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Dancing with Mom

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Dear Corwin,

We’re shooting a beautiful renewal of vows today, on the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary. I love how in love they are with each other still, and people have been expecting me to cry today, but thankfully, I’ve managed to contain myself. Haha. But now on the dance floor as the program ends, one of the couple’s sons is dancing with the bride, his mother, and I am on the verge of crying and laughing all at once.

He’s a young, good-looking hipster boy and you’d think he’d feel like he’s too cool to dance with his mother to Dancing Queen, of all songs, but he’s right there on the dance floor with her, with a huge smile on his face. And that makes my heart so happy.

One of my favorite things in the whole world is dancing with you. You dance with so much joy, it’s contagious. We have done this nearly every single day since before you could walk, to songs that range all the way from Queen to Modest Mouse to Pharrell Williams to The Lumineers. Never be too old or too cool to dance with mommy, okay?

Racing home to you now.

Love,
Mommy

2 Years, 4 Months, 18 Days

Dear Corwin,

I have so many things I want to write, and I think about writing you every day, but I’d rather spend as much of my free time with you than write these days. I post a lot of things on Instagram and Facebook. I don’t know if those websites will still be around by the time you’re old enough to appreciate what I’ve written there about you and us, but know you’re never out of my mind, my love.

Ever since you were a tiny little infant, you would get affected by music. I have a thing for sad songs, and whenever they would play, the little corners of your mouth would turn down and your bottom lip would quiver, and you would cry after a few seconds, so I’ve been avoiding playing them. Sometimes I try again just to check if you still mind. It hasn’t changed much, you still tear up, but now you tell your father, “Daddy, o. Sad song.” And it’s so sweet and so funny, we burst out laughing, and I switch to something happier, and you dance again. You are such a happy little boy, and that makes me so much happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. You walk like there’s music playing inside your head. Probably something with violins and drums.

We pass by this street at night sometimes and you always point to the street lamps and call them “sad lights”. It took me a couple of times before I got it. The lights are a lot dimmer, and tinted. Dull. Flickering. Sad. I’ve always known you’re highly empathic. You are my son, after all, and I process the world in feelings. When I was younger, I used to think my empathy was a curse, that people shouldn’t be allowed to feel so much. But as I grew older, I learned to contain it and use it to fuel my art. I have grown to accept it and even treasure it as a part of who I am, without letting it affect me the way it used to. I hope I can help you do the same. You always say they’re sad lights matter-of-factly though, the way your father talks about most things. My gut tells me you’ll be just fine.

You get scared when we pass through tunnels. This time we tell you that your stuffed lion that we keep in the car is scared, too, and that you should hold his hand and comfort him. I hear you tell him in a loving voice, “It’s okay. It’s okay, lion.” and my heart just bursts inside my chest each time. “It’s okay. It’s okay, honey.” is what I’ve always comforted you with while holding you in my arms, in that same tone of voice.

You call mosquitoes “smee-toes” and it’s so insanely adorable, I don’t want to correct you just yet. A few weeks ago, you were being so much more adorable than usual that I couldn’t help but let you know. “You’re adorable, honey.” You giggled and smiled at me very sweetly, saying, “I’m a doorbell.” I think I nearly died laughing. You make the people around you so, so happy.

You have a book called Little Owl Lost, where the little owl gets, well, lost. These past few days, you have taken to making this unbelievably cute pretend-forlorn face, saying in a small voice, “I’m lost.” And I pretend to look for you even though you’re right smack in front of me because, hey, I can be cool like that. But I can’t let it play out for too long because I can never resist hugging you and wiping away the sadness, even if it’s just pretend, and I tell you that I’m here, that mommy will always find you, because I will. I will rip through the entire world with my bare hands if that’s what it takes to find you. So please, please don’t stray too far from me when we’re out, my little adventurer. The world will never be ready for me without you.

It’s 2:45am. I wrote while you were sleeping so I don’t have to miss out on any more than I have to while you’re awake. Sweet dreams, little one.

Love, always,
Mommy

Try Again. Try Again.

Dear Corwin,

A few days ago, the three of us were in the car and about to leave our driveway when your father kissed me. We heard giggling in the backseat. When we turned to look at you, my brain nearly exploded from the cuteness of it all. You had your hands covering your mouth and you were “kilig” and giggling your little face off. Naturally, your father kissed me more times to elicit the same reaction from you. It was the sweetest thing. I wanted to scoop you off your big boy carseat and smother you with kisses, you crazy adorable thing you, but I managed to contain myself during the drive.

