In this first entry, a week after I gave birth to Jeff Jr., we’re introducing to you an angel named… Anita, who blessed our family in ways that I have never expected.
The nomadic Ruffolo family moved to Kalispell, Montana on the last week of May 2015 with 13 luggage pieces, twin toddlers, a pregnant woman, and an exhausted man for a father.
Yep, that’s Jeff, me (Cris with baby JJ inside me), Nicholas, and Antoinette.
For close to three years of our family life, we’ve been nomads and gypsies; living, working, shuttling between the Philippines and China with occasional trips to the US, Europe, and other Asian countries that our free roundtrip family tickets and budget allowed us to go.
We were okay with that arrangement.
I was more than okay with it.
After all, I was a gypsy myself before I got married to Jeff Ruffolo, a man of great honor with a strong testimony to the existence and grace of Heavenly Father. He is also a proud and devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormon Church to my Roman Catholic background.
Yes, I married a Mormon – and while concerns stemmed from the marriage of a Mormon and a Catholic, Jeff and I are living, breathing proofs that love and respect transcend religion. We pray with our heads bowed down in reverence, a habit that we are working on imparting to our children.
For three months since we’ve been here, we’ve been greatly blessed by the presence and assistance of family members specifically my in-laws, Joe and Sheryl, who’ve been very generous and kind to our growing family. We live in a cozy house surrounded by pine trees, a big space where the children can run with the dogs, and a safe place for me to rest and relax as my pregnancy progressed.
All was well.
Or so I thought.
Less than a month after the big move, I developed cabin fever; I terribly missed home and by home, I meant the Philippines. I wasn’t born a rich kid but in a community where everyone is family, it was much easier to manage my kids with my Mom, siblings, and close relatives surrounding me.
It was easy to go out and watch a movie because there is an abundance of people willing and able to take care of the kids for me. Hiring a nanny is cheap and in my experience, I’ve been lucky to have hired the best ones for the twins.
My favorite comfort food was everywhere. If it’s not sold in the supermarket or the streets, my Mom or my Aunt can always cook it for me. Yes, it was a comfortable life; sometimes, I don’t even have to move a muscle and I still get a great tasting dinner.
But barely a month after moving to the US, I was depressed.
I had a good career in the Philippines as a journalist and as a social development worker. I have a house and I co-founded a group called Basadours, whose main goal was to spread the love of reading to communities using storytelling as a strategy. The organization is growing and more opportunities are cropping up but I’m not on the ground to implement them – and that just saddens me.
I miss the action. I missed climbing mountains, attending press conferences, interviewing people, speaking my brains in summits, covering events and writing about them. I miss the smell of the newsroom, the sea breeze in communities I visit for fieldwork, meetings and discussions in coffee shops.
I miss a lot of these.
Pregnant with no comfort food around me, I locked myself up in the room, closed the window, and wallowed in self pity. Several times I packed my bags and told Jeff I’m ready to go back if only the airlines would allow me (which I bet they would have since I was only 30 weeks pregnant at that time). But Nick and Toni held me back and the guilt that not even for a second I thought about how Jeff would feel about my decision to go back to the Philippines.
Housework was mostly handled by Jeff but the little things I did still overwhelmed me. I cook and I’m good at it but dealing with laundry is my Achilles heel especially when it comes to folding them.
But…there was no choice but to do the chore.
And I hate that.
I miss my Mom. I miss the nannies.
To top it all, going out to see the doctor is a huge logistical chore in itself. We had to find a babysitter or ask Joe and Sheryl (if they’re not working) to watch over the kids. In the Philippines, Jeff and I can stay out as long as we can. We just leave food for everyone.
Being in America is challenging for this spoiled, pampered brat.
Three weeks before my due date, Jeff and I went frantic in finding someone who can be a phone call away in case I go on normal, spontaneous labor.
Who will watch over Nick and Toni if my inlaws are at work? How in the world will I ever manage the excruciating pain of labor while thinking about the welfare of the twins? Will Jeff be able to drive me safely to the hospital with all these issues swimming inside his head?
