DIY Winter Maternity Shoot: 37 Weeks

Being pregnant can toy with your emotions and affect your self confidence especially when you’re used to being small most of your life. It’s like one day you wake up and look at the mirror and there it is…that big bump and that large behind. Based on my first pregnancy I already knew that I wasn’t one of those women who carry their babies small, it’s always my behind and my belly that go first; the arms, the face and the rest of me follow.

At 37 weeks I knew I didn’t want my pictures taken because I was scared to see a planet in the photos plus its been snowing here in Indiana and all I wanted to do was stay warm indoors but my sister Pauline convinced me to do them, nothing fancy just some DIY project that we both could work on. And it just so happened that it was her birthday that day and she suggested that we could do my pregnancy photos, how could you say “No” to the birthday girl, right? So I took out my brand new portable makeup train case with the light-up mirror that Marco gave me for Christmas and had Pauline do my makeup.

I didn’t have anything to wear since this was an impromptu thing but having a theater background assured me that I could scrounge up some things I could use for the photos. I’d have to admit it’s not the best but I think it’s pretty okay considering that I didn’t have a lot of winter-apt stuff, I barely could fit any of my old clothes and we were chasing good lighting a.k.a Mr. Sun.

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So here’s what I came up with: my DIY Flower crown from years ago, Tassel earrings on sale at Walmart for $2, my thrifted fur find from a garage sale in 2007, a plain white tank top that barely fits me, a knitted sweater I thrifted from Goodwill, a tulle maxi skirt from the Philippines that doesn’t fit me at all. (unzipped skirt clearly not in photos,haha) and Zara nude flats that I risked in the snow (btw, they survived).

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…And we were lucky enough to have light snowfall while we were taking pictures.

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I’m sharing some of my raw and unedited photos just to continuously remind myself how beautiful and wonderful pregnancy is no matter how ugly I feel inside and out and after I give birth I’m going to make sure that I wear my ‘battle scars’ (aka stretch marks) with pride.

They say the biggest blessings come in small packages, I guess this little one is an exception because this tummy of mine ain’t nothing like a small package. Haha. I can’t wait to meet you my little Xavi.

~Mommy Rhea

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Destination: Big Bear Lake, California

January 2-4, 2017

Seeing snow while spending the holidays in California was like the cherry on top, the Mendezonas planned a skiing/snowboarding trip to Big Bear but I was more excited that Cassie was going to have her first snow experience. I was already assuming that she would fall in love with snow so quickly given the fact that she has a current obsession with things cold (ice, A/C, freezer, ref…and the list goes on) also explaining one of her all-time favorite expressions “told told” (cold cold).

There were 14 Mendezonas and half of us haven’t encountered snow long enough or don’t live in snow. Period. It’s a good thing the L.A-Mendezonas had enough snow gear for the rest of the Mendezona boys while Mami made sure the ones who didn’t have snow gear had one especially the babies. We even visited the snow gear outlet store a few days before the road trip. Wow, I didn’t think staying warm and comfortable at the same time would be a lot of serious work . I guess its different when you take solo skiing trips, I remembered my first trip to Colorado a few years back and packing wasn’t this crazy but when you prepare for a family of 14—it is a PRODUCTION. Imagine all the snow boots, all the thick jackets, all the thermals, all the mittens, all the gloves, all the snow goggles not even counting the snowboards and the ski equipment, yes, it was definitely a production.

Day 1

Our drive there has got to be one of the least boring drives I’ve taken in my life, not because Cassie was screaming until almost half way through the drive but because the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. For some reason snow makes things look so magical.

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3 cars and 2 hours later the Mendezonas made it to their Air bnb cabin in Big Bear and the boys were in charge of most of the hard labor of carrying the luggages up the stairs. (photo below for reference, hahaha).

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The kitchen and dining area. Excuse our luggage.

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The living room by the fireplace

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Bedroom on the 1st floor

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Upstairs bathroom had one of Cassie’s favorite animals—Owl.

