bear - ingn.1 the manner in which one comports oneself; 2 the act, power, or time of bringing forth offspring or fruit; 3 a machine part in which another part turns [a journal ~]; 4pl. comprehension of one's position, environment, or situation; 5 the act of moving while supporting the weight of something [the ~ of the cross].
Per Oscar's Civil War history activity, the children are joyfully gobbling up homemade hardtack for their afternoon snack.
It didn't even cost me any labor, since Oscar made the stuff.
I am pretty sure that a cup and a half of flour, a teaspoon of salt, and a half cup of water costs less than fifteen Oreos. I think it maybe even makes less mess. Even if you consider the tablespoon of molasses I gave each child to dip their hardtack in.
(mix flour, salt, and water in bowl, knead in bowl, roll out to 1/2 inch thickness on ungreased cookie sheet, cut into squares, poke holes with skewer, bake 25 minutes at 375 degrees.)
Okay, they're asking for gummy bears now. Seems a little bit more normal.
These days, I hate being sick. I never minded it all that much before I became a mother. If I'm sick, I ought to be entitled to crawl into bed and stay there, uninterrupted except perhaps by the appearance of cups of hot lemon tea at intervals. Also someone should bring me chicken soup. And yet here I am, coughing and sneezing and still having to take care of other people. What is up with that?
Oh, and: Did I mention that my experience with, say, coughing/sneezing/vomiting, and other diaphragmatic spasming type issues has been seriously soured ever since I gave birth the first time?
(Cue the automatic Kegels practice)
Still, chin up! I can, generally cope pretty well with a rotten head cold, even if I don't like it.
What I don't cope well with is rotten cold PLUS six months pregnant. I do not know how to sum up the experience except with a single word: "OOOOOOOOF."
Last night I persuaded Mark to let me crawl into bed as soon as dinner was over and stay there. He took care of everything and I didn't have to make dinner or clean up dinner or read bedtime stories or nurse (no, Mark doesn't lactate, but he's good at toddler distraction) or break up fights or anything.
I started to feel less generally-awful-all-over around four in the morning. I still had the head cold, and am still 6 months pregnant, but those two conditions had decoupled and were no longer working together to destroy me.
At first I felt a little guilty at skipping my Thursday gym night, but now that I'm awake and coping a lot better, I am struck with awe at the power of simply getting some rest. I haven't always noticed it; I guess it's not as important when you're younger, sick or not, pregnant or not. Although to take to your bed for a few hours is not a quick and easy remedy -- it requires someone to take care of your responsibilities for a while, and you can't get anything done that whole time, which I suppose is the point -- the results seem darn near miraculous. How is it that simply lying still and closing your eyes can make such a big difference?
I don't think I will get to repeat the experience tonight, but I did announce that I wasn't going to make dinner. Mark can pick up a pizza or something. It's a small thing, but it does mean just a little bit of pressure off my late afternoon, and maybe the chance to sit down and put my feet up at 4:30, or put on a DVD for the kids and go take a hot shower. I don't play that card very often, and it means I can deploy it when it really counts.
I continue to play around with the sourdough starter I ordered a few weeks ago, and am pleased to report that I have not killed it yet. I've made a couple of successful loaves of traditional sourdough -- mind you, they are still denser than yeast-risen bread -- and also a few big failures (not so bad since they make yummy melba toast). The add-some-sourdough-to-my-normal-bread-machine-bread technique is robustly successful.
But I have to tell you, I am not actually focused on producing the "perfect" loaf of sourdough bread yet, tweaking recipes to get the best texture and flavor. I am a foodie, there is no getting around it; but I aspire to being an efficient foodie.