Your dad and I were supposed to go out on a movie date last night, but for some reason, I just really needed to be home with you instead. I am so glad we went home. We had such an amazing night playing together. We pretended to go on a road trip, sang, played drums on pots and pans, made a red snowman and crocodile, and chopped clay hotdogs and donuts with an old membership card. You get so many nice toys from us and other people, but it’s the tiny little things that make you happy. I appreciate that so much about you.

You chatted our ears off yesterday. “Here you go.” “Where’s it? There it is!” “Red means stop. Green means go.” “Trinoma first. Baguio after.” “There is ants! One ants!” (Haha.) “Have some lollipop please, mommy.” (Your pedia gave you one yesterday. It was your first ever.)

I am your mother and it is my privilege to be completely biased and find you brilliant. But we don’t want you to grow up hearing us tell you you’re smart, and have you go through life expecting things to fall on your lap just because you think you’re smart and feel you deserve special treatment. We want you to find validation in working for things, in the trying, and achieving your goals the right way. Ever since you were a baby, we’ve been slowly teaching you to be resilient, to not give up when things don’t work the way or as fast as you expect them to, to pick yourself up when you fall and dust yourself off, and to keep practicing until you get it right. We want you to grow up valuing honest hard work, so you can savor success that you have rightfully earned. No shortcuts. No lies.

It was so difficult for me to learn how to quell my instinct to squeal and yelp each time you fell when you were learning how to walk, but I managed to get there within days because I needed to. We didn’t want you to become scared of falling. Tonight, you tripped and fell on the floor while walking around the room. As always when there’s no injury, you didn’t cry. You stood up, and came to me for a hug and a kiss, then went back to whatever it was you were doing. And while playing with clay on your own for a bit, we heard you talking to yourself. “Cut it. Try again. Try again. Practice, like Cubby.” In the book you read with your dad, Cubby couldn’t get the hang of the pogo stick right away, so he kept practicing and practicing until he got it right. You were the same with basketball, too. You would play for a long time even though you couldn’t get the ball through the hoop, and now you’re quite good at it.

I felt an incredible surge of pride when I heard you encourage yourself like that. I hugged your dad real tight and said, “I’m happy. Are you happy?” He hugged me back, said yes, and asked you if you were. Before he could finish the question, you replied with a decisive little nod, “Happy too, yes.”

You’re an amazing little person, and you make us want to be better and do better. You give us something bigger than ourselves to aspire to. You make me want to be the best version of myself, so when you grow up, you can be proud of me, too.

Love,
Mommy

RoseFebruary 7, 2014 - 8:30 pm

This may have to be my favorite blog post of yours, Lisa! Love that you and Jeff are teaching and raising Corwin to be a resilient, honest, and good person. Would like to meet your little boy one day :-)

So Much More

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Dear Corwin,

It’s 1:45pm as I write this. You fell asleep on the car ride home. I usually carry you out of the car and up the stairs and lay you down on the bed, but this afternoon, you’re sleeping on me instead. We do this a lot less often now, and I miss it terribly. You’re snoring, and it’s adorable.

We had to get you a bigger car seat today. You just hit 15kg and it’s time to move up. You’re growing up so fast, love. You’re as tall as a 4 year old. You had a hilarious conversation with one tonight. You talked about lightning and thunder and stars. You played with one year old Liam, gave him cookies, and are slowly learning how to not take books away from other children’s hands. A baby cried on the other end of the room and you stood up, saying, “What’s that noise? What’s that?” You looked concerned and wanted to help soothe him.

I’ve written you so many letters, and while every word I write is true, always know that this isn’t all you are. You aren’t just words on a paper. You are so much more than these letters, so much more than the photos your father and I take. It isn’t to show you who you are and who you will become. You decide that. (I hope we raise you well enough for you to choose well for yourself.) It’s simply just to document little bits and pieces of your childhood. To be perfectly honest, I think I do this more for myself than for you.

I write and I take pictures because I’m afraid of forgetting. I’m afraid I’ll wake up one day not remembering any of this. It’s a baseless fear, but I do not want a life where I do not know this love. And if something should happen to me and I miss out on the rest of your life, I want you to have these memories and feelings to hold on to. Because they make up the best of mine.

It’s now 10:47pm as I finish writing this. Motherhood gets in the way of letter writing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sleep well, my love.

