret of success –

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8 NASB)

What kind of content is going into the minds and hearts of our children? Is it preparing them for future success?

I pray our children will have an appetite for spiritual truth and fall in love with God’s word, committing it to memory and letting it direct their consciences and decisions. But we have to do our part as parents and start cultivating this desire while they are young.

I praise God for a husband who knows that our own children will become casualties of anti-God philosophies and worldly values if they don’t commit scripture to memory. They may not have memorized a ton of bible verses yet but little by little, we are building upon their knowledge. Our hope is that this will give them a storehouse of truth to refer to as they grow and mature.

Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. (Psalms 119:11 NASB)

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. (Psalms 119:9 NASB)

New Fashion at Home

From laid-back mom, I have now become more-cautious mom. Check out the face mask!

Our pediatrician, Dr. Joy, calls it reverse isolation. A baby can’t wear a mask so everyone else has to (especially little children who carry really powerful and contagious germs!) Well, we are doing this until she is in the clear and no one else has a cough or cold in the house.

Just two more days of antibiotics! Coughing has gone down significantly. We get an update from Dr. Joy tomorrow.

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Back in the Hospital

My daughter, Tiana, curiously asked me one morning, “Where is God? How come I can’t see him?” This was a follow up question to a discussion we were having about Jesus’ death and resurrection. She had watched a clip of The Passion that showed Christ on the cross. Concerned and troubled, she wondered if Jesus was still there and dead. I explained to her that he came back to life and didn’t stay dead because he is God. But she wanted evidence…physical evidence.

It is not easy to convince a 3 year old that God is present even if we cannot see him. Her grasp of what is real is the tangible world she sees, feels and hears. So a description of the spiritual world left her perplexed and baffled.

“But WHERE is he?”

She couldn’t grasp the concept. I had to look up another clip of the movie that showed the resurrection part so she could be appeased. I found something on YouTube and that seemed to pacify her for a bit, but whew, what a discussion.

Interestingly, I had the same discussion with the Lord last night as I looked over at my baby, Catalina. She was lying in a plastic crib with a tube in her nose for oxygen, a second tube in her hand for IV and antibiotics, and a third chord attached to an oxygen, pulse and breathing monitor. Her breathing was slightly labored but she was sleeping. It must have been close to 3 am.
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Admitted yesterday morning for pneumonia, Catalina is back in the hospital again. We brought her in to the ER of Cardinal Santos as advised by our pediatrician after I communicated to her that Catalina was lethargic, not eating, and her cough had worsened. It sounded tight and deeply obstructed.
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I’ve gone through some major crises in my life but none has ever compared to the pain of seeing my children suffer. If I knew what it was like to get my heart torn out of my chest, well, that would be it. Apart from the loss of a loved one, I cannot imagine a greater hurt in this world than seeing the afflictions of my children and feeling helpless to save them.
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The hope I had for Catalina’s recovery grew dim as she struggled through Monday night to find comfort. I could provide no remedy. I had suggested to Edric that he sleep in the kids’ room because the AC was turned off in ours. (He had already dealt with so much interrupted sleep in the past month. Getting to sleep on the floor of the kids’ room was a luxury!)

Of course this meant that I was alone in our room. I cried and cried out to God that he would heal Catalina, pleading with a desperation I had not felt before. Edric came in to check on me and he saw me bawling. His words of assurance were sweet and tender but I was lost in my grief.

Is this what it was like to be Hannah in the Bible? She was consumed with the desire for a child and no one could comfort her for being denied one, not even her husband. And I felt the same kind of obsessive desire, wailing for help, asking to have my child back. I wanted her back to being demanding and needy if that’s what it would take to have her healthy again.

God gives an instinct to mothers that makes her keen at interpreting tell-tale signs of distress and peculiar behavior in her children.

I recognized that something was gravely wrong when Catalina became uncharacteristically quiet and disinterested in feeding. Having grown accustomed to her demands to be carried and nursed frequently, I knew her cough and cold took a turn for the worse.

