Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Grateful Dead

Not the band, alas, though there is some Cherry Garcia in the freezer. And I should point out that the Grateful and the Dead in this title are two different groups. I would be Grateful. The mouse would be Dead. And this would be why I'm grateful, though a bit saddened.

I'm off to a 4-day conference at the end of the week. Though it's on contemplative practices, the schedule is tight and time for class prep non-existent. I'm busy trying to get everything done I need to get done to prepare for next week, done now. So as I head through the kitchen to the basement with an armload of laundry, I hear Fluffy at the door. I shift the clothes, open the door, hit the screen door with my hip and in she comes. As I close the door I notice that...

we are not alone....

Oh dear. I really, really should know better by now. I dashed down to the basement to dump the laundry, grabbing the broom on my way back up. Hoping beyond hope that the furry thing the Fluffster had dropped on the floor by her food dish was (a) still there and (b) deceased. And so it came to be that I was Grateful and the mouse Dead.

Math man thinks that there is a market for a mouse disposal kit. Gloves, plastic bag, tongs (don't ask about the time he thought about picking up a live mouse with my kitchen tongs) and what else?

Saturday, October 27, 2007


It's quiet enough to hear the spider walk on the silk throw pillow next to me...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bread and Circuses

I've been baking bread -- sturdy peasant bread, delicate egg bread. Crash (who adores his carbs) has discovered the joy of bread fresh from the oven, with butter melting into it. Tonight he got a piece that had cooled for all of 10 minutes and lamented that it was "not the same as fresh bread." Beyond Wonder Bread indeed.

The act of kneading the bread, paying attention not to the timer or the recipe (knead for 8 minutes), but to the sense of when the dough yields under my hands. There is a moment when suddenly all the stretching and turning has done its work, and the dough relaxes under my hands. It was a good contemplative exercise - definitely requiring a certain attentiveness. It's also a seed for meditating about my teaching (stretching and turning my students, paying attention to the subtle signs that they are ready for the rising), as well as my life overall (how is God stretching and turning my life around, can I relax under Her hands?).

I suspect we've lost a lot of the richness of scripture since we don't bake our own bread, grind our own wheat, or even see these things being done.

And it's a circus here, between doing administrative tasks today, I was taking up Halloween costumes and comforting distressed middle schoolers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Of Place Mats and Tablecloths

The boys (all three) ate without me tonight - I had a late meeting (one agenda item - changing the standard 4-6 pm meeting time to improve work-life balance). Everyone was tired and cranky, but Math Man kept me company at the table (and had nice things to say about the bread I'd baked last night). As I cleared the table after dinner and whisked off the tablecloth covered in crumbs I found myself contemplating the simplicity of the covering.

Math Man and I are agreed to disagree on this point. I think that not having to wipe down individual place mats, which are then left as "visual clutter" all over the kitchen to dry (and as a result occasionally catch fire on the stove), and not having to wipe down the table (except when someone's glass has been knocked over) is a huge time saver. It takes me just a minute to take off the tablecloth, put on a fresh one and toss the dirty one into the hamper at the top of the basement steps. Pop a plant into the middle of the table and I'm done. To him, it seems "too fussy" to use a tablecloth . Why cover more than you use? Last summer, I finally got to the point where the sight of 4 placemats on the table, which would have to be washed, would take up all my counter space while drying AND a table which would have to be wiped down drove me to tears.

I finally realized tonight, it's not the mats versus the cloth - it's that my life is so tightly packed that those extra minutes and that visual clutter were the final straw.

Fewer things, please.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Surprise, I'm Catholic

Eucharistic theology
created with
You scored as Catholic

You are a Catholic. You believe that the bread and wine are transformed by the priest and become the Body and Blood of Christ. Though the accidents, or appearance, of bread and wine remain, the substance has been changed. The Eucharist remains the Body and Blood of Christ after the celebration, and is reserved in the Tabernacle; Eucharistic devotions are proper. As the whole Christ is present under either species, you partake fully of the Eucharist even if you receive only one.













Friday, October 19, 2007

Fall Breaks

It's dark in the novitiate library. The only light is the reading lamp by my chair. It's fall break at the college and I'm stretching a visit with my spiritual director into 24-hours and a bit "off duty". I took a 5 mile walk this afternoon, through the hedgerow and down the country roads. While the flora were nothing to write home about, the fauna put on a magnificent show. I watched a woodpecker explore a tree, taste testing the branches; two cardinals flew within a meter of my face, vivid flashes of scarlet among the still green leaves; a squirrel stood stolidly upon a bird house nailed to a tree, defending his stash of nuts.

