We were never one of those new age couples that chose to have our child before getting married.  After all, formal marriage seemed like such an old fashioned formality to us, but our child just couldn't wait to be born.  Her birth was never going to be a decisive issue; she was always going to come along at her own pace, and she did.  She came well before we were married, and well probably well before we were ready...

We both like to think that our child's readiness to come into this world was a product of both our upbringings.  We're both self-starters and our Ava seems to be an epitome of both of our talents.  However, we were still to complete our formal, legal obligation to her and each other: to be wed.  To many of us, marriage might be an institution of the past - where a man and a woman are bound for eternity to each other in Holy matrimony.  To others, it more closely represents a tacit bond that can't be broken, a fellowship between two people that no one else could understand.  Our decision to wed was not based on religious grounds, more on the secular basis that our little one should be raised in an inclusive family in which she has no question about our devotion to one another.

Our marriage was far from a religious ceremony: evidence is in one of the suggestions for advice that my dearest shared with me - I should check out pinkiceland.is for tips...  Anyway, the wedding went off without a hitch, and our little lady was the perfect flower girl for our day (even if she couldn't stand the cold, she was still a picture of absolute cuteness).  Also, we had a sea captain for an officiant, which was also quite awesome.  

For us it was a day of unbridled happiness.  For our child it was probably incredibly confusing.  We wanted her to be a part of everything as much as she could, but knew that it might get a bit much for her.  She was perfect throughout almost all of our day, but the cold didn't quite work out.  We both agree that there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, and as much as we tried to prepare Ava for the numbed fingers and stingy toes, we couldn't make it perfect for her.  

Anyway, here are some cute pictures of our little angel on our wedding day.  Having our child present at our wedding was one of the happiest moments of my life.  I could never imagine having this day without her.  

I just realised that our last post was on her first birthday, and that I hadn't published any of the drafts I'd been trying to write since then...  So with those in the trash, here we find ourselves, two months later.  So much has happened in that time, I'll try to condense it. 

Our wee darling has grown so much.  She now rarely walks, instead she runs.  She has also made the leap from her old play group into the next age bracket, which terrified me to think that she was no longer a baby, but becoming a fully-fledged toddler so early.  Ava seems unsure of her new place, but I'm certain she'll grow into it much sooner than I'd like.  She is already so happy to walk and explore on her own, it won't be long before she doesn't need us at all...  

Perhaps the most fun part of her growing up (for me) is the height projection - at 14 months of age she is now 80 cm tall.  They say that at two years old, a child will be half their adult height.  For Ava, this means she is already going to be 5 cm taller than her mother; in another 10 months, who knows how much more she'll grow.  She'll probably be taller than me!

She has also developed so much mentally, her speech just amazes us.  The clarity with which she pronounces words is something that continually astounds me - and not just the little words like mummy, daddy, car, book, etc, but words like 'strawberry', 'bottle' and 'Bruce'.  It won't be long before she's stringing sentences together, and probably in Tagalog as well as English.  She has also learned to say yes and no, with enthusiastic nodding or shaking of her head.  She hasn't quite mastered answering questions yet, but always seems to know when she's being asked something, and responds with about 50% accuracy.  

Perhaps the best news of all is that she has stopped reacting to dairy products.  We're not exactly sure when or how this happened, but recent testing has shown that her previous allergy seems to have passed.  This is amazing news to us as it magnifies incredibly the range of foods she can have, and gives us so much peace of mind for the future.  Our little one can now enjoy all the greatness of cheese, butter, cream - all the things that make life great!!  

In other news, she has now developed a tiny pair of eye teeth, which have been giving her terrible pain, but thankfully the worst is now behind us and she can start testing them out on more grown-up foods.  She has also become super clingy, which we're trying hard to work out of her system.  We're unsure of how it came about, but it meant for a difficult time lately, and a lot of sleepless nights for Megan.  She seemed to only want to be held by her mother and wailed terribly whenever she was put down or picked up by anyone else.  
The last two months have been an absolute whirlwind of activity for us all here, and the next two look equally as busy.  Many more pictures and stories of our recent events will follow!

