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Dear Corwin,

I haven’t written you anything here in years. It was a conscious decision to share less about you here, and let you grow into your own person without people’s impressions of you being influenced by how I see you. I still share little stories of you on Instagram, but it’s different. I miss this, and today, I want to make an exception.

You are five years and eight months old now. You love drawing, and it’s been amazing seeing you develop over time. You draw stories, and make little books of your own. You spend hours playing Lego, building and breaking things, weaving all sorts of stories with your minifigures. Raising you without TV during your first 2 years was challenging, as is limited screentime as a preschooler, but I think it’s paying off. You call your dad Master Storyteller. Your humour is so spot on with ours, and you fit into this family more perfectly than I could’ve ever imagined.

Dear CorwinLast month, we treated your first major knee scrapes and a broken toenail. I almost fainted fixing the latter, but it’s all good. You were a brave little boy. And speaking of brave, you’re also getting better at swimming. I call you my little fishy, but you insist you’re a shark.

You started reading at 3 years old (I originally wrote 4, but I just saw a video of you reading CVC words back in August 2015), and are now reading Level 2 books all on your own. You read more advanced books with a little help. You read reference books for fun, too, the way your father and I read encyclopedias when we were kids. 

We’ve just started reading Harry Potter’s Goblet of Fire, a chapter or two every night. I was reading it to you but my reading of Voldemort’s lines scared you, so you asked to read them instead. I didn’t think I would ever find Voldy cute.

Reading is a big part of who I am, who your father is, and who we are together. It means so much to me that you love it as much as we do. Whenever the house is quiet, I know it’s because you’re reading. You’re still very much the chatterbox with the gazillion questions. And you love music, too — all sorts: classical, The Beatles, David Bowie, One Direction, random 90s music, The Decemberists, and almost all the Disney songs and animated movie soundtracks in existence.

Grandma Alma passed away a few days before your 5th birthday. I cannot begin to express how much it broke my heart to tell you. You have been inviting her to your nonexistent birthday party for weeks, as always. We never plan to have one, but you invite all the people you love to it anyway, year after year, and we end up having people over each time because we know how much it means to you.

Weeks later, while we had ice cream on the playground swings, you asked me quietly, “I made Grandma happy?” I wanted to cry into my cone. Yes, you did. She loved you so much, little one. She adored you and delighted in everything you did. She loved spending bits of her Sundays with you, and you looked forward to each one. She would drop by with art materials to make things with you on our dining table, answer all your questions, and play Monopoly Junior with you a hundred billion times. It took me some time to process my own grief, because I felt your loss so immensely. I am sorry grandma is gone.

We’ve moved closer to your school, and you love it here so much. We have open space where you get to run around, with the neighborhood kids who are all, as luck would have it, more or less your age. I love how you explore in the grass, and get earth in your hands and on your feet like a boy your age should, in spite of your slightly obsessive-compulsive and germophobic mother. I am a work in progress, just like you, and I think I’m getting better. Even though it drives me nuts at times, I delight in your boy-ness. I cherish the pretend battles with imaginary villains and the dirt under your nails as part of a childhood well spent, and have learned to shake off the panic when your unwashed feet find their way to our bed.

I will love you forever and ever, even when I’m “old and wrinkly”. Remember that wrinkles are nothing to be afraid of; they’re stories you carry with you everywhere you go, memories of love and loss and laughter. Wear them proudly. And yes, I will climb up your window like the mother in the book Love You Forever if I absolutely must, but would still very much prefer to go through the door.


Cor’s teacher told me that he cried in class today. A bit unusual, as he’s been adjusting quite nicely to preschool. Apparently, they read a book and studied letter sounds, and “M is for mommy” triggered something and turned his mood around. He tried to fight it and rubbed his eyes, but the tears fell. At this point of the story, I couldn’t help but laugh. I could just picture it. He gets that way when he hears particularly melancholic songs, too.

“I miss mommy.” He was told I would be back soon to pick him up and was offered a hug, but he wouldn’t take it. “I want to go home.” Then he lay down on the floor and went rigid for maybe five minutes. He basically checked out until he could regulate himself and join the class again.

I gave him many, many hugs on our way out.

When we got inside the car, he told me, “I cried in school today, mommy.”
Me: “Why’d you cry?”
Cor: “Because I missed you and I was sad.” Holding up his fingers to count, “1, 2, 3, 4… 10 feelings.”
Me: “You had many feelings?”
Cor: “Yes. I defeated them all.”

Little triumphs.

3 years and 7 months old now. He looks and acts older most of the time that I tend to forget he’s still so young. We’re still learning all about feelings, but I think we’ll be okay.

childhoodDear Corwin,

I’ve always found childhood to be this magical thing, and I always used to return to the bits of mine I remember whenever things were rough, but I don’t anymore. I’m in yours.