You can start with the perfect recipes, and organize your life around your trips to the greenmarket, co-op, and Penzey's, around the cycle of driving out to the farm to pick up your free-range chickens (with extra feet) and bringing them home to skim off the foam as they simmer gently on the stovetop with leeks, carrots, and bouquet garni, and around the resting/kneading schedule of your home-baked rustic loaves, and the garden with its bounty of pole beans and heirloom tomatoes and pots of herbs, and you will produce wonderful food and your friends will toast you at your dinner parties. Sounds like a nice life. Possibly describes my retirement, or at least it would if I wasn't married. (I wonder if those mountaintop yurts have six-burner gas stoves?)
Me, I have this life that I am already living, and so my very first consideration -- this is how I do ANYTHING new, it was the same thing when I took up swimming or baking muffins for breakfast -- is -- can I figure out a process that, given the constraints I live in, produces acceptably reproducible results?
Because if I can't come up with a process, it doesn't matter how outstanding the results, I won't repeat them.
On the other hand, a workable process can be tweaked to improve the product quality. Process first; formulation later.
So anyway, the sourdough. After the weekly refreshing and after setting some back in my fridge for later, I'm left with approximately 2 cups of fresh sourdough batter, typically first thing in the morning. Right now I'm keeping two strains going (in case I kill one in my inexperience -- I'll go down to one later) so I produce the two cups of batter two times per week. You could call this the input to my process. Given two cups of fresh sourdough batter in the morning, what can I make from it?
One possibility for the two cups of batter is working pretty well. It's this: one cup goes in a loaf of "normal" bread machine bread, the other cup goes into a loaf of traditional sourdough (and the loaf isn't actually produced until the next day).
I also need something to do with two cups of batter, other than adding enough other ingredients to bake two loaves of the same bread with it (which makes more bread than my family can eat). There are a number of possibilities open to me here. I could figure out a way to turn the whole bowl into pancakes or waffles, for one thing. (I'm a little underwhelmed by sourdough bran muffins so far). I plan to try sourdough bagels or soft pretzels at some point.
But what would really be easiest -- if it would work -- is to get 2 cups of fresh batter into 1 loaf of traditional sourdough, and so that's what I tried for the first time this week, with plain 100% whole wheat.
With no recipe to guide me, I stirred a cup and a half of whole wheat flour into the batter and let that rest a while, then later added oil, sugar, salt, and gluten (I was going for a plain sort of loaf) and let that rest overnight before shaping it.
I am discovering something about sourdough: The dough can change dramatically during resting time, and generally gets more "batter-y" the longer it sits. I think the bugs break down a lot of the gluten, or something like that, because what was a dough last night was more like a batter this morning. I couldn't knead it so much as roll it around on a pile of flour on the bread board. So I worked enough AP flour into it so it could hold its shape a bit, put it on a cornmealed baking sheet, and stuck it in the oven. We'll see if I rescued it.
I'm thinking that if I start with two cups of sourdough rather than one, I probably don't need to ferment it as long, duh, because there's already twice as much live culture in the dough to begin with. And if that's so, maybe I'll have an advantage. Maybe I'll get lots of sour flavor out of a faster-to-bake dough. But, I will have to wait till next week to see.
(Christy P is experimenting with the same starter here.)
and away from the pursuit of wealth. ----Psalm 118
This passage has stuck with me over the past few days since it appeared in the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning Prayer from last Saturday).
You only have to turn "towards Your precepts" and "away from the pursuit of wealth" when those things are at odds, right? When the pursuit of wealth means stealing, or cheating, or perhaps something less glaring, something like working too hard and neglecting your other duties?
"Precepts" have to do with upright living, with doing God's will, with avoiding wrong and seeking the right. It has to do with how you live, with the choices you make. The psalmist is asking: Make right behavior, doing Your will, my main goal... whatever the outcome.
"Wealth," on the other hand, is an outcome-based measure.
We all know that "good" behavior is no guarantee of "good" results. We don't get what we deserve; some folks are born with all the advantages, others struggle and never get ahead despite doing everything right. You'd think we'd remember that. And yet it's so easy to measure our success by what we've managed to achieve or amass, and so hard to remember to measure ourselves by how we set about getting it.Especially if you define "wealth" broadly, to mean any kind of visible success or asset, the kind of stuff you can participate in getting by your own merits -- but you can also win or lose by chance alone.