When our pediatrician confirmed that we should bring her to the hospital the next day, I felt both anxious and relieved. I suppose I knew what was ailing her but I suspended my thoughts until Dr. Joy checked her. The prospect of getting a confirmation was almost comforting. I wanted to know what we could do to cure her.

Edric cleared his schedule so we could do this together. I always say that Edric is my knight in shining armor because he is consistently present when I need him most. He will take charge and do whatever he can, sacrificing his own time, comfort, and needs to be there for me or the kids.

On the way to the hospital, I asked him if Catalina’s lips appeared bluish but he said it was probably the lighting inside our van. I didn’t think so. I had looked at those lips for the last 36 days of her life and knew what color they ought to have been.

We got to Cardinal Santos pretty quickly, avoiding the traffic because we left after school started. Since our pediatrician, Dr. Joy, is a friend, she made sure we were well attended to as soon as we got to the ER. Her residents were on standby and she came almost immediately after we arrived. At her instruction, Catalina was given a tube for oxygen. She was not getting enough air into her lungs. If the normal reading is 95 above, she was only at 81%. The oxygen helped to bring back the pink in her lips and cheeks.

I observed Dr. Joy’s expressions as she placed the stethoscope on Catalina’s chest. She didn’t seem pleased with what she heard. She had this way of coupling objectivity with deep concern that softened the blow of her initial diagnosis. When she said there was phlegm in Catalina’s lungs and that it was most likely pneumonia, I broke down. She hugged me and said, “Don’t worry. I will be here. This is treatable.”

I knew what this would entail for Catalina. We had been through this when she was born…tubes, needle pricking, blood tests, antibiotics, living in the hospital. Edric and I did not like that part, but knowing that her pneumonia would be arrested and treated was good news. It was caught in the early stages, occupying just the inner lungs.

Where is God when these things happen? When crisis seems to negate the promise of his blessing upon those who follow and obey him, what is the impact? I seemed to have found myself asking the very question that my 3 year old Tiana was, “But where is he, how come we cannot see him?”

In faith I believed that God would heal Catalina while we were at home. I didn’t expect to be in the hospital again. Yet here we are. And I have been honest with God. I expressed that I was hurt and grieved that he allowed this. There was a dark moment when I felt unloved and unconsidered. But last night while I watched Catalina sleeping, I believed with all certainty that God was present. He had not abandoned us or forgotten his promises.

He made his presence felt in a number of ways:

- He caused my maternal instinct to kick in, to respond with a sense of urgency when I realized something was wrong. Had I waited too long, Catalina would have been deprived of oxygen.

- Dr. Joy’s commitment to care for our daughter was and has been of great assurance.

- We happen to be staying with my parents as we transition to finish our new house, so our four other children are not alone. They are with their grandparents and with their cousins.

- God has also embraced us and covered us with the prayers of family and friends, their well wishes, and kind words.

- When the doctors needed to find a vein for Catalina’s IV and it seemed impossible because many of her veins were unusable due to her previous confinement, Dr. Joy asked her friend, Dr. Apples (an anesthesiologist) to find one and she did…on her first try!

- Had she been sick soon after her stay in St. Lukes, giving her antibiotics would have been complicated because the bacteria might have developed a resistance.

- The stage of her pneumonia is early and treatable. Some people have big spots of the bacteria in their lungs, Catalina’s occupies just 1/3 of hers.

- So far, her first blood culture has showed nothing, and her CBC has no elevated white blood cells.

- Last night, she slept peacefully in intervals of about two hours which allowed me to rest, too.

- We are in a room right beside the nurses’ station so they respond quickly to our needs.

- Personally, I have been very blessed by Edric. He has repeatedly communicated to me that he will take care of me and be here for Catalina and I.

