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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year That Was

Now that 2010 is coming to a close, let me reflect on the year that was ... In some ways 2010 just breezed right by, but on some level it also seemed to go by so slowly at times. There were lots of big moments and also several little moments that will make this a memorable year. 2010 was an exciting year for me - being the Year of the Tiger (and my being born a Tiger), this year held such promise and it did deliver!

I started the year celebrating in Manila which is always good. I loved being able to spend time with my family and in our home. Something about the familiarity of it all will always make Manila the home in my heart - no matter how long I am away or how much I love my second home in Torrance, Manila will always be the place I consider my safe haven. Earlier in the year, I didn't have a job and just focused on rejuvenating myself. I used to hate being alone and not having anything to do - but as I have gotten older I find I am so much more comfortable in my own skin and find pleasure in having time just for myself. I did enjoy discovering my inner homemaker too (who knew I had it in me?).

I found a new job at a local company. I've written tons about my job and again it is not the most prestigious nor the most challenging. But honestly, it is one where I find the perfect balance of feeling good and doing good while "going to work". It is probably not the best position in terms of climbing the corporate ladder but it definitely feels right for me for right now.

We had the biggest blessing that I consider as the most life-changing moment of the entire year. It was finding out that I had a little baby Bean growing inside me. After 5 and a half years of marriage and almost 4 years of trying to conceive, we were blown away by the fact that we were blessed with such a miracle. It's been a sort of rollercoaster ride since then - ups and downs along the way - but in all honestly it is a ride that I am so glad to be on and can't wait to see through. Being pregnant is also a blessing to our marriage, on many levels, I truly feel more connected to Jojo and I know he feels closer to me too.

There were lots of little but significant moments too. This year we celebrated the one year since my dad's passing. While it is still very hard for me to come to grips with the fact that he is now in heaven, I find that I am strangely calm and more accepting of what has happened. It is still by no means easy but I think I am over being angry and depressed about it all. I know dad probably has a hand in making all this just a wee bit easier. This year my brother-in-law, Jay, got married which was a big highlight too. He is the last of Jojo's 6 siblings to tie the knot and we were all really happy and excited for his and Cha's big day. This year Jojo found a new job which has been both a blessing and a challenge. It was a growing point in his career and he has truly found out much about himself in the process. I am glad to be able to be beside him to offer him my support and encouragement. This year my father-in-law had a minor stroke which was scary and sad. But it also allowed us all to reconnect better as a family and in many ways brought me closer to my in-laws. 2010 has brought us a slew of visitors and guests - which we welcomed into our home. It is always nice reconnecting with good friends who I have not been in touch with in a while.

There have been a host of other special events ... birthdays, engagements, anniversaries, babies and kids, trips and travel, new experiences and adventures, facing challenges, learning new things, dealing with frustrations, and just moments and days that don't seem to mean anything at that time but later turn out to be defining moments. It has been a truly good year for me and I am very grateful. I can only hope that 2011 will be just as great for me and everyone else.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Xmas (2010)

I would have posted Xmas pictures sooner but I have two good reasons why I am so delayed this year. First, Jojo and I were both down with the flu on Xmas eve, Xmas day and actually till today (and it's already the 28th). Today is actually the first day I feel some semblance of returning to "normalcy". It's hard since I have not been able to take any meds to alleviate the stuffy nose, sore throat and coughing. All I can take is regular Tylenol or the generic brands which don't really help all that much. But enough about that. The second reason is I don't have that many pics to share. When we looked at the few pics we have on our camera, most of them were shots of the food and presents rather than people! Jojo and I were the hosts this year and so we didn't have much time to gather people for photos. I'll have to wait for my in-laws to post their pics and borrow their copies then =) So, anyway, here are a few pics we have for now:

Christmas Eve was spent with my in-laws. After Xmas mass at St. Margaret Mary's we met at our place. This is one of my few photos with "people". Jojo's family has a strict tradition that presents are only opened at midnight and we only get to eat noche buena after that. We had to while away the time watching DVDs, snacking on finger foods, and playing games. Not easy to keep a group of 23 people (9 of them kids) entertained! But it was fun trying =)

The guys hanging around waiting for us to start with another game (I think this time we were going to play charades). Notice how no one is looking at the camera ... getting a decent group shot is like herding cats!

