When They Come Home from the Dorms

Our two middle kids are in college attending two different universities. Both stay in dormitories on weekdays. I guess that we are still lucky that they get to come home on weekends, never mind if it is just for an overnight stay.

Still, it can be borderline eerily quiet around the house without Second Daughter and Only Son. We homeschooled, so I am used to having them around all the time. I miss the extra hands to help me with housework, huddling around a board game, and bickering over TV shows and chore. Eldest Daughter and Youngest Daughter are excellent company and are touchingly doting, but dinner can be awfully quiet and short.

In between terms when when household attendance is complete, we regain some normalcy. Almost. During the first few days after coming home from their dorms, Second Daughter and Only Son would sleep, eat, and sleep some more. I know that they find time to bathe because when I surreptitiously sniff around them, they don't seem to smell.

Then they start being interactive. They notice the dog and the cat, and even feed them and take them to go potty. They notice their mom and their dad and their two other siblings.

Longer conversations start when grades pour in online. It probably says something about their mom that they feel the need to defend each grade. They talk about the impossibility of getting an A in organic chemistry, the immense boredom of Asian history, and the wrong decision to have chosen snorkeling for PE. To their credit, they have developed appreciation for diligent teachers who are passionate about their professions and gush over library facilities and in-school museums. Not too long ago, Second Daughter proudly told me that she was the only one who could argue with their theology professor because her high school theology was top-notch. I take that as a gesture of thanks to her tiger mom of a mom. 

It's completely back to normal when chore-related arguments commence. Yup. The most hated chore is cleaning up after dinner. The most preferred chores are pet-related. We don't do chore charts anymore. Somehow, they know what should be done, and somehow, they have developed a system for deploying themselves around the house. Of course, the system involves some bickering. But you know what, it gets things done.

What we all very easily agree on is spending Christmas by the sea. We love the sea, the Philippines is an archipelago, and we detest obligatory and noisy parties, so it's an easy decision. When packing for the beach starts, there is genuine peace and harmony around the house. The kids help each other to look for those missing goggles, agree on whether to hire kayaks or a bigger boat, and figure out the shortest route to the resort. I sit on my rocking chair and congratulate myself for not doing so badly after all.

I know what will happen after we come home from the sea. Everyone will be grouchy from the long trip, and we will retreat to our rooms. After sufficient sleep, we will start to gush over the beach experience for the year, compare it with beach experiences of previous years, and start planning for the next one. In a funny way, the sea holds our family together. 

Then the next school term will loom over us. The two college kids start with online enlistment of courses. Husband and I will hold our breath until the exact amount of tuition fees appear onscreen, at which point, Husband will be just about ready to lose his breath. Class schedules will be printed and forwarded to mom. Promises to study harder will be dispensed wholeheartedly or half-heartedly. Second Daughter and Only Son will start packing for the dorm.

Then it will be time for them to go.


Indivisible by Ten (or Five)

Milestones in life, especially anniversaries, are celebrated in a big way when the corresponding ordinal numbers are divisible by ten or five. I guess it's because round numbers have a nice ring to them, and they are easy to remember. 

The hubby and I celebrated our 29th anniversary the other day. So maybe I should put off writing this until our 30th anniversary next year. Life is painfully short, though, and we ought to do things when we are best able to do them. 

If you are a Fiddler on the Roof  fan like me, you might remember one of the lesser known songs in the musical, Do You Love Me? In the midst of the turmoil in Tsarist Russia that threatened to dislocate their village and on the 25th year of their marriage, Tevye and Golde recall their wedding day (it was an arranged marriage) and Tevye pops the question, "Golde, do you love me?" Short of horrified, Golde reminds Tevye of the inappropriateness of his question amidst their troubles and the 25 years behind them. She goes on to enumerate the many sacrifices that she has done for him -- washing his clothes, cooking his meals, cleaning his house, giving him children, milking his cow -- and finishes off with the answer, "I suppose I do."

Twenty nine years. The first five years coincided with the hubby's graduate studies. We were in a strange place and hardly knew anybody. I washed his clothes, cooked his meals, bore him a child, and had he a cow, I would have milked it, too. Then we came home and finally settled down permanently. That meant readjusting to our country of birth that after five years did seem a bit strange, the hubby going back to work, struggling through a housing loan, making do with an old car, trudging through means to educate our children well, and 24 more years of coping, coping, and more coping. Through that stretch, I washed his clothes, cleaned his house, bore him three more children, and had he a cow, I would have milked it, too.  

It's not to say that the hubby lived regally at my expense. By no means. I was able to wash his clothes, cook his meals, clean his house, and bear him children because he provided. Doggedly, quietly, uncomplainingly. And when I have had it with washing, cooking, cleaning, and running after the children, he took over. Doggedly, quietly, uncomplainingly. All those 29 years. 

