Pay It Forward

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

As a mother, I am deeply affected by the tragedy that occurred last Friday in Newtown, CT. I have found myself reading every article, watching news clips about the victims' and their families, and shedding tears for their pain and sorrow.

Much like the rest of the country {or really, the world}, I mourn these losses and am beside myself. I remember that day, Camden was in rough shape. My stubborn little girl refused to nap all day, and gave me one of her most difficult days. And still, despite the whining and tears, I had my little girl to hold. Being a mother who lost daughters only 20 short months ago, I almost feel guilty, that I have this little girl who is about to celebrate her first Christmas, and there are families in Connecticut who now cannot even fathom celebrating theirs. 

I had made plans to send a letter to Sandy Hook Elementary, perhaps send a donation, but no idea has struck me the way the video above has. 

26 acts of kindness. It is a simple concept that seems so fitting, not only in light of the Connecticut tragedy, but also because it is Christmas.

My family is very busy this Christmas. On top of the usual family gatherings to prepare for, presents to buy, Christmas cookies to bake, we are preparing to go on vacation to Northern California for a week, and we are also in the process of packing up our house and moving. However, this is something I want to make a point of doing. 

I make this promise today and it is something I would like to continue with Camden as she grows up. 26 Random Acts of Kindness. This year, I am starting it today. It was said best in the card in the video: How do you fight evil in the world? This is my own personal solution.

I urge every one you as well, in these last few days before Christmas, or even before the New Year, to conduct these random acts. They don't have to be big. They don't have to be broadcasted. Just do it. 

Benchmarks and Babies was started because I wanted to share my husband's and my experience in bringing life into this world. In these past two years, the blog has transformed into so much more -- a place to pour out frustrations and heartaches, a countdown, and a place for celebrating life, love, and family. 

We honor and remember those fallen victims and their families. What better place to start than here. What better time to start than now.

Pay it forward.
Pass it on.
26 Acts.

Keeping Up With Camden: 5 Months

27 inches 
After the last post, we went to her doctor's appointment and found out {i LOVE being right} that she was 15.25 lbs. That was in the beginning of November. My guess is that now she is about 17 lbs. This kid is a major chunk. 

* There is a little girl who, while she refuses to roll over, has been sitting up pretty much on her own. 

* Camden has also been eating baby food! {hooray!} Dr. Medina preferred that we wait until she was closer to 6 months, but honestly, we couldn't wait, and I think neither could Cam. She absolutely loves, loves, loves her baby food. The food we've chosen for her is by Ella's Kitchen, which is an organic baby food company that offers not only single item foods {i.e. First Sweet Potatoes, First Pears} but combinations of different fruits and vegetables. We feel that this will help Camden, by not only providing her with so much nutrition from different sources, but by exposing her palette to different tastes. We want a worldly eater for a little girl, and we feel that Ella's Kitchen will help us shape her into that.

* Our little social butterfly has also become such a talker and quite a little dancer. She does this squirm-dance that is so adorable and she normally does so when she is laughing and "talking" to us.

Notable Events
* Camden's first Thanksgiving! I have to admit that at first, I felt a little guilty because this is the first year in seven years that I didn't cook a Thanksgiving meal. Normally my Thanksgiving cooking involves 3 days of active prep and about 8-10 hours of cooking on the day itself. It is exhausting, but I absolutely LIVE for this holiday. This year, however, J and I decided that I needed to take a rest. After all, I am taking care of a 4 1/2 month old. So this year, we decided to go out to eat instead. J and I made early reservations at Maggiano's, and I have to say, it was the best idea ever. We've eaten at Maggiano's countless times just for regular dinner, but have never done Thanksgiving there. We loved the experience so much that we think we may even go there again next year. It was such a nice, stressless Thanksgiving for us . . . and we still had leftovers afterwards! Camden, the our nosy little bugger, loved Maggiano's. She sat with me on my lap and looked around at all the people {all the while unknowingly drawing attention to her and her gigantic turkey beanie bow that I made for her, of course!} and when she was done doing that {and sampling the whipped cream from Mommy's dessert}, she went back into her car seat and slept! It is fairly obvious who J and I were most thankful for this year.

* With the holidays fast approaching, Camden has had her fair share of shopping excursions. From a few trips with one of her godmothers, my dear friend Amy, to our friends {my former bosses}, the Gustave family, or just trips with Mommy, Daddy, or both, this little girl has seen her fair share of spending. On top of that, she had her first experience of Black Friday shopping!

