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To A❤️

30 Dec

Every year, as the minutes and seconds wind down toward the end of December, we find ourselves with renewed anticipation for the waning days of the year. While Christmas passes sedately in an autism household that does not care much for- or cope with- rowdy and frenzied celebrations, this enthusiasm breathes new life into our holiday merrymaking. This eagerness, however, is not for New Year’s Eve, which will not be for another 24 hours. And certainly not for the first of the New Year, which is a day we all seem to both await and dread. For me and my family, the 30th carries far more weight than any other day of the holiday season, and with good reason. On the 30th of December, we celebrate A❤️’s birthday.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my husband. 😍

I met A❤️ when I was 14 (he was 13) at the Philippine Science High School. We weren’t classmates right away, just two freshies thrown together for a debate team. He was six inches shorter than me, and skinny to boot, with hair always slick wet from Vitalis. Not my type, for sure. 😜 Lest you start to feel sorry for him, though, allow me to state that the feeling was completely mutual. We became good friends, true, and somewhere down the line, we would become best friends, but we never saw each other as anything more than that for years.

We grew up together in the warm, nurturing environment of Pisay, where we were both free to become the geeks and nerds of our dreams. Talk was one thing we had in common. He and I would spend hours freely talking about anything and everything we thought of, and friend that he truly was, he allowed me to hog the conversations most of the time. He bore with me patiently, never mind that he once described me in my junior year slam book as loquacious and voluble, a kindness when I think of it, especially when he could have simply have said I talked too much. Even when he and I went to different colleges, we bridged our friendship with snail mail and calls he made on the pay phone at Bellarmine Hall.

On his 19th birthday, he finally noticed I was a girl. Maybe the chocolate cake I brought to his birthday party did the trick. Maybe it was that single “happy birthday” kiss on his cheek. I don’t know why or how it happened, but having just come back from an extended stay in the United States, he said he woke up one day feeling like he couldn’t breathe without me. Thirty one years later, he says he still feels the same way.

And this is why when the 30th of December rolls around, I am reminded of the greatest gifts the Lord has ever given me- the gifts of undying friendship and unconditional love. This man has seen me at my worst, at my ugliest, and at my fattest, and yet he loves me all the same, cellulite, stretch marks, wrinkles, and all. He has stood by me through our difficult days, leading by example and with such faith and trust in the Lord that I myself did not possess. His is the hand that has pulled me many times from the brink of despair and the edge of sorrow. Today, many years after that day he first told me he loved me, he continues to show me what the meaning of true love is. I only have to look in his eyes to see.

Happy birthday, A❤️, my love, my best friend. I love you so.

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Alphonse at 21

3 Nov

I can’t believe you’re 21 today, son. I can’t believe we made it this far.

Happy birthday!

Many times, over the years, I often wondered if we would ever get past those years of heartbreak and violence. I wondered if we would live to see this day, if we would ever reach this point when we could look back with relief and, yes, gratitude, that we made it through those long stretches of heartache. And mind you, son, we have lived through much.

We’ve had times when our whole world was in shambles, when we lived in sorrow and darkness. We wept for days and clung to each other in helpless surrender. We forged through your terrors and rage. We loved you, always, even when anger blinded you and fear made you reject and push us away.

Now, here we are. Twenty one years into a life we never knew could change us so much. A life with you. A life with autism. A life shaped by adversity, tempered by grace, made whole by love.

Thank you, Alphonse, for all that you have brought and continue to bring to our lives. Thank you for teaching us to love unconditionally, without hope of return or reciprocation.

Thank you for showing us the limitless spools of our patience. We have learned to wait and find joy in the waiting.

Thank you for teaching us to endure, to be steadfast and unwavering in our fortitude and faith.

Thank you for teaching us to bend, to kneel, and to submit wholeheartedly and with all humility to the One who gave you to us.

Thank you for bringing out the best in us. Who knew that Mama, your scaredy-cat mother, had strength and courage? That Papa, firstborn and strong-willed, came with an inexhaustible supply of steady, constant patience?  Or that your Kuya Alex, your big, burly full-bearded brother, was capable of so much spontaneous outpouring of gentle love? Your presence in our lives allowed us to find these wellsprings of kindness in our hearts.

Thank you for showing us the pleasures of little things, the wonder of tiny miracles, and the sheer delight that comes from just being alive.

And thank you, for knowing and finally accepting our love, and for loving each one of us back with your kisses, hugs, and many more quiet acts of tenderness and love. Yours is love in action, our son.

Happy 21st birthday, Alphonse. Ours has been a journey of unbelievable, unimaginable adventures and it has only just begun.

We love you always.

Alphonse as a newborn, two weeks early, two days late
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Loved since birth

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and loved always, even when autism came (diagnosis at 18 months old).