At around 11:30, we started setting the table. The star of our noche buena was this 8-pound Honeybaked ham. I had to order this 2 weeks ago otherwise it was sold out. But it was worth it cause it was so good! And I mean SOOO GOOOD! I served the ham with horseradish mayo, plain mayo, and and dijon mustard.

I also had a basket of warm, fluffy pan de sal which was perfect with the ham. These are my favorites. I get them from a local Filipino bakery called Valerios. They are super cheap $2.00 for 16 pieces - but really good and taste like the ones back home!

My sisters-in-law also brought their share of food. Marik, brought fresh lumpia (which was super yummy!) and suman with latik. Not pictured is the roasted chickens (Tracy brought), the big pot of sopas (Len brought) and the two whole baked salmons (Cha brought).

Here are the famous Porto's cheese rolls and pastries that Edel brought. Plus for dessert, we also had a huge bowl of fruit salad (not pictured).

Look at all those Xmas presents ... we had to stash them in the garage since there wouldn't be any space to walk around if we kept them in the living room. There were even more presents under the tree! Who says Xmas is just for kids? We, adults, had our fair share too!

On Xmas day, we were suppose to meet Atsi and Mark for lunch but because we were feeling so out of it that day, we had to postpone lunch to the 26th. We met mid-way for lunch at Todai. We exchanged presents and food (I made them a tray of baked macaroni and they got us our favorite pumpernickel bread which Atsi's gets from a local bakery near their place).

Here is a shot of Atsi and I in front of the mall. We are waiting for the guys before heading inside to do some shopping. Notice how much bigger I am than Atsi (who's always been so tiny!).

So that was our holiday celebration here. Merry Christmas from Jojo, me and Jellybean! (I am 27 weeks along in this picture).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Life Lessons

There are two very significant moments in my life that have helped me learn and adhere to two very significant lessons.

The two significant moments are:
1.) Working for the "Bank" from 2006-2008 where I was literally a slave to money and under so much stress my health and my personal life were deteriorating; and
2.) My dad's illness and untimely passing.

The two significant lessons are:
1.) Having a job is important as it shapes who you are professionally and personally but no job is worth being stressed all the time, getting sick over, and losing sleep for; and
2.) A huge salary, prestige, great benefits can only hold a person's interest for so long - there will come a time when you realize it is not worth it.

My hubby is learning these lessons on his own and during this time, I just want him to know that I support him and am behind him one hundred and one percent!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

6th Wedding Anniv

Tonight we celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary ... Jojo took me to dinner ... we went to Ruth's Chris restaurant in Anaheim. We've been wanting to eat at Ruth's Chris for the longest time since we've been hearing all sorts of rave reviews about their steaks. Tonight, we thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary. Here we are at the entrance (wish I could have taken a shot of the building's exterior since it was quite nice but I didn't want to seem too "touristy"!). Anyway, here's me, Jojo and Jellybean in my big, preggy belly!

Sorry I don't have shots of the interior as well. Again, too bad since the place was really nice and we had a beautiful corner table overlooking the city. But since it was such a NICE place, I didn't want to look way too eager by snapping pictures! =)

After looking over the menu, we ordered and I started with the seafood gumbo. It was very rich and had lovely pieces of shrimp, lump crab, andouille sausage and veggies. It was also quite hearty and a perfect way to warm up on a cold, rainy evening!

Jojo had the House Salad with a lemon basil dressing. It was creamy but at the same time very light too.

Finally, the wait is over! USDA Prime - Ribeye steaks - medium well. We were told that in the US only 3% of beef is categorized as USDA Prime. That made us really excited to try these steaks. They were served on plates that were warmed to 500-degrees (to ensure that from the first bite to the last, our steaks would stay warm). The meat was aged to perfection and only marinated with salt, pepper and some butter - but it was AMAZING! Succulent, savory, tender and just incredibly delicious. Need I say more?

We had creamy mashed potatoes and creamed spinach as our sides. They were good but nothing great. But then again, I guess people don't really go to Ruth's Chris for the sides =)

Here we are getting ready to dig in! Let me just tell you, that first bite was heavenly!