We’ve searched long and hard online for an emergency nanny we can hire but to no avail. Plus I was worried sick about the integrity of the women we found online. What if they’re kidnappers, child predators, or murderers? You never know…
So we discussed this with Joe and Sheryl and the most viable option was to seek help from the Mormon Church particularly the Relief Society, who has been very helpful to us too from the very first time we moved here.
A named cropped up.
In Cebu, my hometown, there’s a bakery chain with that name and I sort of associated “Anita” with bread and hot chocolate. So upon knowing that Anita is free and on call to watch the twins on my delivery date (whatever date that will be), I breathe a sigh of relief. I can now relax.
Anita dropped by the house one day while I was asleep. She wanted to know where we lived and she wanted to see the twins. Jeff told me she was a kind and sweet woman. I couldn’t wait to meet her.
My doctors said I should be ready to give birth between September 2 to 9, which is the 38th-39th week of my pregnancy. My due date is not until September 15 but they didn’t want to wait that long because I have gestational diabetes.
I was scheduled for a routine check up with my favorite OB/GYN, Dr. Gwenda Jonas, on the 8th of September. If my cervix is ready to be induced, she will go ahead and have me admitted at the Kalispell Regional Medical Center. So…on that day, Anita came to our home.
She entered our house with decisive but gentle steps. She shook my hands, said her name, and gave me a faint smile.
I said “Thank you for taking time to do this for our family.”
She said “No problem. I know what’s it like.”
After the customary greetings and introduction, I launched into a speech that involved a two-page checklist of things that I packed in a “go bag” in case I will be admitted that day.
The house was a mess.
There were dishes in the sink, unfinished laundry, the bathroom was filthy, the floor was in dire need of vacuuming. We’re normally up-to-date with all these but one thing I learned about having toddlers while pregnant is that you really can’t do it all. At some point, there are things that needed to wait.
But I left the house confident that everything the twins needed are in that bag. Anita seemed nice and kind.
As excited as I was in giving birth and seeing Jeff Jr., my cervix was the opposite. Dr. Jonas advised we should wait it out for a couple of days for natural labor to happen since my blood sugar levels are good. In case nothing happens between the 8th and the 13th, I’ll be checking in on the 14th – and so, Jeff and I cruised back home in his red Volvo.
What welcomed us when we got home was beyond what we expected.
Spic and span
You know how it feels when you stepped into a freshly-cleaned hotel room and you know exactly that it’s clean because you can smell the cleanliness?
That was how it was.
Anita did just that. I was near tears when I saw the folded towels, the washed dishes, the clean floor, the shiny dining table… she even cleaned the bathroom!
In all my years of existence in this world – and it’s not that long at 29 years – I have never encountered a person who would do these chores for a family she rarely knows of unless she is paid to do so.
But for a person named Anita to do these things for our family when she was only requested to watch over the twins just showed me how blessed we are to be the recipient of kindness and selflessness.
She said she was bored so she did this and that but I doubt that it was boredom that pushed her to do the things that she did. It is just a part of her nature to be genuinely kind and though I rarely use this adjective to describe a person, I would go ahead and use it: she’s really NICE, as nice as nice could get.
She is just a great example of how Heavenly Father proves to His children that they’re very much loved even if they don’t deserve it.
Anita, you’re an angel.
Thank you very much for everything that you did for our family. You will always be in our hearts and I will make sure to share the story of your kindness to our children. You will be blessed with a thousand more blessings because you selflessly offered yourself to our family. It was very reassuring to have you take care of our children.
I never completely agreed with Jeff when he said that angels don’t have wings. But with you coming in our family, I’m inclined to believe that, indeed, heaven sent beings like you, do not have wings. And that’s because their magnificence are not measured by the number of immaculate white feathers that they have but by the purity of their hearts.
We thank you Anita – and we send this message to you with much love and respect.
We also thank Teresa and the women of the Relief Society for thinking of us and keeping us in your prayers. My heart is overflowing with happiness and gratitude.
Teresa, I’m specifically thinking about you while writing this for all the calls you made to Jeff and the arrangements you extended so we can be taken care of by the Bishop Store House. My heart is also full of gratitude to the women of the Relief Society who deliver hot meals on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I really feel the love and the sincere, genuine wish for my recovery. You, ladies, are so awesome!