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Cute and cuddly, (and wearing Mama’s baptismal dress), falling in love with this little baby was always easy.

Alphonse as girl

But as he grew older, he developed differently. While typical little boys play, he would prostrate himself on cold floors for hours at a time.

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Our baby went to school earlier than most, his days revolving around therapy centers and special education. 

Alphonse toddler

At his school, he was the youngest child to be diagnosed then.

Alphonse cutie

Alphonse was different. His fascinations were different. He loved twirling the plastic rotor blades of his Fisher Price helicopter.

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But there were times we could almost pretend we were “typical” and “normal,” and have our pictures taken like regular people… 

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Even as his interests grew differently from his peers. He has always loved water and could spend hours playing with the hose.

Alphonse and the Hose

And pieces of string and twirly slinkies could keep him preoccupied for hours.

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With autism came periods of stress too, of self-injurious behavior, which caused us grief and endless worry.

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But his gorgeous smiles always made the hard times worth it.

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Bestowed with the gift of beauty,

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yet often fierce and funny,

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this boy spreads joy with just a smile.

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And as he grows older,

Alphonse

and bigger,

My Alphonse

wiser and stronger,

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may his smiles remain with us

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to give us light when darkness comes

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and to bind us in love and kindness always.

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Happy birthday, Alphonse!

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We love you so. 

 

Because It is Still Easter in Some Part of the World

6 Apr

Yesterday was a day spent with the boys at home, eating barbecue ribs, garlic honey shrimps, and that undeniably Filipino dessert concoction, the halo-halo. We couldn’t go out with the boys because Alphonse still has a fresh wound on his ear (he had a second operation, maybe another story for another day). And so, instead of bringing them out, we thought to celebrate at home with the hopes that maybe Alphonse wouldn’t feel so bad about being cooped up for so long.

In the few minutes before Alphonse woke up yesterday morning, however, I took pictures of my larger Sylvanian rabbits as my Easter photo for this year. I didn’t have time to set-up my dolls and critters so this had to do. This is a bit late as Easter has come and gone where I am but because it is still Easter Sunday somewhere in the globe. I am posting this to wish everyone a  –

SF Easter rabbitsMay the spirit of our Risen Lord be with us always,

with love, friendship and peace for us all!

 

22 Days

18 Nov

Three weeks before our anniversary last Friday, I had already been receiving presents daily from A♥.

My husband has always been a giver, and a very generous one at that. Days before a special occasion, like my birthday or our anniversary- and we celebrate three- big ones, that is: our official girlfriend/boyfriend anniversary, our civil wedding (23 years this year) and our church wedding (22 this year) – he hands me a present or two in preparation for the main event.

This year, the first presents came on October 24. Coming home from work that day, he handed me two large Rustan’s paper bags filled with 13 boxes in pink wrapper and pink, lavender, and gold ribbons. It took me days to finish unwrapping each and every one. Each box contained one of this year’s Kimmidolls line-up.

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The new ones are in boxes still, waiting to join their sisters on the staircase stands. 🙂

I thanked him effusively but a I was a little flustered too. A♥ tends to go overboard with gifts for me- and I am not complaining, promise– but if I have a lone reservation about my husband, it is that he is an absolute miser when it comes to his own needs. He doesn’t like gifts and doesn’t enjoy opening his presents. He doesn’t even like shopping for his own things and many times, he would forgo his needs to give way to the kids’ or mine.

Now, I hadn’t caught on the present/s-a-day theme yet so when I asked him if I could purchase a pair of new rubber shoes, he smiled mysteriously at me and said “Sure, honey. Those will be my present for you today.”Nov14 15

“Today?” I scratched my head, thinking for a moment that he was pulling my leg. “What do I need a present for today?”

“For our anniversary, silly!” He looked at me funny.

“But our anniversary’s weeks away. What. Is. The. Present. For?” I insisted, my voice getting shriller than usual.

“Call it an advanced anniversary present,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Do you want those shoes or not?”

Ack, A♥ could be a little infuriating sometimes, the way he always pulls a fast one on me when it comes to gift-giving! I look back at all those years he had me secondguessing his moves and I could never match his zeal and dedication in giftgiving. I figured, this year, shoes would be a safe choice and once he declared those were my presents, he would not need to go through such trouble to give me more.

Of course, I had to test my theory.

“Uhm, honey…” I said (shyly). This was on the night after Day 2. I bought the shoes that morning, on sale, a pair of sleek black and pink Skechers Skech Air Inspire, with insides of pillowy memory foam. Ahhh, I was in podiatric heaven!

“Hmmm… Yes?…” I timed it so he was watching golf on video that night.

