Labels

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

1..2..3..4...5-2-9!

I got my degree of Bachelor of Science in Information and Computer Science in St. Paul College Manila (it's currently renamed to St. Paul University). It's a 4 1/2 years course. The 1/2 is because of the additional courses/OJT we need to take during summer and some Saturdays (Paulthenics anyone?). 

My husband got his Bachelor's degree (major in Physics and minor in Economics) in New York University.



With this background information, it's sort of a given that we want our kids to go to college as well (if they want to, hopefully they do) and that's when this story about 529 comes in.

We started saving money, every payday (which is 2x a month) for Keith's college fund when he was still in my tummy. The husband and I agreed on a certain amount that we set aside every payday and put it in a Savings Account. When I was pregnant with Priya, we did the same thing. We also started saving for her college fund while she's still in my tummy. That means the money we need to set aside for college fund doubled because we now have 2 kids to save for (we set aside the same amount, every payday, for both kids).

image from google


Then, last year, 2018, we decided we have saved enough to open a 529 (thru Vanguard).

So what is 529?  It's a college savings fund. It’s a tax-advantaged investment account that works like a Roth IRA, offering tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals (also see: 5 Reasons to Start a 529 Plan). Want an example? Here's an excerpt from how-much-to-save-for-your-childs-college/ :|
"If you have a 4-year-old child targeting a private university, your monthly savings goal might be $700/month using a savings account versus $400/month with a 529 college savings plan. That’s a big difference!"

image from montco.today



Saturday, December 1, 2018

3 years of citizenship

American citizenship, that is.

3 years ago..

november 30, 2015.

i just recovered from giving birth to our first..

and hubby had to take care of our newborn.

and because he’s a premie and he doesnt have his shots yet, and it’s flu season, we decided not to take him anywhere outside the house...


so here i was doing the oath taking alone.... 3 years ago...

#pathToCitizenship


============

Timeline 

(as of Nov 2018)

20 years ago i got my 1st US working visa and was supposedly bound to NYC (did not materialize)


13 years ago (after 7 years after the first H1b-US working visa), i set foot in the US soil for the first time (my company in the Philippines sent me in north carolina in 2005 & 2006 for an off shore project)


11 years & 9 months ago (after 1 year & 3 months of travelling to US for work), i moved to the US permanently (found an employer-a consulting firm, who sponsored my new US working visa)


11 years ago (9 months after moving to US permanently) , i switched employers (i found a better employer, a software company..

*bonus: this is where i met my husband)


8 years ago (3 years after changing employer), i got my green card (permanent residency, sponsored by that better employer)


3 years ago (as in nov 30, 2015, 5 years after getting the greencard), i did my oath taking as a US citizen (had to apply to be Filipino again-dual citizenship, after that)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Everything is Half Chance

everything is half chance.

sometimes all it takes is just one decision and it could alter the course of your life.


it's a new year, and what perfect time to look back and be thankful for everything that have led you to this day. what a perfect time to reflect on the things you said yes or no to that led you to where you are right now.

this is a story of  a series of yeses and nos that led me here, right now, in this chair, typing on this computer.  this is a story of owning up to your decisions, good or bad. this is a story of my journey on getting what i have always dreamed of. hopefully, it would inspire some who are in the crossroads of their life and afraid to take that next step.

--------------------------------------------------------------

while i was still in college my first goal was to apply as an immigrant in New Zealand but i didn't have the money to pay for the processing fee that time. fortunately, an opportunity to work in the U.S. came and the New Zealand goal was put on the back burner.


first, second & third U.S. job opportunity

once upon a time there were these 5 friends who just recently graduated from college. they found out about this scholarship in  Ateneo but they have to pay the exam fee and they also need to pass the entrance exam. If they pass they will also have an opportunity to get hired by a U.S. based company if they find them to be a good candidate. they thought it's worth trying, except for one. one of the 5 friends thinks the fee is too high, and that she'd rather buy a nice blouse with that money. the other 4, however, proceed with their plan. only 3 of them passed.

i was one of the 3.

my first opportunity to work in the U.S. was year 1998, during the Y2K scare. i was fortunate to be offered a job while doing the scholarship training in Ateneo. it's a COBOL programming job based in Manhattan, New York. for someone who is fresh off from college, that was something to be proud of. unfortunately, that didn't materialize but i did get my first U.S. working visa, called H1B.

first US working visa issued on sept 1998....

it was stamped "cancelled without prejudice" the

day i got my 2nd US working visa in 2006


second opportunity came 3 years later but

that didn't materialized either because of the September 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in New York.

i have jumped from one employer to another in the philippines after the failed US job opportunities but in 2005 i was fortunate to be sent  to an offshore project in raleigh, north carolina. yes, U.S.A.!! i stayed there for a few months and was sent back again in 2006, where i, again, stayed for a few months.

with my pinoy co-workers who were, like me, sent to raleigh-north carolina

 for a temporary US work assignment
my raleigh cubicle.

