I’m Not Always Okay, and That’s Okay

I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a long time, but I could never find the right words to describe it. I know there are many others who go through the same thing, but don’t have a name for it either. It’s like water slowly rising all around you, until your feet are off the ground and you struggle to keep your head above water. Pedaling and treading and paddling for days and days, without anything solid to hold on to. You choke, you swallow water, sputtering and gasping, you get so tired. But you can’t stop moving, because you know that if you do, you’re going to drown.

When things got really, really bad when I had my baby, I decided to read more about what I was going through, and talked to friends who have gone through treatment for mood disorders or mental illness. I stopped short at seeing a professional, mostly because 1) Treatment is freaking expensive and 2) How do you place mental illness/mood disorder in a life that is supposedly anchored on Christ?

The first time I remember ever acknowledging this feeling was in high school. I asked a good friend if she ever felt inexplicable sadness. The way I described it to her was a “heavy blackness that just takes over, and you feel like you’re going to choke.” She told me that sometimes, yes, she feels sad for no reason, but we shouldn’t let it take hold of us because we should lean on Jesus. That I needed to pray more. She was well-meaning, and I took her advice to heart. I quashed every feeling of darkness that came my way, ignored it or covered it up, afraid to bring it up with anyone else because I didn’t want to be seen as someone who didn’t have faith. Someone who didn’t love God enough.

They say the first step towards healing is always acknowledgement, giving your pain a name. Hiding it and keeping it inside just made me miserable. I did a really good job at doing so though, cause everyone always thought I was happy 24/7. My energy was always through the roof. But there was a very short time where I resorted to hurting myself, finding comfort in short-lived romances, electrifying nights out that turned to mornings, and just filling my days with constant activity. I was terrified of being alone, because that’s when it hurt the most. Hurt for no reason. Sad for no reason.

Things got better when I met my husband-to-be. Niki is straightforward, uncomplicated, EXTREMELY PATIENT, and so God-fearing. He was such a calming presence in my life, and it balanced out so much of my instability. During my relationship with him, I found enough peace to renew my relationship with God. I really thought I was okay, that I had matured and all those dark days were just a result of youth and hormones.

Then we got married, I got pregnant, and gave birth to the most wonderful, adorable, lovely little boy. Elon is my heart. I loved him so much! Which is why I didn’t understand why I was so terrified to be alone with him. When I look back at my first year as a mom, what I remember the most was the darkness, the fear, the terrifying realization that I had no idea what I was doing and I was probably failing. It didn’t help that Elon is the world’s worst sleeper, and the lack of sleep plus breastfeeding drove my hormones through the roof and I was an inconsolable mess. Niki often came home to a woman he didn’t recognize- angry, afraid, sometimes crying heavily for no reason. I didn’t understand other women with their bright eyes and makeup, their photos of clean homes and brightly lit, cooing babies. I felt so different from them, and it made me feel even worse.

I had read about the baby blues, which was supposed to last two weeks. I waited for the feeling to go away, but it never did. Weeks turned to months, and the next thing I know, a year had gone by. I prayed and prayed and prayed, but there were some days when I just could not handle it. I was drowning.

During one of our middle-of-the-night feedings, I decided to join forums and research on postpartum depression and anxiety. My western counterparts were a lot more aware about the effects of hormonal changes on mood and mental well-being, and I found a lot of information that made it easier to understand what I was going through. Slowly, I felt less and less alone. Knowing WHY I was feeling the way I was feeling helped me work through it, process it, and fight it.

And then one day, as if someone turned the light switch on, everything just changed. A cloud lifted, a window was opened, and I could breathe. My feet found the ground, and slowly, I walked back to shore. The sun felt good on my face, and everything felt different. Just like that, without warning or anything measurable – I simply felt better.

The day I knew that my hormones were definitely the culprit was when I decided to quit breastfeeding. After 26 months, I decided it was time to stop, and then the madness began all over again. I read up on it and many women have given testimonies about their depression and/or anxiety come back when they stopped breastfeeding. Thankfully, that episode lasted for only 2 weeks, and then the feeling of drowning was gone again.

I still have my episodes, but this time, I know when they are about to come– and it’s always 1-2 weeks before I get my period. Damn you, hormones!!! It’s at that time that I need to eat well, exercise, and get lots of outside time. The episodes still come, but every month I get better at managing it, and knowing what to expect has really, really helped. Having a partner in life who is with me every single step of the way, and will take me out for impromptu trips to see light shows, also makes it easier. And my family, my amazing support system, helps me in ways they don’t event know. Sometimes, knowing they are there is more than enough. I hope to speak to a professional someday soon, because I also believe in the physical as much as I do in the spiritual, and I know that kind of insight/ a proper diagnosis will take me a step closer to healing.