Love,
Mommy

2 Years, 2 Months, 20 Days

Dear Corwin,

You were playing beside us tonight when you suddenly stopped and said, “I love you, mommy. I love you, daddy. So happy.” And then you hugged us. It was all I could do not to burst into tears. You’ve been telling us you love us for some time now, and you’ve been telling us you’re happy ever since you could sign the word. When you started speaking, you always said “happy” or “Corwin happy”, but tonight you included the word “so”. It’s a two-letter word difference, but it meant so much to me.

You make your own pirate boat out of pillows. You have a house lizard friend named George. You’re so imaginative, and so moved by music. You said the water in the fountain was dancing, so you danced with it. You love the piano, the violin, and all musical instruments. You ask daddy to play Coltrane on his phone a lot.

We went to Baguio as a family for the first time a couple of weeks ago. You watched a jazz band with such wonder in your eyes, and you clapped so enthusiastically. You rode a horse for the first time, too. His name was Avatar, and you liked that. I had to ride with you, and I was so terrified I prayed for your safety, but you loved it. You were so comfortable and, well, at peace. You sat on the horse like it was the most natural thing in the world to you. We rode on a trail for half an hour. I held on for dear life. You counted butterflies and said hello to the pony taking a bath by the trail.

Our trip to the pedia last week was very pleasant, especially after four months of crying with every visit. You talked to the doctor, and you tried on her stethoscope. I put the other end on my heart, and you looked up and smiled at me when you heard my heartbeat. It was a different kind of smile, and I think it was one of recognition. I like to think that maybe that’s what it sounded like to you when you were in my tummy, and that you remembered.

You are in my heart every single second of every single day.

Love,
Mommy

2014

Dear Corwin,

I had an allergy attack a few nights ago, and was all red and splotchy. You pointed at me and told daddy that I had “allergies”. I said goodnight, and asked for a hug and a kiss, and was met with a hesitant look. You quietly said no, before resuming playing. Your dad and I laughed, and I had to reassure you that I’m not contagious, that I’m just itchy and you won’t catch it, too. So I asked again, and you looked at me and thought about it for a few seconds before shuddering and saying, “Corwin itchy, too.” Hahaha. You are so much like me sometimes, it’s funny/scary. I’m sorry for creeping you out, little boy. I’m afraid it’s like this often for me. Also, you had atopic dermatitis when you were a baby and looked far worse at times, and I held you anyway, so you know, cut me some slack and hug me anyway, too.

It’s been a busy work month for us, but I did my best to space them well so we would still have plenty of time for you. It’s not easy, giving our all to both work and raising you, but it continues to be amazingly fulfilling. I think having you has been really good for our work. You inspire us. You have brought new depths to how we see and understand love. It’s an immense, overwhelming feeling that I don’t know how to put into words quite yet, but I see it in the photographs we take. You surround me. You light a fire inside me like nothing else.

Next year is going to be our busiest year ever. You’re also going to start preschool. I can’t believe you’re going to be a preschooler! I still think of you as my baby. I ask you often if you’re my baby, and when you feel like being kissed and snuggled, you say yes. And you close your eyes and squeal with glee and happiness as I shower your face with kisses. I’m so excited for everything that’s coming. You, me, and daddy, we’re a little team of three.

I took some pictures of us snuggling while waiting for dinner the other night. As you were walking away, you quietly said, “You look pretty, mommy.” It was something so completely unexpected, my heart felt like bursting inside my chest.

We had lunch out a few days ago. You sat in your high chair, and I felt you fussed a little bit while asking for a straw to play with, but it was a pleasant meal. We talked. You hugged and kissed me. You ate on your own. I noticed the table next to us had two ladies, a grandma and maybe her youngest daughter, who looked at our table often. For a moment, I wondered what grievous parenting mistake your father and I were committing that they were judging us for. It wasn’t always pleasant, our meals together. You would sometimes refuse to sit down and eat like a civilized human being, which is fine because you were a baby (a.k.a. a little caveman), but it was challenging at times. I’ve been sorely tempted to let you watch cartoons on an iPad just to get through a meal together, but we sucked it up and bore it.

At the end of the meal, I told you to say goodbye to the servers. They know us already, and it’s only polite. Instead, you turned around and said goodbye to the two ladies. They beamed back at you delightedly, and it felt nice. The grandma asked me how old you are, and I told her you turned 2 recently. She was genuinely surprised, and exclaimed, “He’s so well-behaved!” And it was my turn to smile from ear to ear. It was one of the best compliments I have ever received as a mother. I know you’re smart and funny and kind, but I have always wondered if we weren’t strict enough with you, if we are not as firm as we should be. And it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. We’ll be just fine.