4th US job opportunity - permanent (1st U.S. employer)

i started looking for a job in the U.S. online (dice.com) hoping someone would hire me and process a U.S. working visa for me (H1B), again. my first U.S. working visa  have long expired and even if it didn't, i cannot just switch employers. the succeeding employer should be willing to invest the time and money to transfer the H1B to them first before i could work for them, that is the process. H1B is for 1 employer only. also, H1B is only good for 3 years but can be extended for another 3 years. so it only has 6 years maximum validity in total.

2005 was when i started my US job hunt and eventually my persistence paid off and got, not just one,  but 2 US job offers from 2 different US consulting firms. both companies applied for H1Bs for me and both got approved but i only went for the U.S. embassy interview for just one of them. this was in 2006. then on feb 14, 2007, i left the philippines and moved to the U.S.

2nd US working visa

and the one i used when i moved to US for good


reality sets in

i'm a software engineer by profession. java is my forte. i started out as a COBOL programmer but when my first company (the one who gave me my 1st H1B) offered a formal training in java, i jumped on that opportunity, i didn't have to think twice. i'm glad i did because that paved way to other job opportunities including  the temporary U.S. work assignments i just mentioned and eventually landing a permanent job here in the U.S.


i have always wanted to work and live outside the country. for me that means adventure. independence. a breath of fresh air, being in the U.S. is just icing on the cake. i'm actually OK even if it's close by, like, Singapore (well, sort of). living outside your comfort zone is not always fine and dandy though. i'll be lying if i say i enjoyed every bit of  my independent life as a professional in the U.S. i didn't have friends when i moved to the U.S. and the only Filipinos i know that time are 3 of my male co-workers (whom i only see during lunch time) and a few classmates from Ateneo   (whom i very very seldom see).

i go home to an empty house everyday. literally empty. i didn't have furnitures. i didn't even have a proper bed (i had an air mattress). i'm not a tv person so even though someone donated a tv to me, i really didn't use it.

first solo apartment : this is what my room looks like

that's an air mattress that messed up my back
here's what my living room looks like.empty.

tv is courtesy of a coworker


homesickness is real. 

you learn to survive on your own. you learn to make dishes or make your own filipino bread that you never thought you'll learn to make just because you were craving for it so bad and a filipino resto/store/bakery is a 2-hour drive away.

living outside the country is not for the weak of heart. it can be a very lonely and challenging experience specially if you're just starting and not used to living on your own. i was getting depressed that i almost threw in the towel. i was ready to go back to the Philippines.

but decided not to.

that's because i found out that the one main reason i want to go back to the Philippines is beyond my reach anymore. i admit, i did attempt to get that main reason back but after much thought and deliberation i decided it's best for all parties if i just let go. it was a difficult decision but i can't be selfish.

it still has a happy ending though. things just started falling into place after that. not right away, but eventually it did. it's like the stars have finally aligned for me. indeed, good things come to those who patiently wait.


story of the 2nd U.S. employer

i had to change employer because i didn't feel my US employer was treating me well. i was lucky that the second employer was very willing to transfer my H1B from my 1st employer to them, which means, paper work, legal stuff and money. i guess they like me enough that they are willing to go thru that painful process just to have me on board.

this 2nd employer is also the one responsible for taking care of processing my greencard (aka permanent residency), that i got shortly after 2+ years of working for them. i made sure that they will process my greencard and was one of the bargaining deals i had with them before i signed their job offer.


the thing about greencard

greencard processing usually takes 10+ years but i insisted that i want to go the EB-2 route, which is a shorter wait but a more risky and tedious process. but i was confident that i fall in that category so i insisted on it. my other option, which is less risky, and easier process, was the usual route (EB-1). but  that would throw me back for 10+ years because it has a huge backlog (not sure if that changed now).

because i took the EB-2 route, i got my green card May of 2010 (after 2+ years only). i remember my boss, going to my cubicle and telling me: "marlin, don't you dare quit.. you put us in too much pain processing your greencard, that you are forbidden to quit"..in a joking manner of course, but i'm pretty sure  that joke was half meant :P.