Happy birthday!  Our little girl made it!  She has now completed one successful lap around the sun!!  

For a while, we thought that maybe we'd never see this day - but now that it's here, we're so happy our little angel made it.  It's hard to imagine where the time went; there were so many absolutely beautiful moments that it's difficult to even imagine any of the struggles.  

The party itself was a grand affair - the apartment made up to suit the jungle safari theme, and all Ava's little friends in their cute little animal outfits.  The amount of planning that went into the event far exceeds the amount that's gone into our wedding!  Still, though, Ava had a great time & hopefully in future years she can look back on it and know how special we wanted it to be for her.  

After all the madness of the last few months, it was nice to get back home and settle into a routine again.  We had a quiet couple of weeks on our own before Ava's uncle & aunt arrived for a surprise visit - for ten days we had Tim & Annie come to stay in our new home.  Although it wasn't a long time for them to stay it feels like they became part of the furniture, and now that they're gone Ava is wandering the house looking for them.  

For over a week, Ava had a blast playing with her extended family members, attending brunches & dinners, sitting out typhoons, and practicing the new things she's learning.  She's learned to identify & say things like "bubble" and "car", and now responds to directions such as "pat your head" and "stretch your arms" (thanks, If you're happy and you know it).  She has also started to move away from her mushy foods, going almost exclusively to finger foods.  So far we've had some very mixed results, with no one thing seeming to stick as a favourite yet, but Bruce has been able to help out with everything that lands on the floor.  

It hasn't all been smooth sailing, however.  Ava has been having a lot of troubles with her teeth - her front top row is coming out all at once, which has made for some sleepless nights for all of us.  Thankfully, the worst has passed and she can go back to being the happy little girl that we know her to be.  

She has also started to learn her first lot of words - apart from the usual "dadas" and "mamas", she can now identify things like cars, balls, the dog, etc.  She has also started to say her first Tagalog words, which is hugely exciting!  

Our upcoming months will be very busy as we look forward to Ava's first birthday and a few more trips overseas as well as some international visitors, so wait out for more (and more frequent) updates!
I've been fortunate enough to get a few days off from rugby and come home to see my little family.  It doesn't seem like a long period of time, but already Ava seems to have grown up from the little girl I knew.  

She is far more mobile now, and much more vocal about what she wants. She is eating more, and seems to be sleeping less.  She goes to others and readily interacts with other children.  She seems to be far less reliant upon her dad now, which is something I knew would happen, but of course is no less upsetting.  

She now has her grandparents (from Meg's side) over visiting, and as usual, they're showering her with love and she is lapping it up.  As possibly the happiest little baby I've ever known, it's hard to imagine her being even more happy.  Seeing her face light up with her grandparents is wonderful, but not being a part of it isn't so much fun.  I knew that going away for this time would be a sacrifice, I just didn't realise how much I'd miss.  It's not a quantifiable thing - I haven't missed any milestones or anything like that - it's the way she's grown, how her character has developed that I missed.  

I know that I complain about missing her, but in fairness I have a much easier task than Meg - working full time as well as taking care of Ava through the nights has been rough on her and without her I would never be where I am.   Having her parents come to visit is of course a massive help to all of us, but they've also had to sacrifice work & other family commitments.  I couldn't be more appreciative of the support I'm getting from everyone here.  When I step off again tomorrow, it will be with a heavy heart, but knowing that my girls are in great hands and when I get back, there will be so much to hear about - Ava might even have something to say!  

Tonight is a sad night for us here - it is my last with our little family for a while.  