Where does God fit in all of this? How can I be a Christian, and yet suffer from anxiety or a mood disorder? I’m not afraid of that question anymore, because I realized that it’s the reason why He came to die on the cross in the first place: because He loves me and I need His love. My body fights me, but it is not all I am. Maybe it’s the thorn on my side, the way apostle Paul had one too. But I hold on to God’s promise that healing is in His hands, and it is never far away.

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“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

1 Corinthians 3:10-15

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So, What Do You Do All Day?

This is a question I hear often, being a work-at-home mom without household help or a yaya. It is difficult for people to fathom that I spend majority of my day with a tiny little terror whose favorite past-time is anything that DOES NOT involve any form of sitting or relaxation. Other ways of asking this question is “what’s your schedule like?” or “Sa bahay lang kayo?”

Some people skip the question altogether and just assume that I am “a woman of leisure” and they so wish they could do what I do. This one never fails to make me belly laugh. I’m unsure of what they mean by “leisure”, but that’s not something I actually get to do often. Maybe 2 hours every other week, 4 tops.

It’s a fair question, really. I’m sure that 2005 Kris wondered the same thing. I am also pretty sure I vowed that I would never stay at home, and yet here I am.

So, what DO I do all day?

I have wrestled with this question so many, many times. It has made me feel very sad about no longer being able to do all the things I used to do. It has made me feel proud whenever my son blurts out a mispronounced word out of the blue (today he said “hub”, which is ElonSpeak for “hug”). It has made me go insane on days when I have deadlines and clients breathing down my neck. It has driven me to tears when all I want is to take a dump with the door closed, and not have a toddler play with Talking Tom on a tablet on my knee.

But this point is my favorite one – it has made me realize just how important my job really and truly is.

Because you see, one day, Elon may become President. If that is God’s will for his life, well by golly gee I better prepare the little runt to handle that weight.

Or maybe one day, he’ll become an engineer. I better start honing his love for discovery and learning, so he can build and create world-changing things.

Maybe one day he’ll become a father of 5 children, all maddeningly vibrant and active just like he is today. I better prepare him for the kind of love and patience he is going to need to raise them to be even better than himself.

He could decide to be in an advertising agency, or marketing, or sales! Which means I should allow him to love people and to love socializing, to not let his imagination be boxed in, and help develop his confidence in his own abilities.

He could become a musician or an athlete, so I have to make sure to instill in him that hard work trumps talent, and having both will help him find success and fulfillment.

He could be anything his heart desires. And for as long as he is willing to trust God’s hand in his life, then he doesn’t need to be afraid or pressured by the world’s standards or timelines.

And the most important realization i’ve had recently is that whatever kind of man we want Elon to become, those are the kind of people my husband and I need to be. If he is to be kind, loving, confident, curious, happy, helpful, compassionate – these are the things we need to become. Because where else is he going to learn these things first but from home?

That’s what I do all day. I hone, I encourage, I discipline. We dance, sing, draw, laugh, cry, go on the swings, see-saw, down the slide. I hold, hug, kiss, bathe, brush, wipe. We learn, discover, get dirty, go high, go underground, hide, seek, explore. All day long I watch him learn, unfold, find out what makes him happy, what frustrates him, what makes him eager to try again.  All day long, by the grace of God, I try to become a better mom, wife, human being- for the sake of my son. For the sake of the world that I will be leaving him in. Whatever kind of man he becomes one day is partly determined by the kind of life we give him, the kind of parents we are, the kind of people he sees us as. And so that’s what I do all day.

I hope that answers your question.

When You Can, Cuddle

Cuddling is a scarce thing for me and my husband these days. We practice bedsharing, and the tiniest member of our family takes up the most space, usually between us, not leaving a lot of room for cuddling with my man.

But last night, we were forced to do so because the little guy was taking up 2/3 of our queen-sized bed, leaving only the edge for us. As Niki and I snuggled into our little space, we tried to find the most comfortable position that didn’t involve breathing all night long into each other’s faces. His heavy arm rested on my hip bone, which made me slightly pleased to know that my hip bone could still jut out like that and wasn’t hidden under massive layers of jiggly jell-o.

Anyway, our contorted situation made me think about how we used to be when we were younger. We weren’t big on PDA, but boy did we like to cuddle when it was just the two of us- during movies, car rides, nap times. And when we weren’t cuddling, we were subtly touching in one way or another, holding hands, hand on arm, foot on foot, elbow to elbow, knee to knee – you get the point.

However, these days I get so touched out that by the time the day ends, all I want is personal space. I’m a work-at-home, breastfeeding mom so you can imagine how often my son requires me. Milk, eating, bathing, sleeping, playing – i’m being touched aaaaaaall day long and by bedtime i’m exhausted and needing a time out. Sometimes, even sitting too close to each other on the couch is too much.