Do I love him? I suppose I do!

"It doesn't change a thing but even so, 
after 25 years, 
it's good to know."

- "Do You Love Me?" from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, 1971. 
J. Bock (music), S. Harnick (lyrics), J. Stein (book)


Seven Quick Takes, Chronologically

Image courtesy of vectorolie
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
1. Saturday. I can only admire families bigger than mine who are able to conquer the domestic monster that is the laundry. We are a family of six, and hey, I miss one day of loading the washer, and the monster shows its ugly face all over the house! No household task benefits more from daily routine than doing the laundry. Yep.

2. Sunday. I'm so glad when we are able to attend the earliest Sunday Mass that is most practicable for us to attend. It just plainly sets the good tone for the day and for the week! Still, I have this terrible tendency to catch up on household work on Sundays and use that as justification to go to Sunday Mass in the evening. Then come 8 o'clock in the evening or the last Mass for the day, I am so guilt ridden that it is difficult to focus on the Mass. It's a bad cycle that is best avoided.

3. Monday. This hit me in a nice Monday way:

While all that borrows life from Thee
Is ever in Thy care,
And everywhere that man can be,
You, God, are present there.

~ Ellacombe C.M.D. (1784) and Isaac Watts (1715)
(From the hymn of today's Lauds)

4. Tuesday. Diced carrots and potatoes cooked in chicken stock and then blended. That's healthy soup for you. My children paired theirs with leftover pizza, while I paired mine with chicken empanada. Some days, I hit it right in the kitchen. This is one of those days.

5. Wednesday. I washed our cleaning rags today, and I felt a bit guilty about not treating them better. Is that a thing? I mean there they were still thick and thirsty and ready for the next cleaning job, but their edges have unraveled and are begging to be resewn. If mending clothes can be considered a priority, why not repairing rags, right? After all, they render households mean service... and pretty cleaning rags adds cheer to the otherwise tedious task of cleaning the house. Okay, let's see if I can make progress here.

6. Thursday. I was invited by a friend today to an informal group chat on nutrition. Her nutritionist colleague advocated the usual low-sugar, low-fat, good carbo, and you-know-the-rest diet. I may have heard the content before, but it was the delivery that engaged me. It was the underlying optimism, the love for life, and the desire to be healthy for our loved ones. I had all that in my younger years. I remembered how it was easy to slow-cook and prepare healthy meals, upbeat amidst the heat of the kitchen because I was cooking for family. I lost a lot of that along the way and blamed the complacency to the unreasonable (or so I had thought) demands of life in general. Some thinks are going to have to change around here.

7. Friday. After a long overdue haircut to survive the dry season, my sister and I visited the outlet of a bookstore that I've always thought charged too much. There were less then 10 shoppers in the huge place, the airconditioner was mercifully cool, and there were no salespersons combing the aisles and being overly suspicious about shoplifters. And the prices were reasonable this time. It's an outlet store, right? I will be back.

I am linking this post with 7 Quick Takes, hosted by Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum. See you there!


Seven Quick Takes: Realizations

1. It used to take me an entire morning to clear up my workspace. Yes, like half a day. I too willingly allowed myself to be distracted by my mini-crafts (aw, this won't take more than a few minutes... and the rest is history), photos, magazine articles, and you know the rest. Finally, I timed myself and wonders! I was done in 42 minutes. That's for an 11 in a scale of 1-to-10 in terms of clutter and with 10 being the most chaotic. The unlearned lesson here, of course, is to clear up habitually at the end of the day.

2. While looking high and low for a teacher's manual that I needed for the homeschool, I found this lovely framed photo of the Infant Jesus. It was still in its box from the store. Husband bought it from the religious items store of the Pink Sisters Convent that we frequent. It is now with the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, and Saint Francis on the altar by my desk. By the way, I did not find that teacher's manual. 'Have to keep looking.

3. I am very impressed with the minimalism way of life, but I have to be realistic, too. For example, we are a family of six, and I cannot go by the only-one-of-each-tool rule in the kitchen. I can, however, apply its principles to areas that involve only me, the most obvious being my wardrobe. It felt so gratifying to have come up with a capsule wardrobe! I took out the clothes that made the final selection from our closet and corralled them in a bin and an old drawer for visual appreciation. Check it out:

Does not include my shoes and bags. There aren't many of them, I can assure you :). 

4. One productivity technique that works for me is the pomodoro technique. Basically, you work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, work for 25 minutes again, take another 5-minute break, and so on. It has higher stages and variants, but that's the general routine. I found out that if you are doing work on the computer, your 5-minute break has to be OFF the computer. Otherwise, Sporcle and the like can really immerse your work into oblivion. Some alternatives: load the washer, clear your nightstand, empty the dish drainer, or just take a very brief walk.