new zealand in my mind

i have another plan brewing in my mind, though. after all that greencard hoopla, and whether or not i get my greencard, i still plan to pursue my New Zealand application. i still visit my New Zealand online application from time to time and every time i thought i was ready to hit the "submit" button (and pay the fee), there's always something that's stopping me. i just can't make myself click that button.

me at work in 2010..yes, CRT monitors lol

(you can skip this part and scroll down to "where am i going with this...")

wishes do come true

i met my husband from my 2nd U.S. employer. he's also a software engineer like me. he does C++, i use java. he does PC-based programming while i do web applications (i do back-end stuff so don't ask me about javascript and html, that's front-end).

we didn't click right away but he was very persistent and eventually i realized he's starting to grow on me. we then started going out in 2010 and he proposed one new year's eve (1.1.2011).

was i scared? yes. i wasn't sure if i'll make a good wife, or if i'm ready to be someone's wife. but i was also excited. it's like embarking on a whole new adventure. plus i know R will make a very good husband (and i wasn't wrong, he is a blessing).

we got married a year and a half later after the proposal. it could have been sooner but i just renewed my apartment lease a month before he proposed (i moved and changed apartment when i change jobs so it'll be an easier commute)  and if i cancel my apartment renewal, i still have to pay the whole year of rent. we have to save for our wedding anyway, so waiting another year isn't as bad.

second solo apartment that i have lived for 4  years

prior to getting married

we got married civilly in spring time of 2012.  initial plan was to get married in the philippines but we need to get married civilly first to make the requirements less complicated. it was supposed to be just a simple wedding but one thing led to another and we ended up having an intimate beach wedding. we managed to keep our guest list small & we just invited my husband's relatives (because they can't all go to the philippines) and a handful of my friends.

civil wedding in Cape May

then on jan 2013 was when we got married in the philippines...i was ready to give that up because it was too stressful and expensive but it was the hubby who convinced me to push through with it as a tribute to my parents. specially since they were not able to attend our first (and what we consider official) wedding - the civil wedding.


let's recap:

Nov 2007 - i changed employer (who transferred my H1b and took care of my greencard)
May 2010 - i got my greencard
Jan 2011 - i got engaged and started the church wedding plans right away
May 2012 - i got married (civilly)
Jan 2013 - i got married in church (in the Philipines)

path to U.S. citizenship 

next step for me is citizenship and i have 2 options.

option 1: apply for citizenship via marriage to a U.S. citizen.

        the rule is we have to be married for 3 years before i can use that option. which means i will qualify to use option 1 on May 2015.

option 2:  apply for citizenship via my employer.

        the rule for this is, i have to be a greencard holder for atleast 5 years to use this option. which means i will qualify to use option 2, guess what, also on May 2015. remember, i got my greencard May 2010, plus 5 years is May 2015.

yes, either option will work for me but i chose option 2. why? it's good for my ego (no one can tell me i just married my husband for citizenship :P) also because option 2 has less requirements. here's the list of citizenship requirements  if you're curious (see Step 3 -> document check list). depending on how much backlog your state has, and if you have all your paperwork in order and you didn't miss your citizenship interview, you should be able to get your U.S. citizenship in less than a year.


that's it.

that has been my journey, so far,  and some of you may already know that i am still happily married and that i am now a mom of 2 charming babies - a boy and a girl.


so, where am i going with this, you say...


the what-ifs

what do you think will happen if i didn't apply for that scholarship program in Ateneo?



what do you think will happen if i didn't take that opportunity to learn java?



what do you think will happen if i gave up after 2 failed attempts to work in the U.S.?



what do you think will happen if i  chose to stay in the philippines and not pursue my life long dream of working and living outside the country?



what do you think will happen if i continued my application to migrate in New Zealand?



what do you think will happen if i said no to the wedding proposal?

honestly, i don't know the answers either, but i can guess.

what i do know is, so far, i like the outcomes of my decisions and if i can go back in time, i won't change any of it (except maybe buy a lot of amazon stocks, lol).

so yeah. everything is half chance. be careful what you say yes or no to. if  it turned out to be a bad decision, own up to it, dust the dirt off your butt and try again. i agree, it's scary but don't let the fear of what could happen make NOTHING happen. just like what my favorite quote from Mark Twain said:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines.Sail away from the safe harbor.Catch the trade winds in your sails.Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain



this new year we are presented with a new clean slate. let's fill those pages with wonderful stories again. here's to more yeses and nos! happy 2018!


note: highlighted texts are clickable.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2 under 2 : When practice doesn't make perfect

Baby number 2 came into this world in Spring time of 2017. My eldest was 20 months old at that time. So yeah, we have 2 under 2.