But last night, squeezed into our tiny little space, feeling my husband breathe deeply and watching my son sleep peacefully, I realized that touch helps connect us. That’s why we need hugs to survive, we shake hands to seal deals, kiss to begin relationships– physical touch is what reminds us that this person beside us is real and present. It’s the one way we can share things that words can’t define.

So when you’re feeling out of it, a little blue, or maybe disconnected from the one you love (or the world)- touch, hug, cuddle. It’s a great way to refresh, to release and share energy, and remind yourself that you are alive.

Makati Parks Review: Jaime C. Velasquez Park

Before all this maddening rain began, Elon and I had the chance to spend a sunny Monday morning at Jaime C. Velasquez Park. More popularly known as Salcedo Park, it is one of the more well-maintained outdoor parks I’ve been to. It has pretty spacious grounds and a big playground area.

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I think one of the key selling points of the park are the coffee shops scattered nearby: The nearest being Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Starbucks. I mean, you KNOW mama needs her caffeine! So you can sit on one of the benches, sipping your java, as you watch your little angel play peacefully with other children.

LOL just kidding. You probably won’t be sitting down, but at least you have coffee to keep you sane, right?

If you’re okay with walking a little, Wildflour Cafe + Bakery as well as Toby’s Estate are on Leviste street as well. I’m usually so desperate for coffee though that i’d probably take 3-in-1 from a JolliJeep if there was one nearby.

Okay so back to the playground – it’s big enough to keep your little critter occupied for a while, with lots of climbing apparatuses, including a pole! And yes, I have done a couple of tricks on it. But no, there are no photos. I am just glad my son is still too young to feel embarrassed by his mother, hahaha.

My favorite part would be the one and only swing that’s pretty safe for tiny toddlers. It’s pliable so it follows the shape of my little guy’s bum-bum and cradles him pretty snugly. He enjoys it very much, as you can see.

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The area is maintained pretty well, and even the restrooms are decent. You have to pay 5 pesos to use it though, and there’s no hand soap or toilet paper, but hey, full bladders can’t be choosers! I’m just glad there are no shoe prints on the toilet bowl. And they clean it after every use so that’s always a plus!

Here’s the downside: There are no dogs allowed in the park, and there is no ball play allowed. I’m assuming they banned the pets early on when owners weren’t cleaning up after them, but I don’t understand the ball play ban. It literally has more than enough space for a little game of catch. I do wish they allowed it in the open space, but it’s not a deal breaker for me.

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On Saturday mornings, the Salcedo Market is set up in the parking lot beside it. It has great food choices and fresh produce, so if you feel like having an interesting breakfast while the little guys run around and play, then this is your place! All in all, the park is nice and convenient enough to be our regular go-to when we’re feeling a little cooped up and need some extra sunshine and fresh(ish) air. It’s also a good area for an afternoon jog, a great relaxing spot for the family, and a lot of food choices nearby to end your day with.

The Deets

Address: Jaime C. Velasquez Park, between LP Leviste and Tordesillas street, Salcedo Village, Makati City

Operating Hours: 6am – 10pm (apparently, dubious things used to happen here at night so they started closing it early. This is why we can’t have nice things!) On Fridays the park closes at 5 pm to make way for the Saturday Market.

Parking: Street parking is allowed until 5 pm on weekdays. You can park along Leviste street, although Tordesillas usually has more space.

Rating: 3 / 5 poopy diapers (Because no dogs and no balls!)

Makati Parks Review: Legaspi Village

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One of the wonderful joys of being a work-at-home-mom is having the ability to spend my days with my little adventurer. BUT! It is also one of my biggest challenges. “Seriously, WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALONE WITH KIDS ALL DAY??” Those were my thoughts early on, when Elon was nothing but a little worm squirming inside his swaddle, staring at me and cooing / complaining.

He’s 19 months old now, and boy oh boy this little guy NEVER STOPS. And he can’t stand being indoors all day either, just like mommy. This means we are constantly on the go, looking for things to do, places to invade, restaurants to disturb. This is why having parks and outdoor playgrounds is so important to me – it helps my kid get exercise, lots of sunlight, and then eventually be so exhausted he sleeps for two hours during his nap. HE HE HE.

So I’m starting off my review with two parks in Legazpi Village, which I only discovered a few days ago, thanks to Facebook crowdsourcing!

We started our morning in Washington Sycip Park on Legaspi street, Legaspi vilage, which is of walking distance from Greenbelt 1.

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It’s a great place to stroll around or relax in, since there are a lot of benches and it’s covered in trees! It’s nice that they have signs on the trees with the names, so you get a little education with your relaxation. There are a few sculptures and installation pieces, and a lovely little pond with fountains and a waterfall.

The park would be a good place to let the little one nap in the stroller, if you’re lucky enough to have a kid who would do that. Haha. We didn’t last too long in there because there really isn’t much for a toddler to do, except poke things with a stick and try to jump into the water. Which probably isn’t such a good idea.