Definitely,  Tomato Timer   has helped me establish my Pomodoro Technique routine.
It also gives you options for for sound, volume, and lengths of  work and breaks. Check it out!

5. Yesterday, for the nth time, I realized that the Lord has gifted me with a husband that has the patience, understanding, and empathy that I am short on.

6. Husband and Youngest Daughter wanted to watch Avengers. They planned it for several days like it was an intricate procedure. I kept quiet, hoping that they wouldn't notice me and go on without me. Tough luck. (Don't get me wrong, but I'd rather do Netflix than sit in a cinema with the people behind me doing a running commentary on the movie.) The good news is that I survived the Infinity War by napping now and then. Sorry, but I can take only so much metal smashing and body slamming.

7. Don't you just love Charlie Brown? Don't tell anyone, but we were childhood sweethearts.

I will be linking this post with the next 7 Quick Takes, hosted by Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum. See you there!


May Mappings

In adoration

May and October are Marian months. They are five months apart, evenly panning out our special remembrance of the Blessed Mother across the calendar. In our home, it is time for the blue table runner to adorn our prayer corner. 

And when we look to the Blessed Mother for direction on how to do our prayer of adoration, we are reminded of the very beautiful and profound Magnificat.

You can find the English and Latin versions of the Magnificat here. If you are a homeschooling mom (or even if you are not) this is good copywork and memorization material. If you are into calligraphy, the Magnificat can also be one of your May projects. 

Father John A. Hardon, S.J.'s explanation of/reflection on the Magnificat can be found here

Blue is my favorite color, and it is Mary's color, too. 

In contrition

May is an excellent time, too, to examine myself on humility and obedience, the Blessed Mother's top virtues. 

Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about Mary's humility. (Scroll down to 724.)

Here is Saint John Paul II's take on Mary's humility and obedience. 

And look at what I found: two short but educational and inspiring videos on Mary. The first one is about the Annunciation, the event that best manifests the Blessed Mother's humility and obedience. The second one is about the Immaculate Conception. 

A blank planner page is an invitation to cultivate the virtue of obedience.

In thanksgiving

On the month that we celebrate Mother's Day, I would also like to remember the kind women who at some points in my life offered the nurturing that I needed. A former landlady, a former officemate, an ex-boss, an elderly neighbor. I consider their timely presence at shaky points in my life to be providential, and I thank God for them. May He bless them richly and always.  

The apron is my personal symbol of motherhood. This one is probably my oldest.
I sewed it from a fabric panel when Eldest Daughter was a baby.
(Do you notice the part that has yellowed?)

In supplication

The Papal intentions for the month of May is for the mission of the laity: "That the lay faithful may fulfill their specific mission by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today."

This intention, I think, hits closer to home because the "specific mission" differs across individuals. There are as many specific missions as there are individuals. My personal difficulty with this special mission is that I do catch myself assuming to know what God wants me to do, and of course, that happens to be what I want to do. It is easy to fall into that trap especially if I have somehow convinced myself that what I am doing is right.

Saint Josemaria gives a very practical advice: "Ask yourself many times during the day: Am I doing at this moment what I ought to be doing?"

Around the house

These days in my part of the world, the heat and the humidity still strike hard in the morning until mid-afternoon.  Then, on some mid-afternoons, it rains with scary vengeance (read here come the monsoon rains).  So, with the wet season beginning to throw its weight around, it is with ambivalence that I tackle the challenge of our mudroom. That should be mud-corner, really, because it shares the space with the laundry, the shoe cabinets, and the anteroom. Yes, the anteroom (foyer in elegant houses, I guess.) Yes, the first signs of life that one sees upon entering our house are shoes, washers, and umbrellas. I am not proud of it in the aesthetic sense, but I am beaming in the functional/utilitarian sense.

Which is such a winding way to peg anteroom chores in my May Mapping. I know, I know, I planned on this last month, but nothing happened. 

Around the kitchen

I did it. I made good sense out of our refrigerator. Both the ref proper and the freezer compartment. Which makes me rather proud of myself. But I also know that if I don't maintain the system that I had installed on a daily basis, I will be back to I-am-overwhelmed-the-ref-situation-let's-eat-out option.

The pantry is next (yikes).

This is the meal preparation organizer that I put together
on the side of our refrigerator.
A closer view

Primary educator, always

Sitting down with my children to discuss financial stewardship is another project that I had wanted to pursue last month but went pfft. Nay, it did not start at all. The moral of the story is that if you not sit down to make real and doable plans, pretty much nothing will happen. So, let's see how this one goes this month.

What I do want to do with Youngest Daughter this month is to sew a mantel for our statue of the Blessed Mother, a segue to a unit lesson on Mariology.