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The loft upstairs aka the boys area

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The second floor’s very own cozy nook

Once we kinda got settled in and we semi-explored the house, we headed out for late lunch at this local place that was called Mountain Munchies. It might have presented itself like a hole-in-the wall but service was excellent in the form of our server being really patient with us.

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What I got, chicken Fried Steak. It was meh.

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Our view from outside the diner.

After late lunch, we headed out to a play area where the kids could play with snow but Cassie was fast asleep so I decided not to wake her up so we decided to stay inside the car to keep warm. The remainder of the day was spent on cooking, running errands, settling down and family bonding time over random movies by the fire place. Oh,  and marshmallows by the fire place.

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This one is out cold and missed playing with snow.

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What dinner preparations looked like

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These two cousins bonding over giant marshmallows

Day 2

Of course we tried to follow our planned schedule to leave by 9am for our snow activities and of course we failed miserably. Did I mention there were 14 of us and 2 bathrooms? One thing I’ve learned from situations like these is the “Early bird gets to bathe in hot water”, I’m telling you icy baths are no fun especially when they’re least expected.

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Good Morning!

Our view outside the cabin.

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The girls and one little pikachu photo bomber, my godson Teo. Haha

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She just wanted me to put her down so she could play with snow

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“let go of my hand mommy”

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Chilling (literally) by the side snow with these cuties while waiting for everyone to head down

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Photo op before heading out to the slopes

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Two hours and thirty minutes after our planned time we made it there.

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We parked our snowboards. What a stash, haha.

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And even then we still took long in buying our lift tickets and renting out snowboard boots and what not

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This one wasted no time and started exploring

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Ordering lunch to this view

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Cassie wanted to see the view for herself

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The scenery from up the slopes

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Cassie: It’s about time daddy

Marco, finally came down after a few rounds of snowboarding and he decided to play with the kids in the snow

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Me and Pilica with the babies

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Mami and Mikel had to make a miniature snowman to stop Teo from crying, he loved it but wouldn’t take a picture with it. (Yes, that’s beans and mac and cheese. )

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Although someone gladly posed next to the itty bitty snowman. Haha, Hi Dieg.

A short recap of today’s events, most went snowboarding, some went skiing, one got sprained and mami and I stayed with the kids. The highlight of my day was seeing Cassie go crazy over snow, she loved it so much that she’d get mad at me for taking her back to our waiting area. In fact she loved it so much she was willing to go with anyone who could take her back to the play area even if it wasn’t mommy.

Day 3

Everyone else had the rest of the morning to do more snow activities but Marco, Javi, Mami, Pilica, Anya, Cassie and I had to go down first since Marco had to fly to Houston earlier a day before me and Cassie for an interview.

~Rhea

Destination: Brownwood, Texas

In the area we live in we’ve unconsciously established an annual tradition with our neighbors of going camping on spring break. It’s gotten bigger the past few years with more families joining in and It’s great that we get to bond over hiking and fishing and campfire stories and a bunch of other outdoorsy stuff. Unfortunately, this year we had a conflict of schedule with our camping trip but my family decided to just push through with the plan for our own family bonding. Besides, it was Marco and Cassie’s first time “camping” so we ended up driving 6 hours away from home to Lake Brownwood State Park. I was a bit paranoid being a first time mother taking her almost-5-month old to camp, I had to google “What to pack for baby’s first camping trip” and that did help a little. The rest I had to rely on my own “mother’s instincts” to figure out what to pack and I’d have to say Marco and I did a pretty swell job. It really helped that I was breastfeeding Cassie as we didn’t really have to pack a lot of bottles and I barely even got to use my Medela breast pump since I was feeding her per demand during the trip.

Day 1

The Ramas family never leaves on time (except when we go to church) so being true to our nature we left the house late and even passed by HEB for some last minute groceries. Being the big family of  10 (including Cassie) that we are, we had to take to cars and convoy all the way to the campsite. The drive with Cassie was surprisingly bearable, she only started fussing the last stretch of the drive and it helped that I breastfed her during our stops. I really appreciated how my family patiently waited for Cassie to finish feeding before proceeding. And that is why I think they’re the best…EVER.