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Good thing the Legaspi Active Park is right across it. This park is a liiiiiittle bit better for toddlers, since there are wide open spaces where they can run in, and a small playground set. The area is clean, quiet, and there are barely any people around.

However, they obviously planted the playground area and then forgot all about it. The thing is covered in graffiti, and not the artistic kind. Just some love notes and scribbles from bored people.

Plus, one of the slides has a huge hole in it, so yeah. Don’t let the kids get on it.

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All in all, we spent around 45 minutes in both parks. It’s a nice and safe enough area for a little stroll, but not a whole afternoon of family fun. Maybe after merienda in Greenbelt you can walk it off there and let the kids get dirty and active before heading home and going to bed.

The Deets:

Parking: Street parking in the surrounding areas are available until 5 PM. You can also park at Greenbelt 1 if you’re in the mood for a little walk.

Address: Legaspi Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City.

Rating: 2.5 / 5 poopy diapers

{Toddler Crime} Crayon Scribbles EVERYWHERE

A couple of days ago, I gave my son a bunch of crayons, an empty notebook, and some freedom. I left him for a bit to wash dishes, and I come back to this: A bunch of crayons, an empty notebook, and a floor covered in crayon scribbles.

This is his “Mommy I did something” look. He also has this look whenever he’s chewing on toilet paper, receipts, or anything else he probably shouldn’t be chewing on.

I also found scribbles on our doors. I didn’t get a chance to photograph it before cleaning them, but I would say his style would fall under abstract. Haha.

My son admiring his handiwork. Thank God I didn’t give him markers! *Shudder*

Anyhoos, I wasn’t quite sure what to use to clean the “art” up, so I grabbed the spray bottle nearest me, and it was my homemade dusting spray. I found the recipe from this site, which is filled with ah-mah-zing DIY, all-natural things! I sprayed it on, scrubbed a little with a microfiber cloth and voila! No more crayon scribbles! Worked on the tile floor and the doors too. IMG_4023                      IMG_4024 It has 4 ingredients, it’s perfectly safe for little children, and I’m pretty sure you have at least 3 of the ingredients in your house right now.

So here’s all you need:

– 1 cup water

– 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

– 2 tablespoons olive oil

– 10 – 15 drops essential oil of your choice. I used peppermint because, well, peppermint!

Just mix them all up in a spray bottle and shake before using! The vinegar is a fantastic disinfectant, the olive oil will keep your wood furniture conditioned and the essential oil is antibacterial (tea tree is also a great option, as well as lemon or orange) and smells great. Plus as we just discovered, it’s great at cleaning up toddler crimes too 😉 Now go mix one up and enjoy a dust-free, crayon-scribble-free (for now) home!

Love For Leftovers

Ever since we moved to the new place I’ve been challenging myself in different ways. During my first year of mommyhood I was pretty much held back by post-partum anxiety (more on this next time, when I have the words to explain).

I focused on getting better, moving past it and staying sane while taking care of my son. Not much got done around the house, which, I think, actually added to my condition. When I’m not moving or creating, I feel really useless. This year, by God’s amazing love and grace, that’s gonna change.

My first challenge we can call, hmmm, Going Natural. Basically I’m trying to remove unnecessary chemicals around the house, starting with cleaning solutions. It’s amazing how much you can do with distilled vinegar, blue Dawn dishwashing liquid, baking soda, essential oils and Castile soap. I’m going to update on my favorite mix once I decide which one cleans best for what! I’m working my way towards more natural skin products too. God knows I need to show my sad, sad skin some love.

But what I’m currently excited about is my No Man Gets Left Behind challenge. Which basically is my effort to not waste food and find creative ways to turn leftovers into yummy, simple dishes. Emphasis on simple because cooking is not my forte :)) However, I have to say, it’s been going pretty well so far, and I haven’t burned the kitchen down. Yet.

I took leftover dory and mixed it into Thai fried rice, with tomatoes, pineapples, eggs and garlic, a splash of soy sauce and a dash of salt. It was surprisingly yummy!

Tonight I’m using the leftover pineapples, corn kernels (from a previous dish), shredded fish, and adding shredded chicken, tomatoes and cucumber and pitas to make a wrap station for dinner. I’ll just cook the proteins in some herbs and spices (yay for Mrs. Dash!) and then let the husband choose how he wants to mix and match. This will leave my fridge free of leftovers! Yay!

And finally, the Blog It Good challenge, which I’m sort of failing haha. I will write at least one entry a week, using nursing time to do so. This one is the toughest, because I am itching to just drown myself in Impossibly perfect Pinterest projects and play Cookie Jam on my phone. LOL.

Those are starters. I want to take small steps first, remind myself how capable I am as a mother, a wife, and as Kris. At the end of the day, that’s the real challenge.