We spent New Year’s Eve with relatives. Tita Jenny and Lucas slept over, and you boys had the time of your lives. You rode a train, played Lego, read books, played hide and seek. You looked out for him and held his hand when he was scared. You hugged and kissed when you weren’t grabbing each other’s toys, and over dinner you hugged him again and told him, “I love you.” My heart swells at the thought that you’ll grow up together, and you’ll have each other’s backs forever.

Your dad recently made a video of the past three months of your life and made me cry. It’s beautiful. Seeing you grow up is the most profoundly beautiful thing in the world to me. I hope your childhood is filled with wondrous things, and that you always find magic here.

Happy New Year, little one.

Love,
Mommy

Christmas 2013

Dear Corwin,

You are 2 years and 1.5 months old now. It’s like something magically switched on last month. You have become incredibly increasingly affectionate. You shower us with soooo many hugs and kisses now, and call it “lambing”. You do this a LOT. You ask for hugs, even from your carseat. My heart melts, and I still get so wonderfully overwhelmed at times. You weren’t a snuggly baby, and I would always get a bit sad when I saw other babies cuddled up to their moms. Cuddling for too long made you feel claustrophobic, so I only did it for as long as you still felt okay with it. And now you do it freely and on your own, and I can honestly say I have never ever been this happy before.

You’ve started speaking in 4-5 word sentences this month. For a moment there, I was a little bit worried that your speech development was stagnating. It didn’t make sense though because you started speaking early and already know about 150-200 words, and are quite opinionated and communicative. You say so many words, but wouldn’t string them together to make sentences longer than 3 words. So we read up on it and realized we were doing a few things wrong. Essentially, we were preemptively meeting your needs so much that you felt no need to communicate in complete sentences. After correcting that, we saw you improve in leaps and bounds within just a few days. I remember your Tita Benz once told me that efficient moms make for lazy kids, and that makes so much sense now, so I think it’s time for me to let go a little bit, and not make life too easy for you. I’ll be less anxious, and you can have more space to grow.

Toddlerhood is not without its challenges, and a few weeks ago, I texted your father jokingly that I was resigning. He replied that you wouldn’t accept my resignation, and I laughed out loud. Yes, you wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t either, you should know that by now. I am growing into this motherhood thing, just as much as you’re growing into being your own person. Both are hard, and we should be more forgiving of each other. We are both stubborn, but we have the same heart. If we love each other with everything we have, we can get through anything.

We spent yesterday, Christmas Eve, at Lolo Dan’s with the rest of the family, and you were so much more interested in handing out presents than receiving and opening them. You “helped” me wrap the presents a few days ago, and you chose this over watching Elmo. We woke up early this morning to open your presents, but you weren’t really that into it. I wanted you so much to open the gifts and be wide eyed over them, but I’m also really glad that you don’t care much for material things. I am so proud that you want for nothing, and not because we give you so much, but because what makes you happy are the little things like free paper hats and drinking straws. I asked you what you wanted for Christmas, and after some thought, you just asked for a balloon.

And this Christmas morning, you spent a total of two hours playing on your own, with your Lego train set from Grandma Alma. There’s some kind of magic to a little boy and his first train set. You’ll remember that when you have your own son. You’re growing up so fast, my love. You’re such a kind, giving, and resilient little fellow, and if we manage to raise you well enough to remain as good and compassionate when you’re older, then I will consider that a job well done, and I can die happy and at peace that I have done enough good in my lifetime.

I am thankful to have known a love like this. No, you are not my entire world, and no one single person should be yours either, but you and your father are the biggest, most important part of mine. I am thankful for a love so great and bigger than myself and anything I have ever known, that it redefines my very existence. I see everything differently now. I always want to be a better person because of you, and I am thankful every day. Merry Christmas, little one.

Love,
Mommy

Conversations

December 7, 2013. On the drive home from Jeff’s birthday dinner.

Corwin, from his car seat: “Daddy. Mad.”
Jeff: “What are you mad about?”
Corwin, solemnly: “Peoples.”

December 12, 2013. While we were fixing up for work, Corwin was stuffing his cooking pot full of crayons.

Me: “That’s a lot of crayons. Can you count them?”
Corwin: “One, two, three.”
Me: “That’s a lot more than three, silly. How many are there?”
Corwin, stretching his arms wide: “LOTS!”