I can no longer count how many articles I have read about introducing the new baby to the older sibling. Or how to prepare the older sibling. What I forget to read on is how to prepare "me". Just when I thought I'm a pro because this is my second, I realize I'm not.

"Very" not.

What I have here is a brand new person, brand new  personality, different gender (didn't know I still can get peed at by a baby girl during diaper time, I thought only baby boys do that!). A whole new phenomenon. It's like being a whole new parent all over again.  I might be a second time parent, but I'm a first time parent of 2. Practice doesn't make perfect in this situation.


the challenges.

1 + 1 = 3.
I have read articles on how to manage an infant and a toddler when they cry at the same time. I know what to do (see tip below). But when it happened for the first time (hubby was on an errand and I was left alone with both kids), I panicked.  It's different when you were just imagining and rehearsing in your head how you're going to deal with the situation versus when it's happening in real life. So what happened? The two crying humans became 3.

Tip: According to what I have read, when both the newborn and toddler cries at the same time you need to attend to the toddler first. Why? Because a toddler can process his surroundings already. A toddler can already process patterns. If my son realizes that mommy runs to the baby first every time both of them cries, he might start resenting his baby sister. The infant, on the other hand, doesn't know what's going on. If anything, the newborn will learn patience early in life :P.
Disclaimer: But ofcourse this is a case to case basis. Like, if it's a life threatening situation, attend to the baby first.

Guilt-ridden.
When I was still pregnant with my second, it could be hormones, but I was always feeling  a little extra weepy about my first. I felt sad that it won't just be the two of us anymore. That I won't get to spend time with him like I used to. That my time will be divided.

During the first couple of months when my daughter was born, there's always a feeling of guilt whenever I see my son playing on his own while I feed his baby sister. Or whenever my son would bring me a book he wants me to read but I can't because both my hands are occupied. My son is pretty independent and he is not a stranger to playing alone (he does that every morning while waiting for us to come to his room) but yet it still bothers me so much.







Don't get me wrong, I love my daughter. I love them both. It's just that the guilt is unbearable sometimes. So I try to spend some alone time with my son as much as I could (go to malls, go grocery shopping, go to playground, we even went to Sesame Place on his birthday and left the baby girl with the nanny at home).

24 hours in a day is not enough
While your love multiplies with having another child, unfortunately,  your time divides. 24 hours in a day seems not enough. My time disappears so fast.

When it was just my son, I can still count on some downtime during the day while he was napping, or quietly playing. Those stolen moments become harder to snag with two kids specially if their nap times aren't in sync yet.  For those first few months, it feels close to impossible to complete any chore or carve out personal time because it seems that someone always needs something.

In the morning I have to scramble to prepare myself to work, attend to my infant & prepare my toddler for school/daycare. During weekends there are just too many chores to do around the house and it feels like there's endless load of laundry (I do laundry every other day because seeing an overflowing hamper of dirty clothes would drive me bonkers, lol) or endless trash to take out (my toddler still wears diapers). Mind you, my husband helps, but I still feel overwhelmed.

Less and less "me" time
When I was pregnant with my first, I have the time to take care of myself and do other stuff, because- yep-he's still in my belly!  With my second, I have a toddler to run after. I remember being sooooo exhausted during my first trimester with my second pregnancy. I realized how my 1st pregnancy was a bliss compared to my second because I don't have a toddler who gets into all sorts of mischief.

Hubby and I used to take turns doing "me time". Now, we can't do that anymore (or atleast not easily). Both of us have to be at home to hold the fort. Because you know,  my toddler's timing is impeccable. He thinks the best time to be on a suicide mission to jump over that couch, head first, is while mommy's busy feeding baby sister. And my youngest? She would scream bloody murder just when I am in the middle of changing her kuya's poopy diaper.

the good side.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel
Good news is, it gets better. You learn to cope with it. Once you fall in a rhythm you won't feel as overwhelmed anymore. It’s a practice  in patience for everyone. And patience is a worthwhile lesson for me, tatay, baby #1, and baby #2, too.


You learn to chill 
I learned to be much more laid back with my second child. I don't google each and every rashes or each and every weird noise coming from my second baby.

I appreciate my second child's babyhood more. With my first, I chased after the next milestones so feverishly. I get anxious easily when the book says my son should be doing x-y-z at months 1-2-3 and he hasn't. I can't wait for him to roll over. As soon as he rolled over, I can't wait for him to crawl. As soon as he starts crawling I want him to start walking. I can't wait until he hits major milestones. I can't wait for him to do something new.