* Though she is not a stranger to the camera {the phone kind and the professional kind}, Camden joined us for our first family Christmas photos, done by our dear friend Carla of Carla G. Design and Photography. Carla is the wife of one of J's very best friends from childhood {and one of our groomsmen at the wedding}, Tim. J and Tim are like brothers, and Carla, who is just starting her photography business and has done so well already, especially this holiday season. Our sweet girl did so well for the photos, braving a cold fall afternoon and not crying one bit during our session. We are so happy with the way the photos turned out!

 Our favorite: Santa's best present!
 Since we were having our pictures taken in Downtown San Juan Capistrano, where we had our engagement photos done {by the insatiable Adrienne Gunde}, we decided to recreate some of the same poses from then, but this time, of course, have our sweet Camden with us. I think they turned out fabulously!

* Camden's first visit to the LA Auto Show... Last year, when I was only 7 weeks pregnant with Camden, I won two tickets to attend the Auto Show. It was my first time ever going, and J and I were so excited to have won the tickets. This year, I joined the same giveaway {through Yokohama Tires, a huge sponsor of the event} and won 4 tickets! We asked our friends, the Lowrey family to come along with us, as they have two little girls as well, and their flexible work schedules allow for them to take a weekday off and go with us {last year, we found going on a weekend to be too hectic; we couldn't imagine doing that again this year, especially having an 18-, 8-, and 5-month old with us}. We had a wonderful time and even got to introduce them to one of our favorite restaurants in Little Tokyo. We love the interaction between Camden and the two Lowrey girls, Coley and Dylan.

* First visit with Santa: My friend Amy {one of Camden's godmothers} and I decided that we wanted to start a tradition of having our girls take their Santa pictures together every year. Her daughter, Olivia, 5, is very close to us, and we want Camden and Olivia to have this tradition to look forward to every year. So we decided to take the girls to see Santa in the Crystal Court at South Coast Plaza. I was a little concerned at first, as Cam has been going through a very clingy phase, where she does not let ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE, except for me or J hold her. I warned Santa's elves to take the picture as soon as I put her down on his lap, because it wouldn't take long for her to melt down. I was so happy to be proven wrong! Not only did Cam not cry at all with Santa, she also sat there and at least somewhat focused on us and the camera while her picture was being taken! So proud of my girl!

* Camden's first Ugly Christmas Sweater Party: Our neighbors {and friends} Andrew and Kali invited us to their annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party this year. Although children weren't allowed, they made concessions for their friends who had babies. Camden got to wear a hideous little gem that I found at a kids consignment store and embellished with more gems and tacky snowflakes. She didn't win the Ugliest Sweater award, but we are proud to say that Daddy got 2nd place!

New Places Visited
* We stayed local during most of her 4th month. She did, however, have her share of new places in town visited for the first time: Maggiano's, South Coast Plaza, Slapfish Restaurant in Huntington Beach, to name a few. I think we decided to stay in town this month because we knew that we would be traveling a lot during the holidays and wanted to not get our little girl wasted prior to.

Personality Revealed: Our Quirky Little Girl
* Tech-Savvy Baby: I guess it should be expected out of all babies and toddlers in this day and age. Camden loves anything that involves technology -- iPhones, light up toys, laptops, and even the remote control. Many times, we have had to keep one of those items in front of her to keep her happy.

* The Whine-Cry: It's the new crying . . . Cam has truly discovered her lungs. In this past month, she has taken to her new hobby: Yelling. She yells just for fun and when she wants to make noise but doesn't want to yell, she does a puppy-like whimper/whine.