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On our last potty break, we accidentally stopped over a place that was known for their pecans and they were the most hospitable bunch. You could almost sample every single thing they were selling and they even offered pecan flavored coffee/tea for free.

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Mom relieved that we finally made it to the state park. Her face while checking-in. Haha.

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This is what our cabin looked like and it was a steal at the rate we got it for. The best part was it fit ALL of us..and more.

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This was how it looked like when we walked in. Sorry for the clutter, we were still unloading. 😀

The place had 5 rooms, three to the right upon entering and two to the left. Every single one of them had a full sized bed so obviously it was (1) Mom and Pop, (2) Me, Marco and Cassie, (3) Pauline and Marie, (4) Angelie and Nicole and (5) John alone. Paulo would have been his roomie if he didn’t cancel out last minute.

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Kitchenette right next to our room, there’s also another one on the opposite side of the cabin.

They also had two restrooms (not in picture), one located in each side of the house.

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OUR ROOM.

All the rooms in our cabin had full sized beds, it’s going to be a little bit hard for me and Marco to co-sleep with Cassie.

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Grandmy duties—mom changing Cassie’s dirty diapers as soon as we settled down.

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Poor baby with her eczema, we set up her play yard and she doesn’t look too happy about it. All of her woodlands were present.

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Munchkin Night after dinner.

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Marco teaching my siblings to play Munchkin. They loved it. 😀 Marco also told them some ghost stories before going to bed. Yep, I heard some screaming. Haha.

DAY 2

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Breakfast ready…Eating up before going on a hike with the family.

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We found the cutest bear at the campsite and her name is Cassie.

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Tita Jelly spotted on the hammock

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We haven’t even started the hike and we already had to take a break to take pictures. The view was wonderful.

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Cassie’s first hike ever and my first hike carrying Cassie, this is going to be a work out.

Notice how Cassie’s outfit matches my shoes.

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Trekked the wrong trail at the beginning, we only realized that when we saw signs for the actual trail. What a fail. haha

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Poor Cascas slept in the heat of the sun, had to slow down my pace as not to wake her up so I stayed behind the rest of my family for the most part.

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Came across another camp site with smaller cabins at the end of the trail, the skies were beautiful so I had to take a picture.

After the family hike, my family and I headed back to the cabin to freshen up and have lunch. We spent the afternoon driving out of the state park to check out the local area for flea markets and antique shops and we found a few.

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An antique wooden horse, a vintage rocking chair and a porcelain doll—-all would make a good horror story.

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Can’t believe I considered collecting porcelain dolls at one point, my husband would kill me if I started one right now. He’d probably just say one word and it would end the conversation—Anabelle. Haha

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Funny how they had a Filipino Sky Flakes can at the antique store

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Funnier how they were also selling a Philippine salt and pepper shaker set

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S’mores-ing with the family.

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The man behind the barbecue 😀

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Daddy Marco baby wearing. Our little Cascas is wearing the squirrel onesie she got from Ninang Pauline and Ninang Marie.

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A family picture just outside our cabin

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Eating out—literally, Thanks for cooking pop!

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Our poor baby was pooped from the night’s festivities, here’s our little Cassie in her squirrel onesie and her woodland friends.

Day 3

Driving back to Houston but first things first, Sunday mass at the closest Catholic church within our route—St. Mary Queen of Peace.

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What a very welcoming community, two random strangers just approached Marco to tell him how beautiful our family is and how beautiful Cassie is. I’m feeling very thankful and very blessed at this moment, just got reminded how much love I have for my big family and my little family. Thank God for moments like these, we miss you Paulo!

And yay, we survived Cassie’s first camping trip (with a little tweaking ofcourse), next time we’ll be ready to rough it out in real tents.

~Rhea

Cassie’s First New Year Celebration

Last 2015 I had expectations, call it New Year’s resolutions if you may, I thought they were pretty simple and quite doable. Looking back, none of those expectations panned out of if they did it probably worked out in a way I would have never imagined it to.And yet for all the irregularities in my life I am beyond grateful because in the end those irregularities turned out better than I expected. Thank you God! I’m so excited to be starting this year with the little creature that completes our own little family.