With my second, I’m far more interested in enjoying the present, because I know how quickly
time flies and how quickly "today" will turn into "the past". Now I know how quickly time passes and I now savor the stage my youngest baby is in rather than anticipate the next big thing.

Over all, we're still all learning. Slowly, but we're getting there.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Life's mysterious ways

 I have been rocking mommyhood (well, atleast according to me, pagbigyan nyo na ako, haha)  for 20 months now.  Hard to believe for someone who can't even grow a plant, lol.

Flashback...........


Year 1999.
"I'm sorry, P stopped sending people to the U.S. at the moment but just be patient they might again soon. Atleast, you already have your H1B and as soon as a position opened up you can leave right away. We'll keep you posted."
2000, I resigned.


Year 2001.
I was watching the New York World Trade Center collapsed on t.v.
I was horrified. How is this going to affect my US job offer in California?

Year 2006.
"If you ask me to stay, I will stay".
"No, I don't want to get in between your life long dream".
"Will you follow?"


Year 2007.
"Where are you?"
"I'm on my way to work".

"I hope you're sitting down."
"Why what happened?"
"I got her pregnant. I didn't mean to. I'm so sorry. I don't want to run away from that responsibility".
Shocked. I hang up.


Year 2009.
New Years Eve. At home alone. Tipsy.
"I am a strong independent woman. I won't feel sorry for myself. Happy New Year to me!"
*sobs*


Year 2011.
New Year's eve. Paris.
"Will you marry me?"
Someone pinch me, please. Is this a dream?




2011.
Ahh. The most unforgettable year.
Just when you thought you are doomed for spinsterhood the unimaginable happens.
2011 marks my life's turning point. Was I scared? Of course.
But I was also excited.
It will be a whole new adventure.

Amazing what life can throw at you. It's not always what you plan it to be or hope it to be but if we know how to take it as it is, ride with the flow and adjust accordingly, you'll be alright.

I made a few wrong decisions along the way. Or so I think. Because when I think about it now, those wrong decisions lead me to where I am right now. And if I have the chance to "correct" those wrong decisions, I won't.

I remember my personalized wedding vow:

"I'm always amazed at how our paths crossed. I've never been so thankful for all those broken promises and for all those who broke my heart because they are like northern stars who pointed my way to you.
.....
I love it that out of all the thousand ways it could turn out, my life turned to you."

Every time I stare at my husband's face while he's sleeping. Every time that mischievous eyes of my son looks at me ready for his next antics. Every time I look at myself in the mirror. I get reminded of how lucky I am. Blessed, if you're the religious type.

I still have my fears and worries but I just keep reminding myself  "let go of what is not yet and enjoy the present".




Year 2017.
I'm alone in my room. I felt someone kicked me. I was in a pensive mood and the kick startled me.
Then I smiled.
"Just a few more weeks, little one. Just a few more weeks.
Everything has its own time
.
Like there's time for flowers to bloom or snow to sparkle.
There's a time for the moon to set and the sun to rise.
Like when mommy met your tatay.
Just a few more weeks, little one. Just a few more weeks.
"








Sunday, December 25, 2016

Gender reveal for Baby #2


I had CVS again for baby #2 and one of the advantage of that is you get to know the gender right away. Usually you have to wait until your 20-week anatomy scan.

I had my CVS Dec 7 and got the results back on Dec 19. I didn't want to know the gender so I told the Genetic Counselor to call the hubby instead of me for the CVS result and the gender. Then I told the hubby that I want a surprise gender reveal on Christmas day as one of my Christmas gifts and surprise he did.

He had this big box wrapped in Christmas wrapper. I had my eyes closed because I was scared to look. Yeah, I'm weird like that, lol. So I peeled off the wrapper, opened the box, still with my eyes closed and when I felt a balloon brushed my skin that's when I opened my eyes.

I saw two balloons. One pink. One blue.

At first I was confused.

Am I having twins?
I don't think so. I had several ultrasounds already and there's just one baby inside.


That's when I realized my husband is on to something. I looked at the box and the inside is lined with blue and pink gift tissues too. At that point I got a little annoyed. Blame it on my hormones, lol. I looked at the balloons again and saw something taped on the ribbon. So I annoyingly pulled the balloon down towards me while giving the hubby "the look", lol. Hubby's too entertainment by my reaction and colorful words, lol (no, i didn't cursed). I looked at what looks like a business card taped on the balloon and when I went to inspect closer it was a scratch card. I never seen anything like that. So hubby gave me a coin and I scratched it. I was still very annoyed, lol. I was expecting to see just one balloon and wasn't expecting to be tricked like that. I should have known, hubby likes to do practical jokes, lol.