What an eventful first month of motherhood I have had! So much pain, joy, fatigue, faith, worry, frustration, hope, darkness, and deliverance personally packaged to help me grow in character. I do not know what else is in store for me, for Catalina, for our family. I sent a text message to Edric this morning because he has been out today for work:

“I miss you but it’s good to be alone to process all of this. I feel very broken — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I know God is present through all this and this comforts me but it still hurts that he allowed this to happen. It’s like the weariness of being in a war where the victory is certain but the fighting is necessary.”

His response…”I love you babes. I will take care of you.” (Awww)

I read this passage in Psalms today and I know it was for me — to declare and praise God. Whatever is happening now doesn’t change what I know to be true about God’s character. He is good. And I will praise him whether smiling or in tears, whether joyful or afflicted.

But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; For I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? You who have shown me many troubles and distresses Will revive me again, And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. (Psalms 71:14-17, 19, 20 NASB)20130918-154629.jpg20130918-154647.jpg20130918-154703.jpg20130918-154654.jpg20130918-154709.jpg20130918-154715.jpg

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Here We Go Again! Round 2…

I have always been stubborn about bringing my babies out earlier than they ought to be. I just figured it wasn’t realistic to have them isolated at home for the first three months of their lives like my pediatrician and friends would always recommend. With every other child I’ve had, they were out and about within the first few weeks and they remained perfectly healthy.

Elijah attended his first birthday party at 9 days old. Tiana had her first photo shoot at 9 days old. All my other babies were in church with me by the second week, hidden in a sling. So I figured it was no big deal to do the same with Catalina. She’s been to several groceries, meetings, our house construction site, the Manila International Book Fair, a seminar I gave last week, restaurants, church, bible study group, and anywhere else I have had to go because I am her bottle. 20130916-231713.jpg

Well, now I am kicking myself for being so carefree. She picked up a cold and cough in the last three days that has been miserable for her (and for me!). I’m not 100% sure the bug came from outside the home because her siblings and cousins were coughing and sniffling this past week. They could have been the source. I would put Tiana up there as number one on the list of suspects, too. She came pretty near Catalina’s face a number of times.

I learned too late that everyone who is sick in the house must wear a gauze mask to avoid infecting an infant. By the time our pediatrician told me this, the virus was already incubating. All the while I assumed that babies who get breast milk have a superior immune system. Apparently this isn’t always the case. My doctor said they are better protected from gastrointestinal infections but not necessarily the respiratory kind.

Taking care of Catalina has been such a journey for me as a mom. She is just a month old but she has introduced me to many firsts. For instance, she was the first of my babies to ever be confined in a hospital. She was the first to adamantly refuse being put down. And now she is the first one to ever battle a virus at just a few weeks old.

I was tempted to worry, especially since pneumonia cases are on the rise. However, yesterday morning, I was encouraged as I watched the live stream video of our church’s Sunday message. In Isaiah 6:1-3, it says “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ’Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
the whole earth is full of His glory.’”

No matter what is going on my life, God remains on the throne. He is the majestic and holy one who sits as King over all the world. And he is present with me, right here, right now, even as a write this. When I start to feel stressed I think of how big, awesome, powerful, and perfectly holy God is, and my problems diminish in their gravity.

I don’t know why he allowed Catalina to get sick again after all she went through during her first two weeks of life. When I ask the why question, I am inclined to draw all kinds of inconclusive reasons. Is it to humble me? Is God not pleased with me? Is it to teach me faith? Is it to make me more dependent? Is it a lesson on choice and consequence (I took her out of the house and compromised her immunity)? I have no idea.

It can be unsettling to live with unanswered questions and to keep speculating. So I will not dwell on the why. Instead I will cling to what I do know. God loves Catalina and God loves me. He is a good father. When he allows affliction, he doesn’t abandon his children while they struggle through it. He knows how hard it is for Catalina to be sick. He knows that it pains me to see her this way. He knows that I am getting even less sleep at night. He knows that I want her to be well. It is of great comfort to me that he sees all and knows all. Nothing escapes his notice.