The book hoard

Three books this month. The first two are leftovers from last year, and it is about time that I finish reading them. The last is a new acquisition. I am eager to tackle it because the topic is close to my heart.

Classic Catholic Converts

That's it! If you have read this far, thanks so much. 

If you wish to know the story behind my monthly mappings, please click here. 

If reading this have somewhat (just a little?) inspired you to do your own monthly mapping, please do so, and share them in the comments below. 

Have a good May!


April Mappings

In adoration

The devotions for April are for the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Spirit. Personally, I find it fitting to revisit the practice of regularly paying a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in adoration of the wonderful loving sacrifice made for me and for which I am so undeserving. Let me share with you a the beautiful Prayer While Visiting the Most Blessed Sacrament by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri. You can find it here.

It also a good time to remember to praise the Holy Spirit, perhaps the Person of the Blessed Trinity that we often forget in our prayers. I know I do. I am thinking that visits to the Blessed Sacrament are also opportunities to get reacquainted with the Holy Spirit. By knowing the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity better, praises directed to Him can be more meaningful. And what better to know Him better than through what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to offer. You can find that here.

In contrition

The examination of conscience prepares us for Confession, but is always good to have one daily and not just immediately before going to Confession. I was reminded of the spiritual and practical benefits of daily examination over Lent. Imagine how easy it would be to go to Confession if the preparation was done gradually? Also, by examining ourselves daily, conversion can also happen daily.

Saint Josemaria Escriva advises, "Examination of conscience: a daily task. Book-keeping is never neglected by anyone in business. And is there any business worth more than the business of eternal life?"

In thanksgiving

When things get tough and crazy, and all I want to do is to retreat to sleep, I have found that it always helps to remember the things that I can be thankful for. Well, things are tough and crazy these days as we prepare the house for the wet season in our part of the world. So... I would really be helping myself if I have a running list of the things that I should be thankful for - a gratitude list, actually.

In supplication

Ah, how often do I skip adoration, contrition, and thanksgiving in my prayers and go straight to supplication! And while there, to think only about my intentions instead of being more generous and praying for the intentions of other people as well!

Okay, for starters, there is the intention of the Holy Father for April. Then, if I follow a pattern of intentions that is pretty much in the Prayer of the Faithful, I guess it would be difficult to miss the intentions of other people. Let's see I how can make progress there. You can find the sequence of intentions followed in the Mass here.

Around the house

Well, we just had the roof checked as preparation for the wet season. The windows are next. Then I have to dig up our umbrellas and raincoats. A friend once commented how her children's pencils have lives of their own. To that I add our umbrellas. Yup, I can see myself buying more umbrellas than I care to buy this year.

Around the kitchen

Freezer organization. I have just done the ref, and the freezer is begging for its turn. My daughter was thinking aloud that we should have a list of the freezer contents posted in the kitchen. Of course, she's right. I just wonder if she is up for the task...

Primary educator duties

It is time for a reckoning of life skills with my children. The best first topic is money. The most apt term that I have come across is "financial stewardship". That's what we really are, right? Stewards. And stewards should be accountable and responsible. Now, the difficult part is translating that to practical measures and to make sure that my children have them down pat. "The Practical Aspects of Financial Stewardship" - isn't that a good title for a blog post. A tall order to write one, though :-).

The book hoard

I need to make list of the books that I had started to read some time in the past but did not finish. Surely, that is going to be an embarrassingly long list. Do have one such list?  Does it rankle when you make little progress in ticking off titles from your list? Please say yes! I need company!

If you have read this far, thanks so much. 

If  you wish to know how the story behind my monthly mappings, please click here.

If reading this have somewhat (just a little?) inspired to do your own monthly mapping, please do so and share them at the comments below.  

Have a good April!


A Mother's Heart is a Strange Thing

Image courtesy of arztsamui
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A mother's heart
is a strange thing.

It holds a newborn in its arms,
and it comes close to bursting
from all the love it discovers it can hold.

The newborn grows,
tentatively exerts its limbs,
and finds out that they are frail.
The mother's heart 
comes close to bursting, again,
from all the fear it wants to go away.

The child grows some more.
He explores his world,
and finds out he can be a winner 
if he works at it with all his might.
The mother's heart
comes close to bursting, again,
from all the pride it wants to keep.

The child becomes a man, too soon,
and he painfully comes face to face
with fiends in the guise of friends.
And his world falls apart.
The mother's heart
comes close to bursting, again,
from all the faith and hope it wants to stay.

Ah, all that a mother's heart can hold:
love, fear, pride, faith, hope.
How can it not ever burst?
How can it just live and throb, on and on?

A mother's heart
is a strange thing.