So I scratched the card and saw a pink image of something. My eyes grew big. I scratched more, vigorously this time, and saw more pink. I started smiling from ear to ear and my eyes and mouth started to open wide.

"really?". i asked.
"why, what does it say?". hubby just replied.

I didn't reply. I was still busy scratching. Then I saw "It's a Girl!". I was so happy and then I cried. I was worried the hubby is still pulling my leg.

"Are you messing with me?". He said "no".
"You are not messing with me?" *sniffs*
"No, why, what does it say?".
"I don't know". I'm not sure why I said that but I was happy and upset at the same time because I still can't believe it.
"What do you mean, you don't know? What does it say?", he asked again.
"It's a girl!" .

At that point i started crying. Tears, snot (sorry TMI) and all just came running down my face. It was tears of joy, ofcourse!

I grabbed my 1 year old and hugged him
"You're going to have a baby sister", I told my son. Who is not paying attention and just watching the balloons that came flying to the ceiling.



I really thought the hubby would suddenly say "just kidding! it's another boy!". I know he won't do that, specially since he knows I want a girl so bad (I want one of each!) and that would be a bad joke but I don't know, for some reason I just didn't believe him right away, lol.

So yeah, we're having a girl and we have a name already.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Our Favorite Baby Items

Just a list of items that we (hubby, lil one and I) love.

Bottle
My LO (lil one) had been very gassy and spits a lot until he turned 3 months.  I have tried all the anti-colic bottles (he's not colicky just really gassy) and the one that worked better for us is Dr. Brown. It never leaks and of all the other bottles we tried, that's the only bottle that gives our baby less spit-ups. If yours does leak, see this link.
Update: We also have the green ones (called Options). With the green ones you can remove the tube thing in the middle if you don't need it anymore. It's a good concept but we found out that if we did remove the tube thing the nipple keeps collapsing so we ended up still using the tube in the middle. So for us the blue or green doesn't make a difference.




Baby Monitor (non-wifi):
We love the Infant Optics  We love it so much that we even bought an add on camera. So now we have one for the nursery and one for the living room (nanny set-up). We also bought the wide-angled lens (and we highly recommend you do). What we do wish is that they display the time on the monitor.





Swaddlers:

We used the Swaddle Me Pod from 0-4 weeks

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lil One's Birthday One.

As a first time parent, ofcourse I made sure my lil one's first birthday was well thought of and well prepared.

We decided it's going to be a safari theme birthday. We thought it makes sense since his nursery room is safari theme and his newborn photoshoot is also a safari theme.





First, there's the cake. I have been making cakes (pro bono) for my friends birthdays as a way to practice my decorating skills and to experiment on flavors. I decided to make a marble cake, that it's going to be 2 layers. That the color will be teal and green with some animals on the cake.

the marble cake

Baking the cake is the easy part, the hard part is the decorating. I like working with fondants so I mostly decorate my cake using fondants.

before kneading the fondant
what a workable fondant looks like


There are so many details that went on the cake and had to buy several molds, like the grass mold that I used to decorate the edges of the cake. It was a tedious process but well worth it in the end.
the not-so perfect grass
I wouldn't go to the nitty-gritty details anymore so here's the finished product. Everything in this cake is edible, except the candle and the white tray the cake is sitting on. Oh, and the giraffe patterned ribbon on the top cake. That was an after thought and I'm glad I added it.


proudly made by yours truly



I pride myself as someone that pays attention to details. So in the following pictures you will see a banner that has my son's monthly photos, from 1 month until the 12th month. You will also see the table decorations of animals with party hats and gifts. I made the party hats and the gifts for the animals to make them look more festive. I just used colorful papers and tiny pompoms and a baker's twill. 
the monthly photos on the left, party animals - literally and figuratively :P on the right


You'll also see the jar with jar lids that I spray painted myself. I also spray painted the animals that I glued on the jar lids as decoration. The jar contains animal crackers, it's our give-away for the party.








I also meticulously hand-picked all the other elements on the cake table like the trays, apothecary jars, etc. I also wrapped several foams with brown packing paper and added a green ribbon as accents. I used these foams for the mallow pops and cake pops that I made. The rectangular foam I used to elevate the cake. I also made cupcakes, both regular sized and minis. The animal cookies i just bought from etsy.com. The labels I made and printed myself. The banner I ordered from etsy.com and have it printed from Staples.com.