My part is to keep seeking God and move towards him, instead of withdrawing or questioning his ways. He gives and he takes away as Job says, but He is blessed still. So this is an opportunity to praise him for who he is and to remember that all things belong to him — my children, my life, my comfort, my wants and desires…

On the practical side, I am doing what I can to help Catalina get better (most of these things were advised by Dr. Joy Ty-Sy, our paediatrician):

1. Use a Nebulizer 3x a day. Titus needed this when he was very sick two years ago. So we invested in one for our home. It has been put to good use since then. Whenever my kids have bad coughs, nebulizing allows them to recover more quickly. 20130915-221723.jpg

2. Spray saline solution into nostrils. To keep the mucus soft, I use a saline spray called salinese. I have used it for my other kids too. Of course it’s uncomfortable but it does decongest their nostrils.

3. Give plenty of time to rest in a quiet room. I was busy last week so Catalina was out with me. This affected her sleeping patterns which probably lowered her immunity also.

4. Keep the head propped up so it’s easier to breathe. When she lets me put her down (which is becoming more frequent, hurrah!) I use a pillow. But I don’t let her sleep without someone watching her. (It’s not ideal to have pillows around the crib for babies. They can suffocate if they roll over. So someone has to be with them.)

5. Avoid the use of air conditioning. The cold, dry air aggravates the throat and makes her more prone to coughing. Without the ac turned on, she slept more soundly.

6. Suck out snot using Nose Frida. Thankfully, Mothercare sells Nose Frida, the snot sucker. It is the best! I was planning to order one online and have it sent to Manila for future use but my sister-in-law, Jennifer, told me that it is available at Mothercare in Global City. So after dinner last night, Edric and I drove over there and got one for P660. We used it right away and it cleared Catalina’s nostrils very efficiently. 20130915-221704.jpg61FEKPXUIfL

Nose Frida works well for babies and young children who cannot blow their noses themselves. All you have to do is place the tip of the syringe at the opening of each nostril and then you suck out the snot using a mouthpiece that is attached to a tube which is connected to the syringe. It sounds disgusting but the snot never reaches your own mouth. There is a filter that blocks this from happening. Plus the syringe is pretty sizable to contain the snot so it doesn’t travel up the tube. I actually found it fun to get all that gook out of her nose. My, how unglamorous I have become!

It’s not easy having an infant who is sick. I am being stretched in a new way as a mom. Catalina has thrown up several times because of her cough. And she is not nursing as much. I tried to mix breastfeeding with breastmilk through a syringe to feed her this evening just to make sure she is getting enough. 20130916-220459.jpgOn the up side, Catalina seems to be sleeping longer in between feeds. And she has been lying down in her crib or on our bed! It doesn’t always work but what a relief when it does! Wonder of wonders!  I have also been able to leave her at home with our househelp several times in the past few days to run errands.

Catalina is not yet well. Dr. Joy says I still need to observe her and watch out for certain danger signs — high fever, changes in her cough and breathing. This feels like round 2 of our hospital experience except that it’s all happening at home.

Well, when I start feeling down about Catalina being sick again, I think about passages in the Bible like this one… Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is God from of old, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)   20130916-231632.jpg

Happy Hostage

It’s 6 AM and I have about 10 minutes to write a post before my darling baby, Catalina, wakes up and wants to be fed again. If I’m lucky, I might get 30 minutes.

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I thought for sure she would be my easiest baby. But, of all my children, she is the one baby that doesn’t want to be put down and left alone. I’m hoping this passes after the first few weeks.

With my previous babies, I could lay them in their crib or bassinet after they were fed and they would dose off to sleep. This would free me to do what I wanted to. Catalina, on the other hand, will fall asleep while I’m holding her and wake up crying a few minutes after she realizes she isn’t in my arms.

I’ve also had to feed her 8 times almost every night. When she does better, I can get through a night with just 5 to 6 feedings. If I want her to go for longer stretches, I have to cradle her in my arms so she feels secure and wakes up less. But this means I have to be in an inclined position. Waaaah!