The Borromeos were nice enough to invite us over for New Year’s Eve and since Sienna Plantation has its no-fireworks policy, poppers and snappers were the best we could do. And of course since it was also Paulo’s birthday, we spent New Year’s Day dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse for the birthday boy’s request—steak! Cassie was nice enough to make us enjoy both gatherings by (mostly) sleeping through it.

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All strapped in, heading to the Borromeos house

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Ooohh…lechon belly.

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My little Cascas still asleep

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Waiting for 2016

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Our little family

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Cheers to 2016

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The birthday boy and his cake from Cheesecake Factory. yum!

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Grandy and Cassie

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Grandmy and Cassie before Paulo’s birthday dinner

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Paulo, the birthday boy with his birthday dessert

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One last family picture before leaving 🙂

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Fur-ry goodness with my little sleepyhead.

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Mommy’s OOTD

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Cassie’s OOTD (taken right before we left for Paulo’s birthday dinner)

Happy New Year to one and all!

~Rhea

It’s Good to be Back, Houston

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(CARDIGAN: black /TOP: Merona/ SHORTS: Liz Lange Maternity/ SANDALS: Qupid / NECKLACE: Fossil / SUNGLASSES: Aviators; Kenneth Cole)

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I actually got this outfit as a “Welcome Home” present from the family

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I know, I know my baby bump is big.

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The last few weeks of July and the first few weeks of August were quite chaotic, we literally had a million and one things to worry about. Marco was scheduled to take his Step 1 USMLE around that time and for days I had a very anxious husband. The delay of his US spousal visa didn’t help the situation either, it added to his anxiety and it added to mine. I on the other hand had to finalize my thesis drafts before leaving and I had to communicate with my adviser through email due to my current state. Its never fun for a pregnant woman to be stuck in the middle of Manila traffic, the drive from Alabang to UP Diliman now that school has started is no fun at all.

Being the big worry wart that I am, I still kept telling myself to trust in the Lord because he’s never let me down…EVER, but I’d be lying to myself If I didn’t say that I was starting to get impatient (boy, if you could only hear my dialogues with the Lord). I worried about a lot of things, I worried that Marco’s visa might take longer, I worried about not finishing my thesis (again), I worried about the tickets being so expensive by the time we get his visa, I worried about not being able to fly because I was a little bit over 7 months already, I worried about not being able to handle the long flight, I worried about the results of Marco’s exam… I was just WORRYING big time and so I finally gave it up and I offered it up to him, I mean there’s nothing else that I could do anyway and as soon as I did that things started turning out for the best.

On what we didn’t think was our last week in the Philippines, we got to visit family in Bacolod to celebrate Marco’s niece’s 1st birthday, they also threw me a baby shower and a despedida for me and Marco. We got a text from the embassy saying that his visa was going to be delivered in Manila (its a good thing we had Dolly Ann in Manila to accept it in behalf of Marco), the next day we purchased our tickets to LA so we could see Papi and Javi first before flying to Houston. We got to do a 4D ultrasound and we saw our little one for the first time and we got to visit the dentist. We then flew to Cebu to say goodbye to our grandparents in both sides and got to meet up with some close family and friends and then we flew back to Manila.

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Here’s the 4D of our little angel.

Manila was more hectic than ever, in less than a week we had to visit Marco’s eye doctor to make sure everything’s okay since his corneal transplant, I had to visit Tita Py, my OB-GYN for my final check up and also so she could clear me for the long flight to the US, I had to meet up with my thesis adviser so he could approve my final drafts before binding 3 copies of my thesis, we met up with our families for farewell dinners and we had to PACK (some wedding gifts from last year, all the baby shower gifts and tugons). We ended up with 4 Balikbayan boxes, 1 check-in maleta and 2 carry-on maletas. I’ll probably write about our travel experience in a separate entry and as I sit here in Houston recalling everything we had to go through I still can’t help but be amazed how all of those things happened in a span of 2 weeks (or less), “When it RAINS it does POUR” and once again HE came through for us. We are very grateful and are truly blessed, it’s good to be home Houston.

~Rhea