I was also very particular with the balloons I wanted to use. The big balloons are pearl types. I just like the way they look on photos (see the balloons on the cake table).

So there you go. I don't think I will do this every year as it is very tiring. The next will probably be when he turns 7.









Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Conception Anniversary

It has been a year since we found out that we were expecting.

I remember how jealous I was when a friend/ex-coworker who was sitting right next to me on Feburary 14, 2015, at a friends' wedding, told me she's pregnant. I was so happy for her but I was so sad for myself. We have been trying and I can no longer count the number of ovulation kits and pregnancy test kits that I have purchased.

After the wedding I wasn't feeling very good and I was blaming it on the egg I had that morning. I thought I had a bad one and it didn't help that my order of  "over well" was mistaken to a sunny side up.  I have stopped eating runny eggs for fear of Salmonella, but my fault, I ate it anyway. I was so enticed by my view of the Taal Volcano while having my breakfast that I just let it go and happily ate.

at 9 weeks


The next day, it was time to leave Tagaytay but I was still not feeling well. I was already not feeling well while on board Cathay Pacific from Newark airport to Manila, to begin with. I had colds. The day we left Tagaytay, I have colds, I have diarrhea, I was coughing and I was having an Asthma attack. I kept trying to tell myself I can't get sick because we still need to go to Singapore and Thailand and Bohol. So off I went to Mercury drug store and bought Decolgen, Biogesic and Ventolin tablets. "Kaya ko to!", I said to myself. Although it's more like, I was trying to convince myself na kaya ko nga 'to because I don't want to disappoint the hubby and I am really excited to go to Thailand.

From Tagaytay, we went straight to the airport so we could fly to Singapore. I was still not feeling well but alteast I haven't gotten worst. I even was able to meet with my college buddies in Singapore for late dinner the night we arrived.

an instagram post, capturing that night


I had to do my blood work and I was supposed to do it while in the Philippines but decided to just do it in Singapore. So the next day, Feb 16, 2015, Singapore time, very early in the morning, I   hopped on a train from Bayfront (we were staying at Marina Bay Sands) to go to Bugis for the Raffles Hospital (I didn't bother taking the hubby with me). I have my script with me with a "Stat" on it and instructions on how the hospital can send the results over to my doctor. Then I went back to the hotel, took a nap and then took hubby around (I've been in Singapore before, back in 2005). Then around 11am (still Feb 15, 11pm EST), I got a message from the hospital that they already sent my results to my doctor.

Come late dinner time, hubby and I decided to try this restaurant called Ku-de-ta (which is now called Ce-la-vi). I was still not feeling well. My taste buds are so off and I attributed it to being sick. I still have colds and was coughing. I was looking at the cocktails menu then decided to check my emails first. That was around 10pm, Singapore time or 10am EST. There I saw an email from my doctor. It was a secure email that I had to log on to an external site to see it, pain in the butt that is. So after trying to remember what my password was I was able to see my doctor's message. He said everything looks good and that by the way, I am pregnant. Then he gave me an instruction to do another blood test in 2 days. He wants to see if my hCG level doubles.

at 18 weeks


Two days later was when we leave for Thailand. Good thing our flight wasn't until the afternoon so I was able to go to Raffles hospital early in the morning again to do my blood work. Come evening of that day, I received a secure email again from my doctor telling me that my hcG is doubling, and, that yes, I am still very pregnant.

We were ecstatic and scared at the same time. I mean, who wouldn't be? It's a dream come true, yes, but having a kid is a lot of responsibility plus we are older couple so we're worried about genetic abnormalities, etc. But we decided to take things one step at a time. No need to worry about problems that is not yet.

We still went through with our trips but had to be more careful about what I eat and drink (gawd, that Thai coffee is really good, but I only took a sip). I still did ride the elephants. I still went snorkeling in Panglao (Balicasag). What I didn't get to do is massages. They don't want to massage a pregnant woman. Big bummer!

even though i know it already, i still bought a pregnancy kit while in
Thailand just to experience seeing those 
2 magical lines!


We didn't tell anyone I'm pregnant except for those who need to know. Like my manager and my Reformer Pilates instructor and the couple we're supposed to travel to Santorini with that year. Our plan is not to tell anyone until atleast I'm on my 2nd trimester. That's the rule of thumb, they say, because that's when you'll know the pregnancy is viable.