As it turns out, we have now been residing in the Philippines long enough for me to qualify for the national rugby team, the Volcanoes.  For the next 6 weeks I'll be away at the training camp for the Asian 5 Nations rugby tournament, but while I'm elated to be selected for the squad, I'm also devastated to be leaving my family - Megan, the Bruce and of course, my gorgeous little baby.  

It has been something I have known about for a little while already, but now that it's upon us, the feeling has changed.  At first I was so excited to get the opportunity to run with the squad, but now all I can think about is how much I'll miss - her development, her day-to-day playing, her walking, talking, eating, sleeping.  Everything!!  

Of course, it's not just her that I'll be away from.  Megan has been great in making it possible for me to go, and the next few weeks will be incredibly hard for her.  I'll miss her greatly, and I'll miss being here to help around the house.  We do have a lifeline, though: Grandma is coming to the rescue!  Without her coming, I'd never be able to leave for such a long stretch.  

I don't know what I'll do without my baby there to wake me up each morning and keep me company all day, I just hope she remembers me when I can come back home.  

Every time I think about posting a new article, to write about whatever new achievement Ava has accomplished, to boast about how amazing my little daughter is, I get distracted.  Usually, it's because she's climbing on something she shouldn't, eating something she shouldn't, or trying to do something else that she probably shouldn't....  

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity - we had Ava's grandparents visit (all four of them, though not at the same time), one weekend of rugby here in Manila, one weekend of rugby in Hong Kong, and one weekend away, relaxing.  I say relaxing but really I mean we went away for two nights, loaded the car with everything we could possibly need (kitchen sink included), and tried as hard as we possibly could to enjoy ourselves...  with mixed results.  

So the last few weeks have been anything but settled, but one thing has remained constant: our little sweetheart continues to grow and grow and grow as fast as she possibly can.  It feels like she has left babyhood so far behind already, I feel like we have a toddler instead.  

As she continues on her upward streak, she smashes her milestone achievements and makes me miss the days of when she was so much smaller.  She is now making some very deliberate noises, and knows how to let you know if she's not getting what she wants!  She's also eating meats with her teeny little teeth and using her little tiny fingers to grab it really well.  

Most amazingly, though, is the first tiny steps she's beginning to take.  She can now stand on her own for a decently long period of more than a few seconds.  She can balance all by herself, and regain that balance if she gets a bit too shaky.  The best part is the steps: the wobbly, awkward, happy steps.  It doesn't look like much, but to me it's amazing.  

I don't even care that it's the start of a new chapter of worry for us all; that she will quickly learn how to get where she wants to be and that we need to childproof everything even more than what we already have.  She'll climb, she'll fall, she'll reach for things, she'll break things...  I could never be upset with her for any of that, though.  She has so much that she wants to learn, I just hope that I can keep up.

To say that the last few weeks have been busy is a bit of an understatement.  So much has gone on lately that I haven't been able to catch up at all, so here goes a quick recap.  Forgive me if I forget bits, but the last little while has been a whirlwind of progress for our not-so-little angel!!!

Ava has a peanut allergy.

So as part of her trip back home, Ava had her 6-month allergy check (RAST test), and was thankfully cleared of allergies to almost everything.  Unfortunately, though, she tested positive to peanuts and to dogs...  Cue EpiPens, adrenaline vials, and some very nervous parents!  Thankfully, though, the little thing doesn't know what a peanut is yet, so she won't miss them.  The obvious downside now is that now she's starting to eat solids, so every bit of food we get for her has to be completely nut free.  We can't really have peanuts in the house any more - no more peanut butter sandwiches, no more satays...  the fact that every variety of Asian food uses peanuts is also very, very annoying!  There is a 20% chance that she will grow out of it, but the reality is that she has an 80% chance of having the life-threatening allergy for the rest of her life.
The dog part of thing is also upsetting, as Ava absolutely adores her big brother Bruce.  She doesn't seem to react to the hair (which is a good thing, as it's EVERYWHERE), but when he licks her face she breaks out in hives.  Separating them isn't as easy as you'd think, as they're both the same height, and they both love chewing everything!  