And to cap off the evening, we had a mixed berry cheesecake and chocolate barks ... plus they served us a special raspberry sorbet in a chocolate cup just cause it's our anniversary. =) It was a perfect way to cap off a perfect dinner!

Thanks so much for dinner, Ni. Happy 6th Anniversary and looking forward to many, many more to come! I love you very much =)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Maternity Tour

Yesterday Jojo and I joined 5 other couples as we attended a tour and orientation held at the Torrance Memorial Hospital maternity ward. We started the afternoon with some snacks and then the rest of the hour was spent meeting the nursing staff, listening to important details, getting familiar with the various procedures, and visiting the labor/delivery room, the NICU, the operating room, and the mommy & baby recovery room.

It was a nice experience and I really appreciated getting a peek at what's going to happen on our big day. The maternity floor at Torrance Memorial was also very nicely decorated (tasteful both for mommies and babies). Everyone seemed very efficient but at the same time the staff were all really super supportive and very accommodating. They literally have thought of everything to make our hospital stay as convenient and stress-free as possible. Everything seemed very clean and almost sterile without losing out on warmth and homeyness.

I also loved how strict the were with making sure everything was clean and secure. They had all these measures in place to make sure no one could walk away with our baby or switch babies by mistake. With all the labor-related things I have been thinking about, that has not even crossed my mind, so I was really glad that they had that part covered.

Also, the procedures were all super duper efficient - each room had a nurse assigned (as well as roving nurses that were on hand to assist further). There are specialists available 24/7 (for both the mommy's and the baby's care). Everything was very state of the art. I really felt at ease with how everything was described despite all my apprehensions. I felt very reassured and calmed by the whole experience. And as an added bonus we got lots of freebies to take home after wards - that's always nice! =)

We are pretty much decided to have Beanie over at Torrance Memorial but just for comparison's sake, we are also doing the "Tea and Tour" over the Little Company of Mary Providence Hospital next month. That is also a really nice facility so it can't hurt to go have a look. After all, we only want the very best for our baby girl =)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Fourth Letter

Dear Jellybean,

Happy 24th week my darling baby girl! Your 24th week is actually tomorrow but since I have this Sunday afternoon off ... I thought I would get a headstart in writing this letter. As I type this letter to you, your dad is in your nursery applying a second coat of white paint to the crownmolding. He is being quite anal about getting every nook and cranny! Everything is starting to come together rather nicely. Two weeks ago, your Auntie Jenny and Uncle Mark came over and together we painted your room a happy shade of yellow. It's called Pale Daffodil and it looks like a beautiful burst of sunshine has spilled into the nursery.

Uncle Mark also re-did your closet floors (removing the carpet and installing wood laminate) while Auntie Jenny made sure all your cabinets and shelves are spic and span. It's now ready to be filled with all your clothes and toys! Your furniture has arrived also but we are holding off on putting it together just yet. Maybe over the Xmas holidays when your Tito Lee and Tito Jay come over to help your dad assemble everything.

Things have been going rather well this 2nd trimester. My only concern these last few days is I have not felt you move at all. I've been reading countless baby books and websites - most of them say it is normal to feel flutters starting around the 18th to 22nd week. Since tomorrow is the start of my 24h week, I am obsessing about why I have not felt you move at all. Your dad is convinced that I am being overly paranoid. I can't help it! I desperately want to know you are ok. I shared my concerns with your Aunties ... all of them reassured me that every pregnancy is different and some babies are just felt moving at a later time. Auntie Tracy said she didn't feel Sydney move till her 28th week while Auntie Len said she only felt Jeremy move in her 7th month.

I am somewhat relieved ... Then this morning, I think I did feel you move ... I felt a very subtle movement in my lower belly. Kind of like air bubbles in my tummy. I lay very still and placed my hands over the same area but I felt nothing. I gently wiggled my belly and there was another subtle flutter. I was so excited I yelled for your dad to come - he did - but apparently you were done moving for the day. Even after I wiggled my belly a few more times, I didn't feel anything anymore. I think that was your way of telling us to stop waking you up from your sleep! =) I guess I will just have to try and be patient, Bean, and wait for you to move when you are good and ready.