“I know I said the rubber shoes I got today would be my anniversary present, but uhm, ehm, ehrm, ehem, well…Crocshastheretrosneakersonsale!” I mumbled the last part in a hurry, wishing he would just nod absent-mindedly.

“On sale, you say… Uhm, okay, we’ll look at them together tomorrow. We have lunch with friends and we can check them out afterwards.” And then he went back to his watching.

Yes! He didn’t say “present” again! I heaved a smile of relief and went to bed.

Nov14 03

Nimes with Violetta and Bonnie ♥

The next day, after lunch with dear friends M and J, they handed me a large brown paper bag. I was expecting just one doll, a Blythe Ribbonneta Wish that J had purchased on A♥’s behalf, but the bag seemed heavy for just one doll. I looked at A♥ suspiciously. He acted nonchalantly and flashed his pearlies at me again but I held my tongue. Once home, he kissed me squarely on the mouth and said, “Happy anniversary, honey! These are all yours, my presents for you today!” And what a surprise it was!

Nov14 14Inside was Bonnie, my Ribbonneta Blythe, but there was also Violetta, the Hello Kitty Tokidoki x Pullip LE doll. There was a boxed Kindle Fire HD. A boxed Yoshi 3DS XL. Nintendo posters. A Hello Kitty 3DS game. I gave up all restraint, threw myself at him, and kissed him back.

The next day, when he bought me the Crocs retro-sneakers and said “my gift for you today, happy anniversary, love,” I didn’t even flinch. I just kissed him again.

So every day for the last three weeks, he gave me a present- or two or more- a day. Some of them were huge, jaw-dropping presents, like the professional series silver Kitchen Aid I had been eyeing for months, and a secret envelope with tickets to someplace special. Some  were thoughtful but simple gifts, like hot Ferrino bibingka (rice cakes) or turon (banana fritters or rolls) or even several packs of Megafiber (because he found out I was running low). He always seemed to know my cravings. 🙂

Nov14 01

Time to make those ensaimadas!

On another day, I received a Sylvanian Families hospital set and the supermarket owners.

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Then came another 3DS XL (Mario white edition), a Nintendo load card so I could buy themes for my Animal Crossing unit, two more 3DS games, Pokemon Art Academy and Fantasy Life, and the DS game Ontamarama.

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Nearer the date, he gave me more Blythe sets- dress sets for 10 days running and three dolls in succession, as well as one I adopted from a friend with his permission. I was in dolly heaven!

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And then last Friday night, in what was supposed to be A♥’s turn to finally get something good (he was renewing his phone subscription and had availed of the iPhone 6 plus option), he managed to turn the tables on me again when I found out he was getting me one too!

I had come as his unwitting “plus one” because he didn’t want us to be apart on the first few hours of our anniversary. I agreed to accompany him, even if it meant staying up the night, because he always asks so little of me to be happy. And so, we spent the last three hours of Thursday night and the first three hours of Friday in a queue for the iPhone 6.

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Despite the exhausting experience, it was also one to remember. Wherever we went, from the long standing lines outside to the longer line of seats inside, we were met with gracious and heartfelt anniversary greetings and well wishes. We were even surprised in line with the most beautiful flowers and a luscious chocolate cake from Ms. Yoly Crisanto, head of Globe’s Corporate Communications, and her team. All these acts of unexpected kindness from A♥’s friends, acquaintances, and even strangers (thank you to the stranger behind me in line for worrying about me when I struggled making those flights of stairs) made those hours of waiting worthwhile.

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Ambushed with gifts! Photo credit: Earl Scott Advento

Thank you for these gracious gifts!

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If you were to ask me what was my favorite gift in those 22 days of whirlwind giftgiving, I’d have to answer with “none.” Because far more than the value or joy of owning the newest, latest, most hyped gadgets or dolls or toys, I have already been gifted with something ultimately more precious: his love. It is my husband’s constant, generous, selfless sacrifice that I treasure beyond any gift he can ever give me. The lengths he goes to show me his love and devotion are truly astounding and 22 years into this lifetime, it seems he is still thinking of more ways to do just that.

Truly, twenty-two years with this man can never be enough. I’d give anything for 22 years more, and 22 more, and then, through the infinite mercy of our Lord, I can only ask for 22 again.

Thank you, A♥, for all the ways you show me you love me. I can only hope I am always worthy your love.

Nov14 12

 

Christmas 2013

25 Dec

2013 Family instagram copy

(Our themed Christmas card this year features A♥ as Silkstone Roger Sterling, Kittymama as Silkstone Grace Kelly, Alex as a pirate action figure and Alphonse as a Tin Soldier. )

From our Christmas Family Toy Box to yours,

Merry Christmas, friends, and God’s blessings be with you always!