Ava goes to Myanmar.

Another trip for our little jetsetter!  Almost immediately after coming back from Australia, she's back to the airport to get on another plane!  Thankfully, though, most airlines these days have ditched the customary sachet of peanuts.  
She spent 5 days exploring one of the world's most interesting places - formerly shut off to foreigners, the country has relaxed its visa restrictions and so we went to check it out.  As it turns out, Yangon is amazing.  Due to our limited time, we couldn't get out to the countryside, but seeing the former capital was a pretty good introduction.  I think Ava may have been the only blond-haired, blue-eyed baby they've ever had there, as locals were so curious about her.  Everyone, and really, I mean EVERYONE, had a big smile for her, and she smiled right back.  

Ava moves out.

As if trying to get her to sleep wasn't hard enough with her already disrupted schedule, the week after returning from Myanmar, our old lease was due to run out.  With this in mind, and the growing needs of our little family, it was time to move to somewhere bigger and brighter.  
Our new place is a lot larger than our last, and we now have access to some large nearby parks, perfect for our two babies to go walking in.  Ava already loves the trees, birds, and relatively clean air.  Bruce loves the open space so much, and all the new people, places and smells he has to discover.  The move was a big adjustment but we're getting used to our big new place and Ava now has a whole room of her own.

Ava grows teeth.

Just to add to the excitement, Ava started to sprout her first set of chompers - two sharp little pegs on her bottom gum.  She's now chewing everything she can find and slobbering everywhere!  The good news is that her solids intake is now getting right up there and she now loves to feed herself carrot sticks, broccoli pieces, etc, and is even branching out into chicken legs.  
She's a lot more temperamental at the moment, understandably, as she's obviously going through a lot.  Hopefully though, things will change and she'll get used to her new teeth.  She's coping well, given some of the other stories I've heard.  Let's hope she settles down in the next few weeks.  We have visits by all the grandparents to look forward to, as well as so many other exciting things!

PictureEven Bruce is looking forward to some sleep
So Megan & Ava are making their way back to Brisbane for a week of medical check ups, and tests that will hopefully show that she has outgrown some of her allergies.  Now, Bruce and I have a whole week of man-time to waste until they get back.

The first thing I plan to do with my week off is to catch up on some sleep - no more late-night feedings, no real reason to be up early and no one around to be jealous of my daytime napping.  No scheduled meal times and no need to pack Megan's lunch each day...  As liberating as all that seems, being a stay-at-home-dad without the family does make life rather empty.  

Of course, taking care of the puppy is now my first priority, but looking after him is quite simple - we're both fairly low maintenance and easily kept occupied.  So what else am I going to with all this new free time?  
Firstly, I now find myself with so much energy, so it's off to the gym and rugby practice.  Secondly, time to prepare something meaty for whenever I'm hungry, and to tee up some mindless action movies and video games.  Also on our hit list is moving Ava's stuff into our spare room...  A big milestone in her tiny little life, but hopefully one she'll get used to sooner rather than later, and something that will mean more sleep for everyone after my girls return.  

So in my newly discovered freedom I'll be doing all I can to keep myself as busy as I can, and not because I resented all the pink that used to adorn the apartment when they were around and needed to reinstate some manliness, but because secretly I miss them both incredibly, and now that Bruce and I are on our own, we have absolutely no idea what to do with ourselves.  I never thought that I would feel such an enormous hole in my life without them around, especially for such a short time, so in all honestly I'll probably spend most of my week off just waiting for them to get back.

Recently, a now-pregnant friend of ours fell ill, and her husband began to display the exact same symptoms - was it a psychosomatic reaction to his sympathy for his pregnant wife?  Or was it just food poisoning?  Either way, cases of the mysterious Couvade Syndrome keep appearing.  

Check out this excellent article for more insight!