Even though Catalina is my fifth child, going through this stage again makes me feel like she is my first. I suppose this is because of all the energy and resolve I’ve had to invest in taking care of her. Even though I prayed diligently during my pregnancy to have a baby who was easy to take care of, she has turned out to be my most challenging. First, there was the confinement at the hospital. Now, it is her feeding schedule and personality. I feel like such a rookie. I also feel like a hostage!

I feel like my liberties have been taken away. I feel like I am being controlled by a 3-week old infant! My sense of duty makes me fulfill all my motherly responsibilities and of course, I love her to bits, but on the flip side, I am a little bit resentful that she is a “difficult” baby.

How ungrateful the human heart is! How selfish I can be as a mother! I wanted a baby that was easy to control and now that I find myself being controlled by Catalina, I am grumpy. I’m ashamed to admit it, especially since I know women who have ached and longed to have a first child. Here I am, with my fifth, ranting about the un-pleasantries of motherhood. Somebody slap me.

Edric has commented several times, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you accept that this is what it is?”

My initial counter-thought was…you have no idea what you are talking about. Do you have to breastfeed every 30 minutes or 1 hour? Do you have to perpetually hold an infant so that you can’t even use the toilet or take a shower? Are you awake at 3 am, looking at a very awake baby and begging her to fall back asleep so you can too? Have you put your whole life on pause, including very important responsibilities and the activities you enjoy so you can be available 24/7 to meet the needs of your child? Do you change poopy diapers and wipe a poopy butt every other hour…

Of course I didn’t say this. Edric has his own cross to bear. It was one of those useless, imaginary dialogues in my head. And besides, he was right. What’s wrong with me?! I love my babies. I wanted to have another child. Edric may not understand what it is like to be a mom, but he was right about accepting things for what they are.

I can’t force-fit Catalina into this baby mold…this idea I have about what all MY babies should be like. So, either I change my perspective or I continue wallowing in self-pity and miss out on enjoying this stage.

When I woke up this morning thinking about how hard it has been, a wonderful thought came to my mind. God ministered to me by reminding me that he doesn’t allow difficult circumstances without reason. For every challenge, he supplies greater faith, greater capacity, and greater grace.

He is definitely teaching me to be thankful and grateful. I have the privilege of being mom to another healthy, beautiful child. She is a gift from the Lord and not an inconvenience or an interruption like I am ashamed to admit she sometimes feels like…especially when I am really tired and want to change her personality. She may be more needy, clingy, and demanding than my other kids were as babies but on the brighter side, she doesn’t projectile vomit like Tiana would after every feed. That was pretty miserable. And she doesn’t pee on me like my boys would. That was always gross.

Thankful people are happy people. I haven’t been rejoicing too much this past week because I haven’t been grateful.

Thankfulness is saying, “Lord, this is not what I wanted but you know best so I thank you for putting me in this circumstance. Help me to trust that this is exactly where you want me to be right now and give me your joy so that I glorify you with the right attitude and behavior.”

The Lord is also teaching me to be humble. Sometimes I can act like such an expert for having been there and done that when it comes to being a mom and having babies. But here’s a reality check. Everything I am able to do and everything I know is not to my own credit. My enablement comes from God. Successful parenting is possible only when I remain connected to the source – Jesus Christ. The moment I feel like I am completely capable on my own, I’m in big trouble.

Honestly, I was assuming that this was going to be a breeze. My overconfidence bordered on arrogance. I had this vision of homeschooling while holding my baby in one arm, writing in the afternoons, reading stories to my kids, cooking meals for my family, pushing my baby in a stroller to the park, and being able to go out on dates with my husband. ALL FANTASY!

Greater faith, greater capacity, greater grace. God knows I need this more than I need an easy baby. Will I be able to do all the things I listed above? I imagine that in time, the answer will be yes. For now, I’ve got to go attend to Catalina who needs to be fed again or wants to be carried. But I’m smiling! I’m choosing to be a happy hostage because God’s word says… Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:3-5

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