Birthday Boy

3 Nov
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Waiting for Alphonse

I woke up with a start at six in the morning that day, the sudden gush of a watery fluid from between my legs jolting me to wakefulness. I had been feeling unsettled the whole night, like I had a severe case of indigestion, with my belly throbbing and aching in turns. II was about three weeks from my expected date of delivery and a little more than two weeks from my scheduled Caesarian section. I hated having plans changed at the last minute, I grumbled irritably as I wobbled to the bathroom. Worse, it was All Saints’ Day.

I woke up A♥ and told him it was time to go to the hospital. So much for a late start to the day, I sighed. It was, after all, a holiday and we were all looking forward to sleeping in that day.

I took a quick bath and dressed quickly. I remembered to grab the bag I had packed a week earlier. I was not going to the hospital unprepared this time, like the time Alex was born and I hadn’t brought anything except for a small handbag (well, Alex came six and a half weeks early, so that was perfectly justifiable). A♥ got Alex ready for the drop-off at my mom’s. He hauled the car seat and Alex’s small suitcase to the car and then went back for Alex. Eighteen-month-old Alex was still half-asleep and offered no resistance to being carried or strapped to his car seat.

After the goodbye kisses to Alex and my parents, we went to the hospital, quite sure that that day was the day we were meeting our second son. A♥ and I looked at each other anxiously. We were both excited for the little one’s coming and yet, we couldn’t help but be nervous and worried. The long months of pregnancy hadn’t been exactly easy as we struggled with bleeding every few weeks. We hurriedly filled in paperwork and in no time at all, I was ushered to the labor room.

alphonse 02The long minutes of waiting turned excruciatingly into hours. By late afternoon, my contractions were coming one after another. My lower back was screaming in pain as I gritted my teeth in a false smile with each drawn-out wave of nauseating pain. I was not going to be one of those women who screamed in their labor, I promised myself, but the pain was getting more intense and more difficult to bear. Just a little bit more. I could hold out for just a little bit more, I breathed deeply in and exhaled loudly.

Just then, the resident who was monitoring my labor delivered the news. My obstetrician had called in to say he was postponing my delivery for a couple of days. By then, I was too exhausted to even ask why. After the tocolytics were given through my IV line, I felt the pain easing up slowly. A few more hours and I was transferred to my own room, to await delivery via C-section scheduled in two days.alphonse 01

And so it came to pass that 19 years ago, we met Alphonse for the first time on November 3. He was a big, robust baby, with round eyes and a shock of black hair. He cried easily and lustfully, with whooping squeals that deafened everyone around him. He was fussy and needy but sweet and beautiful the way only babies can be.

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A♥ fell head over heels in love for the third time. 🙂

Today, Alphonse is no longer a little baby and yet, still not a man. He continues to straddle the world of adolescence and childhood. Physically, he is a healthy, strapping young man. Cognitively and emotionally, he is a little boy, innocent and often confused of the world around him. He is still fussy and needy but sweet and beautiful the way only he can be.

We live a life challenged by autism but never lacking in love. And we look back at the past 19 years with gratitude and awe, sometimes with tears, but more often with joy, for all the years our life have been blessed and bewildered by Alphonse’s presence in our lives.

alphonse and mama

Happy 19th birthday, sweetest one! Papa, Mama and Kuya love you always!

Two Fathers

16 Jun

Five am, Father’s Day 2013

I woke up to the sounds of rustling sheets and water running in the bathroom. Our son with autism, Alphonse, accidentally wet his bed again. I rubbed my still bleary eyes awake and saw that Alex and Alphonse were in the bathroom. Big Brother had washed and changed Alphonse into dry clothes. A♥ had stripped the bed of sodden sheets, stacking them up for laundry. With their well-coordinated teamwork, they had Alphonse snoring happily away shortly afterwards; I didn’t even have to do a single thing.

This is the kind of men I live with.

The kind that gets down to work without complaints.

The kind that rolls with the blows that get most people down and deals with them with fortitude and determination, from wet, soggy beds to full-scale tantrums from an almost full-grown teenager.

The kind that loves without conditions, without judgments.

They are the fathers in Alphonse’s life.

Alex and Papa copy

Today, Father’s Day, is meant for men like my husband, my dearest A♥, the one who bonds us all as a family. His patience, hard work, and dedication inspire me and his children to humility and service. His steadfast, constant love for his wife of 22 years grounds us in faith, even during the most difficult times of our lives.

But today is also for men like my eldest son, Alex, who has willingly taken on the responsibilities of being his brother’s keeper. These last few months, as he forged a new relationship with his brother, he has become, by his actions, Alphonse’s second father.

Happy Father’s Day, dear A♥ and Alex! I love you both forever and always.