I've been reading the website where they track the weekly average size and weight of babies throughout the pregnancy. This 24th week you are over a pound in weight and around 12 inches in length (from your head to your toes). This is so amazing. An honest to goodness miracle! And you truly are! Let me tell you why, Bean. Last March 2010, I was diagnosed with an "illness" (well, not really an "illness" but for lack of a better word, I'll just use "illness" for now). Anyway, this "illness" that I had made having a baby almost impossible. I was so sad and depressed then. But when we conceived you three months later, I thought I had overcome the "illness". About 2 weeks ago, I saw another doctor who was convinced that I still have the "illness" (and will be treated for it after I deliver you). So while I know that every baby conceived is a miracle, your conception is an even greater miracle because you were conceived despite me being "ill". You are truly our miracle baby! I can not thank the Heavens enough for sending you to us.

I pray that you continue to grow strong and healthy. And I continue to wait excitedly for the day we will finally get to meet.

Love you, Beanie!

SIDE NOTE: Beanie actually made her presence felt that very night! As Jojo and I were lying down, watching tv, I felt a light jab on my lower belly. One, two, three jabs and it stopped. I thought I imagined it. After a few seconds, there it was again. One, two, three! By the 2nd jab, I actually grabbed Jojo's hand and placed in on my belly and he felt the third jab! I wanted to make sure I wasn't imagining it or just willing it to happen. Jojo confirmed it though - Beanie was definitely letting us know she was up and about!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Other Weird Things

Here are a few other weird things I am experiencing during this stage of pregnancy. (Well maybe "weird" isn't the right word, but rather some "unusual" things that are going on with me):

1.) These days I get sleepy really early (I can actually go to bed at 9 PM!) but for no discernible reason I wake up between 4 and 4:30 AM and am unable to sleep for the next two hours. I don't wake up cause I'm in any sort of pain, nor do I need to go to the bathroom. Actually there is nothing that happens at that time but like clockwork I wake up and can not sleep again till around 6 AM. Jojo and I are convinced that it's Jellybean's way of letting me know she's awake and wants some time with me. So while Jojo sleeps, I talk to Bean, pray with her, listen to Baby Einstein, or read baby books. This has been going on for the last 2 weeks.

2.) I am still not wearing maternity clothes (they are still too loose) but can not fit into most of my regular clothes either. So I'm kind of in-between and wearing my "fat clothes". Thank God I am pregnant during the Fall/Winter season when layering is in!

3.) I am hot all the time. "Hot" as in "feeling warm" and not "hot" as in "sexy!". These days the weather is SUPER COLD - let me illustrate by describing what Jojo wears to bed the last few nights. He's in thick jogging pants, a shirt, a long-sleeved sweatshirt, and sports socks. He's in bed with a fleece blanket and a down comforter. Plus we have a mini-heater on his side of the room. I on the other hand am in regular cotton pajamas (short-sleeved) and am content with just the blanket (half the time I have to kick it off at night cause I get too warm). Another reason I am grateful to be pregnant during the Fall/Winter season.

4.) I get some mild headaches at the end of the day (they last anywhere between 30 minutes to a few hours). They are not bad headaches but noticeable. We think it's just me getting tired from work. The headaches are usually gone by the time we have dinner and get ready for bed. Also, Jojo has been learning acupressure and has been massaging my palm and it really helps! We're going to see my eye doctor this weekend just to be sure though.

5.) My tummy and breast area get INCREDIBLY ITCHY! I am constantly lathering with moisturizing lotion and talcum powder just to relieve the itch. I've been told it is because my body is stretching to accommodate the baby. That thought makes me happy but I can't say it helps with relieving itchiness.

6.) My falling hair seems to have abated somewhat or rather it is no longer concentrated in just one area anymore ... I'll post more on this in a separate entry. Much to talk about but still need a few more "tests"/ doctor visits to be sure.

7.) And as I mentioned in my last blog entry, I find myself very emotional lately. Not in a hysterical, overly-dramatic way ... but rather in a mushy, sentimental kind of way =)

As the days, weeks, months go by, things keep changing and my body goes through these strange phases ... pregnancy sure is interesting!