Turn my heart towards your precepts
and away from the pursuit of ...
Money, sure. Or a comfortable, clean, organized home. Or... good health. Physical fitness. Pleasant, well-behaved children. A spouse who loves you. A job you enjoy.
All these things are good and worth seeking; but none last longer than life. The psalmist reminds us that they're not the point. They aren't the reason we are to love God's precepts, they aren't our measure of whether we're doing "the right things." We are to follow His precepts even if it seems they will not get us these things. They're not, in fact, virtues. They are kinds of wealth. Material goods. Things that will not last.
(Yes, even "health" is a material good. These days it almost seems as if good health qualifies as an end in itself and as a proof of virtue. Makes no more sense than assuming that the rich get to be rich because they are virtuous, or that they enjoy God's special favors.)
It's tempting to cut corners to achieve the visible results we wish our virtue would get us. But we have to be focused not on the outcome -- which might be from luck, or forces beyond our control -- but on our own behaviors, our own choices. Because in the moment, our own behavior is always subject to at least some conscious control, and however much choice we have, we are responsible for.
"Health" has been the kind of wealth I have been after for the last couple of years, and it's sobering to be reminded that it isn't the be-all, end-all, the goal that excuses anything.
I could have predicted some of the problems we'd have with Oscar's science lab this morning, the one where you mix baking powder with various liquids in bottles sealed by balloons, and see how much gas evolves.
For instance, that the balloons I'd bought would be too small to put the required amount of baking powder in, or that they would be quite tight and hard to stretch over the bottles.
Or that the baking powder would not disperse well with the liquid, leaving a dry cake of baking powder stuck to the bottom of the bottle, unable to be dislodged even with vigorous shaking.
Yeah, I could have foreseen that, and if I hadn't been in such a hurry, might have been able to set the experiment up to run a little bit more smoothly. I had Oscar write a list of problems and difficulties with the experiment, and things we learned from them.
What I couldn't predict: that three-year-old little sister would run shrieking and weeping with terror out of the room at the sight of the expanding balloons, nearly tearing my pants off in her attempt to climb straight up my legs into my arms, out of fear that they would pop suddenly and loudly.
And that this performance would be repeated for every one of the six balloon-bottle-baking powder experiments of the day.
And that Oscar would need an extra pair of hands for most of the experiments (because the balloon necks were too tight for him to stretch over the bottles) so I would spend the morning alternately comforting a crying, frightened little girl, and peeling her off my body for long enough to act as laboratory assistant (while she screamed "Come BACK mommy! Come BACK!"
I wish I could say that this was the sort of thing that drove me into theoretical rather than experimental work...
Yesterday evening at the grocery store I finally caught a clue about something that's been bugging me.
With this pregnancy, as with the previous three, complete strangers have been coming up to me and asking "what I'm having--" you know, what's the baby's gender. One thing that's different this time is that I know the answer; I had an ultrasound a few weeks ago, my first one.
But another difference has been the frequency -- I hardly ever appear in public without someone coming up to me and saying, "I just have to ask you -- do you know what you're having?" And I'll say yes, a boy, and they'll shake their head and smile. Why so much? Have people gotten more forward in the past three years? I don't get it.
And then yesterday a woman who asked me the question supplied the missing piece: after I said "A boy," she said sympathetically, "Wow, four boys!"
And I realized that all these people have been looking at Mary Jane and assuming she was a boy too. Therefore it is necessary that I be interrogated to determine if I will be saddled with the fourth boy. This explains the questioning, and also the sympathy.
*I* don't think she looks like a boy. She was wearing a red and white striped dress yesterday, for pete's sake. But... I guess I can see where someone might think "boy" looking at her.