* Little Lady: I don't know where she gets it, but J and I have noticed that this little girl likes to sit and have her legs crossed.  
* Someone has discovered her thumb! Before she was born, I refused to buy a pacifier for her. I didn't want her to be attached to this bink. That was until after her first night at home. The next morning, I sent J to the store to purchase a bink for her. I figured, you could take away the bink but not the thumb, and as an avid thumbsucker until the age of 10, I wanted the total opposite for my daughter. Especially now that she is teething heavily, it brings her comfort and she gnaws on her little thumb happily.
* New favorite song: I am a firm believer in NOT allowing young children to be glued to the TV. I've seen other people's children who cannot even hold a conversation with adults when there is a TV, let alone a computer, in the room, and J and I would like our little girl to have a little bit more social graces than that, so we limit her TV exposure to about 15-30 minutes a day. Why 15 minutes? Because when J goes to work in the morning, Mommy needs a few minutes to wash her face, go potty, brush her teeth, and put herself together to be a little bit presentable, and keeping Cam on her post on our bed in front of Nick Jr. for a few minutes becomes a necessity. At any rate, her exposure to Nick Jr. has introduced her to the Fresh Beat Band. Being a little girl who absolutely LOVES music, she is mesmerized by the colors and the songs on this show. One of them is a song called "Spin Around". Whatever I am doing, when "Spin Around" comes on, I go over to Cam's spot and I dance with her for the few minutes that the song is on, and she totally enjoys it. She loves the song so much that I downloaded it on iTunes and I know that when we play it for her and do a little dance with her, she lights up and giggles.

* Another giggly time: Bedtime. I admit that there are many days when bedtime is signaled by a bald and cranky baby rubbing her eyes and doing her whine-cry. There are, however, most days when our signal for sleepy time is a room full of giggles from our 5 month old. She gets herself so deliriously tired that she just giggles at anything and everything as we are putting her to bed. It feels like a cheat sometimes, but I try to take advantage of those precious few minutes as much as possible. 

As Camden's first Christmas is coming, I am filled with so much excitement, anticipation, and a little bit of disbelief that I get to celebrate it with this perfect little girl. We are so blessed to have her and thank God daily for bringing Hope into our lives through her.

Keeping up with Camden: 4 months

26 inches 
At her last doctor's appointment {two months ago}, she was 12 pounds. Whenever J and I lift her up, we always comment on how heavy she is now. Our guess is that our little chunk is now 15-17 pounds. We will find out this Wednesday. 
* Sat on the Bumbo for the first time. She likes it, but doesn't quite get it yet, that she's got this cool tray to put her toys on and play on.
* Sitting up {with some help} on her own. She still has the tendency to lean forward, but she's definitely working it!
* First REAL long laugh! On Mommy's birthday, she gave me the BEST present! Since then, she has been laughing so much and it has been so wonderful to be able to make our little girl giggle. What an amazing sound. 

Notable Events
* First Halloween Party: The Mathis Halloween Party
* Tried cotton candy for the first time and LOVED it!

* Three (yes, THREE) trips to the pumpkin patch! She melted down the first time as Mommy and Daddy didn't plan it too well around her naptime. If you ask me, I think it was because we placed her in costume very haphazardly {so as to make it as quick as possible} in a pile of pumpkins and she was so discomforted by it that it led to a meltdown.
The second time, we planned it so well -- we went early to meet up with our friends, put her in costume for a few quick pictures, and changed her into street clothes quickly after. Ahh, success.
 The third time was a trip to Tanaka Farms, a local working farm, with our friends Melanie and her two sweet girls, Makenna and Kamryn. Camden loved it so much she... uhhh... fell asleep ;-) This was also her first playdate.
* Baby's first Halloween! By the time Halloween came around, she was so used to wearing her costume {we had had 4 different occasions when she had to wear it prior to the actual holiday} that it was a piece of cake for her. Our neighborhood had a party, and we had our friends Steve & Melanie come with Makenna and Kamryn and we all trick-or-treated together. Well, the babies stayed in their strollers, and Mommy and Makenna walked up to the doors to gather loot.

* Camden was there for the first time to celebrate Mommy's birthday. {NOT gonna share how old. Let's just say this is the last birthday I will want to acknowledge.} The Saturday prior to my birthday, we went out with my mom and brother to dinner at one of J's and my favorite restaurants, Cucina Enoteca, and on the actual day itself {Tuesday}, we had a casual dinner with our neighborhood friends at a local pizza place, Selma's. Through both dinners, Cam did not want to be in her seat -- she HAD to be in my lap, sitting up the whole time, so that she can socialize and be part of the group. Any and all meals have been the same ever since.

* Meltdown City: Camden met some relatives from my side of the family who were visiting from the Philippines. I'm pretty sure this little turd was too overwhelmed and was in meltdown mode THE.ENTIRE.TIME. It was so much that we had to leave early, and the combination of the car ride and her exhaustion from spending hours wailing on and off knocked her out within three minutes of leaving the party.