December 13, 2013. Naming body parts while in the car.

Touching his toes, me: “What are these?”
Corwin: “Toes.”
Touching his calves, me: “What are these?”
Corwin: “Pata.”

Touching his forehead, me: “What’s this?”
Corwin: “Forehead.”
Touching his eyebrows, me: “What are these?”
Corwin: “Eyebrows.”
Touching his eyelids, me: “What are these?”
Corwin: “Muta.”

Life Lately

Dear Corwin,

Life since the typhoon has been a little bit different. Most of my time has gone to doing what I can to help. It’s not much, but it’s what I can do. My heart hurts for the ones who have lost so much. I’ve been crying a lot while reading the news. I think I’m grieving in my own way. There has been so much loss, and it’s been difficult for me to process. I can’t imagine the horror that these people have been through, and are still experiencing. Some part of it is also because I feel a tremendous amount of guilt. I’ve been feeling guilty because my life is intact, because I have everything I could ever need or want, and because I am happy. I have you and your father. Of course, I am happy. But I’ve been having a hard time being okay with being happy at a time when so many people have had their entire lives torn into and ripped apart. Things weren’t really making much sense for me.

These people are currently grieving in a way that none of us could ever understand. Parents have lost their children. Children have lost their parents. I would never have understood the gravity of this if you never came along. And it hurts because I cannot help enough to take even a tiny shred of their pain away. I have tried to the point where it took up so much of my time that your father would have to ask me to put my phone down and be present in the room with the both of you. And a few days ago, nearing the end of November, you, my two year old son, asked me for a Christmas tree. Then I understood. I’m sorry I’ve been missing so much these past couple of weeks. I’m trying to find some balance now.

We went to our first Christmas party of the year earlier this afternoon. You’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of days already, and you’ve been chanting, “Party! Party! Party!” randomly the entire day. Your father and I are notorious introverts. But you, my funny, sweet boy, seem to be quite the opposite. You were saying hi to other children with ease, and going up the stage to dance. You did this completely on your own, with no prodding from us whatsoever. I even tried to convince you to dance elsewhere a few times, but nope, you wanted to do it on the stage. You jumped and danced your little heart out. You had a little bit of ice cream, cotton candy, cheese popcorn, and nachos, so maybe those didn’t help either. Haha. We don’t let you eat any of those things at home, but we figured this one time wouldn’t hurt. Basically, you had the time of your life today. And it felt really, really good to be there for it.

I love you so very much, more than I could ever hope to put into words. When you have your own child, you will understand exactly how much.

Love,
Mommy

Two Years Old

Dear Corwin,

You turned two years old four days ago, last November 8. Sometime during that day, the strongest typhoon recorded in recent history hit some parts of the country. At the time, it was just raining in Manila, and we had no idea of the extent of the damage. We celebrated quietly at Lolo Dan’s home with family as planned, and you devoured your especially requested broccoli dish that Tita Mel prepared. You basked in the glow of the love of the people around you, and we went home feeling incredibly happy and blessed.

Over the next few days though, we would read on the news and stories of people affected about what happened in Leyte and Samar, among others. It has been heartbreaking, seeing complete and total devastation. I read stories about parents losing their children, and I could not help but weep for them. I cannot imagine losing you, much less in such a violent manner. There has been so much loss, and I am heartbroken and profoundly sad.

I thank God for having you, for being able to keep you, and for having been given a love so great that it redefines my entire existence. I had no idea I could love and care so much it hurts. Having you has taught me how to, and I am forever changed by you.

I’m trying to organize a fundraiser with my friends to help the victims of the typhoon. It’s not going to be anywhere near what is needed to fix what has been broken and ripped apart, and I honestly doubt there is any amount in the world that can fix the unimaginable loss and trauma this has brought upon so many, but we can try to do what we can. We can try to make a difference in even a few people’s lives, and hope that if enough of us do this, it would begin to matter. We can hope that what we do matters. And we can hope that if this ever happened to us, someone out there would feel the same way.

Love,
Mommy

Ernest PascualNovember 12, 2013 - 6:58 pm

Beautiful piece, Lisa! You are a gifted writer. Happy Birthday, Corwin!

NajeeNovember 22, 2013 - 4:22 pm

Thank you for writing. I’m sure Corwin will one day look back on his life and thank *you* for being such a beautiful mother to him.

Please do let us know about your fundraising efforts. Would love to help, too.

Blessings!