You’re still two years old. You won’t remember much of these days. You won’t remember laughing so hard your little round face looked like it was about to explode when your father and I lip-synched Queen to you when you were three months old. You won’t remember you and I raising our index fingers and wiggling in the car to Semisonic when you were barely a year old. You won’t remember jumping around and squealing with happiness while finger painting. You won’t remember your father going down the giant slide with you, and reading you thousands of stories. But I will. I get to keep these things forever, and that is where you’ll find them if the time should ever come when your memories aren’t enough. Until then, I’ll keep them safe with me.

I think your childhood is filling in all the little cracks in my soul.


photo (7)Dear Corwin,

You are 2 years and 9 months old now. Last month was a bit rough for mommy. I broke my leg and needed an operation. It’s been a difficult adjustment because I’ve always taken pride in being independent, but your dad has been so amazing. He’s been taking such good care of me, and I love him even more now, if that’s possible. He’s our hero. I’m getting better by the day, and I’ll be walking again soon enough. For now, I’m learning how to be patient. And we’re going to be making jokes about mommy’s robot leg for a very long time.

You have been unbelievably sweet most days, taking care of me and giving me lots of hugs and kisses. You pat my good leg and ask me, “Is this leg okay?” And when I say yes, you hug it. You bring me flowers after your walks around the village, and tell me to “Get better now.” Not soon. Now. Oh, sweetheart. You are impatient, too, just like me. We’ve been working on that though, and I’m proud to say we’re both improving.

Late last month, you woke up, jumped on the bed, and said, “No more diapers!” We were surprised and asked you if you were sure, because we were heading out for lunch. You insisted, so that was when we started potty training. We were in no rush to potty train you, really. You’ve been advanced on most things so far that I figured, just like everything else, you would do it when the time is right. Your dad and I figured that we could either do it sooner and work on it longer, or wait until you’re ready and have it over and done with quicker. We opted for the latter, and true enough, you got the hang of it quickly. You are now the proud owner of many, many Batman briefs, and are learning not to show them to everyone. :p

I’m not quite decided if you’re exceptionally funny or your father and I just have a knack for finding the humor in most things, but you’re always cracking us up one way or another. I love the laughter that fills our home.

You adore our 8 year old rabbit, Marbles, and want to snuggle him often. Earlier this month, you petted him, saying, “Happy Best Friends’ Day, Marbles!” A few seconds later, in a smaller, higher pitched voice, you replied for him, “Happy Best Friends’ Day, Corwin!”

There’s a little girl in the village who looks for you often, one of your two best friends. She calls out for you from the street. One time she was shouting your name at 7am, I could hear you shout back from downstairs, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I’m eating!” I was half asleep then, but it was still hilarious. You went to her birthday party while I was in the hospital. Your aunts took you there because I couldn’t, and I promised you you could go. I’m told the birthday girl screeched when you walked in.

You’re currently trying to type on my laptop, too, and are inserting random characters everywhere, so I’ll take that as my cue to stop and play Pirates Covered With Clay with you now.

I have so many stories of you, of us, and I carry them with me wherever I go.


Dear Corwin,

Tonight, while you were pretend buying things from the supermarket (wall) and cooking eggs, pepper, garlic, tomatoes, and cheese (puzzle pieces) on your oven (table), and telling me to be careful because it’s hot —

You, to me: Are you having fun?
Me, smiling: Yes.
You: Are you happy?
Me: Yes, I’m happy.
You: I’m happy, too.

You’re 2 years, 7 months, and 2 days old today. I’m still not used to being so happy I could burst into tears. I have been feeling like this a lot since I was pregnant with you, which is somewhat funny, because we didn’t plan on having children. We couldn’t imagine ourselves as parents.

My parents separated when I was your age, so my only memories of the time before that are the ones I’ve formed from seeing pictures. I had a good childhood though. They both loved me, and we all did our best. And I wouldn’t change a single thing, because I believe everything led me to this.

I had no idea what I was missing until you came along. Your father has been my home for over 16 years now. But the day you were born was the first time I have ever truly understood and felt what family means.

When you ask for family hugs or look at pictures of the three of us hugging and kissing, with that smile of a child who knows he belongs, my heart swells to the point of exploding. I know I belong now, too. And I am flooded with gratitude and a joy so immense my body cannot contain it. I am happy, not just for you, but for the child I was, because this, this was worth the wait.


20140422-220955.jpgDear 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.


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 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 A Bit 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,

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.


  • Rose

    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 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Lisa

    Thanks, Rose! 🙂 Would be great if you guys could meet.ReplyCancel


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.


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.