Next stop, the candle lit small chapel and some time to think about next year's sabbatical. What would you do with 8 months of free time? Or with 15?

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Barnacle Boy has a nasty sore throat, having come down with WIGA (whatever is going around). I used a flashlight to take a look at it last night, noting in passing that his tonsils looked huge. Predictably, Crash wanted to take a look, too, though the Boy was loathe to give permission. Instead, I offered them each a look in my throat. (Mother is just another word for sacrificial lamb.)

Crash is recovering from a bout with WIGA and I (so far anyway) am what the epidemiologists would call a susceptible and what I would call lucky, so we had three sets of tonsils in different states of inflammation to compare. Ever curious, the Boy still wanted to see his own throat and wondered if I would take a picture. At my hesitation, Crash leapt into the breech and suggested the Boy look in the mirror.

"Hey, they really are big!"

Crash recalled when he had strep throat which I had him self-diagnose over the phone. "Dad didn't know what it looked like, but you had me look in the mirror with the flashlight..." Dr. Mom does telemedicine.

Epilogue: The Boy does not have strep. Math Man took him to the pediatrician after he started spiking a fever (Mom was collecting a "bad mom card" by being away for a night of self-care at the Jesuit Center).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Life Lessons

Fall is a busy season for the VLF. There are adventures (and mice) to be had outside - and these are all the more fun when shared. And once again I ventured out the kitchen door in bare feet. Patently, this was an error. But then, I already knew that. Blech!

Last night, in the midst of a rainstorm, I hear meowing from the kitchen door. I open it - no sign of Fluffy. Meow! I look up - she's on the roof. And won't come down. Crash finally opened the bathroom window and called her in. I'm afraid she will view this as an alternative entrance and beg to be let out that way as well.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Caramel Coated

I saw a sweatshirt today that said "Chemistry is just like cooking...just don't lick the spoon!" Thus inspired to do some chemistry in my kitchen (where I can lick the spoon) and having some apples from the local farmer's market in my 'fridge crying aloud to be covered in caramel, I embarked on a candy making adventure tonight.

The recipe called for melting a cup of sugar over high heat, then whisking in butter until melted and finally some heavy cream. This is not a low calorie recipe! Nor is it one for meditation - once that sugar melts, you need to be ready with a whisk and the butter. Having mucked up the whisk trying to melt the sugar (the recipe recommended using a whisk to stir while melting - I found a silicon spoon worked better - once I convinced myself the melting point of sucrose, which I know in celsius (160), was lower than the max temperature the spoon was designed for, which I know in Fahrenheit (425). As a result, I was madly digging in the drawer for another whisk whilst trying to keep the melting sugar from overbrowning. The word relaxing does not come to mind...

In the end I have caramel sauce, it tastes right - no grit, rich and buttery - but it's not thick and gooey. Like any good chemical reaction, the conditions clearly need a bit of tweaking.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

All creatures great and small

It's the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (for at least another two minutes anyway, or longer if you count the end of the day as when I say Compline). Last year, Fluffy celebrated by heading off for her first ever blessing - this year she is channeling her inner predator. As I was writing in the sunroom a few minutes ago I heard a thump and a squeak from the basement. Fluffy proudly strode into the room, two ears and a tail sticking out of her mouth. Yep - it's still alive. Nope - she does not want to take it outside. Don't I want to watch her? Most emphatically - no! The mouse thinks I have it in for him as well, and has resisted various attempts at rescue. I have retreated to my bedroom, where I have barricaded the door, lest she decide I really must enjoy the show. I feel badly for the mouse on this day of all days- have I let St. Francis down?

The boys have taken to calling Fluffy the "VLF' (vicious little furball). While warm and cuddly with her human staff, do not get between her and her amuse bouches.

Last week, walking out to get the morning paper with the Boy, he notices something out of the usual and inquires, "Why is that mouse sleeping on the driveway, Mom?" "Um, it's not sleeping..." "Oh, the VLF again!" Crash ("sarcasm, just another service we offer!") chimes in with, "at least this one has all its limbs". This is when I realize that the Fluffster has left us another gift. This one is just so much fluff on the door mat - and I have just walked through it. No shoes. Life lesson - wear shoes to get the paper.

I will wear shoes in the morning - that is for sure.