New places visited
* Kaiser Hospital - Daddy's gall bladder removal surgery - I guess it wasn't really "new" to her, as she was born there, but it was her first time as a visitor. I have to say, Camden was such a good baby. She was quiet, well behaved, and she self-entertained most of the time. She only got cranky when it was naptime, during which time I put her in her carseat {on her stroller}, put the canopy down, and she fell right to sleep. This poor sweet girl was dragged around so much in those two days and her schedule was so thrown off, but it was like she knew she had to be a big girl, and gave us the best version of herself possible.
* When my former boss / our dear family friend, Tina, had to get surgery at the UC Irvine Medical Center, Camden and I were among her many visitors. By this time, Cam was an expert hospital visitor. She kept her Thea Tina smiling and just sat quietly and watched TV with her. We also visited Tina when she came home to recover.
* Camden went with us to my informal high school reunion and the Homecoming football game that followed. While the high school reunion was a bust {only 6 of my graduating class of 162 showed up}, it was actually fun because those of us who were there all had kids ages 3 and under, with one on the way. We all were able to relate with each other on kid meltdowns, feeding babies, and we all even valeted our strollers one behind the other in the large football stadium. 

Personality Revealed: Our Quirky Girl
* Cam is such a creature of habit. She likes her routine so much that she freaks out when she's thrown off and takes a day {or more} just to recover. 
* We tried to have her sleep in her own room as soon as she turned 3 months, but we have found that {a} she really likes to sleep with a warm body next to {or at least, within arm's reach from} her and {b} she isn't completely sleeping through the night yet, and in the interest of getting any sleep at all, it's best to keep her in her co-sleeper in our room until she can sleep through the night. In the early hours of the morning, we move her to our bed so we can have a few hours of cuddling, and this is where she seems most comfortable. I figure, why rush it? She won't be this small and cuddly forever. 
* When she wakes up every morning, her favorite thing to do is "talk" to Daddy. She coos and makes all sort of extremely loud sounds as her Daddy talks to her. She loves it, and of course, so do we.

* Another favorite of hers is slow dancing with Daddy. She cuddles with her dad like no other. On weekend mornings, J lets me sleep in and takes her into the family room to watch {gulp!} The Military Channel with him, and they spend a lot of time slow dancing together. It's the sweetest thing.
* This silly little girl likes to have the blanket over her face to go to sleep. I understand the sighs of disdain coming from many of you. Yes, she uses a blanket because it's the only way she sleeps. When I rock her to sleep, she lays across my lap facing me on her Boppy and I have to either cover her entire head by a blanket {which I remove later on} or with my hand covering her eyes. I'm tempted to make her a baby eye mask.
* She is starting to understand the concept of peek-a-boo. She loves to play it and just laughs so loud when we do.
* Swim class is going so well! As long as we keep her on a good nap and feeding schedule throughout the day, she is a happy camper at swim class. She knows to hold her breath when she is dunked underwater and is worlds braver when we do back floats. I'm pretty sure her favorite part of class is doing the back float while we sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. 
* Favorite thing ever: her swing. There have been a handful of times when she would be so fussy and can't just figure out that she is, in fact, sleepy and that she shouldn't fight it, so she gets cranky, so we put her in her swing with her lovey over her eyes and BOOM! within 30 seconds {no joke} she's out.

How is it possible that this sweet little baby is now 4 months old? As the days go by, I realize more and more the truth to everyone saying "It goes by so fast". It does. So many times, I want to freeze time and just be with her like this, cuddled up in our bed on a cold and rainy day. The truth of the matter is that being a mom has been the sweetest, most rewarding thing I have ever done, and this little blessing that is currently so cuddled up next to me that I am almost out of room in our Cal-king sized bed, is the best thing that's ever happened to J and me. 

Catching Up

I have told myself practically every other day since Camden was born that I need to write a blog post. Every week, I have made a promise to myself to do so, and every week, I have failed. Obviously, it isn't because I don't want to write about her, or share my experiences as a first time mom, but in my precious few moments of alone time, I either sleep or {yes, I admit it} scour the Internet for ideas for her: Christmas presents, questions that I have about parenting, and yes, ideas for her 1st birthday party that I have been planning since I was 7 months pregnant with her. 

Such is the life of a first time mom. 