When I came back from our vacation the first thing I did was schedule a doctor's appointment. I want a sonogram. That's when they told me confirmed that I am high risk because of my age. This made me all the more cautious to tell anyone about my pregnancy since I wasn't even sure if the baby will "stick".

So we kept it a secret. I didn't even tell anyone back in the Philippines. I don't want to tell them the news only to tell later that I lost the baby. My thinking was, the less people who know, the less people I'll have to tell the bad news. I don't know. I was just so paranoid. Maybe because I still can't believe my dream is finally happening but there's a big question mark hanging over my head.

at 25 weeks


At 12 weeks we found out we're having a boy because we had to do CVS (chorionic-villus-sampling). My health insurance covers it because I was high-risk. We also did micro-array with our CVS because we want to cover as much genetic tests as possible. Why, you ask? It's for health, economic, psychological, and financial reasons. We are older couple. Our kid will out live us. If he/she has problems, who would take care of him/her if we're no longer in this world? Are we going to burden our other family members to take care of our special needs child? Even if they willingly take our kid, wouldn't that be selfish of us and unfair to give them that stress? We need to look at the bigger picture. We can't be selfish. We will need more complex planning, more complex preparations, lots of complex decision-making and we need to be mentally prepared if we have a special needs child, so we really want to know upfront, therefore those genetic testings.

Thankfully,  all the genetic testing results came out normal and again, that's how we found out we're having a boy






It was a semi-easy pregnancy for me. I didn't have to bond with the toilet bowl but I did have a lot of "almost there". I wasn't eating very well because everything is a gag trigger. Coffee smells like skunk. Some dishes smells like poop. It's like my nose turned against me. Food advertisements is a gag trigger. Seeing huge slab of meat is a gag trigger. The only thing that I can bring down my throat during my first semester are soup (non cream-base, otherwise it's a gag trigger) or  sour food.The first dish I made when I came back from our vacation in the Philippines is Sinigang.  Majority of the food I eat are sour food. If I can dip it in vinegar, I can eat it. Ice candy (or ice pops, as they call it here) are my life savers too. Come 3rd trimester my taste buds were back to normal but it's a different dilemma. This time it's like my whole anatomy is on strike. Everything was achy.

And here we are. February 16, 2016. Our baby boy is now almost 5 months old. Very talkative. Smiles and giggles on mundane and silly little things and is starting to know how to voice out his opinions.

God is good.



Friday, January 15, 2016

Thailand Adventures


On February 18, 2015, we flew from Singapore to Thailand and our plan was to stay there for 4 days -3 nights. We arrived in Thailand late at night because our flight got delayed and got re-routed to Vietnam instead of a straight flight from Singapore and because of that we really didn't get a chance to go anywhere.

We stayed at Novotel on Siam Square. We always have good experience with Novotel hotels plus Siam Square is a very good place to stay(it's walking distance to shopping areas, lol).


DAY 1.

The next day, our tour guide picked us up at our hotel to go a hundred and so miles away from the city. We want to see and ride the elephants and to experience the floating market.


Floating Market.
The first place our tour guide took us is at the Damnoen Saduak and was said to be the real floating market and dates back to 1866 when King Rama IV ordered that a canal 32 kilometres long be dug at Damnoen Saduak to connect the Mae Klong and Tacheen Rivers (his reason for doing so lies in the fact that the quality of the soil on the banks of the canal is excellent for growing many kinds of fruits and vegetables including Malacca grape, Chinese grapefruit, mangos, bananas, and coconuts). The Floating Market is an ideal place for tourists to see the old style and traditional way of selling and buying fruits, vegetables and other from small boats. Remember to bring your haggling skills!




a short video of the floating market experience



Bridge on the River Kwai.
Next stop is in Kanchanaburi province. Home to the famous Bridge on the River Kwai and the beginning of the Thai-Burma Death Railway. Both poignant reminders of the thousands of prisoner of wars (POWs) and forced laborers who lost their lives during World War II.
bridge on the River Kwai

I'm not much of a history buff  and to be honest, this really didn't piqued my interest. I was more interested on the floating restaurant we went to for buffet lunch.



Floating Resto for Thai Lunch buffet
and we have the view of the Bridge of Kwai


Elephant Ride.
After lunch we went to see the elephants!
Hubby is a big elephant fan (he even donates at an Elephant Sanctuary) so he is the most excited. We booked the one where you can bathe the elephants but we were in for a surprise because it was us who the elephants bathe! LOL.

The first part of the ride was just walking around the sanctuary with both the hubby and I plus the mahout on the elephant.


first part of the elephant ride

Then we had to wait to change elephant that would take us to the river. While waiting