And then I came across an article today that reminded me of something. Despite filling my iPhone to beyond capacity with pictures of her and even my 365 Days of Camden series on both Facebook and Instagram (#365daysofcamden), I have been doing her a bit of disservice because I haven't actually been writing about the little stories everyday, the little nuances and quirks about her that we've discovered, and the funny little anecdotes that shaped our days in the past 14 weeks of her life. I realized, too, that I found it hard to post more because unlike the writing during my baby belly picture project or the daily requirement of my #365DaysOfCamden picture project, regular posts here and there don't require the same commitment or accountability. People knew that every Monday during my pregnancy, I had a post. People know that everyday, there is a new photo on Instagram and Facebook. I have to hold myself responsible, if not for myself, for Cam. 

Hence the birth of my new monthly series {yet to be named}. I want to document Cam's growth and progress and her personality development and what better way than the blog?

Being that I am already three months behind, here are some highlights from the past 3 months:



Welcome Cam! We got home 2 days after she was born. She spent her second day at home celebrating Daddy's birthday. 
We also spent a lot of time watching the Olympics and having visitors. We were able to take her out for some visits to Mommy's old office and to see family friends.

At 10 days old, she had her first photo shoot. She had her newborn photos taken by Mommy's friend, Stephanie of Stephanie Nelson Photography.

Camden was able to go on her first long{er} drive, up to Lancaster to see Daddy's side of the family.

Cam also started to smile on request. Mommy started a routine of talking to her every morning and it never failed to make her smile.

Before we knew it, her first month was done!

We started to hit a little bit of colic at 6 weeks. It really only lasted about a week, and in retrospect, it wasn't that bad; however, in the midst of it, I was a delirious and exhausted mamma. I lost sleep trying to figure out how to make our child happy again and there were many times I cried right along with her because I felt bad for her. Still, being the ever pragmatic people J and I are, we fought colic head on. Although I was breastfeeding, we bought several different kinds of formula in one day, all of which were the ones that targeted fussiness, gas, and colic, on top of making sure they were the gentle or soy formulas. We didn't stick with it. Actually, we never even began. We stuck with breastfeeding, and instead, I went on a no dairy diet. I wanted to make sure that she didn't have a lactose intolerance. No dairy didn't make a difference {thank goodness}. We tried long drives, gripe water {greatest stuff EV.ER.}, Hyland's colic tabs, chamomile tea, gas drops, swaddling, long walks in the Baby Bjorn, rocking, shushing, white noise {we downloaded a running water noise that worked like magic}, showers, a warm compress on her belly, and pretty much any and all home remedies that were recommended to us. Sure enough, within about a week or so, we drove the colic out {knock on wood. She's only almost 4 months old now. Not out of the woods yet}.

At 7 weeks, Cam was baptized. It was very important to both J and me that she get baptized right away. Being Filipino, it was a tradition to not even allow the baby to leave the house before she is baptized. Of course, I broke that rule several times, but pre-baptism, we were definitely much more limited in our outings with her. 

Cam was baptized at the Mission Basilica in San Juan Capistrano, the same church where J and I got married.
It was also during her second month that she went to her first baby shower {my friend Erin's baby shower for Max}, met Olympic gold medalist {and if you ask my brother, his future wife} Kyla Ross, battled with constipation for the first time, had her first immunization shots {she cried, I cried . . . it was very sad}, and had her first long road trip to Las Vegas!

When Cam was 10 weeks old, we started her on swimming lessons. This little girl is quite a mermaid. She LOVES the water and did so well! 

She also had her first visits to the Pumpkin Patch. We took her for her first visit on a Wednesday late afternoon. This has been a warm October so we wanted to wait until the cooler part of the afternoon to take her. The poor child melted down so badly. I think she didn't quite understand the puffy costume and why she was being laid down in a pile of big, hard, orange pumpkins.

Needless to say, we quickly changed her out of her costume and took advantage of the precious few tearless moments to take our family picture.

A few days later, we bravely visited the pumpkin patch again, this time with our dear friends. This visit turned out to be more successful {and I think we were more prepared}. We worked quickly, taking pictures of her while she was calm, and immediately after, we changed her into regular clothes -- and avoided a huge meltdown! Hooray for us!
I'll take indignant over crying any day!

It was also during her second month that she had her first laugh. It wasn't long, but we definitely worked our way up to it and boy, was it the sweetest sound! This month, she has also really worked at holding her head up more and swatting at toys. She has taken a special attachment to her Sophie la Giraffe. We never leave home without Sophie anymore!

We are now caught up! The next